Do You Have a Plan?

adviceGreat Advice!

Sometimes….I wonder…I observe…It seems…..

Sorry! It is challenging me to START this post….I want to be sensitive but it isn’t my style. I need to be tactful but I don’t know how…So, here goes

*DO YOU HAVE A PLAN? (for dating, working, for serving, for growing…..)

  1. Are you committed to doing it right (til the end)?
  2. Will you stick with it regardless of setbacks?
  3. Will you be satisfied with the result?
  4. Are your expectations realistic?

In the Bible, Acts 19:11 and following, there is a story of the “Sons of Sceva”. These men observed the miracles that Paul performed and wanted in on the action. But they did not understand what they were doing. They did not have a commitment to the action, did not expect setbacks, had no goal or expectation of satisfaction beyond immediate gratification. And they were beaten and fled naked into the streets…..

Do you have a plan?Hannah    That’s right! A plan? Does your life (including dating) glorify God? When you meet your soul mate, will you commit? Can you handle setbacks (there will be many)?  What is your goal? Will you be satisfied and content with results of your choices?


The Sacred Ministry Of Not Being A Jerk


By this, they wilt knoweth that ye are my disciples; if ye throwest the greatest shade.
-Jesus, The Wishful Thinking Translation

Sometimes I can be a real jerk; selfish, petty, arrogant, sarcastic and mean—and that’s on my good days.

And although I should (and usually do) internally despise my profound jerkiness, far too often I find myself outwardly defending it, justifying it, even celebrating it. 

It seems as though social media has hardened us all into professional posturers; less apologetic for our nastiness and more openly defiant in it. We begin to almost revel in our malice instead of repenting of it. Where we once viewed these hateful traits as fertile ground for personal renovation, we now see them as moral virtues to be flaunted and applauded.

As someone daily immersed in the public discourse over matters of faith, I feel a heavy sadness seeing the cruelty which now seems standard issue for Christians; the sarcasm, snarkiness and venom we so regularly wield with our words. These are the wildly mismatched accessories for a follower of Jesus, which we’ve all somehow convinced ourselves actually fit. When we publicly skewer someone or one-up their insult or shame them silent, we feel quite proud of ourselves; morally vindicated even if nothing in our conduct gives off the slightest whiff of the goodness of Christ.

Sure, these attack strategies that we employ in order to deflect criticism or avoid meaningful dialogue or sidestep deep reflection often accomplish their intended tasks, they also pretty much urinate all over our public testimony as well, in the process.

That’s because most of us now really cherish winning an argument over reflecting Christ’s compassion and humility. We’d rather put people who oppose us on blast, than love and pray for them.

We have become far too comfortable in our own viciousness and diluted ourselves into worshiping a false Jesus, who somehow is cool with the sheer jerkitude we daily dispense in his name.

Ironically, we regularly unleash all manner of verbal awfulness upon people and then dare to wonder why they reject faith or run from the Church or avoid us like a root canal.

The more time I spend on this planet and the more I seek God, the more compelled I am to simply try to see individual people, to listen to their stories, and to treat them well. So often I witness my brothers and sisters out there in the world wagging their fingers and spewing hatred and beating their chests and tossing insults from a distance, and I just want to grab them and shake them and say, “Can you just try to be a decent human being? You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.”

The truth, is kindness is simply transformative. Jesus already modeled the much better way. (See: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)

You can’t berate anyone into belief, you can’t simultaneously be both sarcastic and sincere, and you can do anything good in a person by treating them horribly. If you win an argument and your words leave someone feeling less than human—you’ve lost. If you shout someone down or shame them into silence or ridicule them, you simply haven’t loved them as Jesus would and no amount of tap-dancing with the facts or stretching the Gospels stories will change that.

A few quick ways to practice a decidedly non-jerk spirituality:

Don’t mistake social media for conversation. What transpires on timelines and profiles and comments sections is not dialogue. It is at best, a volleying of separate monologues that doesn’t allow the necessary elements of recognition of tone, real-time course correction, and nuance. If you can’t speak in person, the words that you begin to type to someone, hit backspace and pause until you come up with something more redemptive.

Have some Jerk-alarms in place. In the speed and emotion social media generates, it can be difficult to notice how we are really coming across. I have some great people in my life; people I respect, who won’t shy away from giving me hard words when I need them. They tell me the truth even when I’d rather have something far less invasive and far less honest. Good friends let you know when you’re being a jerk, so find yourself some and then listen to them.

Talk to a person, don’t play to the crowd. I see so many Christians who respond to public calling out with an equally public, yet usually more vicious response. Fueled by the easy high of Retweets and Likes, we all end up from time to time sucked in, caught up in the adrenaline-injected moment, and briefly forfeiting our souls to gain some social media kudos. It’s a bad play every time. Seek private, direct conversation as often as you are able, and resist the buzz of the atta-boys from a choir of acquaintances.

