faith, Family, Personal Development

Being A Student of Marriage

The following is direct from a trusted resource called Hitting Home with Dr. Raymond Force. He is a pastor, speaker, counselor, and coach who is passionate about helping people enjoy healthy relationships. I found the following to “hit home” with me because I’m an avid learner with special interest in personal development and human behavior. I agree very much with what he shares about his own experience, and am convicted to do a better job at sharing what I learn with my spouse as part of my leadership responsibility at home. I trust you will find encouragement from Dr. Force’s message as I have.

Consumers Consume Themselves – Dr. Force

Lately, I have been analyzing my own marriage. I have been looking at key components that have enabled us to connect at a very high level for the last 26 years.

One of those components involves a spirit of learning that has been present at almost every stage of our marriage.

The scriptures tell us “with all thy getting get understanding”. (Proverbs 4:7) In short, we are to be a people that covet and yearn after knowledge more than anything else in life.

By God’s grace, I believe my wife and I have been learners rather than feelers in life. This is important because when spouses are just feeling their way through life, they only tend to change once the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

There have been many couples that I have coached and counseled that are feelers instead of learners. One of my main goals with these couples has been to encourage a spirit of learning in their homes.

Some of these very same couples, however, proved to be slow at moving from a feelings-dominated approach to a principled-driven approach to living. Consequently, I was often left with one option with these couples: Provide listening support and wait for the pain of staying the same to become greater than the pain of change once their unlearned ways bore the fruit of bad feeling and disunity. Once this occurred, they would often change, but only after their poor choices would evoke difficult feelings in their lives.

Afterwards, these very same spouses would often admit that they should have listened to our original advice. However, since they were feelers instead of learners, the blueness of the wound was often required to cleanse away evil.

Trial and error may work, but it is often time consuming, unnecessary, and heart-wrenching.

My Wife and I

My wife and I read, listen, and watch people all the time. We try to be aware of 10 things happening around us at all times.

Upon seeing each other, we will often start a conversation by stating something that we read or noticed about other people or ourselves that day. Quite simply, we can often be found hashing out wisdom with one another, and this has proved to provide a number of pleasant unintended consequences for us:

1. It raises our marriage to a level outside of ourselves.

You will never be a part of something great unless you operate outside of yourself. We are mortals created to operate in an immortal atmosphere. If all you do is follow your flesh and the passions thereof, you will never quite function at optimum capacity.

2. It takes the focus off of our mistakes.

I say it all the time. If my wife and I wanted to, we could bring plenty of case files to our little emotional skirmishes that we have from time to time. However, setting our minds and conversations on things above (Colossians 3) has a way of making even our mistakes toward one another seem a little smaller.

3. It provides an incredible point of connection.

I feel so sorry for couples that are not learners. Without a spirit of learning in a marriage, couples are left to trying to find unity in merely mutual hobbies, exciting forms of entertainment, or fun activities. Though I am not against any of the previously mentioned bonding points, there must be something more than these in order for couples to connect at a deeper level.

A Charge to Men

I am a firm believer than most men need to shut the door on the man cave and go back to the study. Read, talk about what you are learning, and promote teachable moments in your home.

A family that only consumes will eventually consume itself.

Promote a spirit of learning in your home and you will be surprised at all the areas that are positively affected.

The word amuse literally means not to think. Though I am okay with vegging from time to time, I find that thinking in my free time yields incredible results, especially in marriage.

If you want to feel good about one another, start thinking a little more. It’s commanded. It’s needful. It’s more than beneficial.

– Dr. Force

faith, Family, Personal Development

You Are Not A Failure | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.

John Wooden

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.

Johnny Cash

Son, you will fail; this happens. But this does not mean you are a failure. The assumption that “you are a failure” is a powerful and defeating thought that can paralyze a man. It’s a recording that sometimes plays in the mind that men struggle to silence. It’s one of the five powerful voices I believe all men hear (if you remember my previous letter on this subject). I think this is partially because many men falsely believe that to be a man, we must “man-up” by appearing strong, confident, and courageous, even when we feel weak, confused, and lost. This false belief thus devastates men in moments of failure. Which is why when we fail, we sometimes believe we are a failure.

Please note, experiencing failure and feeling the impact is a good thing for all men. The last thing we need is insensitivity to this pain. Appropriate levels of pain, in the form of regret and guilt, are good for all men. And why? Well, because pain is an indication of pending danger. Insensitivity to pain will only lead to callousness and other, more harmful decisions to self and others. Yet, inflicting needless suffering on ourselves by allowing a failure to convince us that we are a failure is also not helpful. While you and I are both sinners, we are redeemed by Christ and given a new identity as sons of God. Your identity is marked permanently not by your failure but by His grace, and your identity is forever changed. Accepting this is sometimes too good to be true, so it’s easy for men to go back to the perpetual failure of the former life and the old yoke of slavery.

