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Ending the Crazy Cycle: Part II

by: Del Fehsenfeld

04/12/2019

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4 Biblical Conflict Resolution Strategies

Once we’ve identified the four marriage killers, we need to adopt biblical strategies to replace them and resolve conflict.

1. Calm down…and come back!

Prov. 29:11 – Only a fool gives full vent to his anger

It’s a biological fact that when in marital conflict, your heart rate and blood pressure increase. Remember the “flight or fight” response from high school biology? During marital conflict, your ability to process information, pay attention, and engage creative thinking dramatically decreases. And when under physical duress, it is not a good time to solve marital problems! So DON’T. Take some time… read more

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4 Biblical Conflict Resolution Strategies

Once we’ve identified the four marriage killers, we need to adopt biblical strategies to replace them and resolve conflict.

1. Calm down…and come back!

Prov. 29:11 – Only a fool gives full vent to his anger

It’s a biological fact that when in marital conflict, your heart rate and blood pressure increase. Remember the “flight or fight” response from high school biology? During marital conflict, your ability to process information, pay attention, and engage creative thinking dramatically decreases. And when under physical duress, it is not a good time to solve marital problems! So DON’T. Take some time to calm down first.

Warning: If you take a break to calm down, make sure you schedule a time to come back and talk things through, or else the break will deteriorate into just another avoidance tactic.

2. Remember the point of the argument.

Eph. 5:28 – He who loves his wife loves himself.

The point of any marital argument is not winning—it’s oneness! Oneness means it is impossible to win if your spouse loses. Your spouse is not the enemy. And getting your way in the immediate problem is secondary to the priority of your relationship quality. How many battles have we won only to find ourselves losing the war for oneness?

3. Soften your approach.

Prov. 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath but harsh words stir up anger.

Sociological research reveals an astonishing fact of marital conflict: most arguments end exactly like they began. That means the first few sentences in a conflict can virtually determine the outcome. So above all, don’t start with accusations. Start with “I” vs. “You” statements, and remember to seek to understand as much as you seek to be understood.

4. Use your brakes.

Phil. 2:3 – Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Research shows that the average time a spouse spends listening before interjecting an opinion is just seventeen seconds! Never offer your opinion until you are confident your spouse feels you have understood them. And remember, you can prevent disaster if you know how to repair when things have gone off track. When you have hurt your spouse, asking forgiveness and reassuring your spouse of your love and commitment will go a long way toward making space for the repeated attempts needed to put things right.

Of course, no conflict strategies will ultimately cure the brokenness of our sinful hearts. That’s why the primary message of our church is the beautiful life of Jesus Christ and the good news of the gospel. Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf is poignantly described in Philippians 2:3-8. Because of his humility, selflessness, servants heart and sacrificial life and death, he overcame evil with good. His free offer of grace and new life to anyone who trusts him makes it possible for us to share his attitudes and actions and stop the insanity of the crazy cycle of conflict.

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Ending the Crazy Cycle: Part II

by: Del Fehsenfeld

04/05/2019

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The 4 Marriage Killers

In our last article, we talked about escalators and avoiders in marital conflict. So what is our next step? What do we do once we’ve identified our own tendencies in this area?

First, we need to stop the four marriage killers.

CRITICISM

Criticism is attacking the person verses focusing on the problem. Couples who address their complaints against one another by attacking their partner’s character instead of simply stating the issue are destroying their marriage. Asking questions or using “I statements” instead of “You statements” will help break the cycle of harmful criticism.

CONTEMPT

Contempt is anything that communicates disgust to our… read more

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The 4 Marriage Killers

In our last article, we talked about escalators and avoiders in marital conflict. So what is our next step? What do we do once we’ve identified our own tendencies in this area?

First, we need to stop the four marriage killers.

CRITICISM

Criticism is attacking the person verses focusing on the problem. Couples who address their complaints against one another by attacking their partner’s character instead of simply stating the issue are destroying their marriage. Asking questions or using “I statements” instead of “You statements” will help break the cycle of harmful criticism.

CONTEMPT

Contempt is anything that communicates disgust to our spouse. Disgust can be communicated verbally through sarcasm or mockery or non-verbally through eye-rolling and body language. Contempt kills the soul of our marriages.

DEFENSIVENESS

Defensiveness is instinctual when feeling accused or attacked. But it is a very ineffective conflict resolution strategy because it implies, “I am not the problem, you are.” Our defensiveness baits our spouse to double-down on their complaint, usually more intensely. As a result, defensiveness is an escalator in marital conflict.

STONEWALLING

Stonewalling is disconnecting physically or emotionally from our spouse. It is “tuning out” and insulating ourselves from pain by withdrawing our hearts from our spouse. Stonewalling may seem more righteous than outward expressions of upset, but apathy is actually more dangerous than hate or hurt. Some couples remain married physically when the reality is that they checked out of their marriage emotionally, months, years and even decades ago.

Do you spot any of these marriage killers in your relationship? Look for Part III of this series to learn four biblical strategies that can replace these marriage killers and end the crazy cycle.

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Ending the Crazy Cycle: Part I

by: Del Fehsenfeld

03/29/2019

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  • Escalator or Avoider?

Albert Einstein was known to repeat that famous definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. But his insight doesn’t take a genius—anyone who has ever been married already knows the insanity that a downward spiral of marital conflict can become. And similar cycles can be experienced in friendships, parenting, work groups, and just about every other human interaction. A crazy cycle can begin!

Zeroing in on marriage, I’d like to suggest that nearly every person falls into one of two tendencies in dealing with marital conflict.

  • Escalators: Some of us are escalators. We… read more
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  • Escalator or Avoider?

Albert Einstein was known to repeat that famous definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. But his insight doesn’t take a genius—anyone who has ever been married already knows the insanity that a downward spiral of marital conflict can become. And similar cycles can be experienced in friendships, parenting, work groups, and just about every other human interaction. A crazy cycle can begin!

Zeroing in on marriage, I’d like to suggest that nearly every person falls into one of two tendencies in dealing with marital conflict.

  • Escalators: Some of us are escalators. We pursue under stress, and our responses are outward. We want to help our marriage by talking things through as soon as possible. When upset, we can get hot under the collar and blow steam.
  • Avoiders: Conversely, others of us are avoiders. We withdraw under stress, and our responses go inward. We would rather help our marriage by waiting for things to cool down or blow over. When upset, we can freeze our partner with emotional and physical distance.

Often there is one of each conflict style in a marriage. And the harder the escalator pursues, the faster the avoider runs. One spouse literally feels like they are chasing the other from room to room!

It would be funny . . . except it’s not. In fact, ineffective patterns of conflict resolution are frustrating and destructive. Being trapped long enough in a crazy cycle of conflict can lead to feelings of futility and even despair.

The irony is that both escalators and avoiders care about the relationship. The escalators want to “stay connected,” and the avoiders want to “stop fighting.” However, since they misinterpret each other’s motivation (and because they are angry!), this crazy cycle is easy to start and hard to escape.

Look for Part II of this series to find out what next steps to take to end the crazy cycle.

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Help Desk: Stress

by: Dan Jarvis

03/15/2019

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WHAT ABOUT STRESS RELIEF TACTICS?

It depends. There are a wide variety of “tactics” out there – from squeezing a ball to religious meditation. Some tactics are practical in nature, and they make a lot of sense. If you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a deep breath and count to ten to calm down. If you feel the need to get some energy out, take a brisk walk around the block. If your day is too busy and you are feeling pressure, take a break and read a Psalm from the Bible to refocus on what matters most.

Where people can get… read more

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WHAT ABOUT STRESS RELIEF TACTICS?

It depends. There are a wide variety of “tactics” out there – from squeezing a ball to religious meditation. Some tactics are practical in nature, and they make a lot of sense. If you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a deep breath and count to ten to calm down. If you feel the need to get some energy out, take a brisk walk around the block. If your day is too busy and you are feeling pressure, take a break and read a Psalm from the Bible to refocus on what matters most.

Where people can get into trouble with stress relief tactics is when they allow them to replace a relationship with God as the real answer for stressful situations. Certain exercises may help refresh your body, but they can’t answer the deepest needs of your soul. Taking a break may diffuse some frustration, but it can’t provide lasting peace. These are needs that only God can fill; and only a heart honest enough to admit its need for God can ever enjoy the sort of peace and serenity we each long for.

WHAT ABOUT DEMANDING PEOPLE IN MY LIFE?

It’s common for parents, bosses, spouses and even friends to pressure us into more hurried, discontented lives. Produce! Perform! Win! Try again! Work harder! Sell more! It’s enough to stress anybody out, and at the end of it, what do we have? Just more demands, more needs to meet, more trophies to aim for.

There’s nothing wrong with striving for higher productivity – in fact, achieving and succeeding can bring honor to God and joy to life. However, there are limits, and we need to exercise wisdom so we don’t overdo it. Before you bow to the demands of others, check those demands against your own priorities. What matters most to you? What purposes do you think God has for your life? Some people live in so much fear of what others think of them that they never have a chance to live their own lives or pursue their own dreams. They sacrifice themselves to impress or placate others. (Like the guy who buys things he doesn’t need with money he doesn’t have to impress people he doesn’t even like!)

If an authority figure is asking you to do more than you can maintain, appeal to them gently and see if there’s another way to arrange things. If you’re feeling pressure from friends or family, tell them you appreciate their enthusiasm but that you have to pace yourself. Don’t feel bad about saying, “No thanks,” or “How about another time?”

HOW CAN I MAKE MY HOME MORE PEACEFUL?

Home was designed by God to be a place of rest, refreshment, acceptance, and peace from the storms of the world around us. But some of us hear that description and laugh – “Not my home!” Some people even avoid going home when they need to relax; home is more “work” than work!

Imagine living in a household with three other people who each believe the world should revolve around them (you may not need to imagine!). The kids fight over toys, the adults fight over spending money, the whole family bickers over chores, and nobody wants to share the remote! The cause of all this centers on just one letter of the alphabet: I.

The recipe for a peaceful home starts with selflessness. Selflessness is real love, where you put the needs and wants of other people above your own. Imagine each person in your household having an attitude like that!

There may be a lot of individual factors in your household that make “peace” difficult to imagine: addictions, debts, bitterness, conflicts, etc. You aren’t going to overcome those by yelling a little louder or asserting your opinion one more time. In fact, the best way to start your household on the path to peace is to change yourself first. Start giving, listening and smiling a little more. Think of how others in your home are feeling and start praying for them. Make an effort to say one encouraging or complimentary thing to each member of your family, every day.

IS IT OKAY TO PUSH MY CHILD TOWARDS SUCCESS?

Kids have an in-born desire to please their parents (despite significant evidence to the contrary in teenagers), and most are thrilled to make a parent proud. That means some children will go to dramatic lengths to win the favor or catch the smile of a mom or dad, even if they go about it in all the wrong ways. You should use your influence to motivate kids in the right direction, but be sure that you:

  1. Affirm that your love is unconditional. Children need to sense that their parents are in love with them, in good times and bad. They need to feel total peace and never need to ask the question, “Do you still love me?” If your child’s success in academics, behavior, or sports is necessary for you to give them the best of your affection, you’ll do far more harm than good.
  2. Help them recognize what areas of life matter the most. “Success” is important, but not all-important. Your child’s desire to fulfill God’s purpose for his or her life is far more important than a drive toward earth-bound “success.” The best way to teach right priorities to your child is to adopt them yourself!
  3. Leave plenty of time for family play (screen time doesn’t count). Many kids have schedules stacked with demanding activities: school, sports, music – it’s a full-time job of making people happy. Be sure that when they come home, they get some time off to be themselves and to enjoy their childhood. And if there isn’t enough time, cut some activities!

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Your Exciting Spending Plan

by: Dan Jarvis

03/15/2019

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MOST PEOPLE DON’T THINK THE WORDS “EXCITING” AND “BUDGET” COULD EVER APPEAR IN CONTEXT TOGETHER – THAT’S WHY YOU SHOULD CALL YOUR BUDGET A “SPENDING PLAN.”

It’s simple, and it will set you free. Free from weekly worries about where money is coming from and where its going. Free from unremembered bills and unaccomplished financial goals. A spending plan is not a limitation on the fun you can have; in fact, it’s a plan that makes your life a whole lot more fun and more peaceful, secure, intentional, and successful.

EXCITING STEP #1 – WHAT DO YOU WISH FOR?

The excitement begins as… read more

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MOST PEOPLE DON’T THINK THE WORDS “EXCITING” AND “BUDGET” COULD EVER APPEAR IN CONTEXT TOGETHER – THAT’S WHY YOU SHOULD CALL YOUR BUDGET A “SPENDING PLAN.”

It’s simple, and it will set you free. Free from weekly worries about where money is coming from and where its going. Free from unremembered bills and unaccomplished financial goals. A spending plan is not a limitation on the fun you can have; in fact, it’s a plan that makes your life a whole lot more fun and more peaceful, secure, intentional, and successful.

EXCITING STEP #1 – WHAT DO YOU WISH FOR?

The excitement begins as you start to list out your goals even your distant wishes that will form the foundation of your spending plan. Would you like a dream vaca- tion on your 20th wedding anniversary? Would you like to retire to a beach house? Would you like to make some big contributions to charity? Would you like to offer your kids a 50/50 matching grant for their college expenses? Would you like to own your own home, free and clear from a mortgage? Would you like to save enough money to retire comfortably at a certain age? Would you like to eliminate your need for credit cards, forever?

If you are married, have your spouse make a financial wish-list as well. Then, plan a date to talk through your lists and determine your top priorities.

EXCITING STEP #2 – WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO WORK WITH?

List your monthly take-home income as a household, and any money you have stashed away. The goal, of course, is to get these numbers as high as possible in order to begin. You might even try selling off some old junk (or new junk) that you don’t really need to boost your starting position here. You’re going to need a little cash to kick off this exciting spending plan, and a garage sale or online auction might be just what the money doctor ordered.

EXCITING STEP #3 – WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SPEND EVERY MONTH?

These are your “fixed” expenses the money you know is going out the door whether you like it or not. List out your minimum payments, utilities, subscriptions, average groceries and gas – everything. (If you have a few bills that come quarterly, break those down into the monthly price for your spending plan.) It’s very possible that you could eliminate or reduce some bills you think are “fixed” today (like trading in for a cheaper car, shopping around for new insurance, or living without cable). But for now, let’s tally up all these items. Now, compare that to your take-home income each month. Whatever you have left after your fixed expenses are covered is the key to your financial future.

EXCITING STEP #4 – THE REALLY EXCITING PART

This is where you take the money that remains each month and divide it up to accomplish the goals you wrote in Step 1. First and foremost, you want to get out of consumer debt. That means not relying on credit cards anymore even in emergencies which means you’re going to have to save up a chunk of cash so you can “borrow” from your own “emergency fund” rather than from the card. ($1000 is a good start for most people if you get serious about saving and selling off extra stuff, you can make it happen!) Once that fund is in place, you can start tossing all your extra money into debt repayment. (And if the car needs brakes, use your emergency fund, not your credit card!) With sacrificial resolve, pay off everything starting with the smallest debt and working up until you’re clear. For most people, this process will take a few years, but on the other side, you’ll have a totally new lease on life (only it won’t be a lease)!

Imagine what happens to your “spending plan” on the day you make your last debt payment (outside of your mortgage). How much money do you now have “extra” each month? No more minimum payments on credit
cards or cars, equity loans or store payments. You’re free! That’s when you get to go back to Step 1 again and revisit your goals. You get to set up your own “savings funds” for the things you want to do with the rest of your life. Dream vacation fund: $250 a month. Retirement: $400 a month. Kids’ college: $300 a month. Sponsoring an orphan home in Africa: $200 a month. New kitchen fund: $150 a month. Of course, if you want to eliminate the need to ever use a credit card again, you’ll need more than $1000 in your emergency fund. How about three to six months of living expenses? Perhaps $10,000, or even more? Make that one of your “funds” as well.

See? This can get pretty exciting. But there’s more. Imagine what your life will be like on the day you make your last mortgage payment. What will your spending plan look like with another $500, or $1000, or even $2000 a month freed up? At that point, everything changes. You could save even more, give even more, invest even more, enjoy even more – maybe even work a little less!

To get there, you have to have a plan. You have to know that every decision you make today contributes to either your future prosperity or your future misery. If you want a different life someday, then start living a different life right now.

EXCITING STEP #5 – WORK THE PLAN

Every time you get a paycheck (or any other income, for that matter), open up your exciting spending plan. First, go through and pay the things you have to pay – the bills and check them off. Then, treat your future goals as bills too meaning that you “check off” your giving, savings, debt payoff or emergency fund contributions. Every month you’re a little closer to your next goal, and even if you get set back by unexpected difficulties, you still know which way is up and what your next move needs to be.

Now, you’ve got a plan!

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5 Practical Ways to Prepare for Stress

by: Dan Jarvis

03/01/2019

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I had a lot to think about in the MRI scanner. It was just a precautionary test, but alone in my thoughts, I had to consider the worst. As the knocking sound pulsed around my motionless body, I wondered what the operator was seeing. Was it like an old episode of House, where senior doctors were being called in for consult about an unknown anomaly or dangerous growth?

My faith, my assumptions about my life and family, my priorities, my memories – all of them were packed along with me into a small cylinder. I had some crazy thoughts running through… read more

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I had a lot to think about in the MRI scanner. It was just a precautionary test, but alone in my thoughts, I had to consider the worst. As the knocking sound pulsed around my motionless body, I wondered what the operator was seeing. Was it like an old episode of House, where senior doctors were being called in for consult about an unknown anomaly or dangerous growth?

My faith, my assumptions about my life and family, my priorities, my memories – all of them were packed along with me into a small cylinder. I had some crazy thoughts running through my mind. “Well, God, this test could change everything. Am I ready?” “What will my little boys remember about me?” “At least I have life insurance.” “That knocking sound is a lot louder than I expected.” “I wonder if this is taking so long because they found something.” “I bet they won’t tell me anything today.”

People around me had no idea I was going in for this test, no idea that I was facing questions and feelings of this magnitude. And yet, there I was. (Thankfully, I was given the all-clear a few days later.)

I’m assuming that many of life’s stresses are like that – inside, you could be dealing with burdens so heavy and questions so vexing that you can hardly think about anything else, but outside, people think you’re having a normal day. That woman next to you in the checkout line just found out her teen daughter is pregnant. That man who ran the stoplight in front of you is late to his job; the job his boss said might get downsized next month. The kid bouncing a ball on the sidewalk is wondering why his dad hasn’t visited him lately. That elderly woman sitting on the park bench just reached the one year anniversary of her husband’s death.

The stresses we feel put pressure on every area of our lives: relationships, job performance, sleep, parenting – everything. Over time, emotional stress fractures develop. They start as tiny, near imperceptible breaks in our inner selves, breaks that, remaining under pressure, will grow to become damaging. An argument with our spouse, angry discipline of our kids, a short temper with a co-worker, a spending binge to cope with pressure; these responses are the beginnings of bigger breaks, bigger fractures of our character, our peace, and our health.

How many marriages have fallen apart because of stress fractures – cracks in confidence, in joy, in stability, in patience? How many fights have erupted over “small things” that represent accumulated frustrations? Getting home late. An argument about the kids. A strained visit with in-laws. Broken promises. A harsh word. A lack of passion. A roll of the eyes. A sarcastic whisper. Then, one day: “Should we even be together anymore?”

You know trouble is coming. So do I. One day there will be a diagnosis that makes our heart sink, or a phone call we’ll wish we could have left unanswered. There will be tragedy, heartache, disagreements, fearful situations, money problems, and more. There will be days when we’ll be too busy to think, and others when we’ll wish we had something to do so we wouldn’t have to think.

We can’t control things that happen to us, but we can control how we prepare for them.

  • The first and most important way to prepare for stress is by strengthening your relationship with God. He’s the one that can see you through any situation. He’s the one with the power to heal, encourage, protect, and love you through whatever tragedies are around the corner.
  • Second, prepare for stress by loving your family, regardless of their faults. You’ll discover that in times of need or heartbreak, your family members are the people who will matter most to you. Extend forgiveness, overlook faults, practice kindness, and say, “I love you.” Don’t let days go by without making peace wherever you can, especially if the tragedy involves a family member. You’ll have no regrets. Swallow your pride and make things right. That alone will reduce your stress significantly!
  • Third, prepare for stress by thinking through practical needs. If you’re concerned about not having money for the future, do some research on the best ways to prepare. If you’re wondering what to do if you lose your job, cut your spending and save some peace-of-mind emergency cash. If you’re worried sick about still-secret health problems, see your doctor and get on a fitness program. If you’re stressed about disorganization, ask an organized person for help setting up a new system. Many of life’s stressors come from not doing things we have known all along that we should be doing.
  • Fourth, prepare for stress by developing real friendships. That’s right. Not just acquaintances from work. Not just Facebook friends from college. Something real – the kind of friendships where you share life’s journey together, laugh around the table playing games, talk about your ideas and your troubles, go on vacation together, sit in a small group Bible study while your kids play downstairs – these are the kind of people you love to be with and who recharge you emotionally. When life’s push comes to shove, you’ll have a network of people who care about you. There’s nothing more comforting than knowing that you’re not alone, that someone is praying for you, that there are people who would jump at the chance to help you through difficulty. Friendships at this level don’t happen by accident; they happen as a result of your choice to make them a priority.
  • Finally, prepare for stress by filling your life with joy. Fill your thoughts with prayer and truth from the Bible. Fill your calendar with healthy and helpful activities that get you outdoors, involved with people and engaged with life. Volunteer to serve. Plan exciting things for the future. “But I can’t because…” Stress makes us think we should disengage and sit at home. It distracts us from dreaming big or taking adventures. It holds us back from connecting with people. It stops us from doing the things that God created us to do! Grab your calendar and look at the next sixty days. What’s written down that you’re excited about? What’s written down that helps accomplish your purpose for life? What’s written down that you’ve never done before? What will make you a better person, enriching your life spiritually or physically? Any meals you’re sharing with another family? Any parties you’ve got coming up? (If you’re like me, things like this have to be on the calendar or they just don’t happen.) “Dan, that sounds great, but I’m just too stressed right now to get into any of that.” Exactly my point.

As a kid I was taught that milk helped me grow strong bones, and I guess that’s true. (What I never quite understood was why, upon drinking much milk, I’d get in trouble. “Daniel, did you drink the last of our milk?” “We went through a whole gallon, and it must have been you!” I’ve since grown up and now I hear the same thing from my wife, in nearly the same tone. What am I missing here?) Anyway, healthy bones can handle more pressure, and the same is true for our emotional strength.

If we want to avoid stress fractures of the soul, we need “milk” to keep ourselves strong, no matter what difficulties lay ahead. The Apostle Peter mentions this in a letter he wrote to Christians who were enduring tremendous persecution for their faith. He said, “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” I believe this milk comes to us from God’s Word, the Bible. If we stay nourished spiritually, we’ll have the strength to endure the storms we know are coming. Rather than fractured pain and compounding worries, the stressors of life can lead us to a deeper trust in God and a richer relationship with those we love.

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Feeling Safe

by: Katherine Jones

02/21/2019

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Peace depends entirely on security, doesn’t it?

Imagine that you settle in to your warm bed, breath a sigh of relief from a busy day, and shut out the lights. You are drifting peacefully to sleep. Suddenly, you hear something – you’re not quite sure if it was real or imagined, but now your eyes are wide open and your heartbeat is picking up the pace. In that moment, there’s probably only one thing you can do to get back to almost-sleeping: get up, turn on the lights, and check it out. Until you feel safe, you won’t feel sleepy.

The frustrating… read more

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Peace depends entirely on security, doesn’t it?

Imagine that you settle in to your warm bed, breath a sigh of relief from a busy day, and shut out the lights. You are drifting peacefully to sleep. Suddenly, you hear something – you’re not quite sure if it was real or imagined, but now your eyes are wide open and your heartbeat is picking up the pace. In that moment, there’s probably only one thing you can do to get back to almost-sleeping: get up, turn on the lights, and check it out. Until you feel safe, you won’t feel sleepy.

The frustrating thing about life on earth is that despite our attempts at feeling safe, nothing really is. Even if it’s encrypted, locked, hidden and password protected, it’s still at risk. Think of how much money is spent on things, real or imagined, that we are worried about; think of how many dangers we’re told to watch out for on a daily basis. At best, enough safeguards, information and money might give us a “feeling” of security, but never a guarantee.

Alarms can be disabled, systems can be hacked, money can disappear, weather can get ugly, protections can fail, health can go bad, random accidents could happen and we could each spend the rest of our lives worried and afraid. Or, we could turn to the one Person who offers complete personal and eternal security.

Consider the words of Jesus: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.”

Sheep are probably some of the dumbest animals God ever had the pleasure of creating; they’ll wander off from the flock without any recognition that they are in grave danger. The shepherd, then, is charged with their protection and provision. The sheep go on with their activities day-to-day, having no idea of what their shepherd does to protect them.

