Archives For Life

10306246 10152389425998683 5362342383578233713 n 1 300x300 Dont mistake my joy for happiness.

Me & Cassie, our oldest of 4 girls

Listen, I know you may see me and think, “Joe smiles a lot. His life must be pretty easy, pretty happy-go-lucky for him to be so happy all the time.”

Not quite.
Yes, I love life.
  • Jesus is a never-ending Source of blessing.
  • My wife and children are a great joy.
  • I love what I get to do for a living.

But I assure you that there is more to this story.

Please do not mistake my deep joy for happiness.

Kelcy and I have been through quite a bit of pain throughout the process of saying “yes” to God.

I’ll save you the sob story. But just take my word that there have been painful periods that left us on the ropes, dodging punches and trying desperately to stay on our feet. And there have been times when life laid me so low I literally could not get myself off the floor. We’ve walked through seasons where it seemed as though God had forgotten about us, and we’ve lived to see the other side of those seasons.

The daily and weekly ordeal of laying our will down to His does not get easier as life goes on.

The stakes of following Jesus become higher and higher as the years progress. The level of trust required to say the next “yes” grows instead of diminishes. Over and over, writing Him the “blank check”, saying, “whatever, wherever, whenever” has and continues to come at a high cost to us in many ways.

Throughout whole seasons of my life I have questioned God’s plan and direction for my life.

But every once in a while He gives me a glimpse of how He is weaving a tapestry of testimony all through my life. My God, my Father in Heaven, who called me into relationship with Him through His Son Jesus, is crafting a good work in and through my life.

Do you know what the coolest part is?

He’s not using just the biggest, brightest, shiniest parts of my walk to point the way into His preferred future for my life. He is redeeming the darkest, most depressing episodes of my life in order to point me in the continued direction of obedience for me, my family and my ministry.
Today I had yet another conversation in which God displayed to me His presence in my life. I could not explain it to you in an hour if I tried. You’ll just have to take my word when I tell you that God is redeeming some painful episodes of our life, ones that left us questioning His will but saying “yes” the best we knew how each step of the way. And He is in fact taking the sum of all those “little yeses” and adding them up to a trajectory that only He could fashion for our future.
  • Those years of my life that I battled a crippling sense of defeat and failure
  • The days when I was literally digging ditches for the Lord…
  • All the times I thought God’s plan for my life had been derailed
  • When I was convinced that He was done using my life for the sake of the Gospel…

Those dark times, when I could barely make my mouth say, “yes, Lord”, those are the times that God was forming me. And come to find out, those are the same times God has used, is using, and will use to shape the future of my continued, “yeses”.

Friend, can I convince you to do one thing today?

No matter what, say, “Yes” to Him.

No matter what darkness or uncertainty you are facing, make your mouth form the word, “yes” to the Lord.

Then take the next step He has revealed to you.

  • Are you disconnected from God? Say the “big yes” by inviting Jesus into your heart.
  • Is your life out of order? Do you need to get rid of something? Do it. Say “yes to holiness.”
  • Did you get off track with God? It’s time to step back in. Say, “yes” to Him again.
  • Do you have hurts that are keeping you away from church? God is bigger than those. Come back.

The “yeses” that are said in the midst of pain weigh more than those said on sunny days.

Say that next “yes”.

Joy, deep and lasting joy, comes on the other side, sometimes a long time after.

Microphone Final Voice Part 1:  Watch Your Mouth

Voice Part 1 – Watch Your Mouth

I’m often surprised by what comes out of my mouth.

I speak for a living. So if you count the number of words I say in public, add the fatigue that comes from raising four daughters, and multiply that by my goofy sense of humor, it’s just a matter of time before I say something really embarrassing.

For example:  Session 5 of a 6 week Marriage Workshop left me scrambling to get enough words out of my mouth in order to squeeze in all the content that these couples needed. Pressed for time, with much content to spew, I greeted the attendees, saying, (I am not kidding) “Good morning folks! We’ve got a lot to cover today, so I’m going to talk fast. We have 6 pages of material to get through, so let’s knock ‘em up and set ‘em down!”

If you missed it, go back and read it again.

There was a 3 second pause as 20 stunned couples sat, processing what they just heard. And a moment later we were all gasping for air, laughing uncontrollably at my gaffe. I’ve got a dozen stories like that.

Sometimes the wrong words come out of our mouths.

Sometimes it’s just an innocent mistake, a slip of the tongue. But other times it’s not. Sometimes the words we say represent what’s really going on in our heart. And if we’re honest, sometimes that’s not pretty.

We live in a day and age where everybody’s got something to say. But is everything worth saying?

If social media is any judge of what’s actually happening in people’s lives, (God, help us if it is) then a popular New Year’s Resolution was, “I’m going to be true to myself and say what I really want to this year!”

Really? Oh good. That’s just what the world needs.

What I know about being “true to myself” is that sometimes words spill out of my mouth that are not helpful. In fact, they’re hurtful. Ugly. Disrespectful. Damaging. Why is it that gossip and jealousy and spite roll out of the same mouth that speaks words of love and affirmation to the most important people in our lives?

Has this ever bothered you? Have you ever had an insult leap out of your mouth, only to think, “Where did that come from?” You’re not alone.

This problem is not unique to today. But today we seem to have lost touch with the reality of the impact of our words. We live in a culture that tells us, “Let it fly! Don’t hold back. Just say whatever comes out!” Never mind whether or not it hurts someone.

To make matters worse, today everyone has a platform. Thanks to the proliferation of technology, our voices can reach farther than ever. Facebook, Twitter, even this blog, provide an opportunity for connection across countries, cultures and contexts. It’s a beautiful time to have something to say.

It’s also a tragedy to have the means to say something, and have nothing worth saying.

Maybe it’s time for our generation, whose voices are amplified than any other time in history, to pause and look at the content of what we’re saying.

  • How can we be sure that what we have to say is worth saying?

Jesus had a way of saying things in a way no one else could. After hearing him speak, his hearers would often fall silent. His words cut through the clutter and hit home, opening up new understanding.

When Jesus spoke of the mouth, he connected it directly to the heart. He put it this way:

43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:43-45)

What’s coming out of our mouths is coming from our hearts. They are as connected as a tree and its fruit. So if we don’t like the words that are spilling out of our mouths, it’s time to look at what’s “stored up” in our hearts.

So what about you?

  • Do you have something to say? Is it worth saying?
  • Are your relationships helped or hurt by your words?
  • Are you connecting the dots between your heart and your mouth?
  • Judging by what comes out of your mouth, does your heart need some work?

Maybe it’s time to take a look at at the words coming out of your mouth as an indicator of what’s in your heart.

Do you want to be heard? Do you want to make an impact in this world? Then slow down. Take a minute to examine what’s below the surface. Because what’s inside of you cannot be contained. It will be revealed, often when you least expect it.

This month on the blog we’ll be taking a look at the voice God has given us, and how to make the most of it.

Want to be heard?

Watch your mouth. It’s attached to your heart.

 

This post also appeared on the blog of New Vine Media.

New Vine Media spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the development of effective media, music, and communications.

IMG 1613 e1383164903327 225x300 3 Steps to Stop Drifting and Start Moving

Don’t Drift. Start Moving.

I’ve never gotten anywhere I wanted to go by drifting.

Going with the flow is lazy. It’s passive. It’s the best way to land in some swirling eddy of life.

Nobody I admire or aspire to be like just sits back and lets life do whatever.

I get it. Life is exhausting. It’s tempting to just clutch out and coast. But that just leads to us landing in a place we don’t want to be.

