Summer Break!

A little later than usual, but my summer break is here!

My elders are gracious each year to make sure my family and I get some time to rest and recharge. I’ll be posting many of our adventures on Instagram if you want to keep up. For me, it is five weeks away from preaching to work ahead on things for Revolution, rest, play, and recharge.

Be praying for our family and our church as we have some big things we are working on for the fall and 2020!

I often get asked what I’m reading over the summer, so here are a few of the books I’m most excited about (remember leaders, on your vacation, read books that benefit you personally):

No, I won’t read all of these, and I won’t feel bad about it!

In the meantime, here are some of the most recent top posts on my blog to keep you company until I get back:

Healthy Marriage (Katie and I wrote a lot about this topic this year because of doing a marriage series this year)

Healthy Church

Healthy Leadership

Healthy Faith

Being Satisfied Where You Are

Our culture is one that likes new things.

I know I do.

Regularly I talk to people around the same topic: Wishing they were somewhere else.

Not necessarily physically (although sometimes that’s it), but wanting to be somewhere else in life.

I had a season where I was discontent with my life and where I was. I was frustrated at my lack of progress; I started to dislike where I lived, and a friend looked at me and said, “What if you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be? What if where you are right now, with how your life is, this is where God wants you?”

Honestly, I looked at him and said, “If that’s the case, then I don’t like God at the moment.”

But life and where we end up is a battle of contentment.

We often focus on other things, yet I find it interesting in Philippians, that Paul talks about contentment.

Usually, that gets attached to finances (which makes sense), but what if contentment is bigger than that?

What if it covers contentment with your career, house, your body (!), your kids?

What if you are precisely where God wants you to be?

Notice, I didn’t say you would stay there. Sometimes God needs to keep us in certain places and seasons for us to learn things for what is next, but also for others to be prepared for us in what is next.

4 Ways to Destroy Any Relationship

Almost all marriage problems go back to communication. One person not saying what they want/need or the other person is not listening.

What is most interesting to me is how we often struggle to know what we even want in a relationship; what we need from the other person. I know for Katie and me, many times frustration sets in because I either don’t know what I want or need, or sometimes I’m afraid to ask for it because I don’t want to be a burden, but also because I’m worried she might say no.

So, instead of stating a need or desire, we settle for less in a relationship.

Dr. John Gottman, in his excellent book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, says four things destroy relationships. He calls them The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. As I walk through these, listen to which one is your go-to move in relationships, cause you have one.

1. Criticism. Complaint and criticism are different. A complaint is, “I’m frustrated you didn’t put away your clothes last night.” A criticism is, “Why are you so forgetful? I hate having to pick up after you all the time. You don’t care.”

Two words go with criticism: always and never. You always. You never.

Or by asking, “what is wrong with you?”

Why can’t you remember anything? Why can’t I count on you? Why are you always so selfish? What is wrong with you? What is your problem?

When we criticize a child, spouse, or friend, we are demeaning them and elevating ourselves.

What this also brings into the relationship is shame and shame is a powerful tool in relationships.

2. Contempt. The second horseman comes right after criticism and is contempt.

This is a sense of superiority over the other person and comes through as a form of disrespect.

This will show up in cynicism, sarcasm, mocking, eye rolls.

This shows up when it comes to time management, parenting skills, in-laws, handling money, almost any skill that someone thinks they’re better than the other.

According to Gottman, “Studies show this doesn’t just destroy your relationship, but couples that are contemptuous towards each other are more likely to get sick.”

3. Defensiveness. Defensiveness is a way of blaming your spouse, child, or co-worker.

It is saying, “the problem isn’t me; it’s you.”

Things you’ll say are: “why are you picking on me? Everyone is against me? What about all the good things I do? You never appreciate me. There’s no pleasing you.”

Have you ever noticed that the more someone gets defensive in a relationship, the more the other person attacks that person?

This does something else when a problem arises in a relationship. Defensiveness keeps me from having to deal with it. As long as the problem is “out there” or “someone else’s fault,” I don’t have to do anything about it.

4. Stonewalling. This one is powerful in relationships, but not in a good way.

This is when you disengage. You ignore. You walk out of the room while the other person is talking. They don’t respond in a conversation; they are silent.

Stonewalling communicates that you couldn’t care less about the relationship or situation.

Stonewalling is a power move.

While men and women stone wall, studies show men more often do this.

