When we are Hurt or Offended.

I’m about to say something that probably won’t shock you… Christians aren’t perfect. Some of us may try to act like it, and I’m sure many of you get closer to that mark than I do… but in the end we all miss it.

We are going to mess up. We are going to let ourselves down and possibly tick each other off in the process. A symptom of this broken nature that we inherited from the fall is sin and failure, and because churches primarily consist of “fallen” Christians, they aren’t perfect either. It’s because of that that we shouldn’t be surprised when people who have a sincere relationship with Christ offend or even deeply hurt us… when people we may look up to let us down.

With that in mind, why does it hurt so bad to get wounded by a church, a pastor, or a close Christian friend?

I believe it is because we expect to be mistreated in the world, but we’re often blindsided and get our feelings hurt when our brothers and sisters in Christ let us down… maybe they leave us out, seemingly underappreciate us, make decision we don’t agree with, talk behind our backs, stab us in the back, or aren’t there for us in a time of need. We are a little more understanding when we get hurt by those who haven’t yet received the grace of God and understood the fullness of His love, but we expect to be fully accepted and live harmoniously with those who are already “within the flock.”

Have you been hurt in church? What are you supposed to do? How do you handle it?

So the church hurt you? What do you do? Leave the church? Confront the issue? Bury it? Lash out at the person who hurt you?

When a church, a pastor, or church member hurts a person, how can they resolve the issue? What does this Bible say about this and how do you practically walk that out?

In Frank Viola’s book “God’s Favorite Place on Earth” he says this,

When Martha complained to Jesus about Mary on His first visit to Bethany, Mary could have chosen to be offended by her sister. But there is no indication that she felt that way. She also could have taken offense when Judas and the disciples protested against her act of extravagant worship. But again, there is no indication that she did.

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the pain that was inflicted upon Mary in both situations. Here was a woman who loved her Lord with all her heart, and she was unfairly criticized for it. Not by her enemies, but once by her sister and another time by some of the Lord’s own disciples.

It reminds me of the old adage, “No good deed shall go unpunished.”

The words of Elbert Hubbard come to mind: “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

In both cases, Mary never opened her mouth to defend herself or her actions. In silence, she entrusted the matter to her Lord. And in both instances, Jesus rose to her defense.

Point: there will always be some Christians who will undermine and denigrate your good actions.

Austin-Sparks once wrote, “If you get upset, offended, and go off and sulk, and nurse your grievance, you will die.”

At times everyone gets hurt. Christians are no exception. The fact of the matter is that those you are around most often are those most likely to hurt or offend you. If you are a Believer, and tend to hang out with Christian friends, then statistics would say at some point you are going to get hurt or offended. So… when, not if, that happens what do you do and how do you respond? Many of us have responded incorrectly by avoiding certain people, leaving churches, bad talking our brothers and sisters in Christ, or even stopping our fellowship with God’s people all together.

This article isn’t going to help you determine whether you are rightfully hurt or not… because let’s face it, sometimes we are in the wrong and our intentions or priorities were jacked up in the first place. This article is going to help us sift through the wreckage once we are hurt or offended so we can move on in our walk with Christ, and hopefully live harmoniously with our local “body” of Believers.

Let’s think together about this sensitive subject.

  • Choose to Heal

In the Gospel of John we see an example of how Christ asked a “wounded person” to leave his injury behind, knowing that he could never again fall back on that as his crutch or identity.

John 5:1-9 says,

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

First, Jesus asked the “invalid” if he wanted to get well. I find this part alone fascinating because it is an amazing demonstration that God will not force himself on anyone, no matter how obvious the need, if we don’t make a decision to receive his healing then we won’t! This man had held on to his victimhood for thirty-eight long years. So when Jesus asked him the question, the man did what he had always done before… he played the victim.

Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.

That response did not answer Jesus’ question. In fact, Jesus did not ask what the problem was… Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed or delivered from it. Sometimes that is right where we are. We are on the brink of breakthrough… of healing, and Jesus is asking if we want to be healed and instead of answering we decide to relive the issue and make sure He hears our side of the story!

Still, in this situation Jesus showed grace mixed with a command to do something. He told the man to, “get up.” Jesus already knew the issue and problems this man faced, and he knew how much faith it would take to attempt that seemingly simple task. When the man chose by faith to get up and leave his victimhood behind after nearly four decades, he was healed.

