The beginning of the year is a great time to look back and evaluate how you spent your time and energy the previous year, and make new goals for the upcoming year. We don’t love the idea of resolutions, but setting clear, achievable, purposeful goals can be a great motivator as you begin a new year.

We talk about some of the goals we set for last year and how they played out. We each share a couple of the most successful goals we completed or habits we formed in 2017. It turns out many of our favorites were just simple, but meaningful, things like reading as a family or having breakfast together.

We also reflect on some of the hard things we experienced this year, including death, illness, and strained relationships in our families.

We want God to stretch us so that we grow in devotion to Christ this year, so we chat about our hopes and goals for the upcoming year. Mark hopes to be more grace-filled, less critical, and more thankful. He also has the desire to write another book. Shawn is praying to trust the Lord more with life circumstances and for gentleness in parenting. Micah hopes to be more intentional in discipling his children and friends that are new believers. He is also praying about responding positively to his children. (Anyone sense a theme here? Parenting is hard work…right!?)

We heard many of the same types of goals and prayer requests from our congregation as we prayed for them this week. We encourage you to think back over last year and make time to do some planning for the upcoming year.

You can also encourage your children to set goals and develop good habits for the year. Shawn recommends Exploring the Bible to help your kids develop the habit of daily Bible reading and study.

We’d love to hear about your goals & habits for the year! Do you take time to evaluate and plan at the beginning of the year?

 

Habit, Plans, & Goal-Setting in the New Year | Episode 68 | congreGate Podcast

(Some of the links may be affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission on your purchase at no cost to you. Thank you!!)

 

 

Links and Recommendations:

New Year, New Goals, and the Same Faithful God – our goal-setting episode from last year

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids

 

Please connect with us!

If you have questions or comments about this episode or suggestions for upcoming episodes, please use the contact form.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

And if you enjoyed the podcast, please share it with your friends!

SaveSave

SaveSave

You’ve heard it before: Leaders are readers. (Thank you, President Truman!) Whether you are leading in your family, your church, or your workplace, filling your mind with good ideas and stories will enhance your life and your leadership skills. This year we’ve shared experiences with Steven Curtis Chapman, missionaries, and pastors. We’ve thought through current culture issues with some of the best Christian leaders of our time. And we’ve enjoyed taking a step back from our regular lives to read stories that give a chance to rest and be renewed. All because we read some great books this year!

Today we’re sharing some of our favorite books of the year. We hope you take the time to read and learn from some of these books.

We all agree, our favorite book of the year was Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman. We’ve all been fans of his music for many years. We appreciated his honesty about his marriage and his struggles through losing a child. We experienced new layers of meaning to many of his songs after learning about the circumstances in his life when he was writing the music.

Mark and Shawn recommend The Insanity of God by Nik Ripkin. It’s the stories of a missionary family that served in Somalia and other places where the church is persecuted. It’s a powerful look at some of the toughest places on earth and how the gospel is working in the lives of people there.

Shawn recommends This is Our Time, a book about how we can be faithful Christians in our time in history. The first chapter alone (about smartphones) is worth the cost of the book. This is a great gift book for young people!

For those that might be tired of hearing about all of these cultural issues in the church, Micah recommends Restoring All Things. It’s not just talking about people helping with issues in theory (abortion, racial reconciliation, trafficking, etc.) because they include stories of people doing meaningful work to make a difference in all of these areas.

We think it’s important to include some fiction reading in our book lists each year. Mark recommends Daniel Silva novels and Shawn enjoys reading Charles Dickens books. Some other books we highlight are Essentialism, The Vanishing American Adult, Martin Luther, and Gods at War.

Tell us about your favorite books of the year! We’d love to hear about them!

And just a reminder…we’ll be taking a couple of weeks off from recording new podcast episodes for a couple weeks to enjoy Christmas festivities with our families. We’ll be back with new episodes in January!

 

Leaders are Readers: Our Favorite Books of 2017 | Episode 67 | CongreGate Podcast

(Some of the links may be affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission on your purchase at no cost to you. Thank you for listening!)

 

 

Links and Recommendations:

Ugly Christmas Sweaters (like Shawn’s…they make them for every NCAA team!)

Matthew Begat’s Song by Andrew Petersen

The Pout Pout Fish

Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story – by Steven Curtis Chapman

Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected – by Nik Ripkin

This is Our Time: Everday Myths in Light of the Gospel – by Trevin Wax

Restoring All Things – by Jon Stonestreet & Warren Cole Smith

House of Spies – by Daniel Silva

Essentialism – by Greg McKeown

The Vanishing American Adult – by Ben Sasse

Martin Luther – by Eric Metaxas

Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart – by Kyle Idleman

Please connect with us!

If you have questions or comments about this episode or suggestions for upcoming episodes, please use the contact form.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

And if you enjoyed the podcast, please share it with your friends!

It’s almost Christmas! It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season and become selfish during the holidays. Our kids are focused on presents and we, as adults, are focused on getting our to-do list finished.

We think it’s important to plan some activities that help our families focus on loving and serving our community, so we’re talking about how not to be a selfish pig during the holidays!

We have a few ideas and traditions to share to help you focus on giving and serving this Christmas.

Micah says his kids love going to Dollar Tree to buy gifts for each other. The gifts are small, but they learn a lot from it and look forward to it each year.

We mention several organizations that you can help with your money or your time. Some have “gift catalogs” that allow you to choose gifts like chickens, sewing machines, and bicycles that can change the lives of needy families in poor countries. Shawn’s family has enjoyed providing a few gifts for children in an orphanage where a young woman from our church is serving. If money is tight, many ministries have opportunities for you to serve with your time.

