Relationships

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      The Funeral As We Know it is Becoming a Relic: Karen Heller reports that just as we are on the verge of a death boom, the rules of funerals are undergoing significant changes. She shares, " The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger. In 2030, people over 65 will outnumber children, and by 2037, 3.6 million people are projected to die in the United States, according to the Census Bureau, 1 million more than in 2015, which is projected to outpace the growth of the overall population."

2.      Be Slow to Assume: Being slow to anger begins with being slow to assume, Lara D'Entremont suggests: " Maybe this is what Peter meant by, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8). In my desire to assume the best of another, the small sins of another towards me are overlooked and covered, rather than racked up to be something greater than they were. Let’s toss poor assumptions, give some charity, stretch ourselves a little, and put grace on display."

3.      Why We Need to Stop Saying, "Sorry for Your Loss": This is written from a secular psychological perspective from Ed Preston. Preston is correct though, and I would suggest that the reasons as Christians are even stronger. He suggests, " Perhaps it’s because of our cultural death phobia, and the way it pathologizes everything related to sadness. If we’re not better at dealing with grief, then it’s because we’ve never been taught better. Unfortunately, that leaves the majority of people with only one stock phrase in their repertoire, “I’m sorry for your loss.”" He also includes some practical advice for what you can say.

4.      How to Get Your Church to Engage Scripture More: JR Briggs offers seven great ideas including, " Read a passage, and then ask people to write out 10-to-15 questions about the passage on a piece of paper. Why did the woman ask that of Jesus? What was running through Abraham’s mind when he was walking up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac? Allow people to interact with the text by courageously wrestling with tough questions."

5.      1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left Church Over Abuse: Kate Shellnut reports on a recent Lifeway Research survey that contains sobering information. She concludes with practical changes churches can consider including, " Assess your church culture first and make needed changes: Do your current members experience safety and freedom in sharing their own stories of suffering?"

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Free Throws Should Be Easy. Why do Professionals Miss? I enjoyed this story from Wired: " On paper, the free throw could not be more straightforward. It's a direct, unguarded shot at a hoop 18 inches across, 10 feet off the ground, and 15 feet away."

2.       Have you Talked to Your Kids About Sex? Helpful encouragement: "The sex and gender conversations in your home don’t have to be big, awkward productions. They don’t have to be embarrassing. And they certainly don’t need to be all planned out. But they do need to happen. The sooner the better. And they need to continue, the more often the easier. They absolutely must be rooted in biblical truth about how God designed our bodies and gave us the gift of gender and sex."

3.        How Relationships Spark Spiritual Growth: This is a really helpful matrix that will help any leader consider how they can grow their group relationally. Dan Mancini says that this process will, "remove hurdles to your growth... And you’ll get down into the root of the junk you’re carrying around in your life, and it will reveal motivations, appetites, and beliefs that no one (including you) knew you were carrying around.

4.       3 Things to Do When Someone is Suffering: Chris Hulshof considers what we can learn from Job's friends: " What does it look like to show up when someone is suffering? It looks like joining them right where they are and getting dirty with them amidst their grief and sorrow."

5.       8 Questions You Must Ask as you Fight Pornography: Deepak Reju offers great counsel. Two of the eight questions are "what lies are you believing?" and "will you be radical or passive about cutting out your sin?"

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Saving Retirement: Jeff Haanen on the state of retirement. This is a very helpful read. He says, "Some are now seeing retirement as a social construct that allows them to take an intentional 3, 6, or 12 months of sabbatical rest to prepare the heart for a new season of fruitfulness (Lev. 25). Rhythms of preparation, worship, feasting, learning, simplicity, remembrance, and service are chosen over consumption, travel, or a premature jump into a new field."

2.      Why Treating Your Spouse Poorly Can Be So Easy: Dave Harvey considers his sin against his wife, and his compounding sin even as he sought forgiveness: "Several years ago I became aware of a subtle, destructive habit. Whenever I sensed I had sinned against Kimm I would go to her, confess, and seek to resolve the situation. Looks pretty good when I put it that way, doesn’t it? But I came to realize that my goal was far from noble. I wanted a quick and efficient restoration of our relationship so I could stop feeling bad and get on with 'more important things.'” 

3.      Heroes, Villains, and Guides: Glen Elliott ends his reflection on leadership with these important questions, " Be honest with yourself. What are you seeking? What’s your view of being a leader? Who are you really in your leadership role? Are you seeking to be the hero or intentionally choosing to be the servant who guides others to success?"

