Tag: faith (page 2 of 4)

The #1 way to fight insecurity

Moses is one of my favorite heroes in the Bible. Partly because of the danger surrounding the time of his birth. Partly because he was an amazing leader. Partly because he got to part an entire sea.

 

The Delivery of Israel & the Red Sea, 1825, Francis Danby

But mainly because I love how real Moses appears. You get to see Moses’ humanity throughout his story. The fact that he’s weak, doubts his call, and still messes up gives me loads of hope that God could use me despite my weaknesses, doubts, and failures.

God called Moses to lead the oppressed Israelites to freedom from their bondage to Egypt, and Moses doubted whether this would work. After all, he was just Moses. And Pharaoh was the most powerful man in the world.

In Exodus 4, so God could prove to Moses that He is who He says He is, God asks Moses to throw his shepherd’s staff on the ground. When he does, it turns into a snake. He then asks Moses to pick it up by the tail. Not the head. The tail. (For the record, I have some level of faith…but if you ask me to pick up a snake by the tail, I’m out. Call someone else.)

Moses picks it up, then God tells him to put his hand into his cloak. When Moses pulls his hand out, it’s leprous. God instructs Moses to put his hand back in his cloak, and when Moses pulls it out, his hand has returned to normal.

Cool story, no? Crazy miracles, no? Moses had seen two miracles, right before his eyes, but still responded with this:

“O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” – Exodus 4:10

Sticks turning to snakes. Hands being turned all crazy. And Moses still doubted? Doubted that God could use his bumbling mouth to lead a people to freedom? Doubted that God could do what He said He’d do? Doubted God would come through for him?

Yep. Moses listened to the voice of insecurity.

Because Moses thought he was still operating in his own power.

Insecurity does a great job highlighting weaknesses and isolating you from Truth. Moses was weak, and on his own, he would surely fail. Before the most powerful man in the world, Moses would just curl up into the corner and cry, being constantly reminded of how weak and “unusable” he was.

Good thing for Moses, though, he wasn’t going alone. He was simply a mouthpiece for the living God.

We are Moses

We’re no different than Moses.

We see miracles all around us. We see God healing people (often through medicine). We see God reconciling marriages. We see addictions broken. Hearts far from God turning back to Him. Sons returning home. Fathers owning their responsibilities. Mothers selflessly giving of themselves. Walls coming down.

We even see God using us to bring about change in others. We see God working miracles in our own lives.

Great miracles.

But we doubt. We wonder how God could ever use us. Just like Moses did. We feed our insecurities and doubts, relying on our own strengths. We remind ourselves that we’re

  • weak
  • scared
  • busy
  • tired
  • funny looking
  • dumb
  • failure
  • wounded
  • ugly
  • hopeless
  • addicted
  • lazy
  • bitter
  • worn out
  • shameful
  • too messy
  • still in process

So how could God ever use us?

Because God says to you:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

It’s not about your strength and your gifts and your ability to lead. It’s about you trusting God to do what only He can do.

Your insecurities are a chance for God to show off through you. To remind you that it’s not about you.

Ready to fight doubt? Ready to defeat insecurity?

Take a step of risky faith.

And listen to the voice of God, not men.

 

 

Quit planning. Start doing.

Carrying around a megaphone doesn’t legitimize your message.

image credit: Flickr user Hazzat

It just makes your message louder.

Just like talking about your dreams doesn’t mean you’ve taken any real action to accomplishing them.

It just makes your dreams more widely distributed.

We love to talk about our plans and goals and dreams. Sharing your dreams is a great way to keep a conversation going, and make us seem like we’re the forward-thinking, out-of-the-box type.

But just like the guy who writes a blog about how to write a blog about blogging is great at spinning his wheels but creating no real movement, so too are our wheels spinning.

We go in circles trying to justify our inaction.

9 times out of 10, our inaction is driven by our fear.

Faith takes risks, trusting God to truly be a God who loves to do the impossible. You’ll never fully understand God’s power until you have the faith to believe, pray, and act on the fact that our God is a God who loves to do the impossible. (Re: Ephesians 3:20-21)

You can’t experience God’s power if you trust Him with what you, in your power alone, can do. Faith requires risk. Risk to trust God. Risk to fight your fear. Risk to believe and act in confidence that God is who He says He is and does what He says he’ll do.

Instead of writing about marriage, take your wife on a date.

Instead of taking about reaching out to your neighbor, do it.

Instead of leading others to be generous, do it yourself.