Use sarcasm sparingly. Seriously. We have become so comfortable with tongue-in-cheek, half-hearted speech that many of us have lost the ability to be genuine, to be humble, to be dignified. I’m as guilty as anyone, but I’m continually resisting the temptation to remain in that lazy, insincere language. Sarcasm is a place you want to visit now and again, but no place you should live.

When in doubt, shut-up. Note: A response is not always necessary. Questions do not always need to be answered, false information doesn’t always need immediate correction, and uninvited personal attack doesn’t always require a defense. When Jesus was falsely accused, mocked, and beaten on the way to his wrongful execution, he was simply silent. In response to the manufactured drama that we face every day, shutting-up may be the most sacred and faith-affirming thing we ever do.

Practice ruthless self-examinationHold on to the very real possibility that you could be wrong at any given moment; that you could be misinformed or misguided or just plain terrible. We who follow Jesus, need to be more adept at our own personal inventory than in identifying the mess of others. The first place to look for jerky behavior should always be in the mirror.

Repeat. This is a moment-by-moment process that we’ll be in until our very last breath. When you think you’ve arrived—keep going.

Friend, both you and I will most surely miss the mark here and much sooner and more frequently than either of us would like, but we can’t let that keep us from being relentless and steadfast in our search for a better version of ourselves with which to face conflict and discord and opposition.

If we’re truly looking to share our faith and reflect an accurate picture of Christ to the world (and not just win the Internet today) we’ll do the painful, repetitive work it takes, and we won’t be satisfied until we’re more in his image than we were yesterday. 

May you and I pursue the elusive, difficult, but so very Jesus ministry—of not being a jerk.

*Incidently, this also works extremely well for non-religious folk. You too can seek compassion, kindness, decency, and understanding, and beautifully de-jerk your life quite well…………John Pavlovitz

SEVEN Truths about Marriage You Will not Hear about in Church

Ever wish you had the answers to a test before you walked into the classroom? Maybe some of you did have the answers, but you better keep that to yourself. I took some really hard tests during my time in college.

And if you spent time in college you remember review days. The professor would walk into a class full of students (some of which I had never seen) and give some insights about the impending test. Miss review day, and it would be foolish to expect a passing grade.

But it never failed. I would follow the guideline. I would study the handout. But on the day of the exam, the professor would put the exam on my desk … and there it was. A foreign formula or equation. It wasn’t in the notes. It didn’t show up on the study guide.

Looking back, I realize something … the teacher did not intend for the study guide to be comprehensive. It was simply not possible to include everything from the required readings, class notes and lectures.

The same is true with the church and marriage. I am grateful for the foundation the church gave me in regards to marriage. It was a good study guide. But there some things on the test I did not learn until marriage began. So, I am going to give you some answers to the test that some of you might not expect to see. I grew up in church. I spent most of my time with Christian people. I was told much about marriage. But these seven truths about marriage I never heard in church.

1.) Sex is a gift from God. Explore It.

Make no mistake … God created sex. But through the years, God’s people allowed Satan to steal this gift. Without a fight.

God created sex. If you’re married, explore this gift to the fullest.

I was never educated about sex … and I grew up in a Christian family. My framework for sex was built by my friends and the movies I watched. Big UH OH. The cloud of lies formed during my teenage years still hinder me from enjoying the fullness of sex.

It is time for God’s people to take back the gift of sex. The lies surrounding it are ruining lives and marriages. If you are married, here’s a challenge. Explore sex. Explore the fullness of it. Pray for sexual intimacy with your spouse.

Parents … it is time to stop allowing Satan to define sex for our children. Educate them. Start early. The average child is exposed to pornography at age 11. Eleven!! And many parents wait until high school to have “the talk” with their children. At that point, you are not building a foundation for sex. Your’re trying to destroy a foundation Satan has already built.

Church leaders … I am convinced of this. The situation in our culture today is too urgent to allow parents to override you here. Talk about sex. If parents refuse to educate their children, you do it. Do not let Satan beat you to the punch. A false understanding of sex is destroying young people. It is destroying our nation. It is destroying the world. And we are doing nothing!

Sex is a beautiful gift created by God for a man and a woman that have vowed to spend the rest of their earthly lives with one another. If you are married … open this gift and enjoy the fullness of it.

2.) There is more than one person out there for you.

Soul mates are made … not born. I am not sure where this idea of soul mate originated, but it is false. Maintaining a healthy relationship is more about commitment than perfection. Every person on earth has imperfections. And the reality is we could spend our lives with more than one person.

