3 Biblical Steps to Being a More Thankful Person

By | Christians, Church, Encouragement, Family, God | No Comments

Ever wonder the secret to being a more thankful person?

I believe the secret to being thankful is in learning to be more content.

We give thanks out of a heart overflowing with gratefulness. A full heart naturally produces gratitude. When we are content with where God has allowed us to be our heart will be more thankful.

How do we do that?

The Apostle Paul told us he had learned the secret to being content.

I think Paul gave us some clues earlier in his letter to the Philippians.

Here was Paul’s remedy:

(He says he’s going to tell us one thing — then he gives us three — typical Paul.)

Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭3‬:‭13-14‬)

Here is Paul’s remedy to being more content – and ultimately more thankful:

1. Forgetting what is behind.

Have you made some mistakes? That day is gone. It’s over. The question now is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to live in the past? Hold on to guilt? Refuse the grace of God in your life? Refuse to forgive? Hold a grudge?

One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 11:3. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.

The reality is you can let what has happened – the tree fell. It may have been your fault or beyond your control. But you can let it control you or you can move forward. But you cannot do both. Which will you choose?

2. Remembering what is ahead.

Life moves forward. This too shall pass. And the best days are ahead if you’re a child of God. He’s writing a story with a happy ending, where all things work for an ultimate good.

Right now we have more questions than answers. Some day God will provide for His children a Sabbath rest. Have you ever seen a sunset which took your breath away or marveled at the beauty of a mountain reaching into a clouded sky? Well, just wait. “No eye has seen” what God has prepared. If Christ is in you – you have a present Helper and a future reward. It’s all working for His glory.

3. Pursue worthy goals.

In the middle of leaving our past behind and anticipating a glorious future, we are to pursue Christ. We are to honor Him with our life. That means we obey His commands – to love God and love one another.

It means we pray for our enemies. And we do good expecting nothing in return. As we do, He will fill our heart with more joy, more contentment — and ultimately more thanksgiving.

Later in Philippians, Paul shares that the “peace of God” will guard our hearts. We will be filled with contentment.

And, we will find ourselves being a more thankful person.

How We Can Be More Thankful People

By | Christians, Church, Culture, Leadership | 2 Comments

What would it take for you and me to be more thankful people?

I find at times I am thankful, and at other times, I’m like everyone else. So, I can be a grumbler. Certainly this year could have produced some grumbling tendencies in all of us.

What would it take to learn the secret of contentment – to really be thankful all the time? (Or maybe we should set our goal as “most of the time” to start.)

Here are some ways to be more thankful people:

Consider what we could NOT have that we have now – Make a list of some things we often take for granted, like a toothbrush, socks, flushable toilets and clean drinking water. I have been places and witnessed people get so excited about receiving such things.

Stop comparing ourselves to those who have more than we have – Actually, it might help if we were to compare ourselves to those who have less than we have. That gives us a proper perspective. (Need help? Go to THIS LIST and enter your income. You might be surprised.)

Count our blessings and name them one by one – Make a list of things you are thankful for – your family, your friends, your health, your church, your shelter, your clothes, keep it going as long as you can.

We used to do this as an annual tradition in our home during Thanksgiving weekend. Each of us wrote down our own.

Review God’s promises – There are many and they are good!

(With a simple Google search I found this list from Compassion International.) If you’re a follower of Christ, it looks pretty good, huh?

Keep thankful reminders near– I can easily get distracted by the demands and burdens of this world and lose my thankful heart. So, one way I do this is to place things in my path to remind me of what (often who) I have for which to be thankful.

(It’s why I keep pictures of family members on my desk and why I save encouraging emails.)

Practice giving – It’s amazing what joy can come from being sacrificial. We have less, but the emotions of giving make us feel like we have more. So, give until it feels good.

Think small – Look for the smallest moments of grace. A smile, a lady bug, a gentle breeze, or the beating of your own heart. (Little things are actually big if you look for and value them.)

I know these will work if we practice them.

You can start now. Leave a comment and tell me 5 things you are thankful for today.

