Tuesday Morning Mind Dump…

  • It was so great after 6 weeks off from preaching to be back on Sunday.
  • The buzz and excitement in our church right now is so obvious.
  • With the addition of Derek to our staff team, REVcommunities launching soon, school is back in session.
  • It’s a good season.
  • I told someone recently that it feels like our flywheel as a church is picking up speed, which feels nice.
  • I got to share some celebrations on Sunday from what God did over the last 6 weeks in our church: In the last 6 weeks we’ve had 42 first time guests, 23 3rd time guests, 216 next steps taken in sermons, 7 first serves and 19 first time givers.
  • And we had someone take the step of following Jesus on Sunday.
  • That never gets old.
  • If you missed Sunday as I kicked our series The Bibleyou can watch it here.
  • And if you’re struggling with reading the bible, here are some questions to help you.
  • And if you’re looking for more resources on the bible, here you go.
  • This Sunday I’m unpacking the story of the Bible, what is the Bible about.
  • If you miss what something is trying to tell you, you will end up lost.
  • I think this one thing causes more frustration for Christians and confusion for people when they come to the Bible.
  • Our daughter is going into 7th grade, which is a big deal in the way that we school our kids. Things begin to pick up and change for her.
  • Which is exciting and scary at the same time.
  • Crazy to think she is in 7th grade and will be 12 next week.
  • Every year I meet with a group of guys in our church to focus on leadership and help them grow as leaders, personally, at work and in their family.
  • This year, I might do 2 groups, but the exciting thing is that I switched up what we’ll cover and how we’ll do things.
  • Can’t wait to try it out.
  • I find that when I try to pass on things I’ve learned to younger leaders, I grow a ton by their questions, push backs and searching.
  • As much I have loved my big green egg, I haven’t smoked anything yet.
  • Well, that changes this week.
  • Wednesday I’m smoking a pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon.
  • Then, on Friday, I’m going to smoke a pork shoulder for over 8 hours.
  • I’m trying it out on some of our oldest friends so if it tanks, pizza won’t be a huge disappointment.
  • So excited to try it out.
  • Last week I got to speak to 2 different groups outside of Revolution.
  • On Thursday I was on base talking to a group of non-commissioned officers about work/life balance.
  • On Saturday I got to talk to a group of parents about how to become an intentional family.
  • Tons of fun and lots of great questions.
  • Then, Saturday afternoon we intentionally avoided the heat and rain and went to see Despicable Me 3. 
  • If you haven’t seen it, it is exactly what you expect it to be.
  • Good times for sure.
  • I love that my kids love movie trailers before the movie as much as I do.
  • Well, back to it…

Making Time for Your Marriage

The other day a friend asked me, “How do you make time to work on your marriage?”

Every couple struggles with this.

You have a job, hobbies, kids (maybe), and all of them are vying for your time.

The reality.

You make time for whatever matters most.

Let’s be honest. You might think you don’t have time to date your spouse or work on the latest issue in your marriage.

But you do.

I told my friend, “Whatever matters most to you, you will make time for it.”

If you don’t make time for your marriage, it doesn’t matter to you.

I know that sounds harsh.

But you have time for fantasy sports, hiking, cards with the guys, your kids’ sports. Are those bad? No, but they matter less than your marriage.

If working on your marriage matters, you will make time at 6am or 9pm.

Anyone who tells you they don’t have time for their marriage is lying.

They don’t care enough about it to make the time for it.