Instead of telling others about your dream, start living it.

Don’t write. Do.

Don’t speak. Be.

Don’t dream. Act.

 

 

What should you do when fear creeps in?

When I got married, I trembled with fear. Like a shaky leaf that crunches when you step on it, I was weak and breakable and vulnerable.

I think this is common.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. It makes me feel better about my trepidation.

image credit: Creative Commons, Jones DePalma

My fear, though, wasn’t one of questioning my decision to get married. It wasn’t founded in questioning my bride-to-be. It wasn’t even in questioning the timing.

My “fear” found its way into my pocket because the step I was making was altering the trajectory of my life.

Ever had a decision like that?

Maybe it was in deciding which college to go to. Or a change in jobs. Or walking away from a relationship that you’ve treasured, but that was damaging to you personally. Maybe you felt that flutter in your gut when you bought a car. Or a house.

Maybe it was when you found out you were pregnant, and quickly realized you had no idea what it took to be a parent.

Fear

Fear is a natural emotion.

Let me quote a Scripture for you that you may have heard before:

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Reading this verse at face-value, you’re left thinking that any ounce of fear shows you to be anti-God. That it’s not something that is consistent with being called a child of the King. That if you experience fear, you show yourself weak and faithless and un-usable.

Let me throw a wrench in that thought process before you tread down that road much further.

The verse here says that God didn’t give us a “spirit” of fear. In other words, we aren’t dominated by fear. We’re not paralyzed by fear. And we don’t let fear hold us back. It won’t be our master. Instead, our spirit, our heart, is driven by power and love and self-control, rooted in an unchanging, unshakeable, courageous God who seeks after our heart even in the midst of the most difficult times in life.

The presence of fear doesn’t show you to be anti-God. It shows you to be human. Emotions aren’t inherently evil. How you respond to your emotions, though, reveals your heart.

And if your heart is driven by fear, you’ll never do anything that matters. On the precipice of doing significant work, fear will be present, trying desperately to course its way through your body.

Yielding to the Fear

In those moments, you can yield to the fear.

  • “I can’t do that. I’ll fail.”
  • “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
  • “I don’t have that skill set.”
  • “I’m not worthy of that.”
  • “I could never sustain that.”
  • “Me?”

Yield to that fear, step back off the precipice, and return to life as normal.

Or press through it, reminding yourself of who God has created you to be, and take the plunge. Remind yourself that God has given you a spirit of power and love and self-control. “Fear” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move forward. “Fear” may mean it’s time to trust God to do what He said He’d do.

Pressing through fear

Take a step of faith.

Fear didn’t keep me from making the decision to marry my wife. It lit a fire in my heart to do what I knew God was calling me to.

Fear is normal. It means you’re human.

Don’t let it hold you from what God wants you to do. Satan would love that.

Instead, press through with resolve.

I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, or I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:9-10

Question:

What’s the biggest decision you’ve ever had to make? Did you have any hint of fear?

* image credit: Creative Commons user Jones DePalma

 

 

Prolonging bedtime

image via Naima Williams

At night, the last thing my wife and I do with our son is pray for, and with, him. One thing we always do is ask him who he’d like to pray for, because we want to get him in the habit of praying for people that he knows and loves. And he’s gotten pretty good at remembering people.

It’s a cool thing to be able to tell our friends and family, “Hey, Rex prayed for you by name last night.”

But lately, I think he’s picked up on the fact that the more names he suggests, the longer that “bedtime” is prolonged.

The more names he suggests, the longer mom and dad stay in my room.

The more names he suggest, the longer the light stays on.

He’s even begun naming, and praying for, things like his Mac Truck, the light (which he immediately reminds us that “Daddy” and “Poppy” fixed), his “Chloe” (a stuffed animal dog he likes to sleep with), his trains, and our family car. He’s prayed for fireworks, monkeys (jury’s still out on why he wants to pray for monkeys…), and lightning bugs. He’s prayed for his hat(s), his sucker, and himself. He’ll pray for my truck, “work,” and church.

And after a couple of these “extras,” I always say, “Ok, Rex, that’s enough. It’s time to go to sleep.” And I kiss him on the forehead, turn off the light, and close his door.

Faith like a child

But I wonder…is this really a ploy by my son to become more manipulative? Or is it a great example of the faith of a child?  Faith that says, “God’s provided these people in our lives…hasn’t He also provided these ‘things’ for our enjoyment and benefit?”

