Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I love my wife.

I don't know if I've met her yet or not, but I love her. With all my heart! I think about her everyday and I pray for her constantly. I ask the Lord to protect her heart, her mind, her emotions, her finances, and her body. I ask God to prosper her and bless her, to make her wise, and to give her a heart that will be compatible with mine.

There's a big difference between loving someone and being in love with them, but I love her and I'm in love with her. I love her as my friend and partner in ministry, and I'm in love with her as my romantic partner and soul mate.

To love is to serve, so I'm preparing myself right now to serve her. As a matter of fact, serving her for the rest of my life is one of the things I'm looking forward to the most about being married to her. I know it will be work, I know it'll be frustrating, I know it'll challenge me and will require an enormous amount of self-sacrifice, but I want to do it for her. She's worth it all to me.

I've been working hard for a couple of years now to become physically fit and healthy for her. I know that heart disease and diabetes run in my family, so I want to do what I can now to avoid getting sick later so that she doesn't have to deal with that. I've also been working hard and sacrificing a lot to pay off my school debt so that when we meet, I won't be bringing any debt into the marriage. That will be especially important if she has debt that we'll need to take on together. Since money problems is one of the biggest causes of marriage problems and divorce, I want to do everything I can now to avoid that stuff in the future.

In the Bible, Ephesians 5:22 says "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Wow, what a big challenge to men. I want to know how to do that. Even though I'm not married, I'm trying hard to learn exactly what that means and how to do that for her. I know it'll take a lifetime to know how to love her like that but that's ok, because I've already given her the rest of my life anyway.

I know many people say that the romance fades and you just get used to each other after awhile. Call me naive, but I don't ever want that to happen to us. Perhaps they're the exception to the rule but I've seen a few couples who have been married for decades and they're still affectionate and in love like they were in the beginning. I want to do everything I can to always romance my wife so that even after 20 years of marriage, we're still in love. Even after years of marriage, I still want to hold her hand while we drive together or while we watch movies together.

I don't ever want to stop dating her. And I won't ever get used to her. I know that'll keep me on my toes and will stretch my creativity, but she's worth it.

Even though we're not married, and I don't even know if I know who she is yet - I love my wife. I really, really do - with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I just hope and pray - oh how I pray so much - that God will continue shaping me into the kind of man she needs me to be.

Because she's worth it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Intentional Encouragement.

I've never been a fan of "random acts of kindness"; honestly, I think that's a dumb concept. I believe we should be intentional about our kindness, not random. By "intentional", I don't mean we should be kind to some and not to others, and I also don't mean we should have some hidden motive behind our kindness. I just think that we should choose to intentionally be kind to everyone we meet, rather that just randomly picking someone out.

That's about as silly as when people open up the Bible to some random page, point their finger down on some random verse, and then expect God to speak to them through that. That's just playing games with God and disrespecting the Bible. But, that's a different topic to write about ...

I truly believe our kindness should be intentional. And what's more, I think our encouragement should also be intentional. Too often I think we encourage people for what they do, not for who they are. We encourage people when they make the team or do well on a project, but how often do we encourage them just for the sake of encouraging them?

Here's how this came about: yesterday I was talking with a friend and the topic of notes of encouragement came up. This friend mentioned that they frequently have notes given to them or left on their car, and I mentioned that aside from Minister's Appreciation month, my birthday, or at Christmas, I don't really get any notes or cards. I actually don't remember the last time someone gave me a note of encouragement just to encourage me.

(Don't feel bad for me; I'm not throwing a pity party. And please don't feel like you have to give me a note or a word of encouragement after reading this post)

But that got me thinking: my friend must feel special every time someone gives them a note "just because". And on the rare occasion that someone has encouraged me "just because", it's felt like a booster shot to my soul. So this morning, I woke up and decided that I would try, in some small way, to encourage everyone I saw today. At home I gave my mom a hug and told her I loved her.

Then later on I ran into someone at work and decided to encourage that person. I told them how they have such a kind, caring disposition which makes people feel at peace, and that they are doing a great job at the church office. 

When I told them that, I saw this person's eyes well up with tears. This person was shocked and they stammered out how they had been struggling with feelings about their inadequacy and shortcomings, and that I made their day by telling them that. I took a moment to pray and ask God to encourage them, gave them a hug, and then went back to my office to work.

