Conflict is never easy, and is in my opinion one of the hardest things to engage in as a Christian. One reason why conflict is so hard is as Christians we are both saints and sinners. As Christians we have a positional identity as adopted sons and daughters of the King, and yet we because we haven’t been glorified by Jesus we still sin. This is one of the chief reasons why conflict is so hard, because in dealing with difficult situations we are confronted by our own sin and the sins of others. In his helpful new book Pursuing Peace a Christian Guide To Handling Our Conflicts Dr. Robert Jones a Professor and seasoned Pastor writes to help Christians understand how the Gospel relates to conflict and how to engage conflict situations by applying the Gospel to our lives.
One of the greatest struggles in my own life as a Christian as it relates to conflict has been in handling criticism in godly ways that glorify God. Owning up to our own failures is never easy and often times I have minimized my own part in various conflict situations in my life rather than taking responsibility for my sin and repenting for them. Thankfully I’ve learned from these various situations and have repented of my sin, but still have a long way to go in terms of dealing better with conflict situations.
Dr. Jones in chapter six identifies three steps for apologizing that makes a difference, confessing our sins to those we have offended. The first step is to identify your offenses, using a “plank list” and confess our sins to God, receive his forgiveness, and seek his help” (91). Ken Sande gives seven vital characteristics of confession, “First, address everyone involved, second, avoid, if, but and maybe, third, admit specifically, fourth, acknowledge the hurt, fifth, accept consequences, sixth, alter your behavior (at least explain how you intend to do so), and finally ask for forgiveness and allow time” (98-103).
Having been on the receiving end of true confession and also having given true confession I can tell you that true confession brings healing, but that it takes time for healing to occur especially when the hurt has been deep. Pursuing Peace a Christian Guide To Handling Our Conflicts by Robert Jones is an important book because it helps us to focus not on ourselves, but upon the work that Jesus did to reconcile us to God, which provides the framework for Christian’s reconciliation with each other. This book will help Christians to learn how their reconciliation with God relates to dealing with difficult people, handling criticism and more in a godly way by holding up the treasure of Christ to a watching and waiting world. I recommend every Christian read Pursuing Peace a Christian Guide To Handling Our Conflicts to learn how the Gospel relates to conflict and how to handle difficult situations in God-glorifying ways.
Title: Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts
Author: Robert Jones
Publisher: Crossway (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Many pastors have a difficult time determining whether—or what—to preach at a funeral. Here are four Do’s and two Don’ts.
1. Preach the gospel. Funerals force all in attendance to admit their mortality, including their eventual death and judgment. Although we hide ourselves from death continually (do you see animals die, do you bury your own dead, etc.?), funerals force us to look mortality in the eye. Whenever we admit that death is real, understanding that it’s “the wages of sin” is just one step further. God is the one who has judged sin temporally through death; however, He has crucified His Son so that sinners will enjoy Him forever through Christ. Christ’s death propitiated God’s wrath toward sinners. Sinners simply must repent, placing their trust in Christ alone for their salvation. Hopefully, this “face-to-face” meeting with mortality will send your hearers running to the cross for salvation.
2. Accommodate. Some of you may disagree with me on this; however, I will gladly read poems that speculate concerning eternity if the family of the deceased requests it. I will, however, qualify what I’m about to read by saying, “The family has asked me to read this poem titled __________.” Just because you read it does not mean that you necessarily approve of all the theology that it contains. Although I will not read a heretical poem for anyone, I will gladly read a poem that I disagree with that is still in the realm of orthodoxy.
3. Preach the truth concerning heaven and hell. There are more sermons on heaven than on hell in today’s pulpits. As pastors, however, we should emphasize both places since the authors of Scripture emphasized both. You should not allow this rare opportunity to pass you by to preach the result of trusting in Christ: heaven, and the result of rejecting Him: hell.
4. Preach the gospel from the deceased’s perspective. Something interesting that the Scriptures teach is that both heaven and hell are full of entities with a desire for evangelism. Peter says that the heavenly angels desire to look into sharing the gospel (1 Peter 1:12), and Jesus says that those in hell wish someone would share the gospel with their loved ones so that they wouldn’t have to come to such a place (Luke 16: 27-31). Bring this reality up by saying, “If the deceased could be here today, he would tell you to place your trust in Jesus Christ; for he knows today more than ever that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one gets to the Father but by Him (John 14:6).”
