Friday, April 11, 2014

Lipstick, Nails & Traveling Pants

Learning not to take everything to heart took a lot of practice.  Unfortunately, it came mostly through teaching and not while I was young.

As a matter of fact, in my first job as a full time teacher I cried every night for almost the entire year.

However, even with that sensitivity I still had a bit of a rebellious streak concerning offense that needed uprooting for a very long time.
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Don’t miss out on this week’s challenge (below).  Q & A

I Could Have Nailed It

You would have thought they looked like this. 
Cute huh?
When I began looking for a permanent teaching position I interviewed at a lot of schools.  My first session went great and just so happened was a Christian School, which was something new for me.

They liked all I had to offer, except one thing.  In order for me to get the position I had to cut my nails and get rid of my pink nail polish.  The only color that was permitted was clear.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how that one went if you knew me.  My very nature is color, and the brighter the better.  As one of my seventh graders used to say (purposely trying to tick me off being their grammar teacher), “the funner the better.”

They offended me by thinking my nails would ruin my testimony and I offended them by actually wearing colored nail polish (light pink) to an interview.  The offense – my nails. 

The Spirit of Offense …

It comes in many venues and situations.  There are those who offend (the offenders), the offended and the offensive methods in which our feelings are toyed with leading us into a judgmental spirit.

If we let offenders and offensive behavior ruin our lives, it keeps believers stuck in a world of ineffectiveness.  As long as we let offense rule over our emotions we will not reach the potential God has positioned inside of us.

Even though I know what God says about this spirit that grieves Him, it’s still difficult to stop.  In my life I have been rejected more times than I can count, and almost all of it has been by my fellow Christians.  Why do you think that is?

The Traveling Pants

I know that I am not alone when I make this statement. Throughout my travels as a speaker, teacher and in outreach ministry, door upon door has been closed to me either because I am a woman, or that I most often wear pants (slacks).

A few years back my husband was able to minister and visit 50 churches in one year.  How many welcomed me?  About 5. 

It seems that my attire and wardrobe matters more to people than my message.  There are several reasons why I may wear pants; one of them being the weather. 

However, the main reason is that I’m on platform/stages a lot and we found that some audiences were looking more at my legs than listening.  It is on those occasions when my husband says,

“I’m not that saved when it comes to my wife.” 

My traveling pants apparently are an offense.

Lively Lips

We had scheduled a meeting at a public facility civic center on a Sunday morning.   All of our equipment was set up to do a recording for the radio.  What we didn’t know is that a college basketball state tournament was also taking place at the same time.  Even though the management tried to accommodate us in a different room at the other side of the building, it was still too noisy to record so we canceled the event.

 Since the morning was now free, my husband decided we would visit a church where he had ministered several times.  I enjoyed the message the pastor spoke on the passage in John chapter 4 of the woman at the well.  He preached how God accepted her as she was and that her testimony of His forgiveness of sins led an entire town to Christ. 
When the service was over, I walked to the front of the auditorium to give my appreciation to the pastor only to be greeted with a large palm being held out like a stop sign.

“Stop right there.” the pastor said as his arm stretched out toward me. 

“I wanted to tell you that I was blessed by your message …” was what I started to say before he cut me off abruptly.

He went on to tell me that I was not welcome to come any further and that it didn’t matter what I said because I was wearing lipstick.  As a matter of fact he was quite angry and made a fist demonstrating a stroking motion across his lips as if he was putting on lipstick.

That wasn’t the end of it.  While the rest of the congregation was looking he belittled me about my attire.  The spirit of offense came out in me I’m sorry to say, and I spieled off my own thoughts about his opinion.

“But you just talked about the message Jesus spoke to the woman at the well.  You have never met me and don’t even know if I’m saved …”

My husband heard the commotion from the back of the church and came to see what was happening.  By then I was in tears, not understanding how a man who could give a message like he did, be so unkind to a stranger in his Parrish.

Before my husband literally came unzipped I had to push him out the door and to the car.  He was plenty mad especially since this was the first time I had been to that church.

Pretty much everyone got offended that day, even the crowd that watched thought this was really not what Christ expects from His people.  My lively lipstick caused a pastor to lose sight of his own message when he became offended by a visitor.

Condemnation – the Condiment of Believers

There are numerous examples I could have shared with you, but our journey is mainly talking about the believer and how we are changing.

"Bad,bad sinner.
Mayo is next.
Ya want to get saved?"
Scripture tells us that we are not to be dividers of the children of God, but gatherers. If those things are actually a sin, why didn’t that pastor(s) sit down and pray for me.

What we’ve learned through all our traveling is:

Condemning isn’t observing, it’s condemning and that doesn’t win souls.

There are too many angry, complaining, griping judges in the Body of Christ and in ministry.  We cannot go about acting out our feelings when we get hurt through offense, by pouring condemnation on people like it’s the “choice” condiment among believers for winning souls.

