It’s been a while since I’ve written. I keep meaning to get back to it, but . . . .
Then I was reminded of these verses (while reading Scandalous by D. A. Carson, at page 124 – awesome book, by the way). More than 200 years old and they’re better than anything I’m likely to write — and they’re on one of my favorite dispute resolution topics: Perspective.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
–William Cowper, 1774 (last four stanzas of “God Moves In Mysterious Ways”; reportedly the last hymn he wrote.)
Do you believe that? Really? Can you live it?
M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire
[Part 3 of 3]
As we left off last time, I was positing that we could have Jesus’ peace the same way He achieved peace. The key to achieving it lies in understanding:
The world’s peace is the ‘absence of conflict.’ God’s peace is perspective in the midst of conflict.
The ‘perspective’ I am talking about is the way of realizing and acknowledging that:
- God is fully in control,
- God is fully able to accomplish everything He wants to accomplish, and
- this same sovereign, omnipotent God loves you and has the best ever plan for you!
It is a perspective that flows from truths such as;
- “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
- “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6)
- It’s the perspective that you are only here for a little while longer, and then Heaven forever: “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14b)
[Side Road: Where do you find the perspective that leads to peace? i) Studying the Bible, ii) the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of you, iii) investing in prayer, and iv) hearing testimonies of those who have gone before you . . . but all that is another blog for another day . . . .]
Get it? If not, stop here and meditate on this: God’s peace is perspective in the midst of conflict. It was never the plan that Jesus would bring worldly peace on this earth with His incarnation. (“Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division . . . .” Luke 12:51) It was, however, His idea to leave you in the midst of the conflict with “His peace.” (“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” John 14:27)
Let me try to illustrate this point this way: What are you going through today that is robbing you of peace? (Finances? Health? Relationships? Name it to yourself or write it down.) Now, use your imagination with me a little: If Jesus walked in and said to you — right this moment, while you are on the computer: “I know that thing you are going through is tough, but – now don’t tell anyone – I’m coming back in a few hours . . . and that problem will be gone forever.” Then He continued: “Can you hang on a couple more hours?”
You’d say: “Yes, Lord, I can certainly trust you for a couple hours!”
Jesus: “Could you for those two hours have peace, even though your problem was still there?”
You: “Absolutely! Knowing what I know now, I could have peace because I’d know the problem was only temporary!”
Jesus: “How about a couple days?”
You: “Well, the two hour plan was better, but, sure, two days? I can do that as long as I know the plan!”
Jesus: “If I told you there were some things I’d like for you to do before you go, things that would really mean a lot to me, could you hold out for longer . . . say a couple of years?”
You: “Um, years? Wait a minute, sure, I mean, I can probably do that. Little harder, but yeah, pretty sure. I’ll get a two year calendar out and mark off the days every evening and as long as I know the exact date then I’ll be able to do it.”
Jesus: “Can you trust Me if I don’t tell you the exact date?”
You: “Um . . . .”
Jesus: “Can you trust Me if I don’t tell you even the approximate date?”
Brothers and sisters, that’s where we’re at. It is the same promise by the same omnimpotent God: It just doesn’t have a set calendar date for your Blackberry! If you can just keep this perspective, though, I can assure you that you will have His peace. Let me leave you with some Scripture and a prayer — and this may be the most important section of this three-part blog:
These are Jesus’ words to his disciples toward the end of His ministry (as found starting in John 14 proceeding through 16, selected verses):
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also . . . . I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you . . . . Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here . . . . These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Lord God, You are in control. You are able to accomplish exactly what you want. You want the very best for us – Your plans for us are better than our own. We are only here for a little while, and then we’ll be with You forever. We know we’ll have tribulation here during our short stay, but we believe You when You say You’re coming back to bring us home, to resolve every conflict, to wipe away every tear, to heal every wound, to meet every need. Help us to keep this perspective every moment of our lives, that we may know Your joy, that we may know Your Peace, and we pray, as You promised in Phil 4:7, that the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire
When we left off, we were considering how strange it was (to me at least) that our Holy God, while incarnate on the depraved earth, could have ‘peace’ and want us to have that same peace — ‘His peace’ — as well. I asked you to think about what it was in your own life right now that was keeping you from ‘peace.’ (Remember it? Good, hold on to it a bit longer.) As we pick up today, we need to start with the question: What is ‘peace’?
