What Every Retired/Former Pastor Should Be Doing

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I was raised in the home of a pastor. My father, before his death, was in ministry for over 40 years. Throughout his career in the church, he noticed that a lot of his friends in other vocational fields were always looking for ways to work less and play more. They were trying to hire other people to do their work so they could travel more, improve their golf game, retire early. I heard him repeatedly say that he’d probably never retire unless God made it clear for him to do so – and he never did. 

However, many pastors, ministers, ministry leaders do retire or step away from vocational ministry.  Some of them have left the ministry to work somewhere else, maybe in a parachurch ministry format. Others have fully retired. In either case, for those not in full-time, local church, vocational ministry: this blog is for them. I know them. I see the highlights of their lives on social media. I wonder about them.

And in a sense, this blog is also for me.

Now, when I say, “What Every Retired Pastor Should Be Doing”, how arrogant does that sound? I’m not even 40 years old and I’m declaring what people decades older than me who have so much more wisdom, experience and faith in God than I do should be using their time for. Seven things they should be doing, to be exact. 

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father,” [1 Timothy 5:1]

I hope these seven actions come across as encouragements and aren’t felt like rebukes. 

Be thankful to God in reflection. 

If a pastor has retired, that means God sustained him for a long duration of ministry. Only one out of ten pastors make it to retirement age as a pastor. The other nine are either fired or they burn out and quit. For a retired pastor, there is much to look back on and be thankful for. There is much to celebrate. 

Looking back on how God was faithful and what answered prayers there were and what fruit there was is always healthy to reflect on as it takes the eyes off the retired pastor and gives praise to God. 

There are also so many people in a retired pastor’s past to be grateful to God for, and those people could be written heart-felt letters expressing gratitude for the support they gave to the pastor. Makes you wonder if Moses ever wrote a thank-you letter to Aaron and Hur [Exodus 17:12]. 

Attempt to reconcile with broken relationships. 

This is the most difficult step of the seven. 

Ministry is messy. It is full of imperfect people trying to serve a perfect God as well as other imperfect people. There is much let down and pain and harsh words said and for some reason American church leaders have made “nice” a fruit of Spirit as we shove the past severed relationships under the rug hoping they’ll go away.

I remember serving in a church where the senior pastor and the worship pastor were incompatible to the point where they were giving each other the silent treatment. These were grown men in the faith who were on stage together every week refusing to talk and forgive each other. 

It came to a point when the worship pastor was leaving the church for another position elsewhere. As he was packing up his office, I was in the senior pastor’s office and this leader of the church, the senior pastor, told me, I am so excited he’s leaving. I don’t even feel bad about not saying good-bye. 

I just sometimes wonder if pastors forget that one of their main ministries is the ministry of reconciliation [2nd Corinthians 5:19].

Sometimes the relationships the retired pastor needs to seek forgiveness for is with his family. In ministry he chose the church over his first ministry, his wife and kids, and as a result, there is distance in his marriage and a lack of faith in God with his kids. 

Most people aren’t self-aware at how they come across, but it is definitely true for leaders in the church. We just don’t know how what we say and what we do is felt by those around us. 

Some of the pain a pastor causes is unintentional, and some of it is downright sinful. 

80% of pastors are discouraged and 70% are clinically depressed. Much of that negative weight is due to broken relationships that weren’t peacefully mended. The retired pastor still carries around the anger towards others in their ministry past.

There are broken relationships that every church leader can think of, and, if that retired leader still believes in the Gospel, they should seek out forgiveness, give forgiveness, and vie to extend the hand of grace for the purpose of reconciliation.

They should spend time in prayer and ask the Spirit to bring names to mind. Past church elders. Past church staff. Past church members. After decades of ministry, surely there are a handful of people to reach out to and apologize. Hopefully they still have a pastor’s heart to be that humble and that courageous. 

Those are the kind of leaders I want to follow. 

Develop authentic and transparent friendships. 

Did you know that 70% of pastors admit they do not have someone they consider to be a close friend? 84% of pastors desire to have a close friendship with someone they can confide in and trust.

Yet it doesn’t happen. 

Pastors, being burned by people and seeing their sin burn relationships (usually related to pride, anger and an unhealthy obsession to control people), have trust issues. They’re afraid to get close to someone. 

67% of church people expect their pastors to have a much higher moral standard than they themselves do. 

Many pastors, while in ministry, are leery of letting their guard down because they might disappoint someone by showcasing a weakness. But now, being retired, they should feel set free to have zero pretense and develop friendships that are transparent. 

They should have a relationship where a same-gender friend holds them accountable, urges them to repent, urges them to seek reconciliation, urges them to keep their spiritual disciplines. 

Sadly though, the retired pastor will just keep people at a distance. As he continues to post pictures on social media about how much fun he’s having in retirement, it’s the thing he craves, a close friendship, that isn’t realized.  

Get actively involved in a local church. 

Some retired pastors stay active in the church they served vocationally before retiring. Some move on. That’s between the pastor and their spouse and God. Either way, whether a retired pastor stays in the church he served or moves on or moves away, they must be in a local church somewhere, consistently. Otherwise their entire career was a farce. 

Every week, as a vocational pastor, they would preach to others about the importance of church community. They would repeatedly urge people to attend worship, to serve in the church, to be in a small group, to give financially back to God.

For many, when a pastor retires, they neglect church life. Not only is it hypocritical, but it’s damaging to their spiritual and relational health.  

I know of a senior pastor who told his church elders he was going to retire in a few months and the night he told them, he stopped giving financially to the church. He ended his online giving immediately, even though he had 100 days left to serve vocationally. Instead of storing up treasures in heaven, he was storing up acorns for the winter. To him, if he was done with the church mentally, he was done financially [Matthew 6:19-20]. 

I can imagine that retirement in ministry isn’t full of lavish riches. Things get tight. You won’t find “pastor” as a Forbes list best-paid professions. But even so, tithing shows that Jesus is the retired pastor’s God, not money. Not control. Not fear. 

I know of a retired pastor who serves in the children’s ministry of the church he served for years as the preacher and it’s such an example of what volunteering looks like. What an example he must be for the parents picking up their elementary kids. What an example he must be in the worship service as he humbly puts himself under the teaching and worship of other church leaders. 

If ministry was all about getting a paycheck and being noticed and having a feeling of power in decision-making, then yes, those retired pastors are not actively involved in a local church today. But if it was all for God’s kingdom and for a love for others, you’ll find a retired pastor and his family with towels and basins all over a local church family [John 13:14]. 

Privately and publicly support your previous church leadership. 

When a pastor gets fired or leaves a church frustrated, yes, then it can be difficult to honor a church leadership. Those who do so anyway have a maturity of faith that is God-honoring. 

When a pastor retires from a church after many years of service, it should be a great and easy opportunity to honor the elders and the new pastor in place. 

They should do this privately (because church members will flock to the retired pastor to give their opinion about decisions the current church leaders are making) and they should do this publicly (on social media, while hosting others over to their home). 

Both private and public support carry weight. I publicly boast about my wife all of the time. Her faith in God, her love for her family, her heart for those in need, her hospitable nature to make others feel at home and the fact that she carries the fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23] around with her more than anyone I know. I am utterly blessed to be in her life. 

That is me praising her publicly. And while those things are true about her, if I never tell her personally what she means to me, in private, then I’m not really uplifting her as much as I could. 

The devil gets a foothold toward church divisiveness because a retired pastor refuses to encourage the church leadership publicly (people are watching his response) and privately (due to gossip, and stubbornness) [Ephesians 4:26-27].

If he feels uncomfortable praising the current church leadership, then that takes us back to his need to seek reconciliation with others. If he’s staying silent, either it’s due to a sin that has yet to be uncovered or a relationship with church leadership has yet to be mended. 

Be aware of  the motivation for your online presence. 

When a pastor leads a community of faith for so long, and then steps away, he has an overwhelming feeling of displacement. He isn’t seen up front as much anymore. He’s not counseling people in need as much anymore. Sometimes he and his family step away from the church they served completely and with that there are losses of relationships and a loss of influence.  

Sometimes, to over-compensate their displacement, they post pictures online of how amazing their life seems to be. They desperately want the church people they used to serve to know that they are out of the house, with others, still trying to make a difference. 

They still want to feel they matter as their pulpit has been replaced by selfies. 

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this, but have you seen that the most active people on Facebook are women and male pastors? I don’t see a lot of non-pastor males posting as much as male pastors do. There’s a large insecurity inside each church leader that screams for people to notice and like them.  

It’s fine to post every time you go to a restaurant with someone. Every time you go golfing with someone. Every service project you do. Every vacation you take. I’m not against it at all. I’m just curious as to why that is done. What’s motivating it?

And this is my point with these things a retired pastor should be doing. If a retired pastor is posting constantly about how great his life appears, it could be a clear indicator that he hasn’t reconciled relationships with those he hurt and who hurt him, he doesn’t have close, real friendships, he’s not involved in a local church and he doesn’t support his previous church’s current leadership. 

You might want to lovingly ask him if he’s done those things. 

Finally: 

Dream what’s next. 

Many have heard the phrase, If you’re still breathing, God isn’t done with you yet. While this isn’t a scriptural reference, there is still truth to it. Just because a church leader resigns from vocational ministry doesn’t mean they’ve resigned from serving God and serving others in big, impactful ways. 

Sure retirement can be full of loving on grandkids and entertainment and traveling but dream what could be next along with those blessings. 

I just don’t understand why so many pastors just get online and share articles when they have such a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience to write their own articles to help others. 

They should be writing worship music. They should be mentoring pastors. They should be evangelizing to their loved ones and neighbors. They should be leading a small group. They should be involved in international missions. They should start a non-profit. They should pray big prayers. Sadly, many don’t (in fact, 95% of pastors admit to not praying daily and to not ever praying with their spouse). 

I hope every retired pastor is like Simeon, the religious leader in the Temple in Jerusalem, who was promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he laid his eyes on Jesus [Luke 2:26]. 

The greatest event in Simeon’s long life occurred at the end of his life this side of heaven. 

If Simeon had stopped thanking God, stopped serving others, stopped his ministry of reconciliation and stopped trusting God to show up in his life, would he ever have held the Messiah in his arms?

My heart in writing this is for retired pastors and their wives and retired church leaders to not settle in life. Jesus came so that we would experience life to its fullest potential, and the hope He has for us to do so doesn’t end when our paychecks from the church conclude [John 10:10].

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [John 14:27]

May each pastor, retired or not, have the peace to pursue these seven actions. Don’t be troubled or afraid to do so. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

How Change Happens In Culture (What You Can Do And Not Do To Help)

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Indulge me for a moment because this might not make sense until I explain it a bit. 

Many Christians don’t know how to change the culture around them. We get frustrated because we feel helpless and overwhelmed and confused. We say, I don’t like the way the world is, I wish it was different. But what can I do? 

What Christians unwisely do is they react to culture by dividing it into sides. 

They say, We have the Christians over here on my side, the Christians are the good guys, they wear white hats, God loves them more. And on the opposite side we’ve got the non-Christians, the sinful people, the bad people, they wear the black hats.

The Christians declare a cultural war on the non-Christians. 

But the Bible doesn’t teach that. Your spiritual beliefs and your church home shouldn’t buy into the good guys verses the bad guys. 

There’s only one good Guy, His name is Jesus. The rest of us, we’re all bad guys. There is one white hat in the entire Bible, it’s worn by Jesus. One Person rides the white horse, and it’s Jesus. 

Every other person is bad. Most bad people die without Jesus, some bad people are forgiven and will live forever with Jesus. 

The church believes in equal rights, meaning, everyone is with sin. Everyone. You, me, your church elders, your grandma, Tim Tebow, the Duggars, the Trumps, Duck Dynasty, Desperate Housewives, the Pope, Dave Ramsey – all stained by sin. All loved by God. And only a few trust in Jesus as Lord and are cleansed. 

Not everything has to be an upstream battle. I don’t see any evidence in the book of Acts, when the first century Christians are being arrested and beaten and killed for loving Jesus, there’s not one meeting where a revolt is planned against Caesar. 

So today, yes, prayer will be taken out of schools and God will be taken out of the pledge of allegiance and abortions will remain legalized and people will be arrested for feeding the homeless and same-sex marriages will be law and no-fault divorce is easy and Islam is growing fast on college campuses and the racial discord in our country is horrific. Somewhere there’s a Christian fighting all of these issues.

In the latter part of the book of Genesis, when Joseph gets to Egypt, God is with him. He looks around and there is plenty to be unhappy about. There is plenty to be disappointed and angry about. Rather than being discussed and declaring war on Egypt in the name of his God, he serves people and blesses them. That’s what the early church does too. They didn’t attack the Roman government. They trusted God was in control and served the people around them. 

Historically, in our country’s history, if people are going to go upstream and change something in culture, they’ll have a march. The Civil Rights movement was very effective. The church, not so much.

The church is like, Everyone is sleeping with everyone. They’re all perverted. Abortions and divorce and same-sex relations and cohabitation is running rampant. We’re going on a walk to change things. We will make poster board signs and bring megaphones and gather all the other people who are angry like us. 

And the Christians walk, walk, walk for Jesus. March for Jesus. Sign the petition for Jesus. Complain on Facebook for Jesus. 

I’m not against walking for Jesus, but the non-Christians don’t look at the Christians marching and think, Oh man, we’ve got to change the way we’re living! We’ve got to change the laws we’re instituting! We’ve got to change the music and the movies we’re making! Quick! How can we start over? They’re walking!!!!! They’re posting on social media!!!!!!!

God doesn’t need you to walk for Him. God needs you to walk with Him. 

God doesn’t want you to fight others. God wants you to love and serve others. 

We need to be in the world, not of it. Love the world, don’t fight it.

See, we turn on the radio, but we don’t get to decide what bands are signed. We turn on the TV, but we don’t get to decide which shows are on. We enjoy Thanksgiving with loved ones but we don’t get to decide which stores are open. We like to read, we don’t get to decide what gets published and what doesn’t. We don’t get to make the laws. We pay our taxes but don’t get to decide how much we’re taxed. All of those decisions are made way upstream by a select few people sitting high up in culture. 

And more recently, we can’t control much during Covid-19 except wash our hands continually. 

And more seriously, we don’t decide which police officers are hired, approved and trained. 

If we really want to change culture, it’s not going to be during big events with Christians in a big room chanting, We love Jesus, yes we do. I’m not against the marching or the big events, but we’ve got to realize that there are cultural gatekeepers who shift culture and education and laws and influence others. 

And the church yelling downstream at the people they think are wearing the black hats (while they view themselves as wearing the white hat) isn’t going to change anything for God. 

If we declare war downstream, we don’t get to move upstream. 

We’re not going to compromise on God’s law and truth, but we’re also not going to judge, hate or gossip (how many people in here slander a politician over them compared to how much they pray for them?). 

We can’t hate and gossip and judge. Instead we must love others, serve others, have integrity, be generous, pray for God to put holy people in those cultural gatekeeper chairs. 

In Genesis, Joseph has been a blessing to people and faithful to God and now God has put him upstream. Joseph decides the law, he decides all things food and property rights and taxation and education and he affects the lives and the betterment of millions of people. 

With Joseph ruling, how many God-fearing people are in Egypt? 

One. Just Joseph. 

If he had shown up and declared war and fought for everything and slandered non-Christians, he’d never be upstream. He shows up to Potiphar’s house and asks, How can I be a blessing to you? And Potiphar puts him in charge. He’s put in jail and he says, How can I be a blessing to this jail? And he’s put in charge. They give him, a prisoner, the keys to the prison. He’s brought in front of Pharaoh and he just wants to know how can he improve Pharaoh’s day, and he’s put in charge. 

Not once does he fight, or complain, or lose his temper. As a result, God guides him upstream, because he doesn’t declare war on those who are downstream. If we’re shrewd and wise and always loving and always generous and always forgiving, who knows what God could do through us. 

If we believe God has taken care of us, then we will take care of others. 

When Jesus shows up on the scene, He says, I’m a servant. Be a servant. The apostle Paul says, I serve Christ. We need to be a servant to all. It’s not that we compromise, okay, you should know I love truth more than anyone, we don’t compromise, but instead of fighting and whining, we pray, we love, we’re generous. We show God has been good to us and that He loves everyone. 

If you strongly desire to change the culture around you in a God-honoring way, serve and bless the people downstream from you (the marginalized) and pray for the people upstream (the cultural gatekeepers).

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z 

Balancing Work and Rest Post-Pandemic

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So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-2 / NLT)

Most evenings in our households while putting our young daughters to bed this is what the routine looks like: pajamas on, teeth brushed, hug mommy goodnight, have daddy read a fictional book and a chapter from their children’s Bible, then, prayer and kisses (and then they have the endless excuses to stay up like: I’m hungry, I’m not sleepy, I’m itchy, my tongue hurts, I’m afraid of that fly I saw earlier outside, etc). 

The other night for their children’s Bible time we read the creation account where God the Creator creates the world in six days. 

To their numerous amount of questions I was explaining everything God had done in the Creation week to my  daughters. I’m saying, God did this. God then did this. God then brought the animals. God then made Adam and Eve. 

One of the girls takes the children’s Bible from me and puts it under her sheets as if she was tucking in her own child to sleep. She looks at me and says, God needs to go to nap time.

She doesn’t comprehend it yet, but God doesn’t rest on Saturday because He was beat. God worked and accomplished so much, but He the reason He rests on Day 7 wasn’t because He was all plumb-tuckered out. 

God didn’t wear himself out to the point He needed to go to Florida for some R & R. He wasn’t like, “Oh, man! I pulled a hamstring. I got calluses. Whoo, making the goats, that was exhausting. I’m not as young as I used to be.

But what God did, God finished his work, and then He rested.

The point of rest is this: To enjoy life.

Did you know that? 

The point of resting is to enjoy life. So many people work and don’t enjoy life. 

I know people who work really hard to get a boat and don’t go boating.
I know people who work really hard to get a car and never go for a drive.
I know people who work very hard to have a vacation property and don’t vacation.
I know people that got married and don’t go out on dates.
I know people that have kids and don’t hang out with them. 

It’s because they keep working. They can’t stop. They won’t stop until they completely crash and harm what is good in their lives. This is why we have rates of burnout and anxiety and depression, because people just keep going until they absolutely come undone. 

What God is saying is this, “Work hard for most of the week. Work hard, do work that honors me, make things good and very good. But then, take your day off. Sleep, rest, enjoy. Don’t just work all the time.

I am concerned about what life is going to look like post-Covid-19 for some of you because still, after all of this time seeing how things are out of our control, you think everything is up to you and you have to work constantly and you’re fraying yourself, you’re going to come undone and you’re missing moments with your loved ones. 

When I moved to Brooklyn, NY right out of college, during my time there I didn’t take a day off. I had three jobs. I slept 4-6 hours a night. I burned myself totally out. I was frustrated and angry and easily agitated. I was not as pleasant to my friends, or my roommates and I treated the girl I was dating at the time in a disrespectful way. I can’t blame that on anyone. That was absolutely my sin that I needed to repent of.

And it was all due to not resting. 

