Blue Oaks Church is a non-denominational Christian church in Pleasanton, California. Our teaching pastor is Matt VanCleave. Everyone is welcome. Find out more about us at https://blueoakschurch.org
Loving Difficult People Part 1
Do you have difficult people in your life? Do you have people who have negative character traits that make it difficult to be around them?
Conventional wisdom says avoid difficult people, hurt them, or hold them in contempt. Pass judgment on them as inferior. Look down on them. Want them to hurt.
Jesus says, “There’s a better way.” Jesus provides wisdom on how to respond to these people in a healthy way. That’s what we’ll talk about this Sunday.
I will give up trying to fix people.
I will love people as is.
I will reflect on the apostle Paul’s words about critics.
I will not give to another person the power to determine my mood.
I will pray for the difficult people in my life.
Full Sermon Script
Hi I’m Matt VanCleave, one of the pastors at Blue Oaks.
If you’re just joining us in this series, you couldn’t have picked a better week. We have two more weeks in this series, and we’re going to look at two parts on how to deal with the difficult people in our lives. If we’re going to live at peace with one another, undivided, we’re going to have to learn how to deal with difficult people.
John Ortberg wrote a book with a great title, “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them.”
This is what he writes:
In many stores, you can often find a section of merchandise where you can get a great deal on stuff. And the tip off is a particular tag that you’ll see on all the items in that area. Every tag carries the same words, “as is.”
This is a euphemistic way of saying, “These are damaged goods.” Sometimes they’re called “slightly irregular.” It’s part of truth in advertising.
It’s the store’s way of saying, “You’re going to find a flaw here – a stain that won’t come out, a zipper that won’t zip, a button that won’t work. We’re not going to tell you where the flaw is. You’ll have to look for it, but we know it’s there.
So when you find it – and you will find it – don’t come whining and sniffling to us about it. You won’t get any refunds, exchanges, or sympathies. Don’t expect perfection – not in this part of the store. You have received fair warning. If you want this item, there’s only one way to obtain it. You must take it “as is.”
And I was thinking this week – what if there was a truth-in-advertising law for people?
If you’re single, what if dating services or single’s websites or single’s church groups required everyone to wear a sign: “Slightly bruised self esteem,” or, “Mildly impaired ability to commit,” or, “Total wacko. Run for your life.”
If there was a truth in advertising law for people, would anyone ever get married?
If you’re sitting with someone, take a look at them for a minute. That person is slightly irregular. There’s a tag on that person that reads, “As is. Don’t expect perfection, not in this part of the store. There’s a flaw here. When you find it – and you will find it – don’t be shocked. No refunds.”
The reason I mention this, of course, is that this week and in the weeks to come, with the holiday season here, you and I are going to gather around the table with extended family members.
And there’s a real good chance that one of them might have some flaws. You may have a difficult relationship there. Or you may have one with a neighbor or someone you work with.
Author Les Parrot gives indicators that you might be in what he calls a “high-maintenance relationship.”
Let me run through a few of those indicators. Just see if you can identify if you have any high-maintenance relationships in your life.
Number one: You feel less energy.
After being around high maintenance people you feel drained or guilty or defeated. You just come away feeling emotionally depleted.
Number two: You become self-critical.
When you’re with a high-maintenance person you become more self
Prayer for Unity
Division isn’t simply something that separates. It brings ruin. Division destroys relationships, homes, churches, communities, and nations. This isn’t just a political issue of our day, it’s a human nature issue. Jesus, knowing division would be a struggle, at his last meal with his disciples prays for unity. What we learn from that prayer can begin to close the spaces that divide.
I will resist dividing over issues and instead lean into the unity found in Christ.
I will take on an attitude of humility and actively listen to others.
I will act with gentleness rather than respond with outrage.
I will practice patience with others in moments of disagreement.
I will do all I can to preserve, promote, and protect unity in the church.
Full Sermon Script
Hey everyone, my name is Scott and I’m one of the pastors here at Blue Oaks.
We’ve spent the last two weeks in a series called Undivided with the hope that while living in a divided nation, divided neighborhoods, divided families and divided relationships, that we could find our way back and become undivided.
Now, that’s a challenging task.
We find ourselves in a moment of history where the divisions in society are growing farther apart by the day it seems.
Some of you are thinking, a moment of history? That’s been my marriage for the last 10 years.
Or that’s the history of my family since I can remember.
Maybe it’s been your work environment and it’s exhausting.
Constant division and strife.
In a role I don’t think I’d want, President-elect Biden said last Friday, ““We may be opponents, but we are not enemies. We are Americans.”
His appeal in a moment of political division in our nation is to a unity of citizenship.
I love what Matt said last week, that there’s a “unity that runs deeper than division.”
It’s a citizenship, but not an earthly one.
It runs deeper than that.
Think about this for a moment, what do you wish for your children or your family after your death?
How would you hope they carry on past your presence with them?
Priorities often become crystal clear when facing our mortality, facing the end of life.
And we often begin speaking what’s most important to us in our last days.
One of those closest to Jesus, a man named John, records the last meal Jesus has with his disciples, the twelve who had followed him for over three years.
The meal begins with Jesus washing their feet, and if that wouldn’t be awkward enough for you, he then starts talking about being betrayed.
Everyone begins looking around, asking is it me? Is it you?
Judas, the one who would betray him, would in a few minutes leave to gather those who would arrest and ultimately crucify him.
There’s a tension at the table, an uneasiness in the air.
Jesus is saying he’s “leaving” and they can’t follow now.
Peter, another one of the twelve, in a moment of bravado, declares I’ll never leave you. I’d die for you first!
To which Jesus responds, Peter, you’ll deny knowing me three times before the sun comes up.
