8 Helpful Links for Parents & Leaders 1/18/19

It’s the weekend…finally.

And since it’s the weekend, it’s the perfect time to catch up on some reading. Below, you’ll find some articles I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

Before we get to those, I wanted to share some exciting news from our family.

I also wrote two other posts this week that I hope helps you. One is on how to fight for courage in your life. We’re in the new year and maybe you made some goals, maybe you didn’t. My guess is, there is a relationship or somethign in your life that requires courage, a step to take. If so, you have to fight for courage. There are 5 things that can destroy your courage.

The second is how to let go of hurts in your life, especially if you are a leader or in ministry. It is hard when you’ve been betrayed, you’re run down or exhausted, maybe you feel unappreciated or overlooked. At that moment, you have a choice and depending on what you choose will determine where you end up. I give you 9 ways I’ve learned to let go of those hurts so you can move forward. .

And in case you missed them this week. Here are the top 3 posts on my blog this week that I hope you find helpful:

Now, here’s what I found helpful:

If you read my blog, you know I am a big fan of goals, habits and growth plans, so hopefully, you have one for 2019. If you don’t, Brandon Kelley has you covered on how to develop a plan.

Going right along with creating a growth plan is productivity. With a growing church and fast-paced family, it is easy to get lost in the weeds and get overwhelmed. Which is why I appreciated this post of 9 productivity hacks.

If you’re anything like me as a parent, you are trying to figure out the balance of technology in your home, with your kids. When do you give them a phone, social media accounts, etc? How much screen time should they have, what should they do on it? Andy Crouch has a great book called The Tech-Wise Family and he talked recently with Russell Moore about how to handle technology in your family.

The beginning of a new year often means new growth for your church, but it can also mean decline as people move on. Sometimes those reasons are good and other times as a leader, if you’re honest, they are frustrating. This post will help you to know the difference. And here are 24 reasons someone might quit attending your church and what to do about it. And one more, 10 reasons people don’t invite people to church.

As it’s the weekend, it’s a perfect time to review your week. Look for things to celebrate, things to process and changes to make moving forward. Here are 10 questions to help you do that.

This post by Chuck DeGroat on The lost pastor is a startling look at the inner life of pastors and why it is so important to grow your soul as a leader. He shares 3 important steps forward to “being found.”

Letting Go of Ministry Hurts

I heard a leader say that ministry is a series of ungrieved losses.

And that’s true.

At some point in life, ministry, and leadership you will be hurt. Someone will do something to you, say something to you, about you and it will hurt. While many leaders burn out because they don’t handle physical boundaries well and rest, many more burn out because they don’t let go of ministry hurts.

To lead and live healthy and effectively, you must learn to deal with those losses. To grieve them and move forward.

Here are some hurts pastors deal with:

  • Being stabbed in the back by someone.
  • Being talked about by someone.
  • Angry emails about preaching or ministries.
  • An associate pastor who is leaving to plant a church without the blessing of the church.
  • Counseling sessions that end with people fighting, not taking advice.
  • Too many funerals or tragedies in the church.
  • A family of origin issues in the pastor’s family that he hasn’t dealt with.
  • Marriage hurts that the pastor and his wife aren’t facing or dealing with.
  • A child who wants nothing to do with faith.

When we started Revolution, I took everything personally. I still feel very personally invested in Revolution Church, but I don’t take things as personally as I did before. I’ve heard everything about our church: “we don’t use enough Bible, we use too much Bible, I love that you don’t have a women’s ministry, I hate that you don’t have a women’s ministry, why don’t you fund my personal pet project, my last church did __________, I’m going to leave and plant my church as this doesn’t look that hard, God doesn’t want Revolution Church to exist.” The last one is still my favorite one.

I remember a season where it seemed like I had a conversation each week that sent me over the edge. I was stressed out, not sleeping well, we were losing leaders, and the church wasn’t growing at the rate I had hoped. I was miserable. I took it out on those closest to me, I didn’t serve Revolution well and in the end, wore myself out.

