Tag: boundaries

The Pharisees (Law-figures) in Your Life

“They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:2-9 RSV)

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23:13 RSV).

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)

The Pharisee in Your Proximity, History, or Family Tree

There are likely numerous modern day Pharisees (Law-figures) in your life, right now. They could be your parent, your coworker, your boss, your spouse, your child, your friend, your pastor etc.  They have the same main goal in your life as the Pharisees of the Bible. That is, to have influence and control over you, and to gain your conformity to their expectations. The Pharisees of the Bible have several characteristics that will help you identify the modern day Pharisees in your life right now. Here are some of the characteristics of the Pharisees in your life…

1) They are the ones consumed with expectations, rules (standards), regulations, and their way of doing things, and even more so with making sure you follow them, while not always following them, themselves. They are the law/expectation enforcers of your life; that is, their laws/expectations and ways of doing things. Their love, attention, acceptance, mood, and countenance are conditioned on your meeting of their expectations.

2) They are the ones who love attention and to be the center of it (usually having one of the loudest voices), often looking for people to follow/submit to their legalistic system of being and thinking. As long as you buy into them, are like them, and act and think like them, you are in. You will see them often having a flock of people whose common attribute is their willingness or desire to conform and be accepted by them, or who are simply cut from same clothe sharing the same system of thinking and being.

3) They are gossipers about other people, particularly about negative aspects of people’s lives. They enjoy pointing out people’s faults and shortcomings with a judgmental, grace-less spirit.

4) They are the ones who are always somehow right, love to have the last word, and typically have an answer to everything; often that make you feel ignorant, inferior, or needing their acceptance.

5) They are often hard (stubborn or unaffected) people, often carrying a stern, arrogant, untouchable, or disinterested posture where it seems you are never good enough, right, or worthy or their true respect. If you appear to come into their relational system of conditions, they will give enough softness to keep you interested, but where you do not comply, they will turn up their nose.

6) They are the ones who have a way of triggering your sense of guilt, shame, and condemnation, while being the ones you somehow feel like you need to please and earn their acceptance the most.

7) They are sometimes religious, pious appearing people, who use their beliefs to control and conform people into their system of thinking and being.

Oh Crap, it’s My Mom

O.k., now take a deep breath. You are going to be alright. You have probably already identified some people who fit into a lot of these characteristics. And what is most concerning is who these people are to you.  Chances are there is a family member in there, or a coworker, or a boss, a close friend etc.

Take a moment to continue to make a mental list of who the Pharisees are in your life right now. Why? Because how you are or are not dealing with them is having a dramatic impact on your life and probably the people you love.

Jesus repeatedly warned people of handling the Pharisees in their life with great care and caution, and so should you! He understood their potential, destructive hold on and influence in people’s lives if they weren’t vigilant.

Here are some critical things you should be doing with the Pharisees in your life.

The Big 5

1) Identify them for who they are.  No, don’t label them, but certainly see their behavior and way of relating to you for what it is. Somehow, we often feel obligated to love and even defend the Pharisees in our lives to a fault. This bizarre and twisted irony often leaves us unwilling to see their behavior for what it truly is, evil and destructive.  Furthermore, if it’s YOU that’s the Pharisee. See your behavior for what it is and turn to Grace to heal and give you a new foundation for life, living, and relating to people.

2) Identify the insecurity in you that is attracted to or codependent towards the opinion or expectations of them.

We all have insecurities and areas where we don’t measure up. We all need acceptance, love, and approval. Pharisees or more than willing to present you a way to strive to earn just that and to seemingly remedy the insecurities in your life. That is, to gain THEIR approval, acceptance, and respect.

See, the hard truth is, Pharisees exploit our insecurities and thrive on getting us to need their approval, have our submission, and seek their acceptance. It’s actually their way of justifying and gaining their own acceptance and approval.

Chances are in your family, workplace, or sphere of relationships, there is a Pharisee around which a group of people (maybe even you) seem to gravitate. Why? Because they (and/or you) are trying to gain the approval of a Law figure in their life so that they can feel valuable and worthwhile. Pharisees attract insecure people not because of their Graciousness, but because they present a system of earning ones way into acceptance as the way of healing their deep seeded insecurities. This is attractive to some because it replaces the love they do not have for themselves with a system of performance that makes it seem like they can finally  become secure and whole as a person. It is indeed a kind of family of acceptance they seek with the Pharisee, though founded solely on conditions, performance, and conformity. This relational system is evil, will not heal anything in your life, and will imprison you in the cell of your own insecurities and the never ending and always failing pursuit to heal yourself through a Law figure (Pharisee) in your life.

3) Don’t become like them.  Though the way they relate to you may have bewitched and seduced you into their sphere of control or influence, their system of relating and being ultimately does not work and falls on its face. All Pharisees are hypocrites as they can never meet the expectation themselves that they have and hold over others. Furthermore, their philosophy of influence with people and solving the deep problems in people ‘s lives only serve to put a bandaid on an ever cracking and leaking damn. They imprison the people they think they are somehow freeing by shackling them to the same religious, legalistic, guilt-motivated system that has imprisoned them. Indeed, miserly loves company. Trust Grace to be your supply and your solution. Trust it to work with people in all circumstances and situation. There is never a moment where Grace is not the right answer or response. Likewise, there is never a moment where the tenants and tactics of the Pharisees ever work, bring life, or the wholeness and security you seek.

4) Extend Grace without excusing their behaviors. If anyone needs Grace, it’s Pharisees. Unfortunately and often, the more you extend it, the more they reject it. Give it anyways, even if just to frustrate them. But don’t excuse their behaviors. Rather, confront them when necessary with confidence and calmness.  If you need to keep your distance, do so. Yet, always be willing to come to the table of reconciliation. Grace can change anyone, even the most sold-out Pharisee.

5) Turn to the Grace figures in your life beginning with Grace Himself… Jesus  What you are seeking or think you are getting in the Law figure(s) (Pharisee) in your life is what you can truly only get through the Grace-figure, Jesus. In fact, He is not just a figure of Grace, He is Grace.

Allow him to be your security, your justification, your acceptance, your approval, your worth, your value, your identity. Surround yourself with Grace-figures in your life. People who love you unconditionally, promote your freedom not control, stand with you, and have your best interests at heart. People who speak well of others, who give the benefit of the doubt, who forgive easily, and who lift up who you are, not who you aren’t.

 

Giving Grace to Difficult People

I find in Jesus, the perfect model for being a person of Grace. In fact, He is not just a person of Grace, He is Grace.

I think, for most of us, we want to be loving and extend Grace. Yet, when it comes to certain types of people and behaviors, we get frustrated. How do I give Grace to that person who drives me up the wall? What about the person who wrongs me over and over again? Does giving Grace mean I become a doormat for Jesus, devoid of having boundaries, never saying “no,” or creating space from certain types of people.

