Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (A simple review of the book “ReSet”)

Do you find yourself burning out? Is Monday one of the most dreaded days of the week? Are you tired all the time? Are you short-tempered with the people closest to you? Do you find yourself stressed and anxious all the time? Are you drinking too much coffee, just to get through the day?  Those are just some of the questions that David Murray asks in his latest book, “ReSet: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture.”

reset bookDavid does a phenomenal job of writing specifically to Christian pastors about the need to rest and have a take a God-ordained Sabbath. Often, we find that those who preach well about taking a Sabbath break are it’s biggest violators. By outlining the different ways that burnout shows up and how it effects our families and our ministries, David helps the reader to understand that we weren’t designed to do ministry 24/7. Even the most gifted pastor is required to take a break. Mr. Murray even accuses pastors of not trusting in the provision of God and perhaps thinking we are more necessary than we are. By accepting our limits, we are accepting his grace and can be empowered to more effective ministry. 

Reset is full of relevant information about how to disconnect and recharge in a ministry setting. The author has gone out of his way to bring relevant resources and practices to the table and write not only a convicting book, but one with a clear path forward for working the Sabbath day back into the busy routine of being a pastor. 

As one that tends to burn the candle at both ends, I am very thankful for David’s book and the reminder and practical guidelines on how to “ReSet.” I’m not all there yet, but because of David’s faithfulness to write this book, I’m making strides and growing in my ability to reclaim the Sabbath rest in my life. I appreciate David and his pastoral heart as he writes from both experience and conviction to men in the ministry.

This is a great book for anyone in the ministry and a good reminder that those of us who are leaders in the church that it is good for our congregation and good for our soul to take a break and live in the power of grace.

It is not what you say, but what you do that matters (Nehemiah 4: 6)

It is not what you say, but what you do that matters (Nehemiah 4: 6)

We just recently saw the 2016 summer Olympics. One of my favorite moments of the Olympics was when South African Swimmer Chad Le Clos’ taunted Michael Phelps. If you don’t know Michael Phelps has won lots of gold medals in swimming over the last several Olympics, he is the man to beat in the pool. It wasn’t just Le Clos’ shadow boxing in front of Phelps that brought a spark to the event it was some of the things he had said before everyone even got to Rio that made this an interesting rivalry. Le Clos’ was out to take down Phelps and his strategy involved trash talking and taunting.

What was really interesting was Phelps response. He just stared. It was a mean stare, no doubt, but it was just a stare. He didn’t say anything back. He didn’t engage in the trash talk. When it was his turn he just got in the pool and beat everyone to win another gold medal. You see Phelps knew something; you can talk all you want, but it’s what you actually do that matters.

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Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:4-6 ESV)

Nehemiah does something similar here. He has heard the trash talk from Sanballat and Tobiah. He has prayed to God. He knows he is on the right path. There is no reason to respond with words. The only reaction is with action. He, along with all the people of Jerusalem went right on rebuilding the wall. They didn’t have time to stop.  Shouting back wouldn’t have accomplished anything.

There will be those who come along who will attempt to discourage you from doing the Lord’s work. They will tell you all the ways you are doing it wrong and why it can’t be done. They are experts at trash talking. They will attempt to cause you to fear what they might do, using intimidation as a tactic. Remember though that when it comes to doing the Lord’s work that He will defend His name, we only need to put one foot in front of the other and keep on carrying out the mission.

After the two swimmers got in the pool and the race began someone’s camera caught a picture of the pair near the end. Phelps was winning and he was facing forward looking towards the finish wall. De Clos’ was behind looking across the lane watching Phelps win.

For me the pictures serves as a sober reminder that if Lord has given you something to do, do it with all your might and don’t waste time trash talking or trying to figure out what someone else is doing.

Why I Stopped Ignoring the Lord’s Prayer and Started Using it to Disciple My Kids

I need to confess something. I used to have an antagonistic spirit toward the Model Prayer (or the Lord’s Prayer) as many call it. I knew it was in the scripture, but I felt like it was something that was foreign to me. I went to a Christian school from fourth through seventh grade and I’m sure that maybe I learned it there. It wasn’t something we recited in the home, it wasn’t something we recited at church, and I’m pretty sure the only reason I memorized it was because it was part of my school work.

