Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 3)

See Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 2). The following excerpts on how to cultivate peace and deal with conflict are from Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory.

9. Buy Peace

Buy peace at the price of any thing which is not better than it.

You must often part with your right for peace, and to put up wrongs in word or deed. Money must not be thought  too dear to buy it, when the loss of it will be worse than the loss of money….

He is no friend of peace, that will no have it except when it is cheap.

10.  Watch Your Criticism

Avoid censoriousness [i.e. the tendency to be overly critical] which is the judging of people or matters that you have no call to meddle with, and the making of matters worse than sufficient proof will warrant you.

Censorious persons are the great dividers of the church, and everywhere adversaries to peace while they open their mouths wide against their neighbors, to make the worst of all that they say and do, and  thus sow the seeds of discord amongst all.

11. Be Upfront

Neither talk against people behind their backs, nor patiently hearken to them that use it.

If you have anything to say against your neighbor, tell it to him in a friendly manner to his face, that he may be the better for it. If you tell it only to another, to make him odious, to listen to backbiters that defame people secretly, you show that your business is not to do good, but to diminish love and peace.

12. Emphasize the Good

Speak more of the good than of the evil which is in others.

There are none so bad as to have no good in them. Why don’t you mention that which is more useful to the hearer than to hear of someone’s faults?

13. Know Your Neighbor

Don’t be strangers, but instead be lovingly familiar with your neighbors.

Among any honest, well-meaning persons, familiarity is a great reconciler.

It is nearness that must make them friends.

14. (Don’t) Keep Your Distance

Come as near  to them as you can. Don’t run away from them, lest you run towards the opposite extreme.

15. Be Flexible

Don’t be overly stiff in your own opinions, as those that can yield in nothing to another. Nor yet so facile and yielding as to betray or lose the truth.

It greatly pleases a proud person’s mind when you seem to be convinced by him, and to change your mind because of his arguments, or to be much informed and edified by him. But when you deny this honor to his understanding, and contradict him, and stiffly maintain your opinion against him, you displease and lose him.

A wise person should gladly learn of any that can teach him more, and should most easily, more than anyone else, let go of an error. And he will be most thankful to anyone that will increase his knowledge–not only in errors to change one’s mind, but in small and indifferent things to submit to silence, is typical of a modest, peaceable person.

16. Wage War

Impiis me diis ecclesiae paci condulere, was one of the three means which Luther foretold would cast out the gospel. [And if you can translate that into Latin, have at it!]

**Monday’s post: Preparing for Advent

Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 2)

For an introduction to the series, read Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 1). The following excerpts on how to cultivate peace and deal with conflict are from Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory.

1.  Humble Yourself

Get your own hearts in a humble frame; and abhor all the motions of pride and self exalting.

His language will be submissive; his patience great; he is content that others go before him; he is not offended that another is preferred. A low mind is pleased in a low condition.

A proud person’s opinion must always go for truth…to be slighted or crossed seems to him an unsufferable wrong.

2.  Don’t Covet, but Be Content

Be not covetous lovers of the world, but be contented with your daily bread.

Ambitious and covetous persons must have so much room, that the world is not wide enough for many of them…[they are like] boys in the winter nights, when the bedclothes are too narrow to cover them; one pulls, and another pulls, and all complain.

3.  Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

You can bear with great faults in yourselves, and never fall out with yourselves for them; but with your neighbors you are quarrelling for those that are less. Do you fall out with another because he has spoken dishonorably or slightly of you, or slandered you, or some way done you wrong? You have done a thousand timers worse than all that against yourselves, and yet can bear too patiently with yourselves!

But all this you do against yourselves (even more than all the devils in hell do) and yet you  are too little offended with yourselves. See here the power of blind self-love! If you loved  your neighbors as yourselves, you would agree as peaceably with your neighbors almost as with yourselves. Love them more, and you will bear more with them, and provoke them less.

4.  Be Gentle and Meek

Compose your minds to Christian gentleness and meekness, and suffer not passion to make you either turbulent and unquiet to others, or impatient and troublesome to yourselves. A gentle and quiet mind hath a gentle, quiet tongue. It can bear as much wrong as another can do….a passionate person is frequently provoking or provoked.

Bid but a neighbor speak some hard speeches of him, or one of his family neglect or cross him, and he is presently like the raging sea, whose waves cast up the mire and dirt.

If you do not in patience possess your souls, they will be at the mercy of everyone that hath a mind to vex you.

He that loses his own peace is likely to break the peace of others.

5.  God Appoints Government [i.e. in families, churches, schools, etc.]

If you will break this vessel, peace will flow out and be quickly spilt.

