Archives For trust

The 2012 film People Like Us tells the story (inspired by true events) of a slick-talking, self-assured salesman named Sam whose estranged father dies from cancer. Sam, who has stayed clear from his parents for years, reluctantly returns home and learns of a secret that turns his world completely upside down. In the process of fulfilling one of his father’s last wishes, he discovers that he has a sister, Frankie, whom he never knew existed.

Sam, much like his father, is not good at relationships. He doesn’t know how to open up or show empathy to others. Nor does he put a lot of stock in being part of a family. But Sam finds himself slowly pushing through his relational hiccups and reaches out to connect with Frankie, who has never recovered from being abandoned by her father as a child.

At first, Sam doesn’t tell her who he is. When Frankie, who is a struggling single mom, finally learns the truth, she feels utterly betrayed and wants nothing to do with Sam.

Eventually, Sam contacts Frankie again and attempts to apologize for keeping the truth from her. Frankie understandably asks him how she’s supposed to be able to trust him again. With the conviction of one who has been genuinely questioning everything he always believed about family and relationships, Sam says to her, “Because we’re family, and family makes mistakes . . . Let me be your brother.”

“Family makes mistakes.” As one who grew up in a family of nine and has raised a family of my own, that sure has been true for me. By no means does this excuse the mistakes we make with each other, but mistakes, big and small, are a common part of our brokenness as human beings. The families who realize this are the families who are open to giving each other second chances that allow broken relationships to recover and grow.

We invite you to join us for an RBC Webinar on September 19 at 12 p.m. EST https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1023795211087515648. Evan and Elisa Morgan will be sharing their story of struggle, heartache, redemption, and hope.

P.S. Be warned. If you happen to watch this movie, you are going to have to take the good with the bad. After all, it’s a Hollywood film. But from this viewer’s perspective, I was pleasantly moved by the message about the importance of family and second chances and found it to overwhelmingly outshine the inappropriate qualities of the film.

We Are Vulnerable

Tim Jackson —  April 22, 2013 — Leave a comment

If last Monday’s events at the Boston Marathon reminded us of anything—it’s that we’re all susceptible to some form of attack or injury, be it physical, financial, emotional, relational, or spiritual. We all suffer wounds as we navigate through life.

To be vulnerable means we are susceptible. The Latin root for the word vulnerable is vulner[are] meaning, “to wound.”

When I get into my car to head home after posting this blog I will face vulnerability. I could be hurt, maimed, or killed in a senseless car accident on the way home. That’s my reality–my vulnerability. It may not be at the hands of a madman with a bomb or an airplane diverted into a building. Instead, my wound might be inflicted by a careless teenager texting while driving. Wounds inflicted through no fault of our own are devastating no matter how, when, where, what, or who the source is.

No one can predict the future with any kind of clarity. I want to see things coming at me so I can prepare and protect myself and those I love from them. But I haven’t been given that kind of clarifying vision.

We are vulnerable because we live in a hazardous and hostile world. And that’s a frightening thought.

But how will we choose to deal with our fear? Some of us may become hypervigilant, seeking to minimize or eliminate all danger. Others choose to deny that we’re vulnerable–creating the self-induced illusions of invincibility or false security. Or we learn to depend on Someone greater than ourselves who will help us face with courage and grace anything that threatens to harm us.

The writer of Psalm 56 was David. Israel’s beloved king knew firsthand what it was like to be vulnerable in the presence of his enemies. Later, when he remembered those terrorizing events, he penned these words: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3,4)

When I’m vulnerable, I need to remember that I’m not alone in my vulnerability. And neither are you. As God was with David, He is with us.

When I’m talking with someone who has been deeply betrayed by a friend, a family member, or a coworker, they often ask, “How can I ever trust him again? He said he was sorry, but how do I know if he is truly sorry about the damage he’s done or if he’s just sorry he got caught? I don’t want to get burned again.”

Those are tough questions, because there’s a lot at stake for both the betrayer and the betrayed.

Rebuilding trust in a relationship after a bitter betrayal almost feels like an insurmountable task. No one in his right mind would dare trust a spouse who was unfaithful, a coworker who stole his good idea, or a friend who lied about him behind his back. Would you?

