8 Questions to Ask Before You Push POST

Rules to follow when using social media

Social Media.  It’s kind of a thing nowadays.  As far as what kind of thing it is… well, that all depends upon how we choose to use it and consume it.

In striving to use social media in a way that honors the Lord, here are some questions/guidelines I follow to filter my posts through, prior to hitting the ‘POST’ button.  You might consider using these social media rules yourself:

  1. Is it Positive?  You’ve probably noticed that there’s plenty of negativity floating around social media, to the point that sometimes it feels like your swimming in the lake next to a landfill.  A Christian doesn’t need to add to such negativity.  If I’m going to put something out there for the world to see, is there something of positive value in it for those who see it?
  2. Is it Factual?  Social media is no place for spreading rumors, speculation, or gossip.  Does everything I read that ruffles my feathers mean it’s true or worthy of putting my name above it?  Do I want to be that person with egg on their face because of an emotional trigger response to post something questionable without knowing the facts?
  3. Is it Helpful?  Just because something is positive, and even true, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s helpful.  Can what I post simply put a smile on someone’s face, or just help point them in the right direction?  Is it helpful?  If so, it’s probably worth posting.  (Phil. 4:8)
  4. Is it Fun or Entertaining There’s great value in knowing and following people on social media who know how to have good, clean fun.  Do I know how to laugh at myself and enjoy life, and as a result, help others enjoy it with me?
  5. Is it Overly Political?  Probably the last thing we need more of on social media is politics. While it’s not necessarily wrong to post something political, and sometimes it’s inescapable for Biblical truth not to collide with political opinion, as a general rule, I try to abstain from political posts as much as possible. Has anyone ever changed another’s mind by using social media as a megaphone for their political views?
  6. Is it Drama Free?  If for some reason I want to air out my dirty laundry, social media is not the place to do it. What is the motivation behind what I’m posting?  Am I looking for pity, or just to generate an emotional response from others? Am I using social media to vent my frustrations or satisfy my flesh? Save the drama for your mama.
  7. Is it Regret Free?  While I can always delete that post tomorrow, why post it today?  Is what I post going to be something I’ll be proud of tomorrow, next year, or 10 years from now?  Good thing when you delete something from the Internet, it can never be found again. 😃  Better yet, what if I just bit my lip… (or, my thumb) a little more often?
  8. Is it Christ-honoring If none of the above questions answer whether or not I should post something, this should be my ultimate filter – is what I’m about to post going to honor the Lord and strengthen my testimony? (I Cor. 10:31)

I personally enjoy using social media, but it’s not just what I post that I have to be careful of, it’s also what I consume.  So here’s a bonus :).  In addition to filtering posts with the above questions, I filter time spent on social media by asking these 2 questions:

  1. Am I Wasting My Time?  Certainly there’s plenty of time that can be wasted on social media.  Sometimes 30 minutes can feel like 5.  Am I using social media wisely, and redeeming the time, or am I allowing it to become a god of idle hands that puts me in the devil’s workshop?
  2. Am I Stealing Someone Else’s Time?  Am I taking time away from things that really do matter like my family, my job, or my responsibilities?  Am I forfeiting valuable pieces of my kids’ childhood for a device addiction?  Am I acting married to social media instead of married to my spouse?  Am I stealing time and attention away from those who need and deserve it most by throwing it to the wind with nothing to show for it?  Am I setting a right or wrong example of social media use for my children?

Social media isn’t going anywhere. So if we don’t have some boundaries, we’ll certainly have some regrets.  And if we don’t exemplify and teach our children proper boundaries, so will they.

What are some of the social media rules you follow? And what would you add to this list of guidelines?

How My 12 Year Old Daughter Reminded Me to Never Give Up

While our 12 year old daughter has many strengths, one of them is not the subject of math.

And it doesn’t help that both her younger and older brother can do math like a wiz with no problem at all.  This has been a real struggle for her, that sometimes seems insurmountable.

But to her credit, she’s not allowed it to get her down.  She has rather chosen to hold her head up, and stay determined to succeed in this area of her schooling.  I’ve been encouraged, challenged, and motivated by her “kick yourself in the pants and get over it” kind of attitude of confidence in the midst of a trying situation.

She’s done what I believe David did when he was “greatly distressed” in I Samuel 30:6, when the Bible says that “he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 

I remember those days, when school subjects and projects would consume my mind and my world. And I would almost wish that the world would just come to an end rather than have to face what seemed at the time like impossible tasks.

Well, things don’t get any easier with age, do they?…

As we get older, I think you’d agree that the things we faced as a child begin to pale in comparison to what we’ve had to face in “real life” as an adult.  Yes, we still face seemingly insurmountable circumstances, but it’s certainly of a different kind.

I’m not sure what the challenges are that you’ve faced over the past year, or are currently facing, but I’m sure that you have some.  It might be…

  • the loss of a family member that you love
  • the pain of a rebellious or wayward child
  • a job situation that seems impossible to reconcile
  • a relationship that only gets worse the harder you try
  • a prayer that still goes unanswered

While I don’t know your specific struggle, I’ll guarantee you that you do, and you’re probably thinking of it right now as you’re reading this. You may even feel like completely giving up.

I know that there were some areas in my life that I was considering ‘giving up’ in this coming year, but I was motivated to continue to ‘stay in the fight’ due to my daughters’ example.

May I encourage you with the strong words of my daughter to remember that whatever it is that you are facing…

“It’s a part of life.  Deal with it.  Never give up.  You can do it!”

I hope that you’ll be as encouraged by her spirit as much as I was, and that you’ll also find encouragement from these verses of scripture as well, to remind you of the perspective God intends for you to have in your life’s struggles and trials.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him.  Psalm 42:5

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.  Psalm 27:13-14

Have not I commanded thee?  Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.  Joshua 1:9

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13

As for God, his way is perfect.  Proverbs 18:30

Sounds like God is saying something that sounds a bit familiar – “It’s a part of life.  Deal with it.  Never give up.  You can do it!”  

