Who Should Read “Winning on Purpose”?

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Early this week I finished my third book for the year called, Winning on Purpose by John Kaiser. Kaiser uses the analogy of a soccer game in order to give a picture of what should be happening in accountable ministry at the local church.

Just as a soccer game has components such as boundaries to the field, a goal, a score board, score keepers, referees and a purpose that by playing within the rules, the winning team is the one who is able to score the most goals in a the given period of time, so also ought the church operate itself in a similar manner.

Winning on Purpose was a gift sent to me by the the director of our regional church association. As I begin to institute these principles at the church I serve, I believe that I will find a deeper appreciation of the gift I have found within its pages.

Kaiser suggests that the role of lay people is to do the work of the ministry. Staff, whether they are paid or unpaid volunteers, exist to help train and equip the members to do ministry work. The Pastor leads the team through the teaching and equipping of staff and laity, leading mission and vision, and reports to the board.

The board is the accountable leadership that functions as both the referees and cheerleaders to the pastor, and makes sure that the mission and vision is being accomplished within the boundaries of the rules. The rules are what Kaiser calls Guiding Principles. Together, when everyone faithfully executes their position, they become a team that works to accomplish the goal in the church, which is the Great Commission.

Some of the ways that Kaiser’s accountable leadership model will benefit your church is that it marries responsibility with authority and accountability. It will promote church unity to accomplish one purpose in a meaningful way, no matter what your role is on the team. Mission and vision become the driving force of the church, and not policies and programs.

This book is not a book for everyone, but is beneficial for pastors, elders, deacons or equivalent leaders. This book might also be beneficial for boards of non profit organizations to glean from to make sure that their leadership is both accountable and effective.

If you are a church leader and find yourself wondering each week why your church exists or why you are doing certain programs that seem to be exhausting and provide little return on investment, this book is for you. If you wonder what the relationship of the board should be to the pastor and what accountability should look like, then this book will help. If you have been hired to do ministry and do not feel empowered by your church, then this is a must read for you and those you report to.

The church is the place where unity ought to be found and a great purpose should be proclaimed and lived out. Too often it is an embarrassing culture of back biting and fighting and people aimlessly wandering through church doors wondering what they are doing week after week. If you are a leader in the church and that is your weekly experience then don’t delay any longer and pick up a copy of Winning on Purpose and find those you minister with and work together to establish these biblical principles as the bedrock for how leadership is performed in your church.

Disunity is terrible. Unproductiveness toward the mission and vision of the church is inexcusable. Let’s get to work!

 

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Book Review: 5 Reasons Why You Must Read Randy Alcorn’s Book {If God is Good}

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When I studied at Dallas Theological Seminary and took a course on suffering and evil with Dr. Larry Waters, Randy Alcorn’s book If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil was one of the required texts. At the end of the semester I signed off that I had read this book in its entirety.

However, I used the term “read” loosely. Yes, every sentence was visualized and streamed through by my eyes. However, what I did miss out was adequately digesting most of what I read. Have you ever been so hungry that you gulped down a chunk of meat or food without really chewing it properly? You can literally feel your throat stretching as it cinches its way down your esophagus. You think, next time I need to chew that better. Well, that’s kinda how it was when I initially read this book. So I bookmarked it in my head to return back to it one day. Well, that day finally came mid January.

I have been working on reading this book since then, and while it has put me behind on my goals, it was worth the sacrifice of time to properly enjoy the feast of truth that is densely packed in this book.

This book is no comic book, but for the one who is disciplined to stay the course in reading through the nearly 500 pages, he will be rewarded with encouraging insight that will both challenge the doubting heart and strengthen the longing heart that seeks to find a final answer and cure for the problem of evil and suffering in our world.

