Friday, November 30, 2007
If you're skiing at 80mph and the air temp is zero degrees fahrenheit, what is the windchill? It was a cold one today at Beaver Creek.
Congratulations to Steve Nyman, Bode Miller and Andrew Weibrecht of the US Ski Team for finishing in the top ten of today's Birds of Prey Downhill. Steve Nyman is racing fast this year, consistently beating Bode. Today Nyman's time was only 5 hundredths of a second behind first place finisher Michael Walchhofer of Austria. The Hermanator, Herman Maier, finished 11th. I wish I had been there today, but life and ministry kept me off the slopes. Maybe I can talk Meg and the girls into heading over tomorrow for the Super-G races.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Tuesday brought 70+ degree weather, a rare opportunity for me to worship God at the Covenant Seminary Chapel, a great BBQ lunch with the pastors at FBC Ellisville, and a trip to the St. Louis Zoo with the girls and my Grammie Pearson (my mom's mom). Swimming in Granny & Poppie's pool filled up most of our time until Thursday morning, along with eating way too much of my mom & Grammie's incredible food.
Yesterday (T-day), we went over the creeks and through the woods for 20 minutes to Meg's folks' house and enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast with Meg's sister Alison, my brother-in-law Jeff Niermann, and their kids, Lillian and Joshua. Someone wisely suggested that we take the family picture before the meal, which turned out to be a great idea, because I spent the afternoon upstairs in a triptophan induced nap.
Today, I'm up early, feeling great after a 7am run. This post is being composed at a St. Louis Bread Company (AKA Panera to my non-St. Louisan friends - that's how they all started years ago on the U City Loop near our alma mater, Washington U). Perhaps a movie this afternoon. Thanks to Meg, all our Christmas shopping is DONE! Tonight we enjoy the Christmas Lights with Lilly and Josh at Grants Farm. Perhaps I will also enjoy a few free samples of some of Anheuser-Busch's traditional offerings.
We'll get back in the car tomorrow morning for our cruise across the chilly plains, stopping in Wentzville to see my nephew Alex's new house and stopping in Independence to for lunch with my church-planting friend Jason Allen and his family. God willing, we will be back home before 10pm and I will be preaching from Jude 17-25 at Christchurch on Sunday morning.
Thank God for Thanksgiving!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Saturday, November 3, 2007
My hope has been renewed for more than just my ministry role as a pastor. This book also renewed my hope for my marriage role as a husband. I married Megan when I was 22 years old, and we have fought many times during our 15+ years of marriage. (Each one of those fights is resolved today, in case you’re wondering.) We have had to learn many conflict resolution skills and apply them many times during our marriage. But I’m concerned that sometimes we have not seen the connection between how we resolve our conflicts with one another and the way our marriage displays the gospel to our kids and to the world. I’m looking forward to applying the principles of this book to our next disagreement. I trust that as I apply this biblical teaching to my marriage, my love for Megan will grow even deeper and the glory of God will be displayed through real reconciliation, unity and peace between us.
I appreciated The Peacemaker’s focus on the sovereignty of God in relation to our personal experiences of conflict. During some church-related conflict I was in earlier this year, I often failed to see the centrality of God even in my trials. This prevented me from seeing conflict as holistically I should have seen it. “God’s sovereignty is so complete that he exercises ultimate control even over painful and unjust events.” (page 61) Embracing God’s sovereignty over my conflicts frees me to see that conflict is neither an inconvenience nor an occasion to force our will on others, but rather an opportunity to demonstrate the love and power of God in our lives. (page 31) The Peacemaker teaches that I Corinthians 10:31-11:1 presents a counter-cultural understanding of conflict: It is not merely a matter for negotiation, rather it is truly an opportunity to glorify God, serve others, and grow to be like Christ. When the gospel of Jesus is applied to our badly broken relationships with wisdom and skill (sometimes with the help of biblically-trained mediators, conciliators and church leaders), God is glorified as good.
