More Than Worth The Wait

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Our cravings are implanted by God and are fulfilled solely in our relationship with Him. Sometimes the journey seems long. If you have been in the car with kids, you know they are infamous for asking, “Are we there yet?” just a couple of minutes into the trip. We adults aren’t much better. Perhaps we have a little more patience but if we’re honest we may find ourselves asking, “How long is this going to take? It seems like it’s soooo long!”  

We’ve discussed that a maturing attitude shift for us is exchanging “have to” for “get to.” This is when we begin to understand that something good—something far better than what we have now—is coming. This is the starting point to help us to wait well, to not get frustrated and bail out. 

Jesus did this: “For the joy set before Him He endured the Cross” (Hebrews 12:2). He could see what was coming so He wouldn’t accept any lesser substitutes. But that same verse also calls us to be “looking away from all that will distract to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP). 

This attitude exchange helps us in three ways: 

  1. Maturing self-control 
  2. Understanding the rewards of delayed gratification 
  3. Having a joyful expectation of both what’s coming and what’s happening now 

Self-control, delayed gratification, and joyful expectation are also the key components of a satisfying relationship. These then allow me to make another important exchange: “don’t” for “won’t.” 

For example, in my relationship with my wife Betsy, no one has to tell me, “Don’t speak to her unkindly.” I won’t speak to her unkindly because that would damage our relationship. No one has to tell me, “Don’t flirt with other women.” I won’t do that because I know that would jeopardize our relationship, perhaps causing me to look elsewhere to satisfy my craving for a meaningful relationship. 

In the book called Song of Solomon, the word “lovely” is used frequently between lovers who only have eyes for each other. Paul uses this keyword when he talks about us only having our eyes, and heart, and mind on Jesus—“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). 

David, who is described as a man after God’s own heart, wrote several psalms expressing his longing to be in God’s presence both now and for all eternity. Especially in Psalm 16 and Psalm 37, David shows us the don’t-for-won’t exchange (Psalm 16:1-11; 37:1-4). 

Sometimes we will experience some lovely things here on earth, but those are nothing compared to the eternal rewards awaiting us. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” 

Even if we experience unpleasant things here, the apostle Paul reminds us, “But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time—this present life—are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!” (Romans 8:18 AMP). 

The marshmallow test is a famous experiment. Kids were given the choice to eat one marshmallow immediately or be rewarded with a second marshmallow if they waited. Researchers found that those who practiced self-control, delayed gratification, and joyful expectation faired much better later in life. 

So I would encourage you to keep your marshmallow somewhere you will see it often. It will harden, but it will not mold or spoil. Every time you look at it, let it remind you that what’s coming is so much more than anything you could ever find here! Let this reminder help you exchange don’t for won’t as the Holy Spirit helps you keep your eyes only on Jesus. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Craving series, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Practical Health Questions

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had a great time on the 200churches podcast with Jeff Keady. 

Jeff wanted to know if I had a favorite chapter in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. That’s an easy question to answer because it is the chapter I didn’t write—the Preface of the book was written by Dick Brogden and sums up my book better than I could have on my own. 

But there is a chunk of five chapters in Shepherd Leadership that I keep going back to quite frequently. This section is also one that has resonated with other leaders who coach and counsel pastors. 

Dr. Luke summarized the wholly healthy development of Jesus in just one verse: And Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature, in favor with God, and in favor with men (Luke 2:52). I think this gives us the perfect pyramid for our healthy growth—

  • It starts with our mental health (wisdom) 
  • Which helps us make good decisions for our physical health (stature)
  • Which creates an ideal environment for our spiritual health to flourish (favor with God)
  • Which is ultimately realized in our relational health (favor with men) 

This is why, when I am coaching other pastors that are struggling with relationships with their board or parishioners, I start with…

Oftentimes the answers to these questions reveal a deficit in mental, physical, or spiritual health that is preventing a breakthrough in strong, healthy relationships. As soon as health is being restored at the lower levels of this pyramid, positive changes in spiritual and relational health begin to blossom as well. 

Pastor, please pick up a copy of my book to help you get into the healthiest place you can be. You cannot give health to the flock under your care if you are not at optimal health yourself. 

