Archive for December, 2008

Living with Loneliness – Key #2

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Key #1Change your thought pattern 
Key #2
- Recruit a spiritual strength team

Loneliness is a universal sickness that all of humanity experience. We are laden down with our secrets, our fears, our sufferings, our sorrows, our disappointments and our guilt. This is the case because we have undervalued the sacred nature of community. I believe one of the ways to deal with loneliness, in addition to changing our thought pattern, is to recruit a strength team – a community of people who will encourage us during our loneliness and help us live out the values and ethics of Jesus, despite our loneliness.   

A beautiful thing can happen in our loneliness. Loneliness can make us aware of the significance of and need for other people. In the emptiness and ugliness of our most desolate hour, we suddenly realize that we need people and that we can gain strength from others in the body of Jesus. Paul realized this: “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. (v. 11) Paul may have never appreciated more, Mark and Luke, as he did when he was lonely in the dungeon. In recruiting your strength team . . . 

Find godly and maturing individuals who will help you fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your life. In our loneliness, we are vulnerable and have a tendency to attach ourselves to anyone who is available. Many of these “available people” see our loneliness and vulnerability and exploit it. They thrive off of manipulating others by telling them what they want to hear – I love you, you are special, you are beautiful, you are smart, you are strong and handsome - in order to get what they want – sex, money, driving your new car, positions and promotions and even living in your house. I know women and men who desired companionship so desperately that they lowered their standards in order to get a man/woman, and they kept lowering them in order to keep him/her. And today, they have neither the man/woman nor their values. How sad! But, I certainly understand the aching of their hearts. These kinds of relationships are destructive, leave us with many soul scars (and sometimes physical scars), and more lonely than before we met them. This is the reason we need a strength team. 
  • Your strength team should be made up of people who will help you rediscover the sacred nature of community and gaining strength from it. 
  • Your strength team should be made up of a community of people who can edit your life, hold you accountable to the high and lofty values of following Jesus, and help you fulfill that calling. 
  • Your strength team should be the same gender. If you are woman, then your strength team should be made up of godly women, and if you are a man, your strength team should be made up of godly men. Now this is not to say we can’t gain strength from the opposite sex; I believe we can and do. However, in most cases godly women are able to speak more influentially in the lives of other women, and the same is true of men. Also, this wisdom helps to guard you from falling into temptation.  
  • Your strength team should make you better, not bitter. Do you have a team of people like this in your life? Who are they? Do these people make you better and more godly? Do they challenge your irrational thinking and behavior? Are they helping you be a godly husband/wife or a sanctified single? If you answered no to any of these questions, then you don’t have a strength team; you may have a “drain team,” a community of individuals who are draining strength from you instead of giving strength to you. If you have a strength team, here are some activity suggestions for your strength team:

  1. Meet regularly for mutual encouragement, accountability, and prayer
  2. Do community service with a team (missions projects, ministry teams at church, Habitat for Humanity)
  3. Join a small group or a ministry team at your church – get connected (Satan loves to isolate us in order to destroy us)
  4. Join a sports team together (if you are athletic)
  5. Take fun trips together – shopping, fishing, biking, road trips to other states and countries. 
  6. Do game night, karaoke or movie night (no “I’m so lonely” and “I need a woman/man” movies)
  7. Laugh a lot   
  8. Make a lot a memories together  

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

The Next Post: Key# 3 God Sits with You in the Middle of the Floor
 

 

 

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Living with Loneliness – Key# 1

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Each one of us has experienced, at some point in time, the cold chill and eery desolation of loneliness. We have walked that long, hard, and painful road for a number of reasons:

Sudden loss of companionship – death of a loved one, divorce, military, college
Rejection – your work, your love, your advice, your skill, etc
broken engagement 
Not having family 
Fear of being left out and alone  
No direction or vision for life 
Certain times of the season 
Lack of companionship  
Being a devoted Jesus follower 
Standing up for truth and right

If not dealt with properly, loneliness can lead to other problems, such as depression, feelings of uselessness, a lack of self worth, hopelessness, and even thoughts of suicide. It is possible to ease our loneliness or get rid of it altogether and unlock the treasure chest of contentment by turning several keys found in 2 Timothy 4:9-18

Key# 1 Change your thought pattern (2 Timothy 4:14, 16). 

