Rest Takes Hard Choices

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On a regular basis I will talk with someone about Sabbath, pace of life, margin and rest. Most Americans are tired, don’t get enough sleep, don’t take enough vacation, feel stressed, overloaded, overwhelmed and aren’t sure how to change it. For many years, I struggled with this and still find myself not getting it right.

A couple of things helped me make the hard choices to rest (you’ll see at the bottom of this why I call them hard choices):

  1. Rest is a faith issue. Rest is a lot like giving back to God. It is trusting that God will make up for the time you aren’t. When people say, “I don’t have time to rest or take a sabbath.” What they often mean is, “I don’t trust God with my time. I’m too important. Life will fall apart if I’m not there.” Or, “I need to be doing as much as I am.” Many times, people won’t stop because the silence is too painful. As long as they keep moving, they don’t have to deal with hurts in their heart. The pace they keep, keeps them from feeling hurt.
  2. Rest isn’t something our culture encourages. Rest is seen as lazy. If your kids aren’t on 3 teams, in 2 dance troops. If you aren’t in 4 bible studies you aren’t growing as a Christian. We don’t encourage rest. We come back from vacation and say, “I need a vacation.” We go to work on Monday and ask “where did the weekend go?” I know someone who goes on vacation and fills their days from sunrise to sunset with things to do and see. Even on vacation, they keep moving and moving.
  3. Most people aren’t sure what “rest” means. Most people don’t know what it means. Some Christians say you shouldn’t shop or go to the movies on Sunday. Should you do any work? Rest in Scripture is to be restorative. It is to be recharging. For some, that is woodworking or painting, taking a nap, reading a book, having a long meal with friends, taking a hike, working out. Rest should connect you with God, restore your body, mind and soul.

So, why do I call having rest making hard choices?

Because, it will take time and it will often mean being countercultural to those around you.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you rest:

  1. It doesn’t matter what day it is. I’m a pastor, so Sunday is a work day, not a rest day. Just pick a day. It might be Wednesday for you. Pick a day, set it aside and think through what you will do on that day to restore your body, soul, heart and mind. What will you do? Who will you be with or will you be alone? How will you reconnect with God? How will you rest?
  2. It needs to be a day. Some people in an effort to feel better say, “I’m starting with 4 hours of rest.” That sounds nice and makes it feel like you are moving in the right direction, but it often fails. Quickly, you will find a reason to make that 3 hours. If you can give 4 hours, you can give a day. What are you afraid of? I know, you are afraid of not getting everything done, of things falling apart. So keep reading.
  3. Work fills the time allowed. Have you noticed how you accomplish everything you need to before going on vacation or before a school deadline? Work gets done that needs to get done. If you have 6 hours to work and at the end of 6 hours, whatever is not done is not done for the project. You skip Facebook, turn your phone off, no apps, no games, no breaks, you get it done. Work with that intensity each day so that you can rest.
  4. You have all the time you need to accomplish everything you want. I tell people this all the time and they always tell me I’m wrong, but hear me out. I’m a huge Steelers fan and never miss a Steelers game, even if I watch it on DVR. Why? I put it on my calendar. Because everything that is important has a time attached to it. You do something similar to this. It might be a show, a class, a team you’re on, a hobby you have (think about how much time you spend on a hobby). My point is, we accomplish all kinds of things we want to accomplish. We often just accomplish the wrong things.
  5. You don’t have to do everything you are doing. This is the hard choice. Resting means you will skip things. You will miss things. You will say no to things. But remember, when you say no to one thing, you say yes to something elseYou don’t have to do all that you are doing. You can stop some things. Not sign your child up for that team. You can get off that committee at school or church. You can stop and slow down.

Let me close with a story.

When I was in seminary, I wanted to not lose my marriage as many married students working on their masters do. Katie and I both worked full-time and I went to school full-time. Each class, I would get my syllabus and anything that was 1 or 2% of my grade, I didn’t do. Why? I had class one night a week and we agreed that I would do homework 3 nights a week and we would have 3 nights a week for time together. I had to be diligent in those 3 nights to get all my homework done for a full class load. I trusted God each semester to expand my time and effort. Even with doing 90% of my work in each class, I graduated with a 3.8 GPA and my marriage stronger than when I started. Sadly, I have classmates that are divorced and out of ministry.

Please, make the hard choice to rest.

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How to Survive Monday as a Pastor

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It’s Monday.

