Pastors & Ministry Leaders: A Few Keys To Help Guard Your Heart and Life

Pastor Caution Sign
I just read an article about the pastor of a large church here in Denver and the apparent revelation of an affair. News like this always rocks me and makes me very sad for the body of Christ. Below are some of my thoughts for people in full time ministry or who consider themselves a ministry leader, especially those who are married. My wife and I have been in ministry over twenty years and feel like I have a few observations that could help a pastor/leader who will be tempted by the devil on a regular basis.

You are not above a moral failure
First and foremost, when a person in leadership hears about another leader who has had some kind of moral failing, the first thing to do is pray for them and realize that NO ONE is above falling to temptation. When you realize that you are as vulnerable as anyone else in the world then you begin to put the elements below in place to keep your eyes focused on Jesus.

Firewalls
My dad is a mechanic so I have been around cars my whole life. If you didn’t know, there is a very important part of every car that could save your life if your engine ever caught fire. It is called the “firewall” and separates the engine compartment from the rest of the vehicle. It is made of reinforced metal and fire retardant material to help shield passengers from fire and is an INTENTIONAL element of every vehicle. I have multiple firewalls in my life including my best friend and my wife who are allowed to randomly ask me how I am doing in my mind and actions. Not just sexually, but in financial dealings and just to help me stay on track in life, especially being in television ministry. Now, I can always lie and tell them everything is fine when it may not be, but if I do that I am endangering myself with relationships in my life. That would basically be the equivalent of taking a hacksaw to the protective element of a car and opening myself up to danger. Something important to realize is that accountability is only as good as the desire to WANT to be held accountable. That “want” comes from value we put on our marriages, our ministry and ourselves.

If you are married, wear your wedding ring
One of the easiest ways to help deter advances from anyone, if you are married, is to wear your dang wedding ring. This is not a hard and fast rule, because people can be so unhappy or broken in life that they wouldn’t care if you were wearing your wedding tux or dress and carrying around a crystal framed picture of your spouse, they would still make a pass at you. Wearing your ring shows intentionality in your relationship to your spouse. If for nothing else, it can be a reminder to the vow you made when you are being tempted in some way. If you don’t like wearing rings then get a tattoo of one on your ring finger or get a gel ring or use a twisty tie. Now there are times where you will not have a ring on. For me it is when I go shooting, hiking or running. The point is that when you make an effort to wear your ring, you don’t know how that can help deter someone from making advances. Again, it is not fool proof but everything helps.

If you are married, have a great, honest sex life
I truly believe that one of the main issues that trip up married people in ministry is their sex life. You also notice that I didn’t just say “great” sex life but added the word “honest” as far as communication with your spouse. Men, you need to let your wife know that sex is important (if it is) and come up with an agreement on how much sex you will have. Women, you need to be honest with your husbands about your sexual needs as well and if either of you feel like you have a low sex drive or are losing the desire for sex. When you are honest about things like this, you are making sure that your sexual needs are met in the context of marriage and not leaving a door open for someone else to fulfill that need that was only and always meant to be enjoyed in the context of marriage. I know that for Yolanda and me, just being busy in life can be a main factor in disrupting a healthy sex life. The key is COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION!

Be Careful about Movies/Entertainment you Watch
I am always astounded at the number of church/ministry leaders who go to movies (that can be easily checked online for content) that have nudity in them. You need to evaluate the desire for entertainment in your life and at what cost. Everything you watch, even on television, needs to be evaluated and screened as far as where it encourages your mind to go. I am not saying that watching a movie with nudity will keep you out of heaven but actually something just as bad. It can cause your mind to wander and be tempted to do something with someone that will tear down what you are called to do on this earth to help people see Jesus in and through you. Essentially, becoming a stumbling block to someone else and standing in the way of them developing a relationship with Jesus. We need to do everything we can to mitigate entertainment that causes us to have a wandering mind sexually. The world we live in is not getting better with sexual content in movies and television and actually getting worse. The choices we make about entertainment is not trying to prove that we are more spiritual than anyone else, but protecting the things we see and hear that fully shape who we are and how we act.

