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Posts tagged ‘Reconciliation’

Required to Reconnect – First Impression

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.”  –  John 17:23 NIV

Bonus Reading: Philippians 2:1-2

Cindy, a fellow college student, attended a church that provided little biblical teaching. Since she was struggling in her spiritual life, I invited her to visit my church.

I was unprepared for what took place after we took our seats. My pastor asked one of the elders to join him at the pulpit. “As most of you know, Kent and I argued during Sunday school last week,” he said. “Our emotions got out of hand, and we said things that should have been discussed in private.” Of all days to bring someone to church, I thought, why did I pick this one?

Pastor Woods put his arm around Kent’s shoulders. “We want you to know that we met that same afternoon to resolve our differences. By God’s grace we came to understand each other and were fully reconciled. But we are sorry for disrupting the unity of this fellowship and ask your forgiveness.”

The rest of the service was a blur, and I hoped Cindy would forget the whole incident. But after the service, as I was driving her home, she exclaimed, “I still can’t believe this morning. I’ve never met a minister who had the courage and humility to do what yours did. I’d like to come to your church again.”

—Ken Sande in The Peacemaker

My Response: What is it about an act of reconciliation that is so powerful?

Thought to Apply: Conflict provides opportunities to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be like Christ. —Ken Sande (lawyer & Christian conciliator)

Adapted from The Peacemaker (Baker, 1991, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – Reconciliation

Reconciliation3Paul’s letter to the Colossians first powerfully portrays what Christ has done—paying for our sin, reconciling us to God, and giving us the power to grow spiritually.

He then turns to what believers need to do to experience union with Christ and live in constant contact and communication with him.

After that, he offers practical guidance for experiencing unity with fellow believers.

Interact with God’s Word:  Colossians 3:12-15

  1. When you think of holiness, what words come to mind? How does Paul’s list (v. 12) compare with yours?
  2. Why (v. 13) is it so difficult to make allowances for others’ faults? Why is it important to do so?
  3. What does Paul say is the key to forgiving someone who has offended you?
  4. How (v. 14) can we hold differing opinions and still be bound together in harmony?
  5. When it comes to unity and genuine community, why is love essential?
  6. Verse 15 pictures Christ’s peace as a referee. How can the “calls” by peace help you choose actions that will promote harmony in your church? … in your own soul?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to help you make allowance for others’ faults and to live in peace with them.

Colossians 3:12-15

For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time the Philistines seized him in Gath. To be sung to the tune “Dove on Distant Oaks.”

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – Attack Dog’s Retreat

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: Do not testify spitefully against innocent neighbors. … And don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for all their meanness to me! I’ll get even!”  – Proverbs 24:28-29

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:5-8

In the 1980s, Lee Atwater, a high-ranking consultant for the National Republican Party, was the ultimate political attack dog. He specialized in ruining his opponents’ reputations by planting bogus, demeaning stories about them in the media.

Then, at the height of his influence, Atwater was stricken by a grave disease. A Washington, D.C., Christian witnessed to him about Jesus. Lee confessed his faith in Christ, even doing so publicly at a presidential prayer breakfast.

A remorseful Atwater next sought forgiveness and reconciliation from those on whom he’d played his infamous dirty tricks. He made phone calls and wrote letters. One was to a Democratic politician, whose life Atwater had nearly ruined by revealing an “episode” in his past. “It is very important to me,” he wrote, “that I let you know that one of the low points in my career remains the so-called ‘… episode.'”

Moved by the apology, this Christian attended Atwater’s funeral, and later observed, “I hope young political consultants who emulate Atwater’s tactics will realize that, confronting death, he became, through God’s grace, an advocate of the politics of love and reconciliation.”

—Timothy George and John Woodbridge in The Mark of Jesus

My Response: Am I willing to forgive someone who hurt me deeply?

Thought to Apply: When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.—Alan Paton (of South Africa)

Adapted from The Mark of Jesus (Moody, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – Dial First, Power Will Follow

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: “Go with the strength you have … I am sending you.”  – Judges 6:14

Bonus Reading: Judges 6:11b-14, 25-27

Awhile ago, I knew I should reconcile with someone I’d mistreated, but felt too intimidated and embarrassed to do it. It was going to be hard for me to admit fault. I was afraid he might rage at me. I wasn’t even sure how I’d bring up the subject without being awkward about it.

