People Who Breathe Grace

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Peacemakers are people who breathe grace. They draw continually on the goodness and power of Jesus Christ, and then they bring his love, mercy, forgiveness, strength, and wisdom to the conflicts of daily life. God delights to breathe his grace through peacemakers and use them to dissipate anger, improve understanding, promote justice, and encourage repentance and reconciliation.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 11

Food for Thought

Have you ever been around a person who was truly filled with the peace of God? Were you drawn to her serenity—regardless of her circumstance? (For didn’t you see Christ’s peace in her the most when her trials were at their worst?) Did his confidence in God’s goodness strengthen you when you faced times of trial and doubt? (Because you knew that his faith in God was not a shallow faith—but one born of great suffering and painful perseverance through the storms of life?)

When you think about that peaceful, grace-filled person, what were her relationships like? Did she leave a legacy of hurting, offended, discouraged people in her wake? Was he known as a man who “always had the right answer” and frequently spoke words of condemnation? Probably not. People who are filled with God’s peace also tend to be at peace with others. Why?

“Peacemakers are people who breathe grace,” Ken reminds us. The peace of God transcends all understanding and it fills their hearts like fountains bubbling over with mercy, kindness, genuine care, and abiding love. They are so filled with God’s grace that they splash it onto everyone around them. They could no more stop breathing grace than a person could stop breathing air—because grace is the air that they breathe. Their prayers sound something like this:

  • Breathing grace in: The one true holy God sent his Son to die for me? I am saved from hell, from my sin; justified before this holy God; forgiven and adopted? What wondrous love is this! Thank you, God. Thank you for forgiving me all my sins and making the way for me to be at peace with you. I worship You!
  • Breathing grace out: And now, dear Lord, as I head into my day—let the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ be the heartbeat of my life. Please, God, let every word I say, every action I take, the attitude of my heart, my desires and inclinations—let my life be used by You, for Your glory and the furtherance of Your Kingdom. Please help me to treat others not as they deserve—but as You treat me. May I be your image-bearer, your representative, your ambassador. Thank You, Lord.

Dear friends, let every breath we take and every word we speak today be filled with grace!

Tara Barthel (Billings, MT) is a former attorney and the author of our Women’s Study. She currently serves her family as a homemaker while regularly speaking at women’s events and blogging on God’s considerable grace.

Spring Cleaning Time for Closets with Skeletons

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If it is difficult for you to identify and confess your wrongs, there are two things you can do. First, ask God to help you see your sin clearly and repent of it, regardless of what others may do (Ps. 129:23-24). Then prayerfully study his Word and ask him to show you where your ways have not lined up with his ways (Heb. 4:12). Second, ask a spiritually mature friend to counsel and correct you (Prov. 12:15; 19:20). The older I get, the less I trust myself to be objective when I am involved in a conflict. Time after time I have been blessed by asking a friend to candidly critique my role in a conflict. I have not always liked what my friends have said, but as I have humbled myself and submitted to their correction, I have always seen more clearly.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 120

Food for Thought

In Psalm 32, David talks about how hidden sin eats us up. “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of the summer.”

Yet as we read on in the chapter, David identifies no less than seven mighty acts God will work on our behalf as we confess our sin. He begins with the stunning promise that “surely in the rush of great waters they shall not reach him” and ends with the assurance that “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord”.

Are you struggling with private or unconfessed sin? Read Psalm 32 and see if you can identify all seven of the ways God promises to intercede on your behalf as you take the difficult step of acknowledging (even publicly, if appropriate) your wrongdoing. Then read 2 Timothy 2:21 and take comfort in the knowledge that God is seeking to cleanse you from your sin to use you for noble purposes ahead.

The Measure of a Place

This is an article taken from our website that we thought would be a good thing to share with our blog readers. It’s a really touching testimony from Chip Zimmer. 

I was 21 years old and a recent college graduate when I traveled outside North America for the first time. In August 1970 I flew to Nepal, where I would spend two years as a Peace Corps volunteer.

My introduction to Nepalese culture had begun two months earlier during training in Davis, California, but it wasn’t until we were on our final approach into Tribhuvan Airport that I appreciated how different Nepal was from anything I’d experienced before. There, outside my window and a few hundred feet below, stood Bodnath, one of the most famous Buddhist shrines in the Kathmandu valley. I couldn’t take my eyes off the domed temple, with its superstructure of painted eyes, prayer flags, and golden crown. This definitely was not Kansas.

I’ve often found that my most intense memories of a place are linked to sights, sounds, or smells. As vivid as these are, however, such physical stimuli can be misleading. They may tell me that a place is different, but it is not until I have been granted access into the lives of people who live there that I form an appreciation for a culture’s fundamental shape, and for how its values align with or are at odds with my own or with God’s.

My friend Ted Kober discovered this on his first visit to India several years ago. Ted had been invited by church leaders to teach peacemaking in the southern part of the country. After one of the presentations, a pastor raised his hand to ask a question that went something like this:

“The parents of a young man in my church arranged for the marriage of their son, but the son refused to cooperate. Instead, he married a woman of his own choosing. As a result, our church excommunicated both the young man and his parents. The parents repented for not being able to control the behavior of their son and asked to come back into the church, but our elders refuse to reinstate them.”

The pastor looked at Ted and asked, “What should I do?”

The question stopped Ted in his tracks. Here was a matter that went to the heart of the intersection between Christianity and Indian culture, and he, an outsider with little understanding of the intricacies of local customs, was expected to provide the answer. All eyes were on him. How would he respond?