Through that, here are a couple of ways to separate yourself from that hurtful email, conversation, leader leaving or counseling session not going well:

Exercise. One of the best ways to deal with stress is exercise. After a long day or meeting, an hour of Crossfit is just what I need. My headphones are blasting, just me and some weights. Perfect. Maybe you like to run or bike or take a walk. Do it. Getting outside and getting fresh air is incredibly helpful to let go.

Take a nap. Go to sleep. You will make a better decision after sleeping anyway. If you are tired and try to make a decision, it will more than likely be the wrong one. I can’t tell you how many times I have saved myself more heartache and pain by deciding after a nap or a good night sleep.

Write an email and delete it. If you are outraged, respond to that person who hurt you and then delete the email. Sometimes it helps to write out what you are thinking and then let it go. Also, naming things helps to take away the power those things hold over us.

Have times when you are unreachable. Turn your phone off, don’t read your email or look at social media. I do this on the weekend’s, vacations, etc. You have to have times that you are unreachable. As a caveat, have one person on your staff that can reach you if there is an emergency.

Signal the end of the day or season. For me, turning my computer off, going to the gym signal the end of thinking about church and ministry. It is how I let go. I avoid evening commitments outside of my small groups or meetings I need to schedule at all costs for this reason. I do pre-marital counseling during the day now. It is hard for me to relax if I have something in the evening going on. Is this harder for some people? Yes. In the end, though, it serves my church and my family better than having evening commitments.

Have a breaker that is not your wife. When we started Revolution, I would unload onto Katie every stressful meeting or conversation or email. That wasn’t fair at all. After I dumped it onto her, I would feel great. The problem was she had nowhere to go with it. I moved on, and she still felt the effects. Now, I have some other guys who are my breakers. When I’m angry, need some truth spoken to me, I talk with them. Katie is often my 2nd or 3rd conversation, and by that time, my anger has waned, my crazy notions of retribution are gone, and I can talk in a more civilized manner.

Don’t share everything with your wife. I used to do this but now see the wisdom in keeping some things about the church from her. This doesn’t mean I hide stuff from Katie but she doesn’t get paid by the church and she doesn’t need to know everything that is going on there or everyone that is mad at me or creating frustrations for the staff or me. I want her to be able to show up at church and talk to people without thinking, “This person just sent a mean email to my husband.”

Have people you have fun with. If you don’t have fun, you live a sad life. Many pastors I know live a tragic life. They have no hobbies and no friends they have fun with. Have people you watch sports with, play games with, go to concerts, movies or art shows with.

Read something that isn’t ministry or sermon focused. I’ve talked about this before, but one of the best ways I let go of a stressful season in ministry is a reading book about spies or assassins. Something unrelated to ministry, that takes my brain off church mode and allows me to rest it. Try it some time.

Tuesday Mind Dump…

  • It’s been a while since I’ve posted a mind dump and a lot of things have happened in our family.
  • For one, we bought a house that is closer to where our church meets and we’re moving in the next couple of weeks.
  • Cue excitement and stress!
  • But seriously, we’re really excited about this and what it will mean for our family.
  • I had a blast kicking off our brand new series Forward this past Sunday and talking about the barriers to Christianity and following Jesus.
  • If you’re skeptical of Jesus or have questions, I’d encourage you to watch it.
  • We also kicked off our groups sign-ups this past Sunday and the response has been incredible.
  • In fact, one of the groups has already filled up.
  • If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here.
  • Katie and I are launching a short-term marriage group in February around the time we kick off our series on the Song of Solomon called #RelationshipGoals. 
  • So excited for that series and that group!
  • And I might have something fun to share at church this Sunday.
  • Lots of great things going on as we move into 2019.
  • Back to sermon prep and packing and life!

Five Things That Destroy Your Courage in Life

To accomplish anything in life, you need courage.

You need the courage to get out of bed each morning and face the day. It takes courage to tell a boss, co-worker, spouse or friend what you need or want. It takes courage to lead anything forward. It takes courage to parent. It takes courage to quit a job and leave security to chase a dream.

But courage is easily lost. And when it’s lost, we miss out on new things, great things.

