WHEN OVERLOOKING IS NO GLORY

How To Avoid Denial When Someone Offends You

My last post urged fighting anger by choosing magnanimous forgiveness whenever possible when someone sins against you.

Proverbs 19:11 applauds that kind of covering-a-multitude-of-sins love.

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Choosing to graciously forgive an offense with no need to confront the offender is a beautiful thing–a glory. And the gospel compels us to do so often.

There is, however, a danger worth noting inherent with this virtue.

Toy forklift hold letter block d to complete word avoid on wood background

In the name of overlooking we can actually shut down in silence and even file the offense away for later use.

Ken Sande rightly labeled that “a form of denial that can easily lead to brooding over the offense and building up an internal bitterness and resentment that will eventually explode in anger.”

I get this form of “peacefaking” all too well. My inherent loathing of conflict can deceive me into a faux-overlooking that is no glory at all.

Pastor Alfred Porier, in his excellent book The Peacemaking Pastor, prescribes two helpful diagnostic questions to help avoid this mistake.

Question #1: Is the Offense a Persistent Sin?

Galatians 6:1-2 speaks to this: 

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens , and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Paul pictures someone sinning habitually as trapped like an animal in the wild. The law of Christ’s love demands a spiritual process of restoration for that person’s welfare to help free him from sin’s grip.

When you encounter an offense that is an ongoing, spiritual problem, it is no glory to overlook; it’s a lack of love.

Question #2: Is the Offense Hindering My Relationship?

If the matter keeps invading your thoughts and alters the way you interact with the offender, you likely need to address the situation in love.

Poirier gives himself a two-day test:

If I find myself frequently reflecting upon my brother’s or sister’s sin for more than two days, if it is there when I rise and when I go to sleep, if I think about it while I am showering and when I am driving, and if I am reticent to greet this fellow believer at church, then I cannot overlook the offense. I must address the matter with the person (139).

Either way–overlooking with magnanimous forgiveness or confronting with truth in love (Eph. 4:15)–fighting anger in the face of offenses is a matter of wisdom, choosing one or the other with God’s help.

Question: What’s another sign which helps you know when you cannot overlook an offense?

You can leave your comment below.

HAPPINESS IS BEING A PEACEMAKER

Why Jesus Stressed Peacemaking in Our Pursuit of Happiness

I majored in theater at Penn State back in the day.

My favorite show was “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” I played the lead role—the blockhead himself—Charlie Brown. Type casting no doubt!

The musical’s theme song, “Happiness” features a litany of things from pizza with sausage to climbing a tree that make for true happiness.

But Lucy and Linus join voices with the best lyric in the tune singing, “getting along.” Happiness is getting along.

It reminds me of a sermon Jesus preached about happiness. He proclaimed nine virtues which make for kingdom happiness called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12). Each begins with the word “blessed.”

The seventh focuses on the joy of getting along in relationships. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (5:9).

Happy, fortunate, enviable—all synonyms for “blessed”—are those who determine to get along with others whenever possible and help others do the same.

Conflict impacts everyone. No one escapes differences which can lead to relational breakdowns.

Danger Mines Sign

I get this. In only my second elder meeting at my new church recently, I stepped on a conflict landmine. A lack of sensitivity on my part about a painful conflict in their past history ended a way-to-short honeymoon. Sigh.

It happens to all of us–even guys who dare to write books on preserving unity! Oh the irony. What to do? I asked the Lord to help me gear up once again as a peacemaker. I suspect it won’t be the last time either.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stresses that true happiness belongs to those who prioritize pursuing peace with others–no matter how often they must do so.

Other New Testament texts echo this. The apostle Paul pleads, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). The writer to the Hebrews exhorts, “Strive for peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Why is peacemaking a kingdom of God true happiness virtue? The answer comes in the rest of Matthew 5:9— “for they shall be called sons of God.”

Working hard at maintaining oneness and repairing brokenness—whether with family, friends, or adversaries–gets us the blessing of being called children of God. It gives evidence that we belong to the God of peace who sent the Prince of Peace with the message of the gospel of peace reconciling us to himself.

There is no greater happiness than that. Are you known as a peacemaker? Would others say that about you? If so, take it from Jesus. You are blessed!

For a quick checkup and loads of resources to help you pursue your joy as a peacemaker, click on Biblical Peacemaking at Ken Sande’s website www.rw360.

Question: What principle or insight has helped you experience happiness as a biblical peacemaker?

WHEN RELATIONSHIPS RUPTURE (1)

How To Navigate Sharp Disagreements Which End in Separation

fight, a confrontation between two white rhino

While in Orlando last month, I heard some excellent feedback about my book. “I wish you had included a chapter on handling irreconcilable conflicts in a peaceable way.”