In the end, after I finished the last sentence, I felt that I had climbed a theological mountain that has satisfied and strengthened my faith and better prepared me for the much harder journey that life eventually will bring my way. I also found myself wishing that I had taken others along with me on the journey through this book. People who are staggering in their faith. People railed by anxiety and depression because circumstances beyond their control have bitten the joy from their life because of suffering. People who are angry and irritated with God or who are angry and irritated at those who believe in him because they cannot possibly fathom a loving and powerful God who allows such terrible suffering in this life.

If you are on a journey where the sweetness of your adventure has been sabotaged by the wretchedness of evil, then this book is for you. It doesn’t matter whether you are well grounded in the faith, are new to the faith, or think that faith is a crutch created by man thousands of years ago, this book will stretch your thinking beyond the walls of your religion 101 class you took in college. In the following, I present 5 compelling reasons why you should read this book.

  1. When it comes to solving the problem of evil and suffering, you owe it to yourself to consider which flavor of Kool Aid you are drinking. Whether you think you are a person of great faith or if you have no faith at all, once the bitterness of injustice, or suffering or death have crept into your life, you too will question if God is good or if he is all powerful.  We must evaluate the conclusions we arrive to when we try to answer such difficult questions on our own or whether these answers have been spoon fed to us by a professor who has an agenda to capsize the faith of his students and to promote naturalism. Too often, the idea of science and faith are presented as exclusive to one another rather than complementary. Some of the most brilliant scientists today and in history are believers in God who have all suffered. Yet, they do not drink the Kool Aid that says that there is no God in the midst of evil and suffering. Randy Alcorn’s book pours us endless cups of the wine of God’s grace in his discussion on the issue of evil and suffering. It is a much better alternative than the cheap Kool Aid that is given to us at some of our higher institutions of learning or media.
  2. Your eyes are jaded and you are not able to comprehend the problem of evil and suffering on your own. One of the biggest problems in our culture and church today is that when evil and suffering hit so close to home, one of our natural God given instincts is to take flight from what threatens us. Consequently, we isolate in our thinking and we are unable to adequately explain or understand our own situation. This inevitably leads us to doubt God. If God is Good gives you an “outside” perspective on your difficult circumstances that is informed by extensive research and a community of people whose personal stories of faith through suffering have substantiated the truth that this book so profoundly explains. Before you complete your evaluation of your personal suffering, this book will certainly be helpful to open your eyes to new and different possibilities to help you have a more accurate understanding of evil and suffering in your life.
  3. You need hope. Let’s face it. We love to party. We love the thrill of ups and downs on a roller coaster. But eventually the ride ends. We get off and the amusement park closes. Living life apart from God is fun and enjoyable at times- much like a roller coaster. When God doesn’t interfere with your life by giving you all those pesky and irritating rules of life, you get to do what you want. And mostly you seek pleasure. You go up on the roller coaster. Eventually, you go back down. The problem is that what once brought you pleasure doesn’t satisfy like it used to. On to the next ride: To the next man or woman. To the next sexual experience. To the next chemical “high”. To the next video game. To the the next entertainment that will distract us from the emptiness that is inside. To the next research project that you can use to disprove God. To the next ______________ (fill in the blank). All in order to justify your lifestyle and to deny your need for God’s existence. All to numb the pain of your isolation and emptiness that you feel when the ride is over. And we do this throughout our entire life. But one day the park closes. We leave this life. And you and I need to know that our life is meaningful and justified. Randy Alcorn’s book gives us a basis for understanding evil and suffering, takes a good look at its origins, nature and consequences, brilliantly rebuts the non-theist view, and provides a strong framework for understanding the world around us. If you buy into Alcorn’s argument, I promise you will have what you need most in this life: hope.
  4. You need and want the God that Randy talks about in this book. It doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or Atheist. Every human heart seeks to avoid the pain of evil and suffering and tries to explain the world that we live in. We all want to live a life of significance and worth, knowing that our life mattered. We all want to be loved, knowing that we are valued and valuable. We all want justice, knowing that our sacrifice and suffering is worth it. Knowing that perpetrators of evil will be held to account for their actions. Knowing that the faithful and righteous will be rewarded. Nobody likes it when the enemy wins. There is good news. If God is Good, provides a solid answer to the problem of evil and suffering. If you have ever wondered how God’s sovereignty can allow the meaningful choices of man to exist, wait until you read about the Drama that Randy describes in this book. A God who is exhaustive in power, knowledge, goodness and love. Who works through the unpacking drama of history to bring about his redemptive plan to completely and ultimately deal with the problem of evil: heaven and hell. Heaven- a place of eternal grace to unworthy but grateful children. Hell- where eternal sovereign justice is exacted upon evildoers.  Randy shares helpful insight into why God doesn’t seem to do more to restrain evil and suffering. Why God delays justice. Why God doesn’t always explain his reasons. Why God allows suffering. And how to live meaningfully in suffering. In the depth of your soul, you truly long to have the idiot evil people in this life done away with, and you truly long to be set free from the garbage and filth that we experience in this world. The God that Alcorn describes is a God who will do just that. He is the one you are longing for, whether you know it or not.
  5. You want a better answer for your problems than the one you have. I guarantee you that the answer to evil and suffering that is given in this book is better than what you have on your own. You might not believe Alcorn’s answer, even after you read. But at least you will have the satisfaction of further cementing your own interpretation and answer to evil and suffering. And for that reason alone, it might be worth your while to seriously consider the thoughtful and careful words you will read in this book. I challenge you to take a highlighter and pen and take notes as you read. I don’t know if it is the “best” answer ever recorded to the dilemma of evil and suffering that we face, but it certainly is one of the best that I have discovered in our time today. Even if you are an atheist, wouldn’t you like to know your opponents playbook? Have you ever taken the time to see if there is a better answer to your questions than the ones you have right now? How many of us assume an answer and then commit to it because someone agrees with, and thus, substantiates our position? We all do that. But when it comes to your journey to discover the answer to something so great, isn’t there always room to discover and learn more? You might have a great answer to the problem of evil and suffering, but I promise If God is Good will help you even more to the answer you commit yourself to in regards to this question. You will have a better answer than what you currently have.

