Update from Ken Sande in the Middle East (#2)

April 30, 2011

Dear Friends,

So many adventures in just a few days! Here are just a few:

  • Having a Lebanese driver who likes to pass the car in front of him on a two-lane highway, while that car is already passing the car in front of him! Yup, three cars side by side on a two lane highway … with a fourth car coming straight at us. We survived the first time, then the second, then the third … and finally I realized that this is simply how people get around in this fast-moving country.
  • Visiting Jeita Grotto, an enormous cave complex found only recently, just a few miles north of Beirut. Its size reminded me of the caves of Moria shown in the movie The Fellowship of the Ring. But instead of being dark and foreboding, this cave is stunningly beautiful, sculpted by the hand of God from molten rock.
  • Standing on the parapet of the Crusaders’ fortress in Byblos, the oldest city in the world, and looking down at ruins left by 17 different civilizations over the past 8,000 years (including Phoenician, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Hyksos, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and French). Civilizations come and go but the Word of the Lord stands forever!
  • Having lunch in a café just eight miles from the Syrian border, in a town whose loyalties lie with Hezbollah. Even though both of these terms raise apprehensions in most American hearts, I felt completely safe. Every person we met was warm and friendly, and many were eager to have a conversation with “an American.” I know there are intense and often deadly politics rippling throughout this land, but my impression is that the vast majority of people simply want to have a job, raise a family, and live in peace. May God grant that wish.
  • Walking through the ruins of Baalbeck, an enormous Roman temple complex in the Bekaa Valley, over the mountains east of Beirut. This is the largest and best preserved Roman temple left in the world. It took 250 years to build, and appallingly, the work was accomplished by ten generations of 100,000 slaves. Some of the foundation blocks weigh 800 tons (1.6 million pounds). Hundreds of granite columns weighing several tons each were transported all the way from the upper Nile in Egypt, being dragged on bronze rollers 250 miles from the Mediterranean coast. As we walked through this incredible complex, one of my companions, Ray Cureton, had a profound insight. Given the awe-inspiring size of this structure and the political power and religious devotion of those who built it, just think how courageous the apostle Paul was to walk into cities with such temples and boldly proclaim, “I will tell you of the one true God, who made the heavens and the earth …!” May God give all of us such faith and boldness in proclaiming the Savior of the world.
  • Witnessing the amazing contrasts of Beirut itself. When we drove downtown for dinner, we passed shelled out hulks of buildings that have still not been repaired since the 2006 Lebanon war. And yet just a few blocks away is a gleaming complex of new office buildings, stores, and restaurants that rival the most modern of cities. Everywhere we walked there were laughing children, smiling parents, and romancing couples … some robed in stylish but traditional Muslim dress, and others in blue jeans and the most modern of fashions. People from very different faiths live peacefully in a city that has been repeatedly reduced to rubble during religious wars.

Please pray that our visit here will contribute in some small way to the Church’s ability to promote and preserve this peace between the diverse peoples of this land, but more than that, to give witness to One who is building a kingdom that will last forever.

Next report: our visit to Jordan, the land of Ruth and Boaz, and to Mount Nebo, where Moses looked down at the Promised Land.

Yours in Christ,

Ken

Update from Ken Sande in the Middle East (#1)

April 28, 2011

Dear Friends,

By the grace of God, I arrived safely in Beirut, Lebanon, on Monday evening, April 25. The first two weeks of my trip were arranged by Manfred Kohl (who serves on our Board of Directors) and his wife Barbara, who wanted to introduce me and our three other companions to the rich history and spiritual dynamics of the Holy Land. They have planned an intriguing schedule of travel for us through Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. At the end of this tour, Lord willing, I will fly on to Cairo to join Chip Zimmer (our VP of Global Ministries) for a week. We are looking forward to meeting with Christian leaders there and speaking at a conference of leaders from the Anglican, Coptic Orthodox, Evangelical, and Roman Catholic Churches.

