What to do when your Faith is on Empty.

Have you ever been in a “Dead Spot” when you’re trying get online with your laptop or Smart Phone? There are few things more frustrating than not having enough bars to connect. Without a strong connection, even if we have the best computer in the world, it is powerless to help us connect to what we need and that hilarious picture you were ready to load on facebook has to wait!

Faith is a lot like that. Have you ever been in a place in life where you felt like you have lost your connection? You pray and read the Bible and do all the stuff that you’re “supposed” to do but your Spiritual Meter doesn’t even seem to have one bar of strength and no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get through I think we’ve all been there!

The Bible teaches us clearly that Faith is a vital necessity, “And without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), so what do we do when our Faith is running on empty? Thankfully, the Bible gives us some clear and practical instructions for what to do when our Faith is running low…

1. Ask God. Jesus taught us that God wants to give us every good thing and He lets us find those good things we consistently seek and ask to receive.

“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!Luke 17:5

““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

2. Connect with Other Believers. God never intended for our Faith to be lived out in isolation, so make the effort be in in a life-giving church and invest in friendships with other Believers and your Faith will start increasing. Faith is Contagious!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25

3. Trust God, Not Your Feelings. Choose to Trust God’s promises instead of your fickle feelings. Faith isn’t based on emotion, but on a choice to believe that God is Powerful, Loving, Perfect and He is with you!

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Wherever you are in your Faith right now, please remember that God loves you and has extraordinary plans for your life! Choose to Trust and Obey Him and He will always lead you down the right path.

I’d love to hear from you. What would you add to this list? What have you done to increase faith in your own life? 

 

How to Renew Your Vows Everyday.

I love doing weddings! There’s something powerful and profound about standing there with a bride and groom as they exchange vows and rings and enter into the covenant of marriage.

By God’s Grace and Love, I take you to be my wife/husband. To love and to cherish from this day forward. For better or for worse. In sickness or in health. For richer or for poorer. Forsaking all others. ‘Til death do us part.

As married couples or couples preparing for marriage, I believe it’s critical to be reminded often of the significance of these sacred vows. Renewing them doesn’t require a special ceremony…it only requires a commitment to live out these promises and recommit to them each and every day.

By God’s Grace and Love...God must be invited to lead your marriage. He created you, He created your Spouse, and He created Marriage so His plan has to be the one that is followed. He has so many blessings in store for you both. Don’t miss out on them by neglecting your relationship with Him.

I Take You...In all the world, you could only give this gift of your love to one person. You are choosing your spouse and they have chosen you! Never lose sight of this beautiful exchange.

To Love and to Cherish…God calls husbands and wives to adore each other and to pursue each other with an ever-growing love. This is a commitment to invest in the Friendship that sets the foundation for Romantic Love. It means to creatively, thoughtfully and passionately working to win the heart of your spouse over and over again.

For Better or For Worse…We’ve got to love each other NO MATTER WHAT. Marital love can’t be based on convenience or even feelings. This commitment means that our love will never be based on our circumstances. Our vows are most important in the moments when they are least convenient. 

In Sickness or in Health…Our health may be broken but our love and commitment must stay healthy and strong. When your spouse is at their weakest, that is when your love for them needs to be the strongest! 

For Richer or for Poorer...Commit to each other that money will never be your primary pursuit. Your love has nothing to do with whether you’re bankrupt or wealthy. Money comes and money goes, but your commitment to each other must stand firm.

Forsaking all others...If you are consistently confiding in a “friend” of the opposite sex, you are slowly sabotaging your marriage! Stay away from Porn or anything or anyone who could be a force that pulls you away from your spouse. Guard your eyes and your heart.

‘Til Death do us part...Our commitment comes with no expiration date and our marriage has no Exit Strategy! Don’t make Divorce an option! There’s nothing so broken that God can’t restore it if you’ll trust His plan and hold firm to your Faith and your Vows. Finish the Race Together!

What I’ve learned about life from being a Pastor.

I’ve had a lot of jobs. I’ve delivered pizzas, bagged groceries, done landscaping, security, retail sales, manufacturing, management and teaching. After all those random experiences, I realized that God had been preparing me for the hardest and weirdest job of all…Being a Pastor.

Being a Pastor is definitely one of the most rewarding and most frustrating tasks God has ever given me to do. People assume pastors just work on Sundays, but the truth is, we’re never really off. No two days are the same.

I get to be there with folks in their tragedies, their triumphs and everything in between. It’s both a great honor and a great burden, but God always gives me the strength I need when I rely on Him instead of trying to do it on my own.

