Archives For November 2011

In the past, I’ve struggled with seeing Jesus as being tempted; I mean really tempted. I’ve seen Him, in my minds eye, as some angel-like figure; able to rise above (pardon the pun) the thing that Satan was trying to lure Him with because He knew exactly the emptiness that was being offered to Him.  Surely He could look past the kingdoms and the rock to see the face of God. Come on, I say to myself, Jesus wasn’t tempted in the way I am. I see my ugly side and it isn’t pretty. There’s no way that Jesus, in my rosy view of Him, can be tempted like I am.

But He was. Was His experience really all that human, though?   I mean, did His pulse race? Did His hands get sweaty? Did He feel the urge to give in from His head all the way to His toes? Did He imagine what it would be like for a ½ a second? Did His breathing become shallow as He fought off the temptation?  Hebrews 2:18 says that Jesus suffered when He was tempted.  If Jesus suffered, and He knows what it’s like to be tempted, then I’m sure His battle wasn’t a pretty sight, either.  So much like mine.

What a relief to know that I have a savior who knows what it’s like to be me. He knows what gets to me. He has a complete and full understanding of what it is like to be enticed, to be attracted to something evil.  Jesus didn’t sin, but He knows what we go through when those things pop up from time to time, seemingly out of the blue, and taunt us, trying to coax us away from our Lord.

I’m trying to have a better picture of what Jesus went through.  I don’t want to minimize it anymore.  It was tough. He was starving, tired, thirsty, feeling weak, I’m sure. Thank you, Jesus, going through all of that for us. Thank you for all you’ve done for us.  You not only chose to humble yourself into humanity, coming as a baby, but then You purposely went through what each and every one of us goes through when we’re lured by evil. You didn’t sin, though. You give us strength and courage to withstand. You are truly our Great High Priest – one who understands and compassionately gives us mercy and grace.  “For we do not have a high Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:15-16.)

Exploited Sexuality

Tim Jackson —  November 21, 2011 — 6 Comments

As a follow up to my post last week about the PSU sexual abuse scandal, I’ve been painfully reminded of how often we refuse to talk about things that really matter, things shrouded in secrecy that are just too uncomfortable for us to discuss without stepping on toes or seeming to be insensitive. Frankly, these are not topics of polite conversation.

But when we don’t talk about them, when we don’t bring them into the light, they continue to fester and breed like an untreated cancer in the clandestine shadows of secrecy. And people get hurt. Children get hurt. And none of us should ever be okay with that.

So we’re uncomfortable.

My first thought is: “I’m uncomfortable with it.” I take no joy in writing about this in a blog. I’d much rather be talking about last weeks Penn State football game with Ohio State than the sexual abuse scandal that still engulfs that campus.

My second thought is: “Too bad.” It’s about time we learn to deal with our discomfort and engage in the real battles for the hearts and souls of people who are at risk and being exploited. And if we’re honest, that means both the abused and the abusers.

And that makes me feel really uncomfortable. But that’s where people of faith are most needed to stand up and be counted as “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13-16) in a very dark and unsavory place.

Sexual abuse is just one of those banned topics in church.

Several recent blogs highlight the trouble we’ve had in being honest with ourselves and dealing with our discomfort in speaking openly about tough issues. Dan Allender’s blog, JoePa and Sermon Selection, frankly brings to light how uncomfortable pastors have been and still are when it comes to addressing the issue of sexual abuse in church.

Thom Rainer, in his blog to Church leaders, Sex Scandals, Penn State, and Protecting Our Children, writes about sexual abuse and doing everything we can as a faith community to prevent it from happening on our watch as well as dealing quickly and decisively when it is exposed.

But sexual abuse is only one strain of the world wide epidemic of exploited sexuality.

Sexuality has been hijacked by the enemy of our souls. Satan, as part of his cunning strategy for defacing the image of God in men and woman alike, demeaning and defrauding  sexuality in a myriad of ways. Remember, Jesus identified Satan’s lethal agenda as to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). Why would we not think that includes our sexuality?

Sexual exploitation, in all it’s forms–from advertising, media programing, the ever-widening spectrum of pornographic images, the vulgar and demeaning language that has become common place in music, social media, and on middle school campuses, sexual abuse, and the plague of human sexual trafficking–are a coordinated attack on the beauty of God Himself that He breathed into our sexuality.

