Welcome to the Im4God.org
/ Songbook.ManuelAdam.com July 6th, 2006 Newsletter!
You can email Webservant Peter J. Louie by replying to this message.
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This month's topic is peacemaking. When
Christians love one another and show unity as a body in Christ, God is
glorified. The inverse is also true. The Bible says:
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God."
God is gracious. His word teaches us the principles we need to
know and apply in order to handle conflict Biblically.
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Philippians 2:1-11 - Christ's Example of Humility
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any
comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and
sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same
love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry
or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than
yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but
also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves,
which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made
himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the
likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled
himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a
cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the
name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every
tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the
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by Ken Sande
Before we can breathe out grace, we must breathe
in grace. In this sermon, Ken reminds us not to let
corrupting talk come out of our mouths, but rather, only what is good
for building others up, so that it may give grace to those who hear.
(Based on Ephesians 4:29.)
(33 minutes / 4.0 MB)
Charitable Judgments by
We may think we are being
realists, but God is not pleased when we give uncharitable judgments.
The Bible warns us that we have a tendency to judge our brothers
wrongly. In this sermon, Ken explains that Christians
should think the best about others, rather than assuming the worst.
He also explains the difference between uncharitable judgments and
proper critical thinking.
(79 minutes / 13.9 MB)
Cravings and Conflict by C.J. Mahaney
We live in a fallen world.
Whether you are single or married, young or old, relational conflict is inevitable in this world. Listen as C.J. Mahaney helps us understand
the cause and resolution for conflict. Based on
James 4:1-2 /
Download Application Questions
http://www.covlife.org/audio/2004_03_21.html (63 minutes / 14.8
http://www.covlife.org/audio/2004_03_21.mp3 (right click, save
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Getting to the Heart
By Ken Sande
Wouldn't it be wonderful if people
could simply renounce their bad habits and decide to respond to
conflict in a gracious and constructive way? But it is not that easy.
In order to break free from the pattern they have fallen into, they
need to understand why they react to conflict the way they do.
Jesus provides us with clear guidance
on this issue. During His earthly ministry, a young man approached the
Lord and asked Him to settle an inheritance dispute with his brother.
"Jesus replied, 'Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between
you?' Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all
kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his
possessions'" (Luke 12:13-15).
This passage reveals a common human pattern. When faced with conflict,
we tend to focus passionately on what our opponent has done wrong or
should do to make things right. In contrast, God always calls us to
focus on what is going on in our own hearts when we are at odds with
others. Why? Because our heart is the wellspring of all our thoughts,
words, and actions, and therefore the source of our conflicts. "For
out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual
immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (Matthew 15:19).
The heart's central role in conflict is
vividly described in James 4:1-3. If you understand this passage, you
will have found a key to preventing and resolving conflict.
"What causes fights and quarrels
among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?
You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you
cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have,
because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive,
because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get
on your pleasures."
This passage describes the root cause
of destructive conflict: Conflicts arise from unmet desires in our
hearts. When we feel we cannot be satisfied unless we have something
we want or think we need, the desire turns into a demand. If someone
fails to meet that desire, we condemn him in our heart and quarrel and
fight to get our way. In short, conflict arises when desires grow into
demands and we judge and punish those who get in our way. Let us look
at this progression one step at a time.
The Progression of an Idol1
Conflict always begins with some kind
of desire. Some desires are inherently wrong, such as vengeance, lust,
or greed. But many desires are not wrong in and of themselves. For
example, there is nothing innately wrong about desiring things like
peace and quiet, a clean home, a new computer, professional success,
an intimate relationship with your spouse, or respectful children.
If a good desire, such as wanting an
intimate relationship with your spouse, is not being met, it is
perfectly legitimate to talk about it with your spouse. As you talk,
you may discover ways that both of you can help to fulfill each other
in mutually beneficial ways. If not, it may be appropriate to seek
help from your pastor or a Christian counselor who can assist you in
understanding your differences and strengthening your marriage.
But what if your spouse persistently
fails to meet a particular desire and is unwilling to discuss it
further with you or anyone else? This is where you stand at a
crossroad. On the one hand, you can trust God and seek your
fulfillment in Him (Psalm 73:25). You can ask Him to help you to
continue to grow and mature no matter what your spouse does (James
1:2-4). And you can continue to love your spouse and pray for God's
sanctifying work in his or her life (1 John 4:19-21; Luke 6:27-28). If
you follow this course, God promises to bless you and use your
difficult situation to conform you to the likeness of Christ (Romans
On the other hand, you can dwell on
your disappointment and allow it to control your life. At the very
least, this will result in self-pity and bitterness toward your
spouse. At worst, it can destroy your marriage. Let us look at how
this downward spiral evolves.
