Lessons from Skydiving!

I recently heard a story about a man who was afraid of heights; actually to be honest he was terrified. So he set out to conquer this fear by trying out sky diving. Yes I know sounds crazy, but in order to get over something sometimes you need to take drastic measures.

He did some research via the Internet and found a nearby airport where he could take a few lessons and then take the ultimate plunge. He booked an appointment, paid his fee and as the day approached became more and more fearful of what he had decided to sign up for.

On the designated day he went to the airport, and participated in the lesson but at the last minute decided that there was no way that he was going up in that airplane.  He left and went home, a little bit frustrated at his inability to overcome his fear of heights.

Six months later he decided to try again, so he repeated the process, of going online, booking his lesson, hoping that he would be able to follow through with it this time.  When he got to the air strip that morning, he was optimistic at his chances of conquering this fear once and for all. He went through the lessons, got all suited up and went out with his class mates to the small airplane. Just as he was about to board the small plane he decided that he could not do it once again.

This time however he had gotten much further than his previous attempts. He left the airstrip, with his fear still strapped around his heart and his frustration bubbling over. 

Another 6 months had passed and he was yet to conquer his fears; but all of that was about to change. During this time, he met a very prominent gentleman. As their relationship grew, the man was invited to join the man and his company on a team building exercise they had been planning.  It was not until after he had agreed to join them that he discovered that they were going skydiving. Yes you heard right, sky diving. It was too late for him to back out and in order to avoid embarrassment he prepared himself to go. He was unsure if he would be able to do it, but he was committed.

The gentleman introduced him to one of his colleagues who would participate in the flight that day and this colleague reassured him that the jump would be fine, as he had personally jumped 4000 times before.

On the day of the jump they watched all of the required videos, practiced jumping tandem and this time, he made it further than before, he made it into the plane, first.  Now the person that enters a plane first is the last to jump. He was terrified, but knew that he could not back out now, he had someone else to consider and had to make the jump with the experienced jumper.

When it came to their turn, the pilot informed them that the plane was too low and had to fly to a higher altitude for a safe jump. As they plane ascended they prepared for the jump. The experienced sky diver strapped him onto himself, went over the last minute instructions, but could see how tense he was.  

Seeing  the hesitation and fear rise up within the newbie, the experienced skydiver knew that if he was going to convince him to jump he would have to reassure him that because of his vast experience they would make it safely back to the ground again.

So he said to him, “In order for you to have a successful jump, you need to trust me and take the first step out of the plane.”

The newbie knew that he was correct, he put his confidence in his partners abilities and experience and took that first step out of the airplane. It was an exhilarating experience and in that moment, he knew that he had overcome his unreasonable fear of heights once and for all.

Brothers and Sisters,

 I would like to draw your attention to a few things in this story that struck me when I heard it.

We may have many fears in our lives, some of them small and some huge, but the bible teaches us, that when we put our trust in God, through his son Jesus Christ, we will have no reason to fear.

Romans 8:15

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son ship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

This verse in Romans tells us that as Christians we no longer have to fear, that instead we have been given a spirit that makes us children of God. That we can call God daddy! (Abba means Daddy).

There is another verse that I would like to show you,

1 John 4:18

 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Yes, fear involves punishment, dear brothers and sisters, as children of the most high God, we will not face punishment, we have been given a new life, our sins have been forgiven and we don’t need to be afraid of anything because the Holy Spirit, lives within us and we have been given the gift of being free.

If you find yourself in a place of fear, I would like to encourage you to take a moment and ask the lord to show you his truth about your fear. Most of what we fear never ever comes to pass, we think that it might, but the reality is, it never does. Then I want you to take the next step and ask him to forgive you for believing the lie that you have to live in fear of something.

Remember, God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of a sound mind and good judgment!

The next lesson that I would like to point out from the above story is this that our fearful skydiver only jumped out of that plane, once he felt convinced that his skydiving coach’s abilities were greater than his. He knew that he could trust his coach to lead him safely to solid ground when the jump was completed. He transferred his trust from himself to his coach.

