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Friday, April 29, 2011

Peacemaker's Ken Sande in Beirut: 3 great insights when talking Reconciliation, Jews, Muslims, Christians

Speaking of reconciliation amongst radically different persons (see previous blog post):

Okay, so a number of you who live in Cayman got out to the Peacemakers Conference in early April that I encouraged our church and many of you specifically to attend. Ken Sande, President of Peacemaker Ministries, was the speaker and did a fabulous job (I didn't attend the weeknight sessions as I'd gone through that training a couple times before...but did attend the leaders session while Katie attended the session geared for women).

I had a chance to speak with Ken while he was here and he was amped up (which for Ken means speaking just above the tone of your grandfather handing you a Werther's Original) about a trip to the Middle East, which he is currently on as I type. I just received this email from him, which I thought contained three brilliant insights if you're interested in peace between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East and the role God might very well be calling Christians to play or if you have a Muslim or Orthodox Jewish friend.

If you're keeping score, the insights that specifically struck me were: (1) The lack of a robust theology of reconciliation and how that might give Christians a unique opportunity; (2) The one-way mercy in Muslim theology; (3) His quotation of Isaiah 19 at the conclusion of the article as a vision that we can be confident will one day be fulfilled through Christ. 

(If you are further interested in this sort of thing, I'd encourage you to read a book called Blood Brothers by Michael Chacour. It's a Christian autobiographical page-turner with a personal touch that simultaneously gave me great understanding with re: to the origin and ongoing issues among Palestinians and Israelis).  Okay, here's Ken's email. Cheers...

April 28, 2011
Dear Friends,

By the grace of God, I arrived safely in Beirut, Lebanon, on Monday evening, April 25. The first two weeks of my trip were arranged by Manfred Kohl (who serves on our Board of Directors) and his wife Barbara, who wanted to introduce me and our three other companions to the rich history and spiritual dynamics of the Holy Land. They have planned an intriguing schedule of travel for us through Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. At the end of this tour, Lord willing, I will fly on to Cairo to join Chip Zimmer (our VP of Global Ministries) for a week. We are looking forward to meeting with Christian leaders there and speaking at a conference of leaders from the Anglican, Coptic Orthodox, Evangelical, and Roman Catholic Churches.

My first day in Lebanon was an eye-opener. I spent most of Tuesday with the leaders of the Lebanese Society for Educational & Social Development (LSESD) and the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS). One of the professors I met (
I will not give many names in my reports) was especially thoughtful; his remarks helped me begin to understand the delicate nature of Muslim-Christian relationships. Here is a bit of what he shared:
  • The historical enmity between Islam and Judaism derives in part from the fact that neither religion has a robust “theology of reconciliation.” This lack lies at the root of the thousands of years of unresolved hostility that have existed between Judaism and Islam, and between the many factions within Islam itself. What a powerful incentive this realization should be for all Christians to pray for the spreading of the gospel of Christ throughout the Middle East!
  • The Q’uran has a strong emphasis on the mercy that Muslims hope to receive from Allah. Mercy is wonderful, but it is “one directional.” It flows only from the high to the low, from the strong to the weak, from the master to the slave. It never flows both ways. Love, on the other hand, which is fully revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, is intended to be two-way. God loves us, and by his grace we can love him. By that same grace a slave and master can love each other, as can a poor man and a rich man, a weak man and a powerful man. Love opens the way for two-way relationships of mutual respect, care, responsibility, and equality, which are essential for a viable democracy. 
As I have reflected on this, I’ve realized that the spreading of the gospel in the Middle East, with its theology of reconciliation emphasized in the New Testament, could contribute to the rise of true peace. The love of God expressed in Christ can promote the healing needed for lasting democratic change.

And how might Muslims, especially those who are more moderate, be encouraged to embrace biblical concepts of reconciliation and love? First, as a result of prayer that God would move in their hearts through common grace to give them an understanding and appreciation for these qualities, which are so much a part of his character and glory (see Exod. 34:6-7). And second, by praying that the Lord would give his church in the Middle East and all believers around the world the grace to live out these qualities of love and reconciliation in our relationships with one another and with our neighbors, Muslim or otherwise.

