Chapel: Don’t pass up lessons from life’s offenses
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Garrett Ohrenberg
GCU News Bureau
We have a slight problem.
It gets major sometimes.
Dan Steffen’s first visit to Chapel at Grand Canyon University on Monday was the perfect message in an imperfect time, a time of upset and disagreement. A time of real and perceived slights.
“It seems like everywhere we turn these days,” the Senior Pastor of Pure Heart Church said, “we’re offended at one another, we’re upset by one another, we’re struggling to really, truly love one another.”
Steffen started by pointing to what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10 about our mission on Earth:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
He noted how Peter warned of what trips us up in 1 Peter 4:8:
Above all, have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers over a multitude of sins.
And he reminded his GCU Arena audience of what Christ said in Luke 17:1 – that we are not going to get through life without being offended:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.”
From there, Steffen laid out a series of anecdotes, most of them humorous, about how offenses in his life often have turned into blessings.
He told of the time he had just completed what he thought was a tremendous Christmas Eve service and was told afterward that his sweater made him look fat. On another occasion, a member of the congregation said his plaid shirt made his head look small.
His response: He promised that person he would never wear plaid again, and he explained why he was wearing a dark, slimming sweater on this day by saying, “I don’t wear red sweaters anymore. I burned them all.”
He referenced a famous quote from boxer Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a game plan until you get punched in the face.”
There is no greater example of dealing with offenses, Steffen said, than the way Jesus handled the constant scrutiny He faced, with people eager to try to trip Him up. There was the time, in Luke 14:1-6, that He was invited to a meal:
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, He was being carefully watched. There in front of Him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, He healed him and sent him on his way.
Then He asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.
To demonstrate what that meal was like, Steffen had students from the Worship team stay on stage after performing and make a “U” around him. The least honored spot on the “U” was on the edge, and that’s where Jesus was told to sit – right across from the afflicted man. And yet rather than act offended, He sought only to heal the man.
“I love what Jesus does. He doesn’t lose sight of His mission,” Steffen said. “He doesn’t lose sight of the good that He was put here to do. He doesn’t lose focus because He was offended.”
Steffen told the story of waiting impatiently for a table at a restaurant and watching as his wife, Nicole, greeted a family that walked in after them. Upon learning that the family was new in town, she invited them to Pure Heart Church – and they attended a service and got their daughter involved in the youth group. Next up: They’re coming to the Steffen home for dinner.
“In that moment I was so upset about a table and about eating, and God had an ordained moment for me to do good, to invite this family who was new to town to come to church because that’s what pastors should do, right?” he said.
“But in these moments we get so triggered, we get so upset, we get so overwhelmed. You might get offended at a professor and miss a vital piece of education that you desperately need. You may be offended at a friend and you may miss an opportunity to have a friend for life.”
There were more anecdotes:
He attended a meeting last summer that brought together Black and White pastors. It got heated. It would have been easy to get triggered, Steffen said, but he resisted that instinct and it has resulted in this: Pure Heart’s Peoria campus is being merged with Covenant City Church, where the congregation is 98% Black.
“In that moment of conversation, if I had allowed our hearts to be offended, we’d have missed the opportunity to model something that this nation desperately needs,” he said.
He talked about his involvement in School Connect, a ministry that links 900 public schools with 850 churches all over the country. (GCU is a partner in that mission.) When he announced it at his church, a member of the congregation told him he was wrong to promote it and, as a result, stopped attending the church.
“If I would have let that moment keep me from what God wanted me to do, I would have missed the great ride that we know today as School Connect,” he said.
Most poignantly, Steffen talked about the most devastating offense of his life: His first wife left him for another man. On top of that, a young girl in his youth ministry told him her parents said he shouldn’t be allowed to remain as its leader or even remain at the church because of his divorce. He wanted to quit, but he felt the Holy Spirit convincing him to continue.
Four months later, he attended a singles retreat and was asked to lead a breakout group for people who were divorced even though he was much younger than everyone else. He didn’t think he was worthy but shared what he called the three p’s of peace – peace with God, peace with yourself and peace with your ex-spouse – and told his story.
After it was over, an older woman told him that she went into it thinking he wasn’t qualified to lead.
“And then you told your story,” she said to him, “and I want you to know, young man: For the first time in five years I have hope. I feel like today I am not alone, and God really used you to comfort me.”
“I told you so,” he could feel the Lord whispering in his heart.
It’s all about not giving in to offense. God can put you back together.
“Your greatest adventure is on the other side of your most painful moments if you just trust God,” he said.
He suggested three things to remember:
- Don’t forget that you’re here for a mission.
- Don’t keep difficult things inside.
- Finally, he said, “Bring your natural offense to a supernatural God.”
It’s the only way to get right with the slights.
● Chapel replay
● Next Monday: Musical Worship Chapel, led by Criston Moore of North Phoenix Baptist Church
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].