I would contend that we have problems with sexual abuse because of the sexual tsunami that has reeked havoc on the world of gender, both male and female, in a post-Fall world. And this is nothing new.

The Bible records story after story of sexual exploitation (just to name a few: Gen. 19:4-13, 30-38; 38:11-26; Judges 19:22-30; 2 Sam. 11:1-27; 13:1-34; Luke 7:36-50; John 4:7-30; 8:4-11). These disruptive stories have all too often been ignored for the more palatable passages of scripture that are–shall we say–less disturbing.

But just stop for a moment and think about it.

Why would God intentionally record these stories of sexual exploitation in sacred text?

I can think of a few reasons why He’s not silent on this topic, and I’m sure there are more:

  1. Because He doesn’t want us to be silent on the topic.
  2. Because of His great love for victims of sexual exploitation.
  3. Because His intention is to bring healing and hope to victims of sexual exploitation.

If this it true, then people of faith can no longer remain silent on these topics.  We must be at the forefront of addressing them. Instead of reserving that discussion for a counselor’s office or a courtroom,  we must speak more openly and honestly about the destructive forces at work regarding the exploitation of both male and female sexuality on all fronts in our culture.

That’s my take on it all. How about you? Let me hear your voices. Speak up and let others know that it’s time to break the conspiracy of silence. Let’s join our voices together.

 

 

 

Sexual Abuse Scandal

Tim Jackson —  November 16, 2011 — Leave a comment

It has been hard to miss the top news story of the past 14 days on US media outlets–the child sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the campus of Penn State University, engulfing a prestigious football program, it’s coaches, and administration. The University has come under fire for how the current coaches and staff handled the alleged sexual abuse of young boys by a former PSU coach.

As a boy, I grew up an hour away from State College, Pennsylvania. I’ve rooted for Penn State football for the last 50 years. It’s hard to describe the thoughts and feelings that have been pulsating through me for the past two weeks.

Disbelief. Disgust. Grief. Outrage. Shock. To name a few.

But primarily? Heartache.

As a counselor who has spent hundreds of hours helping many men and women work through their past of childhood sexual abuse–dealing with the trauma, the pain, the shame, the secrets, and the long-term devastation of abuse–to rebuild productive lives, I am angry.

Angry that anyone–no matter what their status is within any organization–from janitors to presidents–would allow any form of suspected child abusive behavior to go on without it being quickly exposed to the proper authorities and decisively addressed, so that first and foremost the children are protected and those responsible are held accountable.

But, in spite of how I feel, I must reserve judgment for those who know all the evidence in the case. I simply don’t know what really happened. What I do know is the allegations I hear reported in the media and the published grand jury report. And, make no mistake about it, the allegations are bad.

But, there is a process that cannot be hijacked in the media’s court of public opinion. I can quickly jump to conclusions about what has happened and what should or shouldn’t be done to those involved without knowing the full details of the case. That’s what trials are for.

My concern is that in the media feeding frenzy for the most salacious story out there, that what gets whipped up in the watching audience is a lynch mob mentality that is dangerous.

It’s clear what is needed: protection for children and justice for those who abuse them.

I know my own weakness and my snap judgement without ample evidence can quickly cross the invisible ethical line between seeking justice and justifying revenge. God reminds me that none of us are qualified for the task of vengeance–not by a long shot. That’s His realm exclusively. Mortals need not apply.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Rom. 12:19, 20)

James 1:19, 20 also provides a well heeded warning:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

But lest we think that God takes abuse lightly, consider Jesus’ own words in Luke 17:1, 2 regarding those who would dare to harm a child:

“Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

The allegations and charges of child abuse are serious. The coverup is evidence that something is seriously broken and needs to be fixed. The power and money that the big business of college sports wields is a challenging force that must be harnessed lest it run wild and unbridled. Hopefully, this scandal will bring that conversation to the forefront as well.

And finally, I’ve heard more public appeals and witnessed more examples of public prayer for all the victims involved in this situation than I’ve seen since 9/11. That is telling. In times of pain and desperation when we need wisdom to know how to respond to a tragic situation that is unimaginable in it’s scope and destruction, we naturally turn to the only true source of comfort, strength, and wisdom.

Let’s pray together that we will all strive  . . . “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). If we do, then something good will begin to take root and grow out of a horribly destructive and dark situation.

 

More than just a good book

Jeff Olson —  November 10, 2011 — 2 Comments

“Is that a good book?” the lady asked the young boy sitting near her on the bus.

“This,” the boy replied holding up the book on his lap , “It’s more than just a good book.”

The young boy is, Henry, a main character from the new, popular television series Once Upon a Time. The book he was referring to was a large book of fairy tales that the series is based on.

I read a lot books, and people sometimes ask me if what I’m reading is good. Usually it is, but not always.

Henry’s response got me to thinking about what I would say if a stranger asked me the same question if they noticed me reading the Bible.

I’ve often heard people refer to the Bible as the “good book,” but after hearing Henry’s response, I would prefer to use his line—“It’s more than just a good book”. But then I would hope to add:

“Actually, it’s really not a book, but a library of books that tell an epic story of God’s love, that if you let it in, it will change your life forever.”

I could say more, but hopefully a short, thoughtful response would stir up enough curiosity in the person to look into reading the Bible for him or herself.

If you only had a sentence or two, what might you tell a stranger if they asked you the same question?

Do you have PPT?

Tim Jackson —  November 4, 2011 — 5 Comments

One of the most frequent conditions that I encounter in my counseling with people over the years is one that the DSM-IV has failed to categorize.

I call it PPT.

What is it?

People Pleasing Tendencies.

Now some may ask, “What’s wrong with doing things that please others?” “You mean I shouldn’t try do things to please my wife, my employer, or any of my friends?” “If that’s what you mean, it sounds more like being self absorbed, to me.”

And if that’s what I meant by being a People Pleaser than I’d agree.

But that’s not it. I don’t adhere to the philosophy of Rick Nelson’s Garden Party croonings:

“But it’s all right now, I’ve learned my lesson well.

You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”

So, if it’s not pleasing others and it’s not focusing on yourself, what is PPT?

Pleasing others isn’t a bad thing. It becomes a problem when it’s the thing that matters most.

People who struggle with PPT are individuals who don’t just enjoy doing things to please those they love or respect. They live for it. They need to make others happy. Others must like them so that they can feel good about being themselves. In other words, their sense of well being is totally tied to pleasing others so they are like and loved.

Do you hear the “I’ve gotta” kind of intensity in the preceding paragraph? That’s what I’m talking about. While all of us struggle with PPT to some degree, there are some of us who feel like we just can’t shut it down.

Paul, a first century New Testament writer and apostle of the early church shared his observations on the tendency we have to focus way too much on pleasing others in his letter to the Galatians:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)

Paul went on to describe how he had gotten caught up in pleasing others who had established religious traditions that distracted his heart from a singular focus on pleasing God. He had firsthand knowledge about PPT because he was a master at it . . . so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers . . . (Gal. 1:14)

But when God invaded his life and dismantled his allegiance to pleasing others, Paul’s solution to PPT became crystal clear:  Focus on pleasing God. He would later write:

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way . . . (Col. 1:10)

So, we make it our goal to please him (God) . . . (2Cor. 5:9)

And that’s wise counsel.

So, it your turn to share. Who are you living to please? Whose praise and approval are you most afraid of losing? Whoever that is, that’s your God.

It’s time to focus. In the end, pleasing God is all that matters.

Jesus is not a pain killer

Jeff Olson —  November 3, 2011 — 18 Comments

Have you ever tried to used Jesus as a pain-killer? I know I have.

In an attempt to survive a time of feeling let down by others or myself, I’ve immersed myself in spiritual disciplines like prayer and scripture reading. I’ve even listened to a few Jesus centered tunes to soothe my soul. At the time, it may have looked good on the outside, but inside I wasn’t really looking for Jesus and what he wanted to show me in my situation. I was looking for a distraction. I was simply looking to busy myself with something so I didn’t have think about or feel the weight of my hurt.

Bottom line—I wanted t get as far away from the hurt as possible…and Jesus was going to help me.

Over the course of my walk with Jesus, however, I’ve learned that following Him is not about denying the reality of our pain and sorrow. Instead, it is to lean into it. After all, Jesus Himself was no stranger to pain and sorrow (Isa.53:3, Lk.22:44). He felt the heartache of life, and felt it deeply.

Jesus didn’t come to numb our souls. He came to bring us life (John 10:10). And to be fully alive in a broken world involves facing our pain, not running from it.