Peace is a central concept in the Scriptures. The words translated as ‘peace’ in the Old and New Testaments appear more than 360 times. I found that I was able to group or categorize most of them as follows.
- Many were used as greetings or farewells:
- Peace to you!
- Peace be with you!
- Go in Peace!
- They were used as part of benedictions:
- The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace. (Num 6:26)
- Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! (2 Thess 3:16)
- Peace was to be sought after:
- Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. (Ps 34:14)
- Jesus is specifically identified with peace:
- For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6)
- There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, (Isa 9:7)
- [F]or God is not a God of confusion but of peace . . . . (1 Cor 14:33)
- But peace is very elusive on earth. The Old Testament in particular makes this clear:
- They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. (Jer 6:14)
- They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. (Jer 8:11)
- When anguish comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. (Ezek 7:25)
- It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace. (Ezek 13:10)
- ‘. . . along with the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’ declares the Lord God. (Ezek 13:16)
- Too long has my soul had its dwelling With those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, They are for war. (Ps 120:6-7)
So, we know a little better what the Bible says about peace, but the question remains: How can we have peace when we have conflict? (. . . when we have unmet needs? . . . when we don’t know how we’re going to pay the bills? . . . when we don’t know what to do with what the doctor just told us? . . . when we have sin in our lives that keeps showing up . . . again?)
How do we have peace like Jesus had peace? How do we have “His peace”?
Answer: The same way Jesus found His peace. How is that? Well, that would be in the third (and final) blog on peace (I promise).
— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire
[Part 1 of 3]
A friend of mine, Robert Barron, recently led an excellent devotional at a Board of Directors meeting for Sheridan House Family Ministries. One of the points he made struck me anew even as he was making it: Robert was explaining that Jesus wanted us to have not just joy, but His joy.
“His joy?” I thought. How could Jesus – the All Holy One, the Sinless Savior – describe His time on the earth – the fallen, groaning, sinful earth – with a word anything like “joy”? Do we really understand the vast separation between the holiness of Jesus and the depravity of man? I’ll answer that one for you: NO.
Being finite, fallen creatures, we are not able to comprehend the extreme holiness of God. The best we can do (if we close our eyes tightly, cover our ears, and strain our brains) is think of someone who is a whole lot better than ourselves.
If we cannot fully comprehend the holiness of God, can we at least comprehend the depravity of man? Well, even though we start out closer to the goal, we still cannot really comprehend it to even a reasonable degree. Remember, except for the sin that is in our own hearts (which we fancy to be not as bad as the sin in others . . .), we typically can only see the effects of sin. Even then, we can only see a fraction of the effects of sin as we happen to witness them ourselves (or hear about them on the news, etc.). Jesus, on the other hand, sees not just the all of the effects of sin, but as God He actually knows men’s hearts — in other words, He sees the sin itself. What, then, does God know about men’s hearts? Well, He knows that they are more deceitful than all else and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) for starters.
So I move the previous question: How can Jesus, who is more holy than we can comprehend, while living with more sin than we can comprehend, describe anything about His incarnation with the word “joy”?
Suppose you got up from your computer right now and walked outside to the nearest septic tank or sewer and jumped right in. (Got that visual now?) Do you understand that that doesn’t even compare to Christ leaving heaven in the incarnation? Now, while you still have that sewage scene in your mind, picture yourself barely floating, up to your neck in . . . it, and calling your friend on the cell phone saying “Boy, I wish you had ‘my joy’ right now!”
Right after that thought, I began to recall that Jesus not only wanted us to have ‘His joy,’ but also ‘His peace.’ (John 14:27) Peace? Seriously? Here? Now?
As a Christian litigator and mediator, my thoughts about peace on this planet were more like:
“[They cry out] saying ’Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace!” (Jer. 6:14)
“Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace.” (Ps. 120:6)
“I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” (Ps. 120:7)
So then, whence cometh this Peace of our Lord? Well, that answer would be in the next two blogs . . . .
