Marriage, The Fountain Of Life Or The Kiss Of Death

Marriage is a pill with the same label to everyone who swallows it, but to some it’s life giving and to some it’s a bitter poison.  I am 13 and ½ years into the best marriage I have ever had.  Ok, the only marriage I have ever had but it is the best!

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vainlife that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.”

Marriage is supposed to be enjoyed!

I’m at the age where many of the people I went to High School and College with are going through the Facebook change.

You know what I mean. You see it.

One day you see a picture on their profile and it’s just them.  Their spouse is no longer in the picture.  I mean literally they are out of the picture.   They’ve been scrubbed out of the profile and out of their life.

As the world of social media goes, these are people whom I’m friends with but I don’t see on a regular basis.  Many of them I haven’t seen for years.  I look a little deeper into their profiles and I find out that their marriage ended.

…and I grieve for them.

…They didn’t ask me to.

…They may not be grieving…

But I am

You may be one of these friends of mine who has gone through a divorce.  Maybe you are doing well and things are going well after the divorce, for that I’m thankful.

But for me to see marriages end hurts me to the core.  Many times I feel like I grieve over marriages that are lost more than the people getting a divorce.  I know that no one gets married with the hope to someday be divorced.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint in my on heart why I’m so hurt when people I have little connection with go through divorce.  I think there are a few reasons.

I impose myself into their story and I think about if Charyl and I were ever to divorce.   This may be the root of it.  Our lives are so interconnected and our love for one another is so deep that I think for me it would be worse than death.  I think about the deep deep hurt that must take place between two people who were intimately joined together for years and now are split apart. I just can’t even allow myself to go there.

I think about the kids. Having just gone through the Holidays and experiencing the joy of everything together I couldn’t imagine how tough it must be for children to understand how everything has changed. How the very foundation of their security has unraveled and they are helpless to do anything about it.  Many times the children blame themselves.  They have to learn a new life and navigate going to different homes and having different schedules.  They have to learn a new way that their parents are interacting.  No longer as mom and dad but often as adversaries.  I don’t want that for my kids.

I think about how my friends who are divorcing may have been cheated on or cheated in the marriage.  I think about the pain of betrayal and loss of trust that must of happened.  I’m sure it must have rocked them to their very core.  To have the person you trust most betray you in the most intimate way must be a pain that is so deep.  I grieve for them to have to go through that.  I hurt that they hurt, many times through no fault of their on.

It also grieves me because I feel like the most valuable gift a person can have has been discarded. There is no greater gift than marriage. I know this may not feel true for many, for some it may feel like a curse.  But marriage is a gift from God and when a married couple loves and supports each other through life there is no greater gift.

Marriage is making a life together with someone who knows you best.

Marriage is having your best friend with you through every season.

Marriage is getting past the initial butterflies of first love feelings and finding something better, something deeper called friendship.

Marriage is laughing, crying and having someone to send GIFs to all day long. Marriage is frustrating and sanctifying.

Marriage is having someone with you to take you to the hospital and sit with you.

Marriage is exploring life and the world with your true love.

Marriage is a picture of something greater, Christ and His Church.  The real meaning of marriage is to show the world a picture of a relationship that matches God and His people.  When a marriage fails the picture is lost.

I really grieve because I feel like my friends missed out on the greatest gift.  I hate to see my friends miss out on good things.   What they wanted for a good thing became a horrible thing their lives.

I would offer a little bit of hope when it comes to marriage.

If you are not married and want to be married, make sure your marry well.   So many marriages end because they never should have started. Young couples are infatuated with each other and know nothing of commitment but marriage seems attractive to them so they jump in and pretty quickly jump out.  Before you get married you better ask yourself a few questions.

Do our values/beliefs match?

Do we want the same things out of life?

Do we have the same ideas about children (how many we want and how we will raise them)?

Have you learned to fight fair?

Do you like their family?

Do you have the same ideas about money?

Do you enjoy their friendship?  If you weren’t attracted to them physically would you still want to hang out with them?

How do they handle stress? When and if you have children the stress levels will rise.

It is surely better to wait or be single than to marry the wrong person.  Never get married without going to premarital counseling first.  Marriages are easy to get into but painful to get out of.   Get into the right marriage.  Maybe you feel like your season of youth is passing and you feel the pressure that if you don’t get married now then it probably won’t happen for you. Again, better to be single than to marry the wrong person.  Wait. Pray.

If you are married and struggling there is hope!

I have been in ministry for about 18 years now and I have seen so many marriages on the brink of collapse that have been restored and are now healthy and thriving.

Keep Trying.

Keep forgiving.

Go see a counselor.

Talk to your pastor.

Get involved in a couples group at your church.

Actually work on your marriage.

Be loving and respectful even when your spouse is not.