Alfred D’Souza once wrote,

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

We have to come to the same realization regarding this life and the church. We are all flawed people and our flaws, collectively, are obstacles to our joy, but at the same time we are the community that Jesus ordained and the Kingdom on which His church is built. Waiting for individual people, humans, to meet our needs will leave us frustrated and unfulfilled here on this earth. We may fall into a flow for a while and our problems may coast under the radar, but I guarantee you that they will someday surface and we will take up an offense or hurt that can cripple us for a lifetime. The amount of energy invested in choosing bitterness or choosing healing is probably about the same… but the end results are diametrically different! One choice leaves us paralyzed in the past. The other choice gives us hope for the future.

In the Christian walk, hurts are inevitable. Feeling like a victim and deciding to stay there is optional.

Sometimes we choose to remain victims when we have the opportunity to move on. It is a waste of our spiritual potential to fixate on how events of the past could have, or should have, been different. Most of us, I do say “most” for a reason, who have been hurt could persuade any jury that the treatment we received from other Christians should have been different. But here is the truth… things are NOT different, and we CANNOT change the past.

No amount of time spent dwelling on how another person hurt us will change our present situation.

My wife is interested in emergency medicine. The idea behind emergency medicine is doing what it takes to keep a person alive, or preventing as much long-term damage as you can on a case-to-case method. With that I mind, imagine that you have been shot and rushed to the emergency room. Would you spend all of your time worrying about who shot you? Or do you think your first concern might be to stay alive?

I hope it would be to stay alive! Who cares about who shot you if you are dead!

In real life, with real physical hurts, we immediately seek physical help. But emotional and spiritual hurts seem to evoke a response unlike any other wound. When people within the church hurt us, we tend to focus on the person who hurt us… the pain inflictor, not the Healer. This is one of our Enemy’s most effective distraction strategies, he knows that healing is available, and he does not want us to get it. So he keeps us where we are through offense and bitterness. Our own feelings can leave us paralyzed and vulnerable.

Satan wants us to forget that being broken is an integral part of God’s plan for our growth.

The apostle Paul, who begged God to remove his affliction, came to an important realization in 2 Corinthians 12:9. It says,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul had to quit focusing on his handicap in order for Christ’s power to shine through and take over. Want to continue to be used by God after an injury? The first step to recovery is choosing to allow yourself to be healed.

  • Choose to Forgive

Bernard Meltzer once said,

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

The bottom line is this… you can’t heal until you forgive.

It doesn’t matter how wrong you think your offender is, you HAVE to forgive. Ultimately, forgiveness is not for the other person… it’s for you. Forgiveness doesn’t justify what someone did that was wrong, nor does it necessarily mean that the relationship goes right back to where it was. If you don’t forgive, you end up bitter and resentful and before too long you’ll end up hurting other people. The healing process can’t really begin until you spit out the bait of offense.

The call of forgiveness is not easy. It requires us to practice maturity, patience to allow the process to unfold, and the tact to endure it. But, we should not forget that forgiveness is also a mandate from our Lord. We can take great comfort in knowing that He is working while we are waiting, and sometimes even suffering. We can best practice forgiveness by realizing how much we have been forgiven. The magnitude of forgiveness from our Lord for what we have done can never measure up to anything others could do to us. When we put forgiveness into practice, we will be free from the bondage of bitterness and pain that sin imprisons us with.

God desires that we seek forgiveness, because God is a God of relationships, and God is committed to our relationships. Relationships are what this life is all about! What is a church without the people? Nothing. Satan seeks to destroy relationships. His first attempt was in the Garden of Eden, nearly defeating our relationship with God and with one another. God’s plan is to prove Satan wrong, and, our call is to build one another up, not destroy one another.

When we have been wronged, and we experience feelings of betrayal, God calls us into reconciliation. When we fail to forgive, we are the ones who suffer the most. Anger, resentment, shame, bitterness, contempt, and defensiveness all synergistically build on top of one another, so every segment within us is held hostage. We are chained like a dog on a leash, unable to reach the destination we desire, what Christ has for us.

