Conflict and the Christian

Path Broken Between People

This was originally published at The Biblical Recorder.

Unresolved conflict is damaging to our soul. As Christians we know God calls us to pursue peace in our relationships. As Christians, we also know conflict in our relationships is to be expected. The doctrine of sin is most evident when we are angry at one another. The sinful nature of our hearts is often exposed by our thoughts, words and actions. Anger typically occasions a desire to damage or destroy another person. While we are called to love one another sacrificially, when conflict arises, we often lash out at one another relentlessly. Jesus says, “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22).

While we all acknowledge unresolved conflict damages our souls, we often fail to recognize it is detrimental to our worship. In Mathew 5:23-24, Jesus teaches that if we intend to offer a gift at the altar of worship, when unresolved conflict is between us and another, we should first attempt reconciliation. This may seem like an odd command at first, but if we reflect on the nature of the gospel, this command is given context.

Aren’t we all, as Christians, recipients of God’s grace in reconciling us to Himself through Jesus Christ? Aren’t we the ones who have wronged God in unimaginable ways with our sin? Hasn’t God offered us grace when we did not deserve it? God offers reconciliation, when we deserve judgment. How can we come to the altar as reconciled worshipers of God if we are withholding the opportunity of reconciliation from another person?

If we have truly experienced the Good News of Jesus, we will see reconciliation with the person who has something against us is a gospel issue. What is interesting about this passage is that the one who initiates the reconciliation here is the one who has wronged the other person. God has taken initiative to reconcile us even when we did not deserve it. We must take initiative in conflict to be reconciled to those we’ve hurt, because they deserve it. This is the power of the cross.

“How Should Christians Engage in Culture?” with Andy Crouch

Andy Crouch talks about how Christians need a better understanding of scripture in order to engage culture well. This video is from Ministry Grid.

In Honor of Will Toburen: The Transition to Summit Church in Durham, N.C.

Today marks the end of Will Toburen’s pastoral ministry at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. However, Will’s legacy will continue at Calvary for many years to come. Will served as an Associate Pastor and Senior Associate Pastor at Calvary for well over a decade. He will now join the pastoral team at the Summit Church in Durham as the Executive Pastor for Discipleship Ministry. I’ve talked with the Summit’s pastor J.D. Greear recently and he, along with the rest of their team, is excited to welcome Will to their staff. What a great addition to an already stellar team!

photoWhen I came to Calvary as a seminary student in the Calvary School of Pastoral Leadership in 2006, Will along with Al Gilbert immediately pulled me in and began investing in my life. These two men have a very special place in my heart (and heart of hearts). They have both shaped my own life and ministry in ways they may never fully know. As for Will specifically, I view him as an older brother in the Christian life. A much wiser brother.

Will’s belief in me, his loving support, and his timely challenges have been formative and affirming – something that every Christian needs and few have the opportunity to receive. Not only has Will become a dear friend, he was part of our wedding ceremony, supported our adoption process, and always encouraged me to grow in ministry through preaching, teaching, and dozens of other ministry opportunities in the local church. Since I cannot be at Calvary for his last Sunday, or attend his going away fellowship, I would like to offer a few thoughts on Will here.

Will is a gifted preacher. I would put him up there with almost anyone. While Will is one of the best, he will never seek his own fame – he gladly points to the Father. I watched Will bring passion and humility to the pulpit for almost 7 years. First and foremost, Will always preached with Jesus as the center of his sermons. Will understands the gospel and works hard to apply the gospel through every text he preached. Will was also humbly honest from the pulpit. One of the things I valued dearly in his ministry was his willingness in admitting where he had failed and where he could work harder in his own personal life. Unlike some preachers who believe that one must always “have it together” to maintain strong leadership, he lead through repentance and humility.

While he was strong in the pulpit, he was so gentle with the people. Calvary loves Will. He grew up at Calvary. He was taught in Sunday School by many of the people who eventually sat under his preaching. I could always sense the mutual endearment when Will would visit some of those dear saints in the hospital or when he would stand by them as they slipped into eternity. I have watched Will weep with those who weep, hold congregants hands when they needed a pastors love, and celebrate the joys of life with many of the people. These are lessons I will treasure for the rest of my life. When I think of servant leadership – many of my lessons were learned under Will.

As a West Campus team we would meet once a week to pray, plan, and hold each other accountable. Each week Will would not only ask us hard questions, but he would also ask for our feedback on his life and ministry. He was always quick to go above and beyond to serve others. He rightly sought chances to grow and learn from others, even guys like me who were well under his ministry age. As I look back I can only conclude that Will wanted to be the most God honoring pastor that he could be. He wanted to preach the word with clarity and with Jesus as the hero. He also wanted to be sensitive to the Spirit when it came to his own life. And being open to allow others to speak into his sanctification process speaks volumes of his character and love for the church.

