Category Archives: Articles

Digging Up the Philistines

The annual digging season has begun in the city of Gath (a former Philistine city). They are unearthing some interesting things that tell us today what the Philistines were like. An article @ tells some of the discoveries and connections that have been made in reference to this ancient people group and their affiliation with the Israelites as mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.

In Israel, diggers unearth the Bible’s bad guys

It’s interesting to me that archaeologists seem to start with suspicion of an ancient text (i.e. like the Bible) and seek to go all out to disprove the claims and the stories contained within (and they are super-surprised if the stories appear true). I don’t know, maybe these findings and the resultant articles and theories that are written paint the discipline in a bad light. Not because of the stellar work archaeologists are doing, rather they appear to be written with a particular slant toward continual suspicion of the biblical text.

It seems, at least to this amateur theologian, that if one thinks that the Bible stories are true and view archaeological conclusions at this point are premature are definitely in the minority of scientific opinion and labeled at best ignorant, but at worst uninformed and out-of-touch with reality.

Regardless of who is right or wrong, the point for me at least, is to hold down the side of the debate that isn’t getting the most press…


Integrity in Our Play

This article is a re-post from a campaign/emphasis we did at Hayward Wesleyan called “Ablaze for God.” We did a series of devotionals for that week on a blog you can find here. I wrote a few of those devotionals that I recently re-read and thought I should re-post another one of them here:

“Jeremy, you’re no good when the TV is on.” This is true. When the TV is on in my home, I am drawn to its pulsating orb of light! Maybe because I am an extremely focused person. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing when I don’t want to be distracted; a curse when I want to be distracted! Watching television allows me to focus on a mind-numbing task rather than an intense one. Which frustrates my wife and now my daughter [I currently have two daughters] because I often go too far in the mind-numbing department. I become “no good” to anyone (let alone the two [now three] people I love the most in my life!).

So how does one relax from a long day’s work (or long week’s worth of work) without escaping or being destructive? Does God care about our exhaustion and need for “vegging out” and is this something a person ablaze for God person should do?

God gave us something amazing in the act of creation—He stamped His image on us. Much ink has been spilt in understanding what the “image of God” means, but it at least means this: somehow we are like God. Not outside looks, but embedded into our character and passions—our soul. Because God is a creator, we are also mini-creators. We were created by God to re-create.

When I watch TV I am seeking to be renewed and refreshed; I am recreating. What goes wrong is that I recreate in front of the TV too long to the neglect of the women in my life. Integrity in our play should be sourced in a God-inspired act of creating again what was worn out of us in a hard day’s work. In that sense, re-creation serves a divine purpose in that it brings back a sense of wholeness and balance that is taken from work.

More than anyone, children understand the necessary component of play in our lives. My daughter Sari wants me to be involved in her stacking of blocks, reading a book, or poking her finger in my belly button as I lay on the floor watching TV!

On that note, I guess I’d better turn off Seinfeld and get my finger poking revenge!

Via Ablaze for God: a consuming journey to the heart of God

Our Indwelling and Our Infilling

This article is a re-post from a campaign/emphasis we did at Hayward Wesleyan called “Ablaze for God.” We did a series of devotionals for that week on a blog you can find here. I wrote a few of those devotionals that I recently re-read and thought I should re-post one of them here:

What if Culvers came to town? I’ve heard this rumor often in my short time in Hayward. What if the rumor was true and the backhoes started digging, foundations were placed, the building structure went up, the lights were turned on, the food smell was wafting through town, the cashiers were ready, but the doors remained locked? And not just one day, but three days, and then a week, and then almost a month! What were they doing?! Why go through all that trouble to create an amazing restaurant, cook the food, and then NOT open up and share it?! That’s crazy!

Exactly! This would be the difference between being “indwelt” with the Spirit versus being “infilled” with the spirit. The indwelling of the Spirit of God happens when a person opens up their heart to God in faith through Jesus. The Holy Spirit builds a home in the heart of that faith-filled person. It is like the creation and existence of a Culvers restaurant in Hayward. We are all excited that the Spirit just made a new home in the heart of another child of God!

