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Feb 27, 2014

Convoluted Perspective

“Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk?” Mark 2:9


We are amazed with healing, with acts of physical prowess, with stupendous occurrences some may well call miracles. Everyone who saw Jesus tell a paralyzed man to stand up, pick up his mat, and walk were amazed when he did just that. They were not so moved by Jesus forgiving his sins, and the Pharisees even blamed Jesus for blasphemy for forgiving the sins of the paralytic as Jesus’ first response to the faith of the paralytic’s four friends who brought him to Jesus. Our thinking tends more to amazement of the physical than the spiritual with eternal results. In Mark 8 the Pharisees pressed Jesus for more physical signs. Jesus sighed deeply and told them they would not be given anymore physical signs. They completely missed the truth from Jesus that his spiritual message far exceeded the physical miracles he performed to establish his authority to say the things he did. His physical miracles of healing or turning water into wine were only benefits for life that would be overcome by death and the grave; his spiritual message spoke to life for all eternity.
Being rightly more impressed with the spiritual message of Jesus is a test of faith. What kind of faith do you truly have? Weak? Strong? Or increasing? Genuine faith is being SURE of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (the fulfillment of spiritual promises from God). And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he is and that he rewards those who EARNESTLY seek him. (Hebrews 11) Jesus well knows man’s perspective when he asks what is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” Of course we would say, “Anyone can say the words, “Your sins are forgiven.” But to say your paralysis is gone, your cancer has disappeared, your blind eyes can see, and it is so; that is to us far more difficult, if not impossible in our eyes; and far more impressive to our “physically-addicted” perspective. We are creatures drawn to physical impressiveness in hero worship, entertainment, feats of science, or medicine, and the like. The miracles of Jesus which overcame physical maladies would certainly attract our attention as they did his first century audience; more so than the spiritual truths which were the heart of the message of the gospel, and impact life forever.
A review of Hebrews 11 shows us what impresses the heart of God and for what he commends his children. It is faith which perseveres over time latching on to the promises for the future. It is faith which grasps the certainty of what is not yet. It is faith which invariably deals with time which must pass, and difficulties to be overcome. This is not “fast-food” faith! It is tough faith which will not be thwarted by the “thorns and thistles” of the world which test the mettle of that faith. We are prone to convoluted perspectives which is evident in Mark 2 and throughout the gospels. The solution is to be aware of our myopic vision, and by the truth of numerous examples in Jesus’ ministry retrain our eyes in faith to value spiritual truths and eternity as far weightier than the physical which passes away being temporary. It is not that God provides no provision and refreshment to us physically. He does. But it is that our hope might be encouraged and rest in him, never losing sight of the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10)
It is not a light thing to eschew sharpening your spiritual vision in an overwhelming, physically dominating world. It is a matter of necessity and of the Lord’s highest priority for you. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”–but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit…[and] we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:9,10 and 16) Nurture spiritual vision as you read the Word and as you see the world. Your sins forgiven is infinitely greater than any physical malady which remains unhealed this side of heaven.


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Feb 25, 2014

You Complete Me

Certainly I’ve read or heard this thought elsewhere. It’s a climactic moment in the movie Jerry McGuire, where Jerry interrupts a meeting of women in a living room who are taking much of the male gender to task. Tom Cruise’s character says the famous dramatic line, “You complete me. It’s a great movie moment, a fantastic line, but an utterly horrible relationship perspective. Why? Because if anyone believes a relationship with another person is all that they need to make them complete, well, it cannot and will not succeed. That is a lot of pressure for one person to complete them. You will not find completion in a husband or wife, son or daughter. But we do still need each other.
So, with that in mind, how do we make decisions about who to connect with?
How we connect with people is a critical part of growing up and living with others. People need people. We are designed to be in relationship. Relationships are an investment and require multiple components: commitment, connection, listening, and trust. So, let’s talk about listening and trust (If you would like to read on commitment and connection, go here to the article Sticks and Stones).
Listening
One of the things I believe we are missing in our relationships with our children, and thus the culture as a whole, is that youth generally don’t listen to adults, particularly their parents. We can come up with tons of examples of this, but an easy one involves learning to drive a car. The typical scene we can imagine, or went through ourselves, involves our parents giving constant instruction, pushing imaginary brake pedals on the passenger side, and often covering their faces to shield themselves from the impending disaster.  The teenagers, on the other hand, feel like they have everything under control and continue to say: “I know, “It’s fine, “I’ve got this, Relax, or simply; “Mom!
The scene may bring back memories but if you stop and think about it, the adults in this situation are the only ones who truly have the experience and thus the expertise to give proper advice. There are many more illustrations, from sex, to choosing the right friends, to money, and all sorts of other areas that we see this same story played out. Adults simply have experience that youth lack. While the circumstances may be slightly different, the fundamentals are the same.
Although parents today didn’t have Twitter or Snapchat when they were young, that doesn’t mean that they do not have an understanding of social relationships, communication, or even being misunderstood. That’s good news moms and dads! Because, as always, you are the one who is best equipped to be your child’s teacher.
However, like all things, there are two perspectives that we must understand. One of the reasons youth don’t listen to adults, is because adults don’t listen to youth.  Your son, daughter, grandson, niece, etc. are the exact people who can help you understand what is taking place in the world today.  They are young and have so much opportunity going for them. The future is right there. They are not sore physically. They don’t wake up with pains and aches. They have far more career choices. They remember more. However, they lack experience, patience, understanding and wisdom so their results follow suit. While adulthood and experience have made us more efficient, if you are not listening to them, then they will not listen to you. Listening is fundamental to relationships and as parents; you don’t simply meet them halfway. You have to cross more of the gap to reach them where they are, since they are unable to come to where you are.
Trust
Without trust, no relationship can really exist as trust implies reliance on other people. Trust speaks to an event in the future, but comes from experiences in the past.
Think about trust for a moment, as it implies two things:

  • My experience in the past leads me to believe that something in the future will take place.
  • Therefore, I trust it will or trust it will not take place.

Some people trust others, while some do not.  Doesn’t that come from experience?
For parents, this is where we are called to cover more of the gap. We have to go more than just meeting them halfway. It is our responsibility to create a safe space for our children to both succeed and fail. This is a place where adults understand that making mistakes, learning, and overcoming challenges are all a part of growing up. It’s also a part of trusting the decisions they make when they “get behind the wheel.
Trust always comes from experience. For the most part, in our relationships we want to be trusted. But developing a truly meaningful trust filled relationship takes time. When I was 23 years old, I applied for my first credit card. My credit limit was a whopping $700. That was the extent of my credit, and essentially, the extent of the bank’s trust in me. They limited their risk while still giving me an opportunity to succeed in managing my finances.
In time, I earned more trust by faithfully meeting my commitments. Now I can borrow money for a car and a house. My credit history is good. I have given the bank a reason to trust me. And so, they are far more willing to extend me credit now than when I was 23.
If life is like that, why not teach life to your children. If they are not committed, not connected, and will not listen, yet you continue to extend trust with no limits, then do not be surprised when they take advantage of you. And do not be surprised when you see them failing in critical areas of life because they have not been taught how to trust or how to be trustworthy.
Some of the most important decisions we make in life are directly influenced by those with whom we spend our time. God designed us to be in relationship with Him and each other. The genius of Jesus’ words still ring true, that we might love our neighbor as ourselves. It seems an impossible task as it requires us to take our focus off of ourselves and place it onto someone else. All real relationships, those that are profoundly satisfying, require that. The investment that we make into others demonstrates our level of commitment and connection to what we value. The return is the quality of the relationships that you have with your Savior, spouse, children, and family. If your relationships are not satisfying, the first place to start is to check your level of commitment and connection. Change starts with you.


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Feb 20, 2014

Without Excuse

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20


Everyone always has an excuse. It’s true. From the earliest age children exhibit the ability to make excuses for their behavior when caught doing something they know is wrong. They either learn it from older siblings, their parents, or most likely from their own sinful nature. Giving excuses is an undeniable proof of King David’s words so many years ago, “Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5) The fact that we give excuses or are immediately looking for a plausible one (they often get more “plausible” as we become more experienced in coming up with excuses) is greater proof that God knows exactly who we are, sinners without excuse! Knowing and accepting what God already knows about us, and believing he knows it, is always the beginning place of salvation and of repentance; the beginning place of healing, by the way he has prepared for healing through Jesus. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12) Excuse makers do not need a doctor, because they are not sick; so they think.
Believing what the Bible says is true about all of us sharing this planet, that man is without excuse in the understanding that God is, and that God’s invisible qualities have been clearly seen and can be understood from visible nature, we have a common starting point for conversation with unbelieving neighbors in the world. Unfortunately, we do not always start the conversation because we think they are miles away from us in thought and will think us crazy.  There is always a common beginning point: God is, and they know it, despite any denial to the contrary. All the more reason for you to actively pursue being ready and waiting eagerly for your Savior’s return as in the context of Matthew 25, by conversing with others about who God is and what he desires.
In the scene which Jesus describes of the great throne room and his dividing the sheep from the goats for eternity, the discerning truth will be who really feeds, welcomes, clothes, cares for, and frees up to the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, and those who do not. Understanding Jesus’ priorities of the spiritual being preeminent to the physical, though sometimes meeting physical needs opens doors to the eternal goal, spiritual healing. This is how the brothers and sisters of Jesus are to use their waiting for his return; feed the hungry with the bread of life, assuage the thirsty with living water, welcome the stranger to the kingdom of heaven, clothe the naked with the wedding clothes of the Lamb, spread the Balm of Gilead on the sickness of their soul, and visit the one in bondage to sin. The ones who use their waiting and preparation like this for the return of the Bridegroom are among the sheep and not the goats!
Read Matthew 25 today with this in mind. This is the way Jesus has instructed us to both wait and be prepared for his return; beginning today. Whoever you see face to face today whether spouse, child, parent or neighbor, you are to face them with the knowledge that you should feed them with living bread, give them living water to drink, welcome them into the kingdom of God, apply medicine to their sin-sickness, comfort them in any depression, sadness, or bondage to sin; and do all this knowing Jesus has said, “Whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, YOU DO FOR ME!”
Whether Jesus comes tonight or in 20 years this is how you wait, not knowing at what hour he will come.