4.      Why Tithing Isn't a Pinnacle Virtue or Legalism: Randy Alcorn pushes on some significant barriers in our hearts, "So to those who say all New Testament offerings are freewill, I say fine. My question is, even if we’re convinced tithing is an antiquated practice that doesn’t apply to New Testament believers, if Old Testament saints could rob God by withholding freewill offerings, can’t we do the same? If not, why not?"

5.      The Relationship Timeline Continues to Stretch: Fascinating data that shows a few interesting trends including the fact that the time between meeting and marriage has nearly doubled in five decades, and how the average couple now lives together for over three years before marriage.

6. Romano Tours: This hilarious sketch by Adam Sandler is helpful truth serum for us as we head out on vacations this summer: “if you’re sad now, you might still feel sad then… you’re still going to be you on vacation.”

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Why the Devil Didn't Think He Won When Jesus was on the Cross: I hadn't thought this through as clearly until I read this JA Medders post. His final reason is the strongest: " Fifth, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, he is tempted to get himself down from the cross. Why? This would cease his substituting death for us—Satan wouldn’t be disarmed and defeated. But Jesus did the Father’s will, he died and rose again for us. Defeating Satan every step of the way."

2.      How to Mend a Relationship That has Been Broken for Years: Vital Signs delivers consistently difficult, but healthy advice on matters related to conflict: Joseph Grenny offers, " I have come to believe that my capacity for joy in life is a function of my capacity to love imperfect people. And the most aggressive calisthenics of that capacity is practicing vulnerability at times of the most acute emotional risk."

3.      Seeing the Individual's Face: Jennie Cesario with one of the most beautiful reflections I've read in a while: "[T]o grow in the love of God is to expand my heart and vision in this way. To, little by little, allow more faces to become particular to me, more faces to become dear — whether they’re next to me in a church pew or against me in the voting booth; whether they’re my kindred or my worst enemies."

4.      What Teens Value Most: Helen Gibson reports on Pew Research Center's latest poll on teens. In it, having a career they enjoy ranks first, then helping others who are in need, and third is having a lot of money. Getting married is fourth and having children is fifth with less than 40% of teens saying they desire to have children one day.

5.      Is God Anti-Gay? Sam Alberry reflects on this big question during a Gospel Coalition panel (this is a podcast).

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Let the Children Get Bored Again: Pamela Paul speaks wisdom to our age that runs from boredom, "Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency."

2.      Survey Says That Evangelism is Far More Prayed For Than Practiced: Aaron Earls shares the results of a recent survey that ought to call us to boldly speak the gospel to our neighbor.

3.      Guard Your Heart From Adultery: Robert Wolgemuth reflects on how seriously we ought to take any hint of adultery in our marriages: "When you are hiding a secret from your wife, this qualifies as “for worse.” You feel this in your gut. It keeps you awake at night..What’s for certain, however, is that the situation you’re putting yourself in is going to have an impact on you. It’s inescapable. Keeping secrets is like standing chest-deep in water, trying to hold a beach ball down. It takes both hands and lots of energy. But eventually, physics will win out. You’ll run out of energy and the ball will explode through the surface. You will be found out.

4.      How Can We Know that the Bible Teaches that Jesus is God? Justin Taylor offers this tight argument: "Finally, it’s worth remember the helpful summary by the late great church historian Jaroslav Pelikan: ...The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: “It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ ...or to worship any other. For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs . . . we cherish.” The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described Christians as gathering before sunrise and “singing a hymn to Christ as to [a] god.” The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: “Our Lord, come!” Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that “God” was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ."

5.      7 Lies the Church Believes About Singleness: Great stuff, as always, by Sam Allberry: "Certain misconceptions never seem to go away: The Great Wall of China is visible from space (it isn’t), or shaving makes your hair grow back thicker (it doesn’t). A significant misconception that has been around for many years is that singleness is a bad thing. This is partly due to a confluence of our culture’s focus on romantic fulfillment as key to being whole with common Christian thinking that marriage itself is the goal of the Christian life."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Hormones, Surgery, Regret: I was a Transgender Woman for 8 Years--Time I Can't Get Back: Surprising story to read in USA Today by Walt Heyer: "I lived as “Laura” for eight years, but, as I now know, transitioning doesn’t fix the underlying ailments. Studies show that most people who want to live as the opposite sex have other psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety."

2.      13 Ways We Justify, Rationalize, or Ignore Negative Feedback: One of the best articles I've read this year. Peter Bregman of Harvard Business Review says, " It doesn’t feel good to be told you missed the mark. And, since feedback often uncovers our blind spots, it’s especially jarring because, in many cases, we thought we were doing a good job. So we don’t immediately or intuitively agree with the validity of it (we tend not to believe things we can’t see ourselves)."

