Jul 24 2014

The Nuclear Power of the Gospel in Conflict

At our conference this year, we’re excited to be offering some workshops taught by Christian Muntean, Executive Director of Beyond Borders. His friend and colleague, JP Oulette, at Conflict Resolution Center wrote a great blog article explaining how relationships can be like an atom and conflict can have a nuclear power to it. He also does a spectacular job illustrating how the Gospel is crucial:

Atomic StructureIn the picture of an atom, we see a nucleus (bound protons and neutrons) surrounded by a cloud of orbiting electrons. This is a good picture of how the gospel relates to the conflicts we face in our lives every day.

The protons and neutrons in the center are the people in relationship. The electrons swirling around them are the issues that often create a cloud of mystery and awkwardness.

These issues seem to orbit our lives so fast that even one or two issues can create the illusion of a barrier between the relationship (nucleus) and the clarity of life outside the conflict. The more issues that exist, the harder it becomes to see the possibilities for resolution.

The people in relationship are tightly or loosely bound depending upon their foundation and conflicts that exist within. When relationship is severed through unresolved conflict, it can be a weapon of mass destruction leaving an aftermath of pain and bitterness in the lives of many.

Much like the individuals in the nucleus of conflict, those on the outside of the relationship often judge the situation by the cloud of issues surrounding it. It can be hard to get a clear view of the relationship or even see the potential for reconciliation. Intimidated by the cloud, we tend to back away from the situation all together.2f7e7a014c184d17ff7c9c45b2255e7c_f34

When we understand and appreciate, however, that the power of the gospel demonstrated on the cross was found in the midst of conflict, right in the nucleus, we are compelled to press past the issues and into the relationship.

Read the rest here.

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Jul 23 2014

Agonizing for Peace… Like a Gladiator

Published by under PeaceMeal

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Paul’s letter to the Ephesians focuses heavily on peacemaking. The first three chapters provide a glorious description of God’s plan of salvation. In the fourth chapter, Paul begins to explain how we should respond to what Christ has done for us. Note carefully what Paul places at the top of his list of practical applications of the gospel: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 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” (Eph. 4:1-3). The Greek word that is translated “make every effort” in this passage means to strive eagerly, earnestly, and diligently. It is a word that a trainer of gladiators might have used when he sent men to fight to the death in the Coliseum: “Make every effort to stay alive today!” So too must a Christian agonize for peace and unity. Obviously, token efforts and halfhearted attempts at reconciliation fall far short of what Paul had in mind.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 66.
 

Food for Thought

Are you struck by the call to agonize for peace and unity–like a gladiator? Do you know who agonizes for peace and unity like a gladiator? Christ Jesus! Before you get down on yourself by thinking, “Wow, I should really be agonizing more about my peacemaking…”, hear the good news: Christ himself is a “peacemaking gladiator.” When you “fight” for reconciliation, even in a seemingly lost cause, you’re fighting back to back with the greatest warrior who ever lived–the Lord himself. The battle may turn out differently than you expect or prefer, but take comfort in this:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).

Fight the good fight of reconciliation with the Lord, not you, in the lead. Follow his lead, leaving the results in his hands, and you will see that, far from despising your efforts, the Lord will accept them as a sacrifice–and he will honor them, in his own way, in his own time.

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Jul 16 2014

Forgiven But Not Trusted?

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Loving actions can do much more than change your feelings; they can also communicate in unmistakable terms the reality of your forgiveness and your commitment to reconciliation. Thomas Edison apparently understood this principle. When he and his staff were developing the incandescent light bulb, it took hundreds of hours to manufacture a single bulb. One day, after finishing a bulb, he handed it to a young errand boy and asked him to take it upstairs to the testing room. As the boy turned and started up the stairs, he stumbled and fell, and the bulb shattered on the steps. Instead of rebuking the boy, Edison reassured him and then turned to his staff and told them to start working on another bulb.

When it was completed several days later, Edison demonstrated the reality of his forgiveness in the most powerful way possible. He walked over to the same boy, handed him the bulb, and said, “Please take this up to the testing room.” Imagine how that boy must have felt. He knew that he didn’t deserve to be trusted with this responsibility again. Yet, here it was, being offered to him as though nothing had happened. Nothing could have restored this boy to the team more clearly, more quickly, or more fully. How much more should those of us who have experienced reconciliation with God be quick to demonstrate our forgiveness with concrete actions.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 222-223.

 

Food for Thought

 

One of the central (and often most neglected) elements of forgiveness is offering our trust again to the one who failed us. In some cases, it is entirely appropriate and necessary for us to set restrictions on a person who has violated trust (for example, prohibiting an adult who has hurt children from being alone with other children in the future, even when the adult is forgiven). But in many cases, withholding trust from those we forgive can be just a subtle form of continuing punishment or failure to truly reconcile. Isn’t it good that God doesn’t require that we “earn his trust” when we fail him? Each day he gives us opportunities to experience his restoration and his trust, not just his forgiveness. Is there someone you have forgiven who needs to feel your trust today?

