Our unhealed past and brokenness can hinder the freedom we have in Christ. As soon as you confront and give up your inner narrative to God, then you have the freedom in Him to welcome other people with love and joy.
May 25, 2023
Passage: Romans 15:1-13
Speaker: Megan Engelstad
It’s my privilege this morning to share part of our Teaching Team. For those of you that maybe don’t know what a Teaching Team is, when we first started Vintage, I felt like the Lord challenged me to build a team of people that could communicate the Scriptures.
I think through that process, I discovered that studying the Scriptures together and community was just one of the greatest gifts that the Lord had ever given the church. So for the last 10 years, a group of us — I think it’s about 12 now — have studied the Scriptures together and just worked on understanding what it is the Lord is saying.
One of the unique things about it, like everything I teach, I’ll submit to that team, and just say, “Shoot it full of holes. Tell me what you think.” And that’s kind of the rule of the day and we all do that together.
So, without any further ado, I want to introduce a friend of this house. Somebody that’s been with us a long time. Mrs. Megan Engelstad.
It is great to be here to see you all. I think all of us parents with kiddos at home are ready for the 100 days of May to be over. We’re halfway there. So it’ll be nice. How many of you guys were here last week and appreciated Pastor Belinda’s message on Sabbath? How many of you were convicted? How many of you were able to Sabbath this week? It was a struggle, but in my head, it was there.
It is great to have you guys here today. Thank you. And again, as Pastor Greg said, I am part of the Teaching Team, but I’m also a wife. I’m a mom of two kiddos. I am a former middle school history and political science teacher. And now I’m a working counselor.
Being in this role as a counselor has taught me so much about what it’s like to see the world from its internal narrative, within myself and also within other people. What happens is that when we have our internal narrative, it’s going to inform how we receive the world around us.
The internal narrative also informs and sometimes influences how we receive God and others in our life. For this reason, I believe it’s important to participate with the Holy Spirit so that He can do work within us. As Jesus said, we must clean up the inside of the cup so that we can clean up the outside.
So the three things I want to delve into today are:
I was raised Episcopalian, and when we read the Scripture, we stand up, so if you guys could stand up with me, please? And hopefully, I won’t forget to tell you to sit down. Do some squats. We’re going to go ahead and read.
This is Romans 15:1-13.
We who are strong ought to bear with the same failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor, for it is good to build him up. For even Christ did not please Himself. But as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on Me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures, we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and mouth, you might glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become the servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy.
As it is written, ‘Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles. I will sing hymns to your name.’
Again, it says, “Rejoice oh Gentiles with His people.”
And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to Him all you peoples.”
And again, Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations. The Gentiles will hope in Him.”
May the God of hope fill you with all the joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with the hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Throughout our recent teachings in Romans, we emphasize God’s call to the church for oneness among the Jews and among the Gentiles. Paul exhorts them to think with one mind as we see in verse five. And he also says that we’re to glorify God with one mouth, as we see in verse six.
Another way to put it would be we worship with a unified declaration. Paul says the church is to worship with one mind and one voice. We see this multiple times in different teachings that Paul says throughout the scriptures that he writes. Sometimes we wonder why.
He answers it by saying, “Because Christ has welcomed you.” Paul uses the word, “welcome,” proslambano. It means to aggressively take or receive something or someone into it. When conveying this interaction, I would liken it to a warm bear hug. A strong embrace. An expression of hope or hospitality. Or when your 12-year-old daughter comes in the night just to know that she needs a hug. And it’s the most amazing thing to be woken up to, just your daughter there just wanting a hug. Yes, absolutely.
Or my dad, who is very barrel-chested and broad-shouldered and when you get a hug from him, you know it because it literally feels like a bear. Just a warm, loving bear and not a scary, stinky-breath bear.
Before we continue, I want to draw our attention to an observation from this passage. God has always had a plan for the redemption of His people to come back to Him. The miracles that Jesus performed, and all of the things that we saw Him do were amazing. However, the true intention of God was to have His people reconciled back to Him. It was about reconciliation back to the Father. And because of this truth, Paul is addressing two people groups within the Roman church, the Jews and the Gentiles.
