Information for a free gift…and 5 things for @kalamazoofirst

Top of the morning to ya!  It’s Monday so get some coffee and buckle up for a great week.

I laugh at Facebook links, Twitter links, and the spam emails that simply say, “Click here for a free gift.” The ad isn’t funny. It’s knowing that we are so desperate to get “free” stuff that we lay down all inhibitions in the euphoria of knowing we could be getting something free.  I’m not standing in judgement. Anne knows that when we go to a conference, I look forward to SWAG (Stuff We All Get).  I’ll walk from table to table to pick up free pens and key chains as if the Mayan calendar was right and my survival the coming apocalypse would come from the pens and key chains.  We see free…and we leap.  But, for some reason, we have a gift available, and instead of receiving it, we go about attaining it with alternative ways.

I’m slowly going through Ephesians this month and got a great reminder.  My pen couldn’t underline my new bible fast enough. It was screaming at me from page 976. I pulled out my phone and instagramed the passage.

“And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God.”

The subtle reminder to me in the midst of my monday rush: you didn’t create this life yourself…you didn’t earn it…you couldn’t accomplish it.

It’s a gift.  It’s free for you to receive.  I guess today the Holy Spirit felt I needed that reminder.  Maybe I’ve taken it for granted.  I guess I needed to come to a greater appreciation of His love for us. Without Jesus…where would I be?

I recognize the cost comes as we follow Christ…but that’s for another blog on another day.

Here are 5 things I want Kfirst to know about…

#1 – Sunday was amazing. When I showed up to youth group last night, the teen were buzzing about Sunday morning.  That, to me, is a litmus test for a speaker.  How did the next generation receive them?

Andy Raatz did something extraordinary.  He imparted his heart into ours. It was like the sanctuary was an operating room and his heart was transplanted into our lives.  What a great response to the altar!!! I had a few talks with some people who were messed up from yesterday…in a good way.  What a joy to see individuals seeing their world with new hearts and having a passion for the lost.

If you missed the message, download it from iTunes later  or hit our website.

#2 – Missions Emphasis is concluding Sunday!!  Every November, we concentrate our focus on outreach (local, national, world). Our two-week emphasis centers our hearts upon the lost, increase our passion, and challenged us to get involved.  We’ll be taking up our “faith promises” on Sunday.  A faith promise is a monetary goal or a pledge that is set between the you and God for the support of world missions. This goal is set for one year.  Anne and I have supported world missions since we were teens and would encourage you to join us in giving to world missions.

#3 – Missions Emphasis includes giving to the Kalamazoo Gospel mission!!  During our emphasis we’re teaming up with the Kalamazoo Gospel mission.  We’re challenging everyone at Kfirst to bring coats in to bless the mission.  If you have a coat and/or want to buy one to donate, please bring into the office during the week.

#4 – Chapel Service and Hymn Sing is coming up this Thursday! If you’re one of our senior adults, you don’t want to miss out on an amazing time. Our pastoral team has been rotating through and bringing the Word.  I absolutely love our time of prayer at the end!

#5 – Sacred: Kfirst Christmas Series.  I can’t wait to launch our Christmas series this coming December.  My desire is to bring back the sacredness to the Christmas story that, for some, has become generic and ordinary.  Join us as we present “sacred” in December…better yet…invite a family or two and let them hear about the Lord who was sent to bring them life.

That’s all I have today. Enjoy the Lord’s free gift to you.  Enjoy giving that gift to someone else.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

The lingerie of life.

Lingerie is meant for one thing: attraction…

…and the attraction it was designed for is meant to lead to intimacy.

Anne will say, it doesn’t take much to attract me to her.  It could be the “typical man” type of mindset, but I began to ask myself the other side of that: what repels me?  What turns me off? What spoils the beauty of an individual?

What I feel the Lord dropped in my heart was so simple.

Your words.

I looked at Anne this morning said, “I’ve got it.  Words are ‘the lingerie of life.'” She looked a bit confused and slightly concerned over my mental state. I went on to explain, when our words are poured out to our spouses, it can make us to most appealing, attractive individual.  It becomes a “turn on” to our spouse.  I’m not saying there’s immediate sexual desire that stirs. But there is an emotional intimacy that connects to our spouse’s heart that draws them to you.

