Archives For January 2012

Demandingness (Part 2)

Tim Jackson —  January 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

Okay, so if you read my previous post (Demandingness Part 1), maybe you’ve had time to reflect on how your inborn demandingness shows up in your life. I know, it’s always easier to see it in others first, but this time I want you to focus on you. Not pretty is it?

So what’s the remedy?

Radical transformation. No routine adjustment will suffice here. This goes clear to the bone. It’s complex. No simple 3, 5, 7 or 12 step plan. It’s not a plan, but a person–who gives us a whole new outlook on life. It’s the Jesus way.

Paul, a 1st century Jesus follower described it this way in his letter to other Jesus followers living in the Roman colony of Philippi:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4, emphasis added)

What’s so amazing about this statement is that Paul was describing how Jesus handled his life. He wasn’t demanding. And if anyone could have been demanding of others he probably could have gotten away with it. After all he was God and perfect. But he didn’t. Why? Because that’s not the heart of God portrayed in the New Testament. He humbled himself because of his great love for us and served our interests–to redeem us when we were hopelessly lost (Matt. 20:28; Luke 19:10).

This life changing perspective from Jesus grows out of a humbled and grateful heart that refuses to focus just on my stuff, my interests and my life, and instead focuses on those around me too. It’s not wrong to look out for myself. That’s not selfish. It’s when I exclusively look out for me and refuse to look out for others as well that I’m selfish, self-focused, narcissistic and demanding.

So, I’d encourage you (and believe me, I’m talking to me too) to listen for it. Ask God to help you become more aware of your demandingness first. And as you begin to admit and own it for yourself, you’ll be humbled and better equipped to help someone else you care about whose demandingness is showing too.

Let’s help each other look more like Jesus and be less demanding. And I just bet those around us will notice too.

Demandingness (Part 1)

Tim Jackson —  January 25, 2012 — 3 Comments

Are you a demanding? Do you have any demanding people in your life? Underlying the struggles in most relationships is a vein of demandingness that erodes the potential for love and justifies all the hurtful things we do to each other.

All of us, if we’re honest, struggle with being demanding at times–and probably more times than we care to admit. Of course it’s not all the time. But we sure are some of the time.

When?

Well, it’s when we revert to the 2-year-old-temper-tantrum mode that sounds something like this: “I want what I want when I want it and you had better do all you can to comply with my demands or else!” The Apostle James accurately describes it in James 4:1-3.

Okay, who among us hasn’t witnessed a young parent held hostage in the isle of a grocery store or better yet, a toy store, where their darling child has just backed them against the ropes with a not so subtle demand for a certain sugary treat or toy? You know what I mean? Transport that image a few decades later and you’ll better understand what lies beneath much of the turmoil in adult relationships.

Bottom line, what is at the heart of this little child’s (and your and my) demandingness? It’s a total absorption with self to the exclusion of any concern for what others may desire or need. Mommy doesn’t matter to the child in the isle. It’s the cookie or toy that matters most at that moment. Yes, it’s immature. It’s me-focused and it’s where we all start.

Distill adult demandingness (some call it entitlement) down to it’s core and you discover this same foolish belief: “I deserve and must find a way to make my life work on my terms apart from the God I neither trust, believe in or depend on to take care of me.” Do you hear all the first person pronouns in that statement? It’s all about “me!” It’s the core narcissism woven into the fallen fabric of our DNA at birth that inevitably it leads to self-destruction and the destruction of all meaningful relationships.

So, are you demanding? Do you see it? Take a closer look. Listen. What you discover might surprise and disturb you. But don’t let that stop you. Becoming aware is the first step in making a meaningful change in your life.

 

 

Hiding behind Humor

Jeff Olson —  January 20, 2012 — 7 Comments

Hunter Adams, a physician whose life was the basis for the 1998 film Patch Adams, has spent his career encouraging doctor-patient relationships that rely heavily on the use of humor and play. Adams believes establishing this kind of connection with a patient is essential to their physical and emotional health.

Laughter and humor are an important part of life. The book of Proverbs says “a cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). Generally speaking, all of us could use more laughter in our lives.

Certainly there’s a time for laughter, but we sometimes use humor to hide.