Matthew 18:23-35 says,

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

This passage in Matthew is a story of a forgiving king and a wicked servant. The king forgave this servant’s enormous debt, which is an illustration of our enormous debt of sin that we held until Christ forgave us by the cross. This servant represents the Believer, who, after experiencing the forgiveness of God, harbored bitterness to another, and then refused to forgive his fellow Christian, or a non-Christian, for a much, much smaller debt. The king became furious, and handed the servant over to be tortured. The Bible is telling us that if we refuse to forgive one another, and continue to harbor bitterness, we cannot be relinquished from the torment that comes with harboring resentment, hurt, or pain.

I love what Mahatma Gandhi once said,

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

For some reason in our society everyone wants to carry some chip on their shoulder or wants to have the one “soap box” that they carry around with them in hopes that they can one day stand upon it and vent their insufficiencies, or the insufficiencies of others or their past church, out to the rest of the world, when in reality God calls Christians to operate in the parameters of forgiveness, love, and mercy. How can we receive Christ’s forgiveness, and claim Christ as our Savior, when we are unable to forgive one another?

When we have a forgiving attitude, then we will have a heart at rest and in peace!

What does that “soap box” or unforgiveness look like for you? Is it a wound from a past relationship or church that you carry around willing to share with “friends” or on Facebook for all to see, or is it a reluctance to get involved in another Body of Christ or group of Believing friends? They are all the same… they are unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment in all of it’s flattering forms.

In order to start the healing process you must first start the forgiving process!

  • Choose to Forget

General Robert E. Lee once paid a visit to a Kentucky home, where a bitter and angry woman pointed to what was left of a magnificent tree in front of her house. She was upset that Union artillery fire had ruined the shape and beauty of the tree, and she wanted General Lee to share her anger. She wanted her great leader to condemn the Yankees and sympathize with her. Lee paused and quietly said,

Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it.

General Lee knew that the damaged tree would only be a constant reminder of her victimhood and the pain that she felt from the impact of the war. He wisely suggested that the reminder be cut down entirely so she could get on with her life. That tree would never be the same, and her bitterness would not change that fact, so she was better off to forget the tree and move on with things in her life that she could still impact and make a difference with.

Have you turned your wounds into things that define you?

So many of us harbor our hurts for so long that we basically build a monument to that thorn in our side and no matter how far we go in our life we can always look back on the horizon and see that it is still there! Don’t allow the hurt of your past to become monuments to your future that constantly remind you of the hurt that once was. For many of us it is time to follow the words of Robert E. Lee and cut it down, so that we can forget it.

Many of you may point out that the phrase “forgive and forget” is not found in Scripture. However, Scripture does say that love keeps no record of wrongs and that love conquers a multitude of sins.

Psalm 103:12 says,

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Micah 7:19 says,

He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Because of Christ’s atoning work on the cross, God will never again allow the knowledge of these sins to play a part in His relating to us. Christ reconciles us to God the Father, who then sees us as washed white as snow through Christ’s shed blood.

Isaiah 1:18 says,

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Humans are not able to forgive and forget perfectly like God does, and this is why regular reminders of the Gospel are so important. Christ’s atoning work on the cross perfectly covers all of our past, current, and future sins. So any pain we have dealt with in the past, are currently dealing with, or will deal with in the future are perfectly cared for by Jesus. The Gospel frees us up! We have been forgiven so that we are able to forgive.

Colossians 3:13 says,

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 confirms that we have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation. It says,

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

God perfectly models what forgiveness entails through Christ. We are called to walk in the power that is extended to us through God’s mercy. To let the pain from a past hurt or offense keep us from walking in healing is to misunderstand the all-encompassing work of the gospel to save, sanctify, and glorify us.

If we choose to nurse our victimhood rather than treat our wounds, it can become spiritually life threatening. 

Next week we will continue on with some practical ways to move past offense and begin walking in forgiveness.

Diagnosing Spiritual Complacency

One of the terrible diseases of Christianity today is complacency. There is a major complacency epidemic spreading amongst the Kingdom. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

I certainly believe that Satan is a master deceiver and uses many techniques to disarm and neutralize Believers. I wholeheartedly believe that one of Satan’s strategies is to plant the seed of complacency.

