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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Ron Edmondson on 7 suggestions for an effective Easter.

This is an “all hands on deck” Sunday. Plan every detail you possibly can. Plan for and expect excellence. It’s that important. Hopefully by now you have already started talking about it, but people need to know the importance you are placing on the day. Make it a big deal, because it is a big deal.

Forbes ranks the 9 toughest leadership roles. Interesting where pastor and stay-at-home mom landed.

Tim Elmore on The different types of parents and how they affect their kids.

Tragically, this is often the case for many of us.  Instead of learning from our parent’s shortcomings, we echo them in our parenting. The opposite can also be true–in an effort to learn from our parent’s mistakes, we can swing the pendulum too far and commit the opposite error.  Instead of being passive, we smother (or vice versa).

7 reasons preachers should read fiction.

Imagination is a muscle. It needs to be exercised. Unlike movies, books make you use that imagination. When I think of Charles Spurgeon or Jonathan Edwards – what strikes me about their preaching is their vivid imagination.

Sutton Turner on How an executive pastor frees up a lead pastor.

One of the easiest ways an executive pastor can complement the lead pastor is by doing the things the lead pastor isn’t gifted to do. The lead pastor needs to do the things that only he can do, and the executive pastor needs to do the things that he and the lead pastor can both do.

5 reasons why one Christian teen didn’t rebel. Super helpful for parents.

My parents never encouraged any idea of teenage-hood rebellion. They never joked about us rolling our eyes, acting exasperated, or having attitude at all. Rather, they actually made us think that teenagers and the whole rebellion process was stupid and unnecessary. I always figured that I would grow up straight from child to adult, with no “silly teenage stage” in-between. You may think that this is no fun, or that kids need their time to be silly and make mistakes.

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Women, It Matters Who You Marry

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(Photo credit: Lel4nd)

This past week, as I wrapped up our series Beautiful at Revolution, I preached on Proverbs 31. If you missed it, you can listen to it here.

One of the things that struck me is verse 23 when we are told what her husband is like.

There are many sides and applications to this verse.

The first is to women. I’ll blog another time about fathers and the impact of this verse.

In our culture, we often minimize the impact that comes from who we marry. Whether it is movies, the rise in divorce, the lack of seeing strong marriages as we grow up, but whatever it is, many people seem to minimize the impact of this decision.

Outside of your choice to follow Jesus, who you marry will have more of an impact on your life than any other decision you make.

The woman in Proverbs 31 marries well. She marries a man who is respected. He is at the city gates, with the elders. The gates is where decisions are made. He is part of leading the city and community. He is respected by the others.

Women, if you want marry well, marry a man who is respected by other men.

Men respect men.

Don’t marry a guy you think you will make into a man. That doesn’t happen.

How do you know if you are dating a man or a boy? Here are few ways to find out:

  1. Get him around men you respect. Men can spot men. They can also spot a fake. Women can struggle with this because they fall for a boy and can’t see the truth. Those around you can. Ask men you respect what they think of him. This might be a father, a pastor, someone in your MC, someone who cares about you and wants to see you find a man.
  2. Ask him about his vision for his life. This one question separates men from boys. Men have a vision for their life, which means they will have a vision for your life as a couple. Boys do not. They are simply floating through life waiting for it to happen.
  3. Look at how he worships. Does he read his bible? Does he serve in a church? Does he love Jesus? How does he worship? How does he use his money? How he does these things while you date is exactly what he’ll do when you are married. Most of the time, men will take these things down a notch when they get married, but that’s a post for another day.
  4. Look at his work ethic. Does he have a job? Does he provide for himself? Is he saving money or getting into debt? Men work hard. Men are called to provide (1 Timothy 5:8).

Ladies, marry well.

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Women and the Cycle of Defeat

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I’ve spent the last 3 weeks speaking to the women of our church in our series BeautifulTo prep for it, I read a bunch of magazine articles, blog posts and books on the struggles women have and what teenage girls struggle with.

Reading stats on body image and eating disorders, depression, feelings of loneliness that they have and how most women live with a sense of defeat and that they will never live up to a standard they have in their mind, a standard their parents or spouse have for them.

While photoshop make the struggle women have with their bodies unwinnable, it is almost like they look though the lens of photoshop for everything in their lives.