So I admitted that I needed God’s strength. I affirmed that he’s powerful and that he’s with me. I knew I was aligned with his will, because the Bible tells me, “Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible” (Romans 12:18). And I prayed, asking God for the courage to follow through.

Instead of feeling electrified with power, I still felt apprehensive and inadequate. Even so, I consciously decided to step out. That meant I had to act by doing what I knew God wanted me to do.

I went over to the phone and forced myself to dial the man’s number, knowing that if I walked down the road of obedience, God would give me power as power was needed. And sure enough, as the conversation unfolded that night, God emboldened me and strengthened me through that very difficult talk, and today I’m reconciled with that friend.

—Lee Strobel in God’s Outrageous Claims

My Response: A time when I stepped out in obedience and felt God’s power was …

Thought to Apply: Reconciliation demands courage … sometimes heroism, an overcoming of oneself rather than of one’s adversary.  —Pope Paul VI

Adapted from God’s Outrageous Claims (Zondervan, 1997, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – First Impression

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.”  –  John 17:23 NIV

Bonus Reading: Philippians 2:1-2

Cindy, a fellow college student, attended a church that provided little biblical teaching. Since she was struggling in her spiritual life, I invited her to visit my church.

I was unprepared for what took place after we took our seats. My pastor asked one of the elders to join him at the pulpit. “As most of you know, Kent and I argued during Sunday school last week,” he said. “Our emotions got out of hand, and we said things that should have been discussed in private.” Of all days to bring someone to church, I thought, why did I pick this one?

Pastor Woods put his arm around Kent’s shoulders. “We want you to know that we met that same afternoon to resolve our differences. By God’s grace we came to understand each other and were fully reconciled. But we are sorry for disrupting the unity of this fellowship and ask your forgiveness.”

The rest of the service was a blur, and I hoped Cindy would forget the whole incident. But after the service, as I was driving her home, she exclaimed, “I still can’t believe this morning. I’ve never met a minister who had the courage and humility to do what yours did. I’d like to come to your church again.”

—Ken Sande in The Peacemaker

My Response: What is it about an act of reconciliation that is so powerful?

Thought to Apply: Conflict provides opportunities to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be like Christ. —Ken Sande (lawyer & Christian conciliator)

Adapted from The Peacemaker (Baker, 1991, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – A Pierced Heart

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: If you … remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled. Matthew 5:23-24

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

[continued from yesterday]  Over the next several days, every time I went to prayer, God kept bringing to my mind Job 31:13-14: “If I have been unfair to my … servants, if I have refused to hear their complaints, how could I face God?”

I could feel God calling me to account. But I kept trying to tell God I have the right to talk to anyone any way I want. I make the law here.

Okay, I could sense God’s reply, but if you want to argue technicalities … And he reminded me of Jesus’ confrontation with the legalists in Matthew 23:23: “How terrible it will be for you … for you are careful to tithe … but you ignore … justice, mercy, and faith.”

Most of all, God used [today’s Key Bible Verse] to really pierce my heart. I knew my brother had something against me. I knew his heart was hurting.

So, humbled, I called the sergeant into my room and we sat down together. I asked him to forgive me for being hard of heart and for yelling. As we prayed, all the barriers vanished. My shoulders felt 50 pounds lighter!

Upon leaving, he smiled and said, “I knew you’d do the right thing.”

—Chris Plekenpol in Faith in the Fog of War

My Response: Who needs to hear me say “I’m sorry”?

Adapted from Faith in the Fog of War (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – I’m the Commander!

Reconciliation3Who Said It … Chris Plekenpol

Chris Plekenpol earned his mechanical engineering degree from West Point in 1999. His baptism the same year marked a drastic change in his perspective on the Army and life.

After qualifying for Airborne, Jumpmaster, Air Assault, and Ranger, Chris deployed to Iraq in 2004 as a tank company commander. He lost six of his men while helping take Fallujah. Now returned to civilian life, Chris is studying to become a pastor.

What He Said … Chris Plekenpol

In the Ramadi sector of Iraq we were patrolling, an insurgent had planted a makeshift bomb and then escaped. So I went outside to tell the gunner from my tank, who was filling in for SSG Burton, to let the tank and Bradley crews stand down.