Mark suggests visiting the elderly during the holidays, either in the nursing home or at their homes. You can visit people you know individually, or schedule a group outing to sing Christmas carols. Many older people are unable to travel to church and find great joy in singing carols with kids. They love the chance to tell stories to people. Mark tells a story about his friend Hilda that used to be a surgical nurse for Billy Graham’s father-in-law. She loves to tell people about it.

Our home groups usually go Christmas caroling in different places each year. Some go to nursing homes and some carol around their neighborhoods. Not only is this a way to bring joy to other people, it can also be a good evangelistic opportunity as well.

You don’t have to do all of these things to get rid of selfish attitudes in your home. We encourage you to add a couple of new traditions to spend time focusing on loving and serving people in your community this year!

And, as always, we’d love to hear some of your ideas! How do you fight selfish attitudes and help your family to focus on giving during the holidays?

 

How Not to Be a Selfish Pig During the Holidays | Episode 66 | CongreGate Podcast

(Some of the links may be affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission on your purchase at no cost to you. Thank you for listening!)

 

 

Links and Recommendations:

Samaritan’s Purse

Operation Christmas Child

Rancho Los Amigos – search for “Rancho Los Amigos” to see the Amazon lists for each child!

Alamance Pregnancy Services

Christmas Cheer

Please connect with us!

If you have questions or comments about this episode or suggestions for upcoming episodes, please use the contact form.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

And if you enjoyed the podcast, please share it with your friends!

Today we are talking about a difficult topic. What do you do when a friend takes his own life? A few weeks ago, Shawn learned that a close friend of his had taken his own life, leaving behind a wife and 4 children. CJ was a veteran of both the Army and the Navy and outspoken Christ follower, but under the surface, he was struggling.

How can a man that loved the Lord passionately and that was by all appearances happy, decide to end his life? Sadly, a few minutes of past trauma can rule a person’s life. They can be deceived into believing that the world and their family are better off without them. Whether caused by PTSD or something else, as many as 22 veterans take their lives every day. Shawn shares how CJ’s widow is becoming involved with an organization that helps fight veteran suicide.

We also discuss suicide in general. Suicide has become the 2nd leading cause of teen death after accidents. Our culture glamorizes death in some ways. One example is the recent Netflix series “13 Reasons”. Young people faced with bullying and mounting responsibilities don’t know where to turn for help. As parents and church leaders, we need to be looking for signs of trouble and making ourselves available to counsel and encourage those who are struggling.

At CJ’s memorial service, the pastor preached a strong gospel message. Shawn shares the most memorable part of the message. “Was it selfish?…Yes…Was it sinful?… Yes…Was it wrong?…Yes…BUT Was it forgivable?…YES!” We believe that suicide is sinful and selfish, but it is forgivable because we serve a God that paid the penalty for ALL of the sins of believers.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, we urge you to talk to someone. Get help. And if you know people that are struggling, keep pursuing them. Push them to get help and be available to talk. Church leaders, be aware that there are most likely people in your congregation that struggle with thoughts of self-harm, even those that have a strong relationship with the Lord. Be on the lookout for ways to help and encourage each other!

Sinful but Forgivable: When a Friend Takes His Own Life | Episode 65 | CongreGate Podcast

(Some of the links may be affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission on your purchase at no cost to you. Thank you for listening!)

 

 

Links and Recommendations:

Mission 22 – United in the War Against Veteran Suicide

Operation Heal Our Patriots – a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, helping to heal wounded veterans

The Hopeless World of “13 Reasons”  – with Jon Stonestreet

Please connect with us!

If you have questions or comments about this episode or suggestions for upcoming episodes, please use the contact form.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

And if you enjoyed the podcast, please share it with your friends!

Mark has been preaching through Philippians on Sunday mornings, and recently taught through the end of Philippians where Paul states, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content”. Today we are discussing the “rare jewel” of contentment that the Puritan, Jeremiah Burroughs, spoke of in his book.

What are the areas where you struggle with contentment? Are you satisfied with your work, your financial situation, and your family?

Looking back a few verses in Philippians, Paul tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always” and to offer prayers with thanksgiving. This is coming from a man that was imprisoned, beaten, and shipwrecked. If Paul could say that, we must learn that rejoicing and practicing gratefulness are key concepts to living a life of contentment in every circumstance.

What about training our children to be content? This can be a daily struggle for us as parents. Our children can have ungrateful attitudes and they often learn that behavior from us. And our consumer culture only adds to the struggle!

We share some ideas about how to deal with complaining spirits in our children (and in ourselves). Teaching our children delayed gratification by involving them in long-term savings projects, or participating in giving projects, like filling Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, can help teach our children to be content. We discuss a few ideas that we have tried with our children, but we’d love to hear your ideas as well!

Sometimes people take this section of Philippians out of context. What does “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” actually mean? Mark jokes that he can play NBA basketball because Christ will strengthen him. Clearly, this is not what Paul meant!

True contentment comes only through peace with God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross.

 

Discovering the "Rare Jewel" of Contentment | Episode 64 | CongreGate Podcast

(Some of the links may be affiliate links, which means we earn a small commission on your purchase at no cost to you. Thank you for listening!)

 

 

Links and Recommendations:

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment – by Jeremiah Burroughs

The Redwoods and the Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment – by John Piper

Please connect with us!

If you have questions or comments about this episode or suggestions for upcoming episodes, please use the contact form.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

And if you enjoyed the podcast, please share it with your friends!