Tag Archives: faith

4 Lessons from 2014

4 Lessons from 2014

As 2014 winds down, I like to reflect on the year and all the ups and 4 Lessons from 2014downs it brought. I’ve learned the purpose of life isn’t our happiness or comfort, but rather our character development, so when I look back on the year, I don’t just think of what happened, but rather what I learned.

Here are a few lessons I learned this year (Last year I suggested 5 questions to ask yourself at the end of the year, give it a read, it’s helpful):

Step out in faith.

When we take a step of courage, God responds. He meets us there. It won’t be easy as we continue to move forward, but He’s there, working with us, working on our behalf. Often times we think we are supposed to wait on God, but most of the time He’s waiting on us to make a decision or make a move. The moment of certainty never arrives. There will always be questions when it’s time to make a decision and doubts will persist initially. But God has given us a sound mind, free will, and faith. That’s enough to make decisions. Some of our choices will be wrong. That’s fine. Some will fail. That’s fine, too. Grace is big enough to overcome our errors.

Never underestimate prayer.

For some reason, I slacked off in prayer. I attributed it to laziness, but Pastor and author Mark Batterson said it best: “Our lack of prayer is less about laziness and more about overconfidence.” I just thought I could carry on. I thought if I missed a day or two I would be fine. But I learned prayer isn’t important; it’s essential. It’s as essential as eating and sleeping. I need it. Here’s why: Not because I’ll falter without it (though that’s probable), but because there are people God is depending on me to pray for. There are specific people He has put on my heart for a reason. These people are important to God and He has required me to pray for them. It’s fine if I want to be reckless and not pray for myself, but when my lack of prayer impacts others, it becomes dangerous.

Be open.

Over the years, we tend to view things through a preconceived filter. The older we get, we tend to get more set in our ways and our thoughts. I’ve learned to challenge my beliefs and patterns through books I’ve read and conversations I’ve had. Not all of them changed my thoughts, but they challenged my preconceived notions. (As far as books go, I highly recommend N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope and Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath as my best reads of 2014.)

Embrace the adventure of the unknown.

One of my best experiences this year was going to a conference in Chicago for a few days. I was apprehensive about going because I was making the trip alone and didn’t know anyone attending the event. I’m somewhat social, but not always comfortable in situations like that. Well, I ended up making great friends and connecting with people not only at the conference, but also through random encounters with strangers around the city (people are quite friendly over pizza, beer, and sports). I almost didn’t want to leave, and many of us stay connected and continue to encourage each other.

What have you learned in 2014? How can you apply those lessons to 2015? Think about it and feel free to share your thoughts. Also, sign up to receive my posts by email here. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See in 2015 friends.

 

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Speaking Up Even When You're Afraid

Speaking Up Even When You’re Afraid

Sometimes in life we feel compelled to do difficult things. And by difficult, I mean something we don’t want to do. Something we resist Speaking Up Even When You're Afraiddoing because it goes against our nature, our personality, or our level of comfort. But deep inside, we know we should do it…we must do it.

This difficult thing can be asking for a raise, quitting a job, ending a relationship, pursuing a relationship, standing up to an authority figure, addressing an issue, or simply telling someone the truth.

Most of the challenges we face of this nature have to do with confrontation. Most of us aren’t predisposed to confronting others. It can be intimidating in many respects, but particularly because of the uncertainty. We don’t know how the other party will react. We don’t know how we will react to their reaction. We’re not sure what to say or how to go about it. And ultimately, we fear the worse consequences — rejection, loneliness, embarrassment, or failure.

Honestly, all the aforementioned phobias are possible. But there is a greater consequence than rejection — regret.

What if we do nothing? What if we keep things status quo and don’t rock the boat? Life will go on, but we’ll be uncomfortable. We’ll wonder “what if?” We’ll be weighed down with regret.