Unmet desires have the potential of
working themselves deeper and deeper into our hearts. This is
especially true when we come to see a desire as something we need or
deserve, and therefore must have in order to be happy or fulfilled.
There are many ways to justify or legitimize a desire.
"I work hard all week. Don't I
deserve a little peace and quiet when I come home?"
"I worked two jobs to put you
through school; I deserve your respect and appreciation."
"I spend hours managing the family
budget; I really need a new computer."
"The Bible says we should save up to
cover unexpected problems; we need to tighten our budget so we can
put more into savings."
"God has given me a gift for
developing new businesses, and He calls me to work hard to support
our family. I deserve to have more of your support."
"Scripture says a husband and wife
should be completely united in love. I need to have more intimacy
"I only want what God commands:
children who have learned to respect their parents and use their
God-given gifts to the fullest."
There is an element of validity in each
of these statements. The trouble is that if our desire is not met,
these attitudes can lead to a vicious cycle. The more we want
something, the more we think of it as something we need and deserve.
And the more we think we are entitled to it, the more convinced we are
that we cannot be happy and secure without it.
When we see our object of desire as
being essential to our fulfillment and well-being, it moves from being
a desire to a demand. "I wish I could have this" evolves into "I must
have this!" This is where trouble sets in. Even if the initial desire
was not inherently wrong, it has grown so strong that it begins to
control our thoughts and behavior. In biblical terms, it has become an
Most of us think of an idol as a statue
of wood, stone, or metal worshiped by pagan people. But the concept is
much broader and far more personal than that. An idol is anything
apart from God that we depend on to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. In
biblical terms it is something other than God that we set our heart on
(Luke 12:29), that motivates us (1 Corinthians 4:5), that masters and
rules us (Psalm 119:133; Ephesians 5:5), or that we trust, fear, or
serve (Isaiah 42:17; Matthew 6:24; Luke 12:4-5). In short, it is
something we love and pursue in place of God (see Philippians 3:19).
Given its controlling effect on our
lives, an idol can also be referred to as a "false god" or a
"functional god." As Martin Luther wrote, "To whatever we look for any
good thing and for refuge in every need, that is what is meant by
'god.' To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in him
from the heart.... To whatever you give your heart and entrust your
being, that, I say, is really your god."2
Even sincere Christians struggle with
idolatry. We may believe in God and say we want to serve Him only, but
at times we allow other influences to rule us. In this sense we are no
different from the ancient Israelites: "Even while these people were
worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their
children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did" (2
It is important to emphasize the fact
that idols can arise from good desires as well as wicked desires. It
is often not what we want that is the problem, but that we want it too
much. For example, it is not unreasonable for a man to want a
passionate sexual relationship with his wife, or for a wife to want
open and honest communication with her husband, or for either of them
to want a steadily growing savings account. These are good desires,
but if they turn into demands that must be met in order for either
spouse to be satisfied and fulfilled, they result in bitterness,
resentment, or self-pity that can destroy a marriage.
How can you discern when a good desire
might be turning into a sinful demand? You can begin by prayerfully
asking yourself "X-ray" questions that reveal the true condition of
What am I preoccupied with? What is
the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my
mind at night?
How would I complete this statement:
"If only _____________, then I would be happy, fulfilled, and
What do I want to preserve or avoid?
Where do I put my trust?
What do I fear?
When a certain desire is not met, do
I feel frustration, anxiety, resentment, bitterness, anger, or
Is there something I desire so much
that I am willing to disappoint or hurt others in order to have it?
As you search your heart for idols, you
will often encounter multiple layers of concealment, disguise, and
justification. As mentioned earlier, one of the most subtle cloaking
devices is to argue that we want only what God Himself commands.
For example, a mother may desire that
her children be respectful and obedient to her, kind to one another,
and diligent in developing their gifts and talents. And she can back
up each goal with a specific scripture that shows that God Himself
desires such behavior.
When they do not fulfill these goals,
even after her repeated encouragement or correction, she may feel
frustrated, angry, or resentful. She needs to ask, "Why am I feeling
this way? Is it a righteous anger that they are not living up to God's
standards? Or is it a selfish anger that they are not giving me the
smooth, comfortable, and convenient day I want?"