Why I Didn’t Do a New Year’s Resolution and What I am Doing Instead

Every year it always happens. End of December comes and in those last few weeks you start to flip through the memories of the past year and evaluate the areas where you fell short. I do this every year.

Then January 1 comes and you make a declaration to resolve to accomplish some very specific things in your life. I have done that before and more often than not my resolution gets derailed by mid February. Usually this is because of a back injury. Why does a back injury derail my resolution?

Because usually I am trying to lose weight, and an old college back injury seems to flair up when I start running. It seems like I look at food and put on weight. I don’t have the blessing like some of you of eating anything and everything and never putting on a pound. My metabolism went into reverse when I hit 30. So this year is different. I am not doing resolutions and it all happened because of a road sign I saw in Michigan when my family visited in late December.

The sign said, “Daily devotion is better than New Year’s resolution.” And that though hasn’t left me. So instead of coming up with some grandiose ideas that I will fail to achieve, this year I am going to focus on one word: “Abide.”

Instead of resolving, I am going to abide. I will never achieve what I have resolved to do unless I abide daily in the small moments. My health and the other areas in my life that are lacking have deteriorated by poor day to day decisions. I would love to take a pink drink to help lose weight. I would love to buy a magic machine that would transform my abs. I would love to go to the conference to fix the parts in our home that I am not proud of. But those will not accomplish what I wish to resolve. Daily abiding will.

This year I took a good hard look at areas in my life that need to improve. I specifically evaluated certain categories of my life and wanted to zoom in on areas where I have been lazy and unintentional. So, in these categories I set some goals where I am going to work daily to abide in the little decisions. By this I hope to both accomplish my goals and to set some permanent habits that I hope and pray will be transformative in my life. So far so good.

If you are interested in what I am aiming for, just read below. What are some areas in your life where you have been unintentional or plain lazy? What do you need to abide daily in?

