Archives For March 2011

Timing is everything

Jeff Olson —  March 31, 2011 — 5 Comments

In his book Encouragement: The Key to Caring, Larry Crabb tells the story of how nerve wracking it was the first time he nervously volunteered to pray out loud during a church service. Larry, who struggled with stuttering as a youngster, recalled, “I found my theology becoming confused to the point of heresy. I remember thanking the Father for hanging on the cross and praising Christ for triumphantly bringing the Spirit from the grave. Stuttering throughout, I finally thought of the word Amen, said it, and sat down. I recall staring at the floor, too embarrassed to look around, and solemnly vowing never again to pray or speak aloud in front of a group.”

After the service ended,  an older man in his church sought Larry out. With a hand on his shoulder, he said, “Larry, there’s one thing I want you to know. Whatever you do for the Lord, I’m behind you one thousand percent.” He said nothing else, and walked away.

Now there was a man who understood the power of a timely word (Proverbs 15:23). Here was a young teenager whose heart was deeply troubled. Who knows…maybe the older gentlemen had been there himself and personally knew of the shame contaminating this young man’s soul. Whatever it was that compelled him to speak, his words were an example of the Proverb that says, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24).

When it comes to words of encouragement, timing is everything. It’s why the Proverbs also emphasized that even cheerful words spoken at the wrong time can be “like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound” (Proverbs 25:20).

More good than we know can come out of the right words spoken at the right time. They have the power to mend and restore a broken heart.

Sexpectations

Allison Stevens —  March 28, 2011 — 10 Comments

I’m reading the book He’s Just Not That Into You.  Please don’t stop reading my blog yet- I know – this book is sooo not from a biblical mindset. It’s written mainly by a man, with a woman who wrote for the television program “Sex and the City.”  I know, I know!  This is getting worse, isn’t it?!  I greatly dislike that show and what it stands for.  On the show, women act as if sex is just sex and that there are no good men out there and that women can give themselves away to anyone without any consequences. Well, duh, the consequences are that none of those women characters are happy!

But I can’t deny that the author has gotten me thinking about something when it comes to sexuality in Christian dating relationships.

In the book, the author says that if you’re’ dating a man and he doesn’t want to have sex with you, he’s just not that into you. He adds that whatever reasons the man gives for not wanting to have sex, (religion and faith included), is simply an excuse because a man you’re dating should want to “rip your clothes off.” If he doesn’t, then he’s not into you and he’d rather avoid telling you that than face the yelling, crying, or whatever fallout would occur if he told you directly that he’s not caught up with your hotness.

OK, a problem I have with that is that I know there are good guys out there who honor women by waiting for marriage to have sex. They get it. They know that sex is a precious thing to a relationship and it shouldn’t be given to just anyone. They want to be pure and want to marry a pure woman.

Granted, this “waiting” is easier for some than for others. But the standard is still the same. Sex is for marriage and it’s worth the wait.

So, I’m getting to my point here. What should a single Christian woman expect from a single Christian man?  Should she expect him to never struggle with lust? Should she expect him to always keep his hands to himself? Should there never be chemistry between them that causes them to end a date early?! Oh, boy, I hope not, on the last question, anyway.

The lack of a sex drive is not an indicator of spirituality. How we respond to the sex drive is what matters. Love is doing what’s best for the other person. And it is best to wait. Men know this; it’s just that sometimes they don’t want to wait. But men love the pursuit; they like to work hard to earn something, not just given it so easily. The harder they work at it, the greater the reward – not just for men, but for all of us.

God made us with natural yearnings for intimacy. But intimacy isn’t only about sex.  Sexual fulfillment can’t be found outside of a trusting, lifetime commitment.

So, unmarried girls, let’s be real here.  There will be times, at least I hope so, that the desire for your man and his desire for you will be so great that you literally have to walk away from each other! He just might have to go home early.  That’s just the way it is.

Someone recently asked me how can an adult child “honors” an emotionally abusive parent. Sadly, it’s an important question that many face. While there isn’t a blanket answer because each situation is different, there are some general thoughts to think through that apply to nearly every situation.

