What to Consider When Adding One More Thing to Your Schedule

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Growing up my family didn’t have cable television. No ESPN. No MTV. No Nickelodeon. No TV Land. What we did have were three channels and a VCR (if you’re under 25 years old, Google, “VCR”). 

It seemed like whenever my mother held the scepter (the remote) while the television was on, the only two options on TV were: Little House on the Prairie and figure skating. 

I had a long childhood.

With each episode of Little House on the Prairie I watched as a kid, I would hide the tears because Charles Ingalls (“Pa”) would do something to soften my heart. Every single show he got me. 

I started watching Little House on the Prairie with my wife and our two young girls. We went to the library and got the seasons on DVD.  As binging provides, we zoomed through episodes and not long into Season 1 I noticed clearly how much things have changed since the timing of when the Ingalls lived. 

It really wasn’t that long ago when Little House on the Praire‘s pace of living was the norm. Things have sped up quickly and they continue to speed up faster each day. 

Think about how much little time we have to rest/reflect/repent/invest in our relationships? This blog takes five minutes to read and because of a frantic page, most readers who click on it won’t make it to this sentence because they’ve moved on to something else. 

We do well to keep our relationships busy and be around each other but we are poor at having qualitative conversations and making intentional memories. 

We do well to relax by watching TV or are addicted to scrolling through a newsfeed but we are poor at being still and having the spiritual discipline of solitude. There is little rest and pausing and praying in our day. 

I’m watching LHotP and I’m thinking, Nowadays the norm is 50 hour work weeks for dad and mom with a 30 minute commute and it’s home to give the kids drive-thru conversations and leftover energy.  

Most families don’t gather around the table while Pa plays the fiddle as they eat a home cooked meal, laughing together or learning a lesson from each other. The norm now is to eat on the go on your way to practice or eat a heated up meal after getting home late or eat in front of the TV and we make fun of the reality TV stars and that’s what we call “family time.”

We’ve got tee times and workout schedules and the kids and grandkids have so many activities that we dare not allow them to miss because they might get behind on something that won’t matter in 20 years to them and we’re rushing through the present-day life God wants us to live with Him as our calendar metronome gets quicker and quicker. 

The rhythm of our culture is what we’re adhering to and it feels normal to us. Here are some cultural beliefs that you and I have unknowingly, yet foolishly bought into: 

Action is better than rest. (FALSE)

Work is more important than home. (ERR!) 

Possessions are more important than people. (NOPE)

More is always better than less. (LIE) 

How we choose to spend time reflects all of these things.

Who believes with their schedule that rest is better than action, home is more important than work, people are more important than possessions, less is always better than more?

When it comes to adding something to your life – to your daily, weekly, monthly schedule – I would be very careful with that. Impulsively we add new commitments to our calendar and we don’t think how much it will affect what should be important to us.

Let’s say you have 8-9 different things to do during the week and you think, I’ll just add a 10th thing in my life, to my family’s scheudule. It’s just one more thing.

Author Steve Farrar talks about the way we view our time and our schedule with this concept called, The Fibonacci Numbers. The Fibonacci Numbers were named after a 14th century mathematician who came up with this new way of counting where it looks like this:

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It counts like this: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13,  21, 34, 55, 89, 144

You add the two numbers next to each other and go forward. So 1 and 1 is 2, and 1 and 2 is 3, and 3 and 5 is 8, 8 and 13 is 21, 21 and 34 is 55, 34 and 55 is 89, 55 and 89 is 144 and so on.

Stay with me. 

This way of counting is better to measure the pace and schedule of our lives and our family’s routine because we think in consecutive numbers, Well, I’m just adding a 7th thing to my schedule or to my family’s schedule. We had 6 and now it’s 7 with football or church consistently or gymnastics or a new show. According to the Fibonacci scale, it’s not a 7th thing, it carries the weight of 13 things (7 is 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13). It increases dramatically, in weighty, stressful fashion with each thing you add.

