• 5 Things to Consider When Searching for a New Church Home

    As a pastor I have come across a lot of people who are in search for a church home and who frankly, really struggle with the process. It can be a really difficult and scary journey, one that seems never ending for some. I thought it would be really helpful to a lot of people to jot down a little encouragement for those who are searching for the right church home. 

    5 Things to consider when searching for a new church home

    1. The perfect church doesn’t exist.

    We are not the exception to the rule despite what we will try to convince you over your first month. The perfect church doesn’t exist because the church is made up of people and no perfect people exist. So the question isn’t whether you will find a perfect church but once you find the place you feel God has planted you in, will you stay when you are often reminded of the imperfection of your brothers and sisters? Will you love them still? Also, good churches have bad days as do good people, so don’t toss the baby out with the bath water. That’s a ridiculous old saying (who would do that?!) and have no idea where it comes from but it sure does apply to a lot of situations in life. The truth is that its really hard to know the heart of a house in just one visit. 

    2. Consider how God might be starting a new work in your life.

      To everything there is a season. Once I heard a wise teacher say that every person has 1-2 church moves in their lifetime within the same city, so he was not counting those that have to move often for work and thus find a new church at each stop. 1-2 moves within their lifetime! We live in a much more transient day and age than ever before. Job mobility is a major deal in the 21st century job market. And people church hop like crazy. Some “shop,” some “hop.” That conversation is for another day. Nothing wrong with looking for the right church home but I worry that we do harm to the plant that is trying to grow by regularly uprooting it. As you move into a new season, be ready for God to do some new stuff in your life. I believe God will allow you to tap into and release new spiritual gifts, unlock new passion and ultimately meet the needs of the new body you are connecting yourself to. 

      3. Strong and meaningful relationships take a long time to develop.

      I recently read a study that talked about meaningful relationships in our lives and specifically about how long it takes to develop them. The average amount of time it took for a person to move from being an acquaintance to a casual friend was about 50 hours of quality time. To move from a casual friend to an actual friend was nearly double that at 90 hours. And to move from a friend to someone you consider to be a close friend was roughly 200 hours of quality time. I think of this in terms of the church world and I totally agree with the time. There are 52 Sundays in a year. I think after the first year at a church you can become casual friends with everyone with a mild involvement of showing up most of the weekends in a year, even though I wouldn’t classify a Sunday morning worship gathering to be quality time, though God might multiply our closeness through the Spirit. After nearly two years people start to feel like friends and after close to 4 years you can call these people your close friends. If you really want to develop meaningful relationships then you just need more time. Be intentional to water your relationships with quality time wherever you find yourself planted.

      God has designed the church to be a living, moving and breathing organism of spirit-filled connectedness with a singular focus and goal, to glorify God by building one another up and pointing others to Jesus. We cannot do this apart from loving relationships. The organization is a necessary skeleton to provide structure for the body but it is loving relationships that provide the meat and muscle on the bones. 

      4. Know what’s open handed and close handed

      Ever watch one of those shows where the couple is about to buy a house and they have all these “must-have’s”? The realtor tells them that their list is totally unreasonable based on their budget. Isn’t this a little bit how we approach finding a church? We have our list of “must-have’s" When each one of us step into a church asking ourselves, "is this the place for me?" we come in with a list of close handed items which are important to us and a list of open handed items of which we value less. Having a clear picture of what’s open handed and close handed will actually make the decision making process much easier and I encourage you to do this with your spouse if you’re married. As you begin to think about your open handed list and your close handed list I encourage you to consider that some of the items on your lists may be in the wrong list. When we do this we come face to face with our long list of preferences. We should never allow our preferences to be honored above God’s word nor the places he chooses to plant us. I have honestly grown so much in churches that didn’t meet all my preferences. I didn’t worship or serve because of the music or the style of small groups I preferred. I did so out of love for God and His people. This is the purity of heart that God desires and will always allow us to be led by God to His perfect plan for our lives. 

      5. Pray about it

        Rocket science right?! How often do we reason within ourselves and don’t submit it in prayer. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Doesn’t have be confirmed 32 times over. Sometimes it's just a peace inside. Other times its looking at the fruit of the impact already in your life and knowing you’re in a place that is going to help you grow in your faith and in friendships too.  

      1. This is Really About That

        I stood in absolute wonder and confusion as my oldest son alerted me to smoke that was rising from the ground underneath the playground in our backyard. This wasn't fog, steam or even a leaf burning in the sun as I first thought. It was like there was a literal fire burning beneath the dirt. I snapped video and photos and sent it to people who might be able to solve this natural phenomenon. Could actual fire really be burning underneath the dirt and not go out? I touched ground where the smoke was coming up and I could feel the heat as I got closer. It felt like fire. I quickly grabbed a stick to dig with to see if I could dig up this apparent underground fire. Imagery of our local news network coming to do a story on this one of a kind wonder flashed across whatever cortex in my brain controls imagination. I dug a little deeper and the smoke got thicker and the heat hotter. What was I about to uncover?

