Author: Todd Wood

I am a servant of Jesus in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Join me in seeking Jesus in this city.

Nine who came home

Charles Barnes provides a fascinating window into home ministry here in Idaho Falls with this post on “Nine who came home”:

Over the history of Idaho Falls, the average length of time that pastors have served their church in our city has been between 4 and 5 years, a value not much different from national averages. That value also matches the average tenure of CEOs with Fortune 500 companies (4.6 years in 2013), although if a broader range of companies is included, the average increases to 8 years. Jesus, as permanent CEO and Chief Shepherd of His church, can certainly move his junior shepherds around as much as He wants, for their own good and the good of His church. But there is something admirable about pastors who stick with a church for the long haul, who remain faithful and committed to a community and a congregation through all their ups and downs, year after year. And it’s even more notable when that place that they serve is their hometown. Jesus Himself pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown (John 4:44). But in the history of Idaho Falls, at least seven men and two women have come back to their hometown to serve Jesus as pastors.

The earliest was Rev. Don Austin. His father, Herbert, was born in England, came to America in 1887 and to Idaho Falls in 1903 when he was 19. Along with his brother Joseph, Herbert worked on farms north of town and in the Birch Creek area. He married Clara Smith in Idaho Falls in 1905. Don, the fifth of six children, was born in 1913. Don attended the Payne Siding School about four miles north of town on the west side of the river; he later went to schools in Idaho Falls. When Don was eight, his parents purchased the Eagle Rock Ranch eight miles north of town. The following year Don lost his sight in one eye from an accident involving barbed wire, and late in life lost most of the sight in his other eye as well. Raised in the Idaho Falls Methodist Church, Don accepted the Lord in a tent meeting on the property that is now Hawthorne Elementary School. In his late teens, Don went to Oregon and there met and married Evalyn Mae Kissler. He attended Bible School at a church in Caldwell, working there on a dairy farm. Don pastored Pentecostal churches in Fruitland and Albion for a few years before coming back to Idaho Falls in the late 1930’s. By then all three of Don’s brothers were farming along the Snake River north of town. His brothers asked Don and his wife to move in town and start a church. After purchasing property, the brothers drove their tractors into Idaho Falls to dig the basement of the church, and with the help of his father as well, built the church building that still stands at 260 Gladstone Street. Don served as pastor in Idaho Falls for 50 years, from 1941 until 1990. A member of his church recalls that he was one of the kindest ministers she ever knew – he loved people and would help them any way he could. She also remembers him as a man of prayer and fasting, and his son adds that it was very common to hear Don praying in his church at any hour of the day. It was also common for Don and his brother Bill to spend a full week in prayer and fasting. For many years, Don led evangelistic street meetings in downtown Idaho Falls, often on Saturday nights. Most every Sunday, his church would eat dinner together after their worship service. Rev. Austin occasionally filled the pulpit and led special meetings at other churches in Idaho Falls. He was a leader in the Idaho Falls Ministerial Association in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and over the years preached in numerous churches and held revival meetings in many communities in the Northwest. Like many pastors in Idaho Falls, he was bi-vocational. For about 15 years he ran a second hand store called Circle Dot Furniture, located on the corner of Park and Eagle Rock Avenues. Rev. Austin died in 2003 and is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery. His legacy includes the ministry of his two children – his daughter Donna married a pastor and they started churches in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Illinois and Iowa, and his son Ken traveled as an evangelist for a number of years, served as minister in churches in Idaho Falls, Great Falls, Montana and Redwood City, California, opened a work in Boise – the Boise Bible Assembly, and has spoken in many churches across the United States, Canada and Haiti.

Ron Dugone and Mike Stearns served as back to back pastors at New Life Assembly of God over a period of nearly 30 years. Ron was born in Oklahoma but moved to Idaho Falls at a very early age; on his blogs and Facebook page he lists Idaho Falls as his home town. Ron’s father Joseph worked as an engineer at the INL and was highly regarded in the Idaho Falls Christian community. Ron graduated from Skyline High School in 1973 and Mike a year later. Both grew up going to the Assembly of God Church on Holmes Avenue. After high school, Ron enrolled in Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. Mike studied for a year at the University of Idaho, and then transferred to Northwest University. After graduating from NU, Ron took a youth pastor position in Porterville, California, while Mike became the Associate Pastor of the Idaho Falls Assembly of God Church. Before a year was out Mike found himself filling in as the senior pastor of the church, a position he didn’t feel qualified for. After six months, Ron and Jody Dugone came back to Idaho Falls to fill the pastorate. Mike stayed on as Associate Pastor until September, 1983. This was a time of rapid growth for the church, doubling and then tripling in size. One Sunday afternoon they baptized 72 people. Four lots on 12th street had been donated to the church, and construction of a new building was started in 1981 and completed in May of 1984, with most of the work being done by members of the church. The church name was changed to New Life Assembly of God, and a kindergarten through Junior High school started. Ron and Jody stayed until 1988, and then Mike Stearns, who had been pastoring churches in Challis, Payette and New Plymouth in the mid 1980’s, came back to lead the church until 2008.

Don Patterson has a heart for the Lord and for Idaho Falls, and has seen a lot of change in the spiritual climate of the city during his lifetime. He has pastored the Community Church of God in Christ since 1993. This is the same church Don attended growing up in Idaho Falls (he lived next door to the church), and prior to becoming pastor, served as youth pastor, choir director and Sunday school superintendent. Don graduated from Idaho Falls High School in 1966 and Idaho State University in 1972, with a degree in Business Administration. In both high school and college, Don was a member of school choirs and a frequent soloist. He will tell you that he always felt that he would someday be a pastor, and at age 33, while working for Mountain Bell Telephone in Idaho Falls, Don experienced a call to ministry, and began to prepare. Since taking the helm at Community Church of God in Christ, Don has continued working in telecommunications – for many years for Idaho National Laboratory contractors, and more recently for the University of Idaho in their offices at University Place. Don has spent many hours in prayer for the welfare of our community, and given many hours volunteering in community activities and organizations, including serving as president of the Eastern Idaho Chapter of the Urban League, being on the board of the East-Central Idaho Planning and Development Association, being a member of the Mayor’s Cultural Awareness and Human Relations Committee, a member of the Idaho Falls Symphony Chorale, and speaking at events held in Idaho Falls on the National Day of Prayer. Don looks for opportunities to minister for the Lord wherever he is, and the Lord brings people to him, to point them to Christ or encourage their faith.

