How to hope again 

How to hope again 

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book Resole, which will release as an ebook on October 18: 

One reason we tend to hide behind a mask is because we live in a fallen world. Sin has corrupted God’s design and now we are surrounded by people full of a gamut of self-issues (e.g., selfishness, fear, pride, greed, hate, lust, etc.). How is it even possible to trust broken people?

 Another contributor is it can be scary to be real with ourselves. Can you take your mask off and look at yourself in the mirror? I cannot think of anything more terrifying at times than taking an honest inward look and seeing how broken we are. To avoid looking inward, we look for distractions, things to occupy our attention so we don’t have to gaze upon who we really are. If it’s so hard to be vulnerable with ourselves, why would we even want to be vulnerable with others? After all, hurt people hurt people. Right?

Think about it this way. When you and I lock up the darkness in our hearts, it grows. As it grows, hope is suffocated to the point of dying. A hopeless life is tragedy, in my opinion, because hope is what fuels passion and purpose. The only way to find hope again in our lives is to disperse the darkness by shining light upon it.

 The best way to shine light into the dark places of your soul is to let others in. But how? How do we overcome hopelessness and find the courage to take off the mask? I’ve found it starts with God. If you can’t trust God with your true self, you’ll never be able to trust others. Once you learn to let Him navigate the depths of your jacked-up heart, you will discover a desire and a need to share your struggles with others.

 

Dead Man Walking

For some time now, I’ve been trying to understand why a majority of guys seem so non-committal in their faith and in church. Their faith in God barely goes past attending church. This perspective is somewhat generalized because I realize there are definitely men who take their faith and service to God seriously. But those guys seem to be rare. From my observation, most guys see faith as something not for them, like it’s boring. Why is this?

Continue reading “Dead Man Walking”

4 steps to take once you realize you’re a hot mess

Have you ever longed to be in a place where you could take off your mask? I found myself in such a place quite a few years ago. It was a time I struggled in marriage, parenting, work, and even with stuff no one wants to admit like habitual lying and struggles with pornography. I knew I was a hot mess but I kept it a secret. At the time, I was the worship pastor at a local church in South Carolina. The pressures of being in a ministry position in the public eye easily led to my own personal masquerade party. I accumulated quite a few layers of masks, in fact, from years of serving in church leadership. I bought into the lie that, as a pastor, I should have my stuff together and never mess up. So I buried my struggles. I continued the façade of the perfect marriage. I covered up my lack of financial judgment and irresponsibility with lies. I hid my struggles with pornography. And I pushed the weak man I was down deep into the shadows of my heart. I couldn’t afford anyone knowing what a mess I was inside. My reasoning was sound, right? Too many people were watching me as a pastor and a role model for me to stumble.

Can you relate to my story? Have you gotten to the point where you’re realize you’re a hot mess? Has your life become so unmanageable you know you can’t continue the masquerade? The problem with messes is they eventually end up everywhere unless the root cause is addressed. You can focus on cleaning up the symptoms of behaviors and actions, but you will eventually wear yourself out. Or, you can choose to dig into the heart issues the symptoms grow from. If you ever want to be free from the hot mess, you must pursue heart transformation and not behavior modification. 

I imagine you feel like you’re standing at the bottom of an insurmountable mountain. But the only way to climb a mountain is one step at a time. It takes a lot of courage, perseverance, and hard work, but it can be done. In fact, the mountain has been climbed by many people before you, each one in search of freedom from the mess their lives have become. Leverage the path they used to conquer the journey by following in their steps.

So here we are at the trailhead. I want to provide you with a map to get you going, but be forewarned. The journey will be hard at times, but at the end of it is the most amazing sight you’ve ever seen. It’s you living free from the hot mess and enjoying life like never before. So let’s get started. Here are some of the first steps you should take.

1. Acknowledge you’re a mess. Put the shovel down you’re using to bury your skeletons with. Unlock the door you’re hiding your true self behind. Stop creating more drama, messes and trouble for yourself. Avoid the stupid things you did to get you into the mess in the first place. And realize you are not the only one that’s a hot mess.

2. Realize you can’t handle the mess on your own. No one is more ill-equipped than you to clean up your mess. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you’ll always be tending to the symptoms instead of the cause. It’s a heart issue and, trust me, you will need help navigating through it.

3. Take ownership of the mess. Stop blaming everyone else. You may have had a partner in crime, but you stepped in it by your own choice. Nobody can force you to screw up your life. And realize there is freedom in owning up to your mistakes.

