Left Ahead

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In this world you will have trouble.” John 16.33

The fact that God is good does not mean that he will insulate us from all suffering. Rather, it means that he will be with us in our suffering and accomplish good through it (Isa. 43:2-3). J.I. Packer writes, “We see that he leaves us in a world of sin to be tried, tested, belaboured by troubles that threaten to crush us–in order that we may glorify him by our patience under suffering, and in order that he may display the riches of his grace and call forth new praises from us as he constantly upholds and delivers us.”

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 63.

 

Food for Thought

 

Imagine this scenario: Jesus is ascending back to heaven as his disciples are looking on and he tells them, “I’ve got to go now. Hang in there, and best of luck.” Sound ludicrous? It would be almost impossible to continue following someone who left you like that. Even those of us who have blood type D (duty) would eventually need a transfusion of something; something to give us hope in this broken world. If that had been the case, then Jesus would have truly left us behind. But that’s not how the story goes.

He left us ahead; he told us what it was going to be like, no surprises (John, chapters 14-16):

The world will hate you.
They will persecute you.
They will put you out of the synagogue.
They will think that killing you is a service to God.

And he told us right where he would be:

I will be with you.

As we suffer conflicts, insults, and other hardships, we must remember that Christ is our Emmanuel–God with us! We press on through those valleys of the shadow of death, but we don’t press on alone; no, we have the presence of the living Christ guiding, encouraging, refining, strengthening, and protecting us all along the way. And as our faith matures, God does more and more of what God loves to do–display the riches of his grace and call forth new praises from us as he constantly upholds and delivers us.

The Gospel: The Key to Peacemaking

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The principles of biblical peacemaking have proven to be universally counter cultural. No matter what race or country we come from, none of us is naturally inclined to obey Jesus’ commands to love our enemies, confess our wrongs, gently correct others, submit to our church, and forgive those who hurt us. In fact, left to our own instincts, we are disposed to do just the opposite.

Fortunately, God has provided a way for us to overcome our innate weakness as peacemakers and learn to respond to conflict constructively. His solution is the gospel, the good news that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). God sent his Son to pay the price for our sins through his death and resurrection. When we believe this and put our trust in Jesus, God forgives all our sins. Through the gospel he also enables us to learn how to resist temptation, obey his commands, and live a life that honors him.

This wonderful news can radically change the way we respond to conflict. Through the gospel, the foundational G, the Lord enables us to live out the Four Gs of peacemaking. As we stand in awe of his matchless grace, we find more joy in glorifying God than in pursuing our own selfish ends. When we realize that God has mercy on those who confess their sins, our defensiveness lifts and we are able to admit our wrongs. As we accept and benefit from the way the gospel lovingly shows us our sin, we are inspired to gently correct and restore others who have done wrong. And as we rejoice in the liberating forgiveness of God, we are empowered to go and forgive others in the same way.

 
Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 13-14.

 

Food for Thought

In the last paragraph above, four ways the Lord uses the gospel to enable us to live out the Four Gs of peacemaking are mentioned. Remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ should give us reason to restore those broken relationships in our lives. Reflecting on the great cost of our forgiveness should cause us to pursue reconciliation with others. As believers, we have been forgiven an enormous debt.

If you are facing conflict, God provides both the model and motivation for peacemaking through the gospel. Remember and reflect on who God is, what he is like, and what he is doing in your life–then ask him to use you to show his love to others.

Play Ball!

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If it’s possible… live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

There are three dimensions to the peace that God offers to us through Christ: peace with God, peace with one another, and peace within ourselves. Many people care little about their relationships with God and other people, but they still want peace within themselves. As you will see, it is impossible to know genuine internal peace unless you also pursue peace with God and others.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 44.

 

Food for Thought

 

As a peacemaker, are you covering your bases?

The batter takes his stance. The pitcher winds up and throws. The batter swings and hits the ball, and immediately runs to… that’s right — first base. Unless you’re watching a bunch of folks goofing off or a really young T-ball team, no batter is going to hit and then run to second base. That’s just not how the game is played. You run to first, then to second, and then on to third; you’ve got to cover all three bases.

Ken reminds us of the three peace bases for the followers of Christ: peace with God, peace with one another, and peace within ourselves. As believers we’ve got to cover all three bases — that’s how the Christian life is lived. Meditate for a few minutes on the following Scripture verses:

Peace with God: Rom. 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Peace with others: 1 Thess. 5:13 “Live in peace with each other.”
Peace with self: Col. 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

And once you’ve covered the three bases, you get to run… that’s right — HOME!

Unintended Pharisees and Leaf Raking

Ed Stetzer has a great post over at The Exchange that really resonated with some issues that I find myself dealing with and I thought it’d be a good thing to share a bit here:

Along the way I would start a Bible study while in high school, but it sometimes seemed that no one was as committed to it as I was. By college, I was a youth pastor, and still felt more committed to the process than everyone else. This frustration continued into pastoral ministry.

As I moved into roles where I trained other pastors, I found that I was not alone in my frustration. Many pastors feel the same way.

The reality is that the Pharisaical spirit often hides in fields of high expectations, and we pastors are often the source of those expectations.

As pastors and church leaders in general, we are often disappointed with the spiritual journey of many people in our care. We don’t understand why they don’t take the faith as seriously as we do. We often get to thinking that they do not truly want to grow in Christ.

