How to Love the Things of God

Growing up in the church, I always heard things like, “we don’t do that, that’s of the world.” Or, “we don’t love the things of the world, we love the things of God.” This sounds nice and good, but when I asked what specifically those things were I would hear things like Easter eggs, alcohol, dancing, gambling or Christmas trees. Interestingly, other things like TV or electricity weren’t things of the world (although they were for some people in my community as I grew up near many Amish communities).

There is a desire many people have to love God and love the things of God, but we often don’t know how.

How do we know if we’re loving the right things? How do we know if we love the world and the things of the world or the things of God? (see 1 John 2:15 – 17)

Two writers help us understand this.

Augustine said, “What really makes you what you are, is not so much what you say, believe or behave, but what you love.” And James K.A. Smith more recently said, “You are what you love.” Our loves define us, not what we say we believe, but our loves. Our loves get our time, attention, talent, and finances. You can say you love friends and community, but if you never make any time for them because of other commitments, do you really love friends and community? Many men say they love their families and yet make commitments that keep them from their families.

What I never heard growing up is that after John tells us not to love the world or the things of the world, he tells us what those things are.

Three things: desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes and pride in possessions.

First, The desires of the flesh. John is speaking of a few things here.

He is speaking at misdirecting our sexual desire outside of God’s design. This can be sex outside of marriage, porn, fantasizing about someone you aren’t married to, getting emotionally involved with someone you aren’t married to, wishing your spouse was different, looked different, or acted different.

This also applies to your personal feeling of your own body and the elevated desire you have to look a certain way or have a certain body type.

This also points to what we are willing to do for love; the distance we will go for someone to love us. Or, how we will manipulate someone by withholding love to get what we want.

Here’s another way to think about the desire of the flesh – a desire to always get your way, especially in relationships.

In marriage, you stop pursuing your spouse and pursue porn or someone else. When a man pulls away from his wife and looks at porn, he shouldn’t be surprised when she pulls away from him, even if she doesn’t know why. She knows he is pulling away from her.

You stop opening up to your spouse and slowly start pulling away from them to the point that you never talk or share your dreams, hurts and joys. If you’re married, you should know your spouse’s storytheir past, their hurts and joys. You should know their dreams and how to help them fulfill those dreams.

Second, The desires of the eyes. This is the desire of what can be seen. A certain life, a certain lifestyle.

In many ways, this is your ideal and dream Instagram account, whatever that is. It could be a certain kind of house, certain kind of family, certain kind of grill, workout equipment, cars, vacations, food, clothes, closet space, hiking, or boating.

Now, John isn’t saying that cars, shoes, grills, houses or vacations are evil. They are morally neutral. It is our desire towards those things. Why? Because that desire consumes us and takes over. We do whatever we can to have a certain life or appear to have a certain lifestyle. We all have this. This is a desire of having everything. So many of us have bought the lie that you can have it all.

Men believe they can climb the ladder, have the perfect family, friends, hobbies and God. And yet, something breaks on the way up the ladder.

Mom’s kill themselves for this lie. They believe it is possible to have it all and look like you have it all so that people behind your back say with jealousy, “she has it all.” That woman who “has it all” is often cracking and dying from the pressure and the sadness that she really doesn’t have it all, but no one knows.

This can be the workaholic, taking on too much. Never stopping to ask, do I want this life? Should I say yes to this assignment or promotion? If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to? There is always a trade off.

Kids sports teams, there’s always a trade off in your life. A friend recently lamented the loss of his evenings and life as he and his wife try to juggle three soccer teams for their three kids. He’s miserable, their kids are exhausted. But there is a life he is chasing, a life they either want to have or want people to think they have. It is a dangerous place.

This is the person who can’t slow down because they’re afraid. They are afraid that if they stop moving and doing stuff, what will they do? I had a woman tell me once that she couldn’t take a day off or rest because she was afraid of the thoughts that would flood her mind. She was running.

If you’re a parent, this could be the desire you have for your kids to behave a certain way, get certain grades, or get a scholarship. We kill ourselves for that, we push our kids to insane lengths for that. Why? We say it is for them, but deep down it is a desire to be seen a certain way. Why? Because the people they are and the people they become are a direct reflection of our parenting. We want people to know that aren’t flaky parents, we are incredible parents.

Third, Pride in possessions. Again, John isn’t telling us possessions are bad. He is telling us that loving them and having pride in them is bad. Being driven by them will destroy us.

This is the desire to appear important.

This is wanting to appear smart, successful.

This is why many are in debt, or workaholics.