But what if that person apologizes? Then what? How can you know if someone has truly repented?

As Jesus’ followers, we talk about repentance—that radical change of heart and mind that alters one’s perspective and reshapes behavior patterns to look more like Jesus.  It’s been a part of the Jesus story from the beginning. John the Baptist referred to it as “producing fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8).

Testing repentance is vital to rebuilding trust in a broken relationship. So what are some of the signs of a repentant heart?

King David—a man whose deceit betrayed his wife and his nation—said it best: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).

One place to begin looking for “fruit” that reveals a deeply rooted heart of repentance is in how the repentant betrayer responds when questioned. A repentant person demonstrates a humble attitude that is neither demanding nor defensive when questioned. There is an openness that replaces deceit, a willingness to be accountable for his or her actions on multiple levels without resorting to blaming others or making excuses for failures.

It’s only through experiencing a consistency in both attitudes and actions that reflect repentance that the betrayed individual will over time begin to take the risky steps towards trusting again.

How much time? As much as it takes.

And the repentant person will humbly wait for as long as it takes, knowing that the celebration over restoration will be a sweet harvest for both parties—a harvest that repentance and forgiveness has made possible because of Jesus’ example.

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Cor. 7:10).

October Baby

Jeff Olson —  January 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

Over the weekend I watched the film October Baby. It tells the story of a college-aged girl named Hannah whose world is turned upside down after she discovers she is the adopted survivor of a failed abortion.

This story about a girl whose life almost wasn’t is a powerful film on forgiveness. Hannah had to wrestle through strong bitter feelings and forgive several people before she could move on with her life.

The film’s grace-filled, non-condemning treatment of Hannah’s biological mother, who had attempted to abort her, was also a surprising breath of fresh air. Women who suffer the heartache of having had an abortion may find watching this film to be a very healing experience.

Something Hannah’s adoptive dad shared with her near the end of the movie also stuck with me. Hannah’s discovery and search for her birth mother caused a lot of tension between the two of them, which he often didn’t handle well. As they stood next to each other at the graveside of the twin brother Hannah never knew she had, her dad confessed,

“It’s not that I don’t trust you. It’s that I’m trying honestly to learn to trust God again.”

Leaving things we care about in God’s capable and loving hands is a most important lesson for us all to learn.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Penance and Addiction

Jeff Olson —  July 5, 2011 — 5 Comments

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the penance phase in the addictive cycle.

Penance is that tricky phase most cycle through after the high and relief of acting out wears off. Whether it’s getting wasted with alcohol or drugs, throwing a temper tantrum or binging on porn, it’s that place we go to when we feel dissatisfied, guilty and foolish for turning again to something that doesn’t last and often makes things worse.

Penance is tricky because we are not what we seem when we go there. We appear to be making amends for our out of control behavior. We start to act kinder and more thoughtful. We start to do things for others that we’ve been resisting to do for years. It can look so genuine, but it doesn’t last because we’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Making amends is not about a healthy desire to change. It’s about finding a quick behavioral fix and ending the dissatisfaction and shame our addiction has caused.

In the penance phase we also appear to be really sorry and contrite. We beat ourselves up. And we claim to really want to change. We promise to try harder. We make plans to never act out again. We say that we really mean it this time. All of our self-loathing seems to prove our sincerity, but we’re not as sincere as we think. We are not seriously open to a work of God in our lives because we are still trying to handle the brokenness of our life on our own. Rather than humbly accepting the forgiveness and grace of Jesus and admitting that we are is helpless to stop without God, we want to stay in charge. And penance, which is little more than self-effort, is our way to staying in control.

Penance is the opposite of repentance. What makes true repentance possible is humility—the realization and acknowledgment that we are helpless to break free from our addiction and go in a new direction without God. If we try to repent without humility, it will be in our own strength. And it will eventually lead to nothing more sin-management and eventually acting out again.

