Mending Fences When You Break Peace with Others

Recently I found myself back in the house of mourning. Gratefully it had nothing to do with death of a loved one. But the intensity of grief I felt seemed eerily reminiscent of the past three years.

Farmer binding the wire in pasture

What happened? I wounded a friend. A joke I played backfired–miserably. I sensed it minutes after I did it. I tried to reverse course. Too late. Damage already done. The brother I harmed, a committed peacemaker, spoke plainly in truth and love just how deep the hurt went.

I hate my sin–especially when it affects others. The Lord immediately impressed upon me the weight of my guilt.

Any follower of Jesus, eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3) with others, identifies with the sense of loss which accompanies breaking fellowship this way. What to do?

Three steps at least are warranted.

One, repent quickly.

The apostle Paul commended one church this way: For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment (2 Cor. 7:11).

Repentance involves a changing of one’s mind which turns away from wrong in favor of aligning with God’s will on a matter. It is always better to do that sooner rather than later to avoid hardness of heart.

Two, confess robustly.

Beware the temptation to apologize inadequately just to get out of the doghouse with someone as quickly as possible. Use Peacemaker Ministries 7 A’s of Confession as a helpful template for full-orbed confession. These will keep you from birthing what a friend of mine calls an “abortive confession.”

  1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)
  3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
  4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
  5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)
  6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)
  7. Ask for forgiveness

Each of these matters in robust confession but numbers three and four make a world of difference in communicating godly grief over sin which breaks relationships. With my friend I said something like this: I violated the law of love in 1 Cor. 13:4-7. I was unkind and I was rude.

I quickly gathered how much hurt I had caused by joking around. I had to own insensitivity that touched a terribly important aspect of his personal peace.

Third, believe boldly.

Believe what? The gospel of grace and its promise of forgiveness through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Don’t do what I tend to do–wallow in a form of grief which amounts to self-imposed shame. In other words avoid the temptation to beat yourself up.

Cling tightly to the words of Heb. 4:16. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

And get back to loving your friend the way you used to and even better.

Not Your Average Pastor’s Prayer

pastor prayer

Hand it to the Puritans.

They knew how to go for the spiritual jugular.

Introspective overstatement or not, I resonate with this so-very-different prayer of pastors on so many levels. It is a fitting prayer, in my estimation, for anyone ordained to gospel ministry. If Jesus did not pitch a tent of grace in my weakness, I would have closed down my version of pastoral ministry and became a Walmart greeter long ago.

O God,
I know that I often do thy work
without thy power,
and sin by my dead, heartless, blind service,
my lack of inward light, love, delight,
my mind, heart, tongue moving
without thy help.
I see sin in my heart in seeking the approbation
of others;
this is my vileness, to make men’s opinion
my rule, whereas
I should see what good I have done,
and give thee glory,
consider what sin I have committed
and mourn for that.
It is my deceit to preach, and pray,
and to stir up others’ spiritual affections
in order to beget commendations,
whereas my rule should be daily
to consider myself more vile than any man
in my own eyes.

But thou does show thy power by my frailty,
so that the more feeble I am,
the more fit to be used,
for thou dost pitch a tent of grace
in my weakness.

Help me to rejoice in my infirmities
and give thee praise,
to acknowledge my deficiencies before others
and not be discouraged by them,
that they may see thy glory more clearly.
Teach me that I must act by a power supernatural,
whereby I can attempt things above my strength,
and bear evils beyond my strength,
acting for Christ in all,
and have his superior power to help me.
Let me learn of Paul
whose presence was mean,
his weakness great,
his utterance contemptible,
yet thou didst account him faithful and blessed.
Lord, let me lean on thee as he did,
and find my ministry thine.

For more prayers of substance like this, consult The Valley of Vision: a Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

The Need for “Frontline” Prayer

That’s what one writer calls concerted prayer for the cause of the revival of true religion among God’s people. It normally includes intercession for three things to see God move by His Spirit across a church and/or region:

  1. For grace to confess sins and humble ourselves.
  2. For a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church and reaching of the lost.
  3. For a yearning to know God, to glimpse His face, and see His glory.

For these things and more we will pray this Sunday evening in our monthly concert of prayer from 6 to 7:30 PM in the conference room at the church. Dear ones, these precious realities will not likely come our way unless we earnestly ask, seek, and knock at the throne of grace for God to bring them.

My challenge in 2013 is that we zero in on praying for these precise things in our private prayer times and our corporate ones. Also, may I ask that each of our households make it a goal that someone from the family would attend at least one of our monthly concerts of prayer?

There is power when God’s people come together to pray!