We can take our time talking about how the Jews presented with pushing people away or the Gentiles wanting to come in. We can debate that, but what’s important is for us to know what it is to be believers and to have people welcomed in with patience and hospitality.
So before we go on, I want to share with you an internal narrative. We talk about internal narratives at different times. But we can’t welcome people in unless we know what our internal narrative is already saying. So I’m going to share a story with you that happened just a week ago. It’s very personal. Saturday before Mother’s Day, my kiddos were doing amazing things for me.
They were just showering love upon me, cleaning, and doing different things. I’m not a slave driver, so I wasn’t forcing them to do it. They were willingly doing it, which was amazing. I loved it. My daughter decided to do a baked good from scratch. My husband and I were amazed because it had about 87 steps to it and it was this biscuit of yumminess that was piped with like cream sauce and it was great. We enjoyed it. It was fantastic.
My son brought out the lawn furniture and put it on the patio because he knows how much I love to just sit outside in the sun. I’m not much of an outdoorsy person, but I do love the sunshine in a stable and comfortable place. I’m a desert rat and it makes sense just to have the sun shining on me.
They also bought me some flowers and they made me a card. Both of them said very beautiful things to me. However, I interpreted something that was not there. It was part of the note from my son, which I interpreted as saying, “You are mean, but I love you anyway.” Sometimes I am. But I was devastated.
I went upstairs. I was crying. I was angry. I was defensive. I wasn’t understanding why. Because of course, my mind started thinking of all the ways and all the sacrifices I make for my kids. But if you felt that way, we need to discuss that in love.
So, part of the problem is, as I was sitting there, my internal narrative started saying, “You don’t deserve this because you were a naughty kid and this is just coming back on you.”
I was a tough kid to raise. I was a strong-willed child, as my parents would say. I would say I was honing my leadership abilities. I’m sure my mom will be texting to tell her answer here soon. But the fact is, what was being said to me was, “Why would I deserve to have my kids be good to me?” And it was truly a place of self-loathing. So deeper and deeper I sank into horrible feelings and emotions.
So I want to speak to us as Gentiles, as the people that have come into the knowledge of God. Where have we, like the Gentiles of the early church, fallen short of feeling welcomed by God? Where have we failed to sense God’s mercies? Where do we miss His warm, fatherly, tender embrace? His proslambano?
For this, I want to read a parable of Scripture. One where Jesus is addressing the Jews and the Gentiles. I won’t make you stand, you’re good.
So Jesus continued, “There was a man who had two sons, the younger one said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided the property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country, and there squandered his wealth with wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. He went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country who sent him to the fields to feed the pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death? I will set out and go back to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. And when he came near the house, he heard the music and dancing. So he called one of his servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your younger brother has come,’ he replied. ‘And your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
It goes on to talk about how the son was very resentful of the fact that the younger son was being welcomed back in after what he had done. How many times do we feel not welcomed because of what we have done? But many times, our internal narrative will be this voice of the older son, always reminding us what we don’t do. What we haven’t done right, what we haven’t done well, what we’ve missed.
We have to remember the voice of the Father that didn’t even hear that. He’s just welcoming. He’s happy to have us. He’s there with a hug. He’s there to provide all of the things that we’re lacking.
As a historian, I know Jesus was not just talking about the two brothers. He’s painting a picture of humanity between the Gentiles and the Jews. The Gentiles were the ones that were from a distant country and wild living. The Jews were the ones that had served God faithfully for many years with trials and tribulations–the ones who had done it right and the ones who were struggling.
Both of those things can live within us at the same time. Notice the younger son’s internal narrative upon his repentance. “I am no longer worthy to be called your son, make me like one of your slaves.” When we have everything that is there for us, why would we accept slaveship when we can accept sonship?
