Coming To Our Senses

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But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around
his neck and kissed him. And they wept.” Genesis 33:4

God does not intend for people to relate to one another at a distance or through other people. Genuine relationship involves personal communication. As Exodus 33:11 says, “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (see also 2 John 12). If this is the idea for a true friendship, it is also the ideal for a relationship that has been broken by conflict and needs to be restored. Although other people can sometimes help get the restoration process started, its ultimate goal should usually be a personal, face-to-face meeting between those who have been estranged, so they can express and confirm repentance, confession, and forgiveness and experience together the grace and reconciliation of God.

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 148.
 

Food for Thought

 

Do you relate more face-to-face or screen-to-screen? Why?

We live in a time of connectedness. We are connected via e-mail, the Internet, our cell phones, Androids, iPods, iPads, and iPhones. Being connected now ranks among the necessities of life, alongside food and shelter. But for all the beneficial ways (and there are many) that these technologies connect us, they connect us at a distance. And we find ourselves in a far country.

As Ken reminds us, the ideal for a friendship or relationship of any kind, is speaking face to face; God does not intend for people to relate primarily by way of distance. Notice the physical beauty inherent in Genesis 33.4. Jacob receives an embrace; have you ever felt the warmth of a hug from your iPod? Esau throws his arms around Jacob’s neck; it’s a little hard to feel the rough, hairy arms of your brother by way of a cell phone. Esau kisses Jacob; ask anyone in love if they would rather have the tactile sensations of a kiss or an e-mail full of emoticons. And then the two brothers weep; the Internet can raise the level of information in our heads, but can it cause our defenses to fall, so that tears spill from our hearts?

It’s easy to blame these tools, as if they are the problem. No, the problem is where it has always been–with us. We prefer distance to closeness, and darkness over the light. These tools just help us do it in style. We stride through life, gadgets in our pockets, patting ourselves on the backs, believing we’re really connected.

Maybe we all need one of those prodigal moments–“when he came to his senses” (Luke 15.17). True sense, as God intended, will return to us via our senses. It means being hungry enough to feel the pains in your stomach, or maybe your heart. It means feeling the burn in your legs as you run toward home or maybe the hurt from that broken relationship. It means feeling the embrace of the one you’ve been estranged from; an embrace that just might squeeze the tears out of you. That kind of closeness brings life out of death; it allows you to be found instead of lost. And that story always ends with fattened calves, rings on fingers, and parties hosted by the Father; none of which can be enjoyed from a distance.

Looking at Disagreement

Several people within and connected to Peacemaker Ministries commended this video that features Chuck Swindoll speaking at a chapel service at Dallas Theological Seminary in 2009.

Dr. Swindoll was addressing a topic — conflict — that he says is one of those “things they never told me about while I was going through school — yet they are often the things that seem to occupy so much of our time and attention when we’re engaged in ministry.” In his talk, he looks at the “sharp disagreement” that took place between the Apostle Paul and Barnabas as chronicled in Acts 15 and particularly considers how it reflects on ministry relationships (i.e., people that work together in ministry).

Here’s the video:

In the last half, Dr. Swindoll mentioned four lessons he draws from the passage:

  1. In a disagreement, work hard to see both viewpoints (not just your own). Phil 2:3-4
  2. When both sides have good support, seek a wise compromise.
  3. If the conflict persists, care enough to work it through rather than just stomp out and leave.
  4. If it cannot be resolved, graciously agree to disagree … and sometimes even agree to separate.

These are good points to remember, and there’s much to unpack there. Point number three certainly summarizes much of what we strive to do at Peacemaker Ministries. I’m guessing that most of us think we’ve reached point #4 far earlier than we ought, perhaps even before we’ve sought help and really tried to “work it through. Yet it raises good questions: What does graciously agreeing to disagree look like? When is it really appropriate to agree to separate?  And when should go back to step three (rinse and repeat!)? How is all this different depending on the context — marriage? Ministry? Work? Neighbors? Extended family? Church relationships?

Anyway, if you have 40 minutes, it’s totally worth a listen/watch.

Remarkably Different: The Power of Testimonies

2013-conf-logo-smWelcome back to our series on the 2013 Peacemaker Conference  (if you remember, our last post was by keynote speaker Tara Barthel). Our topic this month is testimonies.

Testimonies provide powerful insight into a person’s life. Every time I hear a testimony of how someone has come to know the Lord or how Jesus is working in their life, it fuels my passion and propels me to continue to live for His glory.