This is why people take certain jobs and careers. Appeasing a parent or a spouse seems more important. They give up a dream, a God-given call for something safer.

Too many of us find pride in what we acquire, what we have or the drive to get those things and it becomes incredibly dangerous.

So what do we do?

Right before these verses, John reminds us that as followers of Jesus our sins are forgiven, we know the Father, we have overcome the evil one. He tells us twice we know the Father and we have overcome the evil one. This is crucial because it takes the wind out of the sails of loving the wrong things. John is saying, young mom with young kids, in Jesus, you are enough.

To the one trying to have it all, in Jesus, you have it all.

To the one who is dying for your mom, your dad, your spouse to say “I’m proud of you”, in Jesus, God is proud of you.

To the one who is trying to climb the ladder to accomplish some unforeseen goal that is always out there, in Jesus, you are complete. In Jesus, the work is done.

To the one that struggles to believe they can be free from that porn addiction, gossiping, loneliness, anxiety, in Jesus, your sins are forgiven. In Jesus, you have the power to overcome the evil one.

To the one who is worried about how your kids will reflect on you as a parent, in Jesus, your reflection is set.

To the one who wants to be known and stop being lonely and alone, in Jesus, you are known and you have your Father in heaven from the beginning.

To the one who feels lost and left out, in Jesus, you are found. You have been brought in and you know the Father.

Finding the Easy ‘Yes!’ in Parenting & Leadership

If you’re a parent, let me guess what your child’s first word was.

NO!

I know, you aren’t a bad parent.

You wish it was yes, Momma or Dadda. And maybe it was. But more than likely it was no, or maybe mine.

As your kids get older and they ask for things, a bike, a video game, to stay up, you get very good at saying no. It is easy. You just want some down time. You want your kids to stop bothering you.

I get it.

The same thing happens in leadership.

Someone walks into your office or grabs you after a service and says, “Why don’t we do ____?” Or, “What if we tried _____ as a church?”

And your first reaction is, “No.”

It might be a good answer. It might even be the right answer.

But what if you could find the easy, “Yes!”

I’ll give you an example.

What if your child comes to you and asks, “Can I have a piece of gum?”

You might be thinking, “Why? Why do you have to bother me?” You’re on your email, working on dinner, cleaning the bathroom, any number of things. So you reflexively say, “No, leave me alone.” Your child walks away mad or stomps or gets angry and cries.

What if you took the easy ‘yes’?

The same thing happens as a leader

Someone comes and says, “What if we tried _____?” Instead of shooting it down, what if you said, “Run with it”?

Do you need to guard the vision?

Yes.

Do you need to vet ideas?

Yes.

But more happens when we go for the easy ‘yes’.

Successful Mentoring Relationships

Since Revolution Church is filled with people in college and their 20’s, and because we’re part of Acts 29, I and the other leaders at Revolution will often get requests to mentor someone, either in our church or a church planter or worship leader.

There is also a big desire that many people have to be discipled and mentored. The New Testament, particularly Titus 2:1 – 8, shows how to do this.

The amazing thing in Titus is that the relationships it describes have a few realities:

  1. They are intentional, but organic.
  2. They are relational.
  3. Growth happens through conversations, not necessarily a curriculum.

Paul tells Titus that in mentor relationships, in inter-generational relationships, they happen through proximity. The older are to teach the younger, but the only way for that to happen is for them to be together, not in life stage groups where they never mingle. In this environment, a younger person can find an older person they want to learn from.

Paul tells Timothy what they are to teach, but that teaching means ordinary conversations, not simply standing on a stage, teaching a class. Everyday, ordinary conversations.

What do they teach? What is amazing to me is that Paul says they’ll need to learn the following things. The things they’ll learn are things that won’t come naturally, or else we’d already know them.

This has caused me to think through what makes an effective mentor. They are important, but I think we often set ourselves and the person we are seeking help from up for disaster.

A mentor is someone further ahead of you in an area you want to grow in.

No one person can mentor you in every part of your life.

This is the problem we run into. We look for someone to be the end all, be all for us.

When someone asks for a mentor, I explain this to them and then ask a series of questions:

What are one or two areas you want to grow in as you think about your life in the next 3, 6, 12 months? This could be finances, prayer, marriage, boundaries, health, etc.

Why do you think I can help you? I want to know why they think I can help them. Not because I want to pump up my ego, but I want to know they’ve done their homework on me and didn’t just throw a dart at the wall and pick the closest person.