Again, none of these are magical rules for life but just common sense suggestions to help secure a healthy and happy marriage in ministry. Because ministry is about people and dealing with vulnerable moments for them, it is important that we live an INTENTIONAL life in the area or moral purity. Temptation will ALWAYS be around us as long as we walk this earth, but we always have a choice to prioritize our lives and decide what we are willing to protect on a daily basis.

I had some GREAT advice today from a friend about diffusing gossip with someone. When people bring you some juicy morsel of information you can stop that person and say, “Wow. You really care a lot about that person. Have you tried to call them yet and pray with them?” I thought that was a great way to keep in context why people are sharing information that can only be construed as destructive and not constructive.

Praying for you all and the great work you do to help people walk this life to reflect Jesus. Keep fighting the good fight and make sure that you value the right things in life and guard them with all your heart.

Why Birding is Just Like Listening To God

Bee Eater
(This pic is of a Bee Eater…eating a Bee that Yolanda took on our trip to Nepal last year)

Yolanda and I went “birding” over the weekend. If you don’t know what “birding” is, it’s finding a place that birds hang out, getting a decent camera and/or binoculars, and walking around trying to see or take pictures of the rarest ones you can find. The key is to go out looking with the realization that you may not see anything or you may hit the jackpot and see a ton of them. Yolanda has gotten some amazing (and I mean AMAZING) pictures from all the places we have been. It is like every bird is just waiting for our car to pull up and then they have a little bird fight to see who gets to fly in front of her camera and get shot (in a good way).

When I go, I am mainly going to support her but I also feel like it is an intentional time of not talking about work (because you are supposed to be quiet and not talk) and for some exercise. I have to admit, I get just about as excited as she does to see an owl or another rare breed. But for me, it is more about just getting out and getting away from the grind of life.

When you are birding it is very important that you remember a simple recipe for success. No matter how far you walk or where you go looking for birds, you need to occasionally stop, look up and listen. You can be out walking around and a great bird can be in the tree next to you but if you don’t stop, look up and listen then you will probably miss a great opportunity.

It is the same with listening to God. I can get so busy in life with my “walk” with Jesus that I can forget sometimes in life to just “stop, look up and listen” for things that God may want to share with me. I am a firm believer that God is always speaking to us and willing to be found but we are the ones who need to learn to slow down in life sometimes and be willing to wait on God and his voice.

Sometimes I can intentionally “stop, look up and listen” with God and I don’t hear a peep (get it? Haha) If I am consistently stopping, looking, and listening for Him I raise my chances of hearing something from God AND I train myself to learn that it is not even always about the grand revelation that God would share with me. I think the peaceable life that God teaches about in the Bible is 20% Spiritual and 80% just learning to shut up and listen. Listening to others. Listening to those who love us and want to bring Godly correction or even God speaking himself to us.

I know that going birding has taught me more than just the importance of not talking, which I still fail at regularly. It has taught me that the world around me will let me “run” in life as fast as I want, even to the point of burnout. If I am not taking time out of life to just BE and not try and DO, I will allow the world to dictate the pace of my life and not God. When I intentionally put the brakes on and take time to enjoy nature AND use that time to listen to what God has to say, I take back control of my life and essentially put myself on God’s time.

I use birding to slow down my life and shut up. What do you use? When trouble hits in life the peace we find in those times of quietness and listening to God will be a foundation to help get you through. Think today about what you do to change pace and “stop, look up and listen.”

The Power in Submission To God and His Will

Submission To God
This week I was thinking about the times I saw the most growth with God in my life and felt like I really learned important life lessons. There were all kinds of seasons and circumstances that surrounded times of growth for me but one thing was always constant with every single one of them and it was submission. Submitting of my will in accordance with God’s will or even leadership that I was under. Submission is, by definition, all about accepting and yielding to an opposing thought or position.