So it sat dormant in the back of my mind. I think I also had a prejudice against it because I felt like the words became hollow when everyone said them in unison. I wondered if God would even hear the prayers of those who repeated these words. I mistakenly thought prayer was a one sided communication. I was supposed to just tell God what I needed and he was supposed to provide. I didn’t realize that prayer was one of the key ways that God changes our hearts.

Everything changed for me when I had kids. I wanted my kids to know God the way that I know God. My life was radically changed when I was about twenty-five years old and I haven’t quite gotten over it. I knew that the model prayer must be important. Who better to teach my kids how to pray than Jesus, right? At this point I thought I had it all figured out. I was praying my way for a while. I never thought to go back and look at what the Scripture says about prayer. I never thought to go back to this prayer that I had memorized. I never thought that this was anything more than a tool to use with my kids.

So I started teaching Miss R, my oldest, when she was about three. And Mr.N, my youngest, learned to say it as soon as he could talk. In fact we have a video of Mr.N saying the Model Prayer when he is about two years old. He’s recited it nearly 1000 times in his little lifetime now.

Not long into the journey something happened. I forget the spark that caused it all, but one day one of my kids was struggling with bitterness and I said, “Remember how Jesus teaches us to forgive in the model prayer,” and I shared the story of the unmerciful servant. Then one of my kids were concerned for someone and I said, “Remember how Jesus teaches us to ask God for our daily bread.” Then one day one of my kids was struggling with an injustice in their world, and we saw that the Lord’s prayer teaches us to ask for Jesus’ kingdom to come.” Then one day my daughter is consumed with her sin and as I pass by her door at night I hear her praying, “Dear Jesus will you forgive me for my sin just like I ask in the Lord’s prayer?”

I began to meditate deeply on the Lord’s Prayer, going over it again and again in my mind. Thinking through the implications and tangents to other scripture passages and I was amazed to realize that there was a lot more to the Lord’s Prayer than I had thought. I was the one guilty of repeating things without thinking, but with sincere meditation this has become I guide for me in how I pray.

One of the ways that the Lord’s Prayer effects us is it acts like a tuner. I have a guitar. I don’t play much but someone gave me a guitar… and a tuner. The tuner is helpful because the guitar is very prone to getting out of tune. You put the tuner on the end, play a note and then adjust accordingly. It works great when I use it. This prayer is like that. Our lives get out of tune. We begin to lose focus. We think life is really all about this thing or that thing and somehow we miss God in the mix. This prayer teaches us how to adjust our attention, our focus. Is your life filled with anxiety? Go to God in prayer like Jesus teaches us to and you will find peace in the midst of a troubled night. It tunes our hearts. It checks our actions. It exposes our secret motives. Most of all it focuses us on the supreme value of Knowing God.

Join me as I dig into the Model Prayer over the next few weeks. I’ll be sharing brief exposition with practical application. I won’t be blogging every day on this topic, but will be blogging frequently. Check back often to get the latest.

Let your kids choose not to go to church today and they’ll choose not to go when they are adults

My dad was a pastor, so I got an inside perspective on church growing up. I did everything from help fold the bulletins to taking up the offering. Occasionally through my preteen and teen years there were those moments where for whatever reason… I did not want to go to church.

Now here is where it gets a little touchy because I had friends whose parents gave them the choice about attending church. (ironically they still HAD to do a lot of things like wear a shirt to the dinner table, do their homework, their chores, and visit with great-grandma).  I thought for sure that the only reason I HAD to attend church was because my dad “worked” there. I mean there must be a reason that my friends parents were lax on the whole church deal but strict on stuff like Algebra.

Then my dad got fired… ahem, I mean resigned from the church he was serving. I thought for sure we’d take a Sunday off or something, but the very next week we were in church (a different church, but a church none-the-less). I tried to get out of going (in hind sight I can’t imagine how difficult this must have been for my dad) but he insisted and we went. I learned in a very real way that church attendance was important, not because my dad was a pastor, but because that is where we gathered with the people of God for the worship of God.

Then there came that first Sunday I was away at college. I had the opportunity for the first time in my life to ditch church, but at 18 years old I got out of bed early, got ready and walked into a church in time for Sunday School and I’ve only missed a handful of Sundays since. You see when my dad made me go to church when I didn’t want to, I learned something… Church is important. It was more important than hunting, fishing, sports, and especially more important than sleeping in.

