Links for Your Weekend Reading

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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How God brings two seemingly different people together in marriage.

Many people wouldn’t put Taylor and me together. In high school, we probably would not have been friends. She probably would have thought I was a nice, boring, judgmental Christian kid; I probably would have thought she was a nice, lost, party-scene girl who guys like me are supposed to avoid. People like us, with our backgrounds and histories, are not supposed to meet, fall in love, and covenant their lives to each other.

Dan Black on What the best leaders do before bed.

While a morning routine is valuable, we should not overlook our nightly routine. The morning is about preparing for the day’s activities while the night should be about refocusing our energy on specific activities that allow us to relax and recharge. The best leaders have specific activities they routinely do before going to bed.

David Murray on 7 lessons from failure.

My failures are usually the result of over-confidence. When I’ve failed it’s often because I was putting too much trust in myself and not enough in God. A happy side-effect is that it has usually produced more prayerful dependence upon God.

12 important things about unchurched families.

Unchurched people feel no more guilty about missing church on a Sunday than you feel about missing synagogue on a Saturday.

 

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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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5 Things I want Katie to Say about me After 50 Years

Sunday, Katie and I celebrated 12 years of being married. It is hard to believe that the cute girl I met on a soccer field in Toronto, Canada in 1995 is my wife. I am blessed beyond measure.

This year after preaching a lot on legacy to Revolution Church I sat down and thought through 5 things I want Katie to say about me after 50 years. One thing I am convinced of is that nothing great happens without intentionality. I’m not going to magically become a great husband or father. Our marriage isn’t going to accidentally be great.

Here’s something I want to challenge you with, which is where this came from. If you make it to 50 years of marriage, you’ll probably have a big party. It is becoming so rare to make it that long. But if you do (and I hope you do), you will probably renew your vows or say something to your spouse. What will they say to you in that moment? I thought about what I would like Katie to say to me and wrote them down.

Here they are:

  1. I’m more like Jesus because of you. According to Ephesians 5, a husband is to wash his wife in the word of God, he is to pastor her, to disciple her, to give her space to grow in her relationship with Jesus and become who God has called her to be. Many women face an up hill battle because of past hurts, past relationships, possible abuse and then as they walk into marriage with their junk, they marry a man with a ton of junk of his own. It is hard to move past this and become free. One of my prayers for Katie has been that she would be freed from anything that would hinder her. This is God’s grace in action, but it also takes work on the part of both spouses. Daily I want to encourage her to spend time with Jesus. Getting out of the house on a regular basis to sit and journal and read her bible. To have space for Jesus to shape her and work on her heart.
  2. I’ve grown in my art because of you. Katie is incredibly creative, but she is also incredibly giving and will give to others at the expense of her gifts. Two years ago, we started to change this. I signed her up for a photography class, got her a camera and then this past year, upgraded all her camera and computer equipment so she could keep growing. Too many men (and I did this for years) simply take and take from their wife and never allow her to use her gifts, develop them and use her art. I love watching her art develop and use her gifts. I joke that one day she can work and I’ll retire! Seriously, it is such a joy to watch it grow and see others find value in what she does and the eye that she has for art.
  3. We really did have good times and hard times, but we made it through both. Marriage is a mix of good times and hard times. These times are sometimes short and sometimes long. We’ve had hard seasons of marriage and easy seasons. We will have hard and easy seasons ahead as well. Marriage is about lasting. It’s been said that the most important day of marriage is not your first day but your last. If we’ve made it to 50 years, that means we survived the celebrations and the pain. We’ve had joy and sorrow. We’ve laughed and cried together. But we made it together.
  4. You kept your eyes on me. Men are visual and consequently, many of the sins that entangle them stem from their eyes. I want Katie to look at me 50 years from now and say, “You kept your eyes on me. You were fascinated by me. You are entranced by me.” This is a daily choice that a husband makes. This a choice he makes as he watches a movie, gets on the internet, watches a football game when they cheerleaders come in. This is a minute by minute decision that men make. I’ve never heard a man who stayed pure, fought an addiction to porn, fought to keep his eyes for his wife, I’ve never heard that man say, “I missed out.” I’ve heard countless men who won’t fight their porn addiction, let the eyes linger on a swimsuit issue or victoria’s secret magazine say, “I have regrets. I wish I did things differently.”
  5. I’m ready for 50 more years. I hope that when we celebrate our 50th anniversary (as I’m 72 and she’s 70) that she looks at me and says, “Let’s do 50 more.” The true test of a marriage is if the couple would do it all over again. Sure they’d like to take back conversations, financial decisions, job changes or arguments, but can they look at each other and say, “I’d say yes to you all over again.” If Katie will look at me (I’m probably bald and still doing 72 year old crossfit) and say, “I’d marry you again, you oldie but goodie.” I’ll take it.
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Will You Mentor Me?

