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My Favorite Quotes from the 2020 XO Marriage Conference

The 2020 XO Marriage Conference was fantastic. My wife and I sat with over 50 other couples at our church to learn from some of the best speakers on the topic of marriage. Attending conferences can feel like you are drinking from a fire hydrant. One of the best ways to retain the information is to review my notes a few times in the days that follow. Another way to improve my retention is to write about some of the things I learned. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the conference.

 

 

Jimmy Evans

  • You can only be intimate in an atmosphere of safety.
  • If we could reach our own potential God would not have given us a spouse.
  • Lukewarm Christians are a bad advertisement for a great God.
  • Any relationship that is not growing is dying.
  • Selfish people are brutalized in marriage.
  • God doesn’t use shame. Satan does.

Michael Todd

  • The place of burial and the place of planting look the same for a season.

Robert Morris

  • God created marriage to kill you. (Some context would help here. You cannot be one in spirit without first dying to self)

Mark Driscoll

  • Everything God tries to build Satan tries to break.
  • If you do not lead your family, Satan will.

Bianca Olthoff

  • God rewards those who just don’t give up.

 

Dave and Ashley Willis

  • No possession is worth sacrificing the peace of the home.
  • Don’t punish your spouse for being wired differently.

 

Though these were spoken in the context of larger lessons, maybe one of these quotes will speak to you about something you can be working on in your marriage. Every one of us can have the marriage of our dreams.

It Is Not Just Money

I consider generosity to be one of my core values. It is also one of five core values for the church that I pastor. Usually, when we think of generosity and giving, it is in terms of money or resources. Though it should never be our motivation, I believe that we always get back more than we give. Unfortunately, this has been taught in manipulative ways to make people believe if they give $10 they will get $100 or $1,000 back. That very well may happen, but there is no formula for this.

Sometimes the return for giving comes in a completely different form than what we gave. There will be some people who will argue that you cannot plant an apple seed and get oranges and thus if you give money then you will get money back. But it is so much more than that. You do not plant an apple seed and get an apple. You first get an apple tree long before you get an actual apple. A tree that provides shade. A tree that gives rest to birds. A tree for beauty that everyone can behold. Before there is any fruit to enjoy, there is a tree that brings pleasure to many. What we get in return for our generosity may provide so many other things before we realize there is a financial blessing.

One of the verses that gets quoted frequently about giving and receiving is Luke 6:38. It says, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38 NLT). Is this about money? Well, it can be. If you give I truly believe you will receive more than you ever give. But I do not believe it is just about money. As a matter of fact, the two previous verses tell us some other things we can receive in return. They say, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or  it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:36-37 NLT) If we judge, we will receive judgment. If we condemn, we will receive condemnation. If we forgive, we will receive forgiveness. The principle of giving and receiving, sowing and reaping, applies to just about anything in your life. If you want to receive something, one of the best things we can learn to do is give it.

So today, practice generosity. Practice giving what you want or need to receive. Learn to offer mercy and forgiveness. Learn to pass on judgment and condemnation. Don’t stop giving money. Just learn that giving and receiving is not just about finances. It is a principle that applies to everything in life. What you give will always return more than you gave.

Marriage and Death

I recently had a very unusual day. Nothing really unusual happened, just a few things that fell into place at the same time that caused me to think about some specific things. One of the things I had been preparing to attend for a while, the other is hard to prepare an exact time. I had planned to attend a wedding. What I had not planned was attending a funeral the same day. The two events together caused me to think about how they relate to our relationship with Christ and what life is really about.

Weddings

Weddings are very symbolic in the Bible and in our relationship with Christ. Jesus’ first public miracle was performed at a wedding feast. Paul chose to use marriage as the symbol of Christ’s relationship to the church. As a matter of fact, the believers are called the Bride of Christ. Marriage is important to our relationship with Christ. There is no other earthly relationship that will mirror our relationship with Christ as a Christ-like marriage will. We are told that we find sanctification in marriage. Husbands are to love their wives like Christ loves the church. Love is such a powerful force in marriage.

I do not think we realize how much these two relationships are tied together and how much of our spiritual walk is impacted by our relationship with our spouse. The two cannot be separated. Our relationship with our spouse and our relationship with Christ look very similar. As one grows so does the other. As I watched the young couple walk down the aisle, I doubt becoming like Christ was at the forefront of their mind, but it certainly was mine. I was challenged to continue to see the transformation continue in my marriage and in my relationship with Christ. 

