Men: How to Be The Spiritual Leader of Your Family: Part 1

It might not be popular these days, but I truly believe that the Bible calls men to be the spiritual leaders of their family. This is not to say that men are somehow better than women. This is not say that as a man, husband, father that I out rank my wife. This is not to say that I am the boss. Rather this puts a responsibility on men to LEAD their families. But, how do we do that? What does that look like? This is part on in a series that will look at just that: How to Be The Spiritual Leader of Your Family.

This is tough. In an era when society is constantly attacking what it means to be a man, it becomes harder and hard to be the “man of the family.” I’m certainly not suggesting that we go back to a time when most women wore cute dresses and aprons and spent most of their time cleaning and other chores. I’m not saying that women need to get back into the kitchen “where they belong”. Frankly, I don’t think I could be married to June Cleaver, or Carol Brady. I LOVE that woman today are encouraged to be strong. But, what does that mean for us men? Where does that leave us? How do we lead without pushing women down?

I don’t have all the answers. I’m not even going to begin to say that I know all the answers. What I intend to offer here are some things that can move you towards being the spiritual leader of your family. I am certainly open to discussing specific questions or issues you may have. While I don’t have all the answers, I do believe that together we can discover them.

You’re NOT the boss. Again, this is not about being the boss. If you’re looking to be the boss, you probably need to read these posts, but you may need to do some soul searching first. Identify your TRUE motives and then come back and read this from a perspective of leading your family, not trying to be the boss. If, however, you are not looking to become the boss, but have a true desire to lead your family well, then keep reading cause these posts are for you.

Here is a preview of the upcoming posts in this series. As the posts become available. These will also become links to this posts.

  • You Gotta LOVE Your Wife
  • Prayer Matters
  • You Gotta Grow
  • Church Attendance Matters
  • Be Kind
  • Be the leader, not the boss
  • Don’t go it alone

Check back often to read the rest of the posts in this series.

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Matt Norman

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If You Hate My Wife, We Can’t Be Friends

There is a statement that I have told my kids many times over the years. In fact, I have told them so much that they can both quote it. Here it is:

“This is my wife. I love you, but I love her more. She was my wife before you came around, and she will be my wife after you have grown up and moved on.”

I’m certainly not trying to tell my kids that I don’t love them. I always make sure, when I say this, that they know I love them. But, what I want them to know is that I love my wife. On this earth there is no person more important that my wife, for me. In fact, there is only one relationship more important that the relationship with my wife. That relationship is with Jesus.

I say all this to say, I LOVE MY WIFE. I’m not always good at showing it, and I probably don’t say it often enough. But, I love her. I love each of you reading this, but I love my wife more. If fact, I love my wife so much that if you don’t like her we simply can’t be friends. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that my relationship with her is that much more important than my friendship with you.

Frankly, my wife is such a part of me, of who I am, that if you don’t like her, you probably won’t like me either.

You can TRULY say you love me, if you don’t also love my wife.

The funny thing is that people do this exact same thing to Jesus. It’s common to hear people say, “I love Jesus. I just don’t like the church.” The Bible calls the church the Bride of Christ. So, this statement is telling me that you love me, but hate my wife. If you hate my wife, we simply can’t be friends. So, I struggle to believe that Jesus is ok with you saying that you hate HIS bride.

What kind of relationship would that be? Imagine for a minute that you and I tried to build a friendship. We hung out some, and had some come together. Then, you met my wife. Shortly after meeting her you start talking about everything that is wrong with her. You start posting to your social media about every bad habit that my wife might have. You talk about how ugly she is. Let me be completely clear.

Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. If you did this to my wife, not only could you not be my friend, but you are going to find yourself dealing with me. I’m a nice guy. I can put up with a lot. BUT, that’s my wife and I WILL fight for her. I WILL protect her. I WILL come after you if you attack her.

Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am generally a pretty kind person. In fact I try very hard to be. Sadly, some people have mistaken that kindness for weakness. Many have learned that my kindness does have a limit. When that limit is reached, I can become a worthy adversary. Before you condemn me for this, or warn me against such threats, consider this. The gentle shepherd who played soothing music for a troubled king is the same person who attacked a giant with nothing but a sling and a few stones. Then, he cut the giant’s head off. You may know this shepherd as David and the giant as Goliath.

The point is, I LOVE MY WIFE. Was imperfect I as I am, I love my wife. I am willing and eager to protect her, to stand up for her, even to fight for her. If I, with all my imperfections, would love my wife in this way, how much more would Jesus, in his perfection, love HIS Bride? The Bible says that Jesus’ Bride is the church.