If you want to catch up on some of the other clips I’ve already shared from this interview, you can find them here. I’ll be sharing more clips from this 200churches interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

“With-ness”

…fellowship… (four times in 1 John 1:3, 6, 7)

The word “fellowship” is the Greek word koinonia. It means intimacy of relationship.

All of the apostle John’s books carry this key theme: Jesus loves us so this is how we should live differently because of that love. 

Koinonia means giving all I’ve got to someone else, and graciously receiving all they have to give to me. This creates a… 

  • … oneness
  • … togetherness
  • … with-ness

Our with-ness creates a visible witness of God’s love. 

John says that fellowship with God can’t help but be expressed in fellowship with others. And then fellowship with others stimulates us to a deeper relationship with God. This love dance is itself a picture of the Ultimate Koinonia of the Trinity—“I am in You, Father, and You are in Me. These followers of Us are in Me and I in them,” said Jesus.

Don’t try to pursue a relationship with Jesus on your own, but find people that you can be in fellowship with and then watch how that deepens your fellowship with God!

Close To God

Imagine being close enough to hear God’s voice—Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)

Here’s a great question I recently heard: “What if God doesn’t want to give us answers, because He wants to give us His presence?” 

Perhaps if God showed me my whole path, I might just take off down the path as fast as I could. Maybe I’d even say something like, “Thanks, God, I’ll take it from here!”

But God wants me close to Him. He wants me to hear His voice at every single step saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” 

The model prayer that Jesus taught us is all about that closeness and total reliance on God’s close presence: 

  • Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name [close enough to worship Him intimately],
  • Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven [close enough to know His heart].
  • Give us today our daily bread [close enough to rely on Him for all of my daily needs].
  • And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors [close enough to know His forgiving love for me and for others].
  • Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one [close enough to His strength to say “no” to temptations that would entice me off of His path].
  • For Yours is the kingdom, and the glory, and the power forever [close enough to bask perpetually in His glory and His power].

God wants us THAT close to Him—to rely on Him, to lean into Him, to be empowered by Him, to be protected in Him. 

A good question for all of us to ponder: How close to God am I?

Poetry Saturday—Walking With God

Alas, my God, that we should be
Such Strangers to each other!
O that as Friends we might agree,
And walk, and talk together!
Thou know’st my Soul doth dearly love
The Place of Thine Abode;
No Music drops so sweet a Sound,
As those two words, My God.

I long not for the Fruit that grows
Within these Gardens here;
I find no sweetness in their Rose
When Jesus is not near:
Thy gracious Presence, O my Christ
Can make a Paradise;
Ah, what are all the goodly Pearls
Unto this Pearl of Price!

May I taste that Communion, Lord,
Thy people have with Thee?
Thy Spirit daily talks with them,
O let it talk with me!
Like Enoch, let me walk with God,
And thus walk out my Day,
Attended with the Heavenly Guards
Upon the King’s High-way.

When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
O come, my Lord most dear!
Come near, come nearer, nearer still;
I’m well when Thou art near.
When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
I languish for Thy Sight;
Ten Thousand Suns, if Thou art Strange,
Are shades instead of Light.

When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
For, till Thou dost appear,
I count each Moment for a Day,
Each Minute for a Year.
Come, Lord and never from me go,
This World’s a darksome Place;
I find no Pleasure here below,
When Thou dost veil Thy Face.

There’s no such Thing as Pleasure here;
My JESUS is my All;
As Thou didst shine or disappear,
My pleasures rise and fall.
Come, spread Thy Savour on my Frame,
No sweetness is so sweet;
Till I get up to sing Thy Name,
Where all Thy Singers meet. —Thomas Shepherd

9 Quotes From “40 Days With Jesus”

Sarah Young does a masterful job in helping us hear Jesus speak to us in the first-person, as she weaves Scripture together so beautifully. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Taste and see that I am good. The more intimately you experience Me, the more convinced you become of My goodness.” 

“Follow Me one step at a time. … Keep your mind on the present journey, enjoying My Presence. Walk by faith, not by sight, trusting Me to open up the way before you. … I set the pace in keeping with your needs and My purposes.” 

