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.

A VIEW FROM THE HOSPITAL

Five Life-Changing Lessons from Major Surgery

Perhaps “major” doesn’t quite capture it. What a war on Monday! Eight hours on the table. Resection of my right mandible plus extraction of three teeth. Insertion of a titanium plate affixed with screws. Twelve inch arterial-vein transplant from my left thigh to my neck creating a “free flap” blood supply both inside my mouth and out. This ordeal made my cancer surgery feel like a day at the ballpark in comparison.

icuYou know you’re feeling better when your thoughts turn to blogging. Much improvement has occurred. The docs say things look fantastic. If I remain on track, they may ship me home on Sunday. Sweet. How come Stryker doesn’t manufacture hospital beds for guys over 6 foot?

Traumatic experiences like prolonged hospitalizations make marvelous tutors. Not that I would volunteer of my own will, anymore than I did for my cancer disaster. But God uses these things in strikingly effective ways to instruct us along the way of shaping us more and more into the character of His beloved Son, our older Brother, Jesus (James 1:2-4).

Today the Lord crystallized five lessons so far from this jawful ordeal for me.  With them come wisdom responses so as to make the most of the opportunity and not waste the sorrow.

Lesson One: How Fearfully & Wonderfully Made We Are

While one of the residents cleaned the question mark-like looking incision on my thigh this morning, I asked him this: Doc, I’m a theist. I believe God put parts in every place for specific reasons. What happens down there with those twelve inches now doing duty neck-side? He answered this way: Redundant systems. The body has ways of compensating. Peripherals (I think that’s what he called them}. take over for them. No wonder David spoke of the human body the way he did (Psalm 139:14).

Response? Worship and wonder at the goodness of God in your creation. Give thanks for your working parts and God’s healing power built into the body.

Lesson Two: How Frail & Mist-Like Our Lives Are

I gave serious thought to the prospect of not waking up from that surgery–at least not here. Nancy received a letter from me to guard her shalom should I have gone home. Obviously His purposes proved otherwise for now. But walking these halls–they had me up the next day–seeing some of the other patients on life support, well, it sobers you to say the least. James said it well:  What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (4:19).

Response? Take no day for granted. Give thanks for the new breaths you draw first thing every morning. And, like James, acknowledge that your plans will only materialize according to His gracious will, so be sure to say your share of “If the Lord wills” (James 4:15).

I’ve hit the wall. This patient needs some rest. Lessons three through five will have to wait for tomorrow, Lord willing. No big deal. Plenty of time to kill at this place on a Saturday.

Question: When have you gotten some significant insight from a traumatic experience? You can leave a comment here.

Two Most Important Lessons

I love the interviews each month near the end of every Tabletalk magazine.

This month features a conversation with apologist Ravi Zacharias, president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, an organization with offices in Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates,and the United States. He is internationally known as a Christian apologist and has addressed thousands of people worldwide, including students and professors from numerous colleges and universities. Dr. Zacharias is the host of a weekly radio program, Let My People Think, and serves as senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University. Among his many books are Can Man Live Without God?, Deliver Us from Evil, Walking From East to West, and Why Jesus?: Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality.

When someone asks a person with that kind of track record in fruitfulness to name the two most important lessons he has learned in a lifetime of ministry, I get interested real fast in the answer.

Here’s what he said:

The hardest lessons I’ve learned are, one, how important it is to have the right people around you, and two, to learn to face criticism and opposition (oftentimes from those who should be more understanding) without allowing it to sidetrack you from your closeness to the Lord and His call. When you’re doing very little, nobody will bother you. But when you are making an impact, the Enemy of our souls finds ready emissaries to take aim at you. It goes with the calling. Keep close to the Lord and don’t let the critics dent your calling that a gracious and sovereign God has shaped.

Good counsel on both counts. The rest of the article is worth reading as well. You can access it here.

Whatever You Get, Get Wisdom

Last Friday night it was my privilege to give the charge to this year’s graduates of Veritas Academy. This post is the text of my address. I entitled the talk Whatever You Get, Get Wisdom.

Let me add my congratulations to you on your graduation. Job well done! I count it an enormous privilege to address you, your family, and friends, in these commencement exercises. I too once sat where you now sit. May, 1970, I graduated from Conestoga High School, in PA. I decided to pursue, as I suspect most if not all of you have done, higher education. I went on to acquire three earned degrees. But it all started with finishing high school.

I will never forget a conversation I had with the principal of my high school upon graduation. He had only one charge for me. Get straight A’s. Believe it or not, I did that. I finished my undergrad with a 4.0 GPA. When I thought about how I would use my time in this charge to you this evening, I wanted to say something equally succinct, but not the same message. I wish my principal had told me this, quite frankly, though I have nothing against academic excellence. But nobody and I mean nobody, in my profession as a pastor, has ever asked me about my GPA at any institution. But they care a great deal about how much wisdom I have.