Dealing with loneliness begins with changing the way we think. Changing our thought pattern includes admitting and accepting our circumstance of loneliness (it is what it is). When Paul wrote this letter, he was alone in a Roman jail. He did not deny it and he did not cultivate thoughts of self-pity, bitterness, blame and revenge, but he removed those thoughts and replaced them with the sovereignty of God. Now “sovereignty of God” is a seventy-five dollar phrase which means: God has unlimited power and he has control over the affairs of nature, history, and yes, our personal lives – especially our personal lives. Our feelings of perceived or actual loneliness from rejection, the move of a friend, death of a loved one, or the lack of companionship, does not catch God by surprise. He sees where we are, will repay those who have wounded us deeply, and cares about what happens to us. Let’s remind ourselves: “God has us where we are for His good purpose, although we don’t fully understand that purpose.” Does this mean that God sadistically gets pleasure out of seeing us writhing in the pain of our loneliness. Absolutely not! It means that God wants to be made bigger in and through lives and to make us look more like his Son. Sometimes the only way he can accomplish that is to allow us to go through suffering and pain. We all wish there was a different and less painful way, don’t we? Have you ever thought that God has you where you are so that his great power can be seen in your weakness? Let this thought wash over your heart the next time you are feeling the deep pain of loneliness: God never wastes a hurt and in your pain, his grace is enough!

Opening the treasure chest of contentment begins with turning the first key of changing the way we think about God and our loneliness. Send me comments or your own personal stories about this first key. 

Next Post: Key# 2 – Recruit a Spiritual Strength Team 



  

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Living with Loneliness

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

 Living with Loneliness


Several years ago a man put an ad in a Kansas newspaper. It contained only fifteen words, but it got amazing results. It said: “I will listen to you talk for 30 minutes without interruption for $5.” It sounded like a joke, but it was “legit.” In fact, some people needed to talk to someone so badly that they called long distance. After the ad ran for several days, the person was receiving 10-20 calls a day. The person who put the ad in the paper realized that this is a lonely world and saw a way not only to make money, but to provide a service to people who were lonely. 

Loneliness has been described as the most desolate word in the human language. It can be defined as the feeling of and/or being unwanted and isolated. These feelings can be perceived or actual. Loneliness strikes people in every stage and circumstance of life: a single person trying to find Mr. or Ms. Right or following a broken romance with Mr. or Ms Almost Right; the inmate in prison who is doing life and have nothing to look forward to; the military service person thousands miles from home, the widow who buried her soul-mate and now takes walks, watches movies, and eats dinner alone; the teenager who stares disinterestedly at the TV or video game, trying to escape the pain of a home pressured by drugs or alcohol or divorce; the divorced man or woman who has little opportunity or no scriptural basis to remarry. It is no secret that all of our hearts have throbbed with loneliness at some point in time. What are some causes of loneliness? The following list is not meant to be exhaustive. 
  • Being separated from cherished relatives and friends may cause loneliness. Friends and/or family members deserting us or betraying us may cause loneliness. Moreover, friends or family members relocating to another city, or being called up for military duty, or leaving home for college or getting married or unfortunately dying, may cause feelings of loneliness. 
  • Being rejected by others may cause loneliness. When people reject our love, our work, our advice, our abilities, we feel the pain of loneliness. 
  • Being defamed, disgraced and discredited by others may cause loneliness. Being ridiculed because you are the only Jesus follower on your job may cause loneliness. When we are disgraced or discredited because of our gender or our race, loneliness can penetrate the toughest heart.  
  • Certain times of the year may cause loneliness. For Paul, winter was probably a difficult time for him. The coming of winter could not doubt be felt in the dark, stony, damp and cold dungeon of his prison cell. Paul seemed to be saying, “I can’t take winter alone.” Psychologists say we go through cyclical times in our lives. When a bad experience occurs, the next year on that date, we subconsciously slump; our minds and hearts simply won’t forget. The holiday seasons are tragically lonely and difficult times for many people. 

