Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Incubated not Ignored” #DreamsAndDrama

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

Sunday, we started our fall series at Kfirst. Every September, we study a specific person in scripture and this year we’ve landed on Joseph.

He’s a brother sold into slavery. A slave who faced trials and temptation. A prisoner innocent of any crime. A wise man, full of integrity, elevated to a position of influence amongst his enemies. This is the story of Joseph.

Sunday, we continued this “dreamer’s” story. Now in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, God is blessing him in the place of his incarceration. It is here where “isolation” begins to test the dreams he’s had.

Check yesterday out either from the website or from the Facebook livestream:

Other thoughts from the Youversion notes from Sunday:

  • The darkest moments you face can develop the deepest strength of your faith.
  • “Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.” Winston Churchill
  • Our ideas of God’s goodness often get in the way of actually seeing God’s goodness.
  • God sometimes uses broken dreams to lead us down the path to arrive at a better dream.
  • God is the ultimate recycler of broken dreams.
  • God awakens your deeper desires in dark moments.
  • I don’t know how my story will unfold, but I know my story will unfold with God with me.

Love you all. Have an amazing week.

BTW: Here’s the new song for you from Sunday.

Easing the Frustration: Creating Marital Change 7 Days at a Time

Ever been frustrated with your spouse? Yep.
Every been discouraged in your marriage? Me to.
Every been disappointed in your mate? Never.
Would Anne have answered these in a similar way? Absolutely (with the exception that she’d tell the truth on question #3).

Congrats. You have a very normal and a very human marriage.  Yet I get so many messages from people who are dealing with normal marital challenges but feel discouraged and hopeless. First, there’s that overwhelming sensation that what your marriage is experiencing is exclusive to just you and your spouse. And second, there’s the feeling of frustration in the tension of in the scope of where you want to be and where you are at currently.

I get it. Welcome to being human where we can easily develop the tendency to focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right. We get caught up in a moment instead of looking at the larger scale. The measurement of our progress is based upon where we haven’t arrived instead of how far we’ve come.

There is a lingering image of what life/marriage “should be” that is casts a shadow over where you are now. And that’s the place I want to shed some light of hope. I wanted to build on last week’s blog as we talked about what the future of your marriage looks like. I’d like to help remove that sinking feeling of “things will never change” into progressive steps forward 1 week at a time.

I’ve been pondering Genesis 1 lately. Early in the chapter, we find a description of the state of things.

The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2

What do you see? 
It’s easy to look at our marriage and list out what we can only detect with our limited finite senses. From the look of things, your marriage can look “formless,” feel “empty,” and seem as if “darkness” is covering your potential. But this is where you have to see things from the perspective of God. He brings light into these moments, not to expose our shortcomings but to unleash our potential. Which leads me to my next thought…

God isn’t afraid of your chaos. He draws close in it. 
Wrap your head around that. In the midst of a “formless,” “empty,” and “darkness covered” moment, we find that the Holy Spirit wasn’t distant. He was there just “over the surface.” The original Hebrew could also be translated as “in the face of.” When this world was nothing more than chaos, God came face to face with it to create something magnificent. It seems like it’s out of that understanding that the Psalmist writes,

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18

God doesn’t distant himself from your chaos and struggles. He’s there AND He is ready to create something. That truth should stand in the face of the very feelings of isolation and hurt, frustration and hopelessness. Your chaos does not nor can it distract, intimidate, or repel God. He is drawn to those who need Him and He reading to make things beautiful in His time.

7 days of creation and the work had only begun.
Genesis 1:1-2:1, we see the story of creation. From the foundations to walk upon, the things to be sustained with, to life itself, everything came into being in the matter of 7 days. And as I read that, I thought to myself: what if we approached our marriage journey 1 week at a time? Instead of being consumed by everything that needs to change, we if we implemented change 7 days at a time? I think there’s a beauty to the practicality of marriage 1 week at a time. For those who have a hard time looking at your daily marital struggles, it broadens your vision beyond merely surviving 24 hours at a time. For others who’ve lost hope in a dream of “what could be,” it narrows your vision placing tangible, progressive steps toward where your marital vision resides.

