Archives For Holidays

Easter Monday

April 1, 2013 — 1 Comment
Easter Monday

Easter Monday

Easter Monday is the true test of our faith.

Easter Sunday is easy. All we have to do is get the kids out of bed, get spiffed up, act nice for a couple of hours, and eat a big meal. Ok, maybe it’s not easy. But it’s a lot easier than living out a “new and living way” on a cold Monday morning.

Once the joy of celebration passes, we’re launched back into the day-to-day grind of life. The spiritual high of gathering with others to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus quickly fades. Monday hits hard. We’re confronted with all of the dreary realities of life. We don’t feel so “new.”

Questions turn into doubts as we walk away from worship services and into the week.

  • How do we live out new life in Christ on Easter Monday?
  • Shouldn’t I be feeling different if I’ve been made new in Christ?
  • Is what I experienced yesterday real if I can’t live it out today?

All good questions.

If you had an incredible day of worship and celebration yesterday, that’s great!

Here’s how to live out new life in Christ daily.

Keep Walking.

Faith in Christ is not a sprint, it’s a long journey. There is no character in the Bible who walked around from one happy experience to the next, never experiencing frustration and failure. It’s just not realistic.

God gives us spiritual “mountaintop” experiences so that we can gain clear vision. He allows us to enter into His presence in worship, in community, in serving Him in ways that blow us away. But that’s not where we live every hour. We are given these experiences to clarify our vision and strengthen our faith. We remember them as we walk down from the mountaintop and into the valley.

I once heard a wise man say,

“We can see the clearest on the mountaintop, but all the fruit grows in the valley.”

Easter Monday offers a chance for us to walk with Christ into the mundane parts of every day life. If you do, He will infuse your day-to-day with new life.

Put Feelings in the Back Seat

I love it when my feelings reflect my faith.

But let’s face it, our feelings should not be running us. We should be running them. If our feelings are in the driver’s seat, then our faith is following them. We need to switch the order.

God is God whether the sun is shining of the rain is pouring down. If I only follow Him on sunny days, I’m going to shipwreck my faith and my life.

Scroll through these Biblical examples:

  • Would the Jews have been freed if Moses only obeyed God when he wasn’t afraid?
  • Would Jesus have gone to the cross if He only submitted to the Father when He felt like it?
  • Would the Gospel have been spread by Paul if he quit every time he was beaten?

Maybe it’s time for you to grow up spiritually and start living in newness of life whether or not you feel like it.

Live Out New Life one Moment at a Time

This is a process. Yes, you have been made brand new. Completely.

But now you enter into, or continue, the process of discipleship. Consider Jesus’ 12 closest followers. For three years they followed him, observing and participating in his ministry. Miracles. Teaching. They had a front row seat. What happened at the end of these three years? Crisis came and they scattered. One of them betrayed him. Another denied him. They all fled.

That doesn’t have to be you. You’re way ahead of those 12 guys. Why? If you are in Christ, then you have the Holy Spirit!

So now you can move forward confidently. Take it one moment, one decision at a time. If you resolve to honor God with every move you make, you will find yourself moving in a godly direction over time. The supernatural power of new life in Christ will be fleshed out in your day to day reality.

  • Your Monday through Friday will be made new.
  • Your relationships will be made new.
  • Your work will be made new.

It’s yours for the taking. Decide right now that you’re going to walk in the power of the resurrection moment by moment. Easter Monday is your opportunity to test-drive the promise of new life in Christ.


More Encouragement:

  1. How to Have a Miserable Monday

  2. Running on Empty?

  3. Work is (not) a Four-Letter Word

groundhog day 2One month ago we were all pumped about our New Year’s Resolutions. If this year is anything like last year, a lot of us have fallen short of our goals already.

  • We hit the gym hard for the first week. Then we got sore, got a cold, and now we’ve trailed off.
  • We started a Bible reading plan. Then we had a short night of sleep and didn’t get to it one day. Then the next…
  • We picked a goal that was so nebulous that we can’t really tell if we’re winning or losing.

We’ve been all there. Good intentions meet reality. It’s disappointing when it happens once. When it happens over and over, the cycle really takes a toll on us. We start to get discouraged, even depressed, feeling like we’re stuck in a rut.

