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Are You a Peacemaker?

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At CityLife yesterday, I talked about how God blesses us when we are peacemakers.

The world around us is filled with conflict.  There is conflict between countries and inside of countries.  There is conflict at work and at school.  There is conflict in marriage and in family.

God has called us to be peacemakers.  And, there is a blessing attached to peacemaking.  Notice what Jesus says as reported by Matthew.  Matthew 5:9 says, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

We all tend to have one of two reactions when faced with conflict.  We are either people who exercise “fight” (we stand up and fight for our rights and we fight to win) or we exercise “flight” (we back down and run away to protect ourselves and others).

Both of those are legitimate reactions, but none of them lead to real peace.  The truth is that peacemaking is found somewhere in the middle.

Abraham was faced with this situation.  He made a treaty with a king named Abimelech.  After securing the treaty, Abraham had to present an uncomfortable situation…the fact that Abimelech’s servants had taken a well by force from Abraham’s servants.

What could Abraham have done?

Fight: In this scenario, he would have stood up for his rights and defended the fact that the well was his.  This could have led to a lack of peace between both parties that could have destroyed their treaty.

Flight: In this scenario, he simply would have given in, thus ending up with nothing.  The end result would have been the reality that Abimelech’s servants would have felt free to take by force any future well that Abraham would have dug, knowing there wouldn’t be consequences.

What did Abraham actually do?

Read this part of the story, found in Genesis 21:27-30.

27 Abraham then gave some of his sheep, goats, and cattle to Abimelech, and they made a treaty. 28 But Abraham also took seven additional female lambs and set them off by themselves. 29 Abimelech asked, “Why have you set these seven apart from the others?” 30 Abraham replied, “Please accept these seven lambs to show your agreement that I dug this well.”

Abraham secured peace by exercising a “win-win” option.

This option had elements of both “fight” and “flight” involved.  While Abraham stood up for his rights to the well (fight), he secured the agreement through generosity (flight).  He gave in order to get.

In this scenario, both parties got something out of the deal.  Abimelech got seven producing (female) lambs and Abraham got his well.

What was the end result of this peace?  Verse 34 says this, “And Abraham lived as a foreigner in Philistine country for a long time.”

His peacemaking secured a place for him to live for a long time.

If you live as a peacemaker wherever you go, the blessings that follow will be undeniable.  This is who God has called us to be.  Ultimately, when people see how we bring peace to every situation, they will recognize the fact that we truly belong to God (Matthew 5:9).

What a great testimony.  Let’s live it today!

*And yes, the above photo is the extent of my amazing artistic ability.

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Posted by on March 11, 2013 in Leadership, Life, Love, Uncategorized

 

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The Dangers of Tug of War

In the news today comes a story of how some kids lost some fingers playing tug of war at a school event.

You can read about it here.

First, let me say that my prayers go out to the students and their families. I am praying for a full and complete recovery.

That being said, while I was driving today, I heard some news reports that mentioned the incident. While listening, I had this thought: “They’re probably going to ban tug of war”!

Sure enough, as I was thinking about it, they said it!

In that article, Eric Spillman (the author) states, “The school district is reviewing its policies to see if tug of war will be allowed in the future.”

What?

Why is it that every accident that happens leads to us creating more rules or outright banning something?

Should we ban beaches because of shark bites?
Should we ban cars because of accidents?
Should we ban sports because of injuries?
Should we ban marriages because of infidelity?
Should we ban airplanes because of terrorists?
Should we ban banks because of robbers?
Should we ban hospitals because of sickness and death?

While it is true that we can always be more safe and cautious, I fear that we are becoming a risk averse society.

Life is made up of risks. Once risks are removed, we are no longer living life as it was meant to be lived.

In becoming a risk averse society, we don’t just protect ourselves from negative outcomes…we also eliminate the enjoyment of positive outcomes.

If marriages are removed, the fullest expression of love is put to death.
If sports are removed, the enjoyment of leisure and play is also removed (and discipline too)!
Etc.

When we create rules to avoid risk, we are basically admitting to the fact that we are a fearful society. We are afraid that something might go wrong or someone will get hurt. We allow an isolated incident to tell us that it might happen to all of us. This is simply not true.

Why don’t we simply accept the fact that these things will happen? Then, we can support each other when things go wrong.

So, for the love of all things enjoyable, please don’t ban tug of war!

 

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Kim Kardashian

6 million dollars.

72 days of marriage.

Her marriage cost her over $83,000 a day.

Many people wonder why she did it. Others wonder why she quit.

Many question her motivations, or at least her reasoning.

Regardless of any of those questions and their corresponding answers, I ask you to consider this:

First, regardless of why she did this, SHE STILL FEELS PAIN. She is still human. I’m sure that she is her own greatest critic.

Second, may he who is without sin cast the first stone. Jesus says this in John 8:7. I believe He would say this to us today.

So, I ask you to walk in grace. We are all imperfect. Kim is not an example to be used for our sermon illustrations to tell us how “NOT” to do marriage. After all, Christians get divorced just as much as those who aren’t.

We all need grace.

Kim needs it.

You need it.

I need it.

So, let’s give it. That is the least we can do.

 
 

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10 most Popular Posts of 2011

Hey everyone!

By the number of page views, I thought I would put up the 10 most popular posts I have had so far this year.  I am doing this so that you will look at them more, increase my stats, and make me feel even better about myself.

Or maybe not.

No matter the reason, if you are interested in checking them out, here they are!

