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.

The 21 Day Financial Fast (REVIEW)

_225_350_Book.1060.coverWhere does you’re money go? Do you enter a grocery store to spend $5 and walk out having spent over $100? Do you find yourself living paycheck to pay check? Is your spending out of control? Try THE 21 DAY FINANCIAL FAST by Michelle Singletary. She challenges readers to slow down, spend money on only the necessities for 21 days and take an inventory of where your money is going. Each day of the journey she offers hope and encouragement as you look to asses your finances and bring them to order.

She is an amazingly gifted and insightful writer. I initially thought this book would just cover stuff I already knew from other courses like Dave Ramsey’s FINANCIAL PEACE (to be sure there was plenty of overlap), but was pleasantly surprised to find a different type of depth applied to money management and individual personalities. I swear she has met half of my family, or at least their financial alter-egos. When addressing the error of being overly frugal she used the illustration that taking extra condiment packets from fast food places… I was sure she had met my great-grandfather who horded stolen McDonalds catsup like it was gold.

Each day was full of good insight and was helpful at keeping up the “fast.” I applaud Michelle Singletary and her work on this book. It’s a great add to the subject of finances on my bookshelf and it is one that I highly recommend to anyone looking to get a better perspective on their relationship to money. I see it being especially helpful for engaged couples to use and discuss finances before they get married as well as young folks who have disposable income for the first time or are struggling to make ends meet.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher as part of their Reviewer 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.”

Philippians 1:22-26 (Devotional Thought)

If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:22-26 ESV)

The Apostle Paul is in pain. He’s been beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead, and mistreated by people like the jailer in Philippi more than once. For Paul, death means that he’ll get to see Jesus face to face in a good way, and to keep on living means that someone else will punch him, hurt him, and make him suffer. He has a preference. He’d rather be with Jesus.

But you don’t become an Apostle by putting your needs, your wants, your desires at the head of the line. Paul has to ask himself a serious question: What is better for the church? What is better for those people who have heard the gospel and believed because of his testimony? What is better for them?

This is what maturity looks like: It’s when you put the needs of others ahead of your own. I experienced it when I got married. I experienced it when I had children and I’ve experienced it as a leader in the local church. This is how the gospel transforms your life. You no longer live as if you are the most important thing in the universe. You live around the reality that Jesus is the most important thing in the universe and you do your best to bring other people into a right relationship with Him.

I’m a pastor and so I often hear people say things like “I’m not getting fed at my church” or in youth ministry someone younger will say that they feel like they belong with the more “mature” group. This kind of thinking isn’t mature. It’s actually babyish. Sorry to be blunt but adults don’t cry to get fed, babies do. Real maturity is looking out for the needs of those around you not abandoning people because you found a group that meets your intellectual needs. When you shift towards putting what you think your needs are at the center of everything, you’ve lost sight of what’s really important.

One of the dangers of immaturity is that we can think we know what’s best, when we really don’t. One time my son had a pair of scissors he had gotten off the table and he went crazy opening and closing them. I immediately told him to give me the scissors. He insisted that he knew what he was doing and before I could stop him he ended up cutting himself under the eye. His immaturity gave him confidence to do something that ultimately was not good for him.

Sometimes what WE need most is to put the needs of others ahead of our own and in doing so we fulfill God’s plan for US and we are used by God to minister to others.

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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?

A Story of Restoration and Hope for the American Family

978-1-4143-6394-3I read Road Trip to Redemption: A Disconnected Family, a Cross-Country Adventure, and an Amazing Journey of Healing and Grace a while back and was greatly encouraged.  The Author, Brad Matthias, shares a detailed story about his family’s breakdown and reconnection. The book chronicles a road trip that the author and his family took in search of healing.

I grew up in the general area where most of the road trip takes place (the North West US and Southern Canada) and I remember traveling to some of the same sights with my parents and grandparents. So I have to admit that part of me was longing to go on a similar trip just to re-live part of my childhood.

The real gold to the story though wasn’t the tale of the open road (though the Matthias family does encounter a few obstacles and victories along the way), but of how the family reconnected throughout the journey. I appreciated the insights shared by the all the family members in their journals and was blessed to be able to share in their journey in a small way. I don’t think this book was intended to be an instruction manual as much as an encouragement. The author is transparent in his struggle to illustrate that he hasn’t always been there for his family like he should, but even broken families can be restored and brought back together through the power of the gospel.

I really liked this book and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good non-fiction read. It’s especially good for dad’s who are looking at how to reconnect with their teenagers. It’s really not a “how to” manual, but it does provide some solid advice in the form of a story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Tyndale Blog Network. 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.”

5 Things I’d Tell my Teenage Daugher after listening to “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry

Ok before I start its only fair to say that my daughter isn’t a teenager (she’s 4) and I’m really not a fan of Katy Perry at all.  In fact I highly recommend NOT owning a single MP3, CD or whatever. But because Katy is a really talented singer who gets a lot of air time on the radio  and I work with teenagers (and I can imagine my daughter being a teenager one day), I thought I would provide a little dad like perspective.