It’s reminded me to slow down. Because I don’t pray for the things he’s praying for. When was the last time I thanked God for my truck? Or for the lights in our home? Or for the beauty and wonder of lightning bugs?

When did I thank him for the simple joys of fireworks and…ahem…monkeys?

Have I ever thanked God for fun things like toys?

Or suckers?

I’ve got a lot of growing up to do. Never thought I’d learn that lesson from my 2 year old.

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” – Luke 18:17

 

 

 

Accountability

If you want accountability in your life, you’ve got to take responsibility.

image by Cassandra Security

Nobody will do that for you.  Others can pour into you, teach you, model for you, and share resources with you.  But if you want accountability, you’ve got to take that responsibility on yourself.  I’ve asked people to help me with certain aspects of my spiritual life.  Sometimes it’s “worked.”  Many times, it hasn’t.  But I’ve learned some principles along the way that have helped ensure success.

8 principles in seeking spiritual accountability

1. Ask for it.

If you don’t ask, nobody will respond.  You need these deep relationships that help you with your personal spiritual growth.

2. Help define what it needs to look like.

Don’t just assume that if you ask someone, they’ll instantly know what accountability needs to look like for you.  You have to help set the paramaters.  How often?  What will you talk about?  What questions should they ask you?

3. Be vulnerable and share your story.

Otherwise, how can someone else help?  If they don’t know who you are, where you’ve been, and the weak spots in your life, they’ll have no idea how to help you grow.

4. Take a risk.

You’ll never know if the person on the other end, that you’re asking to step into that relationship with you, is 100% trustworthy.  This is  a step of faith, not a step of pre-knowledge.

5. Remember that accountability is a two-way street.

This isn’t a cure-all solution.  You’ve got to be doing the difficult task of working on yourself and your own shortcomings.  Having someone “hold you accountable” doesn’t assure you’re accountable.  You’ve got to continue to actively pursue that relationship, and be open and honest with where you are at all along the way.

6. Give the other person the room to say, “No.”

This is a big responsibility that you’re asking someone to.  Give them the freedom to say that this is not the right season for them.  Forced accountability rarely works.  Both parties have to be willing to step in and do the hard work.

7. You have to continue to drive the relationship.

Don’t expect that you can ask once, share your story, and the other person will then magically follow up with you exactly when you need it.  You’re the one asking for accountability.  You need to be the one driving this relationship.

8. Ask for grace.

Since accountability isn’t a cure-all, there’s a good chance you’ll mess up again.  In a big way.  And this is where many “accountability partners” fall apart.  If you’ve messed up, you think, “I can’t possibly be honest about this with him now.”  And he’ll think, “I guess I’ve failed at holding him accountable.”  What needs to happen is what happened in the beginning: grace.  Set out from the beginning this idea that if failure happens, grace is the knee-jerk response.

You need someone to spur you on. (Hebrews 10:24) You’re too weak on your own to fight sin, insecurities, and the battles that rage against you doing what God’s calling you to do.  You need someone who’s got your back.  You need someone who is going to encourage you on the good days and the bad.  You need a warrior who won’t give up on you, who knows where you’re headed, and is willing to walk through the dark and the light to help you get there.

So encourage each other and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Do you have someone who’s intentionally encouraging you and helping hold you accountable?

Have you seen this kind of relationship misused?  Where one (or both) parties expected too much?

 

The quest for the perfect cup of coffee

If you’re in the business of leading people, you must also be in the business of building relationships.

If you’re not, you can forget about having any significant level of influence.

Yesterday, I had a cup of coffee from a Chemex.  You know how long it took between the time I ordered it and the time I took my first sip?

Nearly 12 minutes.

Was I frustrated?

Not a bit.

It was a perfect cup of coffee.  Perfect.  It was clean, smooth, and a bit chocolatey.  Its roasty-ness wasn’t overwhelming, but its flavors deep and rich.

With the Chemex, you don’t just hit a button and watch the magic happen.  You have to stand beside it the whole time it’s brewing, continuing to add more water at just the right time.  Then wait for the percolation to happen.  Then add more water (with a very specific type of kettle) to the areas that are dry, starting with the center and moving out towards the edge.  Until finally, after all of the water has percolated through and the brewing process is complete, you get a decanter full of perfection.  The cup of coffee that comes from the Chemex is truly a work of art.

And relationships are no different.

We’d like to think that relationships are microwavable.  Quick, easy, and cheap.  But they’re far from it.

