A PEACEMAKER’S PRAYER

Ken Sande’s Help for Praying Like a Peacemaker

Ken Sande & Me

Last week I was privileged to reconnect with my good friend and peacemaking mentor, Ken Sande.

He spoke for the opening plenary session at a conference hosted by Ambassadors of Reconciliation.

RW360, Ken’s ministry championing a biblical approach to emotional intelligence, distributed copies of the following: A Peacemaker’s Prayer (used by permission).

Oh Lord God,
today I am called to be a peacemaker,
but I am unfit for the task.

By nature I am a peace-faker
and a peace-breaker,
so I myself need help.

Others ask me to understand and guide them,
but my ears are dull, my eyes are dim,
and I lack the wisdom they need.

But you, Lord, have all they need,
so I come to you for supply.

Make me fit for your purposes,
so I might serve them
and honor you.

Cleanse me from my own sin,
so I will not add to their problems;
take the logs from my eyes
so I can remove the specks from theirs.

Fill me with your Spirit,
so they may benefit from your fruit:
love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Give me wisdom from above,
so I might be pure and peace-loving,
considerate and submissive,
full of mercy and good fruit,
impartial and sincere.

Open your Word to my eyes
and to my heart,
so I will have a steady lamp
to light our path.

Strip me of my own agenda and desires,
so I might look only to others’ good
and be absolutely worthy of their trust.

Help me to model everything I teach,
so others can see the way.

Give me humility to admit my weaknesses
and confess my wrongs,
so others might do the same.

Draw me again and again into prayer,
where you can strengthen and correct me.

Make me submissive — help me to show
that I myself am under authority.

Help me to treat others
as I want to be treated,
so they may see
the essence of your Law.

Make me creative, versatile, and adaptable,
so I can adjust to the surprises ahead.

Help me to accept others
as you have accepted me,
and thus bring praise to your name.

Give me faith and perseverance,
so I will not doubt your provision
or abandon your principles,
even when others fight against them.

Grant me the gift of encouragement,
to give others hope
and help them believe
that our labor is not in vain.

Help me to model your forgiveness,
so relationships are healed
and your Gospel is revealed.

Grant me discernment so that I may read
the deep waters of others’ hearts,
sort fiction from fact,
and know when it’s time to act.

Give me boldness and courage,
tempered with kindness,
to confront others in love,
so they might see their errors
and find their way back to you.

Help me to prepare thoroughly
and not presume upon your grace.

Make me just and fair,
so that even if people disagree
with my counsel they will believe
that I treated them well.

In short, Father,
please give me the Spirit of Christ,
so that I might walk in his steps
and guide your people
into the path of your peace.

My prayer is that you will make this prayer a regular part of meditative reflection.

May it help shape you as a peacemaking force in every situation.

PEACE IN MARRIAGE

How Two Made One Stay One
Anniversary
Jan and I recently observed our first anniversary. We celebrated the many ways God has been good to us—not the least of which is the unity we enjoy as husband and wife.

How does a couple made one in marriage stay one over time? Consider these keys for maintaining marital harmony.

One, make oneness a priority (Eph. 4:3). Gospel-shaped people do their best to preserve unity in relationships.

Before Jan and I make any significant decision, we ask one another how it will impact our relationship’s oneness. We decide together.

Two, count oneness a gift (Psalm 133). Don’t take it for granted. Recognize it as a blessing from God. Thank him often for it!

Three, consider oneness a stewardship (1 Cor. 4:2). I use the term “stewardship” often. As a concept, it helps orient me to my various responsibilities. A steward protects and manages the affairs and possessions of another.

In marriage, that involves several things.

First, I pray for our oneness. Jesus modeled this in the way he interceded for his people (John 17:21).

Second, I work for our oneness. Nothing matters more here than watching out for Jan’s interests, not just my own. Philippians 2:3-4 constrains me:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Let me tell a story on myself (with my wife’s permission of course).