I preached on Proverbs 31 this past weekend and beforehand I got a number of emails from women saying, “I’ve read those verses, they are impossible so I simply give up.”

The reality is that most everything in the Bible is impossible on your own.

That’s what the Holy Spirit does.

While the standard for women in Scripture is high, it is for everyone. It is meant to stretch us and cause us to rely on God. That is why Proverbs 31:30 says that this woman fears the Lord. The fear of God takes away all fear, all defeat and refocuses on us on what matters and what will get us through what lies ahead.

Proverbs 31 is a story of a woman through the course of her life. Did she do all those things in the season her kids were small or right after she got married? Probably not.

One of the reasons I believe many women are defeated in their lives (besides the impossible standards they or others set for them) is that they often lack a vision of what their life could be like. I’m not sure if this comes from a personality trait, that men tend to be more logical and linear in their thinking but one of the common threads I heard from women after church this week was how easy it is for them to get stuck in the details of everyday life and not lift their heads above the fog to see what God has for them.

One of the challenges of Proverbs 31 is to have a larger vision for your life. To think bigger than what you do. Your life is meant to be more than what it is. Your life is meant to have a legacy. The problem is that most of the time, legacy is talked about strictly to men. We need that reminder. But women do as well. What you do with every minute of your life makes an impact down the road. This is true for everyone.

Yet, we often spend our moments on the wrong things.

Arianna Huntington said, “Eulogies celebrate our lives very differently than how our culture defines success.”

That is important to keep in mind.

I’d add that God celebrates our lives very differently than how our culture defines success.

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Book Notes | The Catalyst Leader

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The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick was an incredible leadership book. I don’t know how else to qualify this book. If you are a leader, or hope to be a leader, this book is one you need to read this year.

I’ve already shared some thoughts from it on How to figure out God’s will, The time has come…, How to be an authentic leader and How to be capable to accomplish your dreams.

In this book, Lomenick uncovers the 8 things leaders today must do to be who God created them to be. Even though this book is marketed as a book for younger leaders (and if you’re under 30 you should read this), it is for a leader of any age.

One of the things I’ve been chewing on is this

To get to the top and to be successful at the top requires two different skill sets.

In fact, after reading this book it made my goals for growth in 2014 obvious to me.

Here are a few highlights:

  • We must never compare our beginning to someone else’s ending.
  • When people lead well, they are more likely to finish well.
  • Ambition must be grounded in wisdom. Inspiration must be pursued with integrity. Dreams must be built with boundaries. And passions need the steady hand of principles to guide them.
  • The right thing said in the wrong way is the wrong thing.
  • Without knowledge of one’s calling, leading well is impossible.
  • Leaders who make the biggest impact also have the strongest sense of calling.
  • A great lesson about leadership: I’m best when I’m being me.
  • If we don’t learn to be content with who God has made us and called us to be, then we will never reach our potential as influencers.
  • We must grow comfortable with who we are before we can share that person with others.
  • God is more interested in the sanctity of his people than the success of our ministries.
  • The best leaders is that they have the ability to “make it happen” and get something over the finish line.
  • Part of being a disciplined leader is being ready.
  • The most influential platforms today revolve around sharing and generosity.

To see other book notes, click here.

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Book Notes | Tribes

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I recently read through Seth Godin’s book TribesI had heard a ton about this book over the years and finally got to read it. This book felt like a collection of blog posts or short thoughts. While some were random and seemed not to fit, it was chalk full of great insights for leaders and organizations.

Here are a few:

  • A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.
  • A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.
  • You can’t have a tribe without a leader—and you can’t be a leader without a tribe.
  • Generous and authentic leadership will always defeat the selfish efforts of someone doing it just because she can.
  • Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating change that you believe in.
  • Movements have leaders and movements make things happen. Leaders have followers. Managers have employees. Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.
  • New rule: If you want to grow, you need to find customers who are willing to join you or believe in you or donate to you or support you.
  • Leaders make a ruckus.
  • Leaders who set out to give are more productive than leaders who seek to get.
  • The best time to change your business model is while you still have momentum.
  • The secret of being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong! The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.
  • The only thing that makes people and organizations great is their willingness to be not great along the way. The desire to fail on the way to reaching a bigger goal is the untold secret of success.
  • The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.
  • The organizations that need innovation the most are the ones that do the most to stop it from happening.
  • Leaders challenge the status quo.
  • Leaders create a culture around their goal and involve others in that culture.
  • Leaders use charisma (in a variety of forms) to attract and motivate followers.
  • Leaders communicate their vision of the future.
  • Leaders commit to a vision and make decisions based on that commitment.
  • Being charismatic doesn’t make you a leader. Being a leader makes you charismatic.
  • Remarkable visions and genuine insight are always met with resistance.
  • If your organization requires success before commitment, it will never have either.
  • People don’t believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them.

