Ascend: Go to the Father Because… (Part II)

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We’ve all heard the expression about “sticks and stones” and are fully aware that, while sticks and stones may break our bones, the reality is that words really do hurt us. In fact, divisive words may injure something more fragile than our body – they can shatter our hearts. Gossip, lies, backstabbing, and betrayals of all kinds create wounds from which some of us have yet to heal.

Unaddressed injuries such as these can cause a once soft and pliable heart to become calloused and hard. Over time, if we allow the pain to continue to fester beneath the surface, there’s a good chance that our bitterness and unforgiveness may completely consume us.

If we want God to open the door of healing for both our hearts and relationships, our first step is to humbly go (ascend) to our Father because… He welcomes a contrite heart!

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise,” (Psalm 51:17).

No matter what relational difficulties we may be experiencing, when we ascend to our Heavenly Father and surrender our brokenness to Him, He is able to help us see what we cannot see and can strip away any pride or fear so that our hearts will look more like His heart. I confess that this isn’t always my initial reaction in times of conflict, but as I become more seasoned in my faith, I am learning to do this sooner and more often. What a privilege and blessing this has been in my life!

How about you? Do you struggle with going to God first in the midst of conflict? Let me encourage you that He brings hope in the midst of our trials, and His promises to us are sure. As we humble our hearts and receive His tender mercies, He will walk with us on the path of peace.

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

What is our responsibility and calling as peacemakers? We’ll take a look at this in the coming weeks. As always, thanks for reading and sharing The Path of a Peacemaker blog!  Click here to learn more about Peacemaker Ministries.

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Dale Pyne – CEO, Peacemaker Ministries

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Ascend: Go to the Father Because… Part I

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There was only one way out of the mess the prodigal son had made of his life – he had to return to his father. As I think of his situation, sometimes I wonder how long he agonized over this difficult decision. How could he have any assurance that his father would take him back? After all of his foolish and shameful actions, didn’t he risk the possibility of rejection? Was the trip back home really worth the risk?

While you and I have the benefit of knowing how this parable ends and what it means, could the prodigal have foreseen the outcome of his bold decision? Did he hearken back to the love and tenderness of his father? My guess is that he knew the same thing about his father that you and I know about our Heavenly Father, and like us, needed to be reminded of this truth:

“…The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…” Exodus 34:6-7a

The Heavenly Father’s capacity to love us goes beyond what our human minds can fully conceive. Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul prayed that the church would be able to comprehend “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Eph. 3:18) God’s love is so great that it not only knows no bounds, but there is nothing in all of creation that can separate us from it! (Rom. 8:39)

As children of a gracious and merciful God, this should give us the confidence to go to our Father at any time with anything. We know that he can restore relationships, heal our brokenness, and redeem our sorrows. He loves the unlovable, forgives the unforgivable, and, though it’s not easy, He helps those who are peacemakers to do the same. Together, let us ascend to the Father because… He is compassionate!

 Up Ahead on “The Path”…

Why should we go to our Father in our times of conflict and trouble? We’ll take a look at yet another reason in next week’s post. Thanks again for reading The Path of a Peacemaker blog, and please keep sharing it with your friends and family! Click here to learn more about Peacemaker Ministries.

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Ascend: Go to the Father

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For every problem there is a solution – and conflict is a problem that confronts the human race every day. Some conflicts are easily resolved, while others become so complicated that, based on outward appearances, there is little hope for a path to peace.

No matter the initial intensity, resolving a dispute becomes an even greater task when we impulsively react instead of choosing the best response. Since we’re all human, these things are bound to happen from time to time. In moments like these, what should we do?

While there are several significant steps in the peacemaking journey, the first and most important one is perfectly illustrated in this declaration by the prodigal son: “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.’” (Luke 15:18)

Ascend – Arise and Go to the Father

The prodigal son chose to go (ascend) to his father during his darkest hour, much in the same way that David did as he endured many agonizing years of conflict and adversity at the hands of King Saul. Despite the tumultuous circumstances, this “man after God’s own heart” (I Sam. 13:14) not only understood, but beautifully articulated the essence of God’s unwavering care and concern:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth… The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:1-2, 7-8)

Do you have a problem? Your Father has the solution. Maybe you’ve sinned against God, or someone has sinned against you or a loved one – or perhaps a little of both. No matter what challenge you may be facing, your first and best decision in every situation is to go to your Father. He cares for you and is your source of help!

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

What about the nature of our Heavenly Father compels Him to help us in our journey as peacemakers – and how can we be sure He will come to our aid? We’ll explore this further in the weeks ahead. As always, thanks for taking time to read The Path of a Peacemaker blog – I hope you’ll keep sharing it! Click here to learn more about Peacemaker Ministries.

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When It Rains

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When frustration mounts over seemingly endless personal or relational challenges, many of us can relate to this expression of exasperation: “When it rains, it pours!”

While most of us would prefer a life of complete peace and tranquility, troublesome times are sure to come. When they do, are you able to view the challenge as an opportunity to seek the Lord and grow in your faith? Or, do you see it as simply another inconvenient interruption meant to further complicate your life? I confess, my initial reaction is usually the latter.

