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.

12 Ideas to Help Young Families Endure the Lockdown of COVID-19

By | Children, Christians, Church, Encouragement, Family, Parenting | One Comment

Our boys are grown. Cheryl and I enjoy empty-nesting. I remember a few times when the boys were little that we were stuck at the house and couldn’t go anywhere for a period of days. 

There was an ice storm. Times when we had no electricity in our town. And there were a number of times one of the boys was too sick to get out of the house. 

We had to improvise to find fun things to entertain the boys – and us. 

I have a suspicion there are many families in this scenario with the COVID-19 crisis. Who knows how long many will be stuck in their home? 

I see my role as a pastor to help families. I spent some time brainstorming things families could do together – especially families with younger children who have a harder time entertaining themselves. 

Here are 12  ideas you can do at home to hopefully pass the time and enjoy each other. 

Get out all your old picture albums. Discuss when the pictures were taken and tell stories you remember about those times. 

Build a life map for every member of the family. Include critical moments, spiritual markers, funny stories and hard times. This may especially be good for elementary students, but I think high school students could even enjoy it.  This could be a great way for parents to share their legacy with children. 

Play a FaceTime game with grandparents or elderly people in the church. You may have to coach them through it on the phone, but this would be a way to spend quality time with people you miss and love. 

Write and make an original movie with your phone camera as a family. Dress in costumes. Share it online. Who knows? It might become a hit and go viral. It could also be entertainment for the rest of us waiting out this crisis. 

 Make a collage of things you want to do when this is over. Find pictures in old magazines or just draw them. Do you want to go to your favorite restaurant, to the beach, or even on a cruise? 

Spend time dreaming about the future. Where Do you hope to travel someday? What would be a dream vacation? Let children share what they would want to do vocationally someday? Where would they want to live? What will their family be like? 

Discuss your family’s genealogy. Talk about relatives they may have never met. What are unique stories about your family? How is the father’s family different than the mother’s family? 

Parents, tell stories from your childhood. Share some funny things you did. When is a time you got into trouble? Who was your favorite teacher? What was your favorite class and why? Share what you liked to play and talk about some of your best friends. 

Trace the story of the Bible. Google if you need to, but cover the major highlights from the Creation to the coming of Christ. (This one may require some research on your part, but it would be a learning experience for the whole family.) 

Decorate the house for Christmas. Why not? You might be inside a while. You could watch Christmas movies and sing carols. Let it remind you of fun times to come. 

Do an Easter Egg Hunt. It’s almost Easter. If you don’t have eggs – improvise. You could even just do a scavenger hunt. Hide items in the house and have fun looking for them. Be sure to share the real story of Easter.

Build a tent. You can build inside or, if weather allows outside. Pretend you are campaign out. Maybe even pack a picnic. Let everyone plan their own meal. 

Bonus: Plant something outside and watch it grow over the next few weeks. Take pictures or a video every few days to compare the progress.

Feel free to share some of your own ideas in the comments. I may add some of them to this post. 

Let’s get through this together! God bless you. 

5 Actions that May Combat Worry and Anxiety

By | Christians, Church, Culture, Encouragement | No Comments

Worry is like a plague to our body. It attacks our mind, then our heart, and over time, it can consume our overall health. Continuous worry leads to a state of anxiety, where you rarely have periods of the day when you aren’t worried.

Wouldn’t it be great to never worry again?

I’m not sure this is humanly possible – although Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.” How good are you at obeying that verse?

I can’t imagine either why Jesus would give a command He wouldn’t fully allow us to obey. But He commanded a lot of other things I’m not perfect at either.

So, I’m still much a work in progress when it comes to eliminated worry and anxiety from my life.

I know this, however, part of maturing as believers should mean we begin to worry less.

Let me share a few things I’ve learned, which may help.

Here are 5 actions to combat worry and anxiety:

Pray more.

It’s a trade-off. You can pray or you can worry, but you can never really do both at the same time. Which would you rather do?

Seems to be a reasonable trade. How amazing is it the Creator of sunsets wants to have a conversation with me? Worry seems to be a cheap substitute in this regard.

Do wise things.

As a believer, sin is always going to cause my inner conscience to feel guilty – which usually translates quickly into other emotions, such as doubt, worry and eventually anxiety. When I know I’m doing the best I can to be obedient to God’s commands the relationship with Him is stronger and my heart is freed of needless worry.

But this also involves taking care of ourselves physically, socially and emotionally. It means we need to eat right, exercise, and limit exposure to negative influences – which might include people who are constantly negative. Our environment helps determine our attitude. If the actions we are taking are leading to more anxiety then it makes sense that we need to change our actions. Sometimes the best thing I can do when I start to worry is go for a walk, pray, and clear my mind.

By the way, one wise thing may be asking for help when you need it.

Fill our minds carefully.

Of course, I’d recommend reading the Bible. I think followers of Christ should read it everyday. It’s where we find the hope, faith and trust spelled out for us by God Himself. But there are others things, which bring encouragement. It could be a good novel or something humorous.

For some people this may mean turning off the news and shutting down social media. It’s not that television or social media is necessarily bad, but I just don’t seem to find much which really encourages me these days.

The point is when we fill our minds with good things it crowds out some of the bad things.

Choose our thoughts strategically.

The Apostle Paul said to think about these things – “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8) It isn’t even enough what we fill our minds with if we don’t carefully place our thoughts in the right directions.

I always ask myself: Why worry about what I can’t control? And why worry about what might happen when I can choose to think about good things which are happening? Lots of good things occur everyday – when I choose to think about them.

Trust more.

This is the key to worrying less and ultimately having less anxiety. The more I trust the less I worry. This is true in so many scenarios. It could be flying in a car, riding in a car with someone, or taking a doctor’s advice. The more I trust the less I worry.

As a believer, I can step up my faith, because I know God is on His throne. He has a plan and He will do what is best. Every time! And the key to trusting Him more is simple. I have to spend more time with Him And get to know Him better. Like any healthy relationship it grows stronger with time and effort. The more you know God the more you will love and trust Him. 

This is not a script or a recipe to rid your life of worry or anxiety. I think it will help. But there are times we all need professional help. Don’t be afraid to seek it when you do. In my experience, these five things help me combat much of my worries if I will practice them daily.

7 Suggestions to Help Your Children Deal With Fear

By | Christians, Church | 3 Comments

Sickness. Violence. Economy. Weather. Political divisions.

Tragedy is on the news every night and all throughout the day. We talk about it at the dinner table. And, as fun and engaging as it can be, we can thank social media for keeping us constantly informed of all the bad things happening in our world.

As I type this the Coronavirus is one of the leading news stories. Someone said fear is spreading faster than the virus.

And it doesn’t only impact us. It impacts our children.

Our children are not immune from fear. In an Information Age hey know what we know – filtered through their childlike mind.

Childhood can naturally be a scary time of life, but especially these days. We should never diminish a child’s fear or the impact the news of the day is having on them. It may even be totally irrational fear – something you know is completely impossible — but it’s very real to them.

How should a parent or teacher address a child’s fear?

Here are 7 thoughts to help children deal with fear:

Don’t assume their thoughts

Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what has happened or is happening that they don’t know about it or care. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it. Assure them there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid — even a recent time.

Limit their exposure

You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations more frequently. What are they covering right now? Remember children process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. Make sure there our times you turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance than their time with you.

Ask them questions

You may think children are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address their fear if you know the roots of them. Getting them to talk about what they are afraid of can help them learn to better rationalize and seek comfort and assurance from you.

Assure them they are safe

Let children know they are safe. Don’t lie to them or give them false assurance, but remember the chances of what they see on the news happening to them is rare — very rare. Remind them you will do anything to protect them. Show them ways you’ve already provided for their safety. (If crime is one of their fears, for example, let them help you lock the doors or turn on the alarm.) You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.

Live a normal life as much as possible

As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to muster the faith to move forward.

Be calm around them

Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Our children need to see us walking by faith and trusting God. Watch what you say in front of them. Discuss the world events, and especially your fears of them, outside of their listening ears. Let the home be their “safe place”. (I also contend parents should rarely fight in front of kids, but especially during a time of uncertainty.) In scary seasons it’s good for parents to renew their own faith and their commitment to each other. Children often get their faith through parents.

Read them Scripture

Children need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word of God, which will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often. Help them memorize some. (When our boys were young we played Scripture music appropriate for their age. Steve Green’s “Hide ’em in Your Heart series was great for this. You can find them online.)

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Ever Give

By | Christians | No Comments

What’s the best Christmas present you can ever give?

Give words. Share the gift of words.

Words can harm. They can bruise a spirit and injure a soul. Some people spend years trying to recover from crushing words. Of course, I’m not talking about these kind of words. I’m talking about encouraging, affirming, life-giving words.

My Story

Years ago, when I was almost 18, and just about to graduate from high school, my grandmother gave me a Bible for Christmas.

It’s a great Bible. In fact, it was my first study Bible – a New American Standard, Ryrie Study Bible. I still have it and occasionally use it today. It was a quite expensive gift for her at the time.

But the greater part of the gift was a supplement to the book inside the Bible.

Inside she included these handwritten notes. Please understand, I know the words of the Bible are eternally more important than the words of my grandmother, but I have lots of Bibles. The words she wrote cannot be duplicated by anyone else.

She shared her heart, wrote Scripture which was important to her and encouraged me to live a life of value. In her note, she expressed her joy in being my grandmother.

It was the greatest part of the gift. The most valuable.

It was true then and it is true now. I’m 55 years old – almost 56 – and this is still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. 

I still have the Bible. The Bible could be replaced. I can’t replace the notes my grandmother wrote.

My grandmother died in 2013, a few months after my grandfather. She was my last remaining grandparent. As soon as I heard of her death, I went to that Bible – to read the notes she had written. I have read these notes 100’s of times since she first wrote them. I’m positive, Lord willing, I’ll read them 100 more.

The best Christmas gift ever- at least that a human can give – is to give the gift of words.

Who needs a letter from you this Christmas?

Maybe a child, a grandchild, a parent, a spouse, a friend. Write! Give. Bless.