These are difficult and important questions that everybody wrestles with.  Hopefully this post can shed some practical insight on how to extend Grace to difficult people.

o.o1 – At times we are the difficult person-  The very Grace that we are having difficulty in giving or are not sure we should even give in the first place, is the very same Grace we need to be given. Chances are, right now, there is a person who is trying to figure out what it looks like to give Grace to you. The very issues you are wrestling with in giving Grace to difficult people may just be the same kind of issues someone is wrestling with in giving Grace to you. Those who truly know their deep, forever need of Grace are the ones most willing to extend Grace to others.

0.02- Grace is unconditional- We live in a deeply conditional world. You do this, I do that. If you do this, I’ll do that. You change, I will change. You take the first step, I’ll take the next. You say “sorry,” I’ll forgive. You change your behavior, I’ll draw closer. This is why Grace is so difficult and revolutionary. It goes against so many of our relational impulses. For many, Grace is blasphemous, offensive, and unrealistic.  You expect me to do what? Grace is unconditional. There is no condition for which it cannot and should not be extended in some form or another. There is never a moment where Grace is not the best response. In fact, the only times when Jesus was recorded specifically in the Bible as being angry, His anger was directed exclusively at people who withheld Grace from others. You want to know what angers Jesus? Sin? Nope… withholding Grace! Apparently, that’s worse than sin itself.

0.03 Grace protects your being- Grace enables you to give to the ungiveable, love the unlovable, and forgive the unforgivable without loosing yourself. Grace is not the absence of being hurt, offended, or used, it is your divine capability to give Grace non-the-less.  Ironically, it is in the withholding of Grace that offense, hurt, and being used are given life and power to stain and erode within you. Giving Grace disarms all offense. It is not denying nor pretending their is not a problem. Rather, it is the sure solution to the effect of the problem on and within you, and the only potential solution to the problem with or within the other person.

Grace costs you nothing to give because it is supplied by your Father, you cannot out-give the supply. It is what shelters you, protects you, and guards you in all your relationships. It is what keeps you from becoming the very person you are having difficulty trying to deal with.

Conditional love, however, lowers your shields to the hurts of others and gives them harbor and perpetual life within you. Conditional love grows the disappointment, resentment, and bitterness that comes from unmet expectations. Grace does not always say, “yes.” but refuses to say “never.” Grace is not the absence of boundaries, but an understanding that most boundaries that constrict the flow of Grace are not boundaries but a barrier.

The true danger in your relationships is not in the giving of Grace, but in the withholding of it. Withholding changes nothing and erodes most everything. Grace changes everything and erodes nothing. It is this irrational, indiscriminate compassion that is called Grace. It defies everything we have learned and believe works in a conditional world.

0.04 Grace confronts religious pride and injustice- There is a purpose in giving Grace to difficult people (of which we all are difficult at times). It is to heal, restore, and reconcile. Some difficult people are difficult because of their pride and/or behaviors of injustice. Ironically, Jesus confronted these types of folks very sternly, and yet gave great compassion, patience, and understanding to broken, sinful people.

What do people of pride and injustice have in common? Their refusal to be people of Grace, receiving it and giving it. They take away, when giving is what should be done. They punish when correction will do. They hold out rules and regulations when freedom and encouragement is what would gain the influence. They pretend they have it all together, when they don’t. They condemn, judge, and sow seeds of guilt and shame into people’s lives.

Yet, Jesus was and is Gracious to these folks nonetheless. They very fact that He didn’t go any further than giving them harsh comments of confrontation, stopping short of drop kicking them into hell, shows His abundant Grace. Sometimes, the deepest expression of Grace to these kinds of difficult people is in what we stop short of doing and saying. Walking away, kicking the sand of your feet can be a deep expression of Grace.

See, Grace is most attracted to people who know deep down they need it. Jesus spends most of His time making sure the broken, humbled, and hurt receive it instead of trying to convince the proud and unjust to receive it and give it.

With some people, the more you give Grace, the harder their spine stiffens. The more you try to confront their pride and injustice, they more they dig their heals into the ground. What should we do? Give Grace anyways, and still confront when necessary. Yet, spend more of your time extending Grace to people who aren’t hell bent on living against it in their lives and in the lives of others.

0.05 Grace does not invite sure physical danger- Giving Grace to difficult people doesn’t mean that if you are physically abused or are in a physically abusive relationship, you should just take it.  It’s one thing to give Grace knowing that you might be endangering yourself physically as Amy and I did in adopting two of our daughters from China. The plane could have crashed, we could have been hurt traveling in sketchy parts of China etc. But, to invite sure physical (or even emotional) danger to you or those you love in the name of Grace is likely unwise. You can still give Grace to difficult people while creating necessary physical and/or emotional space. A good rule of thumb is, if in giving Grace you put yourself in a circumstance that will certainly damage you ability to give it because of the presence or level of physical or emotional harm, than chances are, you need to create some distance that allows you to give Grace, but not be harmed or have harm brought to the ones you love in the process. The stronger you are in your sense of identity in Christ, the more you will be able to give Grace to emotionally toxic people without losing yourself in the process. It is Grace that grows this strong sense of identity in Christ in you.

0.06 Grace receives from God and gives to people-  With God, it is better to receive than to give. But, with people, it is better to give than to receive. Spend your time allowing God to be the supply of comfort, security, value, worth, applause, happiness, meaning, courage, etc. in your life. He is the One who can meet these needs completely and consistently.  With God, spend much more of your time receiving the needs in your life than trying to give to Him.

Yet, with people, spend much more time giving to them from your well of Grace, instead of turning to them to be your supply. When we turn to others to receive, we create a level of “expectation” into the relationship. When we turn to people to give, we create a level of “uncondition” into the relationship. It is impossible to to give Grace and yet have connected expectations in return. If Grace is not given unconditionally, it is not Grace.

Difficult people, in some ways, become much less difficult when we aren’t trying to change them or get them to meet some relational expectation. Rather, we are simply trying to give Grace, and in doing so, we bring to the table the very thing that actually changes everything. When we stop trying to change and get certain things from people, we actually can bring to bare the one thing that can change people and behaviors… Grace.

10 Relationship and Leadership Standards to Live By

Relationships and leadership go hand in hand. And to be sure, navigating both can be complicated and difficult at times. We all want healthy relationships where we can love and be loved in return. We also want our workplace relationships and endeavors with people to filled with harmony, fulfillment, and happiness.  Yet, some of the time, we find our relationship and leadership experiences falling short.  What we hope for is not exactly what is actually happening.  Conflicts, challenges, and change (to name a few) find their way in and make relationships and leadership more messy than we would prefer.