If you hate the church… If you’re among those people that would say they love Jesus, but hate the church I would encourage you to consider what I have written here. The church is the Bride of Christ. As such, I struggle to see how you can honestly say that you love Jesus, but hate his bride. I know that the church is flawed. The unfortunate truth is that the church is filled with people. Anytime you have all those people, there are going to be problems. I don’t say this to excuse how many of them behave. I’ll get to them in a minute. But, I would encourage you to give the church a chance. If you try one local church and it’s not a good fit for you, try another, then another, then another.

There are many different churches. While I wouldn’t encourage you to search for a church based solely on your personal preferences, I would say that if one church is not a good fit for you, there are many others. Don’t give up on the bride of Jesus so easily. I have seen how ugly church can be. I’ve experienced it. One of my goals as I started a church was to work to make it a place where there was less of the ugly stuff that I have seen. Still, some of it will probably happen.

If you are a church member or leader… If you are part of a local church you MUST remember that you are the bride of Christ. You represent Jesus. Does the way you behave reflect how Jesus would have us behave? Does how you treat people, especially people who act, look, or think different than you reflect how Jesus treated people? Do the things you say on social media reflect Jesus? Does the way you behave in public reflect Jesus? Does how you act at work reflect Jesus? I think you get the idea. You are the bride of Christ. Maybe if we remember this and behaved as if we believed it, then fewer people would think it was ok to say they love Jesus, but hate the church.

Matt Norman

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This SH– is Awesome

Some may look at this title and say that’s just click bait. Just stick with me for a little bit, you’ll understand.

As you may know I spent a lot of years as a pastor to children. This mean planning events, programs, and worship services for kids. In all of these things something I felt was very important what FUN. No, fun was not the ultimate goal, but it was important. The ultimate goal was to reach kids and families with the Gospel of Jesus and help them grow in that relationship. Still, fun was important aspect. I wanted kids to WANT to come to church. I wanted them to want to bring their friends. I wanted kids dragging their parents into church each week. At the very least I wanted kids not to give their parents a hard time when it came time to get ready for church. I wanted this sh….. stuff to be awesome.

“This SH— is Awesome”: The title of this post is actually a quote. I can’t remember who told me about this, but it’s a true story that happened in a friend’s church. The person who told me this was a fellow children’s pastor. During a service or event of some sort, there was a new kid. We love to have new kids, but it can be really hard for that new kid. It can be a little difficult for us as well. We want the kid to feel welcomed, but sometimes we are so busy just making things happen that we don’t have time, or don’t think we do, to help this new kid feel welcome.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what sort of event this was. Maybe a worship service. Maybe a special event. I just don’t remember. What I do remember is that part way through the program things were going really well. Then, in the middle of everything that is a typical children’s worship service, or event, this new kids yells, “This sh— is awesome.” Clearly this new kids was enjoying himself. How often would a non-church person TRULY enjoy being in church? Sadly, it’s not that often. But, this kids was enjoying it.

Jesus hung out with lost people. The Bible makes it clear that people who do not know Jesus are lost. It also makes it clear that we ALL started out that way. Another thing that is clear, if you read the first four books of the New Testament, is that Jesus hung out with sinners. He attended a wedding where LOTS of drinking was taking place. Then, when the wine ran out, He turned water into wine. So, AFTER people were drunk, He gave them more wine.

In another instance, Jesus attended a big party at the house of a man named Levy, or Matthew, as most people know him. The good church people saw this and asked why Jesus would hang out with “people like that” or with “those people”.  When they asked Jesus’ disciples about this, Jesus answered, “It’s not the righteous that need a doctor, but the sick.” Jesus CHOSE to hang out with lost people because He knew that they needed Him. We should work to bring lost people into the presence of Jesus.

Stop expecting lost people to act “right” in church. A very wise man I once knew often said, “Lost people do lost things.” I remember the first time I heard him say that. It was like a slap in the face. So many “church people” expect people who do not have a relationship with Jesus to behave as if they did. These same “church people” also forget that when they were lost they acted the same way.

We need to learn to welcome lost people into our churches and stop expecting them to act like us. Heck, I’ve know some great “church people”, but I’ve known some that I would NOT want lost people to emulate.

This SHHH…. Stuff should be awesome. Go into some churches and you might think that they forgot that we were created in the image of the one who created everything beautiful. You’d think that they forgot that the one they claim to worship is the same one who created everything beautiful. Sure, some churches have beautiful buildings, but the things they do with it are not so. I’m not saying that we should plan our services or events in such a way that they appeal to lost people. Some churches have done that with success. If God has called you to do that, then do it. However, what I’m saying is that, regardless of our “style”, we should do everything we do as well as we possibly can.

I’m also not saying that we try to take the place of the Holy Spirit. Certainly it’s the job of the Holy Spirit to move people. But, we should be committed to doing all we do with excellence. A pastor I once served with defined excellence as “Doing the best you can with what you have.” It doesn’t mean copying the church down the road and wishing you had all the stuff they had. It means taking the things you DO have and using them to the best of your ability.

