Selasa, 31 Mei 2016

Focus On Your Family, Not Your Sermon

Focus On Your Family, Not Your Sermon

Family having dinnerby Ted Cunningham
What would happen if you gave a good, but not great, message this Sunday?
What if you can’t study as hard this week as you did last week?
Is it okay to have an okay week?
Is it okay to choose more time with family this week and give an okay sermon on Sunday?
Preachers have a spotlight on them every week. When we are not preaching, we are preparing to preach. With so many of our congregants attending church during the week on YouTube and the apps of their favorite pastors and churches, there’s a pressure to be great and hit home runs every time you step up to bat.
I call the pressure to be great every week in the pulpit the “Crazy Awesome Cycle.” To be perfectly honest with you it is exhausting. It drains me. How will this Sunday’s sermon rate in comparison to last Sunday’s?
There are many aspects to the “Crazy Awesome Cycle.”
First, social media fuels the pressure of this cycle with the comparison trap. I get that social media is best foot forward, but it still weighs on me. I often read pastor tweets and Facebook updates that go something like this:
“I just came out of the most amazing creative team meeting EVER!”
“Sunday is going to be HUGE, you don’t want to miss it!”
“This past Sunday was the best Sunday in the life of our church!”
I rarely see social media posts from pastors that read:
“I should have studied a little bit harder for last Sunday’s message.”
“Did you get anything out of yesterday’s message? It seemed to drag a bit.”
“About halfway through the message I realized that I lost the congregation.”
Second, preaching without notes adds to the “Crazy Awesome Cycle.” When I was in seminary I heard for the first time the debate of whether a pastor should use notes or not when he preaches. This conversation felt odd to me. Maybe because I grew up with a pastor who preached from notes. Then Pastor Chuck Swindoll addressed the issue for me and it was settled: “I preach every week and do not have time to memorize every sermon. Does it bother anyone in here that I am looking at my notes right now?” he asked with a humorous tone. The students looked at each other as if to ask, “Doesn’t bother me, how ‘bout you?” Mix it up. You may have the time this week to prepare a great sermon, but you don’t have the time to memorize it. That’s okay.
Third, we have become a culture of raters. We rate everything. Restaurants, movies, stores, organizations, churches and even sermons. When visiting a large city, my wife and I check out a restaurant’s rating on Urbanspoon before dining. While I don’t think people are picking churches or preachers based on ratings, the idea of scoring our sermons still stands. If last week’s message was a “9,” I need to meet or beat it this week.
Finally, the most important aspect of the “Crazy Awesome Cycle” is that my family often gets caught up in it.
Do you feel the pressure of hitting a home run sermon week after week? I do. During a small gathering of pastors years ago, Pastor Rick Warren said something I have never forgotten: “You don’t need to hit home runs to win the game. Singles and doubles will work just fine.” Talk about a statement that gives each one of us room to breathe! He is right. I often go back to that statement when I’m about to preach a difficult passage or a topic that is politically incorrect.
Pastor Rick also recounts the story of a superstar baseball player who chose his family over baseball. He said “Yes” to his family over another big moment in the spotlight:
“Several years ago, Ken Griffey Jr. was invited to the Players Choice Awards, where he was to be named player of the decade. His award was to be given on national television. He beat out players like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. But when he found out when the award was to be given, he declined to attend. He had something more important to do. His five-year-old son, Trey, was playing in his first baseball game, and Ken wasn’t going to miss it.”
He said “No” to another big moment in the spotlight to be with his family.
My goal is not to encourage laziness or apathy in your ministry or in the pulpit, but rather to inspire you to prioritize your family. Study hard this week. Memorize Scripture. On Saturday as you begin feeling the pressure of the big day, remind yourself that a double is okay. You may not get invited to an awards show or be listed in a magazine for Awesome Pastors, but you will be your child’s hero. That’s good enough for me.
One last consideration: instead of stepping up to the batter’s box every week, why not think about calling in a pinch hitter? When I was a kid and first heard the term “pulpit supply,” I thought it meant those little pencils and guest cards stored in the pulpit to hand to those who come forward during the invitation. I had no idea that it referred to the guest preacher. Maybe it’s time to develop a deeper teaching bench and call on a few others to hit the ball.
Woodland Hills Family Church is a small to medium size church in the Midwest with a teaching team of five pastors. I am the only pastor on staff. We have four other teaching pastors (three from the community and one from out of state) that regularly pour into our congregation.
On the weeks I do not preach, my family feels my mind is freed up. I’m more present in the home. There’s no outline running through my head. I’m not watching my kids for another illustration. As Jon Acuff reminds us, “Let them be your children, not your content.”
I hope and pray Sunday is a good day for you, whether you are preaching or not.

Safeguard Your Sex Life: 6 Ways to Keep the Little Foxes Out of the Vineyard

Safeguard Your Sex Life: 6 Ways to Keep the Little Foxes Out of the Vineyard

But let’s be honest, it’s hard for a marriage to thrive when sex is bad.
I want to talk about sex. Specifically, I’m talking to you, pastors. How is your sex life?
Things just got weird in a hurry.
I get it. Ask my wife, I fold up like a chair when it comes to conversations about sex, especially ones between Tiffani and I. To be honest, I would rather counsel a couple about sex than talk to my wife about it. I don’t know why.
But seven years of marriage has taught me something. The health of my sex life directly affects the health of my marriage. Some of you would never talk about sex, not with a spouse, not with a trusted friend, not at all.
And this is precisely the problem. Many of us (myself included) would rather have miserable sex lives than talk to someone about it. That requires vulnerability. We don’t like that word.
But let’s be honest, it’s hard for a marriage to thrive when sex is bad. Why? One word…intimacy. Marriage is all about intimacy. Sex is our greatest form of intimacy. So, if sex is dead, intimacy is hindered, at best, and on life support, at worst.
But there’s a deeper issue in play here. Let’s not forget, God designed sex. Yes, it was his idea. In their book Pulling Back the Shades, Dana Gresh and Juli Slattery say this:
“God designed sex as a powerful symbol and celebration of covenant love. It is a physical and emotional expression of the deepest commitment two people can make to each other. But sex is more than that. It represents the ultimate covenant love—God’s love for His people.”
Why does God give us sex? He wants to show us the depth of his desire for intimacy with us. So, I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say, sex is spiritual. When it’s bad, not only is our marriage affected, but our relationship with God is affected too.
I want share some reasons why pastors have bad sex lives. I share these with a hopeful spirit. I’ve come a long way in tearing down the negative stigmas and barriers around sex. Regardless of where you are, I hope you can take something from these points.