  • Relationships don’t just get better. You’ve got to actively pursue improvement with dogged determination.
  • Finances don’t handle themselves. You tell your money where to go, or it will just go where it wants.
  • Spiritual health doesn’t “just happen”. God will always do His part (the majority part) but you have to show up too.
  • Professional development isn’t automatic. You’ve got do more than want it. You’ve got to work for it.

So if you’ve been stuck, today is the day to stop drifting and start moving.

Thomas Jefferson once said,

In matters of style, swim with the current;
in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

But what does he know? All Jefferson did was:

  • Author the Declaration of Independence (secretly, as he could have been killed)
  • Excelled as a naturalist, founded the University of Virginia, sent Lewis and Clark on a little expedition, and oh yeah…
  • Became the 3rd President of the United States!

So what would he know about moving your life in an intentional direction? A LOT!

So what about you?

  • Have you just been “going with the flow” in life?
  • Are you ready to “stand like a rock”?
  • Are you ready to swim against the current?

Here’s 3 Steps to Stop Drifting and Start Moving

1) Reject Apathy.

You are not helpless. You are not a victim. Even if you were, you don’t have to stay one.

Life will undoubtedly knock you down. Obstacles are made to be overcome. Whether you’re dealing with a personal limitation, a discouraging defeat, or an utter failure, you have to make sure you don’t give up! Believe me, I’ve had more than my share of crash-and-burn scenarios.

Do not stay down. Reject the idea that you’re a loser. Losers give up, and that’s not you.

You’ve only got one life to live. So get off the sidelines and live it. Decide that you’re letting the clutch out, hitting the gas pedal, and moving forward starting NOW!

Who cares what someone else says? Just get up off your couch and punch apathy in the face.

2) Stand Your Ground.

Motivation gets you moving. Character steers you.

Activity for activity’s sake is just as pointless as apathy. Now you’ve got to decide what’s important.

Do you have your priorities in order? This post details how I’m organizing my life to win at what’s most important.

In a battle, soldiers aim their guns down range at a specific target. They don’t just sling lead all over the place, popping off shots into the air. They concentrate fire. That’s what you and I need to do. Focus effort.

  • Do you know what you stand for?
  • Are you living for what you’d die for?
  • Do your goals line up with your values?

If not, you’ve got some work to do. Do the hard work of defining who you are and what you’re about.

(Note: If you’re all about yourself, the world couldn’t care less if you win or lose. We need more people who are shaping their lives around serving others. No matter what your occupation, do the uncommon thing and put people first.)

3) Start Swinging.

You’re going to have to fight for your life. No one is going to hand you success in what matters most. Swimming against the current of laziness and apathy takes all you’ve got. But it’s worth it.

I’ve written about goal-setting and achievement hereherehere and here.

In every area of your life, you have to choose to engage, to take an active role, or suffer the consequences of being disengaged.

So what about it?

  • What do you whine about most?
  • What area of your life do you need to stop being a victim?
  • What concrete action are you going to take to stop drifting and start moving today?

Do it.

IMG 2555 225x300 If You Dont Let Go, You Cant Hold On

If You Don’t Let Go, You Can’t Hold On

There are many things I like to hold onto.

What do all of these things have in common?

  • My wife
  • My kids
  • My friends
  • My job
  • My car
  • My reputation

What’s the common denominator?

  • There was a time when I didn’t have each of them, and there will be a time when I don’t have any of them.

Some day I will have to let go of my wife, my kids, everything that makes up my life.

I know what you’re thinking. “Wow. Thanks for the inspiration, Joe.”

Keep reading.

I used to hold onto each of these things with an iron grip. But my perspective has changed. More and more, as I walk with people who have suffered loss, I realize that I myself am not strong enough to keep a tight grip on all the good things God has blessed me with. In fact, over the years I have learned that the more I worry and stress about holding onto things, the more warped and twisted I get in my efforts to control life with all its outcomes.

Does this mean that my job, even my family, aren’t important?

Does it mean God doesn’t want me to “show up” for them?