“Sir,” he shot back, frustrated, “where are my guys at?”

“What!?” I screamed, stunned by his disrespect. “Get up here, sergeant!” He did and stood at attention. “Don’t you ever ask me where your men are! That’s your responsibility. Do you understand me?” He tried to respond, but I cut him off. “This conversation is over!”

It was the first day that this sergeant—a good leader and amazing Christian—had controlled a Quick Reaction Force. So he was already stressed out. Another sergeant, I learned later, had taken the QRF tank crew to chow at the mess hall—a big no-no. So he’d taken my full wrath for something not his fault. Still, I’m the commander, I rationalized. A sergeant should know where his soldiers are.   [continued tomorrow]

Adapted from Faith in the Fog of War (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Living the Good News of Reconciliation – Responding to Injustice and Inequality

Racial Tensions in Schools“Of all the prophets who wrote after the exile, Zechariah is my favorite,” says John Perkins, a leader in a ministry to marginalized people. ”

He understands the problems of my neighborhood.  And he says God is going to fix the mess we’re in.  All I have to do is join up and be a part of what God is doing.”

This week’s study draws from John’s insights found in chapter six of Welcoming Justice .

Key Study Passage:

Zechariah 8

1.      What does verse 2 tell us about God’s relationship with Jerusalem?  How can this be applied to his relationship to the church? (See Ephesians 5:25-29.)

 

2.      What did Zechariah mean when he said Jerusalem “will be called the Faithful City” (v. 3)?  How had Jerusalem been unfaithful?  (See  Isaiah 1:21-23.)  In what ways has the church been unfaithful?

 

3.      In verses 4 through 15, what do we learn about God’s desire for Israel?  How do the truths in these verses apply to the church?

 

4.      According to verses 16 through 19, how should God’s people act?

 

 

5.      What happens when God’s people live in the way they’re supposed to? (See vv. 20-23; Matthew 5:14-15.)

 

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to show you how to respond to the injustice and inequality you see around you; spend time interceding specifically for the poor and disenfranchised who live in your .

 

 

Zechariah 8

Promised Blessings for Jerusalem

1 Then another message came to me from the LORD of Heaven’s Armies: 2 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: My love for Mount Zion is passionate and strong; I am consumed with passion for Jerusalem!

3 “And now the LORD says: I am returning to Mount Zion, and I will live in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City; the mountain of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will be called the Holy Mountain.

4 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares. 5 And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play.

6 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: All this may seem impossible to you now, a small remnant of God’s people. But is it impossible for me? says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

7 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: You can be sure that I will rescue my people from the east and from the west. 8 I will bring them home again to live safely in Jerusalem. They will be my people, and I will be faithful and just toward them as their God.

9 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Be strong and finish the task! Ever since the laying of the foundation of the Temple of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, you have heard what the prophets have been saying about completing the building. 10 Before the work on the Temple began, there were no jobs and no money to hire people or animals. No traveler was safe from the enemy, for there were enemies on all sides. I had turned everyone against each other.

11 “But now I will not treat the remnant of my people as I treated them before, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. 12 For I am planting seeds of peace and prosperity among you. The grapevines will be heavy with fruit. The earth will produce its crops, and the heavens will release the dew. Once more I will cause the remnant in Judah and Israel to inherit these blessings. 13 Among the other nations, Judah and Israel became symbols of a cursed nation. But no longer! Now I will rescue you and make you both a symbol and a source of blessing. So don’t be afraid. Be strong, and get on with rebuilding the Temple!

14 “For this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: I was determined to punish you when your ancestors angered me, and I did not change my mind, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. 15 But now I am determined to bless Jerusalem and the people of Judah. So don’t be afraid. 16 But this is what you must do: Tell the truth to each other. Render verdicts in your courts that are just and that lead to peace. 17 Don’t scheme against each other. Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth. I hate all these things, says the LORD.”

18 Here is another message that came to me from the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. 19 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: The traditional fasts and times of mourning you have kept in early summer, midsummer, autumn, and winter are now ended. They will become festivals of joy and celebration for the people of Judah. So love truth and peace.

20 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: People from nations and cities around the world will travel to Jerusalem. 21 The people of one city will say to the people of another, ‘Come with us to Jerusalem to ask the LORD to bless us. Let’s worship the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I’m determined to go.’ 22 Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD of Heaven’s Armies and to ask for his blessing.

