Guess What?

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

I’m moving to a new page! I decided I needed to get focused on something God started to stir in me last year. Last year, in my Leading by Design post, I have been getting more and more drawn to the idea artistic leadership. So, if you’re curious, check it out at leadingbydesign.org. I may still post here from time to time if I write something that doesn’t fit in the mold of creative leadership. Thank you so much for your encouragement and support over the past few years. I’ve had a blast connecting with you!

Image

Here is most of the message I preached at Resonate Church on Mother’s Day, 2013: 

Before my mom was born, she had the RH factor. The RH factor meant that your blood type was incompatible with your mother’s blood. These days we have treatment for it, but in those days treatment was risky. So there was a good chance that my mom would have been born with serious brain damage as she was being born. The doctors encouraged my grandmother to have an abortion. Not only was her daughter’s life in danger, her own health was also at risk. My grandmother (Marlene) flatly refused the abortion. She bravely said, “I will never kill my baby.” There was a doctor who had been experimenting with blood transfusions at birth and he performed the procedure on my mother and she was born a healthy little baby girl. However, my grandmother had many other health issues and remained in the hospital for two years after my mother was born. See, my grandmother was a woman of courage and a believer, but she was a woman who had experienced many setbacks in her life. She was a little like the mother in this story, the story of Naomi and her daughter in law, Ruth. 

So we’re going to be exploring the story of Ruth and Naomi. It would be hard to find a more depressing start to a story. It goes like this: A Jewish lady Naomi has two sons and then they marry two wonderful women. Naomi is a blessed woman. Something you need to understand about this culture is that a woman who has sons is considered more blessed than a woman who has daughters. Basically, the mother in law rules over her daughters in-law until she dies and then the daughter gets to do the same thing to her daughter in law if her son happens to marry. Naomi is the matriarch of the family and she has earned this honor by having sons. So Naomi enjoys this honor and security for 10 solid years. Two sons afforded her the ability to live a long life because they would provide for her needs as she aged. There was no social security or retirement plans. Naomi had to depend on the men in her family to provide. Tragically, in two little verses, Naomi’s world is turned upside down. 

Chapter 1, vs 3-5

Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion (her sons) also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. 

So, Naomi has lost everything dearest to her. And verse one tells us that there is a famine in the land, so this is not a good situation for Naomi. The only hope for orphans and widows in those days was to go out into the fields and after the harvesters had picked off all the grain, they could come behind them and pick up the scraps. It would be almost like if our bussers in our restaurants could get paid only by eating the scraps left over from people’s dinners. That was how people survived and didn’t starve. 

Well, in a famine, as you can image, people are starving and things could get ugly in those fields, especially for a poor defenseless old woman. Naomi knew her fate and she is kind enough not to wish that fate on her young daughters in law. She encourages them to do the sensible thing and go on without her. Their best bet would be to find new husbands so that they could be provided for and so that they could hopefully have sons who would take care of them in their old age. 

She encourages them to go back to their own people. So Orpah does leave for her homeland, even though her goodbye is tearful. She goes back to her hometown to try to find a husband and we never hear from her again. She returns to her people and her gods, her old way of life. She sees no other way and neither does Naomi. The Jewish God and the Jewish way of life will only be a distant memory for her. 

But Ruth is different. See, when she married into this family, she made a vow, but it was not just to her husband. She made a vow to serve this Jewish God, to be loyal to all the members of her household, even unto death. This Ruth was hard core! She was a Jew in her heart and nothing could change that. She would not allow it.

Do you ever feel like life has afforded you no choices? That you cannot afford to life the way God wants you to live? Maybe you tell yourself, I know I’m not supposed to, but God knows I can’t afford to live by myself, so I’ve got to live with my boyfriend. I don’t have a choice. Or maybe you make morally questionable choices to get ahead at work, thinking you have no choice. Many people have done crazy stupid things in life because they felt that they were out of options. One thing we see from this story, you always have a choice. 

Orpah felt that she had no choice. She left Israel with tears. She didn’t want to do it, but felt she had no choice but to go back to her old life and her old gods. And Naomi agreed with her. Naomi was in such a state of despair that she could not believe that there was a better way. 

Check out what she said to her daughters in law in the second part of vs. 13

“It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me.” 

Then, after Naomi goes back to where she grew up, her friends see her and they think, can this be you? She says this to them, down in vs. 20,

“Don’t call me Naomi (which means pleasant), call me Mara (which means bitter) because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me (or testified against me); the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the climate in Naomi’s life. It was bitterness and utter hopelessness. Remember how I said that Moms set the tone for the family? Naomi and Ruth were now a two person family and it must have been hard for Ruth not to sink into the depths of despair right along with her. 

I think if I were Ruth, I might have taken offense at my mother in law telling everyone she came back empty. I would think, “Hey, Mom, you still got me! What am I? Chopped liver? Don’t I bring any joy into your life? Don’t I count for something?” 

 Have you ever tried to comfort someone who won’t be comforted? It is one of the most powerless feelings, isn’t it?

I want to continue the story of my grandmother Marlene and my mom, Cathy. So, I told you that Marlene was in the hospital for two years after my mom was born. This did not create the greatest bonding experience for my mom with her mother. She called the nanny “Mama” and when Marlene finally did come home, she remembers thinking, “Who is this woman that my dad is kissing?” This mother and daughter were going to have a hard road ahead. The stresses of life overwhelmed my grandmother. She became addicted to pain killers and spent most of her time in bed. She never taught my mom how to dress or wear makeup or how to drive. Marlene’s marriage didn’t last and my mom found herself sort of parenting her own mother because she had no choice. Marlene was no longer seeing things from a clear perspective. She was depressed and she didn’t have any hope. Like Ruth’s climate with Naomi, the climate around my mom was a stormy one. 

One day when my mom was 16, she found her mom had been drunk. Out of anger and resentment, she said, “This is your fault!” At that moment my mom had some choices. She could have believed that it was her fault and wallowed in self loathing, or she could have rejected her mother’s words but lived a life of resentment and bitterness. 

I want to show you the first thing that my mom and Ruth were able to do that is so important when we experience stormy weather: 

1. Assess the Climate

We are all affected by life situations. We need to be able to quickly assess the spiritual temperature of our environments. So, if you go to work and you sense something in the air you can say, “A thermometer says, the temperature is 50 degrees.” A spiritual thermometer can say, “It feels like depression in here.”

We need to remember that the information a thermometer supplies is very valuable. It tells us what kind of clothing we need and prepares us to face the elements. Well, knowing the spiritual climate around us causes us to be prepared and handle each situation more wisely. 

Notice that Ruth does not chastise her mother for being bitter and feeling pain, even though it may have hurt her. She knows that would not be a wise course of action in a climate of misery. Just like it’s not wise to wear bald tires on the ice, it’s not wise to chastise an already embittered and hopeless person.

We also need different types of protection in different climates, don’t we? Just like we wear clothing to discourage the biting wind from giving us frostbite, so we can protect ourselves from a toxic environment. When we leave ourselves open to the elements, we can get seriously wounded. 

So, what is Ruth’s response? Does she allow her mother in law to take her down into the pit of despair? Does she believe what Naomi says, that the Lord has abandoned them, the the Lord must have rejected them? No, she doesn’t dwell on Naomi’s words. Instead she protects herself from them.

Not only does she protect herself, but she choses to change her environment.

2. Impact the Climate 

 Some of us are great thermometers. We can easily read a room and know how to protect ourselves. But so few of us go to the next level. Instead of merely being spiritual thermometers, we can become spiritual thermostats. You see, a thermostat can also read a room accurately, but a thermostat has the power to change the temperature in a room. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you have been given the power to begin to change your spiritual environment. 

Ruth 2:2

And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 

Ruth took a small step toward hope. And it was a brave one at that. She could have been abused or even killed, but she took the chance.  

The first thing Ruth decided to do instead of naval gazing, was that she looked around her and found something to do. When you make a choice to get moving and doing something proactive in your life, even if it is nothing more than getting dressed when you are feeling like staying in bed all day, you are making a choice to change the climate in your life.

Do you have areas in your life that need a climate change? If you’ve felt powerless to effect that change, take the power of the Holy Spirit and begin releasing life into your environment. Change your thinking. Change your words. Change your actions. Instead of merely protecting yourself from the weather, begin to make your own weather. Even if you don’t feel like doing it, you will notice that the climate around you will begin to change.

Inevitably, it will begin to affect others. 

When we move toward hope we also do this, our third point. 

3. Forecast Hope for Others

When Ruth steps onto that harvest field she finds a climate of hope. 

