Run with the Horses

Run with the Horses

Run with the Horses

I’m reading “Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best” by Eugene H. Peterson. Inspired by the fact that Bono said it was his favorite book. Bono and Eugene have become friends. Here is a peak at the first chapter. These are a few quotes that spoke to me.

“If you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses?” (Jeremiah 12:5).

The American church seems to have lost its nerve. Leaders are stepping up to provide strategies of renewal and reform. If the sociologists are right, more and more people are becoming disappointed and disaffected with the church as it is and are increasingly marginalized. The most conspicuous response of the church at this loss of “market share” is to develop more sophisticated consumer approaches, more efficient management techniques. If people are not satisfied, we’ll find a way to woo them back with better publicity and glossier advertising. We’ll repackage church under fresh brand names. Since Americans are the world’s champion consumers, let’s offer the gospel on consumer terms, reinterpreting it as a way to satisfy their addiction to More and Better and Sexier.

“The gospel is not a consumer product; it doesn’t satisfy what we think of as our ‘needs.’” Eugene Peterson

“It is enormously difficult to portray goodness in an attractive way; it is much easier to make a scoundrel interesting.” Eugene Peterson

All of us have so much more experience in sin than in goodness that a writer has far more imaginative material to work with.

As a pastor I encourage others to live at their best and provide guidance in doing it. But how do I do this without inadvertently inciting pride and arrogance? How do I stimulate an appetite for excellence without feeding at the same time a selfish determination to elbow anyone aside who gets in the way

Insistent encouragement is given by many voices today for living a better life. I welcome the encouragement. But the counsel that accompanies the encouragement has introduced no end of mischief into our society, and I am in strenuous opposition to it.

“The counsel is that we can arrive at our full humanness by gratifying our desires. It has been a recipe for misery for millions.” Eugene Peterson

“The terrible threat is “that we might die earlier than we really do die, before death has become a natural necessity. The real horror lies in just such a premature death, a death after which we go on living for many years.”

“The terrible threat is “that we might die earlier than we really do die.” Eugene Peterson

Life is difficult, Jeremiah. Are you going to quit at the first wave of opposition? Are you going to retreat when you find that there is more to life than finding three meals a day and a dry place to sleep at night? Are you going to run home the minute you find that the mass of men and women are more interested in keeping their feet warm than in living at risk to the glory of God? Are you going to live cautiously or courageously? I called you to live at your best, to pursue righteousness, to sustain a drive toward excellence.

“It is easier to be neurotic. It is easier to be parasitic. It is easier to relax in the embracing arms of The Average. Easier, but not better. Easier, but not more significant. Easier, but not more fulfilling. I called you to a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living and promised you adequate strength to fulfill your destiny.” Eugene Peterson

“At the first sign of difficulty you are ready to quit. If you are fatigued by this run-of-the-mill crowd of apathetic mediocrities, what will you do when the real race starts, the race with the swift and determined horses of excellence?

“It is easier to define oneself minimally (“a featherless biped”) and live securely within that definition than to be defined maximally (“little less than God”) and live adventurously in that reality.” Eugene Peterson

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6 Things to Remember When Fighting with Your Spouse

6 Things to Remember When Fighting with Your Spouse

6 Things to Remember When Fighting with Your Spouse

Every couple fights and may often find itself on a threshold between bitterness or reconciliation. Here are 6 things that I think can help make reconciliation easier. Now these might be completely obvious to you, but I have to mention them because I have done enough marriage counseling to see that these thing are not so obvious to everyone. So, here are 6 things that I have learned in my marriage and from couples I have counseled:

6- Choose your words very carefully. Stick and stones… Words do hurt! You could say something that your spouse will never forget. You’ve probably already done it. You’ll probably do it again – but don’t.

5- Never say “never” or “always”. I hear this all the time in counseling. Some one says, “You never pick up after yourself. You always criticize me.” These sorts of absolute generalizations do nothing but escalate and derail an argument. Besides the fact that they’re not true. What happens is she says, “You never do anything!”, Then he gets defensive and says, “That’s not true, why I threw my shirt down the laundry shoot last Monday!” Now we have shifted the argument way over here to Monday’s laundry event rather than on the problem at hand. Stay clear of never and always and use words that de-escalate an argument. Say something like, “I feel like I do must of the work around here.” He then can’t say, well thats not true – you don’t feel that way.”

