Empty Gifts

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“…forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Eph. 4:32

I could see the weariness in his face. “I’m sure both of you are in terrible pain, Rick. But I don’t think divorce is going to end it. You’ll just trade one kind of pain for another. There is a way to keep your marriage together and to truly put the past behind you. But you won’t find it with the empty forgiveness you’ve offered Pam.”

“What do you mean, ’empty forgiveness’?”

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 202

Food for Thought

Does your forgiveness promise a lot but deliver a little?

“Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” are both in the past, and many of us have gotten a jump on our Christmas shopping. Now that you’ve worked so hard to find a gift for a loved one, would you neglect to actually include it in the box when you give it to him or her?

Empty forgiveness. What if we confessed a serious sin to God and He said, “I forgive you…but I can’t be close to you, ever again?” We’d probably have a very strong reaction to that, countering with something like, “Well, that’s just empty forgiveness!” And it is. It’s not how God acts. But that’s how we act sometimes.

Consider for a moment those times this past year where it looked like you gave the gift of forgiveness; however, once the person opened it, they found the box was empty. For whatever reason(s), you’ve withheld intimacy or friendship, and you’ve just traded one kind of pain for another. As you head into the Christmas season, make sure the gift of forgiveness is more than a bright covering of wrapping and bows with nothing inside. Instead, by God’s grace, make your gifts jam-packed with true forgiveness, modeling the forgiveness that you have received from God in Christ (Eph. 4:32).

GIVEAWAY – Win a Copy of The Peacemaker: Student Edition

Peacemaker: Student Edition Cover We have 5 copies of The Peacemaker: Student Edition that we’d like to give away before the end of the week and hope you’re interested in entering. :)

This book was written by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson, the same team that recently brought us the book Resolving Everyday Conflict, and is directed toward young people to help teach them how to deal with conflict in a way that glorifies God. As the cover says, it teaches about “handling conflict without fighting back or running away.”

It’s a great resource that is written to teens, parents, and youth workers and includes discussion questions at the end of every chapter.

To enter the giveaway, simply fill out the form below. The giveaway closes Friday, December 2 at noon (Mountain Time).

Don’t forget to spread the love by sharing this giveaway with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers!

Give Thanks… For CONFLICT???

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As usual, Paul [in Philippians 4:2-9] urges us to be God-centered in our approach to conflict. Moreover, he wants us to be joyfully God-centered. Realizing we may skip over this point, Paul repeats it: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” What on earth is there to rejoice about when you are involved in a dispute? If you open your eyes and think about God’s lavish goodness to you, here is the kind of worship you could offer to him, even in the midst of the worst conflict!

O Lord, you are so amazingly good to me! You sent your only Son to die for my sins, including those I have committed in this conflict. Because of Jesus I am forgiven, and my name is written in the Book of Life! You do not treat me as I deserve, but you are patient, kind, gentle, and forgiving with me. Please help me to do the same to others.

In your great mercy, you are also kind to my opponent. Although he has wronged me repeatedly, you hold out your forgiveness to him as you do to me. Even if he and I never reconcile in this life, which I still hope we will, you have already done the work to reconcile us forever in heaven. This conflict is so insignificant compared to the wonderful hope we have in you!

This conflict is so small compared to the many other things you are watching over at this moment, yet you still want to walk beside me as I seek to resolve it. Why would you stoop down to pay such attention to me? It is too wonderful for me to understand. You are extravagant in your gifts to me. You offer me the comfort of your Spirit, the wisdom of your Word, and the support of your church. Forgive me for neglecting these powerful treasures until now, and help me to use them to please and honor you.

I rejoice that these same resources are available to my opponent. Please enable us to draw on them together so that we see our own sins, remember the gospel, find common ground in the light of your truth, come to one mind with you and each other, and restore peace and unity between us.

Finally, Lord, I rejoice that this conflict has not happened by accident. You are sovereign and good, so I know that you are working through this situation for your glory and my good. No matter what my opponent does, you are working to conform me to the likeness of your Son. Please help me cooperate with you in every possible way and give you glory for what you have done and are doing.

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 84-85

Food for Thought

When you are gathered around the Thanksgiving dinner table this week, instead of giving thanks in spite of the present conflicts in your life…give thanks for those conflicts! Pray the above prayer, substituting the names of those from whom you are estranged each time the prayer reads, “my opponent.” Does this change your view of the conflict? Of God’s role in it? Of your opponent? Of what it means to give thanks?

The Most Difficult Math Problem for Christians

From Russell Moore:

The most difficult math problem in the universe, it turns out, is 70 x 7. Perhaps the hardest thing to do in the Christian life is to forgive someone who has hurt you, often badly. But Jesus says the alternative to forgiving one’s enemies is hell.

