5 Ways to Move Forward When in Conflict

In the spring of 1894, the Baltimore Orioles came to Boston to play a routine baseball game. But what happened that day was anything but routine. The Orioles’ John McGraw got into a fight with the Boston third baseman. Within minutes all the players from both teams had joined in the brawl. The warfare quickly spread to the grandstands. Among the fans the conflict went from bad to worse. Someone set fire to the stands and the entire ballpark burned to the ground. Not only that, but the fire spread to 107 other Boston buildings as well. (Source: Daily Bread, August 13, 1992)

We may not experience conflicts to this degree every day or ever in our own life; however, this is where unrestrained conflict will end!  The restraint comes when you consider Jesus.  It is vital for the believer to keep Jesus in view when in the middle of conflict...however, it is natural (easy) to think only of self!

Paul & Barnabas had seen life threatening persecution.  Angry mobs had  run them out of Iconium, Lystra, & Antioch.  They had the aches and pains of traveling over 1200 miles on land and sea.  They knew what it was like to be hated by large groups of people.  They knew what it felt like to be told there was a group of people plotting to kill you.  They also knew the joy of multitudes of people coming to know Christ!  They saw firsthand the power of the gospel.  They experienced time and time again large groups of people coming to Christ for salvation, accepting His free gift, and witnessing the joy and peace of Jesus flood their souls.  THIS. This binds the hearts of co-laborers together like little else!  There is a great ministry friendship here.  However, in Acts 15:37 we hear of something …of someone, of whom they did not agree.  Neither would budge.  Both convinced they are right before the Lord. 

There were 18 nations surveyed on the subject of immigration. The 18 nations surveyed contain more than half (51%) of the world’s migrant population, or some 127 million people, according to United Nations and U.S. Census Bureau estimates. This report was published on March 24, 2019 by pew research.(Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/03/14/around-the-world-more-say-immigrants-are-a-strength-than-a-burden/)  

The survey found that the US holds 18% of the world’s migrant population.  That is the most migrants in any one nation of the world.  The second nation with a large amount of migrants Germany and Russia, each holding 5% of the world’s migrant population.  This has caused tremendous debate in our country. According to this study, 34% say the migrants are a burden on the US and 59% say they make the country stronger.  So, who is right?  Depends on who you talk to.  We are in a republic with other people who hold different political views than ourselves…we go to jobs with other people who believe their way is better…we are in neighborhoods with other people who have different lifestyles than us…we are in families with relatives who believe their way is the only way…and yes, we are in churches with people who have different standards than us. 

HOW DO WE MOVE FORWARD WITH SUCH DISAGREEMENT?  Doesn’t someone need to be declared right and wrong?  Not always.  It depends on what your goals are. 

  • For the believer, Is the chief goal to determine immigration policy or to make disciples of Jesus Christ, love God, & love others? 

o    Consider this… a mission field that others risk their lives to travel across the world as missionaries to share the gospel with – these same people groups are coming to our own shores.  Thus, we have the gospel opportunity right here in the USA…minus the threats of sharing the gospel declared as illegal!

  •  Is the chief goal to get your way at work, with extended family, or with the neighborhood debate –or is it to make disciples of Jesus Christ, love God, and love others? 

  • Is the chief goal to make everyone in the church have the same life standards that you have or is it to make disciples of Jesus Christ, love God, and love others?   

    Are we arguing about the side issues and completely missing the main event (the gospel)?  I mean, when was the last time you heard someone that upset over the lack of souls being saved?  Or the lack of people being invited to church services?  Or the lack of people being discipled?  Or the lack of love for God among God’s people? Where is the passion and burden for the mission of God’s people, like you hearing people debating immigration policy?

 In recent years a head coach divorced his wife of 26 years when he left coaching a college team to become head coach in the National Football League. He said he needed a wife while coaching on the college level for social functions and to show families that he would be looking out for their sons. In pro football, however, she was an unnecessary distraction to winning. He said winning football was his number one priority and his two sons second. How tragic! (Source: Unknown).  Whether a true story or not, I cannot verify (I was unable to track down the source).  However, it does illustrate the absolute commitment to wrong priorities – and it destroyed his marriage.  We may shake our heads in horror of such choices, but…there’s nothing wrong with winning, right?  So, neither choice (winning football or his marriage) was evil by itself.  Consider these important questions:

  • Are we guilty of taking two choices, both seemingly void of wickedness, and insisting on the death of the choice we reject? 

 

  • Do we know if the Lord speaks dogmatically on one choice over the other? 

 

  • Do we choose the option to which God gives higher priority in scripture? 

 

  • If God gives both issues seemingly equal priority, do we still insist on the issue as black and white…or as, “my choice is better than yours — and your choice is wrong?”

 Conflict is not always an open and shut case.  Paul and Barnabas both have legitimate points.  Take a look Acts 15:37-39 again. Barnabas’ path is revealed in Acts 15:37.

Barnabas reflects on the situation …his decision is not sudden or without careful consideration.

Barnabas remains the “encourager” for the younger believer. This is consistent with the very description of what made him stand out in Acts 4 when we first met him… “the son of consolation.” It is also consistent with how Paul knew Barnabas to be when he first met Barnabas and no one else would have him.

Barnabas reveals his heart for John Mark (a young follower of Jesus), but perhaps misses the readiness level of his young friend (but this spectulation on my part as the Bible does not say).

 

Paul’s path is rehearsed in Acts 15:38.

Paul reflects on his past ministry.

Paul remains opposed to John Mark’s involvement with another missionary journey.

Paul reveals his focus is on the mission God gave him. However, perhaps he misses ministering to John Mark’s need for growth and encouragement…like he received when no one wanted him?

