Top Post of June

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In case you missed them, here are the top 10 posts for the last month:

  1. Pick a Church
  2. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  3. N.T. Wright on Gay Marriage
  4. Pastors Can Make the Worst Friends
  5. God Will Let You Have Your Sin
  6. Why Calvinism Matters
  7. What to do When You’re Too Tired to Work
  8. How Motherhood Begins, Continues, And…
  9. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  10. 10 Books Every Christian Leader Should Read

I Know What Will Fix my Marriage, But…

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If you’re married and have encountered a challenge in marriage, welcome to marriage.

The funny thing about the challenges we run into in relationship is that we often know the way out of them. We know the things that could fix it. We know the things we do to try our spouse nuts or hurt them. In fact, if someone were to ask you how to fix your marriage or make it more healthy, chances are good you could come up with a plan.

Yet.

Chances are very low that you would put that plan into action.

So you stay stuck.

Stuck in a marriage that isn’t happy. A marriage that isn’t affectionate. A marriage that doesn’t have an enjoyable sex life, if it has a sex life at all. A marriage that has little laughter or conversation.

It’s just there. Kind of like roommates sharing stuff. With some kids thrown in.

What do you do if you are in that place? Here are 5 ways to move forward and fix your marriage:

  1. Stop blaming your spouse. I know, your marriage would be better if your spouse changed. Where you are in your marriage is not all on your spouse. Both of you are to blame for where you are, no one bears 100% of the blame. What is your part of it? What did you to so that you would get to this place? Admit that to yourself, confess that to your spouse and ask for forgiveness.
  2. Admit you are here. Many couples don’t want to admit the season they are in. They want to pretend like everything is okay, they want to boast on Facebook about how much they love their spouse when they really want to kick them through a wall. Stop pretending, especially with your spouse. If you are unhappy, you both know it. Talk about it, give words to it.
  3. Decide you’ll last. Too many couples go into marriage with divorce as an option. Don’t. Decide you will last whatever comes your way. It will be hard, you will face things you didn’t think were possible when you took your vows, but you can get through it. It is amazing what happens when you take the exit door away from a situation.
  4. Create a plan and put some accountability to it. As you look at your marriage, get some advice. What is the thing that is harming your marriage? Is it accountability, schedule and pace, communication, intimacy? What is that one thing if you could change would take your marriage to a new level? Now, find a book or a couple that is doing that well and spend time with them, ask them what they know. Ask for their help. Create a plan out of the place you are in and share it with someone, create some accountability. When I committed to have a weekly date night with Katie and that I would plan it, I said it in a sermon. That put some teeth to the commitment.
  5. Believe the best in your spouse. This will probably be the hardest thing to do if you are hurt or angry at your spouse. You will believe any change they make is simply show, window dressing, trying to butter you up for something. It might be. Do your best to believe the best in your spouse and ask them to believe the best in you. I’m not promising you won’t get hurt in this relationship, you will at some point as it happens in every marriage. But believe the best in them. People have a way of becoming the people we believe them to be.

My blog will be moving in a few weeks and I don’t want you to miss anything. Simply click here to subscribe via email so that I can serve you better and continue to help you grow to become who God created you to be.

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How to Forgive Your Father

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As I mentioned in a recent sermon, one of the hardest things for us as we see God as father is how we feel about our earthly father. That relationship impacts so much of how we see ourselves, the world around us and God. It impacts how we feel about ourselves and how we let others treat us.

As you take steps this week to let go of any hurt done by your earthly father and forgive him, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

One, remember your sin. It is easy to simply look at the brokenness of someone else and overlook our brokenness. As you forgive someone, you begin to come face to face with some of the things in your own heart. If you skip over these things or not deal with them, you will find yourself having a hard time understanding God’s forgiveness. Remember, God’s grace was extended to you and your sin, my sin, the sin of your father put Jesus on the cross.

Two, forgiveness does not mean you pretend something didn’t happen. Forgive and forget is a nice phrase, but I’m not sure it is realistic or biblical. We always remember something. It is part of our story, our life. We don’t simply pretend that hurt, broken promises, or even abuse happened. As you forgive and move forward, don’t pretend something didn’t happen as that will keep you from health and wholeness.