The point of rest is to enjoy life and when I refuse to rest I harm the good life I’ve been given. 

It’s the person who hasn’t slept and is stressed out and freaked out and angry and agitated and then their productivity suffers. Those who don’t rest well, don’t work well.

It’s the person who works hard and well, and then rests and plays hard and well, and then goes back to work that has this rhythm in their life. 

I have parented two toddlers in my history of being a dad. Toddlers play hard, they work hard and they sleep hard. Toddlers have rhythm. It’s how we’re created. If they get off that rhythm, the ugly side comes out. 

Adults aren’t much different. 

The subtle thing behind people who work too much is this: If you don’t take a day off, and if you don’t take a nap, and if you don’t cease from your work to enjoy what God has given you and what you’ve done by his good grace, then you are demonstrating to the world that you don’t trust God. 

(you might want to read the above paragraph again, slowly)

Those who work too much, too late in the day, at night and on the weekends when their family is around, checking their phone all vacation, they’re saying, If I don’t work, it all falls apart because God’s not sovereign and he doesn’t hold things together.

If we don’t take time to worship and we don’t take time to rest, we don’t take time to love, we’re being terrible followers of Jesus. We’re sending out very mixed messages about God to our loved ones and to the world, This is the God who’s sovereign, but I have to keep everything under control.

But, the person who works hard, takes time day off seriously, enjoys their family and their friends and enjoys their hobbies – those are people who live better lives and longer lives. They leave a legacy that is more productive. We should rest. 

Don’t feel guilty about resting, it’s biblical. 

I can think of two types of people who have the hardest time having a Sabbath and a rhythm of rest. 

(1) The Self-Employed and (2) The Mother

Those who are self-employed struggle to rest and find boundaries in their schedule because they don’t have a boss, and they just keep working. And mothers, because on the weekends, their kids are still there. Motherhood never ends (in a good but exhausting way). 

No matter the case, when some type of normalcy begins to occur, it’s going to be important for those of you who have fast-paced lives make sure that you still Sabbath, that you get your date night if you’re married. That you get time with family and friends. That you make time for a Bible study. That you make time for prayer. That you can put the phone down. 

People can get real legalistic about Sabbath, they ask really detailed questions like, What constitutes as work – if I mow the lawn or bake a cake? Or if a go for a walk, is that work? Am I sinning against God? 

If you want to go for a walk and that’s restful for you and you enjoy the Lord, it’s a nice day, go for a walk. If for you it’s restful to take a nap, take a nap. If it’s restful for you to be out in your garden, then go work in your garden. If it’s restful for you to have people over and to have a big meal and to enjoy your family and friends, then enjoy yourself and have people over.

Let’s not argue too much about the Sabbath. It’s a gift that God gives for us to have joy and rest. And that’s why some people argue over the day. Well, is it Saturday, is it Sunday, is it this, or is it that? Paul says in Romans 14, it’s whatever. If Tuesday’s your day off, Sabbath on Tuesday. If your job forces you to work Sunday, and Wednesday’s your day off, enjoy Wednesday.

Some people have this picture of God, that when God tells us to do something, it’s bad, and we need to be defiant. I’m telling y’all, when God tells us to do something, it’s good. When I looked at my toddler daughter, and noticed, Whoa, Mr. Hyde is back in your personality. Toddler, go take a nap, that’s because I love her. I want her day to go well. I know what it’s going to look like if she doesn’t rest.

I know what my life will look like if they didn’t rest.

God’s just like that. God’s a good Dad, who looks at us and says, “You need to rest today. You need to just read and pray and hang out. It’s a nice day, go for a drive. Go for a walk. Go for a bike ride. Take a deep breath of fresh air. It’s a nice warm winter day. I’ve given you the whole world – get out of your cubicle, go enjoy a little bit of it. Go play some golf. Go read a book. Take your preacher out to Chili’s with you.” 

Alen Cohen says, “There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” 

We have been given the gift of rest and time with God and with loved ones for a couple months now. All I’m inviting you to do is discipline yourselves to, when you go back into life once the restrictions lift, is to keep rest in your week. 

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 currently, my daughter daily is coming home bearing the hurtful comments and actions of her schoolmates. Each night around the dinner table and before bedtime my wife and I are untying the knots of damaging lies said to her by others and, then, 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 has 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. 

Last month 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 written are:

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 is 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

6 Questions to Ask in Order to Become Great This Year.

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Today, and for as long as history records, the goal of each person is to make as much money and have as much power as they possibly can so that everyone would serve them and they wouldn’t have to serve others.

Some examples?

Baristas.

I’m pretty certain “barista” is the Greek word for “punching bag”. 

What happens is, people who otherwise have no power walk into a coffee shop, and all of a sudden they are King Coffee. And they treat the barista like a slave. Have you listened to how people treat the barista? They just make demands. “I said 90 degrees! This is 92!” There’s some weird mocha Pharisees out there!

Have you ever been to a bank and just see how people talk to the teller? Or at a waitress at the restaurant? It’s angry people who aren’t powerful in their daily life lording power over people in serving positions.

That’s not greatness.

Here’s what Jesus teaches: 

But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. (Luke 22:26)  

Some of us have real powerful positions, some of us don’t, but occasionally we get to be a powerful position person, meaning someone’s our servant and we’re going to give orders to them. Jesus says, Be a leader, pursue greatness, but not like that.

It’s not a sin to make money, it’s not a sin to have a title, it’s not a sin to be in authority But here’s the big idea: 

Greatness is simply service. 

Greatness is simply service. Beautiful, godly character development is humbly serving. What makes a great leader, someone worth following, is how deeply they believe in serving others. 

Say you go to a really nice restaurant and the banquet room is reserved full with all kinds of top level people. There are politicians, business executives, athletes and celebrities. You say to yourself, “Wow, look at all those amazing people at this really nice restaurant. 

All the servants and all the waiters and all the waitresses are waiting on these “amazing” people. You and I would look at the room and say, “Those people sitting down are great people. 

Jesus says, “The waiter, the waitress, if they’re humbly serving, they are great.

Jesus tells us, “I came to the earth, not to sit at the table, but to be the waiter. And I invite you to do the same.

I’m guessing right now, many of us still prefer to sit at the table (because that’s where we wrongly assume greatness sit). But greatness gets up. Greatness is simply service. 

Here are six questions that will help deepen the quality of greatness in our character development.

#1 Do you allow others to serve you?

Some of you say, “I like to serve; I don’t like to be served.” And so you’re hard to serve. 