3.      The Danger of Drama: When we stir up drama, Heidi St. John says, we are sinning: " If you need to address something that should be handled in private, then do it privately. If you’ve been hurt, don’t put it on the internet. Season your speech with grace."

4.      Don't Put Your Hope in Date Night: Interesting perspective by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler, "In our modern, Western, first-world culture, our margin for romantic love is a blessing. Many of us have the freedom to select a spouse who matches our preferences and makes us feel weak in the knees—particularly in those first few months of dating. This is a joy and a privilege. As those ideas carry into marriage, we tend to continue emphasizing the importance of romantic feelings. But are cultivating these feelings through date nights essential in God-honoring marriages?"

5.      Beware of Broken Wolves: I resonate with Joe Carter's advice here about protecting oneself from a certain type of leader: "But there is a particularly nasty breed that often goes unnoticed, a type that we might call the “Broken Wolf.” These are the false teachers who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken—and then using their “brokenness” to lead the sheep to turn away from God’s Word and embrace sin. They blend into the flock because Christians are not—and should not be—suspicious of broken people. They appear “in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15)."

For My Kids on the Occasion of My 40th Birthday

For My Kids on the Occasion of My 40th Birthday

Tomorrow I turn 40. Lord willing, I’m about halfway done with this marathon we call life.

God has been so gracious to me. I have a godly wife who makes me laugh every day and two teenage children who grow daily in faith and wisdom. 25 and 27 years from now Camille and Soren will celebrate their 40th birthdays. This post is for them: it’s the hard-earned wisdom that I’ve accumulated over my years that I hope they can learn from. I hope it blesses you as well.

Here are the top ten truths I’ve learned in my 40 years:

1)     Seek wisdom

There is no end to foolishness in this world. Wisdom is a rare commodity. Run hard after it. Look to those whose character you admire. Listen to what they say and read what they write. When I was a kid, I was a sponge for sports trivia. I got a jolt in being able to know something someone else didn’t. In college I caught the bug for philosophical and theological knowledge. It took me until my later twenties and thirties to develop a stronger thirst for wisdom than knowledge. Accumulated wisdom is like the water of a river, it will smooth and shape the stones in its bed over time.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Most Teens Drop Out of Church When They Become Young Adults: There is a lot of important stuff in this recent study by Lifeway. Among the information uncovered is that, " Two-thirds (66 percent) of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22." "The five most frequently chosen specific reasons for dropping out were: moving to college and no longer attending (34 percent); church members seeming judgmental or hypocritical (32 percent); no longer feeling connected to people in their church (29 percent); disagreeing with the church’s stance on political or social issues (25 percent); and work responsibilities (24 percent)."

2.      When Money Gets Between Family Members: This is perhaps one of the most pastoral responses I've ever read, and it's not only not written by a pastor, it's written in a secular forum. What an incredible model of speaking the truth in love.

3.      I Grew Up Hearing My Grandfather was a War Hero. Army Records Say Otherwise. Dan Chrisinger tells about his search to understand his cantankerous grandfather that ends with surprising insight: " The only truth I can feel certain of now is that Hod had once been a young man who went to war, and that he died an old man who never found a way to make peace with what he had experienced... he remained trapped alone in his cover story. In discovering this about my grandfather, I encountered the man on a more human level: a man who was damaged and hurting — and ultimately, I now feel more closeness and connection with that man than I could possibly have felt for an untarnished hero of the battle for Kakazu Ridge."

4.      Awe in the Ordinary: I love this invitation from Cassie Watson, "Over my holiday, I wanted the feeling of wonder to keep going on and on. The good news is that it can—and I don’t have to wait until my next holiday to experience it. The true object of my awe is with me all the time. I don’t need to recreate the circumstances of that sunset, but instead run back up those beams to the one who is truly worthy of adoration."

5.      Higher/Wiser: I like this song both musically and lyrically that is from a band that is new to me, The Silver Pages.

7 Ways to Fight Well

7 Ways to Fight Well

We all have conflict in our lives. Have you ever slammed a door or punched a wall? Have you ever hung up on someone? Have you ever sent off an email or a text with the jab of an angry finger?

We walk through conflict every day: we have disagreements with our spouses, with our parents, with our children, with our co-workers, and with our neighbors. But how do we navigate conflict and come out the other side in one piece? How do we not become the worst version of ourselves in the midst of conflict? What if conflict actually provided an opportunity for us to grow as people, but also to glorify God?

There’s a passage in the Bible that shows just how well conflict can go when we respond out of humility instead of pride.

There’s a massive conflict that is brewing in the early church that has the possibility of destroying the church.