Peace is not the absence of trouble, it is the presence of God. That’s why Jesus used this metaphor. We wander into situations that are highly dangerous, and
sometimes, we may not even realize when our Good Shepherd rescues us. But that’s the beauty of following Him. The Bible speaks of a “peace that is beyond understanding” available to those who trust in God. It’s the peace of knowing that even if the worst should happen, we still can count on Him to fulfill His promises to us. It’s the security of knowing that even when this life is over, we can spend eternity with God in heaven.*

If you’re sick with worry and stress, the promises of God are the only lasting remedy. He says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He says, “No one can snatch you out of my hand.” He says, “I can even work out the bad things in life for your ultimate good.” Without this sort of faith in God, the blessings of peace will be hard to find, and impossible to maintain.

Real peace is only possible when you have the most power on your side, “peace through strength.” Think of it: the Creator of the universe is promising to keep you securely in His hand, as long as you are among those who hear His voice and follow Him. Could you ask for more security than that?

So that is where we must begin. We must listen for His voice and follow Him. Isaiah, a biblical prophet, wrote: “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.” And, just like sheep, the only time we’re truly in danger is when we aren’t following the Shepherd.

When we make the choice to repent, to turn away from “our own paths” and to put our faith in God to lead our lives, we can learn what it means to have true peace. Jesus put it this way: “I am leaving you with a gift peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Difficult times will come. Perhaps a few of the things you’ve been worried about will actually happen. But if you stick close to the Good Shepherd, you can rest assured that He is watching over you, that He is guiding your steps, and that even in difficulty, He wants to demonstrate His great love to you. And best of all, you can know that He will bring you safely to an eternal home of peace and joy in the end.

Bible Passages to Study: John 10, Romans 5.

*Did you know that assurance of heaven is possible? Most people “hope” they’ll gain entrance when they die, but they don’t know for sure. There is good news! John the Apostle wrote a letter about all the ways a relationship with Christ is life-changing, and then said, “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” Read the book of 1 John in the Bible to learn more.

LOVE THAT NEVER FAILS

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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The Dating Machine: Part II

by: Dan Jarvis

02/14/2019

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Tools for the Tune-Up

Tool #1: PATIENCE

Better to wait for the best than suffer like the rest.

Psalm 37:3-5, 37:34, Galatians 5:22-23

Starting too early is one of the dangers of dating, and being ready physically doesn’t mean that you are ready emotionally, financially or spiritually. Most people end up suffering through rejection, guilt, and emotional disaster because they can’t wait. They go ahead and date any and everyone, only to be disappointed again and again. Meanwhile the “best” choices aren’t looking at them anymore, because they’re off dating whoever asks. Bad plan!

You don’t have to date today, tomorrow, or… read more

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Tools for the Tune-Up

Tool #1: PATIENCE

Better to wait for the best than suffer like the rest.

Psalm 37:3-5, 37:34, Galatians 5:22-23

Starting too early is one of the dangers of dating, and being ready physically doesn’t mean that you are ready emotionally, financially or spiritually. Most people end up suffering through rejection, guilt, and emotional disaster because they can’t wait. They go ahead and date any and everyone, only to be disappointed again and again. Meanwhile the “best” choices aren’t looking at them anymore, because they’re off dating whoever asks. Bad plan!

You don’t have to date today, tomorrow, or even next year. Really. You can take a break from worrying about it and focus on other things in life. One biblical writer said he was glad to be single, because he could focus his whole attention on God! Dating just for the sake of having “someone” is very dangerous. It’s a one way ticket to a messed up and dysfunctional romantic life. Instead, fill your time with serving God and serving people, and when the right one comes along, you’ll know.

Tool #2: WISDOM

Don’t just look for the right one… be the right one!

Psalm 139:23-24, Psalm 119:9-16, Proverbs 14:7-8, Proverbs 5:21-23

Whatever qualities you are hoping for in a future spouse, work on developing them in yourself. Do you want someone who is a hard worker and financially responsible? Do you want someone faithful, trustworthy, and interesting? Do you want someone who is committed to God, who would make a great parent to some future kids, who loves to have fun with life? It’s a great idea to make a list of what you want to see in your future sweetheart, but look back at your list and ask: “Do I measure up to my own standard?” Make yourself a “great catch” for the “right one” – and remember that the closer you get to God, the closer you will get to God’s best choice for your life.

Tool #3: REALITY

No, you can’t change ‘em.

