5 Questions to Discern a Life Change

This is a guest post by Bill Blankschaen. Bill is a writer, thinker, speaker and non-profit leader passionate about connecting real life with real faith. You can follow him on his blog, Twitter, Facebook, and at Patheos.

Changing your direction in life is never easy. Especially if what you’re presently doing is truly helping a lot of people. Yet we all know change is unavoidable. So how do you know when it’s time to go?

I’ve wrestled intently with this question for the last nine months. As a non-profit leader for a dozen years in a successful Christian school, I knew I was doing a lot of good. People shared their sincere appreciation often.

Yet I sensed a restlessness within. I felt a call, subtle at first, to better steward my God-given gifts of writing, thinking, speaking, and – yes – leading change along the way. My passions, above all, pulled me toward connecting those gifts with my faith.

And yet my faith was what motivated me to serve where I was. Hence, the tension.

Maybe you’ve been at that conflicted fork in the road before. Maybe you’re there now. I decided it was time to step out by faith after getting a lot of wise counsel and asking some critical questions.

Here are five questions you should ask to find out if it’s time for you to go in a new direction?

  • Are you centered on what matters most? For me, my faith in God grounds all I do. Your foundation may be different but still vital. If something is interfering with that core relationship, it’s tough to trust any other inputs, including your own. Make sure you have good spiritual habits in place to keep the main thing the main thing.
  • Are you clear on your calling? Most people settle for simply drifting into oblivion. Our restlessness is simply our subconscious self telling us to get intentional about our life direction. It was when I took a retreat to prayerfully consider my own calling that my choices became clear – as did my self-centered excuses.
  • Are you growing where you are? I heard John Maxwell say recently that if you’re at the head of your class, it’s time to find another class. It took a casual comment by my friend Doug Carter to realize that I needed to raise my own leadership lid to keep growing.  If you stop growing, you start dying. Soon no one will want to be around you, no matter how sincere you may be.
  • Are you running from ______________? The odds are good that your subconscious just filled in that blank with whatever you presently fear most. If you want to leave to avoid a challenge, it’s not going to work. Ask Jonah. Better to confront it now. The fear will only follow you.
  • Are you willing to moving forward?  Seth Godin shared a neat trick to call your own bluff. Write down the one barrier that keeps you from acting on your dream. Now set it aside and ask yourself, “If that barrier were removed, would I move forward?” If no, you’ve uncovered another wall closer to the foundation of your fears.  If yes, focus your creative efforts on how to remove the barrier – or get around it

Have you ever faced a significant change in your life direction?

What questions do you suggest to help get clarity during seasons of change?

Leave a comment to share your story or suggestions for growth.

A life principle my daddy taught me…

It is what it is…

My father was probably the most bottom line guy I know. One of his most quotable lines was “The main thing is don’t get excited.” If anyone was ever tempted to stress about an issue he would interject that often repeated line.

Occasionally, I remember him adding another sentence into stressful moments. He would say, “It is what it is…”.

In other words, you can’t change it now. That’s a fact, Jack.

Admitting that “it is what it is” allows you to quit complaining and actually do something about it.

Do you need to admit:

Your marriage is in trouble…

You have a spending problem…

You’ve let your weight get out of control…

You’ve been a lousy friend…

Your relationship with God is struggling…

You are surrounding yourself with bad influencers…

You are in over your head…

(Insert yours here)

It is what it is…

Now that you’ve admitted IT

What are you going to do about it?

2 Keys to Moving Beyond the Danger of Comparison

This is a guest post by Tyler Braun. Tyler is a pastor from Portland, Oregon whose first book, Why Holiness Matters, just released. Learn more about a special offer for purchasing the book. You can find Tyler on Twitter, Facebook, or his blog.

2 Keys to Moving Beyond the Danger of Comparison

“I’ll never be able to write like that.”

“If my church had the resources that church had then we’d be set.”

“I sure wish God had given me the musical talent he has.”

“What I would give to have as many church members as him.”

Admit it, you’ve had thoughts just like this. Probably more than once.
Maybe even today.

We’re all prone to compare ourselves to those around us. As a writer,
pastor, and musician I’m constantly wondering how I stack up next to others
out there doing similar things. Do people like me as much or more than
others?

Comparison is dangerous. Give yourself enough time comparing your meager
efforts in life and you’ll begin to realize just how awful you really are.

Comparison is dangerous for what is does to you, underneath the surface. It
wages a war against your morale and puts you into a submission that forces
stagnation.

But comparison also tarnishes the Creator God who created you His image.
Consider Brennan Manning’s tough words:

Any attempt to measure the value of our lives by comparison and contrast
to others belittles our gifts and dishonors God by our ungratefulness
” (pg.
144, Ruthless Trust).

None of us want to dishonor the God who created us. None of us want to
remain stagnant by comparing ourselves to others. Yet we do it. Over and
over again.

