Tara’s Blog

Forgiveness is at the Heart of Every Redemptive Encounter in the Church

sm both of us with books for faces

Thanks, Dave! I needed this today.

(From our Redeeming Church Conflicts site …)

Forgiveness is at the Heart of Every Redemptive Encounter in the Church
by David V. Edling

In prior posts we have noted the distinctions drawn by the Scriptures between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom that comes down from heaven. James 3:13 through 18 is one place where we see that distinction being drawn:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

There are other places in the Scriptures where God communicates that what passes for wise living in this world nowhere even comes near to what passes for holiness or wisdom from his eternal perspective. Consider, for example, 1 Corinthians 1:20 through 25:

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

One of the latest examples I came across of the difference between the truth of God’s wisdom and the deception of the wisdom of this world was written about in a Wall Street Journal article titled When Forgiveness Isn’t a Virtue (WSJ, October 30, 2012). In that article, the author does make some observations about forgiveness that are consistent with a biblical worldview:

Remember that you have likely hurt people, too, and reflect on what it felt like to be forgiven. It is best to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We sometimes judge intent when it wasn’t there. Often people did not intend to hurt you.

It’s important to be empathetic, to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to see why they did whatever they did. Is your spouse under a lot of pressure at work and that is why he or she blew up at you? Try to see your part in the situation.

But the main gist of the article is that forgiveness is best seen and best used as a tool of manipulation in order to get the other person to change:

A psychology professor has been studying the costs versus the benefits of forgiveness. The potential cost of forgiveness is that it doesn’t hold the partner [other person] accountable for the behavior.

Forgiveness always makes people feel good immediately, but the question is what does it do to the person I am forgiving?

Experts believe emotional hurt serves as an evolutionary defense. You feel sadness and fear so you don’t want to go back to the person and get hurt again. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to remain in the relationship. It is possible to forgive and leave.

Reading these quotes reminds me of what Ken Sande noted about biblical forgiveness in his book The Peacemaker:

Forgiveness can be extremely costly, but if you believe in Jesus, you have more than enough to make these payments. By going to the cross, he has already paid off the ultimate debt for sin and established an account of abundant grace in your name. As you draw on that grace through faith day by day, you will find that you have all you need to make the payments of forgiveness for those who have wronged you (page 208, The Peacemaker, Third Edition).

God’s wisdom is that we are to be expansive in acts of forgiveness just as he has been expansive in his forgiveness of us. That is the whole point of the parable of the unmerciful servant we find at Matthew 18:21 through 35. The king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants called before him one who owed an unimaginable sum of money. The man couldn’t pay and since he didn’t like the potential consequences (he and his family being sold into slavery) he begged the king for mercy. The king said “OK. Your debt is canceled.” This is truly unbelievable grace!

But then the servant who had been forgiven his huge debt (an amount so unrealistic it would be impossible for any person to amass such a debt) immediately goes out and harshly demands that a fellow servant who owes him a week’s wages pay up…now. Unable to pay, the previously forgiven servant has his fellow servant thrown into debtor’s prison.  The others seeing what has occurred report this action back to the king (the master) who becomes rather indignant that his act of compassion wasn’t likewise followed and confronts the ungrateful man by saying:

I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?

The lesson, God’s wisdom coming down from heaven, is clear is it not? We are to forgive others just as expansively as God has forgiven us our debt for sin, an unimaginable indebtedness that no one could ever pay. What debts are owed you that could ever compare?

It is only unmerited forgiveness that gives any of us the hope of eternal life in Christ. In the same way, only unmerited forgiveness will enable a church to redeem its conflicts and enjoy the fruits of reconciliation. Forgiveness is at the heart of every redemptive encounter in the church. Forgiveness is the “other-centered” act that God bestowed on us so that we might follow in his steps and do the same. Forgiveness may be the most “God-centered” act we will ever undertake, an act intended to fulfill God’s goal of unity in the church rather than any personal goal of fulfillment or trying to teach somebody else a lesson. It is costly activity but you have the expansive account from which you can afford the payments.