Of course not. God calls me and enables me to be a great husband, Dad, homeowner and employee. But in all of these things I am learning that He is the owner, and I am the operator. He is the One who holds my days in HIs hands. I am the one He has entrusted with these things for a time.

This means that I need hold onto the One “thing” that will enable me to approach life with a healthy perspective.

This morning I read a quote from one of the many men I consider mentors in the faith:

God does not want people who are grabbing for what they can get. God wants people who can hold everything – their profession, their wealth, their status, their family – on an open palm. The only thing we are to clutch to our hearts is God himself. God wants us to allow him to give and take away. – Dennis Kinlaw

Above all else, we must cling to God. That requires us loosening our grip on everything else.

Sound scary? It should.

Our natural inclination is to try to control every facet of our life. But we’re not God. We are limited, finite, all too human. But God is all-powerful, all-seeing, and He exists everywhere at once. He is everything we’re not. And the best part? He loves us. He loves us with the love of a father for a child. He loves you that way. He loves me.

So trust Him.

  • Let go of your ownership of your life.
  • Let go of trying to control everything.
  • Let go of living in fear of bad things happening.

Order your life around clinging to God, and He will order the rest. If you actively pursue a full-contact relationship with Him, He will teach you how to love your family. He will show you how to excel in your career. He will teach you how to handle money, maintain healthy relationships and transform into the kind of person that only He could make you.

But if you don’t loosen your grip on everything else, you can’t hold on to the One who has the capacity and will to carry you through each and every up and down life brings. And you will never truly enjoy the peace and security that everything you hold dear is truly in God’s hands.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

(Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

 

You might also like this post: “Winning at Relationships”

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1239807 legs of a young man running When Goals Go Missing...

When Goals Go Missing…

 

Goals are slippery. Look away for just ya moment and they’re nowhere to be found.

Goals are harder to keep track of than a toddler at a department store. They’re more elusive than a deer in the deep woods.

Chances are you can’t even remember your New Years resolution by now. It’s a foggy memory at best. That’s ok.

When goals go missing, there’s one question we can ask ourselves to regain focus and get us moving in the right direction. Are you ready to ask? Here it is:

“Are the small things I’m doing today building toward my preferred future?”

This question works for goals in:
  • Finances
  • Relationships
  • Physical Health
  • Spiritual Health
Another way to ask the same question is:

“Are my moment-to-moment choices moving me closer to or further from my end goals?”

Here’s your next step:

  1. Ask the question of every area of your life.
  2. Answer honestly.
  3. If you’re brave, ask a friend who will give you an unfiltered answer.

Then refocus and step forward.

Pick up that new habit that will build you up.

Eliminate that weight you’ve been hanging onto.

Live your life on purpose.

You can thank me in 6 months.

Here’s 3 more posts to help you achieve your goals!

  1. Goals are Dreams with Deadlines

  2. Walk: Take a Step Toward Your Goal

  3. Contentment? I Hate It.

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 Goals are Dreams with Deadlines

Dreams are Goals with Deadlines – Joe Wickman

I’m fat.

Well, I’m fatter than I want to be. I have been for some time.

Saturday I’m running a 5K. It might kill me.

I hate running. I have never run a competitive race. But I finally decided that I hate being fat worse than I hate running.

I also knew that if I didn’t make a concrete deadline, injecting motivation into my workouts, I would quit as soon as it got tough. The terrible idea of running 5,000 meters was enough to get my sorry butt out on the road. I downloaded the free Couch to 5K app on my iPhone, and off I went.

The first day of running brought a violent snowstorm. I thought, “Really?” If I hadn’t committed to a terrifying goal, I would have packed it in right then and there. But the deadline looming just weeks ahead forced me to put one fat foot in front of the other. Off I went for my first run.

You know what’s funny though? I’ve been out of shape for along time, hating every minute of it, but I haven’t done anything about it until recently. I hate being chubby, out of breath and tired. I love feeling fit and having energy to spare at the end of a day.

So why did it take me years of feeling like crud before I did something about it?