Tuesday Morning Mind Dump…

  • After 6 weeks away from preaching, it feels nice to be writing a sermon.
  • It was nice the last 2 weeks just being at Revolution and not preaching. So good for the soul.
  • I love summer for the vacation, the down time, but also the reading time.
  • Here are some of my favorites from the summer.
  • I can’t wait to kick off The Bible this Sunday and spend the next 3 weeks answering common questions about the bible.
  • I can’t say enough, how much the last 6 weeks off from preaching have meant and how helpful they have been.
  • Pastors, you need to take time off in the summer.
  • It doesn’t have to be 6 weeks, but you can’t have a sustainable rhythm and last in ministry if you preach 48 or 50 times a year.
  • I know because I tried to do it the first 3 years of our church.
  • It was great to see how much Joe and Erik have grown as communicators as they got the chance to preach while I was away.
  • But I’m excited about spending the next 10 weeks preaching again.
  • 10 weeks is my limit right now for how many times I’ll preach in a row.
  • That’s another thing a pastor and his elder team should figure out, what keeps a pastor fresh. For you it might be 6 or 12.
  • After we do The Bible series we’re going to spend most of the fall walking through 1, 2 and 3 John.
  • We had our newcomers lunch yesterday and it was packed.
  • Blown away that we have grown over the summer.
  • Always amazes me.
  • Speaking of growth, I am so excited about the addition of Derek to our team.
  • He spent his first 4 weeks working while I was away, but the last 2 weeks working with him have been incredible.
  • Someone texted me while I was away and said, “Derek is exactly what our church needed” and I couldn’t agree more.
  • His gifts and personality are a perfect fit for what we needed and God’s timing in it has been cool to watch.
  • I’m in the middle of book 4 of the Harry Potter series with our kids.
  • We took a break from Lord of the Rings after The Two Towers to read this and it’s been fun.
  • The writing it so simple and the storytelling captures you.
  • I’ve been asked how our kids are handling it. Our kids haven’t seen the movies so their imaginations are driving what they see (which I think makes a big deal).
  • The conversations we’ve had about witches, wizards and spells have been great too.
  • I’m speaking Thursday afternoon on base to a group of young leaders in the Air Force about purpose and mission.
  • I’m getting more and more chances to speak on base and I love the time with them.
  • Then Saturday morning I’m speaking at Vail Family University on how to build an intentional family.
  • If you’re there, come say hi.
  • Lots happening, so back to it…

“But, I Worry about Everything.”

All of us worry.

About everything.

We worry about our kids, our spouse, our friendships. We worry about our parents’ health, our kids’ health, our spouse’s health, our friends’ health, our health. We worry about finances, education, job prospects, making ends meet. We worry about conversations we’re going to have, conversations we’ve had and conversations we only imagine having.

We worry when we get into a car, when we take a walk, go to the gym, when we get on a plane, train or boat.

We worry.

We worry in the woods, in a cabin, an apartment or at a beach house.

Around every corner is disaster and calamity.

Some of us worry more than others.

The other day I was talking to someone and he told me, “But I’m anxious. I was born this way. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

As we talked, he had a lot of anxiety. Much of it was about real things, but some of it was about imagined things, things that had not happened.

Most of our anxiety is about imagined things. Yes, we worry about things that are actually happening, but the conversation we’re worrying about having we haven’t had yet. Our kids haven’t walked through all of life that we have imagined for them yet, but we still worry.

As my friend and I talked, I asked him about some of the promises of God, like Jesus telling us in Matthew 6:25 to not be anxious about your life, or Paul telling us in Philippians 4:6 to not be anxious about anything.

He shook his head and said, “But this is how I am. What am I supposed to do?”

The reality is, he is a worrier, about everything. That is his tendency.

So I asked him, “What is a sin, something in the Bible that we’re told not to do, that you don’t struggle with?”

Once he told me, I asked, “What if I told you people think they are just that way in the same way you think you are anxious and that’s who you are?”

All of us have some kind of tendency.

Some of us are more prone to struggle with sexual sin, greed, being stingy, being a workaholic, being dependent or isolating ourselves in relationships. We don’t struggle with all those things.

The reason I know is because some of you read that last sentence and thought, “I don’t struggle with that.”

The point is, just because you struggle with something doesn’t mean you get a pass or you can disregard a verse about that or think that you can’t change that in your life. Jesus can.

 

Links for Leaders 7/14/17

It’s the weekend. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Here are 4 articles I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

Every leader is busy but we don’t often realize what our busyness does to us and our churches. Here’s a great list from Carey Nieuwof of what busyness does to a leader and how it holds a church back. #2 is especially relevant to pastors I think.

Do you get enough sleep? The answer for most of us is no. But what are you supposed to do? Charles Stone has a simple test to gauge your sleep and some really practical tips to get your sleep back on track.

Do you want to be a part of a healthy team? Are you on a healthy team? Ron Edmondson lists out 10 phrases to help you answer those questions. 

If you have a middle schooler, you can relate to this list from Kristin Ivy: 34 reasons your middle schooler is freaking out.

7 Ideas to Help Your Kids Grow Spiritually

How do you help your kids grow spiritually?

