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.

How to Lose Weight as a Leader

Every month I hear from a reader of this blog, a fellow pastor or talk to someone who wants to lose weight. I get asked about my weight loss journey on a weekly basis. For most Americans and leaders, weight and health are a struggle. And it gets harder the older you get.

I get two common questions from people, especially leaders, about weight loss. One is from pastors themselves asking me about how I lost weight and how they can, too. The second is from their wives asking me how they can make their husbands lose weight.

The first question I can answer. The second one is ground I don’t walk onto.

For me, I got miserable enough to lose weight. I weighed 300 pounds when I got married, had a 42 inch waist and finally at the ripe old age of 29, got fed up with it.

If you are a leader, being healthy and losing weight becomes incredibly difficult. You have a lot of stress, a lot of things to do, a lot of meetings to sit in and a lot of meetings at restaurants. Throw in traveling to conferences and you are looking at a life filled with minimal activity and a lot of temptation when it comes to food.

The journey of losing weight and keeping the weight off is similar.

If you work for a living (or if you don’t), these are some ideas that will help you to lose weight and keep it off:

Know what you’ll eat wherever you go. One of the easiest ways to lose weight when eating out is to not get sucked into the menu. When you go somewhere, you should always know what you are going to eat. This will help to keep you from remorse about your food purchase.

Plan for exercise. Before you travel somewhere, know where you will exercise. I have chosen hotels on trips based off of the gyms they have. Find a gym you can walk to and get a guest pass. Once Katie and I were in LA for four days, and we got 3-day guest passes to a gym.

In your workday, know when you are going to exercise. If you don’t attach a minute to it, it won’t happen. Your day will get away from you, and you will find yourself not exercising.

Order first everywhere. At a meal out, always be the first to order. This is an idea from Tom Rath at Gallup that talks about how the first person to order sets the tone for the table. If the first person orders an appetizer, everyone looks at the appetizer and your meal just added at least 1,000 calories to it.

Drink lots of water. Everyone knows soda is bad for us, and yet we keep drinking it in ridiculous amounts. When you travel and when you sit in meetings, drink lots of water. Especially when you are flying somewhere, this will help you to avoid dehydration and help to keep you more alert.

Go to bed first. Sleep is the secret weapon for every leader. It is the secret weapon to every athlete, and yet we treat this poorly. I watch a lot of pastors when they travel somewhere stay up until 1am hanging out with friends and then running ragged because of it. Turn off Netflix and go to bed.

Stand and walk as much as possible. If a lunch meeting is less than a mile from your office or a meeting, try to walk. Just move. Get up out of your seat at least every hour and move around.

Don’t eat dessert. No one ever eats dessert and is glad they did. In fact, if you eat an entire dessert at a restaurant there’s a good chance you will hate yourself after the fact. Share one if you are going to get one, but I’d encourage you to fill up on some real food.

While this isn’t a complete list, these are just a few ideas that might help you get started on your weight loss journey or keep moving.

Wednesday Morning Mind Dump…

  • It’s been a whirlwind of 3 days.
  • Sunday right after church, I flew to Reno for the Acts 29 West Conference.
  • Which was awesome.
  • Then got up at 4:30 Tuesday morning to fly home so I could be here for Katie’s birthday.
  • I was dragging through the Reno, Vegas and Tucson airport.
  • But it felt so good to get home.
  • One of the things I love about Katie’s birthday is surprising her with her summer reading list.
  • I think one of the best ways a husband can love and serve his wife is get her good books to read that fill her heart and soul with some gospel goodness.
  • And some funny/sad/moving memoirs.
  • And yes, I got her other stuff too.
  • Speaking of summer, now’s a good time to start thinking through your summer reading list.
  • Summer is a great time to grow, give your brain a break, think through a new project or dream.
  • It’s a great time to reset something and start over halfway through the year.
  • It was incredible being in Reno and hearing all the things that God is doing, not only in Acts 29 West, but around the world.
  • I love being a part of a global network that is planting churches and seeing lives changed.
  • One of the things I was most excited about when I left Reno were some of the ideas me and the other pastors in Arizona have for partnering together to plant more churches in our state.
  • Can’t wait to see them unfold.
  • On the plane, I got to read David Murray’s new book Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture.
  • So helpful.
  • If you are a leader who is over 30, this is a book you must read.
  • I’ll share some book notes soon.
  • My birthday is Saturday so Katie and I are celebrating our birthdays with friends next week.
  • It is one of the advantages of having your birthday the same week as your spouse’s.
  • Well, I’m a day and a half behind on my sermon.
  • Back at it…

