Tools That Work

Tools That Work

How to Not Have Sex with Your Wife for 6 Weeks

Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.
— Paul in Ephesians 5

I wish someone told me before I got married there would be periods where for very good reasons my wife and I cannot have sex. 

I'm in one of those periods right now... it happens for every husband and wife after they have a C-section (and many other types of procedures). Here is Whitney's hospital discharge note stating very clearly, no sex:

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Now, as a Christian man, I've contemplated what to do about these trials. In the wake of my 3rd C-section, I feel like God is giving me some wisdom worth sharing. 

  1. Biblical love in marriage is about giving, not receiving. As I serve my wife through her physical and emotional healing, I find empathy and my desire for my own pleasure dissipates.
  2. Just praying for my wife has a way of deepening my empathy for her as well as my own resolve not to sin. 
  3. I guard against moments of weakness, like when I'm really tired or have an abundance of energy that would normally find a sexual outlet. The top 7 tips that work for me to beat lust are in this little guide

Think its impossible to not have sex with your wife for prolonged periods of time?

Consider wise counsel I received from an older man a few years back. He shared with me how his own wife had a condition that made it impossible for him to have sex with her for over a year. I asked how he was able to do that, to which he responded, "I learned to love her like Jesus, without sex."

A challenging lesson, but rooted in Biblical love, I'm convinced. 

Tools That Work

A More Visceral Hands On Advent Experience

My sons are 4.5 and 2.5 years old, and have a limited attention span. They're also drawn to experiences more than stories. After trying to truncate devotionals to appeal to them, I realized these boys need something more visceral and hands on.

So here are 7 lessons I've created for Advent...


The Hard Donkey Ride

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A donkey ride

Courtesy of their PopPop

Load the kids on your back for a donkey ride. Have them hold on as long as they can as you travel the house. When they can't anymore, break to tell them how before Jesus was born, his Mom, Mary, had to take a ride to Bethlehem on a donkey. It took 5 whole days to get there--that must have been very hard as a pregnant lady!

Read this verse:

Joseph went to Bethlehem with Mary, his wife, who was pregnant with Jesus.

-Luke 2:4-5

Pray this prayer:

God, thank you for helping us do hard things like ride a donkey. And thank you for protecting Jesus' parents, Mary and Joseph, when he was born. Amen.


The Stars Point to Jesus

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Look up 

To see stars God placed

Take the kids outside with binoculars or a telescope at night. Lay on your back and look at the stars in the sky. Then tell them how when Jesus was born, God put stars to show people that he had come. And that's why many people put stars on their Christmas tree and decorate with lights. When we see the stars it reminds us of Jesus.

Read this verse:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, wise men came saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star, and have come to worship him.

-Matthew 2:1-12

Pray this prayer:

God thank you for putting a star in the sky for Jesus. Please put light in our life so that we can find Jesus. Amen.


Jesus is the Light of the World

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My son Lukas

Feeling the light.

Turn off all the lights in your house so it's pitch black. Light a small candle and let the kids hold it as you tell them that before Jesus came, the world was dark, but Jesus brought light from Heaven.

Read this verse: 

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

-John 8:12

Pray this prayer:

Jesus, help me have you in my life so that I have light in my life, and that my life is not dark. Amen.


Lost Sheep, Found by Jesus

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The boys

Hiding and being found

Play a game of hide-and-seek, but this time in your whole house. Encourage your kids to hide really really well. Then take an extra long time to go find them, until the point when they will be antsy. Then go find them and talk about how Jesus came to the world to find us. 

Read this verse:

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.

-Ezekiel 34:11

Pray this prayer:

God, thank you for sending Jesus to this world to find us and rescue us since we were like lost sheep. Amen.


Jesus Was A Different Kind of Baby

Boden

Holding his baby cousin

Tell your kids to look for someone who is different at school, church, the grocery store, anywhere. Look for different hair, accent, skin color, disability, anything they notice. Tell them when they find someone different, don't say anything, just come squeeze your hand. When they do that, at the soonest opportunity in private say there is someone else who was born different too, Jesus. He was different because he was holy, he was part baby and part God. 