 

The outcome of this conflict is then given in Acts 15:39. Both men are convinced of opposite directions. Both choose new mission team partners and one missionary team becomes two.

Here are a few facts:

  • The Bible doesn’t tell us who was right and wrong

  • The Bible continues to follow Paul

  • The Bible speaks of Paul asking for John Mark

  • The Bible records the gospel of Mark             

 Here are a 4 findings:                            

  • One mission team became two!

  • Churches and people are both part of God’s plan

  •  Don’t give up on those making mission mistakes

  •  God is at work in church growth and people at the same time.

HOW DO WE MOVE FORWARD WHEN IN CONFLICT?

1.      Listen to each other (Prov. 18:13)  Do not “hear” only to think of what you want to say next… “listen” to understand what the other person is saying, BEFORE you respond.

 

2.      Lift the other up (Phil. 2:3).  Humility is a must in conflict, but pride is often at the root of the conflict (Prov. 13:10).  Slander destroys and does not build others up (Eph. 4:29).

 

3.      Live to pursue the mission (Phil. 3:14).  Major on what is major in God’s eyes.  We can sometimes make a big deal out of things God has not made dogmatic in His Word.  Pursue together what we do have in common as believers (making disciples, the gospel, visiting those in need, keeping unspotted from the world - James 1:27).  To stand dogmatically against someone’s personal preference (that isn’t named as sin in the Bible) is to stand in pride (Prov. 16:18; James 4:6).

 

4.      Look for help (Gal. 6:1; Prov. 11:14). Sometimes godly counsel is needed to intervene.  Prayer is always needed and is vital.

 

5.      Love those who oppose you (Matt. 5:44; 22:36-40; John 15:12).  This will cause you to assume the best about them (I Cor. 13:7) and this will keep you from wrong motives, resentment, anger, and bitterness.

 The story is told of two men who shared a hospital room. One man was by the window, and the other was by the hall. The man by the hall was angry because he wasn’t by the window. The man by the window would cheerfully relate to the other what he saw out the window. The angry man wished the other man would go home soon. Eventually the man by the window died, and the angry man was moved to the window, but when he looked out to see the view all he saw was another wall. (Source: Unknown)

 Some people see the good in everything, while others see only the bad.  Keep Jesus in your view when experiencing conflict! 

3 Tangible Ways to Reverence God

The US abortion rate has hit its lowest level since the procedure became nationally legal in 1973.

  • Data showed that 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women were performed in 2017, an 8-per-cent decline from 2014.

  • Researchers found that 862,000 abortions were carried out in 2017, down from 926,000 recorded in 2014 and from slightly more than 1 million in 2011.

  • The number and rate of abortions is recorded by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research group.

  • Its figures reveal that the number of abortions has decreased across the country, whether in Republican-controlled states with conservative anti-abortion laws or in pro-choice Democratic controlled states. (Source: Dated 9-18-19. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-abortion-rate-lowest-roe-vs-wade-guttmacher-institute-a9110361.html)

While this is encouraging, this is far from good news! There are still hundreds of thousands of babies murdered each year. On October 2, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) brought court proceedings on behalf of a pro-life client against Planned Parenthood for the selling of aborted baby organs for profit (news that broke 4 years ago). Somehow, Planned Parenthood turned things around and made those who exposed their practices as the evil doers! (Source: Dated 9-30-19. https://aclj.org/pro-life/aclj-begins-weeks-long-trial-against-planned-parenthood-regarding-ghoulish-practices) The lack of respect for God's creation, human life, is staggering!! God's people must engage with a reverence for God!

Take a moment to read II Peter 1:5-7. “... and to patience godliness…” — Spiritual Growth ought to have a reverence or true piety towards God. To have reverence is to have honor and respect that is deeply felt and outwardly demonstrated. Reverence does NOT refer to God as:

  • "the man upstairs"

  • "the big guy in the sky"

    …even the thief on the cross understood this when he rebuked the other thief (Luke 23:40-42) with, "don't you fear God?" — and then honored the Lord.

Consider the awesome grandeur of God. Psalm 19:1 tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God, Isaiah 46:9 tells us there is none like God. Genesis 1:1 informs us that He is our creator. Colossians 1:16-18 reveals that all was created by Him AND for Him. With the knowledge of that incredible power, I John 4:19 reminds us that He loved us first...and I John 4:10 shows us how generous His love truly is -- a love He points right to each of us. And most prominently, Isaiah 6:3 and I Peter 1:15-16 declare that God is holy. In all of this, He never changes (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17).

3 Tangible ways in which we can show reverence to God? Generally, it is a voluntarily dying to self and obedience to His commands (Galatians 2:20; James 2:12). Specially? --

God's Name.

Specially, one who shows reverence to God honors His name. Many believers today use the OMG acronym...thus making His name no more than "wow." This is not just disrespectful to the one true God — it is also sin! Exodus 20:7 commands against it.

God's Holiness.

Also, we show reverence to God by recognizing His hatred of sin, coming judgment of sin, pursuing holiness, and saying no to ungodliness. (Romans 10:3; I Peter 1:15; Titus 2:12).

Say yes to obeying your parents, say yes to forgiving, say no to pornography, no to profanity, no to people pleasing, no to immorality, and no to illegal drugs! The most recent study I could find by WI Dept. of Health Services says 13,000 12 to 17 year olds used Meth within a 30 day period; 128,000 used meth between the ages of 18 and 25 years old; and 757,000 used meth above the age of 26 -- and these are just Wisconsin's numbers for August 2019! (Source: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p01739c.pdf). We need to add to our faith godliness...and that means pursuing holiness!

God's Worship.