Jesus then comforts them that he’s preparing a place for them.
He promises God will send an Advocate, the Holy Spirit to be with them and help them.
It’s really an intimate setting we’re given a glimpse into, but it’s not a dinner party.
It’s not a dinner of clarity for those at the table.
Except for Jesus.
The last thing Jesus does with them is pray.
He prays saying his hour has come. He knows he’s headed to his death.
And it’s the focus of his prayer I want us to look at.
First, he prays for the disciples.
Holy Father, protect them by the power of the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
He prays, Father PROTECT their UNITY.
Then he prays for those who will believe because these twelve, the movement that would birth from them, the ekklēsia, the gathering of Christ-followers
Unity Runs Deeper Than Division
This series is called Undivided to give us hope that in the midst of an election, where there’s division in our country, we can be undivided as a church. This week we’ll talk about how to ground our lives in something more solid than a particular political ideology or power. There is a foundation to operate from that will allow us to give peace, compassion and love to the people around us amidst the type of division we’re experiencing.
I will ground my life in Christ and his teachings, not a political ideology.
I will have the same mindset in me that was in Jesus Christ.
I will be civil toward those who I disagree with politically.
I will be a peacemaker in a divided society.
I will extend compassion and love to those around me.
Hi, I’m Matt VanCleave, one of the pastors at Blue Oaks.
We’re in this series called Undivided to give us hope that in the midst of an election, where there’s division in our country, we can be undivided as a church.
Now, you may be thinking, “Yeah, but there could be people in this church who voted the wrong way.”
I guarantee you there are people in this church who voted differently than you. But that’s part of the beauty of the church.
I was trying to think of a word God would want to say to us amidst the type of division we’re experiencing. And what I want to share with you is this –
There is a unity that runs deeper than division.
I was thinking about this question – is this the first time in the 2,000-year history of the church that we’ve experienced political division?
The answer is no.
In Jesus’ day, he lived between Rome and Israel. Romans killed Israelites, and Israelites wanted to kill Romans.
Scott shared last week that one of the disciples of Jesus was a guy named Matthew, who was a tax collector. So he collaborated with Rome.
Another disciple was a guy named Simon the zealot. Zealots wanted to kill Romans and those who collaborated with Rome.
Jesus put them together. Think about what that must have been like.
They were sitting there when Jesus said, “This is my body, broken for you. This is my blood shed for you,” and they realized, “There’s a unity for the human race that’s way bigger than the Roman Empire or the people of Israel. And we get to be part of it because of Jesus.”
So we’re talking in this series about how we actually ground our lives in something more solid than any particular political ideology or power.
There is a foundation we can operate from that will allow us to give peace and compassion and love to the people around us when we’re going through what we’re going through right now.
What I want to do today is give us a deeper framework to view life from by looking at the three most important elections that have ever occurred in human history.
Interestingly enough, they’re all in the Bible, and they’re all elections in which God was actually, in a sense, on the ballot.
I want to walk through these elections, look at what the outcome was, what they teach us about God, and what God’s response teaches us about how we can ground our lives into something deeper.
The first election took place way back in Israel’s history.
When Israel first occupied the Promised Land, the idea was that they were offered by God the chance to be this noble experiment – to live freely in a community of loving people under the direct reign of God.
Israel was to be a people who were marked by justice and compassion.
Where people lived in freedom and security and safety.
Where families would give love and acceptance to children, and the hearts of the children would be turned toward their parents.
Where culture was to bring beauty, moral instruction and goodness.
Where they would observe the Sabbath. No one would be a workaholic. Everyone would live in a spirit of leisure and rest.
Where they were to observe this practice ca
We live in an age of outrage, of choosing sides and drawing lines, us-against-them, and the gap between sides grows larger each day. Polarizing discussions divide us over political and religious ideology, culture, gender and equality issues just to name a few. Could it be that when viewing ourselves in a battle, are actually moving away from what Christ has called us to be, Peacemakers.
I will commit to the work of peacemaking.
I will seek God’s highest good for others.
I will take a first step towards someone I don’t agree with.
I will build a bridge with someone who holds different views than my own.
I will advance God’s kingdom before my personal cause.
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In the story of the soils from Mathew 13, we learn that soil must be soft, deep and free from clutter in order for growth to occur. Jesus says the soil represents our hearts. Our hearts must be soft to truth. Our hearts must be able to withstand difficulties and maintain our faith. Our hearts must be free from the cares of the world. If our hearts are tender towards God, and our devotion is deep and rooted, and our lives are uncluttered, watch out! Growth will be unstoppable!
I will pray, “I need you God. I want your Word to take root in my life.”
I will pray, “God, soften my heart so that I’m tenderhearted toward you.”
I will take a deep unhurried time alone with God to share my heart this week.
I will take responsibility for the development of my spiritual life.
I will take responsibility for the spiritual practices that keep me rooted in Christ.
I will remove the clutter in my life to make room for growth.
I will be faithful in sowing seed, realizing it will land on good soil 1/4 of the time.
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Living With No Regrets
Two of the saddest words in the English language are “if only” – “if only I had done this, if only I hadn’t done that.” The story of the foolish bridesmaids in Matthew 25 will challenge us to make it to the end of our lives where hopefully we can say, “I have no regrets.”
I will read “Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets” by Andy Stanley.
I will make parenting a priority, and not abdicate my responsibility.
I will do battle with the sin in my life.
I will call someone and say, “I love you.”
I will take a risk and open up in a relationship.
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It's great listening to Teaching pastor Matt VanCleave and the blue oaks leadership teach the bible in a down to earth way! They know how to work it into your day to day life and not just the past. I will keep listening every week!