The word Mentor in magazine letters on a notice board

Since Revolution Church is filled with people in college and their 20’s and because we’re part of Acts 29, myself and the other leaders at Revolution will often get requests to mentor someone. Either in our church or a church planter or worship leader.

This has caused me to think through, what makes an effective mentor. They are important, but I think we often set ourselves and the person we are seeking help from up for disaster.

A mentor is someone further ahead of you in an area you want to grow in. 

No one person can mentor you in every part of your life.

This is the problem we run into. We look for someone to be the end all be all for us.

When someone asks for a mentor, I explain this to them and then ask a series of questions:

  1. What is the 1 or 2 areas you want to grow in as you think about your life in the next 3, 6, 12 months? This could be finances, prayer, marriage, boundaries, health, etc.
  2. Why do you think I can help you? I want to know why they think I can help them. Not because I want to pump up my ego, but I want to know they’ve done their homework on me not just threw a dart at the wall and picked the closest person.
  3. What are you doing or have you tried to grow in this area? Often, not always, but often people seek a mentor because they are lazy. I want to know what books or blogs this person has looked at in this area. Are they actively seeking to grow in this area or just hoping to rub off success from someone. Which leads to the last part.
  4. How much time are you willing to put into this? Anything worth doing will take time. You won’t grow in your handling of finances, health, marriage, career, preaching, etc. without putting in time and effort. This is a commitment you are as the person getting mentored is making, the mentor is coming along for the ride and if I as the mentor am not convinced you are into the ride, I’m getting off.

If you are worth your salt as a leader, person or pastor, you will be asked often to mentor people. You must be selectively in who you mentor because you are giving up one of your most precious commodities as a leader, your time. If you are asking to be mentored, to succeed and have it be worthwhile for you, you need to do your homework and be willing to put in the work. There is nothing more exciting than working with a person who wants to grow in an area and helping them to grow in that area. Love seeing that happen.

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Surviving a Hard Season in Your Marriage

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Let’s be honest for a minute, at some point in your marriage you are going to hit a hard season. It could be caused by a busy schedule, a child is born, difficulty getting pregnant, some kind of sickness, debt or bills, health of in-laws, drama with some kind of family member or friend, loss of job, the list is endless.

But how do you know if it is a hard season and not something else?

Here are some things that are true of a hard season: lack of intimacy and sex, lack of communication, long silences between you and your spouse, constant arguing, a lot of misunderstandings or miscommunications, or just the feeling that you are ships passing through the night.

The reality is, at some point you will feel like this, you may even feel like it right now. So what do you do?

Here are 7 ways to not only survive a hard season, but to come out of it stronger:

  1. Identify why you are in this season. Both spouses know when they are in this season. Men would like to ignore it, bulldoze through it or just fix it to move forward. Sometimes you need to spend more time talking about something to fix it, sometimes it is so obvious that you can quickly fix it and move on.
  2. Talk through what got you to this season. Don’t just identify that life is hard, that your marriage is in a tough spot. Identify how you got there. Is it overscheduling? Do you need to cut back at work? Do you need to pick up the pace on date night? Do you need to communicate more? Do you need to have more sex in your marriage?
  3. Apologize for any sin on your part. Make things right. If you are in a hard season as a couple, both of you sinned. Almost every problem in marriage has sin from both spouses, don’t just point fingers at the other. Own your sin, apologize and make it right.
  4. Figure out the weaknesses in your marriage that need to become strengths. You may have gotten to a hard season because you aren’t organized, don’t have a plan to get out of debt or you aren’t doing well to get everything done at work so you are overworking. Find a couple, find a person who is can help. Someone who is smarter than you at your weakness and ask for help. I think when we look for coaches, we often look for someone who can help us with everything, that is foolish. If it is finances, get with someone who has no debt and is doing great with their finances and say, “help me.”
  5. Get rid of what got you to this place. Recently, Katie and I walked through a hard season that came from adding kids to our family, my job expanding and getting busier and I was saying yes to too many things. We pulled back on some activities as a family, made some changes to how we do our schedule and cut some things out. This is hard, but you have to let go of or change what got you to this season. You may need to not sign up for an activity, back out of the PTA or say no to a promotion at work. Why? Your marriage needs you to.
  6. Outlast the season. If you are in a hard season that simply means you are married. Too many couples look at a hard season and want to throw in the towel, don’t. Your marriage means too much, the ripple affects to how your marriage goes are enormous. Don’t believe me? Talk to a friend who grew up in a broken home and ask them how that has impacted their life. Fight for your marriage.
  7. Plan to not repeat this season. No one plans to have a tough season in marriage, but it happens. It often happens because we lose our bearings, we let sin enter our hearts or we don’t have a plan to protect our marriage. Have a plan to protect your marriage: how will you stay out of debt? How will you protect a weekly date night? How will you keep communication and sex a priority in your marriage? If you don’t talk through this step, you will end up repeating a hard season and they are much harder the second time around because you will feel even more defeated and helpless than you already do.

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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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5 Steps to Wrecking Your Life

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On Sunday, I talked about the reality that everyone, man or woman, married, divorced or single, is always one choice away from wrecking their lifeIf you missed it, you can listen to it here.

The question I always wrestle with is, “How?” How is it possible for so many professional athletes to throw it all away to take PED’s? Why do so many people sleep with someone they aren’t married to and lose their marriage? Why do people gamble with their finances and go into debt in hopes of finding the quick fix? Why do people gamble or look at porn while at work and lose their jobs? The list goes on and on.

In his helpful book Impact: Great Leadership Changes Everything by Tim Irwin, he says there are 5 steps to wrecking your life, or as he would say derailing your life. They are:

  1. Lack of self-awareness. This comes when a person doesn’t know what could bring them down. They don’t know what their weaknesses are. Is it money, greed, power, sex, lust, a bigger house or car? What are they willing to trade their marriage, reputation, kids or future in for? If you don’t know that, you will be brought down.
  2. Arrogance or misguided confidence. This is when a person sees someone wreck their life and says, “That could never happen to me.” This is when a person sins once and says, “I already did it once, what is one more time?” They have supreme confidence they can stop whenever or take back control whenever they choose. Or, that it won’t destroy their life.
  3. Missed warning signals. This might be close calls in getting caught, being late to work for staying up too late, conviction from the Holy Spirit that you push away or even evidence that you might get caught.
  4. Rationalization. This is when you start to say things like, “I deserve this.” Or, “This is my only vice.” Or, you blame someone else for your situation. “If my spouse was more attentive.” Or, “If I had a little more money we could get ahead.” Or, “My kids will understand when their older why I had to work like I did.”
  5. Derailment. Eventually, with enough time, enough rationalizations, you hit the wall and derail your life.

The problem is that no one knows when derailment will hit. Some people get away with something for years.

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Top Posts of February

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February was the biggest month ever on my blog. Thanks to all the new subscribers and readers and thank you for all the shares of content on Facebook, Twitter and other places. Please keep it up.

If you missed anything, not to worry, here are the top 10 posts for the month:

  1. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  2. Women, It Matters Who You Marry
  3. Loving Does Not Equal Participating
  4. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  5. 7 Ways to Fight Well in Your Marriage
  6. 7 Reasons You Aren’t Communicating with your Spouse
  7. Men, Your Son-in-Law Determines Your Legacy
  8. Before You Criticize Your Pastor
  9. How I Structure my Week
  10. When a Staff Member or Volunteer says, “I’m Done”
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11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage

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It is so sad when I meet a couple that is unhappy. Whether it is stress, finances, kids, in-laws or sin, too many couples simply settle for a mediocre marriage. They carry around this look that says, “I’m not happy, but this is as good as it will get.”

