Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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5 temptations every church leader, dad and husband face.

In the same way that almost every parent is tempted to engineer their child’s life from choosing a career, As a church leader, there’s pressure to want to engineer your child’s faith life. I have said it many times over. I want nothing more than for my children to be in a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. And you can be tempted to try to make that happen. You certainly can and should influence their decision. After all, you are the greatest influence in your child’s life. But you can’t make them love God.

Tim Challies on 4 simple steps to destroying a church.

Dave Bruskas on How to prepare a daughter for marriage.

One of the hardest moments in a dad’s life is giving away his daughter in marriage. Preparing her for that moment is even harder.

How to work ahead on your sermon prep.

Alex Chediak on Giving teens a biblical view of sex.

Sex is perhaps the most powerful God-created way to help you give your entire self to another human being. Sex is God’s appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another, “I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.”

7 things I wish someone told me before I was a parent.

Justin Taylor on 3 reasons God cares who you sleep with.

1. Everyone cares who people sleep with, so why would God be any different?
2. If there is a God and he has a timeless ethical standard, wouldn’t you expect it to challenge every society somewhere?
3. Finally, why do we care so much whom we sleep with?

Questions you should ask if your church is not growing.

One of the best things any leader can do when they’re in a tough spot is to stop making assumptions and start asking questions. Our assumptions got us to where we are, but they won’t necessarily get us where we need to go.

 

 

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Every Church Has a Target

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If you were to ask most pastors, church leaders or people who attend church, who the target of their church is, this is the answer you will most likely get, “We’re trying to reach everybody.”

This sounds nice, it sounds Christian and loving, but is impossible.

No church is trying to reach everybody. 

Here’s how I know: One, it is impossible. Two, it is impractical.

Think about it like this: the way people dress at your church, the style of preaching, the length of a sermon, the style of music, if you have small groups, MC’s or sunday school classes, the age of people on stage, the look of your building, all of these things decide who will come to your church.

One of the problems churches have is they feel like it is wrong or unloving to have a target.

Churches in the New Testament had a target based on who was there and they contextualized the gospel to their culture and target (who they felt called to).

What is incredible to me is that if you ask a company (Starbucks, Old Navy, Google) who their target is, they know. If you ask a church, the organization with the life saving, life altering truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ who their target is, they don’t know.

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Book Notes | Manhood Restored

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Every Saturday I share some notes from a book I just read. To see some past ones, click here. This week’s book is one I used for my sermons for Revolution Church’s Fight series. It’s Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole by Eric Mason.

Here are some things that stood out from my reading:

  1. Most of the devolution of our contemporary culture can be traced directly to the brokenness of men today. Whether the issue is faithfulness, crime, poverty, or a myriad of other social ills; at the core is the failure of men to become what God has created them to be.
  2. If the saga of a nation is the saga of its families written large, then the saga of a family is the saga of its men written large.
  3. Our gender continues to be steeped in a crisis of identity—genocide, self-preservation, spiritual anemia, role disillusionment, absence, perpetual adolescence, and emotional immaturity. We are deeply deficient in understanding and practicing how to relate to God and others in a healthy way.
  4. Whereas we were created to represent God’s reign in creation, we continue to invent ways to deepen our separation from God by rejecting Him in every area of our lives.
  5. We need fathers, and we’re only going to be fathers to our children when we see that true fatherhood is rooted and defined in God the Father.
  6. relationship is the most compelling factor driving what it means to be made in the image of God.
  7. There was much more wrapped up in that piece of fruit in the garden than just a bad decision. With sin, there always is. We talk ourselves into thinking that sin is just a bad choice; it’s not. It’s much deeper than that for us, just as it was for Adam.
  8. Instead of responsibility, representation, and relationship, things like chauvinism, violence, passivity, insecurity, and addiction would characterize generation after generation of men in a continually increasing way.
  9. As men, we must not become lethargic in our vigilance against things that would attempt to destroy manhood.
  10. Daddy issues have been a cross-ethnic, cross-socioeconomic, cross-generational problem that doesn’t discriminate.
  11. At the center of the father’s responsibility was the spiritual leadership that he exercised under the headship of Yahweh. This leadership would permeate every single area of the family’s life and function. Though fathers were to execute this role in partnership with the mother, the primary responsibility fell to the dad.
  12. As it is, though, young men are forced to wing it when it comes to manhood. This lack of clear expectations and standards has contributed to the crime rate, unemployment, depression, sexual confusion, and family decay. But if we are to have a return to some kind of cultural standard for fatherhood, it can only come through God, expressed through His people.
  13. So central is God’s role as Father those transformed through the gospel of Jesus Christ that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to make sure believers know God as Father (Rom. 8:15–16). The Holy Spirit encourages us to relate to God as Father.
  14. Jesus is the means by which everything will be restored. Though the Bible has much to say about the subject of restoration, most of the uses of this word are connected to Jesus in both the Old Testament and New. Because of Adam’s sin, Jesus will restore all things for the Father.
  15. Restoration is the act of returning something to its original state. The Bible has a slightly different take on the word, because sometimes when it speaks of restoration, it is not returning something to an original state, but to a state it has not been in before. In either case, though, restoration is about being in an originally intended state—it’s about God’s holy intention for it.
  16. In a sense, this restoration is already fully accomplished by Jesus. The cross makes it a done deal. Through the cross, we have been fully reconciled to God in Christ, and our restoration is therefore a present reality: “For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!” (Rom. 5:10). The greatness of the cross cannot be overstated. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has restored all things. And yet this restoration is not yet fully realized. So Jesus is also restoring all things.
  17. Jesus has restored all things. Jesus is restoring all things. And gloriously, we are confident that Jesus will restore all things.
  18. Most men, if they’re honest, have something about themselves they want changed. Whether it is a physical feature or simply the kind of clothes they can afford to wear, men typically think that if something on the outside changes something on the inside will naturally follow. If we had the right suit, we would be more confident. If we had the perfect physique, we would feel more complete. See the problem? We assume that real change comes from outside in; it does not. Transformation goes the other direction, from the inside out. When men can avoid the mistakes of over individualization and unrealistic expectations, they can begin to experience this kind of true transformation. True transformation—real, long lasting, life change—is an overhaul of the soul first and foremost.
  19. This was one of my first encounters with sexuality. And because my first contact was a fallen one, I would need Jesus to reboot me and then teach me God’s viewpoint of sexuality.
  20. Most men’s first encounter with sex is a perverted one. Whether it was molestation, rape, porn, or playing doctor, many of us have had our “innocence” disturbed. As if being born as a sinner into a sinful world wasn’t enough, it is as easy as a couple of clicks on a keyboard for a young boy to move even further down the road of sexual corruption. When we look across the over-sexed landscape of our culture, there is something inside us that cries out, “It’s not supposed to be this way!” That’s entirely true. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
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Don’t Hide Behind “God Isn’t Moving”

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Pastors and churches often find themselves in a predicament. They want their church to grow, they want to see people start following Jesus, marriages saved, people get baptized, use their gifts, but many do not see that happen. What’s worse is when the church down the road sees these things happening, which let’s be honest, simply means they are preaching an easy gospel or at the very least, “watering down the truth.”

Recently, I heard a pastor say, “My church isn’t growing because God isn’t moving.” I heard another church say, “God just isn’t blessing like he used to.” And then they both talked about how hard our culture is towards God, etc.

I’m sorry, but these are simply excuses.

I know, the church down the road has a bigger budget, more staff members, better staff members, cooler music, they have a building, they meet in a school so they don’t have the traditional trappings, they are a church plant, they an established church so people don’t think they are playing church like a church plant.

Excuses.

What pastors and churches uses these excuses for is to push off having to deal with issues as to why a church isn’t healthy or growing.

If people aren’t getting baptized, why not? Is it unclear? If people aren’t taking that first step to follow Jesus, why not? Do you present the gospel each week?