Last Christmas Jan shared with me her desire to have two of her kids and their children over to decorate our tree. It happened to fall on a Saturday—down time for me.

Rather than welcoming the idea, I pushed back. Given the sometimes-exhausting demands of pastoral ministry, I described even extended family involvement as “debit time,” not “credit time.”

In the middle of the conversation, my dear wife suddenly burst into tears, her hand-clasped head collapsing into her lap.

Please understand—Jan gets my need to back off periodically from people-time to refuel. She is dialed in to my interests and needs.

But at that moment last December, God convicted me of a dismal lack of concern for her interests.

She cares deeply about stewarding effectively her relationships with extended family. God has used her to show me some of my deficiencies in this area.

I pledged to regard any further opportunities with both sides of the family as credit-time only. In fact, we plan on coloring eggs this Saturday with one of our grandsons.

How does change like this happen? How can an inherently selfish man like me pray and work for oneness in marriage?

I believe for our oneness.

Believe what? Knowing that only God can transform my patterns in marriage, I trust anew in his power working in me through the gospel of Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11).

The gospel alone empowers two made one to remain one, anniversary after anniversary.

Question: What means do you employ to promote marital oneness?

THE PEACEMAKING CHURCH

An Update on a Book Long in Coming

Heffelfinger_ThePeacemakingChurch.indd

I submitted to Baker Publishing Group a proposal for writing a book way back at the end of 2014.

Much to my delight they accepted and fixed a date for submission.

Then the wheels came off with Nancy’s cancer fight and my jaw surgeries.

My editor graciously granted one delay after another.

In September of last year, I finally turned in a draft manuscript.

After Baker ran me through the editorial meat grinder (thankfully), I labored over a revision. It passed muster with the publisher in December 2017.

Today I learned from the marketing department that Baker posted a page on their website about the book with links to Amazon and other vendors. You can access it here.

I love the cover they designed. Ken Sande of RW360 wrote me a more-favorable-than-I-dared-imagine foreword. Thank you, brother!

The subtitle differs from my suggested version: The Best Fight Is the One Your Church Never Has. But what do I know? When you’re a rookie, you gladly defer to the pros.

The process begins now for seeking endorsements. That’s a big deal, since I’m a small potatoes pastor in Florida. But God knows how He may use the effort.

Baker tells me they plan to publish this November. Watch for further updates, if you are at all interested. I’ll keep you posted.

I am so grateful for God’s grace to get this done. Thanks to so many who have cheered me along the road to publication.

LEADING FROM LOSS

When God Scripts a Different Plan

As I suffered through the post-op discomfort of a fifth and final jaw reconstruction surgery in February, it dawned on me.

God’s designs for my last years as my church’s lead pastor differed greatly from my deepest desires.

Who longs for a stewardship of loss, suffering, and pain? Nobody in his right mind.

Ernie Johnson didn’t. A friend of mine sent me his video story suggesting we share a lot in common. He was right. See for yourself.

For a more detailed version, watch here.

My hope for the end game was to lead from growth, gain, and mission. Instead providence scripted the opposite.

I’ve buried a son and a wife.

I’ve endured a pathological fracture of the right mandible due to osteonecrosis from radiation for head and neck cancer.

Jaw reconstruction has involved a total of five surgeries in Miami, a bout with osteomyelitis (bone infection), speech therapy, loss of all my bottom front and right side teeth, chronic drooling, impaired swallowing, and thousands of dollars of medical and travel bills not covered by insurance.

I’ve been in and out of the pulpit so often and so fast I’ve got chronic whiplash.

While recovering from the latest surgery, something else hit me. This year likely brings yet another loss–the end of nearly a two-decade investment in ministry at my church.

It’s time to pass the baton to a younger man. I have no doubt. It’s my idea and God may well have a successor on the immediate horizon.

Talking about succession the last couple of years didn’t faze me much. Theory is like that; reality is not.