23 “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In those days ten men from different nations and languages of the world will clutch at the sleeve of one Jew. And they will say, ‘Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'”

Prayer for the Week:   Heavenly Father, show me what it means to have authentic relationships within your diverse body of believers; give me deeper insights into my prejudices; make me a catalyst for peace and reconciliation.

Living the Good News of Reconciliation – Refusing to Be Quiet

Love Your Enemies 3Key Bible Verse:  How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!  Psalm 133:1, NIV

Dig Deeper:  John 17:23; 1 Corinthians 1:10

(continued from yesterday)  That first Friday, a racially mixed group of 25 uncomfortable teenagers gathered in the assigned classroom, with the three original boy,s the only ones actually looking like they wanted to be there.

But something began to happen that day.  One of the three boys started the conversation by confessing his own hurt and bias.  Voice after voice followed.  Sometimes it was confession, sometimes confrontation, but honesty ruled that hour.

The following week, 50 high-schoolers piled into that classroom, and the conversation began to migrate from confession and confrontation to reconciliation.  There were even times when students would get up, walk across the room, and embrace one another.

The third week, the gathering had to be held in the auditorium.  It had become positively uncool not to be there.

These three are not teenagers anymore.  They have grown up and moved on, but their legacy remains.  That school is more racially unified than it would have ever been otherwise, and it is only because three mostly unremarkable teenage boys would not remain passive.

They rejected the unbiblical status quo, and refused to be quiet about it.  Just three regular teenage boys, but they left something beautiful behind.

—Paul Tripp in Broken-Down House

 

My Response: In what ways have I accepted the “unbiblical status quo”?  What steps could I take to change that?

 

Thought to Apply: Men’s hearts ought not to be set against one another, but set with one another, and all against evil only.—Thomas Carlyle (Scottish essayist)

Adapted from Broken-Down House (Shepherd Press, 2009)

Prayer for the Week:   Heavenly Father, show me what it means to have authentic relationships within your diverse body of believers; give me deeper insights into my prejudices; make me a catalyst for peace and reconciliation.

Living the Good News of Reconciliation – Just Three Boys…

Love Your Enemies 3Key Bible Verse:  “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  – John 13:35

Dig Deeper:  John13:34; Leviticus 19:18

Three 13-year-old boys were attending a large and well-known Christian school.  But there were problems.  Tensions between black kids and white kids only seemed to grow each week.  There hadn’t been any violence, at least not yet.  And much of the racism was covert.  But it was there, and real, and undeniable.

This was not acceptable to the boys.  Theirs was a Christian school.  It was supposed to be known for its love.  Yet the culture of this school had become defined by worldly stereotypes and division.  They were just three teenage boys and not even recognized as student leaders.  But they decided to do something.

There in his office, having a conversation he never could have imagined that day, the headmaster found their idea a little scary, but the boys were politely not taking no for an answer.  He realized it could all go wrong.  Yet, they were right: the racism was real and growing worse.

So he allowed them to try holding a weekly Friday-afternoon discussion on race relations in the school.  He directed them to get two teachers to give oversight to the gatherings.  And, as they had asked, he arranged for information to be included in each Friday’s morning announcements, broadcast to the homerooms. [continued  tomorrow]

—Paul Tripp in Broken-Down House

 

My Response:  What can I do to become more in tune with the subtle racism around me?

 

Thought to Apply:  I will not let any man make me lower myself by hating him.—Booker T. Washington (educator, writer, orator, political leader)

Adapted from Broken-Down House (Shepherd Press, 2009)

Prayer for the Week:   Heavenly Father, show me what it means to have authentic relationships within your diverse body of believers; give me deeper insights into my prejudices; make me a catalyst for peace and reconciliation.

Living the Good News of Reconciliation – Inviting Jesus In

Love Your Enemies 2Key Bible Verse:  Always be humble and gentle.  Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  Ephesians 4:2

Dig Deeper:  Ephesians 4:1-4

When Rick was 12, he and his brother were attacked by an angry black youth.  After several swings, the fight broke up, but Rick began to hold a fear in his heart about young black men.

Later, as Rick grew in his commitment to reconciliation and justice, he knew that he had to deal with the memory of his fight and the stereotype of young black men that it enforced.  So during a special prayer time, Rick invited Jesus into his memory.