..and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

As men, we live in this great tension, and here is how I describe it. First, our former identity is marked entirely by sin. In fact, the Bible calls us “sinners.” Yes, God’s Word is clear; our identities before Christ are marked by perpetual sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) So in one sense, and at one time, all men were perpetual failures. We were, (notice the use of the past tense of the verb,) a complete and total failure.

Second, yet we also know that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) And this gift results in us having the opportunity to believe in his name, giving us “the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) Jesus also says, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) So your identity has changed from sinner to son, from failure to friend.

Third, we must choose to live in this new identity as sons and friends. Yet we know, the voice of the past will call to us. In moments of failure, we will be tempted to listen to the voice of the former man and the old identity. It will call to you and say, “I am a failure.” Its call will be compelling and clear because only you will hear its voice within your mind. This voice will present evidence to you from your own life to support your incorrect perceptions. Do not doubt my words, son, the courtroom of your mind will offer a convincing case. And yet, the tension between a former identity and your new identity has a present reality. 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Think about that and ponder on it for a second—you are the “righteousness of God.” Let that set in. That’s your identity. You are not a failure. You are instead a son of righteousness

So the next time you fail your response should be to understand the pain, accept it, learn from it, and then before the failure begins to poison your thinking about your identity, bring to mind that Scripture says, you a “son of righteousness” saved by God’s grace. You are not a failure. Do not let that thought preach to you, rather let the truth preach to you. And why should you do this? Because the most important thought about you is not what others think about you, what you think about you, but what God thinks about you. This is the only thought that matters.

As you learn to do this, you will discover something about the fails in your life—that God is up to something. That he is working out something magnificent in you every time you fail. He is teaching you to trust more and more in him. Notice what the apostle Paul says about his perpetual failing.

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Do you see it? Failure gives way to opportunity—the opportunity to trust less in self and more in God. With failure, we encounter grace, discover perfect power, contentment, and the paradox of strength in weakness. For the man who is strong in himself is not strong; he is only pretending to be strong. Instead, the man who embraces his weakness (through failure) is genuinely strong because he is strong in God.

I love you son. Remember you are not a failure. Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.

Fortitude, Personal Development, Uncategorized

Quit To Win – Part 2

What follows is Part 2 in the I Quit series. If you missed Part 1, you can read it HERE.

Instead of striving so hard to never quit, never give up, and knock myself out to get what I believe I want, maybe I should just quit. Yeah, that’s right. Sometimes you need to quit to win at life. I’ll explain.

Striving to be a better human and quitting are two sides of the same coin. Certainly there are things we can and must do to live to our full potential, so don’t get me wrong. Self-control, self-discipline, loving well, doing what is right even when it’s hard, are all very necessary beliefs/ behaviors/ habits we need to work on. But there are also many things we must quit if we are to be the person God has made us to be and to live with the inner peace, joy, and fulfillment we all seek.

Following is another example of something to quit that has the power to make the world a better place. This is me preaching to myself. I hope this helps you as well.

I quit the attitude of entitlement

In our culture of the “easy button” with everything made to be fast, easy, convenient, and cheap, it seems we must battle like never before to avoid an attitude of entitlement. No one wants to admit they are entitled, but we behave as though we are. We are getting soft. We expect things to go our way, for others to be agreeable to us, and that somehow life owes us – someone owes us anyway. I deserve, I need, gimme, gimme, gimme.

Well, guess what? Life is hard. The longer I travel this journey of life, the more I realize that believing I deserve anything, or that life should be easier, or that others should think and behave the way I want them to, is counterproductive and foolish. The truth is I’m responsible for my life, which means I’m also to blame for the frustrations I live with. Even when things go “bad” – and they surely will – I still have control over how I choose to respond.

Brief rabbit trail here. Have you ever thought about the root of most of your frustrations? If you are honest with yourself, it is very likely because in that moment, in that situation, you are not getting what you want. Let’s practice exercising self-control and emotional intelligence to realize that we are not entitled to our desires and preferences all the time. I digress.

Entitlement is a disease and it’s highly contagious. I know people sick with this attitude of entitlement and they are not fun to be around. They are highly selfish, often complaining, rarely happy, and unaware of their sickness. Further, such people want to spread their sickness with anyone close enough to hear them.  Entitlement can also be caught without personal contact by way of social media, TV, movies, books, news, etc. I’m telling you, the sickness of entitlement is dangerous.

What is the remedy? Personal responsibility, plain and simple. When I fully own my choices (and the consequences of my choices), I have greatly increased control over what I get in life than the person ill with entitlement. When I own my mistakes, learn from them, and forgive myself for them, I grow and become a better human. Blaming others destroys the growth opportunity that mistakes and failures provide. The benefits of personal responsibility make living with the sickness of entitlement seem especially lame, so I quit my attitude of entitlement by pursuing increased personal responsibility in every area of my life.