I didn’t feel the loss coming. But now I do. I hope to navigate this loss like the others–with the help of God’s grace–as I have often blogged about in the past.

A few days after news of the transition went public, I received an email from a relative newcomer to our church. These words encouraged my perspective greatly:

I read about the big succession announcement in the E-news and heard about it last night at community group. Woah! I am selfishly so sad that you all are phasing out, but I feel like I can resonate on some level . . . and that I should be unselfish and rejoice with what God seems to be doing. Praying for you guys as this next year sounds like it will be filled with many changes and mixed emotions. Last night in community group, and the last few times, people have mentioned in conversation how much your sufferings have impacted their spiritual walks and worship of Jesus as they have watched the grace of God as you have walked through such hard providences. It makes me wonder if your lives as a living sermon illustration are the most powerful, though the most painful, sermon you could give. I have heard it said in community group multiple times how much power of the Spirit has come in your preaching over the past few very hard years. I think it all has been and is doing more than we could ever know this side of eternity. Praying that God encourages your hearts in this season.

That note goes in my “Why I Became a Pastor File.” A great reminder to say “yes” to the unscripted.

SDG

Question: How has God used the unscripted in your life to advance His purposes and grow you spiritually?

AVOIDING ABORTIVE APOLOGIES

How NOT to Make Confession of Your Faults to Others

Magic Johnson and Isaiah Thomas, two NBA Hall of Famers, recently reconciled after a long-standing feud.

Their dispute dated back to the late 1980s when the LA Lakers and Detroit Pistons played each other in two consecutive NBA finals.

Johnson further admitted in a book co-authored with Larry Bird–another Hall of Famer who played for the Boston Celtics–that he helped keep Thomas off the 1992 US Olympic Dream Team.

Who takes issue with a such a moving scene? What’s the deal? On the one hand, I hope this emotional exchange results in genuine, lasting reconciliation. It certainly appears sincere.

On the other hand, it contains a flaw that often mars effective apology making–what a lawyer friend of mine refers to as an “abortive confession.” It fails to deliver because of one tiny word.

Did you catch it in the video? Johnson started well for sure. “You are my brother. Let me apologize . . . (so far so good, but then) IF I hurt you.”

One little word at the very least tainted the efficacy of Johnson’s confession.

Other words can have the same effect–like “but” and “maybe.” Ken Sande, in his book The Peacemaker, explains:

The best way to ruin a confession is to use words that shift the blame to others or that appear to minimize or excuse your guilt. The most common way to do this is to say, “I’m sorry if I’ve done something to upset you.” The word if ruins this confession, because it implies that you do not know whether or not you did wrong. … Clearly, that is no confession at all. It is a superficial statement designed to get someone to stop bothering you or to transfer fault for breaking a relationship. Small wonder that genuine forgiveness rarely follows such words (127).

Perhaps that last statement overstates the case somewhat. God can heal wounds between estranged parties through flawed means. We wish the best for these two men, of course.

But Sande’s point keeps in step with Jesus’s emphasis in Matthew 7:5: First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Abortive confessions fail to remove adequately the logs of our own offenses. Removing specks from the eyes of others with impaired vision is a dangerous procedure.

For additional help in making an effective apology see The Seven A’s of Confession.

Question: When have you been on the receiving end of an effective apology? What made it contribute to lasting reconciliation?

 

RESOLVING EVERYDAY CONFLICT

New Equipping Hour Class Starting January 7, 2018

This Sunday at Orlando Grace Church we begin this video curriculum study.

Peacemaker Ministries describes it like this:

We all have conflict. Think about the people you know. They may not be in the middle of a big blow up, but they certainly have tense conversations around the breakfast table or difficulties with an overbearing boss. Or more seriously, perhaps their marriage is on the verge of falling apart. Regardless, they are looking for answers.

Resolving Everyday Conflict is an eight-lesson study that unpacks the amazing things the Bible has to say about conflict and relationships. As you go through this study, you’ll find the powerful and practical answers you are looking for to forever change how conflict looks in your life.

