Feelings as an Invitation

Recently Katie and I were sitting in a conference with a group of pastors that was led by two counselors, and they were talking about the body and a theology of the body.

Fascinating.

During the time, though, they said something that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.

They said, “When you feel something, discomfort, anger, anxiety, worry, disgust, there is something going on, something you shouldn’t ignore. That something is an invitation from God for you to walk into.”

We all have those moments. Moments when we fly off the handle, sulk, pull away, lie awake in bed worrying about our marriage or finances.

What if those moments are invitations?

Most of the time, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you easily beat yourself up over those feelings. I shouldn’t feel that way. I shouldn’t think that. I shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t.

Those feelings are revealing something.

Something is going on.

It might be revealing a dark heart, a sin you need to confess.

It might be revealing something from your past you are running from, pretending it didn’t happen.

Many times our feelings are reminders of things we’d like to forget.

Yet, those are also places God wants to enter and redeem. Those are places and stories that need redemption.

That’s the invitation.

Don’t run from it.

How do I get my Spouse to Notice Me?

When you were dating your spouse you couldn’t wait to see them.

I remember having conversations with Katie and falling asleep on the phone. When you get married you can’t wait to get home from work to spend the evening with your spouse.

Things are new, things are fun and your relationship is growing.

But then life happens.

Bills pile up. Kids enter the picture, and the spontaneous, last minute romance that happened now becomes less and less until it is nonexistent. Date nights that used to magically appear no longer make it onto the calendar.

Slowly, both spouses ask (for different reasons), “How do I get my spouse to notice me?”

For women, it often centers around romance, being pursued, having her husband care about her day, her dreams and longings.

For men, it centers around sex and the feeling that his wife desires him sexually, but also that she cares about his dreams.

As a couple enters the second decade of their marriage, another fear starts to enter the relationship, and noticing it is crucial in this.

The fear that they missed out on life. The fear that they aren’t enough.

For women, if they have kids, this will center on being a mom and if they are doing enough. According to the mom blogs they are probably failing. Their kids are in school now and they wonder if they are keeping up, if they are worthwhile as a mom.

For men, they wonder if they missed out on life. They expected their career to be at a certain point by the time they were 35 or 40, and it usually isn’t as far along as they expected. They are afraid to say something because saying something makes it real.

In this moment, a couple has enormous power to speak truth and grace into the heart of their spouse.

But many don’t.

Most couples keep chugging on, alone.

Men escape into porn, fantasy sports leagues, real sports leagues or get lost in another hobby.

You can see the misery on their face, the longing for a deeper connection that isn’t there. They want to know that they didn’t fail as a man but are afraid to say so.

Women escape into the lives of their kids or a career when they are old enough.

Slowly, they take a step away from each other.

At first it isn’t noticeable, but then the chasm becomes so wide that it seems impossible to bridge.

Then someone asks, “How do I get my spouse to notice me?”

At this point the answer seems to be that you have to do something crazy.

Sometimes crazy with your spouse can be a good idea.

The reality is that everyday ways of noticing will do. It won’t feel like a lot, but day after day those steps add up.

In the same way that people lose weight and get out of debt over a period of time, your relationships are healed over a period of time.

Simple things.

Compliments.

Words of encouragement.

Praising your spouse in front of your kids or friends and family.

Pursuing them sexually.

Planning a date night.

Sending them a text in the middle of the day that says, “I’m praying for you” or, “I’m thinking about you. Hope your day is going well.”

Picking up after yourself.

Wearing that shirt or jeans they like.

Ironically, the way to get your spouse to notice you in marriage is almost identical to how you got them to notice you when you were dating.

Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture

The church that I lead is working on building a stronger leadership culture. In some parts of our church, like most, this is hitting on all cylinders. In other parts, it is lagging behind.

Recently, I read Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture by Mark Miller where he lays out a five step process for building a leadership culture in your church or organization that I thought was helpful:

1. Define it. Forge a consensus regarding your church’s working definition of leadership. How do you define leadership in your church? Many people have a definition of leadership or what makes a leader, but few teams have a consistent definition of leadership.

You’ll want to be able to answer these questions: What makes someone a leader in general? What makes someone a leader at your church? What are the attributes of a leader versus a doer or a follower?

2. Teach it. Ensure everyone knows your leadership point of view and leaders have the skills required to succeed.

There are so many ideas and resources out there to train leaders. What will you use? How will you help your volunteers and staff members grow as leaders?

Each staff member or team lead must think through how they will teach leadership to their teams on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. This doesn’t have to a big event, but it can be. Simple nuggets, simple teachings and reminders often go the furthest over time, if shared consistently.