I have a friend who served a tour of duty in Iraq. On that tour of duty he worked many road checkpoints and was issued, along with his other soldiers, some very particular gear. Among that gear was the normal body armor and helmet, but that gear also included padding and armor for their upper arms and thighs, as well as a groin guard. All of this gear had one mission in mind: to keep them alive and protected in the event of an IED explosion. As you can imagine all that gear made the already intense heat nearly unbearable. So for that reason many of the soldiers would remove the gear when officers were not around. One particular day there were no officers on site and a newer enlisted soldier was in the guard tower wearing his helmet causing many of the others to poke fun at him. On that particular day an enemy assailant just so happened to be taking aim with a long-range rifle and shot that soldier in the head. The helmet and his lack of complacency saved his life, whereas many of the other soldiers would have been killed. I say all of that to make this point: in combat complacency kills.

In Amos 6:1 the Lord spoke to the backslidden Israel through His prophet Amos. It says,

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!

The Lord was addressing to the people who were self-satisfied and in their comfort zone. They felt self-sufficient and strong enough in their own power. These people had little desire for God, and little hunger for His righteousness. They were self-confident and self-sufficient. Thus the Lord warned them about the impending judgment upon them.

How often do we fall into this exact attitude? We allow ourselves to grow complacent and live a self-satisfied life. Do we truly live dependent on God or do we try to maintain some independence? Remember, complacency makes us to feel secure in our job, safe in our strength, good about our knowledge, protected in our money and possessions, eventually blinding us and leading us to our downfall. Sometime the strike isn’t immediate. Like the enemy assailant in the story above, sometimes the enemy patently takes aim and waits. He allows us to grow comfortable, and complacent all the while he is disarming us without much effort.

A.W. Tozer says,

Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.

Let’s get one thing straight. Complacency is a killer that can ruin ministry. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

Revelation 3:14-22 says,

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

We see above that lukewarmness is a spiritual condition that apparently, Jesus can’t stand. Another name for it might be “complacency.” Complacency is not contentment. Where contentment is finding joy in the blessings of walking with God, complacency is when we have stopped walking.

How do you know that this killer has crept into your ministry? Here are some telltale signs.

  • Lack of Zeal

One of the most obvious and beginning stages of complacency is a diminishing presence or absence of zeal. We all can probably remember a time in our life when we were passionate about something, maybe you are like me and when you find a new interest or hobby you dive in headfirst and it is all consuming? Hopefully we can all think back to a time when we were like that with Jesus. We didn’t need complex theology or big “spiritually correct” words. Yeah… I just went there.

Too many of us have substituted zeal for knowledge!

I honestly am pretty tired of seeing Bible believing friends of mine tearing each other to shreds over theology on Facebook for the whole world to see. I have been there too! At times I myself have replaced my zeal for pursuing Christ and acting like Him for merely knowing more about Him and maybe letting others know about it. Before anyone gets all tore up please understand that I am talking to myself here! Maybe the dissection of the Word down to the last punctuation mark was just a distraction to keep you from understanding it and doing what it says? In actuality Satan, the deceiver, doesn’t care how much you know the Word if you don’t do the Word.

Please read the Word, dissect the Word, understand the Word, memorize the Word… but then go put into practice!

  • Tradition is Doctrine

Tradition entails so much more than what most people typically think of when it is mentioned. Tradition is more than robes, recited prayers, hymns, etc… Tradition is something that can invade and ultimately take over any church, regardless of its denomination, history, or style. Let’s get this straight, when we depend on tradition for our “religious” involvement, relationship, worship, or gatherings we stop depending upon something else… namely the Bible and the Spirit of God. When that happens, we’re on a rapid descent to destruction. In fact, our gatherings become nothing more than scripted ceremonies that we have rehearsed and polished in hopes of gaining something. We might keep ourselves happy, we might grow our church in numbers or financial security, but we aren’t truly pursuing the renewed work of Christ and the Kingdom of God here in our ever-changing ministry field.

There is nothing wrong with tradition itself. But… there is something wrong with depending on tradition!

C.S. Lewis once wrote,

Security is mortals’ greatest enemy.

But what kind of “security” is he talking about? I believe he is talking about the security that comes with comfort. Maybe your comfort looks different than the blanket that Linus drags around everywhere, but it’s still serving the same purpose. Do your traditions make you feel at “home” or secure and comfortable?

Complacency makes us feel secure, but feelings can lie.

Ephesians 5:14-17 says,

This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

How is it that we can be told to make the most of every opportunity and still pass up so many because they didn’t fit into our idea of “church?” Let’s put it out there, we as a whole have become slothful, habitual, uninspired, secure, and complacent, often doing what we do for traditional reasons rather than because it’s best.

Why is it that we, who have had the precious blood of Christ cleanse our sins, now take such a mediocre and habitual approach to those things related to Christ and His cause? From our outreach, in-reach, preaching, worship, programs, aesthetics, etc… in almost every area of corporate church complacency has unfortunately become the norm.

The message is the same, but the messengers and avenues they take change!

The secular world has caught on to this! Look at the music industry. Songs and albums were once put out on vinyl, then tapes, then cd’s, and now everything is digital. The same songs that were once on vinyl can now be downloaded on iTunes for .99 cents! Businesses don’t always change the product or name… they just change the presentation, method of delivery, or audience. Why aren’t we who have the best “offering” putting forth the same effort in our church activities as we do in our personal activities and businesses?

Andrew Grove, a founder of Intel, is famously quoted for saying,

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure.

If we stay the same, for the sake of staying the same, we get left behind and we do the message an injustice! We must understand that our complacency has eternal implications, and I’m afraid that a culture of mediocrity has now become the new tradition.

  • Tolerance of Sin

Last week I asked you to imagine a trashed house full of garbage and the flies that go along with the garbage. Sometimes our lives look a lot like that house, and the natural tendency is to clear out the flies. Sometimes we are successful and manage to shoo them all away, but as long as the garbage remains we are fighting a losing battle and those flies are inevitably going to return and multiply. So, the solution is to get rid of the garbage in our lives. We need to be concerned with the flies, but we also must work to remove the garbage to keep them out! Every trashcan is going to look different… but we certainly all have one. In his strategy of complacency, Satan watches as we clear our houses of garbage and flies…except for one room. It’s more than likely a hidden room, one we keep to ourselves. That room may be continual sin, it might be a relationship, bitterness, or a wound we haven’t allowed to heal. At times the door to that room full of garbage stays shut for a while and Satan allows us to have successes in other areas all the while the flies are just multiplying and building up in this little room. Then, out of nowhere, the door of the hidden room flies open, freeing thousands upon thousands of flies who have been breeding and waiting for just this moment.

Why does this happen? We get complacent and our complacency leads to tolerance or apathy.

Think it doesn’t happen? Take a moment to consider prominent Christian leaders, celebrities, or politicians whose lives and careers have been ruined when they fell in disgrace from one sin or another. We all know them so there is no need at mentioning names. We might look in from the outside an ask ourselves, “how would they allow that to happen” or, “why would they do that with all the success they have?” Rest assured. That fall wasn’t part of the plan when they began their career. Nobody begins a ministry with the goal to ultimately disgrace themselves and God by being brought to their knees by their own hand. Too often the fall comes from complacency. They believed the lie that they could “get away with it,” or, “it’s not that big of a deal,” and when they seemed to have it all together and under control, they grew complacent in their tolerance of sin.

Sin is sin, and all sin is bad. Don’t tolerate it! The church is to be a place of healing for sinners, but a Holy God doesn’t wink at or bless iniquity. He sent His son to die for and erase that iniquity and sin… not cover it up. The only reason the church welcomes sinners is because by God’s grace, sinners can be reborn with Christ’s righteousness. Do not tolerate sin in your own life! Letting a few “little things” slip leads to bigger slip-ups. I recently watched a video of a poor woman who slipped on an icy sidewalk and every time she would begin to regain her balance and composure she would begin to slide and fall again until ultimately she ended up on the ground. We’ve all been on an icy sidewalk… when you begin to slip it is all over. But… you know how you avoid slipping and falling? Stay off the ice.

  • Lack of Pursuit

What is a pursuit? I would define it as an intense chase of something in order to attain it.

My parents have a German shepherd by the name of Obi and he is extremely quick. One afternoon while playing and walking Obi his leash fell off of his collar and went limp in my hand. I looked down in shock only to see him looking at me with the same look of shock in his face that I had in mine. At that point the chase was on.