In their excellent book The Practice of Adaptive Leadershipthe authors list five things that hold us back from having the courage to face the road ahead:

1. Loyalties to people who may not believe you are doing the right thing. We often underestimate the power of people in our lives, especially people from our past. Teachers, parents, first bosses or coaches, guidance counselors, boyfriends, girlfriends; they all make an impact. They have said things that encouraged us and pushed us forward, but they have also said things that have cut us.

My guidance counselor in high school told me I wasn’t college material and I should give up that goal and get a job working with my hands. That has always rung in my head. I am constantly fighting the battle of feeling like I belong somewhere, or that I am smart enough to be sitting at a table.

Are the loyalties you have to people in your past holding you back in any way? Are there any messages ringing in your head that are keeping you from reaching for a dream?

2. Fear of incompetence. Nobody wants to look dumb, unprepared or not up to the task. Failure paralyzes so many of us.

The reality is, anything new will be a learning curve. Asking for help is difficult for many of us, but is the only way to new things.

If you knew all that you needed to know to reach that future goal or dream, you’d probably be there by now. But you aren’t.

If it’s helpful, make a list of things that you don’t know, do you know anyone who is an expert in those things? Podcasts you can listen to? Books or blogs you can read? Make an effort to grow and fight that fear of incompetence.

Now, this list will be helpful, make a list of things that could go wrong if you had the courage you needed. What is the worse thing that could happen? The irony of this list is that the worst thing that could happen is rarely horrible.

3. Uncertainty about taking the right path. Going closely with the fear of incompetence is the deciding on the right way forward. The reality of having courage is that you might take one step forward and three steps back, four steps to the right and then you’ll be on the right path.

That’s okay.

Your life isn’t over. And you aren’t too old to start over or brush off the dirt and move forward.

4. Fear of loss. The reality of anything new, any new dream or goal brings about change.

Change always involves a loss.

Sometimes that loss is good and dead weight that needs to let go of in your life, but often that loss will hurt.

If you’re a leader, you know that any change you make will bring loss because everyone won’t move forward with you. That is difficult for you and those around you.

Life and leadership are about learning to grieve the losses along the way so you can keep moving forward.

5. Not having the stomach for the hard parts of the journey. I once heard someone say that “everything great is uphill.” Probably both ways!

But it will be hard.

You will hit moments where your passion is gone, your energy is zapped, and you wonder if you can make it.

It is at this point that most people get off the dream train.

This is why I think it is so crucial for you to feel a sense of calling, purpose or meaning to what you are going after. Merely liking a challenge or thinking this is the next step for you will not get you through the hard parts.

You will not experience all five of these today or maybe ever. There will be one that will keep you from reaching the peak of your life. It is important to know which one it is for you so you are able to see it coming a mile away and learn how to combat it.

How to Build Loyalty on Your Team

I hear from a lot of pastors, and their complaints are often the same: a staff member or volunteer that isn’t fully bought into the vision or bought into the team. Team members who are off doing their own thing instead of the job the team is doing. Backbiting, gossip, half-heartedness about the mission and where things are going.

All of this comes back to loyalty.

The reality is though; everyone shouldn’t be on your team.

Some people are a good fit for a season but don’t belong on your team forever (whether you realize that or they do), some think they should work at a church when they shouldn’t, and sometimes out of frustration or weariness, pastors think of quitting their teams.

What many leaders fail to realize is that loyalty, camaraderie is not built quickly and it isn’t built around the mission of the church as much as it is built around relationships.

A few years ago, we were interviewing a pastor to join our team, and after interacting with our staff and elders I asked him for his thoughts, and his first response surprised me. He said, “Each of those people would run through a wall for you.”

The reason that surprised me is that I’m not naturally a relational leader. It is something I have had to work at and create systems to make it happen.

But he was right. It also dawned on me; I would run through a wall for them. And they knew that.

As I reflected on that, I realized there were some things I did to create that.

1. Be loyal to your team. It’s sad that this is on the list, but I think this is one reason pastors fail to have loyalty on their team and it is because they aren’t loyal to the people on their team.

This took me a while to figure out.

