Connecting Kids to Eternal Things part 2

Connecting God with Kids and Kids with God.

If we want our kids to connect to eternal things, we have to be able to have some answers to some simple things.  Why do we do the things we do spiritually?  Why do you believe the Bible is true?  Why does your family go to Church?  Why don’t you endorse drugs and pre-marital sex?  You will need to go beyond, “Because God says so and He’s the boss!”

One idea for connecting kids with God and God with kids is to understand the role and importance of spiritual disciplines.  What are spiritual disciplines?  Like weightlifting to a football player or a batting cage to a baseball player or a stretching bar to a dancer or a foam roller to a sprinter, disciplines are tools that will strengthen a person’s spiritual journey.  They don’t exist as ends in themselves.  But according to Cloud and Townsend, “They are habits that you should expect of your children, as part of what your family does.”  Sometimes   anxious parents will require these disciplines from their children without answering the why…this can be damaging!

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders.  Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.  – Antoine de Saint Exupery

The Disciplines are not  God; they exist to serve God!  Your faith and practicing of your faith matters to our child’s faith!  It is a timeless truth… more is caught than taught as it relates to how your child will internalize spiritual growth concepts.  Your child needs to see that a relationship with God, just like any other relationship, takes work, time and has conflict.

From Immature to Mature Dependency  There is one major difference in your child’s relationship with you and with God. Your role as a parent is Temporary; God’s is not. You are working yourself out of a job!

Here is a chart that deals with some of the age-appropriate capacities and spiritual needs of your child:

Stage Child’s Faith Parent’s Task
Infancy This is a pre-faith period. Faith requires the ability to differentiate self from other, which is a task of infancy itself.

This is foundational to the later experience of faith.

Help infant experience God “incarnationally.” In other words, infants can’t conceive of God, but they know when they are safe and loved.

Begin praying that they will soon quickly turn this into a God-centered view of life!

Toddlerhood Child begins to learn the do’s and don’ts of God.

Imitative behavior takes place as child prays and talks about God.

Make toddler part of family worship, using simple Bible stores, songs and pictures.

Sing, have fun, play!

Childhood Faith becomes conventional. Child learns the beliefs and doctrines of God. Not much questioning, just absorbs what is told to them. Highly curious stage

Child conceptualizes God more personally

Child wants to belong

Provide lots of teaching, both in stories and with concepts.

Involve child in worship and prayer experiences.

Give child sense that they belong to a larger spiritual family as well.

Include child in family ministry activities.

Adolescence The teen questions, challenges and owns faith individually and personally.

Has difficulty keeping God and parents separate.

Needs to investigate search and struggle.

Begins the early stages of owning faith and important integration into life.

Very emotional and very consistently inconsistent.

Provide freedom with parameters for their own search.

Respect dependency-independence conflict.

Teach less, dialogue more.

Deal with skepticism with challenge to seek.

Keep church a requirement with room for them to try other groups.

College Young adult deepens and consolidates faith.

Integrates relationship with God to other aspects of life, such as life mission, life mate, and values.

Finds avenues of meaningful service and ministry based faith.

Relates as spiritual sibling, not as parent.

Share struggles.

Provide support for growth and deepening.

Connecting Kids to Eternal Things part 1

Connecting God with Kids and Kids with God.

If you are like most parents you feel a tension and have a deep desire to foster your child’s spiritual life but you wonder where to begin. I want to resolve this conflict by helping you think through your involvement and the structure you will operate under. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend have co-authored a book called, “Raising Great Kids”, and much of what I will be discussing comes from that book in Chapter 9.  Please Understand:  Children and some teens demand that life adapt to them, while those who adapt themselves to life are proving to be the mature. Your child needs to grow up, but do it in God’s way!

Premise:   Your child’s spiritual life is a fundamental part of their total life development.

If Adults are grown up because they adapt their life to the realities of society around them.  Your child needs to adapt their lives around the Author of RealityIn Acts 17:28 we read, “For in him we live and move and have our being!”  One cannot separate your child’s spiritual life from the rest of life. It was meant to be integrated!  It involves way more than just religious training; it is showing your child that the essence of everything is spiritual.

If you wish to start a garden in your backyard, you need to prepare the soil, add fertilizer, water and sunlight, and remove weeds and pests. You will optimize your plant growth. In the same way, you want to create optimal conditions for your child to meet and love God. Following are ways to do just that:

Seeing the Eternal in every day life.  It is much simpler for younger children they live in a supernatural world where Planes fly, Microwaves pop popcorn, and Money grows on trees!       They live with this dependency on you as parents and can transfer that to God!

Seeing God as the Source of all Good Things.  Is it possible for your child to see that you are a better parent because you are connected to God?  I think if kids see their parents working out their faith, they get the confidence to model after them.

Life works better living it God’s way.  Your child will experience God as the giver of Good things, but God is not cosmic Santa bent on meeting your families’ needs. He is the KING! If you want to be happy live according to God’s laws! (Psalm 1).

The Ground You Stand On

How Temptation Works and the Ground We Lose

I think the reason temptation is so powerful is that it blinds us to how we maybe getting deceived.  What you see is typically not what you get.  The hook looks really good until you swallow it.  We all have the potential to succumb to temptation over and over again.  We do have the ability to say, “NO!”  And what is the best news of all, our past choices never have to be the story on our future.


Temptations come in all shapes and sizes.  Since our enemy can’t defeat God he will do all he can to defeat us and get us into small thinking and selfish living.

1. Casual Contact (the small, seemingly insignificant things the enemy uses to get a foothold in our lives).  This is the daily barrage of small gnats that irritate the joy out of you.  Financial investors know that small amounts over long periods of time can make great wealth.  In the same way, great ground is lost by small erosion on a daily basis.

The best defense to Casual Contact temptation is to have solid accountability.  True friendships are a great way to keep your footing.  A friend that consistently asks how things are going in your life.  A true friend will wound you where it matters but the wound is exactly what you need.

2. Corrosive Conflict (the “misunderstandings” that happen with people in your workplace, church, neighborhood, and family that end up creating division).  Families and teams are the basic building blocks of our society.  When they crumble ground is lost.  The Bible encourages us to do everything we can to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14).

The best defense against losing ground to Corrosive Conflict is to take God at His word.  Proverbs 15:1 is a great place to start; gentle answers turn away wrath.

3. Crippling Emotions (the fear, insecurity, and jealousy that we all battle at one time or another).  It maybe true that everyone has some form of psychosis in them.  Every family and team is made up of differing personalities.  When we forget to enjoy the differences we lose ground.  If we believe the negative stuff and forget the truth, we lose ground.

The best defense to our Crippling Emotions is to remind ourselves of the truth.  Our enemy is a liar, that is the language he uses.  Instead of believing lies believe the truth.  The truth will set you free from the negative thinking.  In order to believe the truth, one must know the truth, get a Bible and begin reading it and then get with other believers who are talking about the Bible and applying it to their lives.

4. Confused Identity (basing who we are on external accomplishments rather than what Christ has already accomplished for us through His death and resurrection).  Have you ever over inflated your achievements in order to make yourself look better than you really are?  If we do this we are losing ground inside of us.  Instead of getting bigger we get smaller.  We should remember who we are and who God is and have sober judgement about our abilities and giftedness.  Romans 12:3 is spot on, “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

The best defense against Confused Identity is to remember who God is.  The Bible has hundreds of passages that declare how great God is (Exod 15:7; Jer 32:17, 19; 1 Chron 16:25, 29:11; 2 Chron 6:32; Psalms 47:2, 7, 48:2, 96:4, 136:4; Neh 1:5; Is 12:6, 40:26, 55:9; Ezek 36:23; Josh 7:9; Mal 1:14; Matt 5:35, Luke 1:49; Eph 3:20; 1 Tim 6:15).

Secret to Satisfaction

Insights on Time from the Bible

Each morning we wake up and a thousand and one thoughts come rushing through our minds.  You maybe one of the lucky ones that actually made it through the night without being awakened by a few of those thoughts.  These thoughts are like wild animals.  C.S. Lewis says, “The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life coming flowing in” (Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 168).  Designing Purpose is not automatic.  If we want to pursue our biggest dream, no matter what they are, we are going to have to get in front of the busyness beast and slow it down or feed it less.

Many of us in the modern world are doing more than we should and are leading busy, hectic lives. This kind of pace is the kind of pace where men and women survive by living off of adrenaline and stress.  Our companies and our churches are just fine with us producing.  However, the first thing to be left by the wayside is soul work.  What many call time to sharpen the saw.  We live with a preoccupation with what is seen and give little thought to what is unseen.  Lewis encourages us to push all that back and listen to the “other voice” and allow God’s quiet strength to come flowing in.

Lewis’s insight points the way for us to break out of this cycle and begin to grow in our lives.  If we want to Design Purpose, then we must start with the foundation; our understanding of satisfaction.  The reason most people live at such break neck speed is because they want to be satisfied.  This process takes time to produce change in us, but over time it has a profound effect. As Lewis goes on to say, “We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments a new sort of life will be spreading through our system because we are now letting him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface and a dye or stain which soaks right through” (Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 169).