It’s been 20 years since Bill Murray starred opposite Andie MacDowell in “Groundhog Day

Just in case you’ve never seen it:

That movie is pretty stinkin’ funny. That is, of course, unless you’re living it.

  • Do feel like you’re stuck in a rut of making commitments for growth, then breaking them?
  • Do you need to “Reload” your New Year’s Resolution?
  • Do you need a shot of inspiration to keep you going through these tough last weeks of winter?

God gave us a great guide to pursuing goals. Paul wrote:

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3;13-14)

  • Maybe you need a better goal.

Are your goals challenging and worthwhile? These are the two components that move us forward.


Challenging – It’s not too easy. I’d say, “Reading a book” is a lame goal for 2013.


Worthwhile – Is your goal going to substantially change your life in a positive way?


Put your goal(s) through this filter before you move on. Once you’re sure they meet these criteria, please realize:

  • You will never “arrive”.

You are a work in progress. You will never arrive at a point in your growth, especially as a Christian, when you say, “Yep. I’m here. I’ve got this thing aced.” It just doesn’t happen like that. That’s why Paul said,

 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal…”

Even toward the end of his life this giant of the faith considered himself a beginner. That’s the same attitude we should take. What Paul had learned through a lifetime of learning lessons from God was this: “I’m not there yet.”

Could that be part of your problem? Do you keep expecting that each new resolution, each new commitment for growth to come with a near-instant sense of mastery?

My experience is that each new step of growth completely knocks me off balance. Each time I take a step of faith God challenges me with a whole new set of uncertainties. If I think I can follow Him and grow in Him without routine destabilization, I’m definitely ignoring virtually every example Scripture provides.

However, just because Paul humbly considered himself a lifelong learner doesn’t mean he just gave up. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“…but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

Has Christ Jesus taken hold of you?

If not, He will. All you have to do is enter into relationship with Him. It’s simple. Just ask Him to come live inside of you. Tell him you want to change the direction of your life and live in a brand new relationship with God through Him. He died to pay for your sins and was raised to give you a new life in Him. This can be your new reality with one prayer.

If Christ has taken hold of you, then it’s time to reset your direction and push forward.

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,

Yesterday is gone. You’re not getting it back. Stop feeling bad and beating yourself up about your failures. That is the best way to stay stuck. Let it go. It’s time to lean forward.

Tomorrow is coming. But it’s not here yet. What will tomorrow look like? You’ll find out tomorrow.

Today is your opportunity to make a move. Take action now. The time to get un-stuck is now. Choose your goal and aim your life at it. Focus yourself toward the finish line like an athlete who is in training to run the race. Shape your life around the training process so that when you step onto the field, you’ll be ready to compete and win. Life steamrolls the lazy. Take action now.

14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Paul met every kind of challenge you could imagine as he pursued God’s will for his life and growth. Rejection, isolation, beatings, shipwreck and hunger are just a few of the “highlights”. However, there was something so compelling about his new relationship with God that caused him to continue to “press on toward the goal”.

Why would any sane person continue to pursue this “goal” when so much pain was involved in the process?

Why does any champion endure all kinds of pain in training?

  • The Results are worth it.

Ask the Super Bowl champions, “Was this ring really worth the thousands of hours of pain you’ve endured since you were a kid?” I can guarantee the answer with 100% certainty.

You may not be a professional athlete, but your life matters. Don’t tank. Start living your life with the sense of urgency and intense focus that Paul did. Forget what is behind. Focus on what’s ahead. Press on toward the goal. If Christ has taken hold of you, not even death itself can stop you.

For More Help:

  1. Stuck? 5 Steps to Get 4×4 Traction for Your Life!

  2. Contentment? I Hate It

  3. Feel Like a Failure? Here’s 5 Helps

  4. 63 Seconds of Unstoppable Motivation


Freedom is Fragile

January 21, 2013 — 1 Comment


It’s easy to forget that just a few decades ago men and women in America had to endure persecution just to say, “Every man, woman and child should have basic human rights.” It’s mind-boggling to think that, just because of a person’s skin color, many used to be treated as second-class citizens.