In the meantime, think about what is in your life right now that is keeping you from peace. You’ll need that thought for later.
Until then, Shalom,
— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire
If you are reading a blog from a conflict resolution site (and, you are), you are probably expecting to read about resolving conflicts. Fair enough — but the resolution of the conflict is only the last of three parts of a conflict and there is a whole lot of “in the middle of conflict” before that occurs. So a very important question is: What should you be doing while you are in the middle of conflict or trials?
My pastor (Bob Coy) answered that beautifully this past Sunday morning when he taught us how to be “right in the middle when you are right in the middle.” (I’ll try to remember to post a link here to the sermon when it’s posted on the Calvary Fort Lauderdale site. You’ll be blessed need to hear it for yourself.) Here is my personal take-away (the good parts are Bob’s):
Thesis: When you are “right in the middle” of your trial, be sure you are “right” in the middle of your trial. In other words, don’t be “wrong” when you are right in the middle of your trial.
Genesis 40:1 and verses following tell us of the time when Joseph was in the middle of his own trial. He had been unfairly sold into slavery, and then unfairly imprisoned when his master’s lying wife unfairly accused him of something he didn’t do. He was, at this time, in the middle of his unjust imprisonment.
Note: The middle is the toughest part of a conflict or trial. In the beginning (e.g., you just got diagnosed with something rotten) you don’t fully understand what is about to happen and you are holding out hope of somehow missing the trial altogether. Your friends and family are there to support you and you’re feeling cared for and loved. The end of the trial is not so bad either: In fact, it can be great because even though there is still pain, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and you know you’ll be out soon. The middle of the trial, however, is not like either of those. The friends and family are not there as much (or at all), God seems to be preoccupied with something else on the other side of the world, and Satan seems to be there to accuse and condemn. The middle is also the longest chapter of the three.
Pastor Bob explains that from looking at this section of Scripture and how Joseph conducted himself, we can see three ways to know if we are being “right” in the middle of our own conflicts and trials.
First, are you sympathetic towards others?
Second, are you optimistic about the outcome?
Third, are you being kind to the unkind people?
Notice in Genesis 40:6-8 how Joseph, though unjustly imprisoned, still shows sympathy toward the cupbearer and the baker: (paraphrased) “Why are you guys so sad today? Oh, you had some confusing dreams and don’t know what to do? Please, tell your dreams to me because God has given me some gifts in this area!” If you know Joseph’s history, you might think that he might rather avoid anything having to do with dreams!
In verses 8-14 we see how Joseph remains optimistic about his future even while in the middle of a lengthy prison sentence. Now we must remember that we’ve read ahead so we know that Joseph gets out . . . but that’s not how it would look to Joseph at that time. At that stage in the story, there is nothing that indicates Joseph will be released at any time in the future. Nonetheless, Joseph goes ahead and helps these inmates out by interpreting their dreams. God reveals to Joseph through the dreams that one of the inmates, the cupbearer, is going to be released in three days. Joseph, knowing this inmate will be in Pharaoh’s presence within the next 72 hours, asks his fellow prisoner to remember him to Pharaoh and get him out of prison.
In verses 16-19 it is revealed to Joseph that the baker is a bad man. (It would appear that the baker and cupbearer might both have been imprisoned at the same time for some undisclosed wrongful act because Pharaoh was unable to determine at the time which of them was the guilty party. Seeing as these two were the “food and beverage” police for Pharaoh, perhaps Pharaoh was poisoned?) Nevertheless, Joseph treats the baker kindly and tells him what his dream meant. (At first, I thought that didn’t actually sound that kind, but let me keep speculating a bit: This could have been an extreme kindness, because it gave the baker an opportunity he didn’t have before. He now had the opportunity to confess and seek forgiveness before it was too late. The Bible recounts for us many times where God told certain people that He was about to punish them and they repented and He relented. Perhaps this is an illustration of God’s mercy through Joseph?)
