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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Are visits to heaven real?

It is quite true that heaven is a place of perfect bliss—devoid of all sorrow and sin, full of exultation and enjoyment—a place where grace and peace reign totally unchallenged. Heaven is where every true treasure and every eternal reward is laid up for the redeemed. Anyone whose destiny is heaven will certainly experience more joy and honor there than the fallen mind is capable of comprehending—infinitely more than any fallen creature deserves. But if you actually saw heaven and lived to tell about it, those things are not what would capture your heart and imagination.

Yancey Arrington on What to do when you’re in a preaching funk.

It seemed every time I stepped down from the pulpit my heart was full of frustration because, in my estimation, my sermons felt chunky, cluttered, or confused. There was an aimlessness about them. Everything kept coming off flat. They weren’t, for lack of a better term, ‘clicking’ in the hearts of the congregation (or for me for that matter). I would have people speak encouraging things to me after services but they were of the generic, southern politeness, garden-variety remarks that you would get no matter what because people are kind. And even if those messages were good, I didn’t feel that way. And if you don’t think your sermons are good, it doesn’t matter what others tell us. And for quite a season, that’s exactly how I felt. It was a Sahara of preaching because I felt desolate in the pulpit. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake it. I still look back on that season and shudder. I hated it and wouldn’t wish it on any preacher.

Carolyn McCulley on How women easily confuse what they do with who they are.

Any change in what we do can easily trigger a crisis of identity — what is the story we are now to tell others about ourselves? While I think this is true for men, I think it is different, and perhaps more pronounced, for women because our productivity choices are scrutinized more often than those of men. That’s why the most divisive terms may be the dreaded “working mothers” versus “stay at home mothers.” If it were a simple description of the location of female productivity, that would be one thing. But these phrases are loaded with guilt and judgment.

Kevin DeYoung on Celebrity Pastors.

The term “celebrity pastor” is decidedly pejorative. I don’t know anyone who would be happy to own the phrase. That doesn’t mean we can’t use it. But it means we should not attach it to pastors in a knee jerk way. A Christian with some combination of influence, social media followers, books, a large church, and speaking engagements may be a public Christian or a well known individual, but let’s not use “celebrity pastor” unless we mean to say he relishes the spotlight, has schemed his way into the spotlight, and carries himself as being above mere mortals. Does this fit some popular preachers? Probably. Does it fit all of them? By no means.

Mark Dance on Should pastors be excited about everything?

Pastors sometimes feel pressure to show equal excitement about all of the ministries in our church, lest we show a hint of favoritism.  Well meaning members and staff lobby for their ministry’s rightful place in the promotional rotation, budget and church calendar.  Some of them even pressure the pastor to give a shout-out from the pulpit.

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Tell the Story of Your Kids

What is your story?

This week, Ashton turned 5. Hard to believe he is 5.

It meant that it was also time for me to write him a birthday letter. This is a practice I started with our daughter when she was born.

One of the things I believe a dad can do it help to tell the story of their child’s life to them. I feel like with the rise of technology and pace in our lives, we lose an aspect of stories and remembering.

So, every year on their birthday I write them a letter about what happened in their life in this past year. How our family changed, how they changed, milestones in their life. I save each letter and will give them to them when they turn 18 or graduate from college. I haven’t decided yet.

My hope is that this will be a chronicle of what happened, a way of showing them how they became who they are, where they came from. As I talk to a lot of young adults, there seems to be a loss of not only who they are, but where they have come from. A rootless feeling for many.

I want them to see their heritage, so that as they move into the world as an adult, they know where they came from and who they are.

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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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  1. Feeling shame is not repentance.
  2. Thom Rainer on The stages of a pastor’s ministry. This is true in church planting as well. Makes me excited that I’m moving into Year 6 at Revolution.
  3. How to fire someone in ministry.
  4. Matt Walsh on You’re a stay at home mom? What do you do all day? Katie and I hear this a lot and it always blows my mind. Great way of putting it in this blog.
  5. What Sam Storms wished he had known when he started ministry 40 years ago. Tons of wisdom here for pastors.
  6. Tim Challies on The porn free family.
  7. Fat men can’t lead men.

The New Hobbit Trailer

A Mother’s Heart (From a Husband’s Perspective)

If men are honest, we’d like to understand our wives, we try to, but we are often left scratching our heads as to what they need, what they want and what they are trying to say. While men love to stay in the world of logic and avoid emotions at all cost, women stay right at home in emotions. For men, it rarely makes sense and if you ask women, they will tell you it doesn’t have to make sense.

Over the last month, as we’ve shared with people what is happening in our adoption, waiting to bring Judah Mamush home it has been hard to describe the agony of what it feels like. I told one guy that we’ve discussed putting Katie on a plane so she can go to Ethiopia to be with Judah Mamush until he passes embassy and he said, “Josh, you need to stop trying to control things.” I said the same thing to a couple of Mom’s and they all looked they were going to cry.

While the last month has been hard for me, it has been different for Katie. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about my wife and the heart of a mother that hopefully will be helpful to other men (whether they have kids or not).