Truths about Significant Relationships

Relationships take time, effort, and expense.

They take constant care and attention.  Don’t walk away, or you’ll miss that key opportunity, that key moment that the next step forward is contingent upon.

Each relationship is different.

Building relationships is not a one-size-fits-all model.  Just as each Chemex cup takes a slightly different amount of time to brew, depending on the grind of the coffee, the speed at which you pour the water, and the temperature of the water, so each relationship takes a different amount of effort, time, and care.

You can’t have significant relationships with a vast number of people.

There’s just too much expense involved.  It’s not possible to give of yourself enough to have deep, significant relationships with significant numbers of people.

Relational investments take cultivation to grow.

Don’t expect to hit a button, wave your magic wand, and voila!  Cultivating important relationships is hard work.  You’ll have to let other things slide.  Other commitments, responsibilities, emails, phone calls, and things less important.

It is worth the wait.

If you’ll give a relationship the time and effort it needs, you’ll be surprised the mutual benefits that will follow.

If you lose sight of the end goal, you’ll get frustrated.

You’ll get burned, feel like it’s too big an investment, and feel the tension to just move on.  Like this is a hopeless cause that’s benefiting nobody.  Offering grace, mercy, love, and hope isn’t something you do because you are looking for immediate results.

“Love is patient…Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7)

 

 

Do something

Doing something is much more important than doing nothing. *

My son tries new things all of the time.  He tries climbing something new.  Saying something new.  Eating something new.  Playing something new.

But what I’m challenged on is that he’s not afraid to try something new.  Even if that means failing.

Something happens when you start getting older.  You start aiming for “safe.”  Working to not rock the boat, keep the status quo, and not try anything new.

Don’t lull yourself to sleep.  We need you. We need your new idea.  Your insights.  Your excitement.  Your creativity.  Your passion.  Your failures.

Bring them all to the table.  And don’t hold back.

I talked with a good friend the other day.  He’s just become an elder at his church.  Here’s what he said,
I just don’t want to be the new guy that comes in with all kinds of ideas and shakes things up right off the bat.
And while I, at one level get it, I challenged him:
Be that guy!
They’ve brought him on as a young elder (yes, I see the play on words there…hang with me) because they believe in him, and he believes in his local church.  They trust him.  And these elders need to be challenged!  Be the guy that doesn’t take, “We’ve always done it like that…” as an adequate answer.
 

Faith does.  It doesn’t sit back on the sidelines and wait for someone else.  It takes risks.  Moves forward.  Follows its King.  (see Hebrews 11)

 

If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2:16-17

Doing something is more important than doing nothing.
What do you need to do today?

* I know that wisdom sometimes says, “Wait.”  But that period doesn’t have to last very long.  It lasted 40 years with God’s people in the wilderness, yes, but remember…that was a form of discipline/sanctification, not a way of “wisely” choosing to wait.

 

 

Harnessing courage

My son is a running, jumping ball of courage right now.

  • He rides his 4-wheeler down our front steps.
  • He jumped down 3 stairs the other day…measuring at least his height.  He hit the floor, tumbled a little, and kept on running and laughing.
  • Yesterday, he rode down our driveway (a fairly steep hill) as fast as he could on his little plastic truck…which was definitely not intended to be ridden as fast or as hard as he was riding it.
  • He’s not afraid (usually) of talking with a complete stranger.
  • He jumped off of his bed.  It’s taller than he is.

He just has this courageous spirit in him.  And I fight my hardest to not discipline that out of him.

Because seeing my son do courageous things thrills my heart, and I know it’s a expression of his God-given spirit of adventure.  And it would be easy for me to discipline that out of him in the name of safety and order.  I could demand that he not run amuck, that he play it safe, that he walk (err…jump) a more careful path.

But I am convinced that that’s not best for him in the long run.  That’s simply what’s good for me and my sanity in the short-run.

I want to encourage my son to continue to take risks.  Stand up to challenges.  Do things nobody else is doing.  Blaze his own path.  Follow his dream.  And live out the calling God’s placed on his life.  I want to teach my son to live dangerously. It’s much easier to rein that courage in, and point it towards Christ, than to re-program a man to live dangerously. I want to encourage him to be courageous now, and reward those small feats.

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. – 1 Chronicles 28:20

Have you ever been encouraged to live dangerously?

Disagree with the idea that boys (and men) living dangerously is a good thing?  Feel free to push back!  Click HERE to jump in the comments!