Another year will certainly come with it’s challenges.  Praying that as you enter a new year God would grant you the spirit of endurance and perseverance through whatever you may face.

Even if it’s not you that needed to hear this today, maybe it’s somebody else… please share.

Faith & I on a Starbucks run after some paintball fun

Dad, What’s Your Vision for Your Family?

Turning a God-given vision into a reality

When God made the family, he started by giving it a man – to lead it, to direct it, and to guide it.

This wasn’t by accident, but by design.  God knew that a family would need loving leadership and strong guidance to navigate through the tough waters of family life and growth.

But even though God gave the family a man, sadly, we still see many families who are lacking in confident male leadership.  Some men have abandoned ship, others are physically or emotionally absent, and some sadly just don’t care.  My heart goes out to all of the woman who are pulling double duty out of necessity to provide the leadership their family needs.

However, if you are a man, and God has given you a family, you need to consider them as one of your highest callings in life – the call to be a husband to your wife and a father to those precious children.  God has called you to lead, guide, and direct them.

And even more than that, God has called you to have a vision for your family and their future.

QUESTION…

Which raises a very important question – Do you have a vision for your family?

Have you prayerfully considered what God would have you to do, and where God would have you to go as a family in the coming year?

You do realize that every single day, you are building something, right?  You are building not just a family, but a future.  You are building the very foundation of hearts and lives that will one day build that same foundation for future generations to come.

If I were to ask you, “What is your vision for your family?”, could you describe it, or articulate anything specific about it?…

Yes, I know you want to have a great marriage, and obedient, godly children.  But have you carefully thought out any of the details of making that vision a reality?

  • When you look at your relationship with your wife, how do you want it to be different a year from now… or 5 years from now?
  • When you look at your children, what things would you like to see in their lives and character in the coming year?  What about 10 years from now?
  • And what are you currently doing to help them to get there?

Are you taking spiritual leadership, headship, and overall responsibility of your family’s direction and future seriously?  Or are you just coasting through your marriage and parenting as if everything will just fall into place and work out okay, simply because you love God and have good intentions?

MEN, LET’S NOT BE NAIVE…

Godly families don’t happen by accident.  Godly families are built by Godly men – Men who are willing to do the hard work and pursue the sometimes painful process it takes to see their God-given family vision accomplished.

Have you ever seen an artist’s rendering of a building that’s not yet been built?  Obviously, someone had a vision in mind of what the end product would look like when it was completed.  They gave careful consideration to the many details that would be required to make their vision a reality.

I think the same can be applied to our vision as husbands and fathers.  Sometimes our hard work can seem more worth the effort if we keep in our sights a vision of the end product that we’re striving to build.

Seeing that vision become a reality might include any of the following:

  • putting date night back into your weekly or monthly schedule
  • implementing a family altar into your home of prayer and spiritual conversation
  • opening up better ongoing doors of communication with your wife and children
  • getting consistent in your discipline and expectations
  • getting on the same page as husband and wife about the vision for your children’s future
  • giving faithful church attendance the priority it deserves
  • starting a Bible study with one of your kids, or having some of those difficult conversations
  • scheduling time to simply have fun together as a family
  • saying no to other things and people, so that you can say yes to the things and people that matter most

WILL THE COMING YEAR LOOK ANY DIFFERENT THAN THE LAST?…

How do you want 2017 to look different for your family than the previous year?

In what areas of your family life or marriage do you feel that God has been speaking to you and prompting you about recently?

What do you need to implement starting today to help your family accomplish your God-given vision for them?

Even if its just one thing, take a step in the right direction to implement it into your family life today.

Because men, no one else is going to step up to make your vision for your family a reality.  And honestly, no one else has the responsibility to… but you.

Step Up. Lead. Turn Vision into Reality. Go!

Struggling to Be Disciplined?… Here’s Why

Understanding the great problem with discipline

“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  Romans 7:19

“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection…”  I Corinthians 9:27

Do you ever struggle with being disciplined?  Well, you’re in good company.

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What is Discipline? – It’s one of the most valuable resources any person can possess to produce more and lasting results over long periods of time.  

But discipline obviously comes at a price and with some great challenges. 

Here are a few of those challenges that I find difficult to fight against, and I’m sure that you do to:

The greatest enemy to discipline… THE FLESH

The greatest enemy to discipline is the flesh.  This was the case for the Apostle Paul, and it is for us too.  Think about it, anytime you’re tempted not to be disciplined, it’s because your flesh is screaming at you to pursue an easier or more comfortable alternative.

  • When I know I should snack on those raw carrots, my flesh is screaming at me to dig into the gooey chocolate covered cake.
  • When it’s time to wake up and do the morning workout routine, my body is screaming at me to hit the snooze and stay in bed.
  • When it’s time to give my family the best of myself after a long day’s work, my flesh is screaming at me to sit in the recliner and do absolutely nothing.

The greatest enemy to discipline is our flesh.

I just finished a 12 week fitness program that focuses on resistance training to get your health and body back into shape.  And I’ll be honest, getting up on time each morning and forcing my body to do exercises I didn’t even know existed has taken some discipline.  My body screams “No”, but discipline keeps me saying “Yes”. 

I’ve determined that when it’s the difference between what I want now, or what I want most, discipline helps me continue to strive for what I want most.  And that requires that I kick my flesh in the rear end Every. Single. Day.

The main problem with discipline… IT’S NOT REUSABLE

The main problem with discipline is this – I can’t rely on yesterday’s discipline to carry me through today.

Discipline is not reusable.

It can’t be bought in a weekly or monthly dosage. As wonderful a thing as it is, it still must be chosen, one day, after the next, after the next.  Even though I successfully wake up on time and hit the exercise routine today, that does not guarantee anything for tomorrow.  I’ll have to make the same choice once again to deny my flesh, and force it to obey the next morning. 

The same is true with my daily devotions, my eating habits, and how I spend my time.  I have to be disciplined enough to choose those things daily.