Here they are:

  • A mother feels differently than a father. While this is true of men and women in general as I said earlier, when it comes to parenting it is even more true. A mother feels the loss of something different than a father does. I miss Judah. I can’t wait for him to be here, to play soccer with him, teach him to ride a bike, to do things with him. Katie longs to hold him, to snuggle him, hug him and tell him that he is loved. To give him a feeling he has not had in his life, a feeling of safety, of belonging.
  • Be honest with your wife about your heart. While men often get labeled as callous or insensitive because we don’t cry or feel the way a woman does, it is important to be honest with your wife about your heart. A wife always wants to know what you are feeling, what is running through your head and heart. When we left Judah Mamush on our last day in Ethiopia, he was on the ground screaming and crying because he didn’t know if we were coming back, he only knew we were leaving. He doesn’t speak English so we couldn’t say, “We’re coming back.” Katie is on the verge of losing it and I did everything in my power to pick him up and not cry. I couldn’t even talk or else I would’ve cried. I am almost crying retelling this story. As we left and over the last month, it has been important to my wife’s heart to know of my heart, to know how it hurts, to know my longing as a father for my son. To not be the man and just bottle it up and with tough upper lip. That’s why a wife thinks her husband is insensitive, because he holds back. 
  • Distance is easier for men to handle. Men can handle distance in relationships because of how we handle emotions. We are able to compartmentalize things, get busy and forget about things because we are laser focused and don’t multi-task our emotions. I can go a whole day and not think about something that Katie has thought about all day while doing 15 other things. This can create a sense for women that their husbands don’t care or don’t feel. That isn’t it at all, it is just that we push it to the back of our minds so that we can do other things. If I thought about Judah the way Katie did, I would never get any work done. She can think of him, teach our kids, have coffee with someone, make dinner and still think of Judah and post something on Facebook that isn’t related to Judah.
  • Hold a woman when she cries, don’t ask questions. This has been one of our rules in marriage from day one. Katie has told me, “When I cry, just hold me and don’t ask why.” This is just solid advice for a husband, but even more so in the moments of parenting when you as the father can’t fix a situation or do anything about it. I can’t make the Ethiopian embassy go faster or look at our paperwork. I can’t send Katie on a plane to Ethiopia to bring Judah home any faster than it is going and that is frustrating.
  • A mother’s heart is a mystery. While I’ve learned some things, a mother’s heart is a mystery to me and will remain so. It feels and responds in ways I can’t even imagine. It longs in ways that I don’t. It aches in ways that don’t even cross my mind. It is a mystery, and yet, as a father and husband I am grateful for it. It forces me to feel in important ways. I can easily be tough and not emotional, but walking with Katie through this time, meeting Judah and holding him and then the agony of having to say goodbye to him has taught me a lot about being a father and the love God has for me.

My hope with this post was to honor my wife and the beauty and power of her heart as a mother. But to also help men know how to best honor, love, care for and support their wives and the hearts that beat in them. To encourage them to be a mystery, to have emotion and to handle things differently from men.

Be Sensitive on Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day is a big day for most churches. For Revolution, this is the first time we’ve actually met on Mother’s Day as we met on Saturday nights for the first 4 years as a church. While Mother’s Day is a great day, a day to honor the Mom’s in our lives, it is also a difficult day for many. Most pastor’s on their blogs will talk about honoring women, doing baby dedications, giving out gifts to mother’s, etc. on Mother’s Day.

From the first year, we’ve stayed away from that. On Mother’s Day, it is a hard day for many women in your church. For some, it is a reminder of a broken relationship with their mother, of someone who is no longer there. For some, it is a reminder of the loss of a child. For some, it is a reminder that they aren’t mother’s, even though their desire is there. For some, it is a reminder that they aren’t married yet, when they want to be.

So, be sensitive.

Here are some things we’ve done:

  • Honor all women. 
  • Acknowledge Mother’s and the role they play. While you are being sensitive, don’t ignore that it is Mother’s Day. It is, it’s on the calendar, everyone knows it. You can be sensitive while acknowledging and honoring Mom’s.
  • If you give out a gift, give it to all women. We’ve given all women flowers in the past. This year we are doing free pictures for families, couples or groups of friends or individuals.
  • If you want to give a gift to Mom’s, give it out in your children’s ministry so as to not draw attention to it.
  • Encourage those who Mother’s Day is a difficult day to come forward for prayer with a leader.
  • Acknowledge that Mother’s Day is a great day for some and a hard day for others. This goes a long of way of letting all women know they matter and that you see them.
  • Preach the gospel. You should do this every week, but especially on Mother’s Day. Remind women that their only hope regardless of where they are on Mother’s Day is Jesus.

Lastly, don’t preach to women on Mother’s Day. More than likely, the women you will be preaching to will be back the week after Mother’s Day. Preach to the men they drug to church that day. But, if you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you should already be preaching to men clearly.

What do you do to be sensitive to women on Mother’s Day?

