A control freak’s worst nightmare!

I’ll admit it, I like to be in control. I don’t know many people who don’t enjoy being in control of their situation. Have you ever driven with a backseat driver? Yep, me too. And often, I’m the backseat driver if somehow you were able to talk me into not driving (because I’m always the driver…because I like to be in control).

Control freakWhen it comes to being out of control, I think there is a huge amount of fear. Rightly so! To not be able to control your situation, the outcome, the circumstance, is hard to do because that means we have to sit back and let it all play out. It’s like sitting in a rollercoaster blindfolded, not in control of the ride and having no idea when the twists and turns or drops will come. But they will come, no doubt about it.

I think Joshua in the story below is living in the tension of not being in control, but believing and trusting in God, who is always in control. There is always this element of tension, because so much of our lives is out of our control. I can’t make my puppy listen, as much as I would love to. She does what she wants, and then will listen if I have a treat or food to give her! In the wintertime in Michigan, I can’t control the amount of snow we get and how often I have to shovel and how long shoveling takes. If I could control this, I would be a millionaire because who wouldn’t pay good money to not have to shovel ever again, but stay in the nice warm bed and sleep an extra hour?

Here’s the story as told in Joshua 11:6 (NLT):

Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them. By this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel as dead men. Then you must cripple their horses and burn their chariots.”

Now this out-of-control situation is one we will probably never be in ourselves. Ultimately Joshua was the one physically engaging in the battle, but he was not really in control of the outcome. God told him not to be afraid, not to worry, because God Himself will “hand all of them over to Israel.” So, Joshua, don’t worry about your life or the lives of your warriors or their families, because God is in control. But it is war. How can you not be afraid? How can you not be worried?

Control - God is inThe tension is that we can be in scary circumstance, in scary situations way beyond our ability to comprehend let alone control, and yet not be afraid. Instead, we can find the hope and freedom from fear that God gives when we recognize and understand God’s place in all situations. He is powerful, He is in control, He is good, and He desires great things for us. This doesn’t mean every situation is great,  and if a situation is hard or scary or terrible we’re in the wrong. Often that is actually not true. But, we can trust our Heavenly Father. We can trust Him and believe in the Son that He sent to die for us and experience this freedom from fear.

Twentysomethings unite and grab a copy of “All Groan Up”!

coverI recently had the privilege of reading Paul Angone’s latest book, All Groan Up. This follows on the heels of another book he has written, called 101 Secrets for Your Twenties.

The years between 20 and 29 can be a time where we are lost, found, confused, on track, right, wrong, satisfied, depressed, on top of the world, living in our parent’s basement, working a dead end job, getting fired from our “dream” job, and the complicated, contradictory list goes on, never seeming to really have much of anywhere to go (kind of like our lives seem to be doing), but in a hurry to get there.

Paul writes with an intense honesty that is both hilarious and yet penetratingly vulnerable all at the same time. Some of the situations he found himself in a ridiculous, and yet the principles of those situations are evident in my own life. He writes about an all-too-common struggle that many are all-too-silent about.

All Groan Up is full of adventure and true stories of struggle, pain, loss, and yet is also so full of hope, joy, and being found. One of my favorite quotes, and one of the turning points in the book, is this:

I thought I could tell God something about my identity with guilt. With all my bitterness and  pain, I could change the way he thought of me. But I’m slowly realizing I gave myself way too much credit. He doesn’t love like us; he loves like him.

Boom. So powerful. God doesn’t love conditionally like we do. God loves perfectly and unconditionally like only God can. What a profound turning point. It takes a journey to arrive there, but it becomes worthwhile the moment that light bulb comes on.

My prayer for every twentysomething who reads this book is that you will be encouraged, as I have been, along this journey, and that this book would give you the hope and the courage to keep pressing on and to keep moving forward. Don’t give up on yourself, on your family, on your friends. Don’t give up on God. He hasn’t gone anywhere.

Grab a copy of this book and join the rest of us on this journey forward through our twenties!