 

Blessings,

 

Pastor Jeremiah

 

2016 Goals

Spiritual

Daily devotions 5 days per week

Memorize 52 verses (1/week)

Share the Gospel 1 time per week

Invite someone to church once per week

Record every instance I cuss and its occasion

Physical

Log food daily for an entire year

Exercise 15-30 min/ day for 4 days per week

Walk dog daily

Drink recommended Oz. of water per day daily

Complete at least 2 cleanses this year

Sleep an average of 7 hours per night

Professional

Create annual church preaching calendar by end of first week

Have weekly sermon manuscript rough drafts completed by Wednesday

Attend 1 church conference

Write 1 short blog post weekly

Read 2 books per month and write a book report

Have someone new over for dinner twice per month

Marriage

Plan 4 weekend getaways (Sun-Mon)

Date nights 2 times per month

Intentional in intimacy

Write Samantha 12 letters throughout the year

Family

1 on 1 time with each child for at least 1 hour 1 time per month

5 minute family devotion daily

Discipline disobedience and sinful living immediately each occurrence

Plan 2 weeks away: 1 with family; 1 with S & J

Financial

Close on house in Dallas

Keep credit cards paid off

Tithe a minimum of 10%

Save 10% of income

Create a 401K and Roth IRA

Thoughts on The New Pastor’s Handbook by Jason Helopoulos

After my first six months of vocational ministry, my wife gift wrapped this 51+0hi1iWeL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_spectacular gift for me to open on Christmas. I could immediately see that The New Pastor’s Handbook by Jason Helopoulos was much more worthy for excitement than the pajamas I opened on New Year’s Eve as a kid. There was no disappointment whatsoever when I unwrapped this treasure.

Whether you are just getting your feet wet in vocational ministry like me, or whether you have tread in the safer waves of the first few years of ministry, this book is jammed packed with helpful wisdom that will provide refreshment to the palate of your ministry soul.

Helopoulos loads 47 chapters of joy saving, strength building, and faith encouraging insight in no more that 203 pages. That means you find the delight of a new chapter every few pages. If you are like me learning to tread the waters of Church ministry, you will find the succinct and pointed information in each chapter to be like floaties on a kid until he learns to swim freely in the depths.

After a few chapters of being reminded of the nature of the pastoral calling, you will enjoy wading through refreshing encouragement for a significant portion of this book. As I read through Helopoulos’ encouragements, I was challenged to read more often and more broadly. I reflected on my own use of time. I found assurance for areas I was starting well in ministry. And I was reminded of some of the challenges that lie ahead, including learning to become a better listener, embracing the ministry that God gives me, and learning to suffer in a way that will honor Jesus Christ.

Helopolous will teach you to avoid the pitfalls of young pastors that can cause us to drown in discouragement and pain. There were moments when I had to honestly evaluate my own start to ministry. I was grateful for the advice to be careful to get to know my congregation and its history as I consider and encourage change. One of the most resonating chapters was a gentle admonishment to not take myself too seriously. I am not Jesus. Helopolous writes, “…we are not indispensable. We are critical, but we are not essential.” Every pastor could stand to take a bite of that wisdom, swallow it and allow it to feed to the fringes of his ministry.

You will finish this book before you know it, being aptly reminded of the great joy and privilege of ministering to others.

If you are in your first five years of ministry, then I highly recommend this book to you. You will find that even in your busy schedule, you will want to make time to get through these pages. I promise! The chapters are short. The spaces between each line on the pages are generous. So that means you get to get the “short and skinny” quick and to the point and easy to digest.

So do yourself a favor and invest some of your budget into this gift of wisdom that you too will greatly treasure. Blessings to you my co-laborers in Christ.

What’s Next On Our Horizon? – Part I

In case you missed it….