“Why? Why was no one else as committed as I was?” we utter in frustration.

At this point we must stop, look in the mirror, and ask ourselves, “Wait… Why was I putting myself above others, wondering why they weren’t measuring up to my standard of passion and intensity in discipleship?”

and later:

I wonder how Jesus dealt with the issue—seeing their lack of commitment so evident among his disciples. And, perhaps that is the answer. After all, while we are comparing ourselves to others, we need to remember that none of us measure up to Jesus.

And no one expects us to.

That’s the key—Jesus gives us grace and calls us to grace, and that’s the answer to the problem of phariseeism in my heart.

Along the way, without even recognizing it, a disciple becomes a Pharisee.
Passion is good—becoming pharisaical is not good.

As I was reading about his own progression from high expectations to bitterness and pharisaical thoughts, it reminded me of this wonderful section from The Peacemaker:

LeafPileIf you look for something bad in another person, you will usually be able to find it. On the other hand, if you look for what is good, you are likely to find that too–and then more and more that is good.

As you regain a more balanced view of the other person, you will often find it easier to overlook minor offenses. I have experienced this process many times in my marriage. One day Corlette said something that really hurt me. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember going out into the back yard a few minutes later to rake leaves. The more I dwelt on her words, the more deeply I slid into self-pity and resentment. I was steadily building up steam to go back into the house and let her know how wrong she was. But then God brought Philippians 4:8 to my mind.

Ha! I thought. There’s nothing noble, right, or lovely about the way she’s treating me! But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t give up. The verse would not go away; it kept echoing in my mind. Finally, to get God off my back, I grudgingly conceded that Corlette is a good cook. This small concession opened the door to a stream of thoughts about my wife’s good qualities. I recalled that she keeps a beautiful home and practices wonderful hospitality. She has always been kind toward my family, and she never missed an opportunity to share the gospel with my father (who eventually put his trust in Christ just two hours before he died). I realized that Corlette has always been pure and faithful, and I remembered how much she supports me through difficult times in my work. Every chance she gets, she attends the seminars I teach and sits smiling and supportive through hours of the same material (always saying she has learned something new). She is a marvelous counselor and has helped hundreds of children. And she even took up backpacking because she knew I loved it! I realized that the list of her virtues could go on and on.

While Ken is specifically applying Philippians 4:8 to conflict in this context, it can easily be applied whenever we feel that bitterness over unmet expectations (like a lack of passion) creeping in. It’s my hope that we all strive to look at the noble, right, and lovely things in one another and pay attention to the hypocrite that can live within.


I heartily encourage you to read Stetzer’s post in it’s entirety here.

image credit: JuliaF

Six of Satan’s Conflict Phrases

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Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

Satan promotes conflict in many ways. Among other things, he tempts us so we give in to greed and dishonesty (Acts 5:3), he deceives us and misleads us (2 Tim. 2:25-26), and he takes advantage of unresolved anger (Eph. 4:26-27). Worst of all, he uses false teachers to propagate values and philosophies that encourage selfishness and stimulate controversy (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Here are some of the expressions that often reflect the devil’s lies and influence:

“Look out for Number One.”
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Surely God doesn’t expect me to stay in an unhappy situation.”
“I’ll forgive you, but I won’t forget.”
“Don’t get mad, get even.”
“I deserve better than this.”

Satan prefers that we do not recognize his role in our conflicts. As long as we see other people as our only adversaries and focus our attacks on them, we will give no thought to guarding against our most dangerous enemy.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 50-51.
 

Food for Thought

Read Jesus’ responses to Satan’s temptations in Matthew 4:1-11. Note that in contrast to Satan’s favorite expressions noted above, none of Jesus’ responses contain the word, “I.” What’s more, none of Jesus’ responses to Satan even contain the word, “you”–usually our second favorite word in conflict! How do we prevent Satan from getting a foothold in our conflicts? We keep our conflict responses (and our words) God-centered, remembering that if God is not at the center of our thoughts during a conflict, Satan will be altogether too happy to quietly take God’s place.

Time for a Time Out?

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When dealing with difficult people, it is also important to recognize your limits. Even when you continue to do what is right, some people may adamantly refuse to admit you are right or to live at peace with you. This is why Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). In other words, do all you can to be reconciled with others, but remember that you cannot force others to do what is right. If you have done everything in your power to resolve a conflict, you have fulfilled your responsibility to God and may stop actively trying to solve the problem. If circumstances change and you have new opportunities to seek peace with an opponent, you should certainly try to do so. In the meantime, it is not necessary or wise to waste time, energy, and resources fretting about someone who stubbornly refuses to be reconciled.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 252.
 

Food for Thought

Are you in the middle of a conflict where the harder you’ve tried to make peace, the worse things have gotten? Don’t be discouraged; instead, think about taking a “time out.” Sometimes we think of a time out as giving up. But sports coaches know that time outs are as important to the game as what happens while the clock is running. It gives the players a chance to regroup, to catch their breath, and to listen to the coach’s strategy for success. In the same way, perhaps you are in a conflict that could benefit from a time out–giving you a chance to regroup and seek the Lord for direction. Pray to God for wisdom on how and when to act “as far as it depends on you”–and patience to wait on the window of opportunity He will supply.