If, however, that is all the faith-filled person did, then that would be a shame. Why? Well, it is a little like having this amazing, Culver-aroma snaking around town, but not being able to eat anything. The Holy Spirit is inside your heart, but nothing happens. Culvers was built to serve greasy hamburgers and tasty frozen treats! The Holy Spirit indwells in order to infill!

The infilling of the Holy Spirit means that he opens up shop in your heart. You become a beacon of light and hope for the world around you because you have allowed the anointing presence of the Spirit of God to shine in your life. Infilling is when you allow the Spirit to coarse through every thought and intention of the heart and live out of His power and strength and not our own. Being infilled with the indwelt Spirit is a lot like unlocking the doors to Culvers and ordering that/those…whatever.

Culvers exists not to be a building, but a provision of food and beverages to Hayward and beyond. The Holy Spirit infills, not to merely indwell, but to take a human heart and be a launching pad of God’s power and presence to Hayward and beyond.

Via Ablaze for God: a consuming journey to the heart of God

Can I Tell You a Story?

Just like the post below, I believe in the power of a story to teach. I’ve got to admit that as a young parent, it is easy to default to the “lecture” format, but I’ve found that telling a story, whether real or make-believe, has been very powerfully effective. My friend, Jesse Smith, shares some great insights in “Once Upon a Time”:

There once was a little boy…
Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far way…
It was a dark and stormy night…

We all recognize these beginning, they are popular beginnings for a story. They immediately peak our interest, there’s something coming, something interesting. Stories have power – they break down barriers, open our hearts, and get us thinking.

As a father, I’ve found that story is one of the best, if not the most powerful, tool I have. When my children have added to the rules, tries to pit mom against dad, or any number of things they’ve often heard a story. Sometimes it’s a story from the Bible and other times its from another source (or just made up) but the message is almost always clarified by story.


It’s not a lecture
As parents we want our children to not only understand the rules but the reason for those rules. Often our response to an infraction is overly wordy. At a time when the child just wants to escape your wrath a lecture falls on deaf ears – they just want out. A story opens a new world, a place to escape and a place where they have some control.

In a story there is a chance to explore both sides, a place to talk about solutions – a place for discussion.

When we have a culture of story telling, our children not only hear stories when there is a problem, but all the time. Stories stick with us and when a similar situation occurs, children have a better idea of what will happen as a result of their choices. They can connect to the characters and that starts of joruney oof wanting to model for others.

Stories are natural
Simply put, we’re wired to remember stories. Think about how easy it is for them (or you) to quote their favorite movie or show. They can remember what Blue weeks ago said but not what Mom said 7 seconds ago because stories naturally connect.

A Place to Explore
Stories promote thinking. They are a safe place to think about what loss feels like or what it means for a child to be disabled. Children can easily explore their emotions and behaviors without serious consequence.

If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest that you pick up a few story books from your library and have a bed time story. If you feel like they might be too old for a bed time story, read the books yourself. Think about how the story flows so that you can begin to form your own stories so you don’t sound like you’re lecturing all the time.

Then, when you’re ready to go to a new level, pick up The Jesus Storybook Bible. This is, by far, the best storybook bible that I’ve read. It mad me cry more than once. It’s full of great models for our children and could easily become your child’s favorite book.

Another plus is that it’s more theologically sound than many storybook bibles out there. It’s not simply a collection of stories; it’s an overview of the primary theme of scripture.

How could you use stories in your home?

via Orange Fathers

The Gospel Reorients All of Life

One of Heath Davis‘ passions is helping reorient the church to the overarching implications of the Gospel. Here is a recent post from Heath:

What is the gospel?

Social justice, community reform, personal morality should never be mistaken as the gospel itself. They are actually the IMPLICATIONS of the gospel fleshed out into our life and world. Social Justice, for instance, is a tentacle, an extension, an outworking of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A tentacle is an attachment…something that grows out of the core substance of something. Like we find on a jellyfish. . .the tentacles grow out of the core and are connected to the core, but only represent a part or an extension of the whole.

I think the same is true of the gospel. When we trace our behaviors, values, choices, thoughts back to their source, everything should be sourced in the essence of the gospel: that God is rebuilding his Kingdom precisely through His own incarnation, suffering death and resurrection on behalf of mankind.