Why?  Because you can’t recycle discipline.  

How often has the world seen a once young and fit athlete turn into something far from it in the later years of their life?  How often has a pastor who was once a spiritual giant become prey to addiction or a moral failure? How often has a once strong and vibrant marriage become stale and stagnant?

Somewhere along the way, someone got comfortable, even complacent, about who and where they were, and stopped disciplining themselves to continue becoming better (a better athlete, leader, husband, wife, etc.), and as a result, they actually became worse.  

Sadly, many people don’t realize how far worse they’ve actually become until it’s too late.

The valuable reminder of discipline… IT’S WORTH IT

The valuable reminder in all of this is that no one in any area of life just “stays where they are.”  Discipline is worth it because we are always constantly moving towards something, either forward or backwards.  Discipline helps us to make sure that we are moving forward. 

We are always becoming better or worse, something more or something less – in our homes… in our marriages… in our churches… in our health… in our attitude.  It all depends upon our daily steps that take us in one direction or the other. 

“Your steps today determine your direction tomorrow.”

And it all goes back to discipline.  Discipline of your body and your mind.

Paul struggled like you and I do with the discipline to live out the daily victorious Christian life. Yet he found a way to do it by combining the strength of the Spirit (in the mind) and the discipline of the flesh (in the body) to win this battle.  Who do we think we are to be able to do it any other way? 

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  Romans 7:23  

Jesus faced this same problem with the disciples’ failure to exercise discipline in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus told them…

The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is week.  Matthew 26:41 

No matter how disciplined I was yesterday, I must choose it again today… and tomorrow… and the next day.  I must defeat discipline’s greatest enemy, my flesh (much of which takes place in my mind). 

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philippians 4:13

Every step of discipline I take, moves me another step closer to where I want to be, and where God wants me to be.  Which begs us to ask these questions:

  • Where do I want to be, and where does God want me to be?
  • A year from now, five years from now… in my home, my health, my spiritual life?
  • And what steps in that direction am I disciplining myself to take on a daily basis to get there?

As they say, “No pain, no gain.”  But the difficulty of discipline now is so worth the benefits (both temporal and eternal) later! 

How to Know if You’ve Been Called to the Ministry

4 ways to evaluate a God-given calling

One of the questions I’ve been asked multiple times over the years is this – “How do I really know if I’ve been called into the ministry?”

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Sometimes this question comes from a teenager or adult wrestling with God’s will for their life.  Other times, it comes from someone currently serving in full-time ministry who finds themselves questioning their life’s direction or calling.

For the person who is struggling with the answer to that question, here are some ways that God confirmed in my heart His calling upon my life into the ministry.  Hopefully they can help you as well.

1) DESIRE – God is the one who has put it in your heart

I Timothy 3:1  If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

I believe that first and foremost, if a person is called to the ministry, there must be a genuine desire to serve in the ministry.  This may be something that comes more naturally for some, while God may have to take more time to “convince” others. (For some people its a matter of God’s conviction over time prior to them being convinced over time.  But in the end, it still ultimately ends in a desire)

Regardless of the circumstances, a person must be “God-called”, and not pastor-called, parent-called, or pressure-called.

For me, from the time I was just a boy, it was my heart’s desire to follow in the footsteps of my dad, who was (and still is) a pastor.  Other than my childhood dream to one day play in the NBA (lol), my hearts’ desire and longing was to serve people through the ministry. Where did that desire come from?  I believe that God put it in my heart, in addition to using the circumstances around me (my parents example and passion) to grow that desire.

For many, the call comes at a specific time in their life when they surrender themselves to God and His calling upon their life to enter the gospel ministry.  Every calling will be unique, but every calling will include a God-given desire.

God says clearly that to desire to be in the ministry is a good thing, and that is where a calling must start.

2) GIFTING – Because of your gifting and abilities

I Cor. 1:27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…

Every person in ministry will have different levels of abilities, but there are some certain characteristics and abilities that usually accompany a call to the ministry.  (I Timothy 3 is a great place to start for some basic requirements/abilities)

It is highly unlikely that God is currently calling you into the ministry if you’re still struggling to make it to church from one Sunday to the next or if you’re simply struggling to be faithful as a layman.

As my former pastor, Bill Prater, used to always say…

“When God is looking for someone to call to the ministry, He’s usually going to reach down and pick the best of the best.  He’s going to call people who are actively serving, and who will leave a huge gap in the ministry when they’re gone.”

If you’re not currently and actively involved in your local church, that is the best place to start for God to be able to confirm (either way) His calling upon your life.

My dad always used to say, “God doesn’t call the able, He enables the called.”  This is so true.  No matter what natural God-given abilities a person may or may not possess, God is ultimately the one who enables any of us to serve him in a ministry capacity.  He still uses the foolish and weak things of this world.

3) CONFIRMATION – Validation from other Godly leaders in your life

Proverbs 11:14  Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

Over the years, I’ve seen many people (young and old) called into the full-time ministry.  And one thing that confirms God’s calling upon a person’s life more than possibly any other is when God also confirms that same calling in the heart of their pastor.

If your pastor is not convinced that you are called to the ministry, that is a red flag to be seriously considered.  Equally, if your pastor is convinced that you are called to the ministry, that should also be greatly considered before you step out of it.

Although many people are gifted by God with similar talents and abilities, not all are called to full time ministry.  The ministry is not for everyone. The church greatly needs gifted laymen as well.  And you would be better to serve as your churches’ finest layman than to enter into the ministry uncalled.

If you are unsure of your calling, always seek the godly counsel of the spiritual leaders in your life. God has surrounded you with other people who will be able to recognize and validate God’s calling in your life, or at least steer you in the right direction.

4) PASSION – You can’t see yourself doing anything else

Jeremiah 20:9   But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones… and I could not stay.

If you can go find a secular job to make a living and provide for your family, and be okay with doing that long-term, then that’s exactly what you need to do.

The gospel ministry needs to be a passion within you that you cannot quench. And every time you try, it just keeps coming back.

