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photo by rowena waack via compfight

You Can’t Do Anything Without Courage

I’m sort of enamored with the concept of courage. I love reading the Old Testament with all its acts of valor. Just reading the term “valiant men” anywhere in scripture makes me want to grab a sword and shield or slingshot and go find an uncircumcised Philistine.

photo by rowena waack via compfight
photo by rowena waack via compfight

Of course there are different characteristics of courage now than in O.T. days, but you get the point.

God is big on courage as well. He’s constantly telling us to be courageous, and do not fear (variations of that phrase are mentioned roughly 100 times in the Bible). Yet, I heard one of the greatest explanations of courage from an interview with Maya Angelou and Dave Chappelle. Yeah, those two make strange bedfellows for sure. I came across this episode of Iconoclast shortly after Maya’s death, where she explained courage as “the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

Wow.

I find that to be true. Whatever virtues you aspire to — whether it’s the fruit of the Spirit or some other set of values — it takes courage to live them.

Courage to love when there’s no guarantee you’ll be loved in return. To love after you’ve been heartbroken. To love when it’s misunderstood.

Courage to be patient when you’re pressured to react. To wait when you want to go. To not get ahead of yourself or the process.

Courage to be humble and admit you’re wrong. Courage to forgive.

Courage to have faith. To believe in the midst of negative circumstances. To trust God when everyone else is doubting.

Courage. It’s the virtue that allows you to live every other virtue. It’s a virtue that is already in you. God wouldn’t tell us to be courageous if it was beyond our ability to do so. He has equipped us with courage. We may not see it. We may not feel it. We may not use it often enough. But it’s in us. We just need to conjure it up more often. Practice it. Doing so allows the other virtues to operate.

 

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Your Potential is Greater than Your Limits

Your Potential is Greater than Your Limits

Sometimes I feel inadequate. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m over my head, and I don’t quite know how to navigate through certain situations in life. Chances are, you’ve been there too. You may be overwhelmed with those thoughts and feelings now (and if you’ve never felt that way, you will at some point).Your Potential is Greater than Your Limits

There are many people from the Bible who had these same feelings (see Moses, Abraham, Elijah, Gideon…well, everyone actually). Life has always had a way of making humans feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed, and inadequate at times. Whether it’s a result of our own actions, natural circumstances, or God pushing us into unexpected roles, these type of situations can be frustrating.

I was reading about Saul, the first king of Israel, and the predicament he found himself in. Of course, we know Saul ended up doing some stupid things, disobeyed God, and turned into a psychopath seeking to murder his son-in-law (David), but before all of that, he was a pretty decent guy.

Saul was just going about his business one day when the prophet, Samuel, anointed him king. He wasn’t looking to become royalty; God chose him. When it was time for his coronation in front of the people of Israel, Saul was hiding. Bible scholars note that Saul felt inadequate to be king:

  • He was part of an unheralded family of the smallest tribe of Israel.
  • He was being put in a role that was foreign to him.
  • He didn’t even rule his family, but he was being appointed to rule a nation.
  • He wasn’t a warrior, but he had to lead Israel in battle.

And on top of that, there was no example to follow because Israel never had a king. Talk about pressure. Sometimes we feel like Saul did that day. We face seasons and moments of inadequacy. We feel like we’re insufficient or ill-equipped to:

…be a spouse.

…be a parent.

…run or start a business.

…buy a home.

…take on the new role at work.

…go to grad school.

…follow our dreams.

Our inexperience in these areas can bring fear, hesitation, procrastination, worry, and stress. But we can be encouraged by the story of Saul and many others in the Bible. God called Saul to the role of king. Whatever Saul lacked in ability didn’t disqualify him in God’s eyes. God had a plan for him, even if it wasn’t apparent yet. He knew what Saul could become with Him. Whatever endeavor you’re pursuing or role you are in, realize that God has you there. He knows your limits, but He knows your potential as well.

You may not feel “called” or “appointed” to your situation. You may have gotten there by happenstance or mishap. Either way, God has appointed Himself to be with you at all times. And if He’s with you, helping you, then you’re equipped for anything.

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The New Year's Resolution that Will Transform Your Life

The New Year’s Resolution that Will Transform You

“Your journey begins with a choice to get up, step out, and live fully.”  Oprah Winfrey

I no longer do New Year’s resolutions. I stopped that several years ago, replacing them with goal-setting, which is sort of like resolutions but just sounds like something you can keep longer than January.The New Year's Resolution that Will Transform Your Life

But in recent years I’ve ditched that too and have focused on one theme for each new year. It’s sometimes a single word, phrase or idea that I focus on living by each year. I’ve found this to be more effective. The truth is, resolutions or goals don’t really change us. They can change our habits, they can change our diets, our careers, or the number of the scale, but most resolutions don’t transform who we are. Living by a theme does. It transforms your life and character.

In the past, some of my themes were Live a Better Story (2012), Sacrifice (2013), and Don’t Plan it, Do It (2014), and each one has changed me. Those themes became embedded into my character, so much so that I subconsciously still live by those principles.

This year my theme is to live fully.

That phrase is often used as a cliché and can be vague, but it’s become a clear mandate for me.

Last year I wrote a couple posts about death and how it helps us filter what’s important in life. Thinking about our mortality pushes us to do the things that matter most to us. That, essentially, is what living fully is to me.

It’s realizing, as David Crowder Band once sang, that “life is happening, and it means everything.” This is not our practice life. It’s the only chance we get. So I can’t waste time on doubts, worries, insecurity, unforgiveness, fear, or selfishness.

I can’t hold back or delay desires and ambitions for “next year,” “sometime in the future,” or “one day.” Someday may never come. I don’t know what the future holds. But for now, I have 2015, and I must live it fully.

I can’t sacrifice relationships for my schedule. No one gets to the end of his/her life and says: “I spent too much time with family and friends.” Life is about the moments we make and the bonds we share with others.

Living fully is tasting life for all that it is. It’s loving, connecting, listening, learning, forgiving, understanding, risking, and embracing. It’s being fully engaged with the people and the work we love. It’s the theme that will guide my decisions and actions this year.

What does living fully look like to you? If you were to choose a theme for 2015, what would it be? I’d love to hear your heart.

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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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