Thursday, November 15, 2012

When You're In Conflict, It’s Always Your Move

Drama.  You’ve heard of it.  You’ve been it.  It’s not just a TV show.  It’s real life.  At various times in your life you have been cast in the leading roll of a real life drama.  It’s usually a war flick.  The intensity ranges from minor skirmishes to all out nuclear exchanges.  And it’s not always or even usually with our official enemies, rather it's usually with spouses, siblings, friends, neighbors, parents, co-workers, etc. 

Now, if you're anything like me, you’ve probably have said, “I’m not budging!” “It’s up to them to make this right.”  “They need to make the first move.” And guess what, the person we’re contending with is probably saying the same thing.  In most war dramas, each combatant in the dispute thinks they are in the right, or are "more right" than the other person.  And we take this to mean that the other person is obligated to make the first step of groveling.  Until then, we’ll keep our space, maintain our distance, and hold back the normal benefits our relationship.   As a result, no one makes a move and each person’s evaluation of the problem becomes energized with more drama.  Usually such conflicts become either cold-shoulders or cold wars.   Have you ever been there?  Are you there now?

Jesus gives us a principle that helps us to love our sometimes unlovely neighbors, and helps our neighbors love us when we’re being unlovely (yes, you can be unlovely). 

On the one hand, Jesus says,

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him…” (Matt. 18:15).  He says to do this so that you may "win"or "gain" your brother.     

On the other hand,

“if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go” (Matthew 5:23-24).

Isn’t that curious.  One the one hand, Jesus says that if someone has offended you, you make the first move and make it right.   And don’t put it off!  On the other hand, if you know you’ve offended someone, you make the first move to make it right.  And don’t put it off!  In other words, when it comes to conflict resolution, whether you are the offended or the offender, it’s always your move.  No matter what side you are on in the conflict, no matter how right you think you are and might be, it is always your move.  

I’m tempted to believe that when we fail to handle conflict well, that is, when we disobey Jesus and dig in, refuse to budge, expect people to grovel, allow drama to continue, we actually forfeit our rights to be offended.  I’m tempted to believe that if you can’t handle conflict and offense in righteous ways, you have removed any and all claims of being right in the conflict, no matter how right you have been.  This last point is a little less obvious than the former.  But here’s the big idea, if you want to “win” in drama, diffuse it.  Better yet, be the first to do so.        

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


“They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade was good.  Therefore your daughters play the whore…” (Hosea 4:13).

The whoring that Hosea speaks of is spiritual in nature.  Israel is married to the true God but is cheating on Him with local false gods (which are no gods).  God has taken Israel as his wife, moved her into a new neighborhood and into a new home, and Israel now has eyes for some of the handsome, adventurous, and overly friendly neighbors.  She finds them enticing and exotic.  She is smitten.  Instead of sneaking to run down motels on the bad side of town to meet her lovers, Israel climbs hills and mountains marked out by the indigenous people as the places to worship indigenous gods.  As she makes her way up the mountains away from the temple, the devout ask, “Why are you worshipping there and not in the temple?”  Israel responds, “The shade is good. And as you know, there’s no shade in the temple.  It’s way too hot; too much direct sunlight.  There’s no breeze and no scenery.  But I have found a better place.”   And so Hosea says,  “They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade was good.  Therefore your daughters play the whore…”

Let’s be honest.  It’s way too easy for our comforts and preferences to conceal idols.  The “shade” becomes a cover for an alternative worship, an easy worship.  In reality, anything that we add to, omit from, or dilute in God’s word about our response to him is shady worship.  How often have we rationalized not giving, not loving, and not serving because of the discomfort? Oh, how it might distract me from serving God in other areas! How often have we rationalized something less than a pure and undivided devotion because something less was more pleasurable, and we all know that God is most glorified when we have the most pleasure…right?  I think I read that somewhere.  So, we’ll take a little Son, but not too much Son.  Too much Son will cause discomfort, and he just might bid me to pick up my cross, deny myself, and follow him.   So, we put on Sonscreen, that is, we take into our lives a toned down version of what it means to follow Christ that both assuages our conscience (a little) and yet keeps us well within the borders of the faith.   