In most cases, it will be a mixture of
both. Part of her truly wants to see her children love and obey God in
every way, both for His glory and for their good. But another part of
her is motivated by a desire for her own comfort and convenience.
Which desire is really controlling her heart and reactions?
If the God-centered desire is
dominating the mother's heart, her response to disobedient children
should be characterized by God's discipline toward her. "The LORD is
compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love" (Psalm
103:8). As she imitates God, her response will line up with corrective
guidelines found in Galatians 6:1: "If someone is caught in a sin, you
who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or
you also may be tempted." In other words, although her discipline may
be direct and firm, it will be wrapped in gentleness and love, and
leave no residue of resentment or unforgiveness.
On the other hand, if her desire for
comfort and convenience has become an idol, her reaction to her
children will be much different. It will be characterized by
smoldering anger as well as harsh and unnecessarily hurtful words or
discipline. She may feel bitterness or resentment that her desires
have been frustrated. And even after disciplining her children, she
may maintain a lingering coolness toward them that extends their
punishment and warns them not to cross her again. If this latter group
of attitudes and actions frequently characterizes her response, it is
a sign that her desire for godly children has probably evolved into an
Another sign of idolatry is the
inclination to judge other people. When they fail to satisfy our
desires and live up to our expectations, we criticize and condemn in
our hearts if not with our words. As Dave Powlison writes:
We judge others—criticize, nit-pick,
nag, attack, condemn— because we literally play God. This is heinous.
[The Bible says]"There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is
able to save and to destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor?"
Who are you when you judge? None other than a God wannabe. In this, we
become like the Devil himself (no surprise that the Devil is mentioned
in James 3:15 and 4:7). We act exactly like the adversary who seeks to
usurp God's throne and who acts as the accuser of the brethren. When
you and I fight, our minds become filled with accusations: your wrongs
and my rights preoccupy me. We play the self-righteous judge in the
mini-kingdoms we establish.3
This insight should leave us shaking in
our boots! When we judge others and condemn them in our hearts for not
meeting our desires, we are imitating the Devil (see James 3:15; 4:7).
We have doubled our idolatry problem: Not only have we let an
idolatrous desire rule our hearts, but we have also set ourselves up
as judging minigods. This is a formula for excruciating conflict.
This is not to say that it is
inherently wrong to evaluate or even judge others within certain
limits. Scripture teaches that we should observe and evaluate others'
behavior so that we can respond and minister to them in appropriate
ways, which may even involve loving confrontation (see Matthew 7:1-5;
18:15; Galatians 6:1).
We cross the line, however, when we
begin to sinfully judge others, which is characterized by a feeling of
superiority, indignation, condemnation, bitterness, or resentment.
Sinful judging often involves speculating on others' motives. Most of
all, it reveals the absence of a genuine love and concern toward them.
When these attitudes are present, our judging has crossed the line and
we are playing God.
The closer we are to others, the more
we expect of them and the more likely we are to judge them when they
fail to meet our expectations. For example, we may look at our spouse
and think, "If you really love me, you above all people will help meet
this need." We think of our children and say, "After all I've done for
you, you owe this to me."
We can place similar expectations on
relatives, close friends, or members of our church. Expectations are
not inherently bad. It is good to hope for the best in others and
reasonable to anticipate receiving understanding and support from
those who are closest to us.
But if we are not careful, these
expectations can become conditions and standards that we use to judge
others. Instead of giving people room for independence, disagreement,
or failure, we rigidly impose our expectations on them. In effect, we
expect them to give allegiance to our idols. When they refuse to do
so, we condemn them in our hearts and with our words, and our
conflicts with them take on a heightened intensity.
Idols always demand sacrifices. When
others fail to satisfy our demands and expectations, our idols demand
that they should suffer. Whether deliberately or unconsciously, we
will find ways to hurt or punish people so they will give in to our
This punishment can take many forms.
Sometimes we react in overt anger, lashing out with hurtful words to
inflict pain on those who fail to meet our expectations. When we do
so, we are essentially placing others on the altar of our idol and
sacrificing them, not with a pagan knife, but with the sharp edge of
our tongue. Only when they give in to our desire and give us what we
want will we stop inflicting pain upon them.
But we punish those who don't bow to
our idols in numerous other ways as well. Our children may use
pouting, stomping, or dirty looks to hurt us for not meeting their
desires. Adults and children alike may impose guilt or shame on others
by walking around with pained or crushed looks on their faces. Some
people even resort to physical violence or sexual abuse to punish and
As we grow in faith and awareness of
our sin, most of us recognize and reject overt and obviously sinful
means of punishing others. But our idols do not give up their
influence easily, and they often lead us to develop more subtle means
of punishing those who do not serve them.