The last thing that our churches need is more full-time ministers who are only part-time Christians.  God’s ministry deserves people who are top-notch, full-throttle, passionate followers of Jesus who strive towards leading others to be the same.

If that is not who you are or who you’re willing to be, than for the sake of God, His kingdom, and His Gospel, hang your ministry hat up on the shelf for someone else to wear, be faithful at the job God has given to you, and be the best Christian employee at that job that you can possibly be.

God’s work is far too important for us to him-haw around with whether or not we are serious and all-in.  Either we are, or we aren’t, and that’s a good indicator of God’s calling as well.

If you’re working outside of the ministry, but your passion for it seems to continue growing, keep praying and pursuing God’s will and Godly counsel until He opens the right doors.

If on the other hand, at sometime in your life, you knew that God called you into ministry, but that passion and desire has changed, don’t hinder the cause of Christ and hurt the kingdom of God by refusing to let go and move on. (even if it’s just for a season)

However, if the reason your passion has waned is because you’re just not walking with God and simply need a spiritual kick in the pants, then get on your face before God, confess your complacency, and pick up your sword where you left it!

I Thess. 2:4  But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak.

If God has called you, then God has trusted you with the most important message and mission that the world has ever known (as he has every Christian).  And may we never take that calling lightly.

Hopefully these reminders will be helpful for the person who is wrestling with the call of God upon their life.  If that’s you, and you’d like someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out to me.  I’d be glad to help.

Life Lessons Learned From a Culture of Less

Take-aways from our family's missions trip to Grenada

Our family just returned from a missions trip to Grenada, West Indies this past week with a team from our church.

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We helped conduct VBS and other evangelistic outreach, and what an enjoyable and memorable experience it was.  From the very moment we arrived and first met the Grenadian people, there were two things that quickly became very obvious to all of us – they are a people with so much less (things, toys, gadgets, conveniences), but they are a people with so much more (joy, contentment, easy-going disposition).

While it would be hard to share all the many things God taught us over the past week, here are a few of the lessons and reminders that stood out to me from rubbing shoulders with the good people of Grenada:

1 – Prioritize People Over Possessions

Surprisingly, the Grenadian culture doesn’t seem to lend itself to the same level of focus on materialism and things as we do in America.  Rather, much more of their focus is on relationships with other people in their daily lives.  They are not running an endless rat race as we do in America to constantly get “the next best thing”, and their access to such things on the island is very limited.

They make the most of what they have, and they are content with such things.  This is something most of us definitely need to learn in the U.S.

2 – Prioritize Passion Over Perfection

While we often try to put equal emphasis upon both passion and perfection in most everything we do (especially ministry), if we had to choose between the two, passion should win over perfection.  While the Grenadian people are not perfectionists in the way they do things, they are very passionate in the way that they do them.

The first evening church service our team went to during the week was an eye opener for our entire group.  To see and to hear the way in which the Grenadians worship and praise the Lord with such passion was energizing.  They were just so real in their worship that it was both refreshing and challenging at the same time.

It makes you stop and think how often we are guilty of focusing more on perfection than passion, and as a result, missing out on the greater of the two.  While I believe that we can and should strive for both, it’s important to remember which is most important.

3 – A Nicer Life Does Not Necessarily Make It a Better Life

In America, we’re used to nice finished homes and churches with carpeted floors, multiple indoor restrooms, air conditioning, etc.  But those are all things that many foreign countries have very little of.  And while I wouldn’t want to live without the niceties of my American life, surprisingly, the people of Grenada were far happier and content with their less than most people in America are with their more. We could live with far less than what we have or think we need.

Paul said in I Timothy 6:8  “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”  Life is what you make of it, and I was reminded that a nicer life does not necessarily make it a better life.

4 – Less Really Can Be More

It was an amazing thing to see how little these people have.  Things that we daily take for granted are things that they don’t even consider having to go without.  It was such a joy to watch children get so excited over small things like toothbrushes, notebook paper, candy (“sweeties” as they call them), bubbles, and sunglasses.

They have no Walmart, no Dollar Stores, and no access to so many little things that we have daily at our fingertips.  They have so little, but they are so thankful for the little that they have.  It was quite convicting.  I was especially thankful that my children saw this firsthand and were greatly impacted by it.

5 – It’s Okay to Slow Down and Enjoy Life

The fast paced busy culture that we see all around us on a daily basis is not what we saw this past week.  Rather, people actually take their time to slow down and “smell the roses”.  Their roads and traffic are crazy, but no one seems to get easily upset or ticked off with one another.

It was also interesting that when you bring something to their attention, their response is always “no problem”.  They seem to have very little “problems” because they simply go with the flow of life, and don’t get bent out of shape over the little daily inconveniences that we might normally let ruin our day.

It was thrilling for my wife and I to watch our two oldest kids get to experience the culture and life lessons to be learned from this missions trip and these people.  In addition, they were both able to lead their first souls to Christ as well this past week.  How cool!  I’m excited at how the Lord worked in their hearts and know that it has the potential to bring about life-change for them both now and in the future.

If you ever get the chance to go on a missions trip with your family, I would strongly encourage you to make whatever sacrifices necessary to make it happen.  The benefits and blessings for both you and others will far outweigh the sacrifices that you’ll make to be able to go.

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7 Practical Keys To Balancing Family, Work & Ministry

A Busy Leader's Guide To Keeping First Things First (Part 2)

Last week, we started answering ‘The Big Question’… How in the world do I balance it all?  You can read last week’s article by clicking here.  Whether you serve as full-time staff, a bi-vocational pastor, or a ministry volunteer, this article will help you get off to the right start when it comes to finding balance.

Work Life Balance

Today, I want to share with you 7 practical keys to balancing family, work, and ministry that have helped bring the needed balance in my family life and ministry.

So here they are… How many of these 7 things are you practicing?

1. Leverage your mornings

One of the greatest keys to successfully balancing your life and schedule most often starts at the beginning of every day.  How you start your day often determines the success of the rest of it.

Some of your most productive and focused time can be found early in the mornings when both your mind and your focus has a fresh start.  In a recent article, I outlined some practical ideas for how to Jumpstart Your Mornings.  I’d encourage you to read it to find out more.

2. Leave the office on time

This needs to be based on a timeframe, not based upon your to do list.  There are many nights when I could easily stay and work for a couple more hours getting things done, but I have to remind myself to go back to my order of priorities – God, family, then work or ministry.  I’m sure you find yourself in those same shoes often.

It’s important to remember that even if I got it all done, there will still always be more to do tomorrow. Why is it that we more quickly shortchange our family than we do our work?

How would you answer these two questions?… When’s the last time you prioritized your work at the expense of your family?  When’s the last time you prioritized your family at the expense of your work? Unfortunately, for most of us, the answer to at least one of those questions is probably pretty obvious.

It’s understandable that there will be necessary and even intense seasons or times of staying late or working overtime, but if those times ever become the majority or the norm, our family is sure to notice, and they have every right to view it as a legitimate concern.

We can’t afford for the gap between what we say are our priorities, and what our family actually sees as being our priorities, to be very wide. If our work is truly that much and that pressing, here’s what I would suggest you do – steal an hour from your sleep at night by staying up an hour later or getting up and hour earlier, before making it a regular habit of daily stealing an hour or more away from your family.

3. Take a day off

If you are on a church staff and feel like you have too much to do that it’s not possible to take a day off, here are a few suggestions you may need to consider:

  • Meet with your pastor and ask him for help and understanding in how to best minimize your work load.
  • Find creative ways to delegate tasks that anyone can do, but that you are currently doing.
  • Learn to identify and eliminate things that in the grand scheme of things are time wasters and unnecessary. (more thoughts on this in the next point)

If you have no choice about not having a day off simply because you’re serving in ministry bi-vocationally or some other situation, I would just encourage you to have a plan for that schedule not to be a long-term plan.

My family loves my day off maybe even more than I do. My kids will often ask me in the mornings, “Is today your day off, Dad?” or, “How many more days until your day off?”, because they look forward to it as much as I do, knowing that we’ll get to spend extra time together and have fun.

4. Eliminate what’s unnecessary

  •  What are you currently doing that could be done by someone else?
  • What are you doing that you could stop doing, and it wouldn’t really negatively affect anyone or anything in your organization?
  • What are you doing that you could train someone else to do and/or delegate to someone else in your ministry?
  • What are you doing that anyone could do that is keeping your from succeeding at doing what only you can do?
  • What kind of things is your family participating in that are just filling up space on your calendar without really contributing to your overall purpose and direction as a family?

My guess is that if you’re serious about finding balance, there are some things that you could eliminate from your life and schedule if you really wanted to.

5. Combine family and ministry when possible

Don’t ever get the mistaken idea that there is a fine and definite line between family life and ministry life. They can often be the same, killing two birds with one stone.

Obviously, ministry can’t be the only times you’re spending quality time together as a family, but it certainly should be included in those times. Learn to take some of your kids with you when running ministry errands or making visits.

Serving in ministry together as family can be one of the greatest ways to instill and transfer a passion for serving Christ in your children.  Be creative as a parent in making things like visitation and serving others a fun and enjoyable experience.

Whether that means that they get to have a responsibility in those areas of service, or simply letting them know you’ll be going out for ice cream following times of family ministry, make ministry and serving the Lord together a common and memorable occurrence.

6. Protect your evenings

Evenings need to primarily be family times (keep at least 2-4 open nights a week).  Follow a plan by being intentional with themes, activities, devotions, etc. You want your wife and kids to anticipate when you come home each evening, and nothing speaks this louder than when you have special things planned to do together.  (Here’s a Perfect Family Game Plan you need to check out that will make you the family hero.)

7. Ask God for Help!

This should be able to go without saying, but we need to be reminded.  The Bible says in James 1:5 to ask God for wisdom, and He will give it to you.

Ask the Lord to show you how to better balance your family life and ministry life. Ask some spiritual leaders in your life to help you evaluate your effectiveness in the way you work, and some ways they see that you could become even more effective. Because usually those who work with you can see ways that you can be more effective if you’ll just be willing to ask them, and then humbly and openly receive and apply what they tell you.

While I don’t know your specific situation or what burdens you carry, what I do know is this – God never intended for your Christian life to be an unending rat race that you can never keep up with.

  • God never intended for your family to take a back seat to your ministry.
  • God never intended for your ministry to keep you away from your personal time with Him.
  • God never intended for you to always feel stressed or to carry your burdens alone.

Maintaining balance between ministry and family life IS POSSIBLE!  There are many ministry leaders who are both Godly and successful both in their ministries and their homes. But it does take intentionality, a plan, and the help of God to carry it out. Are you willing to go through the uncomfortable process of developing and carrying out such a plan?

“Remember, there’s just one thing that every person has that’s exactly the same – time.  No one gets more and no one gets less.  Its all in how we choose to manage it.”

I hope that these 7 practical things are helpful to you.  Which of these 7 things do you think is the most important?  What would you add to the list that you’ve found to be helpful to maintaining balance in your life?

The Big Question… How In The World Do I Balance It All?

A Busy Leader's Guide To Keeping First Things First (Part 1)

BALANCE…  we all want it.  We all need it.  Yet it’s a bit harder of a thing to find than it is a word to say.

Balance

In my annual Reader Survey, I found that over half of the readers on my blog are either paid staff or leaders in some capacity in their church or children’s ministry.

And when asked these questions, “What is the #1 challenge you are facing or question you would like answered about the family… children’s ministry… and ministry and leadership”, the overwhelming response to all three questions was the same – How Do I Balance It All – family, work, ministry, etc.?

I can certainly relate with this challenge, having struggled through the years to find this balance myself.  But thankfully, while I’ve by no means arrived, I do feel at a place in life having better balance than any time before.

While these principles may come from the slant of a pastor’s perspective, whether you serve as full-time staff, a bi-vocational pastor, or a ministry volunteer, I believe that these principles can apply to all of us if we’re willing to implement them.

So with those thoughts in mind, let’s address the issue of The Big Question – How in the world do I balance it all?

Here’s three things that are the best place to start…

1. DETERMINE YOUR ORDER OF PRIORITIES – God, Family, then Ministry

Long before God established the church, He instituted the family, as both the cornerstone of society and the world itself.  (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:22-24)

From the start, we must understand that before we will ever find balance in our lives, our families, and our ministries, we must align our order of priorities with God’s – He comes first,  our family comes next, and the ministry follows.

While God’s calling to the ministry is one of the greatest on earth, it is not above God’s calling upon our lives to be husbands or wives, and fathers or mothers.

Because no matter what we accomplish through our ministries, if we fail to accomplish God’s plan through our family, we’ve truly made a deal with the devil that’s not worth the trade-off.

Far too many Christian families have been guilty of prioritizing their work for God above their love for family, and ended up losing their family as a result.  God never intended it to be that way, nor does it have to be.

I submit to you that it is possible to serve in a busy and growing ministry while at the same time having a thriving and successful family life.  It simply takes intentionality about prioritizing what matters most.  (This is one of the reasons I recently introduced The Intentional Family Game Plan as a free resource. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to check it out.)

Remember this – you may invest into multiple churches or ministries throughout your lifetime, but God has given you only one family to invest in.  Following your relationship with the Lord, your family is to be your primary priority.  God. Family. Ministry.

Once you’ve determined your priorities, you need to…

2. DEVELOP YOUR SCHEDULE AROUND THOSE PRIORITIES 

This requires that you intentionally evaluate your life, your time, and your schedule, to see if they’re lining up with your priorities.  Because no matter what we say our priorities are, if our daily life doesn’t back them up, they’re nothing more than words, and we’ve successfully deceived ourselves into thinking that good intentions equal intentionality.

Sadly, it’s much harder to deceive our families, because whether we want to admit it or not, they know where they land in our order of priorities.

You may have heard of Stephen Covey’s powerful illustration of the big rocks (representing your most important priorities) and the small pebbles (representing the secondary things in your life that are of less importance).

In his illustration, if you pour the small pebbles into a jar first, then try to fit all of the big rocks on top, it’s impossible to fit them all.  But if you put the big rocks into the jar first, pouring the small pebbles in afterwards, the pebbles fill the cracks in between the big rocks, allowing everything to fit in the same jar after all.

Rock Illustration

The point is simple – that first things must come first… then the rest.  Learn to prioritize what matters most first, and then do those more trivial things.

Unlike the illustration, sometimes, even after scheduling what matters most first, you still won’t have time for all of the more trivial things, and guess what, that’s okay.  Learn to accept it.  Life will go on, and the most important things will have been accomplished.  This has been a hard lesson for me to learn.

I’ve found that the best and sometimes only way to make all of this happen is to put in on your schedule.  Because what get’s scheduled gets done.

Finally, you must…

3. DEPEND ON SOME PEOPLE YOU TRUST TO HELP HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE

Once you’ve determined and scheduled your priorities, make yourself vulnerable, and your schedule of priorities available to someone else that you trust.  It might be your spouse, a good friend, or someone else you trust to have your best interest in mind.

When it come to balancing ministry and family for me, I’m very blessed with a pastor/boss who not only exemplifies such balance himself by following a pre-determined schedule that includes consistently leaving the office each night on time, but also strongly encourages his staff to do the same.

Whether you find yourself in a similar situation or not, take matters into your own hands to both hold yourself accountable and find someone else to help hold you accountable as well.

While these three things may seem like overly practical reminders of how to set your priorities, I hope you’ll personally and honestly answer the question of whether or not you’ve actually taken the time to do them, and then take whatever actions necessary.

Once you’ve done these things, you’ve laid the groundwork for successfully benefiting from what I’ll be sharing with you in the next post – 7 Practical Keys to Balancing Family, Work, & Ministry. These are seven things that I’ve learned to put into practice that have helped to bring the needed balance in my life, and I trust that they’ll help you to do the same in yours.

“Remember, balance is never an instant luxury to be assumed, it’s an ongoing discipline to be achieved.”

If you’ve found the tips in this article to be helpful, please share it with others!

5 Essentials To Becoming A Star Staff Member

How to become a first rate 'second man'

If you serve in a staff position or as a leader in ministry at your church, one of the most important relationships you have is the one with your pastor.  In an effort to make that relationship the best that it can be and yourself the best that you can be, here are 5 specific ways that you can strive to be a star staff member…

Star Staff Member

1. Prioritize Your Pastor

  • By prioritizing his Vision… Your Pastor’s ministry (not your own) is your first priority.  While you certainly need to have a vision for your own ministry, you are not there to carry out your own vision.  Your ministry is an extension of your pastor’s.  Your vision must first and foremost align with his.
  • By prioritizing his Reputation… You are a reflection of your pastor’s leadership and ministry.  Guarding your testimony is in essence guarding his.
  • By prioritizing his Awareness… Your pastor ought to be a better leader because of you, otherwise, why are you there?  Keep him in the know of things that he should be made aware of, and learn to take care of the things that he shouldn’t have to be bothered with.  If you don’t yet know the difference, ask him about his preferences concerning what he does and doesn’t want brought to his attention.  It will be a win-win for both of you.
  • By prioritizing his Time… Pastors are busy people, and if anyone knows that, it should be a staff member.  Do your best to guard your pastor’s time and to relieve him of any and all burdens that you can.  This requires that you be a servant willing to do any and all things that ministry requires, whether that be cleaning toilets, mowing grass, shoveling snow, making visits or running errands.  Just remember, until you are the one preparing 3+ sermons a week, it’s important that you are making it possible for your pastor to be able to do so effectively.

