Monthly Archives: July 2010

Falling in Love

If you fell in love with someone, you most likely will fall out of love with them at some point. If you choose to love someone you most likely will stay in love with them. Falling in love is an emotional thing, and you are blinded when you are emotional.

Usually when you fall it is because you tripped over something or didn’t see something. Falling also can be painful, but it reminds you to pay attention to the things around you.

In relationships it is vital to not let your emotions blind you into making wrong decisions. That is one reason you should never rush into a relationship. Take the time to build the relationship and develop more than an emotional or physical connection with the person.

Listen to what Jesus said about marriage – “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone…if your capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” Matthew 19:11-13

Not everyone is mature enough to have healthy relationships in their lives. Maturity has nothing to do with age in this case. It has to do with your attitude and willingness to grow.

I’ve been married for 21 years and both my wife and I have had to change and grow a lot over the years. We have had to re-invent ourselves and our marriage several times. There are constant adjustments to make in communication, conflict resolution and problem solving.

If you are married or thinking about getting married, there needs to be a moment where you choose to love the other person. Then it is a daily decision to keep loving that person no matter what. It can’t be an emotional kind of love that is superficial, it needs to be a deeper heart level commitment. If your falling for someone, you better be careful about the decisions you are making.

Loving people is not easy, especially when you are living together in marriage. There are times when you do not feel like loving because you are hurting and broken. That is why it is so vital to have a healthy active relationship with God. He is the only one that can help you love your spouse and other people like you should. The more you look to God for your ability to love the more loving you will become.

Courage

I came across this today in 2 Chronicles 19:11, the end of the verse – “Act with courage, and the Lord will be with the good.”

The English word for courage comes from the French word coeur, which means “heart”. That is where the saying “Don’t lose heart” comes from. Here are some thoughts about how to act with courage:

  1. It takes courage to face the truth about myself – Often the truth about ourselves is not something we like hearing.
  2. It takes courage to change when staying the same is more comfortable – When we step out of our comfort zone, we often get tested, but we also get stretched and can reach new heights we didn’t think we could reach.
  3. It takes courage to stand for our convictions when we know we will be challenged – Whenever we stand for something or try something that stretches us someone usually takes a shot at us. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon there’s always someone to tell you you’re wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to the end, requires the same courage a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men to win them.”
  4. Courage usually means getting it wrong before you get it right – It takes real courage and humility to learn from our mistakes and make changes to correct those mistakes. It takes courage to face reality and work at making things right.
  5. Courage means taking the “high road” – The high road may mean forgiving someone that hurt you and not holding a grudge. It may mean treating someone with kindness that does not deserve it. It may mean keeping your mouth shut when you would love to criticize or attack. When we practice true forgiveness we show incredible courage.
  6. Adversity is our friend – Each obstacle we face in life teaches us about our strengths and weaknesses. It shapes us, sharpens us and helps us to depend on God more. If there where no adversity in our lives we would not grow or make needed changes in our lives. Adversity brings opportunity to display courage and character.

In what areas of your life do you need more courage? What might God be trying to teach you in your current adversity? How can you take the high road with whatever you are facing? What lessons have you learned from the mistakes you just made?

Determination

Determination is a character quality that I admire and strive for in my own life. All of us need encouragement to endure rather than escape hardship. Determination is essential for seeing a project through to completion and it stirs hope and keeps us positive during the long haul of life’s problems.

Here are two things I know about life:

  • Opposition and hardship is inevitable.

Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 – “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus they did to us – trial & torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does to us – he lives! … While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best.”

The opposition we face today is not much different than what Paul faced. There are relational struggles, marital disharmony’s, difficulties connected with parenting and financial strains. There are also work challenges, sickness, job loss, accidents and injuries. There is no escaping the downside of human life. Just recently I was in a car accident that reminded me that life can be difficult and change in a split second.

Opposition and difficulties, pain, disappointments, and heartache are reality. Expect them. That way you won’t be caught off guard when they happen.

The second thing I know is:

  • Motivation is Essential:

Paul goes on to say this in verses 16-18 – “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Usually everything in us cries out “just quit” when we encounter life’s irritations, one after another. But Paul’s counsel is to not lose heart. He is telling us that an attitude of fortitude is needed in life…the motivation of determination. A positive never-say-die attitude is needed to make it through life’s hardships.

