Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Threshing Floor Miracles” #OffScript

A screenwriter can spend months, or even years, perfecting a script. However, sometimes, the most iconic lines uttered on the silver screen aren’t the result of a writer at the top of his or her game, but rather an actor offering up some creative ad-libbing. Some of the most iconic moments in movie history were “off script.”

For example:
“Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good.” – Avengers Infinity War
“Here’s Johnny” – The Shining
“Here’s looking at you, kid” – Casablanca
The Joker’s slow clap – The Dark Knight
“I’m king of the world.” – Titanic
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” Jaws

“Off script” seems to be a very apt way to describe what often happens to all of us. Something transpires in our lives that strays away from our intended plan(s). But that’s most of real life happens. It’s “off script”; completely unexpected and unplanned. This June, join us as we head into a story that is everything but “expected” by the people involved. The book of Ruth is canvas to view a beautiful picture of God’s love engaging in our “off scripted” lives.

Check out the service from the website or from the Facebook livestream. 

Other thoughts from the Youversion notes from Sunday:

  • Some of us think we are the main actor in our story. Jesus is the main character; I am an “extra.”
  • God has a plan to redeem every painful thing you’ve gone through.
  • If we can remember what we were like before Christ, we’d have compassion for where people are without Jesus.
  • Jesus came to redeem culture, not to reject it.

Purchase the Scripture Journal of Ruth HERE

Love you all. Have a great week.

BTW: Here’s a great song for the week…

 

 

 

Healing Begins with Forgiveness

Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

Last Sunday at Kfirst was pretty awesome. If you missed it, click here for the Livestream from it.

There’s something about seeing people, in humility, stand and admit, “I’m dealing with bitterness and/or unforgiveness.” There’s something about that step of faith that confronts your own issues in order to see growth and change.

And that’s where healing begins. Forgiveness is where healing begins.

There’s something about an heart that is broken by offense that heals different than a bone that has been broken by an impact. While a bone can heal and you may think nothing of it a year later, an offended heart can think of the offense a year later and want to return to the broken state.

And we in the church world can simply say, “forgive” and it will be all better. While the principle is correct, we misunderstand that forgiving someone is making the daily decision to choose mercy and grace over bitterness and resentment. It is that every day decision to follow Christ and not where our desires want to lead us. 

We forgive as quickly and thoroughly as we’ve been forgiven.

Forgiveness doesn’t validate the one(s) who hurt you. Forgiveness doesn’t justify their hurtful actions toward you or the ones you love. Forgiveness is that choice that says, “Despite what has happened, I refuse to be held captive to the offense. I will show the depth of grace that I have been shown in Christ Jesus.” 

Showing grace and forgiveness releases me.
It saves me.
It sets me free

As I’ve heard it said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness doesn’t mean a trust is rebuilt. It doesn’t mean you don’t have boundaries in the friendship. Grace doesn’t mean the friendship will be (or should be) reconciled. It just means you are no longer living in the prison of bitterness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you get what you want. But forgiveness ushers in the peace, love, strength, wisdom, and honor into a moment that could have left you defensive, bitter, broken, and hurt. 

Today, would you step out and forgive? Would you trust God to get you through this forgiveness journey so that you can finally heal?  I love the words of Isaiah who said, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you” (Isaiah 26:3). He promises to grants us peace when we stop fixing our minds on other “things” and put our trust in Him. 

Be honest with yourself and the Lord. Trust God with your offense. Give your hurt to the Lord through prayer. Say it out loud or journal them out. Lay them at His feet, release the forgiveness, and let the healing begin. 

And tomorrow, if your heart wants to go back to them because it hasn’t fully healed, rinse and repeat.

I love you all. I’m praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble.

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “A Gospel-Centered Marriage” #FromThisDaySeries

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.

Today we kicked off our annual marriage series with our Kfirst community. We looked at what a marriage looks like when the essence of the Gospel is embedded in the marriage.  (Click here for yesterday’s notes.)

Our series is about looking at the daily decision to build our marriage through 4 areas shown in the example of how Jesus (groom) responds to us the Church (bride). We view each of the “4 Pillars” in a light that says, “From this day forward, I choose to grow and strengthen our marriage by asking questions, not from the aspect of “what’s missing” but “where can we start to work.”

  1. Grace
    • Question for my spouse: Do I lack grace in any area?
      • Grace Strengthens – 2 Timothy 2:1
      • Grace Labors – 1 Corinthians 15:10
      • Grace Serves – 1 Peter 4:10
      • Grace Responds – Romans 5:20-21
  2. Sacrifice
    • Question for my spouse: Am I more selfish than sacrificial?
  3. Servanthood
    • Question for my spouse: Is there anything I need to stop or start doing?
  4. Forgiveness
    • Question for my spouse: Is there anything we need to make right?
    • 4 Parts of Forgiveness
      • 1 – Confession “I was wrong…I don’t blame others, I own it”
      • 2 – Sorrow “I am sorry for…” (It’s being sorry for a specific.
      • 3 – Request “Will you forgive me?”
      • 4 – Response “ I forgive you.”