As a pastor, I am certainly not perfect. On any given day, I probably make more mistakes than I do in getting things right. Yet, these 10 standards have definitely helped in improving my leadership and relationships, if for no further outcome then enabling me to have an inner sense of assurance and calm in the midst of times when leadership and relationships are not so easy. But well beyond that, I have found these standards to go a long way at fostering healthy relationships and leadership for all involved.

The good news is, these standards reflect the Christ that lives in you and the new person you already are in Him. You are already fully capable of living these out as God has graced you with His mind, a new heart, and His power. These standards are not about things to strive for, but rather aspects of who you are already. Believe that these standards are already within you, because they are!  As you believe it, you will live it in your relationships and leadership.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #1- never handle conflict through email, texting, or fb.

If you can’t deal with it face to face, don’t deal with it until you can. No, we shouldn’t avoid dealing with conflict, but handling it prematurely through ways that avoid or delay face to face dialogue can be highly problematic. What about a phone call or Skype? That is a good option “b” when getting your bumpers in the same parking lot is impossible or highly difficult.  60-70% of communication is non-verbal, and people often take a much different posture towards issues when they are face to face then when they can hide behind the distance and disconnect email, texting, and social media provide. If you want people to respect you and your leadership you are going to want to handle conflict personally and relationally through means that bring you face to face as much as possible. Every one brings two pails to issues of conflict, one is full of gasoline, the other full of water. Whether or not gasoline or water is poured on the issue will largely depend on how personally the issue is handled.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #2- when receiving criticism, don’t take it to heart without first carefully considering the source.

Criticism can be very valuable, but also destructive. One of the determining factors is the source of the criticism. The main question I have when discerning the source of criticism is, “Does this person have my best interests at heart?” If I conclude they don’t, my willingness to open the door to taking their criticism to heart diminishes. Helpful criticism usually comes from people who genuinely care about you. Does that mean we shouldn’t consider all criticism as having potential value? Of course not. Good criticism can come from bad people. But be very careful how you receive it and what you do with it. For sure, though all criticism should be considered, not all criticism should be taken to heart. Furthermore, not all criticism deserves your response or your action.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #3- assume the best about people and focus on their goodness, but entrust them in steps, not leaps.

There is goodness in everyone. People are a gift from God. Focusing on what is good about people and their strengths is a powerful way to live. Unfortunately, we often fill in the blanks about people and their actions with the most negative conclusions. We think this protects us, but it often serves in depressing us and missing out on the value of people. Assume the best about people.

However, this does not mean entrusting people in leaps and bounds. It does not mean turning off common sense and fair discernment. You wouldn’t give your car keys to a 10 year old. Neither should we entrust people beyond what they are ready and capable of, even if they believe otherwise. This is a disservice to them and you. Entrusting in steps is key.  Those who are faithful with a little will be faithful with much. It’s important to see what people do with a little before you give them much. This will benefit them and you in the long run.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #4- don’t waste your time trying to drag people into or keep them caring about you and/or your vision. If they can walk away, let them walk away.

Oh, how we want to be liked and loved. Unfortunately, not everyone will like and love us.  It’s our insecurities that attract us to people who aren’t good for us or who aren’t interested in us.  We somehow think we need to get them to be interested in our lives to prove that we are lovable and worthy.

Yet, trying to drag people into our lives and keep them caring about us and the things we care about is a royal waste of time. People will walk into and out of our lives for various reasons. You will likely only have a few over the course of a life time that will truly be “with you” for the long haul. If people can walk away from you, they were never really “with you.” They may have been “with” aspects of you, but not you as a whole. If you find yourself having to drag people along to be interested and involved in your life, stop wasting your time. Do your best to be a person of reconciliation and lasting relationships, but if they can walk away, let them walk away. Spend your time nurturing relationships of mutual love and respect.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #5- connect the tubes of your identity, emotions, value, and merit to Jesus. Connect the tubes of your giving and blessing to people.

One of the keys to healthy relationships is to not turn to them for your everything, especially for you value, merit, and identity. Only Jesus can supply your deepest needs and fill your emotional tank. We run into trouble when we turn to people for what we should be turning to from God.

With God it is best to receive, with people it is best to give. Let God be your supply, and people, the recipients of your blessings.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #6- Be generous with forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean what they did is now somehow o.k, or that the relationship is automatically back to normal. Forgiveness is emotionally releasing the person of the debt that they owe you, for your sake and potentially theirs.

Forgiveness makes sure we don’t write people off, but it doesn’t mean we automatically write them back in. Reconciliation and restoration are totally different from forgiveness. Forgiveness is what makes reconciliation and restoration a possibility not a guarantee. It takes two people to reconcile, it takes only one person to forgive.

Being a forgiving person means not hold grudges or harboring bitterness, but always keeping the door open (however slight) to the possibility of reconciliation.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #7- Love negative people from a distance. Don’t stop loving, but don’t let their negativity stain your outlook or the outlook of others.

Some people and relationships can become highly toxic. People who are negative to a fault certainly fit into that category. Unfortunately, negativity is highly contagious, and can even rub off on ourselves if we are not careful. Many negative people love attention, and have for whatever reason, decided that utilizing negativity is their best (and maybe only) way to get attention or control.

Not everybody who has an opposing view or points out problems is negative. We need people who are willing to look for challenges and speak the hard truth we don’t want to hear. But negative people thrive on problems, drama, gossip, bad news, and things that could go potentially wrong.

Sometimes, as hard as we try, we cannot inspire them away from their negativity. The best we can do is to love them from a distance as we pray for God to do what only God can do in their lives. Allowing them too close to you and those around you in terms of having a voice, gaining an audience, or spraying their negativity around can be highly problematic. At times, loving them from a distance can even mean taking measures that remove that person from a project, group, or team as the best context to help a clinically negative person is outside of the context their negativity feeds upon. However, usually politely communicating that you have heard their views, but ignoring them in your mind and in your decisions will take the wind out of their sails for you and those around you.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #8- with people, exchange the ideal for the real. Nobody is perfect. Surround yourself then with people who truly care about being in relationship with you. Nearly any imperfection can be worked through in that context. Mutual love is the glue to relationships, not perfection.

Love covers a multitude of things in relationships. Love everyone unconditionally, and draw people close to you with whom mutual love and respect occurs, not perfection. Some of my closest relationships are with people with whom I have differing views and beliefs. Furthermore, I and they have made numerous miscues in the relationship. The glue that holds it all together is mutual love and respect. Mutual love and respect in a relationship brings the ability to agree to disagree, say “sorry” when sorry is what is needed to be said, work through misunderstandings, and just about anything else.

