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MEDIA

Be inspired by biblical teaching from Pastors Shaun & Amy Gustafson WATCH MORE

 
 
 
 
 

 

UPCOMING EVENTS 

 
 
 
 
 

Refresh Marriage Conference

 Friday, August 10 – Saturday, August 11 
Guest Speakers: Jeremy & Sarah Pearsons
Married, engaged and single welcome! 
Register HERE!
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Radiant Ladies’ Event

 Friday, October 26 – Saturday, October 27
Guest Speakers: Terri Savelle-Foy
Ladies 13+ welcome!
Register HERE!

 

  

FROM THE BLOG

 

No Filter Needed

I’ll be honest that I’m attempting to feed two birds with one biscuit here: 1. I want to let my husband know how much I appreciate him, and 2. As Refresh approaches, I want to start shifting our focus toward relationships.

Undoubtedly the most challenging yet entertaining part of marriage for me is the unfiltered-ness. Tyler sees me every day. He’s witnessed every emotional reaction and overreaction to the point that he can tell sometimes before I can if I’m covering up my real feelings. He knows if I’m acting a part or if I’m being my genuine self to the fullest. The half-fulls and half-empties, he knows my unfiltered character.

We often start out relationships with at least a couple filters. Maybe someone puts on a toughness that, faded, exposes an extremely sensitive side; or maybe another person tries to cover up their unusual sense of humor with a straight face. Ask any couple (or close friends) who have been together for over three years it’s tiring to put on personality makeup every day! So if you’re wearing it, wipe it off. Personality is the new appeal.

Let’s talk about Ruth.

From the book of Ruth, we know 3 things about Ruth’s character:

  1. Ruth is loyal.

Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth are suddenly widowed in a time when widows have limited options: remarry ASAP (most likely within your people group) or hope family will care for you. Both choices involve going home. So, Naomi presses Orpah and Ruth, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands?” (Ruth 1:11).

By all practical standards, the best thing Ruth can do is go back to her original homeland, put on a little bit of makeup, and get on ChristianMingle.com. If she can just land some guy, any guy, she can start her family over in the comfort and safety of a sure home.

Ruth’s current circumstance is important to this story because I want you to understand that there is a quick way. There’s often a quick way to get what you want. There’s a quick way to make yourself more physically attractive. Ever used an Instagram filter? There are literally filters on Instagram that cover blemishes in seconds, that give your skin a little more glow, or make your eyes a little bigger.

There are also personality filters. For instance, there’s a laugh when you really don’t understand someone’s jokes but want them to think you have a sense of humor. There’s a smile to paste over an angry heart. Guys, if you didn’t know, you can get a lot of girls’ attention by holding a baby, even if you’re just briefly leasing it from a friend.

How quickly can you turn on a filter? How quickly can you change it if you decide you want a different one? You can turn it on or off in a second. It’s not natural, it doesn’t last, but it’s easy.

Back to Ruth, having to decide between what’s easy (making a Christian Farmers Only profile) or following Naomi. In 2:16, she decides, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”

This is to-the-core, no-reward-in-sight, not-the-easy-way loyalty. This is Ruth’s unfiltered character.

  1. Ruth is a hard worker.

When Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem, Ruth immediately sets out looking for a way to provide for mother-in-law. There’s a field within walking distance, and it’s barley season, so she decides to glean grain behind the harvesters. She’s not harvesting barley right from the field like everyone else, by the way; she’s gathering leftover grain behind the people who already took the bulk. She’s doing the tedious work.

Enter Boaz. He sees Ruth gleaning behind his harvesters and asks his overseer who she is.

The overseer replied, ‘She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.” She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter’” (2:6-7).

Notice that Ruth didn’t start gleaning with the goal of getting Boaz’s attention. Some people will work hard only when others are watching. That’s a filter. When they finally get the attention, the filter wilts; the loyalty, hard work, selflessness, maturity, empathy, humor whatever – eventually fades and leaves piles of barley grain where the smell of freshly baked bread used to be.

But Ruth isn’t gleaning for Boaz’s attention. She’s just doing the work in front of her, no filter.

  1. Ruth is humble.

At this point Boaz introduces himself. He’s heard of the loyalty, seen the hard work, and

At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” (2:10). Remember, being a foreigner in this time was a disadvantage since individuals were valued highest within their people group. Ruth would not have expected any particular kindness from Boaz.