How to Grow in Holiness


If you attend church, you have heard this word. You have heard that you are supposed to be holy as God is holy. (1 Peter 1:16)

But why? Does anyone want that?

Two reasons. One, we are called to it as followers of Jesus. All over the Bible we are told to be like God.

The second reason is because it is the path to life and freedom.

Everyone is attracted to Jesus, and in Jesus we see the person who lived the freest and fullest life and did so without sin.

How do we grow in holiness, though?

Once we determine we want holiness and see that as the path to freedom and life, Peter gives some crucial steps in 1 Peter 1.

1. Live out of your identity as a child of God. The New Testament letters contain a lot of commands about how a follower of Jesus is supposed to live. All of those come after the promises and assurances of God’s grace towards us. It happens in the Old Testament, too. Take the 10 commandments. Before giving them, God reminds them that He rescued the nation of Israel and set them free. Then He tells them how to live in that freedom.

Peter does this in chapter 1. He spends the first 12 verses laying out the truth of God’s grace towards us and our redemption found only in Jesus. Then in verse 13 he says, “Therefore.” Because of this, in light of this, be holy.

Live out the truth of your new identity.

Sinclair Ferguson said, “Holiness is a way of describing love. To say ‘God is love’ and that ‘God is holy’ ultimately is to point to the same reality. Holiness is the intensity of the love that flows within the very being of God.”

2. Prepare for it. Holiness does not just happen. In fact, very little “just happens” in our lives. Holiness takes intentionality. So does sinning. You plan for sinning simply by not choosing not to sin. You put yourself in situations that make sinning a possibility or easier to fall into.

To be holy you must prepare for it, choose it and pursue it. This term is a military, athletic term. Training for a sport, a marathon or a long hike does not just happen. You have to plan your training, when it will happen and how it will happen. You schedule your nutrition and your sleep. All those preparations go into it. The same is true for holiness.

And this is where most of us fall off track. It is easier to prepare for sin than holiness. Sin is easier to fall into than holiness.

3. Focus on Jesus and His return. Throughout the New Testament, when endurance or obedience is commanded, we are told to fix our eyes on Jesus, to look toward eternity and the promises of God we have in Jesus. Jesus is our only hope in life and death, and we must through the power of the Holy Spirit and the promises found in Scripture, keep our eyes focused on Him. Peter uses the word “fully” or “completely.”

This means identifying the things that will take our focus away from Jesus. What idols, desires or loves will put our eyes and heart from Jesus? We must know what those things are and continually battle those to keep our eyes on Jesus.

4. Be conformed by obedience, not by your past life. Following Jesus is a constant battle of moving forward. It is easy to fall backwards, to look back. Our past is what we know. It is comfortable, like an old shirt. We know those places and those people and can easily slip back.


Holiness says freedom and life aren’t found there.

Conformed in 1 Peter 1:14 is a shaping word. We are shaped by our passions, by our loves. They determine who we are, who we become and ultimately where our lives end up. Sinclair Ferguson said, “Knowing whose you are, who you are, and what you are for, settles basic issues about how you live.” That is what Peter is talking about here.

If our former passions shape us, they determine where our lives end up. If the holiness of God, the way we are called to live, shapes us, that determines what we love and where we end up.

Links for Leaders 4/28/17

It’s the weekend. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Here are 6 articles & podcasts I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

Ever wonder what is holding you back in your life or leadership? Here are 7 things that if eliminated, will raise the lid of your life and leadership.