Which for most pastors, worship leaders, kids and student pastors, means the hardest and worst day of the week. Pastors even call it bread truck Monday because of a desire to go and drive a break truck or because they feel like they got hit by a bread truck. For a few reasons:

  1. What we do is war. In the spiritual sense. You may have had to deal with a relational battle yesterday. You prayed with people, counseled people and are carrying their burdens and weight. You have shepherded them through difficulties, wept with them, challenged them to walk away from sin and watched people destroy their lives one step at a time.
  2. You problem slept terribly on Saturday night as you thought about the day, got up early and then slept poorly on Sunday night as you were simply too tired to sleep.
  3. Leading worship, preaching, talking with people is incredible, awesome, the highlight of my week and incredibly exhausting all at the same time. You physically have nothing left after a Sunday. You probably have nothing left spiritually, emotionally or relationally to give as well.
  4. There is a good chance you woke up on Monday to a pile of emails from angry people, people leaving your church or thinking about leaving your church. You may have some fires brewing that you are wondering if you can handle. An elder that is a thorn in your side. And you are tired.

So what do you do? This happens almost every Monday. Because of this, many pastors take Monday off. If you do, that’s fine. But I feel like that is making a hard day worse. Your family doesn’t want you around if you are going to be angry, grumpy and have a short temper.

Here are few things that have helped me and my family survive Mondays:

  1. Get out of bed. Some Monday’s are great to sleep in, but I often find that getting out of bed and getting rolling is a better idea. If I stay in bed too long I feel sluggish, no matter what day it is.
  2. Know that Tuesday is coming. Most of the things that seem insurmountable on Monday look easy on Tuesday. I’m amazed at how often I get stressed about things and in 3 weeks time I have forgotten about them.
  3. Get a workout, bike ride, hike or run in. I know, you are tired and can barely move. The adrenaline from preaching is hard to deal with the older I get. I actually do yoga every Sunday morning before preaching just so I can move on Monday because the adrenaline kills me. But get going, do something active. It gets your blood moving and you are in a better mood afterwards.
  4. Take a nap. You should take a nap on Monday. You will probably have very little steam by the end of the day, so lay down.
  5. Work on your soul. Read something that speak to your soul. You preached your heart out, gave everything you had to students and kids, led worship with everything you had, now you need to feed yourself. Monday is a great time to listen to a sermon by someone else to be challenged.
  6. Don’t be around anyone that makes you angry. On Monday, you have a short fuse so do yourself and others a favor and only be around people you like. The fallout from not following this can be bad for everyone involved.
  7. Do administrative stuff. Don’t have a meeting on Monday, don’t counsel anyone. I know lots of leaders like to evaluate on Monday because it is fresh, write it down and talk about it on Tuesday. Return some emails, blog, following up with guests, new believers, those are fun and invigorating for a pastor.
  8. Serve your wife. You were probably a bear to hear at some point on Saturday or Sunday. She was a single mom on Sunday with your kids while you worked and she is just as tired as you are. I know you don’t believe me and think your job is harder, let’s say it is even. Ask how you can serve her.
  9. You have the privilege to do it again in 6 days. That may not seem like a privilege on Monday, but believe me, it is. God has chosen you to preach, lead worship, teach, counsel, shepherd, set up, greet, help kids follow Jesus, talk with students through hard situations. He chose you and uses you. So, when Monday is hard, remember, God could’ve picked someone else. And you could’ve said no. Since God called and you said yes, get back up on the horse and get ready!

And if none of those help, just watch this and remember, your life isn’t this bad. Probably.

What ideas do you use to survive Monday?

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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. Trevin Wax on Don’t give your child a trophy for losing. Couldn’t agree with this more.
  2. Regular bedtimes help kids behavior.
  3. John Piper on Hijacking your brain from porn.
  4. Thom Rainer on 7 reasons your church needs to go on a diet. Being simple is the one of the defining characteristics of Revolution Church.
  5. Ryan Williams on 8 things I learned as a young lead pastor.
  6. 10 productivity tips for pastors.
  7. Ron Edmondson on 5 tips to be a better dad this week.
  8. Sleep & productivity.
  9. Mark Driscoll on 7 sabbath killers.