Humility doesn’t always look like bowing down at someone’s feet (although you could certainly try it out in your relationships and see what happens). Humility is forgoing pride and entitlement both of which are abstract, unproved characteristics and letting your actions speak your account.

The great thing about coming to people without a sense of entitlement is that it gives the other person a chance to recognize your work and reward it freely, without the sense of obligation.

Boaz answers, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before” (2:11).

Ruth’s character precedes her. News of who she is and what she has done finds Boaz’s ear before he even meets Ruth. If you ever think that you can wait to develop good character until you start a relationship, just remember that you’ll be the only person who knows about your good character when that time comes. Do your family, friends, and other eyewitnesses up to this point in your life know you as a genuine and life-giving person? Would they agree that your history matches up with what you’re trying to convey to Mr. or Mrs. Right?

Ruth has no need to put on an impressive front because she was impressive before Boaz was watching.

Interesting fact! Fast-forward to the New Testament and you’ll see that Ruth’s unfiltered characteristics—loyalty, hard work, and humility—set her up for the relationship that puts her directly in the lineage of Jesus. What a reward for her genuine good character!

Now, to the story I know well. This is how I met Tyler.

Tyler and I talked very briefly at a 2012 Breakthrough concert. He immediately grabbed my attention when I noticed something outstanding about him: he was definitely the tallest person in the room.

Back then Tyler was what my brothers referred to as, a “skater punk.” Big Osiris-style shoes, dark band shirts, skinny jeans, big bracelets, and a tattoo. He even had an ear piercing! (That is, before my dad “offered” to rip it out). If you can’t imagine the look, don’t sweat it. I have compiled some beautiful photo evidence.

 

 

If If I had evaluated what I was “looking for” back then, his outer appearance probably wouldn’t have caught my eye. He had the I-don’t-need-friends kind of look.

My attraction to Tyler shifted in one night.

He had invited me to attend a going-away party for his youth pastor. Knowing that he liked my music, I accepted the invitation intending to minister friendship into his heart. When I showed up, however, I found that he already had a lot of friends, all rushing him with hugs and telling me about what an outstanding guy he was. He had fixed this person’s roof free of charge, brought that person to church, helped someone through depression, showed honor where it wasn’t earned, etc. etc.

Like Ruth’s loyalty preceded her (2:11), Tyler’s genuine compassion and hard work preceded him in his friends’ stories. I knew before I saw.

Then one day my mom and I are sitting at his house with his family and mom gets a call that sends her into the other room. A few minutes later she comes out crying, saying we have to leave because someone we know is in the hospital. Tyler doesn’t waste a second. He barely knows my mom at this point, but he is hugging her for a long time, letting her cry into his shoulder, telling her it’s going to be okay.

There aren’t a lot of these amazing moments because Tyler’s not the type to wait around for the camera to capture his good deeds. He just does those things unfiltered.

He didn’t suddenly become compassionate when I met him. I already knew from the accounts of his close friends and family that compassion was part of his genuine unfiltered character. And it hasn’t faded! He still helps hurting people. He still fixes  what roles he can when I’m overwhelmed. He is seriously designed by God for me, though I would never have known that through looks. His most attractive feature is his character, unfiltered. It’s who he is down to the core that hooked me in the first place and draws me closer every day.

In Tyler’s case, solid character flipped a light in my head, revealing just how attractive he had always been. Filters, off, this guy is and has always been a catch!

What does your personality say about your appeal? Who are you outside of your relationship? Because eventually, naturally, the filters disappears, and you’re left with whatever was under the blush.

What do you look like unfiltered?

I brought this message to the youth last week and asked them how we can identify filters in a potential friend or love interest. Our youth are incredibly intelligent, so take a moment to look at their answers and see if you can apply them to your own relationships!

How do you figure out if the other person is filtered or unfiltered?

  • Ask God to show you what they’re like behind the scenes.
  • Observe their personality in multiple settings. Do they act differently between elders and peers? Between family and friends? Between church and work or school?
  • Watch how they treat their parents and siblings.
  • Do they speak poorly about people behind their backs?
  • Interview their family members and close friends.
  • Watch how they act on a bad day.
  • Check their social media. What kinds of things do they post?
  • Spend enough time with them that any possible filters have had the opportunity to fade.