Don Casper was born in Sacred Heart Hospital on South Boulevard. His father was also born in Idaho Falls and served as pastor of Assembly of God churches in several communities in Utah and Idaho, including Firth from 1965 to 1980. In his teenage years Don went through a rebellious period, leaving home and leaving church. Through his sister and niece, he came back to Lord and was introduced to a small Apostolic church that was meeting in what had once been a garage. Don felt called to preach in 1997, and began a rigorous time of preparation through his church. He has been the pastor of New Hope Apostolic Church since it began in 2004. The church initially met in the Idaho Falls library, moving in just after Berean Baptist moved out into their own building. The church moved to its present location on Yellowstone Avenue in 2006, and now, in 2015, is looking for a larger facility. Like Don Patterson, Don Casper is bi-vocational and is currently the lead instructor of computer networking at Eastern Idaho Technical College. If you ask Don about how God has worked in the people of his church, he will tell you story after story of how God answered prayers. The people of his church have learned to pray, and when they encounter problems they connect with each other to pray, and they expect God to answer. He will also tell you the reality of God’s love in his life and the life of the members of his church.

Todd Wood was born in the LDS hospital on the banks of the Snake River in Idaho Falls in December of 1969. Reared in a Christian home, his parents enrolled him in Gethsemane Christian School in 1974. Mrs. Sue Lovegrove, the wife of Gethsemane’s pastor, was his fouryear-old kindergarten teacher. His family attended Gethsemane Baptist Church throughout his days as a youth. During a high school week at Red Cliff Bible Camp near Pinedale, Wyoming, the Lord directed Todd’s heart towards Christian ministry. He graduated from Skyline High School in 1988 and went to Bible college in South Carolina. After obtaining his undergraduate degree in Christian missions in 1992, he married his high school sweetheart, Kristie Ann Grothaus. Born in Idaho Falls as well, she was finishing her nursing degree from Boise State University in 1993. Todd and Kristie then went back East so that he could obtain a Master of Divinity degree. After school, Todd did a church internship in Elko, Nevada, before settling once again in Idaho Falls in 1997 to pastor the new church plant of Berean Baptist Church. He resigned as senior pastor of Berean Baptist Church in 2014 and ministers currently as interim pastor. Todd loves the people of Idaho Falls and the great outdoors. His desire is to see multiple, thriving, small church fellowships in the city in future years for the glory of God. He enjoys hiking and leading Bible studies. One of his favorite passages in the Bible is Isaiah 61:1-3.

Like Don Patterson, Nathan Swisher knew from an early age that he was called into the ministry. Having parents who were very involved in music and other ministries, Nathan grew up going to many church services and activities. As a teen he became disenchanted with church, but not with God. At age 18, while watching the movie Brave Heart, God gripped Nathan’s heart with the desire to serve Him. Following graduation from Idaho Falls High School, Nathan took off to Scotland to attend Youth With A Mission’s Discipleship Training School. As part of that training, he was involved in missions in Amman, Jordan and in northern India. After being in the Himalayas about a year, Nathan was asked by his family to come home to Idaho Falls to help with his sister, who had a kidney disease and needed a transplant. Nathan, who by this time was leading the outreach in India, struggled with the decision and didn’t want to come back to Idaho, but became convinced it was the Lord’s will. Back in Idaho Falls in 1997, Nathan and a friend, Zach Blickens, founded Freedom Ministries, a citywide youth outreach that focused on using music and the arts to reach and equip young people for Christ. As their ministry grew, they met in different venues at different times, and for several years saw 150 youth come weekly to a former theater by the old Fred Meyer building. After Zach moved to Cedar Rapids in 2000, Nathan shifted the emphasis of Freedom Ministries to discipleship. In 2001 Nathan became the youth pastor at Shiloh Foursquare Church, and now serves there as Associate Pastor. Since joining Shiloh he has taken on ever increasing responsibilities, including developing teams that work with youth of all ages, leading worship, organizing youth camps, helping with the Mountain River Bible Institute in Idaho Falls and leading mission teams from various Foursquare churches in Eastern Idaho in ministry in Mexico.

Cathy Chisholm grew up in Indiana but made Idaho Falls her home in 1977 when her husband took a job with Westinghouse. She says the congregation of First Presbyterian Church “nurtured me and my children, called forth gifts for ministry, and offered so many opportunities to learn, grow and serve.” Her service in the church included volunteering as secretary, serving as elder and, for five years, as director of adult ministries. Realizing a call to pastoral ministry while in Idaho Falls, she left in 1990 to pursue a degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. After seminary, she led congregations in Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, and California. With her 4-year contract with a church in the Los Angeles area coming to a close late last year, she took time off for a trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons in September, and stopped in Idaho Falls to see friends from First Presbyterian Church. They not only told her that that very day was their pastor’s last Sunday, concluding his 14 years of ministry at the church, but they encouraged Cathy to apply for the newly-opened position of Transitional Pastor. Cathy did, was given the position, and moved back to Idaho Falls in early January, 2015. She views her role now as helping the church “reflect on the past, come to terms with the reality of loss and change, celebrate joys, prepare for what’s next and be moved by the Holy Spirit to use God’s gifts to glorify Jesus Christ through service, worship, teaching and celebration.”

Growing up in Idaho Falls, Katie Trent had a desire to know the truth about God. Her father was a Catholic, her mother had an LDS background. Katie met her husband James in 2003 while attending Boise State University, and accepted Jesus into her heart in 2004. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 2006 from Boise State and Master’s Degree in 2011 from Northwest Nazarene University. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and since graduating has worked as a counselor and program manager of a mental health clinic in Boise. She is passionate about ministering to people, and helping them know and become like Christ. She and her husband James moved to Idaho Falls in late February 2015 to prepare to plant a new church, Grace Falls, here. Katie has also started work as a counselor with New Life Counseling, a ministry of the Idaho Falls Rescue Mission. We have no doubt that God has called and used many other men and women in Idaho Falls, some who stayed for decades and others who were here but a few years, some who God brought from other parts of the country, others who grew up in nearby communities in Southeast Idaho, and many who grew up in Idaho Falls and served in Christ’s body in various ways. Yet this brief summary provides a glimpse one of the ways Jesus has been at work in Idaho Falls – calling men and women to serve him as pastors in their hometown.

