Archives For August 2011

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

“A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all . . . the LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.” (Ps. 34:19, 22)

As I read these words this morning, I was struck with their force–“brokenhearted,” “crushed in spirit” and “many troubles.” They pushed me to ask the question: How often do I really see the battle for my heart?

For me–and my guess it’s true for you too–it’s so easy to slip into the normal routine of daily living–alarm goes off, get up, hit the shower, make coffee and eat, go to work, come home, eat again, do chores, pay bills, or relax, hit the sack and get up and do it all over again.

Normal. Routine. Nothing horrific. Nothing epic. Just daily stuff. You know the drill.

But when I read those words of David in Psalm 34 (and there are many others), I get the sensation that there’s a battle going on, and it’s a battle for my heart.

I know what a battlefield looks like. I’ve watched The Patriot, Gettysburg, Saving Private Ryan, The Pacific, The Hurt Locker. Those were battlefields.

I’ve stood on the fields of Gettysburg where the Union and Confederate armies clashed in 1863 in America’s Civil War. In just 3 fateful days that hot July, the bodies and blood of over 57,000 men who were killed, mortally wounded, or missing stained that “hallowed ground.” That’s a battlefield.

But my heart, a battlefield? Really?

Do you ever think of your heart being a battlefield?

If the Bible is true, then Jesus’ words of warning must not be minimized or ignored:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10)

So what’s he (and it’s clear from the context that Jesus means Satan is the thief, the Enemy of God and us) stealing, killing, and destroying? Our hearts. Our lives. All that Jesus came to redeem.

So, some of the questions for each of us who align ourselves with God and who have  been targeted by the Evil One are these:

  • Do you recognize that your heart is a battlefield?
  • Are you protecting your heart?
  • How are you protecting your heart?

Now it’s your turn. Please share with the rest of us what you’re doing to “gear up” for the battle for your heart. Remember: we’re all in this together.


Listen to your children

Tim Jackson —  August 22, 2011 — 8 Comments

Publishers have exterminated many trees over the last 30 years  compiling the plethora of ideas on the topic of building a child’s self-esteem. Pastors, teachers, psychologists, counselors, social workers, youth leaders and talk show hosts have shared their collective wisdom about how parents can develop a sense of confidence and well-being in a child.

At the risk of sounding simplistic . . . because I was always taught that the simplest explanation is most often the best . . . I think it can be distilled down to one thing.

Listen to them.

If you treat your child like they matter to you, it will be unlikely that they will struggle with whether or not they matter later on. How you relate to them now as a little person in your home demonstrates a love and respect for who they are, becoming deeply rooted in their souls and bearing fruit for a lifetime.

When’s the last time you simply sat down and had a conversation with your son or daughter? Just to hear what was on their mind? No agenda. No correction. No particular reason except that he’s your son, she’s your daughter. Can you remember? Was it recent? Have you ever?

Don’t focus on building your child’s self-esteem. Instead, focus on your child. And the best way to do that is to listen to them. Treat them with value because they are. Listen to what your child is saying and you will do far more to provide them with a healthy understanding that they are valuable. Why? “Because my mom and dad listen to me.”

And why is that effective? Because you are treating your child like they really do matter to you. When you stop what you’re doing and take time out to listen to what they are saying, you prove to them that they are more valuable to you than the house work, mowing the lawn, your laptop, or that favorite T.V. show. If you don’t get what they are saying the first time, then just ask them again–giving them the opportunity to clarify what they were trying to say.

By listening–I mean really listening–you are not just telling your child that they matter. That’s good. But it’s not good enough.  By really listening to them,  you’re demonstrating that they do matter. By listening to them, you treat them like a real person who is worth listening to.

By listening to your child, you are telling them: “You are made as a boy/girl in God’s image. You are worthy of love and respect. God has given you a voice and a heart that are a reflection of Him. He thinks you’re important, and so do I. He loves you, and so do I.”

And you know what happens when others outside your home don’t treat your child with value? (And trust me, they won’t.) Your child won’t automatically assume that they did something wrong. They will feel the disparity between the way you have listened to them and those who are dismissing their voices. That will give you ample opportunities for discussions with them about how to gracefully handle the disappointment, adversity and challenges that they will inevitably face throughout their lives.

Because you listened to them, they will also be more open to come and share their both their joys and sorrows with you so that you can help them celebrate as well as navigate through the minefields of relationship struggles.

The Apostle James wrote: “Everyone (including parents) should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). A good reminder to those of us as parents who are more prone to speak quickly and are slow to listen. (Okay. I confess, that’s my bent. Anyone with me? Thanks, James, for the reminder.)

So, don’t settle for merely telling your children that they’re important. Treat them like they are.

Listen to them.

And they’ll hear you loud and clear.

Now it’s time for you to use your voice. We value hearing from you. So, please feel free to share your story with the HFML family about a time when a parent (or maybe any adult) took the time to listen to you as a youth. Or how about a time when you listened to a child. Let’s encourage one another with these stories.

I’m listening.

Last weekend I re-watched the film Soul Surfer. It’s tells the inspiring true story about the young surfer girl (Bethany Hamilton) whose arm was bit off by a shark in October of 2003 while surfing off Kauai’s North Shore. Remarkably, only one month after the attack that nearly took her life, Bethany was back in the water–determined to surf again.

As Bethany was re-learning how to surf competitively with one arm, her father explained the difficult challenge before her. To which Bethany replied, “I don’t need easy. I just need possible.”

Wow! What a challenging statement for us all to consider.