1.     The Announcement

2.     CityLife Church

3.     Is Christianity the “Right” Religion? Part II

4.     This is Me, For Her

5.     Keep Moving

6.     Pornography

7.     Is Christianity the “Right” Religion? Part I

8.     Please Remove Shoes Before Playing

9.     The Power of Vision

10.    My Thoughts on Bin Laden

Thanks for reading!
 

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Wimpy Men

I could say that wimpy men are like females, but that would completely insult females. I know many females that are much stronger than some males I know.

I see a new generation of people who are of the “age” to be men, but still act like little boys.

In marriage, there are two types of destructive men. The first is the abusive man. They control, dominate, and abuse to get their way. This is evil! This type of man is a wimp because he has no ability to use other means to gain influence.

But, there is a second type of destructive male role in marriage. This is the apathetic man. This is the man who doesn’t care, who has no vision, who seems to live without purpose. This is a wimpy man because he acts like a little child. But, then again, that would be insulting to a little child! They are much more filled with vision than some of these men!

Unfortunately, due to many years (decades) without proper male figures, the current young generation of men has not grown up with Godly role models. They run from conflict, they reject anyone who would correct them, and they respond emotionally without reason.

Are you this type of man? Do you know someone who is?

Here are a few recommendations:

1. Find relationships with friends and mentors who will allow you to be honest and transparent and who will lead you to God’s Word. They are not there to make you “feel good”. They are there to help lead and guide you to what IS good.  The worst type of mentor is the one who tells you to do what you THINK is right.  They are more afraid of losing a relationship than they are of you losing God’s purposes for your life.

2. Get involved in a men’s ministry/discipleship group in your church. Coming from La Iglesia En El Camino, I am thankful for the “Hombres de Impacto (Men of Impact)” ministry that my dad (Jim Tolle) leads. In the church my wife and I are planting, I am discipling men in a small group format during 6-8 months. When I finish this group, I’ll start a new one. Get in one or START one!

3. Read some good books! Let me recommend three:

1. “No More Christian Nice Guy” by Paul Coughlin
2. “Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story” by John Sowers (@johnsowers on Twitter). John is a fried of mine and leads The Mentoring Project (@tmproject). Check it out!
3. “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Pete Scazzero.

There is no easy way to make all of this happen.  I have been working at it for ten years in youth ministry.  I am thankful that we have seen real men of God raised up in our ministry who stand for what’s right and who know how to love others.

One step at a time and one life at a time.  Let’s do it!

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Cultural Commentary, Life, Uncategorized

 

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Pornography

A couple days ago, congressman Anthony Weiner confessed to having sent racy photos of himself over twitter. He is not the first, and will definitely not be the last.

What has interested me is not his case in particular, but the questions that have come after his revelation. Some have asked what caused him to commit these lewd actions. Others have asked whether his actions (including “sexting”) would be considered as cheating on his spouse.

These questions reveal the battles that our society is dealing with. I watched a few minutes of “The View” on ABC while they talked about (debated) these questions. I did not find ANY of their answers particularly convincing (even though they represent various political opinions).

So, my answer is simple: PORNOGRAPHY.

Yes, pornography.

Let me explain.

Pornography has been accepted by the majority in our society. Many say that it is good and helps marriages. I OBVIOUSLY DISAGREE. But, today my point is this: if looking at pornographic material and finding “pleasure” through that is acceptable, then sending pictures of oneself to an unknown person is not too far off.

The reality is that both actions are simply substitutes for real intimacy in monogamy. Because we, as a society, have accepted pornography as normal, we have opened the door to accept everything else as normal.

The only problem is that most everyone FEELS there is something wrong with everything that has happened.

AND THEY ARE RIGHT.

The  issue with cheating (and actually everything that’s wrong) begins not with the actions, but with the heart.

Jesus says some interesting words. In Matthew 5:28 NLT, Jesus says,

“But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

See that? Adultery begins in the heart. My friends, this is the standard that God set for all humanity. And, this clarifies the position we should have about all these other things.

Pornography?     CHEATING.

Sexting?     CHEATING.

“Emotional” affair?     CHEATING

Sending racy photos over Twitter?     CHEATING.

Need I go on? The question becomes for all of us: Where is my heart at?

And if you’re single, your fidelity applies to Christ and your future husband/wife. Besides, if you don’t learn self control now, you won’t exercise self control once you’re married. If you can easily move from relationship to relationship now, why will that end once you’re married?

These issues are not confusing when looking through the lense of heart attitude. We must ask God to give us pure hearts. We must seek people out with whom we can have authentic relationships and be honest about our struggles. We must do whatever it takes to protect ourselves from sin and temptation.

I hope this post brings clarity. May each of you be blessed with a pure heart!

 
 

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This is Me, For Her

Words like “romantic” are not ones that have typically described who I am. But, I do love my wife, and I am learning to use my gifts and abilities to love her as best I can.

Outside of God, there is no one I want to love more than my wife Evelyn. She is the love of my life. She is the one I have dedicated my life to. If I’m going to love anyone well while I am on this earth, I want to make sure I do well with Evelyn.

Including our dating and marriage, we have been together for 13 Valentine’s Days. So, today, I use one of my gifts to honor and love her: poetry. Enjoy!

To: Evelyn
From: Jeff

If words could express how I feel about you,
I’m afraid they’d be limited, and only partially true.

The reality is, you are so much more.
You’re the one I love and deeply adore.

You’re the best mother my children could ask for.
You’re the best wife that I could long for.

On this special day, I want you to understand,
I am committed to you; you will always have my hand.

Please be my Valentine, not just for today.
Please be my Valentine, forever and a day.

I love you Evelyn!

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in Love

 

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