Third, forgiveness does not mean you have a relationship with someone. You can forgive someone and keep them at a distance, which you may need to do depending on the situation for your safety.

Last, God forgave you and this is the basis for letting go of anything. Why did God forgive you? He loved you and this forgiveness is what we are to extend to those who hurt us, including our father.

It may be hard to believe, but forgiving those who hurt you the most is not only something a follower of Jesus is called to, it is also the only way to living the life that God calls you to live. Many people walk around with hurt, that turns into bitterness because of something they won’t let go of. And that is not the life that God has called us to live.

My blog will be moving in a few weeks and I don’t want you to miss anything. Simply click here to subscribe via email so that I can serve you better and continue to help you grow to become who God created you to be.

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Pastors Can Make the Worst Friends

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Most pastors are nice people, they just don’t make good friends.

That may seem harsh to say, but as a pastor, I think it is true.

Hear me out.

Pastoral ministry is an all encompassing job. It is highly relational, emotional, mental and spiritual. It can be draining physically and overwhelming. It isn’t harder than other jobs, it is just different.

Because you can get a call at any moment with something that needs attention, many pastors burnout and struggle to have boundaries so they can rest and recharge.

Pastors spend so much time counseling people, helping people work through issues or sitting in meetings that when they meet someone, they often see them as a project instead of a person. They see them as someone who will need something, someone who will need advice or need to be fixed instead of a person to simply spend time with.

For most pastors, church is something they are always thinking about. The next capital campaign, new ministry year, next sermon series, next issue, hiring a new person. It never stops. They spend all their time with people talking about church. They sit with their wife on date night and talk about church. It is not just a job, it is their life. It is who they are and this becomes unhealthy.

Then, they meet someone new and they can’t stop talking about church. They can’t shut it off.

What do you do then? How can you become a better friend if you are a pastor? Here are 5 ideas:

  1. Have friends who don’t attend church (or your church). This is crucial. If you don’t have any friends who don’t attend church, that’s a great clue that you aren’t good at friendships. Churched people will tolerate a pastor who don’t stop talking about church or is a poor friend because they want to be close to a pastor. An unchurched person won’t take that.
  2. Have a no church talk zone. There should be a time of day, a day each week where you stop talking about church stuff. Stop thinking about, stop checking your email. Don’t talk about it at least once a week. For many pastors this will be so hard to do, but incredibly healthy.
  3. Take a day off. If you aren’t taking your day off as a pastor, you are sinning. I’m blown away by how many pastors are killing themselves working 6 or 7 days a week. Stop it. Rest, recharge, take some down time.
  4. Get in a small group. I’m blown away by how many pastors are not in a small group or missional community at their church. They’ll often say that the elders are their small group. This line of thinking attempts to make a pastor untouchable and that’s a sin. In a small group, people see who you are, you can’t hide any longer. You start to see how people see you and if you are any good at community. This might feel like it goes against #1 but it doesn’t because many pastors don’t have friends in their church. Now, you need to be careful here. You don’t just share everything with someone in your church, you must show discretion on the information and with the person. There have been times Katie and I have shared everything about a situation with our MC, and sometimes not. Each situation is different, but you should be in community with some people in your church who are not in leadership.
  5. Get a hobby. I was talking with some pastors the other day I am coaching out of burnout and I asked them, “What do you do for fun? What recharges you? What is fun?” Blank stares. Many pastors do not have a hobby. Things like fixing a car, working with wood, hiking, playing sports, knitting or cooking. Nothing. If that’s you, sit down and answer that question, what do I find fun? If you don’t have a hobby, you won’t have anything that lets off steam, anything that is fun, anything to do with others.

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My blog will be moving in a few weeks and I don’t want you to miss anything. Simply click here to subscribe via email so that I can serve you better and continue to help you grow to become who God created you to be.