Look at verse 4 in Chapter 2: 

Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The Lord be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they answered.

What would you think if your boss gave you a greeting like this when you came to work in the morning? And can you imagine everyone repeating blessing back to the boss at your workplace? 

This was a radical climate of blessing and hope that Boaz had created in his fields. Blessing was going back and forth everywhere. They were like spiritual rainbows of promise. This is the kind of company I’d want to work for! So, when Ruth encountered this gracious man and his workers, she immediately receives a verbal blessing, a forecast of hope. 

She goes back and simply reports the forecast of hope to her mother, Naomi. Naomi responds by radically changing her climate. Instantly, she goes from seeing God as a source of bitterness, she now begins to see God’s hand of kindness in her life.

But it never would have happened if Ruth hadn’t taken that forecast of hope and brought it to Naomi’s ears.

What kinds of messages are reaching your ears? Are you putting yourself in a position to hear a forecast of hope? This is a good place to get it right here at Resonate Church. And what are you doing with the forecast? Are you keeping it to yourself, or are you forecasting hope in the lives of others?When Ruth takes the tiniest steps towards changing her climate, she immediately runs into favor. Immediately Boaz notices her and is drawn to her. When you make a choice to change your climate, you will immediately attract other climate changers. You will stand out in a crowd. (Read the rest of the story. It is incredible.) From this point on she is thrust her into the destiny God had for her. Not only is she well taken care of, but she is honored to be Jesus’s great, great, ….. Grandmother. 

Now the story doesn’t end with the evil stepmother cast into the night, no, God is bigger than that. Naomi isn’t evil: she is hurt and depressed. Just like my grandmother was. She could not find her way, she could not see the light.

When we are able to choose hope, all the people who are connected to us get to bask in the sun of that hope. You may have people in your family or close friends who are bitter and disillusioned. You have a choice. You can become bitter and disillusioned right along with them. Or you can choose to reach for hope. You can choose to be a thermostat for change instead of merely a thermometer who accepts things as they are. You can choose to start with one small act of faith. There are people whose only connection to any sort of hope is you. You may not think what you do matters to them, but it does.

At one time Naomi was Ruth’s only link to the God of Israel. Now Ruth is Naomi’s only link to hope and to a future. In the same way, my grandmother’s courage was the only way my mom would have been born. Later in life, my mom had to be the strong one. My mom had to choose a different climate.

Your attitude toward your life circumstances can mean the difference between life or death for someone else. I know that’s a lot of pressure, but I can’t help it. It’s true. Your life will either lift others up or bring others down. There is no getting around it. Without Ruth, Naomi would have probably died in her bitterness. How many will die in their mess without your simple act of faith? We will probably never know. But we can look out into the fields around us and simply move toward something.

One more interesting tidbit that will give you insight into this story. Do you know who Boaz’ mother was? Matthew 1:5 tells us it was Rehab, the prostitute, back in Joshua’s day. Rehab was the one who was in Canaan before Joshua and his army took the land. She was on the wrong side of the war, but at the last minute, she risked it all to be on the right side of the war, on the side of Israel’s God. Not only was she saved from death, but she was adopted into the family of God. 

Boaz must have seen the unusual fire of faith in the eyes of Ruth that he saw in his own mother, Rehab. Both Ruth and Rehab were foreign women without a shred of social standing in the Jewish community. Both were women who said essentially, “I’d rather be a slave in the house of the true God than be an honored woman in the house of all my foreign gods. I’d rather let go of all that I have if I can just be a part of this family and serve this God.” It proves that even if you have no connection, no possible way of having a good life, all it takes is one step, one choice to change your climate forever.

Ok, so one more story about my mom. You’re gonna like this one. So my mom is living with Marlene at the time she was dating my dad. They had just come home from a date and Marlene was knocked out from her usual dose of prescription drugs, passed out in the other room. When a man came into their room and began to threaten my mom and dad. My mom thought she saw a knife flash in his pocket. My dad tried to defend them, but the man had managed to get ahold of my dad by his shirt and had him pinned against the wall. He reared back and was about to punch. My mom, who had spent time getting to know God, time learning about him in church, and time exposing herself to a different climate, all of a sudden spoke up with boldness and authority she had never before experienced. She said, “In the name of Jesus, you can’t hurt this man.” Just then the man swung his fist at my day’s face. His hand stopped just in front of my dad’s face and he shook his hand as though he was hurt. He tried it a second time and he shook his hand. Then my dad punched him in the jaw and he ran away. 

My mom, who was living in a depressing environment, void of power, was able to overcome her climate. She was able to be a thermostat instead of just a thermometer. She was able to speak into the spiritual realm and make an impact. And in so doing, she was able to profoundly impact those she loved most.

After I told my mom I’d be sharing this story today, she realized that it was on Mother’s Day during a time of worship in church, that they Lord miraculously healed her from all the emotional scars from her mom. Today it will be 14 years from this Mother’s Day that my mom was healed. Today, God can do the same thing for you. He is available for you to heal you and make you whole so that he can graduate you to the next season of your life. You will no longer be merely a thermometer, but a thermostat to change your environment. 

 

Resonate Church Vision

Posted: April 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

Here is the basic message Jake Sloan preached at Resonate Church on April 28th, 2013.

This message is about the specific vision the Lord has given us for Resonate Church.

You know, vision is very important to any group of people from a business to a civic organization to a church. Vision is the glue that holds all the pieces of our individual gifts and backgrounds together. We are all so unique and that is great, but vision aligns us. Vision mobilizes us as a group to do what we could never do alone.

So we were asking the Lord, what portion of scripture would best illustrate the vision we are about to describe to you.

And we chose Acts 10, where God shifts some mindsets in the church. He causes the Apostle Peter to get a new vision of what he wanted to do in his church. I want to let you know that Peter has been one of the three major pillars of the church along with James and John. So far the church is growing rapidly and many miracles are happening. People are being healed, this guy Philip is traveling through time and space to preach the gospel. Radical stuff is happening!

One of the main Jewish leaders who has been persecuting the church, killing Christians all over the place in the name of God… You know, Saul? Well, rumor has it that he has had an experience with God and that he is now a believer. The disciples hear the news, they cannot believe it. They don’t want to touch this evil guy Saul with a ten foot pole. They are afraid he will infiltrate their ranks and kill even more believers. So Saul hangs out with good ole Barnabas for a while. Meanwhile, Peter goes about his everyday business of healing the paralyzed and raising the dead, staying with friends.

So all of this background brings us to Chapter 10. We’re gonna look at this from the perspective of Peter. Peter is just having a regular day at his buddy, Simon the tanner’s house. He was waiting for dinner to be prepared, so naturally, he was hungry. Now, it’s normal to dream about food when you’re hungry. But this dream was no normal dream. Let’s read it starting in verse 10 of Acts 10.

He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Peter was still fuzzy about what this trance was all about. But little did he know that God had a plan in mind.

The day before, he had spoken to a man named Cornelius in a dream. This Cornelius was not a Jew. He was a Roman. But he loved God the best he knew how. But Cornelius did not know about the saving power of Jesus yet. Basically all God tells him is that he is pleased with his life of prayer and giving and that he needs to meet a guy named Simon Peter who is staying with Simon the Tanner by the sea. Cornelius doesn’t have a phone or even a GPS so he can be sure he has got the right place, but he sends his servants out to go find Peter.

The exact moment that these guys get to the house was the moment that Peter wakes up from his strange trance. These guys say basically, “Hey, man, an angel talked with our boss and he sent us here to get you.” So, Peter follows God’s spirit and no doubt his curiosity is peaked. You think God knows what he is doing? I have noticed he doesn’t give us all the pieces to the puzzle. I think that might be because he wants us to seek him out. He wants to see if we’ll follow the path he creates regardless of where it is going.

Now, God has got these two guys together and he is about to give them a vision that neither of them was expecting. He is about to radically change their paradigms about God and about his people.

Let’s read vs. 24-35

The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

Peter was no dummy. He got the message God was trying to communicate loud and clear.

God was saying, stop putting up barriers to people of other nations! Stop making them act like you in order to come into the kingdom of God. Instead, you need to embrace them into the family of God.

You see, what people ate and who they ate it with was very important back then. Eating with someone was no casual thing. Eating with someone meant that they were accepting you as friends. Sharing a meal meant that you were creating an alliance. Refusing to eat with someone meant that you were distancing yourself from relationship with them. The customs of the Jews were keeping people out of the kingdom of God. The Jews did not associate with non-Jews, and so they never bridged that gap so they never got a chance to tell them about God. See, it wasn’t about the eating, it was about accepting people into God’s family without reservation.

