On making true peace

True peace is not made when powerful parties gather and dictate terms to their enemies. The hard work of peacemaking requires listening, tough choices, hard conversations, and mutual sacrifice.

Todd Deatherage
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Fleming Rutledge prayed on a podcast I heard yesterday…

Fleming Rutledge prayed on a podcast interview I heard yesterday. I decided to write it down. When asked by the host if she would pray to close the interview, she indicated she would be disappointed not to pray, and spontaneously poured out this prayer:

Oh Lord God, our creator, redeemer, sustainer,
Father, Son, Holy Spirit,
Hear us when we feebly call upon you out of our manifold sins and weaknesses, ignorances, failures, cowardice, bewilderment. Lord we turn to you and call upon you because we know that is what you want from us. You love nothing more than to hear the confession of confused, troubled, insecure, worn-down people who desire to be your servants. Because you have called us to be your servants, dear Lord, we know that you will give us the strength to do what you have purposed for us to do. Just, please, Lord, please keep us faithful to that calling.

Heavenly Father, look with mercy and grace upon your church. woven in a hundred different directions, filled with sin, disgraced by scandal – not just the Catholics but the Protestants also – and all churches, we all have our besetting difficulties and violations of your commandments, neglect of the gospel – Lord, look mercifully upon your church, which you have called to yourself, and which in spite of our utter inability you have strengthened, which you have undergirded and overarched with your Spirit. We pray for the churches, that we might capture, by your grace, a new wind of the spirit – a great awakening to the truth of your gospel and the difference between that and all the other messages we are hearing from so many different directions.

Lord, I pray for a greatly increased love of your holy word in scripture and in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Guide us in ways that we can make this known – new ways, fresh ways. Sometimes it seems as if the old ways that we’ve been so accustomed to have fallen into disrepair, decline. We need an invigorating breath of the Holy Spirit, dear Lord, for your church – all your churches – and for the great church which exists in your future. Let us look to that with confidence, with faith – faith that only you can give.

We pray for all those young people who are drawn to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ – that you would strengthen them in the midst of this hostile culture – that you would give them courage and joy that is very different from the joy that the world foolishly promises. Let us seek our being – our past, our present, and our future – in you, dear Lord, and in your son Jesus Christ, in whose name, alone, is salvation, power, mercy, and everlasting love. In His name we pray, Amen.

I was listening to Crackers and Grape Juice, episode 244, in which Fleming Rutledge was interviewed about the 20th anniversary edition of her book Help My Unbelief.

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On Women in the Church and in Marriage

In the past I wrote a series of posts considering biblical teaching on women in the church and in marriage. Several people have asked me about this recently so I thought I’d make the posts easy to find by adding a page that serves as a table of contents for these posts, and linking to it.

In a nutshell, I argue that God created humans, male and female, to stand as peers in carrying his image. God often calls women into leadership. It is God’s call that makes a leader in His church – and nothing less will do. Regarding marriage, I argue that the best plan for marriage is as a partnership of mutual submission under the headship of Christ. I also argue that we must all be sensitive to God moving us to into change in His time. There are good, bible-honoring Christians who come to differing conclusions on these matters.

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Episode 100 of The History of World War II Podcast

I like to listen to history podcasts. One long-running podcast that I use to fill in gaps while awaiting new episodes in others is the History of World War II by Ray Harris Jr. I just heard the 100th episode, in which I received the special treat of hearing an “interview” in which a man who grew up in Hitler’s Germany tells stories about what that was like. Then he tells stories about coming to the United States. It’s about 90 minutes of fascinating storytelling by Henry Niemann, who grew up a Seventh Day Adventist in Germany. He needs little prompting from Ray! It’s one of the best podcast listens ever for me.

You need not listen to the 99 episodes preceding or the 175 or so (to date) since #100. Just listen to #100 and run past Ray’s intro reflections on doing 100 podcasts. (It’s not that the reflections weren’t interesting; it is that they’re likely not interesting to people who haven’t heard episodes #1 through #99.) Then there’s about 90 minutes of Henry Niemann telling Ray stories that are pure gold.

And if you are interested in the history of World War II and into podcast audio, go back and listen from the beginning. Ray Harris Jr starts out new to podcasting and the beginning episodes are a bit rough. Over time, though, he hits is stride and he does a great interesting and meandering-with-a-purpose walk through the people and events surrounding the war. He finds the topics fascinating and conveys that fascination to the listener. In the first 100 episodes, you get a bit of background on the start of the war, the rise of Hitler, the fall of France, the Battle of Britain, a mini sub-podcast on Winston Churchill and even World War I, and a smattering of other episodes around the early years of the war. Then episode 100 is a jewel! He’s at episode 275 about now, which is about the fall of Singapore in 1942! Then there are the members-only episodes that I haven’t even started yet.

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What is Sabbath? – a video (and podcast) by The Bible Project

I love the Bible Project. I listened to Tim and Jon discuss Sabbath in the podcast series leading up to this video; it was a fantastic, thought-provoking, learning experience! And now the video is out. Watch it. Several times! It’s beautiful, and deep. And if you want to understand the Sabbath concept and how it is woven throughout scripture more fully, listen to the podcast episodes on this subject. I can’t recommend The Bible Project podcast and videos highly enough. Oh, and they also have a Bible reading plan. Check it out.

