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“WHEN DID MY LIFE START FUNCTIONING WITHOUT GOD?” guest post by Margie Frank

Have you ever read a book that turned your world completely upside down and caused you to look at things in a completely new way?

I am on the final pages of a book called “Kisses From Katie”.  It is the story of a young woman who leaves everything behind to follow what she believes to be God’s will for her life. In short, Katie graduated from high school and convinced her parents to let her work in a Ugandan orphanage if she promised to return in a year and begin her college career.

After a fruitful and life changing 12 months Katie returned home only to face tremendous culture shock and a painful readjustment to her home of 18 years.

Katie wrote “What has been the biggest shock to my system, the huge disconnect, is that I have stepped out of reliance on God to meet my needs.  I “miss” Jesus.  He hasn’t disappeared, of course, but I feel so far from Him because my life is actually functioning without Him. “ 

“My life is functioning without Him…” ?!?!  The words have been thought a million times by Christians in 1st world countries but to read them was a bit stunning.

Here is what I mean…

#1. I can meet my physical needs without turning to Him to heal, feed, or comfort me. I live in an area with 24 hour medical clinics and pharmacies… a dozen around the clock drive throughs … clean, well-lit grocery stores offer almost everything I need and want  and a car to carry it all back to my well heated/cooled home or apartment.

#2.  I can meet my emotional needs:  Instead of turning to Him when I’m lonely or down, I can text a friend, get on Facebook, even use the phone (so 1980’s) to immediately interact with a friend.

#3.  I can entertain myself:  When I am feeling bored I can order a movie on demand, cruise through Pinterest or Facebook, go to a mall or enjoy the half a million apps waiting for me on my smartphone.

What keeps echoing in my head is that by “functioning” without Him, I lose the ability to be close to Him.

In Uganda, Katie was in constant communication with God! WHY?  Because, she could not meet her needs by herself…she HAD to rely on God first for everything. She was content and at peace in the midst of her hardship. She was close to the God of the Universe because she had to be. He was all she had….and SHE LOVED IT!  She had purpose and passion and meaning.

When I read this I found myself terribly  jealous!  When did my INCREDIBLE BLESSINGS BECOME SUCH A CURSE?  When did I have to start “scheduling” time to talk to Him or read and study my Bible?  When did my blessings drive me AWAY from God instead of TOWARDS Him?

While I will, and should, never apologize for God’s blessing in my life, I have come to realize that even blessings from God can be twisted to draw me away from Him.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Discipleship

 

“PRETTY VENOM”

I was recently reminded of the VENOM that sometimes comes out of our (my) mouths. You know…harsh words, slander, gossip, innuendo, critique etc…

We are (many of us) Christians, we love Jesus and yet we grapple with the words we speak…especially to fellow believers. Oh, we rarely have a “cussing fit” or just dress someone down…we are too clever for that. Our venom is much “prettier”.

  • We are routinely sarcastic/funny at someone else’s expense.
  • We exploit other’s weaknesses and say “just kidding”.
  • We make fun of someone and invite them to laugh along, or consider them too sensitive if they don’t.
  • We “rip” people when they are not around to defend themselves
  • Etc…

I think most of us struggle with our words, in fact, if we don’t then we are “perfect” (James 3:2). So I am not addressing the occasional slip up or word spoken in anger. I am talking about the systematic tearing down of a brother or sister.

LUKE 6:45 “…for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of…”

JAMES 3:6 “…the tongue also is a fire, a world of evil…”

MATTHEW 15:18 “… the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.

SO here is the thing……We reveal WHO we REALLY are by WHAT we say to others…

THE GOSSIP: Reveals that He/She is INSECURE Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. (Prov 18:8) NOTE: If your friends will talk about others when they are not around….they will talk about you when you are not around.

THE SLANDERER: Reveals that he/she is ARROGANT /JEALOUS A false defamation (expressed in spoken words, signs, or gestures) which injures the character or reputation of the person defamed. Happens all the time. Often cloaked in “teasing” but designed to keep folks “in their place”. INNUENDO – reveals that he/she is COWARDLY. They will not address something directly so they get to say it AND have “plausible deniability”. When asked if they said “it”…they are comforted by the fact that they didn’t actually use the words.