“Allow the term ‘Servant’ to be your job description.  Anything that falls under that description, do it.”via Twitter, The Second Man (@TheSecndMan)

2.  Leverage Longevity

Why is it that statistically, the average church staff position is only filled for 3-4 years?  If the people leading can’t learn to work through adversity to be real and lasting leaders, why should we wonder why we lack in seeing real and lasting results?

I’m convinced that there are certain joys of ministry that some pastors and staff will never experience because they don’t stay long enough to see those joys come to fruition.

Certainly there are times when it’s just “time to go”, but one of the greatest blessings in ministry for both pastor and people is when staff members stay the course to make a real, lasting difference and eternal impact, and not just use a position as a personal stepping stone to greener grass somewhere else.

3. Overcome Offenses

One of the reasons for such short term staff life is that oftentimes, as soon as offenses or difficulties come, staff leave.  There is always an end to every honeymoon stage, whether it’s in a marriage or a ministry.

For as long as you’re in ministry, you’re going to get hurt, and things are going to get hard at times. But that’s often when the boys are separated from the men.  As leaders, we can’t carry our feelings on our shoulders.  If we expect our people to overcome offenses, we’d better be the ones leading the way.

Here’s a couple of tips when it comes to dealing with offenses in the ministry:

  1. Men, lead your wife, not the other way around.  Don’t get quickly offended through your wife and her offenses. There’s a reason why God put the man in charge in the home.  Decisions must be made rationally, not emotionally.
  2. Don’t make major ministry decisions based on offenses, but based upon prayer and God’s leading.  Yes, there may come a time when God moves you, but I’m afraid that too many ministries have ended prematurely because men of God have acted in the heat of the moment, rather than as a result of waiting on God and walking in the Spirit.
  3. Get over it.  In ministry, there are much bigger things at stake than just our feelings.  So for the bigger purpose, one way or another, we’ve got to learn to move on.

“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Psalms 119:165

4. Contribute to Your Culture

Every church staff has it’s own culture, and it’s okay that one is different from another.  It’s important that as a staff member, you understand and adapt to the culture of your particular church, while at the same time contributing to making it better.

If a staff member is not careful, they can come into a church situation and see all the things they don’t like about the culture, and set out to change them.  When in reality, none of those things are biblical principles, as much as they are cultural preferences.  An understanding of this difference can prevent a lot of headache and disunity in a ministry.

Remember that the culture is ultimately set by the pastor and it is usually not a doctrinal issue.  It is, for the most part, a personality issue. Meaning, there will be as many different styles of church cultures out there as there are men leading them.

Just as every pastor’s personality is different, every church culture will be different as well.  And that is a good thing, as God has placed that specific man in that specific place for His specific purpose.  Wherever God has placed you, learn to both adapt to the culture, while at the same time contributing towards improving it.

5. Excel in Excellence

Whatever your area of ministry, strive for excellence!

Constantly be working to improve and pursue bettering yourself in your areas of passion and gifting.

Never forget that you are your pastor’s representative and a reflection of him to the people of your church and community.  When you excel, you make your pastor look good, and it ought to be your desire that your leadership reflects well upon him and his ministry.  And honestly, if that’s not your desire, you need to find somewhere else to serve and someone else to be paying you your salary.

God deserves your best.  Your pastor deserves your best.  And the people of your church who sacrifice to make your salary possible deserve your best as well.  So Excel!

Just as Joshua enhanced the leadership of Moses, and Timothy reflected well upon the ministry of Paul, may the same things be true of us as “second men.”

What would you add to this list of ways to be a star staff member?

If you’re a ministry leader in any capacity, I’m praying for you today.  Feel free to let me know if you have any specific requests that I can pray with you about.

5 Ideas to JUMPSTART Your Mornings in the New Year

How To Have Your Most Productive Year Yet!

Let’s be real honest… some of us need some super jumper cables to revive us and jumpstart our lives every morning.  (Yes, we call it Coffee! Preferably with french vanilla creamer to be exact.)

Our groans when the alarm goes off sound similar to our car engines on a cold morning trying to turn over… and over… and over again.  Whether you’re a parent who’s feeling the drag, a kidmin or other ministry leader who can’t seem to find the time to get it all done, or anyone else, let me quickly give you five ways to jumpstart your mornings in the coming year.

I challenge you to try these things for just one week, 7 days, and see if you don’t find yourself more productive as a parent or leader, and well pleased with your results.  I’m not guaranteeing that you’ll like these 5 things, but I can pretty well guarantee that if you’ll discipline yourself to do them, you’ll gladly reap the benefits.   So here they are, 5 Ideas to Jumpstart your mornings in 2016.

1) Get out of bed immediately when you’re alarm goes off

I know this sounds absurdly crazy for some of us, but why should we continue wasting 10, 20, 30 minutes or even an hour of our day every day trying to get more sleep that’s not even good for us, and actually slows us down throughout the rest of the day?

For me personally, it gives me a headache throughout the day if I push the snooze button multiple times in the morning.

Years ago, a friend and I decided to both try this out – to wake up “snooze-less” for two weeks, and hold each other accountable each morning.  We both found that it was actually quite beneficial to our daily routine.  I can’t say I’ve always been consistent since then, but I’m finding it’s value once again as I’m trying to make my mornings a time of peak productivity.

Try it… if you dare.  You’ll feel more refreshed at the start of your day (of course, that is, after the initial painful forcing of yourself to get up out of bed.)

2) Drink a glass of water before you eat or start your day

I’m going to guess that all of us need to drink more water than we do.  A great way to start is by holding off on breakfast or that first cup of coffee until we’ve first downed a good sized glass of water to replenish and rehydrate our system after the night’s rest.

This is one of our family’s goals for the coming year… to drink more water this year than any other…  And it all starts for each of us as soon as we wake up.  The benefits are too many to list, but here’s a few… it purifies the body, helps you eat less and loose weight, and even forces you to take more breaks throughout the day 😃.

Try it out, and you’re going to feel more refreshed, more healthy, and less weighed down.  God made water for our bodies, and we need a lot more of it than we get.

3) Get up one hour earlier than normal

For years I would wake up around 7am, giving myself an hour to get up and ready to leave for work. Until one day I realized I was cheating myself out of potentially some of the most productive time of my day – early morning.  (It’s the quietest time of the day, everyone else is still asleep, and my mind is sharper than at other times.)

If you want to get up an hour earlier, it’s really pretty simple, don’t miss this… go to bed one hour earlier!  Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep to get a full night’s rest.  Find out what your need is, and then plan your sleep accordingly so you can get up and be productive in the morning.

I think you’ll find that it’s not just your mornings that become better, but you’ll actually notice the benefit of it the entire rest of the day.

4) Have a specific plan

Getting up an hour earlier does you no good if you don’t have a plan for what you’re going to do with that extra hour.  (If you’re just going to wake up an hour earlier to watch Good Morning America, then you might as well stay in bed.)

Write your morning game plan down on a piece of paper.  If you’ve now got two hours in the morning instead of just one, it might look something like this (you could allot 30 minutes for each)…

  • Wake up and get ready for the day
  • Spend time alone with God in Bible reading and prayer
  • Eat breakfast and/or exercise
  • Spend time writing, reading, or journaling

Whatever you decide to do, have a specific plan.

And now for the biggin’…

5) Say No to Facebook until after your morning routine

I know, some of you just about spilt or spewed your coffee when you read that.

Statistically, 80% of smartphone users check social media within the first 15 minutes of waking up. And, as I’m sure you know, sometimes it eats up the first 30 minutes or more of their day. You don’t have t0 be a statistic.  You can be an overcomer of the little red notification button. I believe in you.  (I know, I know, it’s calling you’re name as soon as you wake up and see it.)

For some of you, don’t even look at or open FB, because once you do, you’ve just shot your morning game plan in the foot.

The average person spends 87 minutes a day on social media Monday through Thursday, and over 160 minutes a day on the weekends.  However, also on average, a person can read about 12,000 words per hour and write about 1,000 words per hour. (this blog post is a little over 1,000 words, in case you’re wondering)  Think about that… How many books could a person read… or write, notes of encouragement could be easily written and sent, or how many prayers go un-prayed because we’re just too occupied with something like FB novelty?

Think of what you could do in the coming year if you scratched off an extra hour of your day, every day, and implemented these five things. I have a sneaking suspicion that you, your family, and maybe even your friends will notice both the difference in you and also the greater difference you’re making beyond you.

Well, there you have it.   The question now is, will you do it?  I’d challenge you to take on any one of these 5 things and implement them into your morning routine.  Or if you’re up for it, take on all 5, for just one week, and then look back and consider the benefits.  You might just decide not to stop.

I’d love to hear how it goes.  Also, I’d love to hear which one of the five you feel is the most important.  You can share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

3 Surprisingly Unexpected Ways To Evaluate Your Year

At the end of a year, wise people will stop and evaluate the previous year, and see how they can improve themselves over the next 12 months.  Well, the last page of this last year is soon to be written, and the first page of the next is almost ready to be turned.

Before you turn the page on a new year, here are 3 super simple, yet easily overlooked things to check to evaluate your 2016.  I hope you’ll take this challenge, and check these 3 things, even today.

1.   Your FACEBOOK

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are pretty high that you have a Facebook account, and that you even use it quite frequently.

Here’s the challenge… Go to your profile page and take 30 minutes to scroll through your entire 2015 year’s posts.  Look at the type of things you posted about the most and ask yourself some questions:

  • Are the majority of my posts positive or negative?
  • Did I post anything in the heat of the moment that looking back, I regret now?
  • Did I tear anyone down, build anyone up, or exalt God through my posts?
  • Did I post about anything spiritual, encouraging, or helpful?
  • If I were someone else, would I want to follow me and get my posts in my news feed every day?
  • What do my last year’s posts reveal about my priorities and life perspective?

2.  Your CHECKBOOK

Jesus said that “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Look at your checkbook log over the last year (yes, please tell me that you have one 🙂 )  It reveals not only where you’re investing, but more importantly, it’s a good indicator of where your heart is.

Grab your checkbook, and here’s the challenge as you look through it… Ask yourself these questions:

  • If someone else were looking at my checking log, could they easily see that God and His Church were given first priority in my giving?
  • Apart from my giving to God, can I find any other expenses that were used for the benefit of others outside of my family?
  • Approximately what dollar amount did I spend each month on personal convenience, pampering, and entertainment?
  • Looking at the previous year’s log, where do I feel I need to adjust my spending habits or my priorities?

3.  Your copy of GOD’S BOOK

While we’re checking the “books” that play an important role in our year to year life, let’s not forget about the most important book of all – God’s Word.

Here’s the challenge… Pick up your Bible right now, open it up, and answer these questions as you flip through it’s pages:

  • Is your Bible any different at the end of this year than it was as the beginning?
  • Are there any more highlights, notes written in the margins, or wear and tear from usage?
  • Did you read it more or less than the previous year?  Did you read it daily?
  • At the end of another year, do you know more about your Bible than you do about the latest TV series you watched or the latest gossip on FB?

Someone once wisely said, “A Bible that’s falling apart belongs to a Christian who isn’t.”

Unfortunately, if we were to put all three of the above “books” into printed form, I have a feeling that the first two in the list might show significantly more wear and tear than the last.  Sad, but true.

Will 2017 be any different?  Well, Now is the time to decide!

Let’s get ready to write the first page of 2016 with things like building up others, investing our treasures into what really matters, and spending more of our time in the only Book that has the power to change our lives!

Books I Read In 2015

Throughout the year, I try to read through a new book every couple of months.  Here are the books I read in 2015.

Books Read in 2015

These are not in order of importance, simply in the order that I read them throughout the year. (I purposefully didn’t include the Bible in this list considering it should be a given.  However, by the end of the month, I will have read through it this year as well.)