We handle loneliness in different ways, and sometimes those ways are very destructive. Drinking, drugging, sexing, working, spending, sulking and “pity-partying” away our loneliness are not healthy answers. Many people die lonely, but that does not have to be true of us. Loneliness does not have to be a wasted experience. Some beautiful things can happen to and through us in our loneliness. I am convinced we can unlock the treasure chest of contentment, in the midst of loneliness, by turning five keys. Join me tomorrow as we turn these keys and not let loneliness stop us from living. 

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Surviving Deep Waters and Dark Nights

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Several years ago Hollywood released a film called the Perfect Storm. It was high impact drama, with a lot of deep waters and dark nights. The interesting thing about this blockbuster was that Hollywood spent an enormous amount of money on a film with no survivors. How sad! I imagine some of you feel like you are going through your own deep waters and dark nights right now. Many more of you feel like your entire life has been one deep water and dark night experience, and you wonder if you will survive. I want to encourage you today. You can survive your deep waters and dark nights by remembering a few lessons that God is teaching me. When I am going through my deep waters and dark nights I have to remember:

1. When I can’t see Jesus, Jesus sees me. There are times when our deep waters and dark nights (sickness, financial reversals, rejection, loneliness, etc) prevent us from seeing Jesus. However, just because our vision is obscured, doesn’t mean that his vision is obscured by our circumstances. He sees your struggle, exhaustion, and straining in the middle of the lake. His vision is not hindered by the distance and the darkness; He has his eye on you. Isn’t that good news? Just because you can’t see him, doesn’t mean he can’t see you. He sees and he cares. 

2. When I can’t get to Jesus, Jesus comes to me. There are times when our deep waters and dark nights prevent us from getting to Jesus. We try to get to him in prayer, fasting, and even praise and worship, but it seems like heaven is silent. However, we have the full assurance that when we cannot get to him because of the storm of doubt and waves of fear, he comes to us. He comes because he promises that he will (Deuteronomy 31:8). Also, he comes walking on the very thing that is causing the fear and turmoil in our lives. Now, sometimes he comes to us, not to deliver us, but simply to show us that he is God, that he is still in control and that he will not let the deep waters and dark nights overwhelm us. In these moments, more than anything, he wants us to trust him, even when we can’t trace him.  

3. When I can’t speak to Jesus, Jesus speaks to me. When my fear muffles our words and we don’t know what to say, Jesus speaks powerful words to his people. What does he say? He says: 

Take courage 

It is I

Don’t be afraid

Repeat those last word to yourself and let them wash over your heart right now. So, when you are experiencing your own deep waters and dark nights, remember that we have a Savior who sees us, comes to us and speaks to us. 

The Biblical source: Mark 6:45-51

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Economic Troubles Poll/Survey

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

It is no secret that everyone has been impacted by the struggling economy. I would like to hear from you on how you and your family have adjusted your lifestyle during these very difficult times.

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When Work Isn’t Working Out

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

 When Work Isnt Working Out

Welcome back! All right, you have been trying to respect and obey TJOTY (the jerk of the year) because you know it makes God look good, you believe it can save your job, you understand it is the best way to get ahead and you know it is what God tells you to do. Moreover, you have not taken advantage of the relationship you have with your boss who is a believer. However, it seems like most days you leave work and go home unhappy – about the work you do, where you work and for whom you work. Soul Man, what do I do when work isn't working out for me? Can I just press the escape button and leave? There are two key questions you should ask before you escape:

1. Am I being asked to do something unethical? You would be surprised (or maybe not) at the number of employers who ask their employees to do unethical and even illegal things. Some employees feel they must obey for fear of losing their jobs. Are you being asked to do something unethical?