When these thoughts creep into my mind and they do and have. We’ve had weeks at Revolution where I preached to 11 people, our offering was $84, no one responded to anything, we cancelled baptisms and went 6 months without seeing a salvation.

Here are a few questions for pastors, leaders and churches to ask when “God isn’t moving” the way they would like or think he should be:

  1. Is there any sin I or our leaders or church need to confess?
  2. When preaching a sermon, are next steps clear?
  3. Is the gospel clearly presented each week with a call to take that step?
  4. How clear is the strategy of the church? How clear is the next step for a person from sunday morning?
  5. How complex and busy is the church? The busier the harder it is to know what is important.
  6. Are you being the church God called you to be or are you trying to be the church down the road or the one from the conference you just went to?
  7. How clear and compelling is our vision?

Churches that aren’t healthy and effective often don’t have good answers to these questions. Next time, when your church hits a plateau, instead of giving up or getting jealous about the church down the road, celebrate how God is moving at that church and begin working on why God isn’t working in your heart and church the way you’d like to see him.

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Trusting Jesus with my Worries, Happiness and Stress

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Let’s be honest for a minute, trusting Jesus with our lives is difficult. I find it easy to trust him with my eternity because I often think, “I’ll be dead then.” But trusting him everyday, with relationships, my finances, those who have hurt me, my hang-ups and trusting him with my family and what stressed me out. That’s hard to do.

One of the things I’ve learned to do in this area has to do with how my day starts and end.

A lack of trust in Jesus often comes from a lack of gratitude and a false belief in my control of my life.

At the end of my day, when I land into bed. I spend a few minutes thanking Jesus for the day. The things he gave me, the blessings I have (kids, Katie, food, a place to live, a job I love, health and other things that come to mind). I also talk with him about the things that are stressing me out, the things that are weighing me down. Jesus tells us in Matthew 11 that we are to give him our worries and stress and that he offers us life.

At the beginning of my day, before I get out of bed I spend a few minutes praying through my coming day. Meetings, activities, the things I’m worried about for the day, things for my family. I give them to Jesus. While he already is in control and I am not, this a reminder to me of this truth.

These two practices have helped me to make enormous strides in trusting Jesus to put the pieces of my life back together.

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Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace

bookAs I have been working ahead and preparing for sermons this coming spring at Revolution, one of the books I read for our man series called Fight is the book, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (kindle version) by Heath Lambert is easily the most helpful, grace filled, gospel centered book on fighting temptation, pornography addiction and lust.

Here is one thing that sets this book apart:

This book is not about pornography. This book is not about the pornography industry. This book is not about the catastrophic effects of pornography. The purpose of this book is not to rewire your brain when it comes to pornography. This book is about something much better than pornography. This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography.

What follows are 8 strategies the power of the gospel gives you to fight pornography: using sorrow, accountability, radical measures, confession, your spouse (or singleness), humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus.

One of the things Lambert said that really stuck out to me is that humility is one of the best tools to fighting porn addiction (or any addiction). Addiction is an issue of a prideful heart.

Here are some things I highlighted:

  • Jesus Christ died to set you free from every sin that can be committed. That includes pornography.
  • When you believe in God’s grab towards you, you get God’s righteousness.
  • God’s grace pardons you and forgives your sin, and God’s grace empowers you to live differently and be obedient to him.
  • The first step in repentance is talk to God and tell him about your sin.
  • Mental punishments are not helpful because they deal with sin in a self-centered way instead of a Christ-centered way.
  • Jesus’ grace to change you is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy you.
  • Worldly sorrow is sad over losing the things of the world, while the focus of godly sorrow is God himself. Godly sorrow is pained over the break in relationship with God. It is heartbroken that God has been grieved and offended. The tears of godly sorrow flow from the sadness that God’s loving and holy law has been broken.
  • The person full of godly sorrow has a heart that wants to please God rather than self. Godly sorrow motivates real and lasting change.
  • Godly sorrow hates the sin itself. Godly sorrow feels the horror of disobedience and weeps over the reality of a heart that chose transgression over faithfulness.
  • To find freedom from pornography, you will need to employ radical measures in at least three areas. You look at porn when you have the desire to see it, when you have the time to look at it, and when it is available to you. Nobody looks at pornography without all three of these elements coming together. In your fight to be free from pornography, you must learn to take radical steps to eliminate each one.
  • The Bible promises that there is no prosperity for those who cover up their sin.
  • The circle of your confession should be as broad as the circle of your sin.
  • You can never stop thinking about something by trying to not to think about it. If you want to get something out of your mind, you must begin thinking about something else.
  • God wants to change your thinking, not by having us focus on the things we’re trying to quit thinking about, but by replacing old, sinful thoughts with new, righteous thoughts.
  • God wants you to quit thinking about porn and start thinking about your wife.
  • Whenever your thoughts begin to drift toward porn, see this mental drift as an alarm reminding you to pray for grace to refocus your thoughts on your spouse.
  • If you look at pornography, you are arrogant.
  • Every bad thing you do flows from an arrogant heart that is selfishly ambitious.
  • Men look at pornography out of an arrogant desire to see women in a way that God does not allow. They show arrogant defiance to God’s commands, rejecting the delight of sexual intimacy in marriage and deciding for themselves what they believe is better – looking at naked women in porn. They show arrogant disregard for God’s call to selfless marital love. They show arrogant derision for the female actresses whom they should be seeking to respect as who women who need to hear the good news of Jesus. They show arrogant disdain for their own children by hiding their sin and inviting the enemy into their home and their marriage. They show arrogant disrespect toward all those who would be scandalized if their sin was known. The root problem with men who look at porn is not neediness – it is arrogance.
  • Men who struggle with pornography often see pornography as their only sin.
  • If you struggle with porn, one of your greatest needs is to grow in the grace of gratitude.
  • Porn is only consumed by thankless people.
  • Porn is the trading of gratitude for greed. Porn trades joy in the reality God has graced you with for greed in the counterfeit world he has not. Defeating porn requires a grateful consideration of God’s good gifts to you.
  • You should not seek a dynamic relationship with Jesus because you want to be finished with porn. You should not seek a dynamic relationship with Jesus for any purpose other than knowing Jesus.
  • Your struggle isn’t just to avoid looking at porn. It’s much more glorious than that. You have the unspeakable privilege of being invited to have a real relationship with the Savior of your soul who alone has the Father’s seal of approval.
  • You cannot look at Jesus and look at porn at the same time. You have to stop doing one to do the other. A living, breathing relationship with the Savior of the world will drive porn out of your life quicker than anything else.

When it comes to recommendation for men and women fighting lust, temptation, porn addiction, this is the first book I will recommend to them.

Every Saturday I share a review of a book I’ve read recently. If you want to see some of the past books I’ve reviewed, go here.

Turning from Your Sin

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On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” He did all he came to do. His death accomplished what it needed to accomplish. The reason is because he came out of the grave.

Yet, we still struggle, we still fail and we still sin.
Our sin placed Jesus on the cross. Yet, he died knowing we would sin and fail. Instead of resigning ourselves to this and giving up, we can and should fight our sin through the power of the cross.
The first step is believing that this is true. When we sin, we need to quickly run to the cross, confess our sin. Don’t walk around with your sin. Don’t let your sin stay between you and Jesus. Throw yourself on the mercy of the cross.
The second step is the more practical side of fighting your sin. What is your plan to fight your struggle and live in freedom?
Here are some things to think through:
  1. When you are most likely to sin, fall into a trap. How do you avoid that place? We often fall into traps at the same time in the same place. We often sin in the same way because we are creatures of habit.
  2. What things do you need to sin? Is it food, a computer, someone else? How do you take that out of the equation? Whatever it is, take it out of the equation. You don’t need to have snack food in your house, you don’t need to get on the internet or social media at 11pm. You don’t need to be alone with that person you aren’t married to.
  3. What things lead up to you sinning? Are there feelings or circumstances that make you more likely to sin? It is when life feels out of control, when you are tired, run down? If so, be on your guard then.
  4. Who can you bring along on this journey for accountability and encouragement?

