Listen and Learn

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I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of
God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17

Good listening is particularly important for a peacemaker. It improves your ability to understand others, it shows that you realize you do not have all the answers, and it tells the other person that you value his or her thoughts and opinions. Even if you cannot agree with everything others say or do, your willingness to listen demonstrates respect and shows that you are trying to understand their perspective.

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 165.

Food for Thought

Kids hear everything–things under their beds at night, an animal in distress blocks away, whispered conversations between Mom and Dad. There is something about childhood that invites listening. Maybe it’s a feeling that we might miss something if we don’t listen, and we surely don’t want to miss anything. But often as we grow up, we put away childish and childlike things in the same trip to the curb. And we’re not as concerned about missing something anymore; we’ve pretty much seen it all. At least we think we have.

We’ve pretty much got it all figured out, and so we make judgment calls on everything from political policy to personal motives. We never pause to consider the limits on our perspective; we just go right on in, where angels fear to tread.

But to walk humbly with our God means realizing that we don’t know everything and we don’t even want to; figuring everything out means the story is over. It also means approaching each living, breathing soul in our lives with wonder, for they have been fashioned by the hands of God himself. It means stopping and looking and listening, but maybe listening even more than looking.

A little more listening might open the door to peace between feuding spouses or church members. It could even begin the sowing of seeds of peace in the body of Christ. Open the ears of our hearts, Lord; we surely don’t want to miss your voice!

A Santa Christ?

Ligonier Ministries has a great post at their blog about the nature of Christmas and who Jesus really is. It’s worth the time to read the whole thing, but I’ve attached a small snippet here.

In Dr. Sinclair Ferguson’s book, In Christ Alone, he shares the sad reality that many Christians have a Christology that is more informed by Santa Claus than Scripture. For them, the message of the incarnation has been so twisted or diluted that they have in fact created for themselves a savior who is nothing more than a Santa Christ.

As you prayerfully read Dr. Ferguson’s words, ask yourself the following question this Christmas season: “Do I believe in a Santa Christ?”

He then lists three different “types” of Jesus that are Santa Christ’s and why:

1. A Pelagian Jesus
2. A Semi-Pelagian Jesus
3. A Mystical Jesus

The Scriptures systematically strip away the veneer that covers the real truth of the Christmas story. Jesus did not come to add to our comforts. He did not come to help those who were already helping themselves or to fill life with more pleasant experiences. He came on a deliverance mission, to save sinners, and to do so He had to destroy the works of the Devil.

Read the whole thing.

For Unto Us a Child is Born

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When I resort to an escape response [in dealing with conflict], I am generally focusing on “me.” I am looking for what is easy, convenient, or non-threatening for myself. When I use an attack response, I am generally focusing on “you,” blaming you and expecting you to give in and solve the problem. When I use a peacemaking response, my focus is on “us.” I am aware of everyone’s interests in the dispute, especially God’s, and I am working toward mutual responsibility in solving a problem.


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

The great pronouncement of the prophet Isaiah concerning the Messiah–” For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Is. 9:6a, emphasis ours)–takes on special meaning this time of year as we reflect on Ken’s words, above.

By definition, Christmas can never be fully celebrated by “me” as a “personal family time with loved ones.” If we celebrate in this way, we duck the piercing challenge of Christmas. We embrace the left side of the Slippery Slope and seek only that which is “easy, convenient, and non-threatening.”

But Christmas is very threatening indeed. It is good news, but it is the kind of good news that cuts through “easy, convenient, and non-threatening” like a sword. Christmas is a stubbornly “us” celebration.

Just as Jesus redefined “neighbor” in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Christmas redefines “us” and insists that that definition–and the celebration of Christmas–must include those we’d rather not see around the tree on Christmas morning. In Jesus’ Christmas celebration, our enemies are there–those who slander us and curse us and steal from us. Total strangers are there, for whom we now can and must care because God has cared for us. And even those who simply hurt our feelings unknowingly are there–those against whom we may presently be harboring tiny seeds of bitterness in our heart.

How and where will you celebrate Christmas this year? Will it be an “easy, convenient, and non-threatening” celebration spent entirely with loved ones? (One can almost hear Jesus’ question in Matthew 5:47, “Do not even pagans do that?”)

Or will your Christmas celebration take you to visit a home you’d rather not visit? Will it cause you to pick up the phone and dial a number you’ve long since quit dialing? Will it draw you outward to bring good news to a modern-day “shepherd” watching flocks by night (a convenience store clerk on Christmas eve, perhaps; or on-duty police officer or fire fighter)? Will it cause you to proclaim “good tidings of great joy for all the people”–to a stranger that you might otherwise pass without a word?

