Sunday, February 26, 2023

A healthy marriage focuses on teamwork

Earlier this month Charity and I taught on marriage. It was super fun because we've been married for eighteen years now! We have three children and have lived in a couple different cities together. We've traveled from California to Arizona, from Las Vegas to Africa, from Washington to Italy (and more). And in all that we still love each other! 

For our talk we looked at the words of Salomon in Ecclesiastes: 
9 Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV
When I think about married, the first thing that a healthy marriage focuses on is teamwork. The author starts out with a basic truth in life: two are better than one. If I asked you if you would rather have one dollar or two, you would take two. If I asked you if you would rather have one scoop of ice cream or two, you would most likely take two. The author is referring to people. The only thing that we don’t want two of is rattlesnakes on a hike. When two people are working together they have a better return. Two people can bring in more income, they can dream together, they can work better in their gifting and have a better return for the company they are working for. We all know that two are better than one, but we need to be reminded or this truth for a healthy marriage. 

For those who are married, you know that for your marriage to be healthy you have to work together. When a couple walks down the aisle they are madly in love. They stare into each others eyes. They see their future flash in front of them. This is the person they want to have babies with, buy a home with, travel with, and grow old with. 

When each person walks down the aisle they have an invisible team jersey on. That team jersey has their own name on the back. For twenty minutes they will stand in front of their family, friends, a pastor and God, and commit their lives to each other. When they walk away that day they have changed their team allegiance to work with the other for the rest of their lives. 

Most of us know what it’s like to work with others on a team. We played soccer when we were five years old. We worked with a group on a high school math project. Or in our office we’ve worked on a team project to develop a new initiative. Sometimes there is a person on the team that doesn’t pull their weight and does less than the rest of the team. This leaves the others on the team doing more work and carrying the other person’s slack. Most often this ends in bitterness. 

On a team, everyone needs to play their role plus some. When everyone on the team gives 100%, that is what makes the team function. 

When I think of teamwork, I’m drawn to what God spoke in creation (read Genesis 2:18). It is not good for man to be alone. Guys, can I get an: “Amen!” on that one! If you’re married but haven’t been focused on teamwork with your spouse, will you make a change today? 

I want to present the: Be something different principle to you. I find that when I’m home I can easily drift to being on my phone and neglect my kids. Charity saw this too but she didn’t shame me for it. Instead, Charity has modeled to our family that she is present. She doesn’t bring her phone to the dinner table and she isn’t constantly glued to a screen. Instead, she is engaged and focused on our family. She has modeled to me that there is a different way. What I want you to do is think about how you can be different in your marriage. Not how your spouse can be different but how you can be different. What you can do in your marriage that will focus on teamwork and involvement. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Live No Lies | Book Review

Author- John Mark Comer

Publisher- WaterBrook

Pages- 336

Quotable- “My point is this: lies distort our souls and drive us into ruin.”

When I initially began reading Live no lies by John Mark Comer I quickly realized that he is a scholarly leader. In the beginning of this book he provides a brief summary of where he will go in this book (page xx). He presents his working theory that we are at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil. This war begins with lies that distort the actions of humanity and ultimately lead us to living in a sinful world. Because of the sin that we encounter on a daily basis we need to be aware of the schemes of the devil so we can fight against the flesh and live for Jesus in the world. 

Throughout the book Comer works through his theory by beginning with the truth about lies. The devil is actively working in this world to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) and therefore the believer must be aware of his lies. I appreciated how Comer addressed the way the devil twisted the truth of God, in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3), and lured Eve and Adam into sin. From that moment until now the devil has been inviting people to sinful destruction through his lies. The results is that we live in a world that is against God and therefore we must be more prepared in our spiritual formation. 

I think Comer did a great job, in the first section of the book, to present how badly lies have hurt the world and the people in the world. His statement on page 36, and work prior to that, have been extremely helpful to me: “My point is this: lies distort our souls and drive us into ruin.” My understanding was that the basis for our stunted growth in Christ is that we believe lies and therefore don’t follow the truth of God. It’s hard not to believe lies. We live in a world full of lies and therefore are surrounded by lies that the devil has been spewing for centuries. 

When we move into the second section of the book I think Comer does a great job at making progress on the Spirit’s transforming work. Comer brings in modern examples of how the flesh is sinful (page 105) and our need to submit to the Lord (page 107). I appreciate how Comer brings in Paul’s exhortation to the church in Ephesus from Ephesians 6. Comer does excels at explaining how a person who submits to the flesh lives versus someone who is living for the Spirit. When we look at pages 134 and 135 we see that Comer is giving us a side-by-side comparison of what it looks like to live for the flesh and to live in the Spirit. 