Jeremiah Krieger

Dear Friends and Family,

Many of you have been praying for us, some for years, regarding our next step in life. For me (Jeremiah), the 13 years I have dedicated to patient care, while being rewarding, has ultimately felt like a season of discipline, bringing fruits of reproof, instruction and training for my life. Thus, for those of you who know us and have walked with us on our journey, you know that we have been prayerfully seeking for me to give up my nursing career in hopes of pursuing something that will better suit my gifting and natural aptitudes. This is the very reason we moved to Dallas in the Spring of 2006.

This Summer marks the 3rd anniversary of my graduation from Dallas Theological Seminary. Immediately after graduating I applied to various ministries but stopped applying as we expected the arrival of Hannah and then a year later…

View original post 311 more words

Is Your Church’s Worship Good?

Jeremiah Krieger

relevant |ˈreləvəntadjective closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand: the candidate’s experience is relevant to the job. DERIVATIVES relevance noun.relevancy |-vənsēnounrelevantly adverb ORIGIN early 16th cent. (as a Scots legal term meaning legally pertinent): from medieval Latin relevant- raising up, from Latin relevare.

I was just wondering if your church had good worship? Now, you might wonder, what do you mean by worship, and what do you mean by good?

In this case, by using the term worship, I am referring not to the concept of the lifestyle of the believer whereby he offers his life as a continuous sacrifice as an act of worship (Rom. 12:1-2)- though the believer’s lifestyle is vitally connected to worship, and though this is my favorite way to refer to worship in the life of…

View original post 958 more words

Is Your Church’s Worship Good?

relevant |ˈreləvəntadjective closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand: the candidate’s experience is relevant to the job. DERIVATIVES relevance noun.relevancy |-vənsēnounrelevantly adverb ORIGIN early 16th cent. (as a Scots legal term meaning legally pertinent): from medieval Latin relevant- raising up, from Latin relevare.

I was just wondering if your church had good worship? Now, you might wonder, what do you mean by worship, and what do you mean by good?

In this case, by using the term worship, I am referring not to the concept of the lifestyle of the believer whereby he offers his life as a continuous sacrifice as an act of worship (Rom. 12:1-2)- though the believer’s lifestyle is vitally connected to worship, and though this is my favorite way to refer to worship in the life of the believer.

I am thinking of the Church worship service where the believer offers up gifts and sacrifices before the Lord.

Hebrews 13:15-17 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Is the time- when you corporately gather with other believers- when you formally devote yourself to offering up your praises to the Father and present your gifts to His body good?

You might think, “Yes! We have awesome worship music!” “We sing contemporary songs.” “Our worship is rooted in the bedrock of truth in the hymns of old.” Whatever your style is, your worship may or may not be good.

For a church service to be good it must be relevant.

The idea of relevance is a legal term, that when traced back to its root etymology (of re + levo) means to lighten the load or to relieve from evil, hardship; to comfort, refresh or console. 

Relevant worship should lighten our load in life.

When we offer our sacrifices of praise, our burdens are lifted. This is consistent with Scripture. You might recall some phrases:

My yolk is easy and my burden is light…

Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you…

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…

If the Son has set you free, then you are free indeed.

So you might wonder, what kind of worship is relevant? What kind of worship reckons me free from the weights of this world?

Worship that is relevant is connective between two parties, providing reckoning of a disparity (sin) and freeing from bondage. Relevant worship is a legal transaction between believers and the God of the universe! (In the New Covenant, this legal transaction is a declaration by God that believers are free because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.)

Relevant worship is connective. It must not only affect me but satisfies God.

Rom. 12:1   I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Heb. 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe…

If your worship service at church is good, then it is acceptable to God. This is in line with Jesus’ words:

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Relevant worship, worship that is connective between man and God, worship that is reckoning of the sin in our life, worship that is freeing from bondage is rooted in spirit and truth.

Relevant Worship is Transformative

Worship in Spirit effects the heart, emotions and will. Worship in Spirit is moved by desire. It is pushed by emotions. It fuels our will to act. This part of worship is rooted in the Spirit of God, whereby he fashions and remolds our hearts to move toward Him.