Here are five things I’d tell my daughter after hearing “Teenage Dream” on the radio…

1. You are beautiful just the way you are and I hope you find a man who accepts you for you… “without your make up on.”

You need to know that you are beautiful.  Anybody can see that you don’t really need make-up… but I can understand you wearing it to make the other girls feel more confident about themselves.  You are beautiful not only in appearance but in ways that really matter beyond how you fix your hair.

By the way there is nothing wrong with being beautiful.  Your mom is the most beautiful woman I know. But just like your mom, your beauty goes beyond your appearance.  Your real beauty shines when you are selfless and giving to others (I Timothy 2:9-10, I Peter 3:4).

Something you should know about guys your age is that some of them can talk a good game. Sometimes guys will say something like “your beautiful,” but they don’t always mean beautiful like a flower (that should be protected and put on display)… they mean beautiful like a good cut of meat (that should be cooked and eaten).  My prayer is that God brings you a man who will appreciate your true beauty.

2. Sex is good and you will want to “go all the way.”  But just because he seems like the right guy now, doesn’t mean that he is the right guy or that it is the right time.  Wait for marriage.

God made men and women sexual beings. Adam said of Eve (before the fall), “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Being a woman is part of who you are and as a young woman it is only natural that you would have sexual desires. The key is not to ignore this fact, but to manage these new desires in a way that glorifies God. As a young woman who most likely won’t be married for several more years it is important to guard your purity and have control of your body.

Many guys are living life in transition and are mistaken in their feelings or they carry sinister motives and are trying to manipulate you. A young man worth your time will guard his words and will not lead you on.  The woman pursued by Solomon in Song of Songs offers some wise advice here.  She says, “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Songs 2:7).  Real love is patient and is evident in a young man’s actions long before it appears in his words.

3. Sex is not love.  Inside of marriage it is an expression of love, but outside of marriage its an expression of impatience.

Adam speaks so gently about Eve his wife when he meets here for the first time. The first poem we have recorded is when Adam speaks to Eve and says, “She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23).
Marriage is the right place to enjoy the pleasures of sex to the glory of God and without shame. Sex in marriage can fuel intimacy, but sex outside of marriage will fuel frustration.  At this point, after Adam says man shall leave his parents house for his “wife,” the Bible records, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).

4. Every Sexual sin is a sin against your body and you will carry scars for you your whole life.

Paul writes in the New Testament to, “Flee Sexual Immorality. Every other sin a person commits outside the body, but the sexual immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). We can do lots of things that will damage our body, but nothing is as personal as sex. When we engage in sexual acts outside of marriage they have a way of robbing us. Even if they are asexual acts (sexual acts that don’t involve physical contact with another person like viewing pornography, masturbation, etc…). We are to flee from even the temptation of these things. Sex was created as a means of intimacy inside of marriage, outside of marriage it tends to destroy. What was fun for a season causes people to become bitter, calloused, and hurt.

5. If you have ever crossed lines sexually (by or against your own will) please know that I love you and you can always come home.

When you were little I used to protect you from things that would hurt you.  Sometimes I even had to make you angry in order to protect you from things you thought you could handle.  Like when you 3 and  wanted to use the meat cleaver to cut vegetables… You totally thought I didn’t get you or appreciate that you were just wanting to help.  I knew you had the best of intentions, but I also knew that you were not ready… yet.

I knew that there would come a day when you would be fully able to chop vegetables on your own.  My long term goal wasn’t to keep you from chopping vegetables, but to prepare you for it. If you had defied me and chosen to cut vegetables with a sharp knife you most likely would have cut yourself.  If you had cut yourself I would have run to your rescue, held you tight in my arms and done my best to stop the damage.

In many ways as your dad I have set out to protect you.  I have given you really unpopular rules not to keep you from an awesome relationship with a guy, but to prepare you for one.  If you find that you have stepped beyond the rules or were forced beyond, and find yourself hurt… please know that as your dad my response will be to run to your rescue, hold you tight in my arms and to do my best to stop the damage.

This isn’t a get out of jail free card or an excuse to try somethings out.  This is an honest plea from your dad to know that this conversation is not about sex, its about you.  Katy Perry has an awesome voice, but the lyrics of her songs promise more than they can afford.  When it comes to relationship advice, please listen to the old man who taught you how to read, tie your shoes, took you out for pancakes every Friday of your life and is still married to your mother… not Katy Perry.

Review: Plan B by Pete Wilson

I am praying for Pete Wilson and his church today as they face the clean up efforts around their city of Nashville.  Pete commented on his blog (www.withoutwax.tv) that it was quite ironic that his book, Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would? would come out the day after one of the worst natural disasters his city has ever seen. I see it as providential timing.

True to its title the book is about moving on and trusting God when we are caught off guard by the circumstances of life.  Pete has a personal and engaging style in writing.  He draws the reader in with his personal stories of setbacks, heartache, and seeming failure. Then in the midst of the story he applies the healing balm of God’s word most often by examining the life of a Bible character.

I really liked the book and appreciated the author’s engaging and transparent writing style.  I had minor disagreements with a few statements on a theological level, but the statements weren’t made as theological observations as much as running commentary on life events and were easily dismissed.  I think the book is a great read and a timely for what many people are facing in Nashville and other places today.

We are continuing to keep Nashville in our prayers.  If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Plan B, the retail price is $14.99 (Paperback), and is available at places like Amazon.com for $10.19I gave it four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 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.”