Read this verse: 

God became a person and lived with us as Jesus. Jesus came from God and was full of grace and truth. 

-John 1:14

Pray this prayer: 

God, thank you for making us all so different. Thank you for this person my child noticed, and help us to be kind to those who are different. And thank you for making Jesus a person who was Holy and part God. Amen. 


Jesus Is The Greatest Gift Ever

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The suspense

Grows all week.

Cutout the shape of a man and put it in a box with a couple of sweet treats. Wrap the box and put it under the tree weeks before Christmas so excitement will build. Tell your kids that inside the box is the Greatest Gift Ever. One night gather the family around to open it, make it a big deal with popcorn and hot cocoa. Then let them open it and give them their treat and tell them that the Greatest Gift ever was Jesus, because Jesus was a gift from God to save us. And that's why we give gifts to other people on Christmas. 

Read this verse: 

God gave us the gift of grace and righteousness through one man, Jesus Christ!

-Romans 5:17

Pray this prayer: 

Dear God, thank you for loving us so much that you keep helping us. And thank you for sending Jesus to us. Amen.


Jesus the Servant

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Boden learning

About being a servant

Start asking your kids to do things for other people, for their siblings, for you, anyone that comes up. "Please take this drink to your brother. Please take the newspaper to the neighbors door. Please help clean up this spill that I made." Really overdo it for a few days, and do whatever is needed to get them to help. After a few days, tell them that doing all of these things is like being a servant. And even though he is the King of Kings, Jesus was born to be a servant. 

Read this verse:

Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for many.

-Mark 10:45

Pray this prayer: 

Jesus, thank you for doing so much to serve other people. Thank you for even dying to help us. Help me to care about other people too. Amen. 

Tools That Work

My Experience in the Virtual Church

Church for me now includes:

Dozens of friends in the YouVersion Bible app. We encourage each other when we see one another highlight verses or finish reading plans. I get to passively look over their shoulder, and seeing them in the Word encourages me.

A conference line prayer call with a small group of guys every Thursday at 6:30a. 

Two email chains with dozens of Christian brothers on them who I know will pray for me or direct me to good counsel when I need it. 

A Slack channel with brothers in the SF Bay Area in regular dialogue, sharing ideas, job leads, Scripture verses, and more. 

A Google Group of guys from across the USA for an 8 week study on "Love that Overcomes" so we can work on our marriages. 

A Facebook group of guys called Holy Smokes that love to smoke stogies and talk Jesus. 

Regular phone and Zoom videoconference calls with my mentors and advisors in Dallas, San Jose, Boston, Colorado, places other than my home of Philadelphia.

What's my point?

Church to me is now at least nation-wide, sometimes international, aided by technology. 

This is not at the expense of my involvement in my local church, the place I go most Sundays. Rather, the two compliment each other as a network of Christians with different gifts and roles. 

And, with each example from above, the group often moves from digital to analog aka real life meetups, and when we do, we're more familiar with where we're at, where we've been, and how to move forward together.

This is deeply encouraging to me.

I hope it is for you too!

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see the Day drawing near.
— Hebrews 10:24–25

Tools That Work

The Best Gift You Can Get A Married Couple

Over the past three months my parents and parents-in-law gave Whitney and I an amazing gift. Several mentors have advised me to do this to keep my marriage healthy, so I have to share.

Whit & I at a B&B, a gift from my parents. Dec. 2017

Whit & I at a B&B, a gift from my parents. Dec. 2017

Each time, our parents watched our kids and gave us two nights away. One night is great, but two nights lets you sleep in twice in a row, and somehow enables a quick recharge that lasts for weeks.

Drop the kids off Friday afternoon, head home or to a B&B, then pick them up Sunday afternoon. 

Twice we used the weekend to clean the house and prep for baby #3. We worked 10 hour days each Saturday and its amazing how much we got done without the kids around. 