How many of us would agree that this sentiment often mirrors our relationship with God? Many times. I felt in that moment with what I perceived what my son was saying. My heart said, “Maybe the Father will accept me and welcome me, but only as a slave.” And I have to say, that is not what the note said. I’ve looked at it. It was beautiful. It was my interpretation of the lens of my brokenness, not what he was saying to me. He said very kind things and said, “Sometimes I don’t do the right thing, but I love you anyway.”
As a counselor, I’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about how we receive others. Too many times, the way we receive others is a reflection of how we view ourselves. How the son viewed himself in the story controlled how he viewed the father receiving him. But in fact, that wasn’t it.
In my work, I’ve witnessed this narrative over and over again. Within myself, but also with other people. We’re going to look at the father’s response again, one more time. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick, bring the best robe, put it on him, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let us have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead, and is alive again. He was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
How much more does the Father celebrate when we step into the places that He has for us when we dull the internal narrative that’s going against the intention that God has for us? Because of Jesus, the Father receives us with love, compassion, no shame, and no condemnation.
When we let our past brokenness dictate our future by allowing us to live unhealed, we live in bondage rather than the freedom and hope that Christ always intended for us to have. I want to invite each of us to step into a place of healing so that we can live as a people in love and we can welcome those that He’s brought to us and He intends to continue to bring to us.
Praise and joy and hope are the outcomes of the Scripture that Paul brings to us in the Old Testament. He writes in Romans 8:15, “For you to not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you receive the spirit of sonship.”
Why would we walk away from the spirit of sonship? Praise and joy and hope were in the letter from my daughter and my son. But I could not receive it because of my own fractured heart and my lens, my filter, my internal narrative, that would say something contrary to what the Lord already spoke to me.
There’s a part of the brain called the reticular activating system. Essentially, it is responsible for how we interpret and perceive the world around us. It’s a highway system that we have created through life experiences. It causes our brains to look at information to confirm the belief that we already have.
So take, for instance, the letter. I already had an internal belief that I was a naughty kid. So I read something and I’m automatically going to misinterpret that to confirm the belief I had about myself. It’s just the way it is.
David Mitchell in our teaching team said, “If you buy a red truck, you’ll notice all the red trucks on the road and you think everybody has a red truck because it’s what you see.” It’s the confirmed bias that you already have within your heart.
The amazing thing is because we wired the highway systems within our brains, we can rewire them. We can have them aligned with the praise, the joy, and the hope that the Father intended for us. That those things would be our filter, those things would be the stuff that projects out from us, rather than the belief sets that are not the truth that He’s given us.
There’s a verse that says, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” If it’s saying that we can love the Lord with all of that, that means that there are parts of it that might not be loving.
It’s interesting to know that if all of my heart can’t love Him, then what are the parts of my heart that need to have His love upon them? What are the parts of my heart that need to have His love shining down on me, healing the brokenness, healing the woundedness, healing my filter, healing my shame, healing my beliefs that are not in alignment with who He is? If there are areas in your life where you lack the praise, the joy, and the hope, I encourage you to ask the Father to highlight where you need a greater revelation of His love and His welcome. His proslambano. His fatherly bear hug. That you’ll always know that it’s there, that you’ve been hugged by Him.
Ask Him to demonstrate the warmth of His welcome because we simply need to know that the Father is waiting for us. He has great anticipation, great excitement, and a warm embrace. He also has a robe, a ring, and the celebration of the return of our hearts to Him as a son and daughter. Could you all stand with me, please?
It’s interesting, as Megan was teaching that I was thinking through the stories in the Scriptures that were coming to mind that she was using. They’re all relational stories. Because the reality is, we find most of this stuff lurking in our relationships. Most of our brokenness comes up when we interact with each other.
I was talking with a friend earlier this morning, and we weren’t talking about this topic. We were talking about something similar. The conversation went along the lines of, “You know, you always talk about asking the Lord, so I decided that I was feeling internally frenetic and nervous and fearful about something I needed to tell another person, and I just sat with the Lord and said, ‘Hey, why do I feel this way?'”