I also hear testimonies about mundane things. Think about all the places where you can post and view reviews – Trip Advisor, Amazon, Yelp, blogs – even Facebook allows you to comment on someone’s status. People’s personal perspectives are powerful. They can persuade me to think about something differently.

Recently I have been looking at reviews closely. As the birth of our first child (a girl) draws near I am reading reviews of items that we might consider putting on our baby registry or buying. One thing I’ve noticed is that most reviews are either horrible or wonderful. You don’t come across many reviews that basically say this was an “ok” product. People get passionate about their experience which often causes them to write a review in the first place.

When we receive positive testimonials about our conference, I love reading them because I know someone took the time to let us know how the Lord used our conference to impact their life. We specifically solicit feedback because we want to hear those stories as well as see areas where we can improve.

When reading reviews, whether it be for our conference or for a stroller, I look to see patterns. Everyone’s experience might not be the same but if I read themes then I know that’s something to really take note of. I want to take a moment to share some of those testimonials with you as an encouragement to attend our 2013 Peacemaker Conference again or to experience it for yourself for the first time. Read these and consider if the Lord would lead you to join us in September 26-29 in Columbus, OH.

“Focused on Christ and the gospel in every workshop and general session.”

 “This was my first conference and it didn’t disappoint me in any way. God bless your ministry and thank you for sharing it with me – I will pass it on.”

“All in all, the Spirit of Christ is in the place, the material is biblical, the skills are transferable in the church, I am challenged and I learn things that I believe will enhance kingdom work. It’s hard to beat that.”

“It is a taste of Heaven.”

 “It is a high point of my year – good training and great networking”

“Because of this week I am better equipped to serve, honor, and show how to glorify God.”

This is just a sample of the testimonies we’ve heard from people about our conference. Reading testimonies like this is one thing but hearing it from actual attendees is another, so please watch this video to hear a little more about the conference and how people have been touched by it in the past.

And when you attend the conference please give us feedback, so that we might glory in what the Lord is doing in your life and learn how we can continue to make this conference a “can’t miss” event.

Special Conference Discounts Now Available!

And now you can attend for less with these super discounts:

  • 2-is-better-than-1 discount: Register at regular price and get a 10% discount to pass on to a friend or spouse
  • Group discount: Register 5 or more people for any of the conference events (includes all Pre-Conference events) and take 30% off your total bill. If you register by June 1st you will also be invited to a special meet-n-greet with our keynote speakers during the conference.
  • Peacemaking Team discount: As a member of a registered peacemaking team there is a discount for each team member on any trainings or conference events (includes all Pre-Conference events). See your manual for the discount code.

See theconferece conference website for more detail or email conference@peacemaker.net

It Only Takes a Spark

 

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Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.
Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
The tongue also is a fire…” James 3:5-6

Scripture warns us that the tongue is often a chief cause of conflict…Reckless words, spoken hastily and without thinking, inflame many conflicts. “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18; cf. Prov 13:3; 17:28; 21:23; 29:20). Although we may seldom set out deliberately to hurt others with our words, sometimes we do not make much of an effort not to hurt others. We simply say whatever comes to mind without thinking about the consequences. In the process, we may hurt and offend others, which only aggravates conflict.

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 121.
 

Food for Thought

 

Do your words heal or pierce? Not sure? Look at the people around you.

But first, let’s take a little stroll down memory lane for a moment. In the 70’s, many Christians were singing, “It only takes a spark, to get a fire going.” Remember that? And while that song was referring to the fire of God’s love, that phrase always brought to mind James’ warnings concerning the tongue. How about this one? “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Smokey the Bear’s deep-throated plea emphasized the incendiary potential of our personal irresponsibility.

Now, how about looking back at last month or last week? Was there any time when just one of your words could have been described as reckless? Or was there even one moment when you just said what you felt with an attitude of “I’m not responsible for how she interprets this, I’m just going to say it.” Does anything like that feel familiar? If so, if you look beyond the “memory lane” you’re strolling down, you may see a scorched landscape.

The culture in which we live seems to worship the reckless word; the popular people just call it being “snarky.” For some reason, we’ve equated reckless with being wide-eyed and grown-up. The reality is that reckless should be equated with near-sighted and immature. Our marriages, families, schools, churches and country are ablaze. Oh, of course, we really didn’t mean to set them on fire, but we really didn’t make the effort to not set them on fire, either. Remember, through the power of the Holy Spirit, only you can prevent those fires set by reckless words.