Elevation Creative: I Have Decided

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. Ed Stetzer on Has Dr. King’s dream come true?
  2. Mark Driscoll on It’s all about the numbers. Really well said.
  3. 6 subtle signs your organization has silos.
  4. Jay Dennis on Pornography and pastors.
  5. 10 questions to ask about your work/life balance.
  6. Perry Noble on The one thing that holds leaders back.
  7. Seeing God in your work.
  8. John Stott on How to preach with authority.
  9. 10 football books leaders should read.
  10. Dave Bruskas on How to rest in ministry.
  11. Donald Miller on People aren’t following you because you aren’t clear.
  12. What Matt Chandler wished he knew when he started ministry. This series is gold for pastors and those entering ministry.

Everyone Finds Jesus Differently

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While all Christians realize the title of this blog post is true, we often forget it. Many times, we fall into the trap that says: What rescued me, what impacted me to start following Jesus will work for everyone.

Many times, this is what is underneath our passion for more modern music, deeper preaching, life on life discipleship, a women’s ministry, a men’s ministry, a singles ministry. You name it. Whatever ministry God used to save you, we often think, “If everyone experiences that, they’ll be saved.”

The reality is that everyone starts following Jesus differently.

This came up in the passage I just preached on in John 9 this past Sunday at Revolution. You can listen to it here if you haven’t already.

The Pharisees are having a hard time with Jesus healing the man born blind on the Sabbath because they don’t do it that way. They don’t think God works that way, they’ve never seen it done before (vs. 32), or they weren’t saved that way.

I’ve had this conversation so many times I’ve lost count (and every pastor can relate). It goes like this, “Pastor Josh, we need to start a __________ ministry to reach ___________. If we do, Revolution will explode.” Or, “Josh, if we just get every man to do __________” or, “If we get every woman/student/single to do ____________ they’re life will be changed.” Or, “Josh if you preached more topical sermons, more deeper sermons, longer sermons, shorter sermons more people would get saved.” Or, “Josh, if we did faster songs, slower songs, more responsive readings, more hymns, more modern songs, if it was louder, if it was quieter, people would worship more than they do.”

Now, I’m not saying those things won’t change their lives, but we show a lot of immaturity if we think God only saves people the way we were saved or the ministry we are passionate about.

Top Posts of December 2012

In case you missed them in all the rush of the holidays, here are the top 10 posts for the last month of 2012:

  1. Accountability
  2. My 12 Favorite Books of 2012
  3. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  4. My Top 12 Albums of 2012
  5. Sex Doesn’t Equal Intimacy
  6. Is Love a Choice or a Feeling (And Why it Matters)
  7. What “Be Still” Means
  8. Happy Birthday to my Beautiful Wife
  9. My Journey of Losing Weight
  10. Planning a Preaching Calendar

Top 12 Posts of 2012

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It’s that time of year again, time to share my top lists of the year. Tomorrow I’ll share my top 12 books of the year and on Thursday, I’ll share my top 12 albums of the year. Today though, it is the top 12 posts I wrote in 2012:

  1. Before You Criticize Your Pastor
  2. Accountability
  3. How a Wife Handles Her Husband’s Sexual Addiction
  4. Kingdom Man
  5. Q: Preaching to Believers & Seekers
  6. What “Be Still” Means
  7. Is Love a Choice or a Feeling (And Why it Matters)
  8. Responding to the Same-Sex Marriage Debate as a Christian
  9. Letters to a Young Pastor
  10. Meet Nehemiah James Andrew (Updated)
  11. One of the Most Misquoted Bible Verses
  12. Why We Worry
  13. Happy Birthday to my Beautiful Wife (Bonus Post)

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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
  1. The greatest challenge facing high school students. It’s not what you expect.
  2. Brian Dodd on 10 truths about pastors of fast growing churches.
  3. What it costs to be a complementarian.
  4. Bob Franquiz has a NEW resource: The Productive Pastor. I haven’t read it yet, but everything I’ve read from Bob in the past has been amazing. Expecting nothing less about this one.
  5. 7 lessons for next generation leaders.

Burnout Series Part 2: How You Know if you are Burned Out

I preached on rest, rhythm and burnout this past weekend at church and thought I’d share some more thoughts on it this week for my blog readers. You can listen to my sermon here if you missed it.

Yesterday, I shared how to burnout. Today, I want to unpack how you know if you are burned out. The reality that most Americans are experiencing burnout or fatigue of some kind, they are just ignoring it.

Fatigue, burnout. While similar to being tired, it is quite different. When you are tired, simply taking a nap can fix it. Fatigue and burnout take something different.