        Well, turns out, underneath the smoke wasn't a fire after all. When we installed the playground, we nicked an electrical wire that was touching the wooden leg of the playground beneath the earth. This also solved the previous mystery as to why our garage power kept shorting out and flipping the breaker. Previous eletrcial estimates to fix the problem were between $700-$1200. All these mysteries were finally solved. The garage power and the haunting rising smoke all could be explained. THIS IS REALLY ABOUT THAT. 

        So many times in life we find ourselves frustrated as we search for solutions to our problems. Most of the time, its not what we think of first and maybe even what we fixate on. This is usually about that. Dad not being at your ball games isn't about him not loving you, or how busy he is at work, or even his drinking problem. It might be that since his mom passed away, he has never recovered to be able to love others. Its not that he doesn't love you, its that he hasn't felt worthy to love or be loved. Contextualize this example to your life and maybe the short in power is your lack of self discipline or the communication problems in your marriage but here's the point...

        It's time to do some digging. 

        This is really about that. 

        I can almost guarantee you that the more you dig, the hotter it will get. 

        The solution won't be what you thought it was because the problem wasn't what you thought it was. 

      2. 3 Things You Have to Know to Overcome Your Anger Issues

        This weekend I am starting a series called “Seasonal Emojis” and it got me thinking about an old sermon I preached that I feel needs to be heard far and wide because everyone is dealing with anger. I’ve basically modified my sermon notes to be a little more user friendly for a Bible study. I hope this helps many of you.
        Ephesians 4.26-27  “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. 
        Anger can easily lead to sin
        • In Eph. 4.26-27, Paul is quoting a Psalm of David (Psalm 4). Paul is reading the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible which says “In your anger, do not sin." 
        • Psalm 4 gives us some beautiful insight on how to defuse our anger
          • v.1 David talks to God “Hear me oh God of my righteousness.."
          • vv.2-3 David talks to people “How long oh you sons of men?"
          • vv.4-5 David talks to himself - He calms himself before the Lord
            • Be angry and do not sin.
              • The Hebrew verb here is ragaz meaning to "stand in awe" (could be fear or rage). Have you ever been here? If anyone ever had a right to be angry, it was Jesus. Jesus endured gruesome persecution and torture yet He remained without sin. 
              • What this textual reference tells us is that its ok to be angry but we can’t let it allow us to sin. 
              • You are never permitted a license to sin. If we do so Paul says we take for granted the grace of God. The intense version of that is we “spit on the cross"
            • Meditate within your heart on your bed and be still
              • Christian meditation is different than eastern meditation
                • In Christian meditation, we fill ourselves with God’s truth.
                • In eastern meditation, we empty our heart and mind, leaving it open for deception.
            • Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and Trust in the Lord
              • Religious action doesn’t replace trusting in God.
              • Trusting in God is followed by walking in the way of the righteous.
          • vv.6-8 David receives blessing from God
            • You have put gladness in my heart
            • I will lie down in peace
            • You make me dwell in safety
        Work to resolve it quickly
        • Don’t let the sun go down on you.
          • Here this should be read in the straight Greek context of the word as Paul is writing in Greek here, not referring to the Hebrew text. The Greek word used is orgizo which means "to provoke or to arouse anger.” This is so appropriate regarding anger because unresolved anger only provokes further the longer it is left unresolved. If you find yourself looking at your spouse, a child, friend, boss or even God with hate and resentment, chances are huge you have a ton of unresolved anger.
            • Go back to the Psalm 4.4 passage and remember that he said to mediate on your bed Before you go to sleep. Meditate on your bed. He’s continuing to make this connection here. 
          • There is a fine line between doing it in the moment and doing it after the moment has passed. Don’t deal with it in the moment while you are mad, but don’t wait until you have dealt with this completely on your own either.
            • If we wait until the moment has passed we will convince ourselves that we resolved this anger when in reality we only filed it away for safe keeping. We stuffed it. Its like compressing the trash down. At some point the bag is going to bust and there will be crap everywhere. The clean up is much harder at that point. 
        • A few verses earlier in Ephesians 4.22, Paul basically says this is not the way you were taught or "put off your old self."
          • The old self is characterized by... Ignorance, futility, deceit, impurity and lust
          • New life characterized by holiness and righteousness
          • Our MO becomes whatever we were taught by our upbringing. Christ transforms us into the new self. If mom and dad screamed, then you scream it out. If mom and dad stuffed, then you probably are a stuffer.  Even when you put your foot in the ground and say I’m not gonna deal with it like that, you find yourself doing it. It is a long process to unlearn habits then to relearn new ones. 
          • In Romans 12.1-2, Paul tells us that our mind needs to be renewed. Here are three prayers to help you sort through this. 
          • Renewing of the Mind Prayers
            • Identify: Holy Spirit help me identify the root causes for my anger.
            • Unlearn & Heal: Holy Spirit heal the hurts of my past and make me whole.
            • Relearn: Holy Spirit help me walk in and cling to Your truth for my life.
        It has far greater ramifications than what you think
        • "Don’t give the devil a foothold.” In other words, don’t give the devil a seat at the table. Don’t give the devil an opportunity to foster hatred or pride. There are people who’s anger of the injustices in this world led them to do horrendous things. While we are working to minimize it, the devil is working to maximize it. We don’t want to minimize it though, we want to resolve it. We can resolve anger with far less energy than we spend managing it. What is the real reason you are angry?  The anger we have is rarely only about the person we are directing it towards.
        • What about righteous anger? Is there a place for that? Yes. "If our anger motivates us to seek solutions, address injustices in a productive way, and heal the damage that has been done to a relationship, then that anger can be both righteous and healthy.”
        • What about God’s anger? God’s wrath is just. J.I. Packer summarizes: “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil” (Knowing God, 151). God’s wrath is satisfied in Christ.
          • Romans 5.6-9 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 
        It would be easy for each of us to leave this post feeling regret about times we’ve been angry and said or done things in which we are not proud of. My hope is that God might redirect our anger to the things that make Him angry. My prayer is that God would heal today the hurts of the past and make us whole. My desire is that we would not give the enemy an opportunity to attack what God is doing in your life, your family or our church family. 
      3. 4 Daily Steps to Bridging the Great American Divide