There’s no doubt that all of our experiences, whether good or bad, have a way of influencing our perspective, shaping our character, and providing a broader context for each of our stories. Although it’s often difficult to understand intense seasons of testing, James reminds us they serve a valuable purpose in our lives:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

When (not if) it rains and pours, you might find that frustration gets the better of you. In those moments, I’d encourage you to pause long enough to take a breath, look to heaven and ask yourself, “Can I trust the Lord’s plan for me?” If you rely on His steadfastness through the storm and faithfully walk The Path of a Peacemaker, God’s love and grace will be reflected through you in a way that honors Him and serves others.

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

What is the first step toward resolving conflict in our lives? We will look at this more closely over the next few weeks. Thanks for reading, and please keep sharing the blog! Click here to learn more about Peacemaker Ministries.

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Dangerous Desires

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As we’ve journeyed The Path of a Peacemaker, we’ve looked at some of the contributing factors and responses that have played a role in conflict – but what triggers the conflict itself?

While things like personality clashes, gross injustices and demonstrations of favoritism produce sparks that can be fanned into flame, the Apostle James reminds us that this kind of conflict has a universal starting point:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1)

When dangerous desires such as jealousy, pride and selfishness are at war within us, it can trigger conflict with our fellow man. When tense moments arise, rather than counting the cost and holding our thoughts and actions long enough for them to be tempered by the Spirit of the Living God, our natural tendency is to react – speak first, think later.

As children of God, we know that the greatest opportunity to resolve our side of the contentious situation occurs when the desires of our hearts are brought into alignment with God’s desires. Since this doesn’t come naturally for us, it behooves us to approach the Father and pray as David did: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” (Psalm 51:10).

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

What’s the purpose of conflict in my life? We’ll take a look at this in next week’s post! Thanks for reading, and please keep sharing the blog! Click here to learn more about Peacemaker Ministries.

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Healthy vs. Unhealthy Tension

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Tension and the Story of Humanity

As we’ve examined the story of the prodigal son, his father and older brother, the thread woven throughout their lives – and each of ours – is that of tension. The prodigal’s poor choices led him to the brink of poverty, hunger and destitution. God used this healthy tension in his life to bring him to his senses. Lacking in grace, the resentful older brother experienced tension too, but of the unhealthy variety.

Fast forward to the here and now, and the opportunity to experience tension in our daily lives is boundless! There are choices to make about how to raise children, manage finances, operate a business, grow a church, or achieve any other mutual goal. Issues such as these can produce understandable points of disagreement among even godly, well-intentioned people. Discussing them with maturity, respect, and a commitment to unity result in healthy tension which produces a more positive outcome. When compassion and respect are lacking, however, this healthy tension morphs into unhealthy tension which is sure to cause harm.

Tension and Your Story

Tension is a natural part of life, and is often triggered when what I want stands in opposition to what you want – and vice versa. The good news is that when we address tension in a healthy way, it is possible to avert the crisis of a full-blown conflict.

When differing positions emerge, a healthy approach is to attack the problem, not the person. Express desires, instead of making demands – and demonstrate respect while resisting attitudes that foster resentment. Ephesians 4:2-3 puts it like this: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

We’ve all made our fair share of mistakes when it comes to peacemaking – and peacekeeping. Thankfully, our experiences afford us the opportunity to learn and grow. As you commit yourself to Christ and strive to walk The Path of a Peacemaker, He will continue to guide you in your pursuit of peace.

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

Don’t miss next week’s post! We’ll take a look at some of the things in our lives that trigger conflict. Thanks, once again, for reading and sharing the posts from The Path of a Peacemaker! Click here to learn more about Peacemaker Ministries.

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Resisting Reconciliation

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Storyline – The Story of the Prodigal’s Older Brother

If you are at all familiar with the story of the prodigal son, then you understand the sharp contrast between the compassionate heart of the father and the calloused heart of the older brother. Rather than sharing in his father’s joy, the older brother became consumed with anger over the lavish homecoming celebration. Untouched by his father’s plea to join the festivities, what resulted was an outburst which revealed the depth of his frustration:

 “‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” (Luke 15:28-30).

Sure, the older brother was unhappy about his brother’s foolishness – but why was he so angry? What prevented him from joining his father and the others from welcoming his brother back home?

While there must have been many contributing factors, it is clear that the older brother believed that he was far more worthy of the attention and affection that had been showered on his younger brother, “the prodigal.” Overcome by feelings of resentment and jealousy, the older brother couldn’t bring himself to be a part of the amazing story of reconciliation that was unfolding within his own family.

The Story of the Prodigal’s Older Brother & Your Story

Do you ever feel justified in withholding forgiveness from a family member or friend who has completely blown it – or feel conflicted when others who are close to you become reconciled with someone who has hurt you deeply? While these emotions are understandable, if allowed to take root and grow, they will stand in the way of a restored relationship.

When the prospect of reconciliation seems overwhelming, Romans 5:8 offers a profound perspective: “…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In our broken, fallen, imperfect, sin-stained condition, our Heavenly Father chose to reconcile us back to Himself through the priceless gift of His one and only Son. Instead of giving us what we deserved, He extended grace. As peacemakers, let us strive to do the same.

