Archives For September 2011

Praying for our enemies

Jeff Olson —  September 23, 2011 — 11 Comments

The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin recently published a series of studies that suggests saying a prayer for another person may help reduce negative emotions. Studies showed that after people were intentionally insulted, asking them to pray for a person in need helped calm them down.

One researcher said, “We found that prayer really can help people cope with their anger, probably by helping them change how they view the events that angered them and helping them take it less personally.”

These studies reflect the idea that prayer changes us as much as it changes anything else. Perhaps this is one reason why Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 6:28). He wanted us to genuinely pray for their well-being, but in doing so He likely knew the effect it would have on our own hearts.

Praying for those who persecute us is a radical idea. It’s typically not the first thing to come to my mind. My initial thought is to pray against them. But it’s hard to deny the benefits.

A man I once counseled found himself consumed by the rage he felt towards his ex-wife. For decades she would run him down to their children and intentionally exclude him from their lives. His ex-wife didn’t change, but his attitude started to shift once he began praying for her. In a way he couldn’t explain, praying for her freed him from the anger that had consumed him for years.

How has praying for others, even someone who acts like your enemy, had an impact on you?

The Challenge of Parenting

Tim Jackson —  September 19, 2011 — 4 Comments

Parenting has always been a challenge. Jim Dobson nailed it years ago, “Parenting isn’t for cowards.” That sure has been my experience.

From the days of Adam and Eve in the Garden with their first of many children–Cain and Abel–parenting has been fraught with problems (Gen. 4:1-16).

So, what hope can parents find in raising the next generation to be productive and God honoring?

One of the teachings that has helped me as a parent is to focus not on producing a product, like a well-behaved kid, but on encouraging my children to have a heart for God. While good behavior is certainly desirable in our children, it’s equally as certain that it’s not enough.

While we as parents will often make the mistake of settling for outward appearances of compliance in our children, God’s focus, as always, is on their hearts (1 Sam. 16:7).

Two theological questions that have helped me focus more on our children’s hearts are tied into who they are as a son or daughter made in God’s image, worthy of love and respect, and at the same time who they are as little rebels at heart who are born into the world thinking they are the epicenter of the universe.

(Now I can just about hear some of you thinking, “My little Billy or Nancy could never have been a rebel.” Oh, please. Hear me out. Remember the trench warfare waged with each child when you had to finally draw on all your strength and forge a pact in blood with your spouse that neither of you would respond to their demanding cries that you take care of them IMMEDIATELY!!! Yea, you know what I’m talking about.)

The two questions are:

Am I loved? This question ties into a child’s Dignity because they are made in God’s image. Check out Genesis 1:26. It’s foundational for understanding your child’s value and worth to God, which should reshape the way you view them as well.

Can I get my own way? This question ties into what I referred to above, your child’s Depravity. Your child has inherited a sin nature from . . . you, his or her parent. How do I know it’s true? Well, first, the Bible is clear that our kids are just miniature versions of us big people, i.e. beautiful and broken. Romans 3:23 sums it up: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The glory of God is our dignity that was marred in the Fall (Gen. 3:1-24). “All” is loosely translated, well, all. Us as parents as well as our kids. We’re all in this together.

And finally, and here’s the catch. Now that you know these questions as parents, the challenge facing you is that you must answer both of them simultaneously. How you answer these two questions will determine the kind of parent that you are and how you  handle the hearts of those precious children that God has entrusted into your capable hands.

So, how’s your parenting? We’d love to hear your comments and questions.

Freedom on the Inside

Jeff Olson —  September 15, 2011 — 2 Comments

I recently learned of a new study bible titled Freedom on the Inside. It’s been developed in conjunction with Prison Fellowship, a Christ-based ministry that reaches out to prisoners and their families.

I love the title. Anything that reminds me of freedom is a winner in my book. Even more, it’s simple, yet speaks of a deep powerful force that can only come through God’s grace (Romans 6:14).

Most of us will never find ourselves doing time behind bars, but all of us are incarcerated by something–a wound, some habit, legalism, debt, shame, fear…something that ties us up in knots. And true freedom from whatever holds us captive begins when our hearts encounter grace.

Freedom inside our hearts sets us on a path to live more freely on the outside. Or as the Psalmist put it,

“I run in the path of your commands because you have set my heart free!” (Psalm 119:11). 

 

 

 

 

 

Called to remember . . .

Tim Jackson —  September 12, 2011 — 1 Comment

Yesterday was filled with many reminders of a day 10 years ago that changed the world as we know it. 9/11 has been forever burned into the collective psyche not only of the United States but the rest of the world as well. Many remember where they were when the first news reports began to trickle in on that fateful morning.

I remember sitting at this desk–the same desk where I’m writing this blog from today–and the president of our ministry coming down the hall and informing us that a plane had just hit Tower 1 and that there were some concerns that it may have been a terrorist attack. Several of us quickly crammed into the TV edit studio to watch a live news feed on a small monitor. That’s when we witnessed the second plane slamming into Tower 2. It’s a memory that I’ll never forget.

But remembering is not only a collective effort on the part of a nation or people. It’s also intensely personal as well. In a sense, yesterday reminded many of us that we are all called to remember.

It’s good to remember . . . even when it hurts.

Without memory, we’re lost. We’re left meandering around in the muddle of our seemingly disjointed lives without the handrails of perspective that only memory can provide. Remembering plays a critical role in our lives: it helps us find not only our place in our own stories but also in God’s larger story.