Let me give you an example of submission to leadership. I can remember when I first came on staff at Orchard Road with Pastor Sarah as my leader in the youth department. We were talking about her doing a review for me to help with my public speaking ability. I told her that I thought I was pretty good at public speaking and didn’t really need a review. She then asked me, “So you think how you speak now is as good as you will ever get?” I had to really evaluate what she was asking me, not realizing that she had her own experience earlier in life with an even higher profile pastor/leader who had asked her the exact same thing. I thought about it for a minute and decided that I wanted to get better as a public speaker and we began to do reviews for each other and it has become a very important element of my current role with television and helping people to excel at presenting to audiences. I am still not the best public speaker I know, but those moments of pushing have really helped shape me as a leader and speaker myself.

I shared that story to help illustrate my natural bend when it comes to correction and making changes in my life. I understand that growth, whatever area it is in, is important but it takes me having a revelation about it’s importance until I actually make a change.

Looking back now, I can see that my sickness with my eye brought a very important lesson to me about submitting to God’s will. Some people will read that comment and think that I considered what I went through in sickness with almost losing my eye as God’s will but it is MUCH bigger than that. I want to say something very important that you MUST get if and when pain hits in life. If we always think that God’s power in life is about keeping us OUT of painful situations instead of keeping us safe IN painful situations then we will be in a perpetual state of questioning based on outward circumstances instead of inward convictions.

Today, learn to submit QUICKLY to God and his will for your life. Reading the Bible is important as well as learning to just sit and LISTEN to what God is saying to you and not just TELLING him what you need. It will take you from a reactionary relationship with God to an inward conviction of power and strength that is stronger and will last longer than any painful season in this life we live on earth.

The ONLY Reason Why I Didn’t Kill Myself

jesus-reaching-down
Who would have thought that a simple kid from Montana, who grew up in church all his life and went to Bible College to became a pastor, would ever have thoughts of suicide and killing himself. Well, that was the situation I found myself in when I got sick with an eye disease that the doctors knew I had but could not find the root cause. I can say that there are not many things that I am afraid of in this life but blindness is certainly one of them. When I started to have vision problems my whole world shut down and I felt like I was drowning in my own skin. It was like I was suffocating from the inside and no matter where I went I was overwhelmed with grief and despair. This led to thoughts of suicide and wanting to end my life because I didn’t see a way out and was not willing to even consider a life shift like going blind.

I am now on the other side of my eye episode and I can say that I appreciate everything I learned emotionally from what I dealt with for over four years. All the people that God put in my life and the times of being at the end of myself when I would find hope in so many ways that I believe God provided for me.

I was listening to a song by Hillsong Young and Free called “Passion” last week and I just started to cry uncontrollably because I had a FULL realization of why I never went through with my thoughts to kill myself. It was Jesus. Him alone. Not positive thoughts from people, not kind words, or money people gave us so we would not lose our house. Even though ALL those things were great and had a part in me making it, without JESUS I would be dead. I am not trying to make people that only believe in positive thoughts mad, but I know that the good intentions and positive thoughts of others is not what brought me out of my cold, dark, lonely and suffocating spiral. I found God in a way that church could not encourage me to believe and school could not teach me to understand. In fact, for all the things that I learned in school and the love I feel even at church today, without a revelation of God’s passionate love for me, those things would be out of reach in my mind. Even listening to that song right now as I type this in a coffee shop in Denver I am tearing up because I FOUND Jesus. Here are the words to the song below. I typed them all because the whole song is such a great illustration.

