The Best Way to Ruin an Apology

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Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other… Ephesians 4:32

The best way to ruin a confession is to use words that shift the blame to others or that appear to minimize or excuse your guilt. The most common way to do this is to say, “I’m sorry if I’ve done something to upset you.” The word if ruins this confession, because it implies that you do not know whether or not you did wrong. The message you are communicating is this: “Obviously you’re upset about something. I don’t know that I have done anything wrong, but just to get you off my back I’ll give you a token apology.”

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 127.

Food for Thought

How often does if show up in your confessions?

A great way to ruin your engine on your car? Never, ever change the oil. A sure-fire way to ruin your credit rating? Never, ever pay your bills on time. What about ruining your reputation at work? Never, ever keep your appointments. And the best way to ruin a confession? Each and every time, use the word “if.”

Ken reminds us of the power of this little two-letter word. Too many times, it leads to an empty confession. All the words may be right and proper (I’m sorry), but the heart is missing. And anything without a heart is usually dead, good for nothing. The word “confess” means “to agree with” — you’re agreeing that you’ve done something wrong. If you’re not ready to agree, then don’t confess. Because that ruins everything.


Would you consider a year-end gift to PM?

Would you consider making a year-end gift to Peacemaker Ministries?

Few people realize that much of the work we do is free–from our epublications to our web site to our work overseas to many hours of free phone counsel to those with life-wrenching conflicts. We depend on donations from peacemakers like you for over half our budget. At no time is that more true than at present.

As you pray about your year-end charitable giving, we ask that, after remembering your own church, you remember Peacemaker Ministries. You may give a secure gift on-line, or send a check to our mailing address. Thank you for remembering us in your prayers and financial giving as you are able this Christmas season. May the Lord bless your efforts to spread His peace!

It’s a Wonderful Life (when you are reconciled)

It recently dawned on me that the Christmas story is so powerful that it is reflected in every one of the DVDs my wife and I have collected for family viewing during this special season. Our collection includes classics like A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Prancer, and Joyeux Noel. 

Each of these stories is built around two primary elements. First, they portray the anguish of relationships that are damaged by greed, insensitivity, selfishness, or unforgiveness. This damage is greatly magnified during the holiday season, when our longing for closeness makes estrangement and loneliness especially painful.

The second and most appealing element of enduring Christmas stories is reconciliation, the restoration of relationships.

Scrooge opens his heart not only to Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim but to all of London. Harry Bailey renounces despair and is embraced by family and friends. Bob and Betty sing White Christmas as snow falls in the background. Prancer goes free after Sam Elliot pulls his lonely little daughter into his arms. French, Scottish, and German soldiers come out of their trenches in WWI and share wine, chocolate, and photos of their wives.

These stories touch our hearts because they echo a Greater Story, the story of an entire world suffering because of broken relationships, and of Jesus, who brought reconciliation and joy to heaven and earth by humbling himself and dying for our sins on the cross.

This is a perfect time to imitate our Lord. Is there someone you’ve been distant from this year? During the holidays longings for peace can open the way for reconciliation. Reach out, say you’re sorry, offer forgiveness, live out the healing power of the gospel.

Do you see others who are estranged? Perhaps you’re the person God wants to use to nudge them toward each other. Do you see someone who is lonely, widowed, divorced, far from family? Draw them into your circle of relationships and immerse them in the love that God has lavished on you.

Think of the themes of your favorite Christmas movies. Notice the anguish; savor the joy. Then go and make your own story, one that echoes the themes of the Greatest Christmas Story of all: God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.

Wishing you the most joyful and reconciled Christmas of your life,


Even When… God Is…

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And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Certainly, God takes no pleasure in what is hurtful (Ezek. 33:11), and he is never the author of sin (James 1:13-14; I John 1:5). Yet, for his eternal purposes, he sometimes allows suffering and permits unjust acts by men and women whom he decides not to restrain, even though he has the power to do so… Even when sinful and painful things are happening, God is somehow exercising ultimate control and working things out for his good purposes.

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 61

Food for Thought

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

From war and rumors of wars, to politics and politicians, to road rage and playground rage, it is tempting to bow our heads in despair. Hate is strong. The song of peace is mocked. But even when it sounds as if there is no peace, you and I must remember the deeper, truer song of His word. God is in control. And He is working for his good purposes.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864

Star Trek and the Incarnation

I’m an old Star Trek fan. The original Star Trek. The shows that had the same plot from week to week: The Enterprise warps through space to a strange planet. Uhura hears a distress signal. Kirk, Spock, an attractive crewwoman, and a few disposable crewmen beam down to investigate. Things get messy. Aliens disintegrate the disposable crew-men and close in on the rest of the Away Team. At the last moment, Kirk flips out his communicator and says, “Beam us up, Scotty!” and the team is instantly transported to safety.