1. Correct theology beyond the gospel. If the gospel does not hinge on the theology that is believed or being presented by someone else at the funeral, then you have no need to correct it at this time. The gospel should be the emphasis, not 100% correct theology. Basically, whatever is in the realm of orthodoxy should be tolerated. Only come against what you know to be 100% false, and don’t be arrogant. After all, you should not be as sure about eschatology as you are about the resurrection of Christ.
2. Speculate about the deceased’s location at this moment: heaven or hell. Regardless how godly or ungodly a person was, we do not know 100% whether this person is in heaven or hell at this moment. We must be careful not to preach people into heaven or hell. Instead, we must seek to be vague about what we do not know, and instead, focus on the power of the gospel for those that believe. Your sermon is not for the deceased (he’s not there) but is rather for those present. Emphasize the fact that all those who trust in Christ will be reconciled to God through Christ, absent from the body and present with the Lord until the day Christ returns, and their bodies are raised from the dead and join their spirits to rule and reign with Christ, forevermore exalting God. Oh, happy day!
What are your thoughts?
This is our weekly roundup of posts for 7/23-7/28/2012. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Monday July 23rd: Divorce and Remarriage by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/23/divorce-and-remarriage/
Tuesday July 24th- The Spiritual Credibility Gap by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/24/the-spiritual-credibility-gap/
Wed July 25th- Growing into the depths of the Gospel by Dav: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/25/growing-into-the-depths-of-the-gospel/
Thursday July 26th- 10 Contemporary Sacred Cows that need to be tipped by Jared Moore http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/26/10-contemporary-sacred-cows-that-need-to-be-tipped/
Friday July 27th- Being Honest With Our Kids About Death by Greg Dutcher http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/27/being-honest-with-our-kids-about-death/
Saturday- Some Do’s and Don’ts When Preaching a Wedding by Jared Moore: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/28/some-dos-and-donts-when-preaching-a-wedding/
What should you expect when preaching a wedding? What do others expect of you? Here are five important do’s and “don’ts.
Do’s For Preaching A Wedding
1. Preach the gospel, reminding the couple and the audience that their marriage is to communicate the gospel (Eph. 5). There will be numerous non-Christians in attendance as well as numerous married people that are contemplating divorce or adultery. You have a rare opportunity to give them the truth.
2. Whatever the bride, groom, and families want you to do that does not violate your conscience or the Scriptures.
3. Arrive early but never late to the rehearsal, pictures, wedding, and anything else the family wants you to attend.
4. Know what you are going to say verbatim; don’t “wing it.” Notes are fine to read from, but don’t sound choppy. You are not the center of the ceremony, Christ is. Don’t detract from Christ.
5. Counsel the couple if at all possible before marrying them. This counsel should be full of Scriptural counseling, not merely advice from your many years of experience. If the couple will submit to the Scriptures as authoritative over their marriage, emotions, feelings, etc., literally nothing can make their marriage fail.
Don’ts For Preaching A Wedding
1. Expect to be paid. You may be paid, or you may not be. If you are paid, it won’t be much money; so don’t ask to be paid unless they ask you.
2. Be a comedian during the ceremony. Once again, do not detract from Christ.
3. Offer suggestions to the wedding planner, family, etc. unless they ask you for them. You are not choreographing the wedding.
4. Preach a sermon, but preach the gospel. You should include Ephesians 5 or some similar verses that communicate God’s plan for marriage; however, there is no need to preach a detailed sermon. Include all that is necessary to communicate God’s plan for marriage (the gospel) in the smallest amount of time possible. The ceremony will be full of other time-stealers, so your window for presenting the gospel is brief.
5. Ignore the wedding planner’s desired order of the ceremony. Pay detailed attention during the rehearsal to how he or she has organized the ceremony. Once again, you do not want to detract from Christ. If you mess up the order of the ceremony, you will detract from Christ.
What are your thoughts?