The Secret of Satisfaction and the Message from Haggai 1

The Book of Haggai, second shortest in the Old Testament, has a powerful message. It tells us to put first things first in our lives.  It was written to people who would have told you that God must be first.  They may have forgotten that message being held captive for 70 years in a foreign land and needed a reminder.  But they believed that and we believe that.  This is the foundation for which Lewis says takes time to soak into our lives.  They had drifted into a way of life where their intellectual belief in the supremacy of God was not reflected in the way they were living.  We drift when we do nothing with the LORD.   They gave lip service to the priority of God, but in fact they lived with other priorities. God sent Haggai to help His people get their priorities in line with what they knew they should be.

The historical setting is the early chapters of Ezra (see Ezra 5:1). In 536 B.C., a remnant of about 50,000 Jews had returned from Babylon to Judah under the decree of Cyrus, King of Persia. They quickly rebuilt the altar and began offering sacrifices. Two years after returning, they had laid the foundation to rebuild the temple. Their Samaritan neighbors had offered to join in the work, but the Jews refused their offer. The Samaritans, in turn, threatened the workers and sent men to Persia to lobby against the Jews, bringing the work to a halt.

At least 14 years had passed. The people got caught up in the routine of life—farming, building houses, raising families, and that sort of thing. They got used to life without a temple. Even their leaders, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest, had gotten used to things as they were. Into that scene, God raised up Haggai and (two months later) Zechariah to proclaim His message to this returned remnant.

We pick up the story in Haggai 1:1:

 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

This message is simple.  The people said, “We can’t afford to rebuild the temple.”  God said, “You can’t afford not to!”  What was the issue?  They had plenty of excuses but out of sync priorities.  Excuses have been around since Adam and Eve.  Adam said, “It was the woman’s fault.”  Eve said, “It was the serpent’s fault.”  We say, “I know I am a little overweight but I worked hard and deserved those donuts on the smorgasbord line, it isn’t my fault I am heavy.”

It is always easy to make an excuse when we don’t want to obey God.

  • God wants us to take care of our families, doesn’t he?
  • The job is way to big, we will never finish it.
  • Someone else will do it if we don’t.
  • We need to spend more time praying about doing the work before we start.
  • What do we need a temple for anyway?
  • The time just isn’t right.

Today this is the same as someone saying, “I will get to work on my marriage soon but first I need to make sure we make ends meet at work.”  Or another who says, “I will figure out how to get back in shape once we get past the holidays.”  Another says, “I know I lack depth with God, I’ll get to that once I figure out things with my girlfriend.”

This was the Lord’s house.  To leave the Lord’s house in disrepair was the same as showing disrespect for the occupant of the dwelling.  Consider this:  They were saying, “We don’t have the time.”  But this is false, remember, we all have the same amount of time.  We all have 168 hours/work.  The issue is not time, the issue is priority.  They were pursuing their comforts and God says, “Is it a time for you to live in luxury while my house remains in ruins?”  Please don’t answer that.  That may be the biggest rhetorical question ever.

Paul reminds us in Phil 2:21, “That everyone seeks their own interests rather than the interests of Jesus.”  This is foundational stuff in the making.  If Lewis is right and wild animals come at us in the morning, then we will need a plan to keep them back.  I want you to consider what that might look like each day.  Every morning when you awake there is a figurative committee meeting.  You are not even dressed to impressed.  You are still in bed and are starting the process of distributing your time for the day.  What do we give our time to?

  • Appearance
  • Family
  • Work
  • Hobby
  • Sport
  • Media
  • Technology
  • Entertainment

The problem we face is simply one of priority and satisfaction.  We tend to divvy out time to what we think is most satisfying.  Then God comes on the scene.  His love is everlasting and full.

He reasons with the people of God two times in this passage, “Consider your ways.”  Take careful thought to your ways.  Literally set your heart upon your ways.  How is your life going?  How is it working out for you?  This reads more like an imperative, consider your ways.  Is it possible to be oblivious to the source of satisfaction in our lives?

  • They planted much…but not much harvesting.
  • They ate much…but are still hungry.
  • They drank much…but are still thirsty.
  • They wear clothing that doesn’t keep them warm.
  • They make money for it only to burn a hole in their wallet.

Here we come to the sobering reminder that what happens in our hearts effects every other part of our life as well.  Because the people had pushed God out of the center of their lives, they are now suffering in every other area.  They had fields but no produce, action without satisfaction, labor without profit, fruitless toil, fleeting riches, unsatisfied hunger and futile defenses.