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

Check out next week’s post where we’ll explore the difference between healthy and unhealthy tension in our relationships. As always, thanks for reading – and keep sharing the posts from The Path of a Peacemaker!

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The Father’s Heart

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Storyline – The Father of the Prodigal

When the prodigal son finally returned home, his father could have responded in a thousand different ways. He could have turned his son away, or at the very least, delegated his “problem child” to one of his hired servants, washing his hands of the pain and embarrassment caused by his wayward son. A torrent of harsh, reprimanding words could have been unleashed, or a more subtle form of anger expressed through passive-aggressive behavior were options that others in his shoes would have chosen.

Yet, this father was not motivated by a need for justice. He did not care about settling the score. Instead, his response was motivated out of a deep sense of compassion and longing to restore the relationship with his long-lost son:

“But while he [the prodigal son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20b)

The Father of the Prodigal’s Story & Your Story

If you feel that you have more in common with the prodigal son than with the father, rest assured. You are not alone. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s plan. Just like the father in this story, our Heavenly Father’s heart is filled with compassion for us. No matter what we’ve done, where we’ve been, or how much of what He’s given us that we’ve wasted, His primary goal is to restore relationship.

While it is not natural for us to demonstrate the kind of love displayed by the father in this story, as children of God and recipients of His abundant grace, Ephesians 5:1-2a offers this instruction: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”

What does this mean for you and me? As followers of Christ, if we are to be ready, willing, and equipped to walk The Path of a Peacemaker, we need to humbly ask our Father to give us hearts like His – hearts that are marked by grace and motivated by compassion.

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

Coming up next week, “The Path” will take us to another character in the story of the prodigal son – the older brother. Thanks for reading – and keep sharing the posts from The Path of a Peacemaker!

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The Prodigal

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Storyline – The Prodigal Son

He was a rebel who longed to live “the good life” without interference from anyone or anything. To fund his new lifestyle, he got an advance on the inheritance from his father which he squandered on lavish parties and the finest material goods that money could buy.

In the beginning, life was exciting and grand. Then one foolish choice after another left this young man penniless, hungry, and destitute. When he finally hit the very bottom, he found that there was no other way to restore the peace in his life than to humble himself and go back to his father. His own words were evidence of a changed heart:

“I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” (Luke 15:18)

Have you ever considered that this young man could have made a different decision? Instead of choosing to humble himself, acknowledge his mistakes, and admit to his father his desperate situation, he could have remained hardened and proud. Rather than continuing to live in misery, he swallowed his pride and decided to take steps toward reconciliation with his father.

The Prodigal’s Story & Your Story

No matter the circumstances, if you’re responsible for pain that exists between you and a loved one, can you take responsibility for your actions? Rather than being encumbered by guilt and shame, can you break free from the pride or fear that prevents you from humbling yourself and restoring the relationship?

If you are willing, the pathway to peace can begin right now. You can get back on your feet and return to your Heavenly Father. First, set things right with Him, and with His help, take steps to reconcile with the one you’ve hurt.

We all have been granted the opportunity to walk The Path of a Peacemaker in our relationships. It is not always an easy journey, but one that, as believers, we are called and privileged to travel. It’s good to walk this path together.

Up Ahead on “The Path”…

While we will take a deeper look at reconciliation with the Father and others in the coming weeks, first we will look at the story of the prodigal son from the perspective of the father and brother. Check back next week for the latest post!

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His Story, Our Story

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Last week, we kicked off our brand new blog, The Path of a Peacemaker.   Before stepping on the path that will guide us to Ascend (go to God), Reflect (examine our hearts), and Connect (forgive and reconcile), we need to take a deeper look at the context for your story and mine. Where does it all begin?

The Storyline – Jesus, God incarnate, is the story. He came to rescue us from the sin and depravity that had tarnished the world, and had caused deep heartache and brokenness. As He walked among us, He provided many rich examples and teachings which demonstrated how we are to live in relationship with God and others. From His first breath to His last, His life was a powerful illustration of humility, passion, wisdom, and compassion. Jesus, the preeminent peacemaker, chose to pay the price to reconcile the human race back to God when He laid down His life on the cross for us. All of this has brought us to the realization that without Him, we have nothing – we are nothing. With Him, we have “everything we need for life and holiness” (2 Peter 1:3).

Our Story – While Jesus is the story, and provides the framework for everything we encounter in life, we all have a story, too. While no two stories are the same, we do share the common experience of living in a fallen world that cannot know peace without the divine intervention of the Savior. Whether your life experience has been filled with times of blessing and tranquility, or you’ve struggled through fears and tears, God is moving you forward in your “story” and desires to transform both the beautiful and broken places of your life into a masterpiece. As you weave in and out of the lives of others, you can rest assured that He has a plan for you and is working that out in your life.

In the upcoming months we will take a closer look at the story of a loving father and his two sons, also known as the story of the “prodigal son.” Then, we will compare their story to our own. I hope you will stay the course with me, and will offer your own thoughts and perspectives as we travel, The Path of a Peacemaker.

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