Without memory, we don’t know where we’ve come from, where we are, or where we’re going for that matter. Why? Because we have no reference point, no North Star to help us get our bearings to find our place in the story of our lives.

Without memory, we don’t know what we’ve endured or enjoyed, what we like or dislike, what we need to celebrate or grieve, what we need to let go of or cling to, or what we need to forgive or how to live on even when we’re hurting.

The Bible affirms the importance of memory. A quick search with Bible software for the word “remember” reveals 231 usages of the word in both the Old and New Testaments. If you also search for the word “forget” (the opposite of remember), you get an additional 64 passages.

What’s the point?

God places a premium on remembering and not forgetting what’s really important. Perspective is born out of our memories. And perspective that is proven trustworthy in our darkest hours can also be trusted to carry us forward into the uncertainty of each new day.

The Apostle Paul wrote a powerful call to remember in his letter to the Ephesians, where remembering becomes the fertile context for a new hope:

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ . . . through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Eph. 2:12,13,18)

Remembering is crucial to hope. To remember God’s faithfulness in the past serves as a continual reminder that we can trust Him for our present and future.

There is much more to be said about memory and how God uses it, but that’s enough from me for now. Now it’s your turn. Maybe God is in the process of redeeming some of your memories. If you’d like to share them here, we’re listening.

 

 

 

 

 

Loyalty

Tim Jackson —  September 7, 2011 — 7 Comments

This picture came to me in an email last week from a magazine I subscribe to. It just about broke my heart. But it also reminded me of what’s really important too.

This scene was captured just two weeks ago at the funeral of Petty Officer 1st Class Jon T. Tumilson who was one of 30 American troops, including 22 Navy SEALs, who were killed when a Taliban insurgent downed a Chinook helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade on Aug. 6, 2011. Lisa Pembleton took the photo and posted it on her Facebook page in memory of her cousin.

What captured my heart were two words: loyalty and grief.

Even in death, Hawkeye, Tumilson’s cherished black Lab, demonstrated his undying loyalty as he lay faithfully by the side of his fallen master. Dogs grieve too. I don’t know about other animals, because my experience has been with dogs, but trust me . . . they grieve.

In my mind, there are few things that communicate loyalty and devotion more than a faithful dog. Hence, the royal description, of “man’s best friend.”

I’ve often said that someday I’m going to write a book about what my dogs have taught me about God. Not only do I think my dogs would wage their tails in playful agreement, but I think God would be delighted as well. There is so much in our world that speaks to the presence of our awesome God if we would just take the time to stop, look, and listen.

Hawkeye’s display of unflinching loyalty is obvious even to the casual viewer. But God’s abiding loyalty is frequently overlooked, or worse, dismissed. And for those of us who call ourselves Jesus followers, the call is to be loyal to Him who is always faithful.

Semper Fidelis is the motto for the U.S. Marine Corps. It’s Latin for “always faithful.” While I doubt Hawkeye was fluent in Latin and I know he wasn’t a member of The Core, it’s clear that he got the concept and modeled it faithfully. But it didn’t originate with him. The One who created him instilled faithfulness in him for us to witness in canine form. God is the originator, the architect  who epitomizes loyalty and faithfulness.

Jesus’ last words to His 12 most loyal followers were: “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Throughout the pages of Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments, the reassuring refrain that brings comfort, dispels discouragement, musters courage, and spawns loyalty in the followers of God is the promise of His faithfulness–His loyal presence with and for those He loves:

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

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9)

“. . . because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” (Heb. 13:5,6)

The loyalty of a faithful dog is a touching reminder of “how much more” the loyalty of our faithful God is our ultimate source of hope, comfort, strength and security through any adversity that we face.

Now it’s your turn. Many of you have witnessed loyalty. We’d love to hear your story of how God’s loyalty has touched your life? What or who did He use? Maybe it was a long time ago? Maybe it was just recently? When has He made His presence known to you in desperate times, whispering to you “I’m here. I’m always faithful?”

 

 

 

 

When it’s unwise to confront

Jeff Olson —  September 1, 2011 — 3 Comments

I was talking to a mother whose adult daughter has grown unfriendly and cold towards her. When she tries talking to her daughter about it, it doesn’t go well. She blows up at her mother and turns mean.

This mother is beginning to realize that, for now, it’s unwise to press the issue. She’s making the painful realization that’s reflected in Proverbs 9:7-8:

“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you…”

These words are a good reminder that sometimes it is unwise and even potentially harmful to reason, debate, and even press the issue with certain people.

Some people are of the mindset that their perception of reality is the only perception that counts. In their limited view of reality, there is no room for them to consider another person’s point of view. Plus, they tend to be so self-deceived that they truly believe their own distorted perception of reality. They’re absolutely convinced they are right and no one is going to tell them otherwise. In their minds, the only option is to agree with them. If we don’t, chances are good that they will insult and abuse us. We become the enemy and they are the victim.

Wisdom recognizes that those with this mindset aren’t ready to have an honest and helpful conversation.

The Proverb, of course, is not saying that someone like this mother should ignore and stay clear of close-minded, hurtful people. While it often requires us to be as shrewd as a serpent and as innocent as a dove, there are still ways to interact with a person like this. The Proverb is simply warning us that taking certain approaches aren’t helpful like they are with those are open to consider another person’s point of view (Proverbs 9: 8-9).