Life Apps 3.0 - Chapter 11: Living Above The Bad News message by Lead Pastor Terry Brisbane with Guest Rusty Rueff. For more information, visit cornerstone-sf.org
Rusty: This life app looks at how we can live above the bad news. I call this the T-Squared app. It’s where we can explore our triggers and transposition to live above the bad news. Let’s start with understanding our triggers. If we actively monitor and manage these four triggers, we could be better prepared to live with or above the inevitable bad news that’s going to come. The first trigger is speed. When we move too fast, we can put ourselves at major risk of even the smallest piece of bad news derailing us. A second trigger is stress. Stress comes in so many forms. It’s always looking for a way into our psyche. When we allow the stress to build up, we become a powder keg, ready to explode at the smallest of sparks. A third trigger is rest or lack thereof. I know in my own life that when I’m tired and the batteries are low, it doesn’t take much to get under my skin and pull me down. It’s an obvious trigger which we all can manage. The final trigger I’d like to talk about is our fueling. Need I say more than why the word hangry gets used in commercials and in common language today? We know that when we’re fueled incorrectly, we’re way more susceptible to emotional lapses and therefore any bad news can cause us to spiral out of control.
If we can know and control our triggers, then what we can do to experience the other part of our T-Squared app? A transposition of our lives is important to be able to live fully and abundantly when the bad news surrounds and awaits us. I want to suggest that we can create this transposition by using a displacement exercise. Let’s take a look. Here’s a glass vase that represents the experiences of our lives. Let’s see how we can fill it up. Let’s start with these large rocks of Bible reading, prayer time, accountability, fellowship, and church time. Then filled with our gravel or the smaller rocks; faith-based or redeeming books, redeeming and positive movies and television, daily devotionals, some friend time, personal and physical exercise, strengthening time. Next, adding our sand, inspirational music and radio, redeeming and positive podcast, or redeeming and positive magazines and online sites. Ultimately our water, uplifting, encouraging conversations. What is left over is a life transposition with not a lot of room left for bad news to make much of a difference. This doesn’t mean that we can bury our heads in the sand and ignore where we must be open, accepting, and ready to help others when the bad news hits. But if we understand how to manage our triggers and are working daily on our transposition, then our T-Squared life app can help us live above any and all bad news.
Paster Terry: Blessings to all of you. I’m going to come back around and talk a little bit about what Rusty shared and connect back to it. I want to remind everybody that we’re heading into the special season. We have Thanksgiving not too far away. We have had a tradition in the church for the last 20 years or so, we have a Thanksgiving morning service at 8:45, lasting until a little bit before 10:00. This is a really tender time. We know everybody’s spread out but for those who can make it, it’s a very tender time to just start out by saying thank you to Jesus. We take communion together and turn our hearts into a place of gratitude.
Having said that, I want to address a couple of things at the outset. There’s no way we can not acknowledge that this has been a remarkably unsettling week. I think there’s a lot of tension and emotions. Things are riding pretty high right now. A lot of wild things are happening. For me, at least in part, I was appreciative of the fact that seeing the president and the president-elect being able to speak cordially. I thought it helped to temper some things down a bit. Having said that, the life apps were months ago and I said, “We’re going to share the life app on this date.” I had no idea. The title, Living Above the Bad News. In fact, as we were moving into the week, I said, “Oh man, that’s a bad app for this week.” Because I thought, “No matter what happens, someone’s going to be mad at me.”
That was how I was thinking. What’s really important is I have zero political motivation. There’s no angle. There’s no subtle thing that I’m trying to say. If we’re looking for that, we’re in the wrong place because my purpose and the principles we’re going to look at can be helpful. It’s not only helpful for processing where things have been but also for how to move forward into these coming weeks and months. Some of us are not all in the same place. That became apparent to me. Everybody’s processing things differently. I will say, I’ve heard from some who are really afraid. I’ve heard from others who have different emotions going on and still, others are disturbed about what’s happening. There are so many different feelings. I believe there is a way for us to think about all that is going on. I’ve had to adapt this particular message because I was going to share it in a certain way. But I made some adjustments because of what’s happened this week and what’s happening now. I feel like it needs to be factored in a bit. What I’m about to share presupposes that a person has made an opening in their heart for Jesus and has made a decision to follow in the Jesus way.