1.) Porn 

I’ve been outspoken in my battle against pornography. I’m not sure anything destroys God’s picture of sex like porn. It distorts, warps, twists and ultimately rips apart everything healthy and holy. And, according to statistics, two out of every three people struggle with porn. This includes pastors. If you’re struggling with porn, it’s impossible (that’s not a stretch) to experience true intimacy with your spouse. Most importantly, it’s impossible to experience true intimacy with God.

2.) Failure to distinguish lust from desire

We’re sexual beings. God created us this way. Growing up, the unspoken message was “sex is bad.” I heard the message spoken many different ways. The few times it was discussed, the entire conversation centered around prevention and abstinence. While I’m not dismissing either, I think it’s time we distinguish between lust and desire. The former is unhealthy, sinful objectification of another human, the latter is healthy, good desires given by God.
If you don’t distinguish the two, you will suppress both. I did. Sex was bad, so all thoughts about sex were bad as well. Every time I thought about sex, I immediately squashed it. Rather than learning to control sexual desire, I suppressed it, naively thinking I could “flip a switch” after marriage.
Instead, after marriage, I struggled to regain my sexual desire because I suppressed it for years. We’re not machines. We’re humans. And humans can’t flip switches. Rather than suppressing sexual thoughts, we must learn to direct them toward our spouse and God.

3.) Guilt and shame

Good, healthy sex is hard work. No one told me that. I thought fireworks would explode and angels would sing on my wedding night. I was tainted by years of lust and romanticized Hollywood depictions of sex. In the movies, the whole sex thing seemed awesome, life-changing even.
What was wrong with me? Where are the fireworks?
Guilt progressed to shame, which only fueled my porn addiction. It wasn’t until I visited a counselor that things started to change. He helped me see the beauty of the journey, challenging me to practice, learn and discuss sex with my wife.

4.) Little to no honest communication

How is your sex life? When was the last time you were asked that question? Maybe it’s time to include sex in our approach of spiritual maturation and growth. It’s hard to break down the toxic stigmas without life-giving conversations.
Have you ever prayed with your spouse about your sex life? If we’re going to talk about communication, we must include God. While God knows everything, I believe God wants us to verbalize our requests. I’m not exactly sure why. I have theories, but they’re irrelevant. The point is this: What if we prayed for God to give us healthy, thriving sex lives like we prayed for God to build our faith or grow our church? Communication is the gateway to change.

5.) Busyness 

Some fill their schedules because things aren’t going well at home. Others fill them, and this prevents things from going well at home. Regardless, busyness can’t be a reason our sex lives are bad. If we really believe sex is God’s gift to married couples, then we must believe bad sex hinders our relationship with God.

6.) Sex is purely physical

Sex is much more than physical. But you won’t hear this message outside of Scripture. The world only sees the physical. It’s the prideful, selfish approach to a divine gift. Use sex to please self. I believe this is Satan’s work. He wants to simplify sex, separate the physical from the emotional and the spiritual. If Satan can accomplish this, he knows it’s only a matter of time before we make an idol out of sex.
Yes, God is glorified through sex. When we explore the fullness of sex inside the covenant bond of marriage, God is pleased. We must expand and explore this great gift so we can know God more intimately.
What are your thoughts? What can we do to improve our sex lives? Leave a comment below.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen.

3 Things I Would Say to a Divorced Person

3 Things I Would Say to a Divorced Person

divorced marriage
“Some of the most frequently asked questions in churches have to do with the issue of divorce.”
Some of the most frequently asked questions in churches have to do with the issue of divorce.  There is not one person reading this article right now that does not know someone who has gone through a divorce. You’ve seen the guilt, pain, fear and uncertainty that comes along with it.
What would I specifically say to a divorced person if I had the chance to sit down face to face with them?
#1—You are not a piece of crap! 
I’ve met very few people who have gone through a divorce that actually felt like they had accomplished something awesome.
The Bible does say in Malachi 2:16 that God hates divorce … but THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT GOD HATES YOU!!!
God hates divorce because He knows and understands the cycle of heartache and pain that it is going to bring about in the lives of so many people. However, if you have gone through a divorce … get this—He knew that about you before you were even born. And He made you anyway, loved you, made arrangements to pay for your sin and is with you right now!!
#2—You are NOT going to have to settle in the future if you want a relationship. 
I’ve seen way too many divorced people (especially women) buy into the lie that they are “damaged goods,” and because of that they think they should not expect to ever have any sort of great relationship in the future.
If I could, I would lock eyes with every divorced person on the planet and beg them to not believe this.
I’ve seen the people who bought into this lie (because they were desperate for a relationship) begin dating someone and literally say, “I know I should not be with that person, but I’m divorced and they are the only person who will have me.”
There is not a thing you can do about your past—but, in Christ He really is able to do immeasurably more than anything you could ever ask for or imagine.
Even if you’ve been divorced.
#3—Don’t rush back into marriage! 
I understand a divorced person may deal with extreme bouts of loneliness; however, don’t let fear of being alone cause you to rush into a relationship that over time causes you to feel more lonely than you did when no one was around.
It’s always best after a divorce takes place to take some time to reflect, to ask Jesus to help you with any bitterness you feel toward your ex-spouse, to own up to anything you may have done to bring about the divorce (instead of always blaming your spouse for everything) and to allow Jesus to bring healing to your heart.
If you are reading this right now and are married but considering a divorce … don’t use this article as an excuse to go ahead and go through with it.
I really do believe that divorce is not God’s best plan for our lives.
I believe if couples would learn to fight for one another rather than with one another that the quality of relationships would dramatically improve. Jesus will walk with you and your spouse through this difficult time—and the best thing you can do if you feel like giving up is ask for help ASAP!!!
I did not write this article to give someone permission to seek out a divorce, but rather to let those who have gone through one know that their life is not over.