Tiffani (my wife) is not perfect. There are nuances about her that frustrate me. But I realize these frustrations are really a result of my imperfections. I love her so much. And I love her more every day. I am committed to her.

I meet too many young people waiting for something that is not real. “I just couldn’t marry her because she smacked her food.” “He just wasn’t the one … he had this weird twitch when he smiled. But I know my soul mate is still out there. I just have to keep looking.”

Or you might have just missed him or her.

What if God does not want you to find a perfect person, but an imperfect person that will draw you closer to Him? What if God desires you to marry a person with flaws to expose yours? What if God wants to teach you the value found in committing to one person forever, not the exhausting pursuit of searching your entire life to find the perfect person?

Soul mates are made … not born.

3.) The first year of marriage is hard … really hard.

What have we done? Are we going to make it? Why is this so hard? All questions I asked myself many times during my first year of marriage. We were arguing. We were fighting. It was really hard. And every day I thought something was wrong. I thought we had a bad marriage. Nobody warned me about the first year. But take this as a warning … the first year of marriage is difficult.

If you are in the first year of marriage and thinking about giving up … congratulations. You are now … married!

But let me encourage you … things get better. Every marriage has struggles. Yours is not unique. Don’t give up. There are better days coming. Your marriage will get better. Do not walk out. Nothing worth having comes easy. If you walk out now you disqualify yourself (and your spouse) from years of joy.

4.) A spouse does not complete you.

I hate you, Jerry Maguire. You brainwashed a generation to believe a lie. Spouses do not complete people. I bought this lie, and it wasn’t until I let go of any notion my wife could fill some void that I was able to truly love her. Until then, I was always frustrated. I expected Tiffani to do something she was incapable of doing.

If you are empty, broken or insecure, and you believe a spouse is the silver bullet to your problems … buckle up. Marriage will be a bumpy ride. Only God can fill those voids. You will never be able to enjoy the beauty of marriage if your spouse’s job is to complete you.

You can’t experience joy in your marriage if your spouse’s job is to complete you.

5.) Marry somebody with similar goals, dreams and passions.

Marry a Christian, yes. But I would go even further. Marry somebody with similar passions and dreams. Now, I understand this breaks down at some point. People are not machines. No two people want exactly the same thing in life. However, if you love foreign missions and your potential spouse hates going overseas, some tension will arise.

Synergy is extremely important in a marriage. If your spouse has the same vision as you, they will understand your struggles and support your pursuits. They will encourage your walk. They will be empathetic. There is much power in two people doing life with the same goals, dreams and passions for life.

6.) Marriage is not for everybody.

Paul talks about this in I Corinthians 7. He tells the church at Corinth to remain in their current situation. If unmarried, then stay unmarried. If married, then stay married. He later says this …

So then the person who marries his fiancee does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better. 1 Corinthians 7:38

Even better? I never heard that in church. Maybe it is time for God’s people to accept the reality. God has not called everyone to marry. I talk with young men and women that are consumed with finding a spouse. And most of the pressure comes from … US. The church. Once a person reaches mid-20s, we assume they have a fatal flaw if they aren’t married.

“Bless your heart. You are almost 30 and not married? I know this must be hard!?”

Shame on us. I am worried many failed marriages are the result of Christians pressuring people into something God did not design them for. Marriage is holy and good, but it is also possible to follow Jesus without a spouse.

7.) The wedding day is a lie … don’t buy it. 

I love weddings. I love officiating them. It is a rare moment where I get to make a divine proclamation that forever changes the status of two people. Powerful.

But in an increasingly individualistic, “me” culture, weddings create a potentially dangerous situation. “Every girl lives for her wedding day.” It is all about the bride and groom. Everyone looks at them. Encourages them. Congratulates them.

Don’t buy the wedding day lie. Marriage is not about you.

Many couples buy the lie of the wedding day … it is all about me. But marriage is at odds with this mindset. A successful wedding day is one where everyone serves you. A successful marriage is one where you serve your spouse. The wedding day is a day where the spotlight is on you. Marriage has no spotlight. The wedding day is about saying a bunch of words that most couples never take seriously. Marriage is about putting the words into action. The wedding day is joyous and celebratory. Many seasons of marriage are about persevering and not letting go through the storms.

Embrace your wedding day. Prepare for it. Celebrate it. But do not make the mistake of believing the lie. After your 20 minutes of fame, the spotlight is gone forever. It is no longer about you (and this is a good thing … you will see).


What are some truths you have discovered about marriage the church hasn’t taught you?

Frank Powell is a minister at the Campbell Street Church of Christ in Jackson , TN and ministers to College and young Adults..