My friends also learned something from their parents about church… Church wasn’t important. Much to the agony of their parents many of my friends, whose parents let them stay home, have continued to stay home from church. They went to college and didn’t attend church. Now they’re having kids and some are coming back but others aren’t.

I’m sure my friends’ parents meant well. They were probably afraid that they would burn their kids out on church. Maybe the pastor made that awful “I had a drug problem… my parents drug me to church” joke one too many times. Or maybe it’s because deciding to follow Jesus is a ‘personal decision’ we don’t want to “pressure” our kids, that we as parents can make the mistake of backing away from training our kids in spiritually right and helpful behaviors. We wouldn’t think twice about making our kids do their homework or clean their room. But somehow we let church attendance be the one place where we let them decide for themselves? Does this not actually send the unintended message… church is not important and you can blow it off for sleep?

I get it…. We faced a similar issue when we started family prayer time and my kids didn’t want to pray. Should I tell my kid they “have to” pray? I don’t want them to hate prayer… But then I realized that I’m responsible for training my kids and they will follow my example no matter what I do. So it’s probably better to err on the side of “repeat the Lords Prayer with me then” than it is to say, “you don’t have to pray.” At the very least they will know that prayer is important to their father. God has blessed our family prayer time. He’s used the Lord’s Prayer in numerous ways to instruct my children and bring both of them to conviction and repentance. I look back and wonder the shape their hearts would be in if we had not hunkered down and said, “This is too important to skip.”

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Family Devotional: It’s More About Rhythm than Time.

I’m so thankful for my parents and their commitment to the Lord. So much of what I have to share here is because of their testimony in my life. I had great models of family devotional time to build on and improve. I realize that not everyone grew up in a Christian home or Christ may have not been emphasized at home the same way he was at my house and so I want to give you a glimpse at what we do so you can have a model to build on and improve with your family. You may have some other great helps, practical suggestions, resources and/ or ideas, if so, please share with us in the comment section below.

It’s more about rhythm than time.

Leading your family is more about finding a natural rhythm in your schedule than setting up a specific time or meeting for a specific time. For our family the rhythm looks something like this on a weekday.

6AM – I have my own study time. Through the years I’ve done various things but I keep coming back to The MacArthur Daily Bible: Read through the Bible in one year.

6:20ish – I’ll have breakfast with my 8-year-old and I will do a devotional together before school. Right now we’re working on a devotional that I wrote for our students but mostly we use Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God. I’ll read from the book and she reads the scripture portion each day.

Around 7:30ish – I’ll have coffee and read a story from The Jesus Storybook Bible to my 4-year-old before he heads off to 4k.

Evenings when I’m home before bedtime (Roughly 3 nights a week) we’ll have a prayer time around 7:30ish (our goal is to get them in bed by 8PM). Right now we’re praying for a particular UUPG and we made a cube that has pictures and writing based on Romans 10:13-14. One of the kids will roll the cube and it will help guide us in how to pray for our UUPG that night. We pray from youngest to oldest (with dad always going last). We pray simple, but heartfelt prayers. After everyone has prayed we say the Lord’s prayer together and then we play a game with the ten commandments where a family member will name a commandment and call on someone else to say the next commandment, etc. then we’ll go over a series of verses that the kids have memorized (the Roman’s Road, Proverbs 3:5-6, Matthew 6:33, etc.). The whole things lasts about 15-20 minutes from start to finish.

The real value is that each of these moments provide a great reference point for further conversation. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked about forgiveness based on the Lord’s prayer or sin based on the 10 commandments. There are also times were we have great gospel centered conversations based on a story we’ve read or a devotional. Then there are times where I will share about what I’ve read in my own time in the word and how it applies to something that one of the kids mentioned.

If you are looking to lead your family and aren’t doing any yet don’t try and start everything at once. Pick one habit that you think will fit or work in your routine and make it work for you. For example you may have to clock in at 5AM and so their is no way you could possibly read with your kids before school. Maybe you could record a video (using your ipad or phone) and have it ready for them to watch while they are at breakfast. Or maybe you have to be out of state/ country for your job. Challenge your children to memorize a scripture passage with you (Like the 10 commandments or the Lord’s Prayer) and make it part of the phone call when you are able to call home.

What are some other great ways to engage your kids with the scripture on a regular basis?