So, feeding the poor, helping a handicapped person, saying “no” to sexual temptation, attending church, handling personal rejection, or spending money…all of these things become natural implications in our lives of coming into a right relationship with the living God through Jesus. All of these things are the implications, the tentacles, of the all-encompassing gospel of Jesus, but they are NOT in themselves the gospel. Historically, liberal Christianity has mistaken the gospel for social justice. Conservative Christianity has mistaken the gospel for personal morality. Both sides have drank different flavors of the same poison. Neither social justice, nor personal morality are the gospel. Both, however are both implications of the gospel at work, and should be tentacles in a gospel centered life. But, they are not the gospel themselves.

Our problem today, whether on the left or the right, is the need to embrace the gospel and then think through the profound implications of the the gospel. As, Tim Keller’s quote below goes on to say…a central problem in our lives stems from not thinking, perceiving, contemplating how the gospel reorients all of life. He writes:

“The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life. Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel–a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says, “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine. . . . Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the gospel only does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us, to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do not “get” it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or application of the gospel–seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an individual or a church”.

via A Northwoods Life

Discipline in Ministry

I am really passionate about “discipline” in ministry. To me (and I think to God), discipline (especially to children and youth) is essential to their spiritual formation. When a student is in trouble, I think their heart is ripe and fertile soil for a “teachable moment.” In other words, discipline equals discipleship.

In a ministry setting, do all the children and youth ministry volunteers have this same perspective? This blog post does a great job consolidating my thoughts:

One of the first things we share with a new volunteerin our Children’s Ministry is our philosophy on discipline in the classroom. It’s really very simple: “We believe that every child has the right to hear the Gospel uninterrupted.” What do we mean by that? Well, first of all we believe that what we are sharing and teaching is incredibly important. Second, we want every child to hear the message. That means we cannot allow one child to prevent others from receiving the message.

Each Sunday morning when I stand before our kids in our large group meeting time I share the same statement: “We have only three rules in Kid’s View and we want you to know all three rules:

Rule Number 1 – Remember why we are here. We are here to meet with others and meet with God.

Rule Number 2 – When someone on stage is speaking you are to be listening. Which means you would not be talking.

Rule Number 3 – Have Fun! If we remember Rule #1 and we practice Rule #2 we will have a great time together.”

Again, I make these same statements every Sunday as a reminder to our kids. They know them so well that they shout the last word of each statement as I say it. Our desire is for every child to hear the message and enjoy their time in Kid’s View. The three simple rules go a long way to help that goal be accomplished.

We also have the Three R’s as our steps for correction when a child does choose to misbehave:

R – Request the behavior stop.

R – Reseat the child in a different area if the behavior continues.

R – Remove the child from the classroom after the first two steps if necessary.

If a child has to be removed the parent is called to the classroom. Rarely does the third R become necessary. Our goal is for every child to hear the Gospel uninterrupted and for them to enjoy their time in Kid’s View!

via CM Buzz

Helping Children Deal with Death

Sometimes other people have said things (and organized their thoughts) better than I could do, especially regarding dealing and coping with the topic of death.

There’s no way to avoid this simple fact: death happens

And, when it does, we often struggle with how to approach talking to our kids about the subject.

Recently, in our community, a young mom passed away suddenly – leaving behind her husband and two children, a 1st and a 5th grader. In other parts of the country, recent tornadoes have devastated communities and left hundreds of families grieving the loss of loved ones. Across an ocean from us, Japan is still reeling from one of the largest earthquake/tsunami combinations many of us will see in our lifetime – with a death toll that has surpassed 10,000 lives lost.

In the midst of dealing with death, our children often approach us looking for answers. At the same time, we’re faced with the daunting task of balancing our own grief with guiding our kids through the process. Here are some thoughts that I keep in mind as I guide families tackling important questions surrounding death and mourning.

The question I’ve been asked the most in my years of ministering to families and communities who are grieving is whether or not a child should attend the funeral of someone outside of the family. When answering this question, it’s good to think about where a child is developmentally. As parents, we often project our emotions and desires on our children – for better or for worse. If one of my closest friends lost a family member, I would want to be there for that person to provide a sense of community in mourning. My four year old son, however, wouldn’t provide that same sense of community for a peer – children’s friendships are different than adult friendships and parents often lose sight of that during times of emotional crisis.

