Archives For restoration

My Mom

Jeff Olson —  May 11, 2012 — 6 Comments

This Sunday I will celebrate my first Mother’s Day without a mother. After a year-long illness, my dear mom recently passed on to be with Jesus.

Mom was eighty.

Not only will I miss mom terribly, I found myself feeling sad over all the things she was never able to enjoy in this vast and amazing world. There were so many activities mom was never able to do, places she was never able to see, and experiences she did not have—partly because she willingly sacrificed so much for the seven of us kids and our families; partly because she simply ran out time.

As I felt sad for all that mom has missed out on, the hope of a renewed earth brought me great comfort. While I am fully convinced that Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins, I do not see in the Bible that Jesus came to save us from the earth.

Instead, I read that Jesus also came to liberate, restore and reclaim this world that we have so fouled up (Romans 8:21).

I read that when God finally comes back to dwell with us forever and death will be no more, He will bring heaven to earth (Revelation 21:2-4).

I read that it has been God’s plan all along to “bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).

The Bible reassures me that someday mom (and anyone who has died in the Lord) is coming back to this earth to reign with Jesus (Revelation 5:9-10). When Jesus returns, mom’s going to be a co-steward of God’s new creation as He originally meant His image bearers to be (Genesis 1:28). And she, having been redeemed by Jesus, will have the rest of eternity to experience all the things she missed out on (and so much more) in the new heaven and earth.

As I celebrate my first Mother’s Day without mom, I am so grateful for the Jesus legacy she passed on to her children. And I can only imagine all that she has to look forward to in Him.

“Recalculating”

Jeff Olson —  April 12, 2012 — 4 Comments

A comedian once mused that he wished someone made a GPS for husbands. It went something like this:

GPS: “Compliment your wife on her appearance.”
Comedian: “Hey honey, you look really good tonight.”

GPS: “Ask her about her day.”
Comedian: “How was your day, sweetheart?”

GPS: “Pretend to be listening.”
Comedian:
“Oh…yep…really…”

GPS: “Compliment your wife’s hair.”
Comedian:
“Uhmm…Hey, your hair doesn’t look as gray as it did yesterday.”

GPS: “Recalculating.”

The Bible is far, far more than a GPS, but it records Jesus dropping “GPS like” directives to help us “recalculate” how relationships are to work now that He had come.

Here are just few:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, NLT).

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, NLT).

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NLT).

“There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent” (Luke 24:47, NLT).

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus birthed a new way of doing relationship with others and with God. The fallen way of selfishness and revenge and pride is now being replaced with His Kingdom way of love and reconciliation and humility.

As theologian NT Wright puts it, “It’s a way nobody’s ever tried before, a way that is as unthinkable to most human beings and societies as—well, as resurrection itself. Precisely. That’s the point. Welcome to Jesus’ new world!”

Restoration revisited

Tim Jackson —  October 24, 2011 — 6 Comments

So, how’s God restoring the brokenness in your life or the life of someone you love? Maybe it’s breaking free from an enslaving addiction or severing an abusive relationship that’s been sucking the life out of you for way too long. Whatever your story of brokenness, God has a restoration plan that’s custom made for you and will blow your mind.

Frank Graeff experienced just that as a pastor who went through some ve­ry dif­fi­cult tri­als.  Graeff was wrestling through a time of profound de­spond­en­cy, doubt and phys­ic­al pain. When he turned to God’s Word, 1 Peter 5:7 was the text that caught his eye and touched his heart: “casting all your anxieties on him (God), because he cares for you.”

Peter’s words provided a level of com­fort and encouragement that–while not relieving his pain–bolstered his heart with the tender reassurance of God’s loving care: “He cares for you.” Af­ter med­i­ta­ting on that truth, Graeff was inspired to write the lyri­cs to a song that reverberated from a grateful heart that knew what it meant to struggle with despair:

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained Too deeply for mirth and song
As the burdens press, and the cares distress, And the way grows weary and long?