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #9- When confronting a conflict or issue with a person, do it face to face and begin with questions. Questions like, “Help me understand, I heard…” or “Would you be open to some feedback about…” or “Maybe you could help me clarify something, what was your thinking behind…” etc. etc. Clarify first with questions that don’t accuse.

The worst blunders we make when confronting issues come from either confronting them too soon without all the facts, or never confronting them at all, no matter the facts. The solution is to confront with the mindset of an investigator, not a judge. Then, when all the facts are in, people have had their voices heard, and you have had time to seek wise counsel, then begin to make decisions about how to move forward. Rarely, do we need to press the accelerator when confronting conflict, most of the time, what is needed is to apply the brakes. Slow down, be thorough, objective, and gracious.  And remember, face to face!

Relationship/Leadership Standards to Live By: #10- Don’t make a big deal about figuring out and living some great plan for your life. You becoming the person you already are in Christ is God’s big plan for you. In Him, you are already big and anything you do and pursue is big. The significance and magnitude of you and your life has already been taken care, God wants you to simply enjoy it. Life is God’s great plan for you.

The purpose of your life is to awaken (through faith) to the Savior (Jesus) who has already saved you, become the person you already are in Him, and live the life He has already given you… filled with power, authority, significance, and divine celebrity.

In Christ, anything you do, pursue, create, or endeavor is filled with perfect purpose and divine power and significance.

Enjoy your life, and live it. That’s the plan.

 

Respect Yourself

I believe it’s true that self-respect attracts the respect of others. It creates a presence that influences others and grants you an assurance and perspective of self that greatly determines our attitudes and actions for the better.

To be sure, God wants you to respect yourself. After all, He created you and died for you.

But most of us are smart enough to realize we have areas in our lives where we just don’t measure up. We have all failed and make mistakes on a constant basis. When we look in the mirror, we see gaps between who we want to be and who we actually are.

On top of that, we have been sent negative messages by people around us highlighting flaws we already have and branding us with flaws we don’t even have. So, the chances of not respecting ourselves the way God would have us to, are strong. There seems to be enough reasons why we shouldn’t.

Perhaps that’s the reason why we give safe harbor to the disrespect of others and make choices from an internal foundation of a disrespect of self. Think about it, how many times have you made choices that you knew deep down weren’t good for you, but you did it anyways? How many times has the voice in your head simply echoed the criticism from others with little to no discernment and pause?

The super good news is, God can make you disrespect-proof; from yourself and even from others.

The Bible teaches, when you put your faith in what Christ has done for you on the cross, you become a new creation. The word for “creation” in the original language of this passage actually means, “species.” In essence, you have become a completely new person.

Among so many others things, the Bible says this new person you have become is completely sanctified, holy, and righteous. In fact, it says that there is no condemnation over your life whatsoever, and every sin (past, present, and future) has all been forgiven. Your identity has become no less than Christ’s Himself. The Bible says, “As He is (in heaven seated at the right hand of God) so are we in this world.” Everything is under our feet. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing, lacking nothing of God in our lives. And let me add this little gem… it’s not even your nature any longer to sin. That old nature was put to death with Jesus, now you have a new nature. Do we still have miscues in our life? Yes, but those do not change who we are and are identity. We are now defined by Christ’s performance, not our own. This, and much more, are the kind of things God did TO you on the cross. In short, the moment you believe, He lives in you and as you in this world.

This means, in truth and reality, there is no room nor reason for any level of self-disrespect in your life. To think any less of your value, worth, and being is an offense to what Jesus did TO you on the cross in making you a new creation. You are a son (or daughter) of the King and an heir, priest, and king in the Kingdom. Yes, you, right now, through faith in Him.

Your self-respect is based on the new self you have become, a new creation, Christ living in you. It’s not based on what you do (or have done), but on what Christ has done TO you. Should we act in disrepectable ways? Of course not! That’s a no brainer. Should we complain when other people think less of us when we act stupidly? Of course not, another no brainer! But in Christ, what we do does not define who we are. In fact, the more you believe and respect who you are in Christ, the more you will act in respectable ways. Right believing leads to right living. A person with an obedience problem first has an identity problem.

So, stop disrespecting yourself! It breaks God heart and keeps you from living the life He has for you. Our actions always follow our beliefs. The less you believe in who you truly are, the less you will live the life God gave you to live. Faith is the key! Believe it, receive it, and live it.

When you become a new creation in Christ, Jesus gives you an identity you can truly respect. You don’t have to fake it, and you don’t have to take it, anymore!

Here’s some practical things respecting yourself will mean…

1-respecting yourself means silencing the voice in your head that echoes the opinions and feelings people have about you.

Being careful and discerning with what people say and feel about you before taking them to heart is a sign of healthy self-respect.

Believe you are a son (or daughter) of the living God!

2-respecting yourself means learning to love chronically hurtful people from a distance.

Setting healthy boundaries that protect what God has and continues to do in and through is a sign of healthy self-respect. Sometimes this will meaning loving certain people from a distance.

Believe you are holy, complete, and sanctified in Christ!

3-respecting yourself means never allowing the lack of character in another to become the lack of character in you.

Staying true to the greatness and goodness you are in Him is a sign of healthy self-respect.

Believe you are the righteousness of Christ, a king and priest in the Kingdom, a partaker of the divine nature!

4-respecting yourself means refusing to carry the burden of trying to keep people interested in your life.

Being secure in yourself no matter how many value, take interest, affirm, and join you in life is a sign of healthy self-respect.

Believe you are the joy for which Jesus came and endured the cross!

What would you add to this list?

Stupid Stuff We Believe

Sometimes it isn’t until we hear ourselves say it, or read it on a page that we realize just how stupid some of the things we believe truly are. These are the kind of things we hate to admit, and would probably never say out loud, but we really do believe them in our hearts.

Take a look at the list below at some of the stupid stuff we secrety believe. We would never tell anyone to believe these things, yet we do so everyday.

1- If 10 people compliment you about something, you should really listen more to the 1 person who criticizes you about it.

2- When you don’t always please the people around you, you are not as good of a person as you should be.

3- You need to have it all figured out before you start anything new in your life.

4- God loves you, but sometimes He is disappointed with you, shaking His head with frustration.

5- Someday you will be happy, once things come together or you find the right person.

6- You need your children to like you in order to feel good as a parent.

7- You need to punish yourself or alteast keep yourself from being too happy because of the mistakes you have made in your life.

8- You can change them

9- The more people value you, love you, and think well of you, the more valuable, loveable, and likeable you really are.

10- Jesus mainly wants you to be really upset about your sin, get your butt to church, clean up your act, and do more good than bad.

Which of these do you believe deep down?
What would you add to this list?

Navigating People’s Opinions of You

God has created us, in part, for relationships with people. Relationships are a huge blessing from God. He desires for us to be skilled at healthy relationships and experience intimacy with others.