I encourage families to talk openly about the grieving process, but forcing a young child to attend a memorial service might cause more harm than good. However, if a child wants to attend a service with their parents, I see that as an opportunity for a family to share the grieving process together. I discourage families from having their younger children sit amongst peers – again, they aren’t looking to each other for support – adults are most often viewed as their protectors/comfort. Peers rarely operate in this role for young children.

The most important thing I try to tell families during the grieving process is that children need to know that they aren’t alone. Parents don’t have to have everything “figured out” in order to give children a sense of safety and comfort.

I have found the following online articles helpful in shaping my conversations with parents talking to their children about death:

One of the best articles I’ve read on natural disasters and our response as Christians was written by my Senior Pastor and friend, Jim Miller

Children’s Ministry magazine provides more than just information on the subject, they actually provide suggestions for how to talk with kids about death

iVillage gives an in depth answer to the question “Should my child attend a funeral?”

The most useful article I’ve ever read on the subject is from

If you don’t want to click through right now because you don’t have time, I encourage you to at least read their summary of how children mourn, based on age and developmental stage. (below)

Characteristics of Age Groups (to be used only as a general guide)

Infants – 2 Years Old:

  • Will sense a loss
  • Will pick up on grief of a parent or caretaker
  • May change eating, sleeping, toilet habits.

2-6 Years Old:

  • Family is center of child’s world
  • Confident family will care for her needs
  • Plays grown-ups, imitates adults.
  • Functions on a day-to-day basis.
  • No understanding of time or death
  • Cannot imagine life without mum or dad
  • Picks up on nonverbal communication.
  • Thinks dead people continue to do things (eat, drink, go to the bathroom), but only in the sky.
  • Thinks if you walk on the grave the person feels it.
  • Magical thinking
  • you wish it, it happens (bring the dead back or wishing someone was dead)
  • Death brings confusion, guilt [magically thought someone dead]
  • Tendency to connect things which are not related.

6-9 Years Old:

  • Personifies death: A person, monster who takes you away
  • Sometimes a violent thing.
  • Still has magical thinking, yet begins to see death as final, but outside the realm of the child’s realistic mind.
  • Fails to accept that death will happen to them – or to anyone (although begins to suspect that it will).
  • Fears that death is something contagious.
  • Confusion of wording [soul/sole, dead body, live soul].
  • Develops an interest in the causes of death (violence, old age, sickness).

9-12 Year Old:

  • May see death as punishment for poor behavior.
  • Develops morality – strong sense of good and bad behavior.
  • Still some magical thinking.
  • Needs reassurance that wishes do not kill.
  • Begins an interest in biological factors of death.
  • Theorizes: People die to make room for new people.
  • Asks more about “what happened”
  • Concerns about ritual, burying
  • Questions relationship changes caused by death, life changes.
  • Worries about who provides and cares for them.
  • May regress to an earlier stage
  • Interested in spiritual aspects of death.


  • Views death as inevitable, universal, irreversible.
  • Cognitive skills developed
  • Thinks like an adult
  • Questions meaning of life if it ends in death
  • Sees aging process leading to death
  • Sees self as invincible – it will not happen to me.
  • Sees death as a natural enemy
  • Need for adult guidance (grief process, coping skills).
  • Needs someone to listen; to talk with.
  • May feel guilt, anger, even some responsibility for death that occurred.
  • Not sure how to handle own emotions [public and private].

via West Coast CM

Youth Ministry: Are You Relevant?

I’m currently 33 years-old. I’m not that old, yet, But in a teenager’s world, I am OLD! And I feel it… not in a diminishing physical way, but in an ever-widening gap between me and the middle school students way.

I was in middle school (grades 6-8) from 1988-1991. There was no internet (as we know it). Most phones were still attached to the wall with long cords and long distance calls were expensive. Cassette tapes were on their way out and CDs were making their splash. Boom boxes and Sony Walkman’s were cool (no such thing as an iPod). Pants with pockets and rolled up at the bottom was in style. Tony Hawk was every skateboarder’s hero. And I could go on and on…

Today’s culture is very different, and considering… I am really OLD and out-of-touch with it.