The Modern Day Pharisee

Someone I once respected as a Christian leader told me that he didn’t read his Bible every day. I was amazed. He said that for him it had become something to do, just checking off another box. I heard him speak and ridicule people who just “check the box” on reading their Bibles

I guess it made sense at the time. I was impressionable. So I too started to NOT read my Bible when I didn’t feel like it and I checked another boxthe box of being so spiritual that I would not allow myself to fall into the kind of legalism. I thought I had reached a whole new plain of Christianity, one that had all the buzzwords like “authentic.” I started to revel in my failures so people would know that I wasn’t perfect. I was… authentic. I wore my flaws with pride and flaunted the fact that I didn’t read the Bible every day, or really much at all anymore. I didn’t need to. I was… spiritual.

I became so jaded that I soon could sense the hypocrisy in everyone around me. People would say that they were praying for someone, but I knew in my heart that they were not sincere. I had developed the gift of sensing the hypocrisy of others. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite so I stopped praying for people or I would pray with them once on the spot and completely forget about them later. I was becoming so spiritual.

Then it happened. I read the Bible again one day and then the next. I realized that I wasn’t spiritual at all. My frustration with church and the hypocrisy around me was a projection of my own dry and barren soul on those around me. I had never really seen my brothers and sisters in Christ for who they were because I was so busy judging myself in them.

When I began reading the Bible again it was like a deep and refreshing drink of cold water on parched lips. It hurt, but it felt so good. It was what I needed. I had been without for so long. I had almost forgotten how life transformational the gospel really is. I had been living in a self-imposed dessert for too long.

And so now I check the box on reading the Bible every day, not because I am a legalist or a Pharisee. No, I did that quite well without reading the scripture. I go to the well of God’s word everyday now because I know how thirsty I really am and how much I need to hear from Him (even if I don’t feel like it). I’m convinced once again that “holiness” though it isn’t a buzz word is what God has called me to and I’m not as proud as I used to be of being “authentic” with my flaws.

Oh, I’m still flawed. But now I would rather boast in Christ through my failure than boast in my failure. It’s different now that I’m a recovering from being a Pharisee. I wish I never believed the lie that it was somehow spiritual to not use one of the very tools God has given us to grow. Sometimes the most dangerous lies to believe are the ones that Satan puts in the mouths of Christian leaders.

7 Keys to A Better Sunday Morning Family Worship Experience

So, we’ve all been there. That long and awkward drive to church where you have been fighting with the kids all morning, feeling rushed. Because of the rushed feeling tensions are high between you and your spouse. Your kid asks a simple and innocent enough question and you lash out something like, “Just Be Quiet! We are on our way to church!

Perhaps you feel like a hypocrite as soon as you say it, or maybe you just chalk it up to Satan trying to foil your Sunday morning experience. Either way you feel guilty. But as soon as you pull in the parking lot you feel compelled to put on a smile and pretend everything is all right. Now you really do feel like a hypocrite. They are singing “Enter the Gates with Thanksgiving in your Heart” but right now you feel resentment toward your spouse, toward your kids, and perhaps you even project your own insecurities on some of the cheery looking people around you as you call them a hypocrite under your breath.

But let’s rewind the scenario and see what might have caused this terrible start to a Sunday Morning Worship experience. The night before you stayed up later than usual to catch up on SNL. You hit the snooze buttons a few times to catch up on sleep and before you know it you are running late. All of the sudden realize that you washed everything but what you were hoping to wear today (or it’s still at the cleaners), so you scramble to put some other outfit together. The kids are up and asking about something to eat, you are trying to iron a shirt that you think might be a tad too small and your spouse just hopped in the shower which means you will have to wait for them before you can hop in.

But is there a better way? I propose there is. What if we prepared for Sunday on Saturday?  Here are a few tips for preparing Saturday night for a good experience on Sunday.

  • Give the kids a bath the night before.
  • Go to bed early or at least on time.
  • Lay out your clothes for the next day (as well as for the kids).
  • Discuss a shower schedule with your spouse.
  • Have a brief time of prayer with your family asking God to make the next Sunday Special, Pray for your pastor, worship leader, life group leaders, etc.
  • Plan a light breakfast with protein in it.
  • Set your alarm and plan to wake up on time

Soon you will find that not everyone at church with a cheery face is faking it. A good Sunday morning experience begins with a little Saturday night preparation. What other tips can you offer to help make for a good Sunday morning experience?