I sat down and was just floored. This person is always so nice and seems to always be smiling, so I was humbled and honored that they would open up with me and let me pray for them. If I hadn't been intentional about encouraging them, I probably never would have had the chance to minister to this person and speak life into them.

So I want to challenge you: be an intentional encourager. Make a decision to encourage at least one person a day - and try to encourage them for who they are, not what they do. Send someone a card once a week to let them know that you appreciate and respect them. Whatever you do, figure out some way to intentionally encourage others.

Is it more work to live that way? Yes. Do you have to really look beyond yourself and be considerate of others? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. Proverbs 11:25 NLT says "The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." Today was one of many instances in my life where I can tell you that this verse is very, very true. It's worth it to intentionally encourage, and the Bible promises that God will bless you for it

Don't be a random encourager; be an intentional encourager. You never know whose day you might make.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


The month of July 2011 was ....indescribable. In both a good and a bad way. Honestly, I still don't even know how to describe it. It's so surreal to have experienced such sheer happiness and joy, while at the same time experiencing such shocking betrayal and pain. I feel like I've experienced every extreme emotion imaginable, all within the span of a few short weeks. I wish I could elaborate more, but I can't. I still feel a little numb to it all.

I can honestly say that the third week of July was the most difficult and painful week of all my years in ministry, and one of the worst weeks of my life as a whole. Something horrible happened that I still can hardly even believe - and yet I'm grateful that through it all, the Lord blessed me in tremendous ways with courage, wisdom, and clarity of mind that I can only say came from God. Again, such a paradox: I experienced emotional trauma like I have never felt before yet at the same time, I experienced joy and peace from God like I can't even describe.

In the middle of dealing with some intensely personal stuff, I also had the privilege of helping several people from both campuses of my church work through some really difficult stuff. I went to bat so many times for them through prayer and through serving for them in practical ways, even when I was feeling totally drained myself and was the one needing to be ministered to.

And through it all, I kept remembering one thing: this IS ministry.

Ministry is not a program for an hour a week on Wednesday or Sunday. Ministry is not being in a small group Bible study. Ministry is not serving the community. Ministry is not teaching people the Bible. Ministry is not evangelism. Yes, those are all important components of ministry, but they are NOT ministry. Ministry is about caring for the one.

Ministry is ALL about the one.

The one person who is in the hospital, feeling uncomfortable because of their illness and wishing they could just be at home.

The one person who was in a dangerous situation and needs your help.

The one person who is living their life, doing whatever they want, hurting themselves and hurting others because they know they're looking for something but they don't even know what that is.

The one person who needs help moving. Or cleaning their house. Or mowing their lawn.

The one person who feels overwhelmed and needs someone to help them keep their head above water.

The one person who was betrayed and feels like they can never trust again, so they need someone to show them through Christ's love that they WILL find healing and WILL be able to fully trust again soon.

The one person whose life is going well, but is still living life without Christ and is heading to a Christ-less eternity.

The one person who can't pay their bills and needs a church family to rally around them, not as a charity case but because they are family, and families take care of their own.

The one who just really needs a hug. They don't need to you fix everything, they don't need your advice - they just need a hug.

Ministry is all about the one. And the high privilege and calling a minister is to minister to the one. Even when he's tired. Even when he'd rather do other things. Even when it's easier to let someone else do it.

Ministry is all about the one, and the minister needs to know - REALLY know - the people he ministers to in order to best minister to them. Proverbs 27:23 NLT puts it this way: "Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds."

In Luke 15:3-7, Jesus talks about the importance of leaving the group of 99 sheep to go find and bring back the ONE sheep who was lost. Ministry is all about the one.

So now it's August. I feel like I've been through the wringer. I feel like I've been hit by a Mack truck. I feel like I've poured myself out to the last drop for others. It's been tough and I've never experienced anything like this before, but I still count it a high privilege. It is an honor - an HONOR - to stand alongside people in their most difficult times and help them keep their eyes fixed on the hope of God.

As indescribable and difficult as July was, I wouldn't trade it for the world. It was a great month of ministering to people at a time.