Fortitude, Personal Development

My 2020 Book List

I’ll not waste precious ink to tell you how important it is to read. You already know that feeding your mind positive inputs is key to your healthy living journey. If you read a book that knocked your socks off this year, I’d like to hear about it.

Made For His Pleasure – Alistair Begg

To be honest, this was not my favorite book, but maybe that’s because I wasn’t ready for the central message. I firmly believe we can only receive instruction or be convicted to the point of making change in our life when we are ready for it. God is good like that. This book challenges our human nature to live for self and look for pleasure in all the wrong places when it is living fully for God and his purposes that answers our deepest needs. Thought provoking, convicting, and entertaining when you read it in Alistair’s Irish accent.

Leadership & Self-deception- Arbinger Institute

I first read this book about 10 years ago as an assignment for work. It blows your mind to realize that the reason for most of our problems in life are our own fault. We are all deceived, seeing the world and other people from a narrow and skewed perspective that sabotages our relationships and personal productivity. Written in a story format, it’s engaging and thought provoking. I often put the book down mid-paragraph to think about what just happened and how spot on it is to my own experience. Read this.

The Self-Propelled Island – Jules Verne

A diversion into classic fiction, which I don’t do very often. Verne has many famous stories like Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in 80 Days, so I took a chance on a lesser known story he wrote 100 years ago. His vision of technology is fascinating and the way he describes the adventures in the middle of the ocean makes you believe you were actually there. It’s pretty fun.

Kingdom Man – Tony Evans

As chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Evans has endorsements from NFL stars like Tony Romo, Tony Dungy, Jon Kitna, and Joe Gibbs for this amazing playbook for life. He tells it like it is, and sometimes it hits you like a linebacker. This is a valuable resource worth reading on the regular to give men the encouragement and inspiration to live, lead, and love in ways that will change our corner of the world.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People- Stephen R. Covey

Everyone needs to read this book. Period. It’s a little wordy in spots, but the principles discussed here are timeless. I’ve written about it before, and even had my article on the 7 Habits published in a magazine. This is another book that needs to be in regular rotation for anyone who strives to be their best – no matter your role.

The Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren

This is the most impactful book I read this year. Like some of my other books, this one should be in regular rotation. It is so rich with insight taken directly from the best instruction manual for life – the Bible. There are over 1,000 Bible verses referenced in this book which is broken down into 40 short chapters. While it could be read in a “40 Days of Purpose Challenge,” I took much longer as the concepts to absorb were more than I can manage in one day. Warren doesn’t mince words, but rather it seems as if every word has importance. I’ve nearly highlighted the whole thing! Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and read this book.

Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

My 11th grader was assigned this book for summer reading in prep for his AP English class. I thought I’d read it with him to give us something else to talk about. Glad I did. It’s a good one. Entertaining and thought provoking about what successful people look like. It’s not at all what you think. His observations and scientific research turn what we thought we knew about what makes a person successful on its head. Just when you thought all you had to do was try harder and maybe you’ll get lucky…

Believe Become Be – Robert Noland

What we believe about ourselves is important. If you are like me, or at all human, it’s likely you believe some lies about yourself. These lies are holding us back from being all we were made to be. Noland helps us unravel some of these lies and shows us the truth about who we are and who we are meant to be.

Daring Greatly – Brene Brown

Daring greatly is to be vulnerable. To let your guard down and not be so afraid of what we think other people believe about us. To be your authentic self, to be brave, take a chance, and see what is on the other side of going for it. It’s a call for those of us who are hiding behind walls of fear and doubt to say, “I am enough, and I am tired of being imprisoned by the lies I tell myself.” Brown compels us to believe that the safety we perceive behind our walls is no safety at all, but rather a prison keeping us from being all we were meant to be. How liberating it would be if we lived with even just a wee bit of raw vulnerability. We might find some incredible blessing. I recommend this book for teens and up.

The Road Less Traveled – M. Scott Peck, MD

An old friend recommended this book to me many years ago. This is my 3rd time through it. It’s as deep and heavy as you are ready to receive the message Dr. Peck has about how to live and love well. Like other books in my list this year, there is strong emphasis on personal responsibility and the power of our choices. Choosing well and owning our life is hard. So hard at times that it’s easy to see why most people won’t travel this road. But since we want to live life to the full and be our very best, we will choose the road less traveled. This book shows you how.