I think for several reasons, but one is that they saw it done growing up, and men are afraid of engaging emotions in relationships.

I’ve learned in our marriage; if I want to hurt Katie deeply, I need to walk out of the room during an argument.

Do you know what they all have in common? This is important and easy to miss.

They are moves to protect ourselves in relationships. They are power moves to get what we want. But they are also how we seek to belong and find intimacy in unhealthy ways.

Friday Five

It’s hard to believe it is summer. I’m a little over a week away from my summer preaching break and excited for some downtime with Katie and the Reich 5, to play, take some naps, explore and read some good books and have some slow days.

So, to help you with your summer travels here is my Friday Five:

Favorite book:

I recently read Tyler Reagin’s book The Life-Giving Leader: Learning to Lead from Your Truest Self. I mentioned Tyler in another Friday Five from a podcast interview I had with him. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book is the parts about listening to your body, understanding what is happening inside of you while working and in relationships. 

I always have a novel going while I read leadership or ministry books, and I just finished Steve Berry’s new one, The Malta ExchangeI love books that involve church history (even if some of it isn’t accurate), I find it fascinating and this book, along with the series, was fantastic.

Favorite podcast:

I love all of Jim  Collins’ books, and when I saw that Tim Ferriss interviewed him, I was so excited, and this podcast episode did not disappoint. So much leadership wisdom packed into it.

The most recent Craig Groeschel leadership podcast on energy management might be his best episode yet. I love this idea and have found it to be right on in my life. This episode is a great listen for any leader (or parent) on how to know when you should do what in your life.

Favorite blog posts:

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on life stages and what happens at each life stage for a man, and it has been incredibly helpful. Helpful to see where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am going. The art of manliness had a great blog post that went with this in terms of anticipation in our lives.

See Yourself Through God’s Love for You

One of my biggest struggles and I don’t think I’m alone in this is experiencing and believing God’s love for me.

And yet…

One of the strongest and clearest messages throughout the Bible is God’s love for us. We are reminded that God doesn’t forget us (even though many of us feel forgotten), that God is close to us (also though He often feels far away), and that not only has He created us in His image but He knows us, and that doesn’t scare Him away (although we always fear that the moment someone truly knows us, they’ll bolt).

And yet, many of us still struggle to believe God loves us.

We believe God loves the world. We believe that through Jesus, God will redeem and restore the world, but we have a hard time placing ourselves in that.

So we run, we hide, we put up fronts, wear masks, beat ourselves up for past mistakes, try to earn God’s love, try to prove ourselves worth God’s love, and all the while God’s love sits there.

Philip Yancey, in his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? shares this story: David Ford, a professor at Cambridge, asked a Catholic priest the most common problem he encountered in twenty years of hearing confession. With no hesitation, the priest replied, “God.” Very few parishioners he meets in confession behave as if God is a God of love, forgiveness, gentleness, and compassion. They see God as someone to cower before, not as someone like Jesus, worthy of our trust. Ford comments, “This is perhaps the hardest truth of any to grasp. Do we wake up every morning amazed that we are loved by God?… Do we allow our day to be shaped by God’s desire to relate to us?”

The problem for many of us is that we read verses about God’s love for the world and us (John 3:16), that Jesus loves us (John 15:9), that God predestined us in love (Ephesians 1:4 – 5), that God sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17), that God loved us first (1 John 4:19), that God draws us to himself (John 6:44). We read Paul saying over 160 times that as a follower of Jesus, we are “in Christ,” and yet we live each day as if God is disappointed in us, indifferent towards us, mildly happy with us or “likes” us.

What if, and I say what if not because it isn’t right but because we wonder if it is.

But what if, all those verses listed above, are about you and God’s love for you?

They are.

In Colossians 3:12, Paul tells us that followers of Jesus are chosen, holy ones, dearly loved.

One of the things all of us long for is to be chosen, to be wanted, to be pursued. 

Many of us have nightmares from the playground of being chosen last for the team. Anything but the last one picked.

Not being asked to prom or the banquet, not being chosen for a scholarship, grant, or job.

Levi Lusko said God didn’t get stuck with you; He chose you.

Holy ones carry the idea that we are set apart, different. For something to be set apart, there is care with that person or thing. To be set apart carries the idea that there is a specific purpose for us, a plan, that’s why it is set apart.

Dearly loved is exactly what it sounds like. Many of us, though read that and wonder. You are dearly loved. Not just loved, dearly loved.

This is the basis for the Christian life, God’s love for you. Not what you do, not what you can do, but what God has done for you.

The most important thing about you is that God loves you.

David Benner said, “Some Christians base their identity on being a sinner. I think they have it wrong – or only half right. You are not simply a sinner; you are a deeply loved sinner. And there is all the difference in the world between the two.”

14 Things I’d Tell my 25 Year Old Self about Marriage

Over the last month, I’ve been sharing things I wish I could tell my 25-year-old self. I’ve already shared what I’d say to myself about leadership and life, so I thought I’d share some thoughts about marriage.

At 25, I had been married for three years, had just graduated from seminary, had already been fired from a job, and had a child.

So a lot had happened, and I still had no idea what I was doing when it came to marriage.

1. Your spouse has hopes and dreams too. I realized in my mid-30’s that our entire marriage and life had become about my dreams and goals. When we first got married, I finished up my masters, we moved for my jobs and kept things moving for my career. This isn’t necessarily wrong; in fact, you have to decide whose career will be the one that provides for your family. What quickly happened was I lost track of Katie’s hopes and dreams. I didn’t ask, and she stopped talking about them.

One day, I realized, I don’t know what Katie’s dreams are for the future. Sure, she probably shared mine (that’s what everyone husband says), but the reality is, she has her own because she is her person.

After apologizing to her, I asked what they were. I always tell people you don’t know the answer to this, even if you think you do.

2. You will hurt your spouse deeply (and they’ll hurt you). I guess I was surprised by how much I could hurt a person. While I had experienced hurt before, there is something different and deeper in marriage. Mainly because of the proximity and how much your spouse knows about you. But there is something else to this; there is a longing of acceptance that I had that I was only mildly aware of when we got married.

3. Getting through things will feel like it is taking all of your efforts, and it will often feel hopeless before it feels better. The high’s in marriage is incredible, but the low’s are lower than I expected. There are moments in a marriage where it feels like getting through the day will take more energy, effort, and grace than you have. This is where our faith has been crucial for us. I’m not sure we would’ve survived otherwise.

Often, what is hard in life and marriage is that when you move towards health and make changes, it gets harder before it gets easier. It is easy to think that because you’ve decided to change something that it should just start working, but it doesn’t. Sometimes it takes years to undo bad habits.

4. Get a counselor. I’ve said this in every post of lessons I’ve learned, but I’ll repeat it. Underneath almost all of your marriage problems are one of three things, and a counselor can help you to navigate those things and figure them out. For Katie and I, seeing a counselor, has helped us to have a wise voice interject to help us navigate different issues and have a common language with which to move forward.

5. Have a weekly date night and get away once a year. No matter what. We are big proponents of this and are blown away by the pushback we get from people on it. Protect your marriage and time together.

Here’s one thing I’ve never heard someone say, “We had too many date nights and getaways as a couple.” Have you heard someone say that? You haven’t, and you won’t.

These moments are invaluable to a healthy marriage. When Katie and I miss date nights, we feel it, and our marriage suffers because of it. These moments communicate with each other, “you matter, I’m thinking of you.”

At 25, we weren’t in this habit at all. Why? You don’t think you need to be because you’re in love and you have more time. Start as soon as you can as a couple.

6. Tell your kids they come after your spouse. This goes with #5 and something I’ve written on before, but make sure your schedule and life reflect that your spouse comes before your kids. You don’t neglect your kids, but your actions should communicate, marriage matters more than parenting.


The goal is for your kids to leave, not your spouse.

7. Understand the impact of your energy level, seasons in life, and know they are essential. In your 20’s, you think you have all the energy in the world. And you do in a way. But slowly, it dissipates. Work, age, health, aging parents, kids, lack of sleep, hormones. And the energy you had for work, life, hobbies, and relationships is lower.

If you aren’t prepared for this, it will run over you like a freight train.

This is why so many men in their late 30’s implode, burnout, cheat, and make terrible decisions. They think they are 23 still.

Couples do this with kids too. They think they have to sign up for everything, run after everything and they get tired.

Take stock regularly about the season of life, parenting, work, and marriage you are in. Understand that what you did in your 20’s isn’t what you’ll do in your 40’s.

Right now, parenting for us takes more energy and time than it did before, and I’ve had to say no to more outside opportunities. One day I might get to say yes to those things.

8. Prioritize friendships as an individual and a couple. I’m an introvert, and so I have to work hard at relationships. Thankfully, I have.

