Posts Tagged ‘offenses’

The Stubborn Heart

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” (Mk. 9:23-25)

It has been my experience, that literally thousands of people struggle with unbelief. Real barriers stand between their desire and the reality of God’s Will! Like this father they hear the words that Jesus would love to heal, deliver or bring hope; but they are stuck. They know the truth that if they could just believe, nothing would be impossible… but there is no believing, no receiving and no “heart” at all. There is just the nagging reality of hopeless effort, tears and shameful discouragement. And worse yet for many, they construct a new theological platform of resolve… “I will choose to not believe any longer, because it just leaves me hopeless!”

The Spirit of Unbelief:

The inability to obey the instructions of Jesus and trust in the Promises of God, often leads to this frustration. We want to please the Lord and experience all that God has said, but something in us resists faith. We find we “cannot” believe even when we want to. This can be due to a “spirit of unbelief”. Lies, deception, fears or offenses can find their dwelling in the heart and be controlled by a demonic spirit that paralyzes the heart in unbelief. This spirit is real and dangerous, it is pervasive and advancing across the landscape of Christianity and it lives in the midst of the “Church culture”… where all is not fine in paradise!

Authenticity:

I receive many emails and calls about this issue and I find it a bit shocking that the problem is so wide spread and growing. Yet in my opinion there is a root cause that we must uncover and shine the light of truth upon… people are living superficial lifestyles. They rarely stop and contemplate the meaning of their existence. To ask the simple question, “WHY!” is not blasphemy, nor is it going to lead us into deception. Perhaps it would even offer a lot more authenticity to our journey!

Jesus said in Matthew 7:7… “Ask, seek and knock… and the door will be opened!”

Authentic communication with God – opens the door of relational truth. Things that are difficult for us to understand, come into the light of His wisdom and love. God is a “father”, He knows how to take care of His children and He is faithful. He is anticipating our needs to be vocalized and to come streaming into His Presence (Heb. 4:16). The Apostle Peter, who seemed a lot like us; said you and I need to be “casting all our care upon Him, because He cares for us” (1 Pet. 5:7). He cares for us… and He knows all about our issues of faith. This idea that we can avoid our problems and they will just go away… well – that is the greatest deception of all! They do not go away, in fact they produce the fruit of disappointment, which I spoke of earlier. We tend to create and believe a false perception of God’s heart toward our reality.

So – here’s the point…

  • Stop living without meaningful communication with God!

Spend time telling God of the frailty of your faith, the brokenness of your heart and the weakness in your perceptions… ask Him “why?!” and then wait… wait… wait… for the doors to open! They will, my friend they will… they will open wide and the King of Glory will come in. Who is this King of Glory… He is the Lord Strong and Mighty! (Psa. 24:7-10)

Savage Wolves

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?” (Mt. 7:15-16)

The Devil has always tried to use people to bring division into the Congregation of the Saints. There is nothing new about this problem. In fact, James addresses the issues of wrong attitudes and a “spirit of strife” (Jms. 3:14). From the earliest inception of the New Testament Church, we hear the Apostle Paul warn about savage wolves who would be raised up even among the flock… Paul says, “savage wolves will come in among you” (Acts 20:28-31). It is going to happen… so we must not be taken by surprise.

Watch for the Spirit of Strife!

Be on guard for spirits of strife, argumentative people and division. Church leaders have always had to correct people who acted under the deceiving grip of evil intent. This is what we commonly define as a “spirit”… its often motivated by fear or offense and demonic in nature. Unfortunately the fruit of such a spirit is destructive beyond measure. It is the source of much division and strife in the Church today.

In respect to people being used by the Devil to bring division, James says, “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking (strife) in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth” (Jms. 3:14). The phrase “bitter envy” is very important. It is the Greek word zelos, which refers to a fierce desire to promote our own idea to the exclusion of others. The words, self-seeking or “strife”- eritheia which in the Greek means rivalry or ambition, can be translated as a party spirit or a divisive spirit. In verse 15 we see James expound upon the motivation for such a divisive heart toward leadership as he tells us, the wisdom that is creating strife is “…earthly, sensual (and) demonic. Note that this is not “wisdom” at all, but a deceptive perversion of wisdom that comes from an evil intent. These are the devil’s schemes and resources… and they come from the kingdom of darkness.

Stay Free!

Jesus said “the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (Jn. 14:30).

Of course, we know Jesus was speaking here of His betrayal and excruciating death at the cross… but the principle is real and true! We must learn to keep our hearts free from all strife and offense, because it causes us to miss the will of God for our lives. The Apostle Paul said, “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (2 Tim. 2:23-25). If our hearts stay free of strife and offense, the door stays closed to the Devil so he cannot disrupt our relationships. We need to know that when we allow a spirit of strife to operate inside ourselves, our home, business or church; it won’t be too long until people who used to love each other are standing in opposition to each other. That is the way the spirit of strife operates, and that is the fruit it produces. In the end it produces death to relationships and bitterness beyond the walls of our fellowships.

What To Do:

So the key question is – “What are we willing to do?” Because it takes a certain amount of initiative and boldness to be a peace maker! Just read this difficult admonition:

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple”. (Rom. 16:17-18)

I want to point out that Paul says, these are people with smooth words and flattering speech! His command is to mark them… to avoid them and to give no opportunity for them to have a voice in the congregation. Is there hope for restoration? Perhaps, but not without true discipline and integrity among our leadership. Only then, will we see the spirit of strife removed from our fellowships.

An offense is a demonic trap – Be careful that you do not fall into it!