He said the journey went on with the Lord and began to explain to me why I was feeling this way and what I could do to debunk it. He said, “On the other side of it, I just didn’t feel that anymore.” What happens if we’re just trying to white-knuckle it and tough it out instead of recognizing that, hey, this thing’s dialing up in us? For instance, my kid wrote me a letter. I think it said something it didn’t. Or my wife said something, but she didn’t say that.
Think about all those moments where if we just pushed pause and said, “Hey Lord, what do you say? What do you have to say about this?”
Why this is so vital for us, in my opinion, is because the way we interpret those things, the lenses we live through, are going to shape how we handle the world around us, and this city needs a healthy group of people that can present Jesus correctly.
I think it’s imperative that we push towards health on the inside. David will talk over and over and over again about the desire of the Lord for truth in the inward parts. I had never even considered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” When Megan said that, I realized, “Oh, that means we can only love Him with part of us and He’s asking for the whole.” So here’s my question for us this week as we go. Would you have the courage to sit with the Lord and say, “I give you permission to start adjusting my narrative if it’s wrong?”
Would you have the courage when you’re in conflict with each other or with others to just push pause? What would it look like if we said, “Hey, before I can fight with you on this, I need to go ask the Lord what’s going on?” Think about your home’s on that front. “Sorry, I can’t engage yet. I need to find out what the Lord has to say.”
We know the snark that will happen. “Oh, you go ahead and do that.” We get catty. “Yeah, I’m going to hold my breath and pass out.” We know how it rolls. But think about just the truth of that as people in relationships being under the government of the king. It’s okay to not be fully whole. It’s not okay to stay there. He wants us on a journey of health. And this is not just self-help talk. This is not that at all. This is spiritual talk.
Yesterday, I was in Longview, Washington where I grew up. I’d been working through this teaching, seeing kind of the direction it was going. As I was on the plane, I just sat with the Lord and said, “Hey, throughout my history, my lens of my hometown hasn’t been so positive.” In the Hebrew culture, they call it looking at it with a bad eye versus a good eye. Especially growing up in a Pentecostal church, I was thinking through my PTSD issues with the Lord.
The Lord just whispered a phrase, “I want you to honor what’s honorable.” And that’s it. I caught the rest of it, what was hidden was, “Shut up about everything else.”
My sister and I were in the car driving from the airport up to the memorial for my grandmother who had passed away. She lived a good long time, she was great. And so I was sharing this with my sis and we were talking about it. Something happened because of that. I walked into this gathering with a different narrative. Because I had told myself I’m not going to pay attention to all the stuff that wants to yell at me, that wants to confirm my bias like being a poor kid from a very backward culture or all that stuff in my head that happens.
I was sitting there and I was listening to my uncle talk about my grandmother, and as I’m listening to talk about her journey and I realized she had this incredibly difficult life and she had a lot of reasons she could have just given up on God. And yet she found Jesus and ignored the rest of it and lived the rest of her life for 81 years serving the church, serving the Kingdom, and living this remarkable life in the city.
I looked at her early days and went whoa. Here’s the thing, had I been fixated on what was going wrong in that gathering or what was wrong with my family, I would have gotten the wrong information. Instead, I got information that changed my life because I had the right lens.
I got back on the plane, opened up my laptop, and went, “Whoa, I did not expect that, Lord.” Church, let’s be a people in the process towards health. Let me pray us out.
Jesus, we love you and we honor you. Lord, thanks for your goodness. Thank you for the reminder that you’re not content to just leave us as we are. I love where David says You want truth in the inward parts. You want us to know wisdom. Holy Spirit, we give You permission to help us walk through that this week. To help us advance toward greater health. Lord, I know that some of that’s going to come because we’re going to recognize our dishealth and we’ll have to push pause. Give us the courage to do that. Give us the ability to laugh at ourselves and go “Huh, that’s not from Him.” Would You help us learn how to live the micro-moments daily in a way that honors You? We love You. Bless You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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