7 Questions To Help Process Fear

By | Christians, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Fear, Leadership | No Comments

I’ve watched fear keep many people from achieving all God would have them achieve. Rather than assume the risk required to pursue their dreams; fear will keep people from moving forward. Pastors refuse to address needed change in their church – not because it is challenging – but because they are afraid.

Fear is the enemy of progress. It is the antagonist of pursuit. Fear can be the deadly foe to keep people from fulfillment in life. And fear can be a leader’s worst enemy.

How can we overcome the fear all of us face?

I don’t know if we can completely get rid of fear – or if we even want to completely – but I do think we should and need to learn to manage the fear in our life.

I believe questions can be our friend, so let me provide some questions to process your fear.

Ask/share these 7 questions to process fear that keeps people from moving forward:

Is it a God-given or a man-made fear?

Fear is an emotion and God can use fear to keep you from harm. Is what you would be doing against God’s will for you or others? If it’s wrong to do, no wonder you are afraid. God may be trying to protect you. If you are continually making bad decisions in your life, you’ll likely live in fear.

You may not be able to understand the emotion, but in my experience, it’s one way God draws His children to Himself. Failure to walk by faith can also bring upon the emotion of fear.

If you’re fear is from God – obey God! This is your answer – every time.

Is it a rational or an irrational fear?

Consider whether you are basing your fears on fact or fiction. Are you making up the scenario of what could go wrong or is the fear based on real information you have? Our minds can be our worst excuse – if we need one, we will find it.

Be honest with yourself here. If you’ve been making up the excuses, it’s time to dismiss them and proceed.

Is it probable or improbable?

The truth is most of what we fear never comes true. Again, our mind is capable of all kinds of worst-case scenarios which keep us from moving forward. We shouldn’t allow fear in things which will probably never even happen stop what God may want to bring in our life. God may have a miracle for you – and, you’re allowing a made-up scenario hold you from it.

The fact is you may fail. But remember, failure is a part of building life experience. Unless you know you’re going to fail (which is highly unlikely you would know this in advance), if it’s not sinful, and you feel you’re supposed to – I suggest you move forward.

Can anything be done to diminish the risk?

We should attempt to diminish fear through planning and preparation as much as possible. There is nothing wrong and everything right about being prepared. I’m not motivated by fear, but I have an alarm system at my house. (And, one of my father’s pistols he left me when he died!)

If your fear is based on a lack of preparation, get busy developing the systems and strategies to help you succeed. Ask for help if you need it.

Is what I’m fearing necessary or unnecessary?

Is this something you must address? If it’s a conflict you’ve been avoiding, for example, the fear will only get stronger the longer you wait. The earlier you face the fear the more likely you’ll get positive results. Sooner or later, the fear must be faced. What better time than now?

If it’s not really necessary, and there is no pressure upon you, you may not have to face this fear. I once jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. But if you don’t have the desire – don’t do it.

Is the fear personal or impersonal?

Are you afraid of your abilities or the reaction of others? Do you wonder if you have what it takes? It’s only natural a challenge would create an amount of fear – even a captivation with fear.

Every act of courage means you ignore an aspect of fear. Don’t let your insecurities keep you from achieving your dreams.

Are you satisfied with the status quo?

I know it’s a hard question, but if fear is keeping you from moving forward, and you’ve answered the other questions, this may be the one. You need to strongly consider the repercussions of giving into your fear.

It may mean you stand still. Even worse, it could mean you go backwards. Worst of all, it may mean you never realize the dreams you have for your life or the calling God has placed upon you.

Are you willing to live with this reality?

Check out my new leadership podcast where my son Nate and I discuss practical leadership issues.

Four Ways to Practice a Love that Stays

By | Christians, Church | No Comments

(This is a guest post by my friend Pastor Adam Weber. Read his bio at the end of this post and check out his new book Love Has a Name.)

I never cease to be amazed by how many Facebook friends we can have and yet many of us feel like we don’t have one friend we can call when we’re struggling. Not one person we can sit with when we’re hurting. Not one person to keep us on the right path when we’re being tempted. 

Not one person who stays when we make a mistake.         

We’re so “connected,” yet we don’t have one other person who will show up when we need someone to be there the most? One person to show up when no one else does?