Strong in the pulpit, gentle in the hospital room. Always growing, and desiring others to grow. Like all of us Will has his faults, but he acknowledges them seeking to grow in the gospel. More importantly, Will loves Jesus, loves his family, and loves the church. I am grateful for our years of ministry together. I am also thankful for our friendship. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for this gentle giant of the faith.

I love you as a dear brother Will, and pray that God would continue to bless you as you begin this new chapter. Rock that sweater vest in your new ministry setting.

New Book: Orphan Justice by Johnny Carr

Congratulations to my friend Johnny Carr! On March 1st his book Orphan Justice will be released. In this valuable and needed book Carr calls the church to move from talking about orphan care to actually doing something about it. Here is Russell Moore‘s endorsement;

“No one has stood more at the forefront of the evangelical orphan care movement than Johnny Carr. He prophetically calls the church to care for orphans by combating racism, trafficking, poverty, and abortion.”

Orphan JusticeIn Orphan Justice Carr explores the orphan care and adoption movement in the U.S., and discusses the role of the church worldwide in meeting the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children. Moreover, Carr helps the reader understand the connections between social justice and biblically based orphan care. All this is done with an aim to provide the reader with practical steps to getting involved and making a difference today.

I highly recommend Orphan Justice to anyone interested in doing something about the global orphan crisis.

“Jesus Christ the Eternal King” – Christ-Centered Reflections on Psalm 2

The Plans of the Nations (v. 1-3)

Imagine that you are standing in a grand ballroom with all of the great and powerful kings, presidents, dictators of the world. After all the pleasantries have been exchanged one leader steps out in front of the pack and takes his place at the podium. And because of his blessing from God this particular leader (and his nation) is in a position to rule and impose their will upon the others. It’s not hard to imagine the other representatives becoming restless and dissatisfied with the leadership and power of this leader among leaders. It also wouldn’t be hard to imagine that some of these leaders would gather together later on at a secluded place and begin to conspire against this leader of ways to gain their autonomous freedom and independence.

This is precisely the opening scene of Psalm 2, an international conspiracy against the authority of God and his anointed king. The conspirators in this case are the non-Israelite leaders and their peoples. Take notice of the sense of irony in the voice of the Psalmist.

Continue reading ““Jesus Christ the Eternal King” – Christ-Centered Reflections on Psalm 2″

Wednesdays at Calvary West


We start a new semester of courses at Calvary West on Wednesday, January 9th. The Apostle Paul charged the leaders in the Ephesian church to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Our calling as leaders is to teach and train this local church for the work of the ministry. Wednesdays at West is not another program – but a theological and missional training ground.

According to the Bible the church is to be a learning-and teaching fellowship in which the passing on of the faith is central.Equipping the saints for the work of the ministry is central to our ministry here at Calvary West. And Wednesdays at West is a set apart time designed to ground and grow you in the gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight.

Our goal for Wednesdays at West is to train and equip you for fruitful personal ministry in the context of the church body, in the community, and the world. Every class that we offer is intended for a specific purpose and taught by someone that we have chosen for their expertise, trustworthiness, and passion for that particular area of interest. Here are a list of the intentional courses offered for adults.

Pastor Will Toburen
Room 3207

Do you really understand the power of the gospel? Many people only see the gospel of Jesus Christ as the way one becomes a Christian. But the gospel is not just important for the beginning of the Christian life, it is important for all of the Christian life – you never get beyond the gospel. Join us as we study how the gospel of Jesus Christ relates to spiritual growth and everyday life.

Pastor Matt Capps
Room 3206

Would you like to have a good grasp on how different parts of the Bible fit together? Understanding the storyline of Scripture can be a daunting task. Let’s face it, the Bible consists of sixty-six books, in several genres, authored by forty people, over a 2,000 year period. But in John 5:39 Jesus proclaims that all Scripture is about Him! Join us as we explore stories, themes, and people in the Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ and learn how to navigate your way through God’s word.

Pastor Steve Hardy
Room 3209

Why does the church engage in missions across the street and across the world? Pastor John Piper once said that “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” And God wants worshipers from every tribe tongue and nation. In this course we will discuss the foundations, history, and strategies of missions. Why is this important? Jesus said “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations.” Come and hear what God is doing in the world and how you can join in on his mission.

Derrick Stiller and Todd Senter
Room 3208

Not every Christian is called to go to seminary, but there are certain matters of doctrine that every Christian must know. Our theology is important because it has massive implications on how we live in day to day life. We encourage you to join us as we study the great doctrines of the Christian faith with an aim to apply them to our lives. It doesn’t matter if you are a relatively new believer or an old saint, join the discussion to sharpen your faith.