  • If yes: then obey God, not man, and be ready to accept the consequences. In cases where you are being asked to do something unethical, your greater responsibility is to God and his values. Now, you might very well lose your job over standing up for what is right, but I am convinced that God will provide for you and your family. The material reward for living right and standing up for truth may not come immediately, but it will come. The immediate reward is obedience to God. 
  • If no: then obey your boss. If your boss has not asked you to do something unethical, just stupid, then obey your boss. Now, if you have a better idea or a more efficient way of doing the job, then lobby passionately and respectfully for it. Otherwise, respect and obey your boss.  

2. Can I quit? The natural question to ask, if you are unhappy in your job, is can I afford to quit and/or should I quit?   

  • If yes: then you should probably move on. If you can afford to quit your present job, then you are free to move on and find another or better job. Before you become more bitter, too divisive and a liability to the company, it may be better if you resigned your position and began praying and searching for a different job. 
  • If no: then you need to make the most of it. If you cannot afford to quit because this is the best possible job you can find right now, or you need the money and the insurance, or you are too close to retirement or you are a few years away from being fully vested or you simply can't afford to relocate, then it is wise that you stay in your present position and make the most of it, with a good attitude (Unless God has given you clear direction to make a move). This will challenge many of you – if you cannot quit because this is the best possible job you can find right now, then you should thank God, and send your employer and boss a "thank you" letter for letting you remain with the company, especially in a struggling economy. 

The goal is that every employer would want to hire a Jesus follower because of his/her good and godly character and impeccable work ethic. As you continue to do your job, do all you do as if Jesus is your boss. 

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My Boss is a Jerk – Part Two

Monday, December 15th, 2008

All right, it is Monday morning and some of you are excited about your job and many more are feeling like this man in the picture. You know, sometimes when we are overworked and unappreciated (I include those who work hard inside the home as well) we have a tendency to, out of frustration and anger, respond in ways that are less than appropriate toward our jobs, bosses, managers, supervisors or family members. Last week I challenged you to remember a couple of things if you are working for TJOTY (the jerk of the year). 

If your boss is a jerk, you still have a responsibility to respect and obey because… 

  • It makes God look good  
  • It can save your job
     
    Today I want to give you two more reasons:
     
    3. It is the best way to get ahead. Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live, said this: “He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit. And he who cares for his master (boss) will be honored.” (Proverbs 27:18) What does this mean? Just as nurturing and cultivating a fig tree are necessary if a farmer is to have a good crop of sweet figs, generally, an employee who attends to the needs of his employer will be honored with public affirmation, raises, promotions, and prestigious projects. Now, he is not referring to brown-nosing or kissing up. He means working hard and working well at one’s job will generally bring favorable results. Solomon draws a close connection between economic prosperity and the way you treat others, particularly your bosses. There is nothing more affirming to a boss than to have one of his employees genuinely make him look good in front of his peers and superiors.  
     

    4. It is what God says to do. Need I say more? The Bible can say it much better than I can. See Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:25; 1 Timothy 6:1; 1 Peter 2:18-21

    If your boss is a fellow believer . . . 

    1. Never take advantage of the relationship by showing less respect and always looking for “hook-ups and breaks.”  See 1 Timothy 6:2 (this is a great verse if you work for a fellow believer)

    If you do not work outside the home (stay at home mother or father)

    1. I want to celebrate you for your hard work. Your work is as important, if not more important, than those who work outside the home. I know it gets frustrating, tiring, and even lonely and you are not honored enough for your unconditional love and undying sacrifice for your family. So, I celebrate and honor you today. When you do your work (playing taxi, teacher, housekeeper, chef, and COO) with joy, commitment and as unto God, you honor God, your spouse and your family. May our God richly bless you!     

    Tomorrow’s Post: When Work Isn’t Working Out 


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    My Boss is a Jerk!