Refrain:
O yes, He cares I know He cares! His heart is touched with my grief
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares

Does Jesus care when my way is dark With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades, Does He care enough to be near?

Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed To resist some temptation strong
When for my deep grief I find no relief Tho my tears flow all the night long?

Does Jesus care when I’ve said goodbye To the dearest on earth to me
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks Is it aught to Him? does He see?

So, if you have ever wondered like most of us have as to whether or not Jesus cares about the struggles and pain you are currently facing that seem insurmountable, Frank’s answer is a resounding “Yes!” And I agree.

If you have a story of pain and struggle where you’ve experience the restoration of the God who cares, please feel free to share your story to encourage others along the path that they are not alone and can make it too.

Restoration plans

Tim Jackson —  October 18, 2011 — 1 Comment

I recently spent some time with a pastor friend who is heavily invested in restoring broken lives in a rural community in Southeastern Kansas. After all, isn’t that what pastors do? That’s what Karl does. He, and many other pastors like him, pour themselves into a community in an Isaiah-like role (Isa. 61:1-2) that mirrors the Jesus that they love and follow (Luke 4:18-19). Why? “Because the spirit of the Lord has anointed them to preach the good news to the poor” and “to bind up (i.e. restore) the brokenhearted . . .”

“Preach the Word; Love the People,” is Karl’s motto. I like that. He lives that.

But Karl has also recently taken on a unique kind of restoration project that is a real metaphor for what he does with people.

Do you know what it is?

Take a guess.

Any ideas?

Come on, you’ve got to have some ideas.

Take a shot.

The year?

The make?

The model?

Give up?

That’s okay. I didn’t know what it was either until I finally asked “What year is that?” Well, if you guessed that it’s a ’54 Chevy truck, you’d be right on.

But open the hood and you’re in for a surprise, because there’s nothing inside. I mean nothing. No engine. No transmission. Nothing.

Open the cab doors and you find the same thing. Nothing. No gauges. No gas pedal. No brake either. Just 4 wheels, a frame, and a body. She’s just the hollowed out shell of her former glory that’s been stripped out for parts. (Oh, and don’t ask me why cars and trucks always are referred to in the feminine gender. That’s a discussion for another day.)

But I digress . . .

There’s a few observations that my friend shared with me about what he affectionately referred to as his “Kansas yard art.” First, he’s had a lot of interest from folks he’s never had the opportunity to talk to because of it. Quite often a new conversation starts out along the lines of, “Hey, ain’t you the guy with the old blue Chevy in the yard? What are you going to do with it?”

His response: “Restore her.” But not just back to OEM specs (For you non-gearheads, that’s Original-Equipment-Manufacterer specifications). Oh, no, he’s got plans to install a snappy rebuilt powerplant  with some spunk, pair it up with a transmission and rear end that will throw a little gravel–if you know what I mean. Nothing fancy is planned for the exterior, but a little screamin’ machine hidden underneath an understated exterior.

Second, his goal is not merely to have fun restoring a vintage truck that had long since been forgotten, overlooked, and given up on by many–although I know he’ll have fun doing it. Rather, it’s the conversations that are instigated over “that old blue truck” that leads towards a renewed vision for a restored hope in God as the Ultimate Restorationist. He takes broken down, discarded, overlooked, and forgotten lives and sets about the process of restoring them not to their original specifications, but to rebuild their hearts and lives better than they ever dreamed possible.

Karl sees the potential in an old truck, just like he sees the potential in peoples’ lives. And that’s a reflection of his belief in a God who sees our potential for restoration better than we can see ourselves.

God has restoration plans for each of us. Sometimes, amidst the rust, dents, and broken parts of our lives we can miss His vision for us. But He is not discouraged. Nor is He deterred. Listen to His heart for restoration . . .

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you  and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

I want to submit to God’s restoration plans in my life. And, like Karl, I want to help others find that new hope and future in God’s vision for restoration in others too.

