Posts Tagged ‘challenging’

Is One Eye Enough? {Encouragement for Teen Girls}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Girls

Hmmm… What does it mean to have a log in your eye?

I got a little glimpse of what it feels like a couple of weeks ago.

I woke up and felt something funny in my eye.  I reached to rub it (I know, I know…) and recoiled at my own touch.  My entire eye socket felt bruised.  It felt like it was swelling as I sat there.  I felt like I had been sucker punched in the eye.

I got out of bed and ran to the bathroom to inspect my eye in the mirror.  I was expecting to see something horrifying.  It felt terrible, at least it would be bloodshot or something.  Maybe it would be red and swollen.  But when I looked, it appeared perfectly normal.  What???

I checked closer, compared the two eyes.  Alas, there wasn’t anything to speak of.  Maybe a little swelling, but could’ve been my imagination.

I complained to my mom.  “I feel like someone punched me out.” When lamenting to my friend, she laughed, “Maybe someone did.”  Ha. Ha.

It was bugging me terribly.  Focusing on things, moving my eyeball to look in different directions, it all hurt.  I held my eye shut with my palm and applied pressure.  It made it feel better. My friend suggested that it was a stye and said that it would help to apply a hot compress.  I took a washcloth doused in hot water and pressed it to my eye.  Such relief!

I went about my business, pathetically pressing a wet washcloth to the side of my face.  And I noticed something.

I never realized how important it was that both of my eyes work together.  Obviously, as I went about my business that day, I was only using one eye.

My perspective and perception was literally off.  I would reach for something and not realize that it was closer or farther away than I had estimated.  Everything looked more dim.  I had to focus harder to read (and I don’t wear glasses or contacts). Everything was just generally harder to see.

I kept feeling a weird urge to say that I had a log in my eye.  Because seriously, that’s what it felt like.

Then I was thinking…

The scriptures ask why we should take the speck out of our brother’s eye when we have a huge log in our own.

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  ~Matthew 7:3-5

The Lord charges us to first remove the log from our own eye, then take the speck out of our brother’s eye.  I witnessed first hand what it felt like to be crippled in one eye–I probably would have been barely able to see the speck, much less help someone to remove it!

My perception would be off, I would have ended up hurting the other person because I could not see clearly enough to properly remove the speck.  In reaching toward their face, I probably would have ended up accidentally jamming their eye with the force, because my estimation was off.

When we have sin in our own lives that needs to be rooted out, it messes up the way that we see.  We may be able to see the specks in other people’s eyes, the problems that they need to take care of, but until we have taken care of our own, our perspective is off–we can’t see clearly enough to give them the proper care that they need to remove the speck!  We would probably end up hurting them rather than helping them.

I’m not saying that we should ignore the sin of other people, on the contrary!  Out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be ever ready to exhort them in the truth of the Word if they are in error.  However, I believe that we should always be looking to ourselves first and foremost to make sure that we don’t have any logs in our eyes before trying to remove specks from others.

And sometimes, the log isn’t obvious to everyone else.  It may not be clearly seen, but that doesn’t make it any less the hurtful–to ourselves and to others.

Do you ever find yourself trying to take specks out of others’ eyes, only to find out that you have a log in your own?

What are the “logs” that may be hurting your vision?

Don’t Get Lost in Love

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

February is largely known for one thing: Valentine’s Day. Yes, there are other holidays. However, ask most people what is special about February and they’ll reply with “Valentine’s.” Candy hearts, red roses, balloons, heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates, and Nat King Cole singing “L-O-V-E”. Love. In my opinion, it’s the best word that sums up February.

I don’t know how you feel about Valentine’s Day. If you’re in your 20s, single, and want that “special someone” in your life (as Great-Aunt Rita would say), you are very likely just trying to avoid that feeling of loneliness which so easily can creep into your life. If you’re between the ages of 1-19, your eyes might be rolling while you attempt to dodge the love-struck sibling or friend at the Valentine’s Day party.