I always tell leaders and couples they need to find someone older, further down the road than they are and learn from them. Here’s a list of 22 things one pastor learned after 42 years in ministry. This is gold. Thanks for sharing Ron.

It is easy as a leader to keep running faster and faster and not deal with the things in your heart and soul. Chuck Lawless has 10 questions every leader should ask each week, that I found to be incredibly helpful.

As kids get older, they need certain adults in their life to help them grow and mature, not only as people, but as followers of Jesus. A parent plays a crucial role in this. Kara Powell shares some great insights on this podcast about who these adults are.

We all know that the best work is accomplished when we are able to focus and concentrate. We don’t have our best ideas when we are multi-tasking and running from one thing to the next, but we rarely make time or schedule time to focus. Here are 3 ideas from a great book called Deep Work that will help you with that. 

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that I love books and think reading is the key to growth and success in life and leadership. But how important is reading? Does it really move the needle that much? Here’s the answer.

Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track and Keeping It There

Predictable success is something every pastor or leader wants. Is it possible? Sustainable? Can anyone or any church do it? According to Les McKeown in Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track and Keeping It There, the answer is yes.

But first, what is it?

Any organization (or church) that is in Predictable Success exhibits five main characteristics that, taken together, distinguish it from organizations at other stages in the growth cycle:

  1. Decision making. The ability to readily make and consistently implement decisions.
  2. Goal setting. The ability to readily set and consistently achieve goals.
  3. Alignment. Structure, process and people are in harmony.
  4. Accountability. Employees become self-accountable, in addition to being externally accountable to others.
  5. Ownership. Employees take personal responsibility for their actions and outcomes.

Reading through this book, I saw so many things from the church I lead, but I also found a roadmap to move it into a healthier growth cycle.

Here are a few other things I highlighted that might be helpful for you and your church:

  • Making the right decisions seems easy, but implementing decisions and making them stick is incredibly difficult.
  • In Predictable Success you know why you are successful, and you can use that information to sustain growth in the long term.
  • In Predictable Success the greater focus is on the execution of that decision once it is made.
  • The single most powerful characteristic of the Predictable Success organization is the existence of a culture of self-accountability.
  • A key identifier of an organization in Predictable Success: Management refuses to be distracted unnecessarily, crisis mode is rarely invoked and the organization restabilizes after problem solving, with minimal drama.
  • There are two stages to achieving results in business: First, making the right decisions to begin with, and second, implementing those decisions effectively.
  • Too many systems and processes in an organization cause it to slow down and lose its flexibility and lead it to look inward rather than outward.
  • The concept of ownership and self-accountability is the single most important factor contributing to Predictable Success.
  • In Predictable Success, employees take responsibility for outcomes.

How to Keep Your Marriage Special

Let’s face it, when you date someone, you make things special. You think up incredible dates, time a picnic to watch a sunset or drive to the beach to see the sunrise. You scout out museums, new places to eat or grab coffee.

When you get married, this continues before you have kids.

You make big gestures like new jewelry, a big purchase your spouse has been eyeing, dream vacations and honeymoons. Maybe even decorating a new house or your first condo.

Then kids come along.

All of a sudden what used to be special is pretty ordinary.

Your birthday budget is now spent on throwing the extravagant toddler party. As they get older, an arm and a leg must be spent to take your kids and all their friends to the trampoline place. Family vacations take the place of that romantic getaway. Those big gifts and fun purchases are replaced by backpacks, a new toaster, shoes for the kids, camp or car repairs.

All of a sudden you’re not only ordinary, but it is now not romantic and not fun.

Many couples hit a wall in this spot.

The place of romantic gestures moves from being big and extravagant, posting all over Instagram, to ordinary, smaller gestures of romance. This feels uncreative, less loving and not as amazing as it used to be.

It also takes more planning and thinking, and this is why many couples fail.

If you have $500 to spend on an anniversary gift, the ideas are endless. It is simply picking between three amazing ideas, and then you could even stretch it to $600 or $750. They’ll understand because who’s going to be mad about spending a little more when you’ve already spent that much? Compare that to $25 or $50 to spend. Now what? How do you make that special?