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Benefits of Praise

Praise benefits the giver as well as the receiver. When someone focuses on consistently giving sincere praise to others, they are protecting themselves from a heart of ungratefulness. Romans 1:21 tells of what happens to the heart of people who are ungrateful. 
 
…Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 
 
We see from this Scripture that the key to having a pure heart (both with God and our marriage) is to keep a continual heart of thankfulness. Genuine appreciation and thankfulness is also a good way to stay humble. People who don’t want to give others praise or appreciation are often people who like to talk and boast about themselves. Pride likes to focus on self, while humility is glad to let others have the spotlight. When we choose to consciously look for good in others and verbalize this to them, we guard our own heart from growing cold toward the person. Likewise, as we glorify and thank God, we guard our heart from growing cold toward Him and His word. 
 
Sometimes people may be concerned about praising their spouse or other family members, wondering if this will make the other person prideful because of being edified often. In fact, some people even purposefully insult others or even laugh when their children insult each other, thinking it will keep them humble or callous them to better handle the “real world.” This is actually an attack of the devil, intended to greatly damage and destroy a spouse or child’s confidence.
 
Satan knows if he succeeds in destroying a person’s confidence through those who supposedly love them the most, it will cause the adult or child to feel inferior and inadequate to accomplish what God has called them to do. This will often steal their God-given destiny from being fulfilled. Anyone who has been greatly successful in life will tell us that a person still gets much farther ahead in the “real world” through praising others than by criticizing. 
 
When edification is done in the right way, which includes encouraging and building a person up for who God made them to be, pride should not become a factor in a person’s life. In fact, edification should even bring humility when a person is complimented for who he or she is in Christ. 
 
A good example of this used to happen to Amy in her childhood. Whenever someone would compliment her appearance as a little girl, her mother would immediately respond by saying to the person, “Thank you! And what’s most important is that she’s just as pretty on the inside!” Because of this, Amy grew up with the mindset of knowing that being kind to people was of utmost importance. Her mother wanted her to grow up knowing a kind personality is more important than looks. When a parent gives a child compliments on their kindness toward others, the child will make even more effort to be this way! 
 
The Bible admonished us of the importance of building one another up in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, which states, “Therefore comfort [encourage] each other and edify one another…” Interestingly, the original word translated as edify here actually means “to be a house builder, to construct, confirm, build up and embolden” (Strong’s #3618). This is profound! When we edify and encourage those of our household, we are being a house builder! With our words of edification and praise, we are inspiring them to go forth in courage and become all God have called them to be! As we edify those we love, we actually construct a foundation in them and with them that will endure the test of time and trials! 
 
With love, 
Shaun & Amy
 

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Stress, Out!

“Say it. Right now. What are you stressed about?”

Finding a job passing my economics class cleaning my room talking to people — paying for gas.

I gave the youth only a moment to consider the question, but their answers were quick. Stress was on the tip of their tongues, too frequently tasted to be far away. None of them are even eighteen yet. What happens when they reach adulthood and the “real stress” begins?

What are you stressed about? Do your current worries pop up in your mind in less than a second? We stress about things that have happened, things that could happen, mundane things, work things, fitness things, money things. We even stress about things we know are irrational! My mom used to worry in advance that I might one day decide to go skydiving. She’d say, “The only time I want to know that you’re going skydiving is when it’s over, and you had better start that call with, ‘First off, I’m alive.’” I was years away from the thought of skydiving, and she was already fretting over my decision.

In the midst of stress, it’s hard to be rational. The enemy tries to pack your mind with so many kinds of worry that you not only can’t commit to memory where on earth you put your keys but you also can’t retrace your path back out of stressville.

Please read these questions with the mindset of preparation, not to be stressed but to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to your peace.

Where do you find your value?

Stress is a sign that you are looking for value somewhere other than God.

 

We all want to be valued, right? I haven’t yet met anyone who honest-to-goodness doesn’t want at least one person to notice their worth. We’re designed for companionship (Genesis 2:8), but along with the desire for companionship seems to have sneaked in the imperative for our companions to adore us at all times. What do they think of what I’m doing? Have I gotten any praise lately? If I’m good at what I’m doing, why hasn’t anyone noticed? How do I get them to notice? Do they value the work I’m doing? Do they value me?