What are you doing, or have you tried to grow in this area? Often, not always, but often people seek a mentor because they are lazy. I want to know what books or blogs this person has looked at in this area. Are they actively seeking to grow in this area or just hoping to rub off success from someone? Which leads to the last part.

How much time are you willing to put into this? Anything worth doing will take time. You won’t grow in your handling of finances, health, marriage, career, preaching, etc., without putting in time and effort. This is a commitment you as the person getting mentored are making. The mentor is coming along for the ride, and if I as the mentor am not convinced you are into the ride, I’m getting off.

If you are worth your salt as a leader, person or pastor, you will be asked often to mentor people. You must be selective about who you mentor, because you are giving up one of your most precious commodities, your time. If you are asking to be mentored, to succeed and have it be worthwhile for you, you need to do your homework and be willing to put in the work. There is nothing more exciting than working with a person who wants to grow in an area and helping them do that.

We can’t become the person we are to become without relationships with older, more mature people in our lives.

What to do When Someone Close to You is Hurting

Let’s face it, when someone hurts us, we can brush it off and often move on. We can be tough, ignore it, deal with it or get even (although that rarely helps), but something changes when it is our spouse, kids, a close friend or a family member who is hurt.

We feel powerless in that moment.

Especially if our spouse is hurt because of someone else’s sin or mistreatment. When our spouse is wrongly accused or betrayed by someone, those wounds cut deep. They often cut deep into our heart because of our inability to protect our spouse and to help them.

We can’t jump into a conversation, we can’t go to our spouse’s work place and defend their honor, it is difficult for us to jump into a relationship we aren’t a part of and defend them or shout about how they’ve been mistreated.

This is especially true in ministry.

I took one counseling class in seminary. I don’t remember anything from it but one thing. The professor said, “When people are hurt in their life or have been hurt by an authority figure (a boss, spouse, parent, coach, teacher) and they can’t do anything about it, they will take it out on the closest authority figure to them. Often that person will be a pastor, a boss or a coach. If they can’t find an authority figure, they will simply take it out on the person closest to them that they are jealous of.”

At first I brushed it off. I was 24 and hadn’t really experienced much of leadership or counseling at that point.

Now that is one of the truest and most applicable statements I have heard in my entire life. I have watched that play out so many times in our church and in relationships.

For example, when I meet with someone who is leaving our church, almost 50% of the conversation has to do with their spouse, a past hurt our church had nothing to do with (usually a father wound) or something else in their life out of their control that has nothing to do with me or our church. But they are mad and it gets directed at me and our church.

Back to your spouse or kids that are hurting and you feel powerless. What do you do?

  • Pray for them.
  • Listen to them.
  • Give godly advice, not advice that makes you feel justified for them. That is a crucial piece.
  • Ask good questions when it is appropriate. This comes after listening to them.
  • Help them see through the fog of their hurt to what God is doing and how He is trying to use this. I’m often amazed at how God brings about new possibilities through what seems like an impossible situation.

Love Is… (1 Corinthians 13)

I know that loving people is hard. It can be exhilarating and bring us so much joy, but it can also bring us heartache.

Last week Katie and I were with one of our mentors, and he said, “The people God has placed in our lives are there to activate what God wants to transform.” That is hard because everyone in my life isn’t always easy to live with. They can be messy, difficult, get in the way and get on my nerves. I can do the same to them as well. That is what relationships are like.

I want to encourage you to continue thinking through how you can bring love to your relationships, especially the most important and closest ones to you.

If you aren’t familiar with 1 Corinthians 13 on love (a very popular wedding passage), let’s remind ourselves:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Love is patient. We are impatient people. We want food fast, internet fast and we get annoyed when Netflix buffers. We are also impatient relationally. This plays out by being demanding, bulldozing people and pushing too hard. It’s the worst with those closest to us, pushing them, expecting them to be what we want, to do what we want. Yet love says, “However long it takes for you to get your act together, I’ll be here.” Our culture says, “If they don’t change fast enough, if they hold you back, move on.”

Can you imagine Jesus saying, “You aren’t changing fast enough, so I’m done with you”, or, “You aren’t responding to me fast enough, so we’re done”? This is difficult, especially if you are a control freak in your life.

Love is kind. Kindness is actions, words, emotions and so much more.

In your relationships, do you use your presence and words to show kindness, or do you tear the other down? Kindness often is keeping your mouth shut when you’d love to open it. Not in a way to cover sin, but in a way to say, “That isn’t a big deal; I’ll let that go.”

Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. Envy is a longing for something that isn’t currently ours. Boasting is puffing ourselves up, focusing on ourself and our needs over the needs of others. Arrogance is thinking we’re better than we are. Rude is controlling the agenda and everyone around us.

When we envy others, boast, are arrogant or rude, we push people away.

Often we do these things to be right, but also to protect ourselves from getting hurt. If I envy you, then I can blame you for my problems. If I boast, I can put you down to make me feel better. The same is true of being rude. If I’m arrogant, I protect myself from getting hurt. If I’m not proud, I’m willing to open up my heart to hurt, yes, but I also open up my heart to love.

All these emotions and actions do is isolate us. In this passage Paul is inviting us to let go of these desires.

Love does not insist on its own way. Many times love is self-seeking and about what we want.

Why do we insist on our way? For protection, fear, pride, anxiety, control, just to name a few. Love gives in relationships; it doesn’t take.

Love doesn’t insist on perfection. In our photoshopped, air brushed culture, we insist on perfection. We take and re-take selfies. We only post our highlights or our low lights in a way to get love. Think the next time you post something, are you posting it for affirmation? Most of us do.

But love says, “I’ll accept you. I’ll walk with you.” Love says, “I won’t have an independent spirit.” This doesn’t mean you are co-dependent, because that’s unhealthy, but do you bring an independent, “I’m going to do what I want when I want” spirit to your relationships?

At the end of the day, this is empathy and a willingness to see from the other person’s perspective in a relationship.

Love is not irritable or resentful. We all know people who are resentful and always irritated. They keep a list of wrongs in relationships, reminding people of past hurts. They also always expect the worst in relationships.

Do you know where this comes from? It comes from their family of origin, but often it comes from the picture they have of the relationship.

For me, I am often my biggest critic. Every situation I am in with anyone, I have a picture in my mind of what that interaction and time will be like. What this does is prevent me from enjoying the moment. I have to constantly battle this. Multiple times a day I have to remind myself, “This is good enough. The world won’t end.” When we let go and enjoy, we more easily let go of hurt, we more easily let go of things that didn’t go the way we wanted them to go.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. This goes with the last one.

Do you rejoice over the mistakes of those closest to you? Being able to say, “I told you it would go that way”, which puffs us up to show that we are right. We look at people who make mistakes in our lives and think, “How did you not know that would go that way?”

This also gets into the area of being historical in relationships. Do you find yourself saying, “Remember when…”, “You always…”, or “You never…”? Don’t miss this: No strong relationship is filled with the words always and never.

But what if the other person in my life is hard to love? What if my spouse is difficult? What if my child is hard to get along with? What if my parents or in-laws are always getting into our relationship?

Paul ends with what I think are the hardest parts of this passage, because they cost us the most.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. This is the hardest part of love. This last verse shows us not only what God’s love towards us cost Him, but it shows us what love will cost us. It also shows us how strong love is.

Love can bear all things when we love the way God loves us. Love does not give up hope. Love is not naïve, but love is powerful. The love that Paul has been talking about in these verses is love that can bear all things, believe all things and hope all things.

But what if the other person doesn’t love like that?

Love endures all things. That’s why Paul ends with love endures all things.

You have the choice to endure all things, in love, even when things are the hardest and the darkest. Even when facing your hurt is painful, even when that person hurts you emotionally, you have the choice to love.

Will they return that love? Maybe not.

We love those around us the way we believe God loves us (1 John 4:19), whether we believe in God or not.

For example, if we believe God is indifferent towards us, this is how we approach most relationships. If we believe God is holding out on us, we will hold out on those closest to us in relationships. If we believe God has a short fuse, we will tend to have a short fuse. If we believe God doesn’t care what we do, this is how we will treat those closest to us.

How do I know this?

1 Corinthians 13 is a picture of God’s love toward us. All of these remind us of what God’s love is like.

God is not impatient or unkind with us. He is not pushy. God does not say to us, “Do you remember when you…”, or, “You always…” Instead, we are told that when we take the step of following Jesus and confessing our sins and need for Jesus, God remembers our sin no more. It is hard when we are hurt, carry around shame and regret and guilt from past relationships to see the truth. We are so used to seeing that relationship and all relationships through the lens of pain. Yet Jesus sets us free from our shame, regret and guilt. He is the power to overcome those experiences.

But why is love so hard?

Because, “The people God has placed in our lives are there to activate what God wants to transform.” So, as you read through the list in 1 Corinthians 13, you begin to see what God wants to transform in your life through what is difficult for you to live out.