I have counseled many couples and I understand that not every marriage is going to make it.  One person is not enough to make a marriage work. Too many times I have seen one spouse who will literally do anything to save their marriage and the other spouse could care less.  Unfortunately, most of these marriages do not make it.  It takes two people both giving a 100%.

But when two imperfect people surrender to a perfect God and allow Him to lead their marriage there is nothing sweeter!  IMG_7543

If I can help you in some way with your marriage send me a personal message.  There are so many resources out there to help with those who really want it.

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Hate On Haiti

I write this as I am on a plane on the way home from the amazing country of Haiti. Haiti was in the news a lot a few years ago when a very severe earthquake hit the country and thousands of people lost their lives. Much of the publicity from the media towards the nation of Haiti shows a nation of poverty and hopelessness. It is true that Haiti is one of the poorest nations in the world. However there is so much about Haiti to love. I want you to know what I love about Haiti. I spent 5 days with a pastor named Lesly Bertrand who has planted over 30 churches in the last 35 years in Haiti. It grieves him that much of the publicity towards Haiti is negative. Pastor Lesly loves his country and the people of his country and he wants the world to know that Haiti is an amazing place. I agree with him.

On Saturday we flew into Port-a-Prince and found a whole different world from the one we left just two hours earlier in Miami. Once our team exited the airport we found many people wanting to help us with our bags. Many of these were young children with hunger in their eyes just hoping the rich Americans may give them a little bit of money. Port-a-Prince is a very busy city that is packed with people, vendors, dust and smoke. It is a bit overwhelming. The rules of the road seem to be chaotic while the horns on the cars never stop beeping. The scenery quickly changed as we left the city. We had a beautiful scenic drive to the mountains of Haiti. Most people don’t know that Haiti has some of the most beautiful country imaginable. The mountains are a mix of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mountains of Israel and a tropical island. This is an inspiring hot country that yields an abundance of amazing fruit. While in Haiti we had fresh organic bananas, mangos, watermelon, avocado, pineapple and a variety of other fruits. The people of the mountains were all warm and friendly. They live a quite and peaceful agricultural life. They live off of the land and off the farm animals they raise. The farming they do is 100% by hand. Each morning in Haiti you need no alarm clock as the air is filled with the sounds of roosters crowing everywhere.

What the people of Haiti do not have is part of what makes them so special. In America we live for entertainment. In the mountains of Haiti they have very little in the form of entertainment. Most places do not have power and the people are extremely poor. What they lack in material possessions they make up for in time spent together. The people in the communities of Haiti all know one another. They live in very tight knit neighborhoods that will stop whatever they are doing if someone in the community needs help. Very few of the people of Haiti have transportation other than their feet. Those who do have transportation (usually in the form of a small motorcycle) are more than ready to allow who ever needs a ride to ride with them. It was not uncommon to see 4 people on one of these small motorcycles. Most Haitians do not have a TV so they sit around and actually talk to each other (I know…crazy right?).

The churches in Haiti taught me so much. On Sunday I was blessed to preach in a church that crammed over 100 people in a small tin building that was literally held up with sticks. It was hot and this American was covered in sweat. None of the Haitians were aware that they needed a nice building and air conditioning to worship God. The worship of the people was so strong and pure.

These people have nothing.
They literally need to trust Jesus for everything.
They are totally dependent on Him even for their next meal.

The church did not have a sound system and it didn’t need one. Most songs are sung with only the instruments of the people’s voices. They do not sing with their voices alone but they sing with their hearts and souls. They all sing as loud as they can with their hands lifted in praise to the Lord. The services are long with much prayer and singing. The sermon is on average one hour and if you do not preach that long then you have done the people a disservice. All of the children are in the service with the adults. From newborns to children of all ages they are in the worship service for the duration. I was amazed at the children. Small children did not complain or move during the long and hot service. They were perfectly behaved (Most of them just stared at our team the whole time). Oh and how the church prays! They do not pray with arms folded in silent introspection. They do not ask one person to pray. They all pray…out loud! They attack the throne of God with begging and pleading. They lift their hands. They lift their voices and they beg God to answer them. They seamlessly flow into a song from the prayer time. It was such an encouragement to see these brothers and sisters worship.

I was in Haiti with Pastor David Bridwell and my dad (Tom Hermann). Pastor David and I were commissioned to lead a pastor’s conference of mountain pastors. We taught the book of 1 Timothy and some basics on sermon preparation and planning. My dad taught one night on prayer and served as our prayer warrior and personal bodyguard.

Pastors came from all over to the conference. We ended up with about 40 pastors in attendance. The pastors were so attentive, loving, and encouraging. They loved to talk about the Bible and what God is doing in their churches. Many of the pastors walked for hours to come to the conference. About half of them would sleep on the concrete floor of the mission house during the night because it was too far for them to travel home. The pastors woke up at 5:30AM singing praise to God. It was so sweet to hear these men wake up with praise on their lips.

