Three Lessons In Three Years

3Lessons

My daughter Adahlae had a birthday yesterday. She’s now three years old. No longer a toddler, now a little girl.

We waited a long time for her, and she’s proven to be worth the wait.

She’s articulate, funny, and full of life. If you get to spend a day with her, you’ll laugh hard and play hard. She’ll celebrate you, encourage you, and love you in a way that’s vulnerable and beautiful.

I love being her Daddy, and that endeavor has taught me a few things I’d like to share with you…

#1 – You’re not in control.

Perhaps it was the multiple trips to the ER during Amanda’s pregnancy, where she had kidney stones and great amounts of pain. I think there were three trips, and during every ride to the ER I got angry and acted like a jerk. Things had gotten out of control.

Maybe it was around Adi’s first birthday when we gave her her first peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She had an anaphylactic reaction to the peanuts, and we hurried our nearly passed out child with swelling lips to the ER.

So many times I’ve felt completely helpless with her.

That’s not a bad feeling, because it reminds me that she’s not mine. Adahlae Grace belongs to Jesus, and He is always in control.

Jesus is in control even when we don’t understand what’s happening. He’s in control when our little ones suffer with an illness, even a chronic illness.

#2 – Choose carefully what you trust.

My wife calls describes having your first baby as being admitted into the “Mommy Club.” As she recalls it, there was an almost immediate flood of parental camaraderie and advice.

There’s a lot of wonderful parent advice out there.

That’s the unique thing about parenthood: it’s a very common experience that many people from all walks of life and cultures all over the world share.

When you become a parent, you’ll get advise from every one. Even those well meaning, however ignorant, friends that don’t have kids.

What well will you go to draw the water than gives life to your family?

If you don’t trust Jesus first, you’ll lead your kids towards a life that doesn’t look anything like the life that Jesus wants for them.

If they’re His kids and we’re just stewards of them for a while, let’s trust Him first.

#3 – Kids are won over with time.

My daughter loves every toy she has.

I’m sure that if we charted her playtime, there would be great equity in the time she devotes to different toys.

You cannot give her a toy without her being EXTREMELY grateful and happy.

However, she cares a lot less about her toys than she does her Mommy and her Daddy (and her MeeMaw & her Grammy who watch her during the week).

She actually views her toys as treasures to share with us. She finds little value in playing with them by herself.

Adahlae was born a little over one year before we started Vortex. In her lifetime there have been weeks where I’ve worked hard and had less time for her. During those season’s I’ve noticed her heart slipping away.

I cannot buy her heart back with gifts.

It can only be won with my time.

Isn’t that how God loves us?

Jesus stepped into time to dwell and live amongst us. It is that closeness that creates the opportunity for us to know Him.

The greatest gift God ever gave us was Himself.

The greatest give we’ll ever give our kids is the same.

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What lessons have you learned as a parent? Share them by leaving a comment below:

You Can’t Take It With You

I read a story on Bill Gate’s management style several years ago. Apparently his employees measured how good their product or performance reviews went based on how many times he said the F-Bomb.

Anything under 20 was a good review.

Studying Bill Gates early days a Microsoft informs you that he was very driven, rarely satisfied, and highly demanding. You might say that he still is.

These days Bill’s driven by a different dream: to give generously and make a difference in this world.

Along with his wife, Gloria, they established the Bill Gates Foundation in the late 90s, an organization dedicated to giving away billions of dollars to make a difference globally.

In a recent interview, the Gates shared a lot about their endeavors to give away their money and make a difference.

Here’s a few things I noticed….

#1 – They’re not going to leave their kids a lot of money. 

Based on studies that show giving kids a rich inheritance is quite unhealthy for them, the Gates have made the decision to give their children “the freedom to do whatever they feel led to do, but with the knowledge that their work is necessary for society and themselves.”

#2 – They’ve committed to give away 95% of their wealth before they die. 

This is staggering, considering that Bill Gates is worth 76 billion dollars. That’s an awful lot of money to be given away, and a huge opportunity to do good.

You might think… “Hey, I’d give that much money away if I was that rich.” That’s not always true. Even those with limited incomes can be extremely generous.