It is our responsibility to stay in peace and not stir up strife.  Our job is to bring people to the altar, not sacrifice them on it as they come.

Jesus told us that we are to put on and stay in peace, even when offended. (John 14:27 NKJV)

If we are to walk in love it has to be in every area of our lives.  First Corinthians chapter 13 explains how love doesn’t demand its rights, and that includes getting offended over every little thing we don’t always understand.

"Look at you ... the offend police. Let it go baby!"
One of the most exasperating things to me is when my husband and I get into a “discussion” and he just gives up on the conversation.  I want to keep going working out every detail until my point is proven.

He has learned it doesn’t matter if others think you are right if you know you are.  I really need to work on that!  The spirit of offense never gets a chance to rear its ugly head, because he cuts it off at the source.  (He tells me it's a sibling thing.  Think he's right?)

The devil will make sure that we come across the spirit of offense, but we don’t have to take that road.  Sometimes in order to stay in peace and not take offense we have to walk in humility, even if we are right.

Can I clarify something here? 

I still get offended just like anyone else does, and especially when it comes to the work of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we are sticklers (some may say legalistic) when it comes to dressing up for Jesus for worship, but that’s our thing. 

How do I say this without offending anyone?  There is no scriptural basis for most of the things Christians deem as “Biblical.”  It should be our desire to wear our best clothes when we come to worship our Savior, but that comes with the spiritual journey. 

When the minister of the church we visited said something about my wearing slacks, I told him I didn’t have any dresses. “Then go buy some.” he said. That pastor didn’t know squat about my finances or me.

The fact was all of my clothes were taken (stolen and sold) while we were on the road ministering.  I only had a few things in a duffle bag left to my name.  We had tried looking for petite dresses, but couldn’t find one in that town.

Is it so hard for us to understand that everyone is at a different bend in the road, and God is the one who turns the hearts of man?  What was your life like before you came to Jesus?  Mine wasn’t squeaky clean even as a child.

If I turned away every kid that had piercings, tattoos, wild hair, did drugs and used foul language my job as a Christian teacher would have ended.  In all my experiences of teaching I've only taught in a religious setting for a few years.

My ministry field was in government and alternative programs where kids were rejected from public schools.  While they were in “bondage” they came to church, ate at our table and kneeled on the floor to ask Jesus into their hearts.

Jesus changed their lives and that changed their heart.  Some have made drastic changes in lifestyle as well as appearance, while others are leading outstanding Christian lives without major appearance changes.

“That you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:10 NKJV)

The point is, they didn’t change because I told them to cut their hair, put on a suit or dress and only wear “natural” make-up.  They became what God intended them to be through the godly examples in their lives, and it wasn’t always through me.

Just As They Are

Most of the time we get offended by people we care for and it really hurts.  What can I say, hurting people hurt people.  So then how can we get past these feelings of offense that prevent us from stepping out in faith?

When I came to Jesus, I was broken … but praise God He accepted me, “Just as I am.” He’s the one who cleaned me up and changed the way I perceived people. 
We can draw encouragement knowing Jesus understands, because it happened to Him.  While He works in people’s lives (including our own) can't we let others come to Christ just as they are,  so peace abides and souls are saved?

“Great peace have they who love Your law; nothing shall offend them or make them to stumble.”  (Psalm 119:165 Amplified) 

This Week’s Challenge:
Let Grace Work it Out

Our challenge for this week is to bring people to Jesus … and let Him clean them up without us getting offended. 

Lead others to the cross and let mercy do its job.

“Do not let yourselves be (hindrances by giving) an offense to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the Church (Body of Christ) of God (do not lead others into sin by your mode (or actions) of life).”  (1 Corinthians 10:32 Amp.)

Next, be patient.  Sure we’ll still have offenses come at us, but we don’t have to be an offender.  As a leader I’ve had to deal with things, but in doing so I cannot get offended or be the offender.

Verse 169 of Psalm 119 goes on like this:
“Let my cry come near before Thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to Thy Word.” (Psalm 119:169 NKJV)

Lipstick, nails and traveling pants all have their place in this world, and it need not be an offense.  Remember, God's grace will work it out like it did with you.

As we continue on this Inner Journey to Jesus, ask Him for understanding and wisdom when the spirit of offense enters your thinking.  Favor a new approach … let God’s grace reign in your heart and dwell in His peace.

JUST AS I AM - I Come Broken to Be Mended...

Until next time, favor grace over offense.

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KJV Bible Verses about Offense (Disclaimer: This is only a link to the references.)  
Content and Image Copyright from Favored1. Do not copy. A.N.A. logo by J.C.Penney, Inc.
Scripture reference was taken from the New King James Bible Version provide by Gateway Bible
Image credit: Google Images Creative Common License if not specified.
Image: Woman/Child  Multi Colored Nails  Rights End  Traveling Pants  Stop There Hand  Condiments  

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