    Friday, December 12th, 2008

    How many times is a week have you felt like this woman in the picture – doing a job and working for a boss that sucked? Things don’t always work according to the plan, do they? Some of you are working for bosses or you know someone who is working for a boss, who is a real jerk (and you have heard other expletives too, I imagine). Some of you are just one nerve away from ‘losing your mind and acting a fool up in here, up in here!’ Before you go off and lay your religion down, remember your work is part of your worship and service to God. Soul Man, then what do I do if I am working for TJOTY (the jerk of the year)?

    If your boss is a jerk, you still have a responsibility to respect and obey because… 

    1. It makes God look good. When your boss is acting like a jerk, making you come in early, stay late, work weekends and holidays, piling on loads of work, not commending you for good work or recommending you for a better job or more money, don’t start: stealing from the company (I deserve this), becoming argumentative and bitter, coming in late, taking “looooong” lunch breaks, leaving early, and being a mediocre employee. This only makes you look bad and it gives unbelievers a reason to speak against God and your faith. Despite your boss being a jerk, continue to produce your best work, with a good attitude. When you do this, you make God and your faith attractive to others. Don’t forget, you are an ambassador, in your workplace, for the King.  
        
    2. It will save your job. When your boss is acting like a jerk, it is so easy and even satisfying to give her a piece of your unholy mind or to make life hard for her. The wise employee, however, understands, to do this, is to invite the terror and wrath of her boss on herself (The only thing worse than a woman scorned, is a boss scorned and humiliated by a subordinate). This could lead to you forfeiting your livelihood (you can forget that raise or that bonus), your future with the company or even a great recommendation if you decide to leave the company. I know God will provide, but we need to be wise.


    Tomorrow’s post: Two More Reasons and When Work is not Working for Me

       

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    Do I Need a Will?

    Monday, December 8th, 2008

    More than half of American adults do not have wills. What is more disturbing to me is that many of those individuals are Jesus followers. Sometimes, I think we are so focused on preparing for heaven, that they miss being good stewards/managers here on earth. I believe one of the responsibilities of a steward or manager is to alleviate family stress by preparing a will. What are the potential consequences of not planning for the disposition of your estate? The following answers might explain why you and your family might be better off drawing up a will. 

    What happens if I don’t have a will? 

    If you don’t have a will, your estate (all your assets) will end up in probate court and important decisions will then be out of your and your family’s hands. This is an absolute headache! Normally, you name an executor, a trusted friend or family member who is responsible for determining taxes, assets, bills, and debts to be paid. Without a will, the court becomes executor and your estate is divided under state laws. 

    What are the important components of a will?
     
    As a rule, according to attorneys, a will is broken up into two parts. Specified property, such as amounts of money, real estate and stocks that are left to a designated beneficiary. The residue is everything else, or everything not specifically defined, and will normally go to the primary beneficiary of the estate, usually spouse, children or both. Only property in your name at the time of your death can be passed to your heirs. 

    How can I provide for minor children?
     
    If you have minor children, you should be sure to name a trusted relative or friend as the guardian who will be responsible for the “person and property” of the minors. Tonia and I have already secured the consent of friends who would become the guardian of our children if something were to happen to us. Our will reflects this agreement. 

    How often should I update my will?

    Whenever there is a major change in the tax laws, or if there is a change in your family or your family’s finances, you should reflect that in your will.  

    How much should I pay to have my will drawn?
     
    This really depends on the complexity of the estate. The process of drawing up a will can range between $50 and $5,000 or more depending on how complicated it is. There is will software available, where it walks you through the will process step by step. It is convenient, but I would still advise you to consult with an attorney.
     
    Leave a legacy, not stress, for those you love by taking time to prepare and order your will and other important documents (insurance, stocks, mutual funds, annuity and all other important account numbers, etc.) Store these documents in a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box at the bank, so that, if something happens to you, your family will know where to go to retrieve all your important documents. A resource workbook that I have recommended to people is If Something Happens to Me. I have listed this resource under Helpful Books and Software on sidebar. 
    May God bless you as you prepare in life and death for his glory and your family’s benefit. 