My first day in Lebanon was an eye-opener. I spent most of Tuesday with the leaders of the Lebanese Society for Educational & Social Development (LSESD) and the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS). One of the professors I met (I will not give many names in my reports) was especially thoughtful; his remarks helped me begin to understand the delicate nature of Muslim-Christian relationships. Here is a bit of what he shared:

  • The historical enmity between Islam and Judaism derives in part from the fact that neither religion has a robust “theology of reconciliation.” This lack lies at the root of the thousands of years of unresolved hostility that have existed between Judaism and Islam, and between the many factions within Islam itself. What a powerful incentive this realization should be for all Christians to pray for the spreading of the gospel of Christ throughout the Middle East!
  • The Q’uran has a strong emphasis on the mercy that Muslims hope to receive from Allah. Mercy is wonderful, but it is “one directional.” It flows only from the high to the low, from the strong to the weak, from the master to the slave. It never flows both ways. Love, on the other hand, which is fully revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, is intended to be two-way. God loves us, and by his grace we can love him. By that same grace a slave and master can love each other, as can a poor man and a rich man, a weak man and a powerful man. Love opens the way for two-way relationships of mutual respect, care, responsibility, and equality, which are essential for a viable democracy.

As I have reflected on this, I’ve realized that the spreading of the gospel in the Middle East, with its theology of reconciliation emphasized in the New Testament, could contribute to the rise of true peace. The love of God expressed in Christ can promote the healing needed for lasting democratic change.

And how might Muslims, especially those who are more moderate, be encouraged to embrace biblical concepts of reconciliation and love? First, as a result of prayer that God would move in their hearts through common grace to give them an understanding and appreciation for these qualities, which are so much a part of his character and glory (see Exod. 34:6-7). And second, by praying that the Lord would give his church in the Middle East and all believers around the world the grace to live out these qualities of love and reconciliation in our relationships with one another and with our neighbors, Muslim or otherwise.

The need for the church to lead by example hit me powerfully as I gave a lecture on biblical peacemaking at ABTS on Tuesday evening. While talking afterward with students, faculty, and local pastors, I learned that unresolved conflicts are wreaking havoc in many Christian marriages, churches, and ministries in Lebanon. I heard stories of divorces (sometimes high-profile church leaders), estranged families, domestic abuse, fragmented churches, and conflict in the workplace and with neighbors—and I was powerfully reminded of stories I hear when I speak in the U.S. and in other countries.

But the stakes here are especially high. If Christians here learn to live out the reconciling power of the gospel in their personal relationships, they can play a significant role in promoting reconciliation and healing among their Muslim neighbors.

So, please pray for the church here and for me as I travel through the region in the days ahead. Please pray that God would help me to discern what role he would like Peacemaker Ministries to play in this process. I want to learn from others’ experience and wisdom and discern ways that we might be able to work together to play some small part in fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah:

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19: 23-25, NIV)

Yours in Christ,

Ken

Good Friday Reflections

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 53:5 (emphasis added)

On this Good Friday, I encourage you to take a few moments to reflect on the passage above. It’s appropriate on this day (and every day, for that matter) for me to consider that Christ suffered for MY sin.  For MY transgressions. For MY iniquities. And it’s appropriate for you to reflect on that, too.

But don’t forget to reflect on the results of that suffering. Isaiah points to two results here: peace and healing. So just as there’s an amazing paradox that Christ’s wounds brings us healing, it also follows that his punishment brings us peace! We were at war with God, but we were reconciled–peace with God was bought for us on the cross.  Yes, the punishment that Christ bore on the cross has brought us–God’s enemies–peace.  And only through this purchased peace with God can we ever have true peace with others.  Remembering Good Friday is at the heart of what it means to be a peacemaker. 

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:1

A Broken Person in Need of a Savior

Good Friday is tomorrow.

In many ways it will be a day like any other – we’ll probably get out of bed and get ready for the day, eat breakfast, maybe head to work, think about our “to do” list and errands, get frustrated with the slow driver in front of us, let irritation be heard in our voice, stress about money and kids…and maybe head to a Good Friday service.

On a day that we remember how Christ endured unimaginable suffering, scorn, humiliation, injustice and abandonment to take on our punishment for sin we will do exactly what Christ came to abolish – sin. I will sin tomorrow; it’s inevitable. I will do the things I don’t want to do and I’ll ignore the things I want to do.

If anything, tomorrow will serve as a reminder that I am a broken person who still needs a Savior.

This weekend is about hope; it’s about the brokenness of Christ because of our sin and the hope of a new and powerful life. If it wasn’t for the crucifixion and resurrection we would still be lost in our sin completely without hope. The only reason I can hold on in the midst of all the pain this world has to offer is because I will never see my worst day.