Yet, relationships can become a source of unhealth in our lives when they take on poisonous dynamics God never intended.

One such dynamic is when people’s opinions of us gain more influence in our lives than they should.  Everyone seems to have an opinion regarding just about everything, including you. Perhaps everyone is entitled to their opinion, but they aren’t entitled to have you automatically taking their opinions to heart. Between someone’s opinions of you and you taking that opinion to heart should be a lot of filters and checkpoints.

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to be negatively influenced by people’s opinions or rejections of us.  We care about what people think, but often, way too much. Some of us still hold on to negative things people have said about us years ago and allow their opinions to rule, dictate, and influence our thoughts, emotions, and lives. The good news is, it is possible to be a good listener, and a loving and a caring person without letting people’s opinions of us rule our thoughts, emotions, and decisions.

Problems with relationships in terms of insecurity, codependancy, and a lack of healthy boundaries (especially when it comes to people’s opinions of us) can often be traced to having wrong or distorted beliefs. When you and I believe rightly about ourselves, people, and relationships, we are far more equipped to navigate people’s opinions of us. Right believing is the key to having right relationships and handling relationships rightly.

Here are some things that are working in my life as I try to navigate people’s opinion’s of me.

1) Believe in who you are in Christ-   Believing in what Christ has done FOR you is important, but equally important is believing in what Jesus has done TO you, especially in our relationships with other people.  I can’t be secure in a relationship until I am secure in myself.

Jesus has made you into His righteousness; no matter what people say, there is nothing wrong with you! You are completely forgiven (past, present, and future), whole, and possessing every spiritual blessings. It is no longer your nature to sin, that was completely put to death on the cross. Sin, shame, guilt, and failure are not your identity. There is no condemnation over any aspect of your life. You are not just a child of God, but a son, daughter, king, and priest. Jesus has put everything under your feet as you sit with Him at the right hand of the Father. You are a new creation, a new species, more than human, perfectly and completely loved by God. Jesus lives not only in you, but AS you in this world. This is what Jesus has done TO you. As you believe this, you will walk in life with a new assurance, security, purpose, peace, and strength. No circumstance, person, issue, challenge, insult, or accusation can unravel what God has knit together in you. You are unstoppable. Fear, insecurity, anxiety, and guilt are no longer your master, nor can people use them to manipulate and discourage your life.  You are poised to meet every challenge with Grace. As He is, so are you in this world.

This is who you are, in Christ.  No person’s opinion of you should gain more influence over you than what Jesus has done TO you, the moment you believed. Let people say what they want ABOUT you, because they can never change what Jesus has done TO you. Believe that!

2) Believe that your goal in life (and relationships) is NOT to have people like you- People don’t have to like you, agree with you, value you, nor accept you in order for you to be in truth a caring, loving, and good person.  People’s opinion of you don’t and shouldn’t be allowed to define you, God’s opinions should. People have been known to believe one thing one moment, and another, another moment. People believe some of the most ridiculous and misguided things. Chasing after the positive opinions and reactions of people will leave you spinning like a breakdancer on crack. The goal of your relationships with people is to love them, not to derive your value and worth from their opinions or reactions to you. When it comes to God, it is better to receive than to give, but when it comes to people, it is better to give than receive. The goal of your life and relationships is not orchestrate and direct the applause and acceptance of people towards you. Nor is it to gain their approval so that you can approve of yourself.  The goal of your relationships is to love and bless, where possible.

3) Believe that God is your best supply for your sense of value, approval, and worth– God knows you better than anybody, and God is the one who determines your worth, approval rating, and value. Believing this is true of God over that of people is critical to say the least. God’s approval, and the value and worth He places on you should be your emotional and relational home base. The approval or disapproval of others should never become our emotional foundation. God is your best supply. He loves you with an everlasting love. He created, saved, and sanctifies you. No one can carry out the good work He has begun in you, nor does anyone hold His position to speak most clearly, accurately, consistently, and truthfully in and about your life.

4) Believe that not everybody’s opinions of you matter- If you believe every person’s opinions or reactions to you should be valued equally, you will for sure be a relational and emotional basket case. Some people’s opinions of us should have more value and influence than others.  Stop taking to heart the opinions of people who don’t matter. And the truth is, there are going to be a good number of people in your life whose opinions should matter very little, if at all.  No, it’s not about being rude or caring yourself in a rude way, it is about stewarding the life God has given you.

At the same time, you should surround yourself with people who love, value, and encourage you for who you are in Christ and His purposes in life. These are people who will never leave your side, and yet are willing to speak the truth in love to you, even if it hurts. You will likely only have a handful of these people in a lifetime, and with them, you should give more value and thought to their opinions.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vampire Slayer: Dealing with Relationships that Suck the Life out of You

Relationships are the marrow of life. Until a person values people and relationships over nearly everything else, they will be devoid of true fulfillment and significance.

However, some people live for success and gain, and value people only as far as that goal is preserved and realized.  When you are fulfilling their ultimate plan of self promotion and gain, they are “with” you and invested to the level of benefit they receive. They feed on people, primarily insecure, kind-natured, and vulnerable ones, using people and relationships to further their lives and goals.

These are the vampires of life. And trying to have meaningful relationships with them of mutual respect and blessing sucks. Like a vampire, they entice you in with the appearance of a blessing, but leave you with a bite. Some, having sucked the life out of you. To use a biblical description, they are the “Jezebel” spirits of society; controlling, manipulative, condescending, deceptive, rude, and selfish.  And unfortunately, we often don’t identify them as such until we have been bitten by their fangs, having been left with the loss of blood and the wounds to show for it.

To be sure, we all let people down and miss the mark in our relationships from time to time. We all make relational mistakes. But vampires are different. They use people and knowing or unknowingly see them as a means to an end. Underneath the cloak of their kindness, benevolence, interest, and encouragement, their smile conceals the agenda of their ways… fangs for your blood. Taking from you to benefit them. What are presented as dreams for your life are schemes to benefit theirs, stepping over and on people to protect or prosper their living, goals, jobs, careers, comfort, status, egos, etc. With great eloquence and poise, they drape their cape, pretending to come along side you to bless and promote, but in the end their kiss is the prelude to a bite. There was a reason for their kindness or interest, but it wasn’t to pour into you, it was to suck out of you.  In the end, they will manifest their defining trait… they can walk away, fly off, turn their backs, betray, move on, refuse to change, leave you for dead, let you down, pull out the carpet, leave you hanging, with little to no remorse or pause. After they get what they want, of course. Maybe it was your help, your attention, your effort, your care, your money, your compliance, your apology, your loyalty, your benevolence, but now they got it, and you and your relationship with them are a disposable, secondary commodity. You are the host, they are the blood sucker, some willing to reduce you to a mere carcass.