That is a perfect picture of what God does for us, he surrounds us with his presence and just like the frightened skydiver was attached to his experienced coach, we too are surrounded by God. Our terrified skydiver did not have confidence in his own abilities, but he knew that his coach’s ability was solid, from years of skydiving.

The same is true with God. He might ask us to do things in this world that are terrifying to us, but we can take confidence in the fact that God is there all the time, teaching, guiding, leading and helping us to safety. When we put our confidence in ourselves and in our abilities, we will surely fail. But when we allow God to be our coach, and the head of our lives, He promises that he will never leave us. He knows the beginning from the end and is quite capable of keeping us safe and secure forever.

My Prayer for you,

Heavenly father, I bring before you today, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray father, that you will help them to put their trust in you. You are all that we need to navigate this life. We cannot trust in riches, our abilities, or our friends to give us the confidence to live our lives but we can trust in you.

Father, please fill my brothers and sisters in Christ with a renewed understanding of the faith that you have placed in their hearts.  Help them to become confident in your abilities to see them through any difficulties that they may face in their lives. I thank you lord, that you always hear us, and you take great pleasure in showing us that you are there for us in our time of need.

Bless my brothers and sisters in Christ today father,

Amen

 

Forgiveness

It ought to be easy to forgive. Those of us who have been forgiven by God realize what a great gift that is. But when it comes to forgiving those who bring us a lot of grief, especially when it comes to those in our family who wrong us, that seems to be a different story entirely.

For years a man I know carried a burden of anger and bitterness toward his father. The older he got, the more he realized how much he missed out on in terms of having a relationship with his dad. As he fathered his own son, he found that the pain of what he hadn’t had as a child was also impacting the way he interacted with him. He recalled thinking at one point, “I need to forgive him, but I can’t.”

One night he dreamed that he died and went to Heaven. Standing next to God was his father. He looked at God and said, “What is he doing here?” God responded, “I have been using him in your life for the last fifty-three years to mold you into the person I wanted you to be.” When he woke up, he started thinking of his father differently.

Forgiveness is giving up the hope that you will ever have a better past. Let me repeat that . . . forgiveness is giving up the hope that you will ever have a better past. Eventually this man came to realize that what he had viewed as his father doing to him, God was doing for him. It changed his perception of his entire life. Not that everything that happened had been right or good, but he came to understand that God had been involved in it, and had used those experiences to prepare him for the work He wanted him to do.

With that story in mind, I’d like to share with you some thoughts to help you extend forgiveness to your teen.

Acknowledge that it hurts. There is real pain involved when someone you love and have given to over and over again does something that wounds you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the bad behavior is excused; rather it means that you let go of what is past. You don’t want to carry that pain for years and years, but if you try to pretend like it isn’t there, it’s going to be hard to forgive.

It’s okay to let your teen know that they have hurt you. On the other hand, if you’ve forgiven them, then it shouldn’t ever be brought up again. Corrie ten Boom said that when God forgives us, He buries our sin in the deepest ocean and then puts up a sign that says, “No Fishing.” Today if this man talked to his father, he would never bring up the things that caused him pain. The pain was real, but it doesn’t control his emotions or his relationship with him anymore.

Failure to forgive limits your parenting. If we teach our teens by example that it’s okay to hold grudges and not forgive, we’re not just setting a bad pattern they are likely to follow, but we are building a wall between their hearts and ours. You’re not going to be able to hold a grudge over something they did or didn’t do without them knowing it.

The message that sends to your child is that they are only loved if they do right. I want them to know that they are loved even if they offend me. I want my relationship with my children to continue to develop and improve, but that can only happen if I forgive them (and they forgive me). Are they going to disappoint and fail? Of course. Am I? Yes. So if our relationship is going to be what it should be, forgiveness is going to be a two way street. As the adult, I have the responsibility to model and demonstrate forgiveness to my children.

Remember the grace God has given you. God doesn’t forgive us because we deserve it; He forgives us because of grace. He invented grace. The same grace He gives so abundantly should be growing in our hearts as well. We should never forget that to a large degree our children draw their picture of God largely from the example we show them. For them to know and appreciate the grace and character of God, we need to be forgiving as parents. Seek His grace to help you forgive, and you will find it produces amazing results.

When our teens hurt us but repent, it’s not too hard to forgive. When you can see genuine sorrow for what they’ve done, you can say, “I forgive you” with ease. But when they are continuing to disappoint, disagree and defy, how do you forgive? Only by grace. You can give forgiveness even if it is not accepted. If you really forgive, it will change the way you view the child and the relationship for the better.

Balance forgiveness with consequences. While we have a responsibility to forgive, even if there are ongoing problems, that doesn’t mean that the child should always escape the consequences of their actions. In fact they normally need to go through what they’ve brought down on their own heads to help them not repeat the same mistakes in the future.

If your child is breaking family rules, doing things that put themselves or others in danger or acting out, you have every right to enforce the boundaries you have set; in fact, you must. You always need to be willing to forgive, but it’s vitally important not to enable them to continue to do things that are destructive as part of that forgiveness. Once they stop, put it in the past and leave it there.

It can be frustrating to be a parent. When our children are disrespectful or do something that we’ve repeatedly warned them about, we can be hesitant to forgive them. That’s when we need to dig deep into the well of grace and offer forgiveness anyway, even when it is undeserved, for that is what God teaches us to do.

We talked about this issue in depth on our radio program called “Forgiveness.” To listen online look for the program dated August 27, 2011 at http://www.parentingtodaysteens.org.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173. Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org,  or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com.

 

 

Teen Survival in a Sex-Crazed Culture

Today’s sexually-charged culture not only invites kids to inappropriate sexual activity and experimentation, it sets up an expectation of it. Those who are abstaining, even at a very young age, are now the exception rather than the rule.

The constant bombardment of sexual images and suggestive innuendo in our culture takes a toll on our kids, but it also takes a toll on parents as well. We want the best for our children, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep them within boundaries that will lead to a safe, happy and well-adjusted future marriage and adulthood. So, short of keeping them locked in their room until they are 18, maybe it is time we begin talking about it.

I understand that most of us would rather not discuss this topic; it can be uncomfortable for both parent and child. But the culture is shouting inappropriate messages to them all day long, everyday, so they need to hear the other side of the story, again and again. That’s why I’d like to encourage you to have frank, candid and meaningful discussions (yes, that’s plural) with your teen about what is right and wrong when it comes to their body and sexuality.

We have more than fifty teenagers living with us at Heartlight at any time. As we talk in group sessions I’m amazed by the pressure they have been feeling to give in to promiscuity among their peers. The pleasure, lure of relationship, need to fit in, or the false promise of a badge of maturity have been traditional lures. But for the most part, promiscuity has become less sinister or emotional than that. Kids today think of sex as something as natural to do — even at their age and out of wedlock — as breathing, exercising or eating ice cream. The kids I’m talking about are not the “bad crowd”; they are great teens, mostly from good Christian homes who were raised in the Church. Yet they seem to compartmentalize morality between what’s appropriate at home or church and what’s okay to do with their friends. So let me give you some practical steps to help protect your teen from promiscuity.

Start early. By the time the problem presents itself to you, it’s almost too late to solve it. You may think you still have a few years left before you need to bring up the subject with your child, but you don’t. As young as seven or eight they have friends or classmates who are thinking and talking about sex—or even experimenting with it. So it isn’t too early to start this process when they enter middle school; in fact if you wait until they are in junior high or high school, it’s almost too late.

Start by talking about what is appropriate and what isn’t. Make it clear to them where they should draw the line. Help them to understand that they are in control of their own body and should never be pressured to give up any of that control. And give them license to report to you or other authorities anyone pressuring them to inappropriate behavior, without being shamed for it. Most of all, make it very clear that you will never condemn them for discussing it with you. It is crucial that they not fear talking with you about the changes in their body, their desires, and what their friends are saying or asking them to do.

Repeat the message, over and over. Back in our day, our parents gave us “The Talk” once. I told my daughter not too long ago (she was planning “The Talk” with my granddaughter) that our culture requires far more than just one talk. I told her to plan on having that talk every week for the next ten years! Equipping your child to swim against the tide of sexual permissiveness is going to require ongoing interaction and instruction. Of course it would be easier to do it once and be done with it, but that approach won’t cut it today. Talk regularly about the appropriate boundaries when it comes to their body.

Look for opportunities to engage. When your daughter wants to wear something that’s not quite appropriate or your son wants to watch a movie or television program with an unhealthy message, don’t just shut them down and tell them “No” or “That’s wrong.” Set everything else aside and have a candid conversation (without lecturing or being patronizing) about why certain things are right and others aren’t. “Let’s talk” sends a very different message–one that this issue is very important. Start by asking questions to lead them to think through the issue and arrive at the right conclusion—this form of question asking is far more effective than simply telling them.

Hold the line. Boundaries like curfews and ensuring that your girl is not left alone with a hormone-raging boy are crucial, but you need to plan for the day when they will be challenged. It’s possible that sometime in the history of the world there was one teenager who accepted his parents’ boundaries without question or challenge, but I’ve never met him or her yet! They’re going to push against the restrictions due to their innate desire to connect and fit in with their peers or to be close to someone of the opposite sex. And as difficult as it is, you must hold the line. Maintain those boundaries. Don’t give in. Yes, this means there will probably be some rather heated discussions and consequences for times when they step over the line. You may even have the dreaded “I hate you” line thrown in your face. But don’t give in…keep the rules in place anyhow. You’ll likely learn later on that your teen was actually relieved to have such boundaries.

Eliminate overnighters and unsupervised times at a friend’s house. It used to be that slumber parties and visiting a friend’s house after school was mostly innocent and fun. Today, it is where kids experiment. I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve talked to who said they first started down the path of promiscuity, same-sex relationships, addiction to pornography, or substance abuse at a friend’s house either after school or overnight. And this includes friends from good Christian homes. As individual curiosity increases with the cultural exposure, and with some parents supervising their kids less, experimentation becomes prevalent, especially in the middle school years. So, a word to the wise.

Communicate your expectations. Sometimes parents ask, “Is it reasonable to expect my child to remain pure in this culture?” My answer is, “Yes…but it takes a lot of work to realize.” Expectations alone aren’t enough to help your teen do right, you need to communicate those expectations to them and explain why and how they can and should be different from the culture. The time you spend talking to your teen about these expectations is a wonderful investment in their purity and future happiness.

There is no question that your teen will struggle with the allure of sex. Just plan on it. You simply cannot keep them away from the drumbeat of a hyper-sexualized culture. If they do go too far (and you actually learn about it, which is rare), the important thing is to not explode and turn your back on them. Rather, help them return to doing right without condemning them. Reinforce boundaries and eliminate the possibilities for it to happen again. Make sure they know you will continue to love them no matter what. Nothing can keep a kid from doing wrong more than not wanting to disappoint his or her parents; but if it does happen, never use disappointment or withdrawal of relationship as your disciplinary tactic. If anything, your relationship needs to be strengthened at this time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas.

 

The heavens declare the glory of the Lord!

Brothers and sisters in Christ

I would like to share with you another one of my favorite Psalms. Why you may wonder, well because it describes the wonders and majesty of our great and Mighty God. 

This Psalm was written by King David, and I imagine that it came from the years spent under the open skies of Israel as a shepherd boy. It was there that God was preparing his heart to be king and shepherd the nation of Israel and Judah. It was there that God trained him to rely on him for protection, shelter and food. It was there that God taught him to be a mighty warrior as he had to fight off wild beasts in order to protect the sheep that were in his care.