Take heed therefore of any thing which would dissolve these bonds.

6.  Watch Your Mouth

Avoid all revengeful and provoking words.

Christianity is so much for peace, that it hates all that is against it.

7.  Think Twice Before Entering a Dispute

Engage not yourselves too forwardly or eagerly in disputes, nor at any time without necessity. And when necessity calls you, set an extraordinary watch upon your passions. Though disputing is lawful, and sometimes necessary to defend the truth, yet it is seldom the way of doing good to those whom you dispute with. It engages people in partiality, and passionate, provoking words…they think they are pleading for the truth, they are militating for the honor of their own understanding.

The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all people.

8.  Mind Your Own Business

Have as little to do with people, in matters which their commodity is concerned in, as you can.

See Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 3)

Sinclair Ferguson on Celebrity Culture, the Local Church, Preaching and Retirement

Ligonier conducted their first Google hangout today with pastor, theologian and writer Sinclair Ferguson, where he offered advice to young pastors and church planters, discussed the role of preaching in the local church, gave commentary on celebrity pastors and the mega-church, his long relationship with R.C. Sproul, his recent retirement from full-time pastoral ministry, and his post-retirement plans (which include a number of promising writing projects).

Watching and listening to Sinclair for 45 minutes was a refreshing exercise in remembering what the pastoral ministry, indeed the Christian life, is primarily about: communion with the Triune God and the centrality of Christ crucified. (And it doesn’t hurt that he speaks with that lilting Scottish brogue accent.)

And lest you think the hangout was only for pastors, my wife also listened in, often giving a hearty “Amen!” to Sinclair’s comments.

Watch the hangout here:

The Marks of a Renewed Protestantism

David F. Wells:

A Renewed Protestantism, one that looks like it has in its high moments in the past, will have about it:

  • a joyous sense of knowing God, of knowing him through his Son;
  • of being able to live in his world on his terms and celebrating his sovereign rule over all of it….
  • it will be sinewy and tough;
  • it will not cave intellectually to all the fads and rackets of our time;
  • it will have an infectious joy in doing what is right;
  • there will be a sense of awe in God’s creation presence;
  • of gratitude in being able to serve him in all the callings he gives.

And here some of the things that have been torn apart by life and by its disarray will begin to be put back together.

The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, p. 174. Content reformatted for readability.

[See also: God in the Whirlwind, Wells’ forthcoming book discussing the vital relationship between God’s holiness and his love.]

“So, Are You Open and Affirming?” A Lesbian, a Pastor and Sparks of Glory

Several years ago during Lent, I went to a local coffeehouse–also a lesbian hangout–to prepare a sermon. With my books spread out on the table, deep in thought while my fingers danced on the computer keyboard, a young woman unexpectedly sat down next to me.

“What are you working on?” she asked.

In hushed voice, I hesitantly replied, “a sermon.”

Her face lit up. “So you’re a pastor? That’s great! I’m ___________, and I’m a lesbian. Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

Bracing myself, I knew what was next. “So, is your church open and affirming?”

Pregnant pause.

“What do you mean by ‘open and affirming?’ I asked, trying to appear calm and sincere while nonchalantly sipping my coffee. Surely she must be on to me.

“You know, is your church open and affirming of the gay and lesbian lifestyle?”

Of course I knew. After all, this is Minneapolis.

Now I could have simply told her the cold hard truth and promptly ended the discussion. “Sunday’s a comin’!” is the pastor’s mantra, and I had a long way to go before the sermon was ready for delivery. But she seemed genuinely interested in friendly conversation. And with me, a pastor. Moreover, she didn’t appear militant. So not wanting to kill the conversation, I took the bait and attempted to answer her inquiry.

“Our church seeks to be open and welcoming to all sorts of people, including those in the GLBT community.”

“That’s great! I completely agree!” she said.

“Well think about it” I replied. “What sort of people did Jesus hang out with much of the time? The super-religious people of his day accused him of being a drunk, a friend of prostitutes and ‘sinners.’ It got him in a lot of trouble, eventually leading to his awful death.”

“I guess you’re right.” She seemed genuinely intrigued, so I continued.

“I envision a church with all sorts of people learning what it means to be followers of Jesus living in a broken world. We want to be open to everyone from across the spectrum of faith, including those who are unsure of what they believe. The gospel, this amazingly good news about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, is something we want all individuals, whatever their temptations may be, to know and love. So from that perspective, yes, we are an open and affirming church.”

So began a long and fruitful conversation on the gospel and same sex attraction. It probably wasn’t the answer she expected. We even discussed the necessity of repentance and faith, not just for the non-Christian but for Christians.

