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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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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Women and the Cycle of Defeat

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

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

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

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

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

That’s what the Holy Spirit does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is important to keep in mind.

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

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Monday Morning Mind Dump… [Lunch Edition]

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  • The past 3 weeks have been a growing time for me personally as a husband and father, but also as a pastor
  • I’ve really enjoyed preaching specifically to women in our Beautiful series
  • I tweeted out that all pastors should do a series for women, if only to learn more clearly the struggles the women in their church go through
  • It created some great conversations in our missional communities
  • The response from women about the conversations they are having with their spouse or the things they are wrestling through personally has been overwhelming
  • Definitely what we prayed this series would do
  • If you missed yesterday as I walked through Proverbs 31, you can listen to it here
  • Paul and I spent a day last week learning about taking Revolution to multiple sites
  • So excited for the future of church planting at Revolution
  • What was once just wishful thinking 5 years ago (having more than one Revolution Church) is getting closer to a reality
  • So excited for Fight to kick off this week
  • Seriously, if you have been wanting to invite a guy to church, this is the week to do it
  • I took Gavin to a U of A basketball game last night
  • Such a fun daddy date
  • He couldn’t get over how cool it was
  • One of the things I love about this time of year is being able to watch the Olympics with the kids
  • They are so intense
  • Pretty excited because we are celebrating a birthday in our house today and going to see The Lego Movie
  • Heard great reviews about it
  • Speaking of movies
  • Katie and I went to see Lone Survivor on Friday night
  • Wow
  • So moving
  • I was simply astounded by the courage of those men and others like them
  • Seriously, you need to see it
  • We are beginning the process of looking for a full-time children’s pastor at Revolution Church
  • This is such an important hire for our church
  • Planet Rev is exploding and I’m excited for this person to help take it to a new level
  • Last week, Katie and I spoke at MOPS about how to communicate and fight well
  • It was great to interact with that group of women and help to push some of their thinking
  • It was also incredible sad talking to many of them afterward and hearing story after story of brokenness in their own life, their husband or their marriage
  • Heartbreaking
  • All I could think of was, “Why don’t their pastors challenge their husbands more?”
  • It was a good reminder to me of one of the many things that are at stake every week at Revolution when I preach
  • The ripple effects of brokenness go for generations
  • Sorry to end this on a sad note
  • I need to do some lunchtime “Murph” in honor of Lone Survivor
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A Wife Worth Finding, A Woman Worth Being

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Beautiful is a word we’ve been talking about for 2 weeks now.

But what does it actually mean to be beautiful?

What does it look like to be a woman worth marrying, a daughter worth raising and a woman worth being?

That’s what we’ll be looking at this week as we wrap up our series Beautiful, we will look at Proverbs 31:10 – 31 and see the picture of a woman who in the eyes of God, is the goal of all women.

For single guys, these verses give you a picture of what you are looking for in a wife. For parents, these verses show you what kind of daughter you are to raise and what kind of woman you are to help your son find. For women, this is a picture of what God calls you to be and has designed you to become over the course of your life.

This is a talk that hits everyone in our church and is incredibly relevant in a culture that has no idea what a beautiful woman is like or what it means to find a wife worth finding. Because of that, it’s a great week to be at Revolution and bring someone with you. 

Don’t forget as well, we are one week away from kicking off our man series Fight

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

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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.

book

Aaron Armstrong on Encourage your pastor, be fruitful.

How do you encourage your pastor? In some ways, the answer seems obvious. We know we should pray for them (and hopefully we do). We know we should thank them. We know we should find ways to help them (all ideas I’ve discussed here). But there’s another way we can do this—simply, by being fruitful.

Marlena Graves on Raising Christians kids in a sex filled culture.

I believe the porn pandemic and other forms of illicit sex are really a result of our failure to love God and our neighbors. Consequently, we cannot merely fixate on “Don’t do this, don’t do that” instruction or on isolating our children. They need to know deep down why we do what we do or don’t do.

Tim Challies on Stopping an affair before it begins.

At one time or another, most of us witnessed the devastation that comes through infidelity in marriage. We have seen marriages stretched almost to the breaking point and we have seen marriages destroyed by an unfaithful husband or unfaithful wife. Affairs do not begin with sex. Falling into bed with a man who is not your husband or a woman who is not your wife is simply one step in a long chain of events, one decision in a long series of poor decisions.

10 Ways to leverage Christmas to reach unchurched people.

So…how are you leveraging Christmas to reach unchurched people? After all, there is really only one time of year left in Western culture when our culture still celebrates something Christians hold dear, and that’s Christmas. What surprising is that many churches don’t really leverage it to make the impact it could.

David Murrow on How to preach to men.

It’s been said that a good sermon is like a good skirt: long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep you interested.

Thom Rainer on 6 pastoral lessons from the coach of a football team that never punts.

The joy, work and beauty of motherhood.

Cheap Kindle Books 8.27.13

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Here are some cheap kindle books. Not sure how long they’ll stay that way:

I Can’t Compete With Your Perfectly Coiffed Hair & other Perfections

Recently, I have been asked how I do all that I do. My response is that I probably do not do all that you think I do. At this writing I have clean laundry piled in the playroom and there is toothpaste spattered all over my kid’s bathroom mirror. (As a friend said, you really should wonder if your kid’s bathroom is not dirty, it means they are not using it.)