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    What Men Want from Their Women – Part 2

    Thursday, December 4th, 2008

    I hope you have enjoyed these last couple of posts; the responses have been overwhelmingly insightful, encouraging, funny and positive. Keep them coming. I really appreciate you taking time to read and comment. As promised, here is the second half (11-20) of What Men Want and Need in Their Women. These are not necessarily in order of importance. Round 2 – ding:

    11. We want and need our women to understand that we don’t mind being told we look good; just don’t call it a “cute outfit.”

    12. We want and need our women to communicate without being too critical. Men don’t mind being told they’re wrong; they just don’t want to be emasculated in the process. You can tell us when we are wrong, but preserve our dignity and manhood in the process. We want you to communicate with us honestly and lovingly. We want to see our home as a refuge, not the boxing ring at Caesar’s Palace. Ladies, tone in everything. The Bible talks a lot about how the tongue can build up or tear down.

    13. We want and need our women to be faithful and committed in the relationship. Faithfulness is an absolute must. In fact, men want a woman who does not have a “roaming eye” and who can wholeheartedly commit to the relationship. Commitment is faithfulness plus the willingness to work on the relationship, even when things get really rough. See 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7

    14. We want and need our women to know how men need to be treated. Many women treat men in ways that diminish their egos, making them feel inadequate. Men would rather have more praise and more acknowledgment of what they do right rather than what they’re doing wrong. We want more acknowledgment that we are great guys who are loved and appreciated. We shut down when we are taken for granted and compared to other men.

    15. We want and need non-sexual affection, too (Whoa! Did I just say that?) Really, there is something fulfilling and satisfying about long walks in the park, snuggling up on the couch together watching our favorite movie, escaping to coffee houses and jazz clubs, receiving an email or call in the middle of the day, or an “I was just thinking about you gift.” We want and need private and personal time alone with our women, not just for sex.

    16. We want and need our women to be emotionally stable and physically attractive. Men are attracted to women who are developing themselves and growing personally – reading, thinking, questioning, and even keeping up with current events. We want women who are not needy and clingy and helpless without us. Also, we want and need our women to look good. I am not talking about supermodel attractiveness, but I am talking about maintaining an attractive appearance – getting your hair done, keeping your nails and toes manicured, and working hard to maintain that girlish figure.

    17. We want and need our women to be godly women. There is something absolutely exciting and attractive about a woman who is following Jesus in her daily life. When Tonia wakes up in the morning and she is praying and reading her Bible to get direction from God, that is a turn on to me, not in a sexual way, but in a godly, beautiful way. When I know she is praying for me and when I hear her praying for me, I feel like I can move mountains. There is something cleansing about it.

    18. We want and need our women to listen and treat us with respect. The Bible is very clear about the role of the wife and the role of the husband (Ephesians 5:22-33). The role of the man is to love his wife like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, and the wife’s role is to respect her husband. When there is a break down in these roles, the relationships gets on this crazy cycle of the man acting in unloving ways and the wife acting in disrespectful ways. The cycle will continue until someone is mature enough to apologize and forgive. 

    19. We want and need our women to support us at home, work and play. There is something energizing about the support and cheers of our number one cheerleader. When Tonia tells me that that was a great sermon or article or you “kicked butt” at the karate tournament or “Baby, I’m proud of you!”, that is the wind beneath my wings that causes me to soar. A man needs to know that if no one else will support his efforts and even his wild and crazy ideas and ventures (barring those ideas don’t bankrupt the family), he needs to know that he has the support of his woman. A man needs to hear that his woman is proud of him.   

    20. We want and need you to know that we truly desire to follow Jesus and lead our families. Each man grows and progresses at his own pace. Don’t nag him to be someone he’s not. Here is a tip: pray that God will surround him with strong and godly men to help him fill up some of the spiritual gaps in his life. Men tend to follow other godly men they respect and love.    

    There you have it, my brothers and sisters. This is, by no means an exhaustive list, but I think it does cover the bases fairly well. Tell me what you think. Type your comments directly in Typepad. Watch out for the next post – What Kids Want and Need from Their Parents.

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