What can you see created in your marriage by tackling it 7 days at a time? My thought: Boundless possibilities. Not only do we see the creative power of God in Genesis 1, but we see He made us in His image. We are (and can be) creative because He is the Creator. And through Him, we can have creative power in our homes.

Imagine with me. What if you chose ONE thing to do for a week? What could you create in your marriage by practicing a healthy Godly habit in a practical and consistent?

What atmosphere could you create if you took a week to speak nothing but encouragement instead of criticism. What image could you create of your marriage if you took a week to invest in your spouse’s love language with zero expectation in return? What level of spiritual intimacy could you create if you took a week to pray over your spouse before work or before bed? What type of closeness could you experience if you dedicated your marriage to 7 days of sexual intimacy (some of you are tired out from that thought alone)? It is so simple and practical. So much creative change can happen with a simple 7-day approach. Not only is that attainable, but it build tremendous marriage momentum into the following week of possibility.

In the face of what may seem “formless,” “empty,” and “darkness covered,” step out and start creating. I believe God want to work in you marriage. And I also believe that He wants to work through you IN your marriage. Dedicate the next week for you two to pray over your marriage. Ask each other about the types of things you both want to see changed and/or grown in your relationship. Pick one, look at the next week, and take intentional Godly steps forward into it.

Like Genesis, you may discover that after a week, the work wasn’t done. It was only getting started.

 

Love you all. Praying for you as the two of you sit down, pray, and tackle creative growth 1 week at a time.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

 

How Would Your Spouse Describe You? 3 Steps To Help Reshape Their Answer

I have a fascination with photography. Maybe a part of it is because my daughter has developed into an amazing photographer. I love how passionate she is and that she’s using it to get to go to a mission’s trip to Thailand (shameless plug for her).

Love my daughter's creative eye. Obviously, this was in Washington DC.
Love my daughter’s creative eye. Obviously, this was in Washington DC.

I think the fascination is also fed because we have so many great photographers in our church community. Whenever I hit up Facebook, I see their work and find myself clicking on their pics, being proud of how gifted they are, and being bit envious of the “eye” they have for seeing what they see. If you ever need to get connect to one of them, I’d be happy to give references.

The other day, I was on my admin’s Facebook site (CXN Photography) and their posting caught my eye and stirred a blog thought.

Screen Shot
Screen Shot of CXN Photography.

What a cool idea and an amazing exercise for ANY couple to do. I asked Nicole about it and she told me how fun it was to describe your spouse and insightful it was to see how our spouse would describe you.

I sat back and thought, “If someone asked Anne to describe me, what would she say?” I would hope for things like, “He’s the sexiest man alive.” or “He’s a great husband, dad, preacher, etc.” What Colin and Nicole posted got my mind going into a such fun direction. Quite honestly, I may steal this idea as I think it’d be a blast to give to couples.

Then I found my mind going a bit deeper with it.

Instead of wondering what Anne would say, I asked myself, “what would a brutal honest exercise like this look like based on the material I give her to work with?” What was a fun little moment turned into a bit of a sober, introspective thought. So often in marriage, we are quick to place blame our spouse for what is/isn’t happening when, perhaps, we need to ask about the material we’re giving them to work with.

Sometimes I have to remind myself: I may not be the easiest thing to live with.

I know your spouse isn’t perfect (or any where close). But tossing blame is a childish game designed to shift the focus and responsibility upon someone else. It becomes our excuse to refuse to change until we see him/her change. Now, I won’t give a “permission-slip” to spouses for inappropriate or unhealthy actions, but I believe if I want to see change, then change starts with me. Perhaps, if couples exercised personal humility, they’d find an easier job experiencing marital unity (Proverbs 18:2). Why? Because you’d be working with material that is shapable instead of hardened with pride. It’s why scripture says,

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15

I’ve heard it said, “Humility is not thinking ‘less’ of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” So, today, I want to give you some great, simple steps to help develop some humility that will leverage marital health. The more humility you exercise, the more opportunity you have to grow. And from this, perhaps, you’ll begin to change how your spouse sees you and your marriage.

Ask for insight. If you know the motive of an individual, you know how to receive or trust what they have to say. First, ask the Holy Spirit for insight into your heart. Because our actions and words pour out of our heart. His motive for you is complete, unconditional love and we can trust that if He shows us something that needs to be tweaked or changed, He has our best interest at hand. I love the words of the Psalmist who said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

Second, if you trust that your spouse loves you, then ask him/her about areas of personal growth. Don’t approach it from an aspect of “what areas to I lack in?” but “what areas do I need to grow stronger in?” I feel a positive and affirming approach facilitates momentum and encourages humility.  If you’re only doing this to get your spouse you respond the same way, you’re missing the point of the exercise and your motive is no longer selfless. Be the change; be an example.

Own your mistakes. Like a plow hitting harden soil, owning your faults will prepare for the investments of time, energy, and resource. Take the energy you use to defend yourself and redirect it into owning mistakes and asking forgiveness. Why waste time trying to defend what shouldn’t be defended. Own them, repent of them, and quit living in them.

Invest in healthy habits. At Kfirst, we’ve been saying every week that “Healthy habits create holy moments.” In other words, you can see God-moments happen in your life when you position yourself to walk in a healthy manner. Habits like:

  • Working on communication skills (just because you talk a lot doesn’t mean you communicate well).
  • Forgiving as Christ forgave.
  • Encouraging your spouse often.
  • Pray for AND with your spouse.
  • Getting proper rest.
  • Showing gratitude frequently.
  • consistent dates.

First, healthy habits are intentionally created and developed over time. We, naturally, flow toward what fits “self” and not what speaks to others. So you need to look at your daily and weekly life and be intentional about finding ONE area and making the change there.

Second, habits grow well in an atmosphere of accountability. Get help from a trusted source to both encourage you and inquire of your progress. Find a counselor. Get a mentor. But have that objective Godly source that you can be honest with and can keep you connected on the road to health.

For some of you, the question “How would your spouse describe you?” is not something that you could ask out loud. But, perhaps, it’s a question that can direct you toward some deeper introspective questions to foster some personal and marital growth.

I love you all. I’m praying for you today.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed Hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Pastor to Pastor: 10 Ways I Keep My Passion to Pastor

From the get-go: If you are a pastor struggling with your passion, then I am writing this to encourage you.

I love being a pastor. And, more specifically, I love pastoring Kfirst.

I don’t just say that flippantly. I’m not just speaking by faith some word into existence hoping my feelings catch up to it. Nor am I trying to “prove anything” to myself or anyone else. I genuinely love pastoring this amazingly awesome and imperfect church. But this isn’t just me. In the wake of hearing the other day, once again, the statistic of well over a 1000 pastors resigning every month, I have recently come across other pastors and missionaries who feel exactly what I feel about where God has called them.

My minister friends, this is how it should be.

I’ll admit, in the past, I’ve been skeptical of others who were a little bit “too passionate” about ministry. I thought they were either newer or were not facing any of the type of challenges that I was dealing with. I’d find myself avoiding them as they, quite frankly, annoyed me. But, if I were to be really honest, it wasn’t them personally that bothered me. It was the envy in my heart for what they had and what I lacked. It was a tough place to minister out of because my happiness was dependent upon everything else BUT the Lord.

Having a passion about ministry doesn’t equate to massive numbers or packed events (though I do enjoy both). Possessing deep joy doesn’t necessarily depend upon any denomination (or lack thereof), title, or church. This overwhelming sensation is all about being where God placed you and the joy of walking obedience to Him.

Deep passion doesn’t mean you don’t face tough seasons. I’ve come to realize that the more you want to do for the Lord, the greater the giants you’ll face. Personally, Kfirst still faces the challenge of an aging building and a community still growing into it. We’re still trying to discover how to stop being so “program-dependent” and develop the systems needed to facilitate personal discipleship and corporate growth.  I get frustrated that people want an event to do outreach corporately but refuse to do it personally. Do you still get hurtful comments? Me too. From unsigned cowardly notes to those making critical comments to me right before the service starts (sucks to preach with that on your mind).  These things happen in ministry. You are human. So are the people you minister to. And I believe that all of these things are pivot points in which we can live in frustration or continue pivot forward toward what God has called you to do.

So I sit back in my parent’s cabin and thought I’d pen-out (type out) some of the changes that I feel the Holy Spirit challenged me to make over the past 4-5 years that, I believe have stoked my passion:

  1. I tweaked my prayers from “Lord change the people in my church” to “Lord, let the change start with me.”
    • It may sound cliché, but “be the change.” Don’t expect something in your congregation that you are not opening to doing. My passion for change in people is fueled by the work the Holy Spirit is doing in me.
  2. I got back to journaling. 
    • This has been a game-changer to passion in my personal life and sermon prep. It has helped me process thoughts as I’m in the Word or reflecting over things the Lord has laid upon my heart. Passion, unrealized is potential. And potential is nothing unless it is accessed and released.
  3. I started running. 
    • Passion is fed on every level (spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional). For me, this was more than just “getting in shape.” Though the physical health benefits have helped me, there are tremendous emotional and mental ramifications to getting exercise.  Besides, a spend time on my runs talking to the Lord and spending time listening to Him.
    • SIDE NOTE: You’re congregation need you to take care of yourself.  A healthier leader = better preacher and stronger leader.
  4. I stopped leading ministries. 
    • My passion was depleting as it was being spent in so many directions. I needed to listen to Paul’s word to Ephesus when he said to, “equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church.” We pastors should be pouring into people and launching leaders. The more we step back and allow people to step up, the less the church will be about us and the more it will be about Jesus.
  5. I changed my “hours of operation.”
    • I literally love waking up passionate about what I do and I don’t wait till 9 to start work. I’m focused and creative in the early mornings and can get so much accomplished before the sun comes up. In saying that, most of my evenings are spoken for as most people who I need to connect to work during the day.  I’ve creatively approached my hours to create margin for marriage, family, and ministry.
  6. I frequent the same local businesses during the week.
    • It’s easy to get lost in your office and never see the light of day. From where I get my coffee in the mornings, to lunches, to where I go to get my haircut, I want to engage with people in our community. I’ve learned their stories, brought them donuts, developed friendships, and get to do one of their weddings.
  7. I give people the benefit of the doubt. 
    • I was wasting passion fixating on assuming the worst. A simple rule: assume the best in others. I needed to learn to look at people, not through the surface lens of my perspective but how the Lord looks at them. This deeper look into people literally changed my attitude overnight. It’s helped me look for ways to build bridges for healing instead of destroying relationships by disregarding personalities. Which leads me to…
  8. I’ve stopped being so serious all the time. 
    • Looking for the negative in life is like catching a cold; you don’t have to do anything to get it. I like looking for the lighter side of  life. Yes, I know reaching people is a serious thing, but I’ve learned that for people, laughter is a bridge to the seeing the heart of God. Personally, amusement has become my best medication to frustration and depression. I believe one of the most spiritual things you can do is laugh. We as pastors should be conduits of joy and not hammers of judgement.
  9. I study pastors/churches.
    • I used to get depressed looking at the successes of pastors and/or churches as my own pastoral insecurities got the best of me.  I was missing out on the wealth of creativity and Kingdom-building ideas that God was doing around the world. I want to sit and listen to pastors. I want to read their books and listen to their podcasts.   I’ve recognized that I can AND need to learn from everyone regardless of their age, experience, church size, or denomination. We should be a Kingdom of collaboration and not a group of “Religious Silos.”
  10. I stopped fighting change. 
    • I don’t look to change for the sake of “change.” But I’m doing my best to not give God an excuse every time He starts testing my comfort zone. I was depleting my passion by wasting strength fighting God on keeping the things I didn’t want to change. The more I’ve opened up to the change He wants to make, the more joy has been released in my life and in ministry.

Sorry this was so long. But this has been burning in my heart over the past month (as it’s taken me a month to finish journaling about it).

My prayer for you is that of David in Psalm 51:12,

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”

Ask God to do a new work of passion in you. And as He leads you, follow with willingness. As you become more passionate, so will the congregations you lead.

Love you. Praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Our Kfirst Values: Growth requires change

I started a series a few weeks back about the values of our church community. Here at Kfirst, our mission is our passion:  We make it simple for people to find and follow Jesus. And our values guide us towards that goal.

Check out last weeks by clicking on the value statement:

Week 1 – Everyone is Significant.

Week 2 – We are Contributors

Week 3 – God Works in Community.

Week 4 – We keep it fun.

This week…Growth requires change.

Growth Requires Change

“Growth requires Change and Change creates Growth.” – Dee Ann Turner VP of Corporate Talent at Chick-fil-A

Everything we do requires change.  And the more we facilitate change, we see growth.

From committing our lives to Jesus Christ, to the normal things in life. Marriage, family, school, jobs, if we desire to grow, it’s going to require change. If we embrace change, it will cause us to grow. Therefore, it can be said, change is a constant in our lives. And if we can remain flexible and teachable before God, not only will we experience change, but we’ll foster consistent growth.

Of all of the things that have happened during appointments in my office, there are very few things that will make me interrupt them and end the appointment right then and there. One situation, in particular, is when words like this are used:

“I’m not going to change.”

Why end the appointment? Because there’s no point going on. Without a healthy mindset that is open to change, we are really both wasting our breath. A healthy mindset is a teachable mindset.  A lack of teachability is a lack of humility. A lack of humility creates a culture of no change. No change is a place of stagnation. And stagnation leads to death.

It could be death of…

…your passion.
…your motivation.
…your hope.
…a relationship.
…a position.
…a ministry.

And we can either live with the inevitable result of stagnation or we can counteract the direction with the remedy for stagnation:

Change.

For those of you, like me, that don’t naturally embrace change, please note that change does NOT mean:

Something is broke.
Something is wrong.
Something is sinful.
Something is useless.
A massive shift in another direction.

Change doesn’t have a certain look or weight. In fact, the only consistent thing about change is that it is terribly inconsistent. Sometimes it’s a slight adjustment. Sometimes it is a massive shift. Think about how Jesus dealt with his disciples. There were moments of simple, slight change adjustments. Then there were moments where Jesus challenged their thinking and methodology with massive change to go into other directions.  Following Jesus requires changes both big and small. And the more flexible and teachable we are with Him, we’ll see greater growth in our lives.

In the Upper Room, Jesus washed the feet of his 12 followers. The bible says, 

When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!” John 13:6-9

I, personally, love the response of Peter. He didn’t fully grasp what was taking place. But his response was, “I’m not sure what you’re doing or what you’re changing, but don’t limit it to my feet. Wash/change every part of me.”

As yourself today, “Am I open to change and/or do I limit change?” Here at Kfirst, we believe that Jesus is what is sacred; everything else is in His hands to change and grow the way he desires. Like Peter in the Upper Room, we say “Lord, don’t stop with one area. Change what you want, when you want, and how you want. For your honor and for your glory.” 

We embrace change. It’s the only constant because Jesus is constant. And to follow Him is to embrace the changes he brings for personal and church community growth.