In his mind’s eye, Rick saw Jesus enter the baseball field where the fight happened, break it up, look at the young black man and speak words of tenderness to break through his defenses.

As Rick watched Jesus, he began to feel immense woundedness in the young man that had resulted in rage, and Rick began to feel compassion.   As a result, Rick was empowered by Jesus to extend forgiveness out of a new understanding, to pray for the young man, and to ask for God’s forgiveness for himself.

Jesus cleansed Rick that day and freed him to make a commitment to work for a world where people of color will not have so many reasons for rage.

—Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson in The Heart of Racial Justice

 

My Response:  In what ways have I bought into harmful stereotypes and destructive prejudices?  I need to invite Jesus into this bad memory that’s fueled by fear and/or anger: …

 

Thought to Apply:  The number one problem in our world is alienation, rich versus poor, black versus white, labor versus management, conservative versus liberal, East versus West .… But Christ came to bring about reconciliation and peace.—Billy Graham (evangelist)

Adapted from The Heart of Racial Justice (IVP, 2004)

Prayer for the Week:   Heavenly Father, show me what it means to have authentic relationships within your diverse body of believers; give me deeper insights into my prejudices; make me a catalyst for peace and reconciliation.

Living the Good News of Reconciliation – Transfusion of Hope

Love Your EnemiesKey Bible Verse:  “But I say, love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you!”  Matthew 5:44

Dig Deeper:  Matthew 5:38-47

John Perkins played a key role in my own enlightenment on racial issues.  In 1974, ten years after the landmark Civil Rights Bill, I accepted his invitation to visit the small town of Mendenhall, just south of Jackson.

As a black minister, Perkins had lived through the worst nightmares of the Civil Rights movement.  I heard the stories of his own encounters with violent sheriffs and the Ku Klux Klan during the week I spent in Mississippi.

After one horrific night of torture in jail, Perkins underwent a crisis of faith:

“It was time for me to decide if I really did believe what I’d so often professed, that only in the love of Christ, not in power of violence, is there any hope for me or the world. I began to see how hate could destroy me. In the end, I had to agree with Dr. King that God wanted us to return good for evil, not evil for evil. ‘Love your enemy,’ Jesus said. And I determined to do it. It’s a profound, mysterious truth, Jesus’ concept of love overpowering hate. I may not see it in my lifetime. But I know it’s true. Because on that bed, full of bruises and stitches, God made it true in me. I got a transfusion of hope.”

—Philip Yancey in Welcoming Justice

 

My Response:  A time when I have actually seen love overpower hate was …

 

Thought to Apply:  Love is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love.  There’s something about love that builds up and is creative.  There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive.  So love your enemies.—Martin Luther King Jr. (clergyman, civil rights leader)

Adapted from Welcoming Justice (IVP, 2009)

Prayer for the Week:   Heavenly Father, show me what it means to have authentic relationships within your diverse body of believers; give me deeper insights into my prejudices; make me a catalyst for peace and reconciliation.

Living the Good News of Reconciliation – Restored Relationships

Reconciliation 2Key Bible Verse:  For Christ himself has brought peace to us.  He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.  Ephesians 2:14

Dig Deeper:  Ephesians 2:11-22

We’ve been so dehumanized by this world’s system that we think it’s natural to live for ourselves alone.  But it’s not.

God wants to restore us to the authentic relationships we were made for.  That’s what reconciliation is all about.

We’ve got a Father who loves us and who created us for real relationship.  But sin has separated us from authentic relationships.  It has put up these walls around us; it keeps us from knowing God and from being known by other people.

The Good News, though, is that Jesus has broken down the walls. (See the Key Bible Verse.)  The Bible says that God’s whole purpose in Jesus was to create a new community “and in one body to reconcile … us to God through the cross” (Ephesians 2:16, TNIV).

God reconciles us to himself as he restores us to authentic relationship with our neighbors and enemies through the cross.

If the gospel is going to connect with the deep yearning of this generation, we’re going to have to learn how to invite people into authentic relationships . Thankfully, that’s what a lot of the Bible is about.

—John Perkins in Welcoming Justice

 

My Response:  I will reflect on how today’s Key Bible Verse applies to the way I relate to others from different races, cultures, and social/economic backgrounds.