Similar and yet so different from the Incarnation (Col. 1:15-20).

Jesus created space and everything in it … naming each star as he hung it in the sky. He hears our distress signal … anticipating it before time began. He beams down to earth … no team, just a single baby lying in a manger. He grows into a man and takes on all the forces of evil. “Messy” does not begin to describe the battle he fights. Betrayed, flogged, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Instant rescue just a word away. But instead of saying, “Beam me up,” he whispers, “Your will be done …. Father forgive them …. Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Could there be a greater contrast? Yes. There is still another astonishing element. We were not friends deserving his help, and he did not rescue us from aliens. He rescued us even though we ourselves were both aliens and enemies:

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Col. 1:21-22).

I pray that this contrast will prompt you to do two things this Christmas season: First, love and worship Jesus with all your heart, strength, soul, and mind for what he has done for you.

Second, imitate what Jesus did through the Incarnation. When you hear the distress signal of conflict, let go of your comfort and ask God to beam you into others’ lives. And when things get messy—when tempers flare and words wound — don’t say, “Beam me up.” Instead, press in as Jesus did. Pray. Love. Confess. Forgive. Let God use you to restore relationships and turn enemies and aliens into dearly loved friends.

(Image by JD Hancock)

Meeting Your Enemy’s Deepest Needs

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The final principle for responding to a stubborn opponent is described in Romans 12:20-21: “On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Here is the ultimate weapon: deliberate, focused love (cf. Luke 6:27-28; 1 Cor. 13:4-7). Instead of reacting spitefully to those who mistreat you, Jesus wants you to discern their deepest needs and do all you can to meet those needs. Sometimes this will require going to them to show them their faults. At other times there may be a need for mercy and compassion, patience, and words of encouragement. You may even have opportunities to provide material and financial assistance to those who least deserve it or expect it from you.

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 253-254

Food for Thought

TV, radio, newspapers–all are overflowing this week with advertisements for “the perfect gift for the one you love this holiday season.” But according to Jesus, Christmas is only truly Christmas if our hearts are yearning to give the perfect gift… to our enemies:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Lk. 6:32-35).

After all, at Christmas, God gave the perfect gift–his son, Jesus–to his enemies–namely, us! So make it a point this Christmas to imitate God by meeting your enemy’s deepest need.

Ken Sande Back in China

Just before I left Beijing in October, I received an invitation to return to China six weeks later to attend a special conference on theological education. Eager to build on the relation­ships I’d made on my first trip, I flew into Shanghai on the December 5th.  

The conference was attended by forty leaders from China’s twenty-one officially-recognized seminaries. I was included as a special guest of Overseas Council Ambassador Manfred Kohl, who has a personal relationship with nearly all of these seminaries.

We were invited to attend a special dinner with four top leaders in the China Christian Council (CCC), which oversees all ministry and training activities for the official church. In addition to enjoying a feast of exotic dishes, we had a candid discussion about the challenges and opportunities faced by churches in both China and the U.S.

Most of China’s official seminaries have been in existence for less than twenty years, so they are on a steep learning curve. They have no standardized curricula, and the quality of faculty, programs, and graduates varies from school to school, many of which are equivalent to an American Bible college. Speakers covered a variety of topics, including biblical foundations, spiritual forma­tion, faculty development, theological research, Christian ethics, advanced degree programs, opposing heresy, impacting society’s conscience, and mentoring future church leaders.

Each talk triggered spirited yet respectful comments and questions. I was told that because of their shame-honor culture, Chinese educators enjoy rigorous discussion but shy away from open debate, which might seem to be disrespectful—in contrast to many American seminaries! There was broad agreement among these leaders that they have a great deal of work ahead of them to meet the educational needs of the rapidly growing church in China, but I sensed both the commitment and energy needed for such advances.

When I was invited to address the group, I described how equipping pastors to teach and model biblical peacemaking can strengthen an entire congregation’s ability to live out the gospel and lead others to Christ. At the end of my talk I mentioned that I’d brought each seminary a set of resources that included Mandarin translations of The Peacemaker and our Bachelor of Arts curriculum, Conflict and Reconciliation, which we developed specifically for seminaries. Interest in the material was vividly illustrated at the end of our session by the rush to the resource table at the back of the room—every set was gone within thirty seconds.