Leaders expect people to follow, bosses expect people to do what they’re told, so they don’t spend a lot of time thinking about loyalty or being loyal to those people.

Some of this comes from past hurts, broken trust or not expecting people to stay, which is a big one in the church world.

2. Explain what you mean by loyalty. Leaders and churches are always throwing around words thinking everyone thinks the same thing. Churches are notorious for this, especially when they say, “Church is a family,” but everyone has a different definition of that.

Same goes with loyalty.

When you say loyalty, what does that mean?

For our team it means: always make everyone on the team look good, have each other’s backs and don’t surprise anyone.

In public (and private) make the other team members look good. Meaning, don’t put them down, don’t gossip, don’t say, “I knew that wouldn’t work.” Have their backs.

And don’t surprise them. I tell my team, if you surprise me, I can’t help you. If something is going wrong, don’t wait, tell me. Let me help you get in front of it.

3. Invest in their life. This is still one of my most significant growth areas but is crucial for loyalty. This is how people feel valued by you as the leader.

How’s their life going? Personal goals? How’s their marriage and parenting? Do you have things you can be praying for them about that aren’t related to their work?

I now spend the first part of my one-on-one times with my team checking in on their lives.

4. Invest in their leadership. Are they growing as a leader because they are on your team? Many staff members in churches would say no to that question, and that is a problem.

Invest in them through books, podcasts, blog posts. Take them to training events that you attend. Pay for coaching and conferences for them to grow as leaders and in their craft. Expose them to new ways of thinking, new ways of doing things. Encourage them to seek out growth opportunities.

5. Give them gifts of thanks and affirmation. When was the last time you said thanks to a team member for something? Or gave them a gift?

This goes a long way to building loyalty on your team and showing care for them.

This is similar to the love languages, but know what affirms them, and what makes them feel appreciated.

Steve Stroope says that each of us is motivated by ten things: Money, private thanks, public thanks, more responsibility, input, access, empowerment, significance, knowledge, and tools.

The problem for many leaders is they don’t know what motivates their team or they think everyone is motivated the same way or they think what drives them as a leader is what motivates their whole team.

You should what motivates each of your team members from the list above. Each one is valid and vital. Unfortunately, in the church world is motivated by money is seen as a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be.

Loyalty, when done correctly not only strengthens the church but is a benefit to everyone on the team. It shows the value of each person and how God has wired them and makes them want to show up for work!

The Four Friends Every Pastor Needs

Friendships for most men are difficult. Naturally, men aren’t good at friendships. The older we get, the fewer friends we have as we pour into our work, marriage, and kids.

Yet, if we don’t keep up friendships, it will lead us to be very lonely.

Pastors are just as guilty as the larger population of men, but for different reasons.

Finding and keeping friends can be very difficult for a pastor. It can be awkward for people to be friends with a pastor because they sometimes don’t want to invite their pastor over when they have the guys over for football. It is often easier to think of your pastor as someone you see at church, not someone you hang out with on a Friday night. It can be hard for a pastor because there are times he wants to stop being a pastor and be one of the guys. It is hard for him to turn that off and it is hard for those around him to let that happen.

Trust is also a big factor for pastor’s when it comes to choosing friends. They have experienced hurt in their family of origin, or someone at a former church broke their trust and betrayed them.

Pastor’s will wonder, “If I open up to this person, will they use it against me? Can I be truly honest with this person?” As people in their small group share a prayer request, it is difficult for a pastor to say, “This has been one of the worst weeks at work for me. I’m so frustrated with a co-worker” because everyone knows his co-workers.

Pastor’s and their wife often wonder when someone wants to hang out with them if there are ulterior motives. Do they want to be our friends because they like us or because of what we do? Sadly, people want to be friends with a pastor or his wife, to get closer to the center of the action, to be closer to the power as they see it in a church.

People in a church wonder the same thing. Do the pastor and his wife want to hang out with us because they like us or because they think we need ministry? When they hang out with us, are they working or having fun? The lines of working for many pastors are blurry in their heads because almost anything is “ministry.”