I know how I might have responded. I would have been tempted to blast away at arranged marriages–in fact, at the entire caste system. I had struggled during my years in Nepal with the whole notion of caste and everything that went with it. What could be more unfair than a system that allocates opportunities in life based on family of birth? As a North American, I am saturated with the belief that individuals should be free to choose for themselves whom they marry and that opportunities in life should be based on what you know, not on who your parents are. The chance to take a good swing at a system I found abhorrent would have been hard to resist.

Yet, at the same time, I think I would have been restrained by years of wrestling with peacemaking and the implications of Scripture–something about getting the log out of my own eye first. Where in my own culture could I point to a functional caste system in which opportunity had more to do with birth than with ability? More to the point, hadn’t I found it convenient to show favoritism, or say to someone in need, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed”? In my own way, hadn’t I lived what amounted to a caste system approach to life? Didn’t I try to control others, to manipulate their decisions to get what I wanted? I have to admit that the answer to these questions is “yes.” As I reflect on my own shortcomings, I am amazed and grateful that Christ died even for these sins of mine. I hope that this realization would have tempered any remarks I might have made.

Beyond being wise in speech, however, I also hope I would have come to the conclusion Ted reached as he stood before his audience. Ted resisted the temptation to try to answer the question and instead pointed his listeners to the one source he was sure would help. “What does the Bible say?” he asked. “Let’s take a look at the Scriptures.”

The wonderful thing about Ted’s response is that he recognized a boundary and refused to cross it. It is not always easy to defer when cast in the role of “expert,” but Ted wisely realized that, in the end, it was not his opinion that mattered, but God’s. Scripture is the standard by which all cultures should be assessed. Ted’s answer affirmed this reality and pointed his listeners toward taking a biblical approach to life’s problems, the very thing he had been teaching in his peacemaking seminar.

I have thought a lot about Ted’s experience in the years since he told me his story. It has shaped my own approach to teaching generally and working cross culturally in particular and more than once has helped me stay out of trouble. Along the way, I have developed a deep appreciation for the words of David, as recorded in Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”

I’m not 21 anymore, but I still love the thrill of visiting someplace new, of seeing new sites and meeting new people. I try to cherish every trip and every new friendship. But, I have also learned that the true measure of a place is not primarily what I see or hear or smell. The true measure of a place–whether it is your home or mine–is what lives in the hearts of its people and whether those hearts are inclined toward God.

Written by Chip Zimmer, Vice President of Global Ministries

While…

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Trusting God does not mean that we will never have questions, doubts, or fears. We cannot simply turn off the natural thoughts and feelings that arise when we face difficult circumstances. Trusting God means that in spite of our questions, doubts, and fears we draw on his grace and continue to believe that he is loving, that he is in control, and that he is always working for our good. Such trust helps us to continue doing what is good and right, even in difficult circumstances.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 65

Food for Thought

I can trust God while I am feeling __________ (you fill in the blank).

How many of us can drive while talking on our cell phones (with an approved hands-free device, of course)? That’s right, everybody raise your hand. How about eating breakfast while reading the morning news? Yes, again, that goes together like peanut butter and jelly or chocolate and vanilla. Most of us can do one or more things while we’re doing something else. So why does it feel different when it comes to the life of faith?

How many times do we believe that the presence of trust means the complete absence of questions, doubts, and fears? (Don’t ask that question so much for your neighbor as for your yourself.) Ken wisely reminds us that this is just not true. It’s perfectly acceptable in God’s eyes to continue believing that he is loving while having questions about his method of showing that how that love is manifest. It doesn’t reflect a lack of faith to continue believing that he is in control while having some doubts about what control really means. And the biblical record, at least, seems to honor the person who continues to believe that he is working for our good while the flames of persecution are being fanned.

Continuing down the path that God has prepared for us even while having questions, doubts and fears is the very definition of trust. Any other definition is a half-truth. We can still pray, “Increase our faith!” but we don’t have to be discouraged every time doubts creep into our hearts. Do you mean my heart can have questions and doubts, and that doesn’t disqualify me in the faith category? Remember, as the apostle John reminds us, that “God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:20).

Rebel With A Cause

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But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

Even when we say, “I forgive you,” many of us have a difficult time not thinking about what others have done to hurt us… It is very difficult simply to stop thinking about an unpleasant experience. Instead, we must replace negative thoughts and memories with positive ones… Every time you begin to dwell on or brood over what someone else has done, ask for God’s help and deliberately pray for that person or think of something about the offender that is “true, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy.”

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 220-221

Food for Thought

Would people describe you as rebellious? If so, in what way? If not, why?

Rebel is not the way most believers would describe themselves these days. It’s just a stone’s throw from rebellious, and we surely wouldn’t want to lean in that direction. But even a cursory reading of Jesus’ words show just how rebellious the Christian life is. He tells us to go totally cross-grain to the way of this world — do the counterintuitive thing. So put on your James Dean jacket, slick your hair back, re-read Jesus’ words and let’s redeem the word rebel. But remember our cause — reconciliation with God.

Ken’s encouragement to use the replacement principle is exactly what Jesus is referring to in Luke 6. Instead of hating those who hate you — negate the hate with doing good. When you want to curse those who are cursing you, rearrange your four-letter words so that they spell bless. And all those who mistreat you? Replace your “I’m gonna’ gitcha'” scheme with “Lord, have mercy.” But be warned — people don’t like rebels, and they usually want to make them go away. This kind of godly rebelliousness may leave your James Dean jacket in shreds, your hair may lose all its slick, and it just might get you persecuted. There’s a pretty good precedent for that. But remember our cause — the peace of God. God’s true rebels are not necessarily the popular and successful, but the hated, cursed and mistreated; those who stay true to the cause no matter what. And the cause is peace. Peace has a face (and it’s not James Dean’s). “For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2.14) — Jesus himself replaces justice with mercy and condemnation with freedom. What a rebel!