Why Porn Kills Sex

Why Porn Kills Sex

porn kills sex
“Pornography kills sexuality because porn isn’t just about sex and because sex isn’t just about sex.”
This week’s TIME magazine features a cover story on a new initiative against Internet pornography. These anti-porn activists, though, aren’t the caricatured pursed-lip moralists. They are instead young men who say that pornography has compromised their ability to function sexually in real life.
The cover struck a chord with me because I’ve seen a similar situation show up many times with couples seated in front of me for pastoral counseling. In a typical version of this scenario, a young married couple seeks help because they’ve stopped (or in some cases never started) having sex. In this typical scenario, the husband is the one who cannot maintain interest in sex. When one asks the right questions one finds that he’s been deeply immersed in pornography since adolescence. It’s not, in these situations, that he can’t get the mechanics of sex to work. It’s that he finds intimacy with a real-life woman to be, in the word that emerges repeatedly, “awkward.” Many of these men can only have sex with their wives by replaying scenes from pornography in their heads as they do so.
So what’s happening here? Why does it seem that pornography ultimately kills sexual intimacy? There are, to be sure, many psychological explanations. Pornography desensitizes one to sexual stimuli, feeds the quest for endless novelty and creates a script of expectations that does not, and cannot, meet up to the real dynamics of personal relationship. But I think there’s more afoot here.
In order to understand the power of pornography, we must ask why Jesus warned us that lust is wrong. This is not because God is embarrassed about sex (see “Solomon, Song of”). God designed human sexuality not to isolate but to connect. Sexuality is intended to bond a wife and a husband and, where conditions are met, to result in newness of life, thus connecting generations. Pornography disrupts this connection, turning what is meant for intimacy and incarnational love into masturbatory aloneness. Pornography offers the psychic thrill and biological release meant for communion in the context of freedom from connection with another. It cannot keep that promise.
When pornography enters into a marriage, the result is shame. By “shame,” I am not meaning the feeling of being ashamed (although that may be part of it). I mean that one is, at the most intimate level, hiding. There’s something within us that knows that sexuality is meant for something other than the manipulation of images and body parts.
Pornography kills sexuality because porn isn’t just about sex and because sex isn’t just about sex.
In the ancient city of Corinth, the warning was given about prostitutes in the pagan temples of the city. The prostitutes were paid for sexual activity, disconnected from covenant. They were part of a cultic system that ascribed almost mystical powers to the orgasm. How is that any different from the pornography industry of today? The Apostle Paul warned that the implications of immorality with these prostitutes weren’t just a matter of bad relational consequences or a bad witness for Christ to the outside world (although these were no doubt true too). The one who joined himself to a prostitute participated in an intangible spiritual reality, by joining Christ to the prostitute, by becoming one with her (1 Cor. 615-19). Since the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, sexual immorality is not just “naughtiness.” It is an act of temple desecration, of bringing unholy worship into a holy place of sanctuary (1 Cor. 6:19).
Pornography is not just immorality; it’s occultism.
That’s why pornography has such a strong pull. It’s not just a matter of biology (although that’s important). If there are, as the Bible teaches, unseen criminal spirits alive in the cosmos, then temptation is about more than just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The professing Christian, no matter how insignificant he or she may feel, is a target of interest. Sexual immorality seems to present itself randomly when, in fact, as with the young man of Proverbs, it is part of a carefully orchestrated hunting expedition (Prov. 7:22-23).
The shame that results within the conscience in the aftermath of a pornographic episode—much less a lifetime of such—cannot help but break intimacy in the one-flesh union of marriage. From the beginning of the human story, shame before God leads to shame with one another (Gen. 3:7-12). Nakedness (intimacy), designed to feel natural, now feels painful and exposing—or, to put it the way many men have put it, “awkward.”
If this describes you, you are hardly alone. Marriage is always difficult, always a matter of spiritual warfare (1 Cor. 7:5). In order to fight, one must first address shame, which means repenting of the desire to keep everything hidden. Find a trusted elder in your church, and seek help.
The young men seeking an insurgency against the pornography they’ve grown up with are to be commended. But pornography is a lure too powerful to be fought by willpower or social movements alone. We need to bear one another’s burdens, through the energy of the Holy Spirit within the new temple of the church. That starts with being honest about what pornography is—and what it does.  

What’s Different About A Pastor’s Marriage?

What’s Different About A Pastor’s Marriage?