3. Practice it. Create opportunities for leaders and emerging leaders to lead; stretch assignments prove and improve leaders.

Pastors hate giving things away. I have guesses as to why, but that’s for another post. The reality is that people become leaders by leading. By hHaving a chance to risk something, to succeed or fall flat on their faces. Young preachers need to stand in front of groups and preach (this doesn’t have to be, and probably shouldn’t be, the main worship service at the beginning).

4. Measure it. Track the progress for our leadership development efforts, adjusting strategies and tactics accordingly.

Pastors are notorious (and I do this more than I like to admit) for starting something and not creating any way to measure and track it.

How will you know if you are developing more leaders this month, this year than last? It needs to be more than, “we have more volunteers than last year.” That isn’t always a sign that you have built leaders or a leadership culture.

5. Model it. Walk the talk and lead by example – people always watch the leader.

Sadly in most churches and organizations, the higher you go up the ladder, the less likely those leaders are to create and develop leaders. For some it is an inability to do it, not being sure how to do it, but for many, it is a fear of being replaced by someone younger or better. If you don’t develop leaders though, your church stops when you do.

For me, discipleship and leadership development are two sides of the same coin. Thinking about it this way has been incredibly helpful when it comes to developing leaders. People want to follow people who are growing. If you are building spiritually mature leaders in your church, you will be helping them to grow as disciples and leaders.

God’s Love for You

One of the strongest and clearest messages throughout the Bible is God’s love for us. We are reminded that God doesn’t forget us (even though many of us feel forgotten), that God is close to us (even though He often feels far away), and that not only has He created us in His image but He knows us, and that doesn’t scare Him away (although we always fear that the moment someone truly knows us, they’ll bolt).

And yet, many of us still struggle to believe God loves us.

We believe God loves the world. We believe that through Jesus God will redeem and restore the world, but we have a hard time placing ourselves in that.

So we run, we hide, we put up fronts, wear masks, beat ourselves up for past mistakes, try to earn God’s love, try to prove ourselves worth God’s love, and all the while God’s love sits there.

If you’re like me, you can relate to this.

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 the apostle 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.

Over the last two years, if there is one message that God has put on my heart for me to learn, it is this: His gracious, unrelenting, never stopping love for me.

Personally, I keep going back to Luke 15 and the stories that Jesus told. A shepherd who goes after a lost lamb, a woman who searches for a coin and a father who runs out to meet his son who doesn’t deserve grace, let alone a party. Through this passage, God has softened my heart to understand and feel His love.

Some of us (at least I did) balked a little at this because it seemed too emotional, made God too close and personal, and we feared it would take away His transcendence and power. He’s God, Creator of the universe. Yes, and He’s also a personal God who created you in His image and sent His Son to die in your place so He could rescue you and so you could know His great love for you.

Here’s my challenge to you. Spend as much time as you need, months or years. Dive into Luke 15 and the passages listed above and ask God, “Show me Your love for me; help me to understand and feel Your love for me.”

Links for Leaders 9/22/17

It’s the weekend…finally. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up on some reading. Below, you’ll find some articles and podcasts I came across this week that I found helpful as a leader and parent and hope you do as well.

Before diving into those, in case you missed them this week. Here are the top 3 posts from my blog this week that I hope you find helpful:

Now, onto some more articles and podcasts to help you:

This post (Why Control Freaks Rarely Lead Large Organizations) from Carey Nieuwhof was the most convicting thing I’ve read as a leader in a long time. This hit me right where I am right now and nailed the struggle and tension that I feel as a leader.

If you’re a parent and a fan of podcasts, the last two Parent Cue podcasts have been great. The first is on how grandparents can help with parenting and being a great influence on kids. The second is on advice for the varying stages of fatherhood.

On a regular basis a guy will tell me about how his coworker “gets him.” Is more attractive than his spouse or some other reason why they should leave their spouse. Wrong. And Adam Weber has a great post on 5 reasons your coworker is cuter than your husband or wife.

If you’re a pastor or leader, you probably struggle with hiring. Hiring feels like pinning the tail on the donkey and seems to only workout half the time. Rich Birch, who has a fantastic podcast for leaders has some great axioms on hiring.

How to Know You’re a Christian

One of the struggles many people have is the question of assurance in their salvation. Maybe you grew up with a fear of your salvation. “Am I really saved? Because I did this or that, am I still saved?”

On the other end of the spectrum is a group that thinks they are right with God but aren’t. It might be because they try to be a good person, go to church, be generous or vote a certain way that makes them think they’re a Christian, but there isn’t anything different in their life or anything that shows any fruit.

Over and over in the New Testament, particularly from Jesus and John, we’re told that followers of Jesus will bear fruit, fruit that lasts.