4. Admit you need help cleaning up the mess. Swallow your pride and ask for help. Countless people have found this kind of help from God. After all, He is bigger, stronger, and smarter than you’ll ever be. And if you disagree with me, you might want to take another look at step one above.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. What I laid out here is just a rewording of the first few steps of the 12 Steps. When I embraced the concepts found within the steps, I discovered freedom. My goal here is to help you realize this process of recovery and healing is applicable to everyone, not just those who struggle with substance abuse. We all are a hot mess, some are just better at hiding it. When you come to a place where you admit it, tell someone and take your first steps toward freedom!

It’s time we man up

This is something I posted on my church’s blog this week. I thought it was worth sharing for the church at large.

We have a dynamic vision for Ridge Church. That vision is for us to be a praying church, not just a church that prays. Over the past year, we have made a lot of positive movement in that direction. But one thing has become blatantly clear to me and it needs to be addressed. It’s time for the men of our church to step up in the area of prayer.

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Once a month, a growing group of people meet in a room at the Ridge during one of the services. The purpose of these meetings is to plan and coordinate activities that will continue to strategically move our church from being a church that prays to be a praying church.

Over the past 6-9 months, we have seen the vision come alive. Our prayer partners communicate daily about the prayer needs of the church and the community, and have also begun to take a more active role in the corporate gatherings we have on Sundays and other events. It’s very exciting! But as I surveyed the room this past Sunday, I saw continued evidence of a lack of men that has weighed heavy on my heart for a while. Of the 15-20 people that have been involved on the team, 75% of them are women. This is alarming to me. Why aren’t more men filled with an urgency for prayer in our church?

Prayer is not something only women are told to do. I am extremely thankful for the commitment and passion the women on the team have for prayer. They have been the backbone of this growing ministry. I am also extremely thankful for the guys that are a part as well. I just think that it’s time for more guys to man up and realize the need for their participation in this vital part of the life of Ridge Church. I’m convinced we won’t see the full power of God at work in our church and our community until this happens. It’s time we man up men!

Prayer is a powerful weapon waiting to be used in battle.Ephesians 6 describes the armor of God piece by piece. The word of God is the sword, faith is a shield, and salvation is the helmet. But prayer, though, is mentioned not as a piece of armor, but as the activity of fighting. Verse 18 encourages us in “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” A warrior is only as good as his performance in battle. He may have the best training and top notch gear, but if he sucks on the battlefield, he’s a goner. And to take it a step further, if the warrior fights alone, he will be consumed by the enemy. I love the movie “300” because of how the Spartans fight together. They defeated thousands despite their small numbers because they were trained, equipped, and practiced in fighting together. That is us, guys. We are being trained and equipped with the word of God every Sunday as Bobby preaches. But we are lacking power because we aren’t fighting together because we aren’t praying together. It’s time we fight together. It’s time we man up men!

Prayer releases God’s power when men and women pray together corporately. There are many examples in the book of Acts where the church prayed together and incredible power and wisdom from God was displayed (See Acts 1:13; 2:1; 4:24, 31; 6:6; 8:15-17; 12:5; 13:1-2; 16:16; and 16:25). Let me ask you a question guys. Do you think these corporate prayer gatherings were just the women and maybe a few men? I don’t. Actually, I picture it being equal parts men and women because I envision the men of the early church being active, not passive; focused, not distracted; and, humble, not proud. In all of my years in church, I have never observed a lack of women being involved in the vital work of the church. It’s always the men that are absent. It’s time we man up men!

The times I’ve been inspired to step up the most in my life are when someone has challenged me to the point that I felt like they were questioning my manhood. You can call me names or question how or why I did certain things. But don’t call into question my manhood. I think all guys are wired this way. We don’t want someone to sugar coat the truth of what we are supposed to do or be. And that is why I felt compelled to write this post. I’m challenging the men of Ridge Church to man up, to see that prayer is a powerful weapon to wield, and to join our sisters in battle. It’s time we man up men!

Why “feel good” love doesn’t work

 

 We all chase love, but more specifically, we all chase the way love feels. After all, who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of being in love? It’s the butterflies that you get when you’re about to see that special somebody or the rush you get when you talk about anything and everything until the wee hours of the morning. Love is a basic need that we have been created with, a need that was designed to be fulfilled in a specific way that our culture has unfortunately distorted. Because of this distortion, we spend our lives seeking someone to satisfy our desire to feel loved. Unfortunately, the people that we seek love from are looking for the same kind of “feel good” love we are, and that leads to a whole lot of unfulfilled expectations and broken hearts. The problem is that we base love on our own selfish needs and desires…or simply put, we base love on ourselves. I know I have.