I have a bunch of excuses:

Well, maybe that last one is just a matter of self control. But isn’t it always?

Here’s what I realized: I am the only one responsible for my own health. I have to determine that it’s important enough to improve.

But wanting to change isn’t enough.

I’ve always had the desire to be healthy. I’ve dreamed about it. But I haven’t followed through on that desire.

Do you know why?

I never set a deadline.

Deadlines are wonderful things. They force our brains to work backwards. They start at the end goal and reach back to where we currently are. From there, we can divide up our big goal into tiny, single-step increments. As we execute on each step, we eventually begin gaining ground.

Once we get under way, moving in the direction of our goals, hope begins to build. Even though we’ve only taken a step or two, we know we’re making progress.

Bottom Line: Goals are Dreams with Deadlines.

Without a deadline, a goal is just a fantasy.

I’ve been running 6 weeks now. I’ve also been doing push-ups since New Year’s Day. I haven’t lost a single pound yet. But my body is changing. My energy level is changing. I’m not sitting still.

I’m working toward a goal. After I achieve this one I’ll pick another.

  • What do you dream about accomplishing?

  • What has bothered you for a long time?

  • Have you done anything about it?

  • Maybe it’s time to make that dream a goal.

Pick a deadline and get to work.

 Comfort   Help for the Hurting

Comfort – Help for the Hurting

Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to remove the pain we’re experiencing. Circumstances beyond our control find us hurting and in need of help.

Instead of trying to understand or diminish the hurt, embrace the One who is called, “The God of all comfort…” (2 Corinthians 1:3)

Read through these verses. Click on the links to read further. Meditate on God’s goodness, even in the middle of your pain. Receive the comfort He has to offer.

  • Comfort is sometimes hard to find.

Job 7:13-14 13 When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, 14 even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions,

Psalm 119:82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?”

Psalm 86:17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

  • Those closest to us are often best equipped to comfort us.

Job 2:11When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him andcomfort him.

Job 42:11
All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

  • Whatever we face, our Heavenly Father’s presence and promises are comforting.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 119:50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119:52 I remember, LORD, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them.

Psalm 119:76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

Isaiah 12:1 In that day you will say: “I will praise you, LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.

Isaiah 49:13 Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Isaiah 51:3 The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

Isaiah 51:12 “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass,

Isaiah 57:18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,

Isaiah 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Jeremiah 8:18 You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.

Jeremiah 31:13 Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

The New Testament offers our ultimate comfort: Jesus

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God ; believe also in me.

2 Corinthians 1:5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

The comfort we receive isn’t just for us. Get it. Then give it.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…

2 Corinthians 1:4 …who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Isaiah 40:1 Comfortcomfort my people, says your God.

 

God will not be silent forever.

Even in times of incredible pain, questioning and heartache, He will be found. Seek Him. Find Him. Then share the comfort you have received with others who are hurting.

Also Read: “HOPE – 29 Reasons to Hope

and “Hope for the Hurting

Contentment? I Hate It.

December 10, 2012 — 1 Comment

I live in a constant state of dissatisfaction.

photo 300x300 Contentment? I Hate It.

Contentment? I Hate It.

For as long as I could remember, I’ve been striving to improve myself and the world around me. I look at my relationships, my home, my bank account and my job and I think, “I can improve. There is progress to be made.”

I have hopes and dreams for every aspect of my life.

  • I want to improve the quality of each of my most important relationships.
  • I want to make more money so that I can give more generously and provide better for my family.
  • I want to be the most effective pastor possible.
  • I want to run a 7 minute mile and bench-press 300 pounds.

(This is the short list.)

I’m constantly leaning into the next learning curve. The next challenge. The next hill to climb.

None of these desires are bad in and of themselves. I intend on driving hard toward goals the rest of my life. Every man I’ve ever looked up to has done the same. It’s probably a positive aspect of my personality. But every positive trait comes with a “side B”.

