7 Personal Disciplines: A 90 Day Challenge

I’ve always been considered a fairly disciplined person. There are certain disciplines that have made me who I am today. Lately, however, I’ve not felt as disciplined in each area of my life. I would excel in one area, but not in another. I’ve shared some of this here previously, but I went through a couple stressful years. That, coupled with an extremely busy period, distracted me from some of the disciplines I had done for so many years.

The only solution I know to remedy a lack of discipline is to add discipline. I also know that if I repeat a discipline long enough, it becomes a habit…part of the DNA of my daily life. With that in mind, I’m adding some discipline to my life. For the next 90 days, I’m attempting to improve in seven areas of discipline.

For the next 90 days, I plan to add these 7 personal disciplines:

Eat – I am what I eat many times. When I over-eat or eat the wrong foods I gain unnecessary weight and don’t feel as well as I should. My goal here is to average eating between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day and to monitor the type foods I eat. (The LoseIt app helps with that. Read about it HERE.)

Pray – I know prayer is a life source. I’ve seen the results of prayer. Prayer doesn’t always change things the way I’d want them to bs, but prayer always changes me. It gives me strength, comfort and confidence. Why don’t I pray more? My goal is to pray throughout my day, recognizing God is with me always.

Read – I need to be regularly reading my Bible and supplementing it with Christian and leadership books. I can be legalistic about Bible reading, but the discipline I need is to read it for relationship (with God), not just for education. Part of being discipled by others happens as I read other work. My goal here is to always be reading through a Bible book I’m not preaching about, journal about my Bible reading and to read at least one chapter of another book every day.

Write – I’m introverted, so I process information many times by writing. I’m fairly disciplined with my blog, but I have some larger projects I should be working on. My goal here is to average one hour extra writing time per weekday. I may do that in a couple days per week, but want to maintain that as a total hours each week to write.

Exercise – I’ve written about this before HERE. I know well this is a secret to my productivity. My goal here is to run 4 days per week minimum and exercise with weights 2 or 3 days per week.

Sleep – I don’t need much sleep. If I’m not careful I’ll stay up too late at night working on projects. I never sleep late, so I end up getting too little sleep. My goal here is lights out by 10:30 and to take short power naps as needed…and not feel guilty about them.

Pause – Anyone who knows me well knows I have a hard time staying still long. I do take a “Sabbath” and believe everyone “rests” in their own way, but this is a discipline to have some time during the week where I do absolutely nothing. My goal here is to have a 2 to 3 hour time each week when I pause from all activities. (I can assure you this will be the hardest discipline to complete.)

I’m excited about living a more disciplined life.

Do you want to join me? Would you commit to disciplining yourself in each of these areas over the next 90 days? (You’ll be finished before Christmas.) You can change the details of each discipline…you may need more calories or less…you may choose a different exercise…etc… The key is to be disciplined in 7 critical areas of your life.

Who is with me?

Which of this will be hardest for you to do?

Nascar Prayer…Boogity Boogity Boogity

Chances are good by now you’ve seen this. It happened down the road from me. I don’t know this pastor, but I may need to invite him to lunch sometime.

Just so you know, this is not a typical Tennessee prayer. It certainly brings attention to the fact that we do pray! :)

What thoughts come to your mind with this prayer?

Scripture Memorization, Week 20

Jehoshaphat was a great king, because he followed the ways of God. In an incredible example of humility, Jehoshaphat was willing to admit, in front of the people he was leading, that he didn’t have all the answers.

When facing a powerful rival nation, Jehoshaphat prayed a prayer. This week’s memory verse comes from that prayer.

Here is this week’s memory verse:

Do you ever feel overwhelmed, not knowing what step to take next? If you do, and if you want to join me this week in learning this short, simple prayer, simply comment on this post with the word “Amen!”

Together, this week, we’ll look to God for answers we do not have.

A Special Message to Stressed Out Church Planters (and others)

Dear church planter (and others)…

In the growth phase, everything is changing, life moves at rocket pace…

Somedays you don’t know whether you are coming or going…

It’s a bit overwhelming, stressful, even a bit scary at times…

I hear this often from new church plants and fast growing churches…

I feel (and identify with) your pain…

I see part of my calling to help church leaders during this time…

I pray you protect your heart and your family…

But…

Let’s hope things never change…

Oh, don’t misunderstand, I hope you get better…

I hope you increase structure as needed…

I hope you can soon afford more staff…

I hope more volunteers are recruited…

I hope more people start financially contributing to the vision…

I hope you gain wisdom from others who have gone before you…

But I hope you never stop feeling somewhat overwhelmed…

I hope that the sense of facing the unknown never completely leaves you…

You see…

If you ever get to the point where you always know what to do next…

You’ve probably reached your threshold for growth…

You’ll no longer need to walk by faith…

You’ll soon become bored, perhaps even complacent…

And, that’s not the dream God called you to…

Growth and change is always uncomfortable, because it’s taking you into the unknown…

Dear church planter (and others), if the stress is from things going right…God is bringing new people…He’s stretching your leadership skills…He’s allowing you to encounter the messiness of extending love and grace to hurting people…He’s accomplishing His will through you…

Praise God…stay on your knees…and rejoice that He is displaying His glory!