Generosity only exists when it’s a priority.

#3 – Giving has changed their lives. 

Bill Gates says in this interview: “Giving away our wealth is the most satisfying thing we’ve ever done.” That’s coming from a man who invented the personal computer, pioneered the software development that made computers central to business, and is one of the richest men in the world.

God’s plan is that we give sacrificially, generously, and joyfully.

God doesn’t want that from you. He wants it FOR YOU, because it will change your life!

Here’s the video of the interview with the Gates: 

Hobby Lobby Wins Contraception Case With Supreme Court

Here’s the breaking story on Hobby Lobby from TIME.COM.

Whenever Christians are in the news fighting for religious freedom I always try to ask two questions:
Question #1 – What did we gain?
Question #2 – What did we lose?

I’m afraid that more often than not what we lose is far greater than what we gain in our public bickering.

In this case (the Hobby Lobby one), I’m personally quite happy with the ruling of the Supreme Court. Freedom is compelling thing, religiously or in how we run our businesses.

Freedom is what makes America unique.

That’s what we celebrate this time of year, isn’t it?

July 4th celebrates our declaration of independence and freedom from political tyranny.

The Gospel is all about declaring independence and freedom from sin.

Freedom is powerful thing. It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth celebrating.

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What do you think Christians gained through the Hobby Lobby case?

What did we lose?

Leave a comment below and let me know your opinion.

Saturday Selections – June 28th

Here are a few articles I’ve ran across recently that I found to be worth the read.

The Silver Lining of Awkwardness by Sammy Rhodes (on relevant.com)

Read more by CLICKING THIS LINK.

Here’s a quote from the article:

Awkwardness may make us laugh when it comes to other people, but when it comes to ourselves, it can make us paranoid and extremely self-conscious. We’re haunted by visions of friends locking eyes after a party and whispering “He’s so awkward” about us. That’s why some have said there’s a new scarlet letter: “A” for “Awkward.”

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Moralism is Not The Gospel by Albert Mohler

Read more by CLICKING THIS LINK.

Here’s a selection from the article:

The seduction of moralism is the essence of its power. We are so easily seduced into believing that we actually can gain all the approval we need by our behavior. Of course, in order to participate in this seduction, we must negotiate a moral code that defines acceptable behavior with innumerable loopholes. Most moralists would not claim to be without sin, but merely beyond scandal. That is considered sufficient.

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Men Like Women With Less Makeup by Alexandra Sifferlin (on Time.com)

Read more by CLICKING THIS LINK.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

New research published in theQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology found that people’s perceptions of what men and women find attractive are off. And even though many women decide to wear makeup to make themselves “more” attractive, they may be overdoing it.

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Why Women In Settled Relationships Don’t Find Other Me Attractive by Mia Rhodan (on Time.com)

Read more by CLICKING THIS LINK.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Men have one less reason to worry about their girlfriend or wife’s wandering eye.According to new research in the International Association for Relationship Research’s journal Personal Relationships, women in relationships focus on the negative qualities of attractive men they aren’t dating.

 

You Deserve Happy

Great teachers reduce complicated truth down to simple statements.

That’s why the simplest of sayings can contain the most significant truth.

We’re all living our lives based on a few simple truths.

Maybe you’re trying to be a treat other people like you’d like to be treated. Perhaps you’re looking out for yourself because nobody else is going to take care of you.

In Mathew 22 Jesus tells us that the whole law of God comes down to two simple commandments: to love God and love your neighbors.

These days there are a lot of these kinds of phrases floating around.

We need to carefully examine what we’re building our life on before we establish a foundation on something that’s broken.

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☀️

A friend of mine posted this on Instagram not too long ago. It had over 50 likes in a few hours and comments like “So true! I needed that.”

I remember thinking… “Geez. That’s a pretty busted way to live.”

“What’s wrong with that statement” you ask? Well, here are a three things:

#1 – You deserve to be happy.

If any of your friends ever give you that advise, please slap them. You don’t deserve to be happy. Actually, the bible tells us that we deserve to die (Romans 6:23).

Happiness is a great enemy of what God ultimately wants us to be, holy.

Far too many of us walk away from what God is doing in our lives because it’s uncomfortable. It’s no longer making us happy, but it’s probably making us holy!

#2 – The best things in life will serve you.

What we all really need is more of ourselves? That’s not at all what the Scriptures tell us.

The Scriptures tell us over and over again that one of the greatest enemies to God’s work in our lives is our SELF!

That’s why John the Baptist would declare “He needs to become greater and I need to become less!” (John 3:30)

Actually, I think we all inevitably find that the greatest things in life are the things the invite us to give our lives away.

We don’t huddle around at funerals and talk about what someone had acquired. We often speak of their greatness in terms of what they gave away.

#3 – Respect yourself enough to walk away.

The bible tells us that we grow the same way knives are sharpened (Proverbs 27:17). Iron sharpens iron because it creates great friction.

Most of us view friction as resistance, and not what it really is… an invitation.

Let’s face it: we like to go down the path of least resistance, climb the short ladder to the top, and find the shortcuts to success. That’s why we live in a world of diet pills and 25-minute workouts.

Resistance isn’t often viewed as an invitation, but that’s exactly what it is.

If you walk away from something because it stops serving you and making you happy, you might just be walking away from something that will cause you to grow!

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What sayings are you living by right now? Do you possibly need to reevaluate them?

REBLOG: Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor

Seven-Ways-to-Hurt-Your-Pastor

This is a reblog from Thom Rainer, the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and former president of Southern Seminary. For more about Thom or other blog posts he’s written, visit his blog at http://thomrainer.com.

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If you really want to hurt your pastor, then this blogpost is for you.

This past week alone, I had conversations with dozens of pastors. These pastors love their churches and the members. They are really committed to their callings.

But they are real people who can really be hurt.

The pastors I spoke with this past week shared with me seven common themes of the things that hurt them the most. So, if you really want to hurt your pastor, follow these guidelines carefully.

  1. Criticize the pastor’s family. Few things are as painful to pastors as criticizing their families, especially if the criticisms are related to issues in the church.
  2. Tell the pastor he is overpaid. Very few pastors really make much money. But there are a number of church members who would like to make the pastor feel badly about his pay.
  3. Don’t defend the pastor. Critics can be hurtful. But even more hurtful are those who remain silent while their pastor is verbally attacked. Silence is not golden in this case.
  4. Tell your pastor what an easy job he has. It can really sting when someone suggests that the pastor really only works about ten hours a week. Some actually believe that pastors have several days a week off.
  5. Be a constant naysayer. Pastors can usually handle the occasional critic. But the truly painful relationships are with church members who are constantly negative. How do you know you’ve succeeded in this regard? The pastor runs the other way when he sees you.
  6. Make comments about the pastor’s expenditures. I heard it from a pastor this past week. A church member asked, “How can you afford to go to Disney World?” Wow.
  7. Compare your pastor’s preaching and ministry unfavorably to that of another pastor. Many times the member wants you to know how much he or she likes that pastor on the podcast compared to you. If you really want to hurt your pastor, you can make certain he knows how inferior he is.

So, if your life’s goal is to hurt your pastor, one or more of these approaches will work just fine.

But, if you are like most good church members, you want the best for your pastor. So just do the opposite of these seven.

And if you are worried that your pastor will not remain humble unless someone puts him in his place, don’t worry. There will always be plenty of those other church members around.

Do you identify with these seven items? What would you add?

This Summer Could Be…

ThisSummerCouldBe

Public schools in America give us a beautiful gift around this time of year: summer.

Summer translates into many different words for us all: words like beach, pool, relaxation, family trips, BBQs, and vacation just to name a few. In the middle of all those, it’s easy to miss the most important word that summer should translate into: FAMILY.

While summer is one of the few seasons that we have to be very focused on our family, we all too often miss the opportunity because we’re too concerned about our own needs.

For family to work well it requires our priority to be shifted from me to we.

This summer could be vitally important to your family…

  • This could be the summer God impresses upon your child that their identity is wholly rooted in Jesus.
  • This could be the summer that your marriage regains it’s past passion.
  • This could be the summer that the whole trajectory of your family is altered for generations.

How can you make this summer matter?

The answer is simple… MAKE JESUS A CENTRAL PRIORITY!

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Here are three moments that God instructs us to capture and use to infuse the love of Jesus into our family life:

  1. DOWN TIME (“when you sit at home”) – Your children are never going to be comfortable at rest, which they need, if they don’t see you model it. Sitting down together and talking should be a regular part of your family’s rhythm. My family did this over dinner every day growing up. Our family does this after dinner now. Find a time and make it routine.
  2. TRAVEL TIME (“when you walk along the road”) – If you’re going on a vacation or just taking them to ball practice, there’s travel time this summer. Put the DVD players away, sequester the cell phones, and have a conversation while you travel. Spending 4 hours in a car together? Sounds like a great time for a family devotion to me!
  3. BED TIME (“when you lie down”) – I have a friend who’s children are now grown and very successful. I asked him what he did that I could replicate as a parent. He told me that every night he’d give his children the ability to stay up as late as they wanted with one rule… once it was bed time, they had to be in bed and talking to him. He said they’d ask him questions about Jesus and life while “they thought they were just delaying their bed time, but they were really giving me a chance to disciple them and shape their future.”

This could be the summer God moves in your family. You don’t want to miss that!

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Our friends at the Village Church in Texas produced a guide for their families this summer full of a ton of ideas to capture this summer for your family.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD:
Village Church Summer Family Activity Book

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What other ideas do you have to make Jesus the central figure in your summer?

The Cost Of Freedom

Every year we take a day off as a country to honor the men and women who have sacrificed to sustain the freedom that we enjoy.

These sacrifices include…

  • Missing the births of their children.
  • Months and years spent from young brides and husbands.
  • Leaving their children as babies, coming home to them as children, and missing everything in between.
  • The loss of mental stability as result of the trauma of combat.
  • The loss of hands, feet, arms, and legs.
  • For so many, the loss of their lives.

As a Pastor in the United States, every week our church enjoys a basic freedom : the ability to gather together and worship freely. There are many Christ-centered, Jesus-loving brothers and sisters in our world that do not enjoy that freedom.

Freedom always has a cost.

I saw this video, and thought it was worth us all watching…

Realize this too: while we all need political freedom and rightly hope for the rest of the world to experience it, we all desperately need SPIRITUAL FREEDOM.

Just as soldiers have been willing to pay the cost for our political freedom, Jesus died to offer you freedom from sin and death.

Freedom always has a cost.

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Who do you need to call, text, email, or write to thank for the sacrifice they have given for your freedom?

10 Lessons From 10 Years

10lessons

Ten years ago today I married my wife.

I think that marrying Amanda was pretty much the most significant decision I’ve made outside of responding to God’s invitation to place Jesus at the center of my life.

In honor of our 10 years, I’d like to share a few lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1. Everyone farts.
I’m pretty sure there are people that you’ve never imagined passing gas, but you know what… they do. Everyone from Barak Obama to Pope Benedict break wind, and my wife is no exception to this. When we got married I had a lofty, unrealistic image of Amanda that was quickly shattered. I’m glad it was, because now I get to love her not because she’s perfect but because she’s herself.

2. When you sin it hurts someone.
There’s no such thing as a ‘harmless little sin’. All sin hurts someone. In our marriage I saw directly for the first time how my sin hurt someone else, and it changed the way I viewed my behavior, my choices, and myself. I love my wife, and this constant reality has been something God has used many, many times in my life.

3. Morning breath is real, folks.
It doesn’t matter how many packs of mints you buy and put in a drawer in the nightstand, morning breath is killer. You can’t dress that stuff up. A mint over morning breath is like air freshener in the bathroom… I smell both of them. There are things you can’t cover up. In marriage you can’t hide, and that’s a wonderful reality.

4. The best things are worth waiting for.
We live in a world that wants instant gratification, but God’s plan has always been to sacrifice and wait patiently. We waited almost 5 years to have our daughter. Lots of tears were cried in those 5 years as we wrestled with God’s plan, but Jesus is brilliant. He knew what we needed. I wouldn’t trade anything for what we have in our daughter. Watching my now almost 3 year old daughter dance around the room while almost singing “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen last night, I was simply overwhelmed with thankfulness.

5. Something’s are worth fighting for. Some aren’t.
We pretty much fought our entire honeymoon. I was a total jerk about pretty much everything. About three-fourths of the way through the week I realized I was being a jerk and repented. Over the last ten years we’ve fought about everything from bananas (this morning) to parenting philosophy. Some difficult conversations are worth having, because it’s something that needs to be processed together. Lots of them (like bananas this morning) aren’t that important.

6. If you’re looking for a way out, you’ll find one.
If you enter any commitment looking for a reason that it can’t work, then you’ll find one. Marriage is no exception to that. Invert that and it’s true too: If you’re always looking for a reason to remain faithful, you’ll find one too. Faithfulness is the culmination of lots of tiny steps that focus on the right ending. What you’re focusing on will define your marriage.

7. Laughing is good medicine.
I’m going to confess something we’ve never shared… about once a month we stay up really late having a tickle fight. It’s never planned. They just kind of happen through a series of escalations and “don’t you dare do that” challenges. My wife has an amazing laugh. It’s contagious. Her laugh makes me laugh, and it comforts me. I’m glad she laughs, because it’s always an invitation to something fun.

8. Listen.
Most of us want to talk. We want our voices to be heard. That’s understandable, because your voice should matter. I’ve learned to listen in our marriage, not because I’m dumbfounded, but because my wife is an expert in things I’m not, namely HERSELF! So, when Amanda told me “I don’t like to come home to flowers, I’d rather you buy me flowers and bring them to work”… I listened to her!

9. It’s not always going to be easy.
It’s actually hard work. Doing this right involves a lot of sacrifice and self-denial. A good, healthy marriage can NEVER be self-centered. On a good day, that’s not easy. Hit a difficult patch, and it’s next to impossible. That’s why you can’t do it alone. We desperately need Jesus in our marriages. His love is the only love that can carry us through difficult seasons together.

10. Grace sustains.
If my sin leaves a wound in our marriage, it is Grace that heals it. If you get close to anyone, they’ll wound you eventually. Wounds hurt. A lot. That’s why we need grace. Grace sustains our relationships. After all, isn’t that God’s plan for us… that He’d love us, give us grace, and sustain a relationship with us when we’ve proven countless times that we don’t deserve it.

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What lessons have you learned in your marriage?

Focus On The Finish

FOCUSfinish

My friend Seth won the North Carolina Championship 5K this past weekend.

Seth is a part of our church staff. He actually moved to North Carolina to be a part of Vortex and has been a super valuable member of the team since well before we launched.

Seth is a natural runner. He ran cross-country in high school when I was his Youth Pastor. He received a scholarship to run in college. Even after college, he’s continued to run competitively having just completed a marathon on trails in the Appalachian Mountains.

Seth told me something when we were talking about this past weekend’s race that has stuck out in my mind…

“The whole race me and Bill (the second place finisher) were shoulder to shoulder. My body kept telling me ‘Let’s quit. We can’t keep this pace.’ You just have to ignore what your body is saying, take the next stride, and focus on the end of the race.”

If you’re married, there’s going to come a moment when everything inside your natural body is saying, “Quit… This isn’t worth it!”

That’s when Seth’s story becomes vital…

  • “Ignore what your body is saying”. You have feelings that lie to you. You have expectations that probably aren’t healthy or even communicated. Ignore them and do what’s right anyway.
  • “Take the next stride”. Don’t stop, because stopping creates a different kind of death. Simply take the next step. Focus on the incremental changes, don’t expect immediate rescue, and keep moving!
  • “Focus on the end of the race”. Commit to your spouse, in your heart, and before Jesus that divorce is off the table. Stay focused on finishing the race, because that’s God’s plan!

“I hate divorce… So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” Malachi 2:16

Focus on the finish. It brings everything, even this moment, into perspective.

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What do you need to do to shift your focus from this moment to the finish?

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