Wednesday Morning Mind Dump…

mind dump

  • Had a pretty full weekend.
  • I spent Friday and Saturday up in Phoenix watching one of the guys I workout with compete in a Crossfit competition.
  • Crossfit gets insane when you watch people who are ridiculously strong and good at Crossfit.
  • Blown away at what some people can do.
  • Got to spend the last 2 days in Orange County with the other area leads from Acts 29 West.
  • Love being with them, praying together, strategizing and thinking ahead about how to best plant churches in the western US.
  • Also love hearing what God is doing in places like Alaska and other states.
  • If you are a pastor, you need to make sure you are friends with other pastors.
  • It helps.
  • All of that though has led to me dragging my way through the day.
  • Excited to spend a few nights in a row in my own bed!
  • Been enjoying doing a fantasy league with my boys.
  • I let them fill out teams this year.
  • Their passion for football is a little ridiculous, but awesome at the same time.
  • Tomorrow I start a coaching cohort with 12 pastors in Acts 29 West leading smaller churches.
  • I’m excited to help them take the next step.
  • Speaking of leaders, I’ve gotten a few emails about what we do to develop leaders at Revolution.
  • I’m working on a blog post.
  • We had our early morning leadership group today and had an awesome discussion.
  • Love the different points of view and learning how to engage each other.
  • Conversation and leadership goes hand in hand, but is really difficult if you are a leader, because you think you’re always right.
  • I have my pastors covenant group today.
  • Each month, I meet with 4 older pastors to pray together and support and encourage each other.
  • For me, it is incredibly helpful.
  • I’m grateful for the investment older leaders have made in me.
  • We’re trying an experiment this Sunday at Revolution: Because we have 2 services, we are having 2 different speakers preach on the same passage and topic. Each taking a service.
  • No idea if it will work, but if it does, it’s a great way to get more communicators chances to preach.
  • Well, back at it…

Knowing God, Knowing Love

God

In his book Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality, David Benner says:

Ask Christians what they believe about God, and most will have a good deal to say. However, ask those same people what they know about God from direct personal experience, and most will have much less to say.

Many will speak of knowing that their sins have been forgiven. Some will speak of answers to prayer or a sense of God’s presence. But many will fall strangely silent. Many – even evangelicals, who talk the most about a personal relationship with God – will not have much to say about how they actually experience God in that relationship.

A.W. Tozer notes that most of us who call ourselves Christians do so on the basis of belief more than experience. We have, he argues, “substituted theological ideas for an arresting encounter; we are full of religious notions, but our great weakness is that for our hearts there is no one there.”

Why is it easier to perform for God? To know about God but not actually know God and experience God? Why is it easier to know that God loves you but not experience God’s love for you?

It’s easier to keep score than to actually live in God’s love. It’s easier to grade ourselves on church attendance, Bible reading, memorizing scripture, serving, and giving. Those are easier. Yet we can do all those things and still miss God. (Matthew 7:21 – 23)

If you, like me, struggle to live in God’s love, to know and experience God’s love and for God’s love for you to be the basis of your Christian life, let me give you a challenge.

This week, take some time to sit in silence and meditate on the following passages. Now if you are like me, you will read the Bible with an eye on “getting something out of it.” Who has time for feelings of love and silence?! I know I’m much more comfortable talking about God, debating theology and beliefs, than experiencing God. My hunch is you might be, too. The reason isn’t only because it’s easier to keep score, but also moving closer to God’s love for you will cause you to ask, “What does God think of me when I come to his mind?”

Stop a moment and answer that question: What does God think of you when you come to his mind?

Many will answer that question with disappointment or anger. But is God disappointed or angry with you? Does God feel indifferent towards you? The answer to those questions is no.

So, while you are sitting in silence, read the following passages. Now, don’t read them to learn something. Don’t read them to get some nugget of truth. Read them to let the truth of God’s love for you sink in.

Here they are:

  • Psalm 23, 91, 131
  • Isaiah 43:1 – 4, 49:14 – 16
  • Hosea 11:1 – 4
  • Matthew 10:29 – 31
  • Romans 8:31 – 39

As you do, remember the question: What does God think of you when you come to his mind? What do these verses tell you?