The New Testament book of James says that humbling ourselves before God is the central to standing against evil desires and even the devil himself (James 4:1-10). Humbling ourselves before God is about surrendering a control over life that we often wrestle away from Him. It’s letting Him call the shots. When it comes to our addictions, it involves receiving His forgiveness and accepting the truth about who He’s says we are in Jesus—a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Because the addictive cycle is partly sustained by keeping the addiction a secret from others, it’s best to stop hiding our struggles and humbly allow others access into what is going on. We must start to get our pain and brokenness out in the open with at least a few non-condemning friends who openly admit they don’t have it all together either. Together, friends can speak into each others lives and encourage each other to grow and stand in the grace and truth of all that they are in Christ.

Mystery

Allison Stevens —  March 7, 2011 — 1 Comment

Who doesn’t enjoy a good mystery whether it’s a novel, or a big screen “whodunit” thriller?  I love the wonder, the questions, the surprises, and piecing together clues.

Initially, though, I don’t always appreciate the unknown in my personal life nearly as much as I do on TV.  Mystery takes me out of my comfort zone. I feel safer when I know what, where, when, why, and how.

I think that is a false sense of security, though, because having all my questions answered gives me the illusion that I’m in control.  True security, freedom and peace is found by trusting in Jesus and living according to the Spirit, not the flesh (Romans 8:1-11.) This path involves faith and mystery.

The greatest mystery in my life is how God transforms my heart. I don’t change for the better because I work harder at being a decent person. I tried that route and it was a disaster, trust me. My heart changes because God changes it. And His love that penetrates my heart paves the way for Him to do His good work in me.

We don’t need to have it all figured out. We can allow mystery into our lives and watch the incredible things God can do in us and through us; all for His glory and pleasure.

Infidelity . . .

Tim Jackson —  February 12, 2010 — 9 Comments

Infidelity. It sounds like such a benign word, doesn’t it? It just seems to harmlessly roll off the tongue. Sadly, we’ve almost come to expect it with the media’s regurgitation of every lurid detail of yet another celebrity scandal–from political figures and pop icons, to sports heroes and yes, unfortunately, even religious leaders.  It seems that we’ve become so accustomed to hearing about infidelity that we’re rarely even shocked by it any more, as though it’s become the new normal.

However, as was seen most recently in the Tiger Woods expose–infidelity is not benign.  It’s an emotional, relational, and spiritual malignancy, and when left unexposed and untreated–it eventually consumes just about everything in it’s path.

But, Tiger isn’t the only one who has trouble with being unfaithful . . . is he? If we’re honest, that’s a problem we all have. I’m consistently counseling with  couples who are trying to piece back together the shards of their marriages that have been shattered by infidelity. What’s alarming is that  it’s not primarily just a man thing any more either. There’s an increasing number of women who, in their attempt to be “just like men” have stooped to imitating some of the worst attributes of men. And infidelity certainly is  an attribute unbecoming to any man or woman because it crushes one of the foundational building blocks that’s essential for any relationship to thrive. Trust.

Now you may push back, “But that’s not my problem. I’ve never cheated on my spouse.” Great! But infidelity is far more than following through with adulterous behavior. Infidelity goes to the heart of who we are. Fantasizing about an illicit sexual relationship is just as wrong as acting out the fantasy. Now, granted, following through with a full fledged affair has far more devastating consequences than just thinking about it, but it’s only a matter of degrees. Let me explain.

No, I’ve never cheated on my wife. But I have I ever thought about it? Have I ever look lustfully at another woman other than my wife?  Are you kidding? Yes. Do I do it all the time? Of course not. But in Jesus’ words, I’m guilty of having an adulterous heart. Yes. And, if you’re honest, so do you.  Note the weightiness of Jesus words in Matthew 5:27-28:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Jesus first quotes the Seventh Commandment from the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:14 which states clearly and simply, “You shall not commit adultery.” But knowing the attitude of the 1st Century people as he did, Jesus knew that there had been an erosion of the weightiness of the commandment from Moses’ day. Many, while following the letter of the law, were still withholding their hearts from God. (Matthew 15:8; Mark 7:6; cf. Isaiah 29:13). That’s infidelity.

Jesus raises the stakes by making infidelity more an issue of the heart than of the body. Yes, it’s wrong to have an affair and to be unfaithful to your spouse. The consequences are devastating for all. But toying with infidelity in your heart is just as lethal to one’s relationship with God and eventually sabotages any meaningful intimacy with one’s spouse.

