The difference between a peace-maker and peace-keeper…

Peace-making is rarely confused with peace-breaking, but it is often confused with peace-keeping. When I first traveled to Bosnia in 2001 on a humanitarian aid effort I got a good look at peace-keeping. The United Nations had divided up the land between the Bosnians and Serbians. Without a doubt there were heinous crimes committed during their civil war. There had not been an attempt at repentance, forgiveness or restoration.

The UN’s answer to the conflict was to significantly limit the interaction between the conflicting parties. They drew strict boundaries in the villages. Serbians lived within their territories, as did the Bosnians. For those of us who are conflict avoiders this might seem like a good option. But to avoid the conflict does not resolve the conflict.  

The following chart from the junior edition of Ken Sande’s Peacemaker is helpful in distinguishing the difference. Peace-keepers tend to fall in the escape mode. Peace-breakers easily move to the attack mode. Only the peace-makers are the ones who will make the personal sacrifices to work it out.

You have three options in the work it out category:

(1) Overlook. Perhaps the point of offense is only a preference on your part, or you don’t see the sin done against you as intentional or characteristic of the other individual. The apostle Peter encouraged us,

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

(2) Talk it Out. Perhaps you are unable to overlook the sin. You were hurt deeply. Maybe you are beginning to see a pattern of this type of sinful behavior on your friend’s part. Then it’s best to talk to them. Critical in winning your brother is that you initially do this between the two of you without a third-party. Jesus reminded us,

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother (Matthew 18:15)

(3) Get Help. It could be that your attempt at contact is rejected. There may be a refusal to acknowledge sin or you sense the conflict is only getting worse. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Jesus went on to say,

But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses (Matthew 18:16).

Be careful. It’s a slippery slope. Always attempt to stay within the work-it-out  boundaries. No wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God” (Mat. 5:9).

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What others have said about the Bible

Our 16thPresident, Abraham Lincoln said of the Bible,

But for this book we could not know right from wrong.

Isaac Newton said,

I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.

Daniel Webster added,

I believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the will and the work of God. 

Educator William Lyon Phelps recorded,

Everyone who has a thorough knowledge of the Bible may truly be called educated. . . I believe knowledge of the Bible without a college course is more valuable than a college course without the Bible.

The longer I am a Christian the more convinced I am of the Bible’s authenticity and its incredible ability to minister to the hearts and minds of men, women, and children. More often than not, I have found that it speaks to the heart like my own words can’t. For the person whose hurting it brings comfort. For the person whose sinning it brings conviction.

However, the Word of God must be understood to be appreciated.  That’s why the Psalmist recorded, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end.” (Psalm 119:33) The Psalmist longed to know the Word of God, and that should be our desire as well.

What Moses learned at the burning bush

The calling of Moses in Exodus 3 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Because the conversation between God and Moses is so lengthy it gives us a look into the Lord’s heart, and it’s easy for us to see our own insecurities in the life of Moses.

As you read this chapter remember that Moses, like each of us, was interpreting life through his past, present, and future. We are so familiar with the story, that we forget Moses didn’t know what was coming. For instance, we know that when Moses lifts his staff things will happen. Plagues will fall upon Egypt. The Red Sea will part. Water will come from a rock. But remember, at the burning bush those events are a part of Moses’ future. He still has to believe God and step out. From Moses’ perspective his future is uncertain.

Moses also had a past. He had been scooped from his river basket by Pharaoh’s daughter. He had grown up as a member of Pharaoh’s household. He was culturally Egyptian, but his DNA was Jewish. He would have seemed like the ideal candidate to ease the suffering on his people. But there was that issue of killing the Egyptian. He had tried to bury that part of his past, but one’s past sins don’t stay buried for long. As it became apparent that others knew, Moses fled. When Moses looked to his past I’m sure he had regrets. He had tried to take matters into his own hands, and was now an outcast in the desert. As he chased sheep and goats in the desert for 40 years, he must have replayed his past in his head a hundred times. But he couldn’t change his past. Two words described it: squandered opportunities.

So Moses had a past (that he’d squandered), and he had a future (that was uncertain), but he (like each of us) was living in the present. That’s where the burning bush comes in. The great thing about present time is that it is the place where our choices are active. Moses stood before the burning bush with God calling to him. He would have to choose to trust God, and go back to Egypt.

Most of us don’t serve God well in the present, because we are too busy blaming others for our past or worrying about our future.

Here are the lessons Moses teaches each of us about our past, present, and future.  (1) Through your past trust God that everything had a purpose. (2)  In your present ask God what he would have you do. (3)  With your future believe God that he will do great things.

Because He will.

Help another and help yourself…

Heard an insightful statement the other day.

When you help dig someone out of a hole you find a place to bury your own problems.

Mel Johnston gave the counsel years ago, but it’s really good if your challenges seem great and your burdens seem heavy. Rather than always looking for help, try looking to help. This seems to be one of God’s intended purposes for the suffering we go through. Note the Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer (2 Cor. 1:3-6)

Did you capture the phrase? So that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves were comforted by God. The word affliction in that passage comes from the word pressure. It can also be translated anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble. Do those words describe your world? If so, Paul says, look to help another.

The advice sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. Perhaps you need to turn your gaze from inward to outward. Don’t just look at your own struggles; look to help someone else with theirs.

Who knows, you might discover that when you help dig someone out of a hole you find a place to bury your own problems.