John 4:24 tells us that those who worship the Lord must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Today's culture often refers to the hymn service as the "time of worship." However, true worship is not merely about our favorite gospel song. It is not simply connected to an emotional response. To worship in spirit is to have one's heart abandoned to the Lord...holding nothing back (at least that we may be aware of)...willing to follow in obedience. To worship in truth is to engage our minds with understanding of God's Word and God's nature. Take heed to this warning: proper worship is not the same as stiff formality. Consider God's grand invitation for us to draw close Him, and in return, He would draw closer to us (James 4:8)!

God's people must add to their faith godliness…they must choose reverence for God!

3 Helps to Stay on Mission

  • It is the parent who goes to work every day and works long, hard hours even when they don’t want to…

  •  It is the parent who works hard at home cleaning, cooking, and guiding children – day in and day out…

  •  It is the student who is tired and wants to go out with friends, but instead they study for tomorrow’s final…

  •  It is the US citizen who hears about many who want to look the other way and normalize homosexuality, but stands firm on God’s Word and says marriage is between a man and a woman…

  •  It is the US citizen who sees the hate from those who want to kill innocent babies in the womb, but instead reaches out in love with the gospel & says no to murder…

 It is these…and much more…that shows people in every day life staying on the mission God entrusted to them – and we must stay on mission as well! Take a moment and read Acts 15:36-39.

 

3 HELPS to Stay on Mission

 

  1. Stay focused on your mission

 Consider the amount of travel this missionary team had already accomplished for the cause of Christ!  They started at a seaport in Antioch (Acts 13).  Sailed to Cyprus (80 miles).  Landed in Salamis & preached in the synagogues and then traveled the entire southern coast of the island of Cyprus…until they reached Paphos (this is where Saul becomes Paul and takes the lead of the missionary team).  

 

From Paphos they sailed north up to the Asian mainland (today it is called Turkey).  They reached Pamphylia and John Mark left the team.  Paul & Barnabas continued 100 miles to Pisidian, Antioch.  It is here that Paul makes his first recorded sermon and many are saved (Acts 13:16-51).  They experience their first recorded persecution here (Acts 13:51) but continued on.  

 

They get to Iconium, many are saved, but more persecution follows.  This time the persecution grows in its intensity with a murder plot being discovered (Acts 14:5-6). 

 

They continued traveling southeast to Lystra, a very idolatrous city.  The people want to call Paul & Barnabas gods.  Paul & Barnabas correct their thinking, but the persecutors from Antioch & Iconium had followed them to Lystra.  Paul was stoned and left for dead in this city (Acts 14:18-20).  Paul survives and the next day they travel to Derbe and preach. 

 

After Derbe, they return along their route through Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. They went straight back to the places that ran them out of town, stoned them, and tried to kill them – because those new churches needed leadership (Acts 14:23).  Then they boarded a ship to return to Antioch…it had been two years of constant travel, preaching, starting new churches, people trying to kill them – and many people saved!  When they arrived home, they gave a report to the believers of all that God had done.

 

It is the beginning of the second missionary journey that we find ourselves in Acts 15:36

  • These men were no longer novices. 

  • They knew of the hardship of travel by foot and by sea. 

  • They knew of misery of beatings and murderous plots. 

  • They also knew of the power of preaching truth and many trusting Christ. 

WHAT KEPT THEM ON MISSION?

What was more stirring than the terror of a stoning that they would set their course forward to more of the same? 

What was more motivating than the aching of their feet and sore backs from the rigorous travel schedule? 

What could possibly be more appealing that they would look past those who want to kill them for preaching the gospel? 

The answer is the gospel. 

They were focused on the reality of the saving grace of Jesus.  They were focused on the reality of Jesus!  What they faced (physical harm and discomfort) was temporary…what they had to offer (Jesus is the way) was eternal.

 They were clear on their mission and ran to it.  How clear are we on our mission?

Do you know your church’s mission statement?  This is what we say we are aiming to do as a church.  This would be pretty important to know!

At our church, our mission statement reads, “We seek to exalt the Lord God above all else, faithfully evangelize the lost, and edify one another; depending upon God’s empowering, to bring about fruitful ministry.”  Each of us is the church.  How well are you doing at staying on mission?

2. Guard against complacency

Think about the thought processes we often go through. “This is good enough for me.” While that’s great and all – we aren’t doing ministry for us…we are doing ministry for the Lord.  (I Cor. 10:31)

 Here’s another common thought process, “Someone else will do it…I’ve done my part in the past.  It’s someone else’s turn!”  The song writer put it a different way: “I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus?”

This kind of logic exposes the wrong motives and wrong thinking.  My action for Christ cannot be dependent on what I like or what others are doing!

 

3. Keep your motivation clear

We do what we do because we value it!  There are 7 episodes on my YouTube channel about our values.  Here are some core Biblical values to consider when choosing what to do:

  •  the Gospel - gospel speaking (Mk. 16:15; Acts 1:8), gospel living (Jas. 1:27), gospel investing (Matt. 28:19)

 

  • People - Jn. 15:12-Love; Jas. 1:27 -help those in need; Prov. 27:17; Phil. 2:1-30 – teamwork

 

  • Excellence – I Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:23 - strive to do everything for the Lord

 

  • Commitment - II Cor. 5:14; Matt. 22:36-40 – a love for God that permeates everything we do.  Rom. 12:1-2 – sacrifice for God that is personal, motivated, and alive.  This commitment is NOT dependent on what others do…however, it IS dependent on two things: better understanding God’s love for us AND choosing an intense love for God.

 

  • Trust – we voluntarily choose to follow God (Prov. 3:5-7).  We mean what we say and we say what we mean (Romans 12:17)…we actively pursue doing right.