Sex, Tatoos and Resurection (A Theology of the Body)

I was challenged and inspired by my pastor’s sermon last year. While dealing with the issues of the heart he also took time to address body posture in worship.  We often as Western thinkers have a tendency to set up a false dichotomy between body and soul. (As if our soul were just a mere part of us or though our body were just an extension of who we really are.)

We tend to gloss over the way scripture speaks of the body opting instead to think of our bodies as “earth suits” instead of an indivisible aspect of who we are. However, from Genesis to Revelation we are reminded that we are very much physical beings with bodies that interact in a physical world. We are made from the dust as physical beings and that will forever impact how we interact. And “forever” is not an exageration. The gospel demands a physical body. Jesus was born of a virgin, crucified for our sins, buried, raised from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of the father making intercession for us.  We believe in a bodily resurrection.  Disembodied souls aren’t a Christian notion.

Our bodies were given us to enjoy and celebrate God’s creation. That’s why we get to enjoy eating apples and the gift of sex inside of marriage. Our bodies were given to us to worship God… Posturing our bodies in worship is a natural expression of who we are and who we were made to be.   Indeed without posturing ourselves to God we can miss the full benefits of corporate or private worship. Before you get upset, please understand that kneeling has been understood as a right response to God for ages and so has raising your hands. It’s not a new thing, it’s actually a very old thing.

I think we miss intimacy with God when we fail to worship him fully with our bodies. But that is so much more than just raising your hands to your favorite Christian anthem. Worship with your body also involves discipline like making sure you’re well rested on Saturday night before Sunday’s service. It means withholding food for short periods of time as a fast to submit my will to God. It involves the taste and sensory experience of the bread and wine for the Lord’s supper.

Listed below are a few resources that have helped develop my  theology of the body.

101 Books in a Year

A couple of years ago I set out on an ambitious adventure to read 100 books in one year. I exceeded my page goal but came up about 18 books shy by the dead-line. At the time I was finishing up my master’s degree. This year I am unencumbered by school work (I’m not writing papers) and I wanted to challenge myself to again read 100 books in a year.

101 Books? You may be thinking, “Hey the title says 101 books?” I know. In addition to reading 100 regular books I want to continue my tradition of reading the Bible all the way through at least once this year. (The Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, but for my purposes here I’ll count it as one). At the bottom of my book list I’ll keep a tab of the 66 books of the Bible and how many times I’ve read each book since the start date (some shorter books I’ll have read dozens of times before the end of the year… For example I read the book of James about 46 times this summer). This is the first time I’ve measured my scripture reading against my other reading.

What kind of books? I’ll be reading all sorts of books according to my interests. I’ve decided this year to limit my fiction intake and make an intentional shift to read more science, nature, history, business, and economics books in addition to a heavy lean towards theology.

Why November? Obviously starting in November may seem a bit out of the norm, but in analyzing my reading patterns I came to realize that I read more when the daylight hours are shorter. I hope to pass the 50 book mark in March and provide myself with a comfortable lead going into summer.

Why Blog about it? I wanted to blog about it for two reasons. One, for accountability. I want others to know my goals and feel some pressure to meet them. The second reason is to provide a forum for interaction. I’m hoping you’ll provide me with solid leads on good books, encouragement and a challenge (I know some of you read incredibly more than 100 books a year).

What have you read so far? I’ll be keeping a list of books I’m reading, have read, and the scripture I’ve read on the page marked 101 books (current). I’ll be updating it weekly. Feel free to provide your comments and recommendations. I’m looking forward to the journey.

Our Favorite Sins by Todd Hunter (A Review)

Have you ever wrestled with a sin issue? You knew that you had to change, but change seemed impossible. Or maybe you’ve been attending a bible study or even church service and while you feel educated at the end of the event you know somehow that transformation doesn’t just come with education. Something more needs to happen.  Then this book is for you.

In his book, Our Favorite Sins, Todd Hunter undertakes the topic of fighting sin and does it in an ancient, yet relevant way. I think he is on to something. Many of us in the mainline protestant churches have been quick to dismiss many of the traditional church seasons and disciplines simply because we’ve considered them to be the “Catholic” thing, without giving much thought to the actual benefits of say fasting or praying the hours.  It’s a great book and well worth a read and I think it will help anyone who is seriously interested in dealing with the sin in their lives.

I really enjoyed reading Our Favorite Sins. I had the pleasure of reading it on my Kindle Touch and found myself unable to put it down.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in growing in a relationship with Christ.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”