I appreciate his modern examples of ways that believers are falling into serving the flesh. On the following page Comer teaches us, from Galatians 5, on how to live for the Spirit. I appreciate how the publisher lined this out in the layout of the print. Living for the Spirit is so far from what we experience on a daily life. We are bombarded with all the acts of the flesh in our daily life and it’s hurting our spiritual growth. 
I found it most helpful how Comer pushed me to think outside of what I’ve currently been thinking about. So often, I think we try to avoid the ‘big sins’ and Comer started with how lying is where evil begins. His writing in chapter one got me thinking all the way to the conclusion of the book. What I found most helpful, for my personal spiritual formation, was his writing on fasting. I have always viewed fasting as a denying of the self. I have fasted from: soda, sugar, social media, candy, and occasionally food. But Comer says that to fast from anything by food is just abstinence (page 178). 

I was convicted by this. I want to fast and beat my flesh into submission. But I also have three kids, lead a church, lead a small group, coach baseball, workout and get REALLY hungry. I am not the most pleasant person to be around when I don’t eat. In fact, I have made my life so structured that I have times of the day that I eat. It was fairly convicting to read this section on what I thought was fasting isn’t really fasting. It’s causing me to rethink how I can deny my flesh to connect more deeply with the Lord. I will keep you posted on how this progresses. 

I throughly enjoyed the entirety of this book. If I had to choose something that I would like to hear more on it would be his work on keeping in step with the Spirit (page 173). I would like to hear what he is currently doing on walking daily with the Spirit. I appreciate his work on fasting and confession. Maybe I think it’s more complex than it really it, but I’d love to hear him add a couple more spiritual disciples to this list.  

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Pastor Chris Lyons

On Friday morning I woke up to a text that my friend Pastor Chris has went to be with Jesus in heaven. Over the weekend I’ve had so many important memories stroll through my mind and I wanted to share them with you. 

In 2004 I applied for a Junior High Pastor role at a church in Henderson, NV (Las Vegas). When I was looking at the church website I read about one of the pastors on staff, his name was Chris Lyons. He was about 70 years old at the time and had been married for almost 50 years. I can still see the picture of Chris and Connie in my mind. I kept thinking to myself: “I would love to work with that guy.” 

A couple months later I was hired and working with Chris Lyons. My cubicle was right next to his and I was so nervous. He was a pillar of faith, a man of God, loved his wife, and knew how to care for people. I would end up working closely with Chris for eight years. Chris was like a father/grandfather to me. He was a pastor to me. Chris was a mentor and a friend all wrapped into one.

Chris taught me how to tie a tie. Every time I tie my tie I think about Chris. He would make sure my collar looked good in the back on Christmas Eve and that my tie was the correct length. He was so encouraging. 

Chris taught me how to preach, though he never gave me a “preaching class.” Chris helped me work on sermons, sermon series, and my delivery. He would always say: “If you can’t say it in 30 mins then get off stage.” I still think that in my mind. 

When we moved into the Freeway Campus at South Hills I still officed very close to Chris. Instead of having cubicles next door we were office neighbors. Every morning I would spend from 8:30-9:00am in his office. It wasn’t an appointment but an invitation. I would talk to him about: preaching, leading, marriage, parenting, writing sermons, sermon series, reaching students, seminary, conflict management, working with elders, pastor transition, and more. Those conversations with Chris are still one of the highlights in ministry. 

Chris showed up; all the time! He would come to church every time we were leaving for a camp. I remember one morning he showed up as we were getting ready to head to Hume Lake. So many of our students and parents loved seeing Chris. He would walk from group of students to group of students taking their picture and talking to them. The whole time he was spreading pastoral pixie dust (the love of Christ) on everyone. 

There was a young lady in Charity’s small group who told us the reason that she landed at our church. Since I was the high school pastor I was ready to hear about how it was because of me, but it wasn’t. It was because of Pastor Chris’ Sunday preaching. She loved hearing him preach and wanted a grandfather figure in her life. The dude was well into his 70’s and was the best, still is the best, preacher I’ve ever sat under. 

Chris would invite anyone and everyone to his home. I can’t tell you how many meals I ate with him and Connie. He was also so welcoming and loving. He would host our Young Adults ministry at his home and just be there to serve. Chris taught me about serving others. 

I could continue to write more memories, and most likely will. But for now I will remember all the great times with Chris.