Whatever your view of Valentine’s is, what I’m going to say next is important for each and every one of us: Don’t get lost in love for each other. “WHAT?!” Some of you are saying. “You’re crazy! That’s what Valentine’s is for! To show those we love that we care about them!” And you’re exactly right. But while we go about showing our love for our friends and family, February is the best month to remember someone who demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice of love: Jesus Christ. Roughly 2,000 years ago, he came to the earth as a baby. For 33 years he lived a life just like you and me (besides the miracles he did and the perfect life he lived). And then – he died. On a cross. An excruciating death. But he didn’t die for something he had done. He died because he was showing his love for you and me.

John 15:13 tells us that “greater love hath no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (ESV). Jesus showed how much he loved us by laying down his life for imperfect people who do stupid, imperfect, things. He died and rose again so that we might have eternal life with him. His was the ultimate sacrifice of love.

So while we go about celebrating Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to stop and remember what Christ did for you and me in his death on the cross. When we show love to others, we’re simply mirroring his great love for us.

Scarlet Fetters {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

This may be one of the most important posts for young men to take notice of, because through it there can be an unprecedented amount of victory in your Christian walk.

Likely like many of you, I was forced to read a book for a literature class called The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Wait! Don’t stop reading! I can already sense the yawns of boredom, worried about the direction a post is going to go that starts out with a boring, dusty old book. But keep reading because it contains a very important point.

In the book, there are two characters who sinned together. One is a lady who was married but because she ends up having a child because of her adultery, they pin a red capital letter ‘A’ on her so that everyone knows she is an adulteress.  Nobody knows who the man was. As you read, you discover that the man is the local preacher in the community.

The character that impacted me the most was the preacher who had committed the sin with Hester Prynne. The adulteress had the scarlet ‘A’ emblazoned on her clothes for all the world to see so that the whole community could shun her. The weak, “righteous” preacher on the other hand had hidden his sin and was upheld highly by the entire community as a man of God whose words from the pulpit each week were beautiful and true, impacting them more deeply than any they’d ever heard before. He was the last person they would suspect of such a heinous sin. As you read, you see the result that hiding his sins had on the man. He becomes weaker and weaker, wracked by guilt, but still living his pious, righteous life on the outside. He is tormented by the demons of shame and regret and the reality of his hypocrisy;  it takes a toll on his body, physically he becomes paler and weaker all the time. It’s not as though he’s still living in the sin—he just hid the sin from the people. The book presents him as a trapped man with no escape. As I read, I felt the crushing weight on him, and kept searching in my mind for a way he could get out of this situation. The only solution that came up time and time again was that he had to confess. He was living a lie by hiding his sin and had to confess it, accepting any consequences that came as a result, and move on. Surely whatever would happen would be better than the wretched existence he was living now. The whole character clearly portrays the effect of covering your sin. And I remember when I read it, it stirred in me a deep commitment to be open and broken and transparent.

The Bible says “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

The fact is that it is not easy to confess our sins. It’s embarrassing…it’s awkward! It’s even hard to confess to God sometimes because it means we’re admitting we’re wrong. We want to downplay what we’ve done or pretend that it doesn’t really matter or justify it. But if you feel guilty about something, that’s a sure sign that you should confess it to someone you trust like your parents! (However, it’s important to note that even if you don’t feel guilty, but know it’s wrong before God, you also need to confess it before the Lord and repent. Sometimes people convince themselves that if they’re not convicted, it’s alright, but God has a standard of right and wrong that transcends our feelings.)

This applies specifically to young men because there are a lot of pressures we face at this time of life and there are changes we are going through that can be embarrassing and awkward. When I was at college, a group of Christian guys joined together to form an accountability group and we made a commitment to be completely open with one another, and admit what we were struggling with, and answer any questions that we were asked in the group.

If there’s something you’re struggling with, don’t just try to handle it yourself. As the verse above says, whoever covers his sins will not prosper. We need each other and God has given you your parents and a Christian community in the church to rely on. This truth has greatly impacted me and freed me from so much guilt and bondage and I pray that it will have the same affect on you.