Samuel Wishard on Christ-centered homiletics

Charles Barnes notes this:

Samuel Wishard organized the First Presbyterian Church in Idaho Falls in 1891, and several other churches in Southeast Idaho in the 1890’s. Here is his advice on sermon preparation and preaching:

  • Preach the Lord Jesus Christ
  • Preach by the authority of Christ
  • Preach in Christ’s stead
  • Preach with the help of Christ
  • Preach with hope in Christ
  • Preach with the love of Christ
  • Preach to please Christ
  • Preach to glorify Christ
  • Preach in imitation of Christ
  • Preach expecting to give account to Christ.

Bitter to the End

With Pastor Tim Rupp’s permission, I am posting his message which he shared yesterday at Old Faithful Christian Ranch.

Bitter to the End

2 Samuel 2

March 1, 2015

(OFCR Men’s Retreat)

Purpose statement: Bitterness will kill you.

Background: I was a bitter man. I’d like to tell you my story. You call it a “testimony.” It’s a story of God working in my life. I was a soldier in the army of Israel, serving under Israel’s greatest king, King David. I’d seen combat, in fact I’d seen plenty of combat. Men’s lives had been shed on my blade. I was good at my job, in fact I was the best. There was no one better than I at strategy and military tactics.

My specialty was my ability to read men.

Sometimes a soldier must strike quickly; sometimes he must wait. I could read men, I knew their strengths and their weaknesses. As a soldier I knew when to strike. I knew how to bide my time. To be patient and wait when the time was right. I didn’t always fight fair—but I always fought to win. In warfare winning is the only option.

But my passion for winning spilled over into every aspect of my life. For me winning was everything. I didn’t just win, I crushed my enemies. A dead enemy was a harmless enemy, in war or in everyday life. For me there were two types of people in life, winners and losers. I wasn’t a loser. When those close to me would suggest I had an unhealthy obsession with winning, I’d laugh it off and tell them I was just driven.

Yes, I used to think of myself as driven, or perhaps determined or maybe even ambitious. But never obsessed. Obsession suggests I’m not in control. But driven, determined, and ambitious are positive words! They suggest I’m in control of my own destiny. Obsessed! Are you kidding me!

Let me share a little of my family and background before the army.

  1. Before the Army

Ever since I was a young boy I dreamed of growing up and being a soldier like my famous uncle. My name is Joab. My story is recorded in three OT books, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 1 Chronicles. I am one of three boys; my brothers are Abishai [abby-shy] and Asahel [asa-el], our mother is Zeruiah, my dad is Suri.[1] We were from the little village of Bethlehem. Yes, that Bethlehem, where a thousand years after my day Jesus would be born.

My family’s genealogy is given in 1 Chronicles 2, go there. You might note my father’s name isn’t given, only my mother’s. This is because mom comes from a really important family. Mom had several brothers and a sister, her father, my maternal grandfather, is Jesse.

I don’t like to brag, well, maybe I do, take a look, 1 Chron. 2:13-16, “Jesse [that’s my grandfather] fathered Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, David [that’s King David] the seventh.  And their sisters were Zeruiah [that’s mom, David’s sister] and Abigail. The sons of Zeruiah: Abishai, Joab [that’s me], and Asahel, three.”

So there I am listed with my two brothers, Abishai and Asahel along with Grandpa Jesse and Uncle David. But also note the one cousin listed, Amasa, 2:17, “Abigail bore Amasa, and the father of Amasa was Jether the Ishmaelite.Amasa will figure an important part later in my life.

I remember with fondness my early childhood, we three boys were inseparable. Being so close in age, we were always horse-playing, which often led to fighting. But that seems to be common with brothers. The passion for soldiering was shared among my brothers. Coming from a shepherding family we found lots of time to hone our weaponry skills while tending sheep.

Because our Uncle David wasn’t much older than we were, we always regarded him as an older brother more than an uncle. In fact, we tended sheep with him before he became famous after killing Goliath. It was David that began to teach us the skills of weaponry, as you might have guessed, David was partial to the sling. David was amazing with the sling, I recall when he took out a lion one fall and in the spring he knocked down a bear; both with his sling! But the most amazing thing about David was that he had a quiet confidence about him that I envied. David was able to detach himself from the violence that seemed to follow him wherever he went. Whereas, I wasn’t able to separate myself from the violence.

Often I’d catch David quietly meditating or writing. “Come on, David, let’s practice sword fighting!” I’d say to him. “In a little bit,” he’d reply, “I’m busy now.” I just couldn’t figure my uncle out. He was so unassuming. If I hadn’t personally witnessed his skill and courage, I’d have thought he was some harp playin’, poetry lovin’ sissy. But David was different. Unlike me, he had compassion and a forgiving spirit. I forgave no man, you cross me—you will pay.

Shortly after killing Goliath David left to serve Saul, Israel’s king. Saul was our first king and the first to raise a standing army for Israel. As a nation we’d had our share of war, but since conquering the land under the leadership of Joshua, Israel never had a standing national army. Under King Saul the army mustered some 3,000 men, but it quickly dwindled down to only 600. I was afraid there’d be nothing left by the time I was old enough to join the army. But, that turned out not to be true at all.

After David left, my brothers and I were left to carry on without him. But he became our inspiration. We couldn’t wait to grow up and join the army, serving with David.

We’d have contests using our handmade bows, spears, and wooden swords and daggers, and of course the sling. My brothers were every bit as competitive as I; the result was we all became very skilled with our weapons. My favorite was the dagger [display dagger]. I liked close combat. Often a fight would break out after one of our “friendly” competitions and Abishai and Asahel would gang up on me. Knowing their weaknesses, I was always able to take the two of them—separately or together. I discovered I had a mental edge over them. It was then that I realized how important the mind was in battle. My brothers had skill, but I had just the little edge needed that put me over the top. I knew what they were thinking. I knew their weaknesses. When they hesitated, I struck.

Before I knew it, we had grown into strong, competent, and skilled young men. Our desire for war never faltered. To be honest, I’d put my brothers up against any man I knew. But in close, hand-to-hand combat, I could still take either one or both. Unless, of course, Abishai used his spear. I hate to admit it, but my brothers did regularly beat me in two areas in which they specialized, and would become famous for. Abishai could use a spear like no man I’d seen.

It was like he became one with the spear. I swear Abishai could split a hair at twenty paces! Not only that, he learned to use it to wield off attacks using both the sharp and the blunt end. When Abishai drew his spear, I’d not get near him. You may think I’m exaggerating about Abishai’s skill, but consider what is recorded of him in the Bible. In 1 Chronicles 11 is a list of mighty warriors who severed under King David. Look at what is said of Abishai, 1 Chron. 11:20, “Now Abishai, the brother of Joab, was chief of the thirty. And he wielded his spear against 300 men and killed them and won a name beside the three.” I told you he was good!

Asahel’s specialty was speed. He could run like the wind, a great advantage in our day when most men fought afoot. Asahel had endurance and never seemed to be winded. Although the least skilled fighter, he was by far the fastest of us three, again the Bible records his skill, 2 Sam. 2:18, “And the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Now Asahel was as swift of foot as a wild gazelle.”

So, there we were all grown up when the most unexpected thing happened, David deserted the army.

  1. Joining David’s Army

After going into the army David quickly made a name for himself, became a captain, and married one of Saul’s daughters. David and Jonathan (Saul’s eldest son), another war hero, became best of friends. Everything was set for my brothers and me to join the army when things went awry.

Seems Saul had it in for Uncle David and attempted to kill him. But with the help of Jonathan, David escaped and fled into the wilderness with Saul and his army in pursuit. This is when my brothers and I joined with David. I didn’t want to go against my king, but I knew my uncle’s heart. David wouldn’t have fled without good reason. I figured if I were on David’s side, I’d be on the side of right. That turned out to be a good call.

It was during this time, under the command of David that I learned the art of war. I learned how to outsmart the enemy, how to use the terrain to gain an advantage, and how to beat a superior numbered force. But most what I learned from David was how he trusted God for victory. It seemed David had not stopped his habit of meditating or writing. Nor did he lack that quiet confidence I found in him. But, I was no David. David may have trusted God for victory, but I was much more pragmatic. Or, so I believed—I trusted me.

While there’s no doubt David was a brave warrior he was also a man with a gentle and quiet spirit. I was not. I was a man of violence and I used violent means to achieve an end.

I recall one night, after everyone had turned in I found David sitting next to a dwindling camp fire, writing. “What are you writing, David, strategic plans of attack?” I asked. He smiled, shook his head and said, “No, I’m writing a song.” “A song! Are you kidding me! Saul’s army is encamped just on the other side of those rocks and you’re writing lyrics to a song!” I exclaimed.

David looked up from his work and smiled, “Yes, Joab, I am.” “Okay, I’m game. Read me what you have so far.” As David looked into the fire I could see the flames dancing in his eyes as he contemplated, “Well, I was thinking about all this fighting and how scary it gets at times when death is so close it feels like a shadow covering you. Then the Lord called to mind the time when we used to tend sheep. Remember those days, Joab?” I nodded my recollection. “Well, here’s what I’ve written:”

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4      Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

“Well good luck with that David!” I smirked; “I’m going to get some shuteye.” Again a sincere smile came across David’s face, “Goodnight, Joab.”

That’s the difference between David and me; while the Lord is his Shepherd, I follow no one. When wronged, I take action. When wronged, I make things right. When wronged, I go for the kill. So, there you have it. David took matters to the Lord, I took matters in my own hands, let me give you an example, it comes from the first battle after David was crowned king over Judah.

  • The Battle of Gibeon

As you know, America’s bloodiest war was its Civil War. Civil war is the worst kind. Brother against brother, father against son, families split, and victory doesn’t feel like victory when your brother receives the business end of your weapon.

The decisive battle in your American Civil War took place at Gettysburg, it was a victory for the Union. The first battle the Bible records of my involvement was also the decisive battle of our first civil war, it was fought at the pool of Gibeon, half-way between where the two kings had set up their thrones. The story is recorded in 2 Samuel 2. Remember, Saul was king and had been pursing David. At the same time Saul was also at war against the Philistines. My brothers and I were with David and a band of about 600 warriors loyal to David—fighting men all. While Israel was at war with the Philistines our little army had been engaged in secret guerilla warfare against the Philistines. But even with our help things went bad for Israel. King Saul and three of his sons, including Jonathan, were killed in battle against the Philistines leaving no king on the throne.

David, having been anointed by Samuel years before to succeed Saul as king over Israel, inquired of the Lord if he should go to Judah, which is in southern Israel. The Lord told him to go, so David led the whole clan, some 600 men, and our families, to Judah. When we arrived at the towns around Hebron the people crowned him king over Judah. This wasn’t a big surprise, this was the area where we grew up; our hometown of Bethlehem was only about ten miles north of Hebron, where David set up headquarters.

Judah was the largest of the tribes; but, mind you, not all of Israel was ready to forsake Saul’s family. In an effort to maintain his power, Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, established Ishbosheth, a son of Saul by a mistress, as king over the remaining tribes of Israel, causing an immediate split, 2 Sam. 2:8-10,8 But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim, and he made him king over Gilead and the Ashurites and Jezreel and Ephraim and Benjamin and all Israel. 10 Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David.”

As you might have imagined, things were tense. Like America split North and South with two presidents, Lincoln and Davis. We too were split North and South with two kings, Ishbosheth and David.

The years under David proved that not only was I competent in military tactics, I was also a leader. I was a leader men would follow into combat. And David could find no one more loyal than me. I was loyal to my king and my country. David had several competent soldiers, but I was the one he chose to be his commanding general.

After months of posturing and small skirmishes the two armies met. On that fateful day Abner brought his army south and I led mine north. The two armies came face-to-face at a small pool located at a place called Gibeon, 2:12-13, 12 Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 13 And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. And they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool.”

So there we were, in a face-off. Neither side making a move. I had been discussing strategy with my brothers and was about to call for an attack when Abner proposed a compromise. He suggested each side select 12 men to represent the two armies. The 24 men would engage in battle and the winner would decide the victory. Well, that suited me just fine, I agreed to the challenge, here’s how it’s recorded, 2:14-15, 14 And Abner said to Joab, ‘Let the young men arise and compete before us.’ And Joab said, ‘Let them arise.’ 15 Then they arose and passed over by number, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David.”

The 24 men fought bravely, each fighting for his king and country, but it ended with no one victorious, and no one left alive, 2:16, “And each caught his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side, so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, which is at Gibeon.” Helkath-hazzurim—the field of daggers!

As soon as the last of the men fell I signaled for an attack, Abner was caught off guard and we scored a decisive victory, 2:17, “And the battle was very fierce that day. And Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David.” It’s a day that I will never forget, not because we won the battle; but because of the great loss I suffered.

Abner realized he couldn’t take us and fled, making a beeline north attempting to save what he could of his men. But my brothers and I weren’t about to let him escape unscathed, Abishai and I glanced at Asahel. No words needed to be exchanged, we three were of one spirit. Asahel met our look, gave us a smile of conformation and bolted like a wild gazelle after Abner who was running for all he’s worth, 2:18-19, 18 And the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Now Asahel was as swift of foot as a wild gazelle. 19 And Asahel pursued Abner, and as he went, he turned neither to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner.”

Abner didn’t get far when Asahel started closing in on him, 2:20, “Then Abner looked behind him and said, ‘Is it you, Asahel?’ And he answered, ‘It is I.’” Looking back, I have to admit, Abner did give Asahel warning. Asahel was faster and stronger, but Abner was the more seasoned soldier. In many ways Abner and I were alike, we could read people. We knew their weaknesses and would strike when they least expected it. But, this time Abner warned Asahel twice.

Abner wasn’t warning Asahel out of mercy, he knew if something happened to Asahel he’d have me to deal with, 2:21-22, 21 Abner said to him, ‘Turn aside to your right hand or to your left, and seize one of the young men and take his spoil.’ But Asahel would not turn aside from following him. 22 And Abner said again to Asahel, ‘Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?’”

Asahel was a son of Zeruiah. We were cut from the same cloth. Concede victory? No way. It was all or nothing, we cower to no man, 2:23, “But he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died where he was. And all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still.”

Asahel’s death brought our army to a screeching halt. As the men came upon my brother’s lifeless body, they stopped. The sight of Asahel lying dead, with his insides poured out on the ground caused the men to stop and think. They realized Abner was luring them into a trap. Abner was gaining the high ground placing his army at a tactical advantage. My men stopped their pursuit. By now it was getting late. Abner was assembling his troops and preparing to redeploy them. My men were right to stop. I didn’t.

When we caught up to the men gathered around Asahel’s body Abishai and I continued on right to the front of our army. It wasn’t good tactics, a sense of duty, or loyalty to the king that was driving us. It was bitter anger, 2:24, “But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner. And as the sun was going down they came to the hill of Ammah, which lies before Giah on the way to the wilderness of Gibeon.” The men, loyal soldiers all, had fallen in behind and continued the pursuit, foolish as it was.

That’s when Abner stopped; he had gained the upper hand, 2:25, “And the people of Benjamin gathered themselves together behind Abner and became one group and took their stand on the top of a hill.”

Abishai and I stopped at the bottom of the hill and looked up at Abner and his army. It would have been nothing short of suicide to attempt further pursuit. Abner knew it and we knew it.

Then Abner spoke some words of wisdom. In the midst of battle he kept his wits about him, for that I must respect him. Here’s what he said, 2:26, “Then Abner called to Joab, ‘Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?’”

He asked three rhetorical questions; all that cut to the heart of the matter. This is the wisdom of a counselor. Rather than telling me what to do he asked me questions. Asking questions is much less threatening to me. It makes me think, it gives me a choice, and makes me defend my position. Look again at what he said, his first question was, “Shall the sword devour forever?” This war had been going on for a long time. When would it end? In conflict that pits brother against brother the only winner is death, symbolized by the sword. It may not always be physical death, it may be the death of a relationship. But death is the only winner.

His second question was, “Do you not know that the end will be bitter?” Nothing good comes from a power struggle within a family. When there’s a winner, there must be a loser. No matter who prevails there will remain a bitterness between the parties.

His third question was, “How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” In other words, “The ball’s in your court, you can stop this right now.” Still seething with anger I realized Abner’s words hit a cord with my men and resentfully, I told him as much, 2:27, “And Joab said, ‘As God lives, if you had not spoken, surely the men would not have given up the pursuit of their brothers until the morning.’”

I’d like to say I listened to Abner’s wisdom, but I didn’t. This moment was a turning point in my life. Had I listened, my life would have taken a very different direction. But, I didn’t listen; I was controlled by bitterness. Rather than believing he was being honest, I suspected Abner realized eventually I’d prevail…I mean we’d prevail, David’s army would…this wasn’t about me; was it? Maybe it was. Maybe my life was all about me.

Nevertheless, I realized charging up that hill would be suicide for me and my men. This day’s battle was over; I sounded retreat, 2:28, “So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men stopped and pursued Israel no more, nor did they fight anymore.”

IV.            Joab commits murder

As the war dredged on David became more powerful and Ishbosheth weaker. It became abundantly clear that soon all of Israel would recognize David as king. Abner was no fool, he could see what was coming. Although Ishbosheth was king, Abner was the one with the real power in Israel and he sent a message to David seeking a truce. David took the bait and welcomed Abner with open arms, even making a big feast for him. After negotiations Abner departed in peace.

I knew nothing of this until I returned to Hebron from a campaign, 2 Sam. 3:22-23, 22 Just then the servants of David arrived with Joab from a raid, bringing much spoil with them. But Abner was not with David at Hebron, for he had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the army that was with him came, it was told Joab, ‘Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he has let him go, and he has gone in peace.’”

I couldn’t believe it! Was David getting soft? Was he losing his edge, didn’t he realize what Abner was up to? Abner came to spy out David’s resources, not to make peace—or at least that’s the way I saw it! I had a private word with the King, 3:24-25, 24 Then Joab went to the king and said, ‘What have you done? Behold, Abner came to you. Why is it that you have sent him away, so that he is gone? 25 You know that Abner the son of Ner came to deceive you and to know your going out and your coming in, and to know all that you are doing.’”

David wouldn’t listen. He figured Abner was being straight. David told me it was done and he had sent Abner away in peace, I was told to leave it alone. Well I wasn’t. This wasn’t about peace between Israel and Judah, this was about what Abner did to my brother. I wasn’t about to let it go.

As soon as I left I sent men to entice Abner back to the city, 3:26, “When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it.” If David wasn’t going to take care of matters, I would.

I went to the city gate and waited. It wasn’t long before Abner and his entourage crested the horizon and made their way back to the city gate. Abner greeted me with a smile and a customary bow. I returned the gestures and asked him inside the gate’s guardroom, “I have a special message for you, my friend,” I told him, 3:27, “And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother.”

As his life was draining from his body Abner looked into my eyes, his lips struggling to form words. Slowly I removed my dagger from his gut and I heard a gurgled whisper, “Do you not know that the end will be bitter?”

How did he know bitterness would mark my life? I served David as commander of his army my whole life. Success? I had it. Position? I had it. Wealth, I had it. But all was wrapped in bitterness.

Abner was right. I died a bitter man. In another fit of rage I murdered a second time; this time it was my own cousin, Amasa. David chose Amasa to replace me as commander after I killed Absalom against David’s wishes. I held my position under David as commander to the bitter end. And that’s what it was, a bitter end.

After David died I sided with his son Adonijah to replace him as king, even though I knew David’s wish was for Solomon to take the throne. From his deathbed David warned Solomon about me, 1 Kings 2:5-6 ‘Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet. Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace.’” As Abner, David too was prophetic. I wouldn’t go to the grave in peace.

Solomon became king and upon learning I had sided against him, he ordered my death. I fled to the tabernacle and took hold of the altar; 2:28, “When the news came to Joab—for Joab had supported Adonijah although he had not supported Absalom—Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and caught hold of the horns of the altar.”

As I knelt there my bloodstained hands on the altar I thought about my life. It had been all about me. When someone crossed me, I’d eliminate them. I had no use for anyone that didn’t see things my way. The words David wrote came to mind, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Why didn’t I follow that path? Because it had always been about me and what I wanted. For me life was a never ending war. I was at war with everyone, my king, my wife, my children, and even my God.

Would anyone mourn my passing? How would I be remembered? I prayed my children would not be like their father. Again Abner’s words came to mind, “Do you not know that the end will be bitter?”

Solomon was given word as to my whereabouts; I knew the end was near, 2:29-32, “29 And when it was told King Solomon, ‘Joab has fled to the tent of the Lord, and behold, he is beside the altar,’ Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, ‘Go, strike him down.’ 30 So Benaiah came to the tent of the Lord and said to him, ‘The king commands, ‘Come out.’’ But he said, ‘No, I will die here.’” My last recorded words were words of defiance, life was about me; so was my death.

“Then Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, ‘Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.’ 31 The king replied to him, ‘Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him, and thus take away from me and from my father’s house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause. 32 The Lord will bring back his bloody deeds on his own head, because, without the knowledge of my father David, he attacked and killed with the sword two men more righteous and better than himself, Abner the son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah.’”

Conclusion: Today’s story capsulized Joab’s life. Joab lived with a “root of bitterness.” Bitterness spouts when a person fails to obtain God’s grace, Heb. 12:15, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

The life of David stands in stark contrast to Joab’s life. Cleary David not only obtained God’s grace he extended grace to others.

Recall Abner’s advice through his rhetorical questions? “Shall the sword devour forever?” The conflict had been going on for a long time. When would it end? In conflict that pits brother against brother the only winner is death. It may not always be physical death, it may be the death of a relationship.

His second question was, “Do you not know that the end will be bitter?” Nothing good comes from a power struggle within a family. When there’s a winner, there must be a loser. No matter who prevails there will remain a bitterness between the parties.

His third question was, “How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” In other words, “The ball’s in your court, you can stop this right now.”

Joab had come to a turning point in his life. He was in a position to put a stop to the conflict, but he chose not to. Even after peace was made Joab refused to submit his stubborn will.

Is there conflict in your life? Are you at odds with someone in your family? Someone you work with? A friend? A brother or sister at church? “Do you not know that the end will be bitter?” Let’s pray.

[1] (See Josephus, Ant. 7.1.3)

Featured minister in Idaho Falls – Alipio Amaral

Charles Barnes writes this post for today:

Called to Idaho Falls – Alipio Amaral

From time to time in this email we want to share glimpses of the lives of people God has brought to Idaho Falls, or sent out from Idaho Falls. We do this not to exalt one person or one church over any other, but to rejoice in the ways God has worked in the men and women He sends to our city.

Alipio Amaral came to Idaho Falls last March, and is the discipleship pastor of Watersprings Church. Alipio’s excitement for inductive Bible study is contagious, as is his enthusiasm for ministry in Idaho Falls. You can hear him share much of his testimony in a sermon he preached at Watersprings November 30, 2014, A Life of Impact, available from the webpage http://calvaryif.org/tvMedia/guestSpeakers.php.

Alipio grew up in Hawaii. One day when he was five years old, he was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle. The truck that struck him was going twice the legal speed limit, and sent him flying twenty-five feet in the air. Landing head first into the base of a stop sign, he cracked his head wide open, and bit off his tongue. He was flown inter-Island to the capital city of Honolulu, where at Queens Medical Center he was put on life support. He had slipped into a coma, and his entire right side was paralyzed. His church flew his mother over to the hospital where she commenced a vigil of prayer. The doctors explained to her that Alipio’s worsening condition would render him immobile, inoperable, and incapacitated for the rest of his life, and recommended that she have them pull the plug on the life support equipment. Believing that God had already healed him, his mother told the doctors “no” and waited and prayed for nine days until the night that Alipio woke up. When he awoke, his mother asked him if he remembered anything, to which he confidently responded with his tongue that had grown back, God told me He wants me to tell people how He healed me. He walked out of the hospital two months after he entered, on a Christmas day.

As Alipio continued to grow up in Hawaii, the hedonistic culture of the Islands began to influence him, and he walked away from the Lord. His family life was focused on God, but by high school Alipio had become a rebellious teen. Yet during those teen years God did not forsake him. Alipio was involved in 15 car accidents, some in which he could easily have been killed, and he walked away from every one. The nearness of death in some of these accidents, plus a friend’s remark about his self-centered behavior, brought him to a point of clarity about the direction his life was going, and one day at home, alone, he rededicated his life to the Lord. From that time on, Alipio has had an insatiable desire to understand God’s word, loves to study it and teach others how to study it.

When he was 18, his family moved to southern Oregon. Alipio attended Southern Oregon University for two and a half years, and then Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, California for a year and a half.  He has skill painting murals, and used that skill to finance trips to Israel and then Austria. In Austria he was taking some training that included a mission trip into Hungary and Serbia, a few months before NATO started bombing the country. When sharing his testimony in a high school in Serbia, he saw how the Lord can work, as every student in six consecutive classes accepted his invitation to receive Christ. Yet what impressed Alipio just as much was the willingness of two Christian teachers in that school who were risking their jobs to allow the gospel to be preached there.

For the next 13 years, Alipio served the Lord in Europe, sharing the gospel, planting churches and starting a Bible college. Most of those years were spent in southern Portugal, and he will tell you that the soil of people’s hearts there is very hard. The Lord also sent a girl, Ashley Carlyle, to Portugal whom Alipio had first met in Hungary, who happened to be from Idaho Falls, and who would later become his wife.

Less than a week after returning to the States in 2010, Alipio was asked by his church to go to Brazil to take charge of a Bible College and Conference Center.  While willing to go wherever God would send him, Alipio wasn’t eager to go to Brazil immediately, and stayed in Oregon a year while Ashley went to Bible College.  Shortly after getting married, Alipio and Ashley went to Brazil, and were there for two years. However in July 2013 when his mother was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer, they returned to the States to take care of her.  His mother passed away on October 14, 2013.

A few months later, God opened the door for Alipio to join the staff of Watersprings.  God is using his love for studying His Word in various groups he’s leading or teaching here.  Also, Alipio is working on preparations for a discipleship school that will start September of 2015.

Conflict and Gospel Grace Reconciliation (4)

Let’s say that you have a conflict with a family member, a coworker, or another Christian in Idaho Falls that is not being fixed between the two of you.  You have talked to this person but issues have not been resolved.  And if you feel compelled that you are unable to let go of the issue, what would Jesus instruct you to do?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:15-19:

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he hears you, you have gained your brother.  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.  But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.   Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Today, we are looking at our fourth message in this series on conflict and gospel grace reconciliation.  With today’s content, I am utilizing thoughts from Ken Sande in Billings, Montana, who leads a ministry focused on Christian peacemaking.  The Scripture references are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.

Step Four

So what is step four in the process of pursuing reconciliation in the midst of conflict?  You should pray about bringing one or two others to hear the conflict between you and that other person.

“We should try to keep the circle of people involved in conflict as small as possible for as long as possible.” – Sande

“I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.  And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.” (Philippians 4:2-3)

“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matter?  Do you not know that we shall judge angels?  How much more, things that pertain to this life?  If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?  I say this to your shame.  Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?  But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!  Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another.  Why do you not rather accept wrong?  Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?  No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!” (I Corinthians 6:1-8)

Ken Sande provides a sample illustration of how to engage in initiating help from someone else in the conflict:  “Bob, I would prefer to resolve this matter just between the two of us.  Since that has not happened and because this involves issues that are too important to walk away from, my only other option is to obey what the Bible commands, which means asking some people from our churches to help us out.  I would prefer that we go together to get that help, but if you will not cooperate, I’ll ask for it by myself.”

It is in this conflict, two men can seek the help of a godly peacemaker, whether that might be another friend, neighbor, church member, or pastor.  Sometimes, this can extend out to continual sessions for counsel and prayer together.  The additional one or two also serve as witnesses to what they observe.  So what if there is no repentance?  What if there is no demonstration made to pursue God’s will and peace?  What if there is no display of humility in the issues of conflict?

Step Five

“And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.  But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

Share the conflict with the spiritual elders in your church.  The elders would desire to meet with those of you in conflict.  The elders might desire to consult as well with the one or two others that have met with you in the conflict.   You should listen to the counsel of the elders.

“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

The only times that you may disobey the elders is if they are clearly asking you to disobey Scripture.  For instance, Acts 4 states, “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:18-20). Peter and the other apostles declare in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

But going back to the elders’ instruction and counsel, if the elders witness unrepentance in regards to sin, this must be lovingly shared to the members of the congregation.  And the whole congregation must move together in church discipline towards an unrepentant member of the congregation.

Only God knows the true hearts of individuals, but a congregation must not allow one to continue as a member of the local fellowship when that individual is teaching contrary or living a contrast to the life and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So what would be examples of this in the Bible?

“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.  For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).

 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!  And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed, might be taken away from you.  For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  Your glorying is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  I wrote to you in my epistle not keep company with sexually immoral people.  Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.  For what have I do to with judging those also who are outside?  Do you not judge those who are inside?  But those who are outside God judges.  Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person (I Corinthians 5).

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).

“But we command you, brethren, in the name of Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” (II Thessalonians 3:6)

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.  Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (I Timothy 5:19-20).

 “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.  Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).

In these passages, we have examples of those attacking essential doctrines of Christianity or living in notorious immorality.  When a church member is blatantly teaching that which is contrary to Scripture or living an ongoing, unrepentant life of sin, the local assembly is to move congregationally (a church vote) in removing the sinning person’s membership.

Is this loving?  Deitrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Nothing is so cruel as the tenderness that consigns another to his sin.  Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.”

Three concluding notes of caution:

  • Some in the practice of church discipline will wrongly call people (divisive) heretics and practice church discipline. Wrong application.
  • Some in the practicing of discipline will completely cut themselves off from those they have disciplined. They think only law and never offer gracious gospel to the one they disciplined.  This is a mistake.  Wrong heart motives.  We are to continue a loving, evangelical witness.
  • Some practice second, third, fourth degrees, etc. of separation. Their thinking is “I have separated myself from this person and so must you to the same degree.  If you don’t follow my example, then I will separate from you.” Wrong zeal.

In following these paths, we quickly lose the main purpose of love and gospel grace reconciliation.  We have become the Pharisees, and we place ourselves on a pathway of bitterness.

We must have hearts that pursue love, grace, peace, and forgiveness.