7 Tips for Building Strong Relationships with Children & 6 Other Posts You Should Read this Weekend

leader

Here are 7 posts I came across this week that challenged my thinking or helped me as a leader, pastor, husband and father. I hope they help you too:

  1. Some Thoughts on the Exit of 2 Megachurch Pastors by Carey Nieuwhof
  2. 3 Ways To Double Your Energy In 90 Days (or less) by Brian Jones
  3. 20 Tips to Mastering the Art of Self-Leadership by Paul Sohn
  4. 7 Tips for Building Strong Relationships with Children by Ron Edmondson
  5. 5 Scheduling Mistakes Pastors Make That Hurt Productivity (and how to fix them) by Brian Jones
  6. Breaking Growth Barriers by Tony Morgan
  7. Five Reasons Why Churches Are Dying and Declining Faster Today by Thom Rainer

Are You Giving Your Kids the Right Life?

kids

If you ask any parent, “What do you want for your kids?”, eventually you will hear, “I want them to have the life I never had.” They may not sound like that, but parents want their kids to have everything. Yes, we want them to be smart, courteous, have character, show kindness and generosity, but we want them to have it all.

Does every parent want that?

Almost.

If that’s not you, thanks for reading and you can scroll to the next blog.

But let me ask this question: Are you giving your kids the right life?

Many parents, in an effort to make sure their kids have every opportunity, get the best schooling, play on sports teams and have opportunities for future advancement, go to extreme measures. Parents work long hours or multiple jobs so that they can have the money to pay for all those activities. They run kids from one team, one program, one practice to the next. They push and push so that kids are getting less sleep and growing up faster.

Then you throw this in with what the parents think their kids want for the rest of their lives.

Let me give you an example.

I overheard someone recently talking about their kids and how much both parents were working. This parent said, “My kids are starting to complain that my wife and I aren’t around enough for them because we work too much.” Someone in the group asked, “What did you say?” The parent looked at the group and said, “I told them, ‘You want nice things, don’t you? You want to go on nice vacations and live in the house we have and do the things we do, don’t you?'”

If you can picture the scene, you can imagine the awkward silence that followed.

The answer to that question, if this child answered honestly, would probably be, “Not really.”

I walked away sad for this family but also convicted by this question: Am I giving my kids the life they want, the life they need or the life I think they should have?

It’s a convicting question.

Often I give my kids the life I want them to have. The life that reflects well on me. The life that feels easier or less stressful as a parent.

Not always, but it is easy to fall into.

This is one reason that Katie and I created a family mission statement a few years ago. I detailed the process we went through and what ours is in my book Breathing Room: Stressing Less and Living More.

The problem for parents is, in the hustle and bustle of life, we don’t know the kind of kids we are raising. We have never asked ourselves, “What is the goal of parenting? What will our kids be like when they leave our house?”

Without clarifying that, we end up giving our kids the life everyone else is going for.

But what if that isn’t the life you want for your kids or the life they need?

How to Handle Your Shame

shame

All of us to one degree or another carry around shame. Things we’ve done, things done to us. Things we’ve said, things said to us. Things we wished we had done, and things we wish that others had done. Shame shows up in all kinds of places and in all kinds of people.

What we often overlook is how much shame shapes our identity and our lives. It becomes a driving force in our lives, how we work and how we relate to others and God.

In Future Grace: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God, John Piper says shame comes from three causes:

  1. Guilt. This is the one many of us know well. The addiction, the hidden sin, the abuse we don’t talk about, the affair, the divorce, the poor parenting, our failure at work and in life. We carry around guilt for ourselves and often without thinking, for others. When guilt becomes public knowledge, we have shame. Now we are known for what we have feared.
  2. Shortcomings. Shortcomings and failures are something all of us experience. Some of them are real and others imagined. Some are life shaping, and other shortcomings we simply shrug off. It is the ones that are life shaping that lead to shame. When our frame of mind says, “You are a failure, you aren’t good enough, you aren’t beautiful, strong enough or worthwhile”, we experience shame.
  3. Improprieties. These are the experiences in our life where we feel silly, look stupid or are embarrassed. We make a mistake, and it feels like everyone knows about it.

What do you do with your shame?

According to Romans 10:11, if you are a follower of Jesus, you will not be put to shame.

Yet shame is a driving factor in the lives of so many.

Here are six ways to move forward from your shame:

1. Name your shame. If you don’t name something, it takes ownership of you. This is a crucial step. You must name the hurt, the guilt, the shortcoming, the impropriety, the embarrassment, the abuse, the loss, the misstep, the sin. If you don’t, you stay stuck.