Every free person should be reminded that the freedoms we take for granted aren’t necessarily guaranteed. In fact, if you take a brief glance at the history of the world you quickly realize that the free societies we live in today are the exception rather than the rule.

Please take 2 1/2 minutes and watch this excerpt of Dr. King’s speech.

Now consider this:

  • This was his final speech. He was assassinated the next day.
  • Fortunately, his words about equality came true. Thanks in large part to Dr. King and his fellow workers, America turned a corner in the battle of equal rights.

His words eerily haunt my mind and soul each time I listen to them. I am sure he sensed the looming danger all around him. Death threats were real and persistent. This man had a family that he didn’t want to leave behind. So what kept him going? Our only conclusion could be that he valued freedom and equality more than he valued his own life. Wow.

My question is this:

  • What do you believe in so deeply that you would give your life for it?

An even better question is:

  • What is worth living a life of sacrifice for?
Don't Tank Christmas

Don’t Tank Christmas

People tank Christmas all the time.

It’s supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”. Family, friends, and the birth of a Savior.

But for too many, this season induces stress. Instead of a great sense of anticipation, some are filled with a sense of dread.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

How people tank Christmas:

     1) They run a race rather instead of enjoying the ride.

There’s nothing like a harried frenzy of activity to suck the life out of a joyful season.

Marketers, never satisfied, start cramming gifts down our throats way before Halloween now. For them, not even Thanksgiving is sacred any longer. I thought Black Friday was bad enough. Now Thanksgiving, what used to be one of the few family days of the year, is being invaded by consumerism. We used to be much more adept at slowing down and appreciating the meaning behind what was happening. Don’t buy into the hype.

     2) They don’t prepare to love their family.

You’re thinking, “Prepare to love? That sounds weird.” It’s not.

Let’s face it. At Christmas there’s a high probability you’re going to see people you haven’t seen much all year. The potential for tension and conflict is high. Stumble into the season without any plan, and you’ll get what you’ve always got.

     3) They make it about stuff instead of the Savior.

Gifts are great. But they only supply a temporary thrill. Focusing on gift-giving as the sole focus of Christmas is a great way to leave your family feeling hollow in the end. There is great fulfillment found in Christ, the greatest gift of all. Don’t miss it.

How you can make this the best Christmas yet:

     1) Slow down.

What would happen if we approached this season at a more thoughtful pace?

Question: Other than buying gifts and decorating, what are you doing to prepare for Christmas?

If your answer is, “Uhh… what else is there?” I think we’re beginning to spot a problem. This season is packed with significance. If you don’t plan intentional time with your family, all you’ll be left with on December 26 is some wadded up wrapping paper.

Take time to plan family time at home, at church, and at the homes of your loved ones. Clear the schedule and camp out at home. Share a sit-down meal or two together. Read some Scriptures (such as Luke 2) that highlight the coming of Jesus. And don’t forget to gather everyone at church. This is a special time of year, and should be celebrated by all. Last, but not least, don’t forget to “make the rounds”. Visit loved ones you don’t get to see as often. You’ll be glad you did. (I hope.)

Speaking of that…

     2) Prepare to love your family.

“What? How do you even do that?”

Question: Who is your most difficult family member to love?

Don’t pretend you don’t know. Let’s face it. No matter how much we love our family, we can drive each other a little nuts.

It is unwise to rush into family celebrations without preparing yourself mentally and spiritually. We all have some people we get along with better than others. The trick is that when we’re related to these people, we don’t get to choose whether we’re going to be around them.

So stop and think about how things went South around the dinner table last year. Don’t dwell on it. But think through how you’re going to do things differently this year. Fill your mind and heart with love, mercy and grace for those you find difficult to tolerate.

Believe me. You’re not everybody’s cup of tea either. The least you and I can do is make an effort to love our family well.

     3) Unwrap the Savior, then the gifts.

I know. It sounds like I’m about to get preachy. Well… I am what I am.

Question: If you removed the gifts from the equation, what would be left of your Christmas?

Christians worldwide have been unwrapping the meaning of Christmas for 2,000 years. Engage in the process of discovering the significance of this Jesus, the Christ. Our family has done a variety of things throughout the years to remind us what this season is all about. Choose one or two and make a tradition of your own.