There are more points from his sermon to consider (see below), but let me close with a thought from someone who has been through his own trials and who works every day with people going through trials: If you are a Christian going through a trial right now, know that it will not last forever and you will get through this. I don’t know when – it may be tomorrow, and it may be a while yet. Everything is working together for your ultimate good if you are called according to God’s purpose. So when (not if) you get out of this, don’t you want to look back and see that you were sympathetic to others during your own difficulties, that you never lost faith that God would see you through it, and that you were kind even to those who were unkind toward you? Don’t you want to have been “right” in the middle of it?
— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire
P.S. This blog was already too long for a blog, but if you’re interested, here are some more points from the Bob Coy’s sermon for your further consideration and study (still, you ought to listen to it for yourself):
Look at 2 Cor. 8:1-5 at how the Macedonians who, though they were “in a great ordeal of affliction” and “deep poverty,” still gave to a sister church with “liberality.”
Remember that sometimes in God’s economy, He will use those to whom you have ministered, to later minister to you! (If you don’t know the story of how Joseph went from inmate to Prime Minister of Egypt, read what happens with the cupbearer in Gen. 41:9-41.)
When you are in a trial and someone hurts you, just remember that hurt people hurt people. Stop the cycle. Return kindness instead. Being hurt is not a license to hurt back.
Hurt can turn to anger, and anger can turn to bitterness. (Bitterness is a root that goes deep into the dirt and keeps you from moving on.) Heb 12:14-15: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”
Check out how Jesus reacts in his own trials: For one instance, see John 18:19-23. Read as well 1 Peter 4:12-16 to see that we should “glorify God” in our suffering.
The vote is over, so now I’ll write.
Much has already been written of course regarding Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and it’s new pastor, Tullian Tchividjian. Some of it was fair, some of it not. Much of it was gossip and much of it was very shallow. Some of it was written by people who failed to do any first-hand research and some of it was utter foolishness. Still, some of it was well-written and some of it inspired.
I will tell you up front that I have some very strong opinions about a lot of what happened — opinions to which I believe I am entitled because I am no outsider. Shortly after my conversion to Christ (in 1977), I joined CRPC and I worshiped there until shortly before Jim Kennedy’s passing — nearly thirty years. I was baptised there, married there, taught there, served in various positions, and was ordained there as a Ruling Elder, later to be chosen as the Clerk of Session. Suffice it to say that I had, and still have, strong ties to many there at many levels. I have very close friends who support the direction of the present CRPC leadership and very close friends amongst what the local paper is calling the “dissidents.” I have lost sleep on several occasions over this and the effect it has had on my friendships.
I have come to several conclusions. Want me to tell you who was “in the right” in all of this?
Sorry, wrong blog. Not my job.
If not to cast my “vote” for one side or the other, then what is my reason for writing?
Some have chastised others for airing “the Church’s” dirty laundry outside of the Church. That criticism, it seems to me, has some scriptural justification, but it might be missing the mark. You cannot read the Bible without noticing that God has recorded for all to see (that is, not just the Church) the mistakes, failings, and corruption that have taken place within the ranks of His followers. (I have sometimes wondered how much of the Bible would have made it past the Public Relations Department if it were being edited and published today. Imagine the editing necessary for just Abraham’s life!). God has made it very clear in His Word that we are all sinners — and then provided us with examples!
Why does God publish our shortcomings to the world?
1. Because there are “unchurched” who are very self-aware of their own sinful states and they will not come to Christ because they think they’re not good enough. God screams out: “If you know you’re not good enough, you just passed the entrance exam! Come on in! I’ll introduce you to some of the biggest goof-ups and sinners you’ve ever met! We meet in church buildings on Sundays all around the world! There’s room for one more, I promise.” (I love Bob Coy‘s illustration of God visiting the dog pound and choosing the mangiest of mutts for adoption. Like Pastor Bob says: “I’m just a pound dog, man!“)
2. To give the Church the opportunity to show the world the difference between Christians and non-Christians. I’ve heard Steve Brown say many times that whenever God allows cancer in a non-Christian he allows it in a Christian as well so the world can see the difference. Becoming a Christian did not signal the end of conflict for you on earth. You don’t get all green lights, you don’t always get the fastest line in the store, your appliances still break, and you still have struggles . . . even with your friends. Despite that, we’re supposed to be different.