There is no question that the Bible teaches the importance of honoring our parents (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2-3). It is not a matter to be taken lightly. To honor our parents, however, does not mean that we should ignore or tolerate their abusive behavior. In fact, ignoring and tolerating abuse would be dishonoring and unloving.

Unfortunately, many adults who have been abused by their parents as children allow emotional abuse to continue for fear of being completely cut-off and abandoned by their parents. It seems that some would rather put up with their parents abuse than to be ignored and abandoned by their parents. To be abandoned by one’s parents seems to be a greater pain and therefore is avoided at all costs, even if that means allowing the abuse to continue.

When a person continues to tolerate emotional abuse from their parents by ignoring it and maybe hoping things will improve, they are neither loving nor honoring their parents. If that person were to honestly examine their motives, they would most likely see that they are not motivated by a desire to love their parents but rather by a desire to keep themselves safe from the deeper pain of being abandoned. And without even knowing it, they are actually contributing to the problem with their silence. Their silence enables rather than stands against further emotional abuse. That’s not what is best for themselves or their parents, therefore it’s not love.

The Bible calls Christians to a love that is without hypocrisy, that is to hate what is evil and cling to what is good, both in ourselves and others (Rom.12:9). In a situation where a parent is emotionally abusive love often asks the question “What is wrong within the person that needs to be disrupted so that good and life can start to emerge?” In almost every instance, this involves drawing strong lines that say “It’s no longer okay for you to abuse me.”

Check out the following video insights by Larry Crabb and Gene Getz on setting boundaries and honoring difficult parents:

http://www.helpformylife.org/Products/How-Do-I-Set-Healthy-Boundaries-In-A-Relationship-%28Video-Insight%29__VATR007I007.aspx

http://www.helpformylife.org/Products/How-Do-You-Honor-A-Difficult-Parent-p—emGene-Getzem-%28Video-Insight%29__VATR006I048.aspx

 

 

The Misspoken Word

Allison Stevens —  March 21, 2011 — 4 Comments

I love puns, words with double meanings, or mixed up words in a sentence, like “I’m going to take my oil in to change my car.” And how many times have I asked my son to go throw ice on the sidewalk? I mean salt, but I usually say “go throw some ice on the ice.”  A lot of good that will do.

Mixing metaphors, too, are usually good for an inside laugh. I recently heard a woman who was comparing two things say, “On the same hand . . .” instead of “on the other hand.” What about “we could stand here and talk until the cows turn blue,” or “He was watching me like I was a hawk.” It’s not only the mixed up words that are funny, but how the person believes what he or she is saying is accurate.

It’s fun playing with the English language to get a chuckle out of someone, but there is a time when the misspoken word is not funny; when the Word is misspoken. Scripture is God’s Word to us and there is a lot at stake if we misread, misinterpret, or misspeak it.

We’re all capable of misreading certain Scripture passages, but I’m talking about the major doctrines. It’s vital that we stand firm on what the Bible clearly teaches.

2 Timothy 2:15 says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

The truth may be veiled to those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 4:3), but if we believers are confused about something someone is telling us about the Word of God, we should investigate further and find out what Scripture really teaches.

“What I dread has happened to me.”

Those are not the words of one of the thousands of family members whose lives have been devastated by the upheaval of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last week. Although they could be.

Those are the words of lament from a father 3000 years ago (Job 3:25) who lost not just one, but all 10 of his children and their families who were snuffed out when a microburst of wind collapsed the home they were in (Job 1:18-19). Job’s catastrophic loss of his family was preceded by the pillage of his economic wealth by bands of marauding thieves (Job 1:14-17). Everything that meant anything to him was gone.

Job went on to lament: “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil” (Job 3:26).

When everything that means anything to you is gone, where do you turn? How do you respond?