Funerals

A funeral is the final earthly celebration of a life well-lived. At least that is what we all hope for. The funeral was for a gentleman who was 90 years old and had been married for 68 years. 90 years is a long life. 68 years of marriage to one person is extraordinary. Imagine the sanctifying work that can be done in that period of time; the things that come to the surface that you thought you had dealt with long ago or that you never even knew were an issue. By all accounts, it was a powerful work. The stories told at the funeral of his strength, wisdom, and steadiness were reminders of the work that Christ wants to do in our lives.

Funerals really should be a celebration of how much we have become like Christ while on this earth. The stories should be testimonies of the work he has done in our life. The thing that had me thinking the most was that everyone in that room was talking about how this gentleman looked like Christ on this earth while he was already celebrating being with Christ in eternity. He had finally achieved full transformation.

We should all strive daily to become more like Christ. We should allow every situation to reveal in us the things that resemble Him and challenge the things that do not. There is no other relationship that will do that like marriage. We will never achieve complete transformation on this earth but our goal should be to resemble Christ as much as possible so that the stories told at our funeral will reveal Him to the people in the room while we celebrate the complete transformation of eternity.

4 Most Common? Complaints I Get As A Pastor

There is not an organization nor leader that does not field complaints. Every single person sees through a different lens. Our lens causes us to see things our way. When what we experience does not match the lens we are looking through, it leads us to complain. Sometimes those complaints are legitimate. Other times they are selfishly motivated. Occasionally I will joke about people who complain or grumble. At times I am that person who complains. The truth is, none of us enjoy being around a chronic complainer.

I am frequently asked about what types of things people commonly complain about in church. What are the most common complaints that I receive as a pastor? There are plenty of different complaints, but the most common ones I receive fall into these four areas. To be clear, sometimes the complaints presented to me are legitimate. They need to be listened to and addressed. Other times they are just places where the thing taking place does not match the preference. Let’s take a look at the four areas.

Music

This has been a point of contention for ages in organized church. As music evolves so do the style and type of songs we sing as well as the instrumentation used with them. We should sing more hymns. We should sing new songs. Why don’t we have a choir? The music is too loud. I cannot hear the singers. I don’t like the drums. Why are there so many guitars? Where is the piano or organ? We sing too much. I wish we sang more. The tension of music will ever be present in the local church. 

Change

It really does not matter what the change is, the change will inevitably not be what someone wanted. We all want the change we initiate. We resist change someone else initiates. We want the change that has low cost and high reward. Resistance to change is not limited to parishioners. Leaders are often as averse to change as anyone. The older a person gets the less likely they want a change of any kind. There are numerous reasons for that. The older you get the more life brings certain change you have no control over. Also the older you get the more safety you tend to want and change means risk. Change happens and someone is sure not to like it.

My Child

Some of these complaints are exclusive to the church. This one is not. This one can be heard just about anywhere a child and parents are involved. My child was not allowed to participate. My child does not enjoy that class. Many times in the church environment parents are looking for the church to solve behavior and spiritual problems they have chosen to ignore for years. The church will rarely be able to correct what is being tolerated or overlooked at home.

I Didn’t Know

More often than not, this is where you will get a legitimate complaint. Communication is critical. Something is happening, especially where change or children are involved, and the information is not shared very well. Other times people just do not pay attention when the information is shared. I have had people complain about not knowing something that was in the bulletin for a month, in the monthly newsletter, on the video announcements and social media and even mentioned live in service. But, they are upset because they did not know when the real issue was they did not pay attention. Miscommunication causes problems for every relationship. Communication requires information to be shared, but it must also be received.

You cannot have an organization without complaints. Learning which ones to address and which ones to ignore is the challenge of wise leadership. These are my most common complaints. What are the most common complaints you get in your organization?

My Top 3 Goals for 2020

As one year closes and a new one begins I tend to be reflective about the things I wanted to accomplish and the things that I actually was able to achieve. I also spend time preparing for the things that need to be realized in the coming year. Occasionally people will ask me what my goal list looks like for the year. There are places where I share them on a regular basis. My wife and I talk about them. My family will usually know most of them. I will talk about most of them with my church staff. Since I am asked so often, I thought it might be helpful to share some of them here.

I try to operate by Gary Keller’s “One Thing” principle: “What one thing can I do that would make everything else easier and better?”. Some things have a greater impact, but everything we do has some impact on everything else we do. I am going to share three of my top goals for the coming year in no particular order. Hopefully, it will give you a little insight into my own life and encourage you to choose wisely in your goals as well. 

Become Debt Free

We made some significant progress on this goal last year. We did not expect to get as far as we did. Retiring certain debt has been on my list every year. This year will be different. Provided we can be as focused as we were last year, being completely debt-free is attainable in 2020. This one goal would have a significant impact on everything else we do. We can be more generous. We can prepare for retirement. We can invest more. We can travel more. This is a very ambitious goal for us but one that we believe is worth going after this year.

Sell Our Business

I have owned a business that sold restaurant equipment for close to 30 years. Selling the business was on our list last year. We didn’t change our mind but certain situations influenced our ability to do this last year. Some of those things were situations beyond our control. Some other things were commitments we made that we needed to complete. In retrospect, we benefited by not selling the business last year but now the timing is right. This goal was about timing and now the timing is right. Accomplishing this goal will have a significant impact on my time and my mental capacity. 

Preschool Operating

Over two years ago our church purchased a property that we planned to turn into a preschool and outreach center. Over the last two years, there have been more obstacles and hurdles than we ever expected just to begin construction. It appears that we have finally overcome most of the issues and construction has begun. Now it is time to hire the right director, complete construction and get the operation going. This very well may be the most challenging of the three listed here, but it will be extremely rewarding as it will benefit our church and our community. 

The added challenge to each of these goals as well as the others on my list is excellence. I want to do each of these to the best of my ability. I want them to be done with excellence. Now you have a little insight into my coming year. What will your year look like? I pray that each of your goals will be accomplished and you will be fulfilled. 

Prayer Triggers

All religions have some form of prayer. Some of them are written prayers that are recited each time while others are more conversational. In the Christian faith, many people admit they want or need to pray more, but they haven’t been able to cultivate the discipline to pray. One of the things I have noticed about many other religions is that they have specific times each day set aside for prayer. A few years back while visiting Turkey, almost the entire city came to a standstill at the designated prayer time. Prayers were broadcast through speakers all over the city. People left their stations at work to participate. Though their beliefs did not match mine, I was struck by the commitment to pray. It is certainly something we could learn from.

Prayer is our opportunity to have a conversation with God. To share what is on our heart and mind, as well as to listen to what He is speaking to us. The question I am most often asked is “How can I find ways to pray more?”. Over the years, I have found triggers to be helpful. When certain things happen, it triggers me to pray. All of these did not come at once. These are just things I have started using to help me pray more. So here are some of my “prayer triggers”. Maybe they will be helpful to you. These may give you new ideas on how to pray more often.

When They Ask
As a pastor, people regularly ask me to pray for them. Sometimes it is not even people I know. What I have found is that it is easiest to do it right then. When someone asks for prayer, I try to pray for them right at that moment. I have prayed with people in the aisle of Food Lion, at the entrance of Walgreens, on the sidewalk downtown and at football games. If I am on the phone, I try to pray with them before I hang up. If I wait, it is easy to forget. When I see a social media post asking for prayer, I stop and call that person’s name out as well. If I pray right then, that moment often reinforces my memory to pray for them later. I am not alone in being asked to pray for people. This is an easy way to pray more often.

When Something Happens
When I see an accident or hear an ambulance, I will take a moment to pray for those involved. The flight path of the helicopter for the local hospital goes directly over my house. I hear it often. It reminds me to pray for those involved. I usually do not know the people involved, but occasionally I will find out later that I do. But this trigger motivates me to pray. One of the things I find is that when I start praying because something has happened, it will cause me to pray about other things as well and will usually refocus my mind on what is important.

When You Are Troubled
Have you ever had a time when you were just troubled but did not know why? Something just did not seem quite right? You could not put your finger on it but you knew something was wrong? I find praying during these times is important. That trouble in my spirit prompts me to pray. Sometimes the troubling goes away. Sometimes it brings clarity to the problem. Most times it is just my opportunity to recognize God is in control no matter what is going on.

Prompted by the Spirit
The nudge. You know what I am talking about. I experience this most often when random people come to my mind. There would have been no recent interaction or meeting, they just come across my thinking. I usually take this as a sign to pray for them. I will often send a message to that person letting them know I felt prompted to pray for them. Occasionally there is a specific situation going on that prayer helped. They are almost always appreciative. Other times that prompting is about a situation or a need or my own need to repent. Whenever the Spirit prompts me, I try to pray.

Schedule It
This is something we could learn from other religions. Schedule time to pray. We schedule other important things in our lives. Why not schedule prayer. I have a daily prayer list that I check off each day. Specific things I pray about. I do this in my morning routine with reading, writing and exercising. Put prayer on your calendar. It doesn’t have to be an hour or even a specified amount of time. It is just the practice of doing it regularly that will trigger you to do it more often.

We cannot pray too much. Most of us need to pray more often. Find some triggers that work for you and let them guide you to more conversations with God. It will be life-changing for you and for others.

2 Things you Need in 2020

The beginning of a new year is a time when people feel like they get a new opportunity to do things differently. It is more symbolic than anything when it comes to making changes, but many people take advantage of it. They set goals, make plans and prepare to accomplish every goal.

For me, the week ending the previous year and heading to the new one gets a lot of attention. I reflect back on the previous year. I evaluate the things I set out to accomplish. Where was I successful and where did I miss it? What were the reasons for both? I have never had a year that I accomplished everything. As a matter of fact, there have been times when the situation I was working on got worse instead of better. 

This year will be no different. It will not be any different for you either. I encourage you to spend time planning for the new year. Call it whatever you like: resolutions, goals, visions. It doesn’t really matter. What I know is that no matter what you put on paper, you will need two things to have a good year and make some headway in the areas you desire.

Discipline

There is no goal or resolution that is accomplished without discipline. It might be a common weight loss goal, a financial goal or a relationship goal. To get to the place you desire, it will require discipline. You will need the discipline to make hard choices. You will need the discipline to move forward even when you do not feel like it (the people still going to the gym in February are the people who go when they don’t feel like it). Luck is not a strategy, but it seems the more disciplined you are the luckier you get.

Grace

Some things will just not work out this year. No matter how disciplined you are, you can only focus it in so many places. Unexpected circumstances may arise. There may be better opportunities that you need to focus on. Some things you set out to do will just not get done. You will need to show yourself grace. We have a tendency to focus on what did not get done instead of being thankful for what did get done. Much like the kid bringing home a report card with 5 A’s and 1 C. Parents get distracted and spend all of their time talking about the C instead of offering a little grace and celebrating the 5 A’s. Celebrate the things you accomplish but offer yourself grace on the things that you don’t.

I am pulling for you this year. I hope that every plan comes to pass and every resolution you make is completed. I pray you have the discipline you need to see everything through. I also hope you have grace to accept the times when you don’t. May 2020 be your best year yet!

The Day After

It’s the day after Christmas. It is empty under the tree. Most of our visitors have returned home. In place of beautifully wrapped gifts, we have piles of torn paper and empty gift bags. Instead of artfully prepared food, we have a refrigerator full of leftovers. The lights don’t seem to burn as bright as we sit and ponder when to start taking the decorations down. There are gifts to put away and decisions to make about the things they replace. What goes and what stays? What do we look forward to next? When do we go back to work and when do the kids go back to school?

It seems the day after Christmas leaves more work than joy. More decisions than rest. The day is festive, but the aftermath can be overwhelming. But if we look around at the high points in life, the day after looks a lot the same. At least what follows looks a lot the same.

We can’t wait to get married and we spend an enormous amount of time to create this perfect day to find out marriage is a lot more work than a wedding. We do everything in our power to land that perfect job only to realize that the work is hard and the people there are not that much different than our last job. We get our dream house but find out it has nightmares of its own. The day after a lot of things brings us back to reality.

So if today you are having the Christmas hangover and you are disheartened because everything is upside down instead of perfectly decorated right side up, don’t be. Lift up your head. Put on some good music. Do the work that needs to be done. Your life will be filled with the day after. Those are the days where we make the most difference.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.