We all have and will have vampires in our lives, and likely we have even been one to a certain degree.  In our selfish, “me” driven culture, it would be hard not to have been.

Yet, to utilize the verbage from a popular show, we can graciously “slay” the vampires in our lives and keep them from sucking the life out of us.

Here are some tips on how to do that…

1) Guard your heart–  Sometimes, we allow people in much too early and much to deeply without using common sense and discernment. Not everything that glitters is gold.  God wants us to be wise and careful with people and our relationships.  We can look for the best in people without turning a blind eye or being naive to the worst. Time is one of our greatest tools for developing close relationship that are safe and significant.  Taking relationships of any kind one step at a time is deeply wise counsel, no matter how innocent and safe it may seem up front.  Vampires have to show their fangs before they can bite, but you won’t see them if you have allowed them to be too close too soon. Taking it slow with any kind of relationship will ensure that you see the fangs before you have to feel them.

2) Don’t let people become your mirror-  Sometimes we take our emotional cues from how we perceive that people feel about us or things we care about. We look to them for how we should view and feel about ourselves. This is a formula for disaster, and the very kind of dynamic vampires prey upon.  Look to people as a screen not a mirror. We shine our image onto a screen, we get our image from a mirror.

3) Keep your identity in Christ- When you look to and for who you are and how you should feel about yourself, look to Christ and His Grace upon your life. Feed on Him, drink from His supply. His worth is your worth, His value is your value, His status is your status, His power is your power. Take your emotional and spiritual cues from Him. Attach your tubes of security and identity to His supply, not people. Vampires can’t suck the life out of you if your life (identity) is fed by Christ. The moment they taste your security in Christ, they will release their bite in frustration.

4) Stay clear of controlling, manipulative people- No matter how lonely, needing of attention, or desiring of relationship you are, controlling people kill. Not physically per se, but emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  Stop making excuses for their behaviors and blaming yourself for their manipulative, controlling ways. Their micromanagement, temper tantrums, seductions, enticements, pouting fests, guilt trips, intimidating threats, and condescending jabs will never lead to a healthy relationship of mutual respect and blessing.  Trying to get them to be genuinely interested in your life is futile. Becoming a doormat for Jesus only leaves you being walked on by domineering people, leaving you with little to nothing left to offer the people who really need you in your life.

5) Love from a distance- The best way to send a vampire into a tailspin is to give them your kindness without allowing them your kidney, bless them without allowing them your blood, love them from a distance. When they can’t control you, your emotions, your sense of worth and value, and your decisions, their grip, power, and drain of your life will dissolve. They may pitch a fit and show their teeth, but when they don’t get what they really want their influence and hold on your emotional life will vanish.   

6) Pour into people who truly love you- These people may be few and far between, but trying to make unhealthy people and relationship healthy will suck the life out of you. Jesus may be able to rescue them, but you can’t. If people can walk away, let them walk away. If they’re biters rather than blessers, release them and don’t look back. Stop trying to get people to be interested in your life who are really just interested in theirs. Stop trying to get the approval of people who don’t matter. Better to pour into a few who truly love you and have your best interest in heart, than to starve those who love you because you are too busy trying to resurrect the relationships that don’t.  Don’t let people rent headspace in your life that don’t have a heart for your best interests.  If people won’t respect and receive you, shake the dust off your feet. Let your Grace and graciousness be attracted to the people who are humble and desiring enough to receive it, not to those who would abuse it.

 

 

 

 

5 Essentials to Healthy Relationships

Relationships can be complicated, and figuring out how to have healthy ones can be a difficult puzzle to put together.  Obviously there are tons of books written on relationships, but here are 5 essential principals to having healthy, fulfilling relationships.

Become Complete in Christ– Here’s a game changing truth… no one can complete you other than Christ.  The moment we look to relationships to complete us is the moment we are placing an expectation on another that they were not created to nor do they have the capacity to fulfill. Danger Will Robinson, DANGER! Unfortunately, we often approach and carry ourselves in relationships expecting other people to convince us of what we cannot convince ourselves… that we are valuable, important, and worthwhile.  In short, we look to them to complete us and validate our worth.

By being complete in Christ, we are not talking about being perfect, but being assured and convinced of your true identity in Christ. This is a healing to your soul that no other person can accomplish for you. Only God can make you into a new person, and faith is what enables you to believe it. No person can replace nor substitute for the voice from God that must be received by faith that declares who you truly are in Him. Without this identity in Christ and believing it to be true, you will likely turn to human relationships to prop you up and convince you of what you are not convinced. You will operate out of insecurity, uncertainty, and selfishness.

No one can make you happy, complete you, or heal you. They can only share in a happiness you already have, compliment your strengths and weaknesses, and grow with you (not for you or because of you).  Two incomplete people do not make for a complete relationship.

Find your Worth and Value in Jesus

In marriage, a man and woman become one flesh. They are joined at the deepest point of their identities, their souls. Yet their worth and value are not conditioned on the other person. They are two, separately complete persons joined into a complete relationship.

Often times we look to other people to show us how we should feel about ourselves. If they love us, we love us. If they are happy with us, we are happy with us. This is why some people have a hard time being without certain kinds of relationships. They need someone to love them so they can love themselves; to feel good about them, so they can feel good about themselves.  Furthermore, they will do all kinds of unhealthy things in order to get or keep that person in their lives and happy with them. Indeed they have connected the tubes of their identity to the supply of another person. This, as you might guess, is a recipe for relational unhealth.

Relationships work when we are giving to give, not to ultimately receive. We are blessed by what others give us, but when we turn to people for our worth and value, we are trying to satisfy deep needs with things only God can satisfy.

Jesus is more than happy to show you your tremendous and eternal value and worth. He loves you like no other in a way that no other can. Look to Him as your supply, not others, then you will be capable of true love and loving relationships.

Communicate with Openness and Honesty

Nothing sabotages healthy relationships like a lack of openness and honesty. You can’t expect from another what you aren’t willing to express to another.

As a pastor of 18 years, I have counseled hundreds of people in various kinds of relationships. Hands down, when a marriage or friendship is in trouble, 95% of the time in can be traced back to a time when one or both of the persons in the relationship were not being completely open and honest. Things that needed to be said, weren’t said. Boundaries that needed to be asserted, were not asserted. Expectations and disappointments that needed to be communicated, were not communicated. Instead, things were watered down, swept under the carpet, and shoved into the shadows with the false hope… it’s no big deal, things will get better in time, it’s not worth a confrontation, time will heal things.

What’s the result? Bitterness and resentment enter in. Wedges and distance begins to develop. Passive aggressiveness and revenge are given a cause.  And ultimately, the relationship erodes.