Most men, as they age, have less and fewer friendships.

Don’t do that.

If I sat down with my 25-year-old self, I would tell him, “cherish your friends and build into them.”

9. Help to make your spouse better. When you get married, you think your spouse will fulfill all your dreams and help you reach all your goals by making you better. Most of us don’t believe that we will do that for our spouse.

It’s sad because one of the things that makes a marriage great is seeing your spouse grow, become better, and reach milestones. I love being able to celebrate Katie and see her get better. Selfishly in the early years of our marriage, I didn’t think that way. I wanted her to help me grow, not the other way around.

I hope, when we are old and gray, Katie will be able to say that she is a better person because she spent her life with me. I know I’ll be able to say that of her.

10. Laugh a lot and enjoy each other and your life together. Notice, I didn’t say laugh at each other, but to laugh with each other.

To this day, I’d rather be with Katie than anyone else. I love traveling with her, eating with her, sitting silently with her and listening to her talk.

Find things you both enjoy doing and do those together, but also give space for each other to have hobbies they do without you.

11. Fight for oneness. We tell couples when you fight, and you will fight, fight for oneness. Always push towards being more and more one flesh than two.

12. Be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader. I’ll admit, I was pretty selfish (and still battle it) when we got married, so this has been hard for me sad because I missed some great opportunities to cheer for Katie and lift her.

Cheering for your spouse sometimes will mean that you lose out on your dream simply because of space and capacity. That is okay. Sacrifice is one of the beautiful things about marriage.

13. Never make fun of each other. From the beginning of our marriage, we created rules.

One of them was to never make fun of each other. Ever.

Have you ever watched a couple who nagged at each other or poked fun? The one being made fun of dies a little bit in front of everyone. For us, we strive not to tell stories that make the other person look stupid or silly.

This rule has been a life saver for us.

14. Stay pure and do all you can to have a great sex life. Porn almost destroyed us at the beginning of our marriage, and we’ve watched it destroy countless others. Part of being a student of your spouse as you get older understands their sexuality and what turns them on.

I remember an older guy telling me in my 20’s that if you worked at it, sex only got better in marriage. At 25 I thought he was crazy, but he’s right.

The Story You Tell Yourself [in Christ]

If I were to ask you, how do you see your life? How do you define it?

The answer would be about other people, jobs, finances, hurts, scars, joys, missed opportunities and ones you hit home runs on.

And if we’re honest, most of what we would say would be negative. We would focus on our failures at work how we missed that promotion. We would concentrate on regrets we carry around how we weren’t there for that friend, that child. We would talk about the hurts we carry. The relationship with a father we longed for but never had.

The funny thing about how we define our lives is that we identify them through a negative focus.

I came across this prayer this week, and it jumped off the page at me: O God, help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is.

Slowly, over time, we begin to believe the stories we tell ourselves.

The story that says you aren’t worthwhile, you aren’t loveable, you’ll never measure up, you won’t be enough, you won’t be tall enough, strong enough or smart enough. You won’t make enough; you won’t produce enough.

The story goes on and on.

I think this is why one of the most used phrases in the New Testament is so important.

When you think of church people or Christian speak, you think of the word Christian.

That word is used only three times in the New Testament, but the phrase In Christ is used 165 times.

Rankin Wilbourne said: In Christ tells you a new story about who you are. In Christ means you have been given a new identity. God has called you into a new life, rooted in a history that predates you, anchored in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Here’s why this matters.

We spend our whole lives trying to prove ourselves, trying to find ourselves. In school, we try to find the right crowd to fit into, and that continues as we get through high school, college and into adult life.

Many of us have been abandoned and left by someone, and we wonder if we were worth loving. We wonder if anyone will care for us, not for what we can give them or do for them.

Many of us, in the darkness of the night, would admit that we feel inadequate, we feel like we don’t measure up, we don’t have what it takes. According to many doctors, this is the leading cause of anxiety and depression in our world today: not being enough.

This is why Our focus determines our lives. 

For good and bad. What we focus on determines where we end up. It determines what our lives become. How our relationships go. But, as one person said, what we focus on also determines what we miss.

So, if you focus on negative things all the time. Call yourself a realist, and you miss joy. You miss beauty.

If we focus only on our feelings, we might miss what is happening.

Many of us don’t pay attention to what is going on in our bodies, the feelings, sensations, the pits in our stomach and because of this, we miss some important things that God is telling us.