I’ve met countless people who couldn’t say the name of an ex, name the situation of hurt or talk about something. This doesn’t mean that you are a victim or wallow in your pain, but naming something is crucial. Without this first step, the others become difficult to impossible.

The saying, “Whatever we don’t own, owns us”, applies here. This is a crucial, crucial step.

2. Identify the emotions attached to it. Many times when we are hurt, we are an emotional wreck and can’t see a way forward. All we know is that we are hurt, that life isn’t as we’d hoped, but we aren’t sure what to do.

What emotions are attached to your shame? Is it guilt? Loss? Failure? Missed opportunity? Sadness? Hopelessness? Indifference?

Name them.

Name the emotion that goes with your abuse, abandonment, divorce, failed business, dropping out of school, not meeting your expectations or the expectations of someone else.

Often times we feel shame when we have a different emotion attached to it, but shame is far more familiar to us. Do you feel neglected or hurt or sad? What emotion is conjured up from a memory?

3. Confess the sins that are there. Do you always have sin when you feel shameful? No. Sometimes it is misplaced shame. It is shame you have no business owning. You didn’t sin; someone else sinned against you.

Sometimes, though, there is a sin on your part. You may have sinned, and that’s why you feel shame. Sometimes your sin might be holding on to that person or situation.

Sometimes you need to confess that your shame is keeping you from moving forward and keeping you stuck.

Bring those sins to light.

4. Grieve the loss. When we have shame, there is a loss. This loss might be a missed opportunity or missed happiness. It might be bigger than that and be a missed childhood, a loss of your 20’s, a loss of health or job opportunity.

It might be a relationship that will never be, something you can never go back to.

As you think about your shame, what did you lose? What did you miss out on? What did that situation prevent you from doing or experiencing? What hurt do you carry around? What will never be the same because of that situation?

5. Name what you want. This one is new for me, but it has to do with your desires.

Often the reason we stay stuck is because we know what stuck is. We don’t know what the future holds. Beyond that, we don’t know what we actually want.

We carry shame around from a relationship with a father who walked out. Do you want a relationship? Do you want to be in touch?

We carry shame from a failed business. Do you want to get back in the game?

Can you name, in the situation associated with your shame, what you want?

Sadly, many people cannot.

If you can’t name what you want, if you can’t identify a desire, you will struggle to move forward.

6. Identify what God wants you to know about Him. When we carry around shame, we carry around a lie. In identifying that lie, we are identifying the truth that God wants us to know about Him.

If you feel unloved, the truth that God wants you to know is that you are loved. If you feel unwanted, God wants you to know you are wanted. If you feel dirty, God wants you to know the truth that in Him you are clean.

All throughout scripture we are told that God is a Father, that He is as close to us as a mother nursing her child, that God is compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, gracious, tender, strong and for us.

The list goes on and on.

In that list, though, is the truth, the antidote to your shame and what you need to remind yourself of to move forward and live into the freedom of Jesus.

Freedom is hard.

Let’s be honest, freedom is difficult. Living in sin, shame, guilt and regret is easy. It is what we know. It is where most people live and reside.

Freedom is scary. Freedom is unknown. Freedom leaves us vulnerable. Freedom leaves us not in control.

Yet, this is what it means to be a child of God. To live in freedom. Overflowing freedom.

8 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism & 6 Other Posts You Should Read this Weekend

leader

Here are 7 posts I came across this week that challenged my thinking or helped me as a leader, pastor, husband and father. I hope they help you too:

  1. 7 Keys To Help Church People Remember Your Sermon Better by Charles Stone
  2. 20 Quick Tips to Improve Your Productivity by Tim Challies
  3. Preachers, Don’t Trust Yourself by Thabiti Anyabwile
  4. 8 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism by David Murray
  5. Lord, Help me Raise Kids with a Backbone by Michael Kelley
  6. How to Plan a Worship Service with a First Time Guest in Mind by The Rocket Company
  7. On Being Persuasive by Barry York