Ken Sande says forgiveness can be expressed with four promises: (1) I will not dwell on this incident. (2) I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you. (3) I will not talk to others about this incident. (4) I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

“Here is the ultimate weapon:  deliberate, focused love (cf. Luke 6:27-28; I Cor. 13:4-7).” – Sande

 “Bless those you persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  Be of the same mind toward one another.  Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.  Do not be wise in your own opinion.  Repay no one evil for evil.  Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.  Therefore ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14-21)

Peter says, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (I Peter 3:8-9).

Conflict and Gospel Grace Reconciliation (3)

Introduction:  Two brothers had two different personalities and goal.  The one brother talked to his dad.  The other brother talked to his mom.  This eventually caused the younger brother and his mother to scheme against the wishes of the father and the older brother.   The conflict brought a huge upheaval that eventually resulted in the formation of two separate nations.  Family conflict occurs in page after page of the book of Genesis.  And yet through the generational stories, gospel grace reconciliation trumps it all at the end of Genesis.  When we open up the book of Exodus, we read story after story of new conflict among the Hebrew people.  The Bible is the book that we must go to in giving us the guidance we need to deal with conflict.  We are in a Sunday morning series dealing with conflict and gospel grace reconciliation.  Today, we look at step three.   In review, step one calls us to overlook transgressions by others as the Lord does with us.  Step two urges us to search our own hearts and see how we might have contributed to the conflict.  Step three involves going to your brother or sister to talk about the conflict.  In this message, I am utilizing thoughts from brother Ken Sande in Billings, Montana.  Also, I am using the New King James Version of the Bible.

Step Three – Jesus tells us, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” – Matthew 18:15

Elsewhere Jesus says, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24

So if you have a problem with your brother or you know that your brother has a problem with you then you need to get together and prayerfully seek God’s reconciliation in your relationship.

Before you decide to talk to your brother or sister?  Ask yourself these questions:

Is it dishonoring to God?  Is it damaging your relationship?  Is it hurting others?

“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” – Galatians 5:9

Is it hurting the offender?

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart.  You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” – Leviticus 19:17

“Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.  If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?  He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?  And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” – Proverbs 24:11-12

“Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” – Proverbs 27:5-6; 9:8; 19:25; 28:23

“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1

The Greek word for restore is katartizo – to mend, to repair, to equip, to complete, to prepare.

You should be going to your brother for gentle restoration.  This is ongoing, loving, continual action for gospel grace reconciliation.  Be going to your brother as many times as the Holy Spirit does in communicating with you over issues in your own life.

“The Greek verb used for “go” in Matthew 18:15 implies a continual action.  If you don’t succeed at first, try to discern what went wrong, seek appropriate counsel, and correct your mistakes.  Give the other person time to think (and give God time to work), and then go again.  You should continue seeking to resolve the matter privately until it becomes apparent that further personal conversations are truly pointless or are likely to do harm.  At that point you should consider whether it would be wiser to overlook the matter entirely.  If doing so is inappropriate, you will need to seek help from others, leading to step four.” – Sande

So how do you prepare for such an encounter?

  1. First, you need to prepare your own heart. If you desire to promote peace, you will not rip into your brother but be humble and transparent before him about your own shortcomings.

Do you need to confess any of your sins as you talk with that other person?

Here are some example scenarios:

“Bill, I appreciate your forgiveness, and I will really work at controlling what I say in the future.  In fact, I’d appreciate it if you would let me know if you ever hear me talking like that again.  In the same way, I believe there are some things you could do differently in the future that might help to avoid similar problems.  May I explain what I mean?”

“Linda, there’s no question that my careless words contributed to this problem, and I am really sorry for aggravating you.  At the same time, I’m not sure you realize who you contributed to this problem.  As much as I would like to drop the matter, I’m afraid we’ll have similar problems again unless we get all of our concerns on the table.  May I explain how I see your conduct in this matter?”

  1. Prayerfully plan your interaction with that other brother or sister with these suggested guidelines.

Give the hope of the gospel.

“When someone has disappointed or offended me, my natural tendency is to come at them with “the law,” lecturing them about what they have done wrong and what they should now do to make things right.  This approach generally makes people defensive and reluctant to admit their wrongs, which makes a conflict worse.  The Lord is graciously working to teach me a better way to approach others about their failures.  Instead of coming at them with the law, I am learning to bring them the gospel.” – Sande

Look at what God has to say to the most schismatic church in the New Testament.

 “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” – I Corinthians 1:2-9

Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19-20

God’s wrath is always perfect.  We have the perfect illustration of Jesus cleansing the temple.  Also, God’s wrath is a perfect demonstration of His righteousness in the book of Revelation.  But our wrath is usually 99.9 percent of the time not perfect when we are engaging with other adult brothers and sisters.  The meekest man on the face of the earth, Moses, did not exhibit properly a righteous wrath with the complaining, carnal children of Israel.  We must take note of this.  We must learn to listen in the heat of conflict.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” – Proverbs 10:19

“A quick-tempered man acts foolishly” – Proverbs 14:17

“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” – Proverbs 16:32

“He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” – Proverbs 17:27

“He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” – Proverbs 18:13

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” – Proverbs 15:28.

Seek to agree

When in conflict with that family member, or friend on the job, or church member, is there anything that they are saying which you can agree with about yourself?

“Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it.” – Psalm 141:5a

“The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise.  He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.  The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.” – Proverbs 15:31-33

“But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” – Ephesians 4:15

Use the Bible carefully 

This is critical.  Don’t use it to tear down a brother or sister.  Use the Scripture in proper context and to the proper situations.

Recognize your limits

“Finally, whenever you are trying to show someone his fault, remember that there are limits to what you can accomplish.  You can raise concerns, suggest solutions, and encourage reasonable thinking, but you cannot force change.  God may use you as a spokesperson to bring certain issues to the attention of another person, but only God can actually penetrate the other person’s heart and bring about repentance.  Paul clearly describes this division of labor in 2 Timothy 2:24-26: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (emphasis added).  As we have seen throughout this book, God calls us to be concerned with faithfulness, not with results.  If you prayerfully prepare, speak the truth in love, and do all you can to effectively communicate your concerns to the other person, you will have succeeded in God’s eyes regardless of how others respond (Acts 20:26-27).  God will take it from there—in his time your words will produce exactly the results he wants.” – Sande

Next week, we will conclude this Sunday morning series on conflict and gospel grace reconciliation by looking at step four (involving one or more witnesses) and step five (taking the conflict to the church).