In 1 Samuel 3, young Samuel is faced with a similar situation. He’s being raised and trained by his mentor, the high priest Eli, and staying in the tabernacle with him. Samuel hears the voice of God one night — a rare occasion during those times — and God tells him that Eli and all his family are going to be killed because of their sins. Whoa. Try going back to sleep after hearing that. The Bible says the next morning Samuel was afraid to tell Eli the vision he had (obviously). Imagine what was going through Samuel’s mind: He’s only 12 years old and he has to tell this man who is like his father that he and his family will be wiped out. And you thought you were facing a difficult situation.

After Eli implores (and nearly threatens) him, Samuel reveals the prophecy. Eli doesn’t get angry, he simply replies: “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him” (1 Sam. 3:18).

If God is pressing you to do something or say something that is difficult, I’d go out on a limb and say it’s for the best. He already knows the result and how the other person/persons will respond. It may be rejection or it may be acceptance, either way, it’s not your responsibility. You can’t control others’ reactions; you control your obedience. One simple yet difficult step of courage and confrontation may open the door to your destiny. It did for Samuel. A frightened, preteen boy got the nerve to speak up, prophesying for the first time, and went on to be the first major prophet of Israel.

Is there something God is nudging you to do that you’re scared of? Is there someone you need to confront? Embrace the uncertainty and move forward in faith. No matter what happens, God has your back.

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We're Not God, We Don't Have Answers

We’re Not God, We Don’t Have Answers

Sunday night I was stunned and saddened to find out, via Twitter, that Dr. Myles Munroe, a renowned pastor and leader from the Bahamas, died in a plane crash along with his wife and seven others. I loved listening to Dr. Munroe speak. His teaching was so profound, insightful, and inspiring. And he always had a smile on his face when he preached, so he felt welcoming.We're Not God, We Don't Have Answers

Though I haven’t heard Dr. Munroe in a while, and haven’t read any of his books (he’s written or co-authored about 100), his tragic death hit home for me.

When untimely tragedies like this happen, we are forced to contemplate difficult questions of life and faith. Unfortunately, we don’t have proper answers to the questions.

I read several post on social media following news of Dr. Munroe’s death Sunday, with some people saying the pastor had finished his assignment and that his work on earth was complete. Those words are often used to help the mourning come to terms with their loss, but I question the accuracy of it.

How do we know Dr. Munroe’s assignment was complete and his purpose fulfilled? It might have been, but it might not have been either. Surely he has done more than most to advance the Kingdom of God in his lifetime, and he lived a full life. But just 60 years old and en route to a leadership conference, Dr. Munroe could have still done plenty more and impacted more lives.

I don’t know if Dr. Munroe’s time was up and he was just ordained to die on that day. But neither does anyone else on earth.

We like to have answers. Maybe we think it will help us sleep better at night or deal with difficulties in life. Maybe it’s just part of our culture, or just human arrogance that we need to know why. But I’ve found God rarely gives us answers despite our myriad questions. And He does it for a reason…faith.

We just have to trust Him. Trust Him when He tells us to do something that makes no sense. Trust Him when we experience an inexplicable tragedy. Trust Him in life, and trust Him in death. We don’t need answers, we just need Him. And though He never promised us answers, He has promised His presence.

Our theology — no matter how profound, historical, researched, spiritual and biblical — is inadequate to provide reasons and answers to difficult things of life. We do more harm than good when we try to give an explanation for everything.

God has the answers, not us. In our immaturity, we probe Him for answers. But in our maturity, we realize He is the answer. And that is enough.

Death is always a hard thing to process. And I don’t fault people seeking answers in pain. There are two great perspectives on death and mourning I highly recommend. First, my friend Jordan Rice, who lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, has written beautifully on this topic. Check out his blog post: Trapped in the Grip of Grace. Second, to go deeper on death and the hope after it, N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope is an excellent and profound read.

 

 

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courtesy of compfight

God has a Role for Rejects

Have you ever tried out for a team or auditioned for a role and been rejected? It kinda sucks, right? Or how about applying for an organization or job and getting that kindly worded rejection email? We’ve all been there.

courtesy of compfight
courtesy of compfight

I was reminded of my times of rejection while reading about Gideon in the Bible recently. I’ve always been fascinated with the story Gideon, one of the judges of Israel, because of his journey from being fearful to a mighty warrior leading a pack of 300 men to defeat the Midianites (sort of like Leonidas, but more successful).