Couple Drinking Coffeeby John McGee
You have seen the stats and heard the stories about how difficult marriages can be for those in the pastorate. Have you ever wondered what makes a pastor’s marriage different than the rest of the population? I was recently asked this question by a group of people preparing for ministry and here’s some of what I shared with them.
There are no unique rules for a great marriage. Great marriages are always comprised of things like good communication, fun, intimacy, quality time, humility, and conflict resolution. Pastors know those things because they teach them to others. What I’ve learned is that once you can teach something you can begin to think you are an exception to the rule. Those in ministry are not exempt because they are eloquent or smart, and God hasn’t changed the laws of relationships for them just because they serve Him. When thinking about what makes a pastor’s marriage different, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the same rules of marriage apply to everyone. If pastors want a great marriage they will need to apply the same advice they give their congregants.
Although I started with the fact that a pastor’s marriage in many ways is not different, there are a few unique aspects I felt they should know as they were preparing for ministry.
Pastors do carry unique pressures. An occupational hazard of ministry can be the emotional weight pastors carry because there is always someone who needs them. Other occupations have pressures of deadlines or the volume of work, but there is something different and emotionally taxing about carrying the pain of others. Pastors encounter unique pressures that can impact their marriage, and they must learn how to deal with them. The answer for everyone will be different, but personally I’ve found that rituals can be helpful. As I drive home I pray through the difficult issues and people I am dealing with. I affirm that God is in control, and that He cares more about the people and situations than I do. I then imagine myself entrusting these people and situations to Him. I also trust that He will help me be present and engaged with my family and pray for energy and focus for my time with them. I told this group preparing for ministry that in every occupation, they would have to learn to balance work and family, but, as a pastor, they would also have to learn to deal with the emotional weight, or it would impact their marriage. I also encouraged them to continually ask their spouse if they were emotionally present at home.
Spouses also have unique challenges. Much has been written to men about how to protect their wives from the demands of the church and how to keep the congregation from feeling like the pastor’s wife is free labor. There is no doubt that a wife who feels she is there simply to support the pastor or be at the beck and call of the congregation will eventually become embittered toward the church and her husband. A wise husband will clearly communicate to the congregation that he is a team with his wife but that he is the only employee. I’ve also noticed that often the wife supports the husband’s ministry but there isn’t always reciprocation. This year one of my goals is to support my wife’s personal ministry. She has always done a great job helping me with my more public ministry but she really loves to encourage others one-on-one. One of my goals this year is to celebrate and support her ministry, which is more private, just as much as she supports my ministry, which is more public. Not realizing the unique pressures on your spouse can negatively impact your marriage but lovingly addressing them can actually be a big win for your marriage.
Your marriage presents a unique opportunity. Personally I love being a pastor and being married. Most days my wife would say the same about being married to a pastor. I love the way we get to pray for and see life change. I love that together we are doing something that will matter in eternity, and I love that our marriage actually impacts others. When my wife and I speak, I am amazed how often people will say something like, “I really appreciated what you said, but my biggest takeaway was watching the way you both related to each other. God convicted me that I need to be kinder and more respectful to my wife (or husband).” While there are many unique challenges of being married and in the ministry, I also think there are many unique opportunities and blessings if you are willing to look for them.
If you haven’t had the conversation with your spouse lately, a good question to discuss on your next date night would be “What do you like about being married and in ministry, and what is difficult?” Their answers will give you some things to celebrate as well as some tangible ways you can help them, serve them, and build oneness in your marriage.

Sabtu, 28 Mei 2016

7 Things to Know About Sexual Sin in the Church

7 Things to Know About Sexual Sin in the Church

The costs of concealment are far greater than the costs of confession and repentance.
For the past two weeks at NewSpring Church, we dove into the subject of sexual sin IN the church (based on the fact that Jesus rebukes two churches in Revelation chapter two for sexual sin IN the church.)  Here are several thoughts/reminders in regards to what we covered.
(The sermons are available on iTunes and on the NewSpring Church Web site if you want to see/hear them in their entirety.)
1. Who or what you pursue will ultimately determine what you do and who you become.  It is a spiritual impossibility to pursue Jesus AND sexual sin at the same time.  (Psalm 25:15)
2. As a friend of mine has often said, “God is not after our begrudging submission but rather our joy!”  And long-term joy, peace, and fulfillment are never the result of pursuing sexual sin.  (Please read Proverbs 5, Proverbs 6, & Proverbs 7 for further confirmation in regards to this point.)
3. Sexual sin is not something that can be “prayed away,” nor can we simply read Bible verses about grace after committing it in order to feel better.  NOR can we simply promise God over and over that we won’t do it again (how’s that working for you?).  We CAN be set free from it…but it will not be pretty.  It must be confessed (James 5:16) and repented of (Revelation 2:21-23!).  (I did not overcome my nearly 20-year battle with pornography until I confessed it and asked for help!)
YES, it may “cost you” when it comes to your reputation…but remember, the costs of concealment are far greater than the costs of confession…and repentance is WAY more important than our reputation.

Don’t Miss

4. Sexual sin costs us our spiritual esteem…people who are involved in sexual sin feel disconnected from God, guilty, and spiritually dead.
5. For those who want to STOP sinning sexually…a decision MUST be made to renew your mind (Romans 12:1-12), to FIGHT the battles in your mind (II Corinthians 10:5), and to ask GODLY men and women to come alongside you and both encourage and spur you when necessary (Hebrews 10:24-25).
(PS…this means you have to stop saying, “I messed up sexually.”  OR “I made a mistake!”  Call it what it is…sin.  AND stop meeting with people who are doing the same things that you are doing and so when you get together to “hold one another accountable,” you are actually hoping that the other person “messed up” so that you don’t feel bad about doing so!)
6. Understand that IN CHRIST, you CAN have victory over sexual sin!  (See Romans 8:37, I Corinthians 15:57, Philippians 4:13!)  IN CHRIST, you are NOT a victim but rather a receiver of VICTORY!  If Jesus overcame DEATH, then Christ in you can help you breakthrough the stronghold of sexual sin!  (Luke 1:37!)
7. For those who belong to Christ and are trying their best to pursue Him on a daily basis but are still haunted by a sexual past…remember that is who you WERE; it is not WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST!  (II Corinthians 5:17!)  Do not allow what used to defeat you to define you!  You are no longer defined by what you did but rather by what CHRIST did for you on the cross!

Real Men Love Strong Women

Real Men Love Strong Women

real men strong women
“Strong women are as vital as strong men to God’s purpose in the church.”
I’ve heard it too many times: “A man likes a quiet woman.” “Guys don’t respond well to smart girls.” “Educated women are too intimidating to attract good men.”
I understand why we believe these things. It’s a nice story. It makes sense of the success of some women to find husbands, and the failure of others. As Christians (and as humans), we feel very clever when we get to diagnose the cause and cure of singleness. “You’re too opinionated.” “You’re too boisterous.” “A woman should be small, and quiet and delicate.”
Yet, it’s easy to forget in the midst of all our diagnosing: whether a woman is “intimidating” is a factor of male perception, not female personality. Do we want women to be less intimidating? That’s a question to be put to men who experience them as such, and we can only wait for such men to grow. The real question we need to ask is: Do we want women to be weak? And the answer must forever be, on the basis of Scripture, “May it never be.”
Strong women are as vital as strong men to God’s purpose in the church. Why?