I wanted to wait at least a week to write about my own response to last week’s tragic shooting in Aurora. Partly because I can’t even begin to imagine the horror, shock and (just now, I’m sure) onsetting grief of the families who lost loved ones. Like many of you, I have spent the last week tearfully watching the accounts of horror and heroism that have emerged from that Colorado movie theater. But there is another reason I have waited. Almost two thousands miles away, my 13-year-old daughter and I were at the midnight premier of the Batman movie. I needed some time to process that too.
It was a wonderful evening. Samantha and I met my brother and sister-in-law at the theater at 11:15- it was already packed. We purchased absurd amounts of popcorn and treats and spent 45 minutes in the crowded theater analyzing the previous two installments of the film franchise. Could Bane come anywhere close to rivaling Ledger’s performance as the Joker? Would Batman die at the end of this one? Is Christopher Nolan REALLY done with the series? It was trivial, random and completely fun! We thought the movie was terrific, and Samantha and I drove home at 3:30 wondering if we were going to be able to settle into some semblance of sleep.
Needless to say seeing the reports of carnage and chaos the next morning on Fox News hit home in a way that may have been somewhat different had we not been at the premier. A few days later my daughter asked me the question.
“Dad- it could just have easily been us, couldn’t it have?”
I don’t why it is but for every parent it seems almost instinctive to say, “No- we were safe, Samantha. Those things hardly ever happen.” Understandably, we don’t want to talk to our children about death. But I am grateful the grace of God enabled me to respond far better.
“Yes- Samantha. There is no reason but God’s providence and pleasure that we didn’t die.”
That’s exactly what I said. As I uttered those words it was almost like an out-of-body experience. It was like watching a stranger address my daughter in a harsh tone. I wanted to rebuke myself!
Samantha has had a difficult year. My father-in-law, her precious Pop Pop died this past fall; and her spiritual Pop Pop (Roscoe Adams- my precious pastor) died this past April. I can’t deny there was a sadness in her eyes, but she surprised me. She simply nodded in an understanding way and went back to her day with an ever-maturing theology I never expected her to have so young.
I don’t presume to be an expert on exactly when to speak plainly to our kids about death. 13 is certainly a pretty safe age, I think. But my main concern is that all of us as Christian parents strive to tell our kids that this life is really the “pre-life.” A thousand years from now and ten thousands years beyond that our kids will be living- in one of two neighborhoods. How can I not prepare them for that reality?
Those dear people in Aurora were just like my daughter and me. One moment buzzing about Hollywood glitz, having some innocent fun- the next moment standing before their Maker. Only providence were Samantha I permitted to go on living in this “pre-life” for a period of time known only to Him.
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. – Psalm 136:16
I had a vague memory of the eloquence of John Piper talking with his own daughter about a tragedy in his neck of the woods some years ago. Google easily let me find it even though it was five years ago. Piper said it far better than I could.
We prayed during our family devotions. Talitha (11 years old) and Noel and I prayed earnestly for the families affected by the calamity and for the others in our city. Talitha prayed “Please don’t let anyone blame God for this but give thanks that they were saved.” When I sat on her bed and tucked her in and blessed her and sang over her a few minutes ago, I said, “You know, Talitha, that was a good prayer, because when people ‘blame’ God for something, they are angry with him, and they are saying that he has done something wrong. That’s what “blame” means: accuse somebody of wrongdoing. But you and I know that God did not do anything wrong. God always does what is wise. And you and I know that God could have held up that bridge with one hand.” Talitha said, “With his pinky.” “Yes,” I said, “with his pinky. Which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge, knowing all that would happen, and he is infinitely wise in all that he wills.”
Talitha said, “Maybe he let it fall because he wanted all the people of Minneapolis to fear him.” “Yes, Talitha,” I said, “I am sure that is one of the reasons God let the bridge fall.”
I sang to her the song I always sing,
Come rest your head and nestle gently
And do not fear the dark of night.
Almighty God keeps watch intently,
And guards your life with all his might.
Doubt not his love, nor power to keep,
He never fails, nor does he sleep.
Talitha is sleeping now. But one day she will die. I teach her this. I will not always be there to bless her. But Jesus is alive and is the same yesterday today and forever. He will be with her because she trusts him. And she will make it through the river. (Click here for the full post).
I am so thankful for Piper’s eloquence. But I am even more thankful for the promise of the gospel- the world is temporary- but Jesus has secured an existence for his people in the world to come! May God help us teach our kids this glorious news.