How we respond matters. I don’t know how the friend that told me that story responded to this kid. However, it matters how we respond. We often say that “all are welcome” or “come as you are”. When what we really mean is “all are welcome” so long as you act like us, or “come as you are” so long as you look or dress like us. We need to be open to people that act different, look different, and even think different than we do. Then we need to be very careful how we respond when they “don’t know how to behave in church.”

People will notice your side-glances. They will see how you look at them. They will notice the groups that talk with one another, but ignore them. And they will CERTAINLY notice how you respond to their “wrong behavior” or to their awkwardness. Let’s remember that for them this may be a new experience. Let’s remember that they may not know Jesus, and thus don’t have the Holy Spirit. Let’s remember that Jesus hung out with sinners. Let’s remember that it’s a good thing that Jesus did love sinners, cause we wouldn’t stand a chance without Him.

I hope my SHHH… Stuff is awesome.  Now that I have started a church and moved from the role of children’ pastor into that of senior pastor/church planter I hope that people think my church is awesome. We don’t have a fancy set up. We don’t put on a great “show”. We don’t have fancy lights, huge screens, or fog machines. I’m not saying that those things are bad, just that we don’t have them and we have to take care not to make such things the focus. Still, I hope that when people come to the church I pastor, I hope they leave thinking it’s awesome. It is my hope, and prayer, that they will feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and will be moved.

What are you doing to make your SHHH… stuff awesome for new people?

Matt Norman

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3 Things Wrestling Drunks Taught Me About God

Some of you may know that I spent just shy of 20 years working in a  local emergency room. Some of you may also know that I’m a fairly large man. As you can imagine this often came in handy in the ER. Often times I was just called on to perform feats of strength. Usually helping to move heavy patients. However, there were a great many times when my size and strength were called upon to “deal with” someone who was getting a bit unruly. Sadly, having to wrestle and even restrain someone is sometimes required for their safety, as well as that of the staff and other patients and visitors. Looking back on those experiences, here are 3 things wrestling with drunks taught me about God.

1.) He’s got my back, even when I don’t know He’s there.

I spent a couple years working as the charge nurse in that ER. In those days we had a charge nurse and a co-charge nurse. My partner was named Angela. I remember this one shift we had a particular mouthy patient in bed 6. This bed happened to be near the main nurses station. So, Angel and I had a good view of all his antics. He was quite drunk and not happy about being there. For his own safety, we had a responsible for doing what we could to keep him there until he sobered up.

For at least the third time this man had wondered out of his room and into the passageway. Angela was calmly talking to him, trying to convince him to go back into his room. He continued to yell and cuss, and Angela remained calm. I was very impressed. Then, suddenly, after a few minutes of this he says, “Well, I guess I better go back into my room.” Then he turned around and did just that.

A very shocked and confused watched as he went back to his bed, then she turned around to walk away… and nearly ran into me. You see, what she didn’t know was that I had seen her talking with this man and had walked up behind her. I didn’t say a word, or lay a finger on the patient. I just stood there with my arms folded looking mean and scary.

It’s like that with God. We don’t always know that He is there, but He is. He’s got our backs.

2.) I can be bold when I know that He is there.

As I said, I was often called on to help others deal with unruly patients. As a younger man, I would usually just rush in and take over the experience. Over time I learned that that might not be the best way to handle it. You see, I learned that all I really needed to do was be present. Quite often I would just stand in the doorway… looking mean and scary. I did quite a bit of looking mean and scary. With my face that comes pretty easy.

What I found was that my presence allowed the other nurse to be more bold, because she knew I was there and had her back. She could do what she needed to do because she knew that if I needed to I would step in. The patient usually also knew that I was there to “step in” if I had to.

It’s like that with God. He’s always there. Sometimes we forget. But, if we will remember that He is there, we can be much more bold.

3.) He will take action when the time comes. 

While me standing in the doorway often allowed the other nurse to do what they needed to do without having to get physical with the patient, it didn’t always work out that way. There were many times that I had to take action. Some might dispute this, but it really was for the safety of the patient, as well as the staff and others in the ER. In these cases, I would stand back and observe… looking mean and scary, of course… THEN when the time came, I would come in and take action. In that moment I would do what I had to do to control the situation.

It’s like that with God. He sees our struggles, and when the time is right, He will step in and take action.

In the Mark 6:45-52 we see this. Verse 45 says, “He made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him…” While they were out there on the boat, a violent storm came. To this very day, these sorts of sudden storms are common on this body of water. Verse 48 says, “He saw them being battered as they rowed because the wind was against them.” He saw their struggles. Then in verse 51 He climbed into the boat with them and the wind ceased.