One of the reasons this is hard for us is because we too often assume forgiving a trespasser means allowing an injustice to stand. This attitude betrays a defective eschatology. At our Lord’s arrest (Matt. 26:47-54), Jesus told Peter to put his sword back into his sheath not because Jesus didn’t believe in punishing evildoers (think Armageddon). Jesus told Peter he could have an armada of angelic warriors at his side (and one day he will). But judgment was not yet, and Peter wasn’t judge.

That’s the point…. A prisoner of war who forgives his captor or a terminated pastor who forgives a predatory congregation, these people are not overlooking sin. Nor are they saying that what happened is “okay” or that the relationships involved are back to “normal” (whatever that is). Instead they are confessing that judgment is coming and they can trust the One who will be seated on that throne.

A good reminder that our view of eternity has a clear effect on our view of forgiveness. Let’s all remember who is on the judgment throne as we are called to forgive.

HT: Z

 

 

The Adult Child of Divorce Club

I don’t spend a lot of time (ahem) hanging out at the True Woman blog, but this recent post by Erin Davis on “Navigating the Holidays as Adult Children of Divorce” was a thoughtful one. The situation she faces?

While my husband sees six (yes, six!) Thanksgiving dinners as nothing more than a chance to chow down, I see it as a huge reminder that my parents and my grandparents are divorced. All those turkeys just represent failed marriages to me.

Don’t get me wrong—it has been twenty-one years since my parents divorced, and by God’s grace, I am fully healed of the resulting pain. But I still have to navigate my complicated family situation every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Whether this issue has touched you or not (and there are fewer and fewer of us where it hasn’t), it doesn’t take long to see the pain and fallout from divorce many years after the fact.  (My wife had three sets of parents to figure out where to seat at our wedding.) And if you scroll through a few of the comments on this post, that will be particularly clear.

This much is clear: forgiveness is a key component to navigating the holidays for any family. Where would we be without the forgiveness we have through Christ that we can, in turn, extend to one another?

HT: Challies

Taking a “Leaf-Raking Break”

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If you look for something bad in another person, you will usually be able to find it. On the other hand, if you look for what is good, you are likely to find that too–and then more and more that is good.

As you regain a more balanced view of the other person, you will often find it easier to overlook minor offenses. I have experienced this process many times in my marriage. One day Corlette said something that really hurt me. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember going out into the back yard a few minutes later to rake leaves. The more I dwelt on her words, the more deeply I slid into self-pity and resentment. I was steadily building up steam to go back into the house and let her know how wrong she was. But then God brought Philippians 4:8 to my mind.

Ha! I thought. There’s nothing noble, right, or lovely about the way she’s treating me! But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t give up. The verse would not go away; it kept echoing in my mind. Finally, to get God off my back, I grudgingly conceded that Corlette is a good cook. This small concession opened the door to a stream of thoughts about my wife’s good qualities. I recalled that she keeps a beautiful home and practices wonderful hospitality. She has always been kind toward my family, and she never missed an opportunity to share the gospel with my father (who eventually put his trust in Christ just two hours before he died). I realized that Corlette has always been pure and faithful, and I remembered how much she supports me through difficult times in my work. Every chance she gets, she attends the seminars I teach and sits smiling and supportive through hours of the same material (always saying she has learned something new). She is a marvelous counselor and has helped hundreds of children. And she even took up backpacking because she knew I loved it! I realized that the list of her virtues could go on and on.

Within minutes my attitude toward her was turned upside down. I saw her offensive comment for what it was–a momentary and insignificant flaw in an otherwise wonderful person. I dropped my rake and went inside, but not to unload a storm of resentment and criticism. To her surprise, I walked in, gave her a big hug, and told her how glad I was to be married to her. The conversation that followed led quickly to a warm reconciliation.

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 112-113

Food for Thought

Fall is here, and many of us will find ourselves busy raking leaves in the coming weeks. Have you ever had a leaf-raking experience like the one Ken describes above? Keep in mind that even without a rake in your hand, you can take a “leaf-raking break” and apply Philippians 4:8 to your relationships.

Pause to call to mind the MOST strained, cool, or distant relationship in your life today–even if it’s only a minor spat. Then work to develop a list of at least three characteristics about the other person in the conflict that are noble, right, or lovely. Now, as the Apostle Paul counsels in Philippians 4:8, take a “leaf-raking break” from your regular routine to “think on these things.” How might your approach to the present conflict change by putting the apostle’s advice into action?

Hunting Rifles or Relationships? or How We Chose Our New Tagline

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by Ken Sande

After months of consultation and testing with ministry friends, Peacemaker Ministries has adopted a new “tagline”: Transforming Relationships with the Power of the Gospel.