And that brings us to the first tenant of our vision here at Resonate Church: EMBRACED

God cannot move fully unless we are willing to embrace each other, putting aside our cultural preferences, unless we are willing to accept people who do not fit into our paradigm of someone we’d want to associate with. Each of us have different walls we put up. Some of us have racial walls, even if we may not know that we have them. We have preconceived notions about people about all kinds of other things like age, income, education, or even politics.

Galatians 3:28 says this

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Notice that Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, erases, racial barriers, socioeconomic barriers, and gender barriers in the kingdom of God. He’s saying that none of that superficial stuff matters in the kingdom of God.

Almost anything can be a barrier to keep us from relationship with people. There are many many people in the world who will not step foot inside a church because of the judgement they have experienced from people in the name of Jesus Christ.

That is really sad. Tell me this: Why are we, as believers, surprised when unbelievers act like unbelievers? We should not be surprised. We were never called to make judgments about people who are outside of the truth, but we do it all the time.

Later on, in Paul’s teachings, the only reason he gives where we are to distance ourselves from people is when they claim to walk in the ways of Jesus, but they disobey his word. If you wanna look it up it’s in 1 Corinthians 5:11.

See, people of the world should not be threatening to us. They are merely doing what is in their nature to do. We should be excited when we encounter them because we have the remedy! And it is by kindness that we lead people to repentance. Just like it was through kindness that God led us to repentance.

I cannot help but wonder if this thing with Cornelius also helped soften Peter’s heart into accepting this formerly murderous guy Saul into the family of apostles. It was key that Saul, who later changed his name to Paul, was fully accepted. He was meant to be one of the up and coming church pillars to carry on the ministry after many of the other apostles had died.

So, what happened when Peter finally embraced his Roman brother Cornelius in to the family of God? The power of God fell and they received exponential expansion in the kingdom movement. This brings us to our second point: the early church was IMPASSIONED. This is the second tenant of our vision. We are impassioned with the passions of Jesus and then that passion spreads to others like wildfire.

As Peter was impassioned by his new revelation of God, he began to speak it boldly to anyone who would listen. Check out what happens when Peter expresses his passion.

take a look at verse 44

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.

When your passion is released in the way that God has made you, whether it is through speaking, through creating. or through that thing that is in your heart to do, you attract the power of the Holy Spirit. It was while Peter was speaking passionately, that the Power of the Holy Spirit fell.

When the Holy Spirit came, they were immediately EMPOWERED. Which is the third tenant of our vision.

Now, Peter had obviously been empowered by the Holy Spirit before this day. Like I said, he was raising the dead and healing the sick. I think that counts as empowerment. But when Peter got a revelation of those he needed to embrace, more and more people also caught that fiery passion. When he released his passion for this new revelation, many others were empowered, Jews and Gentiles alike.

in verse 45 and 46 it says this,

The circumcised (or Jewish) believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles (or non-Jews). For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

So then they were like, “Well, this is obviously the work of the God we know. I mean God’s done this kind of thing before, back in Acts 2.
I guess this is proof enough for us that God accepts them. We might as well baptize them with water and let them come into our family. Who could argue with that?”

As leaders of Resonate Church, we think it would be great if you were embraced into God’s family. And we know that it would be even better if you were impassioned to live out your calling by expressing your passion in the way that God created you. But, the only way that Resonate Church is going to create a movement in Alaska and in other parts of the world is if we are ourselves empowered and if we are willing to help others walk in the same power that we enjoy.

We can only embrace others when we are fully aware of how God has embraced us. We can only impassion others when we ourselves are full of passion for Jesus and for the calling we have. We can only empower others if we ourselves are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Anchorage, Alaska, there are people who are just looking for someone to accept them as they are, regardless of their sin, regardless of their demographics, or their strange hangups.

In Anchorage, Alaska, there are people who are void of passion. They are eeking out an existence, but they may not even realize they can have meaning and purpose in their lives. They may not realize that God has created them to do something that only they can do.

In Anchorage, Alaska, there are people who long for power, to find power in all the wrong ways. They try to exert power in their relationships, in their occupations, or even through hobbies. But the legit power they are seeking is in no one else than the Holy Spirit that we have access to through Jesus Christ.

Are you willing to join with us on mission to make Resonate Church a movement that sweeps across Alaska and even extends to different places of the world?

You can join with us in prayer, serve with us, or invest in us financially. Thank you for your support!

20130414-183542.jpg

Here is an excerpt from my sermon last week at Resonate Church.

This story of Mary who anoints Jesus with her tears and costly perfume occurs in each one of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These were all written by Jewish men who spent a lot of time with Jesus. I have taken these 4 accounts of the same story and compiled them together so you can take all the pieces of evidence and get a clearer picture of what happened on that day.

If you want to look them up individually you can find them here:

Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:1-9, Luke 7:36-50, John 12:1-8

Six days before the passover, while Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, Jesus was reclining at the table. Here a dinner had been given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table. A woman in that town, Mary, who had lived a sinful life came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, about a pint of pure nard. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them (his feet) and on his head. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. Particularly Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him objected saying, “Why this waste? “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. And many others rebuked her harshly. The Pharisee who invited him said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is– that she is a sinner.”

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? Leave her alone. She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. It was intended that she save this perfume for the day of my burial. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Jesus answered (the man who invited him) saying, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Here we have quite the scene! We have a woman, who is unnamed in most of the accounts, but John lets us know that this woman is Mary. It could have been Mary Magdalene who had seven demons driven out of her. Or more probably, it was Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ sister who sat at Jesus’ feet to learn while her sister Martha slaved away serving them. Regardless of which Mary this was, we know that women were very mistreated and looked down upon in those days, particularly among religious men. Men would go to bed at night repeating the phrase, “thank God I am not a dog, a Gentile, or a woman.” So Mary was in the company of people who, by way of their culture, thought themselves superior. We also know that Mary was a prostitute, so that also didn’t do anything for her social status. But when Mary encountered Jesus, she was moved. She was moved beyond the restrictions of her culture. Something stirred inside her. She couldn’t explain it, but she also couldn’t resist it.

You know, I think sometimes we fear our emotions. And for good reason. We know that following our emotions can often get us into trouble. We can fly off the handle in rage or we can be vulnerable with someone and then that someone can hurt us more easily. So, we naturally distrust our emotions. It’s because we’ve had such bad experiences handling them from ourselves and from others.

But the reality about emotions is that they are indicators of what is going on inside. If we learn how to harness our emotions, we can learn to use them to benefit us and others. Instead, we too often try to ignore them or push them aside. I think that we in Western American culture we need to be taught how to celebrate, how to mourn, how to feel. It’s just healthy to feel.

The main thing we need to remember about our emotions is that it is always okay to point our emotions toward God. Have you ever actually read the Psalms? If you haven’t, I challenge you to read it. You can find every emotion known to man expressed in those pages. And you won’t find God editing man’s expression of emotion. I believe that part of the reason these psalms are there is to prove to us that God can handle the range of human emotion. We don’t need to clean up our act in order to open up to him, he takes us as we are.

Expression. We need expression to live. It’s part of being human. It is part of how we were created as worshippers. Remember when Jake talked about how the word for “work” in the garden was also the word for “worship.” And Adam had a creative work to do in his first task of naming all the animals. He was created for expression and so were we.

So, we want to be sure that our expression is right, pure, and holy? How can we be sure? Well, I think that we tend to over think this one. Here is the only scriptural qualification I see for unleashing your expression. That your eyes are focused on God.

It’s not whether you read your bible yet today, it’s not whether you fasted last week, it’s not even that you avoided sinning in the past 5 hours. If, in the moment of your expression, your eyes are truly focused on God, you won’t go wrong.

From what we know about this woman Mary, she had a bad reputation. She was not exactly someone they’d have asked to teach the Sunday School class or serve on the PTA. But, here’s what Jesus noticed about her… her eyes were pointed in the right direction. She saw what no one else saw, she expressed what no one else felt. She was overcome and began to weep, she took her jar and broke it like the sweet smelling brokenness of her soul. Jesus didn’t appreciate her in spite of her brokenness, he appreciated her because of her brokenness. Her brokenness before him was what made her beautiful to him.

As he delighted in her brokenness, he also delights in ours. All around her were people who by all worldly standards were better than her. Even by moral standards, they were superior. But when Jesus saw what had happened, he shut their mouths. See, they may have had their ducks in a row, but there was one thing missing. In that moment, their eyes were not fixed on Him. Okay, maybe their physical eyes were fixed on him, but they did not see him the way that she did.