Top Post of May 2014

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In case you missed them, here are the top posts for the last month:

  1. 10 Books Every Christian Leader Should Read
  2. Why Missional Communities Should Take a Summer Break
  3. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  4. Why You Aren’t a Leader
  5. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  6. When a Staff Member or Volunteer says, “I’m Done”
  7. Pick a Church
  8. 10 Lessons for the Church from Pixar
  9. Remove Barriers to What is Most Important
  10. 7 Reasons You Aren’t Communicating with your Spouse

My blog will be moving in a few weeks and I don’t want you to miss anything. Simply click here to subscribe via email so that I can serve you better and continue to help you grow to become who God created you to be.

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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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Shauna Feldhahn on Everything we know about marriage and divorce is wrong.

Perhaps most surprising, half of all marriages are not ending in divorce. According to the Census Bureau, 72% of those who have ever been married, are still married to their first spouse! And the 28% who aren’t, includes everyone who was married for many years, until a spouse died. No-one knows what the average first-marriage divorce rate actually is, but based on the rate of widowhood and other factors, we can estimate it is probably closer to 20-25%. For all marriages (including second marriages, and so on), it is in the 31-35% range, depending on the study. 

10 timeless leadership lessons.

Scott Cochrane on 4 disciplines leaders must master.

The natural instinct of every leader is to look forward at the distance still to be traveled towards the goal. But don’t forget the discipline of looking back at the ground that’s already been covered. Celebrating the progress already achieved builds tremendous momentum for the team. 

How to stay at a church for 27 years.

Pastor, never forget this: Hurt people hurt people! Sometimes you will become the brunt of other people’s “stuff.” You must be a great forgiver and forgetter! I used to get sidelined and even paralyzed by the criticism of others. At times, it has almost put me to bed! But it comes back to my daily time with God. In prayer, it is easy to forgive and even to forget. It wrecks me when someone dislikes me or writes about me being something I know I am not. However, the route to wholeness and healing is forgiveness toward all people and forgetting about it, always driving forward. Let it go, Pastor! If you hold that hurt, it will fold you and your ministry.

Skye Jethani on A case for shorter sermons.

Thom Rainer on 8 reasons it’s easier to not attend church today.

More and more, to be involved with a local congregation means you are counter-cultural. It’s now easier to see where the home base for congregations ends and where the mission field begins. There are fewer and fewer persons who show up at church services because they simply want to be part of the crowd. To the contrary, active congregants are now the exception in our nation rather than the norm.

Kid gets owned by bungee cord

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Thoughts on Turning 35

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I turn 35 today. It is hard to believe all that has happened in my life in 35 years. If the average man lives 70 years on earth, I’m at the halfway point. That has caused me to reflect on things I’ve learned as I look forward to the next 35 years. Here you go:

  1. Pick something you are passionate about and give your life to it. I knew at 18 that I wanted to plant a church. While it took my until I was 28 to do it, everything in my life led me to that moment. I meet so many men who float through life, aimlessly wandering from one job to the next, unsure of what to do with their life. They also seem to have no idea what makes them passionate, what makes them excited, all they know is they hate their job and are miserable. They look at their life and think, “This is all there is” so they play video games, work a dead end job or look at porn. I just preached on this topic on Sunday, but find something worth giving your life to for Jesus and don’t look back.
  2. Commit to your wifeI met Katie when I was 16 and fell in love. She is everything I could hope for in a wife and more. We just celebrated 12 years and every year gets better and better. We’ve had our bumps and hard seasons but through it all, we’ve pushed through, got closer to Jesus and got closer to each other. I love laughing with her, talking with her, cooking with her, and watching her blossom in her artistic gifts. I have a number of friends on their second marriage or are getting divorced and it is so sad to watch people walk through that or see other couples settle for a mediocre marriage. That is their legacy, that they didn’t stay committed, they didn’t push through the valleys to make it to the mountain top.
  3. Protect your healthWhen you are 20, playing a sport year round, you can sleep in, eat whatever you want and probably lose 5 pounds in the process. Except then you get older. I meet a lot of guys who are starters and they start businesses and churches and then burnout in the process. They don’t exercise, sleep well, protect their finances, their calendars and their health deteriorates. I have a friend who is so burned out he has to take three 1 hour naps a day to survive. You are in charge of your health, no one else can protect it. It is hard to stay motivated to workout and eat well, but the end result is worth it (and the end result isn’t a certain body it is living well and longer).
  4. Make your kids a higher priority than they are. It is easy to make other things more of a priority than your kids. Men make their jobs, they make carting their kids to activities more of a priority than having a relationship with them (and yes you might be at their stuff, but you aren’t building a relationship with them while they do it). Each of our kids are different and like different things. It is a challenge as our family has grown for Katie and I to spend time together, have a weekly date night (because my relationship with Katie is more important to our family than our relationship with kids), have hobbies and friendships and spend time with our kids, but the investment is worth it. Make sure you are having regular daddy dates with them, doing things they enjoy with them, not just watching them do things.
  5. You are responsible for your relationship with God. No one else is responsible for this. Your pastor isn’t, you are. If you aren’t growing in your relationship with Jesus, that is your fault. Men like to pass this off to someone else, but it is on them. Spend time with God. I’m not a morning person, but reading my bible is the first thing I do when I get up.
  6. Read more. Every great leader is a reader. I don’t think this is a coincidence. While women tend to read more than men, if you are a man who wants to accomplish something, you need to keep growing. Don’t be content with what you know, push for more knowledge, more skills, hone the skills you have. If you don’t know what to read, start here and here.
  7. Make some close friends and invest in those relationships. Men are not good at friendships with other men. If you ask most men who their close friends are, you will get blank stares. The older I get the more important close friends are. I’m an introvert so I don’t have a ton of relationships, instead, I prefer to have a few close friendships with people I connect with regularly. Make this a priority. I have talked with a number of men who are in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s who have no close friends and it is tragic.
  8. Find a mentorMen need mentors. They need someone who is further in life when it comes to their career, leadership, being a father and husband, managing money, their relationship with God. Look at your life and see the areas you want to grow in and find someone who is further along in that area. I have multiple mentors in different areas. I simply ask them, “I want to get better at _____, you are better at that than I am, can you help me grow in that area?”
  9. It’s not too late to accomplish goals. If you have a goal, go for it. I have had a goal to write a book and I’m almost there. Too many men seem to have a lot of goals and hopes and never do anything. This leads men to have midlife crisis, feel aimless, have regrets as they look back on their lives. Decide today what is going to matter most in your life, how do glorify God the most and do that. Put your energy towards that.
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Top 10 Posts for April 2014

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In case you missed them, here are the top 10 posts for the last month:

  1. Heaven is for Real
  2. When a Staff Member or Volunteer says, “I’m Done”
  3. Getting Married is Easier than Staying Married
  4. Why Revolution Church Doesn’t Have a Women’s Ministry
  5. You’re One Choice Away from Wrecking Your Life
  6. Get the Men, Win the War
  7. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  8. Why You Aren’t a Leader
  9. Stop Giving Him an Out
  10. What I’ve Learned from Being Married for 10 Years
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Getting Married is Easier than Staying Married

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On Sunday, while Katie and I were eating dinner on our back porch for our anniversary she mentioned to me that I didn’t write an anniversary post or things I’ve learned about marriage as I’ve done in the past (see here). As we sat there, and having just heard the news about Pastor Bob Coy resigning over moral failing and being reminded that everyone (including me) is one choice away from wrecking their life. I was reminded of this one simple marital truth:

Getting married is easier than staying married. 

Every year, lots of people get married and every year sadly, lots of people end their marriages in divorce. Getting married is easy. You simply need someone to marry and a person to perform the ceremony. Staying married, lasting to year 5, 10, 15, 25 and 50 takes work.

Someone asked me last week who knew it was our anniversary what is one piece of advice I’d give to a young couple. It is this: Staying married is the hardest thing you will do. It will require more work than you imagine, but it will be better than you can imagine if you do. 

