Monthly Archives: January 2011

Love Well

I’ve been reading through the Message Bible this year. I have read the entire Bible in this version and am doing it again because I find myself drawn in by this version of the Bible. It is easy to read and I find myself reading large portions in one sitting. Yesterday I started reading the book of Philippians, but only got through one chapter. A portion of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians really jumped out at me and challenged me. Here it is, Chapter 1 verses 9 & 10:

“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.”

I can’t get this idea of loving well out of my mind. Lot’s of questions have run through my mind. How well do I love? How do I love well? What does he mean by love appropriately? Why should I use my head to test my feelings? Love is a word that has been used a lot and it’s meaning has been confused in my opinion. For many people the idea of loving well is somewhat confusing and intimidating. Many of the people I talk too and interact with struggle with this idea of loving well. There are so many struggling, broken relationships today that to love well is almost uncommon.

I don’t have time to go very deep on this thought, but I want to share some ideas I have on how to love well. These ideas may connect with you for your marriage relationship, your parenting relationship, or other relationships you currently are struggling in or are wanting to do better. There is a lot more to loving well, and none of us will ever love perfectly, but all of us can love better.

  • To love well, we must admit our inadequacy – What I mean by that is none of us know how to make intimate relationships work. We might know some things that work, but we are inadequate on our own to love well all the time. So say it with me, I don’t know what I am doing!
  • To love well, we must be humble – Pride destroys relationships, humility heals relationships. Humility is the secret of blessing and intimacy. In humility we think about our selves less and those close to us more. In humility we look to serve those around us without expecting anything in return. In humility we realize we need help from God in order to love well.
  • To love well, we must trust – Without trust no relationship can last. Trust is about always looking and believing the best about a person. Trust can only happen if I know who I am and who I am not. Trust leads to deeper intimacy, and also the potential for deeper hurt. Trust means I will open my heart and not close out people. Trust means never looking back and bringing up the things that are behind me. Trust does not mean I allow people to continue to hurt me or take advantage of me.
  • To love well, we must forgive – I know of no relationship that last over time that does not have to give and receive forgiveness. As humans we hurt each other, our natural tendency is to be selfish. When we are quick to forgive, we do not allow bitterness and anger the time to take root. If we are slow to forgive emotions come out of us that hurt and damage us and others. Forgiveness allows us to love well for the long haul.
  • To love well, we must persevere – Loving people is not easy. Patience and persistence are vital to loving well. Love never gives up. Through the most difficult of times we can love well if we have a long-term perspective. Loving the unlovable may seem impossible at times, yet to love well, we must love to the end. As mentioned earlier we can only do this with the power and strength that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is perfect love and he can give us what we need to love someone for the long haul.
  • To love well, we must grow – When we stop growing we often stop loving well. Whether it is spiritual growth, emotional growth, intellectual growth or even physical health. When we stop learning, growing and changing our love deteriorates and declines. If I find myself struggling to love the people around me as I should, I start to spend more time with God, I read more, I pray more, I exercise more, I schedule more one-on-one appointments, I talk to my life mentors. Just like a tree, to be healthy and strong it must keep growing. It’s roots go deeper to find more nutrients and water. It’s branches grow thicker to support the additional growth. We need to find ways to have our roots go deeper and our branches grow thicker in order to continue to love well.

I could come up with some more, but this is a great start. How well do you love? What would your spouse say? What would God say?

Depression

Christians can be depressed. There I said it, just because we are Christians does not mean we don’t struggle with things like depression and anxiety. Just read some of the Psalms from David in the Bible. “Why art thou cast down, oh my soul?” (Ps. 42:5) “O my God, my soul is cast down within me” (Ps. 42:6). Or even Elijah the great prophet – “O Lord, take away my life” (1Kings 19:4) How about Jonah? “It is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3). Jesus in Mathew 26:38 said “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.”

That is some heavy stuff, a depression in which the person almost despaired of life itself. This time of year can be depressing in itself, because of the cold, no sunshine and darkness. So depression has been around for a long time and is not going away anytime soon. I just spoke this week with a man that had been experiencing depression and he was not even aware of how it was affecting him. So how does one deal with depression? For many people seeing a medical doctor is a great first step. Medication can do wonders in helping to think clearly and avoid the extreme lows, but don’t stop there. I want to give some helpful direction for people that struggle with depression from a Biblical viewpoint.

We all have physical, emotional, and spiritual limitations, and we all need to stay within in them. Here are some questions to think about, that may be contributing to depression in your life.