Trust God’s Timing

Relationships can’t be rushed. If all you want are disposable, hot and cold, shallow relationships, than by all means, rush ahead. Microwave the heck out of that relationship.  But the truth is, the things that build a healthy relationship can’t be rushed.

I am amazed how the same people who can’t seem to keep their pants on and wait, are the same people who cry foul when the relationship plummets to the ground.  If you are going to build your relationship out of a house of cards, don’t be surprised when even the slightest wind sends it falling to the ground.

Relax. Rest in Jesus. Trust God’s timing, don’t rush to find friendships and relationships just because you look around and compare your life to other people. God knows what’s best for you and when it’s best for you. Stop trying to get people into your life and to be interested in your life.

Remember this, when it comes to relationships, if you rush ahead and try to take it for yourself, don’t be surprised when it slips through your finger. But if you wait and let God give it to you, you can have it forever.

Own Your Blindspots

When it comes to relationships, we are all damaged goods in the sense that we have all been hurt in relationships. It’s hard not to let those memories influence our attitudes and actions within relationships.

The worst thing you can do is try to hide and deny your blindspots. This will surely lead to unhealthy relational behaviors and patterns.

Blindspots are simply areas where we don’t see things clearly or even at all because of past experiences. For example, maybe you have a hard time trusting because you were betrayed, or maybe you feel overly insecure because of some physical abuse that happened in your past.  These kind of spots within your history become blind to us when we aren’t willing to be honest with ourselves about their existence and/or impact on our lives. If you have healed from these experiences, praise God. As a part of your story, you are going to want to be aware of how God has and is using that experience in your life.

We all have areas where you need to grow, don’t live in denial. God’s grace is sufficient for you.  He is not attracted to your strengths, but to your weaknesses. Where you are weak, God is strong. Believe in His favor over you! Trust Him with the dark places of your life, allow Him and trust Him to heal and grow you. Let Him take the wheel of your healing and wholeness. Don’t try to become better, let Him make you brand new!  God wants you to rest in His Grace, and receive His favor. It’s not about your performance, its about His performance on the cross for your behalf!

Being aware of these blindspot areas is critical to partnering with God to having these areas becoming a blessing in your relationships and not a curse. Allow God to love, heal, and forgive you.  Out of that love, grace, and favor, you can truly give to another!

Taking the Bite out of Betrayal

Betrayal bites. Of all the plots Satan can work into a relationship, betrayal is the worst. At the heart of betrayal is broken trust. Whether it be in the form of an affair, lies, gossip, backstabbing, or walking away from a relationship, betrayal in essence involves the breaking of trust.  You trusted the person to be, do, or carry out something and they did not. Most of the time, betrayal has a deliberate essence to it. Sometimes it is even premeditated.

Unfortunately, trust is not as highly valued as it should be. People make all kinds of promises that they can’t or refuse to keep. They do what they want to do, when they want to do it, and how they want to do it with very little if any concern for its relational effect. Then, they expect this flippant attitude and behavior to be rewarded with trust.  We are truly a disposable, consumer minded society that has placed a high value on convenience to the point where even relationships, commitment, and trust are scene as expendable. Like a membership at a YMCA, we seem to value relationships as far as they serve our needs and a better opportunity doesn’t present itself. Once a relationship stops serving our needs, all bets are off. Not a pleasant reality, but sadly a true one.

Yet, trust takes much time and relational travel to establish, but people expect it to happen over night. Trust should be treasured and built patiently over time.  It’s not instant, nor is it disposable.  Furthermore, it is the product of a relationship going through ups and down together and passing the tests of trust.

With a growing disregard for authority, friendships, integrity, and trust, betrayal has become common place and basically expected. What God hates, Satan has made predictable… betrayal.

So, what is a person to do with this issue of betrayal? Unfortunately it can’t be completely prevented, but here is some wisdom that can guide you in taking the bite out of betrayal.

o.o1 Acknowledge the Hurt – Trying to play the tough guy (or girl) through betrayal is not healthy. Betrayal is gut-wrenching. Make sure you don’t try to bury the anger you have.  Take time to express your hurt to God and perhaps a close friend with whom you can trust. The more you stow it, the more is festers and grows.

o.o2 Retrace the Steps – Typically, betrayal doesn’t happen overnight. Furthermore, what may feel like betrayal could have a very legitimate explanation. To be sure, it will be difficult at best to put together the puzzle of events that led to the betrayal, but doing your best to understand what led to it will help you process it and move forward with appropriate emotions and actions.

o.o3 Learn to Exit Well – Betrayal sometimes occurs when people don’t know how to leave or deal with a situation or relationship. Instead of handling it with clear, direct communication, they hide in the shadows only to make their choices known through others or with no explanation at all. In some circumstances, people will find excuses to exit stage left and use blame to legitimize the guilt they feel in leaving your side. In other circumstances, they will make decisions that force your hand in confronting them and setting boundaries so that they don’t have to take responsibility for the decline or dissolving of the relationship. In essence, they make you say “no” so they don’t have to. This is of course very hurtful, but also serves as a good lesson on how not to do the same to another.

I imagine that Judas discovered early on that there became a point where he no longer supported the cause and/or claims of Christ. But rather then handle that with direct and clear communication, he betrayed Jesus. Add into the mix some greed, bitterness, and temptation and you can begin to retrace the steps of Judas’ exit stage left from the side of Jesus.

o.o4 Reenter with Caution – Betrayal doesn’t always mean the end.  For example, I have seen many couples overcome the worst of affairs and rebuild their marriage stronger than ever.  However, anytime there has been a betrayal, giving back trust and moving towards reconciliation should be done with care and caution. Forgiveness only takes one person, trust and restoration always takes two. Developing discernment and having a healthy relational radar system can go a long way at preventing betrayal.

o.o5 Let God get Justice- When we are betrayed it’s easy to desire revenge. Even when we are at no fault and justified in our anger, revenge is not a good thing.  When it comes to betrayal, trying to even the score will always end up in losing the game.  Does this mean you should not confront the person or seek measures of appropriate discipline or boundaries? No. But it does mean that any actions taken should not be authored from a spirit of revenge.  Aside from any appropriate confrontation or discipline, let God take care of the issues of justice and revenge. He can handle it, we can’t.

0.o6 Don’t Give Up on Trust- There are a lot of good, trustable people out there with whom you can have a betrayal free relationship. Take time to develop trust. Trust can’t be rushed. People who won’t take the time and do the work to build trust probably won’t value it nor protect it once you give it.  There is a difference between being careful and being distrusting. Be careful, but don’t assume that people aren’t trustable.

Parenting to Win

Psalm 127:4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.