This phrase communicates two key aspects of our ministry. First, we are committed to not simply helping people resolve substantive issues in conflicts, but more importantly, to being used by God to transform relationships.

When people come to us for assistance, they are usually focusing intensely on specific substantive issues, such as “Who gets custody of the kids?” “Should we fire our pastor?” “How do we divide Dad’s estate?” and “Has my boss discriminated against me?”

We’re happy to help people address these concerns, but we’ve learned that we serve them well when we press through to the relational issues that underlie their conflicts.

So instead of negotiating who gets the kids, we thrill to see a mom and dad tear up divorce papers and recommit themselves to a marriage that models the love of Christ. Rather than deciding on a pastor’s severance pay, we prefer to help him model repentance and lead his congregation through revival, advancing the kingdom with his flock.

Instead of dividing Dad’s hunting rifles and property, we seek to embrace the family, giving them a safe way to resolve hurts from long ago and celebrate their father’s life as they gratefully share part of his legacy.

And rather than negotiating damages for workplace wrongs, we find fulfillment in reconciling relationships, preserving jobs and helping employers and employees work together to create a healthy work environment.

None of these relationships could be truly transformed without the second key aspect of our tagline: “the power of the gospel.” As valuable as good communication, negotiation, and mediation skills are, they are powerless to change the human heart and produce lasting relational improvements.

But when the gospel is brought into a conflict, the door is opened to radical change. By focusing on God’s amazing grace, people are encouraged to shift their priority from vindicating themselves to honoring Christ. When they focus on the hope and freedom of the gospel, they become less defensive and find it easier to admit their wrongs. As they recall how gentle God has been with them, they are inspired to gently correct those who have wronged them. And when people remember how the Lord has forgiven them, they are empowered to forgive even the deepest of wrongs.

Through the gospel, God provides both the path and the power to transform our lives and relationships. We are excited to communicate this truth concisely through our new tagline and in all of our training and resources, to the glory of God!

Loving Our Enemy

by Chip Zimmer, V.P. of Global Ministries

(From our latest edition of Reconciled)

It is not often that we have the opportunity to serve an enemy, to love someone who is part of a group that intends us harm.  A friend of mine – I’ll call him Paul – did just that and the experience changed his life.

Paul lives in Nigeria and in July 2009 parts of the country exploded in violence, with Muslims against Christians.  Three churches were burned and more than 100 people killed in one day.  As Paul was driving home from work he noticed an old man waving him down from the side of the road.  The man was dressed in Muslim garb and Paul drove by, pretending not to notice.  But, Paul is a man of God and a peacemaker and, as he subsequently wrote, “My heart would not allow me to ignore the need of this Muslim just because he was a Muslim…. I needed to show him the love that he does not deserve, the love of Christ that makes Christ the unique savior of the world.”  Paul turned around and offered the old man a ride.

“I picked him up and he asked me how the day was for me.  I told him that the day made me sad because Muslims were killing Christians and yet we are one people in one nation.  That opened a dialogue between us and he confessed that he was truly against all these violent occurrences.  He said he was the older brother of a Muslim political leader and that he constantly advised his brother to eschew violence.  We had a lengthy discussion which consequently developed into a friendship.”

As Paul later reflected on the conversation, he discerned that God wanted to teach him a broader lesson.  “Our discussion removed the heavy burden of resentment against the Muslims,” Paul says, “and I found joy that I have an opportunity to present the gracious life of Christ to this old man.  It is humanly difficult to love our enemy, especially the Muslims, but the Spirit says we must.  So we comply.”

Obedience can be difficult, yet, God’s promises are certain.  As my friend Paul discovered, we need to do what God calls us to do, regardless of the circumstances.  You never know when he just might transform an enemy into a friend.

Keeping Your Focus on the Lord

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One of the best ways to keep your focus on the Lord is to continually ask yourself these questions: How can I please and honor God in this situation? In particular, how can I bring praise to Jesus by showing that he has saved me and is changing me? Seeking to please and honor God is a powerful compass for life, especially when we are faced with difficult challenges. Jesus himself was guided by these goals. He said, “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30). “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29). “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). King David showed the same desire when he wrote: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 34

Food for Thought

What difficult situation do you face today?

In this situation, is displaying the riches of God’s love and pleasing him more important than holding onto worldly things and pleasing yourself? If so, it becomes increasingly natural to respond to conflict graciously, wisely, and with self-control. This approach brings glory to God and sets the stage for effective peacemaking.

Pray that this “powerful compass for life”–pleasing and honoring God–would guide your heart and mind today.