Why did I pursue Obi the dog? I pursued because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t catch him, of what would happen if I stopped pursuing him!

How many of us have stopped pursuing holiness? Lost interest or will to pursue God and spiritual growth?

Spiritual growth is marked by an aggressive intense pursuit of God. We desire His fellowship, His people, and His word. A life that lacks prayer, Bible intake, and neglects spiritual nourishment is a life that has slipped into complacency and that will see little or no fruit.

Mark 11:12-14 says,

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

When Jesus cursed the fig tree for its failure to produce fruit in the verses above He gives us a sobering lesson. Empty religion, lacking fruit, needs to and ultimately will die. In actuality the parable of the fig tree doesn’t end with Jesus’ withering curse, because the very next verse says,

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

The spiritual complacency or “religion” of the people had reached the place where they were making a total mockery of the temple and of the message. We may not see our situations as that bleak, but if Jesus walked into our churches what things would he need to overturn or shake up?

  • Inward Focus

One of the surest signs of complacency is a church that is self-absorbed or entirely inwardly focused. You might ask, “Tanner, what does than mean?” Let me begin my answer with another question, what is the mission of the church? That question can evoke many answers like: to provide teaching for Believers, to be a place of fellowship, a place of worship. To all of those I would say yes… but what is the first and foremost mission of the church? In Matthew 28:19 it tells us about that mission. It says,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The mission of the church is to spread the good news and make disciples. In fact we may have to get out of our comfortable and familiar zone to do it! Acts 1:8 says,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Is your church inward focused or outward focused? Are you so concerned about not “rocking the boat” that you leave it docked? We see in the book of Acts that in order to achieve our mission we have to wander outside of ourselves! Are we so overly concerned about keeping “our people” happy and content that we miss opportunities to reach those that haven’t yet been reached by Christ or the church? I will step out in an unpopular way and say that when a church is absorbed with just its own activities, its own problems, and its own people, it has become complacent and ineffective at achieving the goal and mission.

The primary challenge, and our primary concern, should be, “how do we reach people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus?” Most inward-focused churches are not sensitive to or even aware of this challenge. We might bank on our “friendliness” or position in the community to cut it… but the numbers show that it doesn’t! We can’t simply pray for a harvest and not plant any seeds or till any ground!

So many of us are so complacent that we fear any change or decision that might push insiders away and, frankly, impact the bottom line. Ironically, any organization, including a church, that doesn’t focus on reaching new people has already started to decline and will eventually die. In the book of Acts, James the brother of Jesus, told the Jewish Christians, who were the insiders of the day, they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles, the outsiders of the day, to turn to God. Why is it that this many years later that problem still exists? Are we making it easy for outsiders to turn to God, or are we stuck in the busy complacent work of keeping insiders happy?

Jeremiah 10:21 says,

For the shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.

Proverbs 1:32 says,

For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.

What is our focus as a church?

Zephaniah 1:12 says,

It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good or evil!’

Are you complacent? Go to war with the complacency in your life.


An Invitation

We have all received an invitation to something in our lifetimes. Sometimes we are delighted to receive them in the mail… and other times a sense of dread or obligation comes along with an invitation.

One time interestingly enough I received an invitation for a black tie event for business professionals in the nearest major city to me. Needless to say I was confused and felt very unqualified. I made every excuse to not attend… and I didn’t. Today I wonder what the mix up was, but also what opportunities or connections would have come from that banquet.

John 3:16-17 says,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

We see in the above passages out of John an invitation to believe and be saved offered by Jesus and the sacrifice He paid. How many of us treat the invitation offered by Jesus in the same way that I treated the black tie event? Maybe we feel unqualified, inadequate, or we are just full of excuses?

Maybe the expectations have been placed too high? Or we’ve been hurt or let down before and we are timid to put ourselves in that position again? Maybe we feel like we aren’t there yet… like we are too much of a project? Maybe you are like me and you feel inadequate or not qualified enough to “mix it up” with the “professionals?”

One of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis, said,

God doesn’t want something from us, He simply wants us.

There is no mistake. The invitation is yours.

That invitation may be to approach Jesus for the first time… or maybe you are already a Believer and the invitation for you is to take the “next step” and allow Jesus to not only be your savior, but also to be the Lord of your life.