“Walking in the light of My presence blesses you in many ways. Good things are better and bad things are more bearable when you share them with Me. As you bask in My Love-Light, you are better able to love others and enjoy fellowship with them. You are less likely to stumble or fall because sins are garishly obvious in My holy Light. As you walk in this Light with Me, I encourage you to exult in My righteousness.” 

“Although your new self is being conformed to My image, this process does not erase the essence of who you are. On the contrary, the more you become like Me, the more you develop into the unique person I designed you to be.” 

“Holiness is letting Me live through you. Since I dwell in you, you are fully equipped to be holy. Pause before responding to people or situations, giving My Spirit space to act through you. Hasty words and actions leave no room for Me; this is atheistic living. I want to inhabit all your moments—gracing your thoughts, words, and behavior.” 

“Talk with Me about every aspect of your day, including your feelings. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with Me. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.” 

“Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life. Instead, ask My Spirit to guide you moment by moment.” 

“Exceeding Joy is for both you and Me. I delight in you now, but this Joy will be astronomically magnified when you join Me in Glory. The Joy you will experience in heaven is so far beyond anything you have known on earth that it is indescribable. Nothing can rob you of this glorious inheritance which is imperishable and will not fade away.” 

“Thankfulness is not some sort of magic formula; it is the language of Love, which enables you to communicate intimately with Me.” 

8 Quotes From “Defiant Joy”

For anyone going through a trying time, Stasi Eldredge has given us a timely reminder of how we can tenaciously and defiantly cling to the joy the God gives us. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Ignoring reality does not breed joy. Pretending that what is true does not exist is not holy defiance. The seeds of joy can only be firmly planted in the pungent soil of the here and now while at the same time being tethered to eternity. Joy is fully rooted in the truth. Joy embraces all the senses and is fully awake to the laughter, the wonder, and the beauty present in the moment as well as the sorrow, the angst, and the fear. Joy says, ‘Even so, I have a reason to celebrate.’” 

“Defiant may not be a word we would normally associate with the living God, but it can actually be quite fitting. Defiance means resistance, opposition, noncompliance, disobedience, dissent, and rebellion. And when it comes to things that would destroy our souls, that is exactly the right response.” 

“Joy is not happiness on steroids. It is not happiness squared. … Joy is connected to God and reserved for those who are tapping into His reservoir, who are connected to His life. Joy is rooted in God and His kingdom, in the surety of His goodness, His love for us. It is immovable. Unshakable. Joy is available at all times, day and night, because God and His kingdom are always available to us. … Joy is the heartbeat of heaven, the very light that emanates from Jesus’ heart, so as we grow closer in relationship with God, we’ll also grow in joy.” 

“Joy and breakthrough are not opposed to suffering But are available in the midst of it. Suffering is not a failure of faith on our part; its presence does not mean the absence of the presence of God. We can live with suffering and joy simultaneously.” 

“Joy is deeply rooted in the availability of God and His kingdom right here, right now. Sometimes we find breakthrough. Sometimes we find a deeper knowing of God in our suffering.” 

“Here is the truth we must remember in the middle of this sometimes painful healing process: we matter to the heart of God. He hasn’t taken His eyes off us. He thinks of us constantly. He has hopes and dreams for us. God planned on us before He made the stars, and He planned on us being His. He planned on us sharing our lives with Him on this wild adventure. And His plans are good.” 

“God drops things in our laps at just the right time. He puts barriers in our paths that look like roadblocks but are really gifts in disguise, beckoning us to take a closer look at what’s going on inside of us. We can either step over them or choose to pick them up and examine them for the potential they may hold.” 

“When the sadness refuses to be silenced and the feelings arise that this is not the life we had signed up for, we can either go to shame or go to God.” 

I’ll be sharing more quotes in the near future, so stay tuned…

The 5 Love Languages For Him/Her (YouVersion review)

Couples that can learn together can definitely grow together! 