You have a voice, an expression to unleash on the world. But you will face distractions that will try to keep you from fixing your eyes on Jesus as Mary did. So here are…3 Distractions to Passionate Expression.

1. The Demands of Practicality
When these guys saw Mary pouring out expensive perfume on Jesus, dollar signs went up in their eyes. They didn’t see Jesus as a worthy use of her resources. They pointed to all the need and suffering in the world as a reason not to lavish Jesus with so much love, with so much ‘waste.’
I have seen this same kind of poverty mentality in the church. Let’s not ‘waste’ our money on lighting equipment or “waste” our time practicing music when there are so many people in need of Jesus. This kind of thinking ends in mediocre churches, mediocre kingdom advancement, mediocre blessing. Admittedly, we are being extravagant. But when Mary looked at Jesus, she saw he was worth the extravagance. That he was worth her best and nothing less. Jesus is worth my best, he is worth your best and nothing less.

There is a burning deep inside of us to express our best. But some of you have shut off these desires because of worshipping practicality. I know I have.

- Maybe you have a desire to learn a musical instrument and you’re in your fifties and you think its not practical to spend your time doing that.
– Maybe you have just been wanting to give an old friend a call and you reason you haven’t is that you don’t want to “bother” them.
– Maybe you have a burning desire to write a very large check and give it away, but you can’t justify it in your mind.

Some of these desires God has put within you are for a single moment and some may last your entire life. This was an act of passion in Mary’s moment. Little did she know, it was an act that put her in four of the the greatest history books of all time. You never know how big or important it is to “waste” your life on Jesus until you do it.

You see, when we extravagantly invest in things that God has placed upon our hearts, it can open the windows of heaven over our lives in ways we will never understand.

I have this dear artist friend and her name is Joy Lynn. She kept talking to me about how she needed to get paid for what she did or it wasn’t worth it to her. I challenged her on this point and said. Is the value of what you do or who you are based on the price people are willing to pay for what you do? Well, in our practical world, yes, that is exactly how things our valued. But, by God’s standards, our value was established by what Jesus Christ was willing to pay on the cross. Joy Lynn began to realize that her art was valuable whether or not a single person wanted to buy it. She began creating from a place of extravagance, lavishing her love on God while she did it. As soon as she set her mind to “wasting” it all on him, God began blessing her with financial opportunities beyond her wildest dreams. But one thing she had to get straight. God is worth every second, every resource that I have on him.

Are you willing to waste your life away on Jesus? Whatever that may look like? Even if it doesn’t make practical sense? That is a kind of life that God cannot wait to defend, to validate, and to honor.

The second distraction to expressing our passion is this:
2. The Confines of Culture

The important men who were in the room with Mary were spiritually nearsighted. Spiritually, they could not see beyond their own experiences with Jesus. It’s hard to understand why someone would worship Jesus so passionately when you yourself have never experienced Jesus that way. Just because you don’t understand someone else’s relationship with Jesus, don’t discount it.
Jesus perceived what was really going on. He perceived even beyond what she may have perceived. He was so spiritually aware that he interpreted her actions as a prophetic statement. He told them that she was preparing his body for burial. Jesus knew what would happen to him, people were seeking his life while they spoke. When he smelled the perfume, he could also smell his death coming in just a little while.

What kept these other so-called “spiritual” men from seeing the prophetic statement she was making? Their sense of cultural propriety was offended, which rendered them ignorant of the spiritual meaning. Sometimes God will intentionally do things that don’t make sense to baffle us, to get a gut reaction from us, to see if we will be offended or accept what he is doing in faith. When he does this, he brings hidden sin to light.

I have read that even the act of letting down her hair would have been viewed as suggestive and improper for a woman to do in front of a man. It was a big cultural no no. All those religious men were offended on many levels. Judas’ selfish heart was revealed. Simon’s pride was revealed. But Jesus didn’t see her with the eyes of his culture. He saw into the purity of her soul.

When you step out and do something that God puts in your spirit, it can offend others. We don’t go seeking to offend, but we have to accept the fact that it’s gonna happen.

When we step out into what God wants us to do, people will react very differently. The sin of some may be exposed and that is hard. But we have to have faith that there will always be good fruit from it. Whether you know it or not, your very life can be a prophetic statement to the world, just like Mary’s was.

The third distraction in expressing our passion is:
3. Preoccupation with Shame

The gospel of Luke points out that Mary had a sincere and greater measure of love than any of the others in that room. And she had that love because she was forgiven much. Jesus pointed out how the others in the room did not even show him the simplest acts of love and hospitality but how her gifts of tears and perfume far surpassed the party they threw for him. It was her best and it came from her heart.

By contrast here’s our host, Simon, said to himself, “If Jesus was really a prophet, he would know that this is a sinful woman.” Simon’s heart revealed that he didn’t really believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be. Simon was a mere “fan” of Jesus, not a follower. I’m sure if Jesus had a Facebook page, he would have “liked” it and he would have subscribed to his blog, but he was not willing to really invest personally in Jesus.

Mary gave her tears, the product of emotions that were completely wrapped up in love. She gave him her resource. Now this resource was probably offensive in and of itself. I mean she was a prostitute, remember? This bottle of perfume was probably payment from one of her “regular customers.” When she poured this perfume on his head and his feet, it was proclaiming that Jesus had turned her sinful life into a life of beauty.

Another thing we need to see is that the cost of this sacrifice was immense for her. If she was leaving her life of prostitution, how else was she going to make money to live? It’s not like in our day where she could get a job at the corner drug store. This sacrificial move was also an act of faith that God would provide for her needs even if she left her life of sin.

Those of you who have been around the block and lived a life of sin sometimes steer clear of church and God, thinking that your sin disqualifies you. When in fact, it is the exact opposite. Your sin and the magnitude of the forgiveness you have experienced gives you a doctorate level ability to love God. You know better than anyone the extent he went to love you.

I love what Jesus says, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” Don’t you want Jesus saying that about your life? When everyone might mock or criticize you… Don’t you want Jesus to say, “Leave him alone. He has done a beautiful thing to me.” I care that Jesus declares my life beautiful, not what others declare about me.

After all the uproar, Jesus prophecied over the legacy of her life from here on out saying this: “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told, in memory of her.”

What an honor to have Jesus say that! This woman would no longer be known as Mary the Prostitute, but as Mary the Lover of God, Mary the one who loved him with such a beautiful extravagance that all four of the gospel writers felt compelled to mention her. And 2,000 years later, across the globe in a country she never heard of, here we are talking about her, honoring her.

Notice Jesus first defended her, then he validated what she was doing, then he honored her for all history. If you are unafraid to let your voice and expression out, he will do the same thing for you: he will defend you, validate you, and then honor you among many.

What will be the legacy of your life?

Which distractions do you most struggle with: the Demands of Practicality, the Confines of your Culture, or your Preoccupation with your Shame?

20130413-182802.jpg

Part 1 of our “Impassioned” series at Resonate Church.

So many symbols of passion are of a liquid nature. We have expressions like, “I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into that.” What we are really saying is that we poured our lives, our passions into something. But I’m going to focus on two liquids: blood and sweat. And blood and sweat point to a Work of Passion.

Work is this constant thing that we can’t avoid, although some people might try. I’m going to take a look at Genesis, where work originated. What I notice in Genesis is that the kind of work that happens in the garden of Eden is very different from the kind of work that is done since the fall of Mankind.

Genesis 2:5-7
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

The task God gave Adam was to “work” the ground. But I want you to realize that the Hebrew word for work was different from what we normally think of work. This kind of work was the word “avodah” and it is basically synonymous with being a servant or worshipper. So when God is commanding Adam to “work” the ground, he is inviting him into an occupation of a worshipper or servant of God.

Adam had a pretty good job description at that point. He got to name all the animals, so he got to engage his creative mind. He and Eve got to have dominion over all the land giving him a sense of ownership, and they got to enjoy the fruit of that worship/work.

Another great word that combines this idea of worship and work is the word “cultivate” we cultivate a garden and watch it grow. We cultivate our relationship with God and watch us grow ever closer to him. It denotes life giving rise to more life.

Only after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, did the word “sweat” enter into their vocabulary. And this particular Hebrew word used for sweat in Genesis was only used once in the whole Bible. Now Adam was entering into a whole new world of work, one by which he would experience constant struggle and sweat. He was going to have to deal with thorns and thistles. He was now going to have to deal with unfavorable seasons, beasts and pests devouring his food.

Genesis 3:7-19
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you;
 through painful toil you will eat food from it
 all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
 and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
 you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
 since from it you were taken;
 for dust you are
 and to dust you will return.