As a mom, wife – heck as a woman, I feel competition everyday. Are my kids as gifted, attractive, athletic and well-rounded as the kids in their class or down the street? Am I the best wife, with the best recipes, and the best hair that I can possibly be? Are my jeans fitting a little too tight today because of that extra brownie last night and was my mom right, does everyone one I meet actually like me?

I can drive myself crazy before my foot hits the floor in the morning, and this is all before coffee!

After reminding myself that my approval is already complete in Christ, and my identity is not derived from what others around me think about me, I drink my morning coffee.

And I am reminded about the beauty of the church and how diversity is good, but it usually feels like a competition.

How about we all agree to be good at what we are gifted at and leave the rest to someone else. Let’s celebrate the strengths in those around us and encourage each other in our weaknesses, instead of allowing it to be fodder for gossip.

You are not suppose to do all that I do. You are suppose to do all that YOU are wired to do.

Modesty of the Heart (Some More Thoughts from Saturday Night)

I preached on “A Good Woman” on Saturday night. While I heard from many women as to the content and not expecting me to talk on modesty of the heart (most women when they come to church and hear a sermon on womanhood are expecting to hear a sermon on submission). Since we’ve preached on that topic before, I felt like I wanted to go in a different direction. We will hit some more topics pertaining to biblical womanhood this fall when we preach through Titus and in March when we preach through 1 & 2 Peter. What was surprising was hearing from a couple of guys who felt I let women off the hook “after punching them in the throat” the week before.

Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order:

First, I find that if a man lives out what God calls him to, often his wife will live out what God calls her to. She responds in amazing ways. Often, her response of not wanting to follow a husband’s leadership, while it can come from a place of sin in her life, it most often comes from a lack of leadership on his part. The most alive, passionate, Christ centered women I know tend to be married to a man who gets biblical manhood.

Second, men and women are different. They respond differently and live out different roles. We tend to push really hard on men, throwing down so to speak and we try to be gentler with women. If the hammer is going to come down on someone in a sermon, I’d rather it be the men. Men also respond to that kind of straight forward talk.

Third, any man who thinks women got off easy Saturday night in terms of modesty, humility, restraint, self control and not pushing to be the center of attention, either did not listen or have no idea what women actually just got called to. One of the thing I heard from woman after woman is how hard it is to live a life that has a heart of not wanting to be first, the center of attention, seeking the approval of someone or the jealousy of another.

One woman actually summed up beautifully for me when she said, “If you can get this, submission and having the heart of a woman the way God designed you is easier. This is actually at the heart of everything that it means to be a woman of God.”

Fourth, I really wanted to do a sermon on womanhood that was larger than being a wife and responding to your husband. As our population of being who aren’t married continues to grow at Revolution, I want to make sure we are speaking to them as well. From a scheduling perspective, knowing we will speak more clearly to wives on several occasions over the next year, it was an easy switch in this series.

Fifth, I wanted to keep women guessing. Women come expecting to hear a certain message, when it doesn’t happen, my hope was that they would be interested to hear what I had to say.

Sixth, I had a submission message planned and God changed that late Friday night, early Saturday morning.

Our hope through this series has been to call men and women to a larger vision than what they have for themselves and for their marriages. I am loving the feedback I am getting from couples and individuals as they go through the 30 day intimacy challenge and how God is stretching them over this series. It is definitely hitting its mark.

Sunday Afternoon Mind Dump…

  • This series has blown me away
  • Every week, there are more and more people there and God is moving in some powerful ways
  • Last night during our circle up time to pray for the gathering was one of the most powerful prayer times we’ve ever had
  • Flowed right into the night
  • I had a different sermon planned for last night, but Friday night really felt like I needed to switch the passage and topic and that feeling got stronger Saturday morning
  • So, I tossed out my sermon, started over and ended up preaching on the heart of a woman and how that heart is seen in how she dresses, carries herself, looks at herself and what she encourages others to think about her
  • Preaching on biblical womanhood is nerve wracking enough, and a topic filled with mine fields but it was awesome to see how God used it
  • You could feel a pin drop last night, it was that intense
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here
  • We also had our vision night on Thursday night where I was able to lay out what God has been doing behind the scenes at Revolution over the last 12-15 months and what lays ahead for us
  • So glad to finally be going public with our plans to transition and orient our church around missional communities
  • This is not a program change, this changes how we do everything as a church and I couldn’t be more excited
  • The buzz around this has been awesome
  • We will be announcing MC leaders, where they will be meeting, etc. in our next series
  • For now, if you missed Thursday, you can listen to it here
  • Really excited about our last round of community dinners this week
  • It has been so cool doing these over the summer and helping people begin to get a taste of the family identity
  • Excited about what lays ahead for our church and what God is doing
  • Humbled by the people he is sending to Revolution and what God is doing in their lives and that we get to be a part of it
  • You definitely don’t want to miss this week as we continue “The Vow” and talk about how our past messes up our future, it is one of things many people and couples miss and never deal with:  their past
  • It promises to be an eye opening night