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Friday, March 29, 2013

What is Easter About For Your Family? How Can We Forgive?

What is Easter about? Is it centered on the story of unmerited favor and forgiveness? Is it marred by the brutality which exists in the hearts of mankind, yet forever etched on the souls of  men by the unconquerable redemption and resurrection of Jesus Christ? How can we forgive ourselves and others for wrong and guilt which so effectively and visibly destroys us from the inside out?  I believe it is said the prisoner is the one who refuses to forgive. We must "Live To Forgive"!

Jesus Christ gave us the greatest example the world has and will ever see by His life. He live a sinless and perfect life. He taught, loved, healed, and even fed natural and spiritual food. None of those items which are at the core of every human's existence was enough to ensure His embrace by all mankind even today. His mere existence should have been enough, but He went to the cross and was crucified also. Sometimes Christ's achievements appear unreachable in our flesh and blood daily struggles (Gal. 5:16-18). We inaccurately pursue schemes to reach/be God rather than embrace his free desires to reach us, only to be exhausted in discouragement.

In our desire to restore healthy family relationships, forgiveness is all so vital. We can make incredible multi-generational strides by the powerful exemplification of forgiveness. In our Easter episode of the show Motivation With A Purpose which airs weekly on, my co-host Rich Hallstrom and I spoke with Dean Smith about his life and documentary called "Live To Forgive". Achieving what Jesus Christ accomplished by forgiving mankind may be out of reach. But Dean forgave his mother's murderer, his step-father. Could you? Click on the link (show title) above and listen to this remarkable interview.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is Isolation Truly The Devil's Playground?

I spent some time this weekend in Wenatchee, Washington. I spoke at a men's conference on the topic of isolation. My specific title was "Is Isolation Truly the Devil's Playground?

Far too often when we hear of stories of isolation we are drawn to the stories with the "wow factor". Stories like Karp Lykov and his family who isolated themselves from civilization in the unforgiving and harsh Siberian wilderness for 40 years as told by The Lykovs in fear of religious persecution isolated themselves so gravely that they absolutely missed the occurrence of World War II. They were only discovered unexpectedly by Russian geologist conducting new mineral explorations by helicopter.

Too often we miss the opportunity to properly decode messages we are receiving when it comes to isolation in our own lives. I am speaking of messages and simple truths which easily go unnoticed but are at the core of our destructive isolated lives. Did you realize this simple truth of women "confront to connect", while men "withdraw to resolve"? As a result, men have a greater tendency to disconnect and isolate (withdraw) themselves from their spouses, families, and so much more. Think about it, how much would that simple but powerful truth save you and your dependents a great deal of pain if you understood how to properly react to the natural tendencies we have been given by the Creator?

The general definition of isolate or isolation is having minimal contact or little in common with others. From a biblical context, words and expressions which have been used to reference isolation include quarantine, imprison, desolate, seclude, wilderness, go away, went away, withdrew, withdraw, shut out, and exclude. As such, in order to define or more accurately decode isolation we face I thought it would serve our purpose best to explore the various faces of isolation.

In such a pursuit, here are a few faces of isolation which are commonly in our midst and circles yet we frequently fail to notice them as signs of isolation.

  • Dysfunctional families (with troubled children) frequently exclude themselves in shame or are excluded by us.
  • Growing divorce rate and frequent geographic moves have left many elderly adults isolated. Middle-aged adults only care for parents when they stand to gain.
  • Individuals with disability and/or parents of children with disability (estimated 40%) have absolutely no connection with the community in which they live.
  • Andrew Solomon writes, "Syndrome and symptom cause each other: loneliness is depressing, but depression also causes loneliness." Who are the depressed in your circles?
  • Isolation marked family of teen who claims captivity. As in Mitch Comer's case, abusers often isolate themselves, their families, and their victims.
  • Dating and marriage relationships with controlling individuals often end in isolation.
  • Many spouses live in the same house, sleep in the same bed, but are absolutely isolated at the heart. This is frequently exhibited by comments which viciously cut to the core of the other.
  • Under the Kanun, an Albanian code of behavior that has been passed on for more than 500 years, "blood must be paid with blood." Many males live in self-imposed isolation for fear of death, and many families are practically killed off.
Furthermore, in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes and chapter 4, King Solomon the world's wisest man gives us a look into the isolation man has imposed on himself due to a craving for vanity. He begins (verses 1-3) with claims that neither the oppressed nor the oppressor finds any comfort. While those who have passed on from this life are extremely fortunate, even more  fortunate and blessed are the unborn who have never seen this life, he said.
  1. We isolate ourselves in moments of jealousy and envy. (v.4)
  2. We isolate ourselves in idleness and laziness. (v.5)
  3. We isolate ourselves by misinterpreting busyness, especially in career, as success. (v.6)
  4. We isolate ourselves by becoming self-centered, greedy, & selfish. (v.7,8)
  5. We isolate ourselves with an arrogant and know-it-all attitude (v.13,14)
Solomon then provides a few simple but effective reasons we ought to reject and avoid isolation:
  1. Many hands make light work (v.9)
  2. For the reason of support (v.10)
  3. Companionship in marriage and the warmth it delivers (v.11)
  4. For reasons of protection (v.12)
  5. With humility, even in notable brilliance (v.15)
So is isolation truly the Devil's playground? In Luke 4:1-4, "The Temptation of Christ", note the strategies and tactics of the devil. These are the same strategies and tactics he uses with us and others who find themselves isolated such as the faces we discussed above. Note also the differences in our moments of isolation, than that of Jesus Christ. Satan will:
  1. attack when we are alone and potentially at our weakest point
  2. test and question the core of who we say we are ("If you say you are the Son of God...")
  3. offer up a fake of what we desperately need most (Jesus was famished)
The usual difference between us and Jesus which will guarantee a victory over the attacks of the devil are:
  1. Was Jesus really isolated although we frequently think He was when reading this passage? No!
    1. He was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit
    2. Jesus went into the wilderness seeking companionship with the Father
  2. When we isolate, we go it alone. We are prime target of Satan's strategy and tactics.
The solution to isolation is "companionship", not only with God the Father, but also His greatest creation; mankind and those he has entrusted to us for fellowship and community.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Parent & Child Relationships for Successful Family Legacy!