Rom. 2:29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Relevant Worship is Traditional

Worship in Truth must be true. It must be rooted in tradition. By tradition, I mean truth that is passed down from generation to generation. Truth is the scalpel that God uses to cut our heart so that it responds to Him.

Acts 2:37   Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

So what does this mean for my Church? For yours?

If your worship is relevant then it is good. If the worship at your church is connective between you and God in such a way that brings transformation for you and satisfaction for God because the message has been rooted in the truth of the Gospel, then God is satisfied and your life is relieved from the burdens and weights that keep you down. Then yes, your worship is relevant. Then yes, the worship at your church is good.

Does this mean we have to sing funeral dirges all the time? Do we need to sing hymns? Must we sing contemporary songs that repeat themselves over and over in order to be relevant?  No. No. And no.

But maybe, sometimes. Music is an instrument. It is something created by God, often used by this world, and can be redeemed to be used again to sing of His glory. It doesn’t matter the form so much as the message encrypted in that form and the way it is used.

I have been in contemporary service where emotions were absent because truth was lacking. I have been in traditional services where truth was abundant and hearts unmoved. And this is also probably true for you. But what we want in our churches is, whether our sacrifice of praise is offered to the tunes of young or old, the heart has been fueled to draw near to God because it is gliding safely on the truth of His proclamation in Scripture: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, is the worship at your church good?

 

What’s Next On Our Horizon? – Part I

Dear Friends and Family,

Many of you have been praying for us, some for years, regarding our next step in life. For me (Jeremiah), the 13 years I have dedicated to patient care, while being rewarding, has ultimately felt like a season of discipline, bringing fruits of reproof, instruction and training for my life. Thus, for those of you who know us and have walked with us on our journey, you know that we have been prayerfully seeking for me to give up my nursing career in hopes of pursuing something that will better suit my gifting and natural aptitudes. This is the very reason we moved to Dallas in the Spring of 2006.

This Summer marks the 3rd anniversary of my graduation from Dallas Theological Seminary. Immediately after graduating I applied to various ministries but stopped applying as we expected the arrival of Hannah and then a year later William. From January 2014 through January 2015 I worked through Re:Generation, a 12 step recovery program where I grew in my faith and found recovery in Christ from anger, depression, fear of man, and more. Samantha also started Re:Generation in mid 2014 and will be completing her program at the end of June this year. It has been a great season of rest and growth for our family.

So this brings me to our present. Samantha and I have finally felt like it was an apt time to begin pursuing a career change. Dallas Seminary sent out my resume to various ministries and I interviewed with some, while getting numerous rejection letters. I wondered what God had in store for our family. With each letter I sensed God’s affirmation- like passing exit signs on a highway, knowing that those opportunities were not the correct exit to get us to our destination.

Samantha and I came to a fork on our journey where we had the opportunity to pursue church planting in the midwest or visit a moderately sized church in a rural area. We visited both, and just like knowing that we could go left or right on the road, we believe that we have turned in the right direction going down a road that we anticipate will bring a great adventure and wonderful sights of God’s grace on our journey. So as we look out our vehicle of faith and trust that He is carrying us on our journey, many of you have wondered and asked, “What is next on your horizon?” What is it we see when we peer out the windows of faith and stare into the vast expanse that is in front of our lives?

If you would like to look through our window of faith and see what we see on the horizon, please click here.

Why my Dad is my hero

A pic of US 35N on my way in to work this morning

This morning I woke up to 4 inches of snow that blanketed frozen rain on the ground. I started the truck first thing and then took a shower and got ready for the day. It was a long drive to work. I planned on taking double the time to make my normal drive here in Dallas. As a Michigan native, I am familiar with these kinds of conditions, yet when I drive here in this city, my fear mainly comes because of other drivers who only see these conditions one or two days a year and try to be a cowboy and brave the elements.

