christian Posts

Are You an Affair Waiting to Happen?

Basic CMYK

Affairs don’t happen overnight. They’re not issues of lust. They’re not. At the heart, they’re issues of neglect. It’s not like a guy wakes up faithful to his wife one morning and then, all the sudden, the next day, he’s like, you know what I’m gonna do today? I’m gonna totally blow up my life and have an affair. No. It’s over time.

When you or your spouse are neglected at home and connected elsewhere, you’re walking down a very short road that ends in disaster. It’s like the proverb of the sluggard. It’s a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.[1] It’s his neglect and it’s her neglect. And it’s not merely about neglecting your spouse or neglecting your family. It’s one or both of you neglecting your time with God.

What does your daily time in prayer and in the Word do to protect you from adultery? It guards your heart. It renews your mind. It screams of conviction. As you turn the page and you read about inappropriate relationships, as you read about being faithful to your spouse, as you read about being morally pure and holy and righteous, it challenges you. If you find your daily devotion with the Lord being something that is in the past or infrequent, you might want to check that, because that’s a symptom of a road leading to moral failure.

When I went to seminary I was in a class with Dr. Howard Hendricks. He’s now with Jesus. I remember he interviewed men about how they fell morally, and he looked for patterns in their stories. I recently came across an article that reminded me of the specific details. Of the almost 250 men he interviewed, none were involved in any kind of personal accountability, their daily time of prayer, worship and reading their Bible was practically nonexistent, the vast majority became sexually involved with another woman after spending significant time together, and without exception, each of them were convinced it would never happen to them.[2]

Friend, if you think it can never happen to you, “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”[3] We are not immune. None of us. You are vulnerable. The pattern holds true. Be cautious. You must hold your marriage sacred at all times.

If a husband isn’t tender to his wife, and there’s conflict where he said something harsh to her but they haven’t reconciled, she is vulnerable for an affair like you cannot believe.

Some dude – her trainer, her Pilates coach, the dude who makes her wheatgrass shot at Jamba – somebody will be kind to her. And that will speak to her soul. She will hear that and eat it right up. And she’ll go back another time. She’ll drive all the way across town to go to that Jamba Juice just to see that joker again. Why? Because he’s speaking into her life where her husband should be.

The same is true for the ladies. If you disrespect your man, I promise you, somebody will respect him. Somebody will think he’s special and talented. If you won’t tell him he’s handsome, somebody will. And at some point in time, he’s an affair waiting to happen too.

I remember talking with some dear friends who had experienced this, and that’s exactly what they talked about, that this other person made me feel special, they made me feel important, made me feel good about myself. Now you juxtapose that to a home life where you don’t feel special or important, and you’ll run to that every single time.

To the singles, one of the most important things you can do is learn right now how to control your vessel, your body, in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion like those who do not know God.[4]

The patterns you create today are the patterns you bring into your marriage. So if there’s ungodliness and indulgence today, there will be ungodliness and indulgence in your marriage. A ring doesn’t change that. Who you are becoming is who you will be as a husband or as a wife. So watch over your heart, watch over your body, watch over your spiritual life.

If you’re married, there is no greater value in your life than the cultivation of your relationship with Jesus and therefore, your spouse. There’s no ministry event that’s important enough, there’s no appointment that’s important enough. And if you leave your marriage with unresolved conflict, you leave a gap, a hole, a wedge for Satan to enter into your marriage and cause division. Your spouse has got to be your priority, because if that falls, everything falls.

We have to be hyper diligent to pursue greatness in our marriages. It’s not enough for us to have good marriages. We should have great marriages. But you have to work on it. It takes time. It takes some humble pie. It takes grace. And it takes a commitment together to always be on guard and not let anything or anyone come between you.

 

[1] See Proverbs 6:9-10

[2] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-pattern-among-fallen-pastors

[3] 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)

[4] 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5

Princesses & Hard Workers

Print

One of the dilemmas I have as a father of two girls is recognizing the tension between “you are my little princess” and “you get your butt out there and pull some weeds.” As princess as I want them to be, I don’t want them to be afraid to break a nail.

From the text, we know Ruth gleaned in the fields.[1] We know the P31 woman worked with her hands and made her arms strong.[2] Most of these women were shepherdesses. They were out in the field carrying sticks, throwing rocks, fighting off bears, stepping in sheep dung. That’s what they did. And a callous or two can be a beautiful and a very attractive thing.

I want to feed my girls’ sense of value and of knowing their beauty is on the inside. I work doubly hard and am very intentional to affirm them not for their external beauty, even though my oldest is a knockout and my youngest is close behind.