If so, then you will be swept up into the great prophecy recorded in Isaiah 9:7: “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (emphasis ours).

Have a Merry Christmas–a dangerously beautiful, challenging, and peace-filled one–from your brothers and sisters at Peacemaker Ministries.

The Strongest Possible Resource

Vitamin Z posted an awesome quote from Time Keller’s The Reason for God that I wanted to share. I don’t want to post the whole quote so there’s just a little bit of it below, but it’s definitely worth the minute or two of your time to read the whole thing.

Why would such an exclusive belief system lead to behaviour that was so open to others? It was because Christians had within their belief system the strongest possible resource for practicing sacrificial service, generosity, and peace-making. At the very heart of their view of reality was a man who died for his enemies, praying for their forgiveness. Reflection on this could only lead to a radically different way of dealing with those who were different from them. It meant they could not act in violence and oppression toward their opponents.

We cannot skip lightly over the fact that there have been injustices done by the church in the name of Christ, yet who can deny that the force of Christians‘ most fundamental beliefs can be a powerful impetus for peace-making in our troubled world?

Read the rest.

Last-Minute Coaching for Your Christmas Gatherings

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In many situations, the best way to resolve a conflict is simply to overlook the personal offenses of others. This approach is highly commended throughout Scripture:

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11; cf. 12:16; 15:18; 20:3).

“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” (Prov. 17:14; cf. 26:17).

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8; cf. Prov. 10:12; 17:9)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2).

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13; cf. Eph. 4:32).

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 82.

Food for Thought

Large, raging conflicts don’t always start as large, raging conflicts. They sometimes start as tiny annoyances that spring from small misunderstandings that come from tired mouths that speak under stressful circumstances (like holidays!). Get a great start on solving your 2013 conflicts: Don’t start any more in 2012! Re-read the verses above. Do any of them speak to you in a special way? Why not memorize that verse as a “head start” on overlooking the personal offenses that will inevitably come your way as you gather together with family, friends, and church in the days ahead?

How our Blog Comments Reflect our Hearts

Tim Challies wrote a really great post yesterday addressing Christians and how the way we comment on blogs. It’s important for all of us to remember that the way we communicate in any medium is a reflection of what’s in our hearts.

What Scripture teaches in both the Old Testament and the New is that everything you say online, just like everything you say in your home and church and workplace, is a reflection of your heart. The Bible tells us time and again that the tongue is connected to the heart. The words that come out of your mouth simply reflect what’s going on at a spiritual level. This is equally true of the words that fly off your fingers when you are tapping away at a keyboard. Angry and bitter words are necessarily the product of an angry and bitter heart.

So we are dealing with a two-part problem: We underestimate the power of our words and this allows us to misuse them. Meanwhile, the Internet enhances our ability and even our desire to use words carelessly. And before we know it, we are leaving harsh, angry, unkind, sarcastic comments on blogs.

Read the rest

The Fear Diet

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There is no fear in love… perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18

Denial. One way to escape from a conflict is to pretend that it does not exist. Or, if we cannot deny that the problem exists, we simply refuse to do what should be done to resolve a conflict properly. These responses bring only temporary relief and usually make matters worse (see Gen. 16:1-6; I Sam. 2:22-25).

Flight. Another way to escape from a conflict is to run away. This may include leaving the house, ending a friendship, quitting a job, filing for divorce, or changing churches. In most cases, running away only postpones a proper solution to a problem (see Gen. 16:6-8), so flight is usually a harmful way to deal with conflict.

 

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 23.

 

Food for Thought

Have you ever thought about fear as an indulgence that we as Christians can’t afford?

We often think of rich desserts as indulgences, and they certainly can be. But fear is an indulgence, too–one that Christians engage in at least as much (if not far more) than Krispy Kreme donuts.

We indulge in fear each time we deny a conflict that exists with a friend–even though we know there is a cancer-like silence between us that Satan is probably filling with his lies. We can indulge in fear when we tell ourselves, “I’ve had enough. I’m done with this.” While walking away looks like some kind of primitive strength, it’s often a fear “feast” that results in us putting on weight (in the form of concern and anxious thoughts).

When fear keeps us from addressing conflict in our lives, it hinders our intimacy with Christ. We’d rather indulge in fear than delight in the love of Christ; yet, if we’d just delight in Perfect Love, scripture says that fear would flee.

Leaving fear behind is a bit like dieting. Standing at the freezer with our hand on the door and the ice cream on the other side, sometimes we just have to say aloud, “No.” Standing in a conflict feeling sorely tempted to indulge in denial and flight (both grounded in fear), we must call to mind the lavish love of Christ, drop our hands to our side, and remind ourselves that fear is one indulgence we simply cannot afford.