Waiting on their value, your mind is performing a high-pressure gymnastics routine on an unstable mat for a panel of fickle judges. You have to perform well, but you’re not sure how. You want to impress, but you’re not sure who. If you are going to place your hunger for value in anyone, place it in the One whose love does not change. God’s value for you is not based on your looks, age, income, history, or any other shifting qualities.

“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).

If a small bird can’t move a muscle without God noticing, there’s no way you could spend a moment of your life unnoticed by God. He has numbered all the hairs on your head, and unless you have numbered your own hairs, God knows you better than you know yourself! He knows your value, the value that He Himself weaved into you.

 

Where do you place your trust?

Stress is a sign that you are not trusting God. Harsh, I know. We’re quick to say that we trust God, and I honestly believe that we believe we do.

I’ve been challenged in this regard many times. In college especially, I got into such frequent patterns of stress that my roommate kept a constant note posted in front of my desk with the mantra, “Don’t stress before you stress.” At the time, I was literally stressing about how much stress I had in my life.

I suppose I pictured that my parents would respond to my anxious calls with “It’s going to be okay. We’ll take you out for cheesecake tonight and maybe you’ll feel better.” Instead my Dad responded without fail, “Do you trust God?” Ouch. (If you need a swift kick into faith, call Jon Medin and tell him you’re stressed).

Consider God’s Word:

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT).

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

You will keep in perfect peace  those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3).

Now consider that these are not obscure verses. You’ve likely heard them before. We know that God’s plan is to prosper us and give us hope; we know that we have an immovable foundation; and we know we have God’s peace at hand. Still, we stress. If that’s the case, can we truthfully say that we take Him at His word?

Please note that you can trust God for one thing and not another. For instance, Tyler and I rarely worry about money. We’ve never had a financial need unmet and haven’t wondered if that would be the case since before we got married. When it comes to peace about our summer schedule, though, I have often gotten lost in Wonder(if-we-can-make-it-work)land.

To echo Gertrude Stein’s thought on the Law of Identity, let me propose: faith is faith is faith is faith. Faith is not fractioned. Its meaning doesn’t shrink to meet our current level of trust. In fact, the very first definition of “faith” listed in the Oxford Living Dictionary is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” Complete.

Proverbs 3:5-6 directs you to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” All your heart. In all you do. In everything you do. Faith in God is all-in. Is your faith — your trust — in Him? Are you all in?

Where do you invest your time?

Stress is a sign that you have not been spending time with God.

I’m sure I sound redundant to the youth at this point; I’ve said it to them so often. There is only one way to do this. If I’m going skydiving, I’m not gearing up with my leather Louis Vuitton backpack, and I won’t encourage you to do so either, especially since we both have to live to call our moms afterward. If we’re stepping out of the plane, we’re doing it equipped with the proper skydiving pack. You know, the kind that’s filled with a parachute? Because I’d sure be stressed if I was falling 13,000 feet without the right equipment.

Equip yourself with God. Revisiting Philippians 4:7, take note that this verse begins with the word “then” in the NLT. Some translations begin with “and”. Both words indicate that the statement does not stand alone. So what comes before?

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace…” (NLT, emphasis added). Proverbs 3:6 is written in the same manner: “Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” First, seek His will. That means time invested – in prayer, in the Bible, in worship. Next (“and”), He will show you which way to go.

By all accounts, your time with Him will be reflected by peace and discernment. I know you want peace, and you know there’s only one place to look for peace that lasts. But I’m not talking about a 30-second prayer before dinner or a quick 2-minute “God, just please make today good” request. Don’t step out into the day without taking the time to equip yourself.

How do I get stress out of my life?

Put your hunger for value in the Lord. No one’s value for you is as unshakeable as God’s. Gather up all the value you’ve entrusted into other people’s hands and put it all in His. The hunt for value becomes much simpler when you have only to look in one place.

Take God at his word. What better word than the one that promises you a future, hope, and peace!

Invest your time in God. Seek God, every day. Wake up early if you need the extra time. If you’re not sure what to say, just sit and listen. Pray in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows what you need for today.
 
-Catherine Lexvold

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