So, there was plently of time to think on the way in. I listened to the radio- mostly- but there were times when my heart raced as a pickup in front of me went sideways, or when I saw an 18 wheeler in the ditch. I kept saying to myself, my goal is to get there safely, not to get there quickly.

(This helped me to be patient as I thought of my wife and kids back at home. 2 of my children currenlty are battling the flu. I know that more than getting to a destination expediently, they eventually need me back home. So I was extra careful on my way in.)

As my tires rumbled over the chunky and icy ground, there were also times when my mind warped back decades in time. I recalled as a kid seeing my dad leave out the door every morning in the winter so that he could provide for us. I remembered one time when he was in a car accident on his way to work. He was driving a car that had recenlty been given to us by a family member. It was a total loss. But God provided another vehicle for us.

I also remember the many times my dad went under our trailer and took a heater, or heat tape or a hair dryer to thaw or water lines in the subzero weather. While I didn’t understand the signifance of that back then, as I look back now, I can have a greater appreciation of the amazing things my dad did to take care of our family.

At one point of time, I would have never thought of calling my dad a hero. As a child I did not understand our poverty. I was often bitter because we couldn’t afford the name brand clothing or food. I despised that we lived on government subsidies. I was humiliated by our living conditions. I was hurt often by the fighting and anger I saw in or home. Those memories will never leave. But they don’t have the same bite that they once had.

I kept driving. My mind kept wandering. My instincts were heightened as that pickup truck in front of me turned sideways. I was far back enough where I could slow down and go around and avoided the vehicle. Moments like these can be defining. I became more eager to make it to my destination safely, looking forward to working hard today and getting back to my family who needs me.

After I got to another point, the vehicles around me disappeared. There was a long stretch of road before I saw another vehicle. My mind went back to where it left off. I remember at an early age how my dad, even though he struggled with anger that I despised, always took care of us spiritually.

We were always in church- Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday. There were times he attempted doing devotions with us as a family. I remember those moments. My most vivid spiritual memory with my father was when he led my brother Tim to Jesus. I too knew that I was a sinner and wanted to be saved. So that day, as a 5 year old boy, I knelt at my bedside with my dad and confessed my sin to my Father in heaven and asked Jesus to come into my heart.

It was the best I knew how then to commit my life to Christ. That moment was a defining moment in my life. It has shaped how I view every aspect of my life. It has kept me from numbing my pain with sexual sins, alcohol, drugs, social life, technology, and whatever other idols I could have made. That decision has helped me to constantly return to Jesus when I have tried to find life in other places. That decision ultimately is what has helped me to forgive my dad and others who have harmed me over the years.

(I can still remember my dad weeping at my bedside, running his fingers through my brown childish hair one night because his heart was torn from the way that he constantly struggled with losing his temper. He hated his sin that he had difficulty controlling.)

As I pressed on toward my destination, I thought about heroes. I certainly did not want to be driving to work so early in the morning, especially as I was up several times last night helping my own son manage his symptoms of the flu, and knowing my wife would be home caring for both he and my oldest daughter who is sick with the same.

But I remembered how my dad was always faithful to do what it took to care for his family. I also thought of all the people who I may be serving today, how God would use me, like he used my own father, to be a light to others. So I kept driving. And I thought about all my dad did for me, and all he has done for others. And it dawned on me like never before what a hero my dad has always been.

Finding the Way When Your Marriage Is Broken

When I was in college, one summer I spent several weeks doing door to door book sales in Tennessee with my friend. After some time, I decided that gig wasn’t for me. I headed back home to Michigan and was driving through the night.

After several hours on the road, it was dark and I found myself going around a loop in Indianapolis. I took an exit to get oriented because I recognized that somewhere I took a wrong turn. I found myself in a broken neighborhood where there were boarded up houses. I kept driving and it seemed like I would never escape this city as I hit every red light. 