The pastors in Haiti don’t get paid. They labor, study, give, listen, pray, counsel, visit and 100 other things that pastors do for riches in heaven. They do not complain about this. This is just the way it is and they count it an honor to serve the Lord.

For the two days of the pastors conference there were men and women that prepared meals for the pastors. To me these meals were good but seemed pretty basic, beans and rice and some form of meat and vegetable. It blew my mind when Pastor Lesly told me that this will be the best meal some of these pastors will have all year long.

WHAT I BRING BACK

I want to be thankful. I want to be mindful of all the blessings I have. I don’t want to simply live in comfort but do all I can to help others. I want to remember the face of the little girl who was about 3 years old at the church service I attended. I reached out to shake her hand and she looked at me with wanting eyes and rubbed her belly and communicated, “can you give me something to eat?” I would have taken her home. I would have given her whatever I could, but this was her life. Her existence would be one of struggle. God did not give us riches in America to horde but to invest. I pray I will remember that the church is global and there are millions around the world who do not even have their basic needs met. If I won’t help them, who will?

I want to love my community more. I want to see people in Greensboro come to Christ. I want the members of the church I pastor to have a heart to see their lost neighbors come to faith in Jesus. I want to take more people to foreign countries so they can understand how important it is that we as Americans be involved in what God is doing in the world. We can be such a blessing to these believers if we will take the time to open our eyes to the needs in the community and the needs of the world.

Haiti is full of beauty and wonder. It is a place that has captured my heart. I will pray for my pastor friends. I will continue to invest in their lives. I will be a better pastor to my people.

If you have never left the comfort of your community to go somewhere and share Jesus I pray you would obey the Lord’s commands and take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Save some money, go on mission. When you go to change the world you will find out that it is your world that will be changed.
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13 Reasons You MUST Go!

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“Pastor, why do I need to spend over $2000.00 and fly all the way across the world when there is so much ministry that needs to be done right here in our city?”  This was the question that was posed to me by a sincere church member who was counting the cost of going on our first international mission trip as a church.  Some people that ask this question are simply looking for an easy way out or just want to argue, but I knew the heart of this church member and his question was a sincere one.   I gave him an answer and I do not remember exactly what it was but it did not feel sufficient.  I was haunted by the question for weeks.  I had been in other countries and I knew in my heart that there was a great need for all who could go, to go, but I was having a problem articulating exactly why.  The man who asked the question did end up going on the mission trip and God used him in a powerful way.  Our church has taken international trips to Haiti and to Argentina.  God did what God does when we step out on faith.  He showed up and changed lives.  While it is fresh on my mind I would like to articulate a bit more clearly 13 reasons why I believe every Christian who is physically able should attempt to go on an International Mission Trip.  If you are a pastor or a leader who gets asked the question that I was asked perhaps this will help you articulate it more clearly.

1)      You understand the beauty of the body of Christ in a way you could not unless you went – You cannot get the full picture of what a blessing it is to be part of the global body of Christ until you have the chance to meet people that are totally different than you in almost every way.  You have an instant bond because of Jesus.  In both Argentina and Haiti we met people that we had no knowledge of before we left and now they are family.  This is because of our bond in Christ.

2)      Americans have a significant impact on the world that we do not have in our hometowns – Many cultures in the world look at Americans as some sort of novelty.  They are very intrigued by us.  They believe we are all rich, which compared to them, most of us are.  It makes a huge impact when you tell lost people in another culture that you spent a lot of money to come to their country because you love them and desire to tell them about Jesus.

3)      Going on an International Mission trip gives you a small picture of what it means to suffer for Christ – While I would not call a mission trip suffering in the sense that you are dealing with daily persecutions, you do get a small picture of what it means to be uncomfortable for the cause of Christ.  You know you may get sick.  You are sick for Jesus.  You know you will be extremely tired.  You are tired for Jesus.   You may suffer financially.   You are giving to go tell others about Jesus.  You know you will be out of your area of comfort.  You are uncomfortable for Jesus.  While this may seem like a small thing it is big for comfortable American Christians.

4)       It Humbles You – Humility is one of the greatest Christian virtues.  We are all naturally inclined to pride.  Philippians 2 tells us we are to follow the example of the humility of Christ.  It brings great humility in your life when you see how little you do with how much you have.  Then you have the opportunity to see how much other believers do with how little they have.   Truly humbling.

5)      It gives you a passion for the lost world – In America we are so rich and happy it seems that no one needs Jesus anymore.   When you go to another country it is very refreshing to see that the world has a hunger for Christ that America has lost.

6)      It gives you a chance to expand your kingdom influence – You will meet lifelong friends in another country.  Because of the expansions of technology and social networking cites like Facebook you can have continued influence on those you meet.   You can even disciple new believers from afar.