 

In the aftermath of a divorce and numerous failed dating relationships, I began questioning if I even understood what love is. Going from being married for 11 years to being divorced was incredibly lonely because I was so used to being with someone and then found myself alone. I craved companionship. And I have seen so many others follow the same pattern. The loneliness you experience becomes so suffocating that you look for someone to help you feel loved again. And that is the reason that 67% of second and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. So this discouraged state I was in led me on a journey to discover a better, more satisfying type of love. Last year, I made a discovery that became a game changer for me.

 

I read an excerpt from a book by Herbert Armstrong, a pastor and evangelist from the mid-1900s, called “The Mystery of the Ages”. In the passage, Armstrong lays out a perspective of love that resonated deep within my soul. He defined love as “an outgoing concern toward others”. He described this type of love in a way that I had never heard before. This perspective of love implies proactivity, an outward focus, which is so contrary to the characterization of love that we see throughout our society today. We’re told love is a feeling, so if it doesn’t feel good it must not be love. But feelings can be dangerously deceptive. Jeremiah 17:9 says that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Show of hands…who can relate to that? I think that’s why Armstrong’s perspective of love is so refreshing and challenging to me. It flies in the face of how Hollywood says we should chase after the feeling of love and pushes the focus upon others and the commitment of love. “Men shall turn from the way of ‘get’ to the way of ‘give’ – God’s way of love.” Armstrong’s perspective on love is counter-cultural and embodies what I think God intended love to be.

 

Around the time of this discovery, my pastor preached on being doers of the word and not just hearers…that we should apply what we know and learn so that we can “plow deep instead of wide”. I have found applying this idea of love as outgoing concern in my relationship with Julie to be incredibly challenging. I run up against my own selfish desires often and find myself reverting to the lie of “feel good” love. But I also have found it to be a richer and more satisfying relationship than I have ever experienced before. It’s a love that makes me feel known and accepted for who I am no matter how fickle the feeling of love can tend to be. So if you’re tired of continuously realizing that “feel good” love doesn’t work, I recommend trying the approach of outgoing concern for others. It’ll be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.

Rules without relationship breed rebellion

Rules without relationship breed rebellion

 

That phrase has stuck with me for a long time, especially in how I relate to my kids. In my experience, maintaining this mindset is key to transforming the relationship any parent has with their kids. And through the journey of applying that to my own parenting, I have definitely seen change in how I connect with mine.

 

Before, when one of the kids would misbehave, I would be all about discipline.  “You’re going to behave and obey and if you don’t I’m going to punish you. Now go to your room!” That has been my natural response as a parent, and I would guess many other parents lean the same direction. But since grasping this concept of relationship before rules, things have changed.  Instead of focusing on discipline and rules, my attention has shifted toward a different word. Train

 

I like the idea of training my kids how to live over forcing them to behave because it implies relationship and rules. A friend used to say it all the time, “Rules without relationship breed rebellion.” I got to the point that I knew when he was going to say it, but I didn’t mind because he was reminding me of an important truth. It’s the classic grace and truth debate. Too much grace, and you spoil the relationship. Too much truth, and you crush it. But a balance, with relationship leading the way, can bring transformation.

 

So a new equation emerges…relationship with rules brings rapport. Rapport is that undeniable influence we have all experienced with someone we trust and respect, and every parent/child relationship should have it and far too few do. Which leads me to a new way to approach parenting rooted in biblical principles. “Train up your child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 ESV) Training for anything requires a process of hard work and focus, success and failure, and everything in between. 

 

Last year, my girlfriend and I trained over a period of four or five months to run a half marathon. She had been through the training process before and was able to help me prepare for such a daunting task. The process of training was tough! I had to work up to running 13.1 miles gradually, increasing my distance a little bit each week. I had to start eating the right foods to fuel my body. And I had to learn how to prepare my mind to withstand the physical pain and mental exhaustion I would encounter. Having her there to train me how to do these things was key. She trained with me, and our relationship grew closer because we were working toward a common goal.

 

And that is the same role we play as parents. Since we have encountered many of the same problems and issues our kids will, we must equip them to be able to handle life in the best way possible. But we must do this WITH them. Rules without relationship is like saying “do as I say, not as I do.” Relationship with rules changes the paradigm completely and invites our kids to do as we do because we’ve been down this road before. We enter into a conversation with them and do life together so that we can work toward the common goal of training our sons and daughters to be men and women of both character and faith.

 

If you’re interested in applying this to how you parent, please feel free to contact me. I don’t have all of the answers, but I have definitely learned through lots of trial and error.