Passion (Hillsong Young and Free – Youth Revival)
In the grove, when your cup seemed too much
With the worst yet to come
I was on your mind
On the cross, as the crowds cursed your name
Heaven’s eyes turned away
Still you thought of me

I know you love me so

Through it all, you were thinking of me
Even death couldn’t keep all your love for me
But you died, so that I could have life
There’s no greater love than this

I know you love me so [x2]

Your love is still the same
Beginning and forever
I sing of all your passion won for me
I sing of all your love first done in me

Your love will never change
Beginning and forever
I sing of all your passion won for me
I sing of all your love first done in me

I found you [x6]

You’re brighter than the sun
Risen from the shadows
Seated on the throne of majesty
Higher than the skies and all the sea

I found you [x6]
I love you [x6]

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/youth-revival-live/id1081955392

The devil wanted me to kill myself so I would not have a voice in people’s life of encouragement and joy. I am more determined now than ever to be the man of God I need to be for this hurt, lost and dying world.

I can tell you today that kind words, positive thoughts and “good vibrations” will not carry you through the darkest days of your life. I will NEVER apologize for my relationship to Jesus and KNOW that He is the only answer. If you cry out to him, he will hear you and answer you. If you need help, please message me and reach out. Love you all and pray that Jesus reveals himself to you today in a new way!

Don’t Quit. Don’t Stop. Don’t resist the love of Jesus.

For those who Say They Can’t have Faith in God, Never Update Any Mobile Device…EVER

applewatchupdate
I had an update pop up this am for my Apple Watch. I went through the normal ritual of accepting the update on my phone, which brought me to a screen that asks for my permission with micro writing that I KNOW no one even cares about and trusts blindly. I scrolled down to the bottom, as I do every time, and mindlessly clicked “agree” when I did not even read one word or warning.

Then it hit me.

I come in contact with people all the time who tell me that they just can’t have faith in God because they need to be able to see, know and understand everything He is doing and will do. Just like when Apple asks me to trust them with a device update that they feel will be necessary to help with security and new enhancements for my watch, when I trust God in my life I am doing the same thing. I trust he knows better than me because he is the “creator” of my life as Apple is the creator of my watch. I was not there when the watch or my body was put together, but I trust the update and God will do what is advertised and that it will enhance my life in some obvious way.

When we can see that we put our trust in all kinds of things each day without truly having complete knowledge of how they were put together and how they will work, it makes trusting God just a little bit easier. Updates for most devices are based on two things; security and enhancements. Putting your life in God’s hands and allowing him to guide and direct it, are based on very similar principles. God wants to enhance our life by giving us the security of knowing that no matter what happens to us, He will be right there with us and will never leave us.

In all reality, we do not have trust issues in this life. We have issues with who/what we put our trust IN. We need to consider heavenly trust in the same category as anything else in life and give trusting God a chance. The Bible says that if you seek Him you will find him.

I guess I just dared you to trust in God’s love, provision and help for your life.
Are you up for the “trust” challenge?

I Serve a Pushy God…And I Like It

psalms-23-blog

I had a conversation with Ken, one of our team members at work, and we were talking about God taking care of us as we walk through life. We specifically were talking about Psalms 23 because it is such a great example of God telling us what he will do for us in pretty much all seasons of life.

I mentioned something to him and when I said it, I knew it came from God so I want to share it with you today. It has to do with the first three verses of chapter 23 and there are three terms that I want to emphasize because it says a lot about what God knows we will need in this life we live.

1     The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right path for his name’s sake.

It is amazing to think that when God created us he knew we would need to be “made, led and guided” in this crazy life that we live. We are naturally stubborn and want to do our own thing, walk our own path and then just deal with the consequences of those decisions. When I read or listen to the Bible I get a better revelation of the principles in there that are wrapped around and answer the issues I am either dealing with or will deal with the longer I am alive.

It is further proof that God is FOR us and not AGAINST us and offers to help in three different ways as stated in Psalms 23. He will make us rest when we feel like we are running a thousand miles an hour, lead us beside quiet waters when our natural bend is to try and dance around raging rivers and guide us along the right path of life IF we will allow him. The key is getting the Bible in you and allowing it to permeate every part of your thinking, which in turn, will lead to a life that follows after God and brings peace.

