Are You In LOVE…with God’s Word?

How important is the Bible to you?  Is it what you read before you fall asleep or when you wake up?  Maybe it is time you fall in love…with God’s Word.

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What Happens When Sinners Say “I Do”?

Did you know that your spouse is a sinner?  Yes, it’s true.  You married a sinner…and so did your spouse!  Sorry to lay that one on ya, but it’s true.  We are not perfect and when you get married, you marry an imperfect person with flaws, baggage, annoying habits, struggles, and a constant fight to please themselves over you.

So now that I dropped that bombshell on you, I thought it might be good to help you with this new revelation.  How about I suggest a book to you…41k0ystnbxl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

Book Review:  When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey

The Good:

That’s Deep.  It’s like the author reaches into your soul in order pull out a good spouse.  There is incredible spiritual depth.  As Marty McFly would say…it’s heavy.  But, be patient, the book starts off pretty heavy but sets a very good foundation for the practical steps in the chapters that follow.  Topics that flow in the next few chapters include confrontation, forgiveness, communication, and sex.

Is “Teaching Illustrations” a spiritual gift?  Man, this dude can give illustrations.  I mean anything from riding a bike to opening gifts a Christmas…he is able to bring everyday life examples to drive home valuable lessons.  I mean, the author even snuck in Frodo and Luke Skywalker in there.  As a visual learner, this was very helpful in absorbing the material.

Beautiful End.  This was quite the twist.  I did not expect an ending that was so emotional and poetic.  Nearly brought to tears reading stories of marriages enduring through tragedy, I found it to be a perfect ending.  Although speaking of “till death do us part” as the final thoughts would not have been my first choice in writing the ending of a marriage book.  But you know what?  It worked.  Actually, it was masterful.  By far my favorite part of the book, and it left a sweet transition into putting the book’s lessons into practice in my own marriage.

The Bad:

What Just Happened?  There were times where I asked myself, “Self, where is he going with this?”.  On rare occasion, the transition from one point to another needed a little more.  We started merging on the freeway at 75 miles an hour and I needed time to put on my blinker.  You get me?

The Grade:  A-.  Based on the title, it might not be a good idea to buy it for your spouse.  How about buying it for yourself first?  Yeah, that’s a good idea.  This book allows reality to set in on marriage.  Fairytales do not exist.  Sure, falling in love is magical.  Your spouse is a gift that fills a part of your heart that was reserved only for them.  But…Life happens.  There are car problems, job losses, sick kids, sleepless nights…it’s not always unicorn rides over rainbows.  So when that happens, when tension rises along with your blood pressure…how will you work through marriage as a flawed, sinful, and mistake-filled person with someone else who is all those things too.  You’ll have to read this book (which points to the real answers found in God’s Word) to find out.

 

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Dreams Do Come True – My 1st Book Goes On Sale Today!

The cursor blinked on the dark screen of that old computer.  My dad gave me his old IBM computer that weighed more than my bedroom furniture, but that was where the dream began.  I began to journal, write about my day, and watch the green print float words across the screen.  I didn’t know how to type.  Goodness, I barely knew how to spell.  But I did know I loved to write.

where-it-all-beganFast-forward to my college years.  I found a black leather-bound book, dove into the book of Psalms, and went to work.  Each night, I would write a devotional for myself with a summary statement at the end.  I don’t know if it was “senioritis”, or I just ran out of time…but I graduated and I never reached the end of Psalms.  That black leather book left incomplete, was thrown in a pile of my old academic records and free movie posters that the local theater would give me and my buddies every Tuesday.

Days become months, months become years, and time continued to tick on by.  I go on to seminary, marry the love of my life, and our family grows to four with our 2nd daughter born.  Then, as I was cleaning my office, I stumbled upon that black book.  I perused the pages realizing what a treasure I had just stuffed in my files.  I committed to finishing the Psalms, and began my quest to become an author.

Little did I know how difficult that next journey would be.  Rejection after rejection from publishing companies, I began to lose hope.  I mean, how could I blame them.  My name wasn’t Francis Chan or John Piper…to publishers, it was Jeff Who.  Although I was hesitant, I researched my options with self-publishing.  It was a little overwhelming, so I phoned an old friend.  Well, at that time, I don’t know if friend was the right word.  On the other end of the phone was my high school English teacher.  I called him Mr. P, mostly because I thought he closely resembled Mr. C on Happy Days.  In High School, I rarely paid attention, talked during class, and often showed little respect.  But, when Mr. P got a call from me about my dream of becoming an author, he didn’t hesitate to take me to lunch, pay for my meal, and answer every question I had.  He paid attention to me, talked me into reviving my dream, and a respectful friendship was born.