Withdrawal from a relationship is a
common way to hurt others. This may include a subtle coolness toward
the other person, withholding affection or physical contact, being sad
or gloomy, refusing to look someone in the eye, or even abandoning the
Sending subtle, unpleasant cues over a
long period of time is an age-old method of inflicting punishment. For
example, a friend of mine mentioned to me that his wife was not
pleased with the fact that he was giving so much time to a particular
ministry. He closed by saying, "And as we all know, when momma ain't
happy, ain't nobody happy!" He laughed as he said it, but his comment
made me think of the proverb, "A quarrelsome wife is like a constant
dripping on a rainy day" (Proverbs 27:15). A woman has a unique
ability to set the tone in a home. If she is not careful, she can
pervert that gift and use it to create an unpleasant or uncomfortable
atmosphere that tells her family, "Either get in line with what I
want, or you will suffer." Such behavior is an act of unbelief:
Instead of relying on God's means of grace to sanctify her family, she
depends on her own tools of punishment to manipulate them into change.
Of course, a man can do the same thing; by being perpetually critical
and unhappy, he too can make everyone in the family miserable until
they give in to his idols. The usual result of such behavior is a
superficial, splintered family.
Inflicting pain on others is one of the
surest signs that an idol is ruling our hearts (see James 4:1-3). When
we catch ourselves punishing others in any way, whether deliberately
and overtly or unconsciously and subtly, it is a warning that
something other than God is ruling our hearts.
The Cure for an Idolatrous Heart
An idol, as we have seen, is any desire
that has grown into a consuming demand that rules our heart; it is
something we think we must have to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. To
put it another way, it is something we love, fear, or trust.
Love, fear, trust—these are words of
worship! Jesus commands us to love God, fear God, and trust God and
God alone (Matthew 22:37; Luke 12:4-5; John 14:1). Any time we long
for something apart from God, fear something more than God, or trust
in something other than God to make us happy, fulfilled, or secure, we
are engaging in the worship of false gods. As a result, we deserve the
judgment and wrath of the true God.
Deliverance from Judgment
There is only one way out of this
bondage and judgment: It is to look to God Himself, who loves to
deliver people from their idols. "I am the LORD your God, who brought
you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other
gods before me" (Exodus 20:2-3).
God has provided the cure for our
idolatry by sending His Son to experience the punishment that we
deserve because of our sin. Through Jesus Christ we can become
righteous in God's sight and find freedom from sin and idolatry.
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ
Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set
me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2).
To receive this forgiveness and
freedom, we must acknowledge our sin, repent of it, and put our trust
in Jesus Christ (see Acts 3:19; Psalm 32:5). When we do, we are no
longer under God's judgment. Instead, He brings us into His family,
makes us His children and heirs, and enables us to live a godly life
(Galatians 4:4-7). This is the good news of the gospel—forgiveness and
eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Deliverance from Specific Idols
Yet there is more good news. God wants
to deliver us not only from our general problem with sin and idolatry,
but also from the specific, day-to-day idols that consume us, control
us, and cause conflict with those around us.
This deliverance is not done in blanket
fashion, with all our idols being swept away in one great spiritual
experience. Instead, God calls us to identify and confess our idols
one by one, and then to cooperate with Him as He steadily removes them
bit by bit from our hearts.
God conveys His grace to help us in
this identification and deliverance process via three vehicles: His
Bible, His Spirit, and His church. The Bible is "living and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing
soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and
attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). As you diligently study and
meditate on the Bible and sit under regular, sound preaching, God will
use His Word like a spotlight and a scalpel in your heart. It will
reveal your idolatrous desires and show you how to love and worship
God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
The Holy Spirit aids our deliverance
from idols by helping us to understand the Bible, to identify our sin,
and to pursue a godly life (1 Corinthians 2:10-15; Philippians 2:13).
Therefore, we should pray on a daily basis for the Spirit to guide,
convict, and strengthen us in our walk with Christ.
Finally, God has surrounded us with
brothers and sisters in Christ who can teach us, lovingly confront us
about our idols, and provide encouragement and guidance in our
spiritual growth (Galatians 6:1; Romans 15:14). This requires that we
commit ourselves to consistent involvement in a solid, biblical church
and seek regular fellowship and accountability from spiritually mature
Through these three vehicles of grace,
God will help you examine your life and progressively expose and
deliver you from the idols that rule your heart. This process involves
several key steps.
Prayerfully ask yourself the "X-ray"
questions listed previously, which will help you discern the desires
that have come to rule your heart.
Keep track of your discoveries in a
journal so that you can identify patterns and steadily go after
Pray daily that God would rob your
idols of their influence in your life by making you miserable
whenever you give in to them.
Describe your idols to your spouse
and an accountability partner, and ask them to pray for you and
lovingly confront you when they see signs that the idol is still
Realize that idols are masters of
change and disguise. As soon as you gain a victory over a particular
sinful desire, your idol is likely to reappear in a related form,
with a redirected desire and more subtle means of attracting your
If you are dealing with an idol that
is difficult to identify or conquer, go to your pastor or some other
spiritually mature advisor, and seek his or her counsel and support.
Most of all, ask God to replace your
idols with a growing love for Him and a consuming desire to worship
Him and Him alone (more on this below).
If someone told you that you had a
deadly cancer that would take your life if you did not get treatment,
you would probably spare no effort or expense in pursuing the most
rigorous treatment available. Well, you do have cancer, a cancer of
the soul. It is called sin and idolatry. But there is a cure. It is
called the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is administered through the
Word, the Spirit, and the church. The more rigorously you avail
yourself of these means of grace, the greater effect they will have in
delivering you from the idols that plague your soul.
Replace Idol Worship with Worship of
the True God
In his excellent book Future Grace,
John Piper teaches that "sin is what you do when you are not fully
satisfied in God."4 The same may be said about idolatry: It
is what we do when we are not fully satisfied in God. In other words,
if we are not fulfilled and secure in God, we will inevitably seek
other sources of happiness and security.
Therefore, if you want to squeeze the
idols out of your heart and leave no room for them to return, make it
your top priority to aggressively pursue an all-consuming worship for
the living God. Ask Him to teach you how to love, fear, and trust Him
more than anything in this world. Replacing idol worship with worship
of the true God involves several steps:
Repent before God. When we
repent and confess our sins and idols, believing in our forgiveness
through Christ, we also confess our faith in Christ. Repentance and
confession of our faith in the true God is true worship (1 John
1:8-10). "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and
contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17; see also
Fear God. Stand in awe of the
true God when you are tempted to fear others or are afraid of losing
something precious. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of [all
wisdom]" (Proverbs 1:7). "Do not be afraid of those who kill the
body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can
destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). "If you, O
LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you
there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared" (Psalm 130:3-4).
Love God. Desire the One who
forgives us and provides everything we need instead of looking to
other things that cannot save you. "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord
your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all
your mind' " (Matthew 22:37). "Those who seek the LORD lack no good
thing" (Psalm 34:10). "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).
"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire
besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength
of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:25-26).
Trust God. Rely on the One
who sacrificed His Son for you and has proven Himself to be
absolutely dependable in every situation. "It is better to take
refuge in the LORD than to trust in man" (Psalm 118:8). "Trust in
the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding"
(Proverbs 3:5). "His divine power has given us everything we need
for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by
his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very
great and precious promises, so that through them you may
participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the
world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Delight in God. Find your
greatest joy in thinking about God, meditating on His works, talking
to others about Him, praising Him, and giving Him thanks. "Delight
yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart"
(Psalm 37:4). "My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your
splendor all day long" (Psalm 71:8). "Rejoice in the Lord always. I
will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4). "Be joyful always;
pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is
God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
As these passages indicate, God has
designed a wonderful cycle for those who want to worship Him above all
things. As you love, praise, give thanks, and delight yourself in God,
He will fulfill your desires with the best thing in the world: more of
Himself! And as you learn to delight more and more in Him, you will
feel less need to find happiness, fulfillment, and security in the
things of this world. By God's grace, the influence of idolatry and
conflict in your family can be steadily diminished, and you and your
family can enjoy the intimacy and security that come from worshiping
the one true God.
<< << This article appeared
website. Adapted from
Peacemaking for Families, by Ken Sande (Tyndale, 2002).
1 I owe Paul Tripp, David
Powlison, and Ed Welch of the Christian Counseling and Educational
a great debt for the many insights they have given to me on this topic
through their books and seminars.
2 F. Samuel Janzow, Luther's Large Catechism: A Contemporary
Translation with Study Questions (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing
House, 1978), p. 13.
3 Journal of Biblical Counseling 16, no. 1, fall
4 John Piper, Future Grace (Sisters, Ore:
Multnomah), page 9.
Other Resources: The
Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Baker
Books, Updated ed. 2003).
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