1. Strong women expose evil men.

I can’t speak for Christian men everywhere, but I can speak for myself, and for many of the men in the Bible: Godliness is attractive to both men and women (Proverbs 31:30). And often, godly femininity requires being strong, even intimidating. Consider Jael in Judges 4. Jael’s husband, Heber, “had separated from the Kenites,” and “had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh.”
So, when a Canaanite military general Jabin the King of Hazor—the enemy of the people of God—tried to seek refuge, he went to Heber’s tent, “for there was peace between Jabin the King of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite” (Judges 4:17). But Jabin fount Jael at the tent and started barking orders at her, “Give me a little water.” “Stand at the opening of the tent.” In response, “she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground” (Judges 4:21). Deborah later sang of Jael, “Most blessed of women be Jael. … She sent her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet” (Judges 5:24–25).
Thank God Jael wasn’t meek and submissive and respectful toward this friend of her wayward husband. She wasn’t one to be trampled on. Strong women reject the requests of evil men.

2. Strong women rebuke good men.

When David set out to kill Nabal—the brash and brute man who embodied pure masculine folly—Nabal’s wife Abigail offered hundreds of fig cakes and loaves of bread and wine skins to David. Yet, she uses the opportunity to warn David that he should “have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation for himself” (1 Samuel 25:31). In other words, Abigail warned: “Be careful. Don’t use your power in a way that will make you guilty.”
David responds, “Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!” (1 Samuel 25:33). Nabal soon after died of a heart attack. “Then David sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife” (1 Samuel 25:39).
David was attracted to this strong woman for her strength, for her rebuke and for her character. Abigail made life harder for David. And David, in a moment of grace, was able to see that Abigail’s standing in David’s way was a gift of purity to him. That day, David was seeking salvation for himself, but it was gifted to him by God in Abigail, who, even while she was at his mercy as his subject, told him what he needed to hear.
Strong women rebuke good men, who need help in their weaknesses, who need someone to help them see how to be strong.

3. Strong women raise believing men.

There is no stronger, more consistent reminder of the gospel in my life than my mom. Paul says something very similar of Timothy: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (1 Timothy 3:5).
In an ideal world, men and women would partner together in their strength. But we live in a world where we need strong women to make men strong, because sometimes there simply are no men there to do it. My mom’s dad died when she was nine, and my own dad wasn’t present in my life enough to be a father. So she did the work of two parents—the work of two disciplers—for both my sister and me. With Timothy and Paul, I’m so glad that God gave us these gifts of strong women to survive the inconsistent presence and consequences of “strong” men.
Of course, some of the godliest mothers have had some of the ungodliest children, and vice versa. But in an age when fathers often fail to bestow the gift of faith to their children, the future often hangs on the strength of women to do that gospel work.
Whether as children or their disciples, strong women raise believing men.

The Beauty and Strength of Faith

We live in a time when women are outperforming men in many areas of professional and personal competency. And men have two choices: to find female strength captivatingly attractive, or to be insecure and intimidated. Real men love strong women, because God’s glory is beautiful, and “woman is the glory of man” (1 Corinthians 11:7).
Jesus, give men the grace to see the beauty of glorious female strength. Give women the resilience to remain strong long enough for the right men to find them beautiful for the right reasons. And help men and women to fall in love with proven, genuine faith, which is “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire” (1 Peter 1:7). 

Minggu, 22 Mei 2016

What Your Phone Reveals About Your Marriage

What Your Phone Reveals About Your Marriage

phone marriage dave willis
How couples handle their cell phones reveals a lot about the health of their marriage.
I recently received a message through my Facebook page from a wife struggling with a very common issue in modern marriages. To paraphrase her message, she said, “My husband always has his cell phone with him. Sometimes, he even sleeps with it in his pocket. He never wants me looking at it. I’m afraid he’s communicating with other women or hiding something else, but I don’t want to snoop or make things awkward by demanding to look at his phone. He gets so defensive when I mention it. I’m heartbroken, but I feel stuck, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do to make the situation better. Am I being overly sensitive or is he the one who is out of bounds?”
Over the years, my wife Ashley and I have interacted with countless married couples, and a trend we’ve discovered is that the way a couple handles their cell phones reveals a great deal about the overall health of their marriage. Let me explain…
When a spouse is defensive or secretive about his/her phone, it’s usually a symptom of some kind of unhealthy behavior. It’s not always infidelity, though inappropriate interactions with the opposite sex are certainly common among people who keep passwords from their spouse. When you don’t give your spouse full access to your phone, you’re essentially saying, “I’m not giving you full access to myself. There are secrets I don’t want to tell you, behaviors I don’t want to reveal to you or activities I don’t want to share with you.”
You might pridefully believe that you have the right to keep secrets from your spouse, but any form of deception or secrecy in a marriage is toxic. The healthiest couples value transparency over personal privacy. When a spouse operates in secrecy, it creates distrust and disunity in the marriage. This goes against the very definition of marriage. As a Christian, I believe that marriage was God’s idea and His timeless instructions for the sacred covenant is still the best plan. The Bible tells us that the first married couple was “naked and they felt no shame.”
This simple verse in Genesis reveals the power of a “Naked Marriage.” It’s a bond of complete transparency and trust with nakedness (physically, emotionally and spiritually) with nothing to hide from each other. It’s the kind of intimacy we all long for, but it takes courage and vulnerability to achieve it. Secrecy is the enemy of intimacy. Every healthy relationship is built on a foundation of honesty and trust.
As it relates to your smart phone, you can start building this kind of intimacy and transparency by taking the “Secret Free Guarantee” in your marriage. It’s a pledge of total transparency including shared passwords and nothing to hide from each other. My wife knows the passwords to every device and account I own, because if it’s “mine,” she owns it too! Giving her total access to my phone is one of seven “rules” I follow to promote transparency and prevent infidelity in my marriage.
So, if you’ve truly got nothing to hide from your spouse, give him/her the security and comfort of knowing that they have full access to your phone (and everything else). Don’t make him/her have to ask. Be proactive about promoting transparency in your marriage. If you’re hiding something, get it out in the open. A painful truth is always better than a hidden lie. Your marriage is more important than your phone.
For more tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage, check out my bestselling book “The Seven Laws of Love” by clicking here.