The argument in youth ministry circles usually swirls around how much cultural relevancy does one need to have and how much biblical/scriptural relevancy does one need to have, and how the two interact.

Read this article:

Lately I’ve listened to a conversation going on in youth ministry circles on whether or not it’s valuable to be versed in youth culture . . . to be “culturally relevant.” I think this conversation is of vital importance to us as youth workers. Give me 4 minutes of your time to share my thoughts (and I welcome yours, as well).

I believe youth workers must strive to be experts in two things: Scripture and culture. Let me explain.

We know the truth of Scripture is timeless. It’s as effective today at spiritual transformation as it was hundreds and thousands of years ago.

However, culture is not timeless. Culture is fluid. It changes with time and geography. You would never attempt to reach a people group in another culture without considering that culture’s unique realities. You wouldn’t travel to rural Chongqing, China and teach the exact same lesson you would teach in Idaho Falls. While the underlying biblical truths have a universal application, the cultural “vehicle” through which your lesson is communicated would be wholly ineffective.

I believe as youth workers we should approach reaching our students with the same level of cultural awareness that we would take in approaching another people group in another culture.

Why? What are the benefits of a commitment to cultural relevancy? Glad you asked.

  • It’s Strategic
    Knowing youth culture helps you tailor your message in order to deliver Scripture’s un-changing truth in a way that is wrapped in the rhetoric of the society surrounding your students.
  • It Shows You Care
    Whenever I travel internationally, I learn some basic conversational phrases in the native language. When I need something and engage someone in their native language (however clumsily), they are much more inclined to help. It shows that I value their culture. Knowing youth culture says the same thing to your students.
  • It’s Proactive
    If you’re aware of a trend, movie, or TV show that you know you will need to respond to (such as this one), you can be proactive in engaging your students. By doing so, you have the opportunity to equip your students with a biblical response to whatever the specific issue is.
  • You Become a Resource for Parents
    I recently heard Josh McDowell say that the generation gap between parents and teenagers is wider than it has ever been . . . and parents don’t know it exists! You can become an invaluable resource for parents as they try and raise children in a culture that is pretty hostile to the ways of God’s Kingdom.

So, I’ve answered the “why.” What’s the “how”? How do we make sure we are as culturally relevant as we can be when it comes to youth culture? It’s actually pretty simple:

  • Behave Like A Teenager
    Watch the movies they watch. Read the magazines they read. Visit the websites they visit. Listen to music they listen to. By doing so you craft your cultural vocabulary. You will know the cultural factors influencing your students.
  • Engage Students in Cultural Conversation
    Titus 2:12 says that we are to “say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” You can help your students know how to say “no” to the harmful elements of culture by engaging them in conversation regarding the cultural influences in their lives.
  • Look for the bridges to God’s Word
    I believe one of your goals as a youth worker is to help your students develop a biblical worldview, to be able to see the world through the filter of Scripture. It’s vitally important to look for bridges back to Scripture as you discuss what you see in culture. By doing so, you help students rise above the negative effects of culture.

As I stated earlier, I believe all youth workers are called to be versed in culture. Want biblical evidence? Look no further than the way Paul conducted himself in Athens. Acts 17:22-23 says this:

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship.

Paul studied Athenian culture then used this knowledge to craft a Gospel message unique to his audience. It is our call as youth workers to be committed to the same level of cultural relevancy. The effectiveness of your ministry is at stake.

It’s a tricky dance. Some youth pastors strive to be “cool” and “hip” with the students. And they are… for a while. But then they get old… like me. And you either have to grow in cultural relevancy and biblical relevancy and connect the two, or you have to quit and go work at Starbucks or something else.

Here’s what I think: I don’t think teenagers care how cool or hip or cultural relevant or versed you are. They just want to know how much you care. They want relationships. They want adults who look past their quirkiness and accept them for the rapidly changing human beings they are (developmentally) and still like like them. They want relationships with adults who can converse and field questions and thoughts and be safe with them. It’s the risk to be relational that youth pastors or any adult mentor to a teenagers needs to embrace to be “relevant” with teenagers.