As well they should. The book of Proverbs in the bible puts it this way in 4:7-8 – The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. Prov. 8:11 goes so far to call wisdom far better than jewels – all you may desire cannot compare with her. That statement should focus you intently in terms of where you go from here. And so that’s my charge to you in this commencement address, graduates – whatever you get, get wisdom.

I want to give you blazing fast in bullet point fashion, six two-word principles for getting wisdom all from the book of Proverbs, the treasure chest of wisdom. I made this easy to remember by making an acrostic from the word wisdom. If you embrace these things and act on them, I believe you stand to gain the prize among prizes, no matter what your career endeavor. Nobody can do without the priceless commodity of wisdom – put simply, the ability to apply knowledge in any situation to the best of all possible ends.

W – Worship God.

I – Imbibe Scripture

S – Seek counsel.

D – Doubt self.

O – Overlook sin.

M – Make disciples.

Okay, let’s go. First, W for Worship God. Prov. 9:10 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. If you get this wrong, you get everything wrong. You have no hope for wisdom in your life if you don’t start here. The five of you, listen to me, if you haven’t already settled this, then settle it tonight. Whom will you worship? The world will assault your soul with a million and one competitors to the living God. It will bid you worship money, power, sex, possessions, status, leisure, and on the list goes. Determine that nothing matters more to you than pleasing God and you will set yourself well on the road to getting wisdom, the jewel-in-the-crown prize.

W for worship God. Second, I for Imbibe Scripture. I’m sorry. Nobody uses the word imbibe anymore. But it fits. It means literally to drink something as to imbibe a beverage like a Coke. Prov. 2:1-6 –

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Make a decision now as to what disciplines you will master. Whatever your vocational calling, your calling as a follower of Jesus requires you to make the word of God your daily bread. You shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). Jesus words, not mine. No Scripture, no wisdom.

Worship God. Imbibe Scripture. Third, S for Seek Counsel. Prov. 13:10 – with those who take advice is wisdom. Prov. 19:20 – Listen to advice and accept counsel, that you may gain wisdom in the future. When I graduated seminary, I originally wanted to seek a position under a seasoned pastor to learn for five years or so before I struck out on my own. I let somebody talk me out of that because of my supposed giftedness and the waste that would be. One of the worst decisions I have ever made. No amount of giftedness will ever compensate for a lack of wisdom. Get yourself a mentor, maybe multiple mentors and badger them for input, critique, counsel and insight. You will be wiser for it, I guarantee it.

Worship God. Imbibe Scripture. Seek Counsel. Fourth, D for Doubt Self. Not in the sense of lacking self-confidence. That is not what I mean. Doubt self in terms of not trusting your sinful heart. Proverbs 11:2 – When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Listen to me. Your and my worst enemy is ourselves – our desperately wicked, deceitful-above-all-else, who-can-know-it Jer. 17:9 heart. In your relating to others, learn to be suspicious first and foremost of your own sinful heart. That’s wisdom.

Worship God. Imbibe Scripture. Seek Counsel. Doubt Self. Fifth, O for Overlook Sin. Not in yourself. That wouldn’t square with D for doubt self. No, overlook sin in others. I love this verse. Prov. 19:11 – Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Hear this. It is GLORY to overlook the sins of others. Deal harshly with your own sin by repenting as the Lord convicts you through the grace that Jesus in the gospel gives you but deal with others with amazing grace, patience, forbearance and love. I have a saying. I think it’s a good one. You will have to work a whole lot harder to offend me than that. Do not be easily offended. That’s wisdom.

Worship God. Imbibe Scripture. Seek Counsel. Doubt Self. Overlook Sin. Sixth, M is for Make Disciples. Do you want to fast track toward wisdom? Determine to give yourself away to others. Proverbs 4:11 – I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. Here is my challenge to you, graduates. Don’t just seek a mentor; be a mentor. I know no better way to acquire wisdom than to need it desperately because someone else depends on you to show them the way. Someone out there needs you to take them under your wing and show them the way. Do you want to learn wisdom? Then take somebody, probably younger than you, maybe in your church, and pour your life into them.

That’s my charge. Whatever you get, get wisdom. Get from God the ability to apply what you know whatever the circumstances to the best of all possible ends. To do that, commit yourself to these six things. Worship God. Imbibe Scripture. Seek Counsel. Doubt Self. Overlook Sin. And Make Disciples.