Rabu, 18 Mei 2016

What the Transgender Bathroom Debate Means For You

What the Transgender Bathroom Debate Means For You

    |   May 13, 2016   |  
restroom Last night the New York Times reported that the Obama Administration would issue a decree directing every public school in the nation to allow bathroom access on the basis of self-identity, not biological sex. I’m quite aware of the White House’s place in our culture wars, and even I am surprised. If anyone had suggested in 2009 that the new President’s administration would seek to target children’s bathrooms for the sake of transgender ideology, the White house would have ridiculed it as a crazy conspiracy theory. So, for those suggesting that state legislatures seeking to define such questions were working on “solutions without a problem,” well, here’s your problem. So why is this important, and what should the church do?
First of all, we should recognize what’s really happening here, and it’s much bigger than the symbol of the bathrooms. The Department of Education’s actions here mean that “gender” itself in terms of admission for all colleges accepting federal funds is ultimately a matter of identification, not biological sex. The state here wishes to use its coercive power not simply to stop mistreatment of people but to rescript the most basic human intuitions about humanity as male and female. How, after all, does one win a culture war against one of the most basic facts of science and life: that there are two sexes? One does so by withholding the funds and recognition necessary to operate in public space, unless institutions get in line. Children, then, become pawns of the state for the state to teach what is ultimately a theological lesson, not a scientific one.
This, ultimately, won’t work. There are good reasons to put boys and girls in different bathrooms and locker rooms and sometimes sports teams, reasons that don’t impugn the dignity of people but uphold it. Sex-differentiated bathrooms and sports teams and dormitories for men and women aren’t the equivalent of, say, a terrorist Jim Crow state unnaturally forcing people apart based on a fiction, useful to the powerful, that skin color is about superiority and inferiority. Every human being knows that there are important, and necessary, differences between men and women. Without such recognition, women are harmed and men are coarsened.
Moreover, the move here toward severing self-identity from biological reality will hardly stop at “gender.” If anything, there’s much more of a case to be made that one can feel to be a different age than one’s doctor’s exam or birth certificate would show. That’s relatively indifferent if all that this means is “You’re only as old as you feel” or “I’m a Millennial trapped in a Gen-X body.” It’s something else entirely if chronological self-identity is mandated for military service or the drinking age or the age of consent. People and neighborhoods and nations and cultures cannot live this way.
In the meantime, what should the church do?
First, we must bear witness to the goodness of what it means to live as creatures, not as self-defining gods and goddesses. God created us as human, and within humanity as male and female (Gen. 1:27). We are all sinners, so we chafe against having ourselves defined by a Creator, and not by ourselves or our ideologies. Our nakedness shames us, because our physical difference reminds us that we are not self-contained. Man needs woman, and woman needs man. I really do not contain multitudes. My maleness and your femaleness aren’t about us at all. They fit us within a much larger stream—of a species by nature and of a communion by grace.
The church must teach God’s good creation design of male and female, yes. But, beyond that, the church should teach a Christian anthropology that shows us that living within creation limits is never easy for anyone. We are all seeking to transcend our limits in various ways. The way of discipleship is to settle on the fact that we serve a God who knows more about humanity, and more about us personally, than we know about ourselves.
At the same time, the church should not see everything through the grid of gender. The Sexual Revolution, chaotically, wants to tell us that gender means nothing and that gender means everything. Neither is true. We should recognize that unbiblical caricatures of masculinity and femininity were always harmful, but now are potentially deadly. The little girl in your church who doesn’t like princess movies or dolls, and who would rather spend a Saturday in the deer stand, increasingly now is told by the culture around her that maybe she’s not a woman at all. Only a church that defines its vision of masculinity and femininity from the Word of God, not from cultural tropes, can speak to her. If you don’t have a category for a rough-and-tumble woman, like Jael, or a harp-playing man, like David, your church is handing over your children to the gender ideologies of the moment.
The truth is that the male/female sex difference is objectively real. Biological science is built off of this reality. More importantly, the mystery of Christ tells us that the male/female binary points us beyond nature to the gospel itself (Eph. 5). We must tell the truth about this. John the Baptist lost his head for saying that Herod could not have his brother’s wife. Some now will be targeted as culturally unacceptable because they tell Herod he can’t be his brother’s wife. That will take courage and compassion and, above all, it will take Christ.

The Subtle Sin of Making Excuses

The Subtle Sin of Making Excuses

They're not always harmless.
Excuses are present in all of our lives. In fact, making excuses has become so common to everyday life that it’s almost routine.
When we experience trials in life—especially early in life—they begin to shape our mindsets. They start to set the tone for who we are and why we do what we do. Used rightly, we can grow through these hardships and use our story to help and inspire others. Used wrongly, we can turn our hardships into an excuse not to grow.If only we hadn’t had such a bad childhood—a mean teacher, a slave-driving boss, a cold-hearted spouse—then we would be so much farther along in life.

The Wrong Reasons

One of the greatest leaders in the Bible started out with the wrong attitude.
Moses had a confidence problem. When God came to him and asked him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses immediately made excuses: “I’m not good enough. The people won’t believe me. I’m not a good speaker. They won’t listen to me.” Even after God gave him the ability to do miraculous signs, he kept making excuses.
God’s response to Moses’ excuses was simple: “I AM.”
Used wrongly, we can turn our hardships into an excuse not to grow.
I am what? Moses probably thought. It almost seems like an incomplete thought. God left it that way on purpose. Moses had to fill in the blank: “I am … whatever you need. I am your peace if you need it. I am your strength if you need it. I am your provider if you need it.”

Bigger Promises

The same promise is still available to us today. For every step of faith I have ever taken there have been a dozen good excuses for not doing so.
You have to be the one to eliminate your excuses. The amazing thing is that once Moses quit making excuses, God started eliminating his problems. When Moses made the decision to go back to Pharaoh, God had Moses’ brother Aaron, meet him on the way to help him speak. Aaron also made the Hebrew people believers (Exodus 4:27–31).
One of the best ways to quit making excuses is to take action. “I AM” took on new meaning to Moses when he stood in front of Pharaoh and the Hebrew people. This is when he needed God to come through for him—and He did. God still makes His promises available to us, but they’re useless until we act on them.
I once heard about a very old woman who died alone in her house. When city officials found her, they contacted her only son and told him that his mother died of starvation.
“That’s impossible!” the son said. “I’ve been sending her money every week for months.”
But when he arrived at her home to collect her belongings, he noticed that all of the money orders he’d been sending were pinned up on the walls. His mother never realized what they were. She didn’t understand how to use them. She thought they were just nice cards from her son.
We also are headed for trouble when we fail to use God’s promises.