This is a struggle for men because we like big gestures. Men also believe their wives only like big gestures. Don’t get me wrong, your wife likes big gestures. But she likes small, everyday gestures of love, too. Maybe even more. If you were to ask your wife is she would like one big gesture of love each year or small gestures each day, I bet she’ll pick the daily one.

What does this look like?

Right now you probably think you know what your spouse would like, but in all probability you have no idea. So ask.

Here are some examples: snuggling, giving a kiss good bye and hello each day, holding hands, cleaning up after yourself or pitching in, spontaneously making out, something they weren’t expecting (lunch out, a pastry from their favorite shop, a coffee in the middle of the afternoon), a text that says I’m thinking of you.

Yes, five day trips to the beach are amazing. Sleeping in and staying up late with your spouse is incredible. If you have kids, those days have hit pause. They’ll return, but only if you learn how to make your marriage special in everyday, ordinary ways.

What if God Really Loved You? (Luke 15)

Do you believe that God loves you? Do you know and live like God loves you?

The words rang out through the room as I was sitting there.

In all honesty, I believed it. I knew it. I didn’t live like it, though.

Who does?

In talking with people and reading books, very few people live as if they believe and know God loves them. We read it in the Bible but do not live like those words are true.

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

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

We’ll say things like, “I know God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself.” Or, “Yes, God loves me, but I can’t love myself.”

When we say those things, we have made love and forgiveness something it is not. We have based that on our own definitions and life.

Read those verses that are listed above. Put them on your phone, your computer wall paper, tape them to your mirror. When you pray, you are praying to a God that knows everything about you and still listens and still loves you.

This is a daily battle we fight to remind ourselves that God loves us.

What is amazing to me in those verses is that God’s love towards us all happened and was promised before we were born, before we were on the radar of our parents’ minds.

Still struggling to believe it?

Jesus tells an amazing story in Luke 15. We meet a family, a father and his two sons.

The younger son comes and asks his father for his inheritance. In this culture, the younger sons were often seen as the rebellious, carefree ones. The older sons were the responsible ones. The oldest son received 2/3 of what the father had when the father died. Notice, the father isn’t dead. The remaining children received what was left after that. This son says, “I want mine now, before you are dead.” He is telling his father, “I wish you were dead.”

The father at this point would’ve had every right to beat and disown the son in this culture. Instead, the father gives it to him, which means he would’ve had to sell land. In this culture that is focused on the father, the people hearing this story would’ve been blown away by the audacity of the son.

The younger son leaves, takes his money, lives it up and spends it all. Then a famine comes to the land he is in. He is at the bottom, so hungry that he is wanting to eat the food pigs are eating.

The younger brother says, “I don’t believe in God and will define right and wrong for myself.” In the younger brother, Jesus gives us a depiction of sin that anyone would recognize. The young man humiliates his family and lives a self-indulgent, self-centered life. He is totally out of control. He is alienated from the father, who represents God in the story. Anyone who lives like that would be cut off from God, as all the listeners to the parable would have agreed.

There is another kind of mess that Jesus doesn’t want us to miss, and that is the mess the older son is in. The Pharisees, the ones who are religious in this culture, are like the older brother. The older son said to the father, “I have never disobeyed you.” But he doesn’t want the father either. The older son thinks what will save him is his obedience, his morality, and his good deeds. The older son believed his father should bless him because of all that he did. For the older son, Jesus is a helper but he doesn’t need a Savior; he can save himself. The older son obeys God to get things. God owes you answered prayers because of how you live. Older sons may do good to others, but not out of delight in the deeds themselves or for the love of people or the pleasure of God. They are not really feeding the hungry and clothing the poor; they are feeding and clothing themselves. They serve on a serving team because that’s what you do, not because God has gifted them to do it.

Why is the older son angry at the father? The father has reinstated the younger brother. When the father says to the older son, “Everything I have is yours”, he isn’t lying. The oldest son gets 2/3 of the inheritance, and the other part was already given to the younger son. So, the father is spending the oldest son’s inheritance now on a son who is wasteful.