THE FLATTERER: Reveals that he/she is a MANIPULATOR/SHALLOW/CHILDISH Gossip involves saying something behind a person’s back what you would never say to his/her face. Flattery means saying something to a person’s face that you would never say behind their back.

THE CRITIC: The Root of most Criticism is ANGER/JEALOUSY Criticism is the judgment of the merits and faults of the work or actions of one individual by another (the critic). In an effort to tear down someone else’s work, we critique, judge and find fault where there is little to find.

Pretty revealing huh? SO what do I do? Well, since I’m guilty of all of the above, here is what I do.

  • Focus on Building others up….
  • Speak the truth in LOVE (Eph. 4:15)
  • Refrain from gossip (Prov 16:28, 17:9, 26:20)
  • Refrain from insincere FLATTERY (Prov 26:28)
  • Stop running others down (James 4:11)
  • Stop the SARCASM (Proverbs 26:24)
 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Devotional Thoughts, Discipleship, Leadership

 

5 QUICK TIPS FOR BLESSING YOUR TEENAGER(S)

1. MAKE YOUR HOME “BASE”. For those of you that grew up playing outside (without video games, cell phones or internet) you may remember a great game called “Kick the Can”. (at least it was great in my Tulsa, Ok neighborhood in 1977)  It is like a lot of “tag” games in that the object is to avoid getting “tagged” by the person who is “IT” while at the same time trying to “kick the stationary can” that he is protecting. To add to the fun there is a designated “base”. It may be a tree, a shrub or a fence but as long as you are on “base”  you cannot be “tagged” or disqualified from the game….you are safe! While “on base” you could relax, catch your breath, work on “strategy” and prepare to re-engage the game etc….

That is a perfect picture of what a home needs to be for teenagers….a “base”.  Safe emotionally, physically and spiritually.   A Sanctuary – I have spoken/written on this a lot. The world is putting our kids into a vice and squeezing them. Any teenager that wants to “walk with the Lord” is going to have to resist a lot of pressure. But like any of us, they cannot resist 24/7!  They need a place where they can be free from pressure, undeserved criticism and sarcasm. Your home should be a “sanctuary”.

2. “WIN” THEIR HEARTS and THEIR BEHAVIOR WILL FOLLOW (usually)  – While I know that we are our kid’s parents first and their friend 2nd, (especially when they are young), somewhere in their early teens a very cool things takes place: You get to talk to them like a real live person! A dialogue instead of monologue. Actually sharing ideas instead of solely instructing. It may happen once and then not again for a while…but then it happens again. Before you know it you are having validating, important life changing discussions with an intelligent viable teenager….almost like a friendship!

I’m not talking about getting your kids to like you….. I’m talking about respecting a teenager’s gifts, personality, bent, etc….  You are beginning to make the turn from instructor and role model to confidant and role model. (yea, ya never really lose the whole role model thing). If you never make this transition you will frustrate your teenager and (opinion) stunt their growth. You were a teenager once…

3. “TALK” WHEN THEY WANT TO ‘TALK” – scheduling time to talk is very difficult. It can feel forced and canned etc…. but God seems to bring our kids around to a time when they want to share stuff with us. That usually means (especially in the summer) that my wife or I (usually my wife) will have to stay up with them till they go to bed. What is it about teenage girls that wants to talk after midnight?   (for you control freaks I would challenge the notion that making an 18-year-old go to bed at 10pm is a good idea :) )

4. REALIZE YOUR KIDS WILL “LOOK LIKE YOU” IN WAYS YOU DON’T INTEND. They will become WHO you are in every area of life. Mannerisms, sarcasm, anger, humility, pride, devotion to the Lord,  etc….   Jerry and Mary Royal say it best: “They will follow WHO YOU ARE before they follow WHAT YOU SAY”. Your child has a problem with authority? ….hmmmm.  Your child wrestles with worry and fear….hmmmm.  Your child does not walk closely with the Lord?…. well… you get it.

5. GET TO KNOW “THEIR WORLD” - Our kids walk in to a highly competitive, dramatic and morally “foggy” environment at school and need us (more than they know) to help navigate the murky waters of faith and friends. The only way to do that is to talk with them (not at them).