Another time we simply checked into a B&B and watched movies, had a big breakfast, did a little shopping without being rushed, took naps, watched movies. It was glorious, and gave us a chance to talk about all kinds of things and we felt like we were dating again. 

So my advice is this, find someone who can do this for you.

  • If you have grandparents or other family nearby, approach them about it.
  • If you are a grandparent, aunt / uncle, or other friend or relative, consider giving this as a gift. I've even made one you can print out below!
  • If you don't have family nearby, think through who in your church or neighborhood might be able to do this for you, and bring it up, maybe consider doing a swap for them to do it as well.
  • If you don't have anyone you trust with your kids or that you an ask, get intentional about building a relationship with some family in your life to get there within the next 6-12 months.
  • BONUS: If you want to really bless a couple that needs refreshment, and have the money to do it, consider throwing in a B&B stay like my parents did as a gift to us, which is an incredible gift. 

Marriage Time Away Gift Certificate (click to view and print or order professional print)

Tools That Work

900% Increase in Church Welcome Results

Last week I had lunch with a brother in Christ and elder in my local church. He's the kind of guy who literally puts his phone number out there for anyone to call him. And many guys do, about one per week on average. 

Many of these guys say they want to get connected in the church in some way. In the past, this brother would send an email listing out the various groups guys could join, figuring that based on time and location, they'd select the best fit. 

The response rate on this old way of outreach was 1 guy out of 10 would respond to the email.

After a recent conversation where we talked about how striking it was for me in California when a guy reached out to buy me coffee and just get to know me, this brother decided to try a new tactic.

Now he emails guys with a simple request to get coffee and get to know them so he can help guys figure out where to connect.

The response rate on this new approach is 9 out of 10 guys respond to the email.

That's a 900% increase in response rate in under 60 days!!!

So what can we take away from this?

  1. People like to connect with people, not programs and groups.
  2. We need people willing to put their name and number out there.
  3. This takes time and commitment, this elder has had 10, maybe 20 coffee appointments over a couple months, which he just counts as the cost of making disciples.

Tools That Work

Here's How to Start Reading the Bible

Okay, you're interested (maybe even really pumped) to dive into the Bible, aka the Word of God, or the Holy Scriptures. It doesn't take long to figure out that 1. it's a massive book of books, 2. it doesn't always make "sense," and 3. there are loads of versions and books that analyze the Bible. 

Here's my advice about how to jump in...

Here's the post I did about the Discovery Bible Study that I reference in the video.

Tools That Work, Most Read

An Old Pal Meets Jesus On Facebook

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People talk about how Facebook is evil, and I'm like "yeah right, i'm making disciples up in there!" 

Seriously, I've connected with a bunch of people that has led to us going deeper in the things of God. And what's crazy is I never go looking for it, in many cases people will write me with questions, for advice, or in response to something I've posted. 

I have one pal from high school who reached out to me just to check in and I dropped a quick note that God was good and it has evolved into a journey of exchanges (chats, texts, phone calls) for over a year.

He sends me questions and answering them teaches me. He sends me updates on what God is showing him and it encourages me greatly. 

Here's how it started and progressed thus far:

I think there are a few tips buried here that might help you make disciples on Facebook (or any social media platform).

1. Don't be shy about how God is present in your life.

2. Don't be a religious drone, simply spouting or reposting what other people say. Have your own material. Talk about the personal ways God is speaking to YOU. If you are on social media then invest the prayer and time to do it for the glory of God.

3. Avoid the crazy issues that get everyone inflamed UNLESS you commit to A. learn about the issue from various viewpoints and B. pray a ton about it and get direction from God about what to say.

4. If someone writes you a note to say whats up, drop a little spiritual bait maybe, a note about how God has blessed you or offer to pray if it applies (then actually pray for them).

5. Once people reach out to you, you gotta respond. Don't get nervous about it, their eternity doesn't rest in your hands alone. The Bible says God is drawing them, and that the Holy Spirit teaches them. So proceed in a lighthearted yet intentional way.