You should be playing chess, not checkers

Recently I read Mark Miller’s book, Chess Not Checkers. Being fairly new to the leadership game/leadership world, this was a reading for me that was full of incredible insight. Mark does an incredible job of taking leadership principles and implanting them very clearly into a story. The book is a quick read because it reads as a story, and yet it is a book that leaders should return to over and over to glean all of the incredible principles to elevate our leadership game.22647288

When we first look at the title, it seems a little odd – Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game, but when we really begin to consider the implications of the game of chess and the game of checkers, the strategy is much different. As Mark Miller describes it, checkers is primarily reacting to situations or focusing on the problem instead of the cause of that problem. For example, in the book Miller uses the situation of a customer unhappy that they hadn’t received their order as they had been promised. The leader’s reaction was to expedite their order and ship it overnight so they would have it as promised. That is playing checkers. Chess looks into the background to figure out why they didn’t receive the order, who should have known about it, who should have really taken care of it before it reached the senior leader, why it wasn’t taken care of, etc.

Leaders can so often get into the habit of playing checkers because there are so many problems to deal with, so many fires to put out, and so many tasks to get completed. However, we have to take a hard look at our jobs and make the executive decision about what is within our realm of responsibility, what we must take action on personally, and what should be delegated and owned by a different member of the team. It is hard to relinquish control as a leader, and yet it is one of the most effective things we can do.

This book gets us thinking about not just how we lead, but who we are leading. Are we building into the leaders we have now, our starters? Are we building into and preparing the leaders who are up and coming, our bench? Are we unified as a team of leaders in this organization? Are we winning the hearts of those we lead and those who engage with our business/organization? Are we executing our game plan well?

These are all valid questions, and are dealt with in more detail in the book. I would encourage anyone who is either a current leader, a new leader, an old leader, or about to become a leader to read this book. It will really help you think clearly, see with a broader perspective, and elevate your leadership game.

A great thanks to Mark Miller and his team for allowing me to get an advance copy of the book to read, and my apologies it took so long to write a review for! It is my pleasure to be able to read and review this book, and really I have been blessed through reading this book and look forward to wrestling with how to implement the strategy of how to play chess instead of playing checkers!

You can check out more books by Mark Miller by clicking here.

 

Tunnel Vision

tunnel-visionSomething happened. We didn’t expect it. We didn’t plan it. We didn’t prepare for it. But it happened. There is no denying that. But what do we do now? What is our response?

We don’t like it when things come out of the blue and happen without our consent. We don’t like it when things come up that we didn’t budget for or that don’t fit into our life plans for ourselves and our families.

When something like this happens to us, it is way too easy to develop tunnel vision. We can only see the problem. We are too close to the traumatic event. Emotionally and physically we are too close to the situation that it is nearly impossible to keep things in perspective.

This could be a sudden illness or death. It could be a divorce. It could be losing a friend. This could be an injury that keeps us from playing the sport we’ve always loved and won’t have many more chances to play in this context. It could be a criticism or critique that comes unexpectedly when we thought things were going really well. It could be a sudden job loss when we were already hard pressed to make ends meet. It could be a friend or family member walking away from his or her faith.

The “somethings” are endless, aren’t they? But, if we respond with tunnel vision, our response will most likely not be tempered with godly wisdom, discernment, or good attitude. Tunnel vision restricts our ability to put things in perspective, like the Israelites in Exodus 14.

Moses had just brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery and imprisonment, because God was freeing them. As Moses leads the people as God’s representative, the Israelites start freaking out. As soon as they got out of Egypt, the Egyptian army then started coming after them. The army is closing in behind, and there is a huge sea in front of them. They have nowhere to go, and they think how much better it would’ve been to remain a slave than to die her in the desert. They had tunnel vision. All they could see was what was physically in front and behind of them.

Moses had other plans. Moses sought out God’s plans. Moses had confidence in God’s ability, even though on the surface things looked hopeless:

Exodus 14:13 – “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.'”

Maybe you are in a hopeless situation. Maybe you are lost and confused and don’t know where to turn or what to do or what to say or what to think. Maybe you are paralyzed by your situation right now. There is only one place to turn: the feet of Jesus. Turn it over, lay it down, trust in Him.

48347-There-Is-Always-Hope

The situation or circumstance or choice may not immediately go away, but your tunnel vision can. And once your tunnel vision goes away, you can begin seeing things through God’s eyes, God’s purpose, God’s plan. You can begin to see that life with God is better than life without God. He makes all things new. He restores and gives purpose. He redeems and provides freedom and eternal life through faith Jesus Christ.