As I watched the news feeds on the networks and internet, I struggled to wrap my mind around the surrealistic video of the 30-foot wall of water that seemed to swallow up the land and it’s inhabitants, and then vomit out a grotesque amount of wreckage, destruction and death as it receded back into the ocean. It looked  like an eerie CGI movie scene. But this time it wasn’t. It was real. As terrifyingly real as it gets.

Trauma–whether natural or man-made–always leaves a contorted heap of rubble and devastation not only on the physical landscape of our world but also in the hearts and minds of those who live through it. The physical clean up efforts of the land will take years. The emotional, relational, and spiritual wounds will take much longer. And it requires help. Help comes from people who not only care, but those who also have experience and training sorting through the turmoil of their own traumas and who have emerge out of the darkness and into the light of hope again.

But grief is a journey. Not a journey we choose, but one that chooses us.

It’s in those moments when we feel crushed and buried under the rubble of trauma that we can mistakenly believe that grief and pain will forever define us. It won’t. But is sure feels like it. While it  shapes and influences the rest of our lives to be sure, it’s not the trauma that defines us. It’s how we respond to it that does.

Jesus knows how trauma messes with us. How it overwhelms us. And how we tend to lose heart when we feel buried (John 16:33). He reminds us that trauma never has the final word. Why? Because he has overcome the world that is overwhelming us.

He invites us to dump our burdens on him and he will help us shoulder the load that’s impossible for us to handle on our own (Matt. 11:28). And, he will provide others who can help us carry the burden that’s too much for us to bear alone (Gal. 6:2).

Please pray. Help bear the unbearable burden by taking the plight of the Japanese people to the God of all comfort who heals the brokenhearted (Isa. 61:1; 2 Cor. 1:3-5). Pray not only for the healing of the land of Japan, but please pray for the healing of her people as they sort through the grief and anguish of their losses and seek to rebuild their wounded souls.

Japan

Allison Stevens —  March 14, 2011 — 2 Comments

Our hearts and prayers go out to all those in Japan who’ve been hurt by the earthquake and tsunami. The video of houses being forced off their foundations and cars racing down a river of water is disturbing. The thought of people dying such a terrifying death is even more upsetting. The earthquakes and tsunami caused shocking devastation and as one reporter put it, “what took a few minutes to destroy will take many years to rebuild.” Some of the damage, however, can never be restored on this earth.

That makes me think of the effects of sin in our lives, too.  What took just a moment to do, can take years to rebuild. And some effects of sin are unfixable.

This causes me to think of how sin rips through our lives, cracking our foundations, drowning us in shame, and removing every ounce of self-respect we thought we had.

Like the tsunami and earthquakes, our enemy destroys; kills; and steals (John 10:10.) His rewards are suffering, pain, humiliation, sickness, weakness, and death.

But Jesus came to restore, to heal, and to bring us life. He doesn’t hold back when it comes to giving us life. He gives life to the fullest extent.

We can resist the power of sin by trusting in Jesus and doing what the Bible tells us to do. Let’s spend our time doing good towards others. Let’s pray for one another, carry each other’s burdens, and help those in need.

Let’s especially pray for the people of Japan. While some are legitimately concerned about the nuclear plants, let’s not forget that many people in Japan are wondering where they will sleep tonight. Families’ frantically search for one another, but travel is difficult and discouraged. It’s cold in Japan; some sleep without blankets, without a bed. They’re cold, hungry, homeless, and scared. Let’s lift up these burdens to our Good Shepherd who knows and cares.

Have you ever done the right thing and yet you feel bad? Don’t you expect to feel good for doing what’s good? I know I do. Whether I’m aware of it in the moment or not, I discover that I have this unwritten and unspoken assumption that if I’m doing good, I’ll feel pretty good about it. And while that may be true some of the time, it’s certainly not true all of the time. And when things don’t feel so good afterward, I begin to question and doubt if what I did was right or good in the first place.

Do you know what  I mean? Has that been true in your experience too?

For example, I remember a time when I disciplined one of my daughters for disobeying her mother and me. When I was putting her in bed later that night, she looked me in the eye from her bunk bed above her sister and said, “You know, Dad, sometimes I don’t like you very much. In fact, sometimes I feel like I might even hate you.”