Adapted from Welcoming Justice (IVP, 2009)

Prayer for the Week:   Heavenly Father, show me what it means to have authentic relationships within your diverse body of believers; give me deeper insights into my prejudices; make me a catalyst for peace and reconciliation.

Living the Good News of Reconciliation – Let’s Rebuild the Church

Church ReconciliationWho Said It … John Perkins

John Perkins was born in 1930 in the Deep South.  The object of violent racism, he was beaten nearly to death in 1970 in a Mississippi jail.  He had every reason to respond with bitterness and rage. Instead, he responded with love and forgiveness.

A much sought-after speaker on issues related to race and reconciliation, John has ministered among the poor for nearly 50 years. He is the author of several books including his recently released autobiography Love Is the Final Fight.

 

What He Said … Let’s Rebuild the Church

The church has been captivated by a church-growth strategy that says people are more likely to come to a church where most of the other people are like them.  So pastors in the suburbs catered their services and programs to middle class “seekers.”  Which means the poor aren’t members of our big churches.

If the gospel of reconciliation is going to interrupt the brokenness in society, our churches are going to have to rethink their strategy.  When I read the Bible, I always bring the problems of my community to God and ask when in history God’s people have had to face a similar challenge.  As I look at our situation today and the problems we face, I hear God speaking to the church in the words that he spoke through his prophets after the exile.  Coming out of our cultural captivity, I hear God saying that this is a time for rebuilding the church and remembering what it really means to be Christ’s body in the world.

 

This Week’s Key Study Passage:  Zechariah 8

          Adapted from Welcoming Justice (IVP, 2009).   

 

Prayer for the Week:  Heavenly Father, show me what it means to have authentic relationships within your diverse body of believers; give me deeper insights into my prejudices; make me a catalyst for peace and reconciliation.

Church: It’s Not About Me – Why Not Leave?

ReconciliationKey Bible Verse:  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another. – Hebrews 10:25

Bonus Reading:  2 Corinthians 2: 5-11

The pastor preaches about generosity in giving, and you’re battling selfishness.  A small group studies moral purity, and you’re crossing biblical boundaries.  A Sunday school leader teaches on integrity in the workplace, and you’re taking shortcuts.  Your discomfort is no reason to leave; it’s a good reason to stay.

Don’t go looking for a church that lowers biblical standards just to make people feel comfortable.

You’ve been caught in a sin.  You’ll be tempted to run away and start fresh in a church where no one knows about it.  Yet God often wants a person in this situation to stay right where he is and let his church family love him and help him through this difficult time.  The community of faith can keep you accountable, ask tough questions, and pray for you.

You’ve had a conflict with someone.  When tensions have flared, hard words exchanged, and feelings hurt, you might think about leaving to avoid the difficult process of reconciliation.  Usually the wisest choice is to stay and work through a process of relational healing.  Otherwise you might find you have to leave a whole series of churches.

—Kevin and Sherry Harney in Finding a Church You Can Love

 

My Response: When I’ve sinned, am I committed to coming clean and trusting the body of Christ to restore me?

 

Thought to Apply:  The house of God is not a safe place.  It is where we are challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.—Madeleine L’Engle (writer)

Adapted from Finding a Church You Can Love (Zondervan, 2003)

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  As your disciple, Lord, I recognize I can’t live a life of faith and faithful service on my own.  Help me to truly connect with Christian community.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – Reconciliation

Reconciliation3Paul’s letter to the Colossians first powerfully portrays what Christ has done—paying for our sin, reconciling us to God, and giving us the power to grow spiritually.

He then turns to what believers need to do to experience union with Christ and live in constant contact and communication with him.

After that, he offers practical guidance for experiencing unity with fellow believers.

Interact with God’s Word:  Colossians 3:12-15

  1. When you think of holiness, what words come to mind? How does Paul’s list (v. 12) compare with yours?
  2. Why (v. 13) is it so difficult to make allowances for others’ faults? Why is it important to do so?
  3. What does Paul say is the key to forgiving someone who has offended you?
  4. How (v. 14) can we hold differing opinions and still be bound together in harmony?
  5. When it comes to unity and genuine community, why is love essential?
  6. Verse 15 pictures Christ’s peace as a referee. How can the “calls” by peace help you choose actions that will promote harmony in your church? … in your own soul?