For peace among God’s wise people,
-Dave Edling

Win (Lots of Copies of) The Journal of Biblical Counseling AND Two Quick Scripture Reference Guides

journal  jpg giveaway

Again celebrating the move of Peacemaker Ministries from Billings to its new location in Colorado Springs …

And again thanks to the generosity of the Peacemaker leaders who are allowing me to giveaway (AMAZINGLY GOOD!) resources from their old library …

Today, our family is happy to announce our next Christmas giveaway:

  1. The Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling;
  2. The Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling Youth; and
  3. A HUGE STACK of old issues from  The CCEF Journal of Biblical Counseling.

I love ALL of the “Quick Scripture Reference” guides—and oh, friends! If you are not already familiar with (and subscribing to!) The Journal of Biblical Counseling, I strongly urge you to do so today. I think the articles are the best (most rigorously biblical, imminently practical, and always Christ-exalting!) articles that are being published today. This stack o’ issues would be a treasure for your church library (or personal library—but I encourage you to share! :) ! )

To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment on this post by 5:00PM Sunday, December 21, 2014
and I’ll let RandomNumberGenerator pick the winner!

** NOTE ** If you share on any social media, just let me know how you shared,
and I’ll give you AN EXTRA ENTRY FOR EACH SHARE! **

This is truly just a Barthel-Family-Giveaway—so, as always, we will NEVER give your contact information away to ANYONE.

No risk of SPAM! Why not join in the fun?

Much love and big hugs from Fred, Sophia & Ella too!
Tara B.

If you are still looking for a Christmas gift for that hard-to-buy-for church leader, friend, or family member, I don’t think you can do better than the 30-YEAR-Archive of The Journal of Biblical Counseling and Education for ONLY $69 (!!). (I make no money from CCEF and I am in no way affiliated with them other than through prayer and a monthly donation and LOTS of appreciation. So I am truly just mentioning it because it is a TREASURE that I really think would be a blessing to you/someone you love.)

Please be sure to check back and see if you’ve won after the 21st. If I don’t have your contact information within one week, I will choose another winner. Thanks!

Paige Benton Brown Giveaways!

Apparently there are quite a few of you (like me!) who think that Paige Benton Brown is phenomenally gifted as a Bible teacher. (I know this because her name is constantly in my list of top-ten searches on this blog.) But have you found it hard to locate her resources online? I know I have.

Therefore, as my little Christmas gift to us all, I’ve decided to compile as many Paige Benton Brown links as I can to hopefully make it a little easier on us all to be edified by her wonderful teachings and writings.

Hope these are a blessing to you!

(And just in case you ever see this—HIGHLY DOUBTFUL!—Thanks, Paige, for serving the Lord and His people so well. We appreciate you.)

Tara B.


Robin G & Kelly M are our Winners!

Congratulations, Robin & Kelly! RandomNumberGenerator picked you!

dec drawing winners

Please send me your mailing addresses and I’ll have your books/resources in the mail to you ASAP. (If I hear from you tonight, I might be able to ship them tomorrow—otherwise it’ll have to be next week because Soph & I are heading out for her birthday trip on Wednesday.)

Thanks, all! It was great to hear from you.

I hope to do another giveaway soon!

Tara B.

Give a Gift to Your Pastor (or Keep it for Yourself)! Enter to Win $100 in FREE RESOURCES!

giveaway sm

As you may already know, Peacemaker Ministries has moved to Colorado Springs. In the course of emptying out the old offices here in Billings, I came across some (wonderful!) resources that were going to be given away—so I asked if I could give them to YOU and Peacemakers said, “Sure!” So here is the first Barthel family giveaway for this holiday season …

Our family is giving away two sets of over $100 in beautiful (biblical, practical, helpful!) books and one audio book on CD that I’d be happy to have you keep for yourself—or maybe the stack would make a nice gift for your pastor or another church leader if you win.

I love all of these resources, but the first one (“While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks”) is one of Dave Edling’s favorites and the “Quick Scripture References”? Well. I love them all—and I’m hoping to do another giveaway soon for the women’s version and the youth version too.

For today? All you have to do is leave your name in a comment and you’ll be entered to win one stack of all of these resources! (I have two sets to give away.)

Just leave a comment on this post by 5:00PM (Mountain), Monday, December 8, 2014 and be sure I have a way to contact you if you are one of the two winners. (If I can’t reach you within one week, I will let RandomNumberGenerator pick another winner.)

That’s it! Hope you win! Please be sure to enter by next Monday so that I can have the resources mailed to you in time for you to give them away as Christmas gifts if you are so inclined. :)

Grateful for you!