Their journey wasn’t without struggle and I sure they would have liked for Him to do the whole control the weather thing much sooner. But, He’s God, we are not. So, we have to remember that He sees our difficulties and when the time is right He will step in.

So what?

Many of my coworkers quickly came to understand that I was there for them, even when they didn’t know it. I was constantly watching and listening for situations that might require me to at least be visible and to step in when needed.

It’s kinda like that with God. Remember that He has your back, even when you can’t see Him. You can be bold, when you remember that He is there. He WILL step in when the time comes.

Matt Norman

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Act Like a Fool

I am a complete sucker for those military homecoming videos. You know the ones. Mom or dad, or maybe a son, daughter, or a sibling is in the military and has been away for some time. Sometimes the set up is very elaborate. I’ve seen them done in elementary schools, high schools, college graduations, kid’s sports events, even professional sporting events. The family member has no idea that their loved one, who has been away serving our country, is home and is about to appear. Then, suddenly, the soldier, marine, sailor, or airmen appears. In almost every case the moment the family sees the service man or woman, they forget all propriety and run to them. We should be more like this.

Not cool, man. Not cool.

I remember one particular video. Actually I’ve seen several like it. It involves a high school or college guy playing sports. It seems like a game or practice, just like any other. Until the player across from him removes his football helmet, or catchers mask, or mascot head and reveals that it’s actually dad inside. In that moment this big, bad guy, this athlete cares nothing about what his friends might think. All that matters is that his dad is there. I’ve seen these big, athletic young men run and hug their dads, with tears running down their face. How often have YOU seen a high school or college age guy so willing to cry in front of his friends?

Daddy’s girl

I remember another one where a girl was a cheerleader. I can’t remember if it was high school or college, but you get the picture. She was in the middle of a routine. They were standing in formation when suddenly dad appeared. Even though she was supposed to be standing in formation, she no longer cared. She was willing to face the consequences of breaking formation. Heck, she may not have even been thinking about it. In that moment all that mattered was being with her father.

Momma’s boy

This isn’t just about dads either. I remember one where a young African-American guy was practicing with his high school basketball team when mom walked into the gym. He COMPLETELY LOST IT. He ran over to the padded wall behind the goal, then fell to the floor crying. Mom came over to him, encouraging him to get up, but he was so overwhelmed with emotion he simply had to sit there and let it out for a moment. After a couple minutes he did get up and hug his mother, still with tears on his face.

Husbands, siblings, children and more

This is not all just about moms and dads. I’ve seen similar video of siblings, husbands, or children coming home. In every instance the unsuspecting family member forgets all about appearances. All that matters is that this loved one has returned to them. The emotion is often overwhelming. I remember scenes of wives, with kids running along behind her, running across football fields to jump into the arms of her husband… literally jump into his arms. I’ve seen younger brothers collapse to the floor, over whelmed by emotion at seeing their older brother or sister. It never cease to amaze me the number of such videos that I have seen.

So, what?

I’ve been in church my entire life. One thing that I have noticed is how seldom people are willing to act, or appear foolish in church. The people in the stories I shared above, and hundreds more like them, give us an example of what it looks like to totally abandon propriety, even if only for a moment. These folks are so overwhelmed being in the presence of their loved one that they forget all about the limitations that they normally put on their own behavior. They act like fools, and they don’t care what anybody thinks.

Maybe we, in the church, need to act like fools more often. We come into the presence of God, but do we act like it. Are we so comfortable or complacent in our relationship with Jesus that we no longer get excited about being in His presence? When was the last time you got so excited about Jesus that you were willing to look foolish? Have you EVER been that excited about Jesus?

Maybe the reason that more people are not coming to church is because we don’t even seem to want to be there. We, who claim to now Christ, who claim to have a personal relationship with Him, are not excited about being with Him. If we don’t seem excited about it, why should anybody else be?

In the videos I talked about above, the only people running to the new appeared serviceman or woman are the family. The other members of the team are not running towards him or her. The people in the crowd are not running towards him or her. they don’t do that because THEY are not the ones with the personal connection. This is not their loved one, so why would they run towards them? But, the family can’t help but respond.

They make me cry. There I said it. These videos always make me cry. I’m a big cry baby. Many people are moved by these videos. I am so moved by the responses of the families that I cry. I get excited for them. I get excited with them. What if we became so excited about being with Jesus that we were willing to act or appear foolish? Would people around us be moved by our display of love for Jesus? Maybe.

I would encourage you to enter church with the expectation of encountering Jesus. Then be willing to become excited when you encounter Him. Be willing to get so excited that you can’t help but show it. Become so excited that you don’t care what people think. Become so excited that others can see it and are moved by it.

Don’t be afraid to appear foolish for the sake of Jesus.

Matt Norman

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