Christianity and Culture

2013 Regional Peacemaking Event - March 15-16 in Portland, ORWe’re only a few weeks away from the NorthWest Regional Event (a mini-conference on peacemaking) in Portland, OR (March 15-16). One of the things we’re excited about digging into there is the question, “What does peacemaking look like when the culture around us is hostile to what we are trying to do?”

To help lead us in this discussion, we are pleased to have Dr. Brian Mattson, Senior Scholar of Public Theology for the Center of Cultural Leadership, as the keynote speaker at this event. It should be a fun and engaging topic to consider.

Brian has recently begun creating a set of short videos that discuss various aspects of Christianity and Culture, and his latest of the series can be seen below. Take a look to see the type of thoughts Brian will help us consider:

If you are anywhere near the Pacific Northwest, we’d love to have you take part in this event — it’s not often we have an event this size in this region. Space is limited, so register soon!

On Unity and “Cool” Churches

I really liked this quote from Randy Alcorn in his article, “Uncoolness, Tolerance, and Christ’s Bride the Church“:

A church is a gathering of people diverse in race, occupation, age and gender. When those who are already the same in these areas are united, it is not as great a testimony to Christ’s grace as when those who are very different are united in the same Lord.

I also liked his picture of the diversity in generations loving each other well:

I love it when young people and old people are part of the same churches, showing each other grace and tolerance and speaking the truth, but doing so in love. I love it when the old are not shaking their heads in disapproval of the way the young dress, their jewelry and tattoos, the way they speak, and the songs they sing. I love it when the young are not rolling their eyes at the way older people dress, the way they speak, and the music they sing.

 

No Excuses

Our Founder, Ken Sande, has a very insightful post over at his Relational Wisdom blog. I wanted to share a bit of it here, since it’s so good:

…As soon as I saw his face, I knew my explanation was worthless. No explanation was going to change his perception of my failing him or soften the pain I’d caused. Besides, I knew that an explanation would only seem like I was trying to justify or excuse my actions … which is exactly what I longed to do, but which would be of no help to my friend.

So I simply said, “I really failed you during the reorganization. I should have come and talked to you right away. My absence and silence must have hurt you deeply. I have no excuse or explanation. I failed you as a manager and I failed you as a friend. I was wrong, and I’m so very sorry. Can you please forgive me?”

His eyes softened as he said, “That’s all I needed to hear. I know you didn’t mean to let me down, but it helps to hear you admit you did. Jesus has forgiven me far worse things, so yes, I gladly forgive you. This is behind us; let’s move on.”

And that was the end of it. No explanation. No excuses. Grace flowed.

Read the whole thing. It’s worth it.

Learn to Say Your ABC’s

 

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His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither…” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” John 9:2-3

God uses conflict to stretch and challenge you in carefully tailored ways. This process is sometimes referred to as the “ABC of spiritual growth”: Adversity Builds Character. As you worry less about going through conflict and focus more on growing through conflict, you will enhance that process and experience the incomparable blessing of being conformed to the likeness of Christ.

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 37.

Food for Thought

What is your first response to conflict or adversity?

You can’t be too hard on the disciples when they asked Jesus the question in the verse above; they were trying. They saw adversity–in all of it’s forms (including conflict)–as an indication of sin. To think that adversity could have indicated the presence of faith, rather than its absence, was simply unbelievable. But Jesus’ answer challenged everything they thought they knew about godliness. The man’s blindness–his adversity–had a purpose. It was about being able to speak as much as it was being able to see.

We haven’t progressed much beyond the disciples. We often still view adversities as a red flag that something is wrong. But the scriptural reality is that sometimes everything may be right–the right kind of circumstances, the right kind of people involved, or the right kind of pain to teach us the language of faith. We shouldn’t go looking for trouble, mind you–each day has enough trouble of its own, say Jesus. However, when trouble comes (and it will), how will we handle it? The ABC’s of Spiritual Growth remind us that God is intensely interested in our character, our holiness. He’s so interested that He will allow pain or adversity into our lives if it will help us to grow to become more like Him.

The ABC’s are what children learn by–how they grow in terms of speaking and listening. Those letters are combined to form words, sentences, thoughts, and questions. The adversities and conflicts we go through function in much the same way. They help us form the words and sentences of an authentic faith, so that we can then speak as a witness–someone who knows and sees.

One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” ~ John 9:25