Every one of us have been given a legacy of marriage. There wasn’t a choice about what we have been handed. But we do have a choice about what we will hand the generation that will follow. So we have determined “from this day forward,” we are going to leave a legacy that shows the Gospel of Jesus at the center of our marriage.

This week, would you sit down with your spouse and honestly and humbly ask the four questions? Would you be open to hearing not what YOU lack but what the BOTH of you can work on together?

Love you all.  Join us this Sunday as we continue our annual marriage series “From This Day Forward.”

BTW: Here’s a song for your week!

Talking to Yourself: How Self-talk May Help Your Marriage

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…Proverbs 23:7

I have conversations all day long, 7 days a week. And some of those conversation are actually with people other than myself.  Now, before you click off the blog and pray for me to stop talking to myself so much, you’d probably need to step back and realize how much “self-talk” actually goes on.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, we have approximately 60,000 thoughts per day. What really startled me about this study were these two tidbits of info:

  • 95% of our daily thoughts are the SAME thoughts repeated.
  • On average, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative.

The clinic says, “our brains are hardwired to pay more attention to negative experiences than to positive ones. That’s right, our brains are designed to take in and register negative experiences more deeply than positive experiences.”

That is a lot of negative inner monologue happening; it’s an overwhelming amount of negativity to fixate upon. As I read these stats, I wonder how many marriages are crumbling because we excel at listening to ourselves and are terrible at speaking to ourselves.

“So, you want us to talk to ourselves?”

Well…Yes I do.

Weekly, I have interactions with people who struggle with being defeated not necessarily by what they’re facing but what they’re thinking. Their outward situation can be better than their thoughts, not to sound cliché, but their perception (thoughts) have become their reality. Could it be that the amount of insecurity, anger, fear, and shame we see in our marriage has less to do with what we are facing and more to do with what we are fixing our thoughts upon?

I think a key to being the spouse who God desires and our marriage functioning in a healthy way is learning to talk to ourselves. Let me explain.

Last Sunday, I encouraged our congregation to increase the amount of positive self-talk to help bring our emotions into check. After the service, an attendee told me about a study he had read and forwarded it to me about the scientific perks of talking to yourself. Not only does speaking to yourself help you to be more organized in your tasks, but it gives you a better vision to accomplish what needs to be done.

Isn’t that what David modeled in Psalm 42-43?  In this, of my favorite biblical passages, the psalmist says (my paraphrase),

You listen to me soul; here’s how it’s going to go: You’re going to hope in God. Keep holding on to hope, walk in obedience, remember who you are in Him.

By just listening to his mental and emotional state, he was bummed out.  Instead of being a victim of his thoughts, he took matter in his own hands. He spoke to himself the same words, 3 times, in two chapters and raised his focus to accomplish what he needed to. Simply said: Your mind feeds on what you focus on. And David knew that healthy (Godly) self-talk directs your frame of mind.

What if the change you are looking for in your marriage began, not with talking to your spouse, but with talking to yourself? Good communication is the cornerstone of marriage. But what if we viewed good marital communication that included good self-talk about our marriage? What type of self-talk should we have?

And David was greatly distressed…But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.1 Samuel 30:6

My challenge this week: Instead of listening to the negative thoughts, talk out loud to yourself about your marriage. As the Cleveland Clinic says, “Our ability to generate explicit self-instructions is actually one of the best tools we have for cognitive control, and it simply works better when said aloud.

What type of things do you need to say to yourself out loud (probably without people around)? 

  • How/why you fell in love with your spouse.
  • Find is right about your marriage instead about fixating about what is wrong.
  • Rehearse good memories.
  • Yours and your spouse’s identity in Christ.
  • Areas you, personally, want to grow in (instead of focusing on what your spouse needs to change).
  • The truth of God’s Word.
  • Encouragement (over you and your spouse).

How much better would the mental state of our marriage be if, like David, we learned to speak to ourselves and took control of our thoughts. It’s time to open up our mouths and take back our thoughts from what the Devil has been doing to our marriage. It’s time to talk to ourselves.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

(^^^imagine if we did those three things to ourselves with good self talk?)

 

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…

Pastor to Pastor: 4 Next steps to follow when a fellow pastor has failed.

My heart is broken this morning. Sitting in a pool of tears in a coffee-house this morning, I’m sure I must be concerning the baristas and customers looking my way.  

All morning, I’ve been fine, but sitting down and reading articles about the resignation of a favorite pastor of mine has brought be to a very humbling place.  The news came to me yesterday after a great morning at Kfirst.

Perhaps the shock of it has now settled in after 24 hours of processing it.
Perhaps my own humanity gets realized in these moments.
Perhaps the love for the church I serve is so immense that I’m examining EVERY area of my life today as to make sure I’m reflecting Christ and His Kingdom.

(A boy just walked by me looking at me weird…seriously, I was fine when I left the house.)

So when I struggle to fully grasp or comprehend something, I journal and I blog. It’s my way to work out my thoughts. Why? Because if you’ve been living under a rock, you don’t know that rawness has gotten the best of people on social media and caused more havoc by escalating situations more than needed. (I’d highly recommend a journal as to protect you and your friends from thoughts and emotions yet to be hashed out.)

This hurting pastor doesn’t know me. We’ve tweeted back and forth a few times but that doesn’t make us BFFs. How God has used him in the Kingdom has inspired me and the church he leads has (and continues to ) challenge me. I will not use his name nor refer to the church out of respect for both of them…

But my brokenness isn’t exclusive to just his resignation. It happens with EVERY situation like this. I love pastors. I’ve been a broken pastor before. I am here because of men and women who wouldn’t abandon me in my fracture but spoken into my wounded heart and mind (Luke 10:33-37).

What also breaks my heart is knowing the amount of “carnivorous christians” that will smell blood in the water. There are people who crave these moments. They whore themselves to the attention they get from stirring the pot so that they can promote their self-righteousness. They claim to be about the Kingdom but only care about building an empire that revolves around the box they have placed Christ and His Word into. Instead of rallying to the broken, instead of humbling ourselves and checking our own hearts, they abandon and even attack the hurting. I can sit and point the finger at them, but that tendency lies in all of us. So I say to US ALL…

Brothers and Sisters, this should not be (James 3:10).

So, in blog style, I’ve sat down and begin to pen out next steps for me.  

What is a minister’s response when a fellow minister has failed?

1 – Rally to the broken. The enemy works in isolation; God works in community. We need to be quicker to sit in the dirt with those who are broken rather than stand around ready to hurl rocks (John 8:1-11). We need more advocates in the Kingdom instead of accusers. I may not have a personal relationship with this pastor (or others), but I doesn’t stop me from responding to their pain.  Which brings me to #2…

2 – Pray for the broken. There is a fractured minister. He/she has a hurting marriage and family. There is a hurting congregation. You don’t have to know the details to pray. Don’t allow the desire for “the dirt” be deeper than the desire to pray. Let the Spirit of God pray through you. Let Him give you the words to say. Be obedient to pray when He prompts you.

3 – Stop the attacks. Don’t facilitate infection but be a source of healing. The Good Samaritan had the perfect response of “pouring on oil and wine.” Oil was the soothing agent to remove pain. Wine was the antiseptic to stop further infection. Let your response do both.

4 – Stay humble and learn. These moments that should bring us to a place of humility. They remind us that none of us are exempt from temptation. The Bible gives so many examples of men and women who failed.  And for a majority of them (if not all), it was in a place of isolation, hunger, and/or exhaustion. To every minister of the Gospel (this is a message I’d like to preach to pastors):

  • Have accountability. I love my board. (I don’t always do well communicating how much I value my present and past board members for their wisdom and insight. Despite my demeanor, deep down they are blessed and wise men and women of God and I am very thankful for them).  BUT you desperately need ministers who are IN the trenches and those who WERE in the trenches. Have the presence of both Paul (mentors) and Barnabas (peers) in your life who have permission to ask or inquire of ANYTHING in your life/marriage/family.
  • Don’t stop being teachable. Learn from others regardless of age, denomination, or size of their ministry.
  • Guard your heart against competition; keep the critical attitude at bay.
  • Don’t spread gossip in the name of prayer requests.
  • Keep yourself spiritually fed. Spend time in the Word. Have personal worship time. Listen to podcasts.
  • Get rest. Have good sleep habits. Date your spouse. Have time with your children. Vacation without guilt. Rest may be the most fruitful thing you can do for your ministry.

Would you spend some of your day today in prayer over fellow ministers? If you are struggling WITH temptation and/or struggling IN temptation, would you reach out to someone? If you have no one, I’d be glad to pray for ya. Hit me up in a message or DM on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t feel like you have to be alone.

We must be about the Kingdom. And it won’t happen if we are devouring our own. It’ll happen when we bind the broken and heal the hurting. And those we lead, will follow our example.

Love you all.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: This was the song I’ve been listening to during my blogging today: 

Broken Trust: 8 Ways to rebuild trust back into your marriage.

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds Psalm 147:3

Trust is a necessary element and is the foundation of every healthy relationship. In fact, trust is the security that makes intimacy possible in marriage. Like an organism, it must be nurtured and not ignored. My dad taught me years ago.  

“Trust is like fine china; it’s beautiful to have but it can be broken quickly.  And to fix it, it takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to put it back together.”

That’s stuck with me for years.  I don’t know any other accurate way to describe the value and fragility of trust.

I’ve never met a relationship that hasn’t encountered difficulties with trust.  I would even argue that most difficulties in relationships stem directly from a breach of trust.  I’m not saying everyone has had devastating circumstances, but we all have had moments where trust, on some level, has been compromised.

Marriage requires strong trust.  So I’m giving you a list that may give you a few ways to build it (or rebuild it).

1 – Trust does not equal forgiveness. Forgiveness and trust are two different things. When you’ve been wronged, you should give forgiveness instantly (which is “Grace”), but you should build your trust slowly. Forgiveness by it’s very nature cannot be earned; it can only be given. Therefore, we forgive the way God forgives us: instantly. Trust by it’s very nature cannot be given; it can only be earned…built. For that, it takes time and effort (reference the opening illustration about the cup). Forgiveness has to come first and then grace can pave the way to restoration and renewed trust.

2 – Stop dancing around the subject.  Be open and honest. Take responsibility.  “The devil made me do it doesn’t work.” Healthy steps forward begins with complete and utter transparency. The offender must own his or her sin without any “yeah-buts.” It’s not okay to say, “I’m sorry I hurt you and let you down, but . . . ” It’s never okay to rationalize or justify sin. Ever. The only way to rebuild trust is to take full responsibility for our actions. Period. It’s also critical for the offended person to do some self-assessment as well. Broken trust is rarely 100% the other person’s fault.

3 – Humility is king.  We love to cover up the embarrassment of our faults.  Don’t be defensive, righteous, or casual about the problem. It’s nothing more than a smoke screen trying to distract away from what needs to be dealt with. There must be a sincere heart as well as honest effort to work out the issues.  If you are the one who is at fault, the more defensive/righteous/casual you are, the less you are able to hear what your spouse has to say, and the worse their hurt will get.

4 – Don’t obsess.  Whether you were wronged or you were the perpetrator, take steps forward by letting go of the past. When you obsess over each insult, each act, each thing done wrong – you are not giving yourself time to heal from it. You need to heal in order to begin to trust again.  If you’re hurt by your spouse’s actions, work on releasing and moving forward.  Living in the past continues to open up the wound.  If you’re the one who did the hurting, stop fixating on your fault.  If God has forgiven you and your spouse has forgiven you, then you need to forgive YOU.

5 – Accountability; Be an open book. That means open your cell phone, calendar, email, and social media to your spouse. (Free Marriage Tip: Anytime you are feeling the need to hide something from your spouse should be a red flag…unless it’s a surprise birthday gift.) Accountability is usually the hardest part. Why? People feel entitled to privacy. The problem is that smacks against the “oneness” that marriage is called to operate in.  Be willing to temporarily give up some freedoms.  At this point, you will need to take a moment and ask yourself what is really important: your relationship or your privacy? It really comes down to that.

6 – Patience and hard work.  Time doesn’t heal everything but it applies to every part of the healing process.  Just as you can’t make a wound on your arm heal, you can’t make the heart heal overnight.  A gift doesn’t make the hurt go away. Sex doesn’t make the problem disappear.  You need a patience heart, listening ears, and intentional and consistent actions that will aid in the rebuilding of trust.   Set some goals.  Work on them together.  Review the results and reward the efforts (not the results).  

7 – Practice the three As daily: Affection, Attention and Appreciation. Communicate with words and actions to your partner how much you love and appreciate them in big and small ways every day.  Speak in their love languages and help them understand you are desiring health and healing.  If you are the offended, your spouse feels like a failure and you do NOT want to keep them there.  If you are the offender, make sure you stay engaged with your spouse.  Let them know you are a trust-builder more than a trust-breaker.

8 – Get some help.  Don’t be afraid to seek out counseling with a trusted advisor whether it’s a marriage counselor or a pastor.  Even though it’s easy to get help from a friend, you need to find someone who is non-partial and as some wisdom to speak some Godly wisdom into your marriage.  Make sure the help is for the both of you.  (Another marriage tip:  avoid involving other family members because it can exacerbate the situation.)

I return to our opening scripture, 

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds Psalm 147:3

I believe everything we do in life should model who God is. He is the healer of brokenness.  He doesn’t leave us in a fractured state.  And just as God moves toward us in that manner, we should model that in every area of our life…ESPECIALLY our marriage.

Be a rebuilder of trust. Bind up the brokenness in your marriage.

Be known as a healer…just like our savior is.  

Thanks for letting me ramble…