 

  • Cooperation – I Cor. 12:13-26. this requires respect and trust…to put it another way – it requires confidence in the work of God in the life of another and genuine, growing, godly character in our own lives.

 

  • Community – this includes unity, but it is larger than unity.  Unity has 100% of the people agreeing 100% of the time.  Community still pursues unity (Eph. 4:2-3), but when non-doctrinal disagreement is present, community still moves forward together.  Community grows and is healthy when our focus is loving others as we have been loved by God.  When God loves, He gives extravagantly (John 3:16)!  Community dies on the altar of selfishness.  We value finding joy in what we give others, not in what we get from others.  Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Mk. 10:45)!

Marla Runyan gave her all to qualify for the Olympic Games in 1996, but her best time finished short of the mark to make the United States team. Undeterred by that failure, she returned in 2000 and made the team for the Sydney Olympics. Her eighth place finish in the 1,500 meter race was the best finish ever for a United States woman runner. The thing that makes Runyan’s accomplishments even more remarkable is that she is legally blind. She is the first legally blind athlete to ever qualify for and compete in the Olympic Games. After her Olympic career was over she switched to running marathons and in 2002 posted the second fastest debut marathon time ever by an American woman.

Runyan can only see shapes and blurs, but she says that her lack of vision is actually an asset—she just focuses on the finish line in front of her rather than looking around to see what the other runners are doing. Not having visual distractions helps her compete and win her races. (Source: USA Track and Field)

May we ask the Lord to make each us more God Focused and less Me-Focused.

The Everlasting Arms

This week’s post is an uplifting & challenging devotional written by Andy Gleiser. Andy is a Christian, a husband, a father, a preacher, and a song writer. His newest song, Revival Prayer, is the theme song for our special meeting this week (soul-stirring!). Andy is preaching on learning to trust a sovereign God at Grace Baptist in Marshfield, WI on September 23-25. Each night begins at 6:30 PM. All are welcome.

TEXT: Deuteronomy 33:26-29

These are a long six hours. I’m sitting among strangers in a hospital waiting area in Indianapolis. In a faraway room I cannot see, my beloved wife is under the surgeon’s knife. Breast cancer forced its ugliness into our lives and sabotaged our stability. I’ll not sugarcoat it; much has changed...more will. But because of the Lord Jesus, nothing eternal has changed.

Anxious thoughts plague me while she is sedated, but my security is not in the surgeon’s skill; my refuge is in the eternal God.

Eternal.

Let that word wash over you. Say it out loud. Eternal. All may change, but Jesus never. He is eternal. Fears ebb and flow, but Jesus is a rock. He is eternal, unchanging, settled. And He has been this way for an eternity before the beginning.

Today I choose to cast my shaky heart and fretful mind on the strong arms of God. He holds me. He caresses His daughter, my wife. And His grip on us cannot fail for His arms, like Him, are everlasting. They cradle. They support. They undergird. They stabilize. They never tire.

Come then at once; delay no longer! Set your fleeting strength on His everlasting arms. These are the times to prove Him trustworthy. Though you may doubt, yet He abides faithful to you; He cannot deny Himself. Six hours in a waiting room seems like forever. But, be still, my fluttering heart - what are six hours to the eternal God?

Learning to Trust

I had the privilege of attending a beautiful family wedding last weekend. So, there will not be a regular post this week. However, I would like to share a few thoughts in the form of questions. Consider…

  • Do you believe God is sovereign — completely in control?

  • Do you struggle with understanding how God could be sovereign when there is so much hurt around you?

  • Do you trust God?

  • Do you have doubts about the character of God?

    • …the love of God

    • …the justice of God

    • …the presence of God

    • …the power of God

    • …the mercy of God

  • As a Christian, do you trust the one true sovereign God?

Please join us at GRACE this Sunday through Wednesday (September 22-25) for an in-depth look at how the Bible answers these questions! You will find deep doctrinal truths made extremely practical for your every day life. The Bible has the answers. Clear your schedule to pursue a better relationship with the Lord at GRACE (September 22-25)…your relationship with God is THAT important.

Location: 312 East Ninth Street Marshfield, WI 54449

Sunday Services: 10 AM Worship Service; 11:30 AM Sunday school; 2 PM Bible Study

Monday-Wednesday Services (Sept. 22-25): 6:30 PM

3 Keys to Find Healing after Conflict - Part 3

Robert Louis Stevenson tells of a storm that caught a vessel off a rocky coast and threatened to drive it and its passengers to destruction. In the midst of the terror, one daring man, contrary to orders, went to the deck, made a dangerous passage to the pilot house and saw the steer-man, at his post holding the wheel unwavering, and inch by inch, turning the ship out, once more, to sea. The pilot saw the watcher and smiled. Then, the daring passenger went below and gave out a note of cheer: "I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well." (Source: Robert Louis Stevenson.)

This one man needed to know the truth.  He knew how dire things seemed.  So, he went to see the one who had more experience…one who had more control over things…one who undoubtedly had seen this situation before…he went to the steer-man.  He needed to know firsthand information.  When he saw the steer-man, that’s all he needed to know!  He was comforted – and he was able to comfort others.  To truly comfort, we must know the truth, live the truth, AND speak the truth!

Sometimes, no matter how much truth we have in front of us, we reject it and insist on embracing our own opinion.  For example:

  • Many hear of God’s saving grace…they hear of the One who is truth, but they reject it and insist on embracing their works to save them from the lake of fire…(John 5:24; Acts 4:12

  • Some refuse to believe the truthful words of another man because they have chosen to listen to the lies that others whisper about him in the dark… (Eph. 4:25

  • Some refuse to believe the truth because they insist on rehearsing how they perceive things might be and miss how they really are…yet, this continued rehearsing of lies eventually enables the lie to become truth in their mind (purely because of repetition)…after this, they will often call the one declaring the truth, the liar!  They become convinced they now have the truth.  They have lost track of what was truth and what was their own imagining.  This is dangerous!  (Prov. 23:7; Phil. 4:8

  • Some refuse to believe truth because they are controlled by fear and embrace anxiety.  They choose to believe the worst about people and about situations.  (Phil. 4:6-7)

We do know that the apostles were all AFRAID.  We know they DID NOT TRUST Saul (Acts 9:27).  We also know they KNEW AND TRUSTED BARNABAS. 