The need for the church to lead by example hit me powerfully as I gave a lecture on biblical peacemaking at ABTS on Tuesday evening. While talking afterward with students, faculty, and local pastors, I learned that unresolved conflicts are wreaking havoc in many Christian marriages, churches, and ministries in Lebanon. I heard stories of divorces (sometimes high-profile church leaders), estranged families, domestic abuse, fragmented churches, and conflict in the workplace and with neighbors—and I was powerfully reminded of stories I hear when I speak in the U.S. and in other countries.

But the stakes here are especially high. If Christians here learn to live out the reconciling power of the gospel in their personal relationships, they can play a significant role in promoting reconciliation and healing among their Muslim neighbors.

So, please pray for the church here and for me as I travel through the region in the days ahead. Please pray that God would help me to discern what role he would like Peacemaker Ministries to play in this process. I want to learn from others’ experience and wisdom and discern ways that we might be able to work together to play some small part in fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah:
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19: 23-25, NIV)
Yours in Christ,

Ken Sande

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Gospel of Ethnic Inclusion

While at this church plant/young church conference in Orlando, I was challenged by a fellow pastor: In order to last in remaining committed to the vision of a multiethnic church, a leader's heart must be seized by the conviction that God wants His church to be multiethnic wherever possible. 

Well, living in's possible. I cannot think of a place in the world with a population under 60,000 people that has as many nationalities and ethnicities represented as Grand Cayman. And lookie here, it' happening even at SCC. Our challenge is not just to have it present but make sure we are seized by the conviction that such inclusion should not only happen but that those who might otherwise feel like outsiders experience and wholeheartedly believe they are fully included.

Origins of an inclusive gospel. It's hard to read the New Testament and not be convinced of the power of the gospel to bring persons into reconciliation-- even, no, especially persons of different ethnicities. We see this happen in the largest church in the New Testament, where people are first called "Christians" and from which missionaries are sent out to the known world (Antioch -- see Acts 11 and 13). Christianity first exploded in what is documented as the most multi-ethnic, multi-national city in the first century Roman world. 

We also see this in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 2: 11-22 speak of Jesus destroying dividing walls of hostility between Jew and Gentile. The world will take notice when Christ is the glue that bonds the most unlikely of persons. No doubt, I'll be preaching on this passage at some point in the near future. If the reason isn't obvious, you're not from Cayman, or you just moved to Cayman and this point wasn't covered New Resident Magazine, I'll tell you why: There are some tensions in Cayman between the Caymanian and Ex-pat population. Why? There are various reasons but much of it centers around $$$$, like most social struggles of this nature.

There is much I want to say here, more than I can in this blog post, but a commitment to our church being increasingly multiethnic and multinational through the power of the gospel is not really a matter of if or even a matter of when, but a matter of how. 

A deeper conviction. My heart is seized by this conviction. I want to briefly share how this conviction settled deeply into my heart this week during some mornings alone with the Lord. Through two of the most important and powerful verses in the New Testament, both of which reside in Ephesians 3. "The manifold wisdom of God might be known" (Eph. 3:10) and "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or imagine" (Eph. 3:20). Aren't those great verses. One pointing to how wise, how awe-inspiring the gospel is. It is multifaceted wisdom. The second gives reaffirms what we've seen in prayer, to ask by faith but God often does more, and gives us further confidence that He'll continue to do so. 

But what's the context? The context is the gospel, specifically (as Paul talks about 'his' gospel in Ephesians) a gospel of ethnic inclusion.

Let's check it out. From here on in, it's all Scripture baby...hang tight:

  • "For this reason, I, Paul a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles..." (v.1).
  • "This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the same gospel" (v.4).
  • "To me, though I am the very least of the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places" (vv.8-10).
  • "For this reason I bow my knees..." (v.14)
  • "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power that is at work within us" (v.20).

Do you see it? The manifold wisdom of God is how the gospel includes and unites radically different people into the same promise of life and the same family of everyday living. God being able to do more than we ask and imagine (in Paul's mind and hopefully ours) is seeing people who would otherwise never relate, relate more regularly and fervently than two soccer moms, diving buddies, or financial gurus. 

If this is going to happen, the power isn't going to descend impersonally but it's going to be within us (v.20) and, specifically, it's going to happen through the church (v.10).  

I'm not sure this is the key to church growth. But I am sure God wants to do it, He can do this and more, and we have the opportunity to display the manifold wisdom of God to not just the world but spiritual beings. Let's aim to please Him and trust Him to provide the rest!! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Confession when I deserve to Complain

There are times, even as a Christian, where complaining seems like the most appropriate thing to do. Of course, it helps both practically and socially (so you don't gradually drive away all your friends) to do your complaining towards someone who can actually do something about it. You know who that Person is, don't you? (I capitalized the "P" to give you a hint).

