When Messages Conflict

Call Jan

I couldn’t attend the meeting. Icy roads, time pressure – the reason doesn’t matter – but the outcome of the meeting did matter. Decisions made there affect decisions made here. I asked three people what happened. They gave me three different versions and three different interpretations of the implications they each took away from the discussion. Had I not known these three people I would have thrown my hands up in frustration, but knowing their strengths and biases I actually had a fuller picture, even though they sometimes contradicted each other.

I thought about the way believers in Jesus Christ interpret their experiences and how they deliver messages. Of course, they are going to relate things differently. Take this phone conversation for example:

“Hello. This is Jan. Is Michael there, please?”
“No. I’m sorry, he just stepped out. Can I take a message?”
“Oh dear. I need some information from him. Well, just tell him to give me a dingle.”

When Michael comes back I will probably say something like, “Jan called. She sounded a little stressed. You had better call her.”

I may add to the message because I heard something in her tone of voice that makes me feel she needs to know someone cares. I tend to interpret events through the lens of a mercy gift. But that’s just me.

Another person, who has a gift for administration or even prophecy might be more blunt, “Call Jan. She needs those numbers now! Let’s get this show on the road!”

An encourager might say, “Wow. You’ve been busy. I hope you had a refreshing break. I love the way you keep things running so smoothly. By the way, Jan called. I think she could use your expertise about now. Give her a call when you can. Your information is vital and we all appreciate it.”

A helpful, somewhat literal message-taker would be more precise. “Jan called. She needs some information – and she wants you to give her a dingle. What’s a dingle? Is it a candy? Because I can run down to the shops on my break and try to pick her up one, or however many come in a package, unless it’s a computer part, but if you give me the information I can order that online for you…”

The message can also be filtered through another person’s experiences or emotions:
“Jan called. Again. I was in the middle of something and now I have to start all over. Maybe you should consider putting someone who can work more independently in that position.”

“Jan called. Hey, is she seeing anyone?”

“Jan called. She sounded so sad. I know what it’s like to lose your cat. My little Pookie was so sweet…pass the tissue.”

“Jan called. She’s probably tired of waiting for you to get your act together too. Are we going to make the deadlines? What if we don’t? Will we lose everything?”

“So what’d you think of the game last night? Oh, there’s a message on your desk. That second half was crazy, eh?”

“Hello, Jan? He just came back from lunch.”
“Here. Talk to her.”

“I didn’t know you had eco-freak friends. What does bleeding-heart Jan want now?”


I wonder if some of our difficulties in communication derive from the assumption that our views should be the same without considering that our points of view may be quite different.

On my social media yesterday a post comparing a certain politician to Winston Churchill was immediately followed by another comparing the same person to Adolf Hitler. They are both my friends (the posters, I mean, not Winston and Adolf. I’m not that old.) Frankly, I thought both writers made good points.

Another friend, a tell-it-like-I-see-it communicator, charged into a discussion rather like a bull in a china shop who resented the porcelain figurines  for being so *#&*#ing fragile.

Yet another was in tears over a video of a grandfather who announced his own death so the family would gather together. I didn’t say anything to her but I can tell you from experience there are limits on the number of times a person can get away with playing that trump card and then using the captured time to criticize, complain and spread gloom and misery everywhere. I’m not hard-hearted but, you know, my history is different from hers. I’m going to see that video commercial through a dusty lens.

Some people who  hear God’s communication with them (through scripture verses that stand out to them in virtual neon lights, or dreams, or an internal or even external voice, or through other circumstances) have a message to either pray about or deliver to others for the purposes of building people up and expressing God’s love and concern. But they also have lenses.

Would to God we all started out mature enough to see through Jesus’ eyes without any of our own stuff getting in the way. Some are more capable of this than others, but nearly everyone needs to learn to quiet their own heart so they can hear and repeat the message more clearly.

Besides interpreting what we believe the Lord is telling us from the viewpoint of motivational giftings he has placed inside us (e.g. mercy, encouragement, prophecy, teaching, serving, giving, administering) most of us will interpret through lenses that still contain residue from past disappointment, or perhaps fear, or fatigue, or guilty self-defence. We are also affected by geography, ethnicity, denominational leanings, and political or educational history. Sometimes there is a lot to un-learn. That’s why we need each other.

We need more than one perspective and we need to help each other heal so our perception is more accurate and our hurts and assumptions do not taint the message so much. We also need humility to realize that we may only have part of the picture and that someone who sees things quite differently may not be entirely wrong but could have another crucial part that adds dimension. Paradox and all that. (Or one of us could be missing it by a mile. It happens. Humility and all that.)

Yesterday I had lunch with an insightful friend.

“How do we find a point of connection with all this confusion and disagreement going on lately? “ I asked her.

“Stories,” she said. “There’s a reason why most of the Bible is a narrative. We learn from stories. We need to listen to each others stories. We connect through stories – and everybody has a story.”

I realized the reason I found the three different versions of the meeting helpful is because I knew each one of these people’s stories. They knew mine. We understood each other because we have spent time listening to each other. I knew where they were coming from and why they interpreted events as they did. We have connection.

The same exact facts and interpretation repeated over and over do not necessarily represent unity. Hearts connecting? That’s unity.

It’s a journey.

Religious Conceit

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“Beware of being obsessed with consistency to your own convictions instead of being devoted to God. The important consistency in a saint is not to a principle but to the divine life. It is easier to be an excessive fanatic than it is to be consistently faithful, because God causes an amazing humbling of our religious conceit when we are faithful to Him.”

– Oswald Chambers


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I was out for a walk in the first snow one fall day when I saw these apples. The branch hung over the fence in the back lane. The owner picks the fruit on lower branches on his garden side. These are more difficult to reach, so they remain unplucked year after year.

In my last post I described my dream about Esther in Ephesians. It was bracketed by two dream scenes. In the first, people were at a banquet, hosted by the evangelist. He paid for the meal. The tables were laden with food like the luxurious feasts on cruise ships. I noticed most of them were filling their plates with desserts and sugary confections. Garbage cans overflowed with healthy entrees that had been sampled and tossed.

In the last scene (after the Esther part) the banquet hall was nearly empty. I asked someone where I could get breakfast and they pointed to plates on a very high shelf. With effort I could just reach the edge of a plate and slowly slide it toward the edge until it tipped and I could catch it. It wasn’t possible to see what was up there so there was no picking and choosing. A couple of other folk managed to stretch up and coax plates down. They  also held nutritious organic fruits and vegetables and bread.

There are seasons of ebb and flow in this life. Graham Cooke calls them times of “Hiddeness and Manifestation. Sometimes there is such a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s active engagement in our lives we can’t take it all in. Sometimes there are seasons of questions when answers seem to be sparse, when we have to stretch (move in faith) and fill up on solid basic principles about who God is and who we are in Him. These are seasons of preparation.

Razzle dazzle days are wonderful and God loves to party with his kids. That’s when the crowds show up. But sometimes he holds back to see who will be there when understanding doesn’t come as easily, when the entertainment factor is missing, when they need to ask for their daily bread, when they need solid nutritious food.

I found something to stand on then reached up and picked one of those apples. It was crisp and cold and sweet with just the right amount of tartness. Best apple I’ve ever tasted.

For Such a Time As This: Esther in Ephesians

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Yesterday I heard a friend talk about Esther. He reminded us of the preparation she went through to bring her to a unique position of influence. I’ve been fascinated by the life of the orphan queen ever since I had a dream involving Esther.

The story is told in the Bible of a young parent-less Jewish woman, adopted by her cousin, who rose from obscurity to the position of queen in the land where her people lived in exile. She dared to defy protocol and approached the king in the throne room without first having been summoned by him. As her cousin, Mordecai, reasoned, it looked like God arranged for her to be there to help her people in a time of crisis. It’s great story, the kind that is made into Hollywood movies. But, if you take time to read it, you will notice that the story is not as innocent as the Christian family versions.

Right from the beginning of the book it’s apparent that in this place men had all the power. It’s also apparent that this was a culture that accepted the practice of sexual slavery at the highest level. After the king banished his previous wife, Vashti, for refusing to parade her beauty (whatever that means) in front of a crowd of drunk men, officials scoured the land to find beautiful women (perhaps girls) to take to the ruler for his inspection. After a night spent with him, a woman moved from the house of virgins to the house of concubines. If the king did not delight in her, she was never summoned by him and never allowed to marry anyone else. This was no Miss America pageant.

Hadassah (renamed Esther) was Jewish. Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes) was the leader of the nation who had destroyed her country and her family and dragged them off as spoils of war. If this had been Nazi Germany our heroine could have been killed by one side for failing to cooperate or the other for being a collaborator.

Esther had no parents. For a cousin to take over raising her meant she, like most people with her background, probably suffered trauma as a child. She had deep hidden scars. She understood loss. Ethnic background is kept secret for a reason.

But Esther chose to learn all she could about the king. She had help from Hegai, the king’s eunuch. (In many eastern cultures it was standard procedure to castrate males working around the palace and make them eunuchs, like Daniel and his friends probably were, to prevent any possibility of cross-pollination, so to speak.) Hegai may have understood Esther’s background. Together they committed to this path as she received a year of beauty treatments – an ancient version of a radical make-over.

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The king chose her as his wife and instead of banishment to the back rooms of the walled prison for women she lived in luxury as his favourite. Then came the day when she risked it all for the sake of her people. The king had signed an irreversible edict clearing the way for genocide for not only all the people in her ethnic group, but possibly herself as well. Making the decision to boldly approach the throne without being summoned was not made lightly. She asked others to fast and pray with her for three days first. Esther took the action with the full knowledge that she could lose everything, including her life. She was terrified. Such radical acts did not come easily to a woman raised in an oppressive patriarchal culture.