As I searched for a way to close this address, I turned, in wisdom, I think, to a mentor of mine, John Piper, of Desiring God and Bethlehem Baptist Church. Turns out he spoke at a graduation like this one and finished this way:

Finally, there is one last, absolutely essential thing to do if you would “get wisdom”: you must come to Jesus. He said to the people of his day, “The queen of the south will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold something greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42). What an understatement. Greater than Solomon indeed! Solomon spoke God’s wisdom. Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:2430). Others had spoken truth; he is the truth. Others had pointed the way to life; he is the way and the life (John 14:6). Others had given promises, but “all the promises of God find their yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Others had offered God’s forgiveness; Jesus bought it by his death. Therefore, in him are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). To know and love and follow this Jesus is to own the treasure of ultimate and eternal happiness. Therefore, the command, “Get wisdom,” means first and foremost “Come to Jesus! Come to Jesus!” in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom.

Dear ones that is wisdom. If you get anything from this point on, in all your getting get wisdom. Amen.

A Bitter Better

For the second time in less than a week I will go to a house of mourning tomorrow. I will officiate at the funeral of a brother in Christ and member of my church for the last several years. We have shared a lot in common the last eighteen months as cancer victims experiencing the various forms of treatment and the war stories that result.

That’s another blog post. This post concerns my fortune to attend two funerals in so short a span of time. I say fortune because of the wise words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4.

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

It may well be a bitter better but better it is just the same to attend a memorial service than a wedding celebration or a birthday party. Why is that? Because funerals, uncomfortable as they are to our live-for-the-moment, eat-drink-and-be-merry culture, focus our attention on the one great universal inevitability. This is the end of all mankind. Everyone has the same appointment. No one escapes his destiny with the valley of the shadow, the last enemy, death. Furthermore houses of mourning point us to the brevity of life, the mist-like nature of our existence that is here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14).

Unlike parties, houses of mirth, that play to levity and the thrill of the moment, funerals focus you on the inevitability of the ultimate and the gravity of the life to come. They can teach us to pray as Moses did in Psalm 90:12 – teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

A heart of wisdom lets the sadness of mortality and the certainty of death lead one to the joy of immortality through the hope of the gospel that the One who both frequented wedding celebrations (John 2) and visited cemeteries (John 11) triumphed over death and will raise from the grave all who belong to Him by faith.

Vacation Bible School Opportunity

Our friends at Faith Baptist Church are hosting a VBS for children next week, July 12-16, 6-8:30 PM.

Here is the theme of the week:

Wisdom Calls Aloud
A Study for Children on Wisdom and the Fear of the Lord.
We will learn about wisdom and foolishness and how to get wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

They will have lessons, activities, games, and crafts.

Questions? Call their church office at 407-894-4031.

Not Your Average State of Happiness

No question about it. The way James describes blessedness doesn’t fit the average American definition. Consider James 1:2-12.

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

James promotes a living faith – a faith that works (see James 2:26). Genuine faith manifests itself in a lifestyle of wise speaking and acting in all of life’s facets. These verses in chapter one address how faith works to persevere under trial. He gives four principles to guide the believer.

First, reckon your joy (2-4). Count it all joy . . . when you meet trials of various kinds. We are to calculate the immense value of trials such that we delight, not in their pain, but in the profit they yield. What profit? For you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. We are to let steadfastness have its full effect that we might become spiritually mature. That’s worth delighting in. God uses trials to grow us in the likeness of Jesus.

Second, request your wisdom (5-8). If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God. Who doesn’t lack wisdom? We all do, particularly when it comes to how to navigate a trial so that we make the most of the opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness. So pray. Remember two things when you do. God loves to give wisdom (5b) and don’t doubt that fact for a second (6-8).

Third, release your wealth (9-11). Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation. One great source of trials in life comes in the form of money, either too little or too much of it. James levels the playing field for both ends of the spectrum by urging right thinking about wealth. If you are poor, exalt in your spiritual riches. If you are rich, remember it will all pass away. The focus needs to be on the spiritual, not the material. How important is that in these difficult economic times in which we live?

Fourth, relish your perseverance (12). That brings us back to his beatitude, Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. There is a present benefit to steadfastness in trial as we saw in vv. 2-4. But there is a future, eschatological one as well. Those who persevere receive a crown of life in heaven! It goes to those who love God. And those who love Him keep His commandments even when it proves costly. They never abandon their faith.

Oswald Chambers gave this counsel:

Believe steadfastly on Him and everything that challenges you will strengthen your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith up to the point of our physical death, which is the last great test. Faith is absolute trust in God— trust that could never imagine that He would forsake us.

And it is trust that often imagines how greatly He will reward us.

Take care that your pursuit of happiness is not conformed to the world but rather transformed by the renewing of your mind in passages like James 1:2-12.