Links to End the Week

  1. Scott Cochrane on How to be an inauthentic communicator
  2. 9 Marks on Practical ways for a pastor to love his family
  3. Some great kids worship music. I’m always on the lookout for worship music for my kids that is theologically sound and not annoying to listen to, this is a good example of one that made the list. 
  4. Aaron Armstong on How introverts can thrive in an extroverted world
  5. Tim Challies on 6 bullet points on preaching
  6. Julian Freeman on Satan’s desire for mothers and women

The Role of Men in the Family

Last night, we had a great discussion in our small group. We are going through Andreas J. Kostenberger’s book God, Marriage and Family. Which, if you want the most thorough book on what the Bible says about marriage, roles, divorce, family, kids. This is the book. At least outside of the Bible.

The chapter last night was about what the Old Testament says about family, but focused specifically on the role of the father/man in the family. This topic usually goes one of two ways in conversations: it either holds the man up as a dictator which is the abusive side of this, or, it says that men should not lead because that is discrimination against the women.

The book lists 9 things that men did in the Old Testament when it came to marriage/family. While all of them don’t have specific application for today, many of them do. After each one I’ll share some thoughts.

  1. Personally modeling strict personal fidelity to God.Too many churches have taught a feminine version of Christianity. One that makes men out to be pansies. We have taken the adventure and risk out of faith and made it about what we know for certain and what we can control. In turn, men have run from churches. So, most men have no personal faith to pass on. So it starts with an understanding of what God calls men to and living that out. You can’t pass on to anyone something that you aren’t. Being a Christian should be so obvious that you never have to tell anyone about it. For example, I never have to say, “I’m a Steelers fan.” Everyone knows.
  2. Leading the family in the national festivals, nurturing the memory of Israel’s salvation. Men need to remind their families of what God has done for them in the past. When God saved you, when you were baptized, how God has provided for you financially and protected you as a family/couple. Keep this in front of your family.
  3. Instructing the family in the traditions of the exodus and the Scriptures. What immediately comes to mind is a Bible study. For us, we have tried to make this more natural. Katie and I have tried to take the ways we connect to God and share those with our kids. When we pray the office, we do this with our kids. I love music, so we use music to teach our kids about God. If you love to hike, take your kids hiking and talk about how God made everything. The lessons that stick with kids are the unplanned lessons. Pray with them, share with them what God is teaching you, talk through their questions. Ava was mad on Saturday because she had to stop swimming so we could do the baptism, so we had a natural opportunity to share with her what baptism was all about. She understood but still wanted to swim.
  4. Managing the land in accordance with the law. This can be taking care of the environment or paying your taxes, house payments, bills, etc. Do you fall behind consistently on your bills? What does that say about you? This gets into how you manage your finances. Now, in our family, Katie pays the bills, but I am a part of what happens and we talk about everything. I have not abdicated that to her.
  5. Providing for the family’s basic needs for food, shelter, clothing and rest. This is self explanatory, but one thought, do you make enough money to provide for your family? Sure, you could always make more money and there are more things you would like to buy. Maybe you need to tone down your budget so that you are able to live on what you make. What has to happen so you can live on one income? Here’s a great resource coming up at Revolution.
  6. Defending the household against outside threats. This is not just protecting your family from harm, it’s that, but so much more. Are you protecting your family from sin or are you bringing it into your house? Are you teaching your kids about what sin is, what to avoid or are you hoping they pick it up somewhere or the church does that for you since it sounds hard? Are you keeping your family balanced when it comes to the calendar? Too many families just do everything without thinking about it. But you may say, “My wife keeps our calendar.” That may be, but I’ll explain in a minute why that doesn’t matter and why that is a lame excuse for living a frantic life.
  7. Serving as elder and representing the household in the official assemby of citizens. Are you striving to be an influencer in your local church or are you sitting on the sideline? Remember, what you are, you pass on (read #1 again). If you are not involved at church in a group, serving, going to church, giving back to God financially, your kids won’t. It is that simple. If you don’t passionately follow God, don’t get mad when your kids don’t. It is no one’s fault but your own.
  8. Maintaining family members’ well-being and harmonious operation of the family unit. This one gets tricky. Think about it like this, if your wife has a conflict with your mom, whose side are you on? Some may say, “I’ll try to play the mediator so they can work it out.” Sorry, but that is unbiblical. When you got married, you became one with your wife, her problem is your problem. She may be wrong, but you will defend her position to the death in public. Now privately you can tell her, “You are wrong” but in public, she is right.
  9. Implementing decisions made at the clan or tribal level. When you make a decision as a family to get out of debt, buy a house, set a goal. It is your job to make sure it happens. If you get off track, you get back on track.

That list is overwhelming. We have not even discussed what a wife/woman is supposed to be and do. You may think, I don’t want to do those things. I wish you well when you tell God that. This is what the Scriptures call us, consequently, this is what God calls us to as men/husbands/fathers.

For me, it is something to shoot for, a challenge to rise to. I love that. I get to become this.

If you are single, what woman does not want a husband who does these things? If you are married, your wife is dreaming of the day you will become these things. If you don’t believe me, show her this list.

For some more great reading, The Resurgence has a series on Masculinity Reclaimed.