The Subtleties of Offense

 “Therefore , if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5 :23,24

It struck me as I finished my last post about unity that this theme was not finished. I started thinking how deeply offenses are hidden in us sometimes and even when we read the verse above in Matthew, that it would not necessarily bring conviction to our hearts if there was some kind of reconciliation or repentance needed. We need to keep a couple of things in mind like sometimes we have old wounds and we are ripe to be offended by something that was not intended as an offense. If the offense taken seems largely disproportionate to what happened, dig a little deeper. Still here we need to choose to walk in forgiveness. Then there are people who have legitimately been offended. We ask if we have a right to be offended and John Bevere said that an offended Christian who won’t forgive, is one who has forgotten what they have been forgiven of. Jesus paid a big price for our sins. We gave up our rights when we chose to walk with God.

Offense – annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles. Yes, it can start as an annoyance and this can easily grow to resentment if your standard or principle is legalistic and an expectation that everyone should think the same way as you. Our lenses of perception are often cloudy.

I will illustrate one subtle way we can become offended through a story about my writing. My husband says that I have a gift for putting things into words especially if it involves emotions. (good thing if I am a writer!) This is difficult for him to do but because it comes easily to me I create an expectation that it is easy for everyone. So if we are having a discussion and he takes time to process and sometimes a day later to discuss, it can be very frustrating for me. I can become offended at the lack of resolution. Now if I hadn’t learned through many discussions that played out this way that he needs this process time and I continued to be offended each time, this could build into something much more serious.

In Matthew 24, Jesus is talking about the signs of the end times and what will become of the majority of people. In verse 10 He says, “At that time, many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.” Many say that we are in the end times and these things are already happening. When we read this we may think of this in the extreme , say for example a Judas betrayal of Jesus or a hatred movement like Hitler.  In his book The Bait of Satan, John Bevere says that betrayal means we seek our own benefit or protection at the expense of one we have a relationship with. So often this looks like withdrawing from a relationship even slightly instead of dealing with the offense. Add a bunch of these little offenses together and it could lead to hate which Mr. Bevere defines as an absence of love. This could look like the withdrawing and not really engaging in relationship with this person but not outwardly cursing them out. You know the ones that say well I have forgiven them but they want nothing to do with that person and each sighting causes a pain in their guts. He describes an example where somebody was being offensive to him to the point that others even asked if he was alright. He kept brushing it off and one day asked God if he actually was offended to which the response was Yes and he realized he had been too proud to say he was offended.

Jesus said to his disciples:”Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.” Luke 17:1 Herein lies your choice to become better or bitter. Offense will come and sometimes it will really hurt us. A lot of times it sneaks in and bites us in the rear end. Other times it is very obvious to others but our pride blocks us from seeing it. This is why it is Very important for us to spend time with Jesus and ask Him to search our hearts, to be quick to repent and also to have good counsel in the people who you associate with. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 Often God gives perspective to others to help you see things you can’t and to stay accountable in your actions.

As we get to know God’s voice better we will start to recognize the nudges in the subtleties. A frustration will turn us to repentance quickly and to bless the one frustrating us. A boldness will come in a situation that needs confronting. Forgiveness will come quickly in offense. A surfacing wound will get our attention and we will deal with it instead of stuffing it again. Our words will grieve our hearts and we will quickly ask for forgiveness. We will become more adept at taking thoughts captive that aren’t in line with God’s word. So dig in, know His voice and He will change you to become more like Him. Do all you can to keep unity. Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

 

 

 

Out of Hiding & into Unity

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

My heart is burning with the issue of unity. Unity in the church, unity in relationships, unity in our hearts with the heart of God. This week has been fraught with examples of how our spiritual enemy can take the simplest thing and twist it in the slightest way to push in a thorn of offense. I can speak into this with authority, fortunately so you know I speak from experience and unfortunately because I have been susceptible to doing the enemy’s dirty work of creating disunity. So part of this post is learning for myself and then to share with you what God says in this matter as in 1 Timothy 4:15,”Be diligent in these matters, give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” And my heart is always to grow in Christ.

I heard it said that having an affair is not usually a one time quick choice decision, it is a slow, descent from discontent and small compromises into full-blown sin. I believe this does not even happen with the lustful desire for another but from a simple thought entertained and meditated on. I suspect that bitterness and resentment are created in us by a similar process. It is here where I have pangs for the body of Christ as I see how easily these things can build in us and create brokenness. We are so desperate to feel better or be better that we get careless about guarding our hearts. Remember I am speaking to myself as well. It is not my intent to point at things and dig in until it hurts but perhaps to bring a bit of recognition so we can go to God and deal with our hurts that drive the behaviours.