Sometimes laughter or making a joke is part of a cover-up. We can joke around as a way to hide from others so they won’t take us seriously. Many of us have learned to play the clown and hide a lot of deep heartache behind our humor or wit.

While it’s true that “a cheerful heart is good medicine,” the book of Proverbs also says, “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains” (Proverbs 14:13).

Although laughter can mask the pain, it eventually wears off. The pain is still there, and the most healthy thing we can do is acknowledge it to ourselves, to others and to God.

Are you hiding some pain behind humor? Perhaps it’s time to turn your laughter into mourning (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4) and allow others and God to get close enough to carry your burden and comfort your heart.

A good friend and colleague read my last blog and commented that he thought one could get the impression from reading it that reading the Bible or Bible study was the only way we can hang with Jesus. Hmmm?

As I reread what I wrote, I can see how some readers might draw that conclusion. So, let me clarify.

Reading, studying, and meditating on the Word of God is one of the primary ways that we can hang out with, commune with and listen to God. But it isn’t the only way.

In fact, for some of us, our diligent study of the Bible can at times even get in the way of truly knowing Jesus.

Now before you jump all over that statement and label me a heretic, let me tell you that those words are not original with me. That’s not just my personal opinion. That’s a quote . . . from Jesus Himself.

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39,40)

How ironic! We are capable of using the Scriptures to create distance rather than nearness to Christ. To shove Him away instead of drawing close to Him. To create enmity instead of intimacy with God.

So, if the Scriptures that are intended to reveal the heart of God can be so misused, could it also be true that there is more than one way to draw close to God and enjoy His presence?

Yes.

So here are just a few examples from last week where my understanding of the God of the Bible expands my opportunities to enjoy what I’d describe as hanging out with God last week . . .

. . . when I took a drive in a snow covered woods and marveled at God’s frosty artistry that blanketed the landscape,

. . . when I wept listening to a precious family grieve the loss of a beloved husband, father, and grandpa who taught three generations to love and serve Jesus,

. . . when I laughed listening to that same family celebrate over the glorious impact that this broken, forgiven, and beautiful man had on their family and beyond,

. . . when I prayed for friends who are struggling over a job loss and another unplanned and unwanted move,

. . . when I choked back tears of gratefulness while attempting to sing praises to Him with my church family on Sunday morning,

. . . when I met with three dear brothers in Christ for breakfast as we shared joys, sorrows, and challenges of our lives together,

. . . when I wrestled with my dog whose loyalty and playfulness is an astounding reminder of my Heavenly Father’s delight in me,

. . . just to name a few.

So, you see, it’s not just the reading of the Scriptures where we listen to and experience the closeness of God. It’s enjoying His presence wherever you are because He is there.

So, how about you? Where have you connected with God this week? Let’s encourage one another.

 

 

 

Ever get angry? I know I sure do. If there is one emotion I’m personally acquainted with—it’s getting hacked off.

Anger can be a legitimate and healthy emotion. The apostle Paul speaks of a righteous anger: “Be angry, and yet do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 NASB).

For some of us, however, anger is the only emotion we let ourselves deeply feel and express.

Why is that?

For many people, it stems from past experiences where emotions like sadness and fear were downplayed or ignored or even outright discouraged. As a result, many of us learn to push such feelings down and use anger as a “go-to” emotion. Anger seems safer to feel because it’s far less vulnerable. When were angry, we won’t need others. And when we don’t need others, they can’t let us down.

It may provide a measure of short-term safety, but using anger as a “go-to” emotion and banning more vulnerable feelings will inevitably ruin relationships and block us from finding the comfort of God and others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Is anger your “go-to” emotion? Take a risk and let yourself feel those things that hurt or scare you. And then begin sharing those feelings with God and a friend or two. Involving others and letting them see more of you than just your anger can help you find comfort and in turn, learn how to comfort others.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” –Jesus (Matthew 5:4)

 

Hang time

Tim Jackson —  January 10, 2012 — 5 Comments

At this time of NFL football playoffs and NCAA championship bowl games, you can hear a lot about “hang time.” It’s the term used to describe the amount of time that a punt “hangs in the air” before it is caught by a player on the opposing team. More time is better, allowing the kicking team’s players to get closer to the receiver to pin him deep in his own territory.