Being in Christ means we are given a new story, a new path to move forward in.

A few weeks ago, I was at a pastors lunch where they were talking about worship songs. One of the pastors said we needed fewer songs about God’s love for us and more songs about how God is holy, worthy of worship, the justice of God, etc.

Because this was my first time at this lunch, I didn’t say anything, but inside I was falling apart.

No matter what you think about God if I were to ask you, do you believe God is holy? Do you believe God is different from you? Almost everyone I know would say, “if there’s a God, he’s different form me. I might say holy.”


But, if I asked that same person, do you believe God loves you? That God could forgive you for the things you struggle to forgive yourself for? that God likes you and is pursuing you to have a relationship with you so you can be made whole? Almost all of us would say, “I don’t believe that. I might want to believe that, but I struggle to believe that.”

12 Things I’d Tell my 25 Year Old Self about Life

I turned 40 this month, and as I got closer to my birthday, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my life. A lot has happened in my 40 years. I moved across the country, got married, and now have five kids, and we are full on into the teenage years.

In light of turning 40, I wanted to share some things that I would tell my 25-year-old self. The reason? Most of us at 25 think we’re smarter than we are. Thankfully, I had some great people in my life along the way who told me hard things. I have a great wife who has stuck by me through some dark seasons, and I lead a church with a lot of people younger than me that I’d like to help learn from my mistakes instead of repeating them. I’ve already shared what I would tell myself about leadership and will add one on marriage soon.

So, here are 12 things I’d tell my 25-year-old self about life:

1. Prioritize relationships. I’m going to say this in all the posts, but as a man, this is something that gets overlooked. At 25, all I could think about was the goals that I had for my career, finances, and what my future climbing of the ladder would be like.

Because of that, people were more useful for helping me in that climb than actually investing in them as friends with desires and dreams. That’s hard for me to write, but at 25, that’s what I thought.

A switch happened to me in my 30’s, and the richness of my friendships now are evidence of that. I have people in my life who I have been incredibly close with for almost a decade, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

2. Get a counselor. This is a big theme for me because in my mid 30’s I did something that in my church growing up would’ve been frowned on, I went to a counselor. I can’t say how life changing this decision was. To have someone ask probing questions, to push, give advice, to listen. For Katie and I, to learn more about each other on a deeper soul level.

3. Eat healthy, move, and get enough sleep. When I was 25, I was in the worst shape of my life (click here to see all 300 pounds of me at 25) and I was miserable. Sleep was difficult, my self-esteem was at rock bottom, and it had profound adverse effects on my relationships, marriage, and career.

I decided at 28 and that all changed. I lost 130 pounds in 18 months and have never looked back. This year, my goal is to deadlift 500 pounds, squat 400, and bench 300. And I have a great shot at all three of them.

I remember sitting across the table from my brother-in-law at my heaviest, and he asked me, “Josh, how do you talk to others about self-control when you don’t have any in this area?” He was right. I believe a lack of self-control in one area shows a lack of self-control is in other areas. For me, losing that weight was not just life-changing for my body and health, but I became organized and disciplined in every other area of my life.

Don’t wait. It only gets harder.

Men, decide today to start moving, eat well to fuel your body, and get sleep.

At 25, I would stay up late watching movies and playing video games. I would run on 4-6 hours of sleep, and every part of my life was affected negatively. Today, according to my sleep app, I average 8 hours of sleep a night.

4. Know what it’s like to be on the other side of me. I’m a big fan of self-awareness as any reader of this blog knows. If it’s a personality test, I am all over it.

What I failed to understand though was the power of my personality. It is essential to know what you are like, how you are wired, what jobs fit you, etc. What many of us fail to know and understand is what we are like in relationships.

For many people, this one piece of information will help you immensely to move forward and not limit your influence in life and leadership.

5. Energy management is more important than time management. There is a lot of focus on time management, and we think a lot about it. Rightly so. We only have a limited amount of time. The reality as you get older though is that energy management is more critical.

In this way, by the time you hit 40, you will wonder if what you are spending your time and life on is worth spending your time and, life on. You begin to wonder if the things you do are worth doing.

There is nothing worse than feeling like you are wasting your life. It is essential to understand what recharges you, what lights in a fire in you, and what drains you. The longer it takes you to figure this out, the harder it will become later in life.

6. What matters today might not matter tomorrow (or in 10 years). I talked about this in the leadership post, but it applies here as well.