Do you need to be reminded to enjoy the journey today?

 

A Parent’s Greatest Prayer

I love the story of Manoah and his wife. They had been unable to give birth until one day an angel of God brings them news of a child to be born. As Manoah’s wife came to him with the good news, Manoah immediately did what happens to many men and wome when they discover they are about to be parents…he prayed!

In that moment, realizing they were about to be blessed with one of life’s greatest blessings, Manoah prayed the most important prayer a parent can pray:

Then Manoah prayed to the LORD: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” (Judges 13:8)

Parenting is hard work. All of us have seasons we could use more prayer for our children.

What are the current prayers you have for your children?  What specifically do they need the most?

What are you presntly praying about for your parenting skills?  What specifically do you need the most?

I always tried to focus my greatest prayers on the character of my children.   What character issues are your children needing to mature in these days? Try asking God to help you know how to parent your children to develop in these areas.

(BTW, if you are interested or need this, I have written two previous posts about dealing with childlessness. You can read those posts HERE and HERE.)

What’s Your Continual Prayer

This woman told our team that she prayed 40 years for a church to come to Compound Village where she lives in Sierra Leone. Africa for Jesus recently opened Believers Church and it is the first ever Christian Church in a village with over 3,000 people. I was amazed by her faith and consistent prayer.

For what or whom have you been continually praying?

Advice for Men after the Wife Says the Marriage is Over

I hope you don’t need this post. It is for a select audience.

After I have answered a question too many times to count, I figure more people have the same question. One of the issues I see frequently is what happens to men when their marriage caves in around them and their wife no longer wants the marriage to work. This could be because of simple neglect over the years or an affair, but she wants out and he wants her to stay. When this happens, a man often becomes a vulnerable puppy of a man and literally doesn’t know what to do next. (I’ve sadly seen it so many times, especially recently.) It could be his fault or her fault, but at this point, the man just wants to save his marriage.

Here are a few suggestions I gave a while ago to a man in this situation. Although this is a personal reply to one man, I believe it may have application for many man in this situation. One thing needs to be clear, however; you must own your decision. You know your situation far better than anyone else. These suggestions are based on experience with dozens of marriage situations, but they are simply my opinions and not designed as professional advice.

If you are in the immediate days and weeks after your wife has indicated she thinks the marriage is over, this is what I suggest:

1. Don’t beg. You are likely much more broken and emotional right now than normal, but women are attracted to a man’s strength, not as much his emotional side. (Even if they say they are…over time they want to see strength.) She needs to know you are hurting, but not see you as weak. That balance is hard to strike, but important to find.

2. Sometimes writing a letter works better than talking in person, because you can share your true heart, think through your words, etc, without all the emotions being involved. When the relationship is especially strained, we tend to say the wrong things, which backs the other spouse into a corner, causing defenses to rise and emotions to take over the conversation. Read THIS POST about how to write this type letter.

3. As hard as it is, after you’ve told your spouse your heart and what you want, you have to give her some space. Honestly, she’s probably feeling crowded right now. After a woman has wrestled through this as long as she has, when she’s done, she’s done. That doesn’t mean her heart can’t change later, but for now she feels smothered almost to be around you. I’m not trying to add to your hurt here. I am simply giving you the reality from what I have seen many times. That’s why she may talk about one of you moving from the house. Chances are this was a very long process for her and you just found out how severe it is for her. That’s typical.

4. Build yourself up physically, emotionally and spiritually as much as trying to save your marriage. You’ll need that in days to come regardless of what happens and it will make you more attractive. In these days, you should draw closer to the heart of God than you ever have before.

5. Seek professional help. You probably aren’t as capable right now of making wise decisions. Find someone to help you do this. Ideally this would be professional Christian counseling with you and your wife, but could be a mature friend or minister. Regardless, get personal help if your wife will not go with you.

6. Do your best not to make stupid mistakes during this time. It’s hard to do, because you are vulnerable, but you don’t want the marriage set back further than it is. Spend time in personal reflection, asking God and yourself what you did to contribute to this situation. If you already know your blame, seek God’s forgiveness, your spouse’s and anyone else you have injured.