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Jul 10 2014

Material Prosperity or TRUE Peace and Prosperity?

The Generosity Monk (one of our keynote speakers at conference, Gary Hoag) has a great meditation on his blog about the differences between true, biblical peace and prosperity and the counterfeit versions that the world produces.

Here’s an excerpt of the portion he quotes from Justin Borger’s “Personal Peace and Prosperity”:

“The bigger house, the higher salary and the comfortable retirement are poor substitutes for the Bible’s idea of peace and prosperity: shalom. Rather than defining prosperity as many Christians typically do in terms of personal affluence and professional success, shalom is a far richer sort of prosperity that encompasses every dimension of life. Perhaps most importantly, shalom measures material abundance in terms of a community’s ability to flourish as a whole, not just as individuals.

One of the Old Testament’s clearest illustrations of what true prosperity looks like can be found in a letter written by the prophet Jeremiah. Remarkably, this letter was written to a group of Jewish exiles who were anything but prosperous. Their homeland had just been destroyed, and they—along with all their material resources and possessions—had been carried off into captivity in Babylon. Nevertheless, it was in the midst of this economic disaster that God wanted to teach his people how to achieve true peace and prosperity.”

Read the rest here.

 

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Jul 09 2014

Going the Wrong Way Down a One-Way Street

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Because most of us do not like to admit that we have sinned, we tend to conceal, deny, or rationalize our wrongs. If we cannot completely cover up what we have done, we try to minimize our wrongdoing by saying that we simply made a “mistake” or an “error in judgment.” Another way to avoid responsibility for our sins is to shift the blame to others or to say that they made us act the way we did. When our wrongs are too obvious to ignore, we practice what I call the 40/60 Rule. It goes something like this: “Well, I know I’m not perfect, and I admit I am partially to blame for this problem. I’d say that about 40% of the fault is mine. That means 60% of the fault is hers. Since she is 20% more to blame than I am, she should be the one to ask for forgiveness.” I never actually say or think these exact words, but I often catch myself resorting to this tactic in subtle ways. By believing that my sins have been more than canceled by another’s sins, I can divert attention from myself and avoid repentance and confession.

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

“It’s two-way street, you know … I did stuff, but he did stuff, too! Why aren’t we talking about HIS stuff?” These words, which were spoken in the midst of an actual conflict, reflect another variation of the 40/60 rule Ken mentions above. We say it’s a two-way street, but the problem is that in reality we still treat it like a one-way street. “When the other person is willing to ‘drive’ to me, only then will I think about confessing my part of the conflict.”

But that’s not the way Jesus spells things out in Luke 6:41-42. There he gives his famous words on “getting the log out” of your own eye first, before you ever get around to removing the splinter from your brother’s or sister’s eye. And just a few verses earlier, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. (Luke 6:35)

What about the confessions we make? Do we withhold our confession until we have assurance that the other person will confess his or her part? Or are we willing to confess “expecting nothing in return”? It is a two-way street, but the responsibility that God calls each of us to is all one-way.

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Jul 03 2014

Outstanding Testimony: I could have SUED and WON

Over at her blog, Tara Barthel has a great reflection on how God provided the means for her to go to The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference and provided much grace in a situation that could have easily ended differently. I’m just going to include a snippet here so be sure to go read the whole (amazing and funny) thing:

Again, the lead flight attendant rushed to my side and offered to have a “medical team” meet us at the [connecting big city]. Again, I didn’t think that was necessary, but I did ask for some towels/bandaids. And that time? I did cry. No sobbing or sounds, just hot, frightened tears rolling down my cheeks as the flight crew (finally!) emptied the obviously defective overhead storage bin so that this would not be a triple-play kind of injure-the-passenger-situation.


As my tears subsided and my barf-bag-of-ice melted against my scraped and sore body, I pretty much re-read in my mind Appendix D in Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker (“When Is It Right To Go To Court?“) and the “Biblical Conflict Resolution” Appendix of the PCA’s Book of Church Order. It was clear what I had to do:

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.” Abraham Lincoln

The next morning, when the Vice-President of the airline’s insurance carrier called me, I violated every mantra of legal negotiation and just told him the truth: I was a Christian and a peacemaker and I had no intention of suing the airline, as long as I was treated fairly and justly. I told him honestly what happened (on the phone and in writing) and, after a few short weeks, I was offered a fair settlement. The dollar amount was just enough to send me to Orlando so that I could have the joy of serving The Gospel Coalition on the LiveBlog. And that’s exactly what I did.

Read the rest here.

Tara will be leading two workshops at our annual conference, Living a Legacy of Peace, in September in Colorado Springs. If you’re interested in seeing her live there, check out our conference website for more information.

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Jul 02 2014

Easy Does It

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A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

Gentleness is especially appropriate if the person who wronged you is experiencing unusual stress. If so, the wrong done to you may be a symptom of a deeper problem. By responding in a gentle and compassionate manner, you may minister powerfully to the other person.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 86.