6. Don't bombard people with all your favorite books, songs, a free copy of the Bible, and more. I used to do that, it didn't work. Someone else's faith is going to be different from yours, which God will reveal to them in their own time. Not saying don't send ideas now and again, just don't deluge.

7. Let people respond, and a bunch never will after that first interaction. But some definitely will, and its glorious not only for them but for you. 

Consider that your Facebook page (along with everything else in your life) is useful to God for drawing people to himself. Are you tuned in to allow him to do it? Go for it.

Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.
— Jesus in Matthew 4:19

People Getting It Done, Tools That Work, Legends

The Guys at The Bible Project

At the New Canaan Society San Francisco Weekend Retreat in October '14 I saw this video played during a general session.

As the video played I started searching for the creators, and stumbled upon The Bible Project. I saw that they have a RAD plan to continue to create insightful, generally awesome videos that illustrate key concepts of the Bible. 

So, I'm a fan, am glad to promote what these guys are doing, encourage support of their work, and will be sure to keep an eye on what they're up to.

Tools That Work

A Prayer for Husbands

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So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Colossians 3:12-15

An old pal from college calls me, I'm not even sure if he's a Christian. Doesn't matter, I love the guy. Anyway, after pleasantries, our conversation went something like this:


Him:  I need help man, my marriage is in trouble.

Me:    Sure, what's up?

Him:  It started small, I can't even remember the fight a month ago. Now we can hardly look at each other. If it wasn't for the kids, I'm not sure if we'd stay together.

Me:    Alright, bro, well, look, I've been there. I know what its like. The difference is, as you know, I believe in God and the Bible and its a great tool in a time like this. So my answer is going to come from there, you know that, right?

Him:   Yeah.

Me:    Alright, well, here's what you do. Take your lunch break at work tomorrow, a good hour at least, and sit quietly and pray. I know you're unsure about God, just pretend you believe and that He's there and he's your friend. Ask God to show you how He sees your wife because he made her and he sees her differently than you do right now. And if over the hour of just listening, if God gives you any thoughts about your wife, write them down. Then go to your wife and tell her the things that God showed you as a way to break through the downward spiral. Do you think you can do that?

Him:   Yeah.

Me:    Alright bro, can I pray for you guys too? Prayer is powerful.

Him:    Sure......


I got off the phone and we didn't talk for at least a month. I had no idea what happened, but I prayed for him once or twice. 

Some time later, he calls me just to catch up. I had actually forgotten about their fight. He brought it up, telling me that I was a lifesaver during that time. He said he did what I said and God had given him things to share with his wife, and that it got things moving in the right direction, and everything was going much better now.

You can imagine how encouraged I was to learn that he went to God in prayer, that despite his unbelief God revealed himself to this friend of mine, that through it all the division between him and his wife was overcome by love. This is the God of the Bible that I serve.

Tools That Work

Why I Read Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest"

There was a dusty copy of this  book sitting in my parents bathroom for years, and I never picked it up. 

Years later, having fallen into a group of men who meet on Friday mornings, calling themselves the New Canaan Society, I heard reference to Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest" again. So, I picked up a copy.

Oswald writes in a very direct, matter-of-fact way, always expounding on a verse of Scripture. His thoughts are deep, often weaving together key concepts in the Christian faith. He has one devotional for each day of the year.

I don't recommend too many devotionals, mainly because I don't assume what works for me will work for others, but I do recommend Oswald. And the only reason I can give is that there are times when I simply open the book and what he has written speaks to me very clearly and in a way that is extraordinary. Let me give you two examples:

A mentor to me wrote me one day for an idea--he was set to give a talk at the New Canaan Society group and he wasn't sure how he wanted to approach it yet. So he texted me if I had any ideas. The day prior, I had taken one of the guys from Cityteam's addiction recovery program with me to a business meeting, and wanting to include him, I asked his opinion to which he blurted out Luke 17:21: "nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst."

I remember thinking at the time that his response wasn't especially applicable to the meeting. But, as I pondered the verse more, I was amazed at the meaning of it, how while we are often searching to see where God is or how he's moving, all the while he is right in our midst!