Most teens in my kid’s world have cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, IMing, text messaging, skyping, ….. blah blah blah. So do my kids… It is just a “hill I refuse to die on”. (Me? I had a phone… a land line…that I hated talking on…I’m a guy)  More than once I have had a texting conversation with my teens when they are just in the other room. (don’t judge me). It has always been the start of a much deeper conversation face to face. SO…get into what they are into and you may find that you and your teen can communicate well in the languages THEY most like to use. OMG you may find your son or daughter is your BFF!       lol  :-)

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Family, Leadership

 

You Lose A Lot When You “Put Others First”

Most of us are keenly aware of our own need for recognition, money, praise, position, status, clothing, respect, love, shelter etc… and sadly, we spend most of our waking moments trying to meet (and exceed) those needs.

Scripture tells us in Phil. 2:3-4   Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

These verses really started to bother me a couple of years ago. Of course, it was always easy seeing the self-absorption in others before I saw it in myself…but eventually God made it obvious to me in almost every area of my life…not pretty!

God called to mind people who He was asking me to put before my own “needs”.  First it was my wife, then my kids. Then He brought up several people in the community, then it was a group of young college guys who just needed someone to look up to. The list got longer but you get the idea.

God showed me a lot about putting the needs of others before my own. He showed me that anyone who does it will LOSE A LOT… like:

  • deep feelings of JEALOUSY at OTHERS BLESSINGS
  • the CONSTANT STRIVING for personal ATTENTION and CREDIT
  • GUILE and POSITIONING
  • FEAR of being LEFT OUT
  • FRUSTRATION with “WHERE YOU ARE”
  • sleepless nights…
 
 

“Rocky, the next Piper?”

[Rocky_Balboa_4.jpg]I posted this about a year ago but readership has increased since then… so this is one of the oldies…. enjoy!

I love the Rocky movies! You know…. humble guy overcomes crazy obstacles to win the Title, the respect of the world and the girl. He represents all things both manly and noble. In my view he is not just an American Icon, but possibly one of our leading theologians. (sarc)  Simple, deep, profound……man’s man!

See if you don’t agree…

The following is a small example of the genius that is ROCKY… Watch it here: http://youtu.be/UfjRcGDBvMQ

TRANSCRIPT:  “I’d hold you up to say to your mother, “this kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.” And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, (1 Peter 5:2) every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. (1 Corinthians 13:11). But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good (John 15:20). And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow (Hebrews 12:1). Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life (John 10:10). But it ain’t about how hard ya hit (Luke 6:29). It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward (2 Corinthians 6:4). How much you can take and keep moving forward (Phil.3:12). That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! (James 2:5) I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life(John 3:16). Don’t forget to visit your mother.” – Rocky Balboa

(Please read this post with some discernment. It is written “tongue-in-cheek” and only intended to make a few simple points about growing up and living life with some tenacity. No endorsement of “Rocky”, Sylvester Stallone, the sport of boxing, punching dead cows, violence, bad acting or the city of Philidelphia is intended)

REFERENCES:

  • John 15:20 “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[a] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also”.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:4 “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;”
  • 1 Peter 5:2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;
  • 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”
  • Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
  • Titus 2:12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
  • Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
  • Luke 6:29 “If someone slaps you on one cheekturn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”
  • James 2:5 “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”
  • Ephesians 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace”
  • John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”


 

Becoming “Friends with Loneliness” (update and re-post)

If your child knows the Lord and goes to school (public or private) then the following is probably true: They will be under tremendous pressure to conform to the image of the crowd. Even “good kids” will try to exert pressure to get in the “right pecking order” (typically under them).  Any school will likely have its share of good kids, promiscuous kids, angry kids, drunk kids, church kids, druggies, jocks, musicians etc…. most of whom will pressure each other to “conform” to whatever “image” they see fit.