But what is that fruit?

Paul tells us in Galatians that fruit is from the Spirit: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22 – 23)

Here’s a simple question: Do you see yourself growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

A follower of Jesus isn’t given an option. You don’t get to say, “I’m just not a joyful person like so-and-so.” Or, “I’m just not very gentle.” Or, “I have an angry personality and I’m not very patient.”

Here’s a simple clue on where you stand in your relationship with God: Do you desire to grow in these? Do you desire to see this fruit show up in your life? Does it grieve you when they don’t? Do you see growth not only in showing this fruit but also in your desire for it in your life?

There are some of those in Galatians that, because of your personality and gifts, are easy for you, and others that are a stretch. The ones that are a stretch are the ones God wants to grow you in.

Here’s my challenge to you: Which of these do you not have a desire for? Which of what Paul lists do you need to grow in? Ask God.

What you will find is that God will not give you patience in the way you would think of it, but the opportunity for showing patience.

Loving & Delighting in Your Marriage

Most married couples would say they love their spouse, even on the hardest days, but few marriages reach the level of delight.

Loving your spouse and delighting in your spouse are two different things, and the difference, I think, is the difference between a good and a great marriage.

We all love lots of people, but we don’t delight in all those people.

To delight in someone means “to take great pleasure in them, to adore them, to revel in, luxuriate in.”

You can love someone and not delight in them.

To delight in your spouse means to look for ways to build them up, to help them accomplish goals and dreams, to help them succeed.

To delight means more than just fighting for purity in your marriage. It means delighting in purity in your marriage and holding up your love and purity for your spouse so that everyone around you knows and feels it. Here’s what I mean. Have you ever seen a couple who has been married 10, 15, 20+ years who is still holding hands, snuggling in public or sharing kisses? Pursuing each other outside of the bedroom, in front of people? This is delight.

Have you seen a couple who speaks highly of each other? When you hear the wife talk about her husband, how proud she is of him, how much he provides for her, the leadership he takes. At times you wonder if she is making stuff up, and she might be. But delighting in your spouse means seeing the person they are becoming and helping them to get there.

When we love someone, even at our best, we can often love them for what they give to us or how they fulfill us. Delight is different. Delight is a focus on the other.

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.

7 Quotes on Change from Carey Nieuwhof

If you are leading change in your church, here are some great quotes from Carey Nieuwhof in his book Leading Change Without Losing It: Five Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition:

The loudest people affected by a proposed change are those who are most opposed. The more opposed people are, the louder they tend to become.

When you focus on complaints, you lose sight of the plan.

Will you focus on the people you want to reach, or the people you want to keep?

There is no way I know to engineer significant change and keep everyone you’ve currently got.

Everyone in your church likes your church the way it is; otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. It’s just that the rest of your community may not. Otherwise, they might be there.

When you consider the 10 or 100 who might leave your church if you change, just pause to remember the almost 10,000 who aren’t coming because, so far, you have failed to change. Maybe as leaders we need to start fearing that.

Here are 5 questions designed to help you discern whether a person is indeed the kind of person you can build the future of the church on:
  1. Is their vision primarily based on the past or on the future?
  2. Do they have a spirit of humility? Are they open or closed to the counsel of other people?
  3. Who is following them, and is this the kind of group that you would want around your senior leadership table?
  4. Are they focused on themselves or the people you are trying to reach?
  5. Do they offer positive alternatives that will help build a better future than your current vision for change?

Links for Leaders 9/8/17

It’s the weekend…finally. The perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and 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 diving into those, in case you missed them this week. Here are the top 3 posts from my blog that I hope you find helpful:

Now, onto some more articles to help you:

I meet a lot of people who wonder if they are leaders or wonder if they have what it takes to be a leader. Scott Cochrane breaks down how to know if you are talking like a leader. This is also helpful for leaders to evaluate how they speak to make sure they are moving people forward.

I love preaching. It is one of my favorite parts of my job. So I’m always on the lookout for insights on how to get better at it. Rookiepreacher.com has proven to be a great site for that. On it, they shared 8 principles of great preaching from Dave Stone who pastors a large church in Kentucky. These are pure gold for communicators.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently on church health and how a church pursues health and stays healthy. The older a church gets, the harder this seems to get and the harder you must fight for it. Brian Dodd (who always shares great nuggets) listed 11 practices of pastors whose churches have sustained health and growth.

As our church grows and the size of our staff, elder team and volunteer teams continue to grow, I find that I have less and less control over things. This is great for our church and the health of it, but it is also hard for me to handle because I tend to be a control freak. That’s why I love the perspective Ron Edmondson has, to look at the 5 things you control as a senior leader.