One of the best examples of determination I know of is Nehemiah. The book of Nehemiah describes the story of Nehemiah returning to the destroyed city of Jerusalem to rebuild the walls that protected the city, so that the city could be rebuilt and repopulated.

He had three oppressive obstacles:

  • Verbal criticism – people openly critical of what he was trying to do
  • Secret conspiracy – people working behind his back to stop what he was doing
  • Deception – people using intimidation, fear, lies and rumors to stop progress

Despite all of that he completed his project in 52 days. That took leadership and determination. It’s the same way in our lives. When we understand and embrace what Jesus did for us, we can face any opposition or hardship with a positive attitude and determination to make it through no matter what. Here are four helpful hints for living a life of determination:

  1. Never let life’s difficulties surprise you. Monitor your expectations, be realistic instead of idealistic
  2. Keep a positive perspective. Remind yourself that God is awesome and in control. Focus on your goals or your most important priorities and don’t get distracted by criticism or circumstances.
  3. Fight your battles on your knees. Nehemiah spent a lot of time praying. He prayed for help, for protection, for wisdom, for strength, for God’s intervention. Mix brief moments of prayer into your everyday encounters, and spend extended time with God pouring out your heart.
  4. Stay close to others. God never meant for us to be lone rangers. None of us are totally self-sufficient. Having community or relationships with other people is vital in making it through hardships and opposition. Surround yourself with good people.

Whatever you are facing today, know that God is with you and for you. He has promised to never leave us and to walk through every valley with us. Like Nehemiah and Paul we can have extraordinary determination only when we plug into God. It’s our choice, I suggest plugging into him and following his lead. Be determined to finish the journey you have started on the path God put you on.

The Decision

I don’t know if you have been following the whole LeBron James decision thing or not. I am a big basketball fan and my favorite team is the Cleveland Cavaliers. I must say that I am disappointed that he is leaving to go play in Miami. This had to be a tough decision for a young man to make, he is only 25. I remember when I was 25, looking back I now realize how little I really knew then.

I must say that I do respect LeBron’s passion for winning. He was willing to take less money and not be the top dog on the team in order to win. He could have made more money in Cleveland and he could have been more famous in New York, yet he chose winning and personal happiness.

LeBron James is very good at what he does and I wish him and his family the best.

So how should we approach the big decisions in our life? Should I take that new job? Should we buy that house or that new car? Should I get married or stay single? Should I go back to school and get a degree? Should we get a divorce or keep working on it? Should we move to a new city? Should I eliminate some things from my life? Should I say yes or no to this new big project?

Here are several things I try to do when facing a big decision:

  1. Start Praying – I know that sounds religious, but God has promised to give us wisdom if we ask for it and follow his principles in life. When I begin to consistently pray for wisdom to make the right decision, God has always given me direction, through other people, bringing thoughts to my mind, helping me to focus and giving me peace.
  2. Ask Questions and seek advice – I try to find someone that in knowledgeable about the area I am facing. Maybe someone that has gone through what I am going through. Maybe a financial advisor, maybe a Christian Counselor, maybe a trusted friend.
  3. Write down the pros and cons – For me it helps to put it on paper. What are the positives and negatives of making this decision. I write down everything I can think of on both sides. Sometimes I even ask others to give me their pros and cons.
  4. Don’t rush – I try never to make an emotional decision. Going slow is usually the best approach. We don’t always have that luxury, but often taking our time is the best approach. Do your homework and research and pray.
  5. Do what is right, not what is convenient – Try to think about what would be best in the long term for you and your family. Evaluate all the options. Saying no to a big opportunity because it would put to much stress on you or your family can be hard, but could be best in the long term. Ask God what the right thing to do is.
  6. Ask your self lots of questions – I try to ask myself things like why do I want to do this? What am I afraid of? If I do this how would it affect my wife & family? Will this make me a better person? Will this decision hurt other people? Will this improve my current situation or put me into more stress? What would Jesus tell me to do?