And so, when my mentor wrote me for an idea about what to speak about, I texted back to him, "Luke 17:21." He replied something along the lines of that being a great verse and he might incorporate it.

The following day, it was Friday, October 19th, 2012, and I ushered into the New Canaan Society meeting that morning. There was my mentor all set to talk. But before he did, another man got up to open in prayer. As he did, he opened his Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest" book and read the entry for that day, which highlighted what else but Luke 17:21. My mentor and I exchanged surprised looks, who could have imagined that this verse would come up again? That verse continued to come up in my life for a few weeks, so much so that it became alive to me and engrained in my heart.  And what Oswald wrote about it spoke to me and my tendency to value practical activity in service of God more than a relationship with him.

On another day, June 1st, 2014 to be precise, I was running around coordinating the production of a large and busy hackathon at a technology incubator in Silicon Valley. Another man on the production team was suffering from an illness and I could tell he was worn out and stressed about many of the details. He sought my opinion throughout the day on how everything was going to get done, and I could sense his worry. Seeking a dose of Scripture and a few words to explain it, I pulled up Oswald's site and read the entry for that day. An excerpt of it reads:

It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we see the activity and mistake panic for inspiration. That is why we see so few fellow workers with God, yet so many people working for God. We would much rather work for God than believe in Him. 

These words spoke to me greatly, and I followed up my reading of them with a couple minutes of prayer thanking God for his Word. Then I found the man who was worried and I pulled him aside to remind him that God was in control, that we were doing this for his Kingdom. We prayed together right there on the spot, and he thanked me for what I had done. He later come back to me and asked me to get before the entire hackathon to pray over the group ahead of the final day of presentations and the awards ceremony, which can be stressful. I gladly did this, and I used Oswald's writing for that day as a basis for my prayer. Once again, his words on this day have stuck with me, and have balanced my understanding of faith and work. 

Tools That Work, Most Read

I Love to Pray this Prayer by Jack Rase

I've prayed this prayer and have spoken aloud the declaration many times and have found it to be powerful. The guy who wrote it and introduced it to me said that speaking it aloud is important. For the backstory on my meeting Jack Race, click here to read more. 

 

Tools That Work

Discovery Bible Study

I was first introduced to Discovery Bible Study aka DBS at Cityteam. As I began to practice this deceptively simply study, I soon learned that its counter-intuitive for most seasoned believers (more on that later).

In short, DBS is the best way to study the Bible as a group that I've ever found. I'm not just saying this because I've "drunk the Kool-Aid," I've experimented with other studies, including well-known curriculum's, and keep coming back to DBS. DBS is a pared-down yet effective way to cover and more importantly learn to obey Scripture.  This post is designed to give you an introduction to DBS, explain further why it works, and point you to tools I use:

First, a video introduction by Dave Hunt, Cityteam's VP of Discipleship in the US, on what a DBS group study looks like in 5 steps:

Now watch a second video by Dave Hunt, where he lays out the 3-column approach to the Bible study, where you write out Scripture, put it in your own words, and then create an "I will..." statement.

For a sample 3-Column Bible Study form, click here. Though, you can use a simple sheet of paper with two lines drawn on it, which is what I do.

As far as where you start in the Bible and how you proceed, there are several approaches. In foreign countries, places where the Bible is rarely if ever heard, Cityteam almost always starts in Genesis. However, in areas more exposed to the Gospel, like the United States, we are trying different approaches, such as topical studies. Here is a link to an outline of a topical study that I have used. 

A solid 3rd-party review of this process by a Missions Frontiers magazine, published by the US Center for World Missions, can be found online here (read pages 4 thru 14). 

Cityteam published a book that talks a lot about DBS with practical stories of how it works out in practice (and much more), called Miraculous Movements, which you can find online here

Finally, if you want to learn how DBS was discovered by a process (actually "revealed by God" is a better way to describe it), you can read Dave Hunt's doctoral thesis paper online here, which gives a detailed account. I read it and, if you're into this kind of thing, I attest that it is informative and even riveting to read.