And . . . I hope to get back to Kansas next year . . . and maybe get a ride in that old truck that everyone’s talking about. Because restoration is a beautiful thing. People know it when they see it . . . or in this case, when it rumbles past them sounding real sweet.

 

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.

won’t and will

Jeff Olson —  December 13, 2010 — 4 Comments

In the last week our family has been facing the inevitable. My 21 year old nephew is nearing the end of his life-long battle with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

MD is a genetic disease people are born with that prevents the body from making proteins needed for healthy muscle development. Eventually the body’s muscles that are needed to function will deteriorate and fail.

We’ve known this time has been coming for years. Still, it’s arrival is very painful.

During one of our recent visits to hospital, I had some time alone with my nephew. As I sat next to his bed contemplating the unavoidable, two thoughts came to me that I felt prompted to share with him.

First, I told him that whatever happens we won’t forget him. He has left an unforgettable mark on our lives and we will make it our practice to reminisce and speak of him as he comes to our minds.

Second, I reminded him (and myself) that we will see him again. And that when we do, we will see him completely free of Muscular Dystrophy. I told him that I look forward to going for a long walk or maybe even shooting some hoops with him. I reminded him that a day is coming when there will be no more sorrow or pain or death–a day when Jesus is going to make everything new (Revelation 21:4-5).

My nephew is at peace with dying because has a personal relationship with his Savior Jesus Christ. Still, death is hard to face because God never intended for us to experience it. I pray that sharing those thoughts brought him some comfort. They certainly comfort me.

Just finishing up editing some great discussions on forgiveness for the HFML website with author Dan Allender and Pastor Rod Van Solkema that I think you’ll find challenging. I know I did. One of the noteworthy remarks that I just can’t shake from our discussion was Dan’s comment that:

“Forgiveness is an act of defiance against evil.”

Does that strike you as an odd statement? It did to me. In fact, it takes me back to the surprise I experienced when hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana this past summer.

To my amazement, I witnessed beauty above the tree line in a hostile environment that totally took me off guard. Wow! The  delicate wildflowers that sprouted out of solid rock were breathtaking. My photos just don’t do them justice. They were exquisite! How could such delicate beauty not only grow out of solid rock but flourish in a hostile environment that seemed so utterly antagonistic to their survival?

That’s forgiveness. It’s a reflection of beauty and mercy that defies hostility and adversity. It’s overcoming evil with good.

Too often, I’m afraid, we as Christians have mistakenly fallen under the spell of a maudlin view of forgiveness. We’ve misinterpreted the oft-quoted “turning the other cheek” phrase of Jesus in Matthew 5:39 into a doormat kind of theology. We’ve settled for passive pleasantness and called it forgiveness. It’s not.

Forgiveness isn’t a command to “just play nice.” That requires a flight into a la-la land that has no reality in the real redemption story. Sweeping dirt under a carpet is no way to clean a house. Neither is it healthy to deal with those who are bullies, gossips, liars, deceitful, and a host of other forms of overt and covert relational violence that riddle our churches, schools, homes, communities, neighborhoods, and all relationships. It just gives them more power and permission to reek havoc on those who are more vulnerable.

And let’s face it: everyone struggles to love well. Or maybe it’s better said, we’re just poor at it. Violations of love (otherwise known as “sin”) infect even the best of relationships, making the need for forgiveness–either giving it or receiving it–an ongoing necessity in order for relationships to deepen and grow. No healthy relationships exist apart from a genuine heart of forgiveness that longs for restoration (which, in reality, is the Gospel story replayed day in and day out within the context of our relationships).

While forgiveness is often thought of as weakness, in reality, it’s a demonstration of incredible strength.  Forgiveness doesn’t flee from the face of evil. Nor does it stoop to the level of evil and fight fire with fire (Rom. 12:17).  Paul reminds us of the marching orders for the Christian in Romans 12, that our call is to an authentic Christlike love that joins with Him in the battle for good and against evil:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good . . . do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It’s mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12: 9, 17-19, 21)

Forgiveness is the unlikely weapon that God has given to us to defy evil. To look someone in the eye and be free to say without malice, “Your sin doesn’t control me. And you’re powerless to stop me from not only desiring to do you good, but choosing to do good to you as an act of kindness because of the benevolent kindness that God has shown to me.”

Now that ‘s a process of overcoming evil with good that requires humility and gratitude for the God who has addressed the evil within us with His mercy and grace that “forgives us our sins and purifies us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

So, how bout it? Today, in your one of your “difficult” relationships, are you up to being a little flower in a less than hospitable environment? Are you willing to be that splash of beauty that’s undeterred by adversity? Forgive someone the way that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32) and that’s what you’ll be . . . the beauty of forgiveness that defies evil.

No Kill Shelters

Jeff Olson —  December 8, 2009 — 2 Comments

Sad dog-flickrIf you’re an animal lover, you gotta love the television show Dogtown. Aired on the National Geographic Channel, it’s about a dog shelter that is part of a massive 33,000 acre animal sanctuary in southern Utah. Dogtown is a “no kill shelter” where dogs, “who might otherwise be euthanized—find hope.”

No matter how sick or unruly, a devoted staff of trainers, veterinarians, and volunteers take in abandoned and damaged dogs with the goal of transforming each one into loving pets. Many of the canines who end up at the shelter exhibit unwanted or aggressive behavior because they are wounded and scared. The folks at Dogtown believe a dog whose has not experienced good things in life can be turned around for a greater good.

Wouldn’t it be great if our churches and Christian communities were more like Dogtown? Instead of shooting our wounded, the community of faith is meant to be like “no kill shelters” where scared, damaged, and messed up people can come and find God’s love and the hope for wholeness and purpose. Now that’s the gospel!

When the religious leaders of His day (who acted as if they were better than everyone else) bad mouthed Jesus for hanging out with sinners, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do” (Matthew 9:11, 13). His statement was bold and to the point. It reflected his primary mission to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free (Luke 4:18-19).

Though Jesus wasn’t light on moral failure (John 8:11), he didn’t try to fix people before getting them into the Kingdom. He met people where they were with the intention of graciously speaking truth that can transform people lives.

When people are struggling with a personal issue, one of the best places to be is among God’s people (at least that is how Jesus meant it to be).

Do you want to get well?

Jeff Olson —  July 20, 2009 — 5 Comments

prison-fenceEarly in his ministry, Jesus ran across a man who had been handicapped for thirty-eight years. After spotting him lying near a pool in Jerusalem, Jesus approached him and asked, “Would you like to get well?” (John 5:6).

At first, that sounds like a strange question. Of course the guy wanted to get well. He’d been handicapped for decades! In asking the question, however, Jesus acknowledged that sometimes people want to remain in a crippled and broken state more than they want to get better.

Ironically, for some, the journey to restoration from personal brokenness seems too scary. Even though the wounds of life have crippled and imprisoned them, it’s what they’re used to.

Anyone can get so accustomed to “living” in a state of brokenness that they’re too afraid to leave it. It’s called becoming “institutionalized”—a term inmates used in the prison film, Shawshank Redemption, to describe the state of a prisoner who flounders when he’s paroled. Afraid of the freedom outside the prison walls, some ex-cons would commit another crime in order to get sent back to the only way of life they knew.

This is the same frame of mind the Israelites slipped into shortly after God miraculously freed them from the bondage of Egypt. A life of slavery was the only way of life these people knew.  It was their normal. And just days into their freedom, when the journey became hard, they wanted to go back (Exodus 16:1-3). Following God into the wilderness towards the promise land was apparently too risky. They weren’t ready to “get well.”

How might you answer Jesus’ question: “Would you like to get well?” Is there something so familiar to you that too you’re afraid to leave behind in order to be restored?