“If I perish, I perish,” she said.

In my dream about Esther a well-known evangelist phoned and asked me to help him with a sermon illustration. He needed two young girls who could help him dramatize the story. I told him I knew of two eight- year olds who might like to be involved.

“No. More mature. I need two ten-year olds.” he said.

He seemed very excited about a new revelation he had from the book of Esther in the New Testament.

“The book of Esther is in the Old Testament,” I corrected.
“Esther is in the New Testament,” he insisted. “It’s in Ephesians.”
“What version are you using?” I asked, feeling pretty confidant that I was right and he was not.
“The Transition Version,” he said, equally as confident.

I immediately felt the dream was important. There was a lot more to it. It was about something taking place in the heart of the Church that includes women and honours femininity, about shocking methods God sometimes uses to get us where he wants us, about preparations for future assignments and about reaching higher for the most nutritious food. But telling you about all of it will take too long for a single blog post, so I’ll just talk about this part.

I read the book of Ephesians looking for references to Esther. I didn’t see any, but I did see this. Ephesians can be divided into three parts. The first part tells the believer in Christ how their identity and position has changed. I recommend writing down all the phrases in the first two or three chapters which talk about new identity. Amazing! You are blessed, faithful, holy, blameless, pure, for His praise… so many wonderful hard-to-believe good words! These phrases in particular caught my attention:
You are chosen.
You are lavished with the riches of His grace.
You are raised up and seated with Him.
You are privy to the mystery of His purpose.


Wait. Esther was chosen from among many. She was lavished with luxurious perfumes, ointments, jewels and fine garments. She was raised up from obscurity as an orphan to life as a bride of the king, seated beside him. She became privy to secret information about her purpose in being there.

Then my eyes fell on these words in the third chapter: We have boldness and access with confidence to heavenly places through our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Esther had access to the throne! It was the king’s love for her that saved her life. It was his generous hand extended to her that granted her whatever she asked of him.

I was beginning to see the parallels. The first part of Ephesians tells us who we are and where we are now. When we begin to understand our high calling and how God sees us through the eyes of love we begin to understand the transition that is taking place in us.

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I’ve seen rows of Bibles for sale subtitled, The End-times Version, The Mother’s Version, The Christian Worker’s Version etc. This always struck me as odd. Was it not all the same Bible? What these “versions” do is highlight passages relative to the person they hope will buy a copy. These passages highlighted to me in Ephesians made it a Transition Version of the story of life in Christ. In Him we are given a make-over, we are given a new position, we are changed – for a purpose.

Many of us are familiar with Ephesians 2:8. For by grace you have been saved through faith... It’s a gift. The evangelist reminded me he was looking for something more mature. Two ten year-olds! Keep going. Ephesians 2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

The next part of Ephesians teaches us about walking this new identity out in the context of relationships, singing and rejoicing together, submitting to and  cooperating with each other, raising up those for whom we have responsibility to become people who fulfill their callings. Love. Honour. Be patient, Understand. Seek their best. It’s an entirely new lifestyle and no longer a competition for survival.

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The third part of Ephesians tells us what all this preparation is for. We could all be happy enough with the story of a pretty beloved bride just kicking around the palace of Christianity, smelling the roses, picking out the goodies at the smorgasbord of the King’s bounty. But she is beginning to get the message, “Good grief, girl! Do you see the injustice going on in the world around you? Do you know about the plans of the opposition? The devil and his forces are determined to destroy you and your people. Do you know who you are and your position and why you are here now? Do you know you are in a unique position to actually do something about it?”

It’s a little overwhelming.

In the story Esther appeals to her master/husband. As a result the chief planner of the planned genocide of her people is himself hanged on gallows he built for Esther’s cousin. Then the king did something remarkable considering the history of ruthless power-seeking of his predecessors. He was not like them. He gave Esther and her people authority. He gave Mordecai his signet ring. He gave them swift horses from his own stable. Something unprecedented was happening here. Even the media of the day changed sides out of fear of the power now in the hands of the former victims.

On the very day their enemies planned to have mastery over them, the reverse occurred. From India to Ethiopia the victims-no-more took up arms and turned the tide. Then the king asked Esther again, “Now what is your wish? It will be granted to you.” His generosity was greater than she ever imagined.

The last chapter in Ephesians tells the Church, the Bride of Christ to stand strong in the strength of His might, to put on the armour He provides, to pray at all times in the Spirit, making supplication for all the saints.

The orphan becomes the Bride of the King of Kings. He gives her helpers in the form of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to prepare her for her calling. She is raised up and has access to the throne because she is loved. In the shelter of His love she learns who she is, where she is and how this new identity works its way into relationships. Because he adores her, the King equips her with authority to fight the enemy that comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

Esther is in Ephesians. Who knew?

For such a time as this.