Not many of us are in the farming business, but we still feel the effects of the curse, don’t we?

We experience missed deadlines, personality clashes, constant stress, pouring out our sweat for a few measly bucks, finding out that we still can barely make ends meet. So often our work and the toil we labor under feels very little like worship to us. It feels more like slavery, or false worship, if anything. All of us were born into a fallen world, so that’s all we know. But what if we were meant to live life a little differently.

Skip ahead several thousand years to the life of Jesus. Jesus was a man born to a human mother. He felt the effects of this fallen world, just like everybody else. But he had a radically different perspective on work. He spells out his philosophy for us in

John 6:28-29
“Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Don’t you see how he is restoring the original intention of work, the way God wanted us to do it before the fall? Substitute the word “worship” for the word “work” in that sentence. “My worship is to believe in the one he has sent.”

Either way, it makes perfect sense. Our work and our worship should be one in the same thing. Now we know there are many different expressions of worship, but in all our activities, we should be infused with passion, with a sense of purpose, knowing we are serving someone greater than ourselves.

Studies have shown that only about 30 percent of people are actively engaged in their workplaces. The rest of us are just trudging along, surviving rather than thriving. Even a lot of businesses are waking up to this idea that we are so much more proficient at our jobs if we are doing something we are created to do, if we feel some level of ownership in our jobs and if we feel compelled to do them. Of course, they don’t use the God terminology, but they are trying to tap into the God-given passions of the unique individual. Countless tests and tools have been created for you to figure out that God-passion inside of you.

This idea of drudgery, like you have to pay your dues of being miserable seeps into our ideas about God as well, into our churches, even into some pulpits. So many people who believe in Jesus feel as though duty is enough to keep them going. They try to be good and not break any rules, but deep inside their lives lack passion. Deep inside they are afraid to step out into the unknown.

Some of you may be like that. You are more driven by obligation than by passion. I can tell you from personal experience that you won’t last long trying to work for God like that. You will either burn out and turn away from God, or you will just feel perpetually frustrated like a caged bird. People like this are really good at obeying the “do not” rules, but when God says, “go!” they sit paralyzed.

I want to take you Luke’s account of that fateful passion week– to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed on the night of his betrayal. I believe that in the Garden was Jesus’ real place of victory. After he had wrestled with all of his questions and came to the conclusion that he would submit to the Will of his Father at all costs, then he had only yet to play it out.

And it was in a garden. Interesting how we’re back in a garden, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. And we see that word again “sweat” this time in Greek instead of Hebrew, as the New Testament is written in Greek. It is the only time we see this Greek word for sweat in the whole bible.

In the NIV, the word sweat is only used 2 times, once in the passage I read in Genesis, and this one in Luke.

Luke 22:41-44
He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

It says that he literally sweat drops of blood. I’m sure that there is fascinating science to explain how a man could possibly sweat drops of blood, (actually the name for this condition is rare but is called “hemotohidrosis”) but I’m not getting into that today.

Let’s catch the symbolism here. There is so much symbolism in the Bible that we can miss the beauty of it. The blood mixed with sweat foreshadowed the sacrifice of his blood shed on the cross to put an end to the curse of sweat (or meaningless toil) that was placed on mankind after the fall.

Jesus’ work was to put an end to striving and toil that was never ours to bear. It was not to put an end to all “work” but it was to put an end to the kind of work that makes us frustrated, the kind of work that is futile, the kind of work that is meaningless.

When Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” he wasn’t saying, “sit on the couch and take it easy with a bag of potato chips in your hands.” Instead, he was saying, you don’t have to do this yourself. I’ve got the weight of all the responsibility on me. Just do and be what I created you to do, who I created you to be and I’ll do the rest.

It’s like the birds that soar in the sky. They make it look effortless, but all their flapping would be to no avail if there was no air, no invisible force underneath their wings to make them fly. I know it’s kinda cheesy to say he is the “wind beneath our wings” but it’s true. Flying is work to be sure, but without the wind, we are just flapping our wings, going nowhere.

Sometimes it is hard to believe that God really wants more for you than what you are currently experiencing. Sometimes good news is harder to believe than bad news, especially when we are so accustomed to bad news.

Jesus’ death and resurrection finalized that work that was done once and for all. Jesus was rejected by his closest friends, accused by the ones he came to save, and put to death on a cross. The most excruciating invention of torture known to man. He swallowed the bitter pill, or as he put it he “drank the cup” of suffering for you and I. Along with this cup he drank down the effects of the curse, which was the daily striving we experience in order that we might have peace.

Through faith, Jesus’ passionate DNA can be infused into us and we get to participate in the worship/work that God created us to do from the beginning of time. Yes, we may experience blood, sweat, and tears in the process, but it will be worth it. It won’t be as hard as it was trying to work out our own lives through self reliance.

Some may wonder how people can follow Jesus so hard core. When people are really following Jesus hard core, it is Jesus accomplishing it in them, not them mustering it up for themselves.

If you trust what I am telling you and ask Jesus to infuse you with his passion, you will find that your work is much easier and lighter than you imagined. You will be able to go through almost anything because he will fuel your passion all the way.

Ask yourself this question. Are you tired?

I don’t mean necessarily physically tired. But are you tired of keeping up appearances? Are you tired of pleasing others? Are you tired of working and seeming to have nothing to show for it? Are you tired of believing in only yourself? Are you tired of trying to fix your relationships? Are you tired of trusting in only yourself to provide for what you and your family need?

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

But, you might say, “I thought being a Christian was about doing more, not getting rest!” Well, yes and no. Doing without passion is exhausting and life-sucking. The key here is passion. When believers are infused with the passion of Jesus they do more and accomplish more, but they barely realize they are doing it.

They know that they are not doing it alone. They will serve with blood, sweat, and tears because they know the One they serve and they have an inkling that he is really really wonderful and worth serving. Notice that he talks about rest, but then he talks about a yoke. Is a yoke made for rest or for work? It is made for work. So, he is saying in your work, which is really worship, I will give you rest or peace.

There is a kind of rest that Jesus bought for you on the cross. Remember, that line in “What about Bob?” The doc says to Bob, “Here’s a prescription. Take a vacation from your problems.” Jesus’ blood bought you a permanent vacation from your fears, from your failures, from your endless striving, from your worry and anxiety.

There is more life to live for you. Will you let Jesus infuse you with his DNA of passion today? Will you rest in his finished work on the cross today?

20130325-220024.jpg

Here is an excerpt from the Launch Sermon from Resonate Church. It was part 3 of our Misfits series, Misfit Jesus.

You know we, especially as Americans, love to root for the underdog, don’t we? Just think about some of the movies we love. Forest Gump, Rocky, the Pursuit of Happyness, and even Kung fu Panda speaks of the little guy coming out on top. The unlikely hero.

These were the ones who were the misfits. Though no one said it could be done, they were out to prove the world wrong. They were going to make their mark, maybe even change the world. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been there, we all know what it’s like to feel like the underdog.

There is a great underdog story in a movie called, August Rush. Ever heard of it or seen it? It is a great movie, especially for music lovers. Two musicians, the woman a classical cellist and the man, a guitarist in a rock band, find themselves one morning awake in each other’s arms after a night of romance and passion. They depart and do not hear from one another again. Come to find out, the woman has conceived and given birth to a little boy. Since the birth was premature, the woman’s father tells her that the baby died, but in reality, the father secretly gives consent to having the baby adopted. This little boy, August Rush, lives in an orphanage all his life, never knowing of his origin, assuming he was rejected by his parents, who simply have no awareness of his existence. He turns out to be a savant musician who can do amazing things on a guitar. August is the classic underdog in a world that seems to be dead set against him.

There is something about the underdog that hits us so deeply. It gives hope to all those oppressed. It speaks to all of us misfits who have experienced the stinging pain of rejection.

Jesus is the “underdog”, so to speak, that we are going to be discussing. But he was so much more than the underdog we hope will win. He was the conquerer, destined to reign over all heaven and earth.

Let’s take a look at a text that was written 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus, when Jesus’ ancestors, the Jews, were taken as captives into Babylon.

These people had become major underdogs. They were oppressed in many ways. They could not worship as they pleased or even speak their own language. They were given new names and their identity as the people of God was stripped from them.

It is in this difficult time that Isaiah begins speaking of this mysterious “servant of the Lord” in Isaiah 52:13:

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness— so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. (Isaiah 52:13-15 NIV)

Did you notice in verse 13 how he says that his servant would be highly exalted and prosperous? But then it goes on to talk about how is face was highly disfigured, scary even. We’re talking like “freak show” here.

If you are taking notes, point one would be this.