Things in your life that are important right now won’t be in 10 years. The people whose opinion matters so much to you right now, it might not matter in 10 years.

7. Read every day. I began this practice at 22 and have never regretted it.

When I was in seminary, I had to read a book every six days for three years and have tried to keep that pace (although I’ve slowed down for sure).

There is a lot of truth that the person you become in 5 years is determined by the books you read. 

8. Find people further along than you are. Many men struggle to find mentors. They don’t want to be a bother to someone or waste someone’s time. Men also struggle to get something from someone if they feel like they are getting it for free. But to move forward in life, it is better to do so off the wisdom of people who have walked before you.

9. Don’t take yourself so seriously. In your 20’s there is a lot of pressure to grow up and prove yourself. For me, this came out of my story and family narrative. I always had this feeling of not being enough, smart enough, or missing out on things in life. I felt this enormous pressure to prove myself to everyone. The problem is, everyone isn’t paying attention to you as much as you think they are.

And most people aren’t against you and your success, although we focus on the ones who are and give them a louder voice.

10. You won’t be able to outrun your story for much longer. The counselor we go to told me this more than five years ago, and it has stuck with me. He said, “Josh, in your 20’s and 30’s you have the energy to outrun your story. You’re building, driving, accomplishing, starting things. At 40, you won’t have the energy to outrun it anymore.” When he told me that, my first thought was, “I’m not running from anything.” But the more I’ve dug in, I was. We all are. Whether it is a switch of priorities or energy, it is true.

If I were sitting with my 25-year-old self, here’s what I’d want him to know: your 40’s are simply a continuation of your 20’s and 30’s. Whatever work you have done in those decades, you will reap the benefits of your choices financially, career, family, and health. The choices you make in those decades determine what the next few decades are like. I have sat across the table from incredibly successful men who are running from so many things, and they are miserable. I have sat across from men working multiple jobs, not making a lot of money who are filled with such joy. Why? It all goes back to their choices.

For men, your life becomes the sum of your choices. 

We don’t want to admit that, especially when it doesn’t go well or because we don’t want the pressure of it resting on our shoulders, but it is true. And the sooner you realize that, the better.

11. Prioritize your wife. I’ll talk about this more in my post on marriage, but too many husbands don’t prioritize their wife. Notice, I didn’t say your marriage, I said your wife.

I realized early in my 30’s that I had made my marriage all about my dreams and my goals. There was no space for Katie’s hopes and dreams. I had to apologize to her and make some corrections for that to happen. It is easy to make your marriage about one person’s hopes and dreams, but that isn’t what it’s supposed to be.

12. There are things you won’t be able to skip or go around; you will have to go through them. When I turned 25, what I didn’t know at the time was that I was about to move into the hardest two years of my life. That was the season Katie, and I refer to as our desert. I was betrayed by a close friend who was also my boss that led to me losing my job, we had our first child (consequently, the timing of all of our kids has never been ideal), and I found myself filled with a lot of self-doubts as it relates to my gifts and leadership and wondered if I was done being a pastor. At 25!

The reality of life is that you can’t avoid the pain and suffering and trials that come with life. You can run, pretend they aren’t happening as many people do, or you can engage them and walk through them. At our lowest point, Katie looked at me and said, “Will you just learn whatever God is trying to teach you so we can move forward.” God was dealing with my pride, self-sufficiency, and stubbornness.

There is a temptation in life to skip the hard parts. Don’t. There is a temptation to ask God why something is happening, and I understand this, but God wants to develop something in you and to learn to pray in those hard places, “What are you trying to show me” moves us to where God wants us faster than asking why.

10 Things I’d Tell my 25 Year Old Self about Leadership

I turned 40 this month and obviously, I knew this birthday was coming. I had heard from several people that this birthday puts you over the edge, that it makes you depressed and then others told me it was only the beginning of the most significant part of my life.

Over the last year, I’ve tried to spend more time reflecting, processing and thinking about life and what matters most, what I’ve learned, what is happening in me, in my body, etc.

I thought, as part of my birthday month I would share what I would tell my 25-year-old self. In hopes that maybe this will help you learn from some of my many mistakes and a few things, I got right along the way.

I realize this might seem silly because I can’t tell my 25-year-old self anything and I know that at 25, I’m not sure I would’ve listened to all of the advice, but I think it’s still essential.