Maybe some of you are in a place to not understand this peace that God offers and don’t know why reading a simple book could change your life in such a drastic way. Think of it this way; if life is really a struggle right now for you and you are running out of options, what do you have to lose?

Praying that you will be have hope in despair, wisdom where there is confusion and love where you feel hate. Have a great day!

The Bible ALREADY Knows What You Will Go Through

power-of-the-bible-2
Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Revelation 2:10
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The two verses above are just a couple of examples in the Bible that talk about adversity in life and highlight the importance of where our MINDS are set more than any external circumstance we will encounter.

I have been listening to the Bible in the mornings on the way to work and then reading the Bible at night before I go to bed. While doing this I have made an important observance when it comes to direction from the Bible. Take the two verses above for example. The fact that the Bible even has to address being anxious in Philippians and suffering in Revelation identifies the fact that whomever reads these verses will probably be dealing with those exact issues in some way.

I think the impression sometimes can be that as long as we follow God, speak the right scriptures and generally do all the right things in life that we will have it fairly easy. Or, that the Bible is just a book of “ideal thoughts” that are speaking from the best-case scenario. Both of those thoughts are wrong and can steer us AWAY from the Bible instead of TOWARDS it when trouble in life hits. I know that when I was in the middle of my crap that I had fallen into both of those thought processes and experienced the consequences of that mental decision. The things I was focused on was blindness, killing myself, losing my house, being poor and basically total and utter failure. The Bible is so far from those things because the Bible is written from an internal perspective understanding that circumstances in life will be against you at some point in your existence on this earth.

There are no promises anywhere in the Bible that says the circumstances of life will always be in your favor. In fact, it highlights just the opposite BUT gives reassurances of better outcomes purely based on faith that God is in control.

When we read the Bible as a practical guidebook for every and all situations then we can fully access it’s power throughout life. Knowing and accepting the truths of the Bible does not keep circumstances away from us but it gives us a firm anchor and mental fortitude to resist the temptation to fold under the guaranteed pressures of life.

Today is the day to start to trust God and his plan for your life. That starts with surrendering your life to him. You can simply say, “God I want you to be in control of my life and I surrender to you.” Don’t overcomplicate a relationship with Jesus. He simply loves you no matter where you came from our what you have done. Difficult circumstances in life will always happen but your reactions to those things are a decision that starts with trusting God and following his lead.

You can do it. Don’t give up. I am praying for you.

 

 

 

 

My Near Death Experience from Chapter 1 in “Holy Crap; Finding God’s Presence In Your Pain”

icefishing
Excerpt from Chapter 1: Holy Crap! This Book Is For Everyone! 
“When I was kid, I would ride with my grandpa occasionally to a favorite lake to go ice fishing. I can remember one trip where I thought it would be fun to jump up and down on the cracking ice around the edge of the lake. I liked the sound the ice would make when I would jump up and down on it, not realizing how dangerous it was for me to be at the lake’s shore on ice that was not completely frozen. I was right next to the shore and jumped way up in the air and came down on a piece of ice that gave way under my feet. I fell into the ice-cold water a good distance away from where my grandpa was sitting. The ice under my feet was like a slide under the water, and I couldn’t keep my feet under me and started to slip under the ice. I tried climbing out of the lake but would just slip further into the icy water. I reasoned that all I could do was turn back out towards the middle of the lake and break the ice further away from shore until I could get out to thicker ice and climb out. I can remember thinking that I was going to die. Well, needless to say, I ended up pulling myself out and getting back to the safety of my grandpa. I learned a valuable lesson that day about icy conditions on a lake and did not try anything like that again.
 
I share this to help you understand something: when you are in the middle of crap, your primary thinking is to just survive. I understand the feeling of despair and the instinct of survival in an adverse situation.”