DVD Teacher: Dr. Timothy Lane and Dr. Paul Tripp
Discussion Leaders: Larry and Dr. Libby Wolosiewicz (Ph.D.)
Room 3304

How do Christ’s life, death, and resurrection bring lasting change in your life? Have you ever longed to experience the deep-down change that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings? During How People Change you will be given the tools to understand the basic principles of change according to God’s word.

Click here for a full brochure! 



Saturday Seminar on 1st/2nd Timothy and Titus with Dr. Steve McKinion


To sign up for this free training event please click on this link

On February 23rd we will have another Saturday Seminar in Biblical Interpretation on the 1st & 2nd Timothy and Titus with Dr. Steve McKinion fromSoutheastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he serves as a Associate Professor of Theology and Patristic Studies. Here is a little background information on Dr. McKinion from his personal website.

He finished his BA at Mississippi College, his MA at the University of Mobile, and his PhD at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he studied patristics with Iain Torrance. At age 27, after completing his PhD, he became a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he has taught since. He has also been a Visiting Professor at the University of Mobile, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Steve has also helped lead several church launches, and is currently leading a new church startup in Raleigh called New Covenant Fellowship. Writing has been a big part of his life.  In addition to the articles, dictionary entries, and books he has in print, he is currently completing two major projects: the Isaiah volume in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture with IVP, and Invitation to Historical Theology with Kregel.

Dr. McKinion has already published the books Life and Practice in the Early Church, A Commentary on Isaiah 1-39 in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, and Words, Imagery, and the Mystery of Christ: A Reconstruction of Cyril of Alexandria’s Christology.

See his personal website at –

To sign up for this free training event please click on this link

A Theological Reflection on Assurance and Perseverance: “How Do You Know That You Know?”

I thought about subtitling this post “how do you know that you know that you know in your heart of hearts that if you died tonight you would go to heaven“. I have actually heard the question of assurance posed that way by evangelists and pastors. Which is a ridiculous way to pose such an important and serious question. Assurance of salvation can be a very personal and emotional struggle for thoughtful followers of Christ. As a pastor, I often receive questions from people concerning their salvation. Questions like:

  • If I am a Christian, why don’t I feel like it sometimes?
  • If I am a Christian, why do I succumb to the same temptation over and over?
  • If I am a Christian, why does God feel so distant?
  • If I am a Christian, why do I wrestle with doubt?

Continue reading “A Theological Reflection on Assurance and Perseverance: “How Do You Know That You Know?””

Why We Need a Suffering Savior.

This morning Will Toburen ended his sermon with these moving words from John Piper, and I wanted to post them here.

Mass murder is why Jesus came into the world the way he did. What kind of Savior do we need when our hearts are shredded by brutal loss?

We need a suffering Savior. We need a Savior who has tasted the cup of horror we are being forced to drink.

And that is how he came. He knew what this world needed. Not a comedian. Not a sports hero. Not a movie star. Not a political genius. Not a doctor. Not even a pastor. The world needed what no mere man could be.

The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize.

So he came as who he was: the compassionate King. The crushed Conqueror. The lamb-like Lion. The suffering Sovereign.

These words are from Piper’s blog post titled: How Does Jesus Come to Newtown?

Devotions in 2nd Peter

For the past few months I have been writing devotions on 2nd Peter for The Biblical Recorder, the North Carolina baptist newspaper. Each devotion is only 300 words and follows the outline of LifeWay’s Sunday school curriculum “Explore the Bible“. Perhaps you will find them helpful.

PDF of Devotions on 2nd Peter

Living with Truth (2 Peter 1:1-21)

More than 50 years ago Francis Schaeffer argued that the change in the concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the most crucial problem facing Christianity. The issue of truth is still important today. The cultural war on truth has a multifaceted and colored history. Like all cultural conversation, the dispute over truth has effects on each one of us, sometimes causing doubt, sometimes causing us to feel inadequate in our understanding of the faith.

The apostle is clear in 2 Peter 1:12-15 that it is good to be reminded of the truth, even if one is already firmly established in the faith. The presence of false teachers is something the church has always dealt with. The anchor of truth that holds believers from cultural sway often needs strengthening in the rough waters of this life.

So Peter reminds us of the truth of the gospel. He starts by arguing that our standing before God was accomplished by the righteousness of our Savior Jesus Christ. God’s grace in Jesus provides us with all the blessings pertaining to life and death. In response to the beauty of God’s grace on our behalf, giving us a transformed heart, he pleads with us to make every effort to live a life that honors God through the power of the Spirit.

See, the truth of the gospel is something we never move beyond. The truth of the gospel is something that we need to be reminded of often. Only the good news of Jesus Christ has the power to stir Christians to holiness. Therefore, let us be a people who prayerfully return to the Word of God, in reliance on the Spirit of God, to live as the people of God. The truth of the gospel will stand alone eternally, long after the smoke of our cultural wars have cleared.

Continue reading “Devotions in 2nd Peter”