Example of a Godward Complainer. I shared a story in church a few weeks ago about my friend, James Rawcliffe, who has provided me personally with a tremendous example of this principle at work. I cannot think of a time I last heard James complain. Even when I play golf with him, he'll be next to the green and, occasionally, he'll mishit an easy chip 15 feet (far) past the hole. His reaction: "Just where I wanted it, an uphill putt" (I try to mess with his mind at this point and remind him that he's only deceiving himself). 

But his whole life is like this. Encouraging, positive, supportive. And not because he doesn't complain, but He complains to the right person. Whenever you ask him about his relationship with Christ, he always mentions being honest with God about His complaints, which frees Him to trust God and have genuine hope because He knows God can take care of it. Of course, he's British so he really puts it like this: "I nut (butt heads with) the Lord having a bit of a row (argument) or whinge (complaint) with him, until he helps me suss (figure) it out."

The Next Step. I write this, however, because I'm being challenged and I hope you will be also to take the next step of faith. When hardship strikes ranging from annoyance with your spouse's cleptopenia (the propensity to unconsciously steal your pens...annoying) to genuine tragedy, remembering to search one's own heart and confess rebellion even while complaining about external hardship. In other words, when there seems to be external injustice, remember to confess internal injustice.

An Example of a Godward Complainer who looks at his own junk too. I was struck recently re-reading a couple of Psalms written by King David -- Psalms 40 & 41. Even while David was sick as dog (Psalm 40) and being hounded for his life & falsely accused (Psalm 41), he does not neglect plumbing the depth of his own heart and searching out rebellious acts, thoughts, intentions. Can you even imagine searching out sin like this -- like a CSI forensic specialist? If it sounds painful, it is -- but only temporarily as we'll see.

For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me and and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs on my head; my heart fails me (Ps. 40:12).                                                                                
As for me, I said, "O YHWH, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you" (Ps. 41:4).

If you've found that you've poured out your complaint before God, perhaps multiple times on multiple days, but still have no peace -- perhaps it's worth asking: Have I searched my own heart and poured out the injustice that resides there?

How is David able to, in the same breath, call out to God to show justice to His enemies and take care to admit His own sin? Trust. Specifically Trust in God's effectual grace. Just prior to his confession in 40:12:
As for you, O YHWH, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! (Ps. 40:11).
"Ever preserve me!" -- ever preserve me in the midst of external injustice; ever preserve me despite the internal injustice in my heart toward You. The same trust that allows him to believe God can do something about his complaint toward external injustice simultaneously strengthens him to believe God can do something about the injustice in his heart -- namely, forgive the sin and accept the sinner.

Guilt for Guilt's sake? Neither myself nor David, I think, says any of this to promote spiritual masochism. God never means to provide guilt for guilt's sake, nor even solely for His sake (to forever indebt you to His service) -- but also for your sake.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). 

He forgives in order to cleanse us, set us free, and (in doing these things) help us grow that next step in trusting Him. For me, that next step is to not only be honest and turn to Him in my moment of legitimate complaint, but also take that next step of faith (and humility) -- namely, take an honest look and my own junk ... the reason for His complaint, and get that off my chest as well. 

Let us boldly take every opportunity, even those in which it seems we have the most biblical warrant to complain, to search our our hearts and be bold about confession -- even when it means making a habit of confessing our sins to one another (cf. James 5:16). I truly believe Satan and the world over which He still has sway would want us to forget God's grace. And the quickest route to accomplishing this devilish objective -- have us forget our need for grace.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Free Audiobook for April: The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Each month, provides a free audiobook for downloading. No catch or obligation to fill out a survey on cell phone subscriptions.

This month features a classic: The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. If you've never read this book, you've likely heard some sermon that featured the remarkable story of forgiveness exercised by Corrie toward a former Nazi soldier.

These are the memoirs of a heroine of the Dutch resistance who helped Jews escape the Nazis and grew into one of the more remarkable evangelists of the 20th century.

I'm sad to say that I've never read The Hiding Place, but look forward to filling times while driving and brushing my teeth (with a Sonicare toothbrush that forces me to brush for two full minutes!) with inspiration & encouragement from Corrie's remarkable testimony.