It Is I Who Needs to Ask John Piper for Forgivness

Last evening I posted a link to the full text of Pastor John Piper’s announcement concerning his leave of absence from Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Today, as I thought about this turn of events and the heart of my brother and co-laborer in the gospel, I felt compelled to post a first-ever comment on the Desiring God blog addressed directly to Pastor John.

Here is what I wrote:

My dear brother, as a fellow pastor laboring for my flock’s joy in God, I am sobered by your statement. Thank you for the courage, honesty, humility, and integrity to do the hard thing, but quite obviously the right thing. Who can argue successfully that responding to the Spirit’s reality check, as you put it, and taking seriously the priority of your family, especially your marriage, over your ministry, is somehow misguided and unnecessary. No man’s ministry matters so greatly, even as one as broad and valued as yours by God’s grace, that he should sacrifice the vitality of his marriage for it. To fail to live with your bride in an understanding way, honoring her as a fellow heir of the grace of life as tender of the precious garden of your home would result in hindered prayers leaving all for naught in God’s work anyway (1 Pet. 3:7). So Godspeed to you in this sacred season of redirection in ultimate things. I promise to pray for you as you have asked and I will do it daily. I understand your apology to your flock but assure you owe me no apology. It is I who need to ask your forgiveness for failing to pray more earnestly and regularly for you and your protection from the several species of pride that hunt a man so wonderfully used by God in my life and so many others others. He who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12). May God have mercy on us all who put our hands to the gospel plow that after preaching to others we should not be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27). I look forward to your restoration to the pulpit according to God’s will and in His time. I love you.

Will you join me in praying for this man, his marriage/family, and ultimate return to his pastoral post? And please, please pray more vigorously than ever for me that I not succumb to the several species of pride and a hundred and one other threats to my fitness for the work at OGC.

After this shocking development in the life and ministry of one I admire so much and desire to emulate, I feel more vulnerable than ever and in need of so much in the way of grace, power, and protection. First Thessalonians 5:25 has never seemed to me a more pertinent and absolutely necessary request.

A Good Day for Tiger Woods


After reading this morning’s headline about the golfer’s exit from golf for now and his statement confessing infidelity in his marriage, I clicked on his website. His signature (pictured above), attached to his statement, is the only image in the main window. You can read what he has to say here.

While this news may not make for a good day for the PGA tour and golf lovers everywhere, Tiger Woods may end up regarding it one of the best days of his life.

I say that because of a verse from Scripture like Proverbs 28:13.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Woods’ confession may well possess all the components of what Ken Sande, in his book, The Peacemaker, calls the Seven A’s of Confession.

  1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)  – he has made this statement for all the world to see.
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs) – there appear to be no such clauses in his confession.
  3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions) – he names his actions infidelity and rightly so.
  4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone) – he begins the statement, “I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt.”
  5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution) – stepping away from golf indefinitely certainly qualifies for this.
  6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions) – the attitude appears altered, but only time will tell if actions change as well.
  7. Ask for forgiveness – he says the very words in his statement, “I ask forgiveness.”

Ken Sande often adds an eighth A under the seventh, namely, allow for time. It will take perhaps a very long while for Tiger to win back his wife’s trust. May we wish him well in that endeavor. Reconciliation/restoration of marriages honors God, the ultimate peacemaker.

Only one more thing could turn this good day into a very, very good day for Tiger Woods. If it turns out somewhere along the line that Psalm 32:1-5 applies to him as a result of this fall from grace, he will learn to call this his best of days.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

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 summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

The biggest thing missing from Tiger Woods’ statement is any reference to God and the offense his sin makes before the Most High.

Oh that he, that we, might know the supreme blessedness of “you forgave the iniquity of my sin” through the good news of the gospel that Jesus Christ stood in his, our place, for things like infidelity and every other sin that condemns us and puts us rightly under His wrath.

The day we obtain mercy, not just from our wives, or children, or the public, but from God, that indeed is the best of all days in our life.

Somebody Please Say Something Redemptive about the Tiger Woods Scandal

TigerSomeone has. C. J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries put things in biblical perspective this week.

Among other things he said this:

Tiger is being hunted by something more menacing than journalists. Tiger’s real enemy is his sin, and that’s an enemy much more difficult to discern and one that can’t be managed in our own strength. It’s an enemy that never sleeps.

And this:

This story should humble and sober us. It should make us ask: Are there any so-called “secret sins” in my life? Is there anything I have done that I hope nobody discovers? Is there anything right now in my life that I should confess to God and the appropriate individuals? And this should leave us more amazed by grace because there, but for the grace of God, go I.

Read the entire post here.