1. The servant of God experienced deep suffering.

As deeply as he sunk in grotesque disfigurement, he was to be even more highly exalted. None of the rulers of the day saw this coming.

This man was going to cause shock and awe in all who encountered him. He was a walking enigma. No one could figure him out. He was the underdog…

So we go on to read the famous passage in chapter 53

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:1-3 NIV)

This must have really resonated with the Israelites at the time who were themselves being despised and rejected. But even as much as we are aquatinted with rejection or they were aquatinted with sorrow, this shows us that this servant was more acquainted.

If you are despised and rejected by the Rejects themselves, how low is that? I mean, big deal if you don’t make it into the country club, but it really bites if you get kicked out of your local dollar store. You can’t get much lower than that. This man was rejected by the rejects themselves.

So, I’m thinking, this is God’s way of exalting and prospering his servant? How strange of God!

Skip down to verse 7

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7-9 NIV)

If all we read was this portion of the chapter, we might get the idea that God and those who believe in him are gluttons for pain and punishment. Some of you may have the idea that we who believe are just people with an overdeveloped sense of guilt.

You’d rather not come to church too much because you’d rather not have a weekly reminder of your own sin. You know you’re not perfect, you don’t need someone rubbing it in your face. These verses are a real bummer if they were all we read.

Some of you may have gone to church in the past and all you got was one side of the story. Your sins were shoved in your face and you were scared of hell, so you said the prayer, buying your “fire insurance” to keep you out of the flames of hell you heard about.

If that was you, we owe it to you to tell you the rest of the story. You see, the pain of Jesus, the rejection we all face, our own guilt and sin is not the gospel. That is not the good news.

Every good story has to have a moment of conflict and so far, all we know is the conflict, the struggle, the bad news.

We see all the pain and trouble in the world and, yes, some are trying to ignore it, sing a song, and pretend it doesn’t exist. But others stare at it and blame others even themselves for it, feel endless guilt or anger over it, but it doesn’t change a thing.

Have you ever asked God, “Why?” Have you ever been told not to ask that question? Well, I think that God wants us to ask him why. I will show you a little later that Jesus even asked the question, “Why?”

And he tells us why in the remaining verses of Isaiah 53, the verses I skipped over earlier.

Watch how the following principle unfolds, point 2:

2. God transforms rejection into honor and prosperity.

Let’s read Isaiah 53:4-6 now.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV)

And then in verse ten through the end of the chapter.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12 NIV)

What did the suffering of this servant secure for you and me?
– gives us peace
– heals us
– justifies us and takes away our sin

What does it do for himself?
– makes him see the light of life and be satisfied
– gives him a portion among the great, spoils of the strong
– makes him see his offspring and prolong his days

Even if you know very little about Jesus, doesn’t this sound a lot like him to you?

Jesus was a walking enigma.

He was considered poor, even homeless, but he possessed all things.

He was honored and praised like no man of his time, but he was equally as rejected and disdained.

But he did not do this for nothing and that is very important to understand. Jesus Christ is not to be pitied. In the New Living Translation it says, “When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.”

So, something was actually accomplished by his anguish suffering and rejection. We all know what it’s like to suffer, particularly to suffer as a result of our own stupidity or sinfulness.

But this was not the kind of suffering Jesus experienced. It was because of sin, but not because of his own sin. It was not needless, wasted suffering, it was accomplishing the salvation of humankind.

We talked a little bit earlier about whether or not it was okay to ask the question, “Why?” Let’s look at Jesus and his heart while he was hanging on the cross. In Matthew 27:45-46.

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ). Matthew 27:45, 46 NIV

Jesus, because he was the initial light of the world, experienced a darkness and a rejection deeper than any of us will ever know. His Father, the one he loved, the one who loved him, for a brief moment, had forsaken him.

And Jesus, though he probably knew why he was suffering intellectually, the suffering of his human soul could not bear it.

He had to ask the question anyway. And then he gave up his spirit. It was as though he was asking God, “Is it really all going to be worth it?”

I believe that when he gave up his spirit, it was his last act of submission and trust that his Father would soon make it all worthwhile.

The secret of the life of Christ and the principles from Isaiah 53 are this. And it’s going to be our third point.

3. There are certain rewards that only the pain of rejection can secure.

Think about it. It really starts to make sense. So many of the people we consider eternally significant in our history have had the guts to put themselves in a position to be rejected. Just think about it.

Can you think of one very well loved and respected person on this earth who was not hated and rejected by many as well?

Those who are willing to face rejection, in the end, receive some of the highest honors. This principle works both in the spiritual and the natural world.

Most of us aren’t that courageous. Instead of embracing rejection as a necessary part of reaching something better, we tiptoe around rejection.

We fear it. As a result, we remain in the shadows, bound to live mediocre lives, falling far short of the destiny that God has for us.

God loves the underdogs. God identifies with them, and God even expects us to embrace rejection for a greater reward. God wants to use the underdogs to show his power through us in an even greater measure.

Are you getting excited about the rewards that your own personal rejection could produce? Well, the Apostle Paul was excited about suffering.

He says something that has always astounded me in Colossians 1:24.

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24 NIV)

I do not pretend to fully understand what Paul was talking about when he said that he “fills up in his flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions,” but I do know this.He didn’t enjoy suffering one bit, but he suffered for a clear purpose. And this is what we can glean from Jesus’ and Paul’s example.

We should never shrink back from the sting of rejection when we are walking in the way of Christ. There is a greater joy that only the Rejects or the Misfits enjoy. There is a freedom that comes when we willingly embrace rejection for a cause. Paul’s cause was for the sake of the church. What is your cause? What are you made to do? You are made to do what you do for God. Jesus was made to carry the sins of humankind. Paul was made to serve the church, the Bride of Christ.
Whatever you are made to do will take courage. But the degree to which you walk in that courage is the degree to which you will be rewarded.

Paul reminds us of this reward in Romans 8:17

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17 NIV)

Not one of us will have to suffer and be rejected like Jesus was. However, we have a great opportunity to participate in his sufferings, to share in it in big and small ways so that we can also receive some of his glory. Sharing in his glory does not diminish it from him.

Jesus actually wants to share his glory with us. But the road to that glory is just a bit of suffering, a bit of rejection. It is a cost, but nothing worth comparing to the glory that is to come.

Through the course of events in the life of our character, August Rush actually begins attending Juliard to improve his musical skill. But his “street dad” played by Robin Williams yanks him out of the school and forbids him to attend. August had a choice at that point, to allow the pain of this rejection to cause him to build walls around his life. Instead, through the avenue of music, August refused to close up his heart. Meanwhile, August’s real dad was walking through the streets of New York. After pursuing his long lost love, August’s mother, he had left dejected thinking she had married someone else. As he roamed he happened upon a boy near a park bench. He was intrigued by this boy’s surprising talent and friendliness. Little did he know that he had encountered his son, the son he never knew he had. Both father and son had felt the sting of rejection, but their rejection led to them ultimately meeting and eventually finding unconditional acceptance and love.

See, the sting of rejection can do one of two things to us.

What we can do with Rejection:

1. We can use it to isolate us from others. We can use the stones of rejection to build walls around our lives so that no one can ever hurt us, or even touch us again.

or through the help of God

2. We can use the stones of rejection to build a bridge to Jesus, the one who got his doctorate in rejection.

- I can tell you with certainty that you never fall from another’s good grace as hard as Jesus fell. You have never had your Father God forsake you.

- You never loved as hard as Jesus loved.

- You never had so many looking to you for salvation as Jesus did.

- While he never minimizes your personal pain, he can certainly say he understands what you are going through.

You may have put walls up to keep God at arms length. You may have built walls between you and others because you are afraid of being hurt again. Don’t build walls, build bridges. Like August Rush, you may not know God as your “real dad,” but keep looking. He is out there. In fact, he is right here among us. For those of you believe, I challenge you to live life without fear of rejection. There is one who has already accepted you. Who cares that people reject you when the Creator of heaven and earth has accepted you fully and unconditionally? He is for you, so go after what he has set before you boldly and without fear.

20130314-062806.jpg

Hi Friends, here is an excerpt from my teaching at Resonate Church. Enjoy!

Legalism binds us to the burden of rules (written or unwritten) that were never meant for us to bear. God started out in the garden of Eden with one rule. Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We read it in Genesis 2:16-17 and he gives the command to Adam before the creation of Eve.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Then Satan came in the form of a serpent and notice the details of his conversation says in chapter 3: 1-2:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Satan is a great lawyer. He picks apart God’s words for Eve’s analysis when Eve was not even there when it was spoken from the mouth of God.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “

See, Satan has two tactics he tries to use to get us away from God: they seem like opposites and he loves them both: legalism and licentiousness. He says to Eve, did God say you can’t eat any of the trees? He said this to Eve presumably because she was not there when God gave the command. She is hearing this command second hand, presumably from Adam.