Even spiritual leaders need to be COMFORTED sometimes!!  This comfort will come from one they know…a co-laborer in Christ.  This comfort will come from one who has personal experience with Saul.

Through the years, our girls have had boys giving them attention.  They believed the attention to be purely as a friend, and although I believe that is possible, it was clear that this attention was MORE THAN A FRIEND.  In conversation with our girls, at first they sometimes would have a hard time believing that truth.  I would eventually say, sweetheart, I am telling you this as your Dad…but also as a man…that is NOT “just friends” attention.

Barnabas now comes to the apostles to help them find healing after this massive conflict involving persecution.  He is basically saying, I come to you as a co-laborer…but, I also come as one who has spent a lot of time with Saul…he has become a new creature!

REVIEW from two previous posts - the First 2 Keys to Find Healing after Conflict: 

  • Fear must look right (Fear God) – “all afraid of him & believed not”

  • Courage confronts Fear – “took him and brought him to the apostles”

The 3rd key to find healing after conflict…

Comfort Must Speak Truth

“…declared unto them how…” (Acts 9:27)

Barnabas went to the apostles and spoke to them truth. Resolution to this showdown did not come by catering to their feelings, their fear, or their lack of trust. Only hearing truth and choosing to believe truth would bring comfort to help heal this deep, long-standing conflict.

Truths must find their way to our speech.  Truth must be voiced!  God’s Word must be shared with others!  That means declaring God’s saving grace…but it also means, voicing my love for my enemies and voicing my forgiveness towards those who wronged me!

Don’t speak “your truth” – speak “THE” truth!

Speak love for those who hurt you. (Matthew 5:44; Matthew 22:36-40)

Speak blessings for those who curse you. (Matthew 5:44)

Speak good to those who hate you. (Matthew 5:44)

Speak prayers for those who despitefully use you & persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

Speak of right priorities vs. wants and pleasures. (Colossians 3:1-2; Colossians 1:18)

Speak kindness & forgiveness to those who offended you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Speak encouragement to those who discourage you. (Ephesians 4:29)

 

What comfort is given because Barnabas speaks up?

1. Comfort for Saul (a friend spoke up for you)

                       

2. Comfort for the apostles who all feared Saul

                       

3. Comfort for Barnabas (James 4:17)

There is a man on TV who will give motivational speeches. He gives a lot of his human reasoning and says some “spiritual words.”  He calls himself a preacher…and yet, he does not preach the truth of God’s Word!  He, in turn, leads thousands of people to eternal judgment.

There are teachers in college classrooms today who have changed history to fit their philosophy and way of thinking…and they have brought confusion with lies to an entire generation.

There are politicians who will change what they say based on who is the president at that time…however, truth is replaced with agendas and reactions become violent.  Yet, if all media and politicians would somehow declare truth … and the masses would embrace it as truth … comfort would come!

 We can find people who are willing to speak flattery, but comfort is fleeting.  We can find people who will speak intimidation, but comfort is absent.  We can find people who will speak manipulation, but guilt replaces comfort.

We need to find people who will know truth, live truth, and speak truth…but we need to be a people who know, live, and speak truth to ourselves — and then to others. “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy Word is truth.” (John 17:17).

Continuing On Under Pressure

II Peter 1:5-7 tells us to grow our faith. We need to add to our faith! In previous posts at the beginning of each month we have begun looking at this passage and the need for growing faith. Chapter 1:6 says, “...and to temperance patience...” — Spiritual Growth ought to possess patient endurance. This means to remain under. It is an athletic term - like weight lifting, remaining under the weight...or like a runner in a marathon. It means you start something and even though it may get hard or heavy, you finish it. This goes as far as bearing up under evil...continuing on, steadfast. The meaning here is more active than the translated word "patience" is often associated with in modern everyday usage.

In 1914, Ernest Shackleton and a team of explorers set out from England to do something that no one before had accomplished—cross Antarctica from one side to the other across the South Pole. Disaster struck when the team’s ship, Endurance, became entrapped in ice and eventually sank after her hull was crushed. Marooned on nearby Elephant Island, there seemed little hope for their survival.

In a desperate effort to get help, Shackleton and five others set out in a twenty-foot lifeboat across some of the most dangerous and storm-filled waters in the world. It was an eight hundred-mile journey to South Georgia Island where help could be found. For fifteen days the men battled the treacherous seas and massive storms with waves of up to one hundred feet. Using only a compass and a sextant, Frank Worsley (who had captained the Endurance) navigated their course until they safely reached land and found help. Shackleton procured another ship and returned to rescue all of his men. He became a national hero in England for his courage and persistence. (Source: Endurance, Alfred Lansing)

So, when exactly would this "endurance" be needed?

  • When the check runs out before the bills do...add to your self-control endurance (patience)

  • When you are being taken for granted by those close to you...add to your temperance endurance

  • When your prayer request's answer is long in coming...add to your temperance endurance

  • When your health takes a negative turn...add to your temperance endurance

  • When great personal sacrifice is required...add to your temperance endurance

  • When distraction or discouragement wants to overtake you...add endurance

  • AND when you get the job or a big raise, when you consistently have all your bills paid and extra money left over, when your car works beautifully or you have no problems with financial ability to get it repaired, when you have a full pantry, when you have happy children who love you and want to be with you, and when you feel good with no debilitaing health problems -- ADD ENDURANCE!