All of these things are available to you. God transforms tunnel vision into truth vision. You can begin fighting your situation with the Truth of God’s Word, and Truth will always triumph. Don’t give up hope. Give in to God and trust Him. He’s got a better plan than us anyway (Prov. 3:5-6, 16:25).

Unexpected Things

This past Sunday was Easter Sunday, or better termed: Resurrection Sunday. The purpose of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday is really to celebrate and remember that Jesus Christ came down to earth as God in a body and dwelt among us (John 1:14). We praise and worship Jesus Christ because He came not only to dwell among us, to be tested and tempted in every way like we are so that He could identify with us (Hebrews 4:15), but He came to die for us and to rise from the dead three days later to show His victory over sin, victory over death, and victory over Hell and Satan.

The fearless passage we are looking at today comes on the heels of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Matthew records that on the third day, Sunday morning, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb” (28:1) that Jesus had been buried in. he_is_risenWhen they got to the tomb, the stone blocking the entrance had been rolled away and an angel of the Lord was sitting on the stone just hanging out, waiting for them. The guards were so afraid of the angel that they passed out! Here’s what happens next in Matthew 28:5-6:

Then the angel spoke to the women. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.

This is crazy! They went to see the dead body of Jesus and instead they encountered an empty grave.

The angel continues on, telling the women to go back to tell the disciples what had happened. As they are running quickly away from the tomb to go to the disciples, Jesus greets them. When they saw their Risen Savior, Jesus Christ, the women “ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him” (Matthew 28:9). After the women run to him, Jesus tells them this, in verse 10:

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.’

 Why don’t we have to be afraid? How can we live a fearless life? We can because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He is not the God of the dead, but is the God of the living (Luke 20:38). We can live with confidence and hope because Jesus Christ is risen, He gives us the opportunity to respond in faith to the Gospel, and He sets us free from the power of sin, becomes our righteousness so that we can have a right standing with God through the righteousness of Jesus.

Place your faith and your hope and your trust in Jesus Christ. He will never let you down. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Don’t be afraid and don’t lose hope. Jesus Christ is alive and the source of all our hope, joy, freedom and righteousness.

Christians are…

This morning I went to search something on Bing. What did I want to search? I typed in, “Christians are” and then waited to see what suggested results came up. Here is what I found:

Christians are

Being a genuine follower of Jesus Christ is frowned upon by so many in the world today. Why? Jesus Himself claimed that the world hated Him and so would hate His followers too (Matthew 10:22)! There is a crucial balance between being in the world and not of the world that often we misunderstand for being in the world and tolerant with the world’s desires.

Being in the world does not mean condoning what the world does. It does not mean engaging with everything the world says is good and okay. Our culture says that you do what you think is right, I’ll do what I think is right, and we will never say the other is wrong and we will never tell the other how to live his or her life. This leads to a neglect of moral standards, there is no absolute morality, and it concedes that truth and moral uprightness are in the eye of the person acting it out.

For example, if you think pornography use is good for you, but I disagree, I will continue to not engage in pornography, but I will also not bring up to you the relational consequences of pornography, the brain chemistry changes that come through extended porn usage, and the other harmful long term effects that come as a result of pornography. I will not spare you from these consequences because for you it is right, though it is not right for me. Truth and morality become subjective.

This is the world we live in. Right and wrong is not black and white.

 

It is into this world that we have been commissioned to share the Gospel and to live out the Good News of Jesus Christ in our words and actions.

In Acts 18:9 (NLT) we see Luke write about Paul’s experience:

“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent!”

This is the kind of courage we need to have. In a world and a society that tells us as Christians to be silent, to not speak out, we must learn to not be afraid. We will be hated, we will be wronged, and you know what, we will do wrong! We are human and we don’t always control our words or actions well. We will certainly at times be poor examples of Christ.

But, when we err on the side of not being afraid and err on the side of speaking out for our faith in Jesus Christ with love and humility, we are definitely heading in the right direction.