And grateful for all of our church leaders who shepherd their flocks so well—

Tara B.

Just a quick reminder that our family would NEVER give your name or contact information to ANYONE for marketing purposes. And we would never SPAM you. So please feel free to enter this giveaway without any fear of risk regarding such things. Thanks! tkb

On Being Assaulted

If you have ever read my “Child Protection First / Abuse in the Church” posts, then you know that I have strong convictions about our duties to keep our children as safe as possible. Some of this is based on the sad reality of my childhood (“I Do Not Have One Childhood Memory Apart from P*rnography”). Some of this is based on the fact that when I oversaw all of the Christian conciliation cases and church/organizational conflicts at Peacemaker Ministries, I learned that far, far too many churches are far, far too trusting when it comes to nursery workers and youth volunteers (“Are you still closing your eyes to the real risk of child sexual abuse in your church?”). But most of it is simply due to biblical convictions regarding training and protecting our children and to the realities of life in this techno-saturated, p*rn-saturated, fallen world that we now live in (“How to Keep Your Kids from Destroying Themselves with an iPhone”).

But it’s just not children who are assaulted in the church. It’s also young adults (teenagers) and even adults who can be groomed by a wicked person in a position of power and authority; preyed on; manipulated … and gravely hurt.

The thing is—up until this year, I have written about such assault and abuse from a concerned, but relatively detached, position. These evils have broken my heart; made me sick; motivated me to action—but they have remained sort of “out there.” The actual physical contact-sexual abuse I experienced as a child happened when I was very, very young and was short-lived. Thus, the memories are fuzzy and not at all traumatic. And until this year, I did not have an experience of being physically violated as an adult. So I was well-meaning in my writing and trying to help people re: this topic … but it was all very abstract to me.

And then I was physically hurt by a stranger. This year. Returning from serving at one of my events. The term “assault” is appropriate—but I fully recognize that it is also a strong term that may lead some of you to be concerned for me and/or want to know more details about specifically what happened. Please respect my decision (after seeking counsel) to not share that level of detail publicly. I know that it may seem like I “bare my soul” on this blog or at my events/in my writing, but I am actually quite purposeful about what I share beyond my “real life” / private relationships. And I am simply not going to talk about the details here. I am, however, going to talk about a few things that completely shocked me re: my experience and my response. I am doing this for two reasons:

  1. I truly believe (and hope!) that this might be edifying / helpful to even just a few people—people who have been hurt and people who love people who have been hurt. And Fred and I believe that if even just one person is helped, then that is worth it.
  2. One of the most terrible and terrifying parts of this experience for me has been facing my own voicelessness during the actual assault and in the immediate time period afterwards. (I never, never would have thought I would have responded the way I did. That is the thing I am working on most with Fred, my pastor, and a counselor. ) And this relatively generic blog post is one tiny step for me to try to reclaim my voice regarding this whole vile experience.

And so. Here are just a few of the descriptions of my responses to what happened—my thoughts, feelings, lack of feelings, and lack of rationality. All of these came crashing into my reality in a way that I never expected:

  • How could you let this happen? Why didn’t you stop it or fight back? Why were you so voiceless? So powerless? I thought you were a strong person. You know better! You train children to say, “NO!” Why didn’t you follow your own advice and do more to protect yourself? (I have no idea. But that’s what I’m working on trying to understand so that a) this never, never happens to me again; and b) I train my children better so that, inasmuch as it is possible, I can help them to never, NEVER respond in the kind of voiceless/self-doubting way that I did.)
  • How could you be so foolish as to put yourself into this situation? If only you hadn’t been in that exact location at that exact time. If only you had arrived five minutes later. (Doesn’t it seem ridiculous that victims blame themselves? I mean, c’mon! It’s so obvious that the assault was not their fault. But I don’t know that I have ever felt more ungodly shame in my life than I felt after this happened—not just shame over the situation, but ashamed of my “ridiculous” responses too … )
  • You showered IMMEDIATELY afterwards?! What?! Haven’t you ever seen an episode of Law & Order or CSI? (Yes. Yes. Of course. But until this happened, I forgot just how powerful shock is and how you really do forget things you “know” and do “stupid things” when your brain shuts down and flips into complete auto-pilot / pure survival mode. Its inexplicable. Indefensible. But oh, so very real.)
  • You were silent for how long after the so-called assault?! I saw you. You looked fine. Why didn’t you go immediately to the police? Or tell your husband or pastor or a friend? (All I wanted to do was close my eyes and wish it away. I have never felt this level of self-loathing and self-doubt and fear. My husband greeted me at the airport like he’s done a thousand times. My children were there. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m not sure I was thinking at all. I don’t know how or why I got through those initial hours—but I did. And then, that night, I told Fred. And then I told the authorities. The next day I told my pastor. But real life was right there and I had to keep going. Life didn’t stop to allow me any margin to process this.)
  • Of course I’m not mad at you, I’m mad that this happened to you. (I know this might not make any sense, but seriously. Please hear me. I’m experiencing that look of rage on your face as being mad at me. I know intellectually that you’re not mad at me. I know that it’s a “typical victim response” to experience your response as anger directed at me and I should know better. But please, please be careful. It’s not rational, I know. But I really need you to be gentle with me. I don’t know why I can’t overcome my emotions with reason and fact, but I can’t. Please just hear me when I tell you that I am experiencing your anger as anger directed at me. I want to believe the truth—that you are furious, righteously furious, at this man. But I can’t. So I am asking you to please be even more gentle with me than you can even imagine.)