Friendship and community are incredibly crucial to surviving as a pastor or a pastor’s wife. But how does that happen? Brian Bloye, in his book It’s Personal: Surviving and Thriving on the Journey of Church Planting talks about the four types of friends a pastor needs to have in the journey of church planting and pastoring:

  1. The developer. A friend that makes you better. They encourage you, lift you when you fall, someone who believes in you during times you don’t believe in yourself. Someone you can call on a bad day and they encourage you and help to pick you up — a great cheerleader in your corner who is telling you to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  2. The designer. A mentor, coaching you in life and ministry. Someone who shares the wisdom they’ve gathered in life. Too many pastors walk through ministry without any coach. Find one. The coaches I have had have been invaluable to me. Some I’ve known for over a decade, others have come and gone in my life in different seasons, but you must have someone you can call and say, “I’m facing this, what would you do?”
  3. The disturber. The friend who rocks your boat. He’s there to bring discomfort to your world, not comfort. This friend challenges your ideas, is not impressed by you. Not a yes man. This can also be someone who isn’t a follower of Jesus who pushes you in your faith and asks hard questions about beliefs as they are wrestling through them personally. Or someone who is pushing you as a leader, father or parent.
  4. The discerner. An accountability partner. Someone who looks you in the eye and asks the hard questions about your life and where you stand with things. This person walks with you through life’s highs and lows.

My 10 Favorite Books of 2018

Each year I post a list of my favorite books, the ones I would call the best books of the year. To see my list of favorite books from past years, click on the numbers: 201220132014, 2015 and 2016. I loved looking back through the books I read this year as it helps me to see where I’ve grown, what God has taken me, my family and our church through. If you’re curious about the books I read this year, you can check this out.

Before getting to my list, let me share with you three novels I read. The reason I start with novels is that they are fun and all of us (especially leaders) need more fun and imagination in our lives. I always try to have a novel going to take my mind off work and relax.

My three favorite novels in 2018 were:

Now, here are my 10 favorite books:

10. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

I found this book to be incredibly helpful to me. If you’ve followed my writing, you will see several studies I’ve posted about in the section on well-being, but I enjoyed the chapter on wisdom and wonder. I am drawn more and more to what will bring about a life worth living, not just accomplishing a whole bunch of stuff that will be forgotten and not matter. This book also helped me think through a better bedtime routine and why sleep matters so much.

9. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

I loved this book. This book completely changed how I set up my days and when I do what I do and when I skip things. So helpful if you want to get the most out of your days.

8. I’d Like You More If You Were More like Me: Getting Real about Getting Close by John Ortberg

If you’re like me, intimacy in relationships and letting people get close can be difficult. For me, this comes out of my story, but for each of us, this is a roadblock not only in marriage and family but also in friendships and at work. It keeps us from feeling fulfilled, accomplishing what we’d like to and ultimately, miserable. This book helped me to see how best to move forward and let people get close.

7. Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences by Carey Nieuwhof

If you’re a leader, you should read this book.

The chapter on cynicism was worth the whole book for me. I found myself nodding over and over about this crucial battle that I fight on a daily basis. It also opened me up to other heart battles I may not be aware of, which I think is an essential thing for each of us to be mindful of as we lead.

6. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards

If you are an introvert who is a speaker and a leader, you need to read this book.

In it, she unpacks how to connect with people from a stage, at a party, in a meeting, and over coffee. Her chapter on engagement was incredible and being able to see the best way to “captivate” people is something we could all grow in or take our leadership to the next level.

5. Survival Guide for the Soul: How to Flourish Spiritually in a World that Pressures Us to Achieve by Ken Shigematsu

This book was so convicting and helpful to me. The best way to describe this book is that it was a breath of fresh air for me when I read it.

4.  Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul Tripp

I read this book for a sermon series I did on how God is with us in life’s darkest and most painful moments. This book is part theology, part memoir and I think one of the most helpful books on pain, hurt and suffering.

3. The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel

Leadership, power, pride, and humility. If you are a leader, you know the interplay of these things in your heart and life and this book helps to unpack what strength and weakness in leadership look like and what God calls us to. The Way of the Dragon… was an incredibly convicting book.