I’ve been reflecting back on what I’ve learned from being the in the ministry. I’ve still got a LOT to learn, but here are the main things I’ve picked up so far…

1. People are messed up. It’s true. Some people are really good at hiding it, but everybody has got baggage, and hangups and junk they’re dealing with. Nobody has it all together. There’s something refreshing about knowing that we’re all in the same boat. It’s also great to know that  as messed up as we are, God loves us and has extraordinary plans for our lives! 

2. There’s Only One Savior (and I”m NOT Him)! Since we’re all messed up, we all need a Savior. Thankfully, Jesus took care of that. As a Pastor, I get to encourage people and point people to Jesus, but I’m reminded everyday that I can’t actually save anybody. I’m as messed up as they are!

3. The World will Wreck You. We live in a world that tells us how to live and it’s almost always the wrong way. The world will even tell you that there’s no such thing as a “wrong way” if you just follow your own truth (whatever that means). Most people get their worldview from pop culture, tv shows and their messed up friends instead of the Bible. The World will lead people down a dead-end path, but it will try to make that path look very enticing.

4. The Bible has The Answers. No matter what the question may be, the Bible has the answer. The more we read it and allow the Holy Spirit to let it take root in us, the more we are changed by it. The Bible’s path is almost always different from the World’s, but the Bible is always right! When my actions  don’t conform to Scripture, I’m the one who needs to change. We don’t change the Message; The Message changes us!

That’s about all I’ve got so far. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, but I feel like God keeps reteaching me these same four principles over and over and over.

I’d love to hear from you (whether you’re a pastor or not)! What has God been teaching You lately?

 

How to know when you’re “Over Capacity”

One thing I like about using twitter is that when the site is overloaded, instead of running slowly or just freezing up, a friendly page appears with a picture of a whale on it and a note telling you that the site is currently “Over Capacity.” 

Wouldn’t it be nice if life worked that way? On those days when you’re feeling overloaded or burned out, a whale would appear in front of your office to let your boss and coworkers know that they need to back off and give you some space!

Unfortunately, no such whale really exists to let those around us know we’re overwhelmed. In fact, often we can’t even tell when we’re over capacity because the frantic pace of life has come to seem so normal for us. If we run at breakneck speed for too long, we run the serious risk of harming ourselves physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally and spiritually.

Here are some warning signs that you need to ease up and hang a whale sign out in front of your home or office:

1. Anger over Interruptions. When your schedule is too full, there is no margin, so there’s not room for any interruptions. When you’re Over Capacity, any unexpected interruptions can push you over the edge. You might even find yourself resenting people who seem like they do have time for interruptions because you have believed the lie that important people are always super busy.

2. Lack of Laughter. When there’s balance in your life there should be plenty of room for laughter. If you’re pushed past your limits, laughter is one of the first casualties. It starts a vicious cycle of somberness.

3. Lack of Creativity. Without room to imagine and dream, you’ll find yourself running at full speed just to complete the tasks in front of you. When an opportunity for creativity arises, you will find it more of a struggle than a joy.

4. Relational Drift. When your mind is always consumed with your tasks, your loved ones will always suffer. Even when you’re with them, your mind will be distant and your cell phone will probably be on.

So what do you do?

If you find yourself nodding in agreement with these signs of being overwhelmed, then you need to proactively start removing things from your schedule. I believe God won’t give us more than we can handle, but we will often take on ourselves more than we can handle! 

Have the confidence to say “NO” more often so that you can “YES” to the people and priorities that matter most. Set specific boundaries for what hours you will have your phone on and what hours are completely off limits.

Don’t apologize for for letting people down. The world already has a Savior so and you’re not Him. Let Him be the one to give you rest and peace…

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I Love You Too Much to Let You Do That.

I never had the privilege of meeting my Great Grandmother, but from everything I’ve heard, she was one-of-a-kind! Without a penny of support from the government or anyone else, she had to raise 5 daughters by herself after her husband was killed in war. They were dirt poor but she raised those girls with love, faith, prayer and honest hard work.

My Great Aunt Jan was the first of her daughters to get married. She returned home a few months later with suitcases in hand. Grandmother came to the door and looked at the suitcases and said, “Well Honey it’s good to see you but what on earth are you doing here? Where’s your husband?”

Jan replied, “Mother, I am leaving him!”

Grandmother said, “Oh, no! What has happened? Is he cheating on you?”

“No, nothing like that. I just can’t stand him. I don’t love him. I don’t want to spend another minute around that man. I’m getting divorced and coming home.”

Grandmother took a deep breath and gave a response that few would have the courage or wisdom to give. She looked her daughter in the eye and with tears in her own eyes, she said, “Sweetheart. I love you too much to let you do that. You made a promise to God and to your husband that you would faithfully love him until death do you part. Now go home and work things out with him. You’re not welcome back here until you do.”

And with that, she shut the door in her daughter’s face. In disbelief, my Aunt turned around and went home where she and my Uncle John remained married for the next half century until his death a few years ago. For most of those years together, they were inseparable. He was the love of her life.

Their love story was made possible because my Great Grandmother understood what it means to love someone and she understood just how important a marriage covenant really is. In our modern world, we are so quick to quit anything that seems difficult and we’ve very wrongly believed that being a good friend or loving relative means accepting whatever decisions (no matter how destructive) our loved ones make.

Tragically, most folks would have welcomed by Great Aunt back in and said, “Get on in here, Baby! You are way too good for him. I never liked him anyways! Let’s set you up an account on eHarmony right now and find somebody better!”

The Bible is clear that Marriage is sacred and it’s always worth fighting for. The Bible is also clear that if we care about someone, we are responsible for telling them the truth even when it’s hard to say and even harder to hear. The Truth about marriage is that God designed it with no Exit Strategy and we will never embrace the fullness of Marriage if we see it as something we can quit.

Don’t just fight for your own marriage…fight for the marriages of everyone in your life.

 

“Trophy Wife”…A Message for Husbands

I’ve got a great friend who is fighting for his marriage. I’ve been inspired by the depths of his faith and the strength of his resolve to win back his wife’s heart. He has taken full responsibility for the part he played in contributing to the marital breakdown, and he recently shared a story with me that became a turning point in his journey…

For years, my friend worshipped his cars. He was a car nut. He knew everything about cars and would spend long hours honing the engine, waxing the paint and painstakingly caring for every detail of his prized possessions.

He was good at it. So good, in fact, that he would spend the weekends at car shows where he accumulated a massive amount of trophies to confirm that his time on his vehicles had been well spent. The more trophies he won, the more he was motivated to work harder on his cars to win more trophies.

When his his wife was ready to leave, in a moment of despair and absolute clarity, my friend looked at those trophies and he realized what they were…junk. They were idols that he had been worshipping instead of worshipping God. They were tangible evidence of thousands of hours he robbed from his wife and family and given to his hobby.

He boxed up over one hundred trophies representing his blood, sweat and tears and he hauled them to a dumpster and threw them in the trash.

He made a promise to God that he would never again put his work, his trophies, his money or anything else ahead of God and his family. His priorities would now and forever be:

1. His Relationship with Jesus

2. His Relationship with his Wife

3. His relationship with his kids

4. Everything and everyone else.

What does your money and your time say about your priorities? The Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Don’t let your work, your hobbies, your trophies or anything else take the place of priority in your mind and heart that belongs to God and your family. You will never regret the time you invest in those relationships but you’ll always regret the things that you choose to place ahead of them. What “trophies” do you need to throw away to remind them and yourself what matters most? 

Your spouse and your kids should always know that there is no “trophy” on earth that you value more than you value them. Let their pictures be what fills your trophy case. Let your love for them and your faith in God be what drives your ambition. You’ll never go astray when you’re priorities are in the right place.

Your relationships are the only “trophies” that you can take to heaven, so spend your life investing in them. Trust God, Treasure your Wife, spend time with your Kids and build a legacy of Love, Laughter and Faith in your family that will touch the world for generations to come!

God’s Path to Marriage vs. The World’s Path to Marriage

Every day, I talk to people who are having serious trouble in the marriage. As I dig a little deeper, I almost always discover that those problems began when they decided to follow the World’s well-worn Path to Marriage instead of following God’s.

In our modern era, God’s Path to Marriage is definitely the road less traveled, but since He is the one who invented Marriage and Created us, He’s still the one with the right answers on Marriage (and everything else)! Just to give you some comparison, let me know outline the differences as simply as I can…

The World’s Path to Marriage
1. Play the field.
2. Find someone you like and have sex.
3. Give a minimal commitment so you can still play the field.
4. Step up your commitment by Moving in together to share expenses and “test drive” each other.
5. Get engaged.
6. Go into huge debt to pay for a big wedding that look like the ones you watch on TV.
7. Get married, but don’t change much. Always have an Exit Strategy in the back of your mind.
8. Drift Apart.
9. Get Divorced.
10. Repeat Process Beginning with Step 1.

God’s Path to Marriage 
1. Pray and grow in your Relationship with Jesus.
2. Be content with being single because Jesus is the only one who can truly “Complete” you.
3. When God brings someone into your life, start by building a healthy friendship.
4. Continue to build your relationship on a foundation of your faith in God

and your respect for each other.
5. Enter into a fully-committed relationship, but don’t have sex.
6. Get engaged.
7. Plan a wedding that will celebrate your love and tell the story of the God who makes all love possible.
8. Get married and party like it’s 1999!
9. Have amazing sex.
10. Raise a family, Grow in your faith and friendship daily, keep having amazing sex, love life, and stay faithfully committed to each other and God til death do you part.
Choose wisely!

The 4 Causes of Divorce

Divorce has ripped through our nation like a plague. In its wake there are millions of heartbroken children, financial bankruptcies and emotional devastation for all involved.

As a Pastor, I talk to couples in crisis almost every day. Tragically, by the time they take the initiative to talk to someone like me, one or both of them often feels that all hope is lost. Divorce can still be prevented even in those worst-case scenarios, but its much easier to prevent Divorce when you understand the factors that lead to the collapse of a marriage.

After counseling with countless couples, I believe these are the main reasons (if not the only reasons) why couples divorce:

1. Selfishness. Your spouse doesn’t exist for your happiness and if you treat them like their sole purpose is to make your life better, you are both going to be miserable. When you let your selfishness get the best of you, you’re no longer putting your spouse ahead or yourself and you are forsaking what it means to be in a marriage. Adultery and most of the “big issues” that destroy marriages are usually just symptoms of Selfishness. 

2. Lack of Faith. As a Christian, I’m convinced that no marriage can fully thrive without Jesus in the center of it. Many stats say that “Christians” are as likely to divorce as non-Christians, but what those stats don’t tell you is that when two people are devoted to Christ, humbly walking with Him, studying God’s Word together, serving alongside each other in their church and community and praying for each other daily, Divorce almost NEVER occurs.

3. Terrible Friends. Your friendships outside of the marriage will be a huge influence for either good or for bad. If you find your “friends” talking about your marriage by saying, “You just need to leave! You deserve better!” Then those people are not real friends. Find people who will encourage you, strengthen your faith and support your marriage. Get away from anyone who has a negative influence.

4. Giving Up. We live in a culture that teaches us that we can quit anything once it gets uncomfortable. We don’t like commitment. We can’t ever keep the same cell phone carrier for more than a couple of years. No marriage would last if people quit when it got tough. Pushing through the hard times together is what refines and strengthens a marriage. 

If you’re in a troubled marriage on the brink of divorce, the first thing you should do is remove “Divorce” from your vocabulary. It’s only an option if you make it an option and Healthy Marriages should never have an Exit Strategy. Trust God and Don’t Give Up!

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Your next step is to get help. Find Professional Counseling and surround yourself with people who will support your marriage. Another great resource that I’ve seen several several marriages is the “Dynamic Marriage” class. You can visit this site to find a course near you: http://www.familydynamics.net/dynamic-marriage

3 Things that will ruin your life

One of the most challenging and controversial teachings of Jesus centers around a Parable (story) He told of a Farmer planting seeds. The implications of this short passage of Scripture are tremendous. Jesus is teaching that everyone who hears the Message of the Gospel will land in one of four categories; and only one of those categories is good!

“As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:4-9

 

To create good “soil” in our minds and hearts for the Truth of God to take root means relentlessly eliminating the “rocks and weeds” which refers to anyone or anything that is holding you back from wholeheartedly following Jesus. Below are some of those “rocks” that represent 3 things that can ruin your life:

1. Unhealthy Relationships.

We’re called to love all people, but we must be inventional and wise about choosing our inner circle of friends. Every person in your life is either bringing you closer to Jesus or pulling you farther away!

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33

2. Unhealthy Habits.

Those secret sins will do you in. Whatever your struggles might be (Porn, Alcohol, Greed, Laziness, Legalism or a thousand others) you need to Repent (turn from it) and ask God to forgive you! Don’t live in a prison of sin when Jesus has offered a full pardon through Grace!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

3. Unhealthy Motives.

In a nutshell, following Jesus simply means trading your agenda for God’s agenda. If your motives are about building your own little kingdom instead of His Kingdom, then you’re missing the whole point! God doesn’t just examine what we do…He examines why we do it!

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13

The Good News is that God loves you and cares about your life even more than you do. If you will sincerely seek Him and ask Him to remove these “rocks” from your life, He will bring freedom and forgiveness! Then, the seeds of Truth from His Word will take root and grow into the life you were always meant to live.

 

 

Second Chances

Today I had the privilege of remarrying a couple who divorced each other 11 years ago. After years of separation, God restored their relationship. It was one of the most touching wedding ceremonies I’ve ever been part of. Their Faith in God and in each other brought healing and restoration when all hope seemed lost. The 3 Principles they shared with me from their inspirational journey are:

1. God is a God of SECOND CHANCES (and third chances, and fourth chances…)

2. There is power and healing in FORGIVENESS.

3. NOTHING is impossible when you’re committed to God and to each other!

Thank you Craig and Kelly for letting me be a small part of your story! I pray that your faith, love and courage inspire thousands of people who have lost hope.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” -Matthew 19:26

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