To The Woman Who Isn’t A Mother On Mother’s Day

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In the church I get to serve in now as a lead pastor, decision-making is not done in an unbalanced, anarchist fashion. I am not the CEO of the church. I am not the President of the church. I am not the Leader of the church. Jesus is. I am a servant under Him, and I’m also willingly and humbly under the elders at the church.

In the church, decision-making amongst leadership should be collaborative and unified, and it shouldn’t be done just because we’ve always done it this way. 

When I was in my late 20’s I was in ministry as an associate pastor at a larger-sized congregation where the senior pastor had been in the church for nearly three decades. 

At the time I was an arrogant and naive team-member. Hard-working, yes. Caring, yes. But there were still many things about the decision-making in leadership that I didn’t understand. 

My continual questions in leadership meetings was: Why do we do things this way? Could we do it better? More effectively? More honoring to more people? 

Too often I enjoyed playing devils advocate and it would ruffle feathers of those making the decisions. 

I’ll give an example: At this church, Mother’s Day was a big day (as it is with most churches). A sermon was given to mothers specifically each Mother’s Day. Special music was sang to mother’s specifically. The children’s ministry would have the kids in the church make crafts for mothers specifically. 

And, a flower was specifically given to each mother walking into the church. 

Now, I am for honoring mothers. I feel strongly that the role of a mother is the closest thing to Jesus in the flesh I have seen in my life. It is a selfless daily task that is fueled by unconditional love. There is fatigue, heartache, service done when no one is looking –  above anyone else, it is the mother who instinctively is thinking about others over herself. 

Here was the issue I had: To each woman walking into the church on Mother’s Day, the greeters at the church were instructed to ask, Are you a mother? If she said, yes, she got a flower. If she said, no, she did not get a flower.  

Imagine a woman who wants to be a mother desperately, but isn’t for whatever circumstance. She knows Mother’s Day is going be a tough day for her. But, because she loves Jesus, she gets dressed for church. She drives to worship. She parks her car. She watches other family units smiling and walking together into the church building. And, as she walks into worship, she is asked, Are you a mother? She replies, No, I’m not. Then a flower is pulled back away from her. 

It’s the woman who has had a miscarriage.
It’s the woman who is infertile.
It’s the woman who has had an unsuccessful in-vitro fertilization.
It’s the woman who’s friends are having babies while she isn’t.
It’s the woman who’s had an abortion and is reminded of that pain every day.
It’s the woman who gave her baby up for adoption.
It’s the woman who had plans to be a mother but it didn’t work out that way.
It’s the child making a craft for a mother they don’t have in their life. 

Remember, it’s the mother who thinks of others over herself. So that’s what I vied to do one meeting at this church.  

In a staff meeting in the early Spring one year, as we were planning for Mother’s Day, I brought up the suggestion that all women on Mother’s Day should get a flower. 

I brought up the perspective of the women who aren’t mothers walking into the doors of the church who already feel the rejection of not having a child – and how being refused a flower would compound that rejection. 

I brought up Jesus’ constant compassion to be drawn to the marginalized, the left-out, how He was the ultimate Includer. And, if a church chooses to love those who are on the outside of things, then she is truly loving Him (Matthew 25:40).  

I was berated for suggesting these things.  

I was given the, We’ve always done it this way. Mothers get flowers on Mother’s Day. Why would we give flowers to women who aren’t Mothers? If they want a flower they should be a Mother. 

I am so thankful Jesus doesn’t give out His love to people in the same way. What if Jesus were to say, Only perfect people get My love. Why would I give My perfect love to imperfect people? If they wanted My love, they should’ve remained perfect.

……………………………………………

My wife and I were married fairly swiftly after initially meeting each other. Due to being married quickly, we decided to get to know each other for the first 5 years of marriage and then in year 5 we would attempt to start having a family. 

We made it to year 4, saw all of the fun and joy our friends were having with their newborn children and couldn’t wait to have a firstborn, so we started trying. 

And trying. 

And trying. 

Nothing happened.

If you know the journey of infertility, it’s full of attempts at trying, false symptoms, negative pregnancy tests and another month of trying again. This went on for a year. 

Finally, after some tests, the doctors told Whit and I that I would never be able to get my wife pregnant. I was infertile. Biologically, it was not going to happen for us to have a child. 

We wanted a family so badly. God was giving us an opportunity to place our faith in Him during this trial. 

Two weeks later we entered into the adoption process. 

Many of you know the endless paperwork and classes and interviews and tests and waiting required and money needed to have the opportunity to adopt a child. 

In January of 2011, we were on a waiting list where any day we could get a call that a baby had been born waiting for us to adopt and care for and love on and raise the best we could in God’s way. At the time, my wife and I were living in Northeast Ohio.  

The next month God brought a potential job change to us that would require us to move out of state. After a couple of interviews with this prospective employer we realized quickly that this was God’s hand leading us to move from Ohio to Tennessee. 

As the job opportunity became serious, we were told by our social worker in Ohio that if we moved out of state before a birth-mom chose us, we would have to start the adoption process all over.This meant we would need to repay all the money, resubmit all of the paper work and go through all the hoops for all those months. 

God was giving us an opportunity again to trust in Him.

In tears and confusion, we trusted God wanted us to move to Tennessee. I accepted the position out of state and my starting date was to be a month after accepting the position. I accepted the job on May 1st of that year and I was to start at the position on June 1st. 

God had 4 weeks to get us a baby or we would need to start over

Mother’s Day came, a very hard day for us (because, as mentioned earlier, my wife was one of those women walking into a church I served at who was made to feel more isolation by being asked if she was a mother and not receiving a flower). 

She sits in a worship service that is all about mothers and has her mind full of thoughts of anxiety and pressure and knowing that one week had passed and three weeks were left for God to do His thing.

That was May 8th. It was a difficult Mother’s Day for my wife. 

The very next day, on May 9th, I was at Wal-Mart picking out a Sugarland CD to try to see what the big deal about country music was (since we were moving to Tennessee), my wife called me in tears that a birth-mom from Missouri had chosen us to adopt the baby she was carrying. The baby was due in September, but we wouldn’t have to start the adoption process over. God had come through again for us. We had a new job in a new state and by stepping out on faith, we were going to be new parents. 

If you just trust God, and give control over everything, He will come through. 

The thrust of the Christian journey, when it comes down to this mystery of having a relationship with the Creator God – it’s not a faith issue. It’s not a theological issue. It’s a trust issue. 

Many of you are put off by the fact that God is for you, wants the best for you, wants to come through for you and wants to give you the desires of your heart in His will. The reason you struggle to believe these things is because you have trust issues.

To the woman who, after Mother’s Day, is feeling sadness, rejection and loneliness because she’s not a mother for whatever reason: God is giving you this opportunity to trust Him.

To all of us, please continue to think of the marginalized, the outsider and those who are left out. Be the includer. Spread the aroma of Christ to all around you (2 Corinthians 2:14). Which means, figuratively hand a flower to every one you meet so no one feels isolated. 

And, please, continue to trust God one day at a time with whatever you are going through so you do not feel isolated. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

 

Attaining Emotional Maturity: 5 Actions to Quit During Covid-19

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Think back to when you were in junior high. The two most enjoyable words to a preteen/early teen are the words, Summer vacation. Summer vacation brings no school, sleeping in, outdoor fun and indoor laziness. It was a license to be a sloth for 90 days. 

What it also brought was time away from classmates. 

For three months you would not see the kids who went to school with you during summer vacation unless they lived in your neighborhood, played on your summer baseball team or went to your church. 

Junior high students would go three months not seeing the kids they went to school with and then, as they gather back together in the early Fall, on the first day of school, many of the kids last seen on the last day of school months prior do not look the same at all. 

Puberty had changed them. 

Some kids were taller. Some kids had acne. Some kids had body developments and bodily hair. Some kids smelled different. Some kids had lower voices. All of the kids had extreme mood swings.

Three months went by, growth had happened in the junior high students and when seen after the hiatus of summer vacation, there was visible change. 

For non-essential workers and students right now, we have been given a gift. While we still have at-home responsibilities with work and school and home-life, we have been given a slower lifestyle – a lifestyle away from others. Months away from others. 

How great would it be when some type of normalcy returns – when routine is back in your life – if, when you are around the people you are around, they have to do a double-take to recognize you? 

We’re not talking physically (please, stay active during this season), we’re talking relationally. We’re talking spiritually. We’re talking about your personality is different.  

After months of not seeing others, what if you used this time to grow and mature as a person who is more loving, kinder, gentler and more patient?

There are ways we can stagnate our own growth. Like a preteen smoking daily or drinking gallons of coffee, we can keep ourselves from growing to the potential we have.  

Sometimes God wants us to repent of our personality. 

Check out what James 1:19-21 says: 

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James :19-21)

The kind of people that refuse to repent of their personality are the ones who block God from growing them. They don’t produce as much spiritual fruit as they could. 

Here’s 5 kinds of ways to resist growth: 

1. Be a Noisy Chatterbox. 

You know what a chatterbox is, right? You’re like, I think I do. I might be one. I don’t know. Am I? I prefer the term “verbal processor.”

This is a person who talks way too much about others. 

They’re the person who always has to talk, fill the air, always wants the last word, makes sure their voice is always heard, would rather talk about someone else than deal with their own stuff. Their coin phrase is, Let me tell you what I think about this. Or they say, Did you hear about what happened to…..?

Are you a noisy chatterbox? If you don’t know, ask your spouse or your children or your parents, they will let you know. If you can stop talking to hear their response, they will tell you. If this is you, it might be good to practice what James says: slow to speak…..think before you speak….pray before you speak… maybe not speak…..practice silence…Do you ever pray and not talk?….Do you ever just sit and listen to God’s Spirit?……If not, you might be a chatterbox.

The rabbis uses to say, God gave us two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak.

Instead of being a noisy chatterbox, be, slow to speak (James 1:19).

2. Be a Bad Listener.

Are you a bad listener?

A bad listener is someone who’s so distracted, so much going on in their mind and in their schedule, they’re frantic and don’t listen well. Other times, bad listeners are those who hear advice, they hear wisdom, they hear the truth and they ignore it. They don’t like it so they walk away from it. They hear it, but they don’t listen because if they listened, they would change. 

Some of you are not good listeners. You’ve gotten information, instruction, truth, you’ve been taught God’s Word, read God’s Word – you just don’t listen to it. You don’t ponder on it, you don’t receive it, consider it, believe it, plant it – and that’s why you don’t change………What you need is not more information, you need more receptivity……..more humility under God……

Instead of being a bad listener, be, quick to hear (James 1:19).

3. Have a Short Fuse.

Has someone said that to you? You’ve got a short fuse! This is a person prone to anger.

Now, out of these 5 things that keep us from growing in Christ, there will be one that is most convicting to you, and this one is most convicting to me. I’m not a yeller, but I get frustrated from being so easily disappointed. I’m allowing God to purge it out of me. 

I used to think, Well, God gets angry, so it’s okay if I get angry – I used to spiritualize it, but James says that God does not get angry like we get angry. We get angry quick. God doesn’t. Over and over Scripture shares that God is slow to anger.

His patience is so much longer than ours. He does get angry. He will not let the guilty go unpunished. He will not let unbelievers continue injustice. But it’s a very long wick because our God is a God of great mercy and grace.

We have a short fuse. Any little thing can set us off at any moment. The people around you are always on guard, on eggshells. It’s like a landmine – the slightest bump will incur an explosion. We need to learn to be slow to anger – quick to compassion and slow to anger. Then we’ll grow.

Instead of having a short fuse, instead, be, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).

4. Be a Compromising Hypocrite.

The compromiser is showing up increasingly in our culture. It’s in our children. It’s in our young adults. It’s even in our older adults. It’s the person who can’t stand this specific sin, but they can tolerate that specific sin. It’s a Pharisee – they caught the woman in adultery, a visible sin, but they ignored their own judgmental, condemning attitude toward her – an internal, unseen sickness.

More so than that, this person admits, That behavior is wrong. I hate it. But this behavior, though wrong, is fun and I kind of like it. They’re inconsistent. Is the Bible the unchanging Word of God or something we can cut and paste? They segment their life to God, they don’t give their all to God. They have offense at what God says, think they know better, and choose to believe the world over the Creator of the world. 

We shouldn’t just clean up part of our lives and let sin run rampant in other parts of our secret, private areas.

The compromiser is willing to put up with the hidden sin they continue to do. They think, no one’s perfect – yes, Someone is (Jesus) and He expects you to put away all filthiness. If it’s offensive to God it should not be flirted with by you. Let’s not segment our lives, let’s surrender our lives

Instead of compromising and being inauthentic, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness… (James 1:21)

5. Be a Constant Know-It-All. 

This is the person that can’t be taught, they’re not teachable, because they think they already know it all in their mind. They are never humble to admit, I don’t know. I need help. I didn’t know that. Thanks for the help.

 Do you have these people at work, or in the family? As soon as you try to educate them, they’re like, Oh, I knew that. 

This group has a tough time submitting to authority. They make sure you know how smart they are. T

he issue is pride and the solution is humility. 

The issue is they reject instruction, the solution is they should receive, with meekness, with modesty,  God’s Word. 

The reason people do not receive God’s Word is they think they know how to run their own life – and that’s why they’re not changing for the better.

Rather, we should pray daily, God, I am not as smart as You. Your ways are not my ways. I have much to learn. I have much growth to do. I am broken and need You. Thank You for Your mercy and wisdom.

Instead of constantly showing others how you know it all, receive with meekness the implanted word…. (James 1:21)

We have the capacity of doing all of these 5 things that refuse us the opportunity to grow – but –  if you want to grow, you have to see how much God loves you and receive the wisdom of the Bible into your heart. Know the Word. Do the Word. Read the Bible. Apply the Bible. It’s like two pedals on a bike – know the Bible, do what it says – because God loves you. 

I’ve yet to be to a high school reunion but I’ve always wonder how they go. People who knew you a certain way, how you acted, what habits you had, how you spoke, how you looked – and then years or decades later – they’re reacquainted with you. 

Do your high school friends from years past consider you the same person? A worse person? Or someone who has had growth and a maturity and an improved personality and spirit in them? 

We’ve all heard the phrase when speaking about immure adults, They still at like they’re still in high school. It’s because they keep 

If you want to grow, if you want to mature, here are the great qualities to develop during this season of lock-down: 

Be slow to speak (the natural instinct is to talk about others). 

Be quick to listen (the natural instinct is to interrupt or be distracted). 

Be full of grace (the natural instinct is to flip a lid on the people around us). 

Be someone who has values and tries to stick to them (the natural instinct is to compromise). 

Be someone who is hungry to learn more about God and life (the natural instinct is pride). 

Like a seed in the ground in springtime you have this great opportunity to grow and then when society’s doors open back up, maybe those around you won’t even recognize you – in a great way. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

5 Things Children Need In Order To Have Contentment

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I remember taking a humanities class where the professor had us watch this movie from 1994 called: Bullets Over Broadway. 

This movie was the start of cultural post-modernism and still affects the way most people who aren’t captured by Jesus’ love think. It even got turned into a musical. 

The main character in the movie is played by John Cusack. He lives in the early 1900’s in downtown New York City. 

He has a girlfriend but he also has this temptation and opportunity to have an affair. 

He’s talking to his friend named Sheldon, and Cusack says to his friend, “I want to have this affair, but I don’t want to feel guilty for being unfaithful to my girlfriend.” 

And this is what Sheldon says, this is his advice: 

“Guilt is crap. It’s made up. A real artist creates his own universe.”

Remember how in 1 Corinthians 13, verse 6 it says that love does not demand it’s own way? 

Well, Cusack does. He has this affair with this other woman, doesn’t tell his girlfriend about it and then he finds out later that his girlfriend cheats on him with another man. 

And Cusack loses his mind. He’s all, “How dare you betray my trust. How dare you go back on your commitment. How could you be unfaithful?

He says, “Who were you with?”
And she says, “I was with Sheldon.” 

Because Sheldon says an artist creates his own universe.

(This movie came out 25+ years ago so any spoiler alert thoughts can be put to rest. You’ve had time to see it.) 

The driving point of Bullets Over Broadway is what’s wrong with the human race. 

People not devoted to Jesus are creating their own universe by saying, “Who’s to say what’s right and wrong?” They create their own moralistic codes to live and usually it’s based on how they want to feel in the moment. 

In April, 2018, GQ Magazine published an article, by the editor himself, entitled: “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.

Number 12 on that list was “The Bible”, calling it overrated.

The article went on to say that there are some good parts  of the Bible but it’s not the finest thing man has ever written (I agree, since man didn’t write it).

I consider the Bible the only compass that leads to contentment. Without the Bible pointing us to Jesus, we would be headed down the path of creating our own universe, our own moral standards, and that path leads away from love.

When you’re watching a movie or reading an article or listening to a friend’s opinion, just know that culture’s worldview is set by creating their own moralistic universe of what is right and what is wrong and you need to get back to God’s Word and align yourself to what He says. 

Because what He says is said in real love and true wisdom. 

Yes or no: When you read your Bible on a daily basis, do you give more love to others verses days and weeks you go without reading the Bible? We know the people here can’t experience life without first experiencing God’s love for us. 

Specifically, our children can’t experience real love and true wisdom without us experiencing those things from God first. 

My wife and I catch ourselves as parents feeling like, “Oh my goodness. We give so much to our children. We give so much to them and they give such little back.” 

But this is what unconditional love is. You don’t love and serve and forgive and be patient and bite your tongue and train what is right and clean up messes and endure heartache and stay up late at night and worry yourself silly and invest time and energy into them and pray for them daily because they can give you something in return. 

You do it because you love them unconditionally. 

Before our kids know what love is behaviorally, they have to experience love first from the behavior of those closest to them. 

Whatever your opinion of statistics are, I read a study that shared this one:

Between the ages of 18-28, 80% of people who have a faith in Jesus choose to walk away from Him permanently. 

And they never come back, because they weren’t equipped by their parents, their mentors, their church family to handle the temptation, stress, and hardship that comes with growing up. 

Only 20% either stay faithful to God or eventually return to Him.

To do so, what children need is not academic success, athletic or artistic accolades, more likes on their social media posts, romantic love or even the desires of their hearts and dreams. 

Here are five things they need in their lives continually in order to experience real love, true wisdom and a life full of joy and peace: 

(1) A Loving God  

I want my children and your children all to know Jesus intimately close where they can trust Him at all times and they can known His guidance and believe His power is available for them even at the youngest of ages. They will know that they don’t have to do life on their own, that God is for and with them.  

(2) A Loving Book 

We call this amazing book, the Bible. It will point them in the direction of a lifestyle that leads to legacy. If they know their Bible, they will lead a life that is full of life and purpose and distinct compared to the rest of their friends and the world around them. If they keep the Bible in their minds and follow Its instruction, they will be able to work through disappointment in a mature way and stay strong in down seasons emotionally. Their compass in life has got to be the Bible, it cannot be their own heart. 

(3) A Loving Parent 

This is critical: each parent sets the spiritual pace and expectation of their child. 

As Paul wrote to Timothy, Imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Who spends more time with a child of a church, the teachers and volunteers in the church or the parent of the child?

In a recent study, (where are my mom’s at?), in a recent study 1/3 of children ages 8-12 said they wish they could spend more time with their moms.

Same age range, ages 8-12, it doubles for dads. 2/3s of children wish they could spend more time with their dad. 

In this same study, (52,000 students were polled) 9 out of 10 middle school and high school students said they have no desire to see their parents take a lesser role in their lives, but a greater one.

Parents need to step up. They’re going to be gone before you know it and I’m afraid the norm in our culture is to keep our kids so busy and so happy that life gets so blurry that we forget our main priority is to train them to be faithful.

The job of the leaders and volunteers in a church is not to babysit your kids. Their job is also not to make sure your kid makes it to heaven in the end. No, their job is to equip parents and grandparents and guardians to know how to make a daily, influential investment into the lives of their kids. Your responsibility as parents is to do everything you can daily to make sure your kids love Jesus while they’re in the home and are faithful in that 18-28 age range, – and our leadership’s responsibility is to help you do that.

(4) A Loving Friend 

Every kid and teen needs at least one close friend who shares a common faith in Jesus and that friend will be there for them during church activities, but also will take a stand with them at school and as they get older, will stand with them on the weekend and during the summer when the spiritual pressure builds up. 

If each of our kids had a radical, faithful friend to stand with, it would be more difficult for them to walk away from God and toward the world. 

(5) A Loving Voice 

When I say our children need a loving voice, I mean someone who is older than them, who will encourage them in love and challenge them in truth from God’s Word and will care for them enough to hold them accountable to be there for them when life gets difficult, lonely, or sin looks appetizing.

A loving voice gently shares the truth in love.

In the church let’s not say the cheesy line that children are the future of the church. I’ve not a fan of that belief. The children are in the church now, they’re part of the church now, they have a role in the church now and we need them today and tomorrow.  If they’re going to worship with us tomorrow and love on others tomorrow and be there with Jesus tomorrow they need right now:

A loving God (Jesus)
A loving Book
(Bible)
A loving Parent
(mentor)
A loving Friend
(transparency)
A loving Voice
(truth in love)

Your kids, the kids of your community, they need these things. You need these things as well. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

A Vaccine for Anxiety

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I read an article in The New York Times that said although we – today, in this generation – are more wealthy, are more healthy, have a bigger sense of liberty and purpose than our parents and grandparents did in their generation, we are 20% more anxious and depressed.

People today are 20% more anxious and depressed than the previous generation. 

Usually when anything increases 10% in any generation, it’s an epidemic. We are living in a double epidemic of depression and anxiety right now. 

This is The New York Times reporting this. They don’t lean to the right politically. They’re not really any friend of the church. They’re just doing their journalistic duty reporting that even though we are healthier than ever before and have all the advancements of the medical world available to us, and even though we are wealthier and have more opportunity and more means to make more money and even though we have a greater sense of liberty, meaning we can go anywhere, travel anywhere, set personal goals and bucket lists, with all of that – 

People today are 20% more anxious and depressed than the previous generation. 

I’ve got a friend who is a pastor in the church. 8 years ago he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. As time went on after his diagnosis, he became fatigued toward the people in his church coming up to him Sunday after Sunday saying that the cure to his anxiety was that he just needed to trust Jesus a bit more. 

He told me one day over coffee that he wanted to lovingly punch the people who kept saying that all he needed to stop any anxiety attacks was to pray more. 

If you don’t know anything about having an anxiety disorder than you don’t know. 

I read about a man who experienced an anxiety attack for the first time and when it hit him, he thought he was having heart attack because his blood pressure was at the level of a stroke. 

The doctor told him to go home and rest, and for the next 3 nights he had an anxiety attack and thought he was dying. He was flown from Kansas City to Los Angeles for better care and for the next 6 months, every single night, he thought he was dying due to experiencing this anxious paralysis. 

$50,000 later with all the medical tests available, he was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder. 

And this guy is a Christian leader, an elder in a church. He gets told all the time by people at his church to suck it up, pray it out, trust Jesus and he wants to slug people in their well-meaning faces. 

I know a woman in the church who struggles with an anxiety disorder and I reached out to her via Facebook-messenging last week asking her about her anxiety disorder and she wrote back – 

“You can do everything right in your marriage and it can still fall apart. You can do your best in raising your kids in a loving way – or even in the way the Bible wants you to – and there’s still no guarantee that when they are older they still love Jesus – they could walk away from God. You can do everything right at work and still not succeed in the way you expect .Or still not get promoted. Or still not find purpose. Or even lose your job. You can do everything right as a friend and still get back-stabbed by them.”

And then she wrote this – 

“This world is volatile and if you haven’t admitted that, it’s time to admit it.” 

The New York Times article referenced earlier goes on to say that the Western world, specifically America, is disintegrating from other inside out. That, no matter how much you convince yourself on the outside of things that everything is okay, your soul inside knows something is off. No matter how many trips you take or things you buy or nights out with friends or shows you binge to ignore it – something is off inside.

I’ll put it like this: 

In all of life, in every aspect, there will be a backdrop of disappointment and dissatisfaction. 

[insert sarcasm] Thanks for choosing to read my blog today. I hope you are fully encouraged. Enjoy the rest of your week.

…………………………..

No matter how much wealth, how much health, how much liberty you have to succeed or how great you look or how awesome your family is, depression and anxiety will set in if you think any of those things can really save you. 

Have you heard the latest report on what the death rate is right now? I didn’t have to Google the answer. The death rate is 1 per person.

You are going to die.
I am going to die.
Every day is a gift from God.

And if I attach myself to something that is also disintegrating, like my marriage, my kids, my job, my money, my health,  then my soul knows that and I will disintegrate as well. 

C.S. Lewis put it this way, 

“Most people, if they really learned how to look into their own hearts would know that they want something that this world can never give them. These longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning will ever satisfy. 

There is always something that we have grasped at that first moment of longing that just fades away with reality. The thing we thought we were going to get in the new experience always evades us.” [C.S. Lewis]

Part of the reason people come to Jesus and give their life to Him is they hope He will give them the idols they worship. They hope Jesus will give them a spouse, give them a child, give them their break through, give them their health back, give them a house like everyone else. 

People pray to Jesus all the time saying He’s their Savior but what they’re praying for is really their savior. 

Anxiety is ultimately the fear of losing someone or something you think you can’t live without. 

Yes, if it happens, one day, it’ll hurt to lose a job, lose a dream, lose a loved one, lose your own health. But the only thing you can’t truly live without is Jesus.

When our day doesn’t go how we thought, or our year doesn’t go as hoped, or our life turns out in a worse way than we dreamed (when a flu virus becomes a global pandemic) we forget there’s a sovereign God.

And I’m not a doctor or a scientist but if you feel like you don’t have control of your life you probably don’t have control of your life. 

The only thing that lasts is God. Everything else fades away. 

Your soul knows when you attach yourself to something other than Jesus and that’s why we get more miserable and more unsatisfied. 

We are only as durable as what we have placed our trust in. 

Did you know that beautiful people (to the world, I think all people are beautiful) but beautiful people to culture are more prone to commit suicide because as they get older, they lose their looks and figure and since they’ve attached their identity to their physical appearance, once that is gone, what do they have to live for in their mind? 

The Bible communicates that your life and mine is all about us having an intimate relationship with God and once you say you will believe in Him and follow Him, He will not only forgive you and bring you in, He will spend the rest of your life destroying your lesser loves. 

He will frustrate the things in your life you love more than Him – the things you think you can’t live without. If God doesn’t destroy what is destructible, you will place your identity and faith in it and it will destroy you from the inside out. 

That’s why I beg every Sunday when I preach at the loving church I am a part of for those listening to place Jesus at the center of who they are. They need love Him more than self, more than health, more than money, more than marriage, more than children, more than dreams, because if they don’t, those areas are going to be frustrated until Jesus is their passion and you are going to be anxious. 

As long as you think life is all about you and how fake great you are, anxiety and depression will grow in you. 

If you want the good and satisfying life Jesus came to earth to die and rise for you to have, you have got to let go of whatever or whoever you’ve attached yourself to and hang onto Him. 

Let go and let God.

It’s when we say, God, this life is not about me. It’s about You. I’m taking each day as a gift from You, no matter what happens, You are large and in charge and I am Your child, Your servant, I will trust in You. 

How many Christians are praying a prayer like that verses how many are over-reacting with anxiety at what is taking place in their lives or in the media?

If you want to let go of anxiety, you have to attach yourself to something eternal. 

If you attach yourself to someone or something other than Jesus, that something or someone is fading away and you will fade away with it, but if you attach yourself to Jesus, the One who was, is and will always be, you will live and your anxiety will fade away. 

But it’s a daily decision and I was hoping to give you that daily reminder today. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

6 Ways God Reveals Himself to Us

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Would you like to know where in the world God is at in your life?

Here’s a promise God makes to you, You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

There are six ways God has chosen to reveal Himself to us when we seek after Him with all of our heart. Here are some ways God chooses to reveal Himself to us when we seek after Him:

1. Pivotal Circumstances

God loves to sneak up quietly from behind us in our daily lives and lovingly tap us on the shoulder whenever we’re going through a big transition.

God shows up more visibly during a big transition, like the following: 

A change of career or loss of job.
Moving to a new community, changing schools, changing churches.
When one goes from being single to being married.
When one goes from being married to being single again (widowed or divorced).
When a child is born (especially the third child, that’s what mother’s with multiple children say is the toughest transition, kid number 3).
When the kids grow up and venture into adulthood.
When retirement age comes.
When someone gets cancer.

There are a lot of transitions and if we’re seeking God with all of our heart each day, He will show up in these pivotal circumstances. 

Anything that causes us to be restless, these pivotal circumstances, these major transitions – He’s coughing and sneezing and shaking branches, and He’s whispering, Psssst!….I’m over here. I’m waiting for you to find ME in this season of change for you!

Through the big transitions in life, we need trust and know God is there waiting to reveal Himself when we look for Him. 

He also works through: 

2 Providential Relationships

It’s not just the changes in our lives where God gets our attention, He also shows up in our lives through other people.

Your relationships are not by accident. The people in your life that you trust, that you interact with, they are providential, meaning there is a reason they are in your life right now. Either you need to help them or they are going to help you. God has purposefully has put these people in your life.

Some of these people in your life, they quote Scripture, they share their spiritual experience, they pray with us, they encourage us and all of the sudden God comes into sharper focus. 

The fog lifts when we see marriage how God intended and we say, Yes, I want that. We see that person has more joy in trials than we do and we say, Yes, that’s what I want. We see that person is content, that person has purpose, that person has spiritual disciplines, that person is really changing and we say, Yes, I want that. 

God wants it for you too. That’s why there are Christians around you, to be an example in your life – a life is intended to be better than the selfish, anxious, fearful, grumpy state we make it. 

When was the last time you wrote a note of encouragement or took a Christian friend out for coffee or made dinner for your parents just to say, Thank you for being an example of Jesus in my life? 

They helped show Who God truly is to you. 

God also shows up to us through:

3. Practical Teaching

Have you had a conversation or read a book or watched a movie that really spoke to you and you think, That person has hacked into my emails and texting. That person knows what I’m thinking. That person was speaking right to me?

When I preach, I hear frequently people responding they feel like they were the only person in the room and I was speaking right to them. I had nothing to do with it. The Bible is timeless and timely. 

God’s truth from God’s Book will always practically speak to God’s people by God’s Spirit. 

God’s Spirit with God’s Word through God’s people – that combination has this amazing way to give us direction and answers, nudging us to go right or left when we feel like we’re at a crossroads – not just what to know about God but to know what to do that is acceptable in God’s eyes. Families and churches need practical teaching. The Bible feeds us and the Bible inspires us to be verbs for God during our week – to love and give and forgive and sacrifice and serve and encourage and pray – and God has a way of putting the right person in our conversations to spur us forward to apply His truth to our lives. 

4. Private Disciplines

All people in turmoil in their relationships or out of control with their addictions, every single time I ask about their spiritual disciplines, they answer, No I haven’t been doing that. I haven’t been reading the Bible daily. I haven’t been praying to God throughout my days. I haven’t been to worship every weekend. I haven’t been eating right or sleeping well or exercising or serving others.

For me, I don’t just have the daily routines of praying and reading God’s Word, or investing into my family for God, I also have weekly disciplines like tithing, giving a sacrificial amount back to God’s church, like communion, where I am grateful for the cross, where I’m forgiven after repenting of my sin.

I choose fast at various times in my year. I’ll go 40 days without caffeine to refocus on God. I’ll choose to not eat a meal on one day of the week for 3 months just to pray for those who actually are hungry in the world. 

If not done in a rushed manner, if not done in a I’ve got to check this off my list, these daily and weekly and seasonal disciplines calm me down. Discipline for God and others, it focuses me on what matters in my life and what doesn’t. 

The older I get, the more God allows me to experience, I see Him clearest through the discipline of prayer. When I’m out for a run, when I’m commuting home from work, when I pray with my wife, when we pray with our daughters or when I pray with friends, whenever I need God to come through or I just am joyfully overwhelmed by the life He has given me and I want to thank Him, that’s when I truly feel closest to Him. 

These private disciplines are the personal part of your life that I can’t force you to do or determine how you should do it but our world is moving so fast and only getting faster, and I don’t want to be misinterpreted here when I say this because God is always on time

But God is found in slowness. God moves to a different beat than the world does. 

And the tension we feel each day is, will we run fast with the world toward shallowness, or will we walk slowly with our heavenly Father toward fulfillment?…….Personal disciplines slow me down. 

God reveals Himself through circumstances, relationships, teaching of His Word, through our daily and weekly disciplines – also, He reveals Himself through – 

5. Personal Ministry

God has mostly revealed Himself in visible form through Jesus taking on human form. When we see Jesus in the Gospel accounts, we see God Himself, no questions asked. When you see Jesus, you see God. 

And Jesus said interestingly that we would most see Him in the faces of the poor.

If you really want to find God, serve the poor. Clothe the poor. Hug the poor. Stoop down and live life with the poor. And not just the physically poor – but there are emotionally broken people in your life for a reason – so you can serve them. There are relationally broken people – so you can heal them. There are financially broken people as well, and give as God shows you needs and wisdom – but ultimately, there are spiritually broken people – people without Jesus, people with sin, people with baggage, people with a bad taste in their mouth toward the church, people who need to be set free that you need to keep praying for and serving. It’s your personal ministry. The broken people, the spiritually-bankrupt people, you should be serving them……and then you’ll find God…..He’s hiding behind their brokenness. 

Bono, the lead singer the band U2 was speaking to a group of politicians and he said, 

“God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives and God is with us if we are with them.” – Bono

God is with us if we are with the broken. They’re around us. You don’t see the brokenness on your facebook page, but if you walk into a nursing home and serve the elderly, the widowed, you’ll see God.

You won’t see the brokenness by binging Netflix, but if you cook a dinner for a family going through cancer treatment or for a single mother, you’ll see God. 

You won’t see the brokenness catching up with what the celebrities are into but if you open your home to foster care, or to adoption, or to mission trips, or to soup kitchens, or simply just to have neighbors over for dinner you’ve been ignoring, or to be a Christian example to your kids’ friends, you’ll also see God.

Perhaps the most palpable way we feel God in our lives is through: 

6. Painful Seasons

Could it be that the God of the universe, Who knows everything that happens and allows everything to happen, Who loves every single person, Who hurts when we hurt, could it be that God reveals Himself the most when we seek Him during a painful season?

I’m not talking about painful moments or painful events, we’re talking about painful seasons. God is there. When pain shows up in your life, it’s not a drive-thru experience. Pain lingers. 

When the pain of divorce are still around.

When addiction to lying or pornography or alcohol keeps tripping your family up.

When the Big C is diagnosed in your life or in a loved one’s life. Cancer is such a painful and frightening season.

As depression and letdown and failures continue to steal the ounces of joy that were left in you.

In painful seasons, I have experienced that’s when God reveals Himself in HD – crystal clear. 

When my wife and I found out I was infertile after desperately wanting a child, God was there. When my father battled cancer for a year and died, God was there. In your darkest hours too – adultery, miscarriages, people hurting you, a painful childhood – God was there healing you.

In her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, author Barbara Brown describes how she finds God while being alone in the darkness of a cabin or by walking down a dark trail in the woods, or even sitting in a dark cave. She writes, 

Sitting deep in the heart of a cave, I let this sink in: New life starts in the dark. Whether it’s a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it all starts in the dark.” – Barbara Taylor Brown

While we instinctively run away from pain, or try to ignore or avoid pain – God runs toward it. I don’t believe God causes pain but I do believe He uses pain to get our attention. To slow us down. To get us focused on him. C.S. Lewis called pain God’s megaphone. He’s screaming at us to find Him.

When pain happens, God is coughing and sneezing and shaking branches like a madman. 

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

It’s a promise God makes to us. Go find Him. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Fun and Needed Marriage Advice For Men

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The man gave names to all livestock
and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.

(Genesis 2:20)

Adam names three categories of animals: livestock, birds and beasts. It says he named all of them. There are 8.7 million species named today and 30,000 more than don’t have names. For Adam, this is going to take a while. He’s going to wait for his bride for a good amount of time.

And then, in the same verse, we find one of the greatest understatements of the Bible: 

But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. (Genesis 2:20)

Here’s the hypothetical scenario going on between God and Adam:  

God: I love you, Adam, I do, but you need a wife. You need a close friend.
Adam: Whoo, yes! Let’s talk about that.
God: How about an blobfish?
Adam: No, no thank you.
God: How about a rhino?
Adam: God, it’s got horns. That’s not good.
God: How about the cow?
Adam: How about no.
God: What about a monkey? You want a monkey in white dress?
Adam: …………

God’s going to make the woman and bring her to Adam as his wife, his helper, his best friend.

What does the first woman look like? We have no idea, but, compared to the options Adam has, she’s gotta be amazing no matter what she looks like. If Adam is looking at the woman on one side and has a snapping-turtle alligator on the other side, Eve is the choice 10 times out of 10. 

Compared to the aardvark, she’s amazing.

Here’s where I’m going with this: 

Men, your standard of beauty is your wife. 

Hey husband, question for you? Who’s the most beautiful woman in the world? 

It’s your wife. 

There is not another woman on this planet more beautiful than your wife. 

With Eve, we don’t know if she’s tall, short, voluptuous, skinny, redhead, blonde, brunette, bald, light skin, dark skin, and, after sin enters the word, we don’ know if she’s loud or quiet, harsh or sweet, lazy or hard-working, vindictive or gracious. 

We don’t know what she is. We just know she’s better than the gibbons. 

Women don’t come from man, but from God. That’s why they’re great. They are God-sent. 

Now, not all women remain great. According to the book of Proverbs, some women are crowns and some women are cancers. A single guy’s prayer is to marry a crown, not a cancer. To marry a godly woman, not a selfish, angry one.

But no matter who he marries, she needs to be the standard of attractiveness to him. Not a Super Bowl halftime show, not a porn star, not a co-worker, not an old girlfriend, not a flirtatious neighbor – his wife is the standard of beauty. 

My wife will ask me, Are you going to think I’m attractive when I’m 70? 

My response: Baby, when you’re 70, I’m going to be into all things grandma. I’m only going to be about white hair and slow movements and The Price Is Right and going to Florida a lot and eating dinner at 3:30pm and taking our pills together. 

I’m gonna be all about my 70-year-old, beautifully-wrinkled, grandmother wife. No matter her age or ailment or attitude or shape or look – there is not another woman close to being more gorgeous to me than her, inside and out. 

Husband, the standard of beauty is your wife. 

God’s answer to Adam is, You don’t like the goat or the anteater as a choice for a lifelong partner? Okay, I’ll make you a lady. 

To bring Adam his fitted mate, God chloroforms him.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall
upon the man, and while he slept took one of
his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.

(Genesis 2:21)

God doesn’t take a bone from Adam’s head to show the woman is above him. God isn’t a feminist. 

God doesn’t take a bone from Adam’s foot to show the woman is under him. God isn’t a chauvinist. 

God takes out a rib to show the woman is a helper alongside to him as he will be a helper alongside her. God is showing that any relationship worth having is one that involves mutual sacrifice. 

The rib that the Lord God had taken from the man
he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
(Genesis 2:22)

There are 8.7 million different species of animals. Adam names them all. That’s exhausting physically but what’s more exhausting was the emotional toll of Adam searching for his best friend and being disappointed 8.7 million times. 

And then God brings her to him (cue the R&B music). 

God creates the first woman, which means God makes the first marriage.

This is the first wedding because it feels like God the Father is walking Eve down the aisle toward Adam. Some of you didn’t have a godly father – neither did Eve. But Eve had God, who is a Father to the fatherless.

God walks her down the aisle like the father, and He gives her away. He officiates as the first pastor at the first wedding ceremony. It’s perfection. The man needs to say something, though. Adam needs to say something. He needs to comfort his wife. He needs to show her he will be there for her. 

The reason Adam needs to speak? Eve has had a big day She got created. She meets God. She’s naked and is going to her wedding. For most girls, that’s too much for one day. Most girls would pass out. 

She’s going to meet her husband. First person she’s ever met. He’s going to need to say something. 

Here’s what Adam does: He sings to her.

Women love guys who can sing. Trust me. We lived in Nashville for 7 years. If the guy can sing, the girl is blind to a lot of his flaws. He could have a criminal record, live in a tent, be illiterate and the girl still says, But he played me a song. I love him so much.

It works every time. 

Adam sings a love song to Eve in the Hebrew language. The first recorded words we have in human history before sin enters the world is song. Some have the theory (it’s just a theory) that humans sang every word until sin came. We didn’t start talking until we sinned. Maybe that’s why people are so moved at musicals, because we were meant to sing through life. Maybe that’s why children sing and hum while they play. We were meant to sing through life. 

In your Bible, what Adam says is in compositional form. It’s poetry, and in Hebrew, this song rhymes.

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
(Genesis 2:23)

Men need to be careful what they call their wives, what they call their daughters. If a man degrades his wife with mean names, not good. If he chooses to uplift her with corny monikers, it’s sweet and life-giving. I call my wife Baby Cakes. I call her, Gorgeous. If you call her those things, they’ll never find your body. Those are names for me to call her to uplift her. 

Adam sings, At last! At last! After going through all of those animals and not finding someone to be with and love and play and laugh – I’ve waited through all the animals, at last! She’s here!

Men, on your wedding day you were saying, At last! 

Men need to go back to that time when they were acting head over heels in love. God brought you your wife, at last! Speaking of weddings, here’s a familiar verse:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and
his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they
shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife
were both naked and were not ashamed.
(Genesis 2:24-25)

First thing for a single person to do: leave your mother and father. 

Next, get married. 

Marriage is for men, not for boys.

A lot of immature males think, If I get married, that’ll make me a man. Nope, it won’t. Be a man first. Prepare yourself now. Read your Bible. Pray. Work hard. Give generously. Serve others. Then, get married. 

The big things in this verse are: move out of your parents home, get married, and have sex in marriage. Jesus said this. Paul reaffirmed it. Moses wrote these verses in Genesis. Those are three big guns: Jesus, Paul and Moses. They all three tell boys to move out of home, marry wisely and then have sexual union. 

Human history began with a wedding. In Revelation, at the second coming of Christ, Jesus is our groom is coming for us, His bride. History began with a wedding and it will end with a wedding, and in the middle, our weddings and our kids’ weddings are the closest we get to the picture of what eternity with God will be like for those who believe in Jesus.

Weddings done in a godly way have affection, commitment, hope, joy, song, laughter, celebration, feasting, friends, dancing. That’s heaven. 

It’s why we love to go to weddings. Don’t you love it when people who love each other get married? Isn’t it a great day and a great party? There’s something in us that just loves that moment. It’s because that’s where we come from, that’s where we’re going.

Some of your marriages are not good. They are not Genesis 2. They’re more Genesis 3. You’re more roommates than you are best friends. There’s little trust. There’s little forgiveness. There’s no singing. There’s little laughter. Pray and figure it out because marriage is amazing when sin is dead in our hearts. It’s up to you to lean on God for a better marriage.

It’s up to single people to be pure and grow up and marry wisely and it’s up to married people to become one and forgive. It’s up to you. Just as God was saying to Adam and Eve, Here’s your choice, life or death. You make the call. It’s up to you.

Thank for reading. You are loved. 

Z

3 Practical Steps for Thriving Relationships

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Everyone needs wisdom in their relationships. If you’ve got all of your relationships figured out and they’re thriving and are at peace and don’t need improving, we’ll see you on the next blog post. You can stop reading.

Every single person, no matter the age or stage of life, guy or gal, single or married, no kids, have kids, empty nesters, whether someone is in school or they work a job or they volunteer or have neighbors or have friends – all of us are in some type of relationship with the people around us. 

Sometimes those relationships can get complicated.
Sometimes we are the one at fault.  

We’re a bunch of imperfect people colliding together every single good day and bad day.

I want to give you four things that I have seen in my life, in the lives of others, that help manage and heal and help relationships thrive. I can tell you these work. I can also confess I’ve not always done them. And when I don’t do them, that’s when the conflict and the complications happen. 

(1) I will act, not react.

We all know what it’s like, when something doesn’t go our way, we instantly react. Our first emotion isn’t the healthiest one. Our first words aren’t the most helpful. 

Some people explode.
Some people walk out with a cutting word.
Some people are loud.
Some people shut down. 

I heard about this married couple who got into an argument that led to them giving each other the silent treatment. Neither spouse was talking. 

Many times when there’s the silent treatment in marriage you will do everything to not speak first. If you’re bleeding out on the bathroom floor, you will crawl to your phone to dial 9-1-1 rather than asking your spouse for help, even when you’re dying. 

This couple giving each other the silent treatment, the husband knew his wife was an early riser in the morning. He needed to get up at 5AM to catch a flight for work, and had been having issues with his alarm, so what he needed from his wife was to wake him up at 5AM. 

But he wasn’t going to talk to her. 

He wrote a note: Please wake me up at 5AM and he left it by her toothbrush on her side of the vanity sink. He knew she would be brushing her teeth when she woke up early the next morning. 

In the morning, he wakes up. The sun is pouring in through the bedroom windows. He shoots up in bed, startled, looks at the clock. It’s 8:00AM. 

He’s missed his flight. 

He looks on his nightstand by the bed, and there’s a note. The note says, It’s 5AM. Wake up. 

Point for the wife. 

Before we react – to a spouse, to a child who doesn’t listen, to a coworker who dropped the ball, to a friend who is being unfair to you – before you blow up or give the cold shoulder, memorize this verse:

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. [Psalm 141:3]

It’s a prayer that says, Lord, would you help me keep my mouth shut when I want to instantly react? 

Or, if you’re the silent treatment type of person, the prayer is, Lord, would you give me the humility to open my mouth and speak gently when I want to be quiet?

Acting is: Praying before responding.
Breathing before responding.
Apologizing.
Asking clarifying questions.
Speaking calmly. 

When we react, we get into the fight and name call and bring up past actions and we over exaggerate. When you react, you do not get those words back when a spouse or a child or a parent or someone at work hears them. 

Let’s watch the names we are calling each other and let’s watch saying the words “always” and “never” – you never and I always 

These are things I’m teaching my children. We don’t name call and we don’t express our emotions with “you never” and “you always” – because it’s not true. We want to stick with that specific incident. 

And, let’s watch the tone and the volume level we use. I can see the look in my youngest child’s eyes when my tone is too harsh or my volume is too high. You can’t unring that bell. 

Before you respond, if it’s a bit heated, take a walk around the block because you’ll never regret a delayed word that is said gently. 

Another piece of advice on this one is: Don’t get historical. 

It’s amazing that you’ve got people in your life who can’t find their phone or their keys but they remember something hurtful you said or did 10 years ago. 

As for you and I – when we are in an argument, we need to focus on the argument. We don’t need to get historical. 

In any relationship, Don’t get historical.
Watch your use of “never” and “always”.
No name calling.
Watch your tone and your volume. 

All of this is acting, not reacting. 

(2) I will focus on the good things in you. 

Sometimes we look at people and think, Right now there is nothing good I can find in this person. 

Here’s why that’s a lie: Jesus still died for them. And He saw something redeemable in their life. 

Satan is the author of all lies and one of the lies we believe that he tells is, there’s nothing good in this person, all I can see is the pain they’ve caused – that’s what keeps us from restoring the relationship. 

We need to back the emotional truck up a bit and say, Okay, there’s got to be soothing good in this person, something I can be grateful for with this person, what is it? 

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. [Philippians 4:8]

Is there anything about that in-law, about that co-worker, about that friend who hurt you, anything about them that is true or honorable or noble or right or pure or lovely or admirable? Instead of thinking about how they annoy you or are frustrating to you or are so different from how you are, think about the things laid out in the above verse. 

In the deepest of arguments, the way to climb out of the hole and get to a resolution is to focus on what is good in the person, praise them for that. Then they’ll be more open to discussing the issue at hand like a grown up. 

Even if it’s not an argument, when you highlight and highlight and highlight what is good in that person, they rise to the standard to compliment them for and you begin to truly see them as that good person.

This same advice is for spouses and parents and employers:

Instead of sitting down with someone and using words describing them in their current state, use words that describe who you know they can become. 

The words that we say to our kids, to our employees, those are the words that define them. 

(3) I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me.

We all want God’s grace given individually to us – that’s an easy choice. We’ll take God’s forgiveness toward us, but it’s difficult for us to give that to the people around us. 

One way of recognizing if you are growing as a Christian, if God is transforming you, is to see the amount of grace you need verses the amount of grace you give out.

Jesus touches on this in His Sermon on the Mount. 

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. [Matthew 5:23-24]

As far as it depends on you – go make things right with that person – Jesus wants you to apply God’s grace toward that person. 

If you don’t deal with what’s separating you and that person in your life where things aren’t good, it will short-circuit what God is trying to do in your life.

People want God to move in their life and yet they can’t even give a pinch of grace to those around them when the way God wants to move in their life is by extending grace towards others around them. 

Every time I think about how much God has forgiven me, it makes it easier to forgive others. Every time I sit in solitude and think about how much God has given to me, it makes it easier to give to others. 

Every time I think about how much I need God in my life, it stirs a passion inside for those around me to see how much they need God and how much they need me to be like Jesus in our relationship so they can partly know what God is truly like. 

I will act, not react.
I will focus on the good things in you.
I will extend God’s grace toward you as I remember His grace toward me. 

Will there still be difficulties in your relationships? Will there still be bumps? Absolutely. But now we have a way to resolve things with people in a God-honoring way, and that always un-complicates things. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Practical Ways a Father Can Have a Lasting Legacy

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Let’s do a bit of an exercise. At first, it’ll seem a bit morbid, but hang with me because I think it’s eye-opening.

This exercise isn’t something I came up with, it’s been around for a while. It’s called The Eulogy Exercise. It comes from the book by Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey walks the reader through this hypothetical scenario:

Imagine you are going to a funeral. 

You pull up to the parking lot where the funeral location is (a church building or a funeral home ). You park, get out of the car, walk into the building as other people who are dressed up are walking in. You smell fresh cut flowers as you enter into the lobby. There’s a fresh aroma sprayed all over the room. You take a free mint offered. 

You look around and you begin to recognize people. And not just acquaintances, but close friends and family members who are also at the funeral. 

It’s visitation hours, so people are in line to walk by the casket of the deceased to pay their respects. You get up to the casket and when you look down, it’s you that is laying there, dead.

You are attending your own funeral. 

The date on the program isn’t 50 years from now. This funeral, your funeral, is just three years from today.

You go into the sanctuary where people are sitting awaiting for the ceremony to begin and as you look on the program, there are going to be four people who will be speaking at your funeral.

Four people will be sharing about you and how you lived your life. 

Person #1: A family member

The first person that is going to speak at your funeral is a family member. It could be a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling. It will be a family member who knew you very well. 

Person #2: A close friend

The second person that is going to speak is going to be one of your close friends. Maybe a childhood friend or a friend from high school, a college roommate, a friend from the neighborhood. They’ve spent time with you and know you. They’ve been through the ups and downs with you. 

Person #3: Someone from work

The third person speaking will be someone from your job, or if still in school, a teacher or a coach. It’s someone who sees you during the week. They’ve seen how you celebrate and encourage others. They see how you handle stress.

Person #4: Someone from church

The fourth person to speak is someone from your church, if you have a church family. They see how much you choose to attend. They see how you serve. They’ve watched how you worship. 

Four people.
A family member.
A close friend.
A co-worker.
Someone who was in the same church as you. 

And the big question is: What would you like each of these people to say about you?

This is the point of the exercise: Covey coined it as this: Beginning with the end in mind. 

If we think of what we would want those in our daily lives to say about us when we return to dust, we then can look at how we are living in the present to go after that desired legacy. 

Here are some practical steps every dad can take to cement a life-changing, positive legacy with his children: 

Smile in photos taken with the family. 

What is it with dads not smiling in family photos? Dad looks grumpy with his wife. He looks serious with his kids. How he feels towards his loved one is not how he shows it in pictures. Sure he loves them, but in pictures it doesn’t seem that way. 

I don’t care if dad was in the military, or still thinks he’s taking a football team picture, or if he thinks he has bad teeth or if his favorite team just lost or if he’s had a bad day – smile. 

Send the message from your heart of love towards these people to your mouth when pictures are being taken. 

Because, when dad dies, his kids will only have pictures to look at to remember him. If those pictures look like dad was serious or harsh because he didn’t smile, that’s the legacy he’s going to write long after he’s gone. 

Have evenings of focused one-on-one time.

Life is full. Life is packed. Kids grow fast. When the child gets off the bus or when dad gets home from work, there isn’t much time together. 

What a dad can do is carve out intentional, one-on-one time with the child. 

Whether it’s father-son or daddy-daughter, nights out or date nights need to be set and kept. 

Every year, 12 times a year, once a month, I take each of my children out separately. Just me and them. Sometimes it’s dinner when we get dressed up and all fancy. Sometimes it’s ice cream. Sometimes you go bowling with them. Sometimes I surprise them at their school and have lunch with them. Sometimes it’s a long walk so we can talk and catch up on their view of the family, of God, of life, of their emotions. 

When I am just with them, we’ll laugh and talk about our day, but, there are also some heart-to-heart questions that I ask. 

How are you feeling being a part of this family?
Do you feel included?
Do you feel heard?
How is school going?
Is there anything challenging happening?
Are there any frustrations in your life right now that I can offer some advise on or pray about? 

And you let them talk. And after you are gone, dad, they’ll remember the time spent and the wisdom shared. Your legacy will live on. 

As best as possible at night, ignore screens until the kids are asleep. 

If children are great at one thing, they are great at exaggerating. Children naturally use words like always and never. 

So, if dad is on his phone for work or for fun, when a child wants to talk to dad or play with dad, all it takes is two instances where the kid sees dad looking at a phone and then the child thinks, Dad never plays with me (even when he does), or, Dad is always on his phone (even though he’s not).

Perception is reality to them. 

My family and I attended a volleyball game at a junior high school a few months ago. Some friends of ours were playing in and attending the game. We were there to cheer them on. 

Two rows in front of my wife and I was a father of a child playing in the volleyball game. And for the majority of the game, he was watching on his phone his favorite college football team play their game. 

And I saw his daughter look at him multiple times as he was looking at a screen. She saw that he would rather watch strangers play a game than his daughter play in hers. 

Dad, be present. 

Yes there is work. Yes there are emails. Yes there are fun things to watch on TV. Yes we have the habit of checking social media every five minutes. Those can all wait (they might be highjacking your legacy at home). 

From the time you get home to the time they are finally asleep, try to look at them, not a screen. 

Treat his wife with kindness and respect. 

The way dad consistently treats his wife shows any son he has how to treat women and any daughter he has how to be treated by a man. You’ve heard that. 

But, in addition, when there is unrest in the home, the children internalize it. They invite the stress of a marriage into their life and it goes with them into their school, activities and relationships. 

It’s when dad yells at his wife. It’s when dad puts down his wife. It’s when dad is giving the cold shoulder to his wife. It’s when dad would rather have nights out with his buddies than take his wife out. The children see this. They feel it. They think it’s normal even though they don’t like it. 

Dad needs to serve his wife. He needs to uplift her with words of encouragement. He needs to thank her in front of the children for all she does in the family and in the home. He needs to come alongside her when she makes decisions for the children. He needs to take her out on dates and text her romantic stuff during the day because a happy wife and mother also has a key impact on the children. Dad can help with that. 

[Sidenote: If dad is divorced/unmarried to the child’s mother, he must not speak ill of her. Even if she takes the low road when speaking of him. Without her, dad doesn’t have the joy of loving his children, so even when difficult, uplift the child’s mother.]

Put God first in his life and in the home’s life. 

After dad has died, it leaves a hole in the heart of a child that never fully heals. It is difficult to lose a parent. You think about it every day. You miss them every day. For me, with a father gone for over 6 years, the only thing that has gotten me through it is leaning on God, my heavenly Father. 

I have that relationship with God because my father did first. My father wasn’t the person of love he was because of his self-effort. He was loving toward me because of God changing his heart and working through him to effectively serve and graciously care for us kids. 

God is first in our household. I am not the leader of our home. God is. I am not the decision-maker of our home. God is. When we are hurt, we pray. When we are stressed, we open the Bible and write verses on our bathroom mirrors to calm our anxiety. When we are afraid, we remind each other to trust God. 

Our schedule doesn’t get in the way of family dinners where we pray and talk about what we’re grateful to God about. Our hobbies do not get in the way of worship on Sunday mornings. As a family, we actively serve in the church we are involved in. Our children know that my wife and I read our Bibles each morning. 

After dad is gone, his legacy of how he leaned on God daily in his life will be the driving force they need to press on into the life God has in store for them without dad. 

Smile in photos taken with the family.
Have evenings of focused one-on-one time.
As best as possible, no screens until the kids are asleep.
Treat his wife with kindness and respect.
Put God first in his life and in the home’s life. 

Doing these things consistently, by beginning with the end in mind, allows dad’s legacy to be a positive one that outlives his physical life into generations of his family. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

The Four Areas of Unity Your Church Leadership Should Have

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Jesus prayed that you and I in the church would be unified. This is His prayer on the night of His arrest – 

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. (John 17:21)

Simply stated, God’s people are called to have unity. It’s something Jesus prays for.

A step more serious is that leaders of God’s people are called to have unity. A reason it’s important for church leadership to be unified is because:

If the leaders in the church aren’t unified, then the people in the church won’t be unified. 

What we see historically, and sadly too often today, is that when division happens in the church it’s not because people know or vote based on facts and data, or even rely on prayer, rather, they weigh in based on whether or not they like the person. 

Their decisions aren’t objective, they’re subjective. 

I liked this person, so I’m taking their side. This person has served with me, so I’m with them. I’ve known this person longer, so I’ll join them. And what can begin as a personal issue quickly spreads into a division in the church.

Another reason why unity is vital in the church, from leadership down, is because it keeps the entire church focused on what’s important – Jesus and loving others. 

If there is division, then the conversations aren’t about Jesus, they aren’t about God’s vision, they aren’t about loving others. Instead, they’re about: Have you heard this gossip lately? Well, I heard this. Well, I believe this person did this. Well, they must’ve! Here’s my opinion, here’s how I think it’s going down. 

And all of the sudden, because of a distraction and a divisive spirit, loving Jesus and loving others exits out of the conversations and out of the church’s mission. 

Just as there are things that help unity, there are things that harm it as well. 

Sometimes it’s obvious, visible sin like sexual sin, or stealing money, or what led to divorce, or laziness, or complaining. Many times it’s deceit. 

Sometimes the sin that kills unity is more subtle, like bitterness or jealousy towards others. Many times it’s pride. 

Sometimes division is caused by heresy (teaching truths outside of the Bible to be as authoritative as truths in the Scriptures). 

Sometimes disunity is caused by legalism, where people make a list of rules, judge others by those rules, they show up in a black and white striped shirt and a whistle – you’re religious. Sometimes division occurs when there’s confusion between what is a primary issue and a secondary issue. 

Another reason for division is distrust. The larger a church gets numerically the more she’s going to have to trust one another. 

Leadership has to trust their small group and ministry leaders. Leadership needs to train and trust that each small group and ministry are staying focused on Jesus. Leadership must trust they are encouraging people to lean on God and not on self, to hold people who are in sin accountable to God. 

When anyone teaches a class in the church, the leadership must trust that the teacher has diligently prepared and prayed over their lesson. When a new person or a new couple bravely walks into the lobby and into this big scary room, I have to trust that they will be loved on, talked to, sat with – by you. 

In any type of church, if we don’t have trust, then we don’t have unity. 

Visible sin, subtle sin, heresy, legalism and distrust are places where unity won’t be found.

Unity in the church (and anywhere else) is something that is gained slowly, and lost quickly.

So what is unity? 

If we don’t have a working definition of unity, then we can’t work towards it as a church. 

I’ve learned to define unity in the church 4 ways – 

Theological Unity

This means we agree on the things of God that matter. 

There are things that Christians (especially Christian leaders) will have to fundamentally agree on, go to battle for, not let go of, ever.

We fight for the Bible as God’s Word. We fight for the two sacraments of baptism and communion. We fight for the God Who is Three in One. We believe Jesus is God, born to a virgin, lived with no sin, died on a cross, that He rose from death, is alive today, is coming back soon and is the only way to salvation. He’s good, we’re bad, hell is hot, forever is a long time, and you should have a good sense of humor (not an exhaustive list).

These are the things that we’re going to fight for. These are very important to have unity on. 

And then there are things we won’t fight over or for.

Any conversation about the rapture, how old the earth is, home-schooling vs. public schooling, Democrat vs. Republican, speaking in tongues, women in leadership, etc.

We’re not going to fight over some things. 

The earth didn’t come with a birth certificate so I don’t worry about how old the earth is. We can argue about it, that would be a cute waste of time. I would rather hold fast to things that matter. 

We’re not supposed to fight for everything. Our identity is in Christ not in winning arguments that the Bible isn’t concerned with.

Secondly, as a church we must have, 

Philosophical Unity 

This typically comes down to style and what are the best methods for each local church to reach the culture they are providentially placed in. 

At a previous church I was grateful to serve in, I had a couple new to the church meet me in my office and inform me that they would join the church on the condition that their kids would be able play their hand choir bells before service. Every week. I told them that wasn’t our church’s philosophy, that we want people to join the church – not to uplift their kids but – to uplift Jesus. 

And they left. Not just my office, but the church. 

A church’s philosophy when it comes to singing could be contemporary it’s not hardcore, it’s instrumental, there are hymns sometimes.  Sometimes it’s too loud, sometimes they go acoustic.

Sometimes a church’s philosophy when it comes to the next generation is to keep them out of sight, out of mind, in their own section of the church building, stating, they’re the church of tomorrow. Or, a church’s philosophy could be to let God work through children right now; letting them be the church at their current age.

A church’s appearance could be come as you are. It could be dress fancy. It could be hosting online services where you worship in your underwear. If you want to wear a suit and tie or a dress to church, please do. And if you want to wear a t-shirt and jeans with flip-flops, please do. Just be sure your toenails are cut appropriately. 

I believe diversity in the church is a great thing, but some people want to go to a church where everyone is Republican, married and dressed in robes. And there are churches like that. I’m not sure that’s the church Jesus is praying for in John 17.

A good philosophy I recommend is being serious about God and the Bible and the next generation and being relaxed about music and attire and political affiliation.

The church should hold onto big things like saving the lost, maturing the saved. She should host fast to arguing over little things, like, what people wear, what color the carpet is in the nursery, did Adam and Eve have belly buttons or not.

Relational Unity  

In the church, we need to find unity in one another. It’s there, we need to seek it out. 

This means we are kind to one another, respectful, uplifting. We don’t tear each other down on a serious, condescending level. We might poke fun at ourselves and our sensitive to how our comments about others come across. 

We’re family, so we acknowledge each other when we walk into the room and we love and reach out when needed. We reply to texts/voicemails/emails promptly and prayerfully. 

We forgive one another, and, by one another I don’t just mean the people active in a church, but we also forgive those who have left a church with a sour taste in their mouths. We also seek out if there’s anything we can humbly apologize for. 

Missional Unity

At every core of families, companies, sports teams, and churches, they all only care about one thing. They all focus on one particular thing. Their one thing is something they’re passionate about. Something they can’t stop thinking of. 

What is your one thing going to be? 

Is your one thing in life making money? Is it appeasing customers? Is it winning? Is it raising godly kids? Is it obsessed with being in shape? Each person and leadership has their one thing. 

Hopefully each church’s one thing is to be Jesus. That’s it. At the end of the day, the reason why your local church exists is because they should want people to fall in love with Jesus, grow to be like Jesus, worship Jesus, follow Jesus, trust Jesus, talk about Jesus, die for Jesus, and live with Jesus forever. That’s what Christians must be all about. Jesus! 

We need to find unity in this, because the rest of what happens in church leadership is secondary. Not unimportant, but secondary. If we lose sight of loving Jesus and loving others as our mission, there will be division. If we’re going to work towards unity, we have to work on all those fronts – Theologically, Philosophically, Relationally, and Missionally. And if we are united on these things, then our family, this thing we call church, it will be a God-honoring, life-changing, kingdom-building, very exciting experience. 

To repeat, unity is gained slowly and it is lost quickly. If it’s something Jesus prayed for each Christian and each church leadership to have, then prayer and conversations and focus on unity should be continual. 

It might be a good idea to ask gentle, inquiring questions of how your local church grooms new eldership, hires ministry staff, vets out and trains volunteer leaders and how they handle conflict in their meetings. If forgotten about, quickly or haphazardly done, it’ll damage unity.

Feel free to reach out to your church leadership to make sure they are unified on these four areas and, at the same time, pray for unity for them as Jesus does. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

How Do We Relate To Bullies? (Why President Trump Is So Influential)

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As a second grader, our oldest daughter was coming home bearing the hurtful comments and actions of her schoolmates. Each night around the dinner table and before bedtime my wife and I were untying the knots of damaging lies said to her by others and, then, we were instilling the truth of who she is in God’s eyes and in her parents eyes. 

For whatever anger/loneliness/emptiness that is inside the kids choosing to verbally attack her, this is what she heard:

Your hair is ugly.
Why would you wear that to school?
How could you get that question wrong?
You can’t play with us, you’re a girl.
Your teeth look messed up.
 

It’s only a few kids who say these hurtful comments to her, and to others. 

During her second grade year, our daughter’s class wrote on a poster board about why they love her. She brought the poster board home and we hung it up for her to see each day.  Some comments by her classmates written were:

Thank you for helping me with my school work.
I like it when you hug me and say nice things about me.
Thank you for inviting me to play with you at recess.
Thank you for including me at lunchtime.
I like you because you stick up for me. 

So it seems that she’s popular. 

Not popular in the sense because someone is pretty or smart or athletic or rich, then they’re liked. Rather, popular in the sense of both sides of the aisle know her. The bullies know her and choose to degrade and those bullied notice her and choose to be grateful. 

She has influence. And influence polarizes. 

Each day she was coming home with these contradicting feelings of loving others and hating bullies. 

Some of the unraveling of the untruths bullies say to her is also unraveling the untruth of her feelings that she should hate bullies. 

Her confusion is this: Why are bullies popular? 

She’s chewing on the conundrum that bullies gain influence through being bullies, but they also grow in influence when others try to bully them. They get worse when you treat them like they treat others. So how do you deal with someone abusive like this? It’s a lose-lose if you submit to them or if you fight them. 

With a high sensitivity toward American politics and with limited context to where my beliefs and values are and where yours are, just a few clarifiers: 

I am not siding with one political party or another. This post is not to get people more hyper or more irate about politics.  This is not a post against President Trump.

The goal of this post is to try to answer this question: 

Why do bullies grow in influence by treating people the way that they do?  

Some words that people have used to describe President Trump as are: bombastic, arrogant, insensitive, condescending, sexist, racist.

Other words to describe him have been: patriotic, brave, outlier, savior, Christian. 

Depending on how you view him (and only God knows the heart even when we see the tweets and hear the speeches) how do we explain his meteoric rise to him being so popular?

(Again to use the word popular doesn’t mean he is liked by so many people, but that he is polarizing, that everyone knows of him and his actions.) 

Have you thought about how President Trump became President Trump? 

Some attribute to it that Trump is/has been a successful businessman. At a young age he became involved in some of the largest and most profitable business projects in Manhattan, being labeled as the Big Apple’s best known developer of New York City.

Others will say Trump’s rise in popularity will be because he’s got money out of his ears, supposedly, and he can bank roll his own campaign without having any major donors tell him what to say or how to vote.

Though it’s being disputed on whether or not his claim to be worth 10 billion dollars is true , no one is disputing that he has an enormous treasure chest at his disposal to fund his own political career. 

Others will comment on President Trump’s rise because he’s a master-self-promoter. Not only has he made the Trump brand into the reality TV shows, The Apprentice, and The Celebrity Apprentice, but President Trump’s name is everywhere. Hotels, golf courses, steaks, ice skating rings before politics his name was everywhere.

And yet, there have been successful businessmen and businesswomen in the past trying to run for president who have not been nearly as popular as he is (Ross Perot, Mitt Romney, Carly Fiorina, Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and others). Bloomberg is 17 times richer than President Trump is. 

How can Trump’s popularity be explained?

Maybe I can share a reason no one I’ve heard is talking about. 

In 2011, a psychological study was published in the journal, Social, Psychological Personality Science.

What researchers did is they asked the participants to watch videos where people went about their daily activities, like working in a cubicle, being in a meeting, working on a task at home, taking a coffee break, catching up with a friend over lunch – lots of things people do in everyday life – the participants in this study watched people living their every day life. 

After watching these exact scenarios, the participants were asked, from top to bottom, which people they watched should get to make decisions and get crowds of people to listen to what they have to say.

In one study, customers were shown going into a new office, pouring themselves a cup of coffee from a coffee maker that had the label, Employee Coffee Only on it – compared to those walking into the same office, pouring themselves a cup of coffee from a coffee maker that was for the general public. So one customer walks into a new office and breaks code by getting coffee from an employees only coffee maker and another customer walks into the new office and gets coffee from the general coffee maker. 

The participants were asked to rate those who did not break the rules verses those who did. This was their perspective: 

Rule breakers were described as being “more in control” and “more powerful” when compared to people who didn’t steal the coffee or break accounting rules.

In a follow-up experiment, participants watched a man who sat outside at a table of a small business café, putting his feet up on a chair, tapping cigarette ashes all over the ground as he barks at the servers taking his order and those who are entering in and out of the café who accidentally bump into him.

The participants viewed this inconsiderate man as someone who would be, “more likely to get decisions made and able to get to people to listen to what he said,” – compared to the participants who saw the video of the same man in a separate video who was being pleasant and friendly outside of the café.

The concluding evidence the study found this:

People who are willing to be rude, condescending, and mean towards other people are considered, on average, to be more powerful and more likely to get things done as a leader. (Breaking the Rules to Rise to Power”, Social, Science and Personality Journal, January 26th, 2011)

I think this explains, more in part, why our current President, or your domineering boss, or your harsh spouse or the bully at school is liked by many people and yet is also despised by others. 

Either way, it’s why they have influence. 

Remember the moment back in the 2016 election debates when Republican candidate Jeb Bush’s campaign ended? It was during a summer debate when Jeb stooped to Trump’s level and began personally attacking him. That wasn’t who Jeb was. Jeb was known as a gracious candidate and I think maybe more people would’ve rallied around him after being attacked by Trump if he had taken the high road. 

Stooping to Trump’s level is also what the Democratic Party is currently doing gearing up for the 2020 election. 

And it’s not going to work for the goals they have. 

This is more than just advice in the political world.

Our instinct when we are made to feel little and less-than is to fight back with words when we’re attacked. My motto in high school, since I weighed 100 pounds wet, I was going to talk big and have bigger friends. If someone wanted to beat me up for how I made fun of them, then my big friends would be the bouncers I needed. 

As adults and hopefully as mature Christ-followers, we have got to know by now that you don’t beat bullies at their own game. You don’t beat a bully by out-bullying the bully and you don’t help a bully by allowing them to run all over you whenever they want. 

With all of the anxiousness over politics, I still think the Christians and the church in this nation, we are going to do the right thing and trust God, honor our leaders, pray for them and extend a hand of help for those in need. I still believe Americans will do the right thing when they are called to step up.  

Just ask Sherriff Jim Clark, who on March 7, 1965, almost 55 years ago, unleashed dogs, tear gas and officers with clubs against 600 unarmed pacifists who were on the edge of the Edmund Tettison Bridge on the outskirts of Selma, Alabama.

Unfortunately for Clark, unlike all of the other days where he brutally, violently commanded his men to beat innocent people who were African-American descent, this time the world was watching. The Civil Rights movement, a Christian movement, did not win because of a display of power and aggression. 

People come around when a light is shone on the bully and the world is watching and sees who the bullies really are.

What Jesus would say about how to relate to any abusive person in power is the same thing He would’ve said about what happened at Selma:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.  If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” – Jesus, Matthew 5:38-39

Jesus is the wisest human ever to live and He tells us to turn the other cheek, to model Him when He stood before Pilate and was silent, suggestive on what to do when speaking with Judas, respective next to Heord, truthful with Pharisees – because Jesus knows you never out-bully a bully.

If you think President Trump has influence, compare him to Jesus’ influence. Both are polarizing, both have been accused of being helpful and harmful, and yet One of them was inclusive in love.  

Christians are called to out-surrender bullies in love and endurance, and then, in the light, with the eyes of others on you, as their hearts are changed from stone to pity, they will stand up for you, against the bully, as they are inspired by the steadfastness and resolve that you have.

No political candidate/boss/parent/spouse/classmate is Jesus. All have flaws. But as we encourage each other on how to deal with overbearing people, the bully is simply a bigger personality able to knock every single person off who stoops to their level. They do this not with love, not with grace, not with kindness, but with their steamroller ways of divisiveness and isolation. 

In the church by-laws of where I serve and worship, this is our statement when it comes to bullying: 

In relating to each other and others during the week, God does not provide grounds for bigotry, bullying or hate, as we fully believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect and dignity, regardless of his or her lifestyle. Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated as sinful and are not in accordance with the Scriptures nor the doctrines this church.

Instead of being a bully and instead of being quiet when bullies choose to press their power over others, we choose inclusiveness. We find common ground and agree. We see different ground and we love anyway. 

Ask my 2nd grade daughter. She knows these two truths: 

Being kind is greater than being insolent when it comes to being noticed. 

Being kind is great than being insolent when it comes to having a legacy.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z