MY POINT: If we can get our teens to “make friends with loneliness” instead of fear it, they will be much more able to resist the pressure to “conform” to the image of their schoolmates and more likely to conform to the image of our Lord. (Romans 8:29, 12:2)

Helping our children (18, 16, 12) “make friends with loneliness” has become one of the guiding principle in our parenting. Not because we want our kids to be “loners” or that we want them to lack the social skills needed to find and maintain healthy relationships… but because I want them to get to a point where the fear of loneliness does not have a grip on them.
Every bad decision I remember making, and many I don’t, was driven by the need to be “accepted”. The opposite (in my mind) of acceptance is loneliness. (or maybe better said, the result of not being accepted is often loneliness)

SO HOW? Here are a few ideas…

  1. Understand that loneliness is PART OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH. I know many folks that feel slighted by God because they have listened to some  “knuckle-headed, health/wealth” preacher who promised that God is here for our comfort. So if we are “uncomfortable” (lonely) then we must not be in God’s will…right?   Nothing could be further from the truth. (2 Timothy 4:9-10, Phil.3:8)
  2. Help them EXPECT IT! When we are in Junior High and sit with the kid who “no one” sits with, or we are in High School and say “NO”  to what “everyone is doing” we will alienate a certain group of people. Doing the right thing always “ruffles feathers”.  (By the way, the attacks don’t always come from the “mean kids”.  If you do not follow the crowd you will very likely experience times when you are lonely. 
  3. Know that GOD OFTEN WORKS MOST FREELY in our lives when we are lonely! He has our attention when we are hurting. He will also change our need for others into a desire for Himself. When we realize the reality of an all-sufficient God and the closeness we can have with Him, loneliness looses its TEETH.
  4. GIVE EM A PLACE TO “COME HOME TO” where they are not alone. I mean make your home a place where they can be WITH you. If you are like us things are “crazy busy”. Especially when our kids hit the teenage years we were all going in different directions! I am haunted by my son’s words after what was a rare dinner all together…”I really like it when we are all together”. Later when I tucked him in I asked him about it. He said…” yea, I just don’t feel as alone when we are all together”.  OUCH!!
  5. NEVER ENCOURAGE YOUR KIDS TO BE “PLEAS-ERS”.   Help them be obedient to authority in their lives, help them be respectful of adults and even help them avoid a “rebellious heart” …..  but NEVER ask your kids to capitulate, even a little, to other kids just to be accepted. (We all tend to lean that way anyway.) Once we get accepted for the wrong reasons then it is like “CRACK”.  It eventually robs us of our ability to  stand for anything.
 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Discipleship, Family

 

“THE MAN IN THE ARENA”

I had a great talk recently with a man who is running for public office. He talked of his determination to make a difference and impact the State for good. He also talked of what he knows awaits him (should he be elected) …criticism, misunderstanding and judgement.

With some sadness I reminded him that there will also be a never ending parade of arm-chair quarterbacks who would not dare step forward and make the same effort he will make but feel completely justified “tearing him down” when he does not do what they determine he should.

He smiled and referenced the “Man in the Arena”.

“The what?”  I asked.

“The Man in the Arena”, he said. “Essentially it is the guy doing the work that counts and not the critics”

On the way home I Googled “The Man In The Arena” and came up with the following excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic”, delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910 -by Theodore Roosevelt.    download PDF

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I read the entire speech (some 20 pages long). For you history buffs it is very cool. But even if you can’t stand looking back further than last week you will still enjoy what Roosevelt said.  I though about it a lot and started to see it all around me (and in me)  

Actual quotes….this week

“That ref is horrible” … spoken from a fan some 65 yards away from the play in question.

“The coach is an idiot”... this from a person who got as far as Pee Wee football so he clearly knows how a D1 College Coach should lead his team.

Our President is incompetent” – from someone who’s entire political education comes from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. (I’m a fan too…but maybe need a little balance ya think?) 

“The administrators at (college) are stupid”... of course the alums know everything that is going into the decision in dispute.

“Our (player) is a choker” … yea, he is paid millions of dollars a year because he is no good.

We criticize from our ignorance….

How bout this: ….unless you have been “The player”, The Coach, The Candidate, The Ref, The Boss, The Pastor, The “whatever”  …then give them the benefit of the doubt before you decide “they” are complete “knuckleheads”.

REMEMBER: Someday YOU WILL BE THE “MAN IN THE ARENA” 

but only of you are willing to “DARE GREATLY”

 
 
 
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