Recently, my pastor reminded us that, in light of all that Jesus went through, really none of us have experienced a bad day.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that we haven’t suffered or had to endure pain or am trying to minimize our sorrows however, when you think about the days leading up to the cross, it gives you perspective. I will never have to taste eternal death because the cup of wrath has been consumed. Destruction is not my end; the best life awaits me. What better hope could I ask for?

As I look forward to our upcoming 2011 Peacemaker Conference focused on “Hope in Brokenness” I can’t help but think that this weekend is at the very heart of this theme. On that Saturday when the disciples of Christ mourned the death of their Messiah in the midst of their most broken moment, they had no idea that hope itself would raise from the dead to bring the greatest news that they would ever hear – “Your sins are forgiven! I have conquered death and sin! Come share in the resurrected life! Share this news with others!”

…When you sin tomorrow (or even today) and the days to follow, let the truth of the gospel wash over your soul:

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:8-11

Enter Drawing to Win Free REC Study!

Resolving Everyday Conflict studyWe are grateful to the Lord for the blessings we’ve already seen through our new video-based study, Resolving Everyday Conflict. To share in the blessings with all of you, we are giving away two complete sets of the study next week.

To enter, please complete the form at the bottom of this entry (one per person, please). The drawing will take place at 3pm MST on Friday, April 29.

While there are no requirements to enter, we’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the news about this life-changing study. Here are some ways you can do that:

– Share this video using this link http://bit.ly/fkL7ED:

Why does it always have to be this hard? from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.

– Post a short message on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter account letting others know about this resource (and this giveaway!) using this link: http://bit.ly/fkL7ED

– Drop a note to your church leaders about the study.

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Reconciled – The Latest Edition

The latest edition of our bi-monthly publication is now available for download online. I’ve included the table of contents and download link below:

Contents – Ministry Highlights from 2010

  • Swamped With Conflict in 2010
  • Trained Up to Bring the Good News to Conflicts
  • Teaching Peace, Even in Hostile Territories
  • Experiencing Forgiveness
  • “…And to the Ends of the Earth”: The Gospel of Reconciliation
  • A New Resource: Resolving Everyday Conflict
  • The Story without a Story
  • A Small Team with a Big Impact
  • Making Peace Where Peace Seems Impossible
  • God’s Provision in the Past and Future
  • Event Schedule

Download Reconciled

Having a Big Picture Faith

A few weeks ago I had the honor of leading our staff devotions here in the office and I taught about pursuing Christ whole-heartedly. As an illustration of someone who did this in a particular instance in their life, I showed the below video. I hope you find it as encouraging as I did. It’s a very powerful story of forgiveness and hope in brokenness.

Warning: You’ll need some tissue handy.

The Glory of Overlooking an Offense

Overlooking offenses is appropriate under two conditions. First, the offense should not have created a wall between you and the other person or caused you to feel different toward him or her for more than a short period of time. Second, the offense should not be causing serious harm to God’s reputation, to others, or to the offender.

Overlooking is not a passive process in which you simply remain silent for the moment but file away the offense for later use against someone. That is actually a form of denial that can easily lead to brooding over the offense and building up internal bitterness and resentment that will eventually explode in anger. Instead, overlooking is an active process that is inspired by God’s mercy through the gospel. To truly overlook an offense means to deliberately decide not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent-up bitterness. If you cannot let go of an offense in this way, if it is too serious to overlook, or if it continues as part of a pattern in the other person’s life, then you will need to go and talk to the other person about it in a loving and constructive manner.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 83.

Food for Thought

Overlooking an offense is deeper than we like to believe. It is so much more than giving lip service because it seems the right thing to do. It is truly a heart issue. In a society where letting people off the hook is seen as a weakness, we have great opportunity to show God’s love and forgiveness in the midst of our conflicts. Ken provides excellent criteria to help decide if it is appropriate to overlook an offense. In light of God’s mercy, is there an offense you can truly overlook today?

Proverbs 19:11 says “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” The first step to resolving a conflict is to think seriously about whether it is appropriate to overlook an offense. If it is, then put the matter to rest and commit, with God’s help, not to dwell on the issue. If not, then it is appropriate to go to your brother and discuss it between the two of you.