Trust me, being cool is fleeting and temporary. Being relevant relationally? Well that has withstood the sands of time. It seems like human beings were made for significant relationships. Interesting, eh?

Church Nursery: More Than Just Babysitting?

Almost 2 years ago, we relocated our church’s nursery to another part of our facility. In conjunction with this move came a refocusing of our programming and curricular intent. We thought it was important to use the hour the infants and toddlers are in the Nursery for intentional spiritual instruction rather than just mere childcare. We wanted the best of both worlds – fantastic, professional and high quality childcare, coupled with intentional and structured spiritual instruction. And it has worked marvelously!

One of the gems of this whole process was NOT finding the “magic” curriculum which made everything hum along and fulfill our goals; rather it was a consistent routine. We created and posted a simple and sustainable routine which has been in effect since day one. I personally have two daughters who are in the church nursery and they can tell you the routine by heart! The kids know what to expect, they know what’s next, they know what to look forward to. There are no surprises or inconsistencies other than: what is the story today? or who is going to be hanging out with us today doing the singing and the projects?

It’s been amazing to watch what has happened over the last 2 years in our nursery. Our Early Childhood Director, Linda Waystedt, has zealously implemented this strategy (which she helped to create, which greatly helps the implementation by the way!). She is to be commended for her tireless work and leadership. Speaking as a parent, it’s incredible to me that when my girls come home from church they can tell me the story that Miss Linda (or someone else) taught them that day! It makes my heart happy!

I came across an article which emphasizes intentional discipling in our church nurseries:

Too often the church nursery is thought of as “only childcare.” What if it come be something more? What if the infant and toddler ministry was a prototype for the rest of your children’s ministry? If you want to take today’s child to the place where he will be a Christ-changed, hope-filled, productive adult we must begin in the nursery.

To start, both men and women must serve in the nursery. Kids need to learn, from their first Sunday in church, that men walk with God not just women.

God has given infants a very important task – learn to trust. However, when there is a different adult in the nursery every Sunday how can the child learn to trust in relation to the Body of Christ?

A “Discipler” is intentional in building a relationship with a child and with his parents. She knows everything there is to know about this child. She visits the child in his home and has their family to her home. On Sunday morning it isn’t a stranger who greets the child it is someone the child has grown to trust.

One Sunday I was getting out of my car when two families pulled up next to me. One dad had just gotten his six month old son out of the car seat and was walking to the back of the car when the other dad walked by. The six month old lunged out of his dad’s arms and the other dad just barely caught him. That other dad was in the nursery every week with the child – they had connected.

The adults who serve with the kids are trained to get to know each child beyond name and what family she comes from.

  • Because a “Discipler” is building a relationship with the parents too he knows what the needs and wants of the child are.
  • The “Discipler” knows the hopes and dreams of mom and dad for the child.
  • The “Discipler” has thought through and written out a plan of how each child to whom he is committed will be discipled in the coming year.

Add to this the value of indirect parent training that happens when your nursery volunteers come to the Children’s Ministry trainings – not only are they learning to disciple someone else’s kids, they are learning to disciple their own kids. Parents are studying the concepts that are taught in children’s ministry because they are serving in children’s ministry so it much easier to naturally continue the discipleship at home.

This approach will minister to each child as an INDIVIDUAL and we must be INTENTIONAL in everything we do. This begins in the nursery and is carried through the entire children’s ministry.


Speaking Well of Your Spouse

I came across this insightful post the other day from Michael Hyatt. You can read it below or head on over to the post on Michael’s blog:

As a leader, the health of your marriage directly affects the impact of your leadership. I have witnessed this time and time again. Being effective at work or in ministry begins by being effective at home.

Early in our marriage, Gail and I attended a church led by a dynamic, thirty-something pastor. He was an extraordinary communicator. He was a wise and empathetic counselor. As a result, the church grew rapidly.

But as we got better acquainted with him and his wife, we started noticing a disturbing trend in the way they related to one another. They would often make disparaging remarks about the other in public.

At first, it seemed cute. Their comments seemed playful and humorous. Everyone laughed. But over time, they became more and more pointed, thinly masking their frustration with one another.