After about nearly an hour, I finally figured out my bearings and got back on track. While I grew frustrated with my situation, I came to the point where I admitted that I had made a navigational error. I eventually took the time to evaluate my situation, and to seek the guidance of the map (pre GPS and iPhone days). Then I followed its instructions and made my way back home safely.

Reflecting back on this little experience has reminded me of the simplicity of the Gospel and the power it has in my life and marriage.

Sometimes we find that our marriage is not on the path we planned when we said until death do us part. Whether we have developed bad habits, undisciplined lifestyles, poor communication, financial hardship, or whatever it is, we can easily become discontented with our spouse. Suddenly, our marriage is not in a place we anticipated going when we said I do.

Those frustrations are the first warning signs that your marriage is going down the wrong path. You are quickly headed to a destination that will bring you great pain if something does not change.

The Good News is that if you find yourself lost in your marriage, know that you can arrive safely to the Ever After that you always dreamed of.

When Mark wrote his Gospel, Israel was not in a good place. She too was lost as ever. Stripped of her prosperity and security in her land, over the centuries she was raped and pillaged by the powerful nations of her day. Where was God? What happened to His promises? Was God’s relationship with His people over?

Mark writes to Israel in order to encourage them. To let them know that God sees them circling the dark streets of their “Indianapolis.” To let them know that all is not over.

In fact, His love for them was about to shine greater than ever.In Mark 1, Mark is acting like a GPS when he writes of everyone from Jerusalem and Judea repenting and being baptized. Baptism and repentance were on the road map to get back to the Promised Land. The Messiah was near, and Israel’s relationship with God would change forever.

Looking at the map ultimately would lead Israel to Jesus Messiah, and Israel’s road home would be found in the person of Jesus Christ. The same is true for our marriages today.

If you have woken up recently and found yourself in the darkness and isolation of a broken marriage that you just cannot seem to fix, know that there is hope for you. This hope is ultimately found when both you and your partner fix your eyes on Christ and submit your will to His.

Both you and your partner must resign to allow Christ to be King. Turning to Jesus is your first turn to navigating your way back home to a healthy marriage that is intoxicating with love.

The truth is that eventually we all come to signs that tell us we are not where we should be. We all know when we are not loving our spouses well. We know when we have lived deeply in selfishness and isolation in our marriage.

The problem with your marriage is not your marriage. The problem in your marriage is the sinfulness of two individuals who have selfish hearts that wander and go astray. That is what leads the relationship down roads of brokenness.

When we find ourselves on that road, the tragedy would be to quit driving altogether. The tragedy would be to keep driving down the same path that led us to where we are. The worse tragedy would be to look at the map and then ignore its instructions. But sadly these reactions are what many of us do when the joy and blessing of a wonderful marriage is within reach.

For me to get back home that dark night in Indianapolis, I had to read the map, compare it to where I was located, and start doing what it said. This is what Israel had to do. This is what we all have to do in our marriages today.

In my own marriage, my wife and I are continually finding hope when we too repent and turn back to Christ after making decisions that have caused us great pain.I have personally witnessed the testimonies of marriages once broken by evil- even as dark as multiple affairs and sexual addictions- that are now thriving and impacting other marriages with a message of hope found in Jesus Christ.

How are you doing? Have you made decisions that have wreaked havoc on your relationship with your spouse? Or perhaps, are you looking to get beyond pain that your loved one may have inflicted on you?

Your path to healing begins with Christ who loves you unconditionally- when you buy in to the fact that He is working in your midst, even when you cannot see beyond the darkness of the storm in your life. It begins by experiencing that gracious love and then ultimately pouring it out on your spouse.

Loving your spouse when you are on a broken road might mean seeking guidance and starting to make decisions that will bring life to your marriage. Or  admitting where you are wrong. It might mean saying, “I’m sorry. I hurt you when _____. In the future, I will ______. Will you please forgive me?” Your destination to a healthy marriage is in sight. Are you willing to do what it takes to get there?