So today, do not be afraid. Pursue Jesus Christ with all that you have and make Him known in the way that you love others, in the way that you show compassion and concern for Christians and non-Christians alike. Do not be afraid to humbly, boldly, authentically live out your faith. Don’t be a hearer only, but be a fearless doer of the Word.

I didn’t see that coming!

Imagine with me that you planned to do something in your life. Let’s say that you planned to follow the course of the American Dream. You were going to graduate from high school, go to college, meet the man or woman of your dreams, get married, start a career immediately after receiving your 4-year college degree, have 2.5 children, and live happily ever after, with ever increasing amounts of money and success.

But then, something went wrong. Somewhere along the way something happened. Either by some choice that may not have been the wisest or most thought out, or by something that happened to you outside of your control. Maybe a friend or parent or sibling passed away. Maybe you got into a car accident and had to go back to work instead of school to pay off the car bills, and then got stuck at work to pay off school loans and never ended up going back to school. Maybe your husband or wife got sick and had to be taken care of and couldn’t work, and so that “ever increasing amounts of money” turned into “ever decreasing amounts of money and ever increasing debt.”

I’ve only lived for 25 short years, but there is at least one thing that I have learned: life rarely goes “as expected.”

God is ThereDaniel experienced this when he was praying. Have you ever prayed for something and not seen the answer when you wanted it? Maybe you’re still waiting for the answer. Maybe you’ve given up hope on that prayer. Hopefully this post will encourage you: things don’t always go as expected, but we can always expect God to be faithful to answer (though the answer may be no, or not yet, or yes).

Here is what happened with Daniel in Daniel 10:10-14:

Just then a hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees. And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling.

Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia. Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.

Daniel had been praying for something for 3 weeks and had not yet heard an answer! Daniel was distraught, and then, 21 days after he had first prayed, an angel appears. He was freaked out, with good reason, and the angel spoke to Daniel to not be afraid. As soon as he had begun praying, the angel had been dispatched by God to carry out the prayer Daniel prayed to God. The angel had been engaged in battle with the prince of Persia and so wasn’t able to make it there quickly.

if-god-is-for-usThings didn’t go as expected for Daniel, but as expected, God was faithful.

So if you find yourself discouraged, unmotivated to keep praying, not wanting to persevere in prayer, maybe impatient in your faith or waiting on God’s timing, hear this: keep believing and trusting. Keep praying. Do not stop.

When the unexpected happens in your life, expect God to be there for you to run to. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deut. 31:6). As Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, He is always with us. We have this promise when we become children of God (John 1:12).

 

You are valued

Have you ever done something just to get someones attention? Have you ever done something that, looking back at it, was kind of ridiculous, just because you wanted someone to notice you? Right, I’ve never done that either…

Luke 12:7 says,

And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ–meaning you turn from your sin, confess that Jesus is Lord of your life, that He was crucified and killed, buried, and you believe that 3 days He later rose again from the dead conquering sin, death, and hell, and you live your life like this is true–then you are saved and have nothing to be afraid of (Romans 10:9). You are a part of God’s family (John 1:12) and you are more valuable than any animal or created thing.You are of more value

You are loved, valued, cared for, necessary, desired, and pursued by God. We don’t have to try to get His attention or try to get Him to notice us. He sees, and even knows the number of hairs on your head! He loves you and sent His Son to die for you. So don’t be afraid, and try to understand and experience the beautiful revelation that you are so incredibly valuable to the One who Created the heavens and the earth. The Creator God values you as His precious creation.

“I wish I had more __________”

When is the last time you wished you had more of something? If you’re me, it was this morning when you woke up wishing you could’ve had more sleep!!

Other times we wish for more time, more money, more friends, more, more, more… More, more, moreMost commercials we see on TV make us desire more of what we already have or the next big thing or something we didn’t even know we needed.

It seems like when we start to run out of something, it is natural to start to hold even harder on to what we are low on.

There is a widow in 1 Kings 17 who was running out of food. She was a single mother who had no more time, no more money, no more friends. She was stressed and anxious. She couldn’t afford any more food for her or her son. She was hopeless and at the end of her rope. Here’s what happened:

“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.” Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.'” (1 Kings 17:12-15)

Can you put yourself in her situation? She hardly has enough bread for herself or her child, and this “prophet of God” asks for some of her food? I think I may have given him a few choice words and said no way. At first it is confusing why he would have even had the gall to ask a preposterous question like that. But then we read the rest of the story.