I can almost see him lying on the side of the hill at night time, all is dark and he is awestruck at the amazing scene before him, the night sky. I am sure that he spoke to God many times as it was often a lonely and thankless job to be a shepherd.

Let’s take a moment and listen in on one of these moments that he had with God where he realized the great majesty and awesomeness of the creator of all things.

Psalm 19:1-14

 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

 In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 

It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. 

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 

The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 

The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. 

They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 

By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 

 Who can discern his errors?

 Forgive my hidden faults. 

Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

 

As you can see there is nothing on this earth that has not had the touch of the creator on it. Our very lives and heart are laid bare before him. My friend, I can tell you from firsthand experience that it is true when King David says that the ordinances of the lord are sure and altogether righteous, that they are more precious than gold, and sweeter than honey. I have discovered in my life that God really does know what is best for us, he created us, and all that we get to enjoy. He pours his spirit out on those who will willingly receive him. He sets us free from things that torment us, and lies that keep us captive.

I am not sure what your personal situation is, what is going on in your life right now, or even how you are feeling, but I do know that God is the answer to all that hurts and seeks to destroy you. He came to give you life, both here on this earth and an everlasting life.

 He came to set you free from addictions, lust, adultery, pornography, lies, temptations, hurts, bitterness, anger, hatred, and every other thing that could hold you back from experiencing peace and love on this earth.

God sent his son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for the sin of the whole world, to die once and for all. So that you and I might be free, from the death that sin brings.

 Brothers and sisters, this can be a reality for you today.

If you are reading this, and are coming to a realization that you have no real joy, peace, or love in your life. If you are miserable with how your life is turning out, and the choices that you have made have led to heartache. I know that Jesus is the answer for all that pain.

You see, what he does is, if you invite him to come and become lord of your life, he transfers you firstly from the kingdom of darkness (the Devils territory) to his kingdom, the kingdom of light. He gives you the right to become his child and promises you eternal life. Yes you read it right, the right to live forever.

You and I know that our lives one day will end here  on this earth and when that day comes, we will either go to heaven to be with God, or we will face God and be judged for all of the sin that we never repented of in our lifetime. He will then send us to Hell.

Why would a loving Majestic God, who created all things, do such a thing as send someone to hell?

 Well he is a Holy God. He sent his word to the earth (in the form of prophets, and later Jesus) to point the people back to him. He cannot tolerate sin, and said that in order for us, his creation to come into a right relationship with him again, we will need to turn from the wickedness that tends to rule our lives. If we do that, and we acknowledge that he really did send His Son, Jesus Christ to this earth, then he would forgive us our sins, and give us the right to become His children. He would remove our sins from us, wash us clean from the stains that it caused on our souls and give us His spirit as a guarantee of his promise of eternal life.

I want to urge you dear one, to consider what God, the creator of all things is offering you today. He is offering you a way out of a life spent in despair, heartache and disappointment, into a life lived free of all of that, free of condemnation and death.

Please take a moment and pray with me right now,

Dear Heavenly father

I have come to realize that I am a sinner, my life does not meet your holy standards and I therefore do not meet your holy standards. I am dead in my sin, but I want to live, and live forever with you in heaven one day. I never want to experience hell. I believe that you sent your son Jesus Christ to die for my sins. I believe that you are indeed God, the creator of all things, both in heaven and on earth. I believe that I need to turn away from the wickedness that has led me to be spiritually dead. Please forgive me for my sins, in Jesus name.

If you have prayed that prayer and meant it from the bottom of your heart, welcome to the family of God. You belong to him now; you are his child, with an inheritance waiting for you in heaven one day.

I want to encourage you to read your bible daily, starting in the book of John, as it describes all that Jesus did on this earth. I urge you to pray to God daily as well, it is just like having a conversation with him. He will hear you and teach you through his spirit what is important.

I pray that God will bless you indeed, that you he will give you a great hunger and desire for more of his great love for you and a deeper passion for walking in righteousness.

Blessings to you my friends