Okay, not one of those Kodak moments that I’d pictured in my mind as a father. I cringed inside. I felt awful. I wasn’t prepared for that. Those are three of the most dreaded words that any parent fears hearing from their child: “I hate you!” And what caring parent wouldn’t? I didn’t let her see it, but I felt like screaming, “No you don’t! How could you? After all I’ve done for you? Don’t you get it? I LOVE YOU!!! That’s why I disciplined you. If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t care how you act or what kind of woman you become as an adult.”

In a flash I doubted my effectiveness as a parent. I felt like defending, explaining, running,  or something.  I simply didn’t like what I was feeling at all.

Any parents with me here? Come on. You can be honest.  And I know I’m not alone. How?

When I’m counseling my clients to do hard things because they are good and loving towards others, I often hear things like:

  • “But I feel so alone.”
  • “They won’t appreciate me for what I’ve done.”
  • ” They won’t like me.”
  • “They won’t understand.”
  • “They’ll get angry with me.”

I take great comfort from knowing that Jesus didn’t always feel good either.

After obediently fulfilling his Father’s will (John 5:30) by pouring himself into his own Jewish people for over 3 years, he felt awful. He lamented over the city and it’s people who had rejected his message (Luke 13:31-35), and as he approached his beloved city for the last time, he  wept (Luke 19:41). He was brokenhearted. People that he deeply loved were continuing to live destructively in spite of all his efforts to show them the path to a more abundant life  (John 5:39,40).  Instead of repentance, he knew that they would eventually turn on him and kill him.

I need to be reminded often of this simple truth:

Loving well doesn’t always mean you’ll feel good. But loving well by doing good to others is always good no matter how you feel.

Mystery

Allison Stevens —  March 7, 2011 — 1 Comment

Who doesn’t enjoy a good mystery whether it’s a novel, or a big screen “whodunit” thriller?  I love the wonder, the questions, the surprises, and piecing together clues.

Initially, though, I don’t always appreciate the unknown in my personal life nearly as much as I do on TV.  Mystery takes me out of my comfort zone. I feel safer when I know what, where, when, why, and how.

I think that is a false sense of security, though, because having all my questions answered gives me the illusion that I’m in control.  True security, freedom and peace is found by trusting in Jesus and living according to the Spirit, not the flesh (Romans 8:1-11.) This path involves faith and mystery.

The greatest mystery in my life is how God transforms my heart. I don’t change for the better because I work harder at being a decent person. I tried that route and it was a disaster, trust me. My heart changes because God changes it. And His love that penetrates my heart paves the way for Him to do His good work in me.

We don’t need to have it all figured out. We can allow mystery into our lives and watch the incredible things God can do in us and through us; all for His glory and pleasure.

Counting down the days

Jeff Olson —  March 4, 2011 — 2 Comments

One of our co-workers has a sheet on the outside of his office that is counting down the days until Spring officially arrives–March 20th. I, for one, can hardly wait. I’m almost anticipating the arrival of Spring as much as Jesus second coming. I’m not quite there yet, but another ice or snow storm could put me over the top.

Seriously, the coming of Spring means a lot of good things to folks who live in my corner of the world…no more ice and snow, warmer temperatures, better road conditions (although  the pot holes are a pain to avoid), sunshine, and of course, what angler like myself could overlook the joy of spring fishing.

But the one thing about Spring that I will never tire of is how nature bursts back to life.

Every year, the Creator of the universe expresses something truly amazing through the return of Spring. Through nature, it is God’s way of illustrating that a day is coming when new life will return and it will never turn to winter again! Spring time points to a time of a future renewal when Jesus “makes all things new” and restores things back to the way their originally intended before sin and evil entered the world (Revelation 21:5).

This year, as nature turns the corner into spring time, let it remind you of the day when Jesus will set things straight as they were always meant them to be. Until then, may the anticipation of a great restoration free us to enjoy the good and to not lose heart.