So, in essence, more hang time allows you to get closer to your goal of winning the game.

In the New Testament, Jesus also valued hang time. No, he wasn’t a punter for a 1st century football team that played on Sundays in the local arena. What I mean is that he asked his disciples to come “hang with him.” As we read Matthew’s account, Jesus’ words were simply, “follow me” (Matt. 4:19, 8:22, 9:9). He was asking them to hang with him. To go where he goes. Eat what he eats. Sleep where he sleeps. Walk where he walks. Listen to his teachings. Sit in on the discussions afterwards. Question him. Believe him. Trust him.

That’s what a disciple was and did. He hung out with his teacher and did life together with him. Why? Well, for one, because the teacher invited him to do so. And second, so that he could learn to live more consistent with his life’s calling by just hanging out with his teacher and mentor.

So, my question to you is this: When was the last time you really hung out with Jesus? When was the last time you just sat at his feet, listening to him talk and soaking in what he was saying.

I don’t mean reading the Bible preparing to do something else–like teach a Sunday school class, lead a devotional, prepare a sermon, or find an answer to a specific problem. As good and worthy as all those endeavors are, simply reading the Bible to spend some good “hang time” with Jesus is vital to being a Jesus follower.

Feel free to share how your “hang time” is or isn’t with Jesus? No casting judgment on each other. Instead, let’s do all we can to encourage one another to follow him more faithfully.

the presence of others

Jeff Olson —  January 6, 2012 — 1 Comment

Tomorrow morning, a couple of friends and I are planning to drive two hours to attend the funeral of a stranger. The deceased actually is the brother of a close friend and co-worker who unexpectedly died of a brain aneurism at the age of 50.

We’re attending the funeral for the same reason we’ve called and texted our friend over the past week. He loved his brother dearly, and he’s reeling from such a profound and sudden loss. We can’t begin to take away the pain of his loss, but our presence is a small but meaningful way to rally around our friend and show that we care.

Jesus modeled how important the presence of others is during a time of grief. The night He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, when His soul was crushed with grief to the point of death, Jesus asked a few of His disciples to sit and pray with him (Matthew 26:36-38). They couldn’t take His grief away either, but He desired, even needed their company and prayers.

Just as Jesus needed others to be with Him in His time of need—we need others too. Having others around comforts a grieving heart more than we know.

 

 

 

Setting Life Goals

Tim Jackson —  January 4, 2012 — Leave a comment

Okay. So you’ve weathered the holidays and now you’re trying to get back into the swing of things. And, if you’re like me, you’re looking at how to trim away those few extra holiday pounds all the candy, cookies, and fruitcake you consumed have tacked on (Yes, I do like fruitcake. Not the store-bought kind that tastes more like an old brick I dug up from the backyard. My wife makes it from scratch. Now that is good stuff!).

Anyway, I had a little break between Christmas and New Years and I read a great article from a newsletter that comes to me via email that I thought was worth passing on. Mark Batterson, the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. wrote an article for www.churchleaders.com entitled: 10 Steps to Setting Life Goals.

Now, I’ve got to tell you that I’m not big on the New Year’s resolution bandwagon. However, Mark’s article got me thinking about being focused and intentional about what’s most important for the last stretch of my ministry career. I thought it was important enough that I sent it to the people I care about the most–my family. Yep, my wife and kids got the email with a little encouragement from dear old dad.

So, I decided if it’s good enough for them, why not share it with all of you too? After all, you’re kind of like extended family via the web.

So to all of you who read, watch or listen to helpformylife.org on the web (or any of the extended family of RBC Ministries), our gift to you in this new year of opportunity is to challenge you, like we’re challenging ourselves, to be more intentional and focused on those efforts that will make significant impact for God’s Kingdom in 2012 and beyond. Mark’s article may well be a good place for you to jump start this process in this first month of 2012.

Then, if you find it helpful, and you make some goals and you feel comfortable sharing them with us, we’d love to hear what God is stirring in your hearts as you look forward and consider how or what He may be calling you to and the redemptive influence you can have for His glory and your joy.

Blessings on you all in this new year.