Click here to order your author signed copy of Holy Crap today!

Focus in Life

focus_inschool
Did you ever consider that it is impossible to focus on two points at the same time? If you put your hand up in front of your face and try to focus on it and whatever is in the background it is impossible. You can notice what is generally there, but it will not be in focus. I think this is an amazing thing that God instilled in us as human beings. Not because of the physical ability of the eyes but because it is an example that translates into life in general.

What is your life focused on? Maybe you are focused on your career and ambition to be the best in your field. Is it focused on temporary things like the newest smartphone, a new car, bigger house or even just money? Maybe your total and complete focus is on your family or friends and making them the highest priority.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things but the advantage in life comes from keeping a focus on Jesus and knowing that he is taking care of all those other things in the background. This is not saying that you can be lazy in your vocation, that you don’t need money to pay bills, a form of transportation, a way to communicate with people or that family and friends can be ignored.

The supernatural element of being a true follower of Christ and his teachings in the Bible is that when you put God first in everything and keep your focus on Him, all of your needs are met and all the people in your life get the BEST version of you.

A couple of GREAT scriptures to keep in mind about the focus of your mind and the power of the Bible!

Isaiah 26:4 – You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Focus in life can be evaluated on a few levels. What do you spend the most time thinking about? When you are alone with your thoughts and nothing is pressing on you, what is the first thing you think about? If you are naturally a worrier (as I am, but I am working on this area of my life) then the things you worry about are probably things that you think personal actions can change or control.

One of the MOST important things I stress in my Holy Crap book is that the “control” we feel in life is a myth. The only thing we have control of in life is how we spend our time. Spend it focusing on Jesus and everything else will be taken care of! Today, do a “focus evaluation” and consider some changes in life and this coming new year.

 

 

I Gave Shoes To The Homeless This Weekend

shoes-mix
Yolanda and I participated in an outreach to the homeless of Denver this weekend and it was exhilarating. I LOVE being able to connect with people who don’t need a handout as much as a firm handshake, eye contact, maybe a hug and a smile to let them know that someone cares about where they are in life. Yolanda and I helped hand out shoes to people and to hear the thankfulness in the voices of people we helped was priceless.

I am not writing this blog to try and make myself look good or to guilt others into doing something in their community to help people in need. I want to bring up a few points to consider while helping people who are homeless or just in transition in their lives.

1. Don’t treat the homeless LIKE human beings treat them AS human beings
People who are homeless are not a lower level than anyone else and deserve the respect of people who are volunteering in some way. The best way you show respect is by not patronizing or taking down to them. Ask them their name, shake their hand and make eye contact. You would be AMAZED at what a smile and a firm handshake will do for someone.

2. Ask them to tell you their story and JUST LISTEN
Yolanda and I sat with two girls during lunch and had them tell us their story. We just sat and listened to them and let them know we were there to support them. Not to preach to them. Not to make sure they cross the proverbial “Jesus finish line” to make sure they were going to heaven. Just to listen to them and be a part of their journey in life. An important thing to remember is that showing love and meeting a practical need in someone’s life can speak more “Jesus” to someone than all the talking in the world. Yolanda and I love people first and let them ask us why we do the things we do. Jesus always comes up in conversation and we didn’t have to force any “religion” on people.

3. Don’t just help during the holidays
It is easy to get motivated to help during the holidays but the fact is that people are not just homeless and/or hungry during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. All of these organizations need help year round and would gladly accept the volunteer help at other times than just the end of the year. I think there is a Godly impact in a person’s life who commits to helping year round and not just as a give back during obvious months. The TRUEST form of being like Christ is looking for those in need and filling that need.

Have a great holiday season and I encourage each of you to look for ways to go outside yourself and meet practical needs in your community and then continue those things year round. Remember what Jesus did when he interacted with people; He met the practical need FIRST and that was the path to helping meet the deeper Spiritual needs.