This the law of the unproductive harvest.  It happens to us over and over until we learn that God will not be mocked.  Why would God do this?  He allows us to suffer the results of our wrong choices and wrong priorities in order to get our attention, to convict of sin, and to lead us to repentance.  God knows how to ring your phone.  He knows where you live and knows how to reach the private line of your heart.  Here is an awesome thought:

God could have his hand on the valve of satisfaction in your life.  We could work our fingers to the bone and be working against God.  He has his hand on the spigot of satisfaction.

Consider your life currently.  Are you satisfied?  Are you frustrated?  Do you have peace?  Do you want the things that God gives, peace, joy, power, without investing in the things of God?

What is the Solution?

We often define our lives around what we want our future to be like.  We want a car so we go get a job.  We want to get into a good college, so we work hard to get good grades.  This is great but don’t forget God’s business and your investments into His work.  God gives us the solution.  God says, “Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified” (1:8).  This is not a suggestion.  This is a command. 

In all of life there is a time to talk and a time to act.  There is a time to consider and a time to stop talking and start doing.  This was the time to act.  Today is the day to do the right thing in life.  Because they had not honored God, every area of their life was suffering.  The only remedy was to stop making excuses and start doing what God had told them to do 16 years earlier.


All great actions start with beginnings not excuses.  Designing Purpose must have a beginning.  Become the leader of your life.  You may need to step up and lead your family or relationship.  Zerubbabel and Joshua committed themselves to stepping up and honoring God and everyone else followed.  Everything in Designing Purpose rises and falls on leading oneself or leading others.  God will honor those who do His work.  Check out the stories ending:

12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord‘s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” 14 And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

Do everything you can to make God look good.  Put first things first.  You and I can always get started again.  These Israelites needed a second chance and God gave it.  Don’t every line yourself up with small things.

I read a story online about Robert Jaffray, check it out:self-discovery

Robert Jaffray was an intelligent and well educated in Toronto at the turn of the 20th Century.  He was heir to the Globe and Mail, a successful Toronto newspaper and was fleuent in Chinese as well as English. Despite having family fortune and ample political connections he knew a worthy task when he saw one. He was offered a huge salary by the Standard Oil Company of New York and was asked if he would help them set up an office in Hong Kong.  He said, “No thank-you.”  They later returned and doubled the salary offer.   “No thank-you” Finally they sent him a telegram with one sentence: “Jaffray, at any cost.” He replied with one line, “Your salary is big.  Your job is too small.” Robert A. Jaffray was instead a missionary in China for more than 35 years.  He worked in translating the New Testament into Cantonese and He wrote for and edited Bible Messenger, published by South China Alliance Press He used this publication to send training materials to Cantonese Missionaries and then later to others, reprinted in their “colloquial language versions.” He was arrested in 1942 by the Japanese, he was kept in internment camps, until he died in 1945 from illness and malnutrition.  Jaffray said, “The supreme and crying need of this lost world is the gospel. Shall we not rise at Christ’s command to carry the blessed saving news to every perishing one?” Don’t ever let yourself get distracted into doing a job that is too small.

The Issue of Time

Intro to an E-Book on Designing Purpose

Imagine getting $10,080 each week. The issue though is you can’t keep it after it is gone. Use it or lose it. What would you do with 10,080 dollars? What if you got that amount each week? Many people make that kind of money but everyone has that many minutes.  Some may be more financially set than others but all of us have the same amount of time, 10,080 minutes in a week. Once a minute is experienced, there is no getting it back. Money can be invested and multiplied but time can only be invested. There is no such thing as multiplying time. Time can only be spent. Someone can eat healthy, workout, avoid excessive alcohol and stay clear from drugs but experience a life changing accident or worse lose their life. Time can be extended but can’t be multiplied.

Grand Central TIME

We all have the same amount of time. Each week we have 168 hours. Every minute is an investment. Every second counts. Each hour passes by; sometimes we are sleeping, studying, eating, working, playing, looking at Buzzfeed, SnapChat, Instagram or Facebook, or whatever. Time keeps ticking. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

I have visited Grand Central Terminal in the heart of Manhattan nearly every summer for the past 10 years.  Each time I step foot into the hub bub of moving humanity I am struck by one thought, “Time is ticking away!”  At least it seems like that for those who use the terminal.  It is actually quite amazing.  People moving at a rapid pace.  It is a like a dance.  Right when it looks like two people will run into one another like a pin ball hitting a bumper, they avert at the last second.  No injuries.  One doesn’t come to NYC to rest.  I live in Houston, Texas whose suburban sprawl 650 square miles greatly diminishes the puny Manhattan 26 square mile island.  Houston’s busyness is different than NYC.  NYC seems busier but a New Yorker still has 168 hours to invest each week.  I was traveling on route 30 in Lancaster, PA and my driving companion said the traffic was pretty thick that morning.  I think I counted 20 cars.  People in Lancaster, PA live there and love it but for some reason they say their life is busy as well.  I’m sure if they lived in Houston for a time they would conclude Houston seems busier.  However, no matter where you go, Lancaster, PA or Houston, TX or NYC everyone has 168 hours to invest in each week.

Cup E-Book

Americans are notorious for being busy. Our lives are full. Like a cup that can’t be carried without it spilling or a sponge that can’t take another drop, our lives are full of activities. We are seeking the best for our children. We want to make our boss happy and our spouse happy and our friends, family, and our pets. We live compartmentalized lives and unfortunately our faith takes a back seat.   John Ortberg pinpoints this in his article, Taking Care of Busyness. He says, “For most of us, the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.”

talking E-book

Time is a gift.  It is not a burden. How do we live it the full? How do we make sure once the month is over we can look back and conclude, “I lived life to the full? or I invested my time wisely?”  Is it possible to answer the question, “How are you doing?” without saying, “Busy!”  I am in the process of writing an E-book that will come alongside someone who has come to the end of themselves and are fed up with the craziness of life’s busyness.  My wife, Allison and I have performed many weddings and our favorite part is working with a couple before they say, “I do!”  This E-book is for them.  They are peering shoulder to shoulder at the future with grand dreams.  If not pursued properly the busyness of life will overtake even the greatest of intentions of young spring time love.  I have many friends who have been married for a decade or two and live in a metropolitan city with long commutes.  They too have great dreams for their marriage and family.  This E-book is for them.  It is never too late to begin to design purpose in your time investments.  The couple who wants to finish their lives well; they have lived and loved for many decades.  They are “finished” working and are trying to figure out retirement.  This E-book will encourage them to run to the tape thinking of their lives before the month begins.  The college student who is leaving home for the first time and venturing out “as it should be” needs a compass to guide them.  They need this E-book to truly thrive throughout their college days.

That is what this E-book is all about. This E-book (still doesn’t have a name) works more like a manual than reads like a novel. It is a step-by-step process that can assist an individual, couple, or family to live a very purposeful life. The process is simple:

  1. Design life-directing values.
  2. Develop a mission based on one’s roles in life.
  3. Agree on what roles to play.
  4. Determine strategic goals accompanying your roles.
  5. Getting it all on your calendar.
  6. Biblical understanding of purpose, time, values, and roles.
  7. Example worksheets.
  8. Testimonies and stories from the trenches.

The Heart of the Leader pt. 2

6 Questions to Consider pt. 2

Yesterday’s post, the Heart of the Leader, asked these questions when considering the Heart of a leader.

How has your culture shaped your view of God’s agenda in the world?

What is your life mission?

What family of origin issues contribute positively or negatively to your leadership?

Leadership is not easy but it is necessary for the life and health of any team or organization.  Leader’s tend to focus more on the output, the doing, and producing, rather than the inner stuff, the being, and becoming.  These questions help a leader build a path towards heart health and avoid heart drift.  A leader’s heart drifts when they focus too much on doing over being.



More Questions that help form the Heart…

How do you evaluate your time with God?

Time alone with God has been practiced by many for thousands of years.  This time is critical for what one writer calls, “sharpening the saw.”  Silence, solitude, listening, writing, walking, and simply being at the outset of most days has a way of strengthening the heart of a leader.  The prophet Haggai has a powerful image of God telling us to consider our ways, “Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.  You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:5-6).  It would be a dreadful thing to realize that you can be working as hard as you can and God could have his hand on the valve of satisfaction and the spigot is running dry.  My time with God has been experiencing some transitions. I am wondering a lot about the benefit of ministering out of one’s sweet spot and on one’s time with God. I simply feel busy all the time and thus don’t feel like I am spending quality time. It is much harder to commune with God when doing is the first thought of your day and then I tend to get down on myself.  Do you have a built in rhythm of solitude and quietness?  What are your favorite ways to reorient your heart towards God?

How do you respond to conflict?

Conflict is a regular occurrence for a leader.  It is like breakfast, it typically comes daily.  Some days you miss breakfast and some days a leader is fortunate enough to skip conflict.  Leaders whose hearts are in drift may tend to avoid conflict and blame it on the goal of making harmony happen.  That is a mirage.  If our hearts are out of sync, conflict will tear us up and the team with it.  Leaders whose hearts are centered on God deal with conflicts from the other person’s perspective.  They have the same mind as that of Jesus (Phil 2:4-5).  My dad taught me that one of the best lessons to learn is to deal wisely with people. I have worked at people development and conflict resolution throughout my entire ministry career. I am not the best and may not know all the book stuff steps like in Peacemaker but I think I innately carry most of them out. I am learning not to take conflict personally but learn and grow from it.  Do you think having a strong and centered heart will help a leader work through conflict?  How do you work through conflict with others?

How do you experience God in the commonplace?

It has already been said that intentional time with God is important.  However, it is also important to experience God in the everyday life situations and drama.  Otherwise our lives might become compartments where we give time to God and then mistakenly give time for our pursuits and separate the two.  They are one in the same.  Few authors capture this ability better than Ken Gire. He has written extensively on this topic:  Windows of the Soul, Seeing what is Sacred, The Reflective Life, and Reflections on the Movies are a few of the ones that have encouraged me.  My personality experiences God in preaching and singing not always in the common place.  However, I am finding that as I raise kids that I am seeing movies, TV, radio, marketing, etc. from God’s perspective and communicating God’s values to my kids. I want them to do as I am trying to do and seek to see God in all of life. To a God-centered person, worship is all of life.  Do you often take the time to see God in the everyday?  What have you done to try to decompartmentalize your life and make it one whole life under God?

The Heart of a Leader

6 Questions to Consider

Leadership is not easy.  It is often lonely work but necessary.  Leaders are critical to the over all life of the team and/or organization.  Perhaps one of the most often overlooked aspect of the leader is their heart.  Leaders are great at using their mind in strategy and their muscles in getting things done but the heart is left behind.  Heart attention is overlooked because it is never urgent.  It never screams at you in the morning, fix me, get this done, must see, do this or else.  It sits silently, yet powerfully inside the leader and many times it is slowly dying.  Death can be avoided.  My brother just had 2 stints put in his heart, how did he know to do that, he felt pain.  Pain and pressure are blessings in this case.  Don’t wait for the pain and pressure to ask 6 questions that will help the leader understand their heart and bring it along in a healthy way.  This post will deal with the first 3, another post will deal with the next 3.


Questions that help form the heart…

How has your culture shaped your view of God’s agenda in the world?

I see three ways to view culture: To avoid it and greenhouse myself and family, to dive in and fully accept or to deal wisely seeking culture’s redemption. I choose the third. Jesus had compassion when He saw the culture of His day because they were harassed and helpless spiritually. I want to respond in the same way. I believe the church’s role should be to act as apostles to the community that surrounds them. As the Father sent Jesus so He sends the Church into their culture to proclaim the excellencies of Christ.  Does the culture affect your heart?  If so, how will you respond?

What is your life mission?

To glorify God by Deepening my love for Jesus daily, by Living with Allison in understanding and sharpening ways, by Shepherding my children with intentional hilarity and authenticity and by Encouraging present and emerging leaders to be shrewd, culturally redeeming, and world focused.  There is nothing more heart shaping than having a mission and not letting it sit on the shelf.  Instead, it should be reviewed and pursued on a monthly basis.  I call it, “planning your life before the month begins.”  The mission will protect a leader from having heart drift.  Heart drift is that feeling that comes when there is little attention given to the development of your heart and all focus is given to doing and producing.  Do you have a mission that drives your life?  Do you plan before the month begins?

What family of origin issues contribute positively or negatively to the heart of your leadership?

Family of origin relationships set the foundation of a leader’s heart.  God designed the family to provide the necessary building blocks for every one of its members.  If a young man or woman does not know that their parents love them or that their parents actually love each other, it is a wound to their heart.  Some kids grow up in homes where parents are actively committed but emotionally distant.  They show up for every activity but don’t have the ability to verbalize love.  That is half way there when it comes to healthy development.  Buck Hatch called this, “Cancer of the soul.”  Did your Dad say,”I love you and hold you and bounce you on his knee?”  Did your Mom says, “I love you sweetie and spend time listening to you and tickling you?” Did you see your parents saying, ” I love you to each other?  Did you see them hugging and kissing?”  

Don’t Worry It’s Only a Test!

The Challenge of Psalm 115:1a to our Family, Ministry, and Marketplace Lives.

Self-Centeredness is rampant in America.  It is a challenge in every house on every street in every neighborhood or apartment.  What are ways we can start to remove some obstacles and barriers that cause us to keep God out of focus in our lives?  There is a way to be self-centered and still be others centered and God centered?  As a leader, when you connect your greatest good with allowing God and His word to control you, that is, you live for God’s glory and not for self glory or self focus, then you are onto something.  What does that look like for a real estate agent, teacher, engineer, marketer, salesman, or stay at home mom?  If we could simply live out Psalm 115:1a our neighborhoods and job sites would be changed, here’s how.


If we are living for God’s glory then we are simultaneously living for the good of others…it is that simple.  God has a sense of humor in getting us to understand living for His glory by not being selfish.  Steve Farrar in Point Man said:

We’re all selfish. Selfish to the core. God sometimes chooses to deal with our selfishness by giving us someone to care for who is infinitely more selfish than you. Babies are not only the cutest creatures on the face of the earth, they are by far the most selfish. Farrar goes on to write: “The way God deals with my own selfishness is to give me someone to serve who has zero interest in serving me. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Not too many people in the world could out-selfish me one-on-one. But every time we’ve had a baby, I’ve met my match. Each of my kids resembled me. I don’t mean they looked like me, I mean they were as selfish as me. That meant that somebody in the family was going to have to grow up. Guess who was nominated?

Psalm 115:1 is a Test of our Focus and our Choices.

FocusWhen our eyes on ourselves we are not thinking of anyone but ourselves we tend to be the most miserable.  We will not be able to work well on a team of people.  We won’t be able to meet needs at home. Self-centered folks are the least happy among us.  There was some research done by Bernard Rimland that sought to see if there was a connection between a lack of happiness and being self-centered.  Rimland found that “The happiest people are those who help others.” Each person involved in the study was asked to list ten people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness: a stable tendency to devote one’s time and resources to one’s own interests and welfare–an unwillingness to inconvenience one’s self for others.”   In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those “whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness…are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy” Rimland concluded: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Ideas on helping people- Help the newcomers understand company culture quickly with kindness.  Go across team lines (if appropriate) by giving solid leads.  Keep the team’s goals ahead of your own.  Encourage veterans with timely praise.  Listen to peers and ask clarifying questions to their ideas.  Sharpen your Axe, that is constantly work at making yourself a better spouse, friend, worker, child of God, etc.  Over communicate with your boss and be willing to take risks in order to make the team better.

ChoicesWhen we make the choice to make God look good more than ourselves we are trusting God with our lives. When we choose to live and work for His namesake above our own standing then we are laying ourselves out there on the protection and provision of God.  A marketplace person can do this when they choose to be honest and giving rather than having a deceitful heart and an ungiving spirit.  D.L. Moody said, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled.”

Ideas on making great choices-  Steal time in the morning to seek a fresh perspective on your future.  Sometimes it takes a few intentional and quiet moments to keep your agenda set at being focused on more eternal things.  It is a hard choice to do this but it maybe the most meaningful moments of your day.  Don’t forget your creator throughout the day.  Make a choice to pray for God to give you creativity to help others.


The Declaration of Independence

An amazing act of courage...basically 56 men signing their death warrants.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton


What is your Sexual Ethic?

If we choose sex, shouldn't it be ethical?

A column in the New York Times called The Ethicist gives readers opinions on a variety of topics.  Since sexuality and marriage are a hot topic these days (actually everyday) they have covered the topic.  It is like a Dear Abby approach where a writer genuinely wants to get advice on real life issues, “Do you tell a friend his daughter is sexually active?” or “I am a lawyer and had sex with another lawyer on our first date and later found out that she had herpes, should I report her bad sexual ethic?”  The New York Times’ writers  share their advice on sexual ethics and provide answers.  The Bible has a sexual ethic that I thought would be informative as well.  Do you think the Bible is right on or out of date as it relates to the topic of sexual ethics?


God is the author of all things that deal with sex, romance, dating, marriage, etc.  An entire book is dedicated to the topic of attraction, dating, engagement, honeymoon, deepening a marriage, and working through conflict in a marriage relationship.  God’s will in this area is a protection and a provision.  A protection from painful consequences and provision of deep fulfilling relationships.  There is a great deal of information on developing a sexual ethic.  After a cursory perusal I found that the biggest difference between any old sexual ethic and a biblical sexual ethic was in the use of the word ‘your’.  It is your body, your sex life, your life, etc.  While that is true it may also be true that only thinking of yourself will lead to self-centeredness and not God-centeredness.

I don’t think the Bible is outdated.  There are some clear differences between the Bible’s sexual ethic and some of the current secular cultures’ voices.  Here are some broad stroke principles over-viewing a Biblical Sexual Ethic.

  1. Beware of Desires
  2. The Gateway is the Mind
  3. Sex in marriage is not the Holy Grail.
  4. Sex outside of marriage is never right.
  5. Sexual sins are forgivable.

Beware of Desires

Desires are tricky.  They war against our minds.  James, the brother of Jesus who also wrote a letter in the Bible, said, “Desires lead to sin” (James 1:13-15).  He also connected our desires as the gateway towards becoming enemies of God (James 4:1-4).  I said, “Desires are tricky” because they can be for good or for bad.  Paul in Romans 8:5-8 shows the difference between good and bad desires.  Bad desires are based in the flesh and good desires are based in the spirit.  In marriage it is a great thing to desire one another (Song of Solomon 7:10).

The Gateway is the Mind

Sex is more than physical.  The greatest sexual organ in our body is our minds.  Paul draws three lines in 1  Thessalonians 4:3-7 that act as a guide to building our sexual ethic.  Line 1- It is God’s will to abstain from sexual immorality (4:3).  This means any sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage.  Line 2- Do not “rip” your brother or sister off, that is “transgress or wrong his brother in this matter” (4:6).  Guys should avoid strategic touching below the neck and whispering sweet nothings in order to lead a gal towards meeting his selfish desires.  A girl should consider how they dress because guys are extremely sight oriented.  Line 3- God is calling us away from impurity (4:7).  Sexual immorality is the physical act.  Impurity is the mental act.  Sexual misconduct happens first in the mind.  Another word that is commonly used for impurity in this case is lust.  Jesus said lust, thinking about adultery, is as bad as the physical act of adultery (Matthew 5:28).

Sex in Marriage is not the Holy Grail

Many a man who has chosen a path of virginity before marriage jump into marriage and struggle with sex.  They have made sex the Holy Grail of the relationship.  Sex is more than physical in and outside of marriage commitment.  It has a spiritual component to it.  That is why when two consenting adults have sex inside a dating relationship, one without a commitment, and subsequently break off the relationship there is a great deal of pain.  Our minds and bodies think we are married.  God made us that way.  Sex inside of marriage is great when each person is thinking of the other.  This overlooks the pettiness of selfish sex.  Any sexual act inside of marriage can be moral if selfishness is far away.  However, any sexual act inside of marriage can be immoral if selfishness is the motive.  Sex is not a weapon against your spouse (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).

Sex outside of Marriage is Never Right

This is probably the biggest difference between a Biblical sexual ethic and popular culture’s ethic.  This is where the Bible is seen as out dated and out of touch.  How can we expect teens to wait?  10o years ago men and women were getting married in their teen years or early twenties.  They did not have sensual music, TV, movies, etc. like there is today.  Nowadays marriages are being pushed well into the twenties.  We live in a sexually saturated society, how in the world can a man and women save themselves for their one and only?  The Bible offers God’s blessing on sexual intimacy only when it occurs within the boundaries of marriage.  It denies that sex outside of marriage is justified for any reason. It rejects the idea that sexual intimacy outside of marriage can be moral if partners are honest, consenting, or sufficiently committed. It opposes the portrayal of sexual sin as a way of enhancing the popular appeal of entertainment. It rejects the idea that sex between unmarried teenagers is acceptable if it is “safe.” (Exod. 20:14; Lev. 18:7-17, 20; Deut. 5:18; Matt. 5:27-28, 19:9,18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 1:24, 13:9; 1 Cor. 6:13,18; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; Heb. 13:4; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Thess. 4:8; Prov. 5:3-14).

Sexual Sins are Forgivable

There is a difference between needing and getting a pure heart and a brand new heart.  When a person comes to the place in their spiritual journey where they understand sin is a problem (Rom 3:23), separation from God and death are the consequences (Rom 6:23), the cross of Jesus is the solution (Rom 5:8), and faith is a choice (Rom 10:9-10), they are given a brand new heart.  The old heart is gone and they are given a new heart (2 Cor 5:17).  God offers incredible forgiveness, mercy, and grace to those whose heart are already His but they have chosen to walk outside of God’s plan for sexuality (1 John 1:9; 1 Cor 6:9-11).  The challenge is to seek out folks who can encourage you to walk God’s path (2 Tim 2:22).  Although a person’s relationship with God is fully restored there are often physical and psychological scars that must be dealt with that come from sexual sin.