As a child I loved opening each day of the advent calendar, as well as placing each piece in our nativity scene. Today my wife makes Christmas crafts that help the kids get involved This year we’re counting down the days to Christmas with a chain made of construction paper. Each link has a different Scripture verse on it. Our little kids love tearing open the link with that night’s verse on it. The older ones then each get to read from their own Bibles. Everybody wins.

No matter what stage of life you’re in, you can establish or reestablish your own meaningful traditions.

With a little thought and effort, you can make sure you don’t tank Christmas. This could even be the best Christmas yet.

So what about you and your family? How are you preparing for Christmas? I’d love to read about it in a comment.

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Want more help? Read my, “Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday Survival Guide

November 21, 2012 — 1 Comment
Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday Survival Guide

Do the holidays ever stress you out?

I wrote a Holiday Survival Guide to help you stay sane and enjoy the season.

Check it out!

Other articles I’ve written for Start Marriage Right:

  1. “Too Broke to Get Married?”
  2. “The First 100 Days”

Are the holidays stressful or peaceful for you?

Holiday Survival Guide Start Marriage RightHoliday Survival Guide Start Marriage Right

How has that changed through the years?

Leave a comment below to share your tips for making the most of the season.

Veteran's Day

Veteran’s Day

Veterans have impacted our lives by their sacrifice. Their selfless example stands in stark contrast to our self-centered culture. The implications are profound, especially for followers of Christ.

All gave some.

Each man and woman who has served has put their own lives on hold for the good of others.

When Kelcy and I worked in a ministry to the military, we met hundreds of soldiers. They came from all walks of life, but they all had this in common: They gave up their own freedom to serve others. Their schedules, their choices, even their haircut became property of the United States.

They committed to selflessly serve our country, dedicating years of their life and buckets of sweat and blood to securing and maintaining our freedom. They did this for little pay and less glory.

Today, as I picture their faces, I am struck by Paul’s words.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Every day thousands of men and women get up at O-Dark 30 and do just that. They humbly travel the world, going wherever they are sent, putting aside their own desires and following orders. They deserve our respect and admiration. So do those who have gone before them.

All gave some. Some gave all.

Let’s show appreciation and gratitude to those who are still with us.

  • Thank a veteran today. Their selfless service secured our freedom.
  • Pray for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. Pray for their safety, their well-being, and the families they often leave stateside.
  • Ask these questions: What is my response to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice? Is it changing the way I’m living? How am I putting others ahead of myself?

Also read: “Remembering my Grandfathers”

FOLLOW my blog by signing up for emails on the top, right hand corner of the page. Thanks! – Joe

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

I don’t have to look far for an example of what it means to serve our country.

The young man next door just returned from serving in Afghanistan. His family is of course ecstatic, as they should be. He has endured not only intense training, but has daily put his life on the line for the safety and security of others, dutifully carrying out the will of his country. I thank him every chance I get.

As I have prayed for him over these past months, I have often been reminded of the freedoms I am afforded due to the service of such outstanding men and women. Because others serve:

  • I get to sleep at night without threat of harm in our homeland.
  • I get to raise my daughters in a peaceful land.
  • I get to enjoy the benefits of a stable government.
  • I get to serve the Lord and do His work without being oppressed.
None of these freedoms are guaranteed. They’re not automatic. Millions in this world live without what we often take for granted. Our freedoms are bought and paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of our military families, and we owe them at least a debt of gratitude.

I think of prior generations, who sacrificed so much to lay our foundation of freedom. My uncle Don served in Vietnam, courageously carrying out his duty during an unpopular and thankless war. I hope we never again treat our troops the way we did then.

My Grandfather Wood served in the Navy during WWII, travelling the world by sea as it seemingly came unhinged on land. I cannot imagine the intensity of those years. The outcome was not written. Brave men had to wrest a better future from the hands of those bent on evil.

Just following the war, my Grandfather Wickman came of age to join, and sailed the seas as well. I am forever indebted to this generation. We all are. I am also blessed to still have my Grandpa with us. Today he’ll be at our home for a celebration of life. My daughters have birthdays to celebrate in May, and our family and friends are gathering. We’ll take time to pray before we eat, remembering all those who have gone before us, securing our freedom.