With that in mind, here are 5 ways to stay married:

  1. Grow close to Jesus. This may seem obvious, but if you stray from Jesus, stop reading your bible, feel your relationship with Jesus suffer, lots of things go wrong. Your desire to fight sin goes down. Your desire to serve your spouse goes down. Your desire to love your spouse goes down. Your desire to stay pure goes down. All because of one thing.
  2. Keep your relationship first (behind God). Your kids matter and you love them. Your kids come after your marriage. One of the fastest ways from going from a great marriage to being roommates is placing your kids above your spouse. One day, your kids will be gone and you will have only your spouse. At this point, most couples split because they no longer need to stay together for the kids and they have nothing in common. Don’t let that happen. This doesn’t mean you neglect your kids and not do anything with them, but it means they come after your marriage. Not sure where you stand on this, here are 10 ways to know you are putting your kids in front of your marriage.
  3. Know affection is the first thing to go and fight against that. Affection is what goes first. Kissing when you say goodbye, holding hands, snuggling. Life is busy, you know your spouse, you have them now, your kids are climbing all over you, you are running late, you are tired and want to sleep, you are worried if you snuggle he will want sex and you just want to go to sleep. All of these things happen to couples who couldn’t keep their hands off each other at one time. Fight this. When you kiss, kiss for 5-10 seconds. Throw some tongue in when you are just saying hello or goodbye. Gross your kids out. Hold hands in the car. Kiss at a red light. Snuggle at night. I’ve said this before and people tell me I’m wrong, but I’m not: the amount of sex you have, the amount of affection you have, is one of the best barometers for where your marriage is. Show me a couple with little affection and little sex, and I will show you a couple going in opposite directions.
  4. Religiously keep a weekly date night. Date night is one of the most important things a couple can do. Every week. Protect it with your life. When we first started doing a date night, we protected it religiously. Nothing interfered with that. Now that we are in the habit, we often move the night to fit our schedule. Here are some ideas for doing date night at home, some rules we have for date night and some help for when date night falls apart.
  5. Protect your heart, emotions, mind, eyes and body. Every week I hear about another pastor who has resigned because of committing adultery. I counsel couples all the time who are getting a divorce because he won’t stop looking at porn, she won’t stop reading romance novels and fantasizing, one of them cheated, one of them doesn’t want to fight for their marriage and work at it. All kinds of reasons, all kinds of excuses, and all of them are simply heartbreaking. Protect yourself. Your marriage, your family, your life and legacy matters too much for it to fall apart.

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A Simple Way to Build Love into Your Marriage

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Every marriage is different and every person is different, but every marriage has one thing in common. A desire to be closer and to be more in love. While some couples may feel distant and feel like the fun and love has worn off from their marriage, but it is never too late.

I’m always sad whenever I hear couples talk as if their marriage is as good as it can get.

So, how do you build love back into a loveless marriage? How do you rekindle love that feels like has worn out? How do you feel more fulfilled and happier on your marriage?

Honestly, it isn’t as hard as you might think.

The next time you are with your spouse ask them: What is one thing I can do to make your life more enjoyable? To make you feel more loved? To lessen the stress in your life?

The answers might be: to have coffee ready in the morning, to pick up your clothes, to pick up the kids at school, to have dinner ready by a certain time, to have a meal plan for the week, cleaning the kitchen up before going to bed, no smartphones after 8pm. It might more affection, more date nights, more time alone for mom, more sex, more talking, more face to face activities (what women enjoy) or more shoulder to shoulder activities (which men enjoy). It might be a huge request or a small one.

About 2 years ago, Katie and I were beginning to feel like we had settled into a routine in our marriage that wasn’t good, we asked each other this conversation. We began to see how we had taken the other for granted and what would begin building back into our relationship. Revisiting this conversation can be incredibly helpful for couples.

Now a word of warning. There is a chance that what your spouse will say is something you don’t want to do or think you are already doing and they should be grateful for what you do. It can be easy to blow off what your spouse wants because you don’t want it. This response can be destructive to your marriage because your spouse will probably not mention it again and a divide will begin in your relationship.

As you move forward from this conversation, try it out for a week. See how it goes. Try it out for a month and then evaluate it. You may find it isn’t so bad. Your spouse may decide they really don’t want what they requested as much as they thought.

In the end, you are moving towards bringing love back into your marriage, and that is never a bad thing.

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