Promises in Action

God did not give us His promises to put on our desks, our shirts, our car bumper, or the wall. He gave them to us to act on, to cash in, to prove. In fact, He doesn’t call us to do anything without sending His provision to do it. Where He guides, He provides.
It’s still our choice whether we change or not. We can stay in the same place blaming everyone else for the conditions we’re in, or take responsibility for our actions and move ahead.

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God’s gift to us is our life. Our gift to Him is what we do with it.
I live by the motto that if you do what you can with what you have, where you are, God will not leave you where you are, and He will increase what you have. I have seen this work for people who started with nothing and who started late in life. With anything in life, if it’s not important to you, you will find an excuse not to do it. But if it is important to you, you will find a way to make it happen!
If we’re ever going to experience real life change, we have to lose the excuses. When we honestly evaluate ourselves, we expose our vulnerability. It’s only by telling yourself the truth that you can discover what’s been keeping you from reaching your full potential. Excuses don’t strengthen your life—they weaken it.
Make them a thing of your past—no excuses.


4 Beautiful Graces of the Godly Woman

4 Beautiful Graces of the Godly Woman

Godly Woman desiring God
“A Christian woman has the opportunity to be one of the greatest influencers on earth.”
A Christian woman has the opportunity to be one of the greatest influencers on earth. The striking beauty of her spirit may win the soul of her unbelieving husband. Her adherence to God’s design in marriage can proclaim the glory of the gospel. Her faith in and knowledge of God’s word can spill over into her spheres of ministry.
However, if a woman does not know her God and his word, and if she is not clinging to its precious promises, she begins to resemble Eve, the mother of her flesh. Her heart can easily be deceived by the enemy’s craftiness, and her affections can be led astray.
We who have trusted in Christ are not only descendants of Eve, but now we are descendants of Sarah, the free woman (Galatians 4:31). We are children of promise and we are no longer in bondage to Eve’s nature. In 1 Peter 3:1–6 and Hebrews 11:11–12, we receive the commendation of Sarah’s faith, and we are pointed to her life as an example of biblical womanhood. As we imitate the faith of Sarah, we can leverage our God-given gender and unique gifts to glorify our God and advance his kingdom.

1. She Hopes in God

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves. (1 Peter 3:5)
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the heart of a woman filled with a deep, abiding hope in her God. This is the foundation of everything God has called her to be. Sarah hoped in God, and she “considered him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11). Women should never give up the pursuit of God through his word.
As we give birth to families and wade into realms of ministry, many of us desire to diligently tend to those in our care. However, we are often so empty because our spiritual supply is dried up. We are left with nothing worthwhile to share with needy souls, let alone our own souls. A woman who hopes in God is well acquainted with the character of the Promiser and the specifics of his promises. She spends time with him in his word and in prayer, and she believes in his gospel and finds shelter in his name.

2. She Rests in God

…let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:4)
Matthew Henry describes a gentle, meek spirit as “the silent submission of the soul to the ‘providence’ of God concerning us.” A woman who knows her God will put her hope in God and find her rest in God. She calms and quiets her soul, and she does not flail and strive against the God who is her refuge and who determines her circumstances.
Rather than fret, a meek and quiet woman trusts in the Lord. She delights in the Lord, committing her way to him and trusting in him. She delights herself in abundant peace. Trusting God to be who he says that he is, she is still before him and waits patiently for him. She does not seek to justify herself and exact revenge for the wrongs that have been done to her, for her strong tower and refuge is the name of the Lord in whom she hopes. She waits for the Lord (Psalm 37:7, 9, 34).

3. She Submits to Her Husband

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord… (1 Peter 3:5–6)
An overflow of a wife’s hope and rest in God is submission to her husband. Sarah submitted to Abraham because she trusted in and obeyed God. Her submission to her husband was not due to her reliance upon Abraham. Rather, her eyes were fixed on a trustworthy God who was worthy of her submission. When a woman refuses to obey God’s command to submit to her husband, she follows in the footsteps of Eve, the mother of her flesh. This muddies the gospel that God designed to be showcased through her marriage.
But a woman who rests in God and submits to the headship of the Lord Jesus will mimic the example of Sarah who called her husband “lord” (an acknowledgment of authority, not worship). While there are important biblical explanations about what submission looks like (and does not look like) and how a wife is to reverence and obey her husband, a daughter of Sarah understands the secret behind submission to her husband: Her hope is in God.

4. She Is Fearless

And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:6)
A woman who hopes in God is not afraid, because she knows her God. She is not afraid of the path that her God has called her to walk. She is not afraid of sickness. She is not afraid of the future. She is not afraid of death and dark valleys. She entrusts to God her children, her marriage and her ministry. She advances the kingdom through fearless submission to God’s design for womanhood, marriage, motherhood and ministry, because she hopes in God.
And though she stumbles like Sarah and laughs in disbelief at the promises of her God, he will turn her laughter into one of confidence in her Savior and joyful hope in his word. By faith, she laughs, because she looks to that lasting city, the heavenly one. By faith she joins the ranks of holy women who considered him faithful who had promised. She is a woman of whom this world is not worthy, and God is not ashamed to be called her God.

Minggu, 08 Mei 2016

My Mother and My Brothers

My Mother and My Brothers
by Chip Brogden
The question that Jesus asked bears repeating today: Who is my brother? Who is my sister? Who is my mother? Certainly not everyone who says, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In similar manner, not everyone who says, “Brother! Brother!” is really a brother. Yet learning how to be a good brother or a good sister is the first thing Jesus wants to teach us. When we are born into this Family that is all we are – a brother or a sister. Every apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, or teaching ministry must have, as its foundation, the spiritual depth and maturity of knowing how to “just” be a brother or sister. We skip this necessary preparation at our own peril, and the Family of God suffers as a result.