I realize that on a given weekend, there are clearly people who come, who I’m so delighted you are coming, that aren’t there yet or are in your process of exploring or seeking. You’re trying to come to a place where you’re beginning to feel faith emerge in your life. You’re more open than you’ve ever been and are beginning to feel the Lord at work. You’re not quite sure if you would identify yourself as a follower of Jesus yet. This piece that I want to share is designed to appeal directly to those of us who would follow the Lord and who have made that the single dominant priority of our life. This is the primary theme of our life. All the other things are built around, which means the way we think of ourselves is as someone who follows in the way of Jesus. It takes precedent over our ethnic identification, socioeconomic identification, gender, and political affiliation. All the categories that people are stuck in right now.
This is designed to say, ‘when the dominant theme of our life is the way of Jesus, all the other things are secondary.’ A passage that he wrote, I found helpful and want to put it out there and drop it in the front end. It is found in First Timothy 2. Paul was writing to believers who were underneath, in their case, a far or more extreme form of government of the Roman Empire. These believers were completely subjugated to the empire. There was no question about it. The things that we take for granted as rights didn’t exist. The church had to function in a hostile environment. Every step had some precarious component to it. We know that years later, believers would be killed and thrown in into violent situations because of their faith.
Paul talked to them about how they were to position themselves. Paul says, “I urge the supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and for all who are in high positions.” The older version says, “for those in authority, that we may pray this way, that we may live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good and it’s pleasing the sight of God, our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Immediately what we are told is that at our core foundation, as much as we can, we are to be a peaceable people. The way of the Lord is a peace-making way. Our calling is to be a people who try to both pray for the peace of our nation and culture and at the same time, work to represent the peace of God as being peacemakers in the name of Jesus. That means at a time where things are so high, we need to allow the way of Jesus to dominate our life and seek to be peaceable and spread the peace of Christ in whatever places and in whatever ways we can. That is a calling and a privilege. It reminds us of how we can go about moving forward. I have a teaching I want to share and submit. I want to pray and ask God to bless our time because I know no one would be here if you weren’t serious about something with God.
Lord, I want to ask you to come among us and that you would take these words that we’re sharing together.I know this is a heated time right now. We get that. I believe that we are called to pray for our country. We pray for our world to know you, we are called to pray for our nation. We pray for our leaders. We pray also for our people. We pray that there would be a dropping of violence and anger. We pray instead for the peace of Christ to come into the places where people are afraid. We ask Lord that we would allow that peace to penetrate our hearts. In truth, commit ourselves to be peacemakers in the circles that we relate to so that we are not escalating things or being silent. When you want us to speak up in ways that are life-giving, I pray for courage. I pray against the spirit of fear. I welcome your wisdom into this time and ask for the blessing of the Lord over it in Jesus’ name. Amen Lord.
The Bible says when it comes to the idea of living above bad news and staying hopeful and optimistic, is we all have to be aware of is that the human heart has not changed. Even though the times, tools, and technology have changed over time and in the time we now live. No matter how far back we go, no matter how less modern others were, there seems to be this incredible similarity that every generation is characterized by. It has to do with the commonality of the human heart. The truth is that the Bible says that every human being has in us, to differing degrees, two things. Both the residue of God’s goodness, which the early church fathers called in Latin, the imago Dei, the image of God, the imprint, the stamp of God, and a fallenness of our nature. What the Bible calls a sin impacted nature.
It means that we have the capacity as human beings, created in God’s image and yet broken, for incredible goodness, kindness, love, creativity, wisdom, compassion, and all the things that reflect God. At the same time, we have the capacity for tremendous harm. Human beings can do far worse things than any animal could ever do. We have been embedded with something that creates a capacity for both good and evil. It has characterized humanity for generations. These dual realities cannot be denied. That’s one of the reasons why, despite everyone’s good intentions, we will always be in need of a savior and incapable despite our good intentions of getting everything completely right. There will never be a perfect government because the people that make them up are imperfect. Just as there will never be a perfect church because you’re in it.
