Message Recap – 7/8/11 – Get Out of Jail Free, Part 2

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We've just started a powerful series last week, and this week we're already at the last part. Take a moment to read Part 1. No, really. It's pretty short, and really good. Go, now. Read it.
Done? OK, now on to Part 2!
So, tonight we are talking about the practical application of forgiveness; the mechanics of forgiveness.
What do we do when someone hurts us? How do we handle it? Does the Bible have anything to say about what to do when someone hurts us? Stay tuned!
Pastor Dan does not like confrontation. He's pretty passive. So, when he became youth pastor, he quickly had to learn how to do certain things that require confrontation. Confrontation is not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes it is needed. There were some bumps in the road at first, but he's now become pretty good at facing confrontation. But it's still never easy to have those serious, tense conversations where you have to say something the other person doesn't want to hear.
Most of us, like Pastor Dan, prefer to avoid this as much as possible. We pretend everything is just fine at the time, then later on complain about that person behind their back. We tend to just hold it all in, until finally we explode at the oddest moment, letting loose all the pent up anger.
This may come as a shock to you, but that's not the best way to handle this type of situation.
Guess what? Jesus has something to say about people issues like this.
First, in Matthew 18:15-16 Jesus says: "If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses."
You'll notice that Jesus doesn't say that when someone sins against you, you should gossip about them behind their back. Or complain about them on Facebook. But it's easy to fall into that, because facing the person outright is hard. It's uncomfortable. It's awkward. So we avoid that by telling everyone else about it.
But Jesus says to go to them first, face to face. Confront the issue.
Now, it is hard to confront the issue in love and humility rather than from a place of superiority.
Be humble. When pointing out something they've done wrong, do it in a way that does not bring resentment. If you come with pride, full of yourself, as an antagonist, the person will not receive it well.
It's hard. It's not easy. But if it was easy, Jesus wouldn't have to tell us to do it, would He?
Here are a few tips for having that tough conversation:
1. Start with forgiveness, and then go to the person for that conversation. Instead of coming with a sense that they owe you and have to make it up to you, start from the right place.
2. Give them an out. Don't make it a competition with winners and losers, keeping score by the number of apologies received. Come from a place of love, assuming the best about the other person. Assume that they didn't mean to hurt you. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Find a way for them to back down and apologize without them feeling like they lost.
3. Be willing to recognize your own faults. Learn from the situation. Even though you were the one wronged, you probably didn't behave perfectly either. You can't change anybody but yourself, and if you go through life trying to change others you will just be frustrated. If you go through life trying to change yourself, you will grow as a person and a Christian. By recognizing your own mistakes it opens the door for grace & love, and makes it easier for the other person to apologize as well.
If you go about it this way, in humility and love, with an open mind, 90% of the time you will be able to work it out positively.
Pastor Dan has seen this principle work, even in extremely volatile situations.
But, sometimes it doesn't. In that case, Jesus says to bring 1 or 2 other people into the situation. No, not a lawyer. Just find someone trustworthy who can listen and hear both sides.
Sometimes both sides are so emotionally involved in the situation that they can't hear the other person's perspective and the conflict can't be resolved.
With an intermediary (usually a friend of both parties), you can almost always find a common ground and end on good terms. But for the .001% of the time when it still doesn't work out, Jesus tells us what to do in Matthew 5:43-45:
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike."
If you still have an enemy, even after following the steps laid out above; forgive them. Pray for them.
If you are facing one of these .001% situations, go and talk to your pastor. Get help, get prayer, get counsel.
In the end, we all have people issues. There's a right way and a wrong way to deal with them. If we deal with them the wrong way, we have more stress, tension and discord in our lives. If we deal with them the right way we can live our lives in greater peace. We can avoid the prison of unforgiveness.
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Message Recap – 7/1/11 – Get Out of Jail Free, Part 1

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We just finished a series on Psalm 23, and are now starting a brand new series!

When Pastor Dan was younger, the coolest video game ever was Streets of Rage 2. The plot of this particular game is that one of your buddies has been kidnapped and you have to take on the mob to get him back. The goal is revenge. That plot line was less than original.

Besides being a dish best served cold, revenge is one of the best plot lines for movies, comic books, video games, books, our own imaginations, etc, etc. It's a very common motif. What is a motif? Look it up.

People love revenge story lines. We love to see people get even with those who have wronged them. Why do we love revenge so much? It's because we've all been hurt in our lives. We've all been betrayed, stabbed in the back, hurt, gossiped about, etc. And in real life, we never get that classic pay back that always seems to happen in the movies. Deep down we all want the one who hurt us to pay. We want them to feel the pain and humiliation we felt, times ten. They owe us!

But God's way of looking at the situation when someone has wronged you is different than the world's. People think we need to get even. What God says about it can be found in Ephesians 4:31-32: Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

People say, "Get what you're owed!" God says, "Forgive, just as I forgave you." God forgave us when we could do nothing to make it up, to pay it back. It sounds tough, but in reality God is saying this for our benefit, not the other person's! Check out the parable in Matthew 18:21-35 (click to read). You can interpret that passage a few different ways. You can read it as saying that if you don't forgive God will throw you in Hell. Another way of looking at is, if you go through your life refusing to forgive, holding that grudge, you are the one who is imprisoned by the uforgiveness. Not the other person. You become incapable of moving on in your life, living in the past, you cannot look to the future.

The world says that revenge makes you happy and brings freedom. God says that forgiveness lets you out of prison.

Revenge does not bring freedom! Only forgiveness brings freedom.

The word "Forgive" literally means, "to send forth". To not just put it down, but to put it far away from you. Forgiveness isn't easy. But there are a lot of people who are in prison, being tortured, and it's all of their own making. They are living in the past, in a situation that they don't have to relive.

By refusing to forgive, you allow the initial hurt to continue to destroy your life!

Forgiveness isn't easy, and sometimes you have to choose to keep forgiving. You have to choose to keep sending it away when it tries to come back. Forgiveness is a process. When you find yourself thinking of that person or reliving the moment of hurt in your mind, release it. Send it away.

Forgiveness is not about the other person, it's about you. It doesn't mean that the other person gets off free, it means that you are able to find freedom. Let yourself out of prison; forgive!

Here's a humorous illustration of the principle of sending forth your unforgiveness:


Message Recap – 6/24/11 – Psalm 23: Part 6

Friday, July 1, 2011

We've been going through Psalm 23 verse by verse. It's been awesome! But now we've reached the last verse. Sad face. :( Don't worry, another inspiring series is coming soon! Be sure to take a look at the first 5 parts if you missed them:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Now on to verse 6 of Psalm 23:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD


This whole Psalm is about who God is, and what He does because of His love. It's not about what we do or don't do. This verse is the summation of the chapter, it encapsulates the themes of the rest of the chapter.

At one time or another, we've all felt far from God; separated from God. Sometimes despite the promises of scripture it is hard to feel that God is near. Maybe you even feel like that right now. Why do we feel that way? Because emotions are not truth. Emotions do not reflect reality. If you live your life based on emotions you will make a lot of mistakes. Feeling far from God is an emotion. Usually because we feel that we've failed. We think that God is ignoring us, that He's set up a wall between Him and us.

And when we feel close to God, we often think it's because we've been "good". We've succeeded, so now God will be near us again. Only on good days is God near.

Yet again, this is an emotion talking. Emotion lies. Here's what God says: Hebrews 13:8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

And, Hebrews 13:5: For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

Who you are or are not does not change who Jesus is. Your failure does not cause the love of Jesus Christ to fail. Your success does not cause the love of Christ to grow. He is the same, regardless of what you do!

So often God is depicted as either extremely vengeful and angry, or else as an all-accepting hippie.

The truth is that sin has consequences that God will love you through. God loves you, but if you go play in traffic your chances of getting hit by a car go up quite a bit. God loves you, but if you choose to smoke, your chances of getting lung cancer go up considerably.

God loves you, and because of that He will call you out of the danger zone you're playing in to protect you from the consequences.

God's mercy and goodness follow you. Follow means "pursue", "hunt". God's goodness and mercy will track you down. He will find you no matter how much sin you've covered yourself in. No matter how far you run, God is always just one step away.

When you feel far from God, He's right there. When you feel close, He's always been close.

Dwelling in the house of God doesn't mean that you get to sleep in the dusty guest room or the broom closet. It means that you are a member of His family and you get to live in His house! There's always a place prepared for you, where you belong!

There are consequences of sin, but that doesn't change God's love for you! No matter where you are, His mercy and goodness will track you down. You will always have a place in His house!