Join us for group discussion and video instruction on this strategic subject starting at 9:30 AM in Room F5.

Watch the video promo below!

BLESSING & THE GOOD LIFE

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

 

grace

In The Grace of Giving,  Stephen Olford tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington.

In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die.

Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.

“No, Peter,” General Washington said. “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.”

“My friend!” exclaimed the old preacher. “He’s the bitterest enemy I have.”

“What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I’ll grant your pardon.” And he did.

Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata–no longer an enemy but a friend.

Peter Miller lived the good life as 1 Peter 3:8-12 prescribes it.

The text explains how to love life and see good days in spite of evil and reviling that at times can threaten us and our churches. It takes showing grace and refusing revenge and giving blessing.

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless! Really? This is radical. It is counter intuitive. It’s the essence of unconditional, Christ-following/imitating love.

Can you hear the echoes of Jesus’ teaching from Luke 6:27-29?

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.

It resonates with Paul’s example in 1 Cor. 4:12–when reviled, we bless–and his teaching in 1 Thessalonians 5:15–See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Perhaps Rom. 12:21 says it best: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In the rest of this passage, Peter makes his case for why this kind of radical way of relating should govern our reactions even to our worst persecutors.

The first has to do with the nature of our calling. For to this you were called. In 1 Peter 2:20-21, Peter explained the first of two callings given to believers in the face of persecution in particular.

But here he gives an additional grace-shaped, love-never-fails calling when persecuted and reviled–-returning blessing for evil.

The second reason for committing to this kind of radical way of relating has to do with the nature of our reward. See the motivation at the end of v. 9?–-that you may obtain a blessing.

I think Peter means for us to look at this in terms of the present life and not the next. Consider how he defends his point in verses 10-12. He quotes Psalm 34:12-16, a psalm of David, when he came under attack by Abimelech and the Philistines.

Look at v. 10. For–-there’s his reason–He who would love life and see good days. That’s not talking about eternity; that’s talking about here and now.

This holds out a promise for a quality of life on earth, even for the believer enduring terrible persecution and conflict of all kinds.

As you head into 2018, do you need to adjust your expectations about the good life you desire?

Be sure to leave room for blessing an enemy.

REVENGE & THE GOOD LIFE

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

revenge

Marcus Aurelius once said that the best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury. The apostle Peter recommended something similar in 1 Peter 3:8-12.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Here is a strategy for the good life for a suffering people. The main idea from the passage is this: Our extraordinary identity as God’s people calls for radical peacemaking commitments in the church. 

A suffering church must be a unified church. That takes three different peacemaking commitments embedded in the text.  The first of these commitments in verse 8 is showing grace.

The second is refusing revenge (verse 9b). Peter gets painfully specific in this verse about a particular aspect of showing grace in our relationships—not getting even. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling.

If you and your church are going to stay out of conflict city, then you have to determine not to play the payback game. You don’t do revenge.

Whether it’s someone does you wrong or reads you the riot act, you don’t return in kind. You refuse to go toe-to-toe in a war of evil works or reviling words.

Now that’s radical. Someone does you wrong, someone slanders you behind your back, and you don’t respond in kind. How in the world is that possible?

It starts with taking our cue from Jesus example in this regard. Look at 1 Pet. 2:20-23:

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

When you resist the temptation to get even, when you bite your tongue in the face of someone’s gossip, you stand in excellent company. Jesus is truly your closest friend in such hard things.

Charles Spurgeon likened dealing with evil and reviling as a fight to the death:

You cannot let evil alone and evil will not let you alone. You must fight. And in the battle you must either conquer or be conquered. The words before us remind me of the saying of the Scot officer of the Highland regiment when he brought them up in front of the enemy and said, “Lads, there they are: if you dinna kill them they’ll kill you”. . . . “Overcome, or be overcome.” There is no avoiding the conflict, no making truce or holding parley, no suspension of hostilities after a brief skirmish. The battle must be fought through to the end and can only close with a decided victory to one or the other side.