We need endurance in the good and the bad times! In the good times, because when comfort surrounds us for longer periods of time, we are in danger of relying on ourselves and not on our great God. Spiritual "auto-pilot" is dangerous!

However, when pleasure leaves us and pain finds us, we are in danger of casting our faith in God away. We are in danger of turning from endurance, and choosing to embrace resentment, anger, and even bitterness instead.

So, how do we add this endurance? You might say -- "I'm trying!" Think of the young man who lifts 50 pounds above his head. It might be challenging, but he can do it. What if he had to do that repeatedly over the next hour. Time after time, he was required to keep on going and lift the 50 pound weight. Eventually, he would become weary and quit. It just wasn't within his abilities to continue! But what if he had an unlimited amount of help from One who is unlimited in His ability? That would make all the difference! Although he would still be going through the motions of lifting the weight, he would discover it was the One with unlimited ability doing the lifting. All we have...all we need...is Christ! Take a step of faith, trust Him to help you, and add endurance. You can't -- but with God nothing is impossible. (Matthew 19:26)

The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit. Run all the way with the flame of your torch still lit for Jesus.  (Source: J. Stowell, Fan The Flame, Moody, 1986, p. 32.) Run, child of God…run to Christ with patient endurance and your life light lit a flame for Him!

3 Keys to Find Healing after Conflict-Part 2

A man who hid for 32 years fearing punishment of pro-Nazi wartime activity says he used to cry when he heard happy voices outside but dared not show himself even at his mother's funeral. Janez Rus was a young shoemaker when he went into hiding at his sister's farmhouse in June 1945. He was found years later after she bought a large supply of bread in the nearby village of Zalna. "If I had not been discovered, I would have remained in hiding. So, I am happy that this happened," Rus told a reporter. Throughout those years he did nothing. He never left the house and could only look down at the village in the valley.  (Source: Today in the Word, October 17, 1993.)

 Fear will paralyze our ability to function as God intended!  Fear is not what God intended for us.  We must confront fear to press on for Jesus!

 The second key to find healing after conflict is — Courage Must Confront FEAR. Look at the next phrase in Acts 9, “…took him and brought him to the apostles.”  (Acts 9:27)

This was possibly putting Barnabas in danger, but more so all the apostles. It was putting in danger the entire “underground operation” of the early church – IF Saul wasn’t truly converted!  And remember, the apostles feared Saul and did not believe him to be a disciple! But more than being life threatening --   THE BIGGEST STRUGGLE HERE WAS THE FEAR OF BEING HURT AGAIN.  Does the fear of getting hurt again keep you from moving forward on the biblical path of forgiveness and the rebuilding of trust? 

A story is told of a well-known missionary in India who was bowing all night in prayer at the side of his bed when a great python lowered itself from the rafters of his bungalow and encircled his body with its cold and powerful coils. It made no attempt to constrict, and yet the missionary knew that if he struggled the great serpent would tighten the coils and crush him. With marvelous self-control, and courage born of faith, he went on quietly praying, until at length the animal unwound itself and went back into the roof.  (Source: Unknown.)

What is courage?

  • “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty,” -- Webster Dictionary

  •  “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

  •  “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

  •  “Courage isn't having the strength to go on - it is going on when you don't have strength.” ― Napoleon Bonaparte

 What does the Bible say of courage?  The phrase “fear not” is used over 80 times in scripture.  Other phrases like: “do not be afraid,” “be not afraid,” and “do not fear” are used over 30 times.  That is a lot of verses declaring this Bible truth!

Mark 6:50 uses the phrase “be of good cheer.”  In this text, the disciples cry out as they see the Lord approaching them – walking on water.  He tells them, “be of good cheer, it is I.”  This word is also interrupted as COURAGE.  This root word means – boldness or confidence.  The Bible directs our attention to courage as the opposite of fear.  Remember, God commands against fear …so, our response must find its way to courage instead.  But, how?  We know “what” we need to do…but “how” do we get there? The “how” is actually connected to the “why.” Sooo… why have courage?  Where’s the motivation?  I mean, why even attempt to walk through the hard stuff?!

The answer the Bible gives? God is the reason I ought to have courage.  It is God’s perfections & perfect plans… His love & goodness, that draw us to answer the call for courage!  Look at these examples.

 Genesis 15:1Abram has just had battle with the kings of Sodom and rescued Lot from captivity.  It is in that context the Lord says, “Fear not, for I am your shield.”

 

Genesis 21:17Hagar is in despair for her life and for the life of her child.  It is here that the angel says, “fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is….”

 

Luke 1:30, Mary is told to have courage in the face of being pregnant and without a husband.  What is her motivation?  “Fear not…thou hast found favor with the LORD….”

 

In each incident, God is calling for courage.  He isn’t calling for a courage that is easy to obtain or as a natural response.  He is calling for courage because HE is there to protect and to guide them!  He is calling for a courage that comes from resting in Jesus…a courage built on faith in Him. 

We are courageous because we have God…because we are confident in Him…and we rest in that position.

So, we return to Acts 9:27 and realize that in that one phrase (“took him, and brought him to the apostles…”) Barnabas needed courage to:

1.     Confront fear of safety

As we already discussed earlier, the fear of safety was very real for the disciples. II Tim 1:7 – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 

2.   Courage confronts approval. 

Barnabas was stepping away from the popular opinion of Saul.  He was approaching his co-laborers with an opposing view.  He loved these men, but he also saw another brother in Christ (Saul) in turmoil…in need of help and comfort. 