No, I’m kidding. I always wanted to say that. Did he just insult? Yeah, he insulted us. I’m just saying this is not going to happen and we can imagine things all we want. We can write songs, poems, and movies about it. Envision the future where everything’s working, a utopia with utter balance, fairness, and justice. It’s never going to happen in this life. There is no exercise of imagination that will change the heart of a human being. God alone can truly do that. The desire for a more perfect place, the desire for heaven, the desire for utopia, the desire for a perfect world is placed in us. It’s the DNA of God that’s in us. It longs for home. It’s longing for it. We know there’s something. The Bible says, “He put the eternal in our hearts.” A fascinating statement. There’s a part of us that has almost a homing device that longs for more. Longs for the eternal. Longs for something that is not yet but we long to see it. To only put our hope in humanity will ultimately lead to disappointment, crippling disappointment. I think about our previous century. We were trying to pross out last night as well and this whole week I’ve been working with different people around it. How do we process what’s going on? I said, “One thing to remember is that we have had just in our own national history, not even talking about the world history, we had some pretty intense times.”
Go back just 100 years to the last century, two world wars. We’re talking about national upheaval, depression, Jim Crow, Vietnam, and cities burning. In the seventies it was crazy. Stuff was happening all over the place. It’s wild. Long car lines, inflation off the charts, all sorts of stuff was happening. People wondered if the whole entire country was going to disintegrate. So much division. I said, “You think that’s something, you go back 100 years before that.” In the 1800s we had a fissure so severe that brother took up arms against brother. We literally had what? At a time when our population was so much less, 640,000 soldiers died in the Civil War, not to mention the collateral damage of the innocents and the maimed. It was stunning stuff.
Even at the beginning of this century, if you recall. It’s become, to me, the most memorable event of my lifetime. I think you know what it is, when the 2000s opened up, who can forget 9/11? It’s impossible. The imagery of it. I had literally been in New York with my son one week before. We were standing on Liberty Island. First time in my life. I remember standing on Liberty Island, looking at the cityscape, not realizing that, a week later, I would’ve been right in there and just processing it out. When I came back home here to the city, people were fearful, angry, and uncertain. I said, “Lord, I can’t preach the message I’m about to, I don’t even know. What do you want me to do?” One of the things we settled into, we said, “The way we’re going to approach this.” I remember it vividly. It was shared around.
We shared around the 23rd Psalm. The great shepherd Psalm. It became a ballast for us in a stormy sea. Our ship held. It is what steadied us. I’m not comparing what we’re walking through right now with 9/11. I’m not. I’m not trying to say that it’s the same thing. What I am saying is I think that this passage can be helpful. I want to talk about living above the bad news. I want to hopefully get us thinking about this Psalm. In the 23rd Psalm, David is writing. A lot of us know it. I remember around 9/11, we zeroed in on it. We said, “This is going to be our word for our church, our community. We’re going to sit there with it.” The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still, calm waters. He restores my soul. My mind is right now filled with anxious thoughts. He calms my mind. He restores my soul. He leads me to write responses. He leads me in the path of what is right in His eyes. Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, those shadowlands, as CS Lewis called them, I will fear no evil.
Say ‘I will fear no evil. I will fear no evil for you or with me. Your rod, your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.’ David was talking about literal enemies but what are the things that confront us in this life with God in our own lives, the hard things, the things that are opposing us in our hearts as well? You prepare it. In the midst of that turmoil, you can cause me to abound. You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That’s like planting the flag. This is how I live. There is power in that. We’re planting ourselves right there. There are times, as a follower of Jesus, when things are melting down or chaotic around us. There are times where the Lord wants us to plant ourselves in a word and hold ourselves right there. This is where I will be. This is how I will conduct my heart. This is the word I will claim as my own.