Thursday Morning Mind Dump…

mind dump

  • Got back late last night from California.
  • Exhausted, but also excited about the things God is doing in my life, in Katie’s life and the ways He is moving in Acts 29 West.
  • First, as soon as church ended Sunday, we headed to Phoenix to fly to LA.
  • Katie and I are going through a 3 year training called The Leaders Journey with Jim Cofield and Rich Blass from Crosspoint Ministries.
  • Their the authors of The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection.
  • The Leaders Journey is a training on leadership health.
  • It deals with connection, attachment, family of origin issues, brokenness in your life and how that hampers your leadership, how to find wholeness in Christ so you can help others find wholeness in Christ.
  • It is incredibly helpful and incredibly exhausting emotionally.
  • Sometimes I feel like the Christian walk is 1 step forward and 2 steps backwards.
  • Meaning, the more I grow closer to Christ, the more light shines on places I still hold on to or sin patterns I want to fall back into.
  • In God’s providence, I’m talking about dealing with shame, guilt and regret this week from Romans 10.
  • I’m blown away by how much those things shape people and how much we won’t let go of them.
  • Even if we want to.
  • One of the things I’m excited about is between now and the next leaders journey session, there are a lot of exercises and readings I’m supposed to do around prayer.
  • Prayer is something I always want to get better at, but always seem to fail at.
  • So I’m excited for that much needed kick in the pants on that.
  • Yesterday, we got to spend the day walking through Acts 29’s new assessment process and being trained to be assessors.
  • I’m really excited for the changes our network is making in this area.
  • I think it will help a lot of potential planters either hold off on planting (never a bad thing) and help those who should plant be more ready for the road ahead.
  • I’m doing a crossfit competition on Saturday at the box we go to.
  • I’ve never actually done one of those before, so we’ll see how it goes.
  • Of course, the first lift has to be a snatch ladder, one of my weakest lifts. Followed by a chipper, so I can redeem myself on that.
  • I’m hopeful that it’s a fun time, regardless.
  • I often get asked what books or podcasts my team is listening to or reading.
  • We’re about to start discussing this book The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals, which I’m really excited for.
  • We’re in the process of finalizing Katie’s tattoo and have the appointments set for October.
  • Can’t wait.
  • I love the story behind it and what it represents in her life.
  • I have one day to wrap up my sermon and after all that travel and being away, I’m excited that tonight is family movie night!
  • Back at it…

The Top 10 Posts of 2016…So Far

Saw this idea on Art Rainer’s blog and had to steal it. What a great way to review the year so far and help catch up new readers. If you’ve been reading my blog and subscribe, thank you. If you are brand new, welcome. Be sure to subscribe to the right so you never miss a post.

Here are the top 10 posts of 2016…so far:

1. 5 Systems Every Church NeedsGrowing churches are not accidental. Yes, Jesus grows His church, but when you look at churches that are growing and healthy, they have a lot of similarities. One of them has to do with the systems they have in place. There are five systems that you need to have in place as a church or church plant to help your church grow and be effective.

2. 5 Books Every Pastor & Church Staff Should Read. Leaders are readers, and teams that have strong leaders read books together. While you can read any number of books together as a team, here are five books that I think every pastor should read and re-read.

3. How to Invite Someone to Church. Inviting someone to church can be intimidating and a weird task. How do you know when you should invite someone? Are there triggers to listen for? This post lays out how to know when to invite someone to church and how to do it.

4. 9 Things I Learned From Preaching About HomosexualityThis past year I preached through the book of Romans, and right off the bat in chapter 1 Paul walks through what has become one of the most controversial conversations in our culture: homosexuality and gay marriage. Preparing for that message was eye opening to me personally and then to my church. I learned a lot, was challenged by it and convicted by it. Before you have a conversation on the topic or preach on it, I’d encourage you to read what I learned.

5. How do I Get my Husband to Lead at Home? This is one of the most common questions that Katie gets from women. The idea of men leading at home can often be a fuzzy goal. Most people aren’t sure what it looks like, or if a husband leads at home, what does a wife do then? This post shows you two reasons why men don’t lead in their homes and three practical steps to encourage them to do so.

6. How to Recover from PreachingPreaching is exhausting and exhilarating. There is nothing like preparing a sermon, being able to share from God’s Word and seeing the Holy Spirit use that time, effort, prayer and preparation. Yet come Monday, many pastors are run down, exhausted and wondering if they can move forward and preach again. This post shares five things I’ve learned on how to recover from preaching.