As our kids have gotten older, this is a question Katie and I get on a regular basis. It is one we’ve gotten right in certain seasons, and in others we’ve wandered around lost. Sometimes things that we do work really well, and other times they fall apart.

Here are seven ideas for you as a parent to help your kids grow spiritually:

1. Model your spiritual life to them. The reality of anything related to parenting is that you pass on what you do. If you want to pass anything on to your kids spiritually, you must model it for them. They will watch you for 18+ years. They will see you read your Bible (or not), how often you pray and what your prayers contain (so much is taught in this), how often you attend church and how important spiritual things are to you.

2. Involve them in a church. Just like the first one, they will often do what you do. So do what you’d like to see them do.

What if they don’t like church? Many parents will talk about how their kids don’t like to attend church, attend a worship service or something else. Many times I’ll hear parents say, “I don’t want to force spiritual things onto my kids.” This is often from a place of fear as a parent because you don’t know what to do, but also the fear that your kids will reject it and want nothing to do with Christianity. The problem with this is that we don’t apply this to anything else. We force our kids to do math, learn a language, eat broccoli, turn off their electronics and take a nap, often when they hate every moment of it.

If you don’t involve them in a church, when do you think they will learn that? If they don’t understand an aspect of a worship service, explain it to them. If you don’t know what to tell them, do some research together.

I think it’s important as often as possible for kids and students to be involved in small groups, serving in a church and attending the worship service in a church. Is every kid different? Yes. Should you force your kids to do something they dislike? Sometimes.

Our kids take out the trash and dislike it, but they still do it. I don’t think they’ll be scarred as adults because of that.

3. Read the Bible together. Part of why kids dislike church is they don’t understand the relevance of the Bible and the things that happen at church. It is something their parents do, apart from them. So do it with them.

I know this is difficult, and they don’t always want to sit still, but doing something is better than nothing.

For our family, we’ve tried things like the Jesus Storybook Bible when the kids were younger to using a catechism now so we have a question each week we are working through as a family. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something.

4. Read books to them. One of the things you can do is read books to your kids and discuss the spiritual themes in them. Whenever we watch a movie, we always talk about how it is like the one true story we see in Scripture. What are the themes and how do those themes influence us?

5. Listen to their questions. This might be one of the most overlooked aspects of your kids’ spiritual life because it is out of your control as a parent and doesn’t come on a schedule. But your kids have questions, and when they ask them, engage them. Don’t shoo them away or scold them for asking a question. If they are skeptical or have doubts, talk with them.

This is an incredibly powerful message you are sending them as their parent. You are telling them it is okay to ask questions, to wonder about something, to be unsure.

If you don’t know the answer, tell them and then study it together.

Ask them why they are curious about that. This engages their life. Is it in a book, a show, from a friend? This is an important window into their world.

6. Interact with their friends and talk with your kids about how to pick friends. Don’t sit on the sidelines when it comes to their friends.

You have an enormous impact on their spiritual lives, but so do their friends. Be involved in that.

7. Pray for them. If you’re a follower of Jesus you know this, but it is easy to overlook the power in it.

If you aren’t praying for your kids, who do you think is?

Pray for them. Pray with them. Ask them what you can pray for, even if they say nothing, which will often happen as they get older.

Are these sure fire ways to make sure your kids grow spiritually? No.

There isn’t a sure fire answer to almost anything in parenting, but parenting is about involvement and trying and faith. Lots of it.

8 Questions to Ask Before You Preach a Sermon

Preaching is hard work, but it is joyous work. Ask anyone who preaches on a regular basis and you will find someone who loves the process of preaching, prepping a sermon, thinking through a series creatively and then standing up to communicate God’s Word to a group of people. It is an awesome task and responsibility.

In light of that, here are eight questions you should ask yourself before getting up to preach a sermon:

1. Have I studied enough? It is easy to study too much for a sermon, but it is equally easy to study too little. So much happens in a week; so much has to happen. Life happens for you personally as a pastor and in the life of your church. There are meetings, appointments and opportunities that call for your attention. Then there are all the ways you can waste time as a pastor.

You should never step up to preach until you are prepared. This means you will sacrifice some opportunities to give enough time to the task of preaching. How much time that takes and when that happens will depend on the person, the series, the church size and ability. You should not step up to preach and be unprepared. There are weeks you will feel inadequate. In fact, that will be most weeks, but unprepared should not be what you feel.