If you can think about the 7-8-9 things your allocate your time to – school, work, family, church, hobby, TV, Facebook, sports, shopping, reading. My schedule doesn’t reflect this every day, but if I were to prioritize what is important to me, my current 9 things would be: 

1. Devoted and faithful husband
2. Committed and present father
3. Being a consistent and generous friend
4. Being an eager student and teacher of God’s Word
5. Working bi-vocationally
6. Coaching recreational soccer
7. Taking graduate school courses
8. Exercising daily
9. Writing weekly blog 

That’s nine things easily.

What if I want to add two new things to my schedule? No big deal, right? I’m just going to go +2 to my life routine, and those two added items are: 

10. Swimming lessons for kids
11. Country line-dancing.

I just want to go from 9 things in my week to 11. On the Fibonacci scale, check out the number on the right when adding more to my schedule: 

1. Devoted and faithful husband
1. Committed and present father
2. Being a consistent and generous friend
3. Being an eager student and teacher of God’s Word
5. Working bi-vocationally
8. Coaching recreational soccer
13. Taking graduate school courses
21. Exercising daily
34. Writing weekly blog
55. Swimming lessons for my kids
89. Country line-dancing 

I just added 2 more things but I went from 34 to 89.
That’s a lot more added to our effort and mentality. 

When we keep adding things we’re not just adding to our schedule, we’re adding weight to our well-being. We’re adding he weight of coming through, the weight of not giving up, the weight of anxiety and putting on the good face for everyone. It’s not a 11, it’s an 89 and it’s going to crush us eventually. 

Here’s a true/false quiz (10 questions) to help us figure out whether or not we need more rest in our schedule. I’m trying to keep us honest here.

1. True or False: You’ve cut through a gas station to avoid stopping at a red light.

2. True or False: You don’t like to take vacations where there isn’t always something to do.

3. True or False: You frequently look at your phone or a clock nearby throughout the day.

4. True or False: In conversations you like to get right to the point. You don’t enjoy small talk.

5. True or False: People who talk slowly irritate you.

6. True or False: You become annoyed when the person at the checkout line in front of you chooses to pay by writing a check.

7. True or False: You often find yourself finishing other people’s sentences for them or interrupting people during conversation.

8. True or False: When you go to sleep at night, your mind often rehearses all the things I didn’t get done that day or what I have to do the next day.

9. True or False: When delayed and running late, you are irrationally upset.

10. True or False: You have difficulty finding time for things like a haircut or a physical or an oil change. 

We just live at this frantic pace and as we get older it doesn’t slow down, it only increases in speed. 

Because we’re not prayerful, because we’re arrogant, we think I can handle more. And if we’re not protective of our time and energy for what really matters in this life – God and people – we’ll watch life slip away and miss out on things like legacy, purpose, evangelism and the more we add the more devastating it’s going to be when we ask, How did this happen? Look what I wasted!

Jesus says it this way: 

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 / MSG)

God doesn’t get upset when you take a break. God doesn’t get disappointed when you tell someone no, I can’t do that for you right now because I’m needed somewhere else more important. 

If you say as a family, we’re going to eat a family dinner around the kitchen table 4 times a week for the rest of this year, no phone or TV, all intentional conversations, no matter what – most of the world might think that’s bizarre but God will smile on that commitment because you’re saying to God and family: Here’s what’s important to me. 

If you say, As a Christ-follower, I’m going to add attending worship weekly, but that means I need to let go of other things. I’m going to go from attending worship monthly or less to attending weekly, to give weekly, to serve weekly – because I’m showing God and God’s family that’s important to me. 

OR, I’m going to get up 10 minutes earlier to read a chapter in the Bible to start my morning off focused in prayer and reflection for how I want to live.

OR, I’m going to fast from something I lean on daily so I can pray in those moments I want to give in to sin.