After months of editing and brainstorming, we were about a quarter of the way through the book.  Then, tragedy hit.  Mr. P passed away in his sleep.  My mentor, my new friend, my help in this journey went to be with his Savior.

front-coverNow what do I do?  I turned to another mentor, an established youth ministry author, who took an interest in my dream.  He connected me with a publishing company called Overboard Ministries.  And, as they say, the rest is history.  After long nights of editing for over a year, deliberation of titles and book cover designs…the day is finally here.

Dear Lord, I don’t feel like I deserve this dream to come true.  Remembering the days in front of that dark screen in my room, journaling my day that consisted mostly of backyard football and NHL 94 battles on the Sega Genesis with my brother to the late nights in an off campus house hoping these words would bless someone, someday.  To the days where it seemed like this dream was all but lost, which happened on more than one occasion.  My name is finally on the front of that book.  God, I give you this book.  Use it to help teens who are not consistently having a quiet time with the Lord yet.  Use it to bless the frustrated college student who feels alone, disappointed, and abandoned to find comfort, encouragement, and fulfillment in the Bible.  Use it to guide that 7th grader who feels lost in the new world of adolescence, and needs to discover the guiding hand of God’s Word.

You see, in the end, this dream became bigger than me.  The dream becomes a reality when I am able to hand this book to a teenager or young adult and watch them fall in love with God’s Word.  Now, that’s when my dreams truly come true.

Visit:  http://www.bottomlinedevotional.com to learn more about the book and how you can order a copy.

 

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It’s Time to Pray

We need to pray.  We need to pray for revival.  We need to pray our country turns back to God, instead of turning our back on God.  We need to pray for this election that Christianity would have a voice, and God would be glorified.  We must do what the money in our wallets and in our kid’s piggy banks says “In God We Trust”.  Tomorrow is going to take a lot of trust, but we are in God’s capable hands.  We need Him more than ever.  Pray.  Trust.  Hope.  And remember that God is still in control.

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How Can a Christian Get Huge Muscles?

lee-haneyWhen I was little, after Saturday morning cartoons, my brother and I would watch this TV show with one of the most successful body-builders of all-time Lee Haney.  I always thought it was the coolest thing to have huge muscles.  My wife laughs at how I always like to ask the biggest guy at the gym what he does to get bigger biceps.  Maybe someday…

But in any workout, there usually is some type of weight-lifting…designed to make you stronger.

In Colossians 1:11,  it says in order to walk close to God…we need strength, power, & might.  It’s time for some weight-lifting.  And when you do, you don’t produce huge biceps and superior lats…no, you get something much better – endurance, patience with joy.

Doesn’t that just describe life.  Write that phrase down – “Endurance and patience w/ joy” and repeat it often throughout the week.

  • When new construction delays your way to work – “Endurance and patience w/ joy”
  • When a tree falls into the side of the house – “Endurance and patience w/ joy”
  • When your husband decides to fix an electrical outlet and the entire 1st floor electricity goes out (love you honey) – “Endurance and patience w/ joy”

No matter how hard I try to bench 500 pounds…just not going to happen unless two big guys pulling it off my chest before I die.

can-i-pray-for-you-part-2-2This is life – and it is heavy lifting – sometimes the weight seems too much and we call on God for a spot…when we should be depending on Him for all of the lifting all along.

“Strengthened” – this literally means a regenerating power – not just a one-time power up at salvation hoping to last a lifetime – God will strengthen you till you meet Him in glory.  This strength is a power that comes from God.  Have you felt that power?  I know I have.  In tragedy – God gave me power to get through.  In temptation – God has given me power to fight through.  In trials – God gives me power to suffer through.

You know, there are those that don’t believe in God and his power – ask them this – You prove to yourself there is no God.  Congratulations…now what do you have?

“Endurance” – resisting the urge to fight evil with evil or take revenge.  Fight another way – by persevering to the end and not quitting in the Christian life.  Charles Spurgeon said “By perseverance the snail reached the ark”.  Don’t quit when life gets tough.

  • Tough day at work – don’t yell at your wife
  • Tragedy in your family – be kind to the doctors, nurses, & funeral director
  • Job loss – don’t let your pride make you unbearable.

Don’t try to fight with other means like bitterness, anger, or hate…it will take you down the wrong road.

“Patience” – steadfast, one who will not be deterred from the ultimate goal – even through immense trials and difficulty.  This is not the weight-lifter that sits on the machine “waiting around” – this is like a runner battling through cramps and pain to finally reach the finish line.  Body-builders grinding it out only to see results later down the road – isn’t that what life is like?