I’m sorry, but if I’m going to be in a relationship for the rest of my life, I want it to be better than a sigh followed by, “this is as good as it will get.”

So, how do you know if you are in a mediocre marriage?

Here are 11 ways to know if you have a mediocre marriage or are on your way to one:

  1. Your marriage and life revolve around your kids. I’ve written before about how to know if your kids are more important than your marriage, but if you can answer any of these, you are in trouble.
  2. It’s been over a year since you read a book on marriage. The best way to grow in your marriage is to get around a couple who has a better marriage or read a book on it. You should read at least one book on marriage a year. It’s a great way to create conversation and push issues to the surface in your marriage.
  3. Roles in marriage feel like a trap instead of freedom. Headship and submission are tricky things and controversial. They are meant to bring us freedom, not to be a trap. When they feel like a trap, there is sin under it. Whether in how it is playing out or how our heart feels about it.
  4. You can’t remember the last date night you had. I can’t tell you how important date night is. It doesn’t have to be grand or expensive, but as a couple, you need to have at least one time a week where it is just the two of you (no phone, no tv, no computer, no kids) to talk about build into your relationship.
  5. You have sex less than 2 times a week. I realize this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Pregnancy, health, age, travel, deployment, etc. all can get in the way of this. That being said, sex is a great barometer of your marriage. In every situation when I talk to a couple struggling in their marriage, sex is the first thing to go. It reveals past hurts, addictions, abuses, etc. Every study also says the same thing, a healthy marriage has a healthy sex life.
  6. You nit pick at your spouse. I talked in more detail about this here, but disrespecting your spouse, making fun of them, being sarcastic is one of the fastest ways to move from a good marriage to mediocre to miserable or divorced.
  7. You consistently talk about how much you love your spouse on Facebook. I’m sure you’ll disagree, but every time I read something incredibly awesome on Facebook, my first thought is, “That’s probably the exact opposite of the truth.” I can’t tell you how many times I have counseled a couple who seemed on the verge of divorce and the next day posted on Facebook, “I love my wife.” Or, “My husband is incredible.” The charade of Facebook reveals a lot.
  8. When you are alone with your spouse, you have nothing to talk about. Whenever Katie and I go out to eat and see a couple just sitting there, our hearts break. That’s so sad. It means a couple has stopped growing. Yes silence is great sometimes and needed, but when it is a consistent pattern, that’s a mediocre marriage. You know if this is you.
  9. There are things in your past your spouse does not know. Your spouse should know everything about you. That doesn’t mean you need to tell your spouse how many sexual partners you’ve had or how much porn you saw as a teenager. That isn’t helpful. They should know about addictions, hurts, abuse against you. No one on the planet should know more about you than your spouse.
  10. You fantasize about being married to someone else. Our imaginations are powerful, our memories are powerful. Often, we will think back to high school or college and wonder where someone is or what life would have been like if we married someone else. When that happens, we disengage from our marriage.
  11. A friend knows more about your marriage than your spouse does. Are you honest with your spouse? Do you talk about what bothers you or do you sweep it under the rug? Do you know how to fight well in your marriage? Do you talk more to a friend more than you do to your spouse about your marriage or kids? If so, well you get it by now.

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When Romances Flops

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Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and countless couples went out for a night of fun and time together.

The reality though is that for many couples, the night did not go how they planned. Maybe the food wasn’t good, the conversation didn’t flow, they didn’t connect or worse, they had a fight.

Maybe sex was less than amazing.

 

If you do date night enough, you will eventually fight on it or it will not go according to your plan.

You can get angry.

Swear off date nights.

Yell at someone.

Or, you can try again.

Know that no matter what went wrong last night, you can move forward.

Maybe you couldn’t think of anything to say, you said the wrong thing, sex was not what you hoped it would be.

That’s okay.

Life does not end because of one bad date night.

On the flipside of that, when date night does go wrong, that is a great opportunity to take inventory of your marriage and determine if something is going on underneath the surface of your marriage that caused it to go wrong.

You could also try again tonight, except do date night at home and see how it goes.

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