2. Boundaries for Your Soul: How to Turn Your Overwhelming Thoughts and Feelings into Your Greatest Allies by Kimberly Miller and Allison Cook

This book easily could have been #1. If you are an 8, 3 or 1 on the Enneagram, I can’t recommend this book enough. It covered family systems and how we navigate those, but what I found most helpful was how it talked about “getting curious about your emotions.” When you feel anger, hurt, sadness, joy; get curious about them. Why are you feeling those things? Where did it come from in your story and life? What is it trying to tell you?

1. The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture by Scott Belsky

This book is about how to finish something you start. How to finish a church, business, etc. Why? Most things that start don’t’ finish because the person who started it fizzles out. They lack the systems they need, the endurance and strength to get through the messy middle. The first section on endurance was the first book that I felt like nailed what it is like to be a church planter better than any other book. I’ve seen some people call this the business book of the year, so it’s worth the effort as it’s long.

Finding Jesus in the Storms of Life

Storms happen to all of us.

Storms surprise us; storms sideswipe us in life.

Many times, we fall onto our couch and think, “I did not see that coming.”

The funny thing about storms though is that you can see them coming in someone else’s life better than you see them in your life.

Have you ever had someone tell you they didn’t see something coming and you thought, “How could you miss it?” We all saw your marriage going that way, we told you. We saw that financial decision is a poor one a mile away.

A storm is when you feel helpless. Life feels chaotic; you have this “I did not see that coming” feeling afterward.

Some storms are out of our control, things like getting laid off, when you were abused or when you can’t have a baby. When cancer comes back, when your kids walk away from their faith, you have a miscarriage, or you are depressed and can’t see a way forward.

But some storms, we cause. How you respond to things in your life. Who you let into your life and who you allow influencing your life.

Your marriage is another area we have some control over. We don’t want to admit it, but the choices we made earlier in life had a more significant effect on our marriage than we expected. We didn’t expect that sleeping around in our 20’s to affect us in our 30’s. Who knew those financial decisions would still be felt ten years later.

Or the resentment and bitterness you carry around from past relationships and hurts.

Regardless of the storm or the cause, many of us, when we get stuck in a storm in life wonder where God is.

There is a fascinating passage in Mark 6 that shows us something important about God and storms.

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After he said good-bye to them, he went away to the mountain to pray. Well into the night, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and he was alone on the land. He saw them straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Very early in the morning he came toward them walking on the sea and wanted to pass by themWhen they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke with them and said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. They were completely astounded, because they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened.

What is fascinating to me is that Jesus intended to pass by them. He didn’t plan on stopping.

But isn’t Jesus supposed to save them? To pull them from the storm? Stop it? Bring relief?

Sometimes Jesus stops the storm. Sometimes he pulls us from it and brings relief. And sometimes he passes by.

This might seem like Jesus is leaving them (or us), but that is far from it.

Dave Furman in his book Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials said, The better question isn’t whether or not Jesus wanted to help his disciples, of course, he did, but the question is, how did he want to help them.

In 1 Kings, when God showed himself to Elijah, He did so by passing by him.

In the book of Exodus, God showed Moses his power and presence by passing by him.

Jesus is showing them and us he is God by passing by them.

Here’s how I’ve seen this play out in my life: when someone else gets my answered prayer. Has that ever happened to you? You pray for your marriage, but it seems like other people’s marriage improves. You pray for your finances and others get blessed. Same as you pray for your kids and others seem to get ahead. You pray for your career and a co-worker gets promoted and gets the raise.

God is more visibly at work in someone else’s life. God has more visibly blessed them with a comfortable life compared to our lives.

Sometimes God will move in life near us to show us He can. Not to taunt us or diminish our faith, but to strengthen it.

In her book, It’s Not Supposed to be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength when Disappointments Leave You Shattered, Lysa Terkeurst shares this prayer and if you find yourself in a storm and finding it difficult to trust God and cling to him, I pray this prayer helps you:

Oh, dear God, help me trust You beyond what my physical eyes can see. As the winds of all that’s uncontrollable whip around me and thrash against me, I need something to ground me. Steady me. Hold me together when circumstances are falling apart. I want to trust you beyond what my eyes can see. Amen.