7. How to NOT Have a Big Day at ChurchEvery pastor would love to have a big day at their church, a day that brings in guests, momentum and energy to the church. Yet many churches sabotage themselves and miss a great opportunity. This post shows you six ways to make sure you do NOT have a big day at your church. Ever.

8. Bill Hybels on “The Lenses of Leadership” from Leadership Summit 2016This post shares highlights from what I think was the best session at this year’s leadership summit.

9. How to Grow as a Leader as Your Church GrowsAs a church grows, so must the leader who leads it. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of church life and find yourself not leading or working on your church, only in it. This post shares five questions for a pastor to ask on a regular basis to make sure they are not only growing as a leader but thinking ahead for their church.

10. How to Stay on the Same Team in Your MarriageIt is easy in the busyness of life to find you and your spouse no longer on the same page. Carting kids around, family gatherings, church, work, hobbies, money, and all of a sudden you and your spouse are running in opposite directions. It happens subtly, and without intentionality a couple won’t get on the same page. This post shares simple ideas to get back on the same page and stay on it.

Here are two bonus posts from 2015 that still get a lot of traffic:

1. 18 Things Every Husband Should Know about His Wife. It is easy for a husband to stop learning about his wife, stop pursuing her and simply exist in his marriage. This post shares 18 things a husband should know, and if you don’t know, these would be great conversation starters on your next date night.

2. 10 Questions You Should Ask Your Spouse RegularlyThis is a post Katie and I shared last year after a relationship series at our church. These questions lead to some very eye opening conversations for a couple and ones that you should return to on a regular basis. Enjoy!

Can You Trust God?

trust

A common question that people ask is, “How do I know I can trust God?”

We talk about how to trust God when life falls apart, when the bottom falls out of a relationship, when we hit hard financial times or we get a phone call we didn’t expect.

What about just trusting God each day, whether things are good or bad?

There are promises all over the Bible about God, His character, what He will do and will not do. But how do you know those are real and will not fail?

That’s the question the apostle Paul is seeking to answer at the beginning of Romans 9.

Trusting in God is a hard thing to do, but when we do, it leads to our joy.

One of the things I often encourage people to do who struggle to trust in God is to ask themselves why they don’t trust God. What keeps you from that? Is it something you think God should have done? Is it because of a past hurt or a relationship that fell apart?

Often without realizing it, we don’t trust God not because of God but because of ourselves.

Once we are able to see why we don’t trust God and what keeps us from taking that step, we are able to deal with that.

It isn’t as simple as “just trusting God more.”

The reality, though, is all of us trust in someone or something in our lives.

We trust in people everyday.

Yet the reverse is true, and we know it to be true.

Misplaced trust does not lead to joy.

One of the things that I find most fascinating about Habakkuk chapter 3 is how Habakkuk reminds himself of how God has moved in the past. He recalls how the nation of Israel began, how God brought the nation of Israel out of slavery in the book of Exodus and gave them the 10 Commandments.

What Habakkuk is doing is reminding himself of how God has moved in the past. Often our struggle is with trusting that God will show up. Habakkuk is showing us, “God worked in the past, so I can trust He will work now and in the future.”

This doesn’t mean that God will work in the same way as the past. It doesn’t mean He will work on our timetable, but we do know He is at work.

You may be in a place where you need to remind yourself of how God has worked in the past of your life. Maybe you need to journal or make a list of things He’s done, prayers He has answered. Maybe you need to determine why you don’t trust God, what is holding you back and how to move forward in that. What things are you placing your trust in that will ultimately let you down and take away your joy instead of giving you joy?

Why Marriage Is Better Than Cohabitation & 6 Other Posts You Should Read this Weekend

leader

Here are 7 posts I came across this week that challenged my thinking or helped me as a leader, pastor, husband and father. I hope they help you too:

  1. 7 Things Pastors Should Do Every Monday by Kevin Lloyd
  2. 7 Characteristics Of Volunteer Leaders Pastors Should Want In Decision-Making Roles by Brian Dodd
  3. 5 Words which Can Keep a Church From Growing by Ron Edmondson
  4. Why Marriage Is Better Than Cohabitation by Tim Challies
  5. What The Movie ‘Sully’ Can Teach Us About Leadership by Forbes
  6. 5 Unique Books That Are Loved by Successful Entrepreneurs by Inc.
  7. 36 Years Of Ministry: One-on-One With Erwin Lutzer