People say, “Oh, let me get that for you.” and you say, “No, no, no, no, I got it.” “Let me buy that for you.” “No, no, no, no, I’ll pay for it.” Or they do something for you and then you have to do something for them. You can’t just receive. 

One of the ways we serve is by allowing others to serve us.

True or false: In his life, did Jesus allowed others to serve him?

His friends Mary, Martha, Lazarus, often had Jesus over at their home. He would let them take care of him. They’d give him a place to sleep, they’d cook him a meal. He allowed them to serve him.

Before Jesus goes to the cross, Jesus allows a woman to serve him. She’s a woman who comes to him, repenting of her sin, brokenhearted. She brings all of this perfume. Very expensive. She breaks it and she pours it over him. And the disciples and those who are present, they say, “That’s too much, that’s too lavish, that’s too expensive. 

Jesus says, “I receive it. This woman wants to serve, I’m going to allow her to serve.

Do you allow others to serve you?

#2 Do you serve others with selfless motives? 

We never have entirely pure motives, right? But when you serve, is it, I’m going to get noticed! I’m going to get a raise! I’m going to get a boy/girlfriend! I’m going to get some sort of award! I’m going to get recognition! I’m going to get a thank-you card!

I knew this high school student who went to a teen conference one summer. At the conference they passed out anonymous envelopes with assigned sacrificial acts of service. This high school student received a card that said, “Help out at your church’s children ministry.” 

He came up to me and showed me the card, asking what should he do. I simply read the card back to him, stating that he should serve in the children’s ministry at his church, that he should reach out to the leaders over that ministry to see where he would be a fit. 

His response to seeing was this question: “Is it a paid position?”

My response was: “No. We’re one of the weird churches who don’t pay our volunteers.” 

Money was motivating the service, and that’s not the greatness Jesus is talking about. 

There will be times that people, should have said thank you, and they won’t. Or they should acknowledge your contribution, and they don’t. These are opportunities for the essence of our character, our true heart, to be revealed.

This is why even an unpaid ministry or serving in the community or running a household with chores and meals and being there for family is really different than a paid job. How many of you, if you went to work tomorrow, your boss comes up to you and says, “I have bad news and I have good news. 

You say, “Okay, give me the bad news first.
Boss: “We cannot afford to pay you anymore.
You: “Okay, what’s the good news?
Boss: “You can still have your job.
You’d say, “No thanks. 

But if you love Jesus and you love his people and God’s placed a desire to help some people on your heart, you walk into the church or into a non-profit or into a home in need of some TLC and you say, “I want to help. Give me a place to help. 

#3 Are you willing to do menial tasks? 

You know what a good mom does? A good mom does whatever needs to be done. Wipe the nose, clean the diaper, burp the kid, feed the kid, change the kid, get puked on by the kid, repeat the whole process. That’s what a mom does. Three in the morning, she gets up. She doesn’t say to the young child, “Hello, I work 9–5, it’s 3 a.m.. I can’t help you.” A mom does whatever needs to be done. The essence of motherhood is the essence of service.

That’s where you know if you’re a servant, right? If it’s public and if it’s praise-worthy and if it’s a big deal, it’s not so hard. The menial stuff is for the godly servant.

Right now you can do some tasks around you home, around your school, around your place of work to clean-up while no one is watching you. Practice on doing menial tasks. 

#4 Are you a lazy or disorganized person? 

If your answer to this question is, “I don’t know” then your real answer is yes. 

If you’re lazy, you’re not going to be a good servant? You’re just not. If you’re lazy, you’re not going to inconvenience yourself and go the extra mile.

Just like negative Christians don’t exist, and unforgiving Christians don’t exist, there is no such thing as a lazy Christian. 

You may be thinking you’re helping a lot of people but not very effectively. You may be doing a lot of things, but maybe not the right things. Your priorities are out of order. One way you can serve better is by not being lazy, repenting of that if it’s a sin for you, and getting organized. “Okay God, who am I and what am I supposed to do and where do you want me to focus my energies?

#5 Do you choose to be happy for others when they experience what you can’t? 

What gets you happiest? What motivates you most? Is it what you get to experience and boast about or is it also what you see others getting to experience?

Last week a guy told me he stays off social media during the holiday season because he doesn’t want to see all the posts of people traveling and being with loved ones and all the smiling faces of what others are getting to do that he can’t.

He can’t stomach the happiness of others. And I’m pretty sure on Christmas Eve three ghosts of Christmas past visited him in his sleep.

It’s the girl who is truly happy when her friend gets engaged and she’s not, her life is marked by giving. It’s the family with financial struggles who is happy for their friends who get to go on vacations all the time. 

For most people it’s all about getting. Are you consumed and primarily motivated by what you get? Or are you primarily motivated by giving? 

#6 Would you rather achieve a status or make a difference? 

Achieve a status or make a difference? If you had to pick one legacy, which one? 

It’s not a sin to become a leader, to be called the president or the pastor of something, or the CEO or the director or whatever it is. It’s not a sin, but there’s something more important than achieving a title, and that’s making a difference.

During his earthly life, Jesus never held a political office, He was never the head of a company, He never ran any official organization. He never achieved or accomplished a particular degree from an educational institution. He never wrote a book. He didn’t achieve a status, but you know what He did, right? Of course you do, He made a difference. Has he made a difference in your life?

If it’s all about making a difference, helping people, making an impact in their life, you may or may not get the title. But you will get greatness.

#1 Do you allow others to serve you?
#2 Do you serve others with selfless motives?
#3 Are you willing to do menial tasks?
#4 Are you a lazy or disorganized person?
#5 Do you choose to be happy for others when they experience what you can’t?
#6 Would you rather achieve a status or make a difference? 

Your role today is to not make your name known, it’s to make the name of Jesus known and to lift others up without care of people noticing. God sees it. And you’ll be great.   

Thanks for reading, you are loved. 

Z

For the Procrastinator In Your Life

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Would you like to take a quiz to see if you’re a procrastinator or not (if you thought, Sure!, you’re not. If you thought, Can we do it later? You are one.)?  

Do you get resentful when reminded of tasks left undone?

Do you sometimes delay a task so long you become embarrassed to actually do it?

Do you distract yourself spending time on non-essentials while letting important things sit on the shelf?

Do you have a difficult time determining what to do first?

Do you agree to do a task and then regret agreeing to it?

Have you ever put off signing your kids up for something and then they missed out?

Do you ever think, “If I wait long enough, the task will not need to be done by me”?

Do you find yourself making excuses for work left unfinished?

If your answers were yes to some of those questions, I don’t have to tell you about the stress level that comes with putting things off. It rises your blood pressure and erodes your level of joy. 

There is a level of enjoyment in getting things done right and timely, so putting things off takes joy away. 

Putting things off also gives you a chronic sense of guilt. It eats away at one’s self esteem and it causes friction in relationships. 

Co-lead singer of the Beatles John Lennon, in one of his more lucid statements, said, Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.

Here are five steps I’ve taken to suffocate the procrastination out of my life. 

(1) Stop making excuses.

Making excuses easily leads to lying. We exaggerate or make up a story on why we didn’t get it done, why we were late to the meeting, why we couldn’t respond to the email, and so on. 

Ben Franklin once said, People who are good at making excuses aren’t good at anything else. 

People who keep putting things off that need to be done are great at rationalizing. They rationalize (they ration, lies) This probably flies around the work place more than anywhere else. 

Someone comes to work late again and they say, Traffic was bad. Alarm didn’t go off. Sitter was late. Starbucks was slow. I thought it was Saturday. Pick your excuse, whether that’s the real reason or not.

Teachers hear it. Parents hear it. Bosses hear it. Customers hear it. 

Why wasn’t the work done on time? Well, I’ve got an excuse for that. 

If you want to stop procrastinating and start living, you’ve got to stop making excuses. 

Whenever you feel defensive about something, or you feel any type of rationalization rising up in you to protect your pride, stop, call it what it is and say, You know what, here’s the truth. And I’m sorry. And I’m thankful you’re holding me to a higher standard. 

It’s okay to say, I was unorganized. I chose to do something else instead. I was lazy. I forgot. I chose Netflix instead. It’s okay to admit that when it’s the case because as Christians we serve God, not people.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Colossians 3:23)

(2) Face your fears.

Have you ever asked yourself the question, What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?

My wife Whitney put this truth on our bathroom mirror months ago in her beautiful hand-writing,

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

From the day we are born God instills in us with two automatic fear responses: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. As we grow up we learn healthy fears of fires and strangers and sharks and Oakland Raiders fans.

But, God has not given us a spirit of fear. We are not meant to be frozen by fear. 

Procrastination reveals two kinds of fear in us.

The fear of failing.

The fear of not measuring up or feeling rejected or not doing a good enough job. It keeps a person stuck. 

And strangely, there’s,

The fear of succeeding.

If I do this well, they might ask me to do it again, and then I’ll have to maintain this level of excellence, and they’ll ask me to do more and more.

It’s easier to stay in that mode of, Someday I hope to…. Someday I will..…

It’s more difficult to bravely take action. 

(3) Establish a plan.

Get a game plan. Map out initial steps to take. Start with the end goal in mind and work backwards. Invite trusted people in to help. 

I’ve got steps all over my life. I’ve got daily tasks that I make at night of things I need to do the next day and I check them off as they’re completed. I’ve got lists for yearly goals and I’ve got steps under those to get to those goals. 

YOU CAN get on a budget and put that plan together to keep it. 

YOU CAN finally get all of those family pictures printed and organized. 

YOU CAN get the junk out of your home. Go through all the clothes and the toys and the things unused and give it all away. Get that clutter out. Simplify so you can more easily focus on the goals you have. 

YOU CAN start leaving home 30 minutes earlier to get to work to get to school to get to the airport or get to church – so you’re there on time and if early, you can pray over your work, your school, your travels, your church.

YOU CAN sit down and think about what needs to be delegated in your life to others who are gifted in areas you’re not. 

 A wise person thinks ahead; a fool doesn’t. (Proverbs 13:16)

Put a plan together on paper. Just one single step toward your goal will start to bring relief and joy, because procrastination is a huge joy-sucker.

(4) Get disciplined.

Our culture says that discipline is a joy-sucker but it’s actually what brings more joy into your life because it fights procrastination. It fights fear. It fights laziness.

When you set a plan, there will be set backs, hurdles, disappointments, failure. There will be temptation to do something else, anything else, than the goals you have. 

You’ve got to stay disciplined (focused).

Discipline is the guard rails on that adventurous road you want to drive on. Discipline is that fence in the large backyard you want your kids to run freely in. You need guardrails to protect you, kids need fences to protect them from wandering.

If I don’t have discipline and accountability, I will veer toward the unhealthy habits in my personality and I will drive everyone around me crazy. I won’t be the best version of myself. 

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Stop making excuses, face your fears, establish a plan – invite someone in on it – get disciplined – invite someone to hold you to your responsibilities and goals.

(5) Start changing today.

In the Exodus saga, God’s people are enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years. He hears the prayers of the Israelites and rises up Moses to go to Pharaoh and say, Let God’s people go, and Pharaoh refuses (because the 1-2 million Israelites are his free labor work force).

That’s when God gives Moses some powerful bargaining chips known as the 10 Plagues to let Pharaoh know he wasn’t the one in charge, but that God was/is. The Nile River goes from water to blood, killing all the fish. The livestock outside die. Locusts fill the sky. Flies all over. Boils on the people. Each plague Pharaoh refused to give up control.

A memorable plague was frogs all over the ground. Everywhere you looked, there was an amphibian. Here a frog, there a frog, everywhere a frog, frog. They came up out of the Nile River. Kermits everywhere is what gets Pharaoh’s attention.

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and begged, “Plead with the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people. I will let your people go, so they can offer sacrifices to the Lord.” (Exodus 8:8)

“You set the time!” Moses replied. “Tell me when you want me to pray for you, your officials, and your people. Then you and your houses will be rid of the frogs. They will remain only in the Nile River.”  (Exodus 8:9)

This is how Pharaoh responds: 

“Do it tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. (Exodus 8:10)

Do it tomorrow?

Wow. 

Pharaoh can’t even back his chariot out of the garage without running over hundreds of frogs. Every Egyptian household has a wife on top of a dresser screaming at their husbands to do something. 

It’s very stressful on the entire nation of Egypt and Pharaoh says that something should be done – tomorrow?

Start changing today. Not someday. 

How many of my thoughts and how much time has been wasted in someday?

Someday I’ll ask her out.
Someday I’ll read that book.
Someday I’ll take my health seriously.
Someday I’ll get help on my addictive habit.
Someday I’ll start that non-profit.
Someday I’ll have my neighbors over for dinner.
Someday I’ll balance my schedule so I can invest more into my family.
Someday I’ll get on a budget and stick to it for a better future.
Someday I’ll get serious about God.
Someday I’ll invite that person to church with me.
Someday I’ll forgive that person.
Someday I’ll confess my struggles to a loved one.

There is something all of us here have that we have been putting off that God has been inviting us to step up and take care of. 

Don’t be like Pharaoh. Don’t settle for one more night with the frogs. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

When You Can’t Do Life On Your Own Anymore

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Do you want to make a positive influence on your relationships? 

Do you want to improve each room you walk into? 

Do you want to get through a difficult time in an honoring way as others are watching you suffer? 

It’s embedded in my worldview that these people believe they can do it, but only with the help of God. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Put fear and timidity on one side. Those aren’t from God.

Place power and love and discipline on the other side. Those are from God. 

Which means, every time you have chosen to endure, or rely on this inner strength to get through something, each time you’ve loved or have felt love, each time you’ve stay focused to do what was needed, all of that is from God. God gives us a spirit of power and love and self-discipline. 

Which means that fear and timidity, these aren’t from God. Any anxiety, worrying, afraid to live, afraid to get through it, afraid of failure, depressed, not from God. 

Being insecure and anxious is what will happen if we just believe that we can do it on our own. We will harm our relationships over time if we continue to buy into the delusion that all we have to do is pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and go after another day. 

We need God’s help.

I’ll give two examples of each side when it comes to parenting. This crosses over with how you lead employees during the week or how you are with friends, how you react to stressful circumstances.  

I get to be a father of two daughters, age 8 and age 5 currently. 

EXAMPLE ONE

One morning, I’m getting the girls ready for the day, trying to keep them focused on the following: outfits, shoes, teeth brushed, hair somewhat presentable, somewhat disheveled only a father’s touch can provide. 

They’re sitting at the kitchen island, time is short before the school buss arrives, so I throw together a Carnation mix with milk for breakfast. With a straw. No lid on either cup. 

Right when you just read the words, no lid, every mother reading knows where this is going.

Every mother is thinking, Oh, you gotta put a lid on it. 

I know that now. 

Izzy, our five year old, knocks her cup over accidentally, it hits the floor, and makes a mess. You would’ve thought a cow was murdered in our kitchen. There was milk everywhere. 

I let anger out on Izzy until the alligator tears started to form in her eyes.  

Hold that memory. 

EXAMPLE TWO

A few days later I’ve set a mug of coffee on the end of our sofa and Izzy comes flying in the family room. She’s at this stage where no matter where she is or who’s around her, she’s doing a cartwheel. 

She flies into the family room, does a cartwheel and accidentally knocks over my mug with her feet. Coffee goes everywhere, mug falls onto the wooden floor and shatters instantly. 

This time I’m calm. I’m chill. 

I make sure she’s okay. I ask her to stay away from the broken ceramic pieces. I gently remind her to watch for her surroundings when she’s in Simone Biles mode. I apologize to her for leaving my mug on the sofa. 

Okay, compare the two instances. When she knocked over the milk in the morning, and I let my anger out, that instilled fear and timidity in her. My ripple effect was negative. 

When she knocked over the coffee off the sofa, I let gentleness out due to self-discipline. She felt that love. 

What’s the difference?

It was reflecting on 2 Timothy 1:7 over and over throughout the day.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

In the morning, when Izzy spilled the milk on the floor and I spilled my emotions on her, I hadn’t gotten up early to pray for God to guide me during my day. I hadn’t thought about needing God’s power for energy, or God’s love for others, or God’s discipline to help me love on my girls that morning. 

I relied on my own strength and impatience came out. 

But when the coffee spilled off the sofa, I was able to respond with gentleness and humility because I had been praying 2 Timothy 1:7 throughout the day (in fact, my wife had written the verse on our mirror in her beautiful, large hand-writing as a reminder for both of us to lean on the Lord and not on ourselves). 

Lord, please, in all of my conversations, give me Your power so I have the energy to deal with what comes. Give me Your love so people around me feel it. Give me Your discipline as my own so the old Zach doesn’t come out, but the likeness of Your Son does. 

This works in parenting. It works in dating. It works in marriage. It works when you are around your employees, neighbors, friends. 

It keeps our relationships from viewing us as bipolar. Jekyll one day, Hyde the next. 

It keeps the people around us at home or at work from wondering which version of ourselves they’re going to get no matter what the day holds. 

If you believe you can do life on your own, without God’s help, the ripple effect you will have on those closet to you will be fear and timidity. People will be afraid to be around you, they will walk on egg shells, you’ll have extreme mood swings, they’ll be anxious and scared and eventually depressed.

But, if you rely on God daily, in prayer, people around you will see and feel your example of love, and power and focus and they will want the same. 

Even if you don’t have a high view of God, or of the Bible, try it out. 

It’s got to be daily consistently, over a long haul of time. 

What hurts is that Izzy is going to remember me getting irate over the milk spilling more than she will remember me being gentle and concerned for her when the coffee spilled a couple days later. – 

I need to do it daily so she sees me as the latter half of this 2 Timothy 1:7 and doesn’t feel the first part. 

If you work, reflect in the car on the way home, God, I’ve had a long day. I need You to give me Your strength, Your love, Your discipline for me to love my family the best I can tonight. 

In the morning before school or work or the day of errands, God, I don’t know what will come today, but You do. Please give me Your power and love and discipline to honor You and love on others and be an example. 

During a crisis in your life or in the home, you need God’s power to get through it faithfully, God’s love to give you identity that no matter what happens, you are still loved by Him. You need God’s discipline because in trials, if we don’t rely on God in prayer, we get sad and lazy and melancholy and lay around and have no energy and our loved ones see us as that. 

You can do this with the help of others and with God’s help.

We want to change lives, we want to improve relationships, we want to make a difference, we want to leave a legacy, but you need God’s empowerment daily to do it. 

And you need the help of others to also remind you that you need God’s help. 

Most people, when they wake up, they feel rushed and allow life to happen to them and then they react to it and they just want to make it through the day. 

Most people don’t wake up praying to rely on God for the day. 

Most people don’t wake up acknowledging that what they do for that day builds their legacy. 

Most people don’t wake up feeling like a world-changer. 

But, what if you believed daily that with who you are created to be, and with the help of others around you, and with the help of God, you could change the lives of others for the better? 

I believe you can.

5 years into our marriage. Whitney and I found out that we were infertile after desperately wanting a child. That was a harsh realization. 

My father died of cancer six years ago. That was tough. 

I have sin in my past that cost me security and friendships and reputation. The consequences still weigh heavy. 

There are little stresses piled up on me and my family every day. Life pressures down on us. 

All of the trials, all of the worrying, I cannot do it on my own. I cannot have a positive influence on those around me and get through difficult seasons on my own will power. 

I need you and I need God’s help. You need people to help you. So open up to someone. You need God’s help, so pray to Him throughout the day. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Curing Our Hurry-Sickness (Becoming More Patient).

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Whoever is patient has great understanding. (Proverbs 14:29)

Or as 17th century English statesman George Savile wrote, A person who has mastered patience is master of everything else. 

We all need a little patience. We have succumbed to what scholar Dallas Willard calls hurry-sickness, when talking about our culture. We have a sickness of hurry.  

I thought this 5G, high speed, high tech culture promised me with all this convenience at my fingertips, life was going to slow down? I thought I was going to slow down and enjoy more of the things that mattered?

It only seems to have sped things up. It seems to have amplified this hurry sickness. High speed really does mean high speed.

And when our patience runs out, watch out. 

It’s a husband who sends a verbal thrashing at his wife and she still loves him, but she’ll never forget how hurt she was over that tirade he gave her. 

It’s when a wife sends that look at her husband when he frustrates her, or has failed her again, making him feel pathetic. 

Its’ when an impatient dad yells at his kid during the sports game because dad is mad over his kid not doing as well as the other kids. 

It’s an employer who is more in love with profit and reputation than they are toward their employees, and over every mistake they lash out. 

There is always a high price to pay for impatience. 

With how full our schedules are and with the many plates we are spinning, there are a couple things we forget about those around us. And when we do forget these things, our patience with others begins to wither away. First, 

We forget that people are more important than our time.

This is the parable Jesus tells of the Good Samaritan where most people passing by an injured man on the road are unwilling to help him. They forgot that others are more important than an agenda or a schedule. 

God has thrown the flag on me many times when I have forgotten this. 

One example is due to my own distraction and procrastination. 

I left later than I should’ve for a meeting with someone. I ran into traffic and I became that guy, you know, they guy swerving through traffic, frustrated at the drivers around me. 

And then every car came to a standstill. There was a funeral procession that was going past me. 

And my immediate reaction was, You’ve got to be kidding me. This is going to take forever!!!

Soon after I felt convicted by God’s Spirit saying, Z, are you kidding? This funeral procession can’t go slow enough for the people in that line who are grieving a loved one being gone. 

I had forgotten that people are more important than my time. 

Author John Ortberg talks about his struggle with hurry-sickness, he writes this, 

We must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives. This doesn’t mean that we will never be busy. Jesus often had a lot to do, but He never did it in a way that severed the life-giving connection between Him and His Father. He never did it in a way that interfered with His ability to give love when love was called for. He never did it in a way that caused Him to treat someone as an interruption. Jesus was often busy, but never hurried.

Has your schedule kept you from spending time with God each day and centering yourself on what matters? 

Has it kept you from checking on others? 

Has it kept you from date nights with your spouse or from one on one time with your child or appreciating an employee or taking a friend out who needs someone to talk with? 

Being hurried all the time isn’t just a blurry schedule or a cluttered mind, it’s a disordered heart. When your heart is disordered, you prioritize the wrong things. 

Love always takes time and hurried people don’t have time. 

When time becomes more precious to us than people, you won’t find patience there. 

The second thing we forget when life is blurry – 

We forget that people are more important than our possessions.

I was visiting an elderly woman, a widow of 20 years. She’s a Christian woman, 78 years old. She lives in her home with her 55 year old son is divorced (twice) and single, currently unemployed and isn’t a Christian. 

Her son wanted to show me something on his mother’s property so he, his mom and I walk out to the detached garage behind the home. The son opens the wide garage door and inside are two identical 1968 Dodge Charger R/Ts. One Dodge was red with black stripes, one was blue with white stripes. These are pristine classic cars. 

While we were looking at the son’s cars, his elderly mother set her hand on the blue Dodge Charger and leaned against it, to rest. Her son, in front of me, sternly says, Mom! How many times have I told you not to put your hand on my car?!?!?!

Mom was embarrassed. 

We went back inside and the mom shared with me that she was having to go back to work part time as a nurse practitioner to buy groceries and pay her utilities. 

She’s a widow. 78 years old. House is paid off. She allows her son to live with her. He doesn’t work. He’s got two classic cars worth around $70,000 each. But she’s going back to work to provide.

The son had forgotten that people are more important than possessions.

When you’re a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit will continue to gently and sometimes bluntly remind you of these two things: People are more important than your time and people are more important than your stuff.

One of the most familiar chapters in the Bible is 1 Corinthians chapter 13. You’ve probably heard it quoted at weddings – it’s all about love. The church I get to be a part of did a series on 1 Corinthians 13 to cement that our church was going to be a powerful movement of selfless, sacrificial love.

It’s a chapter about love. What is the first thing that is said about love? It’s the most famous writing about love. What is the first thing it says describing love? 

Love is patient. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

If you really love someone, you are patient with them.
By its very definition, love is patient. 

Do you want your children to know you love them?
 Be patient with them. Don’t be frustrated with them. 

Do you want your parents to know you love them?
Be patient with them, don’t be annoyed by them. 

Do you want your spouse or your boyfriend/girlfriend or your employees or your siblings to know you love them? If you love them, then cut them some slack. Don’t be harsh, see how you can help.

When we stop looking at our watch and our schedule and our goals, and when we stop looking at possessions and stuff, and we choose to look at people – people with souls – and we choose to help people, we then receive perspective, wisdom and understanding. 

Time is going to go away.
Possessions are all going to burn one day.
People have souls that will last forever. 

If you want to be more patient with others, try to see their side of things. Put yourself in their position. 

There’s a reason that person is difficult. There’s a reason they are harsh. There’s a reason they are selfish. There’s a reason they are melancholy. If you try to seek out why they are like that, where you understand them further, then you’ll become more patient with them.

The people who are difficult to love in your life, they weren’t born that way. It’s because of sin. They chose sin and sin has been done to them. -Once you get to know them and their story, once they trust you enough to talk about their past and their parents and their struggles, then you start to think about how you can encourage them and serve them and help them.

Could I invite them to church with me?
Could I pray with them?
Could I buy them a gift?
Could I write them a note?
Could I make them a meal?
Could I offer them insight?
How can I love them?

Because, love is patient.

Patient people take the time to understand someone, why they are the way they are, and choose to love them anyway. More than your time. More your stuff. More than yourself. 

And by doing so, you yourself will be cured from hurry-sickness.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

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

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