Elijah comes with a peace and says, “Don’t be afraid.” Now naturally, when someone says don’t do something, we often do the opposite. But here Elijah is, saying not to worry about how little you have, not to wish for more than you have, not to desire more than you need, but to not be afraid and trust God. How hard would this have been??

For those of us who so strongly desire security and having enough for ourselves and our family, this would have been next to impossible. How could we trust this man and what he says about God? But the widow does trust him! And what happens? God provides. God comes through. God rescues her from despair and hopelessness.God Provides

We don’t have to be afraid because God provides everything we need. God always comes through with His plan, in His timing, for His glory (and often for our growth). We don’t have to run after security or saying, “I wish I had more ______. That would really make us secure or set or comfortable.”

Instead, we can trust that God has a plan, we can wisely live our lives with the Bible as our guidance and standard, and live such good lives full of joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment through faith in Jesus Christ. As this story shows, it’s rarely easy, but it’s always worth it.

Don’t hold yourself back

Delayed adolescence is an increasing trend in our society. What is meant here by delayed adolescence is the increase in young adults that choose to live with their parents into their later 20’s and even early 30’s. I am a product of this trend myself. I moved back home after college and lived in my parent’s basement until I was 24 years old.

Stop Holding Yourself BackThere are many reasons given as to why we move back home and live with our parents for so long. One of those reasons include the difficult job market. There are a large number of Starbucks baristas who have college degrees… it’s tough out there. Another reason is that there are so many opportunities we don’t know which one to choose; we don’t want to be tied down into one career for the rest of our lives like many of our parents are/were. Another reason is that it is so expensive to move out and live on our own. Unless we have roommates or wealthy parents who will foot the bill, money is a problem, especially considering we have all that college debt to deal with. So these factors, and many societal messages, have contributed to the trend of delayed adolescence.

Another issue that fits into this delay is that many middle school and high school students are not challenged well to become strong people of character, integrity, hard work, principle, or responsibility. Parents and schools and churches have done a poor job of calling a generation to a higher standard, and I think we are paying the price for that. We do not often challenge them to take on responsibility or to develop principles they base their decisions on. We do not often teach them how to gain wisdom and discernment and integrity, but often expect them just to have it. We often do not lead well in the realm of character and integrity, so they do not always have the best examples to follow. This is a harsh word, I get that, but I think it is the truth. Now, obviously, there are always exceptions. But be careful immediately thinking that you are the exception. Take an honest look and examine the facts.

Jeremiah from the Bible is one who wanted to avoid his challenge. He did not want to live up the potential God saw in him, and he did not want to live out the hard work and responsibility placed on his life. Here is what Jeremiah says he did when God called him to a great work that would require wisdom, integrity, and discernment, as well as hard work and perseverance:

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jeremiah 1:7, ESV)

Jeremiah made an excuse! It is so easy to do, and we have so many good ones to give. But I don’t think there is a person who made excuses that ever made much of a difference in this world. We aren’t on this earth to make excuses and live in our comfort zones, but we are here to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. We have an opportunity to be His hands and feet, and to minister to His creation as His children and ambassadors.

How does God respond to Jeremiah’s excuse? Check it out in the next two verses, 7-8:

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”

God’s response is to say that He will be with Jeremiah. There is comfort in knowing that we are not doing this alone. No matter how great the potential or responsibility, we don’t have to go it alone. God is with us. We don’t have to fear responsibility or fear failure or fear what others will think or fear not knowing what to say or do. Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit we will receive discernment, wisdom, comfort, help, healing, guidance.

So DO NOT BE AFRAID. DO NOT HOLD YOURSELF BACK. Instead, take up the challenge, challenge those around you, and make a difference in this world as you bring glory to God by following His example and His Word. GoKeep moving forwardd receives glory when we obey Him and trust Him. Obey and trust God and you will be able to move forward in faith, knowing that God is with you. If God is for you and with you, who can stand against you? “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26), so start doing some impossibly difficult things and see how quickly they become possible when they are done through God’s plan and strength and for God’s glory.