Compound Effect – Darren Hardy

The message in this little book is simple. Doing the simple and mundane things (healthy habits, personal/ professional productivity habits, etc.) consistently over time will compound results no matter the venture. The trouble is that we give up too early, or we see no point in doing the mundane. Hardy shares stories and illustrations that are easily relatable to help inspire us to be patient and stick with it. I have begun to see some fruit to some simple and mundane newer habits I’ve adopted – things I’ve tried before but given up too early. The compound effect is real.

Jesus is___. – Judah Smith

This is among the most impactful books I’ve ever read. My 3rd time around, and I still find new things to knock my socks off. The writing style is very conversational as it seems like Pastor Judah is in the room talking directly to me. He brings Jesus to life in unconventional ways, using familiar Bible stories and looking at them from a unique perspective. Who is Jesus? You fill in the blank for yourself, but not until you read this book.

faith, Personal Development

Live Beyond The Shame | Letter to My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Son, there are points in every man’s life when he feels like he is not good enough. This is common to every man. Most bounce back from these momentary struggles with guilt, shame, and regret, but some will not. Some men will allow the quiet voice of self-criticism to take them to self-hatred and a lingering feeling of disappointment, discouragement, and disapproval that seeks to alter their identity. For some men, this will become paralyzing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

A popular solution for those living in shame is focused self-improvement that strives to boost self-esteem. Coaching in this manner seeks to improve skills, competencies, mindsets, attitudes, perseverance, and endurance with the hope of seeing worth in yourself that dig you out of your self-criticism. But as you will learn, this is an insufficient solution. If this solution were sufficient for men, there would be no one living in perpetual and private shame. Yet men still do. And solutions of this sort ignore the fact that shame is rooted in a spiritual problem, needs a spiritual solution, and a renewed spiritual reality that is not manufactured merely by our mind.

So if you are dealing with shame, here is what you need to know about shame and how to live shamelessly.

There Was A Time Before Shame

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Genesis 2:25

Can you imagine this utopia? A time before shame? 

It must have been a beautiful state of freedom. Yet not long after this moment, sin came and shame and then a lot of blame. And ever since the fall of man, the same cycle continues. Sin, then shame, and then blame.

But can we attain what was lost in the garden?

The answer is yes, but we have to understand where shame gets its power.

Shame’s Power Comes From Sin

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Romans 6:6

There is nothing more the Accuser, that’s Satan, would love than for a redeemed man to live in a state of self-criticism rather than in God’s true joy and freedom. 

“We know,” the writer confidently states, but do men act as they know when they live in self-criticism and shame? 

We might say we know, but if we don’t also behave and believe as we know, then do we know? And what is it that we should know—that we were crucified—notice the use of the past tense. This infers that the spiritual penance paid by Christ on the cross was good enough, even though we were not. His penance in the past alters our present state. This crucifixion nailed our body of sin, freeing us from the slavery of sin. If this is the case, then why do so many men act and believe they are enslaved? Why do we choose to believe our sin enslaves us when the present reality is so different?

This is where shame gets its power. It convinces redeemed men that God’s gift on the cross was not enough. It convinces redeemed men that they are never going to be enough. In our disbelief of God and his act on the cross, we choose to believe more in the voice of shame. No longer does the cross have power, but rather our shame.

But here is the truth.

You Are Not Put To Shame

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Romans 10:11

Sin and shame have no power over the regenerate believer. If Scripture is true—then shame was put off not put on. And while we did formerly live in a perpetual state of sin and thus shame, this is no longer the case. While as men, we occasionally sin, this is vastly different from the life of sin we once lived. Our spiritual state is changed, and we as men will spend the rest of our lives, realizing, understanding, and knowing this renewed state. Thus scripture is needed desperately to retrain a mind that believes the past more than the present. Our old ways, attitudes, and beliefs tend to persuade us to believe in old beliefs and belief systems. While some guilt and regret are good in moments of sin, they should drive us toward reconciliation and restoration, not to a state of shame that paralyzes us.

Our Present Reality Is Saved Not Shamed

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Galatians 2:20

The truth of these words are power to a man who lives in shame. The writer proclaims, “It is no longer I who live.” And this is not positive self-talk aimed at boosting a man’s self-esteem. It is embracing a belief in a new spiritual reality. Remember, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth is merely human effort that is futile. The death and resurrection of Christ for mankind’s sin is not human effort—it’s divine salvation from the futile attempts of human effort. It is the redemption of sin that breaks the bondage of sin and the cycle of shame and blame.

Christ’s sacrifice was enough, but now we have a choice—to believe in Christ who lives within us or believe in the shame that so easily imprisons us.

If you are a follower of Christ, live free from shame, enjoy your freedom, and find joy in Christ’s life. Why live in self-condemnation, as a man set free? Don’t condemn yourself—God doesn’t when you are in Christ.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1

I love you son, Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest study Men & Marriage: Overcoming 6 Unspoken Tensions.