So, the real question isn’t “What about Tiger?” It’s really, “What about you?” When was the last time you were unfaithful? How did you handle it? Or did you just hide it like it’s no big deal because everyone does it? Does the exposure of infidelity in yet another public figure cause you  to reflect more on where your heart is than on their public sin? If so, then you’re focusing on the right place–your heart.

Remember: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). S0 . . . how’s your heart?

Safety Guards

Tim Jackson —  November 30, 2009 — 2 Comments

Four weeks ago I was working in my garage on a project that’s been long overdue. Okay, true confessions, I haven’t been able to park a car in my garage since . . . who knows when . . . because it functions more like a shop and storage than a garage. Saw guard-fullAnyway, I was ripping some plywood on my table saw to build some storage cabinets and was having trouble with the blade binding up. Against my better judgment but in the attempt to expedite progress on a project (remember, it was long overdue?), I removed the blade guard to make the ripping easier.

In short order I had completed all but the last of my cuts when it happened. I was slightly distracted for a mere microsecond and . . . I brushed the saw blade with my left thumb. I’ll spare you the gory details, but needless to say you don’t brush up against a carbide blade rotating at 3400 rpms and walk away without some physical reminders that the saw manufacturer knows more about saw safety than saw users (no matter how smart they think they are) can afford to ignore.

Hand warning on saw guard

My first thought as I clutched my left thumb with my right hand was: “Did I just cut my thumb off?!?! I saw the blood, but I didn’t feel any pain yet (that followed quickly). I had a vision of my father’s right hand–three fingers missing parts from a job-related accident where a safety devise failed to protect him. I’m thrilled to tell you that I still have a thumb. And I’m extremely grateful, because it could have been so much worse. Talk about a very close call that could have been disastrous.

So you might be reading this and say, “Tim, that was dumb!” And you’d get no arguments from me. It was dumb. But, at the time is seemed so reasonable. And why? Frankly, I was in a hurry (never a good sign) and I thought I knew better and could remove the safety guards placed on the saw for my protection.

While I was nursing my shredded thumb (which made typing and Blade Guard warning labelbuttoning my shirts a painful experience for several weeks–but at least I still had a thumb) and reflecting on how stupid it was for me to remove the guards, I was prompted to ask some larger questions.

Why do we ignore the warnings that are clearly printed on the products we use? There could be any number of so-called good reasons–or at least they seemed good at the moment. And that got me thinking about how often we ignore the “safety guards” that God has placed in our way. How often do we remove those guards and plunge full-speed ahead without thinking about the disastrous results that could happen? Unfortunately–in my case–it’s more often than I’d like to admit. How about you? Are you with me here?

A quick search for “do not’s” in Proverbs alone reveals 72 times that God places safe guards for us. One in particular stands out to me that sums up the matter: “Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it” (Prov. 8:33).  Ignoring God’s warning labels is always to our own peril.

So why do we ignore or blast through God’s “do not” warnings? Here’s some of the reasons I came up with:

1. We don’t trust that God has given warnings or restrictions to us for our protection–our safety. We think that He’s into controlling us vs. loving us. And we have a natural aversion to anyone who tries to control us.

2. We’re too independent and self-sufficient. Boil it down, we think we know better about what’s in our best interests. Again, we don’t trust God’s intentions.

3. We think we’re smarter and  don’t need someone else telling us how to live our lives.

4. We believe we can maneuver around the safe guards without  serious incident.

To sum it all up, I was foolish to remove the blade guard on my saw. Saw blade-reflectionAnd I paid with blood and pain. Carbide teeth are not very forgiving. But fortunately for us, God is gracious and always willing to forgive, even when we foolishly jump over or around the guards He’s placed for our protection because He loves us. I feel like I got off with a painful reminder of what my foolish choices can do . . . and what I dare not ever ignore . . . even if I think I have good reasons. They’re not good enough.

So how about you? Ever ignore the warning signs in your life? Feel free to share your story. Please, no gory details, just what you ignored, what you learned, and how God was gracious to you in the midst of you jumping over His safety guards.