When I was thinking about it, I thought, there are different kinds of bad news isn’t there? I want to lay out how I see bad news. I know it’s like, ‘oh, so encouraging.’ But I’m going to do it. I’m going to say that the first level of bad news is what I call low level. It’s what some of us may be been experiencing right now. That’s the external bad news. That’s the bad news that happens in our world, in our nation and usually, it doesn’t directly affect us. It can affect us in the sense that there can come collective anxiety, low-grade anxiety. Some of us may be affected more profoundly than others. For the most part, it’s not happening to us necessarily directly, but we feel it. We feel unsettled. We feel people’s anger. It creates angst in us. We’re unsettled by it. Many times stuff can be happening in other places that have an indirect, vicarious effect on our life just because we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. However, it’s not really directly affecting us. That’s level one bad news.
Level two bad news is what I’m calling stuff that hits us at a more personal level. It’s not indirect. It is direct. Somebody makes a decision, a relational decision, that has a direct impact on our lives. It could be a friend, spouse, son, daughter, parent, or somebody who makes decisions that affect us. All of a sudden we’re dealing with it. It could be something on our job. It’s affecting us. Maybe some of us are afraid we’re going to lose our job. Maybe we don’t like what we’re sensing. Maybe things are unstable. Maybe we’re experiencing that right now. Maybe we’re trying to have to reposition ourselves. Maybe there’s something that happens and we have a health setback. Out of nowhere, I have to deal with this thing. It could have something to do with financial stuff. Indirectly or all of a sudden, I’m barely keeping my head above water. I go in and now I got hit with not one, two, but three things. I wasn’t even expecting it. I’m hurting right now. That’s the stuff. I see this all the time. Someone we knew and thought we could trust, then our world is rocked by the reality that what we thought was true was not true. We’re dealing with the residue of other people’s decisions that affects our lives. I’m saying there are so many that are called bad news at a personal level. It’s hard to pretend everything’s great when it’s not.
The third level of bad news is not the external, out there. It’s not the kind of other’s personal things affecting me. It’s what I call the internal. The internal bad news may be the hardest bad news of all to get past. It starts to define us. The third level has to do with things like anger, deep resentment, self-loathing, and things that are connected to stuff drawn deep inside of us. Things like shame, guilt, bitterness, and unforgiveness that’s clouding everything about our life. It affects everything. The struggle’s so profound we feel utterly trapped by it. Even though we know Jesus is the freedom giver, and we believe in Him, there’s a part of us that feels so bound up by stuff that we’ve allowed to penetrate deep within us. It is attempting to define us. A loss we didn’t want. It’s not just the loss. Remember, what ultimately hurts and defines us is usually not what happens to us or around us but what happens within us. Jesus said, “It’s in the heart.” In a way, what He was saying is it’s not the act, it’s the reaction. It’s not what happens, it’s what I let happen in me because of what happened. The Lord’s always going to challenge us to get past that bad news. Because of that bad news, once it starts to define, it becomes the story of our life for that season.
God’s saying, “I don’t want you to live that way.” What do I do about that? Inevitably, we’re going to have stuff happen to us but we have to watch what happens in us. That’s why we started this way. That’s what we’re going to hammer into. It’s a way of living that can teach us how to rise. How do we live above the bad? Initially, you’re going to say, “Well how does that really help me?” I think it will. First, I will say living above the bad news has to do with the fact that even Jesus was not exempt from bad news. That’s a great starting place. Why is it important? Because the fact is that a lot of times we think God doesn’t care. God doesn’t understand. God doesn’t. Where are you, God? I’m going to say, God totally understands. He understands betrayal. As God’s son, He chose to share the human condition fully. Even to the point of death. In the Older Testament, the prophet Isaiah wrote this concerning the Messiah, Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray the Lord has laid on Him. Laid on Him the sin of us all, the iniquity of us all. He becomes the bearer of our curse and the Lord has laid it on Him.”
If you go to the verse earlier than that, which I’m not going to put up, it says that He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised and beaten for our iniquities. In the New Testament in Hebrews 4, it talks about one of Jesus’ roles is the high priest representing a loss and broken humanity before a holy God. For those who received it, he says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was at all points tempted as we are and yet He was without sin in light of that truth.” This is a power-packed piece of scripture here because what it’s saying is the Lord totally understands how we feel. Not just from the standpoint of a creator in a distance but as someone who understands that Jesus knew betrayal. Jesus knew pain. Jesus knew what it was like to be abandoned and forsaken and to be given the worst of human evil. It was dispensed on Him. He knows that feeling.