Since the blog, “Seducing your spouse with the five senses,” I have pondered breaking each of the senses down periodically over the next year.  (I’ve also ponder writing a book with the same name.) I have been thinking about attacking the issue of our words.  While mulling this blog over, it was just a few days ago when a friend, that is passionate about marriage, sent out the tweet:

“Make love with your words outside the bedroom. That really helps during love-making in the bedroom.”

It was confirmation of what I wanted to deal with today.  We need to have marriages that will foster love and intimacy with their words. They need to see their communication (verbal and nonverbal) are more intertwined with the bedroom than they thought.

Have you ever met someone who became the most unattractive and unappealing person by their words.  I recall my single life  when I would see a young lady that, outwardly, was attractive to me only to be turned off by what came out of her mouth.   To put the shoe on the other foot, I wonder how many times I repelled a young lady away by some of the words/phrases I used.  Our words are more powerful than what we give them credit for.

It becomes a confusing state.  In our minds, the other person is  surface attractive…BUT something about their words (tones, mannerisms, phrases, character issues) is transforming them before our eyes into something that repels us away.   It is truly unfolding what the scripture says in Matthew 12:34, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Our words bring to fruition what lie beneath our surface.

I heard, years ago, that sex begins in the kitchen (actually, it’s a best-selling book). I’m not talking about locations for you and your spouse to make love.  I’m talking about how intimacy begins from the moment you wake up.  Why the kitchen? That’s where people are, on the most part, fully awake having breakfast. I’ll admit,  Anne and I don’t talk much in the morning till we are fully awake.  It’s like a scene from “The Walking Dead” where two zombies are wandering till showers and caffeine kick in.  But when we do begin to talk…that’s where our intimacy begins.   Again, couples, especially men, have to get out of their minds that intimacy is when the lights turn off and you are under the covers.

There is so much dysfunction in marriages when it comes to attraction. On one hand, you’ve got on spouse who can be turned on at a moment’s notice regardless of the day or time.  On the other hand, the other is in no mood because the “abundance of the heart” of their spouse has been on display all day and has made that him the most unappealing individual.  Once we close the door, we assume it’s time for intimacy. Most don’t realize, if that’s when you’re ready to foster intimacy, you are a number of hours too late.

I believe that you and I can foster and atmosphere of intimacy and attractiveness in our marriage by having naked conversations. Before you freak out and I now become your husband’s favorite pastor by encouraging nudity, I’ll explain what I mean. Genesis 2:25 says Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” There, consistently, was nothing hidden in their marriage. Everything about them was open to see. Put your defenses down and have  consistent, open, and honest communication.  By raising up conversational walls/barriers between you and your spouse, you will cover the openness/nakedness that your marriage was meant to have. I’ll give you a TRUTH: Without talking, your marriage will not survive.  The more you openly communicate, the closer you will be. Here’s some helpful tips:

1.    Timing is everything.   When you reconnect with your spouse at the end of a workday, don’t launch into your frustrating day immediately.  Intimacy is just like good comedy…it’s all about timing.  Let the moments create conversational opportunities and flow.

2. Do some spouse reconnoissance?. Reconnaissance is a mission to obtain information by visual observation or other detection methods. Find out what humor’s your spouse and look for ways to insert humor into your conversations.   What do they like to talk about?  What do they see as fun?  Don’t have your conversations be “all business” (kids, finances, mother-in-law, etc). When Anne knows there’s a significant game on tv, she’ll ask about it even though she doesn’t  care about sports. She cares because I care.  It means the world to me.

2. Provide emotional support, validation, and compliments. If you don’t feel that you spouse likes and respects you, there will not be a strong connection. You have to lift each other up and let each other know the depth of your caring.  He/she needs to know you care.  How do emotional affairs start?  When someone at home ceases to care and opens up the job to someone else to care.  Don’t be that husband/wife who does that!!!  No one will should out-compliment me when it comes to Anne.  No one should beat me as her biggest supporter.

3. Don’t be afraid to get “dirty”…but be careful. Being great roommates just won’t cut it. There has to be the desire to be together as a couple. Sensuality is a great part of a healthy marriage.  I use the word “dirty” but there’s nothing wrong/dirty about it. The desire you have for sensuality is God-given.  He designed you that way. But remember: there’s a time and place.  At the dinner table in front of the kids? Unless you want them to go into counseling…please save it for a more appropriate time.  You may think the spark has gone, but there are too many ways conversationally to rekindle it. Send messages (please be careful) to your spouse.  It’ll make them come home earlier than expected.  Make your spouse feel like the most attractive person alive.  Let him/her know you still desire them.  All you have to do is try.

4. Be humble…always. Express Compassion, repentance, acceptance, and forgiveness. Humility will show you the way through difficult seasons. Humility is sexy.  As your marriage grows, there will be losses, challenges, and some things that you just can’t fix in your own power. Dealing with the storms together is a big part of what relationships are all about. We all mess up. Learning to understand and let go of mistakes that you or your spouse make will turn your life around and foster more time for joy.

5. Pray together.  It doesn’t have to be a prayer that recaps the entire Pentateuch.  Keep it simple. Create moments when there is conversational intimacy that involves you, your spouse, and the Lord. He established the institution of marriage.  It’s only right to keep him in our conversational intimacy.   Spiritual intimacy becomes the fuel for deeper emotional and physical intimacy.  It reconnects you to the One you were designed to be in fellowship with and opens up depths to the rest of our oneness with our spouse.

Keep growing your intimacy.  Keep up the pursuit of your spouse.  Don’t forget the lingerie (referring to this article).

Thanks for letting me ramble…

I only like people who like what I like…and 5 things for @kalamazoofirst

I had to laugh at Rick Warren’s tweet yesterday morning:

“You don’t get credit for only loving people who believe (or vote) like you do.”

We tend to like people who like what we like…we show compassion for them…we cut them slack.

To the others, we criticize. We are short.  We don’t have time for them.  The only time we have is the few moments where we can spout off our opinions in harsh abrasive tones designed to show off our superiority.

Sounds like Jesus right? (please hear that statement in sarcasm)

To steal a phrase from one of our pastors, “that’s lazy christianity”  (thanks Pastor Todd).  It’s lazy and irresponsible to only show patience, kindness, gentleness, etc. to those who earn it and/or deserve it.  When we approach people in that manner, we have perverted the Gospel from the Good News for everyone to the information only for the select.

Sounds like Jesus right? (again with the sarcasm)

Today, go vote.  But more importantly, go show the love of Christ to everyone you encounter. With your words and deeds,  proclaim the Kingdom of Christ in to a lost world.

Before I start preaching…Here are 5 things I want you to know about…

#1 – Go vote. 

#2 – We preached  on “Living in Liberty.” We are challenged everyone to…

1 – stop normalizing our sin…living in such a way that we justify how we live by comparing our sin to others and giving ourselves excuses to not deal with sin.  After all, our sin isn’t as bad as others right?
2 – stop minimizing our sin…living in such a way that we minimize sin so that, even though we don’t always see it, because it’s not been completely closed, it continues to sap strength, power, and potential from us.

According to Romans 13:12, the night is gone and the day is here.  Christ, the light to mankind is in our lives.  It’s time to cast off the deeds of darkness and walk in the freedom of Christ.

This week, choose to let the Lord challenge you.  If you missed the message, download it from iTunes later  or hit our website.

#3 – “Light the Night” outreach was a great success.We had at least 5 families from our Light the Night outreach with us on Sunday. Again I want to thank everyone for helping us reach, conservatively, 800 people in our community.  More importantly, I stood at the altar on Sunday with 7 response cards from adults and kids who gave their hearts to Christ.  What an awesome day!!!

This week, choose to let the Lord challenge you.  Choose to treat people in the way the Lord has treated you. If you missed the message, download it from iTunes later on Monday or hit our website.

If you haven’t signed up, contact us soon!!!  There are limited spots available. LTN is an outreach designed to reach the neighborhood. We have 3 locations in three neighborhoods in close proximity to the church. If you didn’t get a chance to sign up, contact Pastor Todd at todd@kfirst.org. The following Sunday, we’ll be having an Outreach service. Following our “Light the Night” outreach, our Sunday service is completely centered on reaching the people who don’t know Christ in a personal way.  This is a great Sunday to invite your friends.  We’ll have a great service and, I believe, a great response.

#4 – Join us in our prayer initiative for today’s election! We’ll be opening up our prayer room from 9-7.  I’m asking for everyone to come spend an hour in prayer over our country.  I want to challenge you to take some time as an individual and families to pray over our government and local leadership. We will wrap the prayer initiative up with a Night of Worship and Prayer as we pray over our elected officials. 1 Timothy 2 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

#5 – Missions Emphasis is coming up Sunday!!  Every November, we concentrate our focus on outreach (local, national, world). We’re excited to be hosting Andy Raatz, Missionary to Moldova.

Our two-week emphasis will center our hearts upon the lost, increase our passion, and challenged us to get involved.  During our emphasis we’re taking up the challenge to team up with the Kalamazoo Gospel mission.  We’re challenging everyone at Kfirst to bring coats in to bless the mission.

That’s all I have today. Keep pursuing Christ. Cast off sin.  Show the love of Christ to EVERYONE you encounter…not just the people who believe politically what you believe.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

When marriage needs a rectal thermometer!

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Taking temperatures.  Sounds easy doesn’t it.  I’ve seen it done in the ear, armpit, mouth, and yes, taking, in babies, in their rear end.  I did a quick search on this. According to Dr. Samuel D. Clark, Pediatrician at the Waco Pediatric Clinic, “The gold standard for accuracy is still the rectal thermometer.”  Why? It’s considered the most accurate because it “best represents your body’s core temperature and is less influenced by external factors, such as air conditioning or wind.”

I know…you’re wondering:

1. Why is he talking about rectal thermometers?
2. What in the world does it have to do with marriage?

I’ll clarify that in a minute.

I came across a quote early last month from someone I follow on twitter (@1FleshMarriage) that said:

“The temperature of the average marriage is so low that loving couples are accused of having a fever.”

Their response to it was so simple and yet so profound: “turn it up!”  I’ll admit, it took me a few reads to catch what the quote was really saying.  Even reading to to Anne, like me, it had to be read slow to catch what it’s really saying.  The bar has been set so low for marriage that “loving couples” are not the norm.  If fact, these couples are the oddballs.  They are the seen as different.  Sometimes they are despised.  I’ve listened to couples complain about “loving couples” as if to say, “give them time, they’ll get back to reality.

So sad.

What’s sad, is couples will not give themselves the proper marriage temperature check.  Why did I use the rectal thermometer metaphor? Rectal Thermometer:

  • more effort
  • not always clean
  • uncomfortable/awkward
  • most importantly, it’s accurate (less influenced by external factors)

I’ve seen some pretty ornery couples. They refuse to approach the subject as if to check, is the admission that someone is failing…OR…they don’t want any bad news so they keep pushing on.   Taking a temperature of the marriage isn’t easy. It’s putting James 1:19 (as we preached on last Sunday) to practice. “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

Like using a rectal thermometer, taking our marriage temperature:

Takes more effort than you think.  It’s looking for the right timing, with the right tone, with the right mannerisms (non-verbal communication speaks louder than the words we use).  Obviously, bringing up the frequency of your sex-life is not dinner table talk in front of your kids. Your kids will thank you and so will your spouse. Look for opportunities.  Husbands, make the opportunities. Create a place where your wife can be heard. Wives, be vulnerable enough to hear what he thinks.  Take it personal to the point it challenges and not devastates you. To the both of you, take that extra step, and the extra effort.  Why? Your marriage is worth it!
It’s not always clean. It takes a lot of humility to allow your spouse to speak to things you won’t want to hear.  It’s hard to keep from being defensive to hear where I might be lacking. I have to admit that my way of doing things ISN’T the right way all the time.  In my mind, I’m the most romantic man. I’m the most thoughtful man.  I’m the best lover.  I’m the greatest dad.  Taking my marriage temp takes my rose-colored glasses off and releases my idealism from Wonderland.  I may be a pretty great husband (in my mind) but I have to come to grips with the fact that I don’t have it all figured out and I don’t have it all together.
It’s uncomfortable/awkward to communicate growth areas (I like the term “growth areas” over “weaknesses”).  For me, I can’t say I’ve paved the way for criticism.  Like I said, I’m very defensive.  I can make the atmosphere uncomfortable. I take criticism personal.  BUT…when you work hard on opening the communication paths, you and your spouse put the defenses down and see yourselves as iron sharpening iron.  I’m coming up on 15 years being married.  If there’s anything I’ve understood, growth isn’t always comfortable.  Growing pains are tough to deal with.  But those that endure pain will see something great birthed in their marriage.
– But, when it’s done in compassion, humility, and honesty…IT’S ACCURATE. Like a car engine, accurate diagnoses of issues leads to proper upkeep and maintenance.  I had a friend in college to saw a light come on her dashboard and her response was put a quart of oil in her engine.  I still laugh at that.  After filling her engine with quite a bit of oil, she realized that wasn’t even the issue.  Your compassion, humility, and honesty won’t break down your marriage.  It will show you where you need the most work. It will strengthen it to a fever pitch when compared to the “norm.”  I think of these three as the logs in fire that Doc Brown used in Back to the Future III.  Each log boosted the locomotive faster and faster propelling it into the future.   Taking the temp of your marriage isn’t easy. But fostering compassion, humility, and honesty will give you and your spouse amazing revelation to where you are and where to build from.

Take some time to take the temperature of your marriage?  Maybe start with different parts of your marriage? (in no particular order)

  • What’s the temp of your communication?
  • What’s the temp of your quality time together?
  • What’s the temp of your spiritual lives?
  • What’s the temp of your love life?
  • What’s the temp of your laughter?
  • What’s the temp of your ___________?  (you fill in the blank)

For Pete’s sake, stop being normal!!!!  Be abnormal and run your marriage at a fever pitch. Raise the fever of your marriage and watch it infect the marriages around you.

Be accused of having a marriage fever.  TURN UP THE HEAT!!!

Thanks for letting me ramble…

“Admit it…Shut up”

Happy Monday! I’m still laughing at that TRUTH yesterday: “When you’re wrong: Admit it. When you’re right: Shut up.”  I laugh, not because I thought it’d be funny to say.  But I looked at this TRUTH like hitting your elbow; it hurts, but for some reason, laughter is the reaction that comes out.  For me, maybe my laughter is trying to cover up how much it challenged me to lay down my desire to go for the win instead of for the love.

Here are 5 things I want you to know about…

#1 – We wrapped up our “V” series. We are challenged every day by those around us who want to “suck the life” from us. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Yesterday, we dealt with conflict with our message, “Close the Casket.” Genesis 21:33 showed us the tamarisk tree that was planted near the well.  The tree does two things:

1 – Deplete your resources.
2 – Sterilizes the soil. Prevents growth and fruit.

If we don’t deal with conflict, that’s exactly what will happen to our lives.  We camped out on James 1:19, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”  Our approach to conflict isn’t about punishing the other person.  TRUTH: God’s approach isn’t about being fair.  Dealing with conflict is about dealing with others the way Jesus deals with us.  I’m thankful he doesn’t deal with me with what I deserve. It’s about healing.  It’s about grace.  It’s about mercy.

This week, choose to let the Lord challenge you.  Choose to treat people in the way the Lord has treated you. If you missed the message, download it from iTunes later on Monday or hit our website.

#2 – We’re almost done with our reading!! We are reading through the Gospels as a church!

You can pick up a reading plan at the church…OR…you can join us on youversion. I firmly believe, consistent doses of the Word brings heart change. If you need a reminder, sign up for daily emails from this blog and we’ll connect you with the scriptures you need. Today we are reading Mark 12-14.

#3 – “Light the Night” outreach is this Wednesday. If you haven’t signed up, contact us soon!!!  There are limited spots available. LTN is an outreach designed to reach the neighborhood. We have 3 locations in three neighborhoods in close proximity to the church. If you didn’t get a chance to sign up, contact Pastor Todd at todd@kfirst.org. The following Sunday, we’ll be having an Outreach service. Following our “Light the Night” outreach, our Sunday service is completely centered on reaching the people who don’t know Christ in a personal way.  This is a great Sunday to invite your friends.  We’ll have a great service and, I believe, a great response.

#4 – We’re launching a prayer initiative for the upcoming election! On November 5-7, we’ll be opening up our prayer room from 9-7.  I’m asking for everyone to come spend an hour in prayer over our country.  I want to challenge you to take some time as an individual and families to pray over our government and local leadership. We will wrap the three-day up with a Night of Worship and Prayer as we pray over our elected officials. 1 Timothy 2 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

#5 – Missions Emphasis is coming up fast!!  Every November, we concentrate our focus on outreach (local, national, world). We’re excited to be hosting Andy Raatz, Missionary to Moldova.

Our two-week emphasis will center our hearts upon the lost, increase our passion, and challenged us to get involved.  During our emphasis we’re taking up the challenge to team up with the Kalamazoo Gospel mission.  We’re challenging everyone at Kfirst to bring coats in to bless the mission.

That’s all we have today. Keep up on your reading…and keep bringing life to the people around you.  Choose to confront in a Christ-like manner. If you’re wrong: admit it.  If you’re right: shut up.

Thanks for letting me ramble…