I’ll say, “Hey, can I tell you what’s beautiful about you? When you’re obedient to Mama, when you speak kindly to people, when you’re humble.” I’m affirming the inside because I know they will pursue what I affirm. If I keep talking about how pretty they are, I’m feeding the monster and I’m not going to do that. Culture is already feeding that, so I try to balance it out.

They don’t need to buy into what the world says. They can be beautiful and that’s okay. God gifts beauty to some people. Great! But what they need to know is that beauty is not merely what’s on the outside. That’s why Peter says, Don’t let your beauty merely be these things, the external braiding of hair, wearing of gold jewelry, putting on dresses.[3] It’s okay to do those things, but that shouldn’t be the focus. I want my girls to know their beauty is and should be something deeper, part of who they are. And I want to make sure I affirm that in them.

 

[1] Ruth 2:3

[2] Proverbs 31:13,17

[3] 1 Peter 3:3

How a Guy Gets Ready for a Date

Prophecy-An Incredible 45 Days

How many ladies out there had a guy in your life at some point who wrote you a note or gave you a card and you kept it? Probably most of you. Now the same question to the guys. There may be a few who kept something. No shame. But it’s probably very few.

Men and women just deal with relationships differently. Women generally feel and think about relationships at a deeper level than a man will. On a scale of zero to ten, relationally if a guy’s at a four, she’s probably at a six. If he’s at a six, she’s probably at an eight.

So here’s what happens on a date. If the dude is picking a gal up at 5, at about 4:40 he’s going to grab a t-shirt, give it the sniff test, put it on and head her way.

Meanwhile, if he’s picking her up at 5, at about 3 she started getting ready, thinking, What do I wear? She lays out various outfits and puts on various sets of clothing, and asks her roommates how they look on her. They’re all giggly. And when he pulls up she’s like, “ahh, act normal, act normal!” So he walks in and she smiles at him and just says, “hey.” But meanwhile everybody’s been freaking out.

When the date is over, most men walk back into their apartment. His roommate’s playing Xbox. “What up?” He goes, “wassup?” “How was your day?” “Cool.” And he’s playing Xbox. That’s it.

When she comes home, everybody’s on the bed. “Tell me what happened! How did it go?” And they’re like, “he said what when he passed you the salt? No way!” They’re freaking out at a level guys just don’t understand.

So just recognize we think differently about relationships. If the date went well and she starts to feel for him, she reflects upon him afterward. She thinks about him. Like the woman in Song of Solomon, she’s thinking, “My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi.”[1] Or perhaps something closer to: “He’s so sweet. He’s so awesome. He handed me the salt!”

 

[1] Song of Solomon 1:14 (NASB)

Am I a Racist?

Am I A Racist

Seek first to understand and then to be understood. –Stephen Covey

 

I grew up in Clovis. I went to the rodeo. I had mostly white friends. And then I found the world of athletics. Athletics thrust me into a multi-cultural environment.

When I hear someone say you’re the beneficiary of white privilege, to me it sounded like you were saying I had a silver spoon in my mouth, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It sounded to me like there was an assumption that everything I had had been given to me and by the way, you’re a racist.

And that bothered me. It bothered me for a lot of reasons. I worked my backside off for everything I got. I fought my way through school, my degree, on the football field. I was raised in a single parent home and it wasn’t easy. How could you say I benefited from white privilege?

So I dismissed it before I even really understood what they were saying. Then someone told me white privilege is not saying you’re a racist that’s had a silver spoon in your mouth. Whether I knew it or not I was a part of a system that was biased towards middle class white dudes. I don’t appreciate that or want that, but it’s not about me, it’s about a system that lends itself that way.

To be honest, I still didn’t quite understand it. Then I read an article about “What Riding My Bike Taught Me About White Privilege.” You know I’m a hobby junkie and one of my hobbies was riding. When you ride you know that you are riding in a world that is biased towards automobiles.  Our roads are designed to benefit automobiles. If you aren’t in a vehicle, people don’t even see you. It’s not that that driver is anti-bicycle, he just doesn’t even see you.

And you can’t win on a bike. People are mad at you if you’re on the sidewalk and they are mad when you’re on the road and that’s what I’m learning about white privilege. It doesn’t mean I’m racist, but it does mean there is an unintended bias towards middle class white people. The bias is changing and diminishing, but not fast enough.

Listen, I’m not a civil rights activist and I’m not the savior. I’m a white dude trying to understand the black narrative. From my lens I don’t see it. I don’t get it. It doesn’t mean I’m ignorant, it means I don’t understand, so I need to seek conversation to understand.

When these issues of discrimination and injustice are more than national headlines, when they are stories from your friends, the whole issue gets personalized. These are not simply racial constructs of a bygone era nor impersonal issues of those we have never met, rather these are stories of injustice from people in our community who matter deeply to God. They are right here—where we live, where we work, and where we play.

Unfortunately, injustice is a reality. This side of heaven we will always battle sin and it’s devastating affect. Though the Gospel unites us we must fight to understand one another and celebrate the diversity that God has created.

If we’re going to be serious about helping people connect to God and to each other in every neighborhood, then we need to learn more about our neighborhoods. God has given us an opportunity to provide leadership in our city and allow the gospel to influence how we interact in our community.  And that’s why Hope Fresno is so important to me.

Come with me on a journey, with a teachable spirit, in humility.  You might not agree with everything you hear, but you need to come and hear it all. I need to hear it all.

Will you put yourself in a situation where you can hear? Can you suspend judgment and put opinions aside and for just a moment, listen to what our African American friends can teach us?

 

Hope Fresno-Blog

Hope Fresno- in partnership with Faith in Community (FIC)

 

 

What I Didn’t Understand About Christians Until I Was One

What I Didn’t Understand About Christians Until I Was One

It was the first time I’ve ever cussed at my dad.

I was nominated for the B’nai B’rith award, which to this day I still have no idea what that was, except for a big Jewish award and apparently a very big deal. I’m at the awards thing and I don’t know Jesus from nothing, and when it finishes, my dad says, “We need to go see your grandpa. He’s dying.”

“Why are you telling me now? Why are we here?”

I was so mad at him for making me go to this stupid awards banquet (I didn’t end up winning), and I remember driving, and he’s telling me to slow down and I’m cussing at him. I thought we had somehow missed the death of my grandpa.

My grandpa had a third-grade education from Pond Creek, Oklahoma. He couldn’t read or write, but knew how to work with concrete. He started a company with my uncle; my uncle was the brains and my grandpa the labor. They created a lightweight concrete called Stucco. After working like mad in Southern California, they moved out to a cattle ranch just on the way out to Hume Lake. My grandpa was the typical Depression-era man. He had calloused hands, and he could fix everything with baling wire and a crescent wrench. He never said much, and I never saw him cry, except once.

When I got my scholarship, I asked the recruiting coordinator to come to my grandpa’s home. He was sitting in a wheelchair with a Santa hat on because it was Christmas, and he was probably 105 pounds, just eaten by cancer – bald, emaciated, a skeleton of a man. I signed my scholarship and he cried. I was the first one in my family to ever go to college. And Pop cried.

I remember standing at his deathbed – such a frail man. I’m holding his hand and he’s struggling to breathe. And he says, “I’m going home.”

“What?”

“I’m going home.” And then…gone. He went to be with Jesus.

Who says that?

How could he have such peace, such assurance and such perspective to know with complete confidence how to face death?

I had no idea how to process that as a non-believer.

I wanted to take Denise Riddell to the senior prom. I never asked her. Every time there was an opportunity, I whiffed. And one weekend night, she had gone to a party, had a little too much to drink, and was driving home down Copper when Copper was surrounded by orange orchards. She fell asleep, drifted off the road, and gone. Hit a pole.

You have nothing of substance to fall back to. You don’t know who to blame. You don’t know the purpose or reasoning. It’s just a tragedy, and it comes unannounced and unwelcome. And you’re forced to swallow this bitter pill with nothing to give you any perspective.

As a non-believer you trust in fate. You dabble in a little karma. You might look at your horoscope or think twice about a fortune cookie – anything to give you perspective as to why things happen and/or how to make it through. When you go through tragedy as someone who doesn’t know Jesus, you find solace at the bottom of a bottle. You throw back a couple pills and try to numb the pain. But you really don’t have a coping mechanism. You really don’t have perspective. You’re just left to chance, hoping things might work out, hoping there’s some sort of meaning in all of this.

I did not understand then, but now…I get it.

I understand what it means to walk with Jesus. I understand the idea that God does indeed work all things to the good of those who love Him. He has a plan for our lives. And momentary light afflictions are producing in us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comprehension, while we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are unseen.

The things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal. You begin to see that God has sovereignly ordained everything we go through in this life to make us more like Him. Everything – both triumph and tragedy. And we can delight in both because both are necessary to make us who God wants us to be. Both are required to shape us to be more like Him.

 

 

 

 

5 Books That Have Changed My Life

Print

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team 

Patrick Lencioni

41DJLyRQR3L

This is a must-read for anyone in leadership.