7. Surround yourself with a few other men you can trust. Be accountable, open and honest with them. It’s especially helpful, and they are plentiful, to find men who have walked where you are walking and survived.

8. Realize that any change of heart in your spouse is going to take longer than you would hope it would. A woman’s heart usually changes slower than a man’s heart. Be patient. Pray that God brings the right people and influences in her life and that her heart changes towards you.

Please know I’m praying for you as I type this. My prayer is that your marriage will be saved, your wife’s heart will change, and the two of you will grow a marriage that glorifies God. Also, again, this post is not professional counsel. You didn’t pay me to receive this, so don’t hold me accountable for it’s success. I can’t stress enough that every situation is different. I would suggest, although, that these situations often have similar characteristics. Hopefully some of this will help.

Men/Women, what would you add to this?

10 Confessions I Need to Make

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16

I look good online. I appear to be all the things I’m not. Here’s the truth you need to know:

I can be greedy…
I can be prideful…
I can be arrogant…
I can be stubborn…
I can be lustful…
I can be unforgiving…
I can be judgmental…
I can be egotistical…
I can be selfish….
I can be uncaring…

There’s my list…Thankful, as always, for His grace…

I don’t want my prayers hindered in any way because I’m pretending to be someone I’m not. I feel better letting you know who I really am some days.

What do you need to confess today?

Memorial Day Thanks to Our Soldiers and Families


“But your servants, every man armed for battle, will cross over to fight before the LORD, just as our lord says.”
Numbers 32:27

Living in a military town and serving as pastor of a church in this city, Cheryl and I have the privilege of knowing hundreds of military families who serve our nation to keep us free.  Grace Community Church is a better church because of the hundreds of these families who choose to worship, serve and grow with us.

One thing some soldiers often do is to leave behind a letter to his or her spouse and/or family in the event that something tragic should happen to them while deployed.  They sign the seal of the envelope and ask that it not be opened unless the worst should occur.  At times, they leave the letter with another family member and other times with a trusted friend. Some of the most sobering moments of my life have been receiving one of these signature-sealed envelopes from a solder leaving for war.  Each time I felt honored and humble by being asked to hold such a letter, but it has always been a sobering reminder to me of the harsh realities of war.

Thankfully, I have never had to deliver one of these letters.  I hope I never do.  Usually when the soldier returns, he or she will request the letter back from me.  At times, I’m asked to continue holding it due to the volatile nature of their career.

I’m also reminded, however, as Memorial Day is designed to do, that many families have had to endure the delivering of their own “letter” from a fallen soldier.   Today I’m praying God comforts them with the memories of happy times together and with the pride of knowing and enjoying the freedom their loved one gave his or her life to protect.

In my experience, soldiers are brave men and women, with families and friends they love, but who choose sacrifice and service over personal pleasure because of a special calling to serve for the cause of freedom.  These are men and women who love their country, respect what freedom brings to a nation, and are courageously willing to put their life on the line to protect it. Many of our Fort Campbell soldiers are deployed this year and Cheryl and I are praying for their continued safety and for the comfort of loving families waiting for their return.

Some of Cheryl and my best and lifetime friends have been military families.  My father and brother are both veterans, along with many of my extended family.  My pride, gratitude and thankfulness for their service to our country cannot be described in words.  I still get goose bumps hearing the National Anthem or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  Today, to our soldiers and their families, please accept Cheryl and my sincere appreciation for your service.  We couldn’t do the ministry God has called us to do if you didn’t do what you were called to do.  God bless you and keep you safe!

What do you think of when you think of our soldiers and their families?

Jeremiah 18, Part 2

“Go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made. I will speak to you while you are there.” Jeremiah 18:2 NLT

In order to hear a word from God we have to meet God on His terms. God will go to extreme measures to reach one of His children, but to hear from God requires us to be in a listening position with God. In the life of a believer, for example, sin can hinder our relationship with God, as other relationships are hindered by infractions in the relationship, and that broken fellowship can keep us from hearing God when He speaks. Our own busyness and the normal distractions of life can also keep us from hearing God.

God wanted to speak to Jeremiah and He was going to use pottery as a part of His discussion. Sometimes God will use situations in our life to gain our attention and illustrate for us His agenda. You and I, if we want to hear from God, must continually rid our lives of distractions, strive to walk in obedience with Him daily, free our life of unneeded clutter, slow down long enough to listen for the voice of God, and watch and listen for God’s voice in the midst of the normal routine and places of life.

God is not trying to hide His voice from you or me. In fact, if we aren’t hearing when God speaks, it’s most likely because we aren’t listening. Let’s do whatever it takes to hear the voice of God. He has great things for us to know. He sees the path before us and He wants to lead us down it within His will. Let’s listen!

What’s the biggest distraction in your life from spending time alone with God?