A feature I thoroughly enjoy on YouVersion is shared reading plans. When a plan is shared, no one else sees what plan you are reading, and the comments you write at the end of each day’s readings are only visible to the other people in your group. My wife and I have taken advantage of this to use YouVersion reading plans as a springboard to discuss ways to make our relationship even stronger. 

If you have ever heard anyone talk about his/her “love language,” they are more than likely talking about Dr. Gary Chapman’s outstanding series of books on our five basic love languages—words of affirmation, quality time, gift giving, acts of service, and physical touch. When we can discover and speak someone’s love language to them consistently, it fills that person’s “love tank” and strengthens the relationship. 

YouVersion offers two 5-day reading plans that leverage Dr. Chapman’s insights on our love languages, and support his insights with passages from the Bible. These plans are The 5 Love Languages For Him and The 5 Love Languages For Her. 

I would highly recommend married couples to read these plans together. It’s not necessary for you to have read The 5 Love Languages book in order to glean some very helpful insights that you can immediately apply to your marriage. These reading plans will help you and your spouse to be able to dialogue about both what’s struggling and needs to be fixed, and what’s going right and needs to be amplified. 

Your marriage will benefit from this 10-minute investment you make for just a couple of weeks. 

10 Marriage Tips For Guys

Guys, here’s how to add heat to your marriage (regardless of its current temperature)—

  1. Let the Holy Spirit continue to develop His fruit in you—this is the only way to become a truly exceptional lover.
  2. Pray for your wife, and pray with your wife.
  3. Say “I love you” every day. 
  4. Learn her love language and speak it regularly. 
  5. Hold her hand. 
  6. Compliment her privately—not just for how she looks or what she does, but for who she is. 
  7. Praise her publicly in front of her friends, family, and coworkers.
  8. Find ways to assure her that she is your #1 priority. Every single day.
  9. Take her out on a date that you have planned. 
  10. Repeat steps 1-9.

“The most joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, trustworthy lovers are Spirit-empowered lovers.” —Craig T. Owens

Strengths-Based Marriage (reading plan review)

Normally on Tuesdays, I post book reviews here, but I’ve been reading a couple of YouVersion reading plans with my wife this summer that I felt I must share with you. Both of them are by Jimmy Evans—One: A Marriage Devotional and Strengths-Based Marriage. 

If you are unfamiliar with YouVersion Bible, there is both a web-based site and a mobile app that you really should check out. I spend a lot of quality time in the Scripture using the app on my iPhone each day. One of the cool features YouVersion has recently introduced is the ability to read devotional plans with friends. This offers:

  • accountability with your reading partners 
  • a set schedule of reading assignments
  • access to all the biblical texts that correspond with the day’s devotional reading
  • a place to share your thoughts just with your reading partners, and inaccessible to anyone else on YouVersion

Strengths-Based Marriage focuses on exactly what the title leads you to expect—the strengths in you and your spouse. Instead of trying to “fix” something in your spouse, Jimmy Evans turns your attention toward the God-implanted strengths in your spouse, and then gives you some practical counsel for calling out those strengths. 

For example, in one of the devotions he wrote, “Each of us is remarkably unique, and to minimize that irreplaceable uniqueness is to rob the world of a contribution that cannot come any other way.” And in another devotional he says, “You cannot separate your treasures from your passions. In other words, you will always be most passionate about the people, pursuits, and places where you are investing the best of your life. Your passions will always follow the investments of your time, energy, and strengths.”

One: A Marriage Devotional is a much more daily nuts-and-bolts approach to our marriages. In this devotional he shares relationships principles, and then gives us a “Talk It Out” and a “Walk It Out” assignment to put into practice. 

In one of these devotionals he writes, “God created marriage to operate as the most important human relationship in our lives, and it only succeeds on that level. … Priority must be proven daily in real terms and not just in words. Good intentions mean very little in marriage. The only thing that matters is what you do and continue to do consistently. For your marriage to work, you must establish it as the first priority and be willing to protect it against good or bad things that try to distract you.”

Whether your marriage is in need of urgent attention, it could use some minor improvements, or it’s already pretty great, both of these devotionals will give you practical tips, time with your spouse in God’s Word, great conversation-starting questions, and some highly practical tips you can use right now. 

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