So, I’m going to take the significant parts of my life and share some insights (in no particular order):

1. What you think is a big deal now, won’t be later. This applies to more than just leadership, as many of these do, but I spent a lot of times in my 20’s, and 30’s worrying about things, stressing, not sleeping, thinking about things that no longer matter. Emails, calls, meetings, and conversations that I stressed about don’t matter anymore. That doesn’t mean you stop caring, but it helps to keep things in perspective. Just like, most of the people you hung out with in high school, you have no idea where they are.

2. Focus on friendships over tasks and results. As an introvert and Enneagram 8, I am a task and results motivated. It is how I measure things and find fulfillment in life. So I’ve had to work at prioritizing relationships with those around me. Letting people in and moving closer to them in friendships. I’ve had to learn how to turn work off, not talk about the next thing and not read a book about ministry. In your 20’s, you think you have all kinds of time for friendships, but the older you get (and the more kids you have), the harder this becomes.

3. Those friendships will lead to some of your deepest scars but also your most life-giving moments. My darkest and hardest moments as a leader have been at the hands of other people. Having staff members or elders betray me, decide to leave to plant their church and take people with them, being blamed for things I didn’t do. It hurts. And if you sign up for leadership, you sign up for this as well. If you’re a pastor, when you put someone in the role of elder, you are placing yourself, your church and your family in their care and they may not do a good job or hurt you (intentionally or not).

Those friendships will also be life-giving, to you and your spouse.

This was seen clearly for me the other night. Katie and I had a dinner party for our birthday’s, and it was amazing sitting outside with friends from work and our gym. We laughed until it hurt, ate great food and just enjoyed each other. Much of that came from deciding that it doesn’t have to be lonely as a leader.

4. Remember that you will retire from your job one day, so don’t take yourself so seriously. This is hard for pastors because being a pastor is a calling, but it is also a job. So, it is both (so don’t @ me). You will retire from your job one day (or be fired). So plan accordingly. Work accordingly. Think for the future. What comes after retirement, how you will live, etc. Don’t wait to get your financial house in order.

5. Your wife has one husband, and your kids have one father, but the people who follow you can find another leader, and another church. If you’ve been a pastor for any length of time, you have had people leave your church. It is usually surprising who goes and why they leave. The people who have left our church over the years were often ones I didn’t expect and for reasons that sometimes made me fall out of a chair.

One of our goals, when we started our church, was that our kids would experience life as healthy as possible. I asked our teenage daughter the other day if it was weird being a pastors kid. She looked at me and said, “No, is it supposed to be?” Honestly, that was one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever said to me.

I want my kids to love (that might be a strong word), but at least not hate, that I was a pastor. I want my wife to enjoy the church she attends because I’m the pastor of that church. What an honor if you can retire from your church and your family can say they loved being a part of it.

6. Prioritize your inner world. This goes well with #1, but in my 20’s and early 30’s, I was an unhealthy leader. I love to control things, and that reared its head in some ways that were damaging to me and those around me. My team was gracious as I grew and continue to grow.

What helped me the most? Understanding how I’m wired, and learning what it is like to be on the other side of me in a relationship.

We tell couples this, but the same applies to pastors: deal with your junk as fast as possible. Work through the hurt you’ve experienced in life, walk through it, not around it. And yes, you should probably get a counselor. A counselor for Katie and I have been incredibly helpful.

7. Prioritize sleep. Sleep is a secret weapon that we are losing in our culture. But decide today, to sleep as close to 8 hours as possible. If you can, don’t set the alarm and wake up when your body wakes up. Yes, you should still work all your hours and get your job done.

There are seasons where sleep is harder when kids walk in your room at midnight and wake you up. People laugh at us when we tell them that we only watch 4-5 shows at a time and have to take one away if we add a new one. Part of that is, so we get enough sleep. The studies on this are enormous now, so don’t miss it.

8. Prioritize fun. You might be good at fun, but it doesn’t come naturally for me. I have to think through it. I’m often too serious about everything. Make sure you have hobbies as a leader, that you have fun with your team, that you take all your vacation and that you laugh, a lot.

9. Don’t underestimate what you can accomplish in your life. It is easy to look at other more “successful” leaders and feel like you aren’t making any impact. If you look at your life, the people who made an impact on you were faithful, and they stuck around. They made an impact on your life when maybe no one else saw. I can point to key men and women who changed my life, and very few people know their names. If you make a list of those people, I’d encourage you to tell them.