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Coffee Converts {Encouragement for Teen Girls}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Girls

My friend jumped into the passenger seat of my car.  She sniffed, then chuckled.  “Of course.  Amy’s car would smell like coffee!”

What she actually smelling was a combination of  the new French Vanilla air freshener that I had just put up that morning, and my Starbucks Pike Place that I had grabbed on the way over.

But what she was alluding to was my (apparently) infectious and contagious love of coffee.

I don’t know what it is that I like about it so much.  Wait, maybe I do.  The smell of it captivates me…my parents laugh at me when I walk into a Starbucks, close my eyes and just take a long, deep breath.  It probably has to do with the fact that pretty much every morning for my entire life has started with the smell of fresh coffee brewing.  Nostalgia?  Call it what you will.  I love it.  As for the taste.  Ha, we won’t even go there.

Anyway, my friends tease me all the time about my love of coffee.  When two of my besties came over not too long ago, as they were stirring their cups of freshly brewed coffee they were remarking about how they actually never really liked coffee.

“I don’t know… I never used to drink it.  Then I just started drinking it all of a sudden, and I don’t know…wait…” they locked eyes, then turned and looked at me.

“What??” I shrugged.

“It’s you!”

I raised an eyebrow, chuckled slightly and lifted the mug to my lips.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Okay, so maybe I have a coffee addiction.  And maybe I talk about it too much (“it”, meaning, the coffee itself).

But you know, I was thinking.  I so easily converted my friends over to coffee drinking.  How?

I shared my excitement.  I showed them the beauty of it.  The smells, the tastes, the different ways to fix it.

What if I put this same energy into telling others about Jesus?  Hmm.  Convicting thought.

I’m so passionate about something as carnal as coffee… why can’t I have that same passion in God’s love?

The beauty of it; the smell of it, the sights of it, the feel of it, the redemption in it.  The eternal value of it!

May my love and passion for Jesus be manifest in such a way that others will be drawn to Him; that they will smell His aroma on me, and desire to have Him too.  They will see His smile on my face, and yearn for His joy.  They will hear His heart beating through my voice, and desperately seek to find the center.

May my addiction to Jesus be contagious!


“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”  ~2 Corinthians 2:14

Our Greatest Goal as Parents

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Dads, Encouragement, Moms

new greatest goalI remember reminding frustrated youth leaders, and members of our congregation, that the students in youth group who were not believers can’t be expected to bear the fruit of one who knows the Lord.  But they insisted they shouldn’t act the way they do. Following Christ isn’t about behavioral modification.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit…” John 15:5

What about our own children?  Behavioral modification will not produce the fruit a parent truly desires for their child.  It is all too easy (for me too) to fall into the trap of focusing too much on bad behavior (“that wasn’t nice.” “Don’t do that!” “You can do better!”  “You forgot?”)  As parents with a Kingdom vision, our concern is not that they act right.  Our vision is much grander and deeper.  Our #1 mission is that our children join Jesus.  I’ve seen lots and lots of teens do all the right things and then they go off to college and they take a turn for the worse.

We have to remember, Jesus invited us to join Him.  Chuck Bomar, in his new book, Losing Your Religion, states, “The good news Jesus offered was that He invites us into His life. Not vice versa”.   Zacchaeus was a changed man because he responded to Jesus’ invitation.  Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Come and follow me.'”

Our children will not live out a faith in Christ because they attend children’s church every Sunday, attend mission trips, and are a good kid.  They will only grow up and leave the roost following Jesus with all their heart, soul, strength and mind if they accept the invitation to be a part of His life.  There is a difference between inviting Jesus into our life, our plans, our desires and accepting the invitation to join His life, His plans, His desires.

Our greatest goal as parents is to help our children join Jesus.

How are you leading your children to know, love and follow Jesus?

Do they see the Christian life as a bunch rules to follow or an adventure?  What adventures have your family been on?

Love God with everything. Love your kids.  Lead them to the heart of the Father. And with His grace, they will love Him too.

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