 

Markers

This is a guest post by Greg Bowman (on Twitter & Facebook) lives in Elgin, Illinois, where he is on staff with West Ridge Community Church as the Pastor of Spiritual Formation. He is co-author of Coaching Life-Changing Small Group Leaders and co-founder of the Communitas Network.  This is a series of posts where small group experts share how group life has impacted them personally.  The entire series can be found HERE.

 

For more than 30 years I’ve been a fan, student, proponent, leader and practitioner of group life. Dozens of significant mile markers stand out in my journey, but none more than the first time I felt genuine love and the invitation to be vulnerable and open in community.

I was the group’s pastor, and our group life ministry was in its infancy. We were in the honeymoon phase where everything was wonderful. We couldn’t even spell the word conflict in our groups.

In the church a series of events had led to the dismissal of a much loved staff member. The rumor mill was working overtime and people were hurting. An emergency leadership meeting forced a hard call–I needed to miss our life group on Monday night in order to attend.

Unfortunately, yet predictably, the church-wide pain spilled into the group that night. The lesson topic for the night was set aside and the group spent the evening questioning the wisdom of the church’s. At least that was my take on what happened when my wife filled me in later.

I spent the following week preparing to rescue the group from the conflict at the next meeting. I had it a great discussion scripted out. But it didn’t quite go as I planned.

After the usual coffee and snacks we gathered in the living room. I opened brilliantly. “So I am aware of the discussion last week, and I’m glad for the openness and honesty we feel as a group. I’m just wondering how is everyone doing this week?” There. It’s out in the open.

What happened next is what blew me away. From across the room one of the group members looked me in the eye and said, “We’ve all been in conversation with each other this week, Greg. We’re all fine. We support the leadership and we understand the decision. But knowing what you have been through, our question is, how are you?”

I was completely caught off guard. It was a level of maturity and care beyond what I was expecting from the group. Instantly I broke. To be honest, in the three months of conflict I had been through no one had cared enough to ask me that question. And so we processed my pain as a group. And then they put me in the center, laid hands on me and prayed.

That moment marked me. I realized that I could no longer simply teach community, or lead community in the local church. From a leadership perspective that’s inauthentic. From a personal perspective it’s not how I want to do the rest of my life. I want and need to do my life connected deeply to people who are authentic with their struggles and successes and who are open to share life in the context of community.

What experiences have marked you deeply in community? Helped form your core values?


 

Give yourself a break

I remember the day my son started walking.

He had been pulling up and cruising for a few weeks prior, so we knew he was just about ready to start letting go and walking on his own.  My wife and I were sitting across from each other in the middle of the living room floor, and I stood Rex up in between us.  He could barely get his balance.  In fact, he was so wobbly he fell down before he even got started.  So I stood him back up.

Then it happened.

He took a small step, then started to fall forward.  Just before he reached the point of no return (where he would fall flat on his face), he stuck his other foot out in front of himself.  His momentum carried him forward, and he forgot to put his other foot out in front, so he fell face first into my wife, who, along with me, clapped and cheered for our son.  He had started to walk!

So we stood him up again, and he tried once more.  Then he fell.  And smiled.

So we stood him up again, and he tried once more.  Then he fell.  And smiled.

So we stood him up again, and he tried once more.  Then he fell.  And smiled.

Then he got tired, so we quit for the day.

Notice this: he wasn’t so hard on himself that he wouldn’t try again.

Part of the hindrance to our spiritual growth is that we’re too hard on ourselves.  We beat ourselves up over and over again, when we’ve got a Father who, while we’re still a long way off, is filled with compassion for us, and is running towards us so He can throw His arms around us and kiss us. (Luke 15:20-21)

We, like the Prodigal Son, still beat ourselves up.  We respond, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Luke 15:20)

To which our Father says, “Let’s celebrate!” (Luke 15:23)

I’m not saying that we should act like we’re perfect, and can do nothing wrong.  But I am saying that we should not be so paralyzed in our sin that we don’t take another step forwards, towards our Father who’s running our way.  We could live in the reality that we’re sinners who are “no longer worthy to be called your son.”  But wallowing in our guilt and shame doesn’t help us move towards God.

Maybe we should start reminding ourselves that our Father is cranking up the music, getting His dancing on, and grilling up a feast for us.  Because He loves us that much.

Do you ever find that you’re too hard on yourself?

Is it time to give yourself a break, and celebrate even a small step in the right direction?

Do you know someone who needs to be reminded of this truth?


 

 
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