Having struggled mightily with this over the past year, I’ve yet to rid my
life of comparison, but I have been able to overcome it much more often.

Rather than being stuck in the prison of comparison that damages my
self-worth and dishonors God I’ve allowed 2 principles to move me past the
danger of comparison.

1. Speak Truth to Yourself

If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. In comparison to others, what is
lost is the truth about how God sees you and how He has gifted you.

Every morning I spend the first 15 to 45 minutes in prayer, meditation, and
reading. I always end the time by reciting this short and simple prayer of
truth:

*You are not defined by what you do. You are defined by who you are. You
are a son of the King.”

Comparison sums up our lives by what we’ve done in the past rather than
looking to the future, and it certainly doesn’t take stock of where our
identity should be placed.

Mere words or the recitation of a short prayer won’t have a short term
effect but they could very well by the launching point for you.

It’s often the smallest, incremental shift that leads to the most
significant change in our lives.

2. Discover and Develop Your Gifts

Comparison brings us down because we’re trying to impute someone else’s
gifts into our lives. God didn’t create us that way.

We weren’t created in order to try to become like someone else. We were
created to discover how God uniquely made us and to live out this creation.
But discovering is not the end game. We all know someone who has incredible
gifts and talents but squanders it all away by not developing what they’ve
discovered.

This is where the help and influence of others come in. I’ve yet to
discover a gift of mine without the influence of another person who helped
me see what I could not.

You cannot simply know your gifts, you must understand them.

We can know our gifts through textbooks but we must develop them by living
them out to truly understand them. Through our engagement of relationship
with God and others we can continue living out the creation within us.

God asks one thing of you: Be who you are created to be.

As the old saying goes, “Be who you is, cause if you ain’t who you is, you
is who you ain’t.”

Those of you who have struggled to move beyond the danger of comparison,
please share some of your comparison story in the comments.

What Every Senior Pastor Needs From His Staff

This is a guest post by Eric Speir. Eric is a staff pastor, writer, blogger and educator. He likes to use biblical principles, coaching, practical wisdom and encouragement to help others to thrive in every area of their life. You can read more of his posts at www.ericspeir.com and follow him on Twitter @ericspeir.

What every senior pastor needs from his staff:

Being a pastor can be a lonely and brutal job. It’s a task that requires determination, tenacity and a work ethic that rivals most NFL coaches. Even if a pastor is gifted in many areas he cannot accomplish everything on his own. In fact, pastoring is nothing new, because it’s been around for a long time.

In the Old Testament Pastor Moses, the first mega-church pastor, had more problems that most pastors can dream up. At one point he almost had a nervous breakdown until the Lord intervened and sent him a wise mentor and raised up a staff around him.

If Moses couldn’t do everything by himself, then it is more important than ever for a pastor to have a staff around him that can help to accomplish the God-given vision. With this in mind, there are some characteristics that every pastor needs in a staff:

Every senior pastor needs a staff that…

• Is committed to the same vision he is. If you’re not committed, then find somewhere else where you will be. There’s no shame in finding a place where you’ll be effective in ministry.

• Will overlook his bad days. David had the chance to stab Saul in the back when he caught him with his pants down, but he chose not to. Remember, everyone has a bad day!

• Will pick up the trash when he needs you to. Simply put, don’t be afraid to do something that seems beneath you.

• When you say you’re praying for him, then actually do it. Being a senior pastor is a tough job that most people won’t ever understand.

• Has his back, instead of talking behind it. In other words, when you have a problem, bring it to the team, instead of to people who can’t help.

• Can help solve problems and be team players. Jesus couldn’t do ministry by himself, pastor’s can’t do it all either.

• Can think BIG! Anyone can be small-minded, but it takes someone extraordinary to think what could be.

• Can laugh and cry with him. It’s easy to forget your pastor is human and bleeds the same color blood as you. Just because he’s the spiritual leader, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have needs as well.

What would you add to this list? How can you serve your leader better?

Go ahead…Give up!

Go ahead…Give up.

Seriously. Quit trying. It’s easier. You’re probably tired. It might not work anyway.

Sure. It was a God-given dream. Of course, it was His idea. But you gave it a good shot. You hung in there longer than most. Find your justification…create the right excuses. Make yourself feel better about quitting now so you can move on with your life.

Sure, you may be quitting just before a victory begins. You will never know what could have been. But, you can process your regrets later. For now, live for the moment. Get some immediate relief.

There. Is that the “encouragement” you wanted, or do you not do sarcasm very well?

For how I really feel, click HERE.

10 Tips for Recovering from Major Disappointments

Sometimes life throws curves at us that take the wind from our sail. If we aren’t careful we can allow the injury to haunt us for life; never regaining what we have lost.

Have you lost a job recently? If you’re not careful, you will falsely assume that you could never get as good of a job again.

Have you had a business failure? If you’re not careful, you’ll keep yourself from ever taking a rid again.

Did you suffer from divorce? If you’re not careful, you’ll believe you can never recover or receive God’s grace.