To see other book reviews and book notes, click here.

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.

book

Marrying a Man Who Looks at Porn

Heath Lambert provides a sound answer to an urgent question: Should I marry a man who has a problem with pornography?

Tim Challies on I’m better than you.

I’m kind of a jerk. For as long as I’ve been able to think about myself, my heart, my life, I’ve known that I’m a sinful person. I’ve never doubted the reality of my depravity. And if there ever had been any doubt, being married and having children and immersing myself in a local church has provided all the proof I, and they, need. I’m just plain better than you. Somewhere deep inside I believe it’s true and too often I live and act like it’s true. But lately I’ve been considering one simple and disturbing aspect of this sin: I’m better than you.

How a church grows past 200, 400, & and 800.

I’m going to assume leaders are praying and that the church is biblical and authentic in its mission. I’ll also assume that leaders want to church to grow. But even with all those conditions in place, too many churches just can’t push through. And even once you get past 200, some churches can’t make it past 400 or 800.  Again, not for lack of desire or opportunity. So why can’t they grow? They simply haven’t structured for growth.

Mike Leake on Parenting and the sufficiency of Scripture.

My wife and I poured over article upon article. Book upon book. We were met with rules upon rules. Occasional grace but mostly a list of things to do as a parent and things not to do. We learned about how to biblically discipline. How to shepherd our child’s heart. How to bring up a boy. How to talk to him. How to swaddle him. What not to do. What to do. 30 reasons why pacifiers are the devil incarnate. And 55 reasons why they aren’t. Through all of this reading we developed a theology of parenting. And in that theology of parenting were several rules. If we broke these rules we were being bad parents. (For some reason, a couple of years later I found myself back on Amazon searching for books on grace for parents).

Al Mohler on How to read books.

In the course of any given week, I will read several books. I know how much I thrive on this learning and the intellectual stimulation I get from reading. As my wife and family would be first to tell you, I can read almost anytime, anywhere, under almost any kind of conditions. I have a book with me virtually all the time, and have been known to snatch a few moments for reading at stop lights. No, I do not read while driving (though I must admit that it has been a temptation at times). I took books to high school athletic events when I played in the band. (Heap coals of scorn and nerdliness here). I remember the books; do you remember the games?

You are not a Christian just because you like Jesus.

Jesus is even popular with people who aren’t Christians. He garners a lot of respect from the great men and women of other faiths. The fourteenth Dalai Lama, one of the primary leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, called Jesus “an enlightened person” and heralded him as a master teacher. Hindu leader Mahatma Gandhi wrote warmly about Jesus, “The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retaliate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek, I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect man.” The renowned scientist Albert Einstein once told The Saturday Evening Post, “I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene [Jesus].… No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.” Even the Qur’an refers to Jesus as a prophet and messenger of God.

Top Blog Posts for December

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In case you missed them, here are the top 10 blog posts from December 2013:

  1. Christmas Music You Should Own
  2. The Best Books I Read in 2013
  3. How to Make Christmas Special with Your Kids
  4. When Pastoring is Hard (And 3 Ways to Survive)
  5. Accountability
  6. The Five Stages of Discipleship
  7. Almost the Best Books of 2013
  8. Christmas is Over, Now What?
  9. You’re One Choice Away from Wrecking Your Life
  10. What’s Happening in 2014 at Revolution Church

Christmas is Over, Now What?

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I don’t know about you, but I woke up this morning feeling really down. Just had a blah kind of a feeling. Unmotivated. Not depressed or sad, but kind of down.

My first thought as I finished breakfast was, “Is this the after Christmas blues?” Or, “Am I just getting old now?”

Maybe you feel like that. Maybe you don’t (if not, pass this blog onto a friend that needs it).