As I look through the pages of the Bible there are a handful of instances that show why living this life of God’s rhythm makes so much sense. If you don’t run your schedule your schedule will run you. Be prayerful adding one more thing to your routine. I recommend adding rest and intentionality.  

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

What a Husband Would Know If He Studied His Wife

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What’s been known since the first sun ray was ever felt by Adam and Eve is that women are different than men. Women have an entirely unique, separate, complicated, woven-together way of looking at things, processing events, expressing emotions, responding to circumstances. Men need to study up on it.

What should be studied by men is to read and digest passionately everything the Bible has to say about marriage and everything the Bible has to say about women. One verse is:

Husbands must give honor to your wives. 
Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. 
(1 Peter 3:7)

The King James Version of this verse says husbands should treat their wives, “according to knowledge,”  meaning, any information a husband can get his mind on about his bride, he should do it. He never knows her enough.

From what did she learn in her Bible time to her thoughts about the last episode of, “This Is Us,” to her dreams and goals right now to how her coffee date with a friend went to how’s work going to what her fears are to whatever thought is in her mind. Study her.

Pursue her, woo her, ask her questions you did before you were married. Communicate with her throughout the day. There are few things she would want more than for you to get your PHD in getting to know the most beautiful creature God has created for your fulfillment in this life.

The husband should have notes in his wallet or phone that are, “things she doesn’t like” and “things she loves” and “things not to say” and “things to check in on.” Each husband should be able to write a 20-page term paper on the research they’ve done on their wife.

Here are some things the husband would know if he studied his bride:

What the word “nothing” means. 

Husband: Hey honey, what’s bothering you this evening?

Wife: Nothing. 

Husband: Okay. But you’re kind of washing those dishes in an aggressive manner. What’s wrong?

Wife: Nothing! 

”Nothing” does not mean nothing to her (and all the wives said, amen).

”Nothing” means, “figure it out Sherlock”.

It means, “I’m upset but I can’t put my finger on why right now so let me wash these dishes”.

Sometimes it means, “nothing to do with you”. Sometimes it means, “try harder and I’ll tell you”.

Sometimes when she says “nothing”, she’s saying “how dense are you? Do I have to write it in the sky for you?”

It means everything but nothing. Figure out what it is.

Women are annoyed by things that guys don’t even notice. 

For example, my wife does not like it when my toenails are longer than they should be and I’m cutting her legs while sleeping next to her.

Or, how many times have I gotten dressed in the morning and go in to kiss my wife good-bye and she’ll be like, “What are you wearing? No way. Try again”.

Husband, you are doing something that annoys her, and she loves you dearly, but still, study her, watch the eye rolls and the sighs and the “ewww” and ask what you do that gets on her nerves so you can stop doing it.

Romance is born in preparation and sacrifice, not in convenience. 

Too often men get cheap and/or last minute on romance.

Husband: Hey honey, I was thinking, let’s forget cooking tonight and go out together, just you and me. 

Wife: Really? Okay! Where are we going?!

Husband: I passed this new all-inclusive buffet on my way home that looked decent.

L O S E R.

Bill Hybels, a pastor in Chicago, tells the story of wanting to do something nice on his anniversary. After having a pretty packed day, there in his neighborhood was a guy walking around selling flowers. It was an amazing opportunity, the flowers are right there, just roll your window down and by flowers for your wife. Now he’s on easy street, he’s going to make her day, he walks in the house and his wife asks, “Where’d you get those flowers?”.

Husband: Um.,I bought them through the car window just 1/4 mile away. 

Wife: How much did they cost?

Husband: $4.99 plus tax……… 

Plus tip…….. 

L O S E R.

Your wife wants you to go three towns over and spend that money on her favorite flowers to show her the statement that THESE flowers are what you think about her.

You can’t get a deal on romance. It’s never on sale. There’s not a shortcut to it. It comes from planning and from sacrifice where “I was thinking about you all week. I’ve been waiting to surprise you all week” is seen and felt.

Husband: I set this up last Tuesday for you, sweetie 

Wife: You were thinking of me last Tuesday!!!!!!

Husband: YES. I. WAS. 

Sex should occur on a great day in the marriage, not be the fire escape from a bad day. 

If a husband ignores his wife and has neglected her and has emotionally injured her, a cold hand reaching over the bed at 10:35PM is not going to fix all of that. Let the impulse go. God’s mercies are new every morning. Apologize and try to do better the next day.

Sex is important for intimacy and has a lot to do with trust, but it doesn’t solve much when it comes to an argument or a reoccurring issue in the marriage. Don’t make it an escape out of the conflict.

Genuine compliments are never wasted. 

Baby, you look amazing today,, and, Where did you get that dress, it looks so good on you, and, Wow, you’re hair looks great today! and, Look how hard you work, and I’m amazed at how selfless you are, and, I’m so thankful God brought you into my life. I’d be a mess without you, and, your character inspires me.

Why aren’t the husbands constant with the compliments?

There are those men who have the mindset of: I met her, I wooed her, I wed her, on our wedding day I told her I loved her and when I change my mind I’ll let her know. Until then she should know I love her. 

Some husbands are like, When my wife does something new with the hair or wears new shoes or earrings, I don’t even notice.

Okay……….

And yet you know your favorite sports team’s first loss in 2004 happened on Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions and they went 13-3 that year losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, or something like that, right?

Why do husbands know pointless stats about sports? Because they study it. They pay attention. Your wife only has about 15 outfits. Go stand in her closet for 10 minutes and then when a new one shows up, you’ll know.

A free tip because I want marriages to thrive:-When you notice a new item of clothing on her, this is not a compliment, That’s looks good, how much did it cost? 

Are the husbands complimenting their wives? Are they getting exciting about the outer and inner beauty of their wife or does something else have their excitement? Let’s genuinely compliment the woman God has blessed us with, men.

A little help goes a long way. 

Hey babe, I’ll clean up dinner tonight, you go take a bath or catch up on your reading. You do so awesome with our children, I’ve arranged an evening out with your friends and I’ll be watching the kids, helping them with the homework, getting them ready for bed. 

Or a husband could say: Maybe if you could point me in the general direction of where we keep our vacuum, I’ll sweep the place. Could fold some laundry.?

A little help goes a long way.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
(Proverbs 3:27)

Study your bride. Do not stop dating her. Do not stop serving her. Do not stop learning about her.

Or, you can take her for granted.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

7 Questions for Each Gender to Ask Before Dating Someone

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

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

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

7 Questions Christian Men Need to Ask Before Dating Her: 

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

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

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

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

  1. Does she dress modestly?

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

  1. Will she let you lead when needed?

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

  1. Is her character noble?

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Questions Christian Women Need to Ask Before Dating Him:

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

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

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

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

  1. Will he be responsible for the family?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. You are so loved.

Z

Dating and Racism

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In each discussion worthy of opinion, debate and persuasion, we should aim to bring as much harmony, history and humility as we can into each conversation; especially if we are Christians. I don’t want to win an argument while fragmenting a relationship doing so. I don’t have to be right if it means being unloving. I can choose maturity and disagree without being disagreeable.

With that foundation laid, I want to jump to the topic of interracial dating and marriage. And remember, we can disagree and I still love you.

God has blessed my wife and I with two daughters we were given via infant adoption. Our eldest is Caucasian, born in Joplin, Missouri. Our youngest is African-American, born in Virginia Beach, Virginia. As a family we purposefully chose racial diversity to be in our household. We want to be a family of unity, not division.

As parents, and as Christians, my wife and I will display a consistency of colorblindness when it comes to relating to the many beautiful people God has placed in our lives. We want to open our home for all kinds of different individuals. When it comes to our daughters choosing friends, dating (after age 35), loving on neighbors, roommates, we want them to try to see everyone as God does. As a family we will continue to recite and believe Galatians 3:28, which says:

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are ALL one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

From cover to cover, the Bible repeatedly shares God’s view of humanity and that view is:

We are all different, but we are all equal.

Even though each one of us are very different, God loves each one of us the same. He commands the church/Christians/people who love Jesus to love all people in the same way He loves them.

Knowing it’s a great possibility one or both of my daughters choose to interracially date or marry, I want them to know most conflict in romantic relationships and in marriage is not due to the color of someone’s skin. Marriage rises and falls based on whether or not we allow the selfishness in us to hang around and expose itself.

Selfish people struggle in marriage while selfless people thrive in marriage. 

If you want your children to have a vibrant, life-giving, joyous marriage when the time comes for them to seriously date and get engaged, it’s got nothing to do with the color of skin on who they date. If the person they date is selfless, the marriage is going to thrive.

If our oldest daughter, a Caucasian, came to me later on in life when, as a family, we agreed she could begin dating (so when she’s 35), and said, Daddy, there are two boys I could seriously date. One boy is Caucasian, and he’s pretty selfish, talks about himself a lot, how great he is. The other boy is Asian. He’s pretty selfless. He talks about Jesus and encourages me a lot. Any advice on what I should do? I hope I say, Honey, we don’t care about race in our family at all. Spiritually, we are a color blind family. After some time in prayer, if the boy who loves Jesus and encourages you is who you say he is, enjoy getting to know him, after he passes the Old Testament quiz I give him. And he also better have a job.

Any boy wanting to date either of my daughters must have the two J’s in his life: Jesus and a Job.

If God were to bring a Caucasian young man, who loves Jesus and has a job, to date our youngest daughter, an African-American, I wouldn’t even think color or interracial. If he’s selfless because of emulating Jesus into his daily life, I would bless and oversee her dating him. I don’t care if he’s white, I care if he’s holy.

Growing up in Cincinnati, a racially-charged city in the 90’s, my best friend for 8 years was Maurice  Bowden. He’s black. I’m white. Who cares. I loved him dearly. I didn’t want to go a day without seeing him. He had an intriguing imagination, a wonderful family and a great knuckle-ball pitch in backyard whiffle ball. If ever I was told I couldn’t be Maurice’s friend because of his skin color, I would’ve looked at you like you were the dumbest person on the planet.

Racism is stupid.

Racism is one of the stupidest things we’ve ever come up with as humans.

Also on that list is the Snuggie.

Racism is stupid. To think that I’m better than someone else, just because of the color of my skin?

That’s like saying, Because I was born in the first week of June, I hate all people who aren’t Geminis. I had no control over what month I was born in and I had no choice in what race I was going to be. If I did, I would’ve probably gone with Samoan.

Three months after adopting our youngest daughter, an African-American, we were at the County Fair with some friends. While eating some ice cream, a woman, with her teenage daughter, both Caucasians, were near our table. They began oohing and aahing over how precious our baby girl was, while also being curious about us adopting her (like asking what country from Africa she was from. I said, The country of Virginia).

The mom then asked, What’s her name? I replied, Israel Cate, and she said, Thank God you didn’t name her one of the crazy names those black people name their kids. 

Thank God? 

Those black people?

Christians just don’t think like that. If they do, that’s not what Christianity is.

Christians look at character, not color. 

Christians view people as God does: valuable, amazing, talented, smart, beautiful. Created in His image.

The church should be a reflection of what heaven is going to be – one day, God will redeem the earth when Jesus returns to take His people home and all languages and races and personalities will gather together in the same place. The church should be that.

Heaven is a place that is completely void of racism. A man named John, who had lived and traveled with Jesus for three years, describes heaven this way:

I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. (Revelation 7:9)

If that is what heaven will be like, that is what the church should strive to look like.

Children and student ministries in every church should have different races.

Adult small groups and classes in the church should have different races.

Church leaderships should have qualified different races.

Our children should date Christians who have character, who have Jesus and a job, and color doesn’t matter.

Our kids should make friends, no matter the race.

Families should pray about the prospect of adopting, no matter the race.

Adults should respect and support bosses, neighbors, family of different races.

Christians should intentionally open up their homes to those different than them to break bread, learning from and loving on each other.

Make that a goal this year: prayerfully seek how you can bring the void of racism in heaven into your home/neighborhood/church/life. You won’t regret it. We are all different from each other but bringing that difference together is called being Christ-like.

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

Waiting on God to Answer Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I’m thinking……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. You are loved. Merry Christmas,

Z

3 PRACTICAL GOALS FOR SINGLES (3 OF 3)

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For the first time in American history single people households outnumber married people households. If you’re not single currently, you have single friends and family, your kids are going to be entering single adulthood if they’re not there already. They’re an important, valued group the church should not ignore.

I have a deep love for singles, wanting them to thrive and live wisely.  I want to humbly offer three practical goals singles can steadfastly commit to. The first two practical goals for singles can be read here and here. Here’s the third practical goal for singles to get serious about:

STAY OUT OF BED. 

I’m not talking about sleep being overrated. You know where I’m headed with this.

Paul was of the first leaders of the early church. He was single. He wrote 31% of the New Testament that we know of since the book of Hebrews is up in the air with no certainty on who authored it (although I would love for time to reveal a woman wrote Hebrews). Anyway, Paul lived during the 1st Century. Much of his writing was to a sexual culture that was worse than what we see and hear about today. It was worse then.

Back then, this whole idea of human sex-trafficking was legal and permissible. Back then, men literally owned women. Women were owned by men for their sexual pleasure and for slave-work. The moment a man got tired of a woman he was with, all he had to do was go down to a pagan temple providing prostitutes and slaves for sale and trade his wife in for someone else.

This is not the kind of culture God intended but this the kind of culture the church was born into.  Paul writes these words in an attempt to reorient culture back to Christ:

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18) 

This isn’t saying that sexual sin is worse than other sins to God. God views anything sinful on a linear level. Some sins have worse consequences in our lives, but God views sexual sin like He does gossip and greed. There’s not a separate category to put sexual sin in. It’s not worse than other sins, but it is different. It’s a different level of damage.

Think about it. If you make a bad financial decision, you accept the reality, pay it off, take a credit hit, get an extra job, downsize or file for bankruptcy. You move on. You might have some regrets, but you venture forward.

There is something about sexual sin that haunts us and stains us and it follows us into every relationship we enter into. It has a way of negatively sticking around. Sexual sin doesn’t just affect our emotional state, it affects our body and our soul. It’s just different. Sexual sin is a soul violation.

When you engage in that, outside of God’s desire and boundary of marriage, you do things more than just to your mind. It’s more than just pleasure. It’s pain that will hang around forever – yes it will be forgiven by God, anything is, and He can sweep it away in His mind, but for us, in this life, it’s pain that hangs around forever. It’s different.

What would we expect God, our Creator and Lover of our soul, to say about something that could be damaging to us long-term? He says, RUN! Stay away from it because God knows if given into, it will hurt what good we have and harm what good awaits us. That’s wisdom for Christians and non-Christians alike. But then he takes it up a notch.

Then he talks to just followers of Jesus. If you believe Jesus rose from death, if you believe He’s God, if you were baptized into the water to confirm your belief in Jesus, you are no longer your own decision-maker. You now beautifully adhere to Jesus in all things. The very Spirit of God lives inside the Christian and you take the Spirit into every conversation/relationship/choice you have.

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The Jesus-follower no longer belongs to themselves. When we sing, I Surrender All, that includes giving Jesus our body, it includes giving Jesus our sexual desires. Not just our sexual sin in the past, but we give Him the right to choose how we act and what we desire going forward.

Dating today is all about the chase and impulsiveness and conquest and when you don’t get what you want (what you wrongly think you deserve) you move on or get angry.

Some of you ladies feel like you have to give in to what can be considered modern-day prostitution where he pays for dinner, pays for dessert or drinks, pays attention to you and then he expects you to pay him back with favors he defines.

Ladies, you owe no man anything. Jesus has bought you, honor Him with your body. If you have to do something outside of God’s boundaries just to keep a man around, that’s not a man you’re with, it’s a little boy who’s not full of Christ, but full of selfishness.

Ladies, if you feel like you have to give in to keep him around – if that’s your mindset – my advice is that you take a year off from dating – a year – just to right your mind and search God’s Word out on your true identity and what godly way He lays out in store for you to live. Maybe you need to choose purity for an extended amount of time, staying away from temptation.

Maybe it’s time for parents of children who are dating to make sure they are being pure with the person they hang out with. Don’t assume they’re being pure, set God’s standard for them and lovingly hold them accountable to honoring God, not their desires. Talk to your them today to be pure because you don’t want their soul to be damaged.

If you’re in a relationship currently and you’re living together before marriage, don’t be afraid to find the research yourself or talk to others who have been there: Cohabitation does not increase your chances at a happily ever after. It decreases it. I’m not sure why people prolong marriage, but I want to encourage you to move out to honor God, test the relationship living in separate homes and have a more solid marriage in store if it works out.

My encouragement, whether you live together pre-marriage, or are in sexual sin while dating someone, or are sleeping around – take time off. Back away. Be abstinent. Pursue Jesus so you can think clearly.

I am praying daily that the men who get to pursue my daughters will be men who honor them and honor Jesus; men who think about a good legacy, not a good time.

Jesus says something in Matthew chapter 5 that we could spend days studying together and still not get the richness He provides. He says:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Do you see the connection? There is something about moral purity that allows us to see God and what He is up to clearly.

How many of us know the opposite of this? I do. When you’re living in moral impurity – when you’re hiding and scheming and lying and cheating and lusting it’s like you’re living in a fog. You don’t know who you are or where you’re going. You might even blame God for how life is going because you can’t see Him clearly. He’s there, you’re just sinning so much it’s fuzzy.

No wonder single people who sleep around or live together before marriage get cold feet when thinking about marriage. They think, I don’t know if she’s the one. I don’t know if he’s Mr. Right. Sometimes sparks are there. But it’s up and down. The person I like is great some days and then they’re really hurtful other days. Thoughts like that breed little trust and give minimal stability and security.

We can’t see clearly because of impurity in our daily lives and Jesus says He will make us pure from our past, we will rely on His example, teaching and strength to be pure going forward and then we’ll be able to attain the clarity around us we desperately crave.

Get out of debt. Clean out your closet. Stay out of bed.

Thanks for reading You are loved.

Z

3 Practical Goals for Singles (1 of 3)

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For the first time in American history single people households outnumber married people households. If you’re not single currently, you have single friends and family, your kids are going to be entering single adulthood if they’re not there already. They’re an important, valued group the church should not ignore.

I have a deep love for singles. I want them to thrive and live wisely. So over the next three weeks I want to humbly offer three practical goals singles can steadfastly commit to. Here’s the first practical goal for singles to get serious about (even though these goals are for everyone):

GET OUT OF DEBT.

Did you hear someone say, Amen! It was Dave Ramsey. And it was your mother.

If you’re single, it will never be easier for you to get out of debt than it is right now. My mindset while single was,  But I’ve got to live it up now. There’s so much fun stuff to buy and do and places to visit. When I get married, I’ll have someone help me with this debt thingy.

In the overwhelming majority of marriages there is one person who likes to spend and one person who likes to save. Getting out of debt after marriage is more difficult, so please get a plan and some accountability from a loved one to deal with it now.

I’m talking about school loans. Some people have a student loan debt that is like a pet, it’s been following them around for years. Start hitting that hard now.

I’m talking about the loan you took out to get a car that brought a big time payment. Pay that off aggressively.

Some singles have multiple credit cards. One day you walked into a store and was asked if you wanted to save money by opening up a credit card and you were like, that sounds awesome. You got a credit card and it saved you like seventy-five cents on your purchase that day. What a memory that was. Now you’ve got credit cards that you turn to when your eyes want something or when the bottom falls out and the savings aren’t there.

Get out of debt now, because it will linger and follow you into your next relationship and longer-term, if you don’t put a plan and a commitment together to be frugal and debt-free, then spending and piling up debt will follow after your future children as they enter into adulthood because you didn’t teach or show them how to handle spending (I apologize for the length of that run-on sentence, you may need to read it again).

Poor financial habits now will turn into poor marriage financial habits later.

Here’s another reason to get out of debt: If you’re dating and you’ve got a lot of debt that hasn’t been dealt with, it will make you less attractive to the person you’re getting to know across the restaurant table. She might think your car is really sweet right now and fun to ride in until she says I do and starts having to pay for it. He might laugh at your jokes right now but the tears will flow like Niagara Falls when the credit card bill comes in the mail.

Eventually the single  person has to introduce their personal debt into a serious relationship. At some point you are going to have that conversation, if the relationship is deep and means something. Just like at some point while dating you’ll need to discuss your spiritual background, discuss your sexual history, discuss the brokenness you’ve gone through, talk about dreams you have – you’ll have to introduce your finances. That’s IF the relationship means something. Dating someone won’t last if it’s based on lust, binging on Netflix together and avoiding necessary conversations. It’ll be easier to bring up the debt attached to you if you’ve been working on paying it down.

Married couples are not off the hook here. Here’s a trend I’ve noticed about married couples after being in counseling sessions when the truth comes out: one or both of you in the marriage have a secret credit card that your spouse doesn’t know about it. (Some married people reading this just stopped breathing).

You’ve got your separate little card you buy all of your odds and ends with and it feels meaningless and harmless, but the problem with that is marriage is two people becoming one in all things: one home, one bed, one faith, one bank account and having a secret card practices deceit. It’s no different than having a secret crush at work or a secret drink at night.

Practicing how to hide things from your spouse slowly kills a marriage and damages a legacy.

If you’re hiding anything, come out into the light with it. Choose what is right over what has been sidestepped for too long.

Here’s a main reason it helps Christians to get out of debt: to be a Christ-follower is a calling to be generous in all things, to be a part of a church that loves needy people, loves the community, and wants to make an impact around the world. Each Christian is invited  to generously be a part of these things. But if you’re in major debt, it’s more difficult to trust God and give sacrificially to others when frivolous bills are coming in.

Each time Whit and I have new friends over for dinner they nosily walk around our house and look at our pictures. When they see pictures of the children we financially support monthly around the globe and ask about the commitment to what sponsoring a child in need looks like, the consistent reason I hear over and over from others on why they couldn’t sponsor a needy child monthly was because there was debt strangling them.

I try to correct them gently: Debt isn’t strangling you. Selfishness is. No cable or no Starbucks or no new clothes or no sporting events or smarter grocery shopping may free someone in debt to be generous – but I get what they were saying – because the umbrella of debt is over someone’s head, it scares them to be generous back to God and to others around them.

When you decide – I am getting out of debt  it not only frees you up to be a more responsible spouse and parent one day, but you are also freeing yourself up for God to use you in a big way to get someone else in need of hope one step closer to Jesus.

So let me give you this advice: Get out of debt. Take it and ask for help or leave it and log onto Amazon.com. We’ve all struggled with this, let’s decide we’re going to get out of it and hold each other accountable to it.

Whether you’re married or single, your church and Christian friends should have conversations about struggles. If not then your church is just a social club avoiding needed discussions to help you become more like Jesus. Let’s get deep with others, let’s show our wounds and struggles and have others help us.

That’s the first piece of advice, get out of debt. The second piece of advice I can give to singles and to our next generation will be available next Wednesday (and it’s going to get a bit more intense).

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z

Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders. – Romans 13:7