Hosea’s message is to leave our shady religion (our refinements and abridgments of Christianity) and to bask, tan, and yes even burn if need be, in true devotion to Christ.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

You Know You’re Becoming a Religious Christian When… | Pastor Jake

There is both a positive and neutral way to use the word “religion” or “religious.” But it’s certainly no secret that the term can also represent that which obscures truth, ruins people, and grieves God; and all this done "in the name of Jesus."  As such we have to fight against it in our hearts, homes, churches, and culture.  But before we take on the world, let’s start with you…with us.  How do you know you’re becoming religious Christian?  Here are 10 indicators: You know you’re becoming religious Christian when…

  1. You find yourself increasingly bending Scripture to fit you rather than bending yourself to fit Scripture. 
  2. You find yourself excusing sin in one area of your life because you serve God in other areas. 
  3. You find yourself becoming more and more distressed that you don’t look better than someone else when you sin rather than experiencing more and more distress at disappointing God.
  4. You secretly take pleasure in people’s sin because it makes you feel better about how you’re doing spiritually. 
  5. You secretly hate it when other people do great things for God because that tends to take attention off of you. Or, it highlights what you’re not doing.
  6. You find yourself so busy serving God that you don’t have time to love your neighbor.
  7. You major on the minors and minor on the majors when it comes to matters of theology and ethics.
  8. You are becoming confused about rituals and relationship; rituals for God are thought of more and more as a relationship with God.  Hammer is mistaken as house, instrument as what the instrument serves.
  9. You are becoming an expert in spotting sin in others and a master at rationalizing your own.
  10.  Your acts of “repentance” aren’t meant so much to mourn personal sin as they are to gain approval and notoriety from people around you; this is your way of showing people you have what it takes to confess sin.

5 Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Get Well | Pastor Jake

5 Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Get Well 

In John 5 Jesus is walking through Jerusalem’s skid row, a placed filled with men and women crippled physically and emotionally.  Jesus was drawn to one particular man who had been an invalid for 38 years.  Jesus asked, “Do you want to be healed” (vs.6)?  This seems like a profoundly silly question.  Or course he wanted to be made well!  Right?  Well, maybe not.  If all sick people want to be healed, why ask the question? Why press the point?  I want to suggest that sometimes people don’t want to be made well.  Whether that was the case of this guy, we don’t know.  Nevertheless, this question is not profoundly silly; rather it is simply profound, especially when we apply it to sickness of the soul.  It has been my personal experience that there are many folks who don’t want to be healed. Here five reasons why:

1. Sometimes people love the thing that makes them sick more then they hate the pain of their sickness.  They’ll take the highs of their drug, even if it comes with significant lows. 

2. Sometimes people fear the responsibility of being healthy more than they hate the disability of the sickness.  With a new set of legs, they would be expected to walk and work. 

3. Sometimes people are resigned to their sickness.  After thirty-years of disability, health had become a non-issue for this man.  To entertain it is to set oneself up to the pain of disappointment.   

4. Sometimes people derive their identity from their sickness.  They deep down want the attention of others and find that it is secured when they are constantly in need.  To get well is to be lonely.  To be healthy is to be ignored. 

5. Sometimes people don’t recognize that they need to be healed.  “Do you want to get healed?”  “Yeah, if I were sick.”  “But I’m fine.”  For these, their sickness is the norm; their unhealthy is health.         

Remember when Jesus told the Pharisees and Scribes that he came as a physician of the soul for folks like the tax-collectors and prostitutes, he certainly didn’t imply the health of these religious leaders.   Rather he was implicating their ignorance and/or unwillingness to say “yes” to Jesus’ question, “Do you want to be healed?”