Jesus says, “I will declare Your Name to My brothers, in the midst of the Ekklesia will I sing praise to You!” (Hebrews 2:12). Nothing brings more pleasure to the Father’s heart, and gives our Lord Jesus more reason to rejoice, than to be with His brothers and sisters in the midst of the Ekklesia that He is building...


I am your brother,
Chip Brogden 

The Top 10 Steps to Help Kids Connect to Church

The Top 10 Steps to Help Kids Connect to Church

Help solve the problem instead of complaining about it.
This week a blog post called Top 10 Reasons Kids Leave Church got shot all around the internet on Facebook and Twitter because it’s a common struggle for church leaders across our nation. The issue taps into fear which we have been conditioned to respond to by local news, CNN, and Fox News. Connect to a fear and people listen, worry, and then share their fear with others. Rather than live in fear I choose to believe that the church Jesus founded is unstoppable, it’s in motion, and it’s beautifully messy. I see teens and college students all across this nation not only plugged into the church, they are making a difference and shaping the future of the church. As a family and student pastor I am engaging the next generation on a weekly basis and I have hope.
You may be seeing teens leave your church and if so you need to ask yourself hard questions about why your church is structured the way it is. Why do you do what you do? You and your church leadership have to decide what you should do to help reach teens, kids, and their families and lead them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. If you are seeing the next generation leave your church then stop blaming other churches for your failure to make an impact and take responsibility. Help solve the problem instead of complaining about it.
Our team has been striving to reach the next generation since day one of our existence seven years ago. Here are 10 steps we try to consistently take to help kids, teens, and college students connect to the church…
  1. Lift Up Jesus // in worship, in our leadership, as we pray, as we serve, as we cast vision, as we teach, as we plan, as we process, in everything it all begins with make much of Jesus and not our doctrine, denominations, or strategies. Jesus.
  2. Teach The Bible With Clarity // we teach God’s word with clarity so when people walk out of any environment they know what to do. The goal is to be clear not to impress. The goal is help people confront truth and then live truth. When the next generation leaves church confused why would they stick in the long run?
  3. Unify Generations Through the Great Commission // every Sunday we watch teens and college students worship together with every other generation. We unite behind the goal Jesus has already given. We don’t unite on preference, we unite around the call of Jesus.
  4. Empower Teens and Kids to Serve Now // not later, not when they get older, not when they are mature! Let the next generation serve now in the church.
  5. Connect Kids and Teens to Small Group // spiritual growth happens for kids and teens when they have adult mentors speaking into their life. The next generation needs relationships with older adults who will model following Jesus.
  6. Program With the Next Generation in Mind // as we plan out worship gatherings the teen and college student have to be in mind. How will they connect with what is happening on stage?
  7. Lead Kids and Teens to Follow Jesus not Their Feelings // emotions come and go and the church has to help the next generation move beyond the feelings of religion to embrace the new life they have in Jesus.
  8. Encourage Personal Spiritual Growth // we have to empower the next generation to be self feeders. We have to help them encounter Jesus not just at church but in their daily life through Scripture, discipleship, prayer, and service.
  9. Fight the “Consumer Mentality” // we have to help the next generation understand the Kingdom of God revolves around the idea of sacrifice and not selfishness.
  10. Be a Refuge for the Broken // the church has to be a safe place for broken people (all of us) to experience the healing and grace of the Healer, Jesus. The next generation has to know the church is a place where it’s safe to struggle, doubt, question and even hurt. It also has to be a safe place to invite their broken friends.
Would love to know what your church is doing to help kids and teens connect with the church after they graduate?

Selasa, 03 Mei 2016

Holy Moments With Our Kids

Holy Moments With Our Kids

Family prayingby Tim Popadic
Why is it that some of the greatest wisdom and insights into spiritual matters often come from our children? It’s like kids have a direct connection to the spiritual realm – as if they’re able, through their childlike faith, to unlock the deep mysteries of God.
As a dad, I have a desire to be the spiritual leader of my home. Among other things, this commitment involves bringing my kids up in a personal faith and reflecting the very image of God to them. One of the best ways I have found to do this is to experience the sacraments together with my boys. But this doesn’t always work out according to my own well-laid plans.
I’ll never forget sitting in church a few years ago with our oldest son who was seven at the time. I had forgotten that this was the one Sunday in the month that our church celebrates communion. This presented something of a problem, since I had always intended to take time out to explain the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for him before his first opportunity to partake.
The clock was now ticking. I had to make a decision: either get up and leave the service, or take the two minutes I had before the communion plate passed to explain the elements. I decided to go for it. My son had already prayed to receive Christ so there was no time like the present. I explained again what Christ had done on the Cross and how the elements were for “our remembrance” of the Cross. Then the moment of truth arrived. I was so excited for my son to embrace his faith and celebrate the sacraments with his father. As I watched, he took the bread and drank the cup. And then, in a very surreal moment that’s still ingrained in my mind, he looked up at me and said, “Dad, those Jesus snacks were great! When are they coming around with the free refills?”
Immediately that well-known Scripture came to mind: “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.” (Matthew 18:2-5 MSG)
The fact of the matter was that my son’s childlike faith had stopped me right in my tracks. It confronted me with some very basic questions. Do I get so excited about celebrating with my Heavenly Father that I desire more and more of Him? Do I savor every morsel of bread and every last drop of the cup? Or have I allowed the sacraments to become something less than a “Holy Moment”?
Helping our children “grow up” in an active faith requires us to be active in those “holy moments” with them. It entails finding creative ways to enable them to celebrate Christ and to fall in love with the Savior and His Bride the church.
It also means being consistently passionate in our own pursuit of God. If we are “all in” the first time we experience these holy moments together but become less engaged and less intentional on every succeeding occasion, what will that communicate to our children? It’s a question worth pondering.
Finally, we need to model authenticity with our children. We should let them know that there will be times when we have to allow Jesus to carry us in those holy moments. Our faith needs to be real to our family. My prayer for all of us is that God will offend our minds in order to get to our hearts. Then we’ll be able to say with genuine gratitude and expectation, “Free Refills Please!”