Don’t mistake a like for a love. We are all addicted to likes, but what we really need it genuine love.
And, we are chasing it – even if we don’t fully understand the chase.
One of the greatest feelings as a parent has to be watching your children sleep. I don’t get to do it much anymore, but remember those days as if they were last night.
When our boys started driving we didn’t have strong curfews. Our boys were responsible and knew our expectations, and they never came home very late – but it was often past our bedtime. Still, I didn’t fully rest until I could slip out of bed and see their cars in the driveway and knew they were in their bed – hopefully falling fast asleep.
Knowing they are safe – resting, under your care – has to be one of the greatest joys of being a parent. It was a comforting time of day.
I wonder if God gets a charge out of watching over His children as they sleep.
I wonder if He smiles when He sees a child – His child, you and me, drift into dream land.
I’m reminded of these verses:
“He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4)
When you are sound asleep, God is on watch – like a proud dad! Like a protective Father He is caring for His children.
And, not only this, He has the whole world in His hands. In other words, you’re safe! There is nothing to fear. Daddy has things under control.
As you go to bed tonight, capture the moment, imagine the emotion God has as He watches the child He made, whom He loves with an everlasting love, fall asleep. It’s a comforting feeling.
There’s always an excuse if we’re looking for one.
I’ve made so many excuses in my life. For years I may have sensed God was calling me into vocational ministry, but I had to provide for my family. I would be leading with the limps of previous failures – how and why would God use me? I didn’t have the most pastoral qualities either. For example, I’m far more of an organizational developer than I am a caregiver for the sick. There were a dozen others. If anyone had an encouragement for me to be in ministry – and I received lots – I had an excuse why it wasn’t a good idea.
Even when we are certain God has called us to something, we will stall because an excuse is always near.
And, most excuses seem reasonable at first glance. Common sense even. Think about the excuses Moses made for following God. I have to be honest – when I hear them, they make sense to me. I mean, if you’re not a good communicator – why send you as the chief spokesman for God?
But, God’s ways are not my ways – or Moses – or yours.
The reality is following a God-inspired, God-sized dream, always requires stepping into the unknown and always demands we overcome our excuses.
Are you stalling? Maybe you’re even running out of another good excuse. If an opportunity is still staring you in the face, let me encourage you from some of the best excuses I’ve used or heard – which have more times than not been proven wrong.
Your excuse is you don’t have what it takes. And, the sad part of this excuse – this also means you aren’t trusting God to provide what you lack. Saying I can’t to a God thing is an indicator of faith. If God calls you to it – you can do it because whatever you lack He will supply . (Gideon would love to weigh in on this excuse. Judges 6)
I don’t know how!
The task seems overwhelming and you may be too proud to ask for help. So, I don’t know how will just have to do for now. If you trace its roots – this excuse is often fueled by either laziness, apathy or fear. (Do you think Noah knew how to build a boat the size of an ark? See Genesis 6)
I don’t have time!
God calls for obedience now, but you’re preoccupied. And, chances are – with this as an excuse – you never will have time. This one has worked for me before too – for a season. What it really means is I have my time and God’s time. And, more specifically, I have my agenda and God’s agenda – and there is no time left in my agenda. (See how Jesus liked this excuse in Luke 9:57-62)
I’m all alone!
Leading out by faith feels this way sometimes, doesn’t it? Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to being obedient to God’s call. I once thought I was the only one with a burden to plant a church. It seemed to be a lonely burden until we stepped forward in faith. Little did Cheryl and I know God had an army of core members prepared just waiting to be asked. (Remember, Elijah thought He was alone – and he found out otherwise. 1 Kings 19)
And, the reality of this excuse is you can choose to let fear control you. I have. Many times. Fear is simply an emotion and it’s a powerful, often motivating excuse. Much could go wrong with your dream. You could mess it up! You could have misunderstood what you sense God calling you to do. Plus, our mind is capable and skilled at quickly creating worst-case-scenarios. But, know this. Trusting God, even when you’re afraid to do so, always produces God-appointed and God-sized victories. In fact, you can’t possibly get to the victory until you face the fear. (Could we learn anything here from Esther? Esther 3)
I can’t afford it!
You’re afraid the dream will be more expensive than the provision of God. You wouldn’t verbalize this one, but it’s real, isn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the money fear raised by potential church planters. I often say the money is in the harvest. (Tell this excuse to the widow in 1 Kings 17 or the disciples who picked up 12 baskets of leftover bread in Matthew 14)
This may be the boldest excuse. With this excuse you simply refuse. You may disguise it lots of ways, but the fact is you’re doing things your way – instead of God’s way. You can combine all the other excuses here, because you won’t even give it a try. In fact, if the truth is known, you’d rather run some more. I did this one for years. (How did this excuse work for Jonah?)
There will always be an excuse not to follow the dreams God lays on your heart. Obstacles in life are plentiful. You can keep making excuses, or you can address them one excuse at a time. The one who achieves most is often the one most willing to overcome excuses.
Stress is very much a part of life. Having traveled to many cultures, however, I think we may sometimes “specialize” in stress in America. It almost seems we look for ways to bring more stress in our life.
Yesterday, I shared some general ways to deal with stress.
Today I’m following up with some specific things I do, which help me deal daily with stress.
You can read yesterday’s post HERE.
Plan each day.
I know some will resist this because of the word I’m about to use – but, get a checklist for every day. I think we should begin each day with a predetermined win for the day – and for me, this involves completing a realistic checklist of accomplishments. Ask yourself – what do I need to complete today? Learn to plan what you can actually do. Don’t overcommit. As you get more disciplined, you can add some “stretch” items to the checklist. I try to do the harder ones or the ones I least enjoy doing first – so I get them out of the way. Complete an item or move it to another day. Keep in mind, if you keep moving items you are either not making good use of your time or planning too much for effectiveness. