Choose a Rhythm of Rest or Ruin Your Life

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God has blessed my wife and I with two very active, young daughters. When it comes time for bedtime or a necessary nap time, they both fight the idea of laying down as if their mom and I were asking them to go swimming with sharks. 

Rest time is abhorred by our children.
They’ve even started to barter with us. 

I’ll do this chore or I’ll play in the playroom nicely or I won’t kick my sister in the stomach – all so they don’t have to lay down. 

If we allow them to skip a nap or if we allow them to act like every night is a slumber party and they don’t have to go to bed at a decent hour, they are going to be nightmares the next day.

The reason they don’t want to rest is because they are afraid at missing out on something. 

And I would venture to say, that when it comes to resting for you, if you don’t rest, then you are going to miss out on something going forward. And that something, is a lasting legacy. If you don’t rest, life will be a blur.   

As I look through the pages of the Bible there are a few reasons that show why inserting rest into our weekly rhythm makes so much sense.

1. A rhythm of rest RENEWS your body.

God has created our bodies in such a way that they work and function best when they are set and committed to a rhythm of rest. 

Physicians inform that 75-90% of doctor’s visits could be avoided if people could just eliminate the weight of stress and anxiety due to the lack of rest in their life. 

The magazine Business Weekly conducted a survey where they asked people in the workplace this simple question: How are you feeling? 

The number one answer in the workplace to, How are you feeling? was by far this answer: I’m tired.

Question: How are you feeling?
Answer #1: I’m tired. 

The 21st century has already been dubbed, The Century of Fatigue.

I was reading about this internal clock humans have in their body referred to as, The Pineal Gland. This pineal gland collects serotonin. Serotonin is released (how God designed this to work) when the sun rises in the morning. When released, this serotonin gives the human body energy and joy and anticipation for what awaits for us for that day.

Is that what happens to you when the sun rises? Is joyful what you feel right when you wake up? 

Not so much. 

When the sun rises, you’re not thinking, Oh what a beautiful mooooorning!
You’re thinking, Snooze alarm clock, and then you think, COFFEE NOW!

But my daughters, they wake up with a smile and with energy ready to go. 

Then in the evening, when the sun sets, the serotonin is converted to melatonin, and that’s what gives us this sense of being tired and pretty soon we’re ready to sleep. It’s why we are out like a light before 9:00PM in the winter time. When the sun is down early, we’re down early. 

A physician named Dr. Archibald says that most Americans ignore this internal clock in their brain. The pineal gland doesn’t know what’s going on so the serotonin and the melatonin are confused on when to be released and we’re up when we should be down but we’re restless and stimulated by TV and tablets and smartphones and then the next day we’re lethargic and easily agitated and slow and depressed-feeling. 

It’s all because we’re violating the way God wants us to function daily and when we continue to be on the run and not rest, our bodies will be weak, and weak bodies lead to terrible sins.

Fatigue will not prepare you to say no to the temptation that is waiting for you. 

Maybe you read a blog like this and think, More rest? Okay. Sign me up. I would love to rest but there are projects around the home I promised would be done last week and the contract needs to be written up or this client needs an email from me on the weekend and the kid’s have all these activities and I don’t want them to fall behind and I would love more rest but it’s all going to fall apart if I establish a simpler schedule.

In the book of Leviticus, God continued to instruct His people to have a life of rhythm where He says, Every 7 years, I want you to give the land a rest. Don’t plant or plow or harvest the field in the 7th year. 

The people say back to God what we would’ve said, Okaaaaaay, God. Sure, we’ll go a year without working. How are we going to eat?

Here’s how God responds,

You might ask, ‘What will we eat during the seventh year, since we are not allowed to plant or harvest crops that year?’ Be assured that I will send my blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a crop large enough for three years.When you plant your fields in the eighth year, you will still be eating from the large crop of the sixth year. In fact, you will still be eating from that large crop when the new crop is harvested in the ninth year. (Leviticus 25:20-22)

God is saying, When you take that 7th year off from farming, do nothing. It won’t make sense on paper. You won’t be able to rationalize it or predict it, but trust Me on this. If you honor Me with your time, if you to put Me at the center of your life you’ll see and experience change. You’ll get so much more from Me by taking time off than you would if you blurred your time together. And by resting your bodies you’ll be ready to go back into the mission I have in store for you.

A rhythm of rest doesn’t just renew your body, but also, 

2. A rhythm of rest REPLENISHES your relationships. 

If we violate this rhythm of rest we will also damage the special relationships God has put in our lives.

MSNBC did a report on a study done by UCLA’s Center For Every Day Lives. UCLA followed around 32 families for 4 years. They recorded each family for the length of 1,600 hours. It was like, The Truman Show. 1,600 hours of videotape over the course of 4 years for each of these 32 families. 

The researchers were stunned at the hectic pace these families were living their lives to and as a result, how distant and cold family members treated each other.

One of the clips from this study was of a man who came home from work late. His young kids were already asleep and his wife was sitting on the edge of the bed. She’s folding laundry and she’s got her bedroom television on. Husband walks into the bedroom and there was no, Hello, from the wife. No smile from her. No, How was your day? No hug, no kiss on either exchange. 

What does happen is the couple picks up mid-sentence an argument they had 15 hours earlier that morning about who left the milk out the night before and now it’s spoiled.

Another clip is of this business woman, dressed in an executive, silk suit. She’s got a forced smile on her face and she’s trying to get her daughter just to look at her. Her daughter refuses to look at her mom until finally the embarrassed nanny in the room, who is putting her daughter’s pajamas on, prompts the girl to acknowledge her mom’s presence. 

Another clip is of this big bear of a man walking into his crammed home-office and his teenage son is playing a video game on the office computer. Dad rubs the hair of his son playfully and the whiney response the son was, I thought you were going to get this monitor fixed?

The researchers found just 1 family out of the 32 families had unstructured, structured time together. 5/32 of the families had no time together. At no point in 4 years through 1600 hours of tape did 5 families spend time altogether in the same room.

We need to live life with a restful, slower, more intentional pace, spending quality time together. When we don’t, our relationships will suffer. We can’t choose be possessions over people. 

Where are the kids who want to go for a walk with their mom just to talk as they leave their phone at home? 

When was the last date night for mom and dad? 

What family would try going without TV for a month?

What household is kissing and hugging the spouse and the kids every single entry and exit of the home?

Do you see what we’re missing by adhering to the frantic pace of culture? 

Thirdly,

3. A rhythm of rest RESTORES your soul. 

More than rest for our body, more than rest for the relationships we love, this rhythm of rest keeps us close and aligned with God. 

“Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Be still and know God is God. You’re not. He is. You can’t change things. He can. You can’t heal it. He can. You can’t control it. Let Him.

When we refuse to honor God with our time (days without the Bible or prayer, weeks without church, months without making Christian friends, years without leading our family toward Jesus, decades of the same sin) when we refuse to honor God with our time we are saying to Him, God, You can’t do this. I have to do it. I don’t trust You to come through if I rest. 

One of the most healthy things we can do on a daily basis is to step away every single day from things and say and believe, God, You’re God. I’m not. I’m dependent on you. And I not only need You, God, but I’m thankful You’re strong enough, loving enough, more than enough for me, my situation, my family, my fear, my dreams, Thank You for taking the burden to put my life together.

Picture a three year old. If you know three year olds, they want to do everything adults can do. They want coffee. They want to drive. They want to stay up late. They want to watch shows mom and dad watch. They walk around the home in their parents loafers or high heels. 

What every three year old loves to do in the springtime is help mow the yard.

It takes a lot of energy for a pre-schooler to reach up, push and walk with a lawnmower while mom and dad are also mowing. After a while of mowing, the child gets exhausted and steps aside and stops pushing the mower.

Each time the parent mows with the child, it’s the child who thinks they’re pushing the mower but when they step aside to rest, the child sees the mower is going even while they aren’t. They sees their parent is the one making it happen.

What if God is thankful we take a break and when we do, He gets more done in our lives while we rest?

You’ve got to figure this out for you. Get some rest. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Raising Our Standard of Giving

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One of the highest ways you can love someone is to remove the obstacles in their path to following Jesus.

The highest way I can love you is to remove anything that stands between you and growing in Christ. If sin is in the way, I want to allow God to remove it by sharing truth. If worshipping a human like a child or a lover or a boss is in the way, I want to allow God to remove them in your heart by sharing Scripture. 

And if money is in the way of your spiritual growth, I desire strongly to show you from Scripture, that you will be free when you stop serving money and start serving God with your money. It’s not about using people to make money. It’s about using money to help people. 

Is money in the way between you and following Jesus more obediently?

I met with a newly married guy in the church for over a year. We met every other week when both schedules allowed it. We would catch up and go through the Bible. We met at Panera and were the only males in there every single time.

For the first 6 months, it was great learning Scripture together. The next couple of months we cranked it up a bit and not just held the other accountable to reading the Bible daily, but to also living out the Bible on a daily basis. 

I asked this question each time we got together, Is there sacrifice in your life? 

This is a good, needed, consistent question for the follower of Christ. To be Christ-like is to sacrifice, and if there’s no sacrifice in one’s life, then whatever area that comes to mind that isn’t being sacrificed, that area is still not like Jesus and it’s got to change. 

One time I asked him is, Is there sacrifice in your life – in terms of generosity and giving to God and others and the needy – is there sacrifice? 

After thinking about it and wondering if we were close enough to share some vulnerable things like money and giving, he said, No. Honestly, there’s not. God’s has blessed me and I’ve been putting $20 a month in the offering bag at church. but it’s no sacrifice. I spend more on golf balls than what I do to give back.

He then went home, talked to his wife about their casual, sporadic giving, and when we met again he said, Zach, for the sake of accountability, I want you to know I wrote a check that hurt. Since then he has been open about giving 10% of their income to their church as God continues to provide for them and since then they have chosen to support two sibling children in Haiti, and since then they have been more Christ-like than ever before.

He sent me a text a couple weeks ago that said, Zach, will you hold be accountable to consistent, sacrificial giving? Will you continue to ask me how our giving is going? And will you pray that God continues to provide as we continue to sacrifice? In a later text, he said, Will you pray I fully grasp the gift of sacrificial living? 

And I pray that for him. I pray that for my home. I pray it for you, that we understand the beauty and freedom and responsibility and gift of sacrificial living and giving.

Giving away your money is part of following Jesus. 

Chances are, there are some individuals and family units who give a good percentage of what God has given them, back to church or non-profits or those in need, but it’s not sacrificial. It doesn’t hurt. It’s easy. They barely think about it because it’s not a stretch. 

Maybe it’s time to evaluate and increase the amount and watch your faith grow.

Christian Smith wrote a book entitled, Passing the Plate in 2008. Up to today it’s the most comprehensive, eye-opening work that’s ever been done on Christians who give to the church. It’s a sociological work that set out to answer this question: Why are Christians in the U.S. so stingy? 

Smith shares a stat that says, More than 36% of American Christians give less than 2% of their income in each year.

That’s got me shaking my head.

Over 1/3 of the Christians in this country –people who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and that every word is true, who have made Jesus their Lord and Savior, Christians who agree that they will stand before God and give an account of how they used what He gave them – are giving less than 2% of all God has graciously given to them?  

A Christian’s focus should be on how to raise their standard of giving, not their standard of living. 

I know you can’t send Jesus an angry email, so please feel free to send me one if that really irks your tater. Jesus says this in His Sermon on the Mount:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).

Meaning: The only things you can keep forever are the things you have given away. 

Here are some practical steps you need to take if you call yourself a Christ-follower: 

If you are not tithing consistently, begin today.

To tithe means to give the first 10% of everything you make, to God.

You may be sponsoring needy children and supporting missionaries and non-profits, helping friends in need, good, but God gets the first 10%, and then if you want to be generous to others, it’s out of the 90% you have remaining after giving to God.

I’ll let God be stark about it:

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions……Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need (Malachi 3:8, 10).

God says when we don’t give to Him first, we’re stealing from Him. But since this Malachi text says tithe, if we give God our first 10% – it’s a clear statement that we are showing God we truly worship Him. Simple sentence, huge life change. 

Maybe that forces you to have an honest conversation with your spouse or with your children or with God today, where you get out the budget and say, From this point forward, nothing will mean more to us, nothing will get more of our attention than giving back to God.

If you’re not tithing, begin today. Be sure you give to a church that has a godly leadership and is trustworthy.

If you are giving God 10%, move towards sacrificial generosity. 

Tithing is a great place to begin. For some of you, you need to begin at 3%, test drive it a few months, move it up to 7%, see if God still provides, and He will if you are wise. Once you get up to giving 10%, it’s not over. In the Old Testament, 10% was the minimum standard expected, you had to at least give 10% (most families in the Old Testament gave 20-25%). But in the New Testament, the word tithe isn’t mentioned, instead, giving in the early church is referred to as sacrificial generosity. 

The New Testament isn’t satisfied with just 10%. The New Testament is only  satisfied when our giving to God reflects the cross. When it hurts. When it’s generous. When it’s sacrificial. 

Mother Theresa said, We are to give until there is pain in the giving. 

For some, less than 10% hurts, or more than 10% hurts. 

Sacrifice is not measured by how much you give, but by how much you keep for yourself. 

In every area of my life I want to be sacrificial because in every area of my life I want to look like Jesus.

Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe.

If Jesus is the most generous Person to ever live, then growth in Christ would mean we would need to be generous, right? 

If you’ve been tithing for a while and it’s been a bit routine, pray about increasing your generous lifestyle until there’s sacrifice. 

Richard Foster writes,  God’s ownership of everything changes the kind of question we ask in giving. Rather than, ‘How much of my money should I give to God?’ we learn to ask, ‘How much of God’s money should I keep for myself?

I have a friend who has been open about giving with me and he’s been tithing since his marriage began. When he lost his job and had to take a new job that was half his previous income, his wife and him have up’ed their giving 4 different times. 

I know a Christian family who gave away a very nice SUV to a single, needy college student who never got a break in her life. I know a family who wants to provide money out of their savings so an infertile couple they know can adopt a beautiful little Chinese girl across the world. 

If we see everything as God’s, that it’s all his, then we’ll freely give it away. It’s those who refuse, those who hoard, those who are stingy, they still see what they hold as theirs. But it’s God’s. 

I hope you have someone close enough to you where you can show them your tax-return or year end giving, what you gave and how you lived, ask them if they see the cross of Christ demonstrated through your spending, saving, and giving.

If you’re not tithing, get there.
If you’ve tithed for a while, move to sacrificial generosity.
One more applicable challenge:

Ask Jesus to expose and eliminate any idols in your life.

An idol is anything, if Jesus said, Give it all to me – leave your job, all your money, I want your children, I want your health – if Jesus asked for it all, whatever you’d be reluctant to give Him – that’s an idol.

C.S. Lewis wrote that, History is the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

Kyle Idleman writes in his book, Not a Fan, Followers are willing to deny themselves and say, ‘I choose Jesus. I choose Jesus over my family. I choose Jesus over money. I choose Jesus over my career. I am his completely. I choose Jesus over alcohol and partying. I choose Jesus over pornography. I choose Jesus over a remodeled house. I choose Jesus over my freedom. I choose Jesus over what people think about me. A follower makes a decision every day to deny himself and choose Jesus, even if it costs everything.”

If there is anything standing between you and Jesus (and it’s probably money) just give it to Jesus in a sacrificial, consistent, cheerful way. You’ll grow your standard of living by increasing your standard of giving.  

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

What Every Parent Should Be Downloading Into Their Child (1,900 words of parenting advice)

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Back in the day when I was a pre-teen, I used to make mixtapes. Those born in 1990 or later probably don’t know what a mixtape is. A mixtape is a cassette tape (Google it) with favorite songs inserted on it to listen to. It’s an archaic Pandora playlist. It took tremendous patience and focus to make the perfect mixtape.

I would lay on my bedroom floor, next to something called a boombox (a radio that played music through speakers), I’d have my radio playing and I would wait for some of my favorite songs to come on so I could record them onto this tape. 

You had to be coordinated. You had to hit play and record at the same time, and you didn’t want the DJ’s voice on the tape, just the song. 

I had all kinds of mixtapes. I had love song mixtapes I’d give to girls I had a crush on. I’d leave the mixtape in their school locker with a creepy, cheesy note attached. For sports, I had mixtapes that would insert into my Dad’s yellow Sony Walkman to pump me up. On my sports mixtape to get me stoked I had “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, “Jump” by Van Halen, “Momma Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J and anything Michael Jackson.

I know that mixtapes are a thing of the past. With technology today, you can download any song that’s ever been recorded and you can make all kinds of playlists on your smartphone. And whether you like to listen to it while you’re in the car, or while at work or school, or exercising, or just chill’n with friends, it can’t be taken for granted what those who came before endured through in the mixtape years. 

Today my young child can grab my phone, open up my music, download new songs she  likes, delete songs she doesn’t like (my favorite songs) and make a playlist. In seconds she can do it. 

As a parent, I realize that my children are being lied to wherever they go. They are downloading lies other influences are pushing on them, and if unchecked, they will start to believe those lies as truth. One of my roles as a guide for them is to delete the lies that they download each day and replace it with truth. 

Mom, dad, grandparents, aunt, uncle, youth leader, teacher, influencers of young children and grown children, here’s what will happen if we don’t get proactive in deleting the lies this culture is pressing down on our children:  

They will be mugged by the mirror. 

We’re in the selfie generation. The reason everyone is taking selfies is to show others how they look. And maybe each time you look in the mirror, each time you take a picture of yourself, you’re asking the fairy tale question, Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? The more we invest in how we look, the more we believe the lie that we are worth the amount of how beautiful others say we are. 

In her book, I Want to be Her, author Michelle Graham writes this: “There’s nothing quite like a glance at a Victoria’s Secret catalog to invoke a flood of insecurities and feelings of disappointment.”

Graham goes onto say: 

If Barbie were a real human being, her proportions would make her anywhere from 6 feet 10 inches to 7 feet 5 inches tall. In order to achieve her perfect figure, she would need to have two ribs removed along with several major organs. Barbie has no hormonal cycle to affect her complexion and no metabolism to struggle with. This is the image that has been marketed to young girls all over the world as an inspiration to womanhood. And we eat it up. Barbie has become a $1.5 billion dollar a year industry. Don’t worry, I’m not on a Barbie-burning crusade. And I’m certainly no expert on the psychological effects of Barbie on young children. But I do know that at a very young age I bought into the idea that unless my Barbie was physically perfect, she wasn’t as good as the other Barbies on the block. In fact she embarrassed me. As I grew into adulthood, I left my Barbie behind. Unfortunately I struggled with the belief that unless I am physically perfect (a perfection that is unattainable and unrealistic) – I’m somehow not as valuable as everybody else. Barbie moved out, but Victoria moved in.”

A recent study shows that 70% of teenage girls and women feel depressed, sad or guilty when they look through a fashion magazine for more than 3 minutes.

Americans spend 20 billion dollars a year on cosmetics and 74 billion dollars a year on diet foods.

Just flip the remote control and the TV will tell you that outer appearance is what’s most important. It’s why you post more pictures of yourself online than you do Bible verses.

Because I’m a father of girls, I have a passion for all young girls to find their purpose in God and not in what others think of them. Girls, you may not know this, but an average woman in our culture is 5 foot 4 and weighs 170 pounds. An average model on the runway 5 foot 11 and they weigh 108 pounds and their body mass index is borderline malnutrition. 

Because of photoshop and airbrushing, what we look at in magazines and on the big screen is a fake. It’s not real. It’s all a lie. Delete the lie that external beauty is all there is.

Let’s download the truth that God loves you no matter what you look like. God created you the way He wanted to and to get where God wants you to go to love on who God wants you to love on (which includes yourself). You’re beautiful.

If they listen to the wrong voice, not only will they be mugged by the mirror, but: 

They will be pick-pocketed by the past. 

Your child failed the test. They stole what they shouldn’t of. They drank. They smoked. They lied to their parents. They feel responsible for their parent’s broken marriage. They succumb to sex, hurtful language, gossip, back-stabbing, anger etc. Even my own past tries to walk into each present day I have in an attempt to steal the future God has in store. 

But if you download the love of God into your child’s daily life, how much He loves you and them no matter what’s been done against Him and against others, then they’ll come to realize that our past does not define your present or your future.

You are not what you have done. Whatever it is that haunts you, whatever secret things you’ve done that no one else knows, that your close friends, your youth leaders, your parents, your siblings have no idea – and if you’ve been listening to the wrong voice about what you’ve done – then you’ve probably bought into the lie that God couldn’t love you, or God couldn’t forgive you. 

The one true God doesn’t only forgive people, He frees them. I don’t want the joy and energy and faith that my kids have as a child to be pick-pocketed by reminders of their past mistakes. Author Joanna Weaver writes:

“My deepest fear is waking up twenty years from now still the same person I am today. With the same annoying habits and petty attitudes; with the same besetting sins and false beliefs. I can’t imagine anything more terrible than getting to the end of my life only to discover that God had so much more in mind for me – more freedom, more joy, more peace, more true effectiveness. And I had missed it all, simply because I refused to believe it.” 

Don’t be mugged by the mirror and think external looks is all there is.
Don’t be pick-pocketed by the past and lose your joy in Christ. 

A third lie our children and us will download if not exposed to the truth: 

They will be robbed by relationships. 

Relationships are hard work, right? They can wear you out, make you tired. 

As if I didn’t already date myself with all the talk about mixtapes, let me talk about a woman named Louise Ciccone. Maybe you know her as Madonna. She’s sold over 300 million albums of her music worldwide. She’s worth an estimated 500 million dollars. TIME Magazine listed her as one of the 25 most powerful and influential women of the last 100 years. 

When she was a little girl, her mom died. Her dad quickly remarried and she didn’t forgive him for that. She severed all ties with him as her father and ran away. And I think the reason why Madonna, still in her 50’s, has always jumped from one man to the next is because she was robbed of a relationship she didn’t have with her father when she was young. 

After a concert in Detroit, in an interview with Vanity Fair a few years back, Madonna said: I have an iron will, and all of my will has always been to conquer some horrible feelings of inadequacy. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being and then I get to another stage and think I’m mediocre and uninteresting. Again and again I go through this vicious cycle. My drive in life is from this horrible fear of being mediocre. And that’s always pushing me, pushing me. Because even though I’ve become somebody, I still have to prove that I’m somebody. My struggle has never ended and it probably never will.

Life doesn’t have to be that way. 

If the statistics are right, many of our teens are being robbed by a relationship with a parent. Mom and Dad haven’t or aren’t doing something for them that parents are supposed to do. I don’t know what is more tragic than a parent who doesn’t love their kid in a way God loves them, and I don’t want to downplay this possibility,  so if you’re from a broken home, if you’re in a tough home, and maybe there have been hurtful things said back and forth and maybe you’ve been more of a parent than your mom or dad has been to you. And maybe you’re angry over that.

If bitterness is a prison, forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door.

Forgive your mom. Forgive your dad. Forgive your child. Forgive your sibling. Forgive your church. Forgive your friends. Forgive your enemy. Tell them, to their face, or in a hand-written note, that you forgive them. And then trust God going forward when reminders of those painful moments start to resurface. 

All of this to say: I guess before we teach our children about external looks not providing true identity, before we teach our children that in Christ our past mistakes cannot depress us today and before we teach our children that forgiveness is what gives life to relationships and bitterness is what kills them – we have to model it to them. We have to delete the lies of our culture and download the liberating truth of God’s Word. 

Put your heart right. Reach out to God and face the world again. Then all your trouble will fade from your memory, like floods that pass and are remembered no more. Job 11:13 

Thanks for reading. No matter your looks, your past or your status of relationships today, you are loved. 

Z

3 Areas of Your Life To Evaluate in Order to Grow

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I read a news story about a woman who is raising 8 children. With 8 kids there’s always a lot of activity in her home. One day mom of 8 was coming back to her house after spending time with a neighbor, and as she was walking into her backyard she noticed that her home seemed too quiet. That’s when her instinctive parental trait immediately knew her children were into something they shouldn’t of been into. 

Mom crept up to the back of the house to look through the screen door and she finds five of her children huddled together on the floor around something she couldn’t see. Mom sneaks in the house, looks over the kids’ shoulders and to her shock she sees her children are huddled around a pack of baby skunks.

Mom yells, Quick! Children RUN! And all five kids stand up, they each grabbed a skunk and they run in various directions. 

That’s called missing the point.

And this is what you and I do. We allow our days to be huddled around idols and God, as a Father, sees us dipping our toes in the water of idolatry, He sees us flirting with sin and He yells Quick! Children RUN! And we can’t let go of our addictions as we constantly continue to fill our hands and our time with things that the Bible tells us to leave behind once and for all.

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
(1 John 5:21 / ESV)

Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.
(1 John 5:21 / NLT)

Ask yourself this question: Lately, h something or someone besides Jesus taken control of my thoughts, actions, loyalties and delight?

The answer to this question for you specifically could be a very good thing. But if it’s not Jesus, then it’s an idol. If it’s not Jesus then you’ve turned something good into a god and it will leave you empty and in want. 

I’ve got a few suggestions on how to discern the idols in your life so you can kick them off the throne of your heart: 

1. Evaluate your imagination. 

When nothing else is demanding of your time, what is it that occupies your mind? Where do your thoughts naturally flow when you’re not ran by your work schedule, school schedule, family schedule? Who are you thinking about? What are your dreams made of? What excites your mind if you’re bored with something? Because our religion is what we think about in our solitude. 

What’s on your mind first thing in the morning? What’s on your mind when you lay down at night? What are you thinking about while driving? What dreams do you have? What hopes do you have? Where does your imagination go when there’s nothing on your agenda? Oftentimes it will reveal false gods. 

2. Evaluate how you spend money.

We’ve got to understand this principle: our money will always flow toward the affections of our heart. 

This is why the Bible speaks about money more than any other issue. Jesus talked about money 25% of the time in His teachings that are recorded in the Gospel books. That’s like 13 weeks of sermons in a calendar year of worship just focused on money. 

Out of Jesus’ 38 parables, stories – 16 were about money and possessions. The Bible talks about money more than faith, love and hope combined, and it isn’t because God is short on cash. Jesus was direct on this:

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
(Matthew 6:21 / NLT)

So if our money (that’s incorrect, it’s really God’s money) is used firsthand to get affection and pleasure from created things rather than to use it to glorify the Creator, it’s an unhealthy lifestyle. Patterns of spending will reveal false gods. 

3. Evaluate your uncontrollable emotions. 

Emotions are a lot like icing on a cake. If you don’t have enough icing on a cake, the cake can be bland and dry. I love icing, and if there’s not enough on it, I might as well lick a sandbox. Too much icing however makes our stomachs hurt and we get sick and our dentist or diabetes doctor scolds us. 

A rule in cake-making is that the amount of icing needs to be proportionate to the amount of cake. 

The same can be said of what happens to us and how we react to them. Cake can be like our circumstances & icing can be like our emotions. With that analogy in mind:

Are my emotions proportionate to my circumstances? 

Am I over-reacting?
Am I reacting at all?
Am I unreasonably angry?
Am I frozen in anxiety?
Am I complaining?
Am I fighting for justice, for others, for fighting just to be right? 

If we don’t show enough emotion (I’m talking to males here. Ladies, I got your back), it needs to match the circumstance. If we have too much emotion (and I don’t have a clue which gender that would be), we can overreact. 

Before we spew out emotion before thinking, it might be good to pray and ask if the response matches the situation going down.

And uncontrollable emotions – anger, fear, excitement, sorrow, loneliness, depression, hatred – you pull those emotions up out of the soil of your heart and you fill find the idols underneath. 

Take time to evaluate those three areas in order to grow.

Further on idols, let’s say later this weekend you go out on the town and you choose to eat at a nice restaurant. As you walk into the restaurant, you see me having romantic, candlelight dinner with a woman who is not my wife. 

Now, let me be extremely clear here, we are imagining this. This is a fictional illustration. Some of you are going to look me up on social media to bust me. We are imagining here. 

You catch me at this restaurant having a romantic meal with this other woman and you are just disgusted. You can’t keep your distaste for me in, you’re going to confront me and call me on the carpet. As you should. 

You walk up to my table and you say, Z! What’s up? What are you doing? 

And I say, Nothing much, just out on a nice date.

You’re a bit stunned by this and you uneasily dismiss yourself from my presence. You still have this resolve inside to not let me get away with it and so you go into stalk mode online and find my wife and your reach out to her and tell her that her husband was on a date with another woman.

How ridiculous would it be if I walk in the front door later that evening and my wife greets me with a smile and sweetly inquires, Hi honey, how was your date? 

That’s not how she would be because the affection that I’ve promised to give to her, I was giving to someone else. The money I’m spending on someone else, I should be investing in her. The time I’m spending should be her time. The questions and the listening ear and the laughter and the romance and the good food – it should all be hers. 

It would be asinine of my wife to say I’ve thought about it since that I was told what happened, and I’m okay with you going on dates as long as you still make some time for me and call me your favorite. 

That would be absurd. 

You don’t have to know my wife well to know that her response to my actions would be jealous anger. 

I should fear for my life when I walk in that front door. The wife can get easily jealous. Forget a nice restaurant with another woman. I could go to Subway with a guy who’s got long hair and my wife would be waiting for me at home with a baseball bat. She’d be jealous.  

And this emotion is not out of insecurity at all. It’s driven out of holy love. 

God has this kind of righteous jealousy when you and I choose to make the good things in our life the god in our life. And because I love you, I need to say this: 

Idolatry is killing your growth. 

It’s killing your marriage. It’s killing your relationship with your kids. It’s killing your friendships. It’s killing your career. It’s killing your dreams. It’s killing your financial peace. It’s harming your faith in God because it’s killing your spiritual growth. Idolatry is the issue and you are in the middle of this war. Don’t let a day go by without choosing whom you will serve or you’ll naturally serve the idol.

Evaluate your imagination.
Evaluate how you spend money.
Evaluate your uncontrollable emotions. 

Put Jesus back on the throne of your heart. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

7 Questions for Each Gender to Ask Before Dating Someone

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Happy Valentine’s Day. For those dating, it can be romantic. For those not dating, it can be lonely. For those married, it can be forced or enjoyable. For the husbands who didn’t know today is V-day, hope the dog makes room for you.

Love is in the air around Valentines’ day and that means stupid is in our hearts. Our emotions and desires can deceive us.

Below are 7 questions every Jesus-loving male needs to ask when looking for a godly woman to marry (questions for women to ask are after these 7):

7 Questions Christian Men Need to Ask Before Dating Her: 

  1. Are you looking past a good woman already in your life?

Examples of good women who are possibly near you: widows, shy women, single mothers, older in age. Sometimes a woman’s character is as refined as gold due to the difficultly she’s had to go through.

  1. Do you you look forward to being around her?

You have to read Ecclesiastes 9:9. With stress at work jobs, expenses, with dealing with your sin and with the pain of the let downs of others, it’s a good wife that will help you enjoy your time on earth. You should like being with her and trust her more than anyone. If she’s hot but she annoys you, move on.

  1. Does she dress modestly?

A woman who dresses in a revealing way may be arousing to look at, but do you really want everyone else lusting after her? Do you really want your future/current daughters to follow her example? A wise man ready to date knows the difference between a good time with a girl and a good life with a girl (see 1 Timothy 2:9). Choose a good legacy over a momentary feeling.

  1. Will she let you lead when needed?

The Bible calls the Christ-following husband to sacrificially lead his family. The wife must agree with his Christian values, she must trust him, and she should respect the way he seeks her advice on decisions. There will be conflict if she does not naturally follow Jesus and you. There will also be conflict if she’s following Jesus and you’re not.

  1. Is her character noble?

Check out Proverbs 31:10-31 and you’ll get what I mean. You want your daughters to emulate her. You want your sons to marry someone like her. Is God approving of her thoughts/speech/actions/love? Does she fill you with joy by the way she prays, worships, serves and even how she responsibly interacts with other men?

  1. Can you provide for the standard of life she expects?

If a woman isn’t satisfied with the income you make, move on to someone who loves you more than money or possessions. Biblically, the man is responsible for the financial and material needs of the family. If you work hard, tithes well in worship, invests wisely, and saves money, then it’s perfectly fine to spend money for memory-making with your spouse (see 1 Timothy 5:8).

  1. Is she like ANY of the ungodly women God cautions against in the book of Proverbs?

Does she nag a lot? Does she embarrass herself in public because she’s loud and want attention? Does she argue a lot? Does she gossip about others? Is she a flirt? When your testosterone has calmed down, exhale and try to objectively evaluate her life. (read Proverbs 27:15, Proverbs 7:11).

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _

For the female perspective when seeking to date, below are 7 more questions for her to ask about him. Both of my daughters are going to be trained to ask these questions when they turn 37 years old and are given permission to date the close to alien-form species referred to as the human male:

7 Questions Christian Women Need to Ask Before Dating Him:

  1. Will you support him and join him where he’s headed?

1 Corinthians 11:9 says you are equal to your husband, designed to be his helper. If he’s in the military or in sales, to where he’s gone a lot, and you don’t want that, then he needs another career or you need another suitor. If he’s got dreams where they’ll be a lot of long hours and little pay up front, or, if his plans are perpendicular to what your goals are headed, it could be problematic.

  1. Is he courageous enough to remain strong in tough times?

I’m not sure what year it started but when did males start being born without a spine? He should be tender with you, but tough for you. When financial trouble comes, will he be a steady rock for the family that gets two jobs or cuts the budget or trusts God? Will he be there when you are ill? When there’s a tough pregnancy? When there’s tragic heartache? Too many men cower/hide/give up/freeze under hardship. You want to marry one who won’t. He will need to show his faith to you and his fear to God to be strong.

  1. Will he be responsible for the family?

If he isn’t, he’ll be an awful husband and father. He must ensure that you and his children are close to Jesus, well loved, encouraged, and prepared for adulthood. If you’re the leader of the relationship, you deserve better. Please don’t settle. Trust God, move on and pray for someone who can lead you spiritually and emotionally.

  1. Is he gentle with you and thoughtful toward you?

Any man who doesn’t ask what you think and how you feel about decisions needing to be made is selfish and inconsiderate. It’s a huge red flag if he is abusive in any way. While dating, he’s trying to impress you. If he’s bad now, it will only get worse once married (See 1 Peter 3:7)

  1. Do you believe he’ll be a godly and loving father?

Does he love children? Is he selfless daily? The only way a man can be a good father is if he’s unselfish. Does he take time to pray and read the Bible (that’s what develops selflessness)? What takes up his energy and time: living for others or living for his desires? (See Psalm 127:3-5, Ephesians 6:4)

  1. Does he have the qualities that make him a 1-woman man, committed for life?

The elders at your church must set this standard. The dude you want to date shouldn’t be the porn-guy, or the flirt-guy, or the “has lots of girls as friends”-guy, or the “dates lots of women at once”-guy. Or even the “compares you to other women”-guy. When he loves you alone, you will have his heart, his mind, his eyes, and his wallet. If you question his loyalty, he’s not fit for marriage (see 1 Timothy 3:2).

  1. Because you are precious and valuable, what will he sacrifice to be with you?

A man should fight to be with the woman he loves. Too many women make it too easy to be caught. He should overcome obstacles to be with you so you know he treasures and values you. Jacob had to work for 14 years to be with Rachel (Genesis 29:20).

It’s not my intent to cause any break-ups to happen after asking these questions, but it is my intent for godly dating to occur so healthy marriages raise healthy children who date wisely and in that way God’s kingdom can thrive as we emulate His amazing love toward others.

Thanks for reading. You are so loved.

Z

Waiting on God to Answer Us

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In Genesis chapter 12, God promises barren Abraham and Sarah that they will have a child. The excitement and hope that promise brought must’ve dimmed in belief with each passing year it did not become a reality. In fact, 24 years go by and Abraham and Sarah are still not pregnant when God shows up again in Genesis 17 and promises them a child once more. Abraham and Sarah both doubt and they both laugh. Waiting on God had worn them down.

The problem with Abraham and Sarah is the same problem with you and I:

In each trial we face, we are eager for the answer but are not eager to wait for it. 

It’s not natural/instinctive/easy to wait. For anything.

I don’t like waiting for a webpage to open. I want it opened faster than I can blink. If a webpage takes more than 3 seconds to open, I exhale in frustration because I have to see how my fantasy football team is doing IMMEDIATELY.

People were getting frustrated having to watch 5 commercials go by until the next scene of their TV sitcom or drama came back on, so the DVR was invented. Once we realized fast-forwarding commercials was still too much work to get to our show, Netflix came along to provide streaming with no ads. And our blood circulation speed took a hit.

If I click on a YouTube video that a friend has sent me to watch, and it has an ad at the beginning, I roll my eyes because I have to wait 30 seconds before I see why my friend thinks a cat in a Santa costume is cute.

If you and I are at Target, and we’re both about to check out with our items, I’ll get in line, I’ll push you toward another line, and I’ll compete with you to see who will get out faster. Even though we drove together. I’m not alone on that, am I?

When Blockbuster Video was near its deathbed, it’s last, gasping breath pitch was that they were going to have movies 28 days before Netflix would have them available. Blockbuster was saying to an impatient culture, Why would you wait 28 days to watch a rental movie when you can have it now?

We addictively utilize the social media options of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram because we have to tell the world what restaurant we are eating at that night right away.

Our culture says why wait, have it now? And we can with our phones and online shopping and Google and Amazon and Spotify and Uber and Youtube. We can get it now.

And I’m thinking……

The more culture (via technology) encourages us to have things quickly, the more we will struggle with trials when answers from God don’t come quickly. 

The more serious things are things that we have to wait for.

Some people know the frustration of trying to find the right person to marry. Friends are getting engaged and are getting married, you’ve tried the dating game a few times and got nowhere, and the temptation is to lower the bar and marry anyone because waiting is difficult. A lack of trust in God’s timing with an unwillingness to wait has single people marrying quickly and unwisely.

I don’t want my daughters to settle for a guy who doesn’t love Jesus more than her, who doesn’t serve her, uplift her, who doesn’t have a heart for those in need. If they do, it’s because they were unwilling to trust God and wait. I want them to marry a man who loves Jesus so he can love them like Jesus.

It’s not just love that is a struggle waiting for, it’s a financial issue as well.

Why is there such a large amount of people in our nation who are burdened by debt? People don’t want to financially plan and save up for the house, the car, the children, the clothes, the stuff – that plastic little rectangle and the bank are desperate to loan you whatever you want (standard interest rates apply). That magic card allows you get you whatever you want now.

Others have struggled waiting for the right career, the right job. Some people jump at the quickest available opportunity, others go after the job that pays the most because maybe it will make them content. If someone dreads going to work when they wake up, could it be there was impatience somewhere along the line?

When our health is failing in a certain way, or we see loved ones struggling with an illness, we struggle spiritually. With each doctor’s report given, complications occurring, feeling the pain or seeing our loved ones in pain, we hate the wait we are forced to go through before an answer is given.

We have a misconception when it comes to waiting on God to come through for us.

I’ll try expound on it this way: most likely the days after Christmas later this month you will go back to the stores to return gifts you received that didn’t meet your expectation. The clothes were the wrong size or style, or the gift was just hideous to you, (what was your great Aunt thinking?), so you go to the store to return that gift and you get a number at customer service and you wait in a long line of other people returning what their great aunt got them and you wait and wait and wait and it’s slow, nothing is happening, until it’s your turn at the counter and then the action begins.

This is the misconception we have when it comes to waiting on God to come through for us. We think God is like the person behind customer service, only able to help one person at a time. And if you’re not that person, you think nothing is happening until God calls your number. Here’s what I’d like you to tattoo on your membranes:

Biblically speaking, waiting and inaction is not the same thing. 

Waiting is a step of faith, a step of action. Yet, experiencing it can feel like we’re doing nothing, or not doing enough.

Waiting might feel like nothing is happening, it might feel slow, it might not feel like an action of faith but God is actively working earnestly behind the scenes. God, in His power/providence/perfection is working, and not just for one person but for all of humanity. When you wait, it’s faith in action. Trusting God and waiting on Him might be one of the highest acts of faith. So we choose to not be angry while we wait. We choose to not complain while we wait.

What God does while we wait is He is shapes us into being the type of person who can handle the promise when it comes. It takes trust, and perseverance, and faith, and a community of believers to lean on and an amount of Scripture to lean on and believe.

What God does while we wait for whatever it is we really want (a spouse, a baby, a house, a job, a purpose, a vehicle, a bill paid, healing from sickness, a loved one to know Christ) while we wait for it, God is working earnestly behind the scenes and is transforming us individually to become the type of person who can better handle the promise when it’s revealed.

While you wait, don’t feel like you’re doing nothing or that God is doing nothing. Even if it takes 24 years like in Abraham and Sarah’s case, be at peace that He is in control.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. Merry Christmas,

Z