  • Have you been getting enough sleep? – lack of sleep can contribute to feelings of exhaustion.
  • Are you eating properly and regularly? – When our bodies are not getting the nutrients it needs like protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, dairy, (Chocolate is not a food group) it can cause physical and emotional problems.
  • Is your life too busy to get rest and take care of yourself?

So there are some physical things to consider when dealing with depression. We also need to examine how we react to the things around us. The things that happen to us are not as important as the ways in which we respond to those events. Certain responses cause a chain-reaction that can lead to emotional and spiritual depression. Maybe someone disappoints us or treats us badly. Broken relationships tend to be the biggest cause of a improper response. There are three primary reactions that lead to depression according to David Seamands:

  1. Indecision- When a decision needs to be made, do you put it off? Is that your standard way of dealing coping? There is a sense of powerlessness in a depressed person, feeling trapped. Sometimes a person is afraid of saying no because they do not want to hurt another person. Or maybe they are afraid of saying yes and taking responsibility. In any case, indecision often leads to depression.
  2. Anger – one of the best definitions I have heard about depression is “Frozen Rage”. Depression is almost always a result of unresolved anger in a persons life. Unresolved, repressed or improperly expressed anger will lead to depression.
  3. Injustice – Life is not fair and there injustice all around. When that leads to anger and is not resolved, depression is soon to follow.

Here are some helpful ideas on how to deal with depression. This list is not meant to be all inclusive and I always recommend getting checked out by a doctor as well.

  • Avoid being alone – isolation feeds depression.
  • Seek help from others – you can’t do this on your own.
  • Sing! make music – There are some great examples of this in the Old Testament (David & Saul).
  • Praise and give thanks – Thanks God for the simple things like the bird you saw fly by, the snow in the backyard etc.
  • Serve/volunteer – When we help someone else, it helps us as well.
  • Lean heavily on the power of God’s Word – the psalms can be very helpful. Here are some of the most helpful: 6, 13, 18, 23, 25, 27, 31, 32, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40, 42, 43, 46, 51, 55, 57, 62, 63, 69, 71, 73, 77, 84, 86, 90, 91, 94, 95, 103, 104, 107, 110, 116, 118, 121, 123, 124, 130, 138, 139, 141, 142, 143, 146, 147. Take a moment and read them out loud.
  • Rest in the fact that the Holy Spirit is present – Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would be with us always.

Depression is real and always has a root cause. It may take a lot of work and help in order to find that root and heal, but it will be worth the effort. If you are struggling with depression, don’t give up. If you know someone with depression, don’t judge them, love them, pray for them and encourage them. Our enemy would love for Christians to remain stuck in depression, because it keeps us from being effective in his kingdom.

Check Your Gauges

Every time I get into my truck, I scan the gauges to make sure they are all OK. I make sure that no warning lights are flashing and that I have enough gas to get where I am going. It has become almost a subconscious thing for me now. I also tend to watch the mileage to make sure I know when I need to get my oil changed or have the engine tuned up.

I know that if I do that I can avoid a lot of car problems in the future. I also notice when one of our vehicles starts making weird noises and get it checked out right away.

How often do we check our own gauges? Did you know that we all have gauges in our life and that if we don’t check them or watch our mileage, or listen for weird noises, we can have some major problems?

God made us with gauges called emotions. When our emotions start to get out of whack it is like the red lights on your dashboard flashing that something is wrong. The check engine light may come on. Our emotions are designed to help us navigate through life. When emotions become negative and are not checked out, it normally leads to a major breakdown. Things like anger, hostility, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness and self-hatred can lead to physical and mental breakdowns. Studies have shown that unchecked emotions like this can lead to hypertension, coronary artery disease, autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and more.

Anxiety can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, panic attacks, heart palpitations and other problems. These negative emotions also tend to deteriorate our relationships as well. When emotions are out of whack, they can cause us to do damage to the important relationships in our lives. So how do you check your gauges and see how you are doing?

Stress is the biggest cause of emotions getting out of whack. It is the same way with your car, the more stress you put on the engine and the tires etc. the quicker the car breaks down. the more stress you put on a vehicle the more care you need to give it. Yet in our own lives the more stress we take on the less time we tend to give to caring for ourselves. So here are some tips on how to check your gauges and take care of yourself:

  1. Check your attitude gauge – Are you mostly negative or positive?
  2. Check your stress level – The highest causes of stress include:
  • Death of Spouse or loved one
  • Divorce
  • Marital separation
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Just being married
  • Work conflict or deadlines
  • retirement
  • pregnancy
  • change of employment
  • Financial trouble
  • Trouble with relatives

3. Check your joy gauge – do you experience moments of joy daily or rarely?

4. Check your energy gauge – do you feel tired most of the time or energized?

5. Check your sleep gauge – do you get enough sleep or do you struggle to get enough sleep?

6. Check your patience gauge – are you impatient most of the time or patient?

7. Check your love gauge – do you find it hard to love people or easy?

8. Check your relational gauge – do people like hanging out with you or are they avoiding you?

I could share more gauges, but I think you get the idea. Checking our gauges allows us to do the maintenance we need to do to avoid a major breakdown. Self-care is vital, so make sure you are taking time for yourself in the areas of physical, emotional, relational and spiritual. Some simple things to do might be regular times of reading, exercise, dating your spouse, do something fun, attend church, join a small group, volunteer, give to help someone in need, plan a day just for yourself, go see a counselor or meet with a mentor.