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to help you make allowance for others’ faults and to live in peace with them.

Colossians 3:12-15

For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time the Philistines seized him in Gath. To be sung to the tune “Dove on Distant Oaks.”

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – Attack Dog’s Retreat

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: Do not testify spitefully against innocent neighbors. … And don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for all their meanness to me! I’ll get even!”  – Proverbs 24:28-29

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 2:5-8

In the 1980s, Lee Atwater, a high-ranking consultant for the National Republican Party, was the ultimate political attack dog. He specialized in ruining his opponents’ reputations by planting bogus, demeaning stories about them in the media.

Then, at the height of his influence, Atwater was stricken by a grave disease. A Washington, D.C., Christian witnessed to him about Jesus. Lee confessed his faith in Christ, even doing so publicly at a presidential prayer breakfast.

A remorseful Atwater next sought forgiveness and reconciliation from those on whom he’d played his infamous dirty tricks. He made phone calls and wrote letters. One was to a Democratic politician, whose life Atwater had nearly ruined by revealing an “episode” in his past. “It is very important to me,” he wrote, “that I let you know that one of the low points in my career remains the so-called ‘… episode.'”

Moved by the apology, this Christian attended Atwater’s funeral, and later observed, “I hope young political consultants who emulate Atwater’s tactics will realize that, confronting death, he became, through God’s grace, an advocate of the politics of love and reconciliation.”

—Timothy George and John Woodbridge in The Mark of Jesus

My Response: Am I willing to forgive someone who hurt me deeply?

Thought to Apply: When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.—Alan Paton (of South Africa)

Adapted from The Mark of Jesus (Moody, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – Dial First, Power Will Follow

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: “Go with the strength you have … I am sending you.”  – Judges 6:14

Bonus Reading: Judges 6:11b-14, 25-27

Awhile ago, I knew I should reconcile with someone I’d mistreated, but felt too intimidated and embarrassed to do it. It was going to be hard for me to admit fault. I was afraid he might rage at me. I wasn’t even sure how I’d bring up the subject without being awkward about it.

So I admitted that I needed God’s strength. I affirmed that he’s powerful and that he’s with me. I knew I was aligned with his will, because the Bible tells me, “Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible” (Romans 12:18). And I prayed, asking God for the courage to follow through.

Instead of feeling electrified with power, I still felt apprehensive and inadequate. Even so, I consciously decided to step out. That meant I had to act by doing what I knew God wanted me to do.

I went over to the phone and forced myself to dial the man’s number, knowing that if I walked down the road of obedience, God would give me power as power was needed. And sure enough, as the conversation unfolded that night, God emboldened me and strengthened me through that very difficult talk, and today I’m reconciled with that friend.

—Lee Strobel in God’s Outrageous Claims

My Response: A time when I stepped out in obedience and felt God’s power was …

Thought to Apply: Reconciliation demands courage … sometimes heroism, an overcoming of oneself rather than of one’s adversary.  —Pope Paul VI

Adapted from God’s Outrageous Claims (Zondervan, 1997, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – Unfinished Business

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: “Where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them.”  – Matthew 18:20

Bonus Reading: Matthew 18:15-22

Evangelist Sammy Tippet grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Four courageous African-American girls endured humiliation to attend his all-white high school. One lunch hour, more than 100 students surrounded one of the girls, screaming racial slurs at her. Sammy didn’t participate, but did nothing to stop this harassment.

After Sammy’s conversion, he began praying for a chance to apologize for his cowardice to these girls—now probably married and scattered. But how to find them?

The Tippet family moved to San Antonio and, 21 years later, Sammy enrolled in a CPR class. “If you don’t understand my accent,” the African-American teacher began, “it’s because I grew up in Baton Rouge.” After class, Sammy approached her. She was one of those girls! He begged forgiveness for how she’d been treated.

“I accept your apology,” she responded. “Most importantly, God accepts your apology. Thank you for speaking up now. The sadness I felt turned to joy, knowing there are people like you, lovers of God, making this right.”

Jesus spoke in today’s Key Bible Verse in the context of reconciliation. Sammy’s prayer was answered because God is in the reconciliation business.

—Erwin Lutzer in When You’ve Been Wronged

My Response: A wrong I need to pray about righting is ____.

