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Showing posts from January, 2013

3 Things I Learned By Prayer and Fasting

From Jan 2 - Jan 22 my church went on a journey of prayer and fasting, encouraging our faith family to participate in however God led them. The goal was to set aside 21 days at the beginning of the year to refine our focus on Jesus and build a foundation for the new year laid down firmly on prayer.

I decided to participate in the fast by eating only fruits, nuts, vegetables and fish during the weekdays.  The first thing I discovered was that January is a really tough time to eat right and light.  There are so many parties going on and my fridge seemed like it was perpetually full of leftovers and great appetizer snacks!  After a few days of craving potato chips every time I walked through the kitchen my hunger cravings subsided and I actually started to really enjoy a more natural food intake.

The Lord spoke a few things into my life during my fasting and praying.

1.  He showed me how I was failing to love my wife and cherish her at all times, in all things.  I thought I was doing O…

Do Not Assume You are Good Soil

Last week I read Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It is a very convicting book packed full of Scripture and challenging application. He is one small section as a sampling that raises some great questions to consider regarding my own faith and commitment to Christ.
Do not assume you are good soil. Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world? Are you satisfied being “godly enough” to get yourself to heaven, or to look good in comparison to others? Or can you say with Paul that you “want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10)?

For a long time this verse had just too much Jesus for me. In my opinion, the verse should have ended after the word resurrection, so I could have an appealing, popular Jesus who did…

Book Review: The Table of Influence

I recently read the ebook Table of Influence: What Successful People Know that You Should Too by my friend Jason Young.

I first met Jason at the STORY conference in Chicago a few years ago.  He and I were responsible for leading the resource sales at the conference. As soon as we met I found Jason to be one of the most energetic, friendly and funny guys I've ever met.  I later learned that he is also very sharp, smart and genuine.  We ended up rooming together and I had a blast all weekend.

In Table of Influence Jason draws on the mentoring and business relationships in his life to pull out some fantastic principles regarding building a personal 'table' of mentors and advisors.  Jason suggests different types of leaders to learn from, advises on how to make your interactions with those leaders worthwhile, and suggests some ideas to make your follow-up meaningful.

I read the book in under 30 minutes.  Here's some key takeaways:

- Surrounding yourself with the right voi…

Pay Attention for Divine Interruptions

What do you do when you're trying to get some important work done and someone comes into your office to talk?  Do you ignore them?  Blow them off and tell them to come back later?  Fake like you're listening but never really engage in the conversation?  It can be hard to stop and refocus you're attention on the person who is 'interrupting.'  But, there might be something more going on.  

In a recent Willow Creek Association blog post, the writer recounts a conversation he had with a mentor.  He had asked his mentor how to deal with interruptions and the stress of needing to get everything done each day.  This is the mentor's response:
Al chuckled and said, “Jim, God dealt with me on that long ago. I love progress and I love getting stuff done. However, what God showed me was that people and relationships are more important.  So, what I began to do is, whenever an employee comes in my office—which happens frequently—I do my best to lay aside whatever I’m working o…

Quick Thought of the Week

Leaders You Want At Your Table of Influence

My friend Jason Young has a great book called The Table of Influence.  He recently shared some ideas from the book in an article he wrote for Q: Ideas for the Common Good.

In the article Jason talks about the different kinds of leaders you want 'at your table' to pour into you and develop you.  I've copied the list of leaders below, but make sure you read the whole article for context and deeper explanation and application points.

Leaders who are interested in your well-being.
Leaders who are trustworthy.
Leaders who have an area of expertise.
Leaders who ask hard questions.
Leaders who keep you on track toward your goals.
Leaders who may not be as popular or recognizable.
Leaders who help you cross from the unknown to the known.
Leaders who provide accountability.
Leaders who help you grow into exceptional standards of character.
Leaders who are willing to help you seasonally.

Playing Guitar at Bedtime

Last night I watched a movie with the kids, read Andrew a story, prayed and did bedtime songs with them all, gave them a kiss, turned off the lights, and......

......went downstairs, got my guitar and then sat down back upstairs in the hallway outside their bedrooms playing old youth ministry songs until all three kids fell asleep.

Playing those old songs brought a flood of memories to mind.  Times of playing guitar and leading a middle school ministry out of a conference room at the local community center.  Times of sitting around a campfire at Sonshine Music Festival wishing I could spend forever doing that exact thing.  Times of gathering up music equipment and setting up a worship venue in my parents barn.  Times of gathering in a circle in the basement of a church building near our mission site and playing songs, praising God with students for hours until my fingers wanted to fall off.  Times of sitting in a living room with 3-7 kids, no one sounding great, but everyone enjoying…

Do You Wish to be a Cottage or a Palace?

I heard this quote in a sermon recently and, as it true with most C.S. Lewis quotes, I loved it.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” - C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity I've had all kinds of ups and downs in my life.  Some were not as major as other people face, and a few of the things I…

5 Questions to Deepen the Intimacy in Your Marriage

I've just started checking out this site and hope to get my hands on the book that this couple has written about the restoration of their marriage.  They recently posted a link on Twitter with 5 questions couples can ask each other to help build intimacy in a relationship.   These are simple questions but they create space for a depth of conversation where love and cherishing can happen. 1. How are you, really? 2. How can I help you this week? 3. What is one thing you’re scared of right now? 4. How can I pray for you this week? 5. What do you wish we had more time to do? Make sure you read the whole post for further explanation.
---> Your turn I'm always trying to grow as a husband and man, so I'm curious, what things do you do that deepen the feelings of love and connection with the significant person/people in your life?

4 Books I'm Reading Right Now

Learners are readers.

I love to read and I almost always have a book with me where ever I go.  Right now I'm pretty busy and I'm not finishing as many books as I want to.  That said, here's a few of the books I'm working through right now.

Crazy Love, by Francis Chan



















Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church, by Matt Chandler



















Under the Banner of Heaven, by John Krakauer


















For the City, by Darrin Patrick and Matter Carter



















What are you reading and learning from?

Quick Thought of the Week

Avoiding the Dog's Land Mines

Minnesota winters are never predictable.  It went from freezing cold temps (2 degrees) on Monday to moderately warm temps (31) today.  I'm not complaining about the warmer weather.  However, I don't like how wet and muddy everything becomes when we have these temporary warm-ups.

The other problem I discovered is that when it warms up and all the snow melts in the backyard all the land mines deposited there by my dog are exposed.  I know this is pretty disgusting but hang with me because I realized something while I was outside picking them up.  Actually I realized two things.

First, having a dog is disgusting.  This I already knew but it was reaffirmed today.

Secondly, there is a spiritual lesson to be learned in all this nastiness.

Our dog Manny was outside with me while I was cleaning up his dirty work and it was fascinating to watch him watch through the danger zone.  He deliberating picked his way through the muck without ever stepping on one of his piles.  He kept his …

Pushing Yourself to the Limit for Growth

One of my all time favorite work-out songs is Nelly's "Heart of a Champion." Love the beat, love the lyrics and love the energy it gives me to keep pushing and going when I want to quit. This morning as I was running there was one line in the song that caught my ear,
"I push myself to the limit so my talent will surface." Reminds me of the axiom 'no pain, no gain.'  The problem is, I don't know about you, but I haven't found pushing myself to the limit to be the most enjoyable thing I can do.  I'd rather have success, growth and accomplishments come without the pain that comes with pushing myself to the limit.

The truth however is it doesn't work that way.  I discovered this in high school.  I wanted to be a Varsity hockey player but I didn't have the natural talent to do it.  So I had to make the choice to embrace the pain that would come with pushing myself to a place of growth.  My training included building muscles by lifting…

5 Things to Consider Regarding Lance Armstrong

If you have tuned into SportsCenter today you know there have been some crazy incidents headlining the sports world.  The story of Lance Armstrong and his taped conversation with Oprah during which he reportedly confesses to using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) has dominated the conversation all week, inside and outside of sports.  Talk radio is a buzz with discussion on whether Armstrong, and other athletes like him, will ever be able to recover from the damage they've done by using PEDs and then lying about it.

It is easy to pile on Armstrong.  Many people are hurt by the fact that they athlete they looked up to is a cheater.  All of Armstrong's athletic accomplishments are tainted and his reputation as an inspirational athlete and person will forever be in question.  It is understandable that people would upset.

However, I'd like to offer something else to the conversation.  Here's 5 things we should keep in mind before we get to upset with Lance Armstrong and…

Quick Thought of the Week

Book Review: Unleash! by Perry Noble

Perry Noble is the Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church, a multi site church in Anderson, South Carolina.  I've been following Perry for a long time.  I think I first came across him when I heard about the billboards his church put up advertising a sermon series they were doing called "I Hate My Marriage."

Since then I have watched Pastor Perry's church grow and his national notoriety rise.  To be honest, I've sort of had an on again/off again interest in NewSpring.  From what I can tell a nation away, Noble's theology is solid and his passion for sharing Jesus is unquestionable.  It is mostly just his methods that I'm not always comfortable with.

On to the book.  Following the pattern of many pastor's writings, Unleash!: Breaking Free From Normalcy tracks the story of David and Goliath, pulling out anecdotes from the Biblical story to support the themes being written about.  In the book Noble wants to help people break 'free from normalcy' and …

We Need Real Friends to Help Us Along

When the proverbial poop hits the fan in my life I have three people I go to immediately for prayer, wisdom and support.  I can call, or I can text.  Anytime and I know they will be there.  Sometimes they encourage me and other times they rebuke me, but they are always FOR me.  That makes all the difference.  It is what I call Gospel Friendship.

Yesterday my Bible reading plan for 2013 (you can download some great reading plans here) brought me to the first few chapters of the Book of Job.  In these chapters Job, a man who loves God, goes through some pretty tough stuff.  All his animals get killed, one of his properties is destroyed and all his children suddenly die.  Not a great day!  Then, as if all that wasn't enough, Job gets a nasty skin disease, followed by some harsh words from his wife about his trust in God.

In chapter 3 some of Job's friends come to visit him.  The Bible say they sat with him in silence and sorrow for a week.  It is an example of Gospel Friendship…

Three Little Words that Can Change a Relationship

There are three powerful words when it comes to having healthy, successful relationships in our lives.

I am sorry.

When spoken humbly, authentically and timely these three words can do so much.

Over the years the Lord has given me (or I've created) many opportunities to learn how to say I'm sorry.

Here's a few things I've learned about saying "I am sorry."

1.  You don't say "I am sorry" expecting to hear it said back to you.  It is always no strings attached.
2.  Saying "I am sorry" doesn't mean the hurt you've caused just disappears.
3.  After you say "I am sorry" you need to add legs to the apology by working towards behavior change.
4.  The words "I am sorry" are best said after you've been able to realize the weight of your error and be truly convicted by it.  Apologizing comes with repentance.
5.  Authentically saying "I am sorry" reflects to the other party your concern for them and you…

Quotes About the Bible

Found some quotes about the Bible on an old piece of scratch paper that I think are helpful as I go through 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting with the people at my church.

John Calvin
"The Word of God is not to teach us to prattle or be eloquent and subtle....It is to reform our lives, so that we desire to serve God, to give ourselves entirely to him, and to conform ourselves to his good will."

D.L. Moody
"The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives."

John Ortberg
"The goal is not for us to get all the way through the Bible, the goal is to get the Bible all the way through us."

Mark Driscoll
"Our goal is not to change Scripture but allow Scripture to change us."

Quick Thought of the Week

Deposits, Withdrawals and Emotional Bank Accounts

I've never been very good at saving money. My savings account should probably be renamed "account to hold spending money for when checking account runs out." It is not an intentions problem. I believe saving money is a wise idea, and my goal is to put money away and save for the future. But no matter what I've done I can't seem to find much success.

I'm not sure who pioneered the idea, but there's a analogy out there relating the idea of bank accounts to our emotional/relational lives. The analogy goes like this.  People's emotional lives are like bank accounts. When we speak or act in a positive way towards someone it is like adding a deposit to their account. When we speak or act in a negative way it is like making a withdrawal. The more deposits, the more positive the relationship will be. The more withdrawals, the more strained the relationship will be. Full emotional accounts can handle stress and forgive errors more quickly. Depleted…

Grateful for Friendships New and Old

I am so grateful for the many relationships the Lord has brought into my life.  I have a wonderful family, a fantastic church, amazing neighbors, and great community of friends in my city.  I have been blessed in unique ways by all these people, and each person has taught me something or shaped my life in a special way.
This morning I coffee with a friend in town who attends another church.  We used to attend the same church but last year our family felt God's calling to leave that place and help start a new church in Northfield.  I prayed through it a lot and talked it over with Stephanie for months before we made a switch.  I'm grateful that we walked through the leaving process slowly and positively.  Too many people leave a church for petty reasons and it sadly leaves relationships splintered.
What was so neat about the conversation today was the realization that even though we are worshipping in a different building on Sunday, our hearts are still worshipping the same Go…

Remember that there is Always a Back Story

One wise thing to remember in the midst of a challenging relational situation, whether it be at work, church, in a friendship or in a marriage is this - 'there is always a back story.'
No one walks around as a completely blank canvas.  Rather, the collage of our thoughts, actions, beliefs, feelings, perceptions, insecurities, and opinions are shaped by many different things.  Upbringing.  Economic class.  Trauma.  Past hurts.  To name a few.  And all these things, and many more, mesh and form a person.  It is why relationships are so tough.  We're not coming into the relationship playing from the same deck or following the same rules.
There has been more than once when I have been angry with an individual's behavior or job performance, only to discover later that they had something deeply personal going on behind the scenes that was influencing what I was observing.  Only after taking the time to hear their story did I start to understand why they were acting the way …

New Years Tweets

I came across a couple of insightful tweets recently regarding the new year.

A lot of people talk about starting over in the new year.  New habits, new behaviors, maybe even a new life.  The truth is that things aren't always that easy.  A new day on the calendar doesn't mean everything simply disappears, as this tweet reminded me:
@carguerra25 "Don't people realize that their reputations follow them into 2013 so it's really not a fresh start." This tweet is right.  The change of the day/year doesn't hold the power to wipe away the past.  However, the good news is that Jesus does, which is why I loved these tweets so much,     @LisaRWhittle: It's not the New Year that holds power. Every day of every year, He [Jesus] is able to make all things new.

@ArtVanZanten: Happy New Year! What a bummer 2 only celebrate newness 1x every 365 days- in Christ His "mercies r new every morning." His mercies are new every morning.  He is able to make all things…

It's Time for a Fast

Tomorrow many people in my church are beginning a 21 day fast.

Fasting is called a spiritual discipline.  A spiritual discipline is an intentional practice used to people to train themselves in worship, devotion to God or the defeat of sin in their life.  Other spiritual disciplines include prayer, Bible reading, acts of service, journaling, times of silence, and times of solitude.  These practices create space in our lives for us to hear from God and be transformed by him.

Fasting is a discipline that doesn't play a large role in many Christian's lives.  However, for the many men who are called the Church Fathers, fasting was a critical component of their faith life.  St. Augustine is quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas as saying,
Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity. Enter again into yourself. There…