My desire to improve the future sometimes steals away my enjoyment of the present.

To be perfectly honest, contentment is really difficult for me.

Personal improvement has its place. But when it’s not kept in that place, it wreaks havoc on our ability to enjoy life for what it currently is. Focus too much on what it could be, and you’ll never enjoy what it is. The result is that contentment is replaced with a creeping sense of anxiety and inadequacy. We move from one season of life to the next, ever-striving but never satisfied.

How much improvement is enough? Just a little bit more. Perfection is never attainable. Victory is never savored when we’re constantly reaching for the next goal.

I am now faced with some intense questions:

  • Am I able to enjoy the blessings (there are many) that God has placed right in front of me?
  • Can I live with the fact that I probably will not reach every goal in my life?
  • If God does not allow me to improve, will I still be grateful and thankful?
  • If my life gets worse, or harder, is God still good?
If I am constantly striving for improvement, never resting and enjoying my current blessings, then I am signaling to God and others that what He has done so far is inadequate. That’s not how I want to live.

So here’s the big question about contentment:

  • Will I ever be satisfied with what God has given me?
  • Will you?

Contentment is not the enemy of improvement. It is the enjoyment of the present.

My personal contentment, regardless of circumstances, is an act of worship of the God who has supplied for all my needs.

My inability to rest in contentment may be the most base act of self-worship I could possibly indulge in.

Paul said, “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

  • How do I learn to live with the tension that exists between what is and what could be?
  • Am I able, right now, to be content with what God has done in my life?
  • Do I need a shift in perspective that will raise my level of contentment?

For More Help:

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Why I Do What I Do

August 3, 2012 — 1 Comment

Next week is a prime example of who I am. I, along with a brave crew of leaders, will be taking 70 teens to camp for a week.

I can hear you saying now, “Are you crazy!?” Well, maybe. Pray for me.

The camp is called “Launch”. There are so many things holding down. Peer pressure to fit into the world’s mold regarding drugs, alcohol and sex are just the beginning. A fragile self-image or hurting home life is all-too-often the reality a teen comes to camp with. We want to give them an uplifting week, teaching them how to “defy gravity” in this world.

The week will be filled with some lights-out fun. Horseback riding, paintball, and of course, an epic climbing tower that freaks me out every time I try to amble up it. Sometimes I think, “I have the most fun job in the world.” Hanging around these teens keeps me young (or makes me old quickly, I haven’t decided yet).

But there’s also another component that runs throughout the week. We’ll worship God together, walk through the book of Colossians, and learn how to tap into all God has for us in a dynamic, genuine relationship with Him.

My favorite part of the week, hands down, is getting to share my experience as a Christ follower, passing it on to the next generation. This is the “lane” that, through years of experimentation, I have learned to run in. I searched through my college years for other ways to spend my life. Disturbed with the pain and suffering I saw in the world, I considered careers in medicine, education and counseling. All helping roles, I was longing to fulfill my desire to change the world for the better in some tangible way.

In the end, none of the aforementioned pursuits, as worthy as they are, captured my imagination like ministry. Teachers educate whole generations. Doctors heal the sick and broken. Counselors guide and comfort the hurting. Each of these noble professions, done well, require a calling of their own. I respect and value those who answer that call. As for me, however, I realized none of them were the appropriate destination.

I recently read a quote that encapsulated the way I feel about becoming a pastor to do my life’s work.

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry David Thoreau

Look around you. My guess is it won’t take long for you to identify hurt, evil and injustice in this world. If you’re human, you have to eventually answer the “why” and “what now” questions. How do we “strike at the root” of evil? How do we make a lasting impact that will leave the world a better place when we’re gone?

The best way I know how to help people is to introduce them to the One who has come to heal the broken, teach all who are willing to listen, and comfort the distraught. Jesus Christ, God eternal, became man in order to display who He truly is. Then, still a young man, He gave Himself over to a grisly death, sacrificing His perfect life as payment for our shortcomings.

