Southborough L'Abri

Southborough L’Abri Winter 2019 Newsletter


Greetings from the Southborough L’Abri and Happy New Year!

I want to reflect on a passage that may be fresh in your minds:


For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.   (Isaiah 9:4-8 NIV)


Isaiah foresees light for a people in the darkness, freedom for a people long oppressed by enemies, and peace for a people who had suffered the hardships of war. Even the reminders of their violent past—the bloody boots and garments—will be burned and forgotten. The birth of a child is the grounds for this extravagant hope, but can a royal baby ¾ even when he is grown ¾ really secure this kind of freedom and peace? How? Isaiah’s prophecy builds towards the revelation of the child’s identity. All authority for governing will belong to him. He will also be wise—a wonderful counselor to his people. These are both grand claims, but the true shock comes in verse 6, and it is a claim of a different magnitude. This ruler, who will be born like anybody else, is God himself, the everlasting Father and the Prince of peace. Almighty God, born? I wonder how Isaiah’s original audience made sense of this blasphemous statement.


Wherever we choose to look in the world or throughout human history, the contrast between Jesus’s Lordship and ordinary human leadership is stark.  In Jesus alone we see (among many other things) perfect power married to perfect peace.  We see unrivalled authority to rule all things (Matt 28:18), but it is power that is exercised rightly at last! Jesus is not a malevolent dictator who defines peace only in selfish terms by silencing anyone who contradicts him. Neither is Jesus a well-meaning leader without the strength to bring real peace in his kingdom. Jesus is the Prince of peace, a title that communicates both his commitment to peace and his authority to bring it. It is as the Prince of peace that Jesus calls his followers, regardless of their earthly authority, to be makers of peace (Matt 5:9). This is a life-long endeavor demanding courage, creativity, and a willingness to face conflicts with the goal of reconciliation. As with all aspects of life we are called to look to the ultimate peacemaker as our model. We put Christ himself on display when we make peace in the world and we will be known as children of our Father in heaven (Matt 5:9).


Despite this high call on our lives, few of us pursue peace as actively as we should. Because peace making is very difficult, many of us prefer to be peace lovers, avoiding unpleasant conflicts and choosing the path of least resistance in our relationships. When I pray to God for peace in my life, I sometimes catch myself—realizing that I am not praying for the courage to make peace in difficult circumstances. Rather I am asking God to help me maintain an experience of inner tranquility by avoiding the tensions of the day. At times, even ‘peace loving’ seems like an uncomfortable commitment to potential action, so I opt for ‘peace feeling’, and try to enlist God to support me in my passivity. To put it bluntly, I am in danger of turning Jesus’s challenge to actively make peace into a desire to be left alone. Hopefully I am unique in this struggle!


‘Peace feeling’ ignores a central aspect of imitating our Lord, which is to accept that peace is costly. In Isaiah 53 we learn that the title ‘Prince of Peace’ is a costly one for the Prince himself. The peace that the suffering servant makes is crucial and restorative, bringing reconciliation between sinful people and their Holy God. The servant does not seek peace for himself but for his people by offering himself as a sacrifice: “…the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5). The Apostle Paul refers to the reconciliation forged by Jesus’s death: “for God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Col 1:19-20) The perfect peace, brought by the child of Isaiah 9, is made a reality only by the cross. By resolving the foundational problem of human sin, Jesus begins to establish his kingdom of peace everywhere: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace…” (Is. 9:7, NASB)


The nature of this connection between Christ’s perfect peace and his perfect authority is shown most fully by Paul in his letter to the Philippians. Motivated by his love, Jesus:

 “…did not consider equality with God

something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
                he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
                    even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:6-11, NIV)


It is precisely because of Jesus’ willingness to give up his divine power that all authority is given to him by the Father. We never need to fear that our King is a power hungry ruler abusing his privileges.  He is God, but he is God who became nothing. His love for us superseded his attachment to power. In this, Jesus reveals himself as the only one who can really be trusted to wield absolute power.


Meanwhile, there is peace to make each day. As we set out to do this, we need to remember that we are bringers of peace only because Jesus has brought it to us.




Our ‘time between terms’ was a good mix of rest and work.  We are expecting a good number of students for our winter term. Please join us in praising God for this answer to prayer. We are particularly thankful that most of our students are booked in for the entire term, something that has been increasingly rare in the past few years.


Mary Frances has returned from her sabbatical, most of which was spent in Vancouver B.C. She found her studies at Regent College to be fruitful and energizing. Please pray for her as she settles back into her home, life at L’Abri, and involvement with her church.


Dick and Mardi are doing well although they need prayer for some of their physical ailments. Please pray for Dick’s glaucoma, which continues to be a concern. Also pray for Mardi as she manages the pain in her leg. Dick is helping to organize a conference scheduled for this summer in Nashville, TN. Please pray for God’s blessing on the conference and on all the preparations. Please pray for Mardi’s discernment as she restarts a writing project after a break of a few months.


The Friedrichs have just completed their first year of working here in Southborough. It has been a blessing to have them here and they have settled in well. One important bit of news is that Cole (14) has started attending the local middle school for the first time (after being homeschooled). He loves the school and seems to be thriving. Please pray for him, as it is still a new thing. Anna is still homeschooling Adam (12).


Nickaela and I are both very thankful for the wonderful team of workers that God has provided. Please pray for us as we balance family, work, and leadership responsibilities. Particularly pray for Nickaela as she has joined the board at our church. I would also appreciate prayer for my ongoing efforts to protect L’Abri’s land (and by extension the neighborhood) from a potentially very destructive housing development. Our kids Ellie, Abby (both 11), and Noah (7) are all keeping busy at the Imago School.


Joshua and Sarah Chestnut are thriving and continue to bring their love for people and hospitality to the work here.  They have enjoyed serving in the children’s ministry at their church. Their kids Jacob (8) and Lily (3) are both doing well. Jacob is at Imago and Lily is at a local pre-school.


Please pray with us for a fruitful term—that God would sustain our team and bless our students with growth and insight.


Please pray for the February conference in Rochester, MN. Several of our workers will be speaking at the conference and the branch will be short staffed while they are gone. 


Please pray for our theme weekend, which will address the issue of fragmentation in our culture today. There is a lot of work still to be done on these lectures and, as always, we need God’s guidance as we develop our ideas.


Please pray for God to continue using us here, and thank him for the ways in which he has shown Himself to be faithfully at work!



May God bless you,


Ben Keyes