The unfortunate privatization of our lives

God said it first so we know it must be true. But as Westerners we somehow think we’re exempt. He said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

So he created Eve for Adam, and gave the two of them a command, “Be fruitful, and multiply and fill the earth…” (Gen. 1:28). Sounds like the Lord is saying, “It is not good for the two of you to be alone.”

So families developed, and then nations. More and more people needing to find ways to work together, live together, be together. Most of the world still understands this truth. But not those in western civilization. For some reason, we want to be left alone…

Paul Tripp captured the unfortunate privatization of our lives in poetry.  Do his words describe the world in which you aspire to live? Have you ever asked yourself why?

Privacy fence
no sidewalks
attached garage
personal entertainment center
frenetic schedule
half-acre plot
individualized
living.
Lie of autonomy
deceit of self-sufficiency
delusion of self-righteousness
buy your way out of
need.
Endless amusement
pushes reality out of the way.
never known
never knowing
never stop beyond what is
comfortable
pleasurable
enjoyable
predictable
safe.
Door closed silence,
shrunken community
of me and mine.
Thinking I can do
what I was never designed
to do,
live
all by myself.

Paul Tripp in Broken Down House,  p. 148

Focusing your prayer time – A simple acrostic for prayer

Sometimes its easy to get distracted in prayer. I have used the simple acrostic PRAY to keep me focused. Praise. Repent. Ask. Yield. These four elements are essential in making our prayer time effective.

Praise.  An essential element of prayer is praise. I like to remember to praise the who, what, and why of God. When I praise him for who he is I am reflecting upon his character and attributes. Qualities like faithfulness, mercy, holiness, and love come to mind. When I remember  what he’s done I am reflecting on his works. Sometimes I’m awed by his creation.  A look at Hubble Space images is a good place to start (http://hubblesite.org/gallery/). The vastness and beauty of God’s creation are amazing. At other times I’m just as humbled by his work on my behalf in answering the simplest prayer request. I also like to remember the why. God’s purposes are unique and often hidden. But some of them he has chosen to reveal. For instance, consider this one:  for God so loved the world that he gave his only son…

Repent. Psalm 51 is a great example of repentance. David takes responsibility for his sin. No blame shifting towards Bathsheba –In fact, he doesn’t even mention her name. Repentance and responsibility have more in common than their first letter. Repentance means to make a 180 degree turn. It involves my humble confession, and dependence on his Spirit to restore me. It’s a great spot to reflect on the ways I have wilfully erred in my relationship with him. For the ABC’s of repentance visit: https://philmoser.com/2012/01/10/help-for-those-struggling-with-sexual-sins-step-2-repent-where-sin-has-taken-place/. Repentance includes both my actions and my attitudes (Philippians 2:5).

Ask. Jesus told us we should ask of him. Paul give us a great prayer list in the first chapter of Colossians. I find it helpful to pray this both for myself and for others.

…we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:9-12).

Wow! Lots to pray for there. We would do well to pray for these type of eternal matters, as well as the ones that are only temporary.

Yield. Jesus didn’t get to the point where he could say “not my will but yours be done” overnight. And you and I won’t either. Paul captured this perfectly towards the end of 2 Corinthians. Yielding our desires (as hard as that may initially be) is an essential element of prayer.

…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

If you find that your thoughts are drifting during your prayer time. Try Praise. Repent. Ask. Yield. It will add to the effectiveness of your prayer time.

Help for those struggling with sexual sins: Running with resources

Just because you have established the need for running from the temptation does not mean you are prepared to run or that you will run when you face strong desires. While the key resources are prayer, dependence upon the Holy Spirit, and the use of memorized Scripture, there are other ancillary resources that are helpful as well. These include internet accountability, various media, and the accountability of friends.

I prefer to think of these resources as scaffolding around a building project. They are necessary for the rebuilding of a weakened wall, but they are not the wall. The wall is composed of the key resources from this week’s study: prayer, the Spirit, and the Scripture. 

Satan is strategic in his temptation. For instance if you provide accountability on your home internet, that doesn’t mean your temptation will be any less strong when you are on the internet elsewhere. While you may have developed a strong and necessary accountability with other Godly friends, they will not be with you when you are wide awake at two o’clock in the morning battling your desires. Hence these are helpful and necessary resources, but are not meant to be a replacement for the three mentioned earlier.

Resources to protect from internet pornography:

Resources to read and study:

  • The Way of Purity  by Mike Cleveland
  • Sex is not the Problem Lust is by Joshua Harris
  • Sexual Addiction by David Powlison
  • Homosexuality by Ed Welch
  • It’s all about Me: The Problem with masturbation by Winston Smith
  • Lies Young Women Believe by Nancy Leigh Demoss
  • Every Young Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn
  • The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn
  • Sexual Sin by Jeffrey Black
  • The War Within by Robert Daniels 
  • Marital Intimacy by Rob Green. Lafayette, IN: Faith Resources.
  • Restoring Your Broken Marriage: Healing After Adultery by Robert Jones. Greensboro, NC:  New Growth Press.
  • Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God by C.J. Mahaney
  • Sexual Addiction: Freedom from Compulsive Behavior by David Powlison  Greensboro, NC:  New Growth Press.
  • Biblical Principles of Sex by Bob Smith  Stanley, NC: Timeless Texts.
  • “Helping Men Overcome by Life Dominating Lust”  by John Street. Workshop presented at the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors 1995 Annual Conference.
  • Additional help available in the Philadelphia area at http://www.harvestusa.org