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Bigger than our whole world

In our world, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.

— C S Lewis, The Last Battle

Merry Christmas!

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Trust Leads to Change

I listened to an interview with Matt and Julie Canlis. They both had quite profound things to say. One thing Matt said is sticking:

The biggest way to impact the world is to be trusted by a few.

And then, speaking of Christian faith:

Think of faith as trusting a person you know.

I know from the rest of what they said that faith includes being known by the person you trust. Instead of being “tossed out” when your uglies are uncovered, you’re given grace and honesty, which leads to change. Transformation, even.

Check out the Regent Audio Podcast, episode #74 with Matt and Julie Canlis.

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Fred Rogers on Change

I really want to be an advocate for whatever I find is healthy or good. I think people don’t change very much when all they have is a finger pointed at them. I think the only way people change is in relation to somebody who loves them.

– Fred Rogers
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Writing a Psalm of Thanksgiving

At past LBFC Thanksgiving Celebrations, we have included times for expression of thanksgiving. In recent years, this took the suggested form of:

I am thankful to God for _____________because ______________

This was intended to help each of us form an expression of thanks to share in our worship celebration, allowing many to participate. This year, we are taking another step in structuring our Thanksgiving. This step is intended to integrate personal expressions thanksgiving into a sense of all giving thanks together – that is, corporate worship! The structure I recommended is taken from brief Psalms of praise or thanksgiving in the Bible. (This structure was explained and recommended to me and others at the recent Psalms Retreat that was led so well by leaders of Long Beach Grace Brethren Church.)

This structure is quite simple. It is in three parts:

  1. Call to Thanksgiving and Praise
  2. Reasons for Thanksgiving and Praise
  3. Call to Thanksgiving and Praise

Think of the first call as you speaking to others who are present as you speak or read your Psalm. You are inviting them to offer thanks and praise to God. The second portion of your Psalm is you giving reasons to those listening for your praise or thanksgiving. You may be speaking to the other people who are listening, or to God, or both. The third portion is you asking those who are listening, again, to join you in the thanksgiving – particularly now that you explained reasons for it.

Psalm 117 uses this pattern:

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.

For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord.

The first portion:

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.

is a call for those who are listening – in this case “all you nations”! and “all you peoples” – to praise God.

The second portion is giving reasons for this praise:

For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

And then the call to the listeners to praise God is repeated as the third part.

And that’s it. We are encouraging our congregation to work on writing their own Psalm of Thanksgiving leading up to our Thanksgiving Celebration. Bring it with you – in your memory or written down somewhere. (I keep mine on my phone). Then, in our time for sharing, as God leads you, read it or repeat it to call others to praise and thanksgiving, give your reasons why, and call them again!

Your Psalm might be longer than Psalm 117. For example, Psalm 118 follows the three part pattern with more words. The first call is verses 1 to 4. Then the reasons are given in verses 5 through 28! That’s a lot of reasons! And finally, a call is repeated in verse 29.

We probably wouldn’t encourage anyone to read a Psalm as long and complex as Psalm 119 at the Thanksgiving Celebration, but the simple three-part structure allows you to give more than one or two reasons for expressing thanks to God.

What do you say in your reasons?

You can talk about God and what He has done. Your reasons can be personal or general. They can be based on corporate experiences of our church family or your biological family. Reasons do not all have to be superficially “good”. Job and other examples of faith expressed praise for God in the face of severe trials, praising God in spite of circumstances. As several of the leaders told us at the Psalms Retreat, “Pain makes your praise credible.” When we are not driven by external circumstances, but by a deep experience of God’s faithfulness in times of trouble and pain, this can be a powerful witness of faith.

Lastly, even if you think you are unlikely to read your Psalm at the celebration, I’d like to encourage you to write one, or work on one. Several people – just in the 24 hours since Sunday when we introduced this exercise – have expressed how spiritually beneficial it has been for them to work through writing a Psalm of thanksgiving to God. I found it very encouraging and spiritually engaging to write Psalms as we were instructed to do so at the Psalms Retreat I attended. It’s a good thing to reflect and work through your reasons to thank God, particularly in this season of Thanksgiving, and to call others to join you – even if it is only in your own personal interaction with God.

As another example here’s a Psalm of Thanksgiving that I worked on during our worship times on Sunday. I was thinking of our very diverse church family as I wrote.

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A Psalm of Thanksgiving

I rejoice in going up to worship.
God has called the nations to Himself, to life.
Let us go up together with many tongues and offerings of great praise from across the whole world.
God has done it.

My people didn’t know God when he called Abraham.
They didn’t know God when he called David.
When God sent Jesus, my people had never heard of him.
Our families were still lost when God’s holy spirit descended in tongues of fire and began to speak to the nations through his people in their own languages.

But now we are found.
Even in Long Beach, today – we are found!
We are alive, because we know Him and trust Him.

Praise his name.
Today, let us thank him together for what he has done!

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