If you are facing “The Decision”, walk through these steps and then make the best decision you can. You won’t always get it right, but if you follow these guidelines it will help you make better decisions most of the time. When you get it wrong, admit it and try to not dig a deeper hole.

Meekness

I have been thinking about the word meek today. Just the sound of that world brings to mind a weak, quiet, kind of backward type person. As a leader we want to be known for being strong, courageous and bold. In our relationships we don’t want to be taken advantage of, so meekness is typically not on our radar. So being meek, doesn’t sound all that appealing to me.

Yet it is listed as a positive character quality by Character First and Jesus used this word in his first sermon. As I was reading through Mathew chapter 5 this morning I noticed this word. The other thing I noticed is that I highlighted verses 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 in the past while reading this Scripture. I did not highlight verse 5. It says “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” In the past I just skimmed over that because I did not like the word meek. So what does this word mean?

The dictionary defines the word meek as humble, patient or docile, overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame; gentle, kind. I don’t know about you, but I do not like some of those words. Another definition from Character First is “Yielding my personal rights and expectations with a desire to serve.” That is a little better.

If you study the life of Jesus, you will discover that Jesus was meek, but in a very good way. Matthew 11:29 describes Jesus as gentle and humble in heart. Meekness is not weakness as many people think. Jesus was meek, yet He drove the money changers from the temple. Moses was meek (Numbers 12:3), yet he judged sinners and even faced Aaron with his sin. Meekness means not asserting my own rights, but living for the glory of God. Christians are to show meekness, because we are prone to be self-willed and selfish. When we have the attitude of meekness it stands out in a selfish world.

Being meek is really about our attitude toward others. Are we teachable, or do we think we know it all? Do we always get defensive and have to prove ourselves as right, or can we simply allow others to be right. There are times that we must defend ourselves, yet most of the time it is not helpful. There is a reason Jesus described meekness as an attitude that should be in our lives. There is a great inheritance for those that are meek. I love the Message version of Mathew 5:5 “You’re blessed when you are content with just who you are, no more no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

There is something good about a person that is content with who they are. They are not trying to pretend to be someone they are not, or to impress other people. They are real. They think about how they can help and serve the people around them to make them better. They have compassion for people that are hurting and in need of help. They are generous with their time and listen intently to try to understand. They seem more interested in your life than their own when you talk with them. They are not judgmental in their attitude, but truly are interested in you as a person.

That is the kind of person we like to be around. That is how Jesus was, and people loved hanging out with him. This week I am going to work on this character quality of meekness. I am praying that I can have a greater desire to serve the people around me and make them feel important. I want to be humble in heart like Jesus was. How about you?

Taking Inventory

I was having breakfast with a couple of guys this week and one of the guys started sharing about how he turned his business around and started making progress and profits. This is what he told me:

I decided one day that I would take inventory of everything we are doing and stop doing anything that did not make money. If I can’t can’t make it doing only those things, then I planned on closing my shop and doing something else.

This was risky, because he would be turning customers away if it did not fall into one of the remaining services he wanted to do. He actually started referring the jobs that where labor intensive, but not profitable to his competitors. Over the years this strategy worked well for him. It allowed him to become very good at the work they did. The quality of the work improved and the level of customer service improved as well. By narrowing the focus he was able to become much more profitable.

I happen to work at a church and we have the same sort of strategy. We use phrases like less is more and narrow the focus in our strategy conversations. As a church we are not trying to make a profit, but we are trying to be really effective at leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. If we get too distracted with all kinds of ministry (labor intensive) activity we become less effective at reaching people and helping them grow.

It also is the same in our relationships. What would happen if you would take an inventory of all your current behaviors and actions? What if today you decided to narrow the focus in your marriage or important relationships and throw out all the stuff that doesn’t help, like unforgiveness, anger, sarcasm, the silent treatment, defensiveness, hurtful words, neglect, fear. jealousy, procrastination and selfishness. What is you only allowed things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, righteousness and self-control to be evident in your life.

You might think that is impossible, but with God it is possible. Invite God into your relationships and into your heart and ask him for those things to become your new inventory. When you do that your profits will start to increase and everyone around you will benefit. So what are you going to stop doing today, so that you can be more profitable later?