Monday, May 28, 2012

What are You Known For?: Character vs. Conviction

John 13:35
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
This weekend at church our pastor discussed a really important issue concerning the church's response to homosexuality and the homosexual community at large.  He challenged us as believers to check our hearts and our attitudes when it comes to this very important issue, but in regards to this idea he made one statement that really resonated with me:

Do people know you more by your character, or by your convictions?

This thought has had me reflecting on my life over the past couple of days.  It is so easy to be known by our convictions isn't it?  It seems natural to define ourselves by our belief system, by what we believe, by the things we are against and disagree with.

"They don't really go partying"
"He's against drinking alcohol"
"Don't tell her your living together because she doesn't believe in that"
"He's really conservative"  
"They are anti-abortion and anti-gay"

I don't believe that we should ever water down our beliefs, be ashamed of our values, or be inconsistent with that which is important to us...but what I am saying is, doesn't Jesus ask for so much more from us than a list of simple convictions?

More than a generation that is set apart by what we believe, Jesus calls us to be set apart in how we love. 

Imagine the impact that we could be having on the people in our lives if they recognized something supernatural about the way we loved them?

It's so easy to get caught up in stretching out our hands to the world, with the ten commandments written on our palms, rather than stretching out our hearts to them in loving reflection of the nail scarred hands of Jesus. 

We have truly lost something when the world around us knows us more by what we are against rather than what we are for.   

We are for people.
We are for mercy.
We are for kindness.
We are for peace.
We are for service.  
We are for generosity.
We are for gentleness.
We are for hospitality.  
And absolutely most of all....we are for love. 

May you be challenged to take inventory of your life this week as you seek to show the world the mark of a true disciple.  Love.  Love.  Love.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

For Those Who Want to Marry Jesus: On Majors and Minors

Proverbs 18:22
He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.

I attended a church once whose motto was "major on the major, minor on the minors".  What they meant by that is that as far as their theological beliefs were concerned, they allowed themselves to take a stance on what was truly significant in the Christian Theology, and decided to allow the smaller theological opinions up to each individual.  No need to get bogged down by the small things.

In a sense, I view finding a relationship the same way.  Let me explain what I mean by that.

Many times, Christian young men and women have either two views in finding a relationship:
1. They are looking to marry the embodiment of Jesus Christ himself
2. They don't really believe they should set their standards "too high" and have unrealistic expectations- so they don't have any at all.

In my opinion, both views are absolutely detrimental.

I believe it's important for an individual to have standards in what they are looking for.  If you know yourself, you should know what you need....but I suppose there's an unspoken prerequisite to the previous statement- you need to actually know yourself.    The first step to really knowing what you need is knowing yourself. 

Learning about your personality, your flaws, your background, your weaknesses and strengths.  Solidifying your passions, your dreams, your goals and your purpose.  Knowing your faith, your belief system, your values and standards.

The things that are important to you need to stay important to you in looking for love- in other words, major on the majors.  Don't settle for anything less than a 10 out of 10. 

As far as the minors go on the other hand....cut yourself some slack.  Does your husband have to be 6 foot 4 with blonde curly hair?  Does your wife have to be an incredible cook and have a fantastic singing voice?  Do they have to listen to Cold Play and carry a pocket bible everywhere they go?  Honestly....for some, preferences are important, but if anything- learn to keep your options open.

The sad thing is, I see many young men and women who do just the opposite- they major on the minors, and minor on the majors- letting things slide in relationships, allowing compromising values and standards to slowly creep into their lives....things that could absolutely destroy a future marriage. 

So for those who are currently struggling in their relationships- tossing around questions of doubt- ask yourself this question: are you focusing on a major, or a minor?  If the answer is a's time to throw your little fish back into the sea, having faith that God will send you the right due time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

There are Two Kinds of People:

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.  

I learn a lot from being a counselor.  I have the opportunity to observe and interact with all kinds of people from a very intimate perspective.  I see their problems and struggles in an up close and personal way.

This process has taught me a lot about people, myself included.  One of my most recent lessons is that there are two kinds of people functioning in society.    

Those who are reactive, and those who are proactive.  

It might sound like a simple concept, but I've found that people who are proactive have a tendency thrive and blossom in this world- though it may bring struggles and strife, while people who are reactive are at the mercy of the world around them.  Tossed to and fro by the waves of life.  Unable to stand on their own two feet.   

If you take some time to stop and think, you'll probably be amazed at how many things you do in life that are out of reaction

Action: The phone rings. 
Reaction: You answer it. 

Action:  Baby cries.
Reaction:  You feed the baby.

Action:  Spouse says something inconsiderate.
Reaction: Negative emotions lead to lashing out at them.