 

In the Name of Jesus

Henri Nouwen

jpeg

This was a total ambush. I never saw it coming. Nouwen exposed me to a way of thinking I would have never given myself permission to pursue. He was a Catholic priest and an educator at Notre Dame. He forsook a prolific Catholic writing and teaching career to live in a home for the mentally disabled. He wrote this book as a reflection of that time; he wrote of his own personal irrelevance, and how liberating and enlightening it was to realize how insignificant we truly are.

 

The Bride

Chuck Swindoll

jpeg-1

This gave me hope at a time in my life when I was wrecked and wondering if I should quit ministry. I was poor and I couldn’t afford to buy a book, so the owner of Fresno Bible House said, “anything you want to read or use to study, read it, study it here and just put it back on the shelf.”

Swindoll gave me light in a dark time when I wanted to crawl under a rock and die; he gave me hope for what the church was supposed to be, and he reminded me of the beauty of God’s church when it’s functioning in health. A lot of our staff values – why we do what we do – came from this book.

I read one chapter at a time trying not to spill coffee on it, so I could put it back.

 

Ordering Your Private World

Gordan MacDonald

 91qBojA7JtL._SL1500_

I read this book 10 years ago, but I’m still talking about it. Fantastic book  – especially the chapter on being driven versus being called. MacDonald makes a great comparison between the leadership style of Saul and the leadership style of David. It’s a good caution for leaders to not rely merely on talent but to rely on the calling of God. I also loved his chapter called “The Sinkhole Syndrome,” where he talks about how we can create sinkholes in our lives when it’s all output and no intake.

 

Spiritual Leadership

J. Oswald Sanders

jpeg-2

If there was a 67th Book of the Bible, it would be this one. Phenomenal book on what leadership needs to be from a spiritual standpoint. The thrust of a leader is not merely his competence or his skill, but what’s going on underneath.

 

*plus one bonus

Unbroken

Laura Hillenbrand

jpeg-3

I did get totally sucked in to one book unrelated to leadership. It’s about a World War II pilot who ends up on a blow-up raft in the Pacific with a buddy. The raft has a hole in it, and they are taking shifts overnight, blowing into the raft to keep it from sinking, while using an oar in one hand to hit the sharks on the head. We think we’re tough – these guys were studs. Ultimately, it’s a story about how this guy forgives his captor and tormentor.

What are some books that have changed your life?

The One Word I Want to Define My Life

The One Word

I had been coming home a little on edge. I was not necessarily fun to be around, from my wife’s perspective. And I was missing my kids’ soccer practices since I was so busy. So they weren’t happy with me. I was cranking, working hard, giving a lot, and under a ton of stress. I was handling things outside of my comfort zone, so I didn’t feel competent, making decisions that have huge implications on people’s lives, and I didn’t feel with certainty it was the right call. And I had to teach, and honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was teach. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.

I prepped. And I studied. And I taught. And it felt like flesh. It felt like me. It felt like the message was a giant run-on sentence, one ginormous blah, blah, blah, blah. I finished the message, went home, and of course, I couldn’t sleep, beating myself up: You shouldn’t have said that, you should have said that, you missed that, you misquoted that, you said um 150 times. What the heck is wrong with you?

Some assume it happens over decades. I love Jesus, then not as much the next year, and then not as much the next year, and the next year not as much. But it can happen in a moment. Literally, overnight.

I go to bed and realize I have to get back with the Lord. He hasn’t gone anywhere. The problem is not the Lord; the problem is me. I’m trying to do this in my own strength, I’m trying to wrestle my life to the ground on my own – and it’s too much.

I began to look at my spiritual life. What does my time in the word look like? What does my time in prayer look like? And I realize it’s scarce, if not non-existent. So I spend good time with the Lord, and good time in prayer and good time in my Bible – and the funny thing is, my wife likes me more, and it’s fascinating how my kids want to snuggle with me now, and I actually have the time. When my life gets crazy, I get very selfish. I need this. I need that. When my life is about other people, that’s where I find joy.

I walked into OSH, and I saw this guy with his wife sitting on patio furniture. I was feeling full, so I said, “Oh dude, you have got to have it.”

“Yeah, it’s like three grand,” he said.

“Well, happy wife, happy life.”

“If I buy this, you have to come party with us later.”

“If you need a truck, let me know.” And I walked away.

Five minutes later, this guy walked up and asks, “Were you serious?”

“That’s why I bought a truck, so I could help people. Do you need it?”

“I do.”

I loaded his furniture into my truck – and while he didn’t live right down the street, but way down the street, I left with joy. And that’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I love. If I’m in myself, if I’m in the flesh, if I’m being selfish, I’m not going to offer that guy anything. I don’t have time for that guy.

Don’t forget your first love. Recognize from where you have fallen, repent, and do the deeds that you did at first (see Revelation 2:4-5). 

The challenge is to check our hearts day by day, moment by moment, and process what it means to stay connected to Him.

If there is stress, frustration, fruitlessness, then you are not abiding. You are not being filled by Him and His strength.

If there’s a word that I would like to define my life, it’s abide. Because when I abide in Him and He abides in me – and literally, abide means to sink deeply into, to remain in – when I remain in Him, and He remains in me, and when I sink deeply into Him, and He sinks deeply into me, I bear much fruit. But apart from Him, I can do nothing. Not that I can’t do some things or I’m not as effective. No. You can’t do jack without Him (see John 15:5).

Bullet Points:

  • Slow down
  • Pray
  • Go for a walk
  • Enjoy the breeze
  • Read your Bible – not for the mind, for the heart
  • And make sure what you’re doing, you’re doing out of an abiding, connective relationship with Him

Are You Making Disciples or Just Influencing People?

 

Making-Disciples

In my own life, I’m recognizing there’s a difference between influence and discipleship. I’ve spent the last 12 years influencing people. Influencing from the pulpit, influencing in meetings, influencing in counseling, in weddings, at gravesides – influencing people toward Christ. But you typically influence people broadly and from afar.

Discipleship, however, is few and up close.

Pastors, myself included, are notorious for confusing the two. So a pastor will have a Bible study on Tuesday morning and have 50 men, and think he’s discipling 50 men. You’re not discipling 50 men. You’re influencing 50 men. Now that’s good. But what’s better is to get two men and to pour into them up close and personal.

When I talk about discipleship, I go back to 1997 when I discipled Mike and Shea. That’s a long time ago. The busier I get, the broader my reach gets, the more elevated my position gets, and the harder it is to find time to disciple up close. I’m becoming more and more convicted of the fact that I don’t think that’s an excuse.

I’ve thrown the gauntlet out to our staff team. I want us to get a select group of people and pour into them, and move beyond influence to discipleship. And if I’m going to ask them to do it, I need to do it.

I got a call yesterday from a buddy who said his son is in need. “I need someone to help disciple him. Do you have anyone on your team who can do that?”

And I said, “Yes, I can do that.”

“You? You have time for that?”

“No. But yes, I’ll do that.”

So we’re going to start meeting and I’m going to do life with this kid. How do you do life with someone or disciple someone? Most people think discipleship is being Gandalf or Yoda, being able to dispense wisdom in all things at all times in any situation. I don’t think that’s the case. I think you have to be one step ahead of the person you’re discipling, and you must have a lifeline if you need it.

Here’s the beauty of discipleship. When I started meeting with Mike and Shea, I was teaching them the Bible. They wanted my advice on issues. They met with me because they needed me to share something with them. But over time we began to talk, and as I shared with them, they shared stuff with me. You could argue it moved from me discipling them to us discipling each other, and I think we are better men because of the mutual contribution.

Stay one step ahead of the person you’re discipling, but recognize you don’t have to have all the answers. You just need to enter in with someone over time. You’re not going to disciple anyone in 12 weeks, but you are going to disciple someone over time.

People grow in crisis. So you’re going to spend 6 months discipling someone, you’re going to meet with someone, hey, how’s it going. What are you learning in the word? What’s God showing you? And then, bang! Tragedy strikes and now you’re discipling someone. They’re going to have a death in the family, or illness, or lose a job, or their marriage is going to hit the rocks. Now they’re open, and now they’re listening. And you’ve earned the right to speak into their lives – and you become a pastor of the moment.

So find people who you have affinity with, people you connect with, and spend time with them regularly. Spend time over time, and above all else, teach them to be self-feeders; don’t make them dependent upon you. One of the best tools I’ve seen in discipleship is daily devotions. Get someone to read their Bible on their own and just talk about what they’re reading.

Be aware that discipleship can become so dependent on the Yoda, that people never realize that the real Yoda is Jesus. They’re waiting for advice from you: tell me what I should do; tell me what I should say… It creates spiritual dependence. So be cautious because it’s like a narcotic. You want my opinion? Well, let me tell you what I think. Maybe the best answer is, I’m not sure. Maybe we should pray about that and see what the Lord lays on your heart. So 10 years later, when you’re not around anymore, they’re going to be able to pray about something and make a decision without you.