Let’s think together.

Come as you Are

Revelation 22:17 says,

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

We have an open invitation: “Come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” In these and other verses in Scripture, the clear implication is that, even though we are sinners, God desires us to come to Him as we are, so that He can cleanse us.

In one of my Matt Maher songs he says this,

For all the thirsty in need of the river

For all the sleeping hearts waking from their slumber

For everyone still standing at the shoreline, come


For all the hurting souls running from their healer

For all the skeptics running from an answer

Let everyone who hears these words say come


For the Spirit and the Bride say come


For all the Pharisees, empty on the inside

For all the lovers who spent their love on a lie

For the forgotten, the Father’s heart says come


For all the fatherless looking for approval

For all the daughters who’ve never heard they’re beautiful

Let everyone who hears these words say come


For the Spirit and the Bride say come

In Joel 2:32a says

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.

God’s offer of deliverance is open to “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord.” If we go to the examples of how Jesus dealt with the sinners He encountered we realize that there is no mistake… the invitation is ours and it is genuine!

You know, sometimes we receive those invitations with “fine print.” Maybe we are expected to bring something… a gift, food, etc. Those invitations come with requirements or obligations.

Sometimes us “well-meaning Christians” do that exact same thing. We tell people that they have to “clean up their lives” before God will accept them, but that is not what we see in Scripture. We can come as we are! The invitation has no fine print!

John 8:1-11 says,

They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus, He told her, “Go, and sin no more.” The sin was never excused or ignored, but forgiveness was offered to anyone who recognized his sin and was willing to confess and forsake it. God certainly expects us to leave our sin, but that comes as a part of our salvation, not as a prerequisite. We are not able to clean ourselves up without God’s help.

John 6:37 says,

Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away.

You’ve met the Prerequisites

The worst part about college was figuring out what order I had to take all of the classes in order to fit them into a four-year schedule and complete my degree(s) on time. It seems simple… but in reality some classes are only offered at certain times and rotate yearly, other classes have requirements that have to be completed before you are allowed to enroll in them, they are called prerequisites.

Above we discussed the open call or invitation that is offered to us through Christ, and how we didn’t have to “meet” any sort of requirement in order to respond accordingly. In fact, through Jesus we have already met the “prerequisites.” We are all sinners in need of grace. Grace that only faith in Jesus can offer.

In Isaiah 1:18 it says,

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

God offers the invitation to come, bring your sins and burdens and lay them at the foot of the cross. No matter how far you gone or how broken you are.

There is a story in John 4 that goes like this,

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria.  So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Jesus didn’t and still doesn’t flee from the imperfect… instead He sits beside them and offers “living water” out of love. You know… I often wonder how Jesus loved some of the most unlovable characters. John 3:16 makes it sound easy, when in fact, loving the world wasn’t easy at all! Another story in John 4:46-53 goes like this,

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.  As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.

In this passage we find Jesus interacting with a father who longs for his son to be healed. The only problem is that this father is also an official in Herod’s court. The same Herod who kills John the Baptist, and who is a direct threat to Jesus! But again, Jesus loves the unlovable. He truly “loves His enemies as Himself.”

What do we have to lose? Maybe some pain and guilt?

If you are already a believer what are you withholding from the Lord. Let Him take it.

Leave Something and Take Something

As a kid the best part about attending a birthday party was the “goodie bags” typically offered at the end. The best part about an invitation from Jesus is that we don’t leave the party “empty-handed.”

Matthew 11:28 says,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

We all bring our own baggage to the party, but the “take home bag” is the same. We can come and bring our junk, lay it down, and take up an inheritance.

Come as you are and allow God to change who you are.

In all of this I am not saying that it is okay to remain in rebellion, but I am saying that true faith in Christ alone will change your life. Come as you are, but you won’t stay as you are because God is working in true believers.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says,

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Galatians 2:20 says,

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I will close with these often sung words from David Crowder,

Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been

Come broken hearted let rescue begin

Come find your mercy oh sinner come kneel

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal


So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame

All who are broken lift up your face

Oh wanderer come home, you’re not too far

So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart

Come as you are


There’s hope for the hopeless and all those who’ve strayed

Come sit at the table, come taste the grace

There’s rest for the weary, rest that endures

Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t cure