Action:  Weight gain.
Reaction: Time to exercise. 

Being reactive throughout our day is an inevitable process.  Lots of things happen in life that force us to move and act one way or the other. 

But what really sets people apart is the fact that some choose to lead their lives, while others choose to simply follow it.   

Proactive people don't wait for something to make them move, instead, they create their way.  They are the type of people who would never settle for less than what they know is best in their lives, no matter what life happens to throw at them.

Proactive people are the ones who would never be caught saying:

"It will happen if it's meant to happen"- because they would be out there doing it.
"He will break up with me if he's not the one"- instead would be finding out the dynamics of the relationship and doing the breaking up.
"No one calls me, and I'm feeling lonely"- rather, the phone would be in their hand making calls and setting up plans.
"The right job will land in my lap"- because they would be setting up interviews and passing our resumes.

God calls us to live this life, to lead this life, and to direct this life.  All throughout the Scriptures He uses proactive words like "go, do, pray, make, work, be". 

Not only that, but the greatest example of a proactive life is the life of precious Jesus, who took it upon Himself to step into history in order to change the future...rather than wait around to see what would happen.
The challenge I'm faced with is this:  we are in charge of directing our lives and responsible for where our lives go.  Let us see our lives as valuable enough that they are worth investing in.  Let us take charge of the things we can change, stepping into our worlds and changing our futures rather than let this world force us into places that we were never intended to go.

Let's choose to live this life proactively for a God who lives proactively for us.


Monday, May 7, 2012

3 Things Marriage Doesn't Do: In case All You Single Peeps Were Wondering

Genesis 2:18
The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

I meet with young singles all the time in my counseling practice and get emails from all over the world from young adults looking for love.  They long to be married and have an insatiable desire inside of their heart to meet the significant other who they can finally call, "the one".

I remember being in that place not too long ago.    It's hard to imagine marriage accurately from the perspective of a single young adult.  Even with all the chaos modeled in modern day marriages all around us, somehow the idea of marriage still gets idolized beyond reasonable expectations.  Everyone believes that their marriage will be different, looking to Hollywood dreams and romance as their example. 

It's easy to fall into the lie that finding your spouse will be the ultimate road to happiness and great satisfaction.  That all problems, fears, and deficits will fade away in the presence of true love.    That may be true of God's love...but let me tell you, it sure ain't true in the world of love and marriage.

Don't get me wrong.  I love being married.  I believe I'm married to the greatest man alive (go figure!) but somehow, he still manages to disappoint sometimes.  And I certainly have the tendency to let him down (I know, shocking!).

For all the things that marriage has done to enhance my life and stretch my love, there are still some things that it will never be able to do.  Here's what I've discovered: 

1.  Marriage doesn't delete your insecurities:  I'm not sure why I ever thought it would.  For some reason, the idea of being loved unconditionally by another human being seemed like it would do the trick in helping me feel better about myself.  I thought that being married and seeing love through the eyes of another would really teach me how to love myself.  Wrong.  So very wrong.

I think that way of thinking has done more harm than good to many a marriage in our world.  No one has the power to deal with our inadequacies and insecurities but us.  Putting those insane expectations on a spouse will only cause harm, because there is a 100% chance that they can't really change how we view ourselves.

No matter how much encouragement, affection, affirmation, and validation I get from my the end of the day, true security comes when I choose to see myself through the eyes of my God, not through the eyes of my spouse (or anyone else for that matter).  Relying on your spouse to fill those insatiable needs is a recipe for disaster- because frankly, even my superman husband lacks the capability to offer me what I need for true value and self worth.  That can only come from within.  My security comes from my relationship with God, and then whatever praises and encouragement my husband gives to me is simply the overflow. 

2.  Marriage can't give you purpose: One thing that I had a hard time attending a Christian college, is glimpsing the attitude of women who were out to fulfill one mission in life: Finding a godly man.  Don't get me wrong, I personally was on the lookout....but there was something behind the drive of these young girls that really disturbed me.  Their sole purpose in life was to catch a man.  They even joked that they were there to get their "MRS." degree...

Something has gone terribly wrong when young Christians believe that their sole purpose in life is to find marital love.  First of all, this belief is dangerous in that it robs us of true joy and purpose in life...purpose that can never be taken away.  The bible encourages us to live this life for God's love Him and to love others, making a difference in the world by displaying this kind of love.  We are each made for a unique purpose and design far beyond the scope of marriage and relationships.  Though marriage can be an incredible gift, it is a means to the end, not the end itself.