Thought to Apply: Racial reconciliation is one of the best roads to humility we can take because of the opportunity to die to self. —Glen Kehrein

Adapted from When You’ve Been Wronged (Moody, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – First Impression

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.”  –  John 17:23 NIV

Bonus Reading: Philippians 2:1-2

Cindy, a fellow college student, attended a church that provided little biblical teaching. Since she was struggling in her spiritual life, I invited her to visit my church.

I was unprepared for what took place after we took our seats. My pastor asked one of the elders to join him at the pulpit. “As most of you know, Kent and I argued during Sunday school last week,” he said. “Our emotions got out of hand, and we said things that should have been discussed in private.” Of all days to bring someone to church, I thought, why did I pick this one?

Pastor Woods put his arm around Kent’s shoulders. “We want you to know that we met that same afternoon to resolve our differences. By God’s grace we came to understand each other and were fully reconciled. But we are sorry for disrupting the unity of this fellowship and ask your forgiveness.”

The rest of the service was a blur, and I hoped Cindy would forget the whole incident. But after the service, as I was driving her home, she exclaimed, “I still can’t believe this morning. I’ve never met a minister who had the courage and humility to do what yours did. I’d like to come to your church again.”

—Ken Sande in The Peacemaker

My Response: What is it about an act of reconciliation that is so powerful?

Thought to Apply: Conflict provides opportunities to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be like Christ. —Ken Sande (lawyer & Christian conciliator)

Adapted from The Peacemaker (Baker, 1991, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – A Pierced Heart

Reconciliation3Key Bible Verse: If you … remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled. Matthew 5:23-24

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

[continued from yesterday]  Over the next several days, every time I went to prayer, God kept bringing to my mind Job 31:13-14: “If I have been unfair to my … servants, if I have refused to hear their complaints, how could I face God?”

I could feel God calling me to account. But I kept trying to tell God I have the right to talk to anyone any way I want. I make the law here.

Okay, I could sense God’s reply, but if you want to argue technicalities … And he reminded me of Jesus’ confrontation with the legalists in Matthew 23:23: “How terrible it will be for you … for you are careful to tithe … but you ignore … justice, mercy, and faith.”

Most of all, God used [today’s Key Bible Verse] to really pierce my heart. I knew my brother had something against me. I knew his heart was hurting.

So, humbled, I called the sergeant into my room and we sat down together. I asked him to forgive me for being hard of heart and for yelling. As we prayed, all the barriers vanished. My shoulders felt 50 pounds lighter!

Upon leaving, he smiled and said, “I knew you’d do the right thing.”

—Chris Plekenpol in Faith in the Fog of War

My Response: Who needs to hear me say “I’m sorry”?

Adapted from Faith in the Fog of War (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.

 

 

Required to Reconnect – I’m the Commander!

Reconciliation3Who Said It … Chris Plekenpol

Chris Plekenpol earned his mechanical engineering degree from West Point in 1999. His baptism the same year marked a drastic change in his perspective on the Army and life.

After qualifying for Airborne, Jumpmaster, Air Assault, and Ranger, Chris deployed to Iraq in 2004 as a tank company commander. He lost six of his men while helping take Fallujah. Now returned to civilian life, Chris is studying to become a pastor.

What He Said … Chris Plekenpol

In the Ramadi sector of Iraq we were patrolling, an insurgent had planted a makeshift bomb and then escaped. So I went outside to tell the gunner from my tank, who was filling in for SSG Burton, to let the tank and Bradley crews stand down.

“Sir,” he shot back, frustrated, “where are my guys at?”

“What!?” I screamed, stunned by his disrespect. “Get up here, sergeant!” He did and stood at attention. “Don’t you ever ask me where your men are! That’s your responsibility. Do you understand me?” He tried to respond, but I cut him off. “This conversation is over!”

It was the first day that this sergeant—a good leader and amazing Christian—had controlled a Quick Reaction Force. So he was already stressed out. Another sergeant, I learned later, had taken the QRF tank crew to chow at the mess hall—a big no-no. So he’d taken my full wrath for something not his fault. Still, I’m the commander, I rationalized. A sergeant should know where his soldiers are.   [continued tomorrow]

Adapted from Faith in the Fog of War (Multnomah, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: I need Your courage, Lord, to bypass my pride, engage the one with whom I’m on the outs, probe for the root of our misunderstanding, and experience healing.