Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Pivot into Progress” #PivotPoint

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and long workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together. 

We wrapped up our series at Kfirst. “Pivot Point” has been our study of the life of Jacob. Even though he didn’t have the “model life”, God always had something beautiful in store for him. Our goal yesterday was to help people understand: “The church isn’t a gathering of perfection but place of progress.” (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

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Far too many misunderstand progress. And perhaps the biggest issue in it is we mistake progress for “product.” We fail to see how much someone has developed because we’re distracted by where we think they should be. But progress is what we should be noticing AND celebrating. When it comes to our walk with Christ, progress is realized when we see the image of Christ being revealed in and through us.

From the narrative of Genesis 32 and 35, we discovered simple ways to pivot into progressing in our walks with Christ:

  1. Position yourself for progress – Genesis 32:23-24
    • Jacob got alone with God. When we get alone with Him, and give Him all of us, we can be in position to get all of Him.
  2. Understand: Progress is not passive. – Genesis 32:23-26
    • Jacob had to wrestle more than a man, he had to deal with who he’s been the past 90 years. Progress will push you out of your comfort zone; it will challenge you beyond where you are at.
  3. Progress will require patience. – Genesis 35:10-15
    •  About ten years have passed. Instead of disciplining Jacob for not taking up his new name, God reminds him that his name is Israel. Too many people abandon the direction of progress because they don’t see the scope (or degree) of progress. God didn’t give up on Jacob; he just reminded Jacob of his calling.
  4. Progress will cost you. – Genesis 35: 19-21
    • We want to see God move but don’t want to pay a price for what we want Him to do. Can I challenge you with something: Don’t pray for what you are unwilling won’t pay for. If God is challenging you to do something, it will demand some cost/change on your behalf. Be open to what God wants to do and watch His blessings follow.

Why is this last message of our series so “pivotal”? Because of this:

Your two next steps this week: 

  1. Make what God says about you bigger than what happened to you.
  2. Take a next step; See your life as a vessel of progression and not a finished product

Also, if you need a scripture reading plan to go along with our message, check out this one.

Love you all.  See you this Sunday as we kick off a new series!

BTW, here’s a song this week for your devotions playlist:

A Prayerful Marriage: 6 Things that are Okay to Pray Over Your Marriage

I’ll give props to Cori, my neighbor down the street. On my weekly Wednesday prayer walk, I ask my Facebook friends to post their needs so I can specifically pray over them. Her request froze me in my tracks. It was so simple, and yet, specific. Cori’s child was heading off with other 5th graders to a weekend camp. She asked for prayers for the 5th graders to have “insane amounts of fun.”

I literally stopped my walk for a moment and thought to myself, “why don’t we pray for that more often for our marriages?” The next thought, “what other prayers do we disregard?”

I had heard a quote sometime ago (and for the life of me, I cannot remember who said it):

Prayer is the easiest thing we never do.

I think a lot of that mindset seems to have to do with the understanding of the necessity of a prayer life. If you understand how important communication is to your marriage, you can begin to grasp the need for a consistent prayer life. Prayer is simple and powerful. It is transformative both for you and your marriage. Yet, in my experiences working with marriages, I find couples don’t know how to pray. Most marriage prayers center around someone wanting God to change what they don’t like in their mate. Very few spouses pray about other things.

So today, I thought I’d give you a simplistic list of things that is okay to pray for in your marriage:

1 – “Help us to have insane amounts of fun.”
Cori hit the nail on the head. We need to see more fun in our marriage. Fun is more spiritual than you realize. God isn’t against pleasure; He is absolutely for it (the Garden of Eden is proof enough about that). When I talk about fun, I’m talking about striving to find those leisurely thing that feed the fun in marriage.  I’ve known couples to rotate on who choses the date nights so the “fun” doesn’t always favor one person over the other. I’ve known others to consistently plan evenings around those things that both enjoy doing.

2 – “Give me an overwhelming sense of gratitude.”
When we start praying to have a more grateful heart, the Lord will open up our eyes to help us to see the blessings around us. It seems everything about our culture wants to seed dissatisfaction with what we have so that we can strive for something new. And I’m afraid that puts a false filter of disappointment over our lives. Step back and begin to see, not what your spouse lacks, but what he/she is gifted in. When you do, speak up and say something about it. Remember, silent gratitude is not gratitude at all.

3 – “Help us to laugh more.”
This is related to #1 but a bit different. Why? most people relegate “fun” to a moment. I believe “laughing” is a lifestyle. Anne and I don’t have much in common.

We love Jesus.
We are stubborn.
And we love to laugh.

Having that “merry heart” that Proverbs talks about becomes the catalyst for your attitude. It helps you to see things in perspective. You understand what is worth fighting about and you see what is worth laughing with your spouse about. Learn how to not take some things so serious and learn to laugh with (not at) your spouse.

4 – “Bless our marriage with a deep and lasting sex life.”
Of all of the needs that a human has, there is only one need that your spouse has been granted permission to be the ONLY one to meet. Sex was God’s idea. Sexual desire is God-given. Your sex organs were given to you, by God, to receive pleasure and give pleasure to your spouse. So suffice to say: If God gifted our marriage with sexuality, why don’t we make it a priority to pray for it? If both are praying for it, perhaps the Lord will bless our marriage with more desire, greater creativity, and a deeper sense of pleasure. Don’t let the world make what God has given into something dirty. Take what God has given and ask that it be blessed.

5 – “Help me to love when I don’t feel it.”
I don’t always act lovable; neither does Anne. But that’s where we take things and make them so overly emotional that the presence of feelings dictates our actions. Love is a state of our soul. And we act upon love because we know what love does (1 Corinthians 13). Actions don’t follow feelings. If that was the case, nothing would get done. Feelings follow actions. Be the spouse that prays for the humility to act in love without having to “feel” love.

6 – “Keep me humble.”

I’ve heard some dumb things about prayer. One of them being, “don’t pray for patience because God will give you something to be patient with.” This may seem harsh, but I find it stupid to think, first, that we think God doesn’t know we need it, and second, that asking Him for help is a bad thing.  I think we should request something deeper than patience. Humility is the place where we can see the complete Fruit of the Spirit grow in and through us. Humility is what lowers our pride and places within us a teachable/growing heart. Humility gives us the type of voice that needs to be heard while granting us ears to listen.

Do you have other “simple” prayers to add? Are these prayers anywhere on your radar? I hope so. Because as your prayers grow, so does your marriage. Make your next step today to set a daily reminder to pray blessings upon your spouse. Write some of these prayers down and get a few of your own. Follow that up with asking the Holy Spirit to work some change in you. As you pray, I believe God responds to your faith and He’ll do the work that you and I can never do on our own.

I love you all. I’m praying for you at this moment. Now go pray for your spouse.

Oh yeah…thanks Cori for the inspiration.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “The Rx for Offense” #PivotPoint

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and long workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together. 

We continued our current series at Kfirst. “Pivot Point” has been our study of the life of Jacob. Even though he didn’t have the “model life”, God always had something beautiful in store for him. Our goal yesterday was to help people understand: “We can’t live in the Land of Promise without leaving our place of offense.” (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

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So many of us want the promises of God but don’t want to be obedient to what the promises require us to do. And one of those areas of obedience is releasing offenses. Jacob left the land of promise because of the issues between him and Esau. And he knew when God called him to go home in Genesis 31:13, he would have to face his brother and a 50-year-old offense.

In the narrative of Genesis 32, Jacob gives us three examples of what happens when we don’t deal with offense correctly:

  1. Dwelt on offenses lead to misguided reactions. (v. 3-4)
    • Instead of responding with a personal interaction, Jacob pushes his servants to take care of things for him.
  2. Picked up offenses will exaggerated issues. (v. 6)
    • Jacob finds out Esau is on his way. He panics and begins to divide his family to, in his mind, preserve some of them from his brothers wrath he assumes is still there.
  3. Unattended offenses create self-serving responses. (v. 9, 16)
    • He puts it on God to deal with.
    • He sends his servants again with a load of gifts to buy Esau’s favor.

https://twitter.com/DawnHause/status/790207807073185792

In view of Jacob’s decisions, our heart is to dismantle what the enemy wants to use to divide the body of Christ. We want to step into a biblical prescription for offense.

  1. Be intentional about offense. Matthew 18:15-20
    • Engage with God.
    • Re-engage the person who offended you.
  2. Be intentional about humility. 1 Peter 5:5
    • Humility opens up the door for opportunity for others to listen and for us to grow.
  3. Be intentional about information. Ephesians 4:15
    • We should never express ourselves at the expense of the character of Jesus.
  4. Be intentional about forgiveness. Proverbs 19:11
    • I can’t choose the offense I’m offered, but I can choose what I hold on to.

Ask the Holy Spirit to check your heart. Ask him to show you if any offense is being held in your hands. Rest in the grace that Christ offers and be a distributor of that grace.

This week, if you need a scripture reading plan, check out this one.

Love you all.  See you on Sunday!

BTW, here’s a song this week for your devotions playlist that we learned on Sunday:

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Developing a Hearing Heart”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and long workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together. 

We took a break from our current series at Kfirst to have our District Superintendent, Jeff Hlavin, with us. He brought a tremendous message from Mark 4:1-25 as he challenged our hearing by saying this:

Out of scripture, Jeff showed us:
  1. Jesus is concerned THAT we hear: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:23
  2. Jesus is concerned WHAT we hear: “And He was saying to them, ‘Take care what you listen to . . .” Mark 4:24
  3. Jesus is concerned HOW we hear: “Therefore take care how you listen . . .” Luke 8:18

Jesus is constantly speaking, but it is up to us to learn His voice and to listen to what He is saying. It’s a huge part of discipleship. And discipleship is a process of growth that we NEVER grow out of. In fact, your discipleship reveals your roots.

Jeff wrapped up with the words of Jesus declaring that a hearing heart will:

  1. Bring forth a bountiful harvest in your life (Mark 4:20).
  2. Give an opportunity for witness for you (Mark 4:21).
  3. Bring additional revelation to you (Mark 4:22).
  4. Be the basis for further development of a hearing heart for your life (Mark 4:24,25).

This week, as you are spending some time in the Word and in prayer this week, listen for how God is speaking to you. If you need a scripture reading plan, check out this one. God is always speaking, but most of the time, we’re too busy to listen.

Love you all.  See you on Sunday!

BTW, here’s a song this week for your devotions playlist:

Marital A.D.D.: 2 Ways to Overcome the Deficit of Attention in Marriage

From the beginning of this blog, let me say that I don’t take things like A.D.D or A.D.H.D. lightly. According to the New York Times, at least 4 percent of adults have the disorder and as many as half of all children that have A.D.H.D. do not fully outgrow it and continue to struggle with symptoms as adults. It is a challenge to deal with as an individual as well as a married couple and more material should be produced to help couples who have been diagnosed with it.

Where an individual, who has either condition, will struggle to keep their own attention, in marriage, there is usually someone (or both) struggling to get attention. I hear comments like:

“He doesn’t appreciate anything I do.”
“Doesn’t she know I have needs?”
“I wish he’d look at me that way.”
“The only time I hear from my spouse is when something is wrong.”
“I wish I felt special.”

I call it, Marriage A.D.D. and it’s harming marriages. There are spouses struggling in their marriage from deficit of attention. Wrap your head around the change that happened when the relationship shifted from courtship to marriage. Back then, we spent time fighting to grasp the attention the one we were dating. Now, we find ourselves fighting to get the attention of the same person, but now, we’re married to him/her. Anne and I have been here. Sometimes we find A.D.D. creeping back. Why? We’re ALL susceptible to it.

How does the attention deterioration take place? 

Mistaken priorities.
Let me say this from the get-go: When you learn to love God first, He enables you to love best (Matthew 22:36-40).  And if this priority doesn’t take place, difficulties follow.

Outside of Christ, your marriage relationship should be the most important relationship in your life. Jobs, best friends, hobbies, church, etc. all must take a back seat to your marriage. Saying “I love you” doesn’t matter if your priorities don’t match up with the words.

Forgotten passion.
Passion doesn’t take place on accident. It is sought after and discovered. This is where we can glean from those “dating days.” Passion is something that is available to anyone but it needs to be fed and facilitated. Those who say they “accidentally feel in love” where actually looking for it consciously or sub-consciously. Bring back the courtship of the heart. Leisure and laughter are essential to regaining the passion back. Make dating both mandatory and consistent.

Shifting of seasons.
What worked in one season may not work in another. Your age, family, and state of life (job, home, health, etc) all shift during the course of your marriage. And what may have been romantic 20 years ago (or even a year ago) may not speak the same thing as it once did. I’ve seen so many couples missing the attention mark, not because there was a failure of attention, it was the failure of the proper attention.

Become a student of each other. Lower your defenses a bit and communicate to each other what you enjoy/like. Communication doesn’t happen by osmosis; it is an intentional act of intimacy. And the more you learn AND put into practice, the less you’ll see your marriage suffer from any deficit of attention.

Self-centered living.
Even though this could have been absorbed into the other points, this demanded its own emphasis. Healthy marriage living can only grow from healthy marriage giving. It’s that type of giving that demands no reciprocal behavior. You without expectation. A.D.D marriages wait for the other to act first. “I won’t until he/she does it first.”

Servanthood is that Christ-like manner for which our spouse see’s the example of Jesus in the home.  “Self-centered” approaches deteriorate that image and, thus, create of deficit of attention by putting focus upon ourselves. I wish I could say that I never struggle with this, but I’d be lying. Perhaps you can come together for a “come to Jesus moment” for the two of you. It can be a place where there is no finger-pointing at each other but ownership over what our human tendencies can drive us to.

Lack of gratitude.
Giving thanks FOR and WITH your spouse is, perhaps, one of the most significant marital habit. Gratitude is an essential ingredient in any relationship, but it takes intentionality and time to put it into practice.

Nobody likes to be taken for granted. Without it you get used to having your spouse in your life but forget why you chose to be with them. A lack of gratitude makes us deadened to our spouse’s special qualities and then gets us to focus on things that annoy us about them. A lack of “thanks” can leave us confused and discouraged in our relationship.

When we come into marriage each day with gratitude, choosing together to see abundance rather than scarcity, relational satisfaction rises. It will change the atmosphere of your home, develop appreciation, enhance sex, soften criticism, and pave the way for forgiveness. Practicing the art of thanksgiving increases attention by leaps and bound, thus reducing the effects that Marital A.D.D. have previously had.

Next Steps:
Simply said: A breakdown of attention is a breakdown of intimacy. This is not a one-date-fixes all situation.  It’s a lifetime of tweaks to two important systems.

  1. Change in the system of thinking (humility).
    • It begins with a mind that is fixed upon Christ and His example. We don’t wait for others to change first; the example starts with ME. James 4:10 says to “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” You were never meant to hold yourself or your marriage up. Humble yourself (rest in His identity and strength) and let the Lord lift up (hold up and hold together) your marriage. Before you fix a deficiency of living, you need to fix the deficiency of thinking.
  2. Change of in the system of living (patterns). 
    • I’ve heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If your old patterns have been creating a deficiency of attention for your spouse, then it’s time to fix them and start new habits. Talk with each other. Find out what you both can do that will work toward providing the proper attention that you both crave.

Start today. Get your attention on the proper things. Don’t get distracted. Focus on what really matters: Jesus and your spouse.

I love you all. I believe in you because I believe in the Christ in you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Chips are Bad for the Heart: 4 Reasons Why You Can’t Minister with a Chip on Your Shoulder

I think most people can admit that, deep down, you have a love for chip.  Save your comments on saturated fats and cholesterol, I know they’re not healthy, but can we just admit, that apart from the health factors, chips taste amazing? As you are reading this, most likely you are imagining not just a type of chip (corn, potato, veggie, etc) but a specific brand of that chip.

Growing up, we were a “Better Made” family.  Not only were they a local chain (Detroit) but they were pretty dang good. And I can’t remember a time in my childhood where we didn’t have a bag of Better Made around. It was my father’s favorite brand and it was the perfect accompaniment to a tall glass of ice-cold Coke and a football game.

But when I think about chips, this is the commercial that comes to mind:

It takes me back to a simpler time when I didn’t have to care about what I was eating because track and football was burning it all off.  

But, lately, that slogan “You can’t have just one” has been what’s on my mind. Why? I’m preparing for a message in our series, “Pivot Point” here at Kfirst on the issue of offense. And as I study, I recognize that entertaining offense in our hearts opens us up to more offense. Like a small bite from a poisonous snake, the offense-venom spreads throughout our spiritual bloodstream at a prolific rate.

My focus turned from my message and went into inspecting my heart. Here in the coffeehouse, the Holy Spirit began to work upon me. I looked over the past 19+ years of ministry and could see far too many moments when it seemed I had allowed offense to not just be present but to frame my ministry.

I found myself staring at a blank page in my journal and writing the words:

Chips and ministry don’t work; pastoring with a chip on your shoulder will destroy you.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “chip on the shoulder”? I’ve usually experienced the usage of it in the sports world as someone is described as, “playing with a chip on their shoulder.” Usually it means that someone is acting out of a feeling of inferiority or a grudge. So in the context of my journal entry, to pastor with “chip on your shoulder” means you minister while holding an offense or grievance.  And, unfortunately, I’ve wasted too much time and squandered too many opportunities feeding off of those “chips.”

I wonder if a few of you have as well.

Why don’t “Chips” (offense) and ministry work? Here are 4 reasons why:

1 – Offense mimics “passion” and “progress.”
One of the most deceptive things about offense is it impersonates itself as something that is permissible to entertain. We think ministering with a “chip on our shoulder” is a badge of honor. But in reality, that sensation of momentum and drive we’re experiencing is really a focus that is directed inward. In other words, the false sense of motivation isn’t Christ-focus, it’s Me-focused. You’re determined to make “you” shine as to prove a point instead of living to glorify Christ.  

2 – Offense is addictive.
Living with offense is, far too easily, a place to hang your hat. It feeds a victim mentality which finds identity in a place of hurt. And that place of hurt is an addictive place to live. It creates a story; a narrative to live by. But I wonder if too many of us our more addicted to talking about our pain than we are talking about the healing Jesus can bring. As a minister (let alone a believer), if we find our identity in ANYTHING other than Jesus, we are living from a sub-par place that will lead us to sub-par locations. We don’t live FOR an identity; we live FROM an identity. And from our identity in Christ, a victim mentality is impossible to maintain. If we are healed in Him, if we operate in Him, then what we do will flow out of Him and not our offenses.

3 – Offense gives a false sense of fullness.
I think there’s a real challenge to this. When I entertain offense, I tend to continue to feed off of it. And the more I feed off of it, the less healthy mindsets I feed on. I’ll go back to my “chip” metaphor. How many times have you started snacking on junk food before a meal because you were extremely hungry? But when you got to the meal, you couldn’t eat what was put before you (that is probably 10 times healthier for you) because you had filled your stomach with junk. Offense wants to stuff you and weigh you down by leaving no room for that which can build and grow you.

4 – Offense clogs up the life-flow.
Offense in ministry is what high cholesterol is to your blood. The presence of it will slow down life, inflame issues beyond what they should, and lead you toward death. The death I’m talking about is beyond the physical. I’ve watch churches dying from issues of offense. Relationships between churches have been destroyed over it. I’ve seen pastor’s marriages plummet as offense is entertained. The more you entertain it, the less surprised you should be when you, your family, and the ministry you are involved in start suffering from offense’s catastrophic results.

I love the quote from Steven Furtick on the subject,

“Offense is a moment; offended is a choice.”

Are you ministering with a “chip on your shoulder”? Are you living with offense?  I’ve been there. I understand. And like you, can have a lot of excuses to carry my offense. None of us can be excused from being faced with offense. But we do have a choice about picking it up and letting it be the frame for which we live life and operate in ministry. But no justification can rationalize carrying the burden of the unnecessary pain of not dropping offenses, offering forgiveness, and allowing Christ to bring deep healing.   

Is there any more fitting scripture about this than John 10:10?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Please learn from this pastor who used to live off “chips.” Offense is what the Enemy wants to used to steal your joy. He wants to kill your calling. Destruction is all he is after. But releasing the “chip” and grasping onto Christ brings us to a place that is nothing short of a full life (which includes a full ministry).

I love ya pastor.  I’m praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “How to Love God and Money”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and long workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together. 

We took a break from our current series at Kfirst to have in a friend of our congregation, J.P. Dorsey director of Northpoint Bible College Grand Rapids. He brought a tremendous message from Matthew 6:19-24 as he challenged us to be generous by opening up our hands and hearts to both God and people. And as we step out in generosity,  it has the power to transform us.

How does that type of change happen? According to Matthew 6

  1. Generosity accumulates eternal wealth instead of temporal (v. 19-20).
    • It teaches us that people are the treasure.
  2. Generosity transforms our vision from the temporal to the eternal (v. 22-23). 
    • We are naturally are prone to elevate people/stuff with our temporal views.
  3. Generosity moves our heart from the world to Christ (v. 24). 
    • Instead of hoping in materials to revive and sustain us, we trust in the Lord.

 

I’m all about spending some time in the Word and in prayer this week. If you need a scripture reading plan, check out this one. BUT…would you spend some time being generous with your TIME? Would you look for an opportunity to be generous with our TALENT? Perhaps, you’ll take a step and be generous with your TREASURE. In whatever way, respond this week to the great word spoken by being generous.

Love you all.  See you on Sunday!

BTW: Here’s a song this week for your devotions playlist: