Awakening

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I’ve gotten into the habit of fasting at the beginning of the year using Pastor Stoval Weems’ book “Awakening.”  My wife hates it when I fast simply because she has to cook two meals.  I believe she’d think it easier if I just did a water or juice fast instead of my normal Daniel Fast.  And fasting around a 5 and 7 year old is quite comical.  They think I’m on a diet.  And it is hard to explain why I am fasting or what it is.

But isn’t that the case for adults too?  When you explain fasting to someone who doesn’t understand it, you begin to sound like you are from another planet – dare I say another culture.  That brings up a totally different subject.  As Christ-followers, why don’t we sound like we are from a different culture on a regular basis?  But I digress…

I used to be really bad at fasting.  I’m still not the best, to be honest.  I can starve myself with the best of them.  But devoting myself to prayer is difficult with a busy mind and a busier cell phone.  Information comes too quickly and my mind wonders.  But this time around I really dared myself to concentrate on the reading and prayer portion of the fast.

So what is fasting?  It is a time where you give up something to focus on drawing closer to God.  How does it do that?  For me, every time I have a desire to eat, or to partake in something I give up, I pray.  Its that simple.  I did a Daniel fast this last time.  That is where I eat only whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and water.  If it sound horrible it really isn’t.  My wife makes incredible bean salads and I like hummus.  Still, I want a cheeseburger or Krispy Kreme doughnut.  When I had the desire, it reminded me to pray – which was quite often.

If you’ve never fasted, I encourage you to try it.  Start by fasting 1 or 2 days.  Fast from sugar, or social media, or meat.  Just try it and stick with it.  And don’t forget to pray.  What should you pray for?  Whatever is on your heart.  But I would stick with a theme for the duration.  Maybe your theme is finances, or health, or spiritual growth, or your children.  It can be anything, but it should be something that is near to your heart.  You’ll be amazed at how God will honor the time and begin making things clear to you.

Dating on a Dime

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Pastor Daniel, this past weekend, emphasized the need to date your spouse.  I can’t stress how important this is to a married couple.  We date on the front end…. we date a lot!  But when we get married we tend to coast.  We tend to let life get in the way.  And we too easily fall into a mode of just existing with a roommate.

Dating allows you to stay connected outside of your responsibilities.  It gives you a platform to share your thoughts, your dreams, what you are excited about, what scares you, and it simply gives you an opportunity to laugh and enjoy each other.  Dating also gives you a glimpse into your past and reminds you of why and how you fell in love.  It serves as a reminder of why you got married.

But I’m a cheapskate.  And this was a hard concept for both Jennifer and I to embrace.  Why?  Because there was always something ‘more important’ to spend our money on.  But I was challenged on that and I want to challenge you as well.  You can date.  And you can date on a dime.  Here are some ideas we have used in our 12 years of marriage:

  1. Reallocate funds to things that are truly important.
    1. Cancel trash service and take it yourself.  Use the money to go on a date.
    2. Cancel cable and spend it on dating.  Who knows…. without TV to watch you might find yourself doing other things at night.
    3. Mow your own lawn and use the money to go on a date.
    4. Eat out less at lunch and eat out with your spouse on date nights.
  2. Coffee and a book.  Grab a cup of your favorite coffee and head to your local bookstore to peruse.
  3. Just go out for dessert.  Dating doesn’t have to be a dinner and a movie.
  4. Picnic lunch.  When we first got married Jennifer would meet me at my job and we’d go on a driving picnic.  When we moved to the area I would meet her downtown and we’d have a picnic in the park.
  5. Road trip.  Just drive!  Go look at your favorite neighborhoods, or houses, or country roads.
  6. Grocery shop together.  Now I know this may cause more problems than it solves, but we like grocery stores.  We are going to buy groceries anyway.  Why not do it together.
  7. Go on a walk.  Some of our favorite times have been walking the local battlefields.
  8. Lastly, if you have kids, find another couple with kids and swap out babysitting.  Its a free way to get a date night all alone!

Ephesians 3:14-20

14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom every familyin heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Leaning

Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

“Leaning On The Everlasting Arms”

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

O how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

by: Anthony J. Showalter and Elisha A. Hoffman

The Art of Going to Bed

I once heard a Pastor say that the trick to keeping a strong marriage was only 2 things – 1. Love God  2. Sleep naked.  Writing that makes me want to have t-shirts made with that slogan.  Love God & Sleep Naked.  But I digress.

What happens when you get married?  If you aren’t careful you can fall into a rut.  Before you know it you have a roommate, not a spouse.  Why?  Because you fail to set priorities to connect.  I always counsel in my pre-marital appointments to PRIORITIZE time together.  Set a date night.  Find time to just be together – without the kids, dog, iPhone, iPad, or iAnything.

One way you can accomplish this is simply by going to bed together.  I didn’t realize how unique it was to do this in a marriage.  We didn’t know any better!  Jennifer and I have always gone to bed at the same time.  But undoubtably, the night owl marries the ‘early to bed and early to rise.’  You are polar opposites trying to do life together.  But this simple act of going to bed together does a few things:

  • Promotes conversation.  I know I’m always trying to fall asleep and Jennifer decides to tell me her whole day.  But wives NEED this time to share.  Now you’re a captive audience.
  • Prevents separation.  I think it keeps you from becoming roommates.  Separation is not really great for a marriage, despite us saying that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’  Continual absence does not, however.
  • Protects purity.  There’s too much crap on TV now.  And if you are like most people you don’t have the computer in the bedroom.  Going to bed together keeps each of you from looking at smut while the other is asleep.
  • Prompts intimacy.  Its kinda hard to be ‘together’ when you’re not together!  I’m going to refrain from being too descriptive here.

I think this is one simple revolutionary idea that could really transform your marriage.  I know it requires a change in schedule.  But just commit to it and create a regular routine.  And start doing life together – including sleeping.  That whole naked thing is up to you.

Hold Your Tongue

I once went to dinner hosting a guest speaker.  He began to disparage a Pastor that we think of very highly and has invested in the ministry of Lifepoint considerably.  Having understood Honor as a church and living in that culture, I immediately shut him down and began to praise that particular Pastor and what he had done for us.

Fast forward a few years.  I’m at a conference and find myself looking at Pastors and labeling them.  That one is brash.  That one is prideful.  Who does he think he is wearing that outfit?

Fast forward a few years.  I’m sitting at a table with someone who is very influential in the church world who gets criticized.  1.  He is EXTREMELY humble and down to earth.  2.  I find myself saying ‘how did I get here?’  ‘What am I doing here?’  ‘I don’t deserve this!’

What is the point of these 3 stories?

  1. Story 1 – The criticizer knew nothing of the one he was criticizing.  He only… get this… perceived something.
  2. Story 2 – I, the criticizer, knew NOTHING of the ones I was criticizing.  And, being the criticizer, I knew I had an issue with insecurity.  So much easier to feel good about yourself when you are criticizing others.
  3. Story 3 – Usually people’s perception of others is wrong – including mine.  AND, I recognized my insecurity.

And that is when I felt God say – you look and think you see a bunch of overconfident, brash, and bragadocious people.  But I see people who are dealing with insecurity just as you are.

What’s the lesson?  If you are a criticizer, most likely you just need to deal with your own insecurities.  Quit worrying about everyone else.  Worry about yourself.  Also, encourage your leaders.  I think most of them are saying to themselves – ‘how did I get here?’  ‘What am I doing here?’ ‘I don’t deserve this!’

Hold your tongue.  You probably have no business being a critic.

Next post – Monday February 20th – The art of going to bed

When to Outsource

Personnel dollars is one of the most difficult decisions you will make when your church is growing.  Who do I hire?  How do I hire?  When do I hire?  How much do I pay them?  Are we being fair?  These are all very difficult questions and I doubt any church leader thinks they have this figured out to a ‘T’.  But there are ways to appear larger than you are as you grow and that is through Outsourcing.

How do you know when to outsource?  There are several reasons I choose to outsource:

  • To Learn – If we are doing something and can outsource it and LEARN in the process, we are getting more bang for our buck.  We are getting the job done AND we are getting an education.  Bookkeeping has been a recent venture in this area.  We have very clean books.  We do either a yearly review or audit by an external CPA firm.  But we knew we could learn some ‘best practices’ and hired an outside firm to do our bookkeeping.  It was a great decision and it did exactly what we needed it to do – teach us how we could be better.  This is usually MID-TERM to LONG-TERM.
  • Expand Capacity -  Growth is great and growth is chaotic.  Sometimes you just need a pressure release to get you through a season.  If you see your staff starting to look frazzled explore what you can outsource.  It is a great way to buy time and make a wise and prudent decision.  This is usually SHORT TERM.
  •  Need Expertise – You don’t know everything so just admit it.  We have saved thousands of dollars by paying someone who knows better than we do.  Can I talk to bankers?  Sure!  But there are others who live and breathe loans, rates, libor (whatever that means), etc.  And they can hang with the most intimidating banker negotiating a loan.  If it’s an important decision, look at bringing in bigger guns.  This is usually PROJECT SPECIFIC.
  • Special Skill Set – This may be a regular occurrence that simply needs a specific, specialized, hard-to-find skill.  This is usually REOCCURRING.
  • Need Wisdom – No this is not the same as ‘Need Expertise’ or ‘To Learn’.  Both of those the person is doing the work for you.  Here I’m talking consultants.  They come in with a ‘here’s what I think you should do’ or ‘here are the questions you need to be answering’ mindset.  BE CAREFUL in this realm.  We’ve hired consultants that didn’t have the DNA or understand our culture.  For instance we had someone tell us to wait to do something till next year.  We’re instead going to do it this quarter.  We knew our situation better than they did.  Good for us the advice was free.  This is usually PROJECT SPECIFIC.

Some of the areas we have either considered using or have used contract labor:

  • Graphic design
  • Video design
  • Audio Mixing
  • Bookkeeping
  • Financial Consulting
  • Church Growth Consulting
  • Church Health and Structure
  • Loan Placement
  • IT
  • Database management
  • Database reporting
  • Web Design
  • Musicians
  • Worship leading

Just a few more tips:

  • Network.  Find off the grid talent.  It’s a good way to ‘try out’ people that are interested in a long term relationship with your organization.  They are usually more flexible as well.
  • Free yourself.  Realize that outsourcing is not long term.  You don’t like something?  Make a switch.  It’s perfect for those of you who have commitment issues.

Next Post – Friday February 17th – Hold Your To Tongue