There are many ways to take care of yourself, but the main idea is you have to have a plan for doing it on a regular basis. So check your gauges daily and make sure you are caring for yourself, so that you can care for those around you better.

Journal Entries from 2002

Today I was reading through some of my old journal entries from 2002. It was fun to read some of things I wrote, the prayers I wrote down, the Scriptures I was reading and the struggles I was going through. I also was reminded of some of the prayers that God has answered in my life. I thought I would share a few of the entries:

November 8, 2002:

Our time here on earth is very short. That is why each day must be lived to the fullest. Each day we must strive to serve God the best that we can. It may be only small insignificant things like writing letters, studying, moving chairs and tables, making copies, talking to a friend. All of these are important in God’s eyes. Each task we do, each thought we think, each word we say is important to God. We only have a short time to impact this world we live in and we must start with ourselves, our own hearts and minds. When we can do that others will see the results and be changed as well. That is why self-leadership is so important. You cannot change someone else if you cannot change yourself, and that is only possible with the help of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


November 17, 2002:

When I am afraid I trust in You. When I am weak I trust in You. When I am stressed I trust in You. When I am hurting I trust in You. When I am down I trust in You. When I am angry I trust in You. When I am lonely I trust in You. No matter what the circumstances of life, I need to trust in God for He is my light and my refuge, my strength and my motivation, my companion and my friend, my counselor and my father. Praise be to God – Thank you Lord for saving my soul – for loving me as much as you do. I love you Lord.

December 16, 2002:

Praise be to God! You are awesome, O God, whose power and might are beyond comprehension. You are worthy of all praise and adoration. You are the King of the universe the Mighty One. You reign on high – You reign in my life. Father I am reminded again today of your power and might. I adore you and love you. I thank you for leading me and directing my path. Help me to be obedient to your will. Grant me wisdom and discernment to know Your ways and to follow You every day. Give me the strength I need this day to serve You.

I am starting a new journal today. It may only be a few sentences or some days an entire page. For me this practice of writing my thoughts and prayers helps to keep me focused and is a great way to connect with God. I know this is not for everyone, but I believe I need to start this again. Find what works for you to connect with God and start doing that today.

Book Review – Louder Than Words – Andy Stanley

I finished reading a book last week called “Louder than Words” by Andy Stanley. The book is about character. Andy Stanley is a great communicator and writer. I have learned a lot by listening to his messages and reading his books. I read this book with 8 other guys. We all write up a one page report on what we got out of the book. We also include some of the main points and quotes in the book. I thought it would be good to share some of those quotes in my Blog:

  • Your character is not stagnate, but is either developing or deteriorating
  • Character is the lubricant that allows our personalities to mesh.
  • Character deficiencies are at the heart of every divided home or divided church.
  • Three elements are always present in a healthy relationship: Respect, Trust, Communication.
  • Our question shouldn’t be Why doesn’t God do something?, but What is God up to, and how can I get in on it.?
  • His goal is to recreate in you and me the character of Jesus Christ.
  • When what grieves God no longer grieves you, your heart is hard. When what bothers God doesn’t bother you anymore, your heart is hard.
  • Christianity is not an event but a process designed with God’s purposes in mind. Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee change. Only a renewed mind does.
  • Until you deal with your belief system, your behavior will never change. Because what we believe impacts what we do.
  • Refusing to deal with our past will eventually impact current and future relationships as well.
  • Unresolved hurt opens the gate of our heart to the destructive forces of anger, resentment, and bitterness
  • Living in your own strength is like pushing a car instead of driving it.
  • Character is produced through us; it is not manufactured by us. Our job is not to keep rules. Our job is to walk in the Spirit.
  • It’s not about committing to something. It’s about depending upon someone. God’s goal is not to control us, or to have us end up in the right place. His goal for us is to have a relationship with us, one in which we depend on Him for the strength to follow through.

I hope some of those quotes resonated with you like they did with me. I hope you will make Christ-like character a high value in 2011.