This is something the Lord has been working in my own life. I know that I am one who longs for approval.  It is a deep hurt to me when I realize my choice is not approved by key people in my life.  It is the struggle I have been wrestling over in my mind these last few years…a greater fear of man than of God? …a greater longing to be liked by others?  I have been preaching to myself a lot this week. Courage to move forward is found resting in Jesus…it is found in my confidence in the perfections of God…and this all requires — Faith. In. God.

 It is not the approval of man’s opinion that we must crave.  Courage will purse God’s Word and follow it at any cost.

 

3. Courage confronts the unknown

Barnabas didn’t know how the disciples would respond to him.  Was he risking his friendship and ministry with them on the altar of accepting Saul, the persecutor?

 

Would Saul take advantage of such approval?

 

Would Saul forget what he did…or worse, would Saul treat what he did as no big deal?

 

Remember, Saul (Paul) never lost sight of the past from which God saved him.  He would rehearse his testimony to many.  This kept him mindful of how great God’s saving grace really was for him.    No one had to remind him of what he had done.  He had to live with that the rest of his life.  But he spent the rest of his life making up for lost time in getting to serve Christ in the here and now.  Saul (Paul) didn’t allow his past to stall his relationship with Jesus, instead, he allowed it to motivate him to press on!

What unknowns are you facing…or fearing?  What if they don’t accept me?  What if I end up with no friends the rest of my life?  What if I can’t pay these bills?  What if my health goes bad?  What if my kids reject me as they grow up?  What if my boss reprimands me in front of everyone or fires me?  The list truly is endless.  STOP. Refocus on God.  Now sharpen that focus.  Rest in your confidence of who He is…and walk forward with courage.

 In January of 1956, Jim Elliot and four other missionaries gave their lives in Ecuador in their effort to reach the Waodani (Auca) Indians. This fierce group was known to attack any outsiders, but the vision for reaching them with the gospel compelled these young men to take the risk. Not long after they set up camp near the Waodani village they were attacked by warriors. Refusing to defend their lives with force, the missionaries were killed. The news flashed around the world, and the story of courage and sacrifice challenged many to take up the missionary cause. Even today Elliot’s words live on: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  (Source: Jim Elliott, Kathleen White.)

Our confidence in the person and work of Jesus is what builds this courage within us.  It is through the courage that comes from the confidence we have in God almighty – and resting in that position – that fear does not win.  It is this godly courage that drives us through our fears (not around them).  By God’s grace, embrace confidence in Him, take a courageous step of faith, and confront fear.

3 Keys to Find Healing after Conflict - Part 1

A horse was shot twice with a crossbow and survived after four fellow mares spent three hours taking turns licking the wound clean. The 20-year-old horse, Zeta, was in critical condition after one of the arrows bounced off her rib, while another lodged an inch from her lung as she grazed in a field in the U.K.

Zeta's owner, Jo Young, said the four other horses saved Zeta’s life. It was really touching that when she was found the other horses in the field were nuzzling her for comfort and licking the wound,” Young said. They kept the wound clean which would have prevented it from being infected by bacteria. It also helped to stem the blood flow….There was definitely a herd instinct kicking in among the horses. They knew Zeta was in need and they rallied round to save her,” he said.

 Paul wrote to the Corinthians and encouraged them to display the same care one to another, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).  Source: The Sun, May, 18, 2010…Submitted by Bill Prater

 

Comforting each other will often require uncomfortable situations — to comfort will require confronting ourselves

What keeps you from comforting another and encouraging a discipleship relationship?  Is the other person too grumpy? Is the situation too dangerous? Would the person in need require too much time away from personal pursuits? The obvious, but vital question is this — where would the Lord want us to invest our time? James 1:27

Barnabas must confront himself and others before he will truly comfort Saul.

Look at Acts 9:26-27. Saul is in a challenging position right now.  He is newly saved and baptized (Acts 9:18).  He has preached in the synagogue and has confounded the Jews in Damascus …leaving these Jews unable to argue against Saul’s preaching of the Messiah (Acts 9:19-22).

Do you remember when it was announced that Donald Trump was elected president? You may seen an online video of a person knelt down in the streets, weeping, and screaming “Noooo!” This was all done in response to the announcement of Donald Trump as the new president. This scream was as though a young family member was just murdered right in front of their eyes.  Every election cycle there is a president elected that someone doesn’t like. So, while the outcome of this election was not unique (a president someone didn’t like was elected), the response was shockingly immature and very public. A bystander recorded this unbelievable event and posted it online.  We could say there is an extreme lack of emotional maturity in this situation.  It is even reminiscent of a 3 or 4-year-old child screaming in the aisles of a department store because their parent told them they would not buy that toy or that bag of candy.

 In arguments among mature people, we are often able to agree to disagree and then go our separate ways.  However, in Acts 9:23 the Jews in Damascus who clearly did not win the debate with Saul over ‘Jesus the man’ verses ‘Jesus the Messiah’ --- were conspiring together on how they might commit murder!  These Jews hated Jesus.  Saul had now  exposed their foundations and assertions regarding Jesus as false. Saul became their new target. 

Think about it!  JESUS had many followers, the Jewish spiritual leaders became envious, and they murdered Jesus — the One who did no crime as the worst of criminals.  Perhaps they thought that would quiet the masses? After all, intimidation has often been and continues to be an effective means to an end...even though it is very faulty.  STEPHEN then spoke up in Jerusalem and they stoned him.  Many others remained faithful to Jesus and they threw them into jail.  Things were getting out of control, but they had Saul.  Saul was an extremely well-educated man who aggressively began to do all he could to stamp out these followers of Jesus.  He left his mark in Jerusalem, and now he has orders from the chief priests to do the same in Damascus.  But something happened on his way to Damascus – Saul. Gets. Saved. Now, their biggest champion has become their great opponent.   Their envy nurtured their bitterness & anger.  Such bitterness and anger moved them to malice (wanting to do someone harm)!