There are few greater blessings in this life than having dear friends. The people who answer the phone and just listen. The people who come over when they say they’re coming over. The people who help you out when you need someone. The people who are just there. You don’t need to impress them. You can just be with them.

Do you have anyone in your life like this? People who will show up? Sometimes we don’t realize our deep need until we’re faced with frustrating circumstances, a huge crowd, an unexpected trial, an extremely hard season. Until we’re face-to-face with the unimaginable. We all need people like this, but we also need to be people like this.

Do you have people like that? Are you that person to others?

If you don’t have people like this right now, don’t get discouraged, or think this lesson doesn’t apply to you. Be the kind of person who has a love that stays despite the circumstances. Ever heard the phrase “you have to be a friend to have a friend?” It might sound cheesy but it’s so true in this case. Just because you don’t have people in your life like this yet, doesn’t mean you can’t be that person in someone else’s life. Taking the initiative to stay instead of leave is a sure way to build that kind of community around you, trust me.

When others leave, love stays.

It stays with people when it is uncomfortable.

It’s easy to love others when life is easy. But it’s much more difficult when you don’t know what to say or how to help another person through their situation. Staying can look different in each relationship, but I’ve found that a love that stays requires a few things from us:

  • Staying with people means having the hard conversations. We typically run from anything that’s difficult. But staying with someone and loving them in a difficult season will require a lot of difficult conversations. Ask the hard questions. Have the awkward conversations. And don’t leave!
  • Pray. Sometimes there isn’t anything you can do for someone, particularly in a hard season. All you can do is pray and get through it. Pray for the person regularly. Pray for them in person. Pray for them when they come to mind. Pray, pray, and pray some more.

Stand with them. Privately and publicly. Stick your neck out for them.

  • Encourage. One of the greatest gifts we can offer another person is encouragement. Help the person see beyond today. Today might suck but it will get better. When others have no hope, give them hope. Side note: with Jesus, we always have hope! Look to him. Point others to him. There is always hope with Jesus. Tomorrow, the sun will come up!
  • Finally, if at all possible, help the other person take their next step. We might not be able to solve everything, but we can help someone take the next step. Show up and help them through that difficult season, see what the next step is, and help them take it!

These aren’t easy things to do (far from it!), but each is a key ingredient to practicing a love that stays with people no matter what they’re going through. Staying is hard. Leaving is way easier, and we all know it. But speaking from experience, there’s nothing like having people in your life who stay, who love with that kind of love. And really, there’s nothing like loving other people like that, too.

I personally walked through a really tough season a few summers ago. It was a time of pruning, and honestly, it was really painful. But one of the biggest things I learned was that you can make it through anything if you have a few good friends around you. When you’re hurting, when you’re scared, when you can’t make it to Jesus, people who will pick you up and get you there—right where you needed to be all along—are who you need to surround yourself with. 

Real love is just there. It doesn’t back away when things get hard. In fact, it works harder, doing whatever it takes, dragging us no matter how thick the crowd, how hard the decision.

Love stays.

Adam is the founder and lead pastor of Embrace, a multi-site church based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Author of Talking With God and Love Has A Name, he also hosts a podcast called The Conversation. Adam still cheers for the Cincinnati Bengals but no longer drives a Rambler. He’s married to his wife, Becky, and has four kids: Hudson, Wilson, Grayson, & Anderson. He also has seven chickens, two dogs, & three fish, but what he really wants is a sheep. You can find out more at adamweber.com.

10 Prayers You Should Pray For Your Marriage

By | Christians, Church, Prayer | No Comments

Do you believe in prayer? And do you love your marriage? Well here are some suggestions for praying for your marriage.

10 Prayers For Marriages:

Dear Lord,

Grow our love for You daily.

Help us to love each other unconditionally.

Allow us to respect one another in an empowering way.

Teach us how to complete each other, building us into one unit You design.

Rid our hearts from grudges or bitterness towards one another, teaching us to forgive readily and extend grace continually.

Let us encourage each other to achieve the dreams you give us individually and jointly.

Keep us humble, placing each other’s needs ahead of our own.

Guard our hearts from selfishness and self-centered desires.

Protect our marriage from the destruction of outside influences.

Make our commitment deeper than our emotions, stronger than the seasons of change and the trials which will come our way.

If only one of those prayers is answered, how is your marriage strengthened?

7 Things I Know about People with whom I May NOT Agree

By | Christians, Church, Leadership | 2 Comments

I have learned I don’t agree with everyone. And everyone doesn’t agree with me. 

I could say shame on them, and while that might be funny, it isn’t fair. I’ve been wrong many times before. Many times. 

Over the years, as I’ve taken time to listen and get to know people different from me, I’ve realized I often have as much in common with them as I have differences. Most of us are closer to alignment than the news media or politics might describe. Of course, there are people who are extreme in their viewpoints, but Even they probably share some common desires.  

7 things I can probably assume about most people with whom I might usually disagree:  

They know things I don’t know. I don’t have to agree with everything they think to learn something from them. 

I know things they don’t know. Granted, it takes two people for mutual learning to occur, but I can only be responsible for my side of things. 

(Bottom line: Our experience, background, education, and environment shapes what we know. Or think we know.)

I almost never “win” when I make my goal to convince them I’m right. People naturally become defensive of their positions. That includes me, unless I discipline myself not to. 

I can probably better engage people if they think I actually like them. People respond better when I and am trying to understand them. (There’s an even better chance if they think I love them.) 

Understanding another person’s perspective requires listening. It involves an intentional attempt to hear what they are feeling as much as what they are saying. 

At the end of the day, we want many of the same things. We want to be happy (and for our kids to be). We want to make the world a better place. We may disagree on how to get there, but our end desire is often going to be the same.

I’ve sometime been considered overly simplistic, but it seems to me the more we understand what each of us want, where we’ve developed our point of view, and how our own culture, demographics and beliefs shape our opinions, the better we can work through our differences to accomplish things of value for each of us. 

A Tribute to Moms With No Children of Their Own – Happy Mother’s Day

By | Christians, Church, Family, Parenting | 3 Comments

This is a tribute to the moms who have no children – of their own.

I’ve posted this thought a number of times, because I’m always sensitive to the “mothers” without children.

You know the ones. For whatever reason, they never had children.

Some never tried.
Others never could.
Some lost their child and maybe some gave them up for adoption.

For many women it’s a hidden pain they carry deeply. Deeper than any wound. The pain is deeper than most of us could probably understand. (Certainly, deeper than I can understand.)

Cheryl and I have witnessed this throughout our ministry. This has been one of the silent, unshared pains we have witnessed in churches where we have served. These are often the “unspoken” prayer requests.

For a Biblical example, I’m reminded of Hannah’s pain in 1 Samuel 1.

They never had children, but they:

  • Care for others sacrificially, simply for the joy of giving.
  • Are willing to fight lions, tigers and bears (Oh my!) for the ones they love.
  • Have more strength than the average man when caring for someone.
  • Are often taken advantage of because of their generosity.
  • Love deeply and unconditionally.
  • Make life special for others – just because.
  • Find satisfaction in the simplest gestures of love.
  • Strive to make the world a better place for those around them.
  • Hide their pain – most of the time – when people take advantage of them.
  • Are always thinking of others and willing to put others ahead of themselves.

Sounds every bit like a mother to me.

Many of them wanted children, but were never given the blessing. And motherhood is a blessing. Just as all parenting is.

They have no children.

But they have a mother’s heart.

They may not have children, not in the natural sense. They likely won’t get flowers, candy, or even a card for Mother’s Day. But in their heart they are every bit a mother.

They love like a mother. Sacrifice like a mother. Serve like a mother. Give – just like a mother gives.

And if God were to celebrate Mother’s Day, I think He would include them in the celebration.

Because in God’s way of doing things, it’s always about the heart.

“Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

This year, as you celebrate Mother’s Day, don’t forget the moms who have no children.

While you’re at it, don’t forget the one whose mother isn’t here any longer. And the one who has a hard story with their mother. And all the others who – as one person celebrates – another person weeps.

Let’s be like our God who is close to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18) and be sensitive to the needs of others.

5 Positives for the Church after the Coronavirus Crisis

By | Christians, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization | 3 Comments

I think there are some positives for the church that will come through this Coronavirus crisis. 

Yes, there are tremendous negatives. The costs are mounting. Almost everything we currently count, other than online engagement, will likely be a loss for weeks and perhaps months to come. Budgets, attendance, and even volunteer hours will likely all be somewhat lower, simply because our routines have been disrupted.

That’s disheartening in many ways, just to be honest. Many pastors have worked for years to build to the place they are today; especially heading into the Easter season. 

Likely, in many ways, things will never be the same.

I’m not one who says nothing will ever be the same. I think we have a Biblical mandate to gather together as a church. Size isn’t dictated, but corporate worship is a command. Things might be altered, especially temporarily, but I think we will see people in our church buildings again someday. 

But some things will change for the foreseeable future. And the good news is that some of those changes will be positive. 

5 Positives for the Church after the Coronavirus Crisis: 

Crisis will allow change to happen faster. Churches have had to move fast in these days to make decisions. Even as an interim pastor in church revitalization, I’ve had to make some calls quickly before I could “get everyone on board”. No one has complained. In fact, people have been very appreciative recognizing that decisions needed to be made.

Of course, people will be people and power struggles will remain, but I suspect we will come out of this with far less concern with structure and more concerned with seeing the mission of the church succeed. This may be the day revitalization and church mergers happen even faster. Our buildings may be seen as more of an asset to reach our community than facilities for our own comfort and convenience. 

For churches willing to embrace this new reality we may be better able adapt and reposition quickly to meet the changing needs of our communities. 

Online and digital engagement will remain strong. Churches would be foolish to completely leave this opportunity after it’s no longer a necessity. I would even contend that it is necessary. We have had to do some things during this crisis that we should have been doing all along – reaching people where they already are. 

People are already online. They were before the crisis. They will be after it’s over. We have a mandate to “Go”. If we want to reach people we will have to “go” where they are. 

What we measure will change. Already, to measure our effectiveness as a church, we’ve started to place more emphasis on digital engagement, for example. This was not a church that necessarily measured that sort of thing. When you begin to value online metrics there are so many areas to consider. Facebook Live, website involvement, Zoom participation, and online reach are just a few of them. 

I realize a number of churches were doing this, but the church I am in now never paid attention, for example, that there were people engaging with the church from Romania. Or that a sizable number regularly watch services from places like Atlanta (300 miles away). New opportunities may present themselves when we look at different variables of engagement. 

No doubt we will still count the offering and the Sunday attendance, but I think we won’t see those as exclusive measures. Digital giving will be important even to the smallest churches. And, while it may still not be the preferred or most effective option, online participation will be seen as a legitimate means of making disciples. 

Human relationships will be valued more. You can’t replace a hug or a handshake virtually. I’m an introvert and it was into week two when I realized how much I missed interactions with people – beyond virtual. 

This is reminding us as a society that we are built for community. I love all the stories from places like Italy or New York where people are finding ways to engage outside their windows, even while social distancing. I wonder if we might go back to more front porches on our houses rather than decks hidden behind fences in our back yards. 

The church has an opportunity to build genuine community better than any organization. It’s part of our original design. May we never again confuse the simplicity of this basic human need for relationships with structured programs or traditions. 

Additionally, churches are coming together for their communities. Perhaps this will continue and some of the walls between churches in our communities will be lowered and we will do more together to truly be the Body of Christ in our communities.

Talking about faith will be more culturally acceptable. People have needed hope more in the last few weeks than in recent memory. The Church has the corner on providing a sense of faith and hope. 

I’ve seen less shaming online for people expressing their faith. I’m sure it’s still there, but it seems less prevalent in the feeds and posts I’ve encountered. I think we have been given a unique opportunity as a Church to truly live what we believe even more boldly than we may have in recent years. This could be our finest hour to let our lights shine. 

Those are just a few initial thoughts I’m processing. I naturally try to look for the positives. I know God has guaranteed His Church a place in our society. May we come through this crisis with that place more defined, at least in our minds, than before the crisis began. 

7 Ideas To Feel Productive During Quarantine and Social Distancing

By | Christians, Family | No Comments

Many people are stuck at home during this Coronavirus pandemic. For the first week or so it might be fun. After a week or more, some will become stir crazy. It may require discipline not to lose patience with the situation. 

When much of life is out of our control, it is often therapeutic to focus on some things you can control. 

I previously posted some ideas to help with children – especially elementary aged

Here are 7 ideas of things you may be able to do at home.

Write letters to your family. I’ve written before about one of the best gifts I ever received was a Bible from my grandmother when I was about 20 years old. The Bible was my first study Bible. I loved the Bible, but the best part was the handwritten letter she placed inside of it. I still have it today. 

Journal your thoughts during this period. You’ll look back some day and this will just be another memory. It will be interesting then to see how you are feeling and what you are experiencing now. (Some of these may even turn into a blog or social media post and be encouraging to others.) 

Make a checklist of activities around your home. Complete them one by one. Organize the closet you’ve been meaning to do for years. Rearrange the furniture. Clean the windows. Organize pictures. You don’t have to do all of them immediately, but making progress on something will make you feel productive. Just do something. 

Make a list of things you are thankful for. We used to do this every year at Thanksgiving as a family. We would each list our “top 10” things. It’s good to remind ourselves there are blessings in our life. 

Call friends you haven’t seen in years. Try calling someone you haven’t talked with in a while. Perhaps a childhood friend. (You may have to stalk them first on Facebook and message them for their number.)

Learn something new. There are apps where you can learn a new language. (What if you only learned a few words?) Explore your genealogy online. If you’re computer savvy at all you could even learn a new skill that could become an income stream – such as coding or graphic design. 

Record all the questions of Jesus from the Gospels. Go through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and look for question marks for the words written in red. I’ve done this twice and it’s powerful. Jesus asked the best questions. 

Share some other ideas in the comments. I may add some of them to this post – and give you credit.

5 Practical Steps to Managing a Stressful Period

By | Christians, Church, Faith, Fear, Prayer | No Comments

I realize anxiety is high for all of us. I have a “system” I have used over the years when I’m in an especially stressful season. It is a sort of therapeutic exercise that seems to work for me.

As I type this the current stressor in all our life stems from the COVID-19 Coronavirus. That virus has caused strains on our economies, relationships, calendars and even personal care products. Who knows how long this will last?

God is in control, but you may need some practical ways to navigate these days. Again, this has worked for me.

Here are 5 practical steps to managing a stressful period:

Get a set of index cards. Write what you are most concerned about in life right now on the cards. Put only one concern per card but use as many cards as necessary. Everything you’re concerned or worried about goes on a card.

There is something cleansing about writing out your concerns. Again, it is a therapeutic exercise. (Insider information—you’ll find some of the things don’t merit a card once you must write them.)

Place cards in front of you. After you’ve completed your cards, lay them face up on a table in front of you. This is a bare-your-soul moment. You may feel a bit overwhelmed at this point.

Analyze. How real is this concern? Can you fix it? Are there practical things you can do to address the concern. In this current scene, you may need to limit your exposure to people. You may need to review your budget. Do the best you know how to do. 

After you know what you can and can’t fix, share them with God. He knows them already—better than you—but do it anyway. It is freeing to give your burdens to your Creator.

Pray. Pray something like this: “God, this is what I have before me, which I can’t handle. I’m asking You as my Father, who loves me more than I can imagine, to give me direction, success, wisdom, patience, and understanding in every area of my life. Lead me along the path You would have for me. I’m trusting completely in You. If this season is a success in my life, it will depend on You. I love You Lord. In Jesus name, Amen”.

Rest in God’s hands. Once I’ve left my concerns in God’s hands I must trust Him with them. This may need to be a daily practice. It could even need to be hourly for a while.

This is not a formula. And it won’t necessarily take care of deep or dark emotional issues. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. But if you have the normal stress of life, I’ve tried this for years and have always found it helpful.

By the way, I didn’t invent this system. I got this practice years ago by reading the story of Hezekiah in 1 Kings 19.