Our children and our parenting were born into a war, not a vacation.  There is a real battle going on for the hearts and lives of our children and our families.  Unfortunately, many parents have either surrendered their children and their homes by outsourcing their parenting to teachers, coaches, friends, and youth groups, or they are battling with their children more than for their children. As Charles Swindoll says, “Schools, youth groups, teachers, coaches, and after school programs can’t resurrect in a child what is being put to death in the home” Furthermore, Satan loves to keep parents preoccupied with fighting with their children so as to distract and prevent them from fighting for their children.

Fathers honoring their leading role in the home with maturity, integrity, wisdom and strength is no longer lifted up in our culture, but rather mocked by figures like Homer Simpson and Ozzy Osbourne, sending mothers into a confused tailspin of trying to pick up the pieces and somehow make the whole parenting thing work. If mothers aren’t fulfilling a healthy role in the home its because we men first screwed up ours.

For many parents, we want to win the parenting war going on within our culture and our homes.  In moments of inspiration and courage, we set the standards, communicate the boundaries, create the time and energy for our children, only to have it all undone by the next pouting match, soccer season, job promotion, moment of needed discipline, guilt trip, or conversation with another parent about all the things they let their kids do.

It’s harder now to parent our children God’s way than ever before, and my sense is that many  parents are dying a silent death as they resign themselves to a passive, tolerant, culturally correct style of parenting that might as well send the message to the rest of the world, “We give up, you raise them.”  It seems these days, we aren’t parenting to win, we are parenting to survive.

Like a seen from  the movie Braveheart, I feel like shouting out a charge to parents to pick up their parenting bow-and-arrow and fight!  Our children’s lives, our homes, our culture, and our future is at stake.  It may not be easy, but we CAN win!

I love the image God gives us of parenting in Psalm 127.

Psalm 127:4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.

Among the many layers of meaning within this passage, I believe this passage brings us tremendous wisdom on how to win as parents and parent to win!   To that end, here are some powerful principals from this singular passage…

1) We need to see our parenting as nothing less than a WAR for our children and their future.   As parents, we need to see ourselves as warriors at a DEFCON 5  level of alert with our parental radars fine tuned onto the battle field of our children’s lives. There can be no more passive, sideline parenting! Passive parenting is an act of surrender in the war going on for our children and their future.  Parent, do you know what’s underneath your child’s bed, in their closet? Do you know what their activity is on facebook? Do you monitor what music they listen too?  Do you know who their closest friends are? Do you have a relationship with their teachers and coaches?  Satan wants to have influence and leverage in your children’s lives, the question is, do you want it more than him? And, how much are you willing to flat out fight for it!  It will be and is a battle.

2) Draw your children as close as possible as soon as possible-  The #1 thing every parents needs in the war for our children and their future is… influence. The bonds of love and togetherness are the most important influence establishers you can have with your children.   The moment you lose influence as a parent is the moment you begin to lose the battle.

The first move an archer makes is to pull the arrow close to themselves. That action gains them the power, leverage, and control they need to point and shoot the arrow accurately.  The best archers bring the arrow as close to their body as possible.  Powerful influencers in your child’s life that draw them close to you are… love, affection , praise, example, correction, discipline, clear boundaries, interest, fun, togetherness, encouragement, and listening.  If you aren’t intimately and directly involved in your child’s life you will lack in influence, period.  Never let any person or thing win the battle for time, attention, and involvement in your child’s life.  It’s very hard to point our children in the right direction if we first don’t draw close to them and gain influence. If your children are 16 and younger, ask yourself… who or what are the top influencers in their life?  If your name wasn’t first or very high up on the list, you may have a real opportunity and need to strengthen this area of your parenting. No, a lack of influence isn’t always about what a parent has or hasn’t done, that’s for sure.  There are awesome, faithful parents who lack influence because their children have rebelled or made pour choices completely separate from a healthy home and great parents. Yet, for some parents, we lack needed influence because we simply aren’t doing our jobs.

3) Point your children in the direction God has for them.  After pulling the arrow close, aim is the next priority to the archer. Every great archer has a target in sight and in mind.  As parents we need to have a set target or goal for the parenting of our children. We need to have a sense of clear vision and direction. As my pastor friend Walk Kallestad says, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”  As parents, we are a kind of launch pad to our children’s lives and part of our critical responsibility is to point their lives in the right direction. Being a few inches off-target on the launch pad can translate into being miles away from where God wants our children to be in the future..

The most important pursuit in this area of parenting is to discern what God’s vision is for your child’s future. The Bible says, “Train a child in the way he should go...”-Proverbs 22:6.  Notice is doesn’t say, train them in the way YOU went or the way YOU think they should go.

God has a unique vision for your child’s life and future, and chances are it won’t be in the same exact path you chose. Our job is to draw so close to God and our children that we can clearly see the destiny God has for our children. Our children have specialized God given passions, gifts, and personalities that need to be discerned, developed and directed.  Not having a close sense of where God is leading our children is like aimlessly pointing an arrow up in the air and hoping it hits some kind of target that turns out to be the one God wanted.

Furthermore, apart from the unique, specific future God has for our children, there are some general targets God has for all children. God wants us all to become followers of Jesus who grow into maturity and build His Kingdom. God wants all people to become men and women of Godly character, wisdom, and obedience. These are some of the essentials God sees as targets for all of our children.

God has a general and specific target and mind for your children. The question is, do you know what that target is, and are you pointing your parenting in that direction?

4) Release your children overtime to move from your influence to God’s influence

There is of little value for an archer to draw an arrow close to themsleves and carefully point it in the right direction if they aren’t going to ultimately release it.

The ultimate goal of our parenting is to release our children over time from being under our care, direction, and influence to establishing their own, personal walk with the Lord as they seek to follow God’s plan for their life.  No, we never stop being parents, but God desires us to release our children so that they are able to enter a free-will, loving, genuine relationship and life with Jesus. It is during this journey of increasing release that a child grows into expanding opportunity and freedom to own for themselves the direction and values you have been parenting them under.

Archers know that releasing an arrow too soon or waiting too long are both problematic.  Timing is everything.  When we release a child too soon we sabotage their ability to develop as they are not prepared to handle the levels of freedom and responsibility they are prematurely given. Yet, when we hold onto our children too long, we rob them of learning to take responsibility for their lives, facing the consequences of their own actions, and growing in character and confidence. In the one instance they fall to the ground unnecessarily, in the other they are never given the chance to fly.

I am amazed at how we as parents barely draw our kids close, spend very little time pointing our parenting, and haphazardly release are children into the world, and then wonder why we see them tumble, turn, and never reach their potential.

There is a war going on for our children’s lives, but it’s a war we can win!  Let’s take up our parenting bows and learn to fight for our children and their future.

Psalm 127:4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.

© 2018 Chris Kratzer

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