Does This Please God?

Pleasing GodThis is the only question that matters.

If you’ve managed to make everyone in your life happy, but you’ve failed to please God in the process, you’ve failed, period.

If you’ve disappointed everyone in your life, including yourself, but pleased God in the process, you’re a success, period.

In the end pleasing God is all that matters.

That’s why Ephesians 5:10 says, “Find out what pleases the Lord.”

Because everything else is secondary.

Everything.

Five Minutes That Will Save Your Marriage

save your marriage
There are always two kinds of divorces – ones that people see coming a mile away, and those that completely blindside people.

Divorces that people see coming a mile away are usually preceded by:

  • Getting married too quickly without getting all the issues out on the table (ex. character flaws, addictions, hurtful relational patterns, previous family dynamics, etc.).
  • Marrying someone whose personality is incompatible with yours (i.e. makes me think of that great line in the song “Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna – “Maybe that’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano…”).
  • Pledging to be lifelong partners when either the bride or groom was not radically committed to the idea of a lifelong marriage, no matter what.
  • Marrying a Yankees fan.

It’s easy to predict whether or not these kinds of marriages will go the distance.

But predicting if a good marriage will eventually go south – not so much. [Read more...]

How To Raise Kids That Hate Christianity

Dearly Beloved Are You Listening?
Every Christian parent should be required to listen to Green Day’s song Jesus of Suburbia.

Even though most evangelical parents will never hear it played on their radio stations, Jesus of Suburbia is one of the most prophetic rebukes of lukewarm Christian faith delivered in years.

Jesus of Suburbia begins,

I’m the son of rage and love
The Jesus of Suburbia
From the bible of “none of the above”
On a steady diet of soda-pop and Ritalin
No one ever died for my sins in hell
As far as I can tell
At least the ones I got away with

Green Day follows in the footsteps of legendary punk bands The Clash, The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, so you expect them to be anti-everything.

But there’s something deeper lurking behind the words: It’s the thoughts of grown-ups raised in homes sprinkled with a veneer of Christian sensibility – homes with just enough Jesus to keep them off drugs while growing up, but not enough to fully convert the self-centered suburban lifestyles of their parents.

Jesus veneer + unconverted lifestyles of parents = disciples of the Jesus of Suburbia.

Their creed? Their statement of faith? Jesus of Suburbia continues… [Read more...]

You Are Allowed To Hate God

angel crying

You are allowed to hate God.

If you don’t believe me I encourage you to read the “Psalms of Lament.”

Biblical scholars use that term for those psalms prayed by those living in immense pain. Our English word lament comes from the Latin word for weeping. Psalms 6, 13, 22, 35, 42, 43, 88, 102, 109, and 137 are examples of this type of psalm.

You’ll know you’ve come across one when you feel like you’ve turned the corner in a hallway and bumped into someone kicking, punching, and screaming at a locked door; the psalms of lament are that intense.

For quite some time, when I was troubled or angry with God, I never told him about it—I didn’t think I was allowed. This resulted in an inconsistency between what was in my heart and what came out of my mouth. The psalms of lament gave me the courage to be real.

If the psalms of lament teach us anything, it is this: Christians can love God and feel immense hatred toward him at the same time. God doesn’t want tamed down, sanitized, forcibly dishonest prayers. He wants us to talk to him from our hearts, and sometimes that involves screaming and using words we wouldn’t repeat in public.

Sometimes anything less than this is dishonest. [Read more...]

Don’t Pray Before Meals? Read This.

Praying before meals
3,743 Days.

That’s how many days I estimate our family prayed together at the dinner table when I was a kid.

Calculating that number was surprisingly easy.

I took out Friday nights because that was pizza night. Everyone was responsible for praying his or her own prayer on the way to sacking dad as he walked through the door with the warm Massey’s Pizza box under his arm.

Then I removed Saturdays and Sundays from the tally. Weekends were survival of the fittest. We ate between games, trips to the grandparents, etc. We prayed for sure, but it wasn’t routine. So no prayers counted for those days.

That left Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. On those days we prayed before dinner every night, without fail. Except for the time when I was 14 and tried to back the car down the driveway to shoot basketball and accidentally ran over the mailbox. We didn’t pray that night. But that was it.

Usually dad prayed, but we’d all take turns.

That means that all together we prayed:

4 days a week
x 52 weeks a year
x 18 years
= 3744 days
– the day I killed the mailbox
= 3743 total times we prayed as a family before dinner.

Some Christians don’t place a high value on praying before a meal. That’s a mistake. I believe that saying grace before dinnertime ranks second only behind going to church as the most important thing parents can do to impact their children spiritually.

Here are 5 things that happen when you pray together as a family before meals:

[Read more...]

The Evangelistic Secret Of Maud L. Eastwood, Worldwide Doorknob Expert

Maud L. EastwoodI’ll never forget the day I asked Dr. LeRoy Lawson to speak to our staff at CCV about how to lead a church from 1,300 to 3,000.

What he shared was so counterintuitive, and so contrary to popular approaches to evangelism, that I thought every Christian who reads this blog would greatly benefit from hearing what he shared that day.

“You know, your pastor invited me to talk to you about how you can lead your church to grow from thirteen hundred to three thousand. I don’t know how much help I’ll be. I don’t think you can manufacture such things, even if you tried. Instead, what I’d like to do is help you think about how to become the kinds of leaders three thousand new converts would want to follow.”

Everyone on our staff leaned forward. We were hooked.

Boring Christians

“What makes you interesting?” he asked.

Silence.

“Think about that for a moment,” he said.

“Most Christians are incredibly boring, wouldn’t you agree?” Everyone nodded. [Read more...]

The 3 Most Helpful Questions You’ll Ever Be Asked By A Therapist

The Blessing Ranch

I’ve been to therapy twice in my life.

The first time was when our new church was in the middle of its second building project in five years and the economic downturn hit. I was emotionally ruined and hastily making preparations to quit the ministry. But before I could pull the trigger a ministry friend, Tim Harlow, all but forced me to go see Dr. John Walker at The Blessing Ranch, a ministry in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado that provides intensive counseling services for pastors. Our church couldn’t afford the fee, so Tim offered to pay my way. I tell people that Dr. John Walker and Tim Harlow saved my ministry.

The second time sitting in a counselor’s chair was when I began a sabbatical here at CCV. Our church offers our pastoral staff a one-month sabbatical after seven years of full-time service. We consider it an investment in their future ministry. In addition, we require them to go see a licensed counselor for a check up. It was then that I saw Dr. Virgina Cadle at Life Counseling. I tell people that if Dr. John Walker and Tim Harlow saved my ministry, Dr. Cadle saved my life. Not “saved my life” in the sense that I was going to commit suicide, but in the sense that I had finally, with her help, begun to address the unhealthy thought patterns that were making me miserable.

Both experiences so profoundly changed me that my only regret is I didn’t sit down with either of them sooner.

The Three Questions

During my time with Doctors Walker and Cadle I was asked a series of three questions that became tools that have forced continued reflection. I share them here in the hope that you’ll find them helpful as well: [Read more...]

10 Ways To Help Your Unbelieving Husband Open Up To Spiritual Matters

How to help husband find God1. Have him watch Steve Job’s 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford University. Hearing one of the greatest iconoclasts of our time talk candidly about dying is sobering and profound.

2. Encourage him to read James Emery White’s little book called Search For The Spiritual. It’s the single best introduction to Christianity in print for people like your husband. I give that to every skeptical man I meet.

3. Find a church that has a pastor your husband will like and believes in evangelism. Emerson once said, “Every institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” The church is no different. Find a church served by a pastor who has a proven track record of reaching people like your husband.

4. Tell him you want both of you to take the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator. The Myers-Briggs is the most widely administered personality test in the world. I’ve found that nothing opens a non-believing man up to self-reflection like that test. You can find an online version HERE. It’s amazing how easily reflecting on their temperament naturally leads a man to contemplate his purpose in life. Here are the companion books I always give men to read after taking the test: Do What You Are (how your personality affects your career choices), Just Your Type (how your personality affects your marriage), and Type Talk (a general introduction to the Myers-Briggs). I’d encourage you to buy all three. [Read more...]

5 Reasons I Believe In Short-Term International Mission Trips

Haiti Mission TripsChampioning short-term international mission trips has unquestionably been one of the best things I have ever done in my life, both as a father and as a pastor.

Short-term international mission trips have sparked more spiritual growth in the hearts of people at the church I serve than everything we have ever tried to do combined.

When people ask why I think CCV has grown so rapidly and impacted our community so deeply, I always tell them I think it’s because God has blessed two things:

  1. We’ve committed ourselves to do whatever it takes to reach people far from God.
  2. We’ve thrown ourselves into international missions.

HaitiThere are missionaries who have deftly pointed out the pitfalls and perils of sending Americans abroad to do short-term mission work. Yet, even when you consider these valid critiques, I still believe the positives far outweigh the negatives. [Read more...]

Make A Commitment To Finish Things

finish what you start“Discipline brings freedom,” said Richard Foster.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately meditating on those three words.

To me there’s a difference between being organized and being disciplined.

Most people who know me would say I’m pretty organized. I handle paperwork quickly and efficiently. I’m timely in completing tasks, returning emails and phone calls. I stay focused on reducing clutter and keeping my laptop files in order. In fact, one friend told me recently that she thinks I’m one of the most organized people she knows.

Truth be told, however, I may be organized, but I am sorely lacking in discipline.

Discipline, to me, is about forcing yourself to make the most important priorities routine. It’s about doing them consistently, so that over time your life begins to bear the fruit God wants it to bear.

Organization cares little about what’s truly important; it only focuses on becoming more efficient at whatever your hand finds itself to do. [Read more...]