Offenses

Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Mt. 18:7)

Three Realities About Offenses:

1. Offenses are Inevitable:

According to the dictionary, “woe” means, “grievous distress, affliction, or trouble”. Anyone who has been offended understands woe. And from my experience; I can tell you, it will not get easier with age! But as Jesus points out, offenses must come. People offend each other; by what they do and say - or don’t say, and most of the time they do not even realize it. Either way, life affords us daily opportunities to be offended. What surprises me is the reality Jesus points out, “offenses must come”.

To understand this we must first recognize what an offense is. The word “offense” actually comes from the same root word as the word “scandal”. A scandal is stirred up by the belief that some hidden motive is behind an unexplained event, and an offense is often the same thing. It requires us to believe or imagine something (that may or may not be true), simply based on a tone of voice or an attitude in someones actions. Note that while offenses may be inevitable, Jesus does not let the offender off the hook anymore than the offended. Both are accountable and will experience their own level of woe.

2. Offenses Reveal Issues:

This is a hard reality to embrace. Yet, in the midst of an offense, lays a bit of reality that might need attention. I find it difficult to believe any good could come from the feelings that emerge from being offended, but just like any painful feeling… there is a source, a hurt or some forgotten baggage. God might have a bigger purpose in mind. Consider the following two examples from the Bible, Joseph and David.

Consider how Joseph was ridiculed, kidnapped and sold into slavery by his own brothers. He was later falsely accused of trying to seduce the wife of a high-ranking, Egyptian official. He spent several years in prison and it was quite a while before he was vindicated. He could have been very angry with his brothers. Years later; when he is in a position of power and could easily have had his revenge, they are now face to face. Joseph had learned something and said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Gen. 50:19–20)

Consider King David, in the latter part of his life, was chased out of Jerusalem by his treasonous son, Absalom. If that weren’t bad enough, a character named Shimei meets him on the road and starts throwing rocks at him. He curses David and reminds him of all his sins. He says, “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!” (2 Sam. 16:7-8). Abishai, one of King David’s servants, said, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” But David responded: “Let him alone, and let him curse… It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day.” (2 Sam. 16:11-12).

It’s easy to resent those who offend us. But what if God has a deep and important purpose for sending them… something that He intends for our good, because He truly loves us (Rom. 8:28). The offense never feels good at the time, but God has a plan beyond the wound… beyond us and our feelings.

3. Staying Offended is a Choice:

Every leader should memorize this verse: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Prov. 19:11)

There are certainly times when it is legitimate to be angry. The Apostle Paul says, “Be angry, and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Anger can be a valid response to something that is wrong. But it can quickly become toxic; not only for those to whom we direct it, but also for ourselves. This is why the Apostle James admonishes us to be “slow to anger” (Jas. 1:19-20).

Between the offense and the response is the power of choice. This is what God put in us when He created us in His image, likeness and gave us dominion of the Garden of Eden. What makes us unique in the universe is our human will. We don’t have to respond; in fact, we do not even have to “hear” the offense - by choosing to ignore its invitation to let it stir our emotions. How many times have you ignored the phone when its a sales call or changed the tone of your voice in an instance depending upon who you are talking with. This is the reality of choice.

Choices are made by our ability to evaluate how our responses will benefit us at the moment. Those benefits are keys that unlock our understanding of authority and power. He who holds our heart, will rule our choices. The greatest leaders I know are not easily offended. Instead, they practice the habit of overlooking offenses.

Great leaders take the high road, give the offender the benefit of the doubt, and move on with the benefit of peace.

It requires character and a certain amount of skill in listening to what people say, rather than how they say it. I remind myself that offense will come, but I also recognize my choice is to find my identity in God’s pleasure rather than the approval of others or personal glory. I think that this is what the Apostle Paul meant by choosing rather to “glory in the cross” than look for personal justification (Gal. 6:14). A mutual crucifixion has occurred between myself and the world, I am dead to it and it is dead to me… which means I must not allow it to move me emotionally.

My freedom to reach God’s destiny is hinged to my ability to stay free from offenses!

The Spirit of Strife

What does winning mean?

Check Mate

The Devil has always tried to use people to bring division into the Church. There is nothing new about this problem. In fact, James addresses the issues of wrong attitudes and a “spirit of strife” in James 3:14. From the earliest inception of the New Testament Church, we hear the Apostle Paul warn about those wolves who would be raised up even among the flock (Acts 20:28-31).

Paul says, “savage wolves will come in among you”.

 Church leaders have always had to correct people who acted under the deceiving grip of this “spirit”… its demonic in nature and destructive beyond measure. In respect to people being used by the Devil to bring division, James 3:14 says, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the Truth.” The phrase “bitter envying” is very important. It is the Greek word zelos, which refers to a fierce desire to promote your own idea to the exclusion of others. The word “strife”- eritheia which in the Greek means rivalry or ambition, can be translated as a party spirit or a divisive spirit. In verse 15 we see James expound upon the motivation for such a divisive heart toward leadership as he tells us that the wisdom that is creating strife is “…earthly, sensual (and) demonic”.

 We must learn to keep our hearts free from all strife and offense.

 If our hearts stay free of strife and offense, the door stays closed to the Devil so he cannot disrupt our relationships. We need to know that when we allow a spirit of strife to operate inside ourselves, our home, business or church; it won’t be too long until people who used to love each other are standing in opposition to each other. That is the way the spirit of strife operates, and that is the fruit it produces.

 So what are we willing to do… (Rom 16:17-18) “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not  serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple”. I want to point out that Paul says these are people with smooth words and flattering speech; yet his command is to mark them… to avoid them and to give no opportunity for them to have a voice in the congregation.

 Its a real problem and we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to obey Scriptural principles.

Archives