Did your spouse have an affair? If you’re not careful, you’ll never risk intimate love again.

The Devil loves when you doubt yourself.

What steps should you take to get back on track and succeed again after a major disappointment?

Here are 10 tips to consider during the recovery process:

Reconnect with God. This is always a wise idea, but it becomes a necessity at times like this. Times of disappointment can cause us to emotionally pull away from God. Our faith may still be in tact, but our daily trust waivers. We may know God is able, but we have a harder time trusting Him to do what needs to be done. (I preached about this issue HERE.)

Evaluate your life. Use this time to reevaluate the decisions you have made in life and what got you in the situation you are in today. Are there changes that you need to make? If so, be willing to change. If you did nothing wrong in this case, release yourself from responsibility.

Create some new dreams. Don’t allow past mistakes to keep you from discovering your passions in life. Keep those creative forces going in your mind so you’ll be ready when the next big opportunity comes along. Give yourself permission to believe the impossible. God does.

Call in the advisors. Others can usually see things we cannot see. They approach our life from a different perspective. Give someone you trust, who has your best interest at heart, access to the painful part of your life…and the freedom to speak into your life.

Don’t take your pain and anger out on others. It doesn’t make things better (usually worse) to hurt others because you are hurting. Innocent people shouldn’t be subjected to the wrath of your pain.

Take a break. Don’t expect to recover immediately. Your situation and the emotions and struggles because of them, probably didn’t start overnight and they will not end overnight. Give yourself time to heal.

When it’s time, be willing to risk again. Yes, you may get hurt again, but just as life is full of disappointments, it’s also full of joy and discovery. Remember that everyone is not the same and every situation is different. Don’t hold your past experiences against others who weren’t even there or against a future that hasn’t come.

Don’t let failure or disappointment define you. Be defined by God’s love for you and His plan for your life.

Do something. Rest yes, but at some point, just do something to stay busy and occupy your mind. It’s true that the “idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. If you lost your job, find somewhere to volunteer until you find another job. If you lost a relationship, find non-sexual relationships through church or civic activities to keep from being alone. If nothing else, start journaling as a way to release your thoughts. Do something.

Get back in the game. Choose your next steps carefully and don’t keep repeating the same mistakes, but at some point it will be time to enjoy life again. Life was not meant to be lived on the sidelines.

What steps do you have for receiving from disappointment?

(This is an expanded version from a previous post.)

You’ve Got More…

…than this world could ever offer!

far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:21 NIV

Nothing is better than what the believer gains through Jesus Christ!

I used to think I wanted to be President of the United States! When I was 18, I thought that I would be the nation’s youngest president at the age of 36. (There would have been an election that year and I would have been old enough.) Well, needless to say, that didn’t happen. What if it had? What a title! President of the most powerful nation in the world would have certainly been impressive! I suspect my blog traffic would have been higher these days. :)

I once wanted to be rich. I had “noble” purposes. I was going to make lots of money, give lots away, and own a beach house too! I was on a good track, but something got in the way. Mainly I lost what I had started with. God called me into ministry…and…well, you know the rest of the story.

I have a friend who is running for a high elected office. If he wins, and I think he will, he will be powerful. I could be envious of his opportunity, but instead, I’m trying to appreciate the influence God is potentially giving him.

I have another friend who is worth millions! Mega millions. His millions have millions. He has worked hard, been blessed greatly, and was often “in the right place at the right time”. It would be easy to be envious of him and his wealth. I try, however, to appreciate what God has done and is doing through my friend’s resources.

Often we look at people or positions in life and think to ourselves: “if only I could be where they are” or “if only I had what they have…everything would be okay”. For the believer, Paul reminds us that we have what is far better than anything this world can offer. We have a relationship with the Creator of the heavens and the earth. We have an inheritance that we share with the Son of God. We have a promised eternity that outshines all the wealth of the world! We have Jesus!

If you are finding yourself overwhelmed by what the world has that you don’t, and if you ever become dissatisfied with your appeared lack of worldly treasures, remind yourself whose child you are. You are heir to the Throne of Grace! Your Daddy owns the cattle on a thousand hills. You can boast that your family heritage includes Jesus!

What you have is far beyond what this world can ever offer!

Do you need that reminder today?

Got a Problem Facing You? Follow David’s Plan

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went out against them. 1 Chronicles 14:8

Sometimes you have to approach a problem head-on…not waiting until it finds you.

Have you got a problem staring you in the face? Is there a conversation you know you need to have, but you’re afraid of the response of the other person? Do you need to challenge a friend? Do you need to admit your marriage is in trouble? Are you struggling with some difficult business decisions?

You can ignore it.

You can hope it goes away.

You may even be able to run from it…for a while.

Eventually, most problems have a way of surfacing again.

My advice, follow the example of King David. Attack your problems before they attack you.

You’ll have more control on offense than on defense.

What problem do you need to face today?