“Joy” – is a sign of a strong Christian walk.  Some of you today are lifting some heavy weight right now, some incredible burdens – but it is the inner strength that comes from the Lord – still find joy in these times.  It’s not a passive or emotionless joy.  Even when we know the ending of a movie/documentary, we still may cry tears in the middle…we are in the middle of God’s story, and we know the end…but we still may hurt.  But God gives us the strength to have joy even in the struggles, pain and disappointment – that’s the power of God.

There’s a reason why runners do weight training – so they have endurance and strength to fight to the end.  God can give you that strength to fight to the end.

God can part the sea, make the sun stand still, and create the universe in 6 days…but He can’t make you have patience…what does that tell you?  God will do all He can to put you in a position to endure and have patience with joy.  Will you let Him train you in your patience & joy?

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How to Vote as a Christian

What a time to be alive!  This is the closest I have ever followed an election.  Now that I am a parent of young kids, a family pastor, and starting to fit in my big boy slacks…I’ve been following this election season pretty carefully.  Although it has brought anxiousness and frustration, I’ve sat through the debates, followed articles on Twitter, and even read numerous postings from all the “experts” on Facebook.  In the end, sometimes I feel like this…201603_2000_hfcfd_smUntil now, I have bit my tongue in the social media world.  There have been numerous times when I have had to type out responses…and then delete them just so I could move on.  It was my therapy.  And it also saved me from saying things I would regret, cause division, and embarrass others.  This election has already taught me humility, self-restraint, and a whole lotta trust in my Sovereign God…a whole lotta.

As a pastor, I get asked this from time to time.  How should I vote in this election?  It seems like this election, for obvious reasons, has been the most highly debated among Christian circles.  My response was never “Vote for _______”, end of story, check please.  Instead, I was able to present the issues in the lens of a Biblical worldview, trying my best not to influence or push my biased opinion.  Here are some of my points that may help you vote as a Christian this coming election…

What’s the Bible Say?

Can’t I just read a Bible verse that will tell me what to do?  Well, you could try Ecclesiastes 10:2 (ESV).  Nice try, but I don’t think the application would be very accurate…clever…but not the original intent of the passage.

The best article I have come across for a Biblical approach is found here.  I encourage you to read it.  In fact, I’d rather you read that article than my blog.  Yes, there is a candidate leaning in this article, but the principles cannot be ignored.  But bear in mind this is written by a man whose theological books are used in most conservative Christian universities.  And when I did a poll last year with youth pastors about what theology book they use, it was Mr. Wayne Grudem’s.  It is well worth your time.

Social Issues That Make You Grab the Tissues.

Here’s where I have the most difficulty.  Abortion.  How could you vote for that?  Yes, it is just one issue, but the magnitude of that one issue is indescribable.  Truly, there are no words.  To think of someone who can defend a partial birth/late-term abortion.  It breaks your heart, and should not even be a discussion point…but sadly it is.  Why not just take the baby early?  Give that beating heart a chance.  I’ve seen an ultrasounds of my kids, and it is unimaginable.  I’ve been there when you are searching for  heartbeat.  Your vote can be a voice to all those little ones that do not have a voice.

Never Say Never.

I really needed to come to the election box with an open mind.  Sure, you can see some bias in my writing.  But the #never______ hashtags on social media don’t help anyone.   If you do, make sure your reasons are not just media or campaign fabrications.  You say I will never vote for Trump because of how he made fun of those with disabilities (proven to be a lie) or what he said about Hispanics all being rapists (slight exaggeration).  Or you could say believe the lies about Hillary’s tax plans where Trump may be stretching the truth (seen here).

The point is, do your research beyond watching character attacking commercials and the playground arguments that we call Presidential debates these days.  Take a look at the facts yourself from independent sites, watch the actual footage of accusations, and dig a little deeper.  It’s muddy water for sure, but I think you can still go fishing and catch what you need to make dinner (did that illustration help anyone?).

You’re Not Voting on Your Pastor.

It would be nice if we could just vote for our pastor to be a candidate.  A man who follows Scripture, lives a godly lifestyle, treats others and even their enemies with love and respect.  But you’re not voting on a pastor.  You’re voting on a presidential candidate.  This is a politician we are talking about here.  And remember, you are voting on their policies…and possibly even more bigly, who they will choose on the Supreme Court (this might make this the most important election of our lifetime).  These are very flawed candidates, and that is what is making this decision difficult, I get that.  Both candidates must have frog collections, because they each have warts galore!  Each have actions in the present and the past that cannot that are indefensible.  That can’t be denied, but we also must remember this is not a church vote for a pastoral candidate either.  I’m not condoning behavior, just providing a reality check.