We ultimately left that church. But several years later we learned they suffered an ugly divorce, both admitting to multiple affairs. They lost their family, and, of course, their ministry. To this day, it grieves me to think about it.

Conversely, I noticed that Sam Moore, my predecessor at Thomas Nelson, always spoke highly of his wife. He would often say, “I hate to leave her in the morning, and I can’t wait to see her in the evening.” They have been married now for nearly 60 years. Last time Gail and I were with them, they were holding hands. It was obvious they were still in love.

In reflecting on these two experiences, I am convinced that praising your spouse in public is one of the most important investments you can make—in your family and in your leadership.

This is important for at least five reasons:

  1. You get more of what you affirm. Have you ever noticed that when someone praises you, you want to repeat the behavior that caused it? This is just human nature. It can be a form of manipulation if it isn’t genuine. But it can be a powerful way to motivate others when it is authentic.
  2. Affirmation shifts your attitude toward your spouse. Words are powerful tools. They can create, or they can destroy. They can build up, or they can tear down. I believe most people have a drive to align their actions—and their attitudes—with their words. If you start speaking well of someone, you start believing what you say.
  3. Affirmation helps strengthen your spouse’s best qualities. Encouragement is also a powerful force for good. All of us need positive reinforcement. This is why when we are losing weight and people notice, it gives us the strength to stick with the program. This is true in every area of life.
  4. Affirmation wards off the temptation of adultery. When others see you are happily married, they are less likely to proposition you. It’s like a hedge that protects your marriage from would-be predators. You simply stop being a target.
  5. Affirmation provides a model to those you lead. To be a truly effective leader, you must lead yourself, and then you must lead your family. Your marriage is a powerful visual of how you treat the people you value the most. When you speak highly of your spouse, your followers are more likely to trust you. It takes your leadership to another level.

Affirming your spouse in public is an investment that pays big leadership dividends. In a world where fewer and fewer marriages last, it can be a difference-maker.

Question: How have you seen this play out in the lives of those who have led you?

The Thermostat

There are two important and influential devices in every home. Whoever controls these devices wields great power and influence. They have the potential to bring great joy and excitement as well as tension and discord.

The second important and influential device in the home is the thermostat. In contrast to the remote control, no one can have the thermostat—it’s attached to the wall. Results of the thermostat being changed aren’t realized until later. Are you cold? A quick fix is to grab a blanket or put some warm socks or cozy slippers on. It’s interesting, though, just grabbing a blanket or slippers for yourself will not help anyone else in the house (who might be cold) get warm. The thermostat has the ability to warm everyone up in the home.

I live in the Upper Midwest so it’s more appropriate for me to talk about getting heat into our homes. For those of you who live in the south, it would be more appropriate to speak in terms of cooling and taking clothes off (although you can only take so many clothes off)!

By implication, whoever sets the thermostat is setting the temperature for the environment of the home. In other words, whatever the temperature is set at, the environment adjusts to the temperature of the room.

I am speaking in obvious terms, but think in relation to setting the tone of your family. What does the environment of your home feel like? Is it positive (warm) or negative (cold)? Is there tension or freedom? Do your children walk on eggshells around you (parents) or do they have the freedom to make a mistake and be gently guided to understand how NOT to make those mistakes again? Does your home exude love and laughter? Or does your home environment radiate judgment and apathy? Do your kids smile because they have something to smile about? Or do your kids mope around the house because their families don’t do many activities or play with them?

What does the spiritual environment of your home look like? Do you read your Bible and pray? Or does the word of God collect dust on a shelf and petitions to God remain unasked?

Who sets the tone of your home? Who adjusts the temperature as needed? Or does no one care about the thermostat, leaving each individual to work out their own environmental conditions?

While most of us as human beings care about the remote control (usually because it’s of more immediate concern), we should equally care about the type of environment or culture we are raising our children in. We don’t realize environmental issues until it’s too late: why does my teenager want nothing to do with me? Well, it may be the fact that they are a teenager and don’t want anything to do with adults, but perhaps it has more to do with the fact that you as a Mom or Dad (Uncle, Aunt, or even Grandparent) did not take time to develop and nurture a relationship with them when they were younger. At least make the fact that they don’t want anything to do with you not about your lack of relationship, rather your continual pursuit of an active relationship with them.