I could go on and on. But this blog post has lingered long enough in my drafts. I have so many other writing projects that are tied to actual deadlines. And so many real-life, holiday blessings to be enjoyed—even as I continue to process all of this, little by little, in the coming years. So I think this is where I will leave things for today.

Well. Except for this. One more point:

I experienced all of those emotions as a relatively educated-on-this-topic, never-thought-I-would-ever-respond-like-this, slightly-functional adult.

Can you imagine how hard it is for children to speak up when they are hurt physically? To say NO to someone who has all of the power in the situation? To not doubt and blame themselves? To not be afraid?

Oh, friends. Please be shrewd so that no child, no teenager, no college student, no one in your life has to ever go through this.

And if a loved one ever tells you that he or she has gone through this? Please. Be kind. Don’t preach. Just be present and supportive and loving and patient. Please don’t pry for details. Yes, make sure the person gets help in his or her time. As appropriate, be wise and take the steps necessary to do all you can to ensure that the person is stopped from hurting others in the future. But please. Please be gentle. More gentle than you can ever imagine. Because seriously—whatever we imagine about another person’s suffering when they go through something like this. Just like all suffering in all of life, it really doesn’t come close to the experience.

Isn’t this why Jesus had to come in the flesh? To know our sufferings—and so much more?

Today, I am particularly grateful for the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Today, just as every day for the last thirty years, I thank God that He is not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15) … but he took on flesh and knew hunger, cold, abandonment, betrayal, and abuse. Assault. He even knew what it is like for the Father to turn His face away (Mark 15;34)—which is a pain we will never know.

And so. With confidence, I draw near to the throne of grace, that I may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). And I pray the same for you.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for being a big part of my feeble attempts to reclaim my voice. Thank you (please!) for not speculating or praying—but for remembering that there is a difference between public life and private life.

In Christ our Hope, our Brother, and our Friend–

Tara B.

Sin Scatters Thoughts of Consolation

“Sin takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them.” John Owen, The Mortification of Sin


Should we strive for “boundaries”?


This week I have been completing some research for a current project and I came across these old notes of mine. I thought they might bless one or two of you as well, so here you go:

TKB Notes from Ed Welch’s (excellent!) article on ‘Boundaries’
in the Spring 2004 Journal of Biblical Counseling 

- Overcommitted people are the lifeblood of the church. People who say, “Yes” to one request are usually asked to do five more things. Even “Christian” books will encourage you to “set a personal boundary” and “just say no.” But is that how we should think about such things? Is “setting a boundary” a biblical paradigm?

- Rather than the term “boundary,” think in terms of biblical priorities (prayer, opportunities to meditate on Scripture, work, service, relationships, and rest). Ask yourself, “Am I out of whack in any of these areas?” If so, seek counsel as to how you can live a more healthful and “balanced” life.

- Remember! Love does not always mean self-sacrifice. Love and wisdom can mean saying no to service opportunities.

- Guard against making the desire to NOT disappoint others into an idol. We all have the tendency to overestimate our own importance and underestimate God’s care for his people and his church (and the gifts that God has given to others).

- Instead of “boundaries,” think in terms of the knowledge of God revealed in Christ; repentance; faith expressing itself in love. Love and discernment are the constituent parts of wisdom.

- Instead of erecting “boundaries,” ask, “How should I wisely love this person? What is my calling? What are my priorities?”

- The challenge of love is that it is so multi-faceted. Love may entail taking a bullet for someone OR kicking them out of your house. Love may mean bearing their burden or encouraging them and helping them as they bear their own burden.

- What about unhealthy relationships / relationships where someone has a history of exhausting people? What else does the person do to push people away? Constant grumbling and complaining? Frequent discussions of their own problems but unwilling to heed advice? Demands for inordinate amount of time? Careful! You cannot raise these issues casually; you cannot help them apart from a relationship with the person. Unhealthy sometimes means inconvenient. True—only room for a limited number of close friends; offer of friendship doesn’t obligate us to reciprocate in the way a person might want. An inconvenient relationship is an opportunity for us to examine our own hearts and seek what God has for us to do. Unhealthy sometimes means relationships that induce us to sin.

- Abuse? If physical—boundary is appropriate (call police, provide safe place, initiate a protection from abuse order, do whatever is necessary to protect her). Why? Love. Love says no to evil. Goal is to bless enemies and lead them to repentance. Lev. 19:17. How to rebuke and who you might have present with you when you rebuke once again are decisions that require wisdom.

- Walk in wisdom. Don’t erect boundaries. Sometimes you answer a foolish person, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you cover an offense, sometimes you speak out. You begin with the fear of the Lord, learn from similar situations, get the counsel of others, keep checking your own heart and its motives, remember your limitations, rehearse the law of love, recognize that keeping everyone happy is impossible but there are ways you can speak that encourage conciliation, mutual understanding, and unity.

- What about biblical admonitions like, “Don’t cast pearls before swine” (Matt 7:6) and “Expel wicked man from among you” (1 Cor 5:13)? Be very careful! Not a dominant metaphor of Scripture; should seek counsel when considering it.

** CAREFUL ** Thinking in terms of ‘boundaries’ can lead us to think more about self-protection than about love.

Because you’re better with words, you’re going to win this argument—but that doesn’t make you right.


The teacher wasn’t talking to me or even about me (in this specific situation), but he was so talking about me when he described a recent fight he had with his wife:

“Tempers were raging. She was hurt. I was hurt.

She started to slip down The Slippery Slope to her comfort zone—the Escape responses. I started to SLAM down The Slippery Slope into my area of expertise—Attack. (Not physically of course! Just putting all of those years of law school and seminary to work to attack in the most common way—with my words.)

But then. She was so brave. She was so accurate when she said to me: “Because you are better with words and you think faster than me, you are going to win this argument. But that doesn’t make you right.”

And I thought to myself:

“And it certainly doesn’t make you loving..”

Oh. Oh. Oh. How many times in my life have I won an argument, simply because I think fast and I’m good with words? But I haven’t been right. And I certainly haven’t been loving.

In a conversation with a friend yesterday, she confessed to me this same propensity to sin. (And it is a sin! James 3:8 paints a picture of the negative in stating that the tongue is a “restless evil full of deadly poison. James 1:26 says that the one who fails to keep a tight rein on her tongue has a worthless religion. Strong words! Plus, of course, Ephesians 4:29 states the positive, that all / every word we say ought to be edifying, “ministering God’s grace in its various forms.”)

But this teacher I heard years ago? My friend in our conversation yesterday? So many people—including myself for many, many years? We actually enjoy verbally backing people into corners.. It’s like a sport to us. And in the right place at the right time (debate society / moot court / an actual courtroom)? It is appropriate. Wise. Even loving.

But not usually. Not often in real life.

So—my fast thinking, good-with-words-friends? (And I’m pointing the finger at myself too!) Let’s be careful. Far, far more careful. Let’s stop using our words to back people into verbal corners as we remember:

“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness …

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And wa harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:5 & 17-18 ESV

For the glory of the Lamb and the actual loving of our real neighbors—

Your friend,
Tara B.

Peacemaker Conference Plenary #3 LiveBlog – Pastor Brady Boyd: Lessons Learned

Live Blog Peacemaker Conference Plenary #3 LiveBlog – Pastor Brady Boyd: Lessons Learned

(To access all of the 2014 Peacemaker Conference LiveBlogs, click here.)

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