Comparison kills. Bottom line. We need to celebrate the diversity and unique qualities in people. We are the church and our unity is imperative to show the world the love of Jesus. He said it himself to future believers (that is us, p.s.) in John 17:23,”I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Our attitudes toward others reflects our relationship with God. Just as we run from temptation so we should run to resolve a problem or grievance with someone. God cannot receive the offering of your worship to Him when you are despising someone in your heart. “Therefore , if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5 :23,24

I like to say to that this is not always just something they have against us, but us against them. I know God reveals things about people to us all the time but it is at that moment we are given the choice, do we let that fall away, is God showing us how we can pray or do we criticize or judge them. Knowing things is one thing but when we decide why people are doing the things they are is when we cross over into that dangerous ground of judgement. There is nothing smooth on that terrain and it is here that it leads to the roads of resentment and bitterness. And we drive to this road of hell with our tongue as the vehicle. “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:10

So I encourage you in all of this to sit with God and let Him search your heart. Dig into those places of frustration, of discontent, of comparison, of hurt and bring them before the Lord and ask Him to reconcile your heart to His and to others if need be. Sometimes I have started simply with Lord please give me even a desire to forgive them or release them or bless them. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Ephesians 4:29-32 where Paul is teaching the church of Ephesus the importance of unity in the body of Christ. So I will leave you with that. As Joyce Meyer says we can never get enough teaching about our mouth!

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

 

In the Quiet

“Search me, God, and know my heart; Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23,24

Do you sometimes long for quiet but when it comes you realize you weren’t quite ready for it? My heart and my mind have been in go mode for the last week or longer preparing for our Sisters event at church, getting ready to speak and having a house full of our kids, son-in-law and grandson. So one by one as they left and my husband was back at work and my son at school, my house got cleaner but my heart got heavier. It does not overwhelm me though, I choose to be grateful. Grateful that I have so many to love, grateful for new life in my grandson, grateful that we had an opportunity to impact so many women’s lives with the love of Jesus. I am grateful for the core group of women leaders that I was privileged to gather with and plan this event. It was such an honor to watch them walking in their giftings, bringing a sense of effortlessness in execution.

I love how God arranges and orchestrates and weaves stories and teachings together to encourage and enlighten and really show us His heart for us. My friend Niki and I both spoke at our event and the overlap that happened without our knowledge or planning was simply beautiful. I laughed with delight as our sermon at church the next day and Joyce Meyer’s teaching in our women’s lifegroup also reiterated the main ideas. Perhaps the Father is trying to tell us something! Or at least myself as it seems to be following me.

Which leads to my opening sentence. The quiet hit me in the heart today as my daughter and grandson were the last to go and let’s face it, the baby is the hardest to see leave. I am kind of used to it with my adult children as it has happened for a few years but oh that baby Kaiden has my heart. Having children was like wearing your heart on the outside of your body and it is still is ,having a grandchild is like wearing it all over you and it is exploding. I try to capture the essence of what this new love is every time I am near him because it fascinates me. I think a lot of it is I am older and wiser and more free to love without all the restraints of raising and discipline and daily rituals and it is quite an awe-inspiring thing to watch your flesh and blood care for and raise a baby. It is like my heart has this fierce protectiveness reignited, especially after watching him enter the world through a lot of trauma. It is also because of this love that I am able to love others more deeply. And oh his smile, melts my heart and I see it melts his Mama’s as God brings healing to her heart through him.

Ok really back to my opening sentence, it is in this quiet that God meets with me. It is this quiet where I need to recharge after some hard packed ministry. It is here where I need to be so nobody else gets in my crosshairs as my emotions are highly charged. It is here where I give my thanks. It is here where I continue to pray for all the women whose paths crossed mine this weekend and whose hearts were laid bare for the King of Kings to heal and love. It is here where I let Him search my heart and He shows me that I am trying to manage others emotions because mine feel out of control. It is here where I let Him touch that part of me and move me to keep doing what He is calling. It is here where I get my mind off of myself and onto His greatness. In the quiet He can renew my mind, In the quiet I can hear His heartbeat and I can sit until it is in sync with mine…

How are you meeting Him in the quiet?