Don’t let environment issues surprise you. Adjust and care for your environment right now.

Setting the tone of your home is one way to use the thermostat principle well. Perhaps thinking in terms of a community of homes (a city, town, or suburb) or a community of faith (churches and small groups) is an appropriate application of caring for the thermostat. What does the culture of community feel like? Are people supportive and encouraging or are people individualistic and rude? Are you welcoming? Or do you slam the door in people’s faces? Do we welcome tourists in Hayward, WI because they need a break from their hectic, city-based lives? Or do we want to “shoot them because it’s tourist season”? Are we open to new people visiting our faith community? Or are we a closed group?

What is the temperature of your community? And, more importantly, who are you (as community members) letting control the temperature of your community?

Thanks to Steve DeNeff for the inspiration for these two metaphors!

The Remote Control

There are two important and influential devices in every home. Whoever controls these devices wields great power and influence. They have the potential to bring great joy and excitement as well as tension and discord.

The first device is the remote control. Oh yeah. Whoever has the remote control determines what everyone else in the house watches. Have children? Little ones? I do. They don’t like the news or what Mom and Dad want to watch. At the same time, Mom and Dad don’t want to watch Dora, Little Mermaid, or Enchanted all the time! Take your attention off of the remote and you might lose it. Go to the bathroom and when you return someone might have grabbed the power and have already succeeded in exerting their influential role as king or queen of the remote control. This device is aptly named “remote control” because whoever has it has “control” of everyone else!

If a family serves each other well and wants what each other wants, meaning they exercise the kingdom of God in their home, the allure of the power of a remote control is less about individual control, but more about mutual control. What would it look like in our home if we were not selfish rather we were selfless? What if our families (and the individuals in it) are more concerned about the interests of others rather than themselves? Homes where there is great conflict or underlying resentment is a home where power fought over and the interests of others are stepped on. If you give up control you are weak. If you care about someone other than yourself, well, yourself might never get taken care of.

It’s a wonder that the enacted vision of God’s kind of world (aka the Kingdom of Heaven/God) actually brings about a REAL humanity instead of a FALSE humanity. REAL humanity realizes love, mutual submission, selflessness, and a concern for the interests of others. FALSE humanity realizes selfishness, a hunger for power and control, and concern only for your own personal interest.

The remote control in and of itself is a neutral party. It does not choose sides. The metaphor serves to illustrate how we as human beings use things well or poorly. And often, how we use things reveals whether we care more about God’s kingdom or our own kingdom.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about the second most important device in the home…

Thanks to Steve DeNeff for the inspiration for these two metaphors!

Teenagers “Belief” in God

Generally, I have found in working with middle school students over the last 7 years that they “believe” in God, but don’t really know what that means… and to top it off, it’s generally not being reinforced at home, so the 2 hours a week they are at “church” often seems like a losing battle…

I often ask myself the question: What does God want for middle school students?

This CNN article is a worthwhile read: Author: More teens becoming ‘fake’ Christians

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

Your kid’s an All Star? Wow! Someday he’ll be average like the rest of us.

The link above does a fantastic job of talking about apathetic faith and passing that apathy down to our kids by the things we do (and don’t do).

Reality of God vs. Concept of God

The reality of God is that the heavens declare the glory of God. No matter if I believed God existed or not, the weight/glory of God exists all around us.

A concept of God is my thinking about God through my human lens, which may or may not truly reflect what the “reality of God” is. God is reduced to what I “think” about him, instead of the reality.

Now these two are not necessarily mutually exclusive from each other. If I allowed the “reality of God” to determine my “concept of God” then that seems like the right direction. However, if my “concept of God” determines my “reality of God” then I have made God in my own image instead of letting the weight/glory of God loose in my thinking.

As a chronic thinker, my tendency is to engage more of my own personal “concept of God” instead of let the disrupting “reality of God” loose on my concepts. At times I do, I think. But there you go… I’m “thinking” again!

So I’m asking myself the question: “What does it mean for the reality of God to be the concept of God in my life?”