Don’t Be a “Chocolate Only” Christian!

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Through Jesus you can also experience genuine peace within yourself. Internal peace is a sense of wholeness, contentment, tranquility, order, rest, and security. Although nearly everyone longs for this kind of peace, it eludes most people. Genuine internal peace cannot be directly obtained through our own efforts; it is a gift that God gives only to those who believe in his Son and obey his commands (1 John 3:21-24). In other words, internal peace is a by-product of righteousness. This truth is revealed throughout Scripture:

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isa. 26:3).

“The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isa. 32:17; cf. Pss. 85:10; 119:165).

“If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (Isa. 48:18).

These passages show why it is impossible to experience internal peace if you fail to pursue peace with God and peace with others. Internal peace comes only from being reconciled to God through his Son, receiving his righteousness and the power to resist sin, and then obeying what God commands. “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23). By God’s design, the three dimensions of peace are inseparably joined. As one author expressed it, “Peace with God, peace with each other and peace with ourselves come in the same package.”

 

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by
Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 46-47.

 

Food for Thought

Authentic biblical peace is like Neapolitan ice cream. Peace with God is like the chocolate. Peace with others is like the vanilla. And peace with ourselves is like the strawberry. Some folks, when presented with a carton of Neapolitan ice cream, eat only their favorite flavor (usually the chocolate, right?) before putting the 1/3-empty package back in the freezer. When subsequent snackers drop by, they become crestfallen: Neapolitan without one of the flavors just isn’t Neapolitan! Much of modern Christendom is like this. “Christian” is too often understood only to mean “at peace with God.” Rarely are Christians encouraged to dig their spoons into the vanilla and strawberry dimensions of the faith: making peace with others and experiencing peace within. Sure, the chocolate is important–you might even say it’s the “best part”, but chocolate-only Christians will never change the world. Blessed are the true Neapolitan peacemakers, for they will not be confined to the freezer for long!

Fruits of Repentance

 

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“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8

Although repentance is often accompanied by sorrow, simply feeling bad does not prove that one is repentant. In fact, there is a world of difference between mere remorse and genuine repentance… Worldly sorrow means feeling sad because you got caught doing something wrong or because you must suffer the unpleasant consequences of your actions… In contrast, godly sorrow means feeling bad because you have offended God. It means sincerely regretting the fact that what you did was morally wrong, regardless of whether or not you must suffer unpleasant consequences. It involves a change of heart… Godly sorrow will not always be accompanied by intense feelings, but it implies a change in thinking, which should lead to changes in behavior.

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 118-119.

 

Food for Thought

What does repentance usually look like for you? What role do emotions play? Have you had experiences where there was a lack of emotions?

John the Baptist was a character that would probably not make the cut these days if a church were searching for a leader; he was just too rough. Matthew’s gospel describes a man covered in camel’s hair and leather with a belly full of locusts and wild honey. His sermon was always the same–“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matt.3.2). If he were to respond today to our supposed moments of repentance, it would be short and sweet–show me the fruit!

And what fruit did the wild man of the Desert of Judea possibly have in mind? Perhaps the apostle Paul helps us here as he wrote to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control ” (5.22-23).

That’s a good picture of what true repentance looks like. If tears and emotions accompany this fruit, that’s fine and many times appropriate; however, they are not the first fruits of repentance. They (the emotions) are the “secondary pickin’s,” if you will. The enemy loves to deceive us when it comes to fruit (remember Eden?), so walk wisely!

Paul’s words indicate the origins of true repentance. It’s a lot easier for tears to fall than patience to rise. Hangdog postures are much easier to assume than stances of gentleness or self-control. The true fruits of repentance are fruits of the Spirit. We couldn’t produce a crop like that on our own if we wanted to; they are a supernatural gift from the Lord’s hand. Remember, He is the vine and we are the branches. Apart from Him, there is no fruit, and we will all end up famished.

August Issue of Reconciled

We’ve got a new issue of Reconciled, our newsletter sent every other month (subscribe here), that has just been sent out. Here is a quick look at what’s in this issue:

  • Marty and the Woman at the Wellby Ken Sande. What does the woman at the well have to do with Ernest Borgnine and his performance in the 1955 movie called Marty? Read this article from Ken Sande to find out…
  • Answering the Call – A Conversation with Peacemaker Conference Speaker Nina Balmaceda by Chip Zimmer. Living through a turbulent time in Peru’s history has given Nina Balmaceda a unique perspective on justice, human rights, and peacemaking.
  • Online Version of the Peacemaker Conference – For the first time, the Peacemaker Conference will be available online this year for anyone who cannot attend in person.
  • Give an International Friend the Chance to Experience the Conferenceby Greg Oliphant. Many more international constituents desire to attend the conference than those who actually do. Since the cost includes travel and other expenses, we most often have to deny scholarship requests. This year, however, we won’t have to.  

Interested in reading more? Click here for the online version of the August 2012 issue of Reconciled.

The Key to Making Restitution Redemptive

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Some people argue that restitution is not a valid concept in the New Testament age. I disagree. Nothing in the New Testament explicitly repeals the concept (see Matt. 5:17-20). In fact, restitution is implicitly endorsed by Jesus in Luke 19:1-10. Moreover, restitution is a sign of taking responsibility for one’s actions, and nothing in the Bible indicates that God wants believers to be less responsible in this age than they were before the advent of Christ.

Furthermore, restitution is not inconsistent with forgiveness. Believers in Old Testament times were called to forgive others’ offenses, yet they were entitled to receive restitution (Num. 5:5-8). Forgiving another person’s wrong means you will not dwell on it, use it against that person, talk to others about it, or let it stand between you. But being forgiven does not necessarily release the offender from responsibility to repair the damage. Certainly, an injured party may exercise mercy, and in some cases it is good to waive the right to restitution (Matt. 18:22-27). But in many cases, making restitution is beneficial even for the offender. Doing so demonstrates remorse, sincerity, and a new attitude, which can help speed reconciliation (Luke 19:8-9). At the same time, it serves to ingrain lessons that will help the offender avoid similar wrongdoing in the future (see Ps. 119:67,71; Prov. 19:19)

Therefore, if you have damaged another person’s property or physically harmed someone, God expects you to do all you can to make that person whole. If he or she decides to release you from your responsibility, you should be deeply grateful for such mercy. On the other hand, if you have been harmed or your property has been damaged, you should prayerfully consider how badly you need to be made whole and whether making restitution would benefit or unduly burden the offender. As you pray about it, keep in mind that blending mercy with justice is a powerful way to restore peace and glorify God.

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 277-278.

Food for Thought

The word restitution comes from the Latin “re” (again) and “statuere” (to set up). It literally means “to restore or rebuild”. Often when we think of restitution–either making it to another or receiving it for ourselves–we forget that one purpose of restitution is to restore or rebuild the relationship itself.

So if you’re involved in determining restitution in a particular situation, don’t neglect the restoration and rebuilding of the relationship that has been damaged. If you’ve been wronged by another and are considering what restitution would be appropriate for you to receive in return, prayerfully consider restitution that accounts for rebuilding the relationship in question.

Restitution is redemptive when it is coupled with forgiveness. We are called to breathe grace and redemption to everyone involved.

Marty and the Woman at the Well

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

This statement is attributed to Philo of Alexandria, a first-century Jewish philosopher. Whether he actually said it or not, this insight into the struggles of living in a fallen world is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago.

Marty (Ernest Borgnine)This reality of life was powerfully illustrated by the recently deceased Ernest Borgnine in a movie called Marty. Borgnine’s superb performance in this movie enabled him to beat out Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Frank Sinatra, and James Dean for the best actor Oscar in 1955.

As you’ll see in this emotionally revealing two-minute video clip from the movie, Marty is a middle-aged bachelor who has given up on finding love. His concerned mother is trying to persuade him to go down to the local ballroom to meet some nice “tomatoes.”

At first Marty seems light-hearted and jovial as he casually deflects her urging. But as his well-intended mother continues to press him, his great inner battle is slowly revealed, expressed by these words, “I got hurt enough! I don’t wanna get hurt no more.”

When his mother ignores the significance of that revelation and continues to press him, Marty finally explodes with pent-up emotion, showing how deeply he has been wounded by repeated rejections over the years.

The fact is that many of the people you meet every day are concealing similar inner battles with deep emotional and relational pain. The easy thing for you to do is to accept their superficial light-heartedness and avoid engaging them at the level of their inner struggles.

The difficult but far more rewarding alternative is to be like Jesus.

When he met the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), Jesus discerned that she was a scorned outcast because she was drawing water during the heat of the day instead of in the morning or evening, when other women congregated at the well. When he tried to probe into her life, she side-stepped his questions and repeatedly tried to redirect the conversation.

But Jesus kept pressing in on the crippling issue of her life, gently uncovering the painful truth of her multiple affairs and divorces. As soon as he revealed that shameful truth, he quickly applied the balm of God’s love and forgiveness, holding out to her the thirst-quenching, battle-winning, pain-soothing, life-giving hope of the gospel.

Today you will meet men and women like Marty and the woman at the well. Be kind to them—imitate Jesus, listen carefully, gently probe, don’t judge or be deflected, embrace their pain, and, most importantly, hold out to them the love and forgiveness of God—for all of us need to know that he is in the battle with us.

What Forgiveness Can Do

There’s a very inspirational post by Mark Fox over at TakeYourVitaminZ. You should go and read the whole thing, but I’ve included the into here:

When Stakwell Yurenimo, a Samburu in northern Kenya, did well on his eighthgrade exams, the Kenyan government informed him that he had qualified to go to a high school that they would choose. They also chose his roommate, a young man named Paul, who was a member of the enemy tribe, the Turkana. Stakwell determined in his mind that there was no way he would room with a Turkana. In fact, part of his culture demanded that in order to be respected as a man, he needed to kill a Turkana.

Stakwell poured water on Paul’s bed every night, so that his roommate was forced to sleep somewhere else. Paul did not react in anger, but slept on the ground without complaint. This went on for several months. Meanwhile, there was friction on the soccer field as well. Stakwell was an excellent midfielder. Paul was the team’s star forward, a striker with considerable skill. But the team kept losing because Stakwell would not pass the ball to his roommate. The coach finally confronted Stakwell, who told the coach that there was nothing he could do. “You will just have to put one of us on another team,” he said. That’s what the coach did, and the first time the two teams played each other, Stakwell threw himself into Paul, trying his best to kill him. He broke Paul’s leg and knocked out several teeth. Because it was an intentional penalty, Stakwell was expelled from school and sent home a hero to his fellow Samburu tribesmen for injuring a hated Turkana. He did not care about being expelled, but then the school told Stakwell that he would have to repay Paul for all of his medical expenses. Stakwell, a Samburu shepherd, faced an insurmountable debt. That’s when his life changed.

Paul came to Stakwell offering forgiveness. He did not want to be paid back. Paul explained that all the time his roommate was persecuting him, he did not retaliate, “not because I am weak, but because I am a Christian. When you were pouring water on my bed and forcing me to sleep on the ground, I was praying for you,” Paul said.

Read the rest. 

 

Light when Darkness Rises: How should a Christian respond to this shooting? (Part 2)

When we don’t get what we deserve it’s a real good thing.  (A real good thing.) 
When we get what we don’t deserve it’s a real good thing

–“Real Good Thing,” lyrics from The Newsboys

The recent shootings in Colorado have caused us all to examine some major questions of our faith and our culture.  Such a brutal act of murder of innocent victims certainly justifies another death, the death of James Holmes.  Or does it?  If it doesn’t, where does that leave us and how will justice prevail?  As Christians, aren’t we to hold those around us accountable for their actions?  What goes around comes around, right?  If someone goes around shooting up a movie theater of innocent victims, they deserve the same fate, right?

I recently heard a Christian say, “I’m sick of the church only talking about love and forgiveness.  God is a God of love and forgiveness, but He is also just.” 

 When Jesus was presented with a woman who had committed adultery, and who had earned the penalty of death, what was his response?

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Soon everyone walked away until it was just Jesus and her standing there. 

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.  “Go now and leave your life of sin.”(John 8: 7-11)

I love how Jesus shows mercy by asking this woman’s persecutors about the condition of their own heart, their own sin.  By the power of his words, he convicted these folks to look at their own sin and turn away, but he also allowed a woman to have a chance to value her life.  She saw her life flash before her eyes.  It had been essentially over, but Jesus saved her.  Can you imagine the way this woman would’ve felt?  I am sure that the level of her gratitude and shock was overwhelming.  She probably would’ve done anything that Jesus requested.  What did he request?  He requested that she leave her life of sin. 

We could argue she was just an adulterer.  She wasn’t a cold blooded murderer! 

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”  (Matthew 5: 21-22)

Wow.  Is Jesus saying here that when I am angry and speak out of hate, I am guilty like James Holmes?  I deserve the same punishment?  I deserve death.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1: 5-8)

God’s law says we are all guilty and deserve death.  We may think we were pardoned from death row.  The truth is, there was no pardon.  Instead, an innocent man, Jesus Christ, took our place!  Justice demanded it. He came to our rescue so that we could leave our life of sin and spend eternity in the presence of God.  This is our time to be light in a dark world.  It is our time to show the world how to love through our fellowship with one another.  What are you waiting for?  Go be light.

“But peacemaking won’t work in this situation!”

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Unfortunately, many believers and their churches have not yet developed the commitment and ability to respond to conflict in a gospel-centered and biblically faithful manner. This is often because they have succumbed to the relentless pressure our secular culture exerts on us to forsake the timeless truths of Scripture and adopt the relativism of our postmodern age. Although many Christians and their churches believe they have held on to God’s Word as their standard for life, their responses to conflict, among other things, show that they have in fact surrendered much ground to the world. Instead of resolving differences in a distinctively biblical fashion, they often react to conflict with the same avoidance, manipulation, and control that characterize the world. In effect, both individually and congregationally, they have given in to the world’s postmodern standard, which is “What feels good, sounds true, and seems beneficial to me?”

 

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict 
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 15-16.
 

 

 

Food for Thought

 

Biblical peacemaking should never be understood as a better way for you to win arguments where you’re “right”. It shouldn’t even be understood as a more likely way to get to the truth. One or both of those things may happen, but neither gets to the heart of why we engage in biblical peacemaking. Biblical peacemaking is at its core a recognition that even in the midst of an argument where we have a lot to lose and where our opponent may be entrenched in sin, the most important thing we can do is to bring glory to God through our conduct. It is an act of faith that out of this peacemaking witness, God can do things far beyond upholding the truth or vindicating us, though he will also do both these things eventually. The “thing far beyond” that peacemaking makes possible is redemption–especially of those trapped in sin.

Next time you find yourself tempted to say, “But peacemaking won’t work in this situation or with this person,” remember that what God and you are attempting to “work” may be two entirely different things.

8 Things to Keep in Mind about Conflict at Work or Church

Over at The Resurgence they have  great list of 8 Things to Keep in Mind about Conflict at Work or Church. I’ve listed the 8 things here, but feel free to pop over to their blog and read the whole thing. It’s good stuff!

1. Email* does not work!
*This also applies to texting or any form of social media.
2. Handle conflict quickly
3. Always assume the best about the people you work with
4. Remember that email doesn’t work!
5. Stop expecting people to read your mind
6. Stop waiting for them to approach you
7. Never, ever go public when you have not even attempted to talk in private
8. And finally, DO NOT FORGET THAT EMAIL DOES NOT WORK!

Read the whole thing.

Light when the Darkness rises. Where was Jesus when twelve were murdered? (Part 1)

The world has been in turmoil from the recent events that allowed us to see an unthinkable tragedy. A villain with flaming tangerine hair walked into a movie theater and changed the fate of those watching. Life was stolen from twelve innocent victims; their only intention was building relationships and being entertained. I can only imagine Alex Teves, one of the movie-goers, shielding his girlfriend from the bullets with his body, saving her life while his own was taken. “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 3 )His sacrifice illustrates the same kind of love Christ had for us, to remove the curse marked out for us.

Many victims didn’t survive, and then there are the ones that somehow escaped death. Petra Anderson has been highlighted by the media as a walking miracle. She was shot four times, and once through her brain. By random chance or a miracle, depending on the orator of the story, the bullet went through fluid instead of brain matter. It’s difficult to not to rejoice. Is it possible that God planned the exact way she was standing and the way the shooter shot, so the bullet would cause no damage? If God planned for her to be saved, why did he choose not to save everyone?

Someone recently asked me, “Where was Jesus when all those people were being murdered in that movie theater?” My response, “He was there.” They responded, “I’m sure the victims wouldn’t be happy if you told them that.”

Another question then came, “If God is such a loving God and cares so deeply for us how could he let that happen?”

That question could also be applied to the recent fires in Colorado. Why were some homes untouched, and some destroyed? Why are children around the world sold into sex slavery? Why are families starving in Africa? Why are children dying of disease in India? Why are some born into families that are loving and provide and others are born into families of sexual and physical abuse? Are those saved from such fates loved more by God?

The short answer is that we live in a cursed world. Disease, war, cruelty, pereversion, and everything void of goodness run rampant, because of the sin that entered the world with one act of disobedience. The hope we have is that the curse will be broken.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Galatians 3: 14-15

If we respond in faith, we know that God is always good. As Christians we know that there is a happy ending, or beginning so to speak. Jesus comes back, the enemy is defeated, and the world is made new land where there will be no tears or suffering. Despite all that we may endure in this life, all the trials and persecution, we have a hope for something beyond. As we trust that Christ came, died and was resurrected, we chase after Him. We chase after what is good. Our faith is our rescue.

But, as we know all of these things, how are we to respond in our own suffering and the suffering of those around us? We are called to mourn with those who mourn. We are called to be compassionate. We are called to serve. We are called to be generous. We are called to forgive. We are called to speak grace and truth. We are called to be peacemakers. We are called to love. We are called to have faith.

We are called to be light when darkness rises.

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13: 12)

Feel free to dialogue in the comment section below regarding how God is present in this recent shooting and other conflicts we face. What are things we can tell those young in their faith regarding God’s presence in times of trouble?

Tune in next week for a second part to this series. Light When the Darkness Rises. How should a Christian respond to this shooting?