It has frequently been said for ages now that all children want is to be heard. In the same breath and extent of parental existence, we frequently hear from parents that children are to be seen and not heard. It sounds like we are forever faced with proving the impossible; mixing unpredictable components, or as is often said "mixing oil and water". So what gives in this ageless argument?

For the parent-child relationship to flourish, we must first embrace our respective roles. As such, within our roles we must obey, honor, and embrace the promise to live well and long. We must also make certain not to provoke, but instead to nurture and nourish souls. See below for instructions on how to conquer this amazing feat.

The Truth

To remain a successful and healthy family in today’s environment you must possess the spiritual acumen, emotional stability, and cultural awareness to navigate the culture and its many obstacles. More importantly, teach your dependents, your spouse, children, circle of influence, and so on, to continue to propagate a healthy family legacy that has been passed down by you.

Today’s children and tomorrow’s parents are absorbing from you the traits and characteristics that will allow them to succeed in life and pass on a healthy legacy to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Contrary to what you may perceive, they are deeply interested in gaining insight from you that relates and impacts their future successes. They want to see and experience now results they can glean from and apply in their futures.

The Process
We (you and I) must form the foundation of our thinking and approach to this culturally elusive dialog from the greatest book of wisdom our world has ever seen; the Bible. Observe the following scripture out of Ephesians 6:1-4 (nasb):
Family Relationships

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother(which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I find no better way to unpack this discussion in the context of family legacy than to explore some key words within this scriptural passage which govern or express the sentiment and reality of healthy parental-child relationship.
1) Obey (NT Greek: Hupakouo)
Parents must set the tempo; children must follow. There must be an existence of order and hierarchy within the parent-child relationship. Far too often in our culture and era anymore we find parents seeking to be friends with their children rather than parents. Does the adult-to-adult relationship change between parent and child later in life? Yes! But face it, you will never be friends. (Biblical usage: to listen, to harken to a command, the duty of a porter, be obedient to, submit to)

2) Honor (NT Greek: Timao
In keeping with the provided order the word obey has gifted us from the start in defining this familial relationship, children must adopt an aura of reverence for their parents in order to enable proper functionality. As one would expect, parents must foster and atmosphere (mature responsibility) which allows and enables them to receive/embrace the honor being offered by children. (Biblical usage: to estimate; set a value, value of personal belonging (ownership), to revere, to venerate)

3) Promise (NT Greek: Epaggelia)
For a culture which is ever so focused, in recent times, on personal satisfaction and self-improvement, it is a wonder for me how we miss the offer of a benefit that flows out of our commitment and decision to honor our parents. The statement is plain and simple, execute on the definition of honor defined above and there is an automatic God-ordained flood of prosperity coming your way. What is the promise? So that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the Earth. (Biblical usage: announcement, act of promising, a promise given or to be given, a promised good or blessing)

4) Well (NT Greek: Eu)
Observe some of the literal definitions and the usage of this word "well" in the Bible. In Acts 15:29 it refers to abstain from harmful circumstances and things such as idols, fornication, etc. In Luke 19:17 and Matthew 25:21, 23 it speaks of prosperity that comes with displaying faithfulness and responsibility. In Mark 14:7 it portrays the act of doing good to others. There is also the apparent promise of long life which usually comes with good health. Is our concern and inability to adopt or seize this blatant promise fostered by our interpretation of well or prosperity as strictly materialistic? (Biblical usage: to be well off, to fare well, prosper, acting well)

5) Provoke (NT Greek: Parorgizo)
As parents, especially father, we have a great opportunity to impact the lives of our children. Because of the amazing God given order which has been naturally written on our hearts, especially as children, parents also possess a deep connection and ability to hurt their children. That scar and hurt is most evident in the circumstance of parental abandonment. Regardless of how long it has been since we last connected with our child as a parent, there will always remain a parent size void that can only be filled by the biological parent. A personal relationship with God the father does have a miraculous ability to sooth and re-purpose a great deal of that deep emotional struggle. When we refuse to allow our children to be heard, we walk a similar fine line as abandonment. (Biblical usage: to rouse to wrath, exasperate, anger)

6) Bring (NT Greek: Ektrepho)
The word "bring" in this scripture refers to the process of nurturing and nourishing a life. Its accurate embodiment also involves characteristics such as cultivating a relationship, encouragement, development, and being supportive. (Biblical usage: nourish to maturity, to nourish, to nurture, to bring up)

As a parent or a child, the ability to create and foster a healthy familial relationship requires each of us to fulfill a specific role, and incorporate the respective characteristics from the list above which applies to our life.