7)      It serves as a great encouragement to the church you are serving alongside in a foreign country – The churches we worked with were so blessed that we came to minister alongside them.   We were able to do things they as a church would not have been able to do without us.  The church was totally blessed by our coming and it provided great encouragement.

8)      It will deepen your love for the Lord – Everything about all you do on the trip will make you love and appreciate Jesus more.

9)      It will clarify your calling – It has been my experience that each time I go on an international trip God speaks to me more clearly than any other time.   Perhaps this is because your singular focus is on doing His will for an entire week or more.

10)   It will give you a chance to experience the power of the Gospel in a new way – Since people are more open to the Gospel in other countries you have the privilege of seeing more people submit to Jesus than in the states.  This reminds you of the power of the Gospel and how the simple message still transforms lives.

11)   You will become a family with the team in which you serve alongside – We took a team of eight from the church in which I pastor.   We left as friends and we came back as family.  You will laugh, cry, worship, pray, eat and sleep together.   You will never look at the people you go with the same again.  You will always share the common bond of life change.

12)   Your faith will grow – Every step you take to go on an international mission trip will force you to grow in your faith.  Most of us do not have two to four thousand dollars laying around to spend on a mission trip.  Money, safety, and the unknown are all areas that you must trust God with.

13)   JESUS SAID GO!!! – The great commission has never changed.   Jesus told us to tell the world about Him.  If they do not hear they will go to hell.   If we believe this then we MUST be compelled to go!

Hardwiring Your Child’s Heart

There has been a parenting movement in our nation over the past few decades that encourages parents to let their children find their own way.  This philosophy urges parents to provide a safe environment for children but not to be overly pushy.   Don’t try to impose your beliefs on your children, just allow them to find their own way.   As a Christian parent the bible teaches me that this new philosophy of parenting is, as my dad would say, “HOGWASH!”  As a parent it is vital to attempt to build values and convictions into your children so that they will become all that God desires them to become.   Much of the book of Proverbs was written as a father to a son.   Over and over again in the book the author reminds the reader to “listen,” “remember,” and “bind my teachings around your neck.”   The truths in Proverbs are truths that the author knew his son must absorb into his mind and heart. photography-wallpapers-love-heart-love-fire-allneed-pics

As a parent there are certain truths that I must do everything in my power to ingrain within the minds and hearts of my little ones.  To fail in this area of parenting could have eternal consequences for my child.  I want my children to know truths because they have heard them so often that they become second nature.  I want God’s truths to be hardwired into their hearts.

If you have multiple children you know that each one of your children is wired very differently.  It is a process getting to know how each child learns and the specific needs and gifts of each child.  My oldest son, Ty, is 6 years old.  Each day I take him to school and have a few vital moments to speak truth into his life.  On our drive, or when I eat breakfast with him at school, these are the things I try to tell him every day.

I tell him that Jesus and his parents love him dearly.   I want Ty to know that whatever happens, whatever he does, not matter how bad he blows it, he has a father who will always love him.   I love him because he is my son.   My love for him is not conditional.  I am clear to him everyday that I love him not based on his performance.  I love him simply because he is my son.   We are all more suited for life when we know we are unconditionally loved.

I tell him God has a plan for his life.  I want it to be ingrained in his head that he is not an accident.  He is not a result of a random chance.  He is a special creation of God.  He was put here by God to accomplish a great purpose for the kingdom of God.  I want him to learn that he has gifts and abilities that are given to him for the purpose of God’s glory.

I tell him that even if things don’t go well at school and people don’t treat him with kindness that he fits at home. School is tough.  Kids make fun of you.   Kids are cruel and mean.   We cannot shield our children from these truths.   I believe home must be a safe haven where every child fits and every child is accepted.

I tell him to think of others as more important than himself.  The foundational principle of the Christian life is humility.  The highest value I can teach him is humility.  Each day Ty quotes Philippians 2:3 to me in order to remind himself and his dad to “think of others as more important than yourself.”

I ask him: What is the most important thing in life?   The question is the same and the answer is the same.   His answer, “To love God.”  To which I say, “Correct, son.”  Teaching him to draw is awesome.  Listening to him read is so cool.   Throwing the football with him is epic, but teaching him that loving God is the most important thing is absolutely critical.

I am working on different ways to communicate the same truths to my little girls.   Karis is my diva who really struggles with having a bad attitude.  Each day I get her to repeat after me: “My attitude determines my joy.   I will choose today to have a good attitude.”   For a four year old this is probably not sinking in.  But I know that if I am diligent now when she is young, when she is grow that statement may just make up the DNA of her life.

I am still working on how I need to speak to Katie and Joy.   I am seeking to know my children better every day.

What do you tell your children everyday?  What do you desire to build into their DNA?