 

Food for Thought

 

A gentle answer turns away wrath and could possibly open up the door to peacemaking.

Directly confronting an unusually stressed-out person rarely proves effective. The defenses go up and the door of conversation usually gets slammed shut. Consider how this happens in your own life. When you’re unusually stressed, are you just wishing someone would come up and directly confront you? Even if you’re the one in the wrong? Probably not.

But is an unusually stressed-out person grateful when someone treats them with gentleness? Even if they’re in the wrong? Almost always. The defenses are lowered and you just might be invited in; in where the deeper issue resides that may not have anything to do with you. So think about who you might be particularly gentle with this week, and pray that instead of stirring up anger, you might minister powerfully to that person.

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Jun 25 2014

Without Love, Your Peacemaking Gains Nothing

Published by under PeaceMeal

The love Jesus commands us to show to one another has little to do with warm feelings; in fact, he commands us to show love even when it is the last thing in the world we feel like doing (Luke 6:27-28). The love that Jesus wants us to show for one another leaves no room for unresolved conflict:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, nor is it self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor 13:4-7)

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 48.

Food for Thought

Do you remember the verse that comes in 1 Corinthians right before the above quote? In 1 Corinthians 13:3, Paul reminds us that even the actions that seem the holiest become worthless if not performed with an attitude of love. If it is possible to “give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames” and yet “gain nothing”, as Paul indicates, then how much more is it possible for us to make peace and resolve conflict and yet have not love? Without love, peacemaking is, at best, a helpful interpersonal relationship technique and, at worst, a clever manipulation. We should never permit ourselves to rely so much on our training or techniques that we fail to examine our hearts each time we seek to reconcile others in the name of Jesus.

On the other hand, when both our attitude and actions in peacemaking are filled with love, look at how Paul’s words encourage us: Peacemaking protects. Peacemaking trusts. Peacemaking hopes. Peacemaking always perseveres! This is only possible when the Holy Spirit works in us to enable us to truly love those from whom we are estranged, or to help others to love when they are estranged from one another.

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Jun 24 2014

How to Receive Criticism

I really enjoyed Ed Stetzer’s post over at The Exchange about receiving criticism (his series on giving criticism is also VERY good). I’ve listed the 3 ways to avoid feeling attacked by criticism and some summary thoughts here but please do read the whole thing over at his blog. It’s really, really good (and brutally honest).

To start off, he mentions the inevitability of facing criticism in life:

“You may not be a public figure, but if you are a leader in any capacity, you will earn critics for yourself. People won’t always be happy and sometimes they will say so.

But, that does not mean we should be afraid of criticism.”

And hilariously (or perhaps that’s just my sarcastic sense of humor coming out…):

“Simply put, you are not always right and you won’t know that if you are always offended when people point that out.”

3 Ways to Avoid Feeling Attacked by Criticism:

  1. Disagreeing with you is not the same as disagreeing with God.
  2. If no one can criticize you, you are probably too inaccessible.
  3. If you lash out at those who criticize you, you probably don’t have a teachable spirit.

    Read the Stetzer’s detailed explanation of his points here.

For a bit of a deeper look at what congregations and leaders can do in their overall approach to criticism, Ken Sande wrote up a good piece here on accountability in the church.

We also have a great article by Alfred Poirier here for everyone, not just those in leadership, about how our theology of the cross should shape our understanding of criticism and help us put it in it’s proper place. I find myself recommending and referencing this article time and time again.

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Jun 23 2014

Peaces of Power

Published by under Peaces of Power

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God demonstrated to me that Christian Conciliation works everywhere even without the Christian Conciliation label.

One time I mediated a major corporate employment dispute. I expected a very long day, no agreement, very little information exchange, at least four attorneys and a lot of anger management. The mediation was held at a major law firm. The night before, I prayed, “Lord how should I handle these litigators?” He answered, “My way.” I arrived early and walked through all the rooms, praying every chair and all of the materials and forms.

The employee party arrived first. She was alone. No attorney. Next, the company’s entire Human Resource and legal staffs arrived.

God did his work during each caucus. Hearts were changed. The name of Jesus never came up, Scripture was not read, but the principles of Scripture were referred to in regard to character and the importance of truth and doing the right thing.

At the end, the employee apologized for disappointing the company, and admitted her wrong. Seeing her humility, the company forgave all the debts, paid some personal expenses for her, gave her a letter of recommendation for a new opportunity, and thanked her for her service for a considerable number of years. As the agreement was signed, there was not a dry eye in the place; even the lawyers were tearful. Jesus can work anywhere. The question is, will we allow Him to? Never put limits on the power of God’s love and how He can work through anyone, anywhere, for His glory.

She is no longer an employee with the company, but in leaving a staff member said, “We will still see you at the Christmas buffet, right?” She smiled.

- Dianne Mason
(A former Certified Christian Conciliator, who is now in Heaven)

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