In Judges 7, God devises one of the most preposterous battle plans in history, which couldn’t have done much to ease Gideon’s fears. Gideon started with an army of 32,000-strong to take on the Midianites, but God told him that he had too many people and instructed Gideon to tell all those who are afraid to go home — 22,000 departed… 22,000 rejected.

Down to 10,000 men, God said there were still too many, so he devised a test where all the men who didn’t drink water a certain way (whatever that means) were sent home. That left 300 men.

9,700 rejected.

So with 300 men, Gideon went to the Midianite camp in the middle of the night, they played their trumpets, broke some glass, and shouted and that was enough to cause the Midianites to run for their lives. But the intriguing part for me is Judges 7:23, which says:

“And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites.

Though just 300 were set apart for the first battle with Gideon, God used other men to complete the work. And I believe the same men who were sent home because they were afraid or because they were deemed inadequate for the mission by God’s test at the water, were the same ones who gathered together to pursue the Midianites.

God used the rejected.

Despite their original fears, deficiencies, or maybe just not being destined to be among the 300, God still used them. Despite their initial rejection, they still had a role in God’s purpose and plan to deliver Israel.

That should be encouraging to us because despite our weaknesses, fears, and deficiencies, Jesus still has use for us. We still have a role in His plan, and our role is just as important as the 300.

The 31,700 rejected didn’t abandon the cause. They didn’t stop serving God. Sure, they had no clue what Gideon or God was up to. And that journey home was probably frustrating and confusing. They may have questioned God, they may have cursed Gideon, they may have doubted their own abilities. But when the time came to act, when their number was called, they didn’t hesitate. They knew it was their turn. (Heck, they even had the fun part. They didn’t just play trumpets and shout, they actually got to fight).

So even if it appears that you didn’t make the cut and you were initially rejected — whether in ministry, career, business, personal, or professional life — don’t give up, don’t be discouraged, don’t let your dreams die. Your time is coming. God is still calling you to a key role in His plan. Stay ready. You’re not rejected, you’re just reserved for a particular purpose.

 

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Stop Chasing Perfection

Stop Chasing Perfection

Perfection doesn’t exist. Not this side of Heaven. Most of us know that, but our expectations often belie that truth.

We know nobody and nothing is perfect, yet we are quick to complain about all the imperfections in the person we’re dating, the church we attend, or the job that pays our bills.Stop Chasing Perfection

High expectations are a good thing. Having a vision for the type of marriage you want, the church you serve in, and the career you navigate is important and admirable. And I believe the vision you imagine can become a reality as long as it’s grounded in reality. There must be some compromise and tweaking to the vision along the way.

Most people understand this. Where we go astray is when our focus shifts. Instead of remembering everything in life is a process, we get impatient with the immediate. So we focus on our partner’s imperfections, our church’s problems, and our employer’s negative practices. We magnify the few things that tick us off, letting those idiosyncrasies overshadow what we enjoy about our current state of life.

Consequently, we become complainers part of the unfortunate majority miserable in our relationships and jobs, and tuned out in church. Sometimes discontent means it’s time to move on. But most of the time the discontent comes from within, not without.

Changing jobs, churches, or dating someone else won’t change things when the problem is within you. The problem is often perspective. And perspective is tainted when problems arise: when there’s tension in your relationship, when there’s disagreement in church, and when there’s frustration at work. These aren’t signs to bail out; these are signs to dig in, roll up your sleeves and get to work. The life you want takes work. The vision you have won’t manifest without pressure.

So when things in life particularly pertaining to your relationships, church, and job become frustrating, shift your focus from the negative to the positive. Intentionally dwell on the good things about your situation. This fosters peace, patience, and problem-solving ability. If the negatives outweigh the positives, then maybe it’s time to move on. But chances are you’ll realize that though life isn’t perfect, it is good, and with patience you can build something close to perfect.

 

 

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