The Bible says, “Yet He was without sin.” The thing about it is, it reminds us that we don’t have to be dishonest when we come to the Lord, we just need to be real. If we throw ourselves at the throne of grace, He’ll not deny us. I love this. He says, “In light of the fact that He knows us and experience, has an understanding of struggle, pain, and woundedness, He invites us to come to the throne of grace boldly.” Wow, ask Him for mercy, healing, strength, and the grace of healing. It’s such a wonderful invitation. It’s anchored in the fact that the Lord understands. He reminds us that God was not Himself exempt from trouble. He does not say that we’re going to be exempt from trouble. You say, “Well, what’s the point of it then?” He doesn’t say we’re exempt from things. What He says is He will always walk with us through things. He will always be there. The shepherd will walk with us every step of the way.
This leads me to the next thing. Once I remember that He did not exempt Himself. We need to remember also that He has not abandoned us to the bad news. On the contrary, God addressed the bad news with devastatingly beautiful effects. He threw Himself into the breach. Who will do it? He set His face like a flint, steadfast. He moved towards it, paid the price you and I could not pay. Literally brought good from evil. The worst of it. Jesus is God’s good news in a bad news world. In Christ, we see goodness overcoming evil. I think it was Pascal who said, “God can bring good from evil but without God, we bring evil out of good.” Where humans have failed, God has succeeded. That’s the truth. Through His humility, He created a new alternative to hopelessness and made life possible by giving away His life, suffering, setbacks, pain.
These unwanted realities of our existence are real but they’re often the very tools that God uses to build us. To remind us not only of our need for Him but also of what He can do when we trust Him with our wounds and hurts. In this sense, in the same way, because the cross was the great reversal. In the same way that Jesus used evil to bring good to all of us, God can take the evil, the bad news of our life, the stuff we would throw off, escape, run from, get rid of, or despise, and bring good from it. That’s part of the reason we say Jesus is the redeemer, not just because of what He did for our lost humanity but what He can do in our lives. What we’re saying is that God has the ability to restore lost and broken things. The cross is the ultimate testimony of that. God takes the ugly and the horrible and He makes it into a gift of incomprehensible beauty. Part of what makes it so amazing is what He did for humanity. He can do that for us at a personal level. He can take evil, the evil of our life, the hurt of our life, the pain of our life, and He can bring good from it if we let Him. Romans 8 says, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called or who align themselves with His purpose.” God is able to bring good from the worst. That’s what He does. I love that. I know none of us want to walk in the shadowlands. What I think about that is those are the places that are hard.
The valley to me, ‘yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.’ The valley represents tough times in life. It represents difficulty. Nobody wants to live in the valley. No one wants to be in the valley. Who wants to be in the valley of the shadow of death? You get two choices. You can be on the mountaintop, see everything, and enjoy the sun. The vantage point is great. Breezy, happy, good, successful. Life is working wonderfully. Or the valley, hard, tough, shadows everywhere, paranoia, people ready to jump me. How do I find my way out? It’s scary. How many of us say, “Oh, I can’t wait to be in the shadowland.” Oh yeah, the valley is where I want to live. I’ll never say, “Oh Lord, that’s where I want to be, in this really bad place.” Nobody says that. Oh yeah, I volunteer. Send me there. No way.
God is saying that sometimes it’s in those places in our lives that He shows up in the most extraordinary and amazing way. I believe that some of the most profound growth that occurs in our lives occurs when we allow the shepherd to walk us through the valley of the shadow of death. The good that God can bring out of the bad. You couldn’t cover everything but this is from the Healing Imagination. Ann and Barry Ulanov wrote this. They said, “Sometimes we are the ones who walk through the valley that seems overshadowed by the threat of death and loss. Whether it’s going through the process of a painful divorce, caring for a sick or a dying parent, seeking to help children with learning disabilities, or struggling with our own depression, our own self-esteem. Often these real-life problems are accompanied by some form of addiction.” It’s true. Whether it is addiction to a substance or addiction to inappropriate self-defeating behavior patterns, we’re all capable of falling into these things. Can we truly believe that our shepherd walks beside us through such straights? Those of us who’ve already seen some of the perils along the road. This is a great, look at the question and then the answer.