God is Bigger Than ________

What problem are you facing right now that seems impossible? Insurmountable?

Is it something to do with your job? Will, you have to fire someone? Are you struggling to find a job that you love? Is it impossible to work with the people you work with?

What about at home? Often, it feels like we are the only ones who care about the issues in our house. Your spouse is unresponsive or left, your kids have checked out and are more interested in friends or electronics.


We feel alone.

This happens spiritually as well.

We pray and ask God to move, but it seems like God was more at work in our past or the lives of others than He is in our present life.

This letdown is hard to handle because it leaves us feeling alone and abandoned. It makes our heads and hearts spin.

And while we know that God is all powerful and can do whatever He wants, we stare at mountains that seem impossible to face.

Monday morning feels like an arduous task, so we stay in bed. Fighting for our marriage feels impossible. Our kids, finances, and health issues all feel like they will beat us out instead of us winning the war.

God Will Fight For You

What is hard for us to fathom in the barren place of the wilderness is that God is fighting for us. God is pursuing us.

But He is.

The story of Christmas and the story of Scripture is God’s relentless pursuit of us.

God could’ve left us, He could’ve left you, but He didn’t.

God wants to meet you.

But and this is often why we are in the wilderness, “What we want and what God has promised are not always the same.”

We experience the wilderness of faith when all the things God has done for us are in the past, and it seems like he isn’t moving now.

We struggle to remember that God is at work even when nothing seems to be happening in our lives or worlds.


When we are lonely and sad, the last thing we want is a community.

When we feel depressed, the last thing we want is to sit with a counselor and talk about it.

The very thing that we don’t want to do is the thing we need to do. 

Community, friends, counselors are used by God to pull us out of the dark places to live in the light.

They are able to help us see our blindspots and help to get us “out of the one-way conversation in our heads.”

How to Fight Cynicism

When you’re in your 20’s, starting in your career, life, or marriage you have dreams.

Great dreams.

Dreams that get you out of bed in the morning and that excite you.

You have dreams that propel you to do difficult things, take crazy risks, bet the farm, take jobs that don’t pay well because they are exciting and fill you with passion.

But something happens along the way, and you look up one day and think, “I thought I’d be somewhere different right now.”

In marriage, this happens when you thought your marriage would feel differently than it does. Assuming you’d have kids by now, that your kids would be different than they are, that my spouse would be different than they are.

Our careers hit this place where we thought we would be making more, more fulfilled, more excited or at a different level in our company.

Pastors feel this when they look at your church, but it isn’t the church they imagined. The passion they once felt, the vision they once had isn’t there.

Carey Nieuwhof said, “Cynicism happens not because you don’t care but because you do.”

The places in our lives where we become cynical are deeply personal places to us — personal hopes and dreams that we carry for our present and future.

In this place, we have to battle for contentment and fight cynicism.

One of the things we miss when we think about contentment is that our contentment in life, marriage, parenting, and leadership is not just about us but all the people connected to us. Our spouse and kids are affected by our contentment or lack thereof.

If you are a pastor, leader or boss, those that follow you are impacted by the contentment or cynicism that you feel.

We can easily beat ourselves up because of contentment and cynicism ebb and flow in life.

But how do you fight for contentment, especially if you are not naturally a positive person?

Get around contented people. A thankful person is a joy to be around. Get around them, listen to them. They have peace that few other people have.

Learn what leads to cynicism. If you are a church planter or pastor, cynicism comes from hearing about a larger church or hearing about a church planter who was given a building out of the blue (that’s mine). If you are a parent, it might be hearing about another family or seeing something on Instagram. Know your triggers. Know when they might hit. Hint: it will often happen when you are tired or emotionally depleted. Just be aware of that.

Be grateful for what you have. One of the practices that have helped me this past year is writing down at least three things I am thankful for each day. This has caused me to pause in my day and see how things are going well, things I can celebrate.