        Our most recent election results have only further clarified the great divide in the American people. This divide goes far beyond ideology and policy and into core American principles of freedom, faith and family. This conversation needs to be had. Regardless of who you supported, voted for or didn’t vote for. Start here. Start with the person in the mirror. Here are 4 daily steps you can take to begin the process of healing the divide. (Scripture footnotes can be found below.)
        • Stop Labeling: This is the one of the largest, if not the largest, problem we face to unite us as a country and most people are terrible at it. Labeling. Stop calling all black young men thugs. Stop calling all people of middle eastern descent terrorists. Stop calling all white Republicans racists. Stop. Stop. Stop. Out loud and in your mind. You are a part of the problem, not the solution. You offend and vilify an innocent majority while attempting to indict a fractional minority. Draw a line in the sand and choose to not paint with broad strokes. There is a difference in political correctness and respect for one another. (John 8.5-11)
        • Pray: Actually pray. Not just for the country but for your adversary. They aren’t your enemy despite what you might think. And before you get to worried about praying for the other side, pray that God would reveal and help you remove the plank in your own eye. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. Until we remove the plank in our own eye we ought to just keep our mouth shut. And once you begin to make headway on your personal plank, when pride has been torn down, pray genuinely for your adversary.  (Matthew 7.3-5, 2 Chronicles 7.14)
        • Listen: Like actually listen. Like build a friendship with someone you have previously held pre-conceived notions or labels toward. Not a Facebook friendship but the real thing. Where we share meals, call each other to talk about our families and actually care what the other person has to stay. We clamor for politicians and Washington to reach across the aisle to make positive change but we won’t reach across the street and do the same. Most of the time we are too prideful to learn about the hopes, fears and pain of our neighbors and we miss out on the beautiful tapestry of our diverse land. (James 1.19)
        • Love Freely: To Christians, if you don’t have this, you got nothing. Our faith hangs on the love poured out for us at the cross and our only response is to love God and love people fully. To secularists, agnostics and atheists, be a part of a more tranquil union in our nation by loving those you disagree with. You don’t have anything to lose by respecting the opinions of others and making this society a more pleasant place to exist. (Matthew 10.5-8)

        John 8.5-11 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

        Matthew 7.3-5 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

        2 Chronicles 7.14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

        James 1.19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

        Matthew 10.5-8 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

      4. The One Question Every Leader Has to Answer

        In John 1.19-23, Priests and Levites are sent to John the Baptist to ask one question, “who are you?” 
        He immediately tells them he isn’t the Christ, Jesus. They begin with the follow up questions. “Are you Elijah?” “Are you the Prophet?” His answer is still “no.” So they ask again, “Who are you?…What do you say about yourself?” John responds by quoting Isaiah, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord."
        Every leader has to answer this question, “who are you?” And the second is equally important, “what do you say about yourself?” I wonder if God brought these Pharisees early in John’s ministry to make sure he knew who he was and what he was called to do. In the time when this occurred the Pharisees are surely hoping this man isn’t claiming to be a great leader of the past for that would be blasphemy. In our day and age, the opposite is quite true. By and large, those that are following or simply watching a leader taking on influence are desiring for Tim Cook to live up to the brilliance of Steve Jobs; for Andrew Luck to fill Peyton Manning’s shoes. In my context as a pastor, and probably yours too, there is so much external pressure intentionally and unintentionally applied to BE who THEY think you ought to be. The two questions laid out begin to converge at this point. "Who are you?” is a question of BEing. And the “what do you say about yourself?" question is one of KNOWing. Not who THEY think you are but who you KNOW you are. These are the questions that every leader must answer. Let’s digest them a little more fully together.
        Who are you? It's a simple question until you move past the surface and attempt to describe the complexity of our desires, dreams and fears then it becomes less simple. How would you answer that today? Maybe by process of elimination you would describe who you aren’t as John did. Or maybe, instead of diving into the complexities of each individual leader the takeaway is in John’s final response, a quote in fact, of Isaiah 40.3. It's an obscure picture, a vague identity with one very clear mission. I am but “a voice” crying in the wilderness pointing others to Christ. Who are we as Chrstian leaders? People with “a voice”, with influence even, to point to Christ. 