My friend made a good point. Even our best efforts at preserving unity and pursuing reconciliation can end in a parting of ways. I wrote of two such painful episodes in recent experience in my 2018 review.

The New Testament records an account of just such a relational collapse between two missionaries in Acts 15:36-41.

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Both men shared the same worthy aim: revisit the places and people they reached in their first missionary journey to see how things were (Acts 13 & 14). However, they butted heads fast over the choice of an assistant.

Barnabas wanted John Mark along; Paul said, “No way!” The verb forms in vv. 37 & 38 suggest the debate persisted for some time. Eventually things deteriorated into “a sharp disagreement.” It’s one word in v. 39 in the Greek text. We get our word paroxysm from it. It means to provoke to anger (Acts 17:16; 1 Cor. 13:5). Things got hot–really hot.

Luke doesn’t include much detail about the dispute given his purpose within the book of Acts. He leaves us to wonder and speculate about some things. So with that disclaimer up front, here are the first three of seven insights for navigating sharp disagreements.

One, accept reality. This kind of thing does happen. Try as we might to prevent it, some conflicts don’t end happily–even between the best of individuals. This is Paul the apostle (Rom. 1:1) and Barnabas the son of encouragement (Acts 4:36) we’ve got here!

Two, examine self. Both men may have been right–though only Paul and Silas got sent off with Antioch’s commendation (40). Barnabas would have done well to question his motives potentially on three fronts: (1) family favoritism (Col. 4:10)–cousins–(2) prideful jealousy (Acts 13:2)–Barnabas and Saul had become Paul and Barnabas–(3) people pleasing (Gal. 2:13)–gospel hypocrisy.  These giants of the faith admitted their frailty (Acts 14:15). We do well to remember and suspect ours as well.

Three, understand interests. This is a strategic part of the PAUSE Principle of biblical negotiation. Identify others’ concerns, desires, needs, limitations, or fears. The differing positions about John Mark stemmed from his abandoning ship on the previous mission (Acts 13:13). Perhaps Barnabas the encourager insisted on John Mark believing that grace warranted second chances. Paul may well have worried that it was too risky to entrust at that point such an important role to the young man (Prov. 25:19). Looking out for others’ interests (Phil. 2:3-4) goes a long way on the road to satisfactory compromise and relational rescue.

There’s a lot involved in traveling these tricky waters–too much for one article. In my next post I will cover the remaining four insights for navigating sharp disagreements which lead to a parting of ways.

Question: What questions might you have about this particular challenge? You can post your comment below.

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.

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!

GOD OF THE NEW THING

The Best News I’ve Had in a Long Time

A dear friend recently encouraged me with these words from the sacred text:

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isa. 43:19).

The purpose of this post is to report a new thing, a good thing, I perceive the Lord doing in my life.

Development business concept

Recently I’ve begun to get to know personally a godly woman in my church.

Jan Spence has been a covenant member at Orlando Grace for a couple of years now. I approached her a month ago with the notion of entertaining something more than a shepherd/sheep relationship between us. Would she even consider praying about it?, I asked–half expecting to get shot down in a ball of flames.

Though my initiative shocked her somewhat, she chose not to run for her life. She prayed. Then she hit me with some forthright, understandably necessary questions. I answered each honestly before the Lord. And then she said, “Yes, I’m willing.”

Well, what in the world to do now? Needless to say, I’ve not swum in these for waters for decades. And Jan has been quite content in her singleness for the last twelve years. We decided to talk on the phone initially keeping things between the two of us.

The more questions we asked of each other and responses we shared, the more our mutual attraction began growing. We quickly discerned the wisdom of confiding in the elders of our church for their protection and counsel. Much guidance has come through them. We welcome their ongoing accountability.

Our biggest puzzle has been how to go public with the news. Both of us want to love our church and friends well. My role as a pastor requires extra care here in guarding the welfare of my church to the degree that I can. Jan wants that very much as well. We have no peace about people learning this piecemeal through here-and-there conversations.

So, the more we prayed and counseled, the more we settled on my doing what I always do. Blog. I’ve sought to cultivate my author’s voice through this medium for years now. It has served me well both in keeping folks up to speed with my health issues and my family losses.

We simply cannot think of a better way to inform as many folks at the same time as possible. Furthermore this creates a written account of things so that those who hear secondhand have a resource to access for the firsthand version.

Jan wisely asked me about my grief process in mourning Nancy. I don’t know that the sense of loss attached to losing someone so special in your life ever completely ends. Honestly, I have wondered myself at times about the place of contentment I found on the other side of my bereavement leave.

I attribute that to God’s grace, enormous support, confidence of Nan’s eternal destiny, focusing on the great marriage we had—almost 42 years I never deserved—and, finally, the anticipatory grief I experienced for fifteen months, which I spoke about in my last post.