But as you look at your life, don’t give up if you think you aren’t making an impact.

10. Your most significant influence and impact will come much later in your life than you expect. I heard Ravi Zacharias that your most significant impact as a leader comes in your 60’s and 70’s. It has been interesting for me to watch leaders like Tim Keller whose influence has only grown as he’s gotten older.

In your 30’s, you wonder if you missed it or if you’re too late to the party. You aren’t. Your influence and success will look different than you expected it to look.

How to Know You’re Growing and Changing

One of the questions I wrestle with personally or talk with others about is around the question: Am I really growing? Am I changing? Am I on the right path? If we don’t know or aren’t careful, we’ll give up before we should.

It can feel like you are, but then you look at your life and wonder if you are.

It’s like going to the gym, eating healthy, but the scale stays the same, and you don’t see many changes day to day, but over a more extended period, you begin to see it.

If you don’t stay focused on this longer-term picture, it can feel deflating, and you give up.

But how do you know if you’re on the right track?

Recently, I started a new sermon series on the power of your mind when it comes to change. Too often, we focus on changing behaviors, but the reality is our brain is incredibly powerful when it comes to change.

But in that series, I shared from Colossians 1, four ways to know you are on the right path of growth:

1. You can see it. This might seem obvious, but it isn’t always. The Bible calls this fruit, bearing fruit, the evidence of change. Often, we can see fruit in other people but struggle to see it in ourselves.

The test of faith and change is whether or not it makes any difference in how we live and treat others.

Have we changed? Can you see that your life is different, even in small ways?

For most of us, we want the result now, and that is when we’ll celebrate. We’ll mark when our marriage is fixed, or we hit that goal we were after. But to get to that place, we have to celebrate the small steps along the way, the 1% changes we experience and walk through daily.

2. Growing in knowledge of God. Knowledge is not just the ability to retain information or know something. Everyone in America knows how to lose weight: eat less, move more. Growing in knowledge is the ability to apply what you know.

In most places in the New Testament, faith is discussed in terms of belief in Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection.

In Colossians, faith is not just a belief in Jesus but also a faith in the power of God.

N.T. Wright said, To believe that God raised Jesus from the dead is to believe in the God who raises the dead. Such faith not merely assents to a fact about Jesus; it recognizes a truth about God.

Change comes from placing our hope in the God who has the power to raise Jesus from the dead.

3. Being strengthened with God’s power for endurance and patience. We need perseverance and patience when it comes to change because God doesn’t tell us he will take us out of difficult situations or steps, only that he will be with us. We will not be alone.

Hope in the power of God means that we have freedom from bitterness, anger, resentment, self-pity, and hopelessness.

Why? Because sometimes change will take us through our greatest fears.

What if the road that will take you where you need to go is filled with potholes, steps backward and will feel like an uphill climb both ways?

The reality of change that we rarely like to admit or talk about is that it almost always gets harder before it gets easier; it goes down before it goes up. I remember when I weighed 300 pounds and wanted to lose weight. At first, I cut out soda and lost weight. Like 10 pounds in a couple of weeks immediately. Then I put some on. Then it got harder because cutting out soda is one thing, changing portion sizes, not snacking, not having two helpings, that’s harder. Then I had to confront, why was I overweight? What did I look to food for? We can find reasons to make a change and keep it for an hour, for a day. It is when it becomes days, weeks and months that the change gets harder.

Any change will involve endurance and patience. It will not happen as quickly as we like or even the way we expected it to. While different, endurance and patience both carry this idea of not giving up, pushing forward.

You see this when a couple goes in for counseling. They want to see some change right now. But the reality is that they spent years living and interacting in unhealthy ways. That doesn’t switch overnight. Their minds and hearts towards their spouse think one way, and they are having to rewire their brains and work from new patterns of thinking.

4. Gratitude. This one is the most surprising. Gratitude matters because gratitude is a choice you make. It is not a feeling as much as a decision that a feeling follows.

We tell our kids to say thank you. Why? We are helping them to choose gratitude.

Gratitude is a choice. It is a choice to embrace all of life, the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, all of it as a gift.

Gratitude in the small changes you see in your life and how things are changing and moving forward.

Gratitude helps us to see life in new ways and rewire our hearts and minds. The writers of Scripture knew this. Science knows this. It’s time we apply this simple tool.

How does that work?

Just by it writing down, telling a friend, acknowledging the progress you have made.