As much as we would like there to be, there isn’t an “easy” button to push when were facing the hard challenges of life. But difficult doesn’t equal impossible. While certain parts of life may seem impossible, Jesus offered the hope that “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Lk. 18:27).





Should Christians grieve?

Tim Jackson —  August 17, 2011 — 1 Comment

Is grief okay for a Christian? Is it legitimate to be sad when you lose someone you deeply love? What’s this thing about “consider it pure joy” that James talks about in the New Testament? Should my “joy” as a Christian erase the pain of my journey through grief over having lost both of my parents in the last 2 months?

Do you ever read passages in the Bible that are just maddening? I sure do. Count it all joy? Are you kidding?

Or is it our understanding of what James meant that needs to be adjusted?

Listen in as Larry Crabb describes for us how grief fits in with James’s view of joy. I found it helpful and I think you will too.



A season of loss

Tim Jackson —  August 15, 2011 — 5 Comments

I haven’t written this blog for a couple of weeks.

I’ve been gone.

It’s been a rainy season for me and my family.

“When it rains, it pours,” was a saying my Grandma would often use when things were piling up and we were feeling overwhelmed. You know, like when when the muffler falls off the car, then the hot water heater sprouts a leak and floods half the basement, and the door on the toaster oven breaks and you have to jamb a pencil in the latch to make it work because you just spent what money you had on getting the items needed to get your kids prepared for the new school year.

You know what I mean.

Don’t you?

But those kinds of things aren’t life-changing. Frankly, they’re just plain annoying.

But what about when significant losses begin stacking up one on top of the other? That’s not just annoying. That’s overwhelming. Drowning or suffocating is more like it.

That’s been my summer so far.

My wife fell on April 29th, tearing all three hamstring muscles away from the bone on her right leg. Surgery was require to reattach them. Twelve weeks in a brace and no weight bearing, followed by 42 weeks of extensive physical therapy. Yep, that’s 54 weeks total recovery.

On May 13th my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died 3 weeks later on June 3 at 81 years of age. A shock to all of us since she seemed so healthy just 6 weeks prior to the diagnosis.

Then my dad began to fail. Alzheimer’s had been stealing his life away for the past 7 years. He didn’t know mom or any of us for most of the past 2-3 years. And in spite of the fact that we didn’t tell him about mom’s death, after 60 years of marriage, he somehow just seemed to know that his sole mate had gone home to heaven to await his arrival. And he didn’t waste much time. 8 weeks and one day later he arrived to greet her with a healed body and mind.

Yesterday I snapped at my 20-year-old daughter about something I thought she was negligent about. Her defenses shot up. We both felt the tension tighten. She called me on my “accusational” tone. She was right. And I knew it.

She asked me what was going on with me. I didn’t know, but soon I was reduced to tears. And I still didn’t know why.

Then it hit me: “I’ve got no emotional margins left. I’m depleted.Wrung out. Overloaded.” The losses have piled up around me. I just buried both of my parents within 2 months. My wife has begun a long road to recovery. And I feel buried emotionally.”

The journey through grief is a long one. Especially when it’s compounded by multiple losses. “Personal, painful loss forces a door open into the deep parts of our soul, exposing what which we’d just as soon not admit exists, let alone face”(p. 3). I believe that. I wrote that 20 years ago in a booklet on grief, How Can I Live With My Loss? Now I’m re-living it afresh.

Loss is as common as the air we breathe. But our journey through grief is unique to each of us. I’m on that journey. Maybe you are too. Let me reassure you with words from my Father that I find deeply encouraging and comforting in the middle of turmoil that is so disconcerting:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)

“. . . because God has said,  “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)

What’s reassuring for me is that I’m never alone on this messy journey of grief after a loss. And neither are you if you’ve put your hope in the God who raises the dead.

I’m sure there will be more to come as I process what God is doing in me because of these losses. For now, knowing He’s always with me is what keeps me going.



Who do you love the most?

Jeff Olson —  August 11, 2011 — 1 Comment

A young child once asked her father, “Daddy, who do you love the most, me or my brother?” The father wisely explained to his child that he loved each one of his children the same, but he sometimes expressed his love in different ways.

Later, the young child then asked, “Daddy, who do you love the most, Jesus or me?” The father told his daughter that he loved Jesus the most, because without Jesus, he couldn’t love his children as much as he does.

What a great answer. It parallels the words of another father figure once wrote to a group of Christians he considered his “dear children” (1 John 2:1). The Apostle John wrote, “We love each other because He loved us first” (1 John 4:19 NLT).

Who do you love the most?

What Occupies You?

Jeff Olson —  August 4, 2011 — 1 Comment

To illustrate the truth of Ephesians 5:18, Evangelist DL Moody once held up an empty glass and asked an audience, “Tell me. How can I get the air out of the glass I have in my hand?” One man said, “Suck it out with a pump.” But Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter it.”

After many other suggestions, Moody picked up a pitcher and filled the glass with water.

“There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then explained that freedom from a sinful habit does not come by working hard to eliminate it, but rather by the allowing the Holy Spirit to take full possession of us.

Is there a sinful habit in your life that you can’t to get rid of, no matter how hard you try? Maybe you should stop striving so hard to eliminate your out of control problem. Generally speaking, we don’t need more self-effort and self-regulation. What we need more of is to humble ourselves before God so that He can fill us with His Spirit.

The more we occupy ourselves with Jesus the less room there is for sin to occupy us.

To read more about freedom from addictions, Check out the Discovery Series Bible Study Released!