Here some common clues:

  1. What used to be easy is now difficult.
  2. Difficulty falling asleep.
  3. Difficulty getting up in the morning.
  4. Tired in the middle of the afternoon.
  5. Low energy when it comes to exercise or sex.

The following are ones from a series Sojourn Network did on the topic:

  1. Inner restlessness with an underlying sense of anxiety which leads to a defensive, angry spirit.
  2. Deep emotional weariness leading to obsessive or scattered thoughts.
  3. The waning of relational intimacy and a growing fantasy world (especially as it relates to our sexuality).
  4. Numbness of soul so that people become tedious to us and we haven’t the internal energy to give attention to their deepest needs.
  5. Feelings of boredom, melancholy, and depression in response to a growing hopelessness.
  6. We pretend … we live more into our image than our true sense of identity with God.
  7. Our spiritual practices are at best random and replaced by life’s demands so that our spiritual life has a serious lack of enthusiasm and love for Christ.

Some of the things that come easy for me as it relates to life and leadership are making decisions, preaching, reading, exercising.

Here are some of the warning signs I saw in my life during this time:

  1. Katie and I went to a movie theater. On the way there, we debated between 2 movies that started 5 minutes apart, but I couldn’t settle on what I wanted to see. We went into one theater. Over the course of 7 minutes, we changed theaters 5 times. I just couldn’t decide what I wanted to see. About an hour into the movie I got mad that we didn’t go and see the other movie.
  2. I found myself in between services at Revolution hanging out in the back. My desire to talk to people was at an unbelievable low point.
  3. I had little desire to prep my sermons, think ahead.
  4. My vision for Revolution became very cloudy and reactionary instead of proactive. I couldn’t decide what series to preach on and went back and forth multiple times.
  5. Some of my regular practices of exercise slowed down.
  6. I didn’t take a retreat for almost 6 months.

The reality for me right around the first of the year, 2012, was that I was hitting a wall. After 3 years of church planting, running at a fast pace, I was toast.

Does any of this resonate with you? What things have you experienced that are signs you are burning out?

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Burnout Series Part 1: How to Burnout

I preached on rest, rhythm and burnout this past weekend at church and thought I’d share some more thoughts on it this week for my blog readers. You can listen to my sermon here if you missed it.

I remember sitting at conferences when I was in college and seminary and hearing pastors and leaders talk about hitting a wall, being burned out, fatigued and thought, “Wimps.”

Then it happened.

Burning out is like getting into debt or gaining weight. Which means, it doesn’t happen in one day, it doesn’t even seem to come from one place. It is the continuous nature of life. One thing on top of the other, on top of the other. In Adrenal FatigueDr. James Wilson says that all of us do things that energize us and rob energy from us. Burn out and fatigue comes when we do more that robs us of energy than gives energy.

For me, I began my slow crawl into fatigue back in January of 2011. Revolution was growing, but a ton of things were happening behind the scenes. We were in the process of disciplining an elder, which took hundreds of hours in meetings, emails and phone calls. We were merging with another church in Tucson, which meant I would preach on Saturday night and then drive across town on Sunday night, preaching or getting to know this new church. Over the summer, we were training missional community leaders in our home twice a week. All of this began to build and build. The reality is, this is my job. The problem is that I’m an introvert and being around people for an extended period of time tends to drain me, not energize me. I didn’t take account for this reality.

One of the things that I learned recently, or at least jumped out to me in reading through Genesis is that Adam was created at the end of the 6th day. The next day God rested. I think it’s fascinating that God did everything and then created Adam. That Adam’s first day was a day of rest. This communicates so much. It communicates a rhythm that we should live in. Our pursuit of balance, while nice is not biblical (I’ll unpack that later). It also communicates to Adam his importance, or lack thereof, and God’s power and sovereignty.

Simply put, the longer you and I continue living at a fast pace, going, going and going. Doing more than we can handle. Not resting. Not recharging, we will hit a wall. For me, this wall happened in January, 2012.

In researching what happened to me and talking with other leaders, one of the common misconceptions is that burnout simply comes from working too much. While that can easily happen, burnout tends to come from a combination of things. For me, it was the stress of working, not taking a day off, the emotional strain of trying to restore a close friend back to ministry that ended painfully and then not dealing with those emotions, followed by more and more stress and strain physically. All of this continued to build until one day I couldn’t take it any more.

I’ll share tomorrow how you know this is happening to you.

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