Ken Sande also writes: “Many marriages, friendships and business relationships are lost because people focus exclusively on a point of disagreement and forget about all that they have enjoyed in and with one another.” (page 89) While this has not been a big problem in my marriage and personal friendships, it certainly has been a problem for me in my business and ministry relationships over the years. Before answering God’s call to full-time ministry 12 years ago, I worked for 7 years as a custom home builder and real estate broker. I can recall numerous times when one area of disagreement on a custom home contract became the exclusive focus of all parties. When I’m in the midst of a conflict, my inclination is to focus my work energy on the problem until it is overcome. This response only intensifies the focus on the problem, rather than on the overall business relationship (or rather than on God in a ministry relationship). Most of my custom home buyers were extremely satisfied with their homes, but I can still see the faces of a few where the focus on one problem led us all into a badly broken business relationship. Thankfully, none of these cases ever ended up in court, but I’m confident that those buyers never referred us to their other friends who were looking to build a home. Today, as I reflect on my ministry years, I can identify a number of ministry relationships where I have focused exclusively on one point of disagreement (sometimes behavioral, sometimes theological, sometimes relational), which has resulted in broken relationships and ultimately the departure of one of us from the fellowship of believers. Dear God, help me to see the forest for the trees, as well as my mistakes and my sins, and to respond to each matter of conflict I face with more wisdom and tact. Amen. “One evidence of sincere repentance is a willingness to thoroughly examine ourselves so that we can uncover both our mistakes and our sins.” (page 119) The more I reflect on life, the more convinced I am that repentance is not easy. It is a sovereign work of grace and is an inseparable experience with real faith in Jesus.
In The Peacemaker, I also picked up one very practical tip on asking for forgiveness. If a person to whom we may have confessed a mistake or sin does not express forgiveness, we may rightfully ask, “Will you forgive me?” “This signals to the other person that you have done all that you can by way of confession that that the responsibility for the next move has shifted to the other person.” (page 132) The important tip that I picked up is to allow the other person some time here. I need to be careful to not use this question as a means to pressure someone into forgiving me, especially my wife Megan and our girls. Better to say something like, “I hope you will soon be able to forgive me” and be patient as we wait for God’s work of reconciliation to be completed, than to press for forgiveness too quickly. Asking “Will you forgive me?” and expecting an immediate “yes” doesn’t allow the other person to go through the process of remembering the gospel and applying it to the situation. It is much better to have real forgiveness based on Jesus’ work than a forced forgiveness based on relational pressure.
Have you ever tried to follow the Bible’s teachings on resolving conflict and things only ended up getting worse? I have. “If your words seem to do more harm than good when you try to resolve a disagreement, don’t give up. With God’s help you can improve your ability to communicate constructively.” (page 162) As a personal application from the chapter on speaking the truth in love, I have recommitted myself to being disciplined to not interrupt others while they are speaking. This has been a bad habit of mine, especially with Megan, and with God’s help I’m going to get better at being a disciplined listener.
Here’s another hopeful lesson that I’m taking away from reading The Peacemaker:
“When an offense is too serious to overlook and the offender has not yet repented, you may need to approach forgiveness as a two-stage process. The first stage requires having an attitude of forgiveness, and the second, granting forgiveness. Having an attitude of forgiveness is unconditional and is a commitment you make to God (see Mark 11:24, Luke 6:28, Acts 7:60). By his grace, you seek to maintain a loving and merciful attitude toward someone who has offended you. This requires making and living out the first promise of forgiveness, which means you will not dwell on the hurtful incident or seek vengeance or retribution in thought, word or action. Instead you pray for the other person and stand ready at any moment to pursue complete reconciliation as soon as he or she repents. This attitude will protect you from bitterness and resentment, even if the other person takes a long time to repent.” (page 211)
I find hope here for the unresolved conflicts and broken relationships in my life. There is a God. He is the God of hope. He is big enough to handle the hard cases that we can’t fix. Because of Jesus, there is hope for reconciliation between people now at enmity.
The Peacemaker includes many real-life examples of conflict and reconciliation, but the most helpful to me was the detailed explanation of the “barking dog” conflict in the book’s final chapters. I plan to revisit this example the next time I have a conflict with someone outside my family.
I’m thankful for The Peacemaker. God used it to remind me how much I’ve been forgiven, and that has motivated me to more humbly be willing to forgive others.