1 Peter 3:10-12, Proverbs 26

When it comes to character and personality, people rarely change.* Their interests and tastes may change (their looks will definitely change), but the inner qualities of a person are usually set early in life. Never believe that you can “change this person later.” If someone is abusive today, they will be five years from now. They will be that way with your kids too. If someone treats their parents poorly, they’ll treat you poorly. If someone is self-centered and negative, don’t count on that changing once the wedding bells ring. When dating, people tend to put on their best performance. The “real” them comes out later! If you see a person who is jealous, possessive, lazy, angry, has a temper, is irresponsible or foolish, take it as a warning – and steer clear.

Tool #4: COUNSEL

Get advice from older folks, especially parents.

Ephesians 6:1-2, Genesis 2:24, Proverbs 11:14

Go the old-fashioned route and ask for parental blessing before you move forward in your relationship. If your parents aren’t in the picture, look for someone in their age group who knows you well. Don’t get defensive when a parent, friend, counselor or pastor tries to give you advice. They have lived through these things before and listening to their wisdom will save you a lot of pain. The Bible promises prosperity to people who honor their parents and their elders, and it also promises safety in a “multitude of counselors.” This is a win-win that few people take advantage of.

After a tune-up like this, you’ll fire up the ole’ dating machine and get some very different results. You’ll find yourself running a whole different direction than the world around you. That’s great! It means you’re on the road to something better. And one day, you’ll be running in the race of life and realize that someone is running next to you – someone who shares your values, treats you with respect, cares about your needs, and is headed to the same place you are. Be sure to get that phone number!

*Obviously, we believe that lives can change. Miracles happen. But never gamble your whole future on someone reversing course. Find someone whose life has already changed for the better, with a track record of doing the right things long-term. Keep your standards high!

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The Dating Machine: Part I

by: Dan Jarvis

02/07/2019

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The Problem

Day after day, night after night, a machine has been running – for as long as you can remember. Dad used it, Mom fussed over it, even Grandpa has a few stories tinkering with it when he was “your age.” The quality or the products of the machine are never really questioned; as long as it keeps cranking and clanking, you assume all is well. Dad said it best, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Good enough. But what if the machine’s products are defective – nearly 50% of the time? Isn’t a change in order, or a least… read more

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The Problem

Day after day, night after night, a machine has been running – for as long as you can remember. Dad used it, Mom fussed over it, even Grandpa has a few stories tinkering with it when he was “your age.” The quality or the products of the machine are never really questioned; as long as it keeps cranking and clanking, you assume all is well. Dad said it best, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Good enough. But what if the machine’s products are defective – nearly 50% of the time? Isn’t a change in order, or a least an honest evaluation? As time-tested as the tradition may be, sometimes machines need a tune-up, or some replacement parts. Sometimes they need a one-way ticket to the scrap yard!

In our culture, dating is the “machine” that produces our marriage relationships. In a way, it is the machine that builds our families. Boy meets girl, gets phone number, gives chocolate, invites to movie, slips ring on finger, watches her frantically prepare for wedding, spends big money on honeymoon and voila – a new family unit is created.
The dating machine sputters and rattles for awhile until a newly-minted marriage emerges on the conveyor belt, complete with cultural and even religious stamps of approval. Yet somehow not all these marriages are making it – in fact, many are in trouble. People who just years ago were proclaiming undying love for each other are litigating, divorcing, fighting and bickering. What’s going on? Is the machine broken?

Romantic relationships are a gift from God; a blessing from Him given to us in the beginning. How that blessing works for us is our decision to make – but it’s available. Amazing joy, fun, fulfillment and security are available in the context of marriage to any who will choose to do it based on the Creator’s blueprint.

There are plenty of shortcuts people have tried. Some set a low standard where God sets a high one. Some say morality doesn’t matter, but God says that morality is the foundation of fulfilling relationships. Some say they can date for fun without getting serious, God says we should carefully guard our hearts so we can give them totally to our future marriage partner. Some say they should live together and “try out” marriage before making a commitment, God (and statistics) say just the opposite.

Whether these are just loose screws in our machinery or there’s a deeper problem at work, we’ll decide later. For now, we know that to date successfully, we can’t rely on the machine we’ve been given. At minimum improvements need to be made, and a tune-up is long overdo.

Join us for part II of this series to discover the right tools for the job of tuning up the old dating machine.

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