I shared this quote on Sunday in my sermon that encapsulates what a lot of people feel around Christmas (I can’t remember where I found it):

Christmas Eve. The perfect picture of anticipation: sleepless excitement for something we’ve been waiting for all year. Every year on December 24, my parents let us open a present. This was a teaser, a taste of things to come, and we kids relished it. Of course, it wasn’t much of a surprise – my mom always got us new pajamas, even when we didn’t need them. But still, it was a ritual of hope, one in which we celebrated the gift of giving and the joy of gratitude. Christmas morning. An unfortunate picture of disappointment. I am obviously only one person with his own set of experiences, but as I talk to others, I find similar feelings of frustration. As they get older, many people seem to develop a general distrust toward any day that promises to fill the emptiness they’ve felt all year long. This explains the rise in suicides during this season and why, for some, Christmas is a reminder of the inevitable letdown of life. The unfortunate answer to the question, “Did you get everything you wanted?” is, of course, no. And we feel terrible about this. Why can’t we be happy? Why can’t we be satisfied? Will we ever be content with what we have – with the gifts in our stockings, the toys under the tree? Why is there this constant thirst for more?

As I thought about it today (after I destroyed myself with Crossfit), I started to wonder if we set ourselves up for failure leading up to Christmas. Christmas in many ways can be like a wedding and the letdown after on the honeymoon, follow me for a second. All of this pressure, build up, energy, stress and thinking and money goes into Christmas and a wedding. Then it’s over. The parties, the gifts, family, friends, the tree, decorations, cards, Christmas specials, church services, meals, over. Then we sit around looking at our gifts, watching our kids play with them and get tired of them and play with them some more.

You wake up on December 27, 28 or 29 and wonder, what now?

Here are some things that came to mind as I prayed through this feeling for me that might be helpful for you:

  1. Stop and take a breath. Slow down. December is a mad sprint for most of us. You went to more parties than you can count, ate more calories than you care to remember. You are tired. Take a break. Maybe take a nap. Read a good book or your Bible. But give some time to slow down. Stop rushing.
  2. Get moving. For me, I went and worked out, listened to some good worship music, prayed and got moving. Maybe you need to get moving and do something active. Most Americans will join a gym this week, maybe you should. At least take a walk, a run or a hike.
  3. Say thanks. Be thankful for what you have. Remember, someone is grateful with less than what you have. You may not have as much as someone else, but you have what God has seen fit to give you right now. Also, you may not see the next Christmas or someone you just celebrated with may not see the next Christmas, so savor the moments. Take a little longer in those hugs or laughs or cries.
  4. Get out of your house. I love being at home, with my family and friends. But, sometimes it is good to get out of your house. Go see a movie, do something fun, go see some Christmas lights. Don’t just sit around (sometimes you should sit around), but get going.

What do you do to fight the after Christmas blues?

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Merry Christmas!

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From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

I appreciate the time you take as a reader to spend on my blog, sharing what you like, giving feedback through comments and enriching my life through your thoughts.

I hope you are able to spend today with those you love and that it is extra special.

Eat more than you should, hold your loved ones a little tighter than normal and relax because Jesus came to earth and is God so you don’t have to be.

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In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity

bookJim Belcher’s book In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness, and Heart of Christianity (kindle version) is one of those special books. Part history book, part travel, part journal, part parenting and marriage book. It has it all.

The book follows the Belcher family on a yearlong journey through points in Europe.

What was meant to be a sabbatical, turned into a pilgrimage through many of the most important sites in Europe and most important people to the Christian faith. They spent time in Oxford and around England interacting with C.S. Lewis, William Wilberforce and others. Then time with Van Gogh, Le Chambon and finally Corrie ten Boom. They finished their time with Bonhoeffer, the von Trapp family and Heidelberg.

As soon as I finished, I passed it off to Katie because the heartbeat of this book is the heartbeat we have with our kids: we want them to have a faith that is alive, that is rooted in Scripture, but also rooted in history. We want them to know the great people of faith who have walked before them. The people who have willingly put their lives on the line to do what God called them to do. Who used their gifts of art to glorify God and point people to Jesus. We don’t want them to have a faith that is simply intellectual or regurgitating facts, but one that is alive. One that is rooted in the beauty, goodness and glory of Christianity. 

I can’t recommend this book high enough. It was so good. Bordering on being my book of the year.