So why am I writing?
Jim Kennedy was fond of saying, especially to new members: “You’re in the army now!” He often and properly admonished us to put on the full armor of God — but never to fight against each other. (As an aside, the Church can and should have passionate debate within its walls — I have been involved in that myself. Passionate debate is an indication that you really care about something. It is fitting, for instance, to care passionately about the purity of the Church.)
So to my brothers and sisters involved with the CRPC situation, I admonish and encourage you: Think about what you are doing (preferably before you do/say/write it) and how you are doing it (and practice “prospective retrospect“). Show the watching world that Christ in you really makes a difference. Memorize Matthew 18:15ff. This situation is a mess, but it is also an opportunity. Disagree . . . like Christians. It might not make CNN, but it will count . . . forever.
I’ll pray that for you. Pray that for me too.
–M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire
Subj.: Business Opportunities
We are introducing a new marketing idea for the alternative dispute resolution business: Gossip. Gossip itself is hardly a new concept, but we believe that its usefulness in creating conflict has not yet been exploited fully. We think now is the time. Remember: More conflict, more business!
We don’t believe this will have to be that complicated. Simple gossip should work fine. Questions starting: “Did you hear . . . ?” and “You know what’s happening over at . . . ?” will get you started down the hill.
Most people don’t think they are gossips, so we should be able to slip this in without too many alarms going off, if encouraged appropriately.
Here’s an example: In the last few months, there has been a controversy within a certain local Christian community. This controversy has been discussed in emails, blogs, letters, and lunches. One of the most common themes running through these forums is second- (and third- and fourth-) hand “news.” [Note to Staff: Never say “gossip”; always use the word “news.” If necessary, spiritualize it with “Oh, we really need to pray about . . . .”]
Sometimes, people bring this stuff to us and it goes something like this:
“Did you here what Bubba just did?”
“He just [painted his car red, or whatever . . . ]!!!”
“Hmmm…. That’s strange. Why did he do that?”
“Well, isn’t it obvious?! It’s because of ______!”
“Really? That’s what Bubba told you?”
“When you asked Bubba why he did that, is that what he told you?”
“Well, I never asked Bubba myself, but
[ ] What other reason could there be?
[ ] I got that from an impeccable source.
[ ] Everybody knows it.
[ ] That’s just the kind of person he is.
[ ] His father did that too ya know.
[ ] Where there’s smoke, there’s . . . well, you know.
Now at this point, you have to be careful. The more sanctified saints are going to feel a little Holy Spirit poke right about now. The G-word might even come to mind. Quickly change the subject.
The power of gossip to create conflict in the Church cannot be overemphasized.
- It allows the judging of other people’s hearts in their absence.
- It precludes the subjects of the gossip from responding or explaining themselves.
- It permits little grains of sand to grow into beautiful pearls of controversy!
Now, there are admittedly some problems with this marketing approach. For instance, we need to stay away from certain Scriptures. The admonitions about taking your concerns one-on-one to your brother first (Matt. 18:15) are a problem as are any verses about doing unto others as you want them to do unto you (Matt. 7:12). (A handy list of other verses to avoid is at the bottom of this memo.) We can’t blatantly ask professing Christians to tear those sections out of their Bibles or they’ll know something’s up. For the time being, Marketing is suggesting “the dodge.”
Change the subject. Emphasize how “juicy” this news item really is and how “cool” and “connected” they’ll seem when they repeat it to their friends. Are these not “choice morsels”? (Prov. 26:22) Appeal to their need to be accepted and this will get you past most of the objections.
Remember, just because we are recommending avoidance of certain Scriptures, doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the truth! In fact, this whole marketing concept is based on truth found in the Scriptures! For instance, Prov. 26:20 rightly tells us that “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down” and Prov. 16:28 truly advises us that “A slanderer separates intimate friends.”
So, in summary, if the alternative dispute resolution business is going to grow, we are going to need more and bigger disputes. Gossip is the perfect fuel for controversy: It’s easy to do, takes no time or monetary investment, makes you feel superior, and is nearly self-perpetuating. What are you waiting for?!