But there comes a time for moving on when spiritual, emotional, and mental health permit. Those who know me best validate that God has done a work in helping me in this regard.

The affirmation Jan and I have received from our spiritual leadership, closest confidants, and our extended families has given us great encouragement to continue down the road of exploring what God has for us.

With all the heartache and suffering of late, I welcome this providence as God’s gift and could not be happier for it. Perhaps Psalm 30:11-12 best summarizes my sentiments:

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

In case anyone at OGC is wondering . . . I have asked Jan if she will sit with me on Sundays at church. Though the challenge of assuming a seat once occupied by Nancy is not lost on her, she has agreed to that as well.

Please pray for us to abide in the will of God at every turn as we wait on Him and continue to get to know one another. Thank you.

SWEET REASONABLENESS

Something for Which To Be Well Known

So there I am last Monday morning. I show up at the hospital for a 9:00 AM appointment. Time for a “swallow study.” Gotta love the consequences of a jaw do-over.

Reading my hurry-up-and-wait book, I overhear a nearby conversation. A radiology tech apologizes profusely to an elderly couple. “They scheduled him for the wrong procedure. What he needs is a swallow study.”

 

Oops, Young Person Made a Mistake

Forget about the book.  What’s the deal here? Administrative mistake apparently. Let’s just say Mama three seats over was not happy.

Exit the tech. Ten minutes later the same young lady returns calling my name. I follow her into radiology. Thinking to make light of things I ask, “You’ve got me down for a swallow study, right?” She stops dead in her tracks. “Ah, no, an esophagram.” Terrific. Murphy lives.

Now I come to a halt. “My doctor ordered a swallow study.” Apparently he didn’t. It takes us the better part of 90 minutes to get to the bottom of things, but somebody messed up somewhere, no doubt about it.

Now I face a peacemaker’s decision–go off on the poor girl for something she had nothing to do with–or I can choose the Philippians 4:5 way. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.”

Talk about an interesting Greek word! That term translated “reasonableness” shows up only five times in the New Testament. One resource unpacks it this way:

The word signifies a humble, patient steadfastness, which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and maltreatment without hatred and malice, trusting in God in spite of all of it (Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, 2:214).

Wow. There’s a challenge. A favorite cross reference of mine using the same Greek term is Titus 3:2–show perfect courtesy to all people. No exceptions. The gospel way is the sweet reasonable way . . . WITH EVERYONE.

I want to be known for that. Do you?

Another Conclusion That Wasn’t

discipleship 101

No, I’m not planning to make a habit of this.

The member family meeting we called for after the service today caused me to trim some things.

As promised, here is the way I planned to land the plane had the runway been longer:

Let me close this message with these eight principles in mind with nine no-brainer steps of application:

One, get equipped to disciple. Get a copy of Trellis and the Vine and read it.

Two, use means. Grab some of the Randy Pope discipling plan packets and get busy. We’ve got a bunch of these for free at the office.

Three, become a member in your local church. Membership solidifies your commitment to be a discipler somewhere and gives you the ideal outlet for it.

Four, become a sanctified busybody. Determine to be the kind of believer that gets in somebody else’s face – IN LOVE! Someone paid our church the best compliment a while back. “I’ve never been in a church where the people are so involved in everybody else’s business.” And she didn’t mean gossip!

Five, take initiative. You have not because you ask not. Reach out to others; don’t wait for them to reach out to you.

Six, get help. Ask your elder or somebody to assist in matching you up with others. Don’t expect everyone to comply. Not everyone has the bandwidth for an ongoing relationship given their season in life.  Some folks don’t want this, even though they claim to be followers of Jesus.  Also, be a discipleship matchmaker without being asked. Look to connect people wherever you can.

Seven, keep on growing in your own walk by the Word and Spirit so you have something to offer to others.

Eight, train others you disciple to do the same things with others. Multiply yourself. Plan to attend one of the new Equipping Hour classes this fall starting September 7 WITH someone else.

And, nine, mediate daily on the gospel of grace that you might not live for yourself but for Him who died for you and therefore gladly spend and be spent for others (2 Cor. 5:14-15; 12:15).

37 Ways to Love One Another

Someone sent me a link with a thorough list of the one another passages of the New Testament confirming my notion that they all constitute intricacies of the ultimate grace of loving within our relationships in the body of Christ.

The author introduces the list with this provocative assertion:

A local church is not built by one man, or even a few men, but by every believer being actively involved in ministry through evangelizing the lost people in their lives and serving their fellow Christians. A quick glance at the practice of the New Testament church reveals that they thought very little about programs and very much about relationships.

For more of his thoughts as well as the complete list of the one another passages for your study and prayer click here.