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Feb 18, 2014

Real Teens Talk: Pros and Cons of Introducing Your Child to Technology

How young is too young to begin introducing your child to technology?

In today’s culture, it is not uncommon to see a two or three year old completely lost in mom or dad’s smart phone. Just last week I witnessed an eighteen month old pick up his granny’s iPad, turn it on and access a game that he wanted to play. The granny was convinced that he wouldn’t even be able to wake the device up, much less operate the slider and then access a specific app. Boy was she surprised.
With the world at our fingertips, literally, how should we, as parents, navigate this wild world of technology when it comes to our children?
Here are a few questions for you to ponder before handing over the latest tech toy to your child:

  1. What technology does my child NEED to have access to?
  2. At what age should I begin introducing my child to technology?
  3. How will you monitor your child’s internet usage?
  4. What technological skills will my child need in order to excel in school and in his future?
  5. Is my child ready to handle the responsibilities that go along with using this device?

Janell Hofmann said it well in her iPhone contract with her 13 year old son, “I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it.” Is that not the desire of every parent? The only way to ensure that we are raising healthy children who are not ruled by technology, but who know how to use it is to be intentional and active in this area of their lives. Just like a toddler does not understand the dangers of walking across the road without looking both ways, your child or teen does not fully understand the dangers that their fancy new smart phone or tablet or gaming device may hold. It is our job as parents to not only point out the danger, but to teach them how to keep themselves safe and to walk with them until they are mature enough to cross the road on their own.


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Feb 13, 2014

Acknowledging Sin: A Severe Mercy

“O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid. O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2


Acknowledging sin is NOT a popular subject! Many non-liturgical protestant churches will seldom mention sin in worship services; much less have the congregation pray a confession of sin together…..out loud, no less.  Is sin too negative for positive thinking churches? Does it drive people away rather than attracting them, stunting the growth of the church? It is surely a mystery when pastors who will not have confession of sin in their worship services respond when asked, “It is not something we traditionally do; it is not the way we have done or do worship. It is rather strange when sin is such an “elephant in the room at the cross of Jesus, the central event in the life and history of Christianity. In fact, sin is why the cross is absolutely necessary; and sin elicits the grace and mercy of God towards those who love His Son. At the cross Jesus personally atoned for the sins of all those for whom He died, taking their sin upon Himself, which separated Him from His Father; the greatest agony of the cross.
When sin is put on the back-burner, when it is a hush-hush subject in public discourse, like the subjects of religion and politics always seem to poison a good party, it is minimized, and intended to be buried out of sight as though it doesn’t exist. What this attitude does is minimize the reason for the cross; it minimizes the incredible greatness of God’s mercy and grace flowing from the death of His Son; and it belittles the need to come to Jesus for forgiveness every time we now sin (I John 1:8-10).  The Bible is not mincing words when it constantly brings up sin as a fact and scourge of life; when it commands us to confess our sins one to another; when it pleads for us to go to a brother or sister when we have sinned against him or he us; when it tells us our prayers are hindered when we have sinned against a brother or sister and fail to seek repentance or reconciliation: when it is such a daily necessity to take our sins to Jesus; sin and what is required to turn from it should never be camouflaged as a verboten subject; neither the gospel or God’s Word allows it.
We are all sinners. Yet sin is always the elephant in the rooms where we live and we try to treat it as an ant or a fly. Humility, the fruit of the Spirit, always acknowledges sin. It never diminishes it; and because it does not, the humble character is always overwhelmed even to the point of tears with the greatness of the grace and mercy of God.  The cross of Jesus never ceases to be paramount in the life of the one who is growing the fruit of humility in their character. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God will be our descriptor from conception through eternity; the great and good news is that those in Jesus have been redeemed, and that forever. Yet in this life we must deal with sin daily; in ourselves, in our family members, and in our neighbors.  The acknowledgment of it ought to be part of our worship, private, family, and church. Church worship is the instructor of the former two. If we do not take sin seriously, and show it in our life conversations, our actions, and our worship, we do not really treasure God’s grace. If we minimize our sin, we surely minimize His grace.
As Habakkuk we need to understand and appreciate the justice of God’s wrath, our just deserts, and ask Him to remember mercy as we confess our sins.


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Feb 11, 2014

What does it take to change the world?

 

What does it take to change the world? It just takes one! You start with one life. One day at a time. Nate is a life that we had the privilege of working with at the PAYH. Nate is the story of someone who lived. And in life, we have the birthplace of hope.
It was because of the generosity of individuals that we were able to provide Nate with a second chance. Today, Nate is living a life in which he is a giver rather than a taker. Mission work to international students in Yellowstone or communicating the Gospel in Russia is just part of how he gives back. He also regularly invests back in the young men at the PAYH.
With every gift, you help:

  • Keep young men from becoming a statistic.
  • Offer hope to families in crisis.
  • Provide communities with resources that help them address issues youth and families are facing in this current culture.
  • Build a legacy for the next generation.

 


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Feb 06, 2014

Transformative

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40


Treat my spouse as I would Jesus? Not going to happen! One has to wonder if we really believe these plain words. Do you see Christ in your spouse and seek to meet his or her genuine needs as though he or she is Christ Himself standing before you? Do you see Christ in your child? In your parents? In your neighbor? (Use the definition of “neighbor Jesus gives in Luke 10:29).  This account Jesus tells of the universal finale upon His return ought to be transformative in how you NOW treat others who are in the household of faith especially, and those who are not, but whom you hope will be. In His account of the sheep and the goats this is plainly what Jesus says. In fact, it is a definer in separating the sheep and the goats whose separation is forever. Is this intended as an incentive to give the next poor-looking panhandler a handout? Not necessarily; they are maybe not poor, or possibly feeding an addiction. “How blessed is the man who WISELY considers the poor man’s case.
Furthermore, Matthew 25 is not a command to care for the physically poor. However, the poor are included, while the full intent of the command concerns all that are spiritually poor, since there is a variable poverty of the knowledge of God and the fullness of the gospel in everyone. We minister to all members of the body of Christ in obeying these words of Jesus; we serve others who may not be in His family, because we genuinely hope by our ministry in His name to meet their needs, physically and spiritually, and bring them to the Savior and into His kingdom.
The spiritually poor need to be fed; they need to drink the living water; they need to be clothed with the armor of salvation; they need to be transformed from aliens to adopted members of God’s family; they need to be healed with the balm of Gilead; they need to be set free from the bondage of sin. This is not primarily a passage for social justice as it is used in many circles, while ignoring much else in God’s Word; it is a passage requiring spiritual justice, giving flesh to Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself, and loving God just as He has loved you!
Very unfortunately, seeing this passage only in terms of caring for the physically poor, has led many to miss the thrust of Jesus’ words concerning how we are to treat everyone around us, beginning with our own household (Jerusalem), our neighborhood (Samaria), our place of work, leisure, school, wherever we are called (the uttermost part of the world). Seeing our family members and our neighbors as Christ Jesus, transforms your eyes, hands, energy, mind, and heart.  You begin to see them as He does. Not impossible; else He would not say what He has.
When you fail to be concerned enough about the spiritual needs in your brother, sister or child, when you bark at your spouse, when your own convenience and pleasure is your first thought, you need to become immediately pricked by this: you are treating Jesus the same way. The warning of Jesus in Matthew 25 ought to penetrate a calloused heart as you contemplate final judgment, if indeed you give it any serious thought. The warning of Jesus needs to stir your mind, “Many will say to me in that Day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not…….!’ And he will say to them, ‘Depart from me, I never knew you!’ (Matthew 7:22) Those words bring an exclamation point to this account of the sheep and the goats. Which will you be? What are you now?
Relook with eyes of faith how you see those before you. See them as Jesus Himself.  How would you treat Him if He were standing right in front of you? Well, He is!


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Feb 05, 2014

Nate’s Story


Nate would wake up each morning and think: “I wish I hadn’t woken up” His life felt empty and hopeless. It was void of anything and he certainly had no hope. He couldn’t imagine anything that could make him happy, not even remotely. The only thing he looked forward to each day was when the day ended and he could escape his life for another eight hours or so in sleep. It was a short distance from feeling that way every day to finally coming to believe his ultimate escape was death.
That’s when he tried to kill himself.
Nate was not an unusual child. He was strong willed and independent, but while growing up, he didn’t create problems for his parents. He excelled in school and was an enthusiastic participant in the youth group at his local church.
It is hard to pinpoint just when Nate lost hope. Somehow his life degraded into something he himself found hideous yet did not have the power to change. He became obsessed with porn and would spend up to sixteen hours per day playing video games. Then, while in tenth grade, he began to experiment with drugs. From there, he sank into despair and emptiness.
By the time his parents realized something was wrong, he had become a threat both to them and himself. He was heavily into drugs and had managed to nearly destroy every good relationship in his life. At one point, he physically assaulted his father. At another, he forced his way into his parents’ home. To protect themselves and his brother and sister, his parents pushed him away. They had to ensure the safety of the rest of the family. This was no longer the young man they knew. It was someone different. Nate had changed that much and become that destructive.
With none of his familiar connections and comfort of his own family, Nate was surrounded by people just like him, peers who were also on the same path; self-annihilation.
How could Nate reach the point of no other options?
As is often the case when young people spiral out of control, by the time they understand there really is a problem; the opportunity to stop the destruction is nearly past.
Nate was empty of hope, surrounded by people who were just as empty, and he literally could not imagine any way to climb out of the pit he had created for himself. For so long he used drugs to make his life better, a temporary fix to make him feel happy, but the feeling was an illusion. He consumed video games and pornography in the same way as drugs. They were fixes, a way to take his mind off reality. He was self-medicating.
Yet, what he was using to solve the problem merely deepened the depths of his despair. That is the vicious nature of a negative cycle. It only spirals in one direction, downward. Nate’s fixes were becoming addictions and major forces contributing to his depression.
Medicating his sickness with something that was making him worse, led him to believe that the only thing that could improve the quality of his life was for him to die. In an attempt to save himself by killing himself, Nate swallowed a bottle of Tylenol. He believed death would be a better alternative than life.
When Nate was in the hospital, recovering from his attempted suicide, he had an encounter with Jesus. For the first time, as far back as he could remember, Nate began to experience hope!
Following his attempted suicide, Nate’s uncle began the search for a long-term residential therapeutic boarding schools or similar residential programs that could help Nate. Through connections with Chick-fil-A, Nate’s uncle heard about the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH). He began the inquiry process and Nate was accepted into the home and became a member of the PAYH family.
Life is the birthplace of hope
When he arrived at the PAYH, Nate was unsure of what to expect, but he felt a peace that this was where he was supposed to be. And so he took a step of faith in a new direction, determined that if he worked hard and stayed on course, things could be better and that life could be worth living. Nate even described himself as being frail and devoid of good character and lacking true strength of any kind. Yet what he did have was a seed of hope, and that seed was enough to lead him to believe that he could change.
Believing that change was possible became the strength he lacked. Throughout his time at the PAYH, Nate grew into a man with the personal fortitude to confront his issues in a healthy way, take ownership of his mistakes while not fixating on what couldn’t be undone. Instead, he worked to rebuild the relationships he had destroyed. Out of his pit of despair, he began to take steps in a different direction. He committed himself to finding the reality of Jesus made evident in the way he lived his life, moment by moment. He strove to maintain the kind of discipline that would lead to good character. Possibly most astounding, Nate began to live a life of service to others.
After graduating the PAYH, Nate attended Columbia International where he studied Intercultural Studies as well as earning a degree to teach English as a foreign language. His goal has been to become a missionary and so he worked with international workers for two summers in Yosemite National Park and another summer in Moscow, sharing the Gospel. This past summer, he married his beautiful bride Emily, who shares his passion to be a missionary.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people.
By 2020, it is estimated that someone will succeed in taking their life every 20 seconds.

Nate no longer thinks dying is better than LIFE!

Nate-Thompson

Nate’s story is one that shows the breadth of the human condition. The confident, hard-working young man who sees everyday life as an opportunity for personal growth as well as a chance to invest in others is a very different person from the boy who tried to end his own life, wasting away day after day in the darkness of his own hopelessness. His story is the kind of story that proves change is possible, that hope is alive and it is powerful enough to transform us. His story is nothing short of a miracle. His story is a story of hope.

Together, we can create more days for young men like Nate.
Make a contribution today that will provide another young man with the
opportunity to write his own story of hope.


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