The Peacemaker in Mandarin

Afterwards I had several inquiries on how to use the materials, as well as discussions about possible future training arrangements. On December 10th, just two days after I left Shanghai, I learned how genuine this interest was. The seminary vice president who served as our interpreter throughout the conference wrote me the following:

When I returned to my office I immediately talked with our principal about your material and ministry. The result is we are going to use it in our Conflict Management course and in church leadership trainings as well.

I will use it in our afternoon lecture time next semester. I just read the materials you gave me, and see I need to understand it better, so that I will know how to use it and teach it. My first impression is that it will bring great help for our churches and future church leaders in our school.

I could not have asked for a swifter or more affirming response to my brief presentation.

We will see what other responses we receive in the days ahead, and then we’ll seek to discern how God is calling us to serve his church in China. Please pray for open minds among seminary and church leaders, for wisdom on how we can best serve them, and for the staff and financial resources we will need to respond to these opportunities (in addition to other invitations we are considering for 2012).

In the meantime, may God grant you and your loved ones a Christ-centered and peace-filled Christmas, and a new year that is filled with a passion to live only and entirely for Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Confession Can Resurrect Dead Relationships

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This week we wanted to deviate a bit from our normal PeaceMeal routine in order to share a testimony with you from Becky, who recently attended some training in peacemaking:

Due to long-time alcoholism in our family, relationships have been strained for 25 years. I’ve tried to keep communication open, but the strains have remained. After your weekend teaching, however, I decided to visit my mother immediately. What the Lord did is truly a miracle!

There was a sense of urgency, knowing I wasn’t going to be there long. While sitting with my ailing 86-year-old mother, I was able to acknowledge my awareness of relationship strain for many years, and to ask her to tell me what she sees as my contribution to it so that I might make it right.

After her shock subsided, she proceeded to tell me! In the past she railed at me for any number of things and didn’t allow dialogue, resulting in my being hurt and learning to clam up. So I’d learned to keep it superficial and not “rock the boat.” This time, however, after I asked the question, her reply was so different. She included specifics (almost a life-time’s worth!) but we were able to discuss them, including some for which I was responsible and able to ask her forgiveness.

But it didn’t stop there. Throughout that day and the next, she asked questions: “What is the gospel?” “What will happen when I die?” “What is grace?” “I’ve made so many mistakes, how can you be sure you’ll be in heaven?” When my brother arrived at 7am Wednesday to take me to the airport, he found my mom and me crying together as she told me she didn’t want me to leave. I’ve never heard her say that before! She’s called twice in the 12 days since I’ve been home, after not calling me once in the previous several years! I had a similar conversation with my brother on the way to the airport, and he and I were also reconciled. What a gracious God we have!

Food for Thought

Do you have any relationships like Becky’s?

We hope you will be inspired by Becky’s example, especially during the holiday season when you may bump into relatives or old friends who may be estranged from both you and God. Instead of pretending everything’s OK, why not admit that something is not right between you, and some of it is your fault.

As you humble yourself, listen to their concerns, and confess your past wrongs, the Lord may soften others’ hearts as he did Becky’s mother and brother, and open the way for you to share what Christmas is really about … God reconciling people to each other and to himself through his dearly loved Son.

First Deadline for 2012 Conference Discount

Denver Renaissance

Our conference next year will be September 13-16 at the Renaissance Denver in Denver, CO.

In case you’d like to join us, our first discount deadline for the 2012 conference, Life Together, is drawing near! Until January 1, 2012, you can register for the conference for $199, risk-free*. This registration will give you access to all of the general sessions and allow you to choose 8 workshops to attend out of the 50 plus workshops that we offer!

Be sure to register using our online form or by contacting our Conference and Events Manager, Kerri Goss at (406) 256-1583 ext. 20.

*All conference registrations made before 01/01/2012 can be fully refunded, no questions asked, by 03/12/2012.


The Resolving Everyday Conflict Study at Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby LogoWe’ve mentioned Hobby Lobby‘s involvement in the development of our latest small group study, Resolving Everyday Conflict, before but since then we were able to take a camera into the Hobby Lobby offices and get a feel for why they helped out with the study and how it’s impacted them.

Using REC in the Workplace: The Hobby Lobby Story from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.


If you’re interested in exploring how this study can be used in your office or place of business, check out the webpage we’ve set up.