      5. 9 Ways Pride Disguises Itself

        Here in America we are all about American pride and we also have made a cliche of the proverb, "pride comes before the fall” (from Proverbs 16.18). So which is it? Is pride a good thing or is it deadly? Maybe we should evaluate this a little deeper. Pride was the first sin and it will be the last. Lucifer thought he was worthy to overthrow God and his prideful rebellion was the first sin. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This speaks to us that each of us who have not surrendered our pride and will to God will face a humbling of the greatest magnitude in the end. Pride is as sneaky as the snake from which is comes. It disguises itself in the simplest and most unsuspecting ways and can leave a great trail of destruction in our personal, relational and spiritual lives. Let’s pause for a short moment to look over some ways that pride might be disguising itself in our lives. 
        1. Criticism and Gossip: Pride peaks its ugly head out from behind criticism and constantly running other people down behind their back. People who have never considered themselves to be prideful might be surprised as they realize they actually believe they are better than all of these other people they are constantly criticizing. A critical spirit is a prideful spirit. 
        2. Anger: Anger has roots of many different origins but one of them is most certainly pride. Pride convinces you that you are owed everything by everyone. When people don’t bow to your will and preferences, anger ensues. When people don’t recognize your superior insight, talent or appearance you just get mad about it. And most of the time, we don’t even realize what caused our anger. We just know we are mad. If you find yourself flying off the handle for seemingly no reason at all, follow the trail back and see if pride isn’t at the end of the rope.
        3. Boasting and a desire to be recognized: This might be the most obvious of all the ways pride disguises itself. It is very easy to spot someone who is obviously obsessed with themselves. Every story is about them. Every story ends with how awesome they are, how much money they saved or how well they performed on a given task. When we see this in ourselves or others we can quickly realize that pride in this instance is most likely a coping mechanism for someone who has yet to discover where their true identity comes from and is still searching for it in the  recognition from others.
        4. Selfishness: We are all selfish. Selfishness is natural but devastating to our relationships. Unearthing the reason for our selfishness is vitally important in cutting off the head of the snake. Since pride convinces a person that they are superior to others, they really don’t see being selfish as selfish. They actually believe it is obvious and everyone should understand why they get the last piece of pizza, why they deserve the promotion and why they get a veto on every dining out adventure (ugh!). Again, selfishness is a coping mechanism for someone who has not discovered their true source. Selfishness is most common from hurting people. 
        5. Justifying sins: Prideful people can do no wrong. They can’t be corrected. They do not receive teaching or rebuke well. This turns into constantly justifying their sins, wrong doing and behavior that is detrimental to themselves and others. Every time we make excuses for our behavior and justify our sins we lower our standards for ourselves until eventually, we have no standards left.  
        6. Unforgiveness: Pride and pain seem to work hand and hand as you might notice from the previous 5 disguises. Nothing is more telling of this than unforgiveness. Pride is what convinces us to hang onto resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness. Pride will not allow a person to ask for forgiveness or receive an apology. Don’t let a past injustice or hurt dictate any more of your future emotional and relational health. 
        7. Jealousy: A prideful person cannot celebrate with others. They find themselves embittered at people who have done them no wrong. They simply are jealous. Jealous of someone’s success, attention and accomplishments. You know pride is starting to loosen in your life when you can celebrate with others and enjoy their success and accomplishments with them instead of being jealous. 
        8. Obsession with appearance and other people's opinions: Pride, just as with the first disguise of criticism, disguises itself similarly with an obsession on what other people think. Lots of checking the mirror, purchasing clothes outside your budget and constant worry over what other people will say is more nasty offspring of pride. While there are healthy doses of concern over appropriate attire and being mindful to how others will feel and react, these can easily spin into a prideful obsession that can leave a person searching for validation and acceptance in all the wrong places. 
        9. Always Right Syndrome: The most wise person in the room realizes that they don’t have all the answers. The most prideful person is convinced they can do no wrong and are pretty much always right. Quit the argument now because you’re wasting your time with a person who has ARS. If you are suffering with ARS, be slow to speak, take time to acknowledge the worthiness of others and affirm what others bring to the table. You will discover great pleasure in respecting the opinions of the people around you and honestly, people will like you more. No one likes a know it all. 
      6. Hearing God's Voice

        One of our frustrating first world problems is poor cell phone reception. We all remember the "can you hear me now?" commercials from years ago. It pains me to no end to hear believers say, "I don't think God talks to me" or "I have never heard God speak." On one hand I'm shocked and on the other I'm not at all. I went for years in my life not feeling like I could hear God's voice and felt I was doing something wrong. I think on many occasions I was doing something wrong. I was living in sin or was too busy to slow down and actually hear God. On other occasions, it wasn't that I was doing something wrong, I was just uninformed about how God speaks. Here are a few ideas and thoughts about hearing His voice. I pray they help some of you that are struggling to hear God. 

        Three Major Blockades to Hearing God's Voice

        1. Sin: Sin is like a log in our ears or a plank in our eyes. If you have confessed and repented of your sins and placed your faith in the grace of God through Christ's death and resurrection then God sees you as white as snow. If the bondage of sin persists in your life then it becomes a giant blockade to hearing God's voice. Instead, we become focused on our own guilt and shame (Remember, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Romans 8.1) or even hiding our sin. Our eyes are not fixed on Jesus. Our ears are not tuned to His voice. They are tuned to our own passions and desires. Allow God to break the bondage of sin in our lives and transform us wholly from the inside out. The bondage of sin is not broken from human effort alone. If we take care of the natural, God will do the supernatural. 

        2. Busyness: I'm captain multitask. I love to do a million things at once. I've learned that God deserves my total attention though and I rarely slow down to listen. With our two boys, I usually ask them five times before I start speaking, "Are you listening? Are you listening? Are you listening? Are you listening? Are you listening?" I wonder how God has been trying to get our attention in our lives. The scriptures tell us He is a jealous God. He is jealous for our attention. He alone is worthy of our affection. He deserves the best of our time and attention, not the leftovers. Make some room to slow down and listen. 

        3. False Perception: If I responded to the question of "Why does God not speak to me?" with another question it would be..."How does God speak?" Many of us think only in terms of audible expressions of God's voice. I have found this expression in my journey, and most other believers, to be a less frequent occasion than the many other ways God speaks. In the scriptures God spoke through a cloud, a bush, a donkey, many other miracles as well as simple people like you and me just passing on the messages God asked us to share. Don't narrow down the ways you think God will speak. Just open your heart and mind to Him speaking and test it against His Word. God is not a liar and will not contradict Himself. Test every message you receive from the Lord in the Scriptures. It must line up. 

        There is no magic formula for hearing God's voice but these are a few simple places to start leaning in a little closer to hear Him. 

      7. Leading Your Children Well

        One of the things I hear parents say more than anything else is "time just flies by." I hear parents of one year olds say it. I hear parents of young adults say it. Its one of these things that when you are young you don’t really understand but the older you get the more you realize how brief our time on earth really is. Lately I’ve been regularly fielding questions from parents about how to lead their children towards Christ in a healthy way. There are so many things I would want to cover if we were in a conference or symposium forum but today I will simply offer some practical advice for leading your children. 
        Let me first briefly begin with a Biblical foundation.
        God instituted family in Genesis. One of His first commands to Adam and Eve is to be fruitful and multiply. God wanted them to be intimate in their marriage and for them to become parents. Intimacy births multiplication. There is another message in that we will save for another day. Deuteronomy 6 is a beautiful picture of God’s plan for parenting. In a nutshell, your daily life should be filled with you talking and teaching your kids about the truth of God and how He saved you. Yes, you should constantly be telling your testimony to your kids! Isn’t that powerful? I could go on and on but let me give you a handful of practical things to lead your children well. 
        1. Lead Yourself: The most effective way to lead our children is by example. If you can’t control your temper, why should you expect them to? 2 Cor. 3.3 tells us that the Spirit of living God has written His law and truth on our hearts. You are the tablet they are reading and learning from, so lead well. 
        2. Lead by Principle and Grace: Jesus is the perfect example. It was never about, is this a moment to come down on principle or on grace? Jesus acted fully on both. Sometimes the greatest grace we have in our lives are holy rules/laws. The toughest situations are answered with both principle and grace. Be led of the Spirit in your teaching and discipline. 
        3. Lead Humbly and Honestly: Say you’re sorry when you’re wrong. Be willing to share the honest truth even when its hard. This will teach them repentance and dealing with issues head on. 
        4. Lead by Listening: As a child gets to pre-teen and teenage years the most common complaint from a child is that “My parents never listen to me.” More than they want the next toy, they want you to listen to them. Start this habit for them and you early on and make it a priority on your schedule to spend alone time with them just to talk and more importantly, listen. 
        5. Lead with Quantity and Quality: The average father spends 7 minutes per day talking to his children. Dad, you may not have lots of time every day but everything else seems to find itself on your schedule except your kids. The quantity is higher for moms but can be very guilty of having quantity without quality. Turn the phone off. The laundry can wait. The emails can wait. Turn off your notifications because time is flying by.
        We only get one shot at it and time is flying by. Let’s make the most of every moment. 
      8. Pastor Kyle's Tips for Reading the Bible

        The Bible.
        Isn't it amazing how just the title of it brings a response in your own mind and emotions?
        Peace. Guilt. Anger. Frustration. Joy. Comfort. 
        You might have felt a few of those all in one big wave. A few weeks back we did a small group study on reading the Bible and I weanted to share the notes with everyone out there that might be struggling through the same stuff. 
        The truth is that sometimes we as Christians don't own a Bible, don't like reading it or just are struggling to find time to read or relate to it.
        Here are just a few of my simple tips that my help jumpstart a rather lackluster part of your spiritual journey. 
        Quit Faking It
        • We act like are master theologians on scriptures we have never read and we've certainly never cross referenced anything.
        • We quote scriptures that we are simply regurgitating from our favorite message like 2 years ago. 
        • We make excuses for why we don’t make it a priority in our life.
        • —> Start reading the scriptures in humility and honest desire.
        Quit Reading it Alone
        • Holy Spirit
          • If prayer is not a vital part of your study life. Your study life probably sucks. 
          • I encourage everyone to Pray before, Pray during, Pray After. Prayer should become like breathing. You shouldn't start and stop it. An awesome prayer to pray before beginning to read is located in Ephesians 1.17-23. Paul is praying this for the church at Ephesus.
          • The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth about about Jesus. Jesus is speaking in John 16.12-13 and says...“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
        • Brothers & Sisters in Christ:—> Start asking questions to yourself, to God and to those mature in the faith. 
          • Ask questions to those who lead you in the Lord and those that have a stable base to bring wisdom from.
          • There is wisdom in counsel. Why struggle all by your lonesome with something you are struggling to comprehend or work through when God has put the body here for this very reason; so you wouldn't be alone.
        Quit Being Afraid
        • Afraid of our own Ignorance: We don't open the Bible ebcause we don't know enough about it. That's like a student saying, "I'm new to this subject, therefore I'm not gonna open the book." Hmmm...Yeah, that doesn't make sense.
        • Afraid of correction: Sometimes we don't open the Bible because it convicts us and we know that there are areas of our lives that are not submitted to Christ. 
        • Afraid of God (based on bad understanding of God’s character): Some of us just have a flat out bad understanding of the compassionate and benevolent God we serve. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance. Don't be afraid to come to the Father. 
        • --->Start letting the perfect love of God cast out every fear so that you may approach the Scriptures with a proper view of who God is. 
        Finally, I found an awresome resources from John Piper on understanding that the scriptures demand a response. 
        Reading & Study Seeks a Response (Communication is Two Ways)
        • If God indicts us (2 Cor. 7:8–10), we respond to him with sorrow and repentance.
        • If he commends us (Ps. 18:19–20), we respond to him with humble gratitude and joy.
        • If he commands us to do something (Matt. 28:19–20), we look to him for strength and resolve to obey with his help.
        • If he makes a promise (Heb. 13:5–6), we marvel at his grace and trust him to do what he says.
        • If he warns us of some danger (Luke 21:34), we take him seriously and watch with a thankful sense of his presence and protection.
        • If he describes something about himself (Isa. 46:9–11), his Son (Mark 1:11), or his Holy Spirit (John 16:13–14), we affirm it and admire it and pray for clearer eyes to see and enjoy his greatness and beauty.

        I pray these resources help you in your journey to study the beauty of the Word of God.

      9. When church doesn't feel right anymore...

        As a pastor, I have a sincere desire for every person that walks through our doors on Sunday to grow in their relationship with God and the church. I am keenly aware of the struggle that so many of us battle in understanding the Church (global), the church (local) and our place within it. Some of you have been around the Church a long time, many great experiences and probably a little heavier baggage mixed in there as well. For others, your relationship with the Church has just begun and you are still figuring all of this out. I want to share a few pieces of advice from my own personal experience and struggle with my relationship with the Church and the local church.
        When church doesn’t feel right anymore...
        1. Talk to God about your motives. The first bit of advice is probably the hardest. It hits us dead in the eyes most of the time because very few of us take the time to slow down and recognize selfish motives that have permeated our hearts. Our culture screams at us to have it our way all the time, and the Scriptures scream just the opposite. Culture beckons us to become our own god and the Scriptures call us to bend our hearts in submission to God. Very simply, this life, church included, is not all about us. Rather, God adopts us into His family and calls us to a life for His glory and renown.
        Here are a couple Scriptures to bring this home. 
        Psalm 51.10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
        Phil.2.3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
        2. Be more intentional in your relationships. Many of us long for meaningful relationships but never make any effort to have them. We pray for Biblical community but never have a meal with anyone in the body of Christ. We complain about feeling disconnected but show up once a month and don’t allow relationships beyond the surface level. The early church gathered daily to pray, break bread, fellowship and learning from the apostles teaching. Most of the time when we are struggling to find our way, fit in or just make it through the week, we go into hiding. The Christian faith is meant to be lived alongside one another striving for the same goal, to be made into the likeness of Christ and to live for His renown. One of the biggest hurdles I have overcome in my Christian walk is engaging intentional relationships that I know are good for my journey. Don’t avoid them or wait on them to come to you. Be intentional. You’ll be glad you did.
        Acts 2.42 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
        3. Embrace what God is teaching you in this season. I have always been a little bit of a weird bird in that I embrace the uncomfortable. When awkward things happen I pride myself on not being shaken but learning from them. I titled this “When church doesn’t feel right anymore…” for a reason. When most of us are in this place, the first thing we want to do is bolt. We cry out, “God, get me up outta this season! I don’t care what you gotta do but get me outta here.” The longer I’ve walked with God, the more I realize in every season the Lord is teaching me something new. The longer I keep hitting the eject button, the longer I will have to keep repeating the same lesson until I learn it. God wants to prune your heart in this season. Just let Him. 
        Daniel 2.21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
        Here is a few simple prayers if you find yourself in a similar season...
        1. God create a clean heart in me. Fix my eyes on you and away from my selfish desires.
        2. God open my eyes to the people you’ve placed in my life to build me up and bring comfort and joy to me. Help me to be real and be a godly influence on others.
        3. God help me to rest in this season I am in right now. Help me to embrace your goodness in every season and to learn what you are teaching me through it. 
      10. Prove Yourself

        The temptation of Jesus in Matthew chapter 4 is the first thing that follows His baptism. The beginning of Jesus' ministry started with temptation and testing. The Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness and the temptation from the devil was to prove Himself. "Turn these stones into bread." Prove yourself. I feel the large majority of humans don't wake up with a nagging voice saying, "Go prove yourself", though I know for a fact some do. In fact, I know that every human has within the desire for human applause. The desire to be recognized, affirmed and praised. Every human wants to prove their worth, their value. 

        Many of you reading this are young, as am I. Others of you are less young. (Isn't that such a nice way to say it?) At first glance the idea of proving one's self is a youth struggle but I would beg you to glance again. The desire to prove one's self, for earthly applause is natural, earthly natural. Jesus' response leads us to our path, a spiritual satisfaction that does not come from earthly applause. "But He answered and said, it is written, "Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."  Jesus is providing an example to us that we must find life, substance, worth and satisfaction from the mouth of God - not our performance for men. 

        I share this scripture and encouragement as one who has had the Lord recondition my heart to be motivated by His applause and unwavering despite the silence of those I desire praise from and focused on His words despite the noise of my critics. I speak from life experience. I encourage you to find tune your ear to the voice of the Lord and allow Him to speak to you your worth, not your performance, not the voice of your critic. 

        May we be fulfilled by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

      11. Lead Quietly

        Are you feeling it yet? Not the four on the floor bass drum, not the change in weather but the pressure.
        Do you feel the pressure? To talk louder so that they’ll hear you. To go bigger so they’ll notice you. To be edgy so they’ll talk about you. Do you feel that? Well, I have. The Christian social media world is as damaging as the rest of it. And not just to the sheep but also to the shepherd. Bombarded by everyone else’s conference schedule, attendance numbers, stage design and who they are rubbing shoulders with digs down in our heart and posts up on the adirondack chair seated in our need to be noticed, and more deeply, respected. We have some incredible instruction in 1 Timothy 2.1-8 for the beast inside that envies, schemes and lusts over what is not yet and what is not ours.

        Paul is pouring into Timothy here…

        "1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. 8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing."

        So much to say, so little time. Let’s dive in for a moment together and I want to touch on a few keys to leading quietly. You’ll also notice some references to the Sermon on the Mount throughout that support this understanding on 1 Timothy 2. I think ultimately Paul’s instruction here is to raise up humble leaders, for it is only in humility that God can be glorified through our ministry. Did you see where it started?

        1. Have an Outward Focused Prayer Life
        (v.1-2) Pray for all people and especially for all the leaders in our life. Become the intercessor you want for your own life because God (through Christ & the Holy Spirit) is our intercessor. The pressure that we earlier spoke of leads us to bring more attention to ourselves, our brand and our movement when our hearts should be centered on bringing attention to Christ. We know in our hearts are pure and when we have crossed over into the dark side or the slightly shaded areas between marketing, evangelism and vanity. The truth is that we are a lot less broken than we feel when we are outward focused in our prayer and thought life. Granted, we’re usually more exhausted because of the constant pouring out and a disciplined Sabbath life becomes all the more vital, but we aren’t as broken as we feel. And then again, sometimes we are just as broken as we feel. I forget who said it but they called Sabbath, the discipline of rejuvenation. Schedule it. Do it. Love it. Praying for others, especially adversaries and other leaders, wrings ours hearts of sour emotions and un-dealt with anger and jealousy (Matt. 5.43-44).

        2. Be Better in Private
        (v.2) What if we were most godly and holy in private? In Paul’s time there was much persecution for the cause of Christ that praying for leaders was so that they could continue in public ministry without being taken to jail for it. Paul says that “peaceful and quiet lives” “pleases God our Savior”. It breaks my heart every time a Christian wants to pick fights with people who disagree with them. They want to pick public forums to shame others and convince them they are wrong. Has this ever worked in the history of humankind? Yeah, I don’t think so. It usually just makes things worse. That is why Jesus instructs us to give quietly, pray in secret, to fast and not tell anyone about it (Matt. 6.1-8). We don’t give often enough to be pleased with doing it quietly. We aren’t disciplined nor intimate enough to pray in secret because its easier to do it publicly when others are around. Based on my readings on this text as well as the Sermon on the Mount reference text, I don’t believe God is impressed with what we do publicly. It is holiness and godliness when no one is watching that He is impressed with.

        3. Repent Often
        (v.8) Repentance used to be something we heard from a lot of Christian preachers and teachers back in the day but not so much anymore. I think many of us as leaders don’t model it so it makes it pretty difficult for us to teach on. Paul’s encouragement is to not allow yourself to enter into prayer with ridding your heart of anger, envy and relational strife. Jesus was pretty hardcore in Matt. 5.14-15  "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” I dare you to confess. To boast in weakness on a daily basis (2 Cor. 12.5). I dare you to send some apology letters, texts and calls to leaders, students and friends. I dare you to start a message with what an ignoramus you can be at times. Its actually endearing to people and it is obedience to Christ. It frees our heart of pain, our mind of stress, models Christ to others and, most importantly, draws us nearer to Christ.

        May we pray outwardly, worship privately and repent often that we might please the Lord and others would be drawn to Christ in us.

      12. Faith and Fruit

        Does anyone else love the ability to stream whatever they want wherever they want? I know I do. We have access to everything from anywhere today. It's a pretty cool world we live in. But its also dangerous.

        When I say the phrase "microwaveable meal" or "TV dinner", what comes to mind? Instant. Easy. Low nutritional value. Might kill us.

        When I say the phrase "harvest season", what comes to mind?
        We might imagine a field but many of us will go straight to thinking of a grocery store where we can pick it up. This is the instant world we live in.

        We are missing the process. We want the end results. We want the product. But we don't want the process. We don't want to be near when the field is plowed, seeded, watered, weeded and picked. We just want the fruit (or veggies). The hard work can be left to someone else. Let me know when its time to show up and celebrate.

        The same is true of our faith. We want the "fruit of the Spirit".

        Gal. 5.22-23
        22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

        We want each of these amazing qualities in our life but we have trouble connecting ourselves in faith to the Spirit that brings these characteristics out within us. Because that's the hard work. That's choosing to go out and water the field when it is so hot, dry and miserable outside. That's choosing to weed the field instead of complaining about the weeds in the garden. And from this place, this place of faith and connection to the Spirit, comes fruit. Real, tangible, life-giving fruit. The stuff we've dreamed that we could possess, the characteristics we've failed at time and time again and felt guilty for it, the kind of life that makes people look twice and reflect on their own life...we now possess. Not by popping it in the microwave or showing up to the store to grab a few pieces when we need it. But flowing. Flowing from the depths of our souls as we have connected ourselves to the Spirit that brings life, not death. There is no law against these things. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.

        I pray that we would be set free from our desire for instant gratification.
        I pray that we would find hope, rest and purpose in the process.
        I pray our lives would be built firmly on the solid rock that is Christ Jesus...

        and from this place let fruit come forth.

      13. Overnight sensation syndrome

        It seems these days that everyone wants to blow up into some sort of international sensation overnight because they saw Snooki and the Sitch do it. The unfortunately popular American pursuit for fame and celebrity is destroying todays youth and depressing the more seasoned. Kids, teens, and young adults are having trouble removing their faces from the pie in sky and are slowly waking up with an awful stomach ache. Middle agers and baby boomers remember a time when folks consistently invested in something that mattered to them over a period of time. When people lived a good life by waking up every day, working hard, and coming home to family. I would like to boldly encourage the masses for a brief moment, if I may.

        First of all, get over yourself. You aren't nearly as great and worthy to be watched and listened to as you think you are. Quit imitating people that lack purpose and let yourself be influenced by people with God honoring vision.

        Secondly, work that matters fulfills you. I believe fulfillment is found in understanding a call/purpose from God on this earth. All other pursuits will satisfy for a moment but eventually leave you empty.

        Lastly, be patient. Statistics that people would hurl at me as a short white kid who wanted to star in the NBA frustrated me as a child. Now I get it. Perspective is everything. It only meant that the journey would most likely be long and hard for me. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your dream. Be patient. Be consistent. Be courageous.

        Be encouraged. You can do something that matters every day regardless of your platform.

      14. Why you hate bigots, racists and hypocrites and probably are one

        Do you ever have so much to say that you choose to say nothing because you fear you don't have enough time or knowledge to finish it?
        Well I do. My heart is broken and troubled though over so much I see in the world that it's utterly overwhelming to a caring soul like mine.

        In the months leading up to our American presidential election, my awareness of our fraudulence as a people is at an all-time high. Our "best candidates" skew facts for their own good. Possible quality candidates will never be given a shot because of the culture/system we have created. And the wisest of our possible candidates will choose a better life for themselves. But I digress. This discussion isn't designed to be about our candidates or politics but really to be about you and me.

        What I'm just flat over is people who claim to hate racists, bigots, and hypocrites yet are some of the biggest ones I know. And before you jump on a bandwagon or start throwing stones, just stop for a second. Come down from your mighty place of wisdom, pride, and apathy and listen to yourself. Realize that you aren't who you think you are. You don't believe what you think you believe. For those of you that are believers in the way of Christ as I am. You(we) are the worst.

        You are idol worshippers. You have created a god that serves you. A god that you can be comfortable with and control. A god you can use when necessary.
        This is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is worthy to be loved and trusted with one's whole life. To be given control. To move us from our place of comfort. God is in all of your life and wants to be in all of your life.  

        Let me be more specific if you are having trouble breaking through my frustrated tone.

        To those who find themselves on the left end of the polarized political spectrum. You call the religious right bigots. You are what you despise. Some days you are worse.
        To those Christians that claim to follow Jesus, when is the last time you really loved your enemies and prayed for those who persecute you? Do you really believe in grace, in mercy, in forgiveness? You better hope you do. Because you will need it, just as we all will. It is our only hope.
        To those that claim to believe in equality, put it into action. Do something that would give someone else the same shot you had.

        We only want equality as long as we get our extra piece on the side.
        We only want freedom for everyone so long as everyone agrees with us.
        We only want to help people as long as it doesn't hurt us.

        You hypocrite.
        You bigot.
        You racist.

        You say you are one thing but you aren't.
        You don't believe and you don't live like you believe.

        From one caring soul to another, be honest with yourself and everyone else too. Honesty is where healing begins.