Yes, you could always study more. You could tweak more. Many times you need to stop studying and spend time with people or take a nap. Pastors are notorious for overdoing it in sermon prep.

2. Have I prayed enough? Have you confessed your sins, prepared your heart to preach, prayed through your notes and for the people who will be there? Have you asked God to move on your behalf? Don’t just ask for a crowd. God is interested more in movement than a crowd (I believe).

3. Do I care about this topic? You won’t feel passionate about every topic to the same degree. Some will come easily, some will be your soap box topics and sometimes you will preach a passage because it is the next thing in the book of the Bible you are preaching through. Sometimes you will preach on a topic because your church needs to hear it.

Another way to think about this is, do I care enough about the people in my church to tell them what they need to hear this week? Not in a mean, berating way, but in a loving, shepherding way.

4. Is this relevant to my church? This can be tricky, but you need to think through how a topic is relevant to your church. What do they think about the topic? What is their pain point as it relates to the topic? Sometimes this is obvious, and sometimes this takes more work on your part as a pastor.

5. Has this passage and topic impacted me personally? This is like #3, sometimes you are impacted deeply by a truth you are going to share, sometimes you aren’t. The Word of God needs to do its work in you before you stand up to preach. You need to preach from the overflow of your time with God, not regurgitate a commentary. One of the best things that can happen in a sermon is when you say, “Let me share how this has worked in my life or heart this week.”

6. Do I know what I am trying to communicate? This seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a sermon and it became obvious that outside of a verbal Bible study, the speaker had little idea what he was trying to communicate. Here is one of the most important words in sermon prep: edit.

Do your best to nail down your sermon to one line. That’s all most people will remember. This is hard work because some weeks it isn’t obvious. You owe it to your people to do that hard work.

7. Do I know what I want people to do with what I’m about to say? Going along with having your sermon be about one thing, you aren’t ready to preach until you can articulate, “In light of this truth, here’s how we should live.” This isn’t to put a burden on your church but to show them and help them apply the truth of the Bible. Don’t end with, “I’ll just let the Holy Spirit bring about the application for you from what I just said.” No lie, I heard a guy say that once. Your goal is not a how-to self help talk, but your people need help applying something, seeing through the fog of their life to see how the Bible impacts them.

8. What barriers will keep people from applying this to their life? We all have barriers to the Bible, believing God, believing in God, and applying truth. During the week think through what those barriers will be to what you will preach. What will keep someone from applying this text? Why will someone walk out and disregard what you say? Talk to them, talk to that. Say, “You might be thinking ____.” That person will think, “He is talking to me.” Maybe talk about your struggles to apply something. This will show a human side to you that your people will love.

There are more questions you can and should ask before preaching, but these will hopefully get you started.

How to Trust God When Life Hurts (Jonah 2)

Maybe you still struggle with the question, “Can I trust you, God?” After all, when we sin we are telling God we don’t think we can trust him.

It’s a question Jonah wrestled with as he prayed in the belly of the fish in Jonah 2. The disciples wrestled with trusting God in the New Testament.

What is helpful for us is how people in the Bible handled it. When they came to this question, they looked backwards. They looked to their past to see how God worked not only in their life but in the lives of others.

If you’ve grown up in church, you know the story of Abraham, and our knowledge of his story kind of takes away some of the amazingness. In Genesis 12 we have this man named Abram. He all of a sudden appears in the pages of Scripture. He is out in the desert and he hears a voice, a voice he may have heard before, but maybe not. We aren’t told. This voice, God from heaven, tells him to pack up what he has and move “to a land I will show you.”

Now picture this: Abram goes home and tells his wife Sarai that they are to pack up and go to a land that this voice (God) will show them. I always wonder what that was like. If she was like most wives, she probably asked him how long he’d been hearing this voice. Has it said other things? Did it give any directions? Any hints on what lay ahead?

No, Abram would tell her. Only that we are to start walking and stop when he says.

What God does tell Abram is that he will one day be a great nation and that all the people of the world will be blessed through him. The irony of this is that Abram has no children and is 75 years old.

Finally, as he walks to this land, there is a fascinating promise given to Abram in Genesis 15. Time has passed, and Abram and Sarai still do not have a child. From their perspective they are not any closer to being a great nation than when they left their home. So Abram does what we would do. He whines to God. Complains, actually.

God takes it and is incredibly patient with Abram through this entire conversation. As Abram unloads his feelings of despair, lack of faith, anger, and hurt over his desire to be a father, but yet not having this desire met (are you beginning to see the connection between not trusting God and giving in to temptation or other sins?), God tells him to look to the heavens and number the stars. Abram can’t number the stars, as there are too many of them. “So,” God tells him, “shall your offspring be.”

God doesn’t just stop there. He tells Abram what he (God) has done. What is interesting to me is that when God gives commands in Scripture, in particular the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, before giving a command, he reminds the people of what he has done. God is about to make a covenant, a promise with Abram, but before he does he reminds Abram of what he has done so far. He hasn’t just led him to a new place and promised him a son; he has guided, provided, and protected him and his family.

Then and only then does God give commands or make covenants. In Exodus 20, before giving Moses the law, he reminds him, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (20:2) This is the foundation of the commands of God, his promise and the freedom that he provides.

In Genesis 15, after reminding Abram, he makes a covenant with Abram. We aren’t told in Scripture if Abram asked for it, but he was at least doubting and wondering if this was going to happen. He was complaining to God, as we would do. This has always been a comfort to me, that God doesn’t strike down questions in the Bible, but listens and answers them.

God tells Abram to bring him a heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. Abram did and cut them all in half. In this time period when two people made a covenant, they would kill the animals and cut them in half, and then they would walk through the animals, saying, “If I don’t keep my end of the covenant, may I end up like these animals.”

It was getting late and Abram fell asleep. Then God made a covenant with Abram, while he was asleep. As the sun set and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and flaming torch passed between the pieces. Abram never passed through the animals; only God did.

This is the extent to which God goes to keep his promises as our Father. He makes the promise and keeps it, even when we don’t. Even in our moments of failure, doubt, and fear, he is still strong and sure.

The prophet Habakkuk is another one. 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 he did in 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 and prayers he has answered. If you are new to faith or maybe your list isn’t very long yet, look at the lives and faiths of others. How has God worked in their lives? How has God worked in Scripture that you can hold on to?

Summer Vacation Here I Come!

Summer break

My elders have been kind enough to give me a longer summer preaching break than normal this year. Because of that I won’t be posting anything new on my blog until July 6th (at which time I’ll be back with some great new stuff for you), so that we can rest, recharge and enjoy some time as a family. I’ll also be posting less on social media, but I’ll be posting fun pictures of our adventures on Instagram.

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

Healthy Church

Healthy Leadership

Healthy Faith

Healthy Preaching

If you’re curious about what I’m reading this summer, here you go (and yes, Katie and I take a suitcase of books on vacation):

Have a great summer!

Being Content with Where You Are in Life

Do you love where you are in life? Do you love the job, house, family and life you have?

Would you change anything?

If we’re honest, most of us would change some things. But is that right? Should we be content with what we have, with where we are?

If we were sitting together at Starbucks, you would ask me if that is simply settling.

It can be, but my guess is it isn’t.

It is learning to be content.

If you are anything like me, you struggle with being content.

I always want more. Not in a prideful way, although that sometimes happens, but in a, “I know I could have more, I know I could be more” way.

In your 20’s this is simply growing and trying to move into adulthood. Once you start to move past 40 and into your 50’s, if you aren’t careful this can lead to burnout and disillusionment, because the goals you had never panned out. The dreams you were so sure you’d hit have fallen by the wayside.

Let me ask you something.

At first you will disagree with what I’m going to say, but hear me out.

What if the life you have right now (the house, the family, the career, the finances) is exactly the place God has you?

Depending on your perspective, that might be kind of depressing, but it isn’t meant to be.

You see, one of the reasons we aren’t able to move forward or move on to something is because we haven’t learned all that God has for us where we are. We become so consumed with what’s next, we don’t live in what we have. We don’t learn all we can where we are. We aren’t faithful with what we have, we always want the next thing.

But the reason we often get stuck is because we are so focused on what we don’t have that we miss what we do have.

The people who live life to the fullest are the ones who are filled with the most joy.

Do you know where that joy comes from?

Yes, the answer is Jesus.

But to give that more of a specific answer, it is contentment.

Paul says this in Philippians 4:

I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.

It is the key to joy.

What would being content with where you are mean for you? What would being content, enjoying the life stage you are in, mean? Not longing for the next thing or looking back at what you had, but being content. Here. Now.