In the rest of these verses, Peter shows us how to win. More on that in subsequent posts.

In the meantime, where might you need to ask the Lord to help you overcome the temptation to get even?

GOOD DAYS, GRACE DAYS

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

good life

How do you define “the good life?”

According to one source reported by Psychology Today, happiness consists of four things: experiencing pleasure, avoiding negative experience, seeking self-development, or making contributions to others.

The apostle Peter wrote a different prescription for loving life and seeing good days in 1 Pet. 3:8-12.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

In my last post, I introduced this passage as a strategy for the good life for a suffering people. The main idea from the passage is this: Our extraordinary identity as God’s people calls for radical peacemaking commitments in the church. 

A suffering church must be a unified church. That takes three different peacemaking commitments embedded in the text.

The first of these commitments in verse 8 is showing grace. I take that from the four specifics which follow the need for unity of mind.

One, sympathy. The word means literally to suffer with someone in something. It’s the idea of empathizing with others in all kinds of situations, good or bad. Romans 12:15 says it well: Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 

Two, brotherly love. Our affection for others in the body of Christ should resemble the love we have for our physical families.

Three, a tender heart. The root means kidney or bowel. It was used to describe the visceral area of the body. It conveys the idea of a depth of feeling for others that comes from the gut—way down deep inside.

Four, humility. We simply can’t overstate the importance of this quality to a peacemaking ethic. Peter will hit it again in 1 Pet. 5:5: Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Henry Scougal, in his treatise, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, comments on this:

The leaves of high trees do shake with every blast of wind; and every breath, every evil word, will disquiet and torment an arrogant man; but the humble person hath the advantage, when he is despised, that none can think more meanly of him than he doth of himself; and therefore he is not troubled at the matter, but can easily bear those reproaches which would the other to the soul (1996, p. 84).

Does “showing grace” make your list for defining the good life? The apostle put it at the very top. Do you need to alter your priorities?

A STRATEGY FOR LOVING LIFE AND SEEING GOOD DAYS

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

Blaise_Pascal_2

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the French philosopher warned:

Let it not be imagined that the life of a good Christian must be a life of melancholy and gloominess; for he only resigns some pleasures to enjoy others infinitely better.

The apostle Peter, writing to believers suffering severe persecution, would concur with that sentiment. Consider his words in 1 Pet. 3:8-12.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Verse 10 holds out hope that Pascal knew what he was talking about. “Whoever desires to love life and see good days.”

Know anybody who does not want that? Nobody in his right mind wants to hate life and see bad days. We all want the best life has to offer.

Few things can threaten a Christian’s sense of happiness and well-being like their church imploding with conflict.

The summer our church melted down I recall for many among us at OGC as some of our worst days. Loving life fell far short of how any of us would describe our experience.

If King Solomon got it right in Prov. 17:14 (and of course he did)–“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”–then heeding Peter’s advice here makes a lot of sense.

The best church fight we will ever have is the one we never experience. We all have to get equipped with this kind of strategy particularly as it pertains to countering evil when it rears its ugly head in our relationships.

I will warn you up front. The strategy prescribed here flies in the face of the world’s approach. This is a distinctly counter-culture way to fight for the good life.

But Peter has been arguing ever since 1 Peter 2:9-10 that, based upon who we are as God’s chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and treasured possession–based upon these extraordinary appointments of grace–we must make certain radical commitments.

We must determine to conduct ourselves in strategic ways with God’s help in all kinds of places–from the state, to the home, and now, wrapping this section up with Finally in v. 8–the church.

Here’s the main idea I think he is saying: Our extraordinary identity as God’s people calls for radical peacemaking commitments in the church.

There are three. They are showing grace (8), refusing revenge (9a), and giving blessing (9b-12). Future posts will unpack each in the interest of loving life and seeing good days.