Look carefully at what she quotes as God’s command. Is there any difference between God’s original command and her version of the command? Yes, one tiny, but important difference. She adds something. She adds the part about touching the fruit. God never said they could not touch it. We don’t know if Adam added this part because he didn’t want her to even go near the tree or if fear just caused her to add it in herself. Regardless, what happens when we start adding to the requirements of God is that we are beginning to move further from his heart. We begin to question his heart toward us and distrust him. When Satan noticed she had slightly misquoted God, he was able to lodge his lies deeper into her heart that God didn’t have her best interests in mind and she obviously fell into sin.

See, false religion is like a teeter totter. Satan lures us away from relationship with God in order to stand on this teeter totter. He subtly gets us to think outside relationship and focus on words, laws, and commands. We become excellent lawyers, but poor lovers. On one side of the teeter totter is legalism. It is all the man made rules that we are trying to obey apart from relationship. On the other side is licentiousness– license to do whatever the heck we want. See, as long as Satan can keep us on that teeter totter, back and forth between what I know I “should” do and the freedom I crave, he has us trapped. It is like a game between that little angel and demon on our shoulders. Neither the angel or the demon is God, neither one is inviting us into relationship. Both are just shouting at us trying to get us to do what they want. God is altogether different in his approach toward us. On this teeter totter, it is only a matter of time before we fall into an abyss of walking away from relationship with God altogether.

So, because of the sin that was now in the world, God gave laws to Moses. These laws were created to help us manage or reign in our sin nature. All of these laws were created out of the general intention of drawing us to God not away from him.

But the Jews began to back away from relationship and get on that teeter totter of false religion. They maintained a religious form of the outward actions to appease the legalistic side of the teeter totter, but their hearts were far from God. They lacked the substance of God’s heart for them. We have to have both form and substance. Legalism is the form without the substance.

So, as the Jewish people grew in their legalistic skill, making themselves look holier than others, they came up with a huge code of laws called the Talmud, which added to the biblical rules and muddied the waters between what was acceptable and unacceptable in the sight of God. Jesus condemned their actions and gave two genius commands to fulfill the heart of all God’s commandments.

1. Love The Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

You will find that each of the Ten Commandments and all the additional commands in the Old Testament had to do with loving God first and loving others next.

Lets look at Colossians 2:14-23

He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Legalism transcends cultural traditions but it looks different in each….

In Paul’s day it looked like this:
– Why does he eat meat sacrificed to idols? You can barely tell the difference between him and a pagan!
– I fast once a week and I hardly ever see her fast. Do you think her faith is genuine?
– Even though I am a Gentile, I attend all the Jewish new moon festivals and I observe the Sabbath, how does he call himself a Christian when he does none of that?

Legalism in an evangelical church today may look like this:
– OMG, he does not bring his bible to church. Instead he uses his phone. How can we be sure he is not texting?
– That lady is getting a little carried away in worship, she is probably succumbing to emotionalism and her faith must not be genuine, she is just drawing attention to herself.
– I suspect he didn’t even do his quiet time today.

Legalism in a charismatic church might look more like this:
– What is wrong with that lady? She never raises her hands during worship, she must be hiding sin in her life.
– That family took their kids trick or treating. Don’t they know that Halloween is a pagan holiday?
– I heard from God in a vision this week. I must be way more spiritual than my pastor who never seems to have any experiences like that.

Characteristics of False Religion:

- Appearance of wisdom
– Self-imposed worship
False humility
– Harsh treatment of the body
– Lacking any value in restraining sensual indulgence

So, how do we break free of legalism?

We focus on our dependence on Jesus and that we can not do anything apart from his empowerment. Legalism sets our sights on what we can do in our own strength and ignores the position of the heart. We cannot remain bound by legalism if we throw ourselves into authentic relationship with God. We must make a conscious choice to avoid binding others to our own personal convictions, but allow God to be God in their lives. In our relationships with others, God is not paying us to be anyone’s Holy Spirit. Rather, we are called to love one another, side by side on the journey of life. Let’s get off that teeter totter and begin walking with God.

20130201-053410.jpg

Stubbornness. It is a word that is laden with meaning that is unique to each person. Most of the time when we describe someone as stubborn, there is a negative connotation to it. Tenacity is the more positive counterpart to stubbornness. I’ll venture to guess that many great leaders throughout history have been described as stubborn by their opponents and tenacious by their proponents.

I have been called both stubborn and tenacious and I have wondered what it means, what to do with this information about myself. I have also known other leader-type people who struggled with this sense of stubbornness/tenacity, like me, not knowing quite what to do with themselves. So, I wanted to explore the difference between the obstinate type of stubborn and the good tenacious brand of stubbornness. When is it good to hang on and when is it good to let go? Especially in the realm of leadership, and especially we who are women in leadership, we need to know the difference. We cannot allow even well meaning people to keep us down, but we cannot be pigheaded and set in our ways, or we will be stunted in our personal growth.

One key to navigating this stuff is first in knowing where your personal power/influence begins and ends. We have to be willing to allow another person to affect us. Bad stubbornness builds an impenetrable wall to protect ourselves from being affected by people. Obstinate people shut down when they don’t win, rather than opening up and learning something from the whole experience. They use the silent treatment; they resort to punishing others. Obstinate people think that they can exert unearned, illegitimate power over others. So often they do not even recognize the state that they are in. That is why if you respectfully disagree with an obstinate person, they may only accuse you of being stubborn.

When we dig our heels in on issues where we have no or very little clarity of thought and are unwilling to explore the issue further, those are also seeds of obstinance. Sometimes we don’t know why we do this. If we are constantly drawing a line in the sand and vowing never to change even though we have no reasoning to back it up, we need to take a look at some of the deeper causes of our behaviors. Are we acting this way because of how we were made to feel as a kid or because we feel powerless and frightened inside? What are the underlying fears that cause us to behave the way that we do?

Tenacious people stick to their convictions, but they know the limits to how they can exercise these convictions within their spheres of influence. They are willing to reap the consequences of the decisions that they make. This trait is valuable to a leader because they can patiently stick with something they believe in and forge the path ahead of them with confidence. Their principles are in line with the way that they behave. It helps to be able to articulate these principles for others so that they can decide if this is the type of leadership they will be willing to follow.

Part of the reason we perceive people stubborn or tenacious is the fact that we all have different issues we think are important. We can label someone stubborn about something because an issue close to their heart is not something we think is worth fighting for. This is where I think we have to be careful about the stubborn label. A passionate person cannot impose his or her passion on another, but he or she has every right to express that passion respectfully and peacefully.

I cannot decide for you which issues are negligible and which mountains you should be willing to die on. I can try to influence you one way or another, but in the end it’s your life, your choices. Some people are born to give their lives to a cause, a belief, a way of life. Those people will display tenacity in areas where you may not.

How do you show tenacity? And how do you know the difference between tenacity and obstinance in your life?

20121218-102634.jpg

Ever wonder why the stork doesn’t bring babies? Why do people have to go through the mess of being pregnant? Why can’t we at least just lay eggs and sit on them every once in a while? It’s hard enough being a woman. At least if we had eggs, we could make our husbands share the responsibility of incubation. In fact, we could even pay someone to do it for us. But no, made in the image of God, we as humans are destined to experience a very personal procreation process.

When I think about the Christmas story, I ponder in amazement how God implanted his holy seed into this young girl’s womb. He chose her and called her by name. The gospel says that the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived. When a woman conceives, her body chemistry immediately begins to change to accommodate for the new life. God is not Jewish, but he chose for his son to be born as a Jew, to have the genetic makeup of his mother. Mary was not just a surrogate mom, a carrier. She was part of this creation. She absolutely could not have done it without God, but Jesus would not have been the man he was without her contribution as well.

Someone once said that God doesn’t need us. That he is fully complete within himself. There may be elements of that statement that is true. However, I do not find it helpful to think of him that way. I love my son and I don’t “need” him, but in another sense, I do need him. I choose to make myself vulnerable to him in relationship. I want to partner with him to watch him become the great man he is destined to be. When God placed his seed in Mary, he was saying, “I choose to partner with humanity. I want to show them how I can be one with them just as I am one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. I choose to make myself known as a vulnerable one of them just to show them what love really looks like.”

The letter of Colossians speaks of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Why would he choose imperfect people through which to shine his hope? I mean, he could have a much easier time showing the world purity without our convoluted attempts to shine. Jesus Christ is the hope of glory all by himself, but this Master Designer doesn’t think that the picture is right without you in it. He wants to be implanted in you. He wants to express himself uniquely through you.

When you enter the scene, this is where the story gets beautiful. In order to create the masterpiece of redemption, God had to present the grime along with the grace. He had to present the pain along with the purity. His masterpiece had to speak to us in our current state, the ones he formed from dirt. He needs the thorns to complement the beauty of the rose. It is the rose petals that inspire us toward something greater, but it is the thorns of the world that we identify with. They are reminders that his love is deep as it is wide.

If this hope of glory resides in you whether you are a man or a woman, you are pregnant. There is a God-expression, a God-dream burning inside of you. You were meant to feel the weight of it. You were meant to carry it to term. You were meant to make a mess bringing it into the world. It was meant to be personal. That thing that comes out was meant to look a little bit like you. But the thing about it is that whatever you give birth to will soon be strong enough to walk and to run. You participated in giving it life, but you will not be able to control it, only guide it and love it. What you create with God will be beyond the bounds of you. Are you ready? Is it worth the pain and the mess to you? God thought you were worth the pain and mess. Please do not abort it. Please do not ignore it. Get ready, it’s coming soon!

20121210-223129.jpg

Here is an excerpt from a teaching at Resonate Church, Anchorage Alaska.

There are a lot of nice people in this world. These people have the ultimate goal of being nice in every situation. These people are not bad, but they can be unhealthy. no one would know it to look at them. They don’t have enemies. But one day a person like this will quit a job for no apparent reason, give up on a marriage, get mysterious diseases, or even commit suicide, literally dying from a disease called “Fear of Conflict.” I am not talking about a personality type. I am taking about a behavior that stems from something inside.

Being a peacemaker is different from being afraid of conflict. Being a peacemaker is actually a very courageous thing to do. Being a peacemaker is the act of reconciling two parties who were formerly enemies. Being a peacemaker is wisely helping people see common ground. Peacemakers thrive in the midst of conflict. In the midst of conflict is where their peacemaking skills can really shine. When we are afraid of conflict, we think we are keeping the peace, but it is really only peaceful on the surface. There could be a lethal storm brewing underneath. We are really just putting a bandaid on cancerous cells.

If you grew up in an abusive home, maybe the only thing you know is negative conflict, so you run as far from conflict as you can. Avoidance is your safety mechanism. But healthy families know how to argue, how to disagree, and how to come out on the other side with a deeper and more loving relationship than ever before.

I’m told there is a line in Jerry Maguire where Jerry says, “You think we’re arguing, I say we’re finally talking!”

Talking is healthy, sometimes even loud talking. A team, whether a church team, a family unit, a workplace team, a sports team, or a marriage is not a truly functional team unless it is able to embrace conflict.

For someone who has rarely or never experienced conflict in a healthy way, doing it can be scary. It can feel unnatural and even wrong. However, conflict can strengthen a relationship: in a marriage, a job, a church, almost anywhere.

Have you ever been really nervous about dealing with a conflict? Or have you ever expressed yourself honestly and then got the cold shoulder as a result? We all have. That is why we fear conflict. We aren’t the only ones. Some of our biblical heroes in the bible also ran from conflict.

Abraham feared conflict when he told the kings his wife was his sister. He was afraid that the kings would kill him to have her for themselves.

Aaron operated from a fear of conflict when he gave into the Israelites when they asked for an idol to worship, the golden calf. He didn’t have Moses strong leadership and he caved to the pressure of the complaining crowd.

Many kings listed in the Bible worshipped The Lord themselves, but they refused to eradicate the worship of false gods in their land. They feared that someone would be mad at them if they took a stand. Most probably, they too feared conflict.

In the New Testament, we find Peter running from conflict when he denies his association with Jesus. He was afraid they would crucify him right along with Jesus. This is the man who so confidently stated that even if everyone else deserted Jesus, surely he would not. He was wrong. The fear of conflict got the best of him.

Fear puts our imagination to work in a negative way. If we have experienced punishment for being honest, we will fear being honest again. I want you to walk away today turning your imagination toward conflict in a positive sense. Imagine conflict as a key to a door. It unlocks the door and on the other side of the door you can find new understanding of another person, new understanding of yourself, and new bonds of relationship forming. You cannot control how the other person will always react, but you can control how you treat them. You can experience the love of Jesus for another human being in a new way.

There were those heroes of our faith who were tempted to fear conflict like Esther and Gideon. Thankfully, these people did not linger in their fears, but they acted with courage. Each of them took a step toward the door of conflict, turned the key, and opened it. When they opened that door, scary though it was, they liberated themselves along with their entire nation. You never fully know how God is planning on using you. Don’t let a little conflict scare you away.

To deal with conflict we must believe core things. We must have these presuppositions about ourselves and about others.

1a: My thoughts and feelings are valid.
1b: The thoughts and feelings of my team member are valid.

I love this one scene from the TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond. It illustrates this point so well.

RAY BARONE : What? No! It was all fun. Come on, I told you, people thought that we did it on purpose.

DEBRA BARONE : I felt humiliated.

RAY BARONE : Don’t feel humiliated.

DEBRA BARONE : Don’t tell me how to feel.

RAY BARONE : But you’re wrong.

DEBRA BARONE : There’s no right or wrong, this is how I feel. You can not tell me not be humiliated, I just am.

RAY BARONE : Okay, all right, feel humiliated.

DEBRA BARONE : I don’t anymore.

RAY BARONE : Okay, all right…

DEBRA BARONE : Now I’m just angry. I mean I can’t believe – I can’t believe you – It’s bad enough what you did to me tonight, but you don’t even care how I feel about it. All you care about is how well you did, you laugh-whore

RAY BARONE : Maybe you should… go back to being humiliated.

Think about the Book of Psalms. God considered the feelings of the authors of those Psalms valid enough to put in the Bible. Some of those feelings were not nice. It’s okay. There is a gigantic book placed right in the middle of the Bible that tells us that feelings are okay to have. Some of you need permission to feel what you feel. It’s okay, God can be God and we can be people. People who have feelings.

2a: I have some knowledge or perspective that my teammate may need.
2b: My teammate has knowledge or perspective that I may need.

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22 NIV)

3: People can change.

Not only can people be transformed by Jesus, but people can change their perspective in any number of ways.

4: Engaging in conflict has the power to strengthen and improve our team performance.

Why do we risk engaging in conflict with those we love? Isn’t it because we believe that it will benefit our relationship? It is worth the effort to us. If we can just extend that circle out a bit and be willing to conflict with people in church instead of just leaving a church whenever conflict arises or just resorting to gossip, lets let it pull us together as a stronger, more productive unit.

5: After discussion, if we still disagree, it won’t ruin the relationship.
(In other words, I am confident that no one is seeking to destroy me. I am safe here.)

The reason conflict is so dreaded is that so few of us are really good at it. Let’s talk about bad conflict, what it looks like. Let’s use this description to distinguish from bad conflict.

Ugly Conflict:

Accusing
Controlling
Ordering
Focus on Impenetrable Differences
Belittling another’s value

Beautiful Conflict:

Admitting (“I” Statements)
Empowering (Letting the person have feelings and thoughts of their own.)
Asking (Drawing the other person out. Asking for clarification. Repeating what you hear.)
Focus on Common Ground (Coming up with creative solutions together.)
Reiterating the value of another (Telling or showing the person that your relationship with them matters to you.)

The point of conflict is not always that we agree.
The point of some conflict is that we are heard.

Made in the image of God, we are innately powerful. We have the power to affect others in a drastic way.

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:5, 6 NIV)

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. (Proverbs 24:26 NIV)

I once had a situation in Church where I was co-leading a bible study with Jake and a young lady in our class made a comment about marriage. I was thinking about how to wrap up the discussion and made some more closing comments after she made hers. The comments I made had nothing to do with what she had just said, but she thought that I was implying something about her relationship with her husband. I was so happy when she came to me later admitting that the comments hurt her. When I explained that I had not intended the comments to be directed toward her in any way she was relieved. Most people would not have done this. They would have held it against me all because of a silly misunderstanding.

Our relationship is like a pearl inside a clam. The more that sand is irritated, the more conflict we are able to engage in and come through, the stronger our relationship becomes.

But when we conflict, we strive to engage in beautiful conflict. You cannot control another person’s reaction, but you can control your own. You can follow the rules of healthy conflict and watch your relationships flourish, watch your life and your team become more successful than you ever imagined!