It goes on — the problem for Saul is double fold!  The disciples also don’t want anything to do with him. He probably feels himself to be the enemy of all and the friend of none. The Jews wanted to kill him, so he escapes to Damascus (over the walls at night – Acts 9:25).  Galatians 1:17-18 tells us he then went to Arabia, and even returned to Damascus at some point.  It wasn’t until three years later that Saul returns to Jerusalem (the scene of his original persecution campaign against the church) and the disciples were still afraid of him and still didn’t trust him (Acts 9:26).  Why, after 3 years, are the disciples still afraid of Saul and refuse to trust him?

  •  Because, they continue to remember his violence against the believers…their good friends and family members.

  •  They have not seen him for 3 years.  They only remember their last contact with him. The passing of time does not solve past conflict. It must be confronted to find healing.

God then brings Barnabas forward for such a time as this. Let’s look at the first key to find healing after conflict —-

  1. Fear Must Look Right (Fear God…not man)

“…all afraid of him and believed not.”  (Acts 9:26)

Can you imagine a husband wanting to regain a relationship with his wife after verbally abusing her or after physically threatening their children?  She could readily forgive him, but it would take time to regain her trust.  Rebuilding trust would take time and consistent new behaviors.  It would require a transformation from the inside out evidenced over the passing of time.

God does something very special here.  He sends Barnabas to speak on Saul’s behalf.  Someone who the disciples trusted needed to step in and recommend Saul as a co-laborer. Do you realize what this means?

The Lord is expecting the disciples to forgive Saul and begin to trust him again…even after all he had done! 

 

When we deal with those who have hurt us, we need to begin with forgiveness.  Then, the rebuilding of trust must begin. This is a long process that requires patience for everyone involved. In part, this journey needs to look like this…

How are you approaching the relationships that have hurt you?  This is a difficult journey. Significant conflict usually comes from those with whom you have a close relationship. Whether it is your own family, your past church experiences from years gone by, your co-workers, or even your own spouse – where are you on the journey of rebuilding relationship with a truly repentant believer?  Have you been trying to start the process of healing after conflict for many years? It does take time to rebuild trust, but it cannot happen unless we begin the journey.  Saul’s relationship with the disciples would never be the same as it was before his offenses.  It actually…eventually… became better.

3 More Responses of Courage that follows God

This blog post is continued from the July 29, 2019 entry entitled, “2 Responses of Courage that Follows God.”  This post is the ongoing examination of God’s call to Ananias to go to Saul, the persecutor (Acts 9).

His situation was Questionable.

Acts 9:13-14. Years ago I was the pastor of a small church. We were in the process of handing out fliers for some evangelistic outreach held at our church. When I returned to the office, I retrieved a voice mail that threatened a bullet between my eyes the next time I put a flier on his door. Thankfully, I had caller ID. I have had various threats over my 27 years of pastoral ministry. It causes one to stop and think. Do I embrace fear or trust God to continue doing what He commands?

Ananias had reasonable human fears.  Saul was a wicked man!  Saul had the legal power to do great harm!  Saul has thrown other Christians into jail!!  God calms Ananias’ fears with assurance of His plan. Ananias’ fears are calmed by God’s words.  Let’s remind ourselves what the Bible, God’s Word, says about fear.

Stop for a moment and rehearse the truth…rehears the Word of God.

II Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.”

 

I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.  He that fearth is no made perfect in love.”

 

Psalm 56:3, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

 Rest from our fears is found in the calming voice of God’s Word.

He was Consolable.

Acts 9: 12, 15-16. Ananias was teachable and willing to follow God.  He voiced his fears to God and the Lord confirmed to Jonah that this was His plan.

The Old Testament prophet Jonah had a scary situation to face as well – go to Nineveh (a violent & godless city) and preach coming judgment and needed repentance.  Jonah ran.  Ananias yielded.  Jonah’s fears overtook His view of God.  He could not see God’s goodness.  Nineveh’s reputation of violence and godless living consumed Jonah’s thoughts so that He could not see God’s goodness…and without a view of God’s goodness, Jonah could not trust the Lord and take a step of courage to follow the Lord’s call. Jonah could not listen to reason!  He became unteachable when considering the reputation of Nineveh. We must sharpen our view of our good God – and embrace a teachable spirit – to take steps of courage as a “God focused…Others minded” believer! 

He was Movable.

Acts 9:17. Ananias didn’t delay.  He moved forward to what God lead Him to do.

What keeps us from moving forward to reaching others?  Sure, it will be hard at times!  There will be times of:

  • Hurt feelings

  • Broken Trust

  • One way relationship efforts

  • Exhaustion

  • Doubt

  • Frustration…and these are just a few of the things OTHERS are dealing with regarding our relationship with THEM! 

The point is — we are all imperfect.  We all struggle.  BUT -- we are all commanded to: “love one another” … “edify one another” … “bear one another’s burdens.” 

 The bar is high.  Are we so stubborn or selfish that we refuse to follow Christ on this?  Why do we think God said to Joshua in Joshua 1:6, “Be strong and of good courage…?” And then again in 1:7, “Only be thou strong and very courageous…”  What God calls us to isn’t a life of ease, comfort, and self-focus. He calls us to think of others AND lead these to greater relationship with Him… and He gives us His enabling grace to do it.

Access God’s grace by faith today (Romans 5:2) and choose to help others – regardless of their appearance, reputation, or background – …and help them add to their faith (II Peter 1:4-7).