Mind you, this wasn’t the time or place to give a comprehensive gospel presentation–at least not yet. My initial aim was more modest: to simply talk respectfully and seek to understand someone with whom I often struggle to find common ground, sprinkling the conversation with compelling gospel truth.

Later that night, I was reminded of something John Calvin wrote: “…wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory” (Institutes I.V.1).  And while Calvin was referring to the heavenly bodies above, if I had eyes to see past this lesbian’s sexual sin-marred physical body, surely I would behold sparks, even faint ones, of Divine glory. “For although God’s glory shines forth in the outer man, yet there is no doubt that the proper seat of his image is in the soul” (Ibid I.XV.3).

Contextualizing Calvin, I wasn’t speaking merely to a lesbian. While she and others may ultimately define her by her sexual practice, a greater truth emerged: I was beholding a woman–a person–created in the Imago Dei, who was living in a world that’s not how it’s supposed to be because of this anti-God virus that infects us all. That night, God gifted me with the grace and pleasure to talk with a sin-riddled woman shot through with God’s glory, despite her sexual orientation and practice, or the nature and gravity of her sin.

I didn’t finish my sermon that evening. Instead, I chose to wade into the complex world of a fallen Daughter of Eve who perhaps considered her need for a Savior, one who was open to some hearty discussion with a pastor during Holy Week.

And you know what? Given the chance, I’d do it all over again.

How to Love Stinky Sheep

John Stott:

This is a splendid Trinitarian truth about the church, namely that it belongs to God the Father, has been redeemed by blood of Christ his Son, and has overseers appointed by God the Holy Spirit.

This fact should humble us. Although we may be privileged to be church leaders, yet it is not our church; it is God’s. We have no proprietary rights over it. It may be appropriate for kings and queens to refer to ‘my people,’ but I doubt if it is ever appropriate for pastors to refer to ‘my church….’

This truth should not only humble but also inspire us, and especially motivate us to the urlloving care of God’s people. We need this incentive, for sheep are not at all the clean and cuddly creatures they look from a distance. On the contrary, they are dirty and subject to nasty pests. They need to be regularly dipped in strong chemicals to rid them of lice, ticks and worms. They are also unintelligent and obstinate. I hesitate to apply the metaphor too literally, or describe the people of God as ‘dirty, lousy and stupid!’ But some church members can be a great trial to their pastors, and vice versa.

So how shall we persevere in loving the unlovable? Only, I think, by remembering how precious they are. They are so valuable that the three persons of the Trinity are together involved in caring for them.

I find it very challenging, when trying to help a difficult person, to say under my breath: ‘How precious you are in God’s sight! God the Father loves you. Christ died for you. The Holy Spirit has appointed me your pastor. As the three persons of the Trinity are committed to your welfare, it is a privilege for me to serve you.’

(The Living Church, pp. 83-84, line breaks mine.)

“Total Church” and “Everyday Church” Book Deal

Two great books on church, mission, community, and the Gospel are on sale for a paltry $1.99 (e-book format) till August 6:ref=sr_1_1

While both are excellent, Total Church (which was published first) is essential reading, while Everyday Church is more “how to put it all together.”

Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, the books’ co-authors, are experienced practitioners of a church planting group in England.  Both books are robust with biblically/theologically sound content.

Whether you’re a pastor/elder, aspiring church planter, small group leader, or anyone with any degree of influence in a local church, pony up the $4.00 for some great reading on minimal church centered on the Gospel.41pfFuqsViL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-67,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

How to Start Each Day

Richard Lovelace:

Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating  the justifying work of Christ in their lives. Many have so light an apprehension of God’s holiness and of the extent and guilt of their sin that consciously they see little need for justification, although below the surface of their lives they are deeply guilt-ridden and insecure.

Many others have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification, in the Augustinian manner, drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.

Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance…. 

Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, p. 101 (line breaks and bold font mine).

Three Ways to Dispel Despondency

Martin Luther’s prescription for dealing with the Devil and temptation?

At times, you are your worst enemy—especially when you’re alone:Image

‘Seek company and discuss some irreverent matter as, for example, what is going on in Venice. Shun solitude….

I have my worst temptations when I am by myself.’

Undergird yourself with fellowship of the church. Then, too, seek convivial company, feminine company, dine, dance, joke, and sing.

Make yourself eat and drink even though food may be very distasteful.

Once Luther gave three rules for dispelling despondency: the first is faith in Christ; the second is to get downright angry; the third is the love of a woman.

Music  was especially commended. The Devil hates it because he cannot endure gaiety.

—From Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton, pp. 284-5 (line breaks and emphasis mine)