Both sons missed the father, and we often do the same.

This is often called the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The word prodigal means “reckless, extravagant, having spent everything.”

Jesus is trying to tell us this is what God our Father is like.

When the son returns and starts his speech, before he gets it out of his mouth, his father runs to him and throws his arms around him. In this culture, a father did not run. Certainly not to a son who rejected him like his did.

Not only does he welcome his son, but he throws a party. He gets a robe, the father’s robe. He reinstates the son.

Do you believe God loves you like that? That he would run to you and throw his arms around you?

Tim Keller said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

That is the love God has for us.

The question we wrestle with is, will I wake up tomorrow and live like my Father in heaven has extravagant and reckless love and affection for me?

Monday Morning Mind Dump…

  • What a day yesterday.
  • I know every pastor says that the day after Easter.
  • For me, one of the things I loved about yesterday were the people I prayed with who are struggling to come to Christ. They are wrestling and pressing in, getting questions answered.
  • I love when people cross the line of faith and get baptized, but I was reminded yesterday of how God is at work in every part of that journey.
  • I know that intellectually, but it was a sweet reminder yesterday that our church is a place for that and we are a part of that.
  • Because our church exists to help people take their next step with God, I love that people were taking steps yesterday.
  • Those people wrestling, coming to faith, to me, those are enormous celebrations of the day.
  • The people who pulled me aside and said, “Something happened today and I don’t know what it is.”
  • Rest in that pastor.
  • It was awesome to hear from some of the church planters we are supporting to hear how their days went.
  • We kicked off a series yesterday that I couldn’t be more excited about.
  • For 5 weeks, we are laying the foundation of what our church believes a healthy, mature follower of Jesus is.
  • What we mean when we say discipleship.
  • We started yesterday with a disciple is loved by God.
  • What excites me about this is not only the clarity for our church and RC leaders, but also for people in our church who are searching and skeptical.
  • Too many churches define discipleship as everything that comes after the gospel or say, “the gospel encompasses everything.”
  • It does, but when we start discipleship with what we do, it does a disservice to our people and gives them a burden they can’t carry.
  • If you’re curious about some of the books that have influenced our thinking, check these out.
  • Katie was away for the weekend, leaving me with the Reich 5.
  • She went to Galveston to do a photo shoot.
  • I love that she is getting to use her gifts and talents in that way.
  • It was a long weekend with the kids though.
  • We were all wiped and then to throw Easter activities onto it.
  • We’re all moving slowly today.
  • I’m speaking at a MOPS group tomorrow on the topics of my book Breathing Room. 
  • Should be a fun time.
  • For me, I love the questions after the fact and the conversations I get to have with people as they wrestle through their schedules and how to say no to things.
  • Katie and I got a big green egg for our 15th anniversary.
  • Yes, super romantic.
  • Yes, my wife is awesome.
  • Yes, it makes everything more delicious than my old grill.
  • Made this yesterday.
  • Incredible.
  • Well, back at it…

Links for Leaders 4/14/17

It’s the weekend. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Here are 5 articles I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

Is missing church a big deal? Is it a sin? Does it matter if you and your family miss church on a Sunday morning? Sarah Piercy, has some great insight into that question and what you do miss when you miss church.

My kids are about to become teenagers so we are talking through what parenting teenagers looks like. What does social media look like for our family, what our their privileges, rights, things that are off limits, etc. This article from Jon Acuff on 5 rules for Instagram was particularly helpful.

What is the most important leadership trait? If you asked a room full of leaders this question, you would get a host of different answers. While situations matter as to what trait is needed, some of them rise to the top and cover all situations. Scott Cochrane points out one of those traits.

Do you work with any difficult people? Are you related to any difficult people? All of us do at some point and dealing with them can be difficult, but also an incredibly defining point in our relationships and leadership. Travis Bradberry shares some tips on handling difficult people.

Everyone is talking about work and life balance. We all feel overwhelmed, busy and rundown. What if, as the Harvard Business Review recently shared, that device free time is just as important as work/life balance?