“Those of us who’ve already seen some of the perils along the road and called out for help in our desperation have learned that the key is always to ask. The road ahead is difficult. Thank God I do not travel it alone. The shepherd is with us.” That leads me into this last piece, which is going to sound so simple. This is the answer to living above the bad news. The best way to live above the bad is to stay focused on the good news. That’s the way. So simple. How do I do it? It’s a choice I make. It’s a choice we make. I want to focus on the good news, Lord. So much stuff all around swirling about. Bad news outside. There can be bad news inside. How do I get by it? I focus on the good news. I’m not talking about hiding from reality. I’m talking about living in a higher reality. That’s a difference. It’s not pretending this is not a problem. It’s saying that God can bring good from it because that’s what He does. I have Jesus as my proof. That’s the good news. Not just what He did for us but what He can do in us and through us in this life. It’s amazing. What does that mean to focus? How do I do that? I know one of the things I need to do is allow His news, His words to be near to me.
We’re bombarded all the time with stuff. All the time, from every direction. Right now, a lot of it is really negative. Social media, all the people showing me stuff. It’s not just what’s happening, what people are saying to each other, the vileness, anger, and vitriol. It’s just garbage. We have garbage all around us. You have to stay in the good news. Lord, don’t let me be defined by all the bad news around me. Don’t let me start to give in to that stuff and let that spirit jump on me. That’s not the way of the Lord. I’m going to stay near your Word. Your Word is life. My words are life. You keep His Word near. Journal out our prayers to God. Stay next to people who are trying to wrestle through things together. Encourage one another in the Lord, get into a small group, have a devotional time or a little bit of time devoted to just reading through something, or reading through a passage.
Get a devotional book. journal out your prayers. Write down things. Focus. It goes all the way back to what we opened up with. Weave in good news and most of all, choose to be a person who is not allowing ourselves to settle into attitudes that do not reflect the goodness of God, especially when things are going wrong. One of the things I’ve realized is that we can allow adversity to define us or we can choose to say, “Lord, because of you I am asking you to show me the opportunity in this adversity.” That’s become a real line of mine. Where is the opportunity in this adversity? Where is it? Lord show me and then give me the courage to pursue it, to position myself in a way that you can bring good from the bad. I know you can because it’s what you do, show me that way. Show me how to see the opportunity in the adversity. What is it you’re trying to shape, build, remove, grow, or strengthen? Teach me, help me know about who you are, what you can do. The bad news is not the final word. The good news is. That’s who we are. We’re good news people. That’s who we’re called to be. It means I have to challenge my attitudes; align, check, and bring them into compliance. Not because I have to or He’s some legalistic judge. No, because it’s the way of Jesus that brings life. As I walk with the shepherd, surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
The music will spring out, bless, and sound beautiful. It opens up before me. Come walk among us. The whole idea is God can do amazing things. I think He wants to sing a song through us. I think He has a melody for us. What’s the song you want me to sing, Lord? Because I know what it isn’t. I want to sing your song. Don’t get locked up. Let’s open up. Let’s pray. Thank you, Lord. Lord, as we’re here, we have some complex times. We’re in them. We know it. We get it. It’s okay. You’ll show us the way. I don’t mean just show us. I mean you have shown and will show and we follow in your steps best as we can. Help us, Lord, be a peaceful people. Also, help us with the things that are outside. The things that are going on around our lives, infecting our lives, affecting our lives, and the things that are inside of our own hearts. Lord, your way is a way of life. I want to walk in it. Help us, Lord. I pray, help us. Don’t let us be afraid, let’s be courageous, peace givers, peace life bringers, and blessers. Bless our closing minutes. Bless this closing song. Bless our time of giving as well. I ask this in your name, Lord. Jesus’ name. Amen.