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Thom Rainer on Pastors and vacations.

Two years ago I spoke to a pastor about his church. After he shared with me all the areas in which he had been involved and the ministries he led, I asked him an innocent question: When do you take vacation? His answer flabbergasted me. “I don’t,” he said. I thought maybe he had misunderstood me, so I clarified. In the past six years that you have served as pastor, when did you take a vacation? “I haven’t,” he reiterated. I had heard him right the first time. This pastor had deprived himself and his family for the past six years. I anticipated burnout was not far away. Unfortunately, I was right.

A peek inside Max Lucado’s writing process.

Max is the author of almost 100 books with more than 80 million copies in print. There are probably less than five authors in the world who are that prolific—or that successful. It’s mind-boggling.

Paul Levy on Success in ministry is dangerous, accountability doesn’t work and other thoughts on falling from grace.

Recently I’ve spent some time with two friends who were in ministry but have fallen morally and so now find themselves out of a job that they loved, separated from their families and, in all honesty, struggling. I’ve showed what I’ve written to them and I wouldn’t say they were overjoyed at what I had to say but both agreed I could put this on here.

David Murrow on Holiday services and men.

Why are holiday services, which draw huge numbers of irreligious men, so ineffective at engaging them? I believe that holiday services are, by their very nature, poorly suited for men. They tend to hide the church’s greater mission under a mountain of religious tradition and ceremony. Holiday services also give men a skewed perspective on what the gospel is all about.

Kara Powell on What your calendar says about your view of God.

If I want to find out what a leader thinks about God, I don’t look at their prayer journal or their preaching. I look at their calendar. Everyone I know grapples with busyness. It’s often how we define ourselves. When someone asks us, “How are you?” our default answer is frequently one word: “Busy”. This busyness cuts across boundaries of faith, vocation, and socio-economic status.

Shawn Wood on His sermon prep system.

The job of a church planter and pastor has a lot of moving parts, but for me, the biggest of them is my time preparing to preach.

James MacDonald on When men act like men.

Everywhere you look, men are in trouble—falling to superficiality, entertainment lifestyles, sensuality, secularism, lives lived apart from God, reaping for themselves and their families the harvest of what they have sown. Someone needs to throw men a life line. Men are are sinking, and only Jesus Christ can save them. Christ Himself must invade the territory of men’s hearts and rule without rival or equal.

How Sorrow & Tragedy Turns to Joy

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Have you ever found yourself in a situation that you weren’t sure how you’d get out of? Or, have you ever looked at a situation and wondered how it could get better?

We all face those moments.

It might be something from your past: a divorce, abuse, abandonment, poor choices in college. It might be something that just happened or that you are walking through right now. 

These moments are incredibly painful and while they are life altering, they don’t have to be wasteful. They can have a point.

This Sunday, we’ll continue our series Made for Glory as we look at John 16:5 – 33 where Jesus tells us not only that we will experience these moments, but how those moments aren’t wasted and our sorrow and tragedy can turn to joy.

If you have ever struggled with letting go of things in your past, dealing with hurt or seeing how joy can come out of hardship, this is going to be a great Sunday to be at Revolution.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

Loving People Who are Hard to Love

Made for Glory

Do you have anyone in your life that is hard to love?

You aren’t alone. All of us have people in our lives that try our patience, rub us the wrong way, use us, lie to us and even abandon us.

The question becomes then: What do you do with those people? As a follower of Jesus, how do you react?

This Sunday at Revolution Church, I will be preaching from John 13:31 – 38 where Jesus tells us that we will always have people in our lives who will be hard to love, but how we are to love them, when we are to let them go and how this act of love allows us to live the life we were created to live. 

While the words of Jesus are simple and straightforward, they are hard to live out. Yet, the freedom that comes from knowing who to love, who to let go of and when to move on from a relationship brings enormous freedom. It also shows us how much Jesus loves us and what He wants for us.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.