4- Don’t get historical. I head it said once, “When my wife gets in argument with me she always gets historical.” It does not help to bring up stuff from the past. The bible says that true love keeps no records. In marriage you are both changing, your making each other better. But it is really hard to change when your spouse keeps reminding you of your past. Plus it is proof that forgiveness is absent.

3- Leave the kids out of it. It is easy sometimes to talk to your spouse through the kids or to use the kids to leverage something in a fight. Don’t. If you find yourself doing something like that, try to imagine what it would like like if you saw some couple on tv doing the same thing. It is appalling!  That is completely unhealthy passive-aggressive behavior and damaging to your kids.

2- Apologize and confess quickly. It is much so easier to forgive someone who is seeking forgiveness. In fact, what I have experienced is that when one confesses the other always quickly confess too. “I am sorry I didn’t take your schedule seriously and ran as late as I did.” “No, I am sorry for making such a big deal about it- I just really wanted to get out of the house.” I think one of the most powerful attributes of my wife is that she can not stand to go 10 minutes with out saying she is sorry, which always leads me to say sorry too. 

1- Never “win”. Work for the “we” not “me”.  I think that most of the arguments I have seen between couples could easily be fixed if they saw themselves as a we and stopped thinking of me-me-me. Remember that reconciliation means to change back. If one party wins then that naturally means that the the other losses. You can not have reconciliation of oneness when each spouse is striving to win. Instead fight for the “we” not the “me”.  

Remember – we are striving for oneness. Forgiveness and reconciliation is hard work. If it were easy – well — then it would be easy – but its not! However, if each party is working for oneness – forgiveness and reconciliation is much easier.

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4th of July in 60 Seconds

4th of July in 60 Seconds

The 4th of July or Independence Day is a celebration of our independence from Britain.

In the 1700’s America was made of colonies inhabited by folks who moved here from Britain. Those colonies experience relative freedom until King George III began to tighten his control and taxed them.

By the 1770’s 13 colonies grew tired of taxation w/o representation. They constructed the Declaration of Independence. Which, of course was a declaration of independence from Britain and King George. It was signed on July 4th, 1776 followed by a celebration of parades, cannons, fireworks and public burning of the King’s image.

Today it is a celebration of Freedom. All men long to be free.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Incidentally, that is exactly what the good news of Jesus is about. It is a declaration of freedom. Because Jesus died for us we have been set free from sin, addiction, death and even slavery to legalism and religion. The bible says:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

It all about freedom! I hope you have a wonderful 4th!

You Married the Wrong Person

You Married the Wrong Person

You Married the Wrong Person

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To begin I have a proverb for you. How would you respond if you got this in your fortune cookie this week?

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)

Think about that for a moment. What does that even mean? Well – it means that if an ox is present, rather than a clean manger, you are gonna get some — well — stuff. Or, I could say this, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” When a man is alone, the manager is clean. Everything is fine! But in order to have crops and abundance he is going to need the strength of his help-mate. And with that ox comes — stinky — pooh.

Tonight we are going to talk about fighting. Conflict is a part of every relationship. Every couple fights. In fact, most of the books that I have read state that marriages that claim they do not fight are either lying or very unhealthy. Fighting is a part of marriage. To pick up where we left off last week. When God noted that it was not good for the man to be alone, he created for him (2 words) a “suitable help-mate”. The word help-mate in Hebrew is a military term that means ‘strong helper’. Like a king who helps another king in a battle or like God who fights Israel’s battles for her. And the word suitable literally means “like-opposite”. So God creates a strong helper who is like yet perfectly opposite of the man. Now you can’t use a military word in conjunction with this like-opposite concept with out having conflict. So, marriage, by it’s very definition (2 becoming 1 or 1 + 1 = 1), means fighting and conflict. One author said,

“All couples fight. Good couples fight clean, but bad couples fight dirty. Good couples press for a resolution, bad couples press for a victory. Conflict in good couples exposes their character. In bad couples it exposes their immaturity.” (Tommy Nelson)

Now if marriage is a holy institution designed by God to teach us the Gospel (see also… Eph 5:32), and if conflict is a natural and unavoidable part of being in such an intimate relationship, then wouldn’t you think the Bible would have some guidelines and instructions on how to fight? The Bible actually has quite a bit to say about conflict. It does teach us how to fight right. How to fight clean. How to fight in your marriage while at the same time fighting for your marriage. Tonight I want to examine that. But first, before we hit the mat, lets get warmed up. Let’s start with this discussion question.