When we see relationships as the end of the road of purpose, we find ourselves facing a wall of disappointment with no where left to go when we finally arrive.  Marriage may be the avenue in fulfilling our purpose, but it is not the final destination.  We need to seek God's purpose for our lives FAR beyond just finding a spouse, and allow His purpose to be the course that guides our lives and our direction.  Rather than asking what God can do for us, we need to look to Him in seeking what WE can do for HIM.  In this is true purpose.  And who knows, we might just run into a spouse a long the way...this one, I can personally vouch for. 

3.  Marriage won't make you whole:  I remember watching a Beth Moore video in which she used the analogy of a cup in assessing the heart of a Christian.  I love the analogy, because our emotional worlds are certainly like cups.  We either feel full, or empty throughout our lives.  One problem I see with young adults is that they live their lives half-full.  Not really knowing themselves, not really taking time to assess their needs, deal with their problems, habits, and hang ups....they seek out relationships in hopes that those relationships will fill them up and make them whole.  They bring their wounds to relationships for bandaging, not realizing that two broken and wounded people can be of no help to one another.

Marriage can be a source of motivation and encouragement, but it can never make you whole.  Your spouse cannot bring healing into your life and renewed thinking into your mind.  The road to healing must be seen as your own personal that you must walk alone.  You will never feel whole in the presence of your mate if you don't feel whole on your own.

God's design for marriage is to bring two whole people together, giving them double the strength to reach a lost and dying world.  Now mind you, I didn't say perfect....I said whole.  We are not expected to reach perfection before marriage, because that would make for a whole lot of single people here on earth.  But though we can't be perfect, we can reach for healing and choose to take control of the things that we can change in our lives.  God grants wholeness to those who are willing...

So before you jump into a relationship with insane expectations, consider where you are at as a single man or woman.  Consider how much you have allowed Jesus to bring security, purpose, and healing into your life.  Rather than seeing your spouse as the missing piece to your puzzle, the road to marriage should be seen as two people, figuring out the puzzle together.

It is  about finding a comrade, not ultimate contentment.  It is about finding a help mate, not a healer.     

Get your ideas straight now, while you are single...and give your future spouse the most beautiful gift of realistic expectations. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dear Christian: An Open Letter from the World

Revisiting some of my most popular posts.  Hope this one encourages you!

Philippians 2:5
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Dear Christian,

I have to be honest...I have mixed feelings about you.  A love/hate relationship if you will.  It's like looking at two sides of a coin, trying to figure out which one is really you.  Part of me wants you so bad...but the other side of me is too scared to jump in. 

There are days that you amaze me.  I look at you and see the most loving eyes, the most gentle hands, the most open heart.  I watch as you take care of your community, as you reach out to the poor and the needy, as you mend the hearts of the broken.

I am overcome by your ability to reach into my loneliness.  Reminding me that I'm not all by myself.  That someone really does care for and love me.  Somehow you always seem to know just what I's as though you had a direct line to God, or something.

I am challenged by the way you give up your time, your money...and your self for others.  I'm drawn to the fact that you are so humble, yet so confident.  You're honest about the fact that you don't always have it together...but that you're working on it.  I love that pushes me to be real with my self as well.

There is something about your smile that seems real to me.  It makes me wonder where you get such joy.  How you have such strength.  It makes me long for what you have. 

Sometimes I look at your faith, and the way you hold on with all of your heart...and wish I had something to give my all to.

But then I get stuck.  I get stuck because I see the other side to your who you are, and I find myself confused.  Because some days you amaze me, but other days you disappoint me.

Other days, it's as though something has come over you.  You aren't acting like yourself.  You are filled with pride and arrogance, acting like you really know it all and have it all together.  It makes me scared to come to you with my problems...because I'm afraid you won't understand.

It breaks my heart to watch you so caught up in the things of this, fame and fortune.  It's as though the American Dream has got you on a leash.  I thought you talked about bigger things?  I thought you said this world wasn't your home?  Then why do you seem so comfortable here?

Some days, it's as though you have an opinion about everything.  What I should wear, who I should be friends with, what I should eat and drink.  I feel judged by you, not loved.  I feel as though I am under a magnifying glass...and you're picking me apart, never satisfied to just let me be who I am.

I want to get closer to try and understand you...but your holier-than-thou attitude reminds me that I can't get too close.  Maybe I'm not good enough for you.  Maybe I'll never be.

Either way, I'm going to keep watching...waiting to see the real you.  There's a part of me that wants what you have...but a part of me that's still confused.  I'll be here.  Waiting for you to show me who you really are.  Until then, don't be surprised if I keep my distance.  I want to get closer, but I have to keep myself safe.

I hope you figure this out soon.  I hope you decide who you really want to be and stick to it.  When you do, come find me. 

Cautiously watching,

The World