If that’s true, that God died for us, and was then resurrected so that we could share in new life, what better message could there be?

The reality of entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ has been the single greatest change agent in my life. Simply introducing others to the God who created and loves them is my life’s mission. Next week I’ll get to do that with 70 teens. Throughout the rest of my life, God-willing, I’ll get to tell thousands of others. That’s why I write. That’s why I preach. That’s why I  train others who want to do the same.

What about you? What’s your calling? Has God designed you to influence the world through another path?

I’d love to hear in the comments.

 Why Porn is Killing You

Why Porn is Killing You

In “Porn by the Numbers” I highlighted a few stats collected by our friends at xxxchurch.com . No matter what slice of information you sample, the numbers are staggering. More pornography is available today, and viewed by more people, than any time in history.

As access to pornography has proliferated, so has cultural acceptance of it. What was once a “dirty secret”, stashed away shamefully, is now much more out in the open. It is referred to and made light of in popular culture. Along with the widespread acceptance has come a new tolerance of what was once considered too sexual. What was once acknowledged as “soft core porn” now permeates magazines, advertisements and almost every surface that can be covered by an image. Sex sells, and apparently, business is booming.

Here’s the tricky part. No matter how accepted porn becomes in our culture, it is still corrosive and destructive at the core. Do not be fooled, porn is not a natural part of our sexuality. It is a distortion of it. The viewer of porn is harmed by it in more ways that one.

Why Porn is Killing You

It’s guaranteed to never satisfy:  The progressive nature of porn exposure ensures that we will never be satisfied with viewing the same amount of porn as we used to. This progression, similar to other physical addictions, ensures that a constant pursuit of more and more graphic content is the norm. In order to achieve the same “high” from porn tomorrow as we did yesterday, we must consume more of it, or more graphic versions of it. Sexuality, being an appetite, is influenced and distorted out of its intended shape by the consumption of low-value, high-volume “foods”. The result is growing dissatisfaction with porn itself, as well as the authentic sexual relationship God has designed for us.

It kills our chances of real sexual intimacy:  Consider this, if you are single, and a consumer of porn, how in the world could your spouse satisfy you on your wedding night, or any other night for that matter? If you routinely fantasize about, and in fact view, fake and distorted sexual acts that can be changed at the click of a button, then how could a real, live human being ever match up? They can’t. And they shouldn’t. Attempting to fulfill our sexual needs with anyone other than our spouse is going to lessen the chances of our spouse being able to fulfill us sexually. Did you get that? Let me rephrase it. The more we consume porn, the less satisfied we will be with a real sexual relationship with our spouse. Want a better sex life now or in the future? Ditch the porn.

It kills our closeness to God:  God has designed the sexual relationship of a husband and wife to involve much more than physical pleasure. The physical pleasure is best and most fulfilling when it falls under a life-long commitment of two people who are intimately familiar with each other’s needs within and without the bedroom. God knows exactly how we are wired. He designed us!  His plan always leads to the greatest fulfillment, not emptiness.

When Jesus said, “anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28) he was holding out for a higher standard than what was popular at the time. He highlighted the state of the heart, even if it didn’t result in acting out physically. If you’re a Christ follower, you understand that the cycle of guilt and shame involved with viewing porn can become so overwhelming that you want to walk away from your faith altogether. When we’re losing the battle with lust, we don’t exactly feel like we can approach God. The truth is, sin becomes a wedge that drives us further and further away from Him. Darkness always flees from the light, and if the darkness within us is growing, we tend to shy away from the very One who can cleanse and heal us.

There is good news. This cycle can be broken. Stay tuned for the next installments in this series.

Read the Whole Series:

  1. Porn by the Numbers
  2. Why Porn is Killing You
  3. Telling God about your Porn Habit
  4. Telling your Spouse about your Porn Habit
  5. Telling your Trusted Friend about your Porn Habit
  6. How to Get Help: Quitting Porn for Good