Think of one thing, one relationship, and work on that. Change and growth take time, so don’t feel like you need to fix every relationship you have. That’s not possible. Give yourself permission to take your time. God isn’t in a rush.

How to Forgive, Let Go & Deal with Hurt in Relationships

forgive

Forgiveness is tough. In a sermon, giving forgiveness sounds so easy and clean. Yet in real life it is difficult and messy. The reality, though, is that we forgive as much as we believe we are forgiven. Whenever we withhold forgiveness we deny the power of the cross. Whenever we say, “I can’t forgive that person”, or, “I can’t let go of that situation”, we deny the power of the cross. We deny the power of what God redeemed us to do.

Before walking through giving forgiveness, let’s look at what forgiveness is not.

In his book Rumors of God, Jon Tyson said there are six myths about forgiveness:

  1. Forgiving is the same as forgetting.
  2. Forgiving is the same as reconciling.
  3. Forgiving is the same as excusing.
  4. Forgiving will make you weak.
  5. Forgiving is a simple act or decision.
  6. Forgiving depends on the perpetrator admitting wrong.

Forgiveness is letting go, canceling what is owed to you, letting go of the control the offender has over you. It is giving up revenge, and as we see in Romans 12:19, it is leaving it in God’s hands.

As you walk through this door and grant forgiveness, here are a few of things to keep in mind:

1. Forgiving someone does not mean pretending it didn’t happen. Forgiving does not mean forgetting, as the old saying goes. Those scars still exist. They are still there. Forgiving means acknowledging it happened and the pain associated with it. It is facing the hurt.

2. Giving forgiveness means bearing the other person’s sin. There is a cost to forgiveness. You must bear their sin. The cost of forgiveness is always on the person granting forgiveness. This is why forgiveness is so hard. C.S. Lewis said, “Forgiveness is a beautiful word, until you have something to forgive.”

3. Forgiveness is possible because Jesus bore your sin and the cost of your forgiveness. When we look at the cross, we see how Jesus bore our sin, knowing we would fail again and again. Yet, he forgave us. The power of this moment is what enables us to forgive the way Jesus did.

In Honor of Valentine’s Day

love, valentine's day

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share the top 10 marriage and relationship posts that Katie and I have written over the years. Thanks for learning and growing with us over the years. Bookmark this page to use as a resource you can come back to. Katie and I hope this helps take your marriage to the next level.

  1. Lies Couples Believe About Marriage
  2. 11 Ways to Know You’ve Settled for a Mediocre Marriage
  3. 10 Questions You Should Ask Your Spouse Regularly
  4. 18 Things Every Husband Should Know about His Wife
  5. The One Thing Destroying Your Marriage That You Don’t Realize
  6. 10 Ways to Know if You’re Putting Your Kids Before Your Spouse
  7. When You Manipulate Your Husband, You Lose Him
  8. 7 Reasons You Aren’t Communicating with your Spouse
  9. Surviving a Hard Season in Your Marriage
  10. When You Aren’t in the Mood for Sex

Happy Valentine’s Day!

How to Figure out God’s Will

God's Will

Every time you say yes to something, you say no to something else.

This truth has had an enormous impact on how I live my life, how I make decisions, how we do our calendar as a family and how I lead Revolution Church.

But how do you know what to say yes and no to? That’s the most common question I get from someone who has read my book or has heard me say this in a talk. Honestly, it’s different for each person.

Too often we focus on what we want to do in the next day, week or month and then make a decision based on that. Let me frame it a different way for you: What kind of person do you want to become in the next month? In the next half year? One year from now, who do you want to be?

Will this involve doing something? Yes, but it changes the context.

For example, if a year from now you want to be closer to Jesus than you are today, a stronger disciple, then you will make the choice to say yes to community, yes to serving in your church, yes to reading your Bible, and yes to inviting people to church. That will then determine what you say no to.

Often we hope that something will happen. We will simply become kinder, more generous, thinner or smarter without putting in the work or even be willing to make a choice towards something. If you want to become a person who is known for ________, then you will have to make decisions for that to happen. A wish and a hope are not enough.

Take your marriage or another relationship. What if six months from now that relationship was stronger? It would mean that what you are doing right now would have to change. You would need to make more of an effort, you would have to say yes to giving time and energy to that relationship and saying no to something else (ie. golfing, sleeping in, working too late).

We often think we have no power over where our life goes, what our marriage becomes, the relationship we have with God or how kind we are. Yet we do. Every day we make decisions that get our life somewhere.

Here’s the problem: we never sit down to ask, Where do I want to end up?