Prayer.

Last but certainly not least, pray.  People we need to pray.  Pray for wisdom.   Pray for our leaders.  Pray for those voting.  Pray for unity among believers.  Pray for our nation.  Whoever you vote for, I encourage you to take the advice of Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence…

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Can I Pray For You?

A Poem by Jeff Beckley to the church…

Can I Pray for Youcan-i-pray-for-you-part-1

Can I pray for you church? Can I pray for you?

The trials you face, the struggles you are going through

Can I pray for my teens, who battle pressures from every direction

That Satan wouldn’t add you to his church dropout collection

Can I pray for you Moms, who feel the weight of the world

That child’s crying, that child’s angry, that child just hurled

This last week seemed like a hill impossible to climb, 100 miles high

Can I pray for you moms, so God can hear an extra listen of your cry

Can I pray for you Dads, who may feel like you’re losing your grip

If there was a game between struggle and frustration, you’d win the championship

Work is piling up, you just spilled ketchup on your new shirt, and the house is falling apart

You want to just go for a drive, but your car won’t start

Can I pray for you husbands and wives, who feel like something is missing

Having trouble remembering the days of love notes, fancy dates, and kissing

The sparks are flying alright, but not like from your early days

These are more like sparks from a grinder cutting a fender off an old Chevrolet

Can I pray for you children, whose hold on your innocence seems to be fading

With all that’s on the news, movies, and songs…praying you won’t be imitating

Can I pray for those that are hurting and can’t see the light at the end

Today’s prayer will give you a reason to be on the mend

Can I pray for you church?  Can I pray for you all today?

Because we all need strength, so let’s see what God’s Word has to say.

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How to Partner With Parents

Ask any youth ministry veteran what they wished they did more of in their first few years of ministry, and partnering with parents will probably be in their top 3, if not their top wish.  It is so important to get on the same team as your parents in youth ministry.  This book will help you be the assistant coach to the head coach (parents) that you can be.teamup

Book Review:  Team Up by Phil Bell

The Good:

Pep Talk.  Skeptical of involving parents in your ministry?  Well, at least read chapter one and then let me know what you think.  The author does a great job grabbing the reader’s attention in the first chapter to explain the importance of parent involvement.

Practice Makes Perfect.  At the end of each chapter, the practice drills are dynamite.  They provide ways to implement everything you just read.  These could also be put to good use in parent meetings.

Super Practical.  Man, I came away from this book with tons of ideas for parent meetings and boosting my relationships with parents.  How do you do parent meetings, how do you communicate, how do you _______.  It’s all there and the steps are all written out.  Right on Phil Bell!

The Bad:

Gimme Some Cheat Codes.  The only thing I really feel like this book is missing is some devotional or lessons for parents using God’s Word.  It would be nice to get some example of lessons or portions of the parent seminars that were mentioned in the book.  I’m not looking to copy the entire presentation, but passages used, more detail of topics covered, and lessons that proved to be effective would be beneficial for the reader.

The Grade:  A-.  Talk about a practical ministry book that everyone in youth ministry should read.  This would be the one.  After reading it, I texted a few of my youth ministry buddies right away and told them about this one.  So this me telling you all, get this book and be encouraged by ways you can minister to and with parents.

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Book Review: Churches Partnering Together

Book Review:  Churches Partnering Together by Chris Bruno & Matt Dirks81g57-vr2ol

The Good:

Where Do I Sign?  This book is not short on inspiration.  I loved reading the real life examples of churches partnering together, and the amazing accomplishments for the kingdom of God.  If you are not excited to at least explore a possibility of partnering, then maybe you should take a vitamin or something, because it is definitely inspirational.

Emphasis on Prayer.  This was probably what I most appreciated about this book.  This wasn’t just a “How-To” book on church partnerships.  The authors were careful that these partnerships were bathed in prayer and were God-directed.  Very wise move by the authors and should be appreciated by the reader.

The Bad:

Watered-down.  Due to the wide range of denominations that might pick this book up, there were some aspects that required watering down, or at least vagueness.  For example, one part of the book spoke of the essentials of the faith, but failed to go into detail.  This had to be a discussion the authors had while writing, and I’m sure proved to be a difficult task.

The Grade:  B+.  I wouldn’t call this book earth-shattering, but it is high on practicality and helps the reader fulfill the goal of the title.  If you are looking for ways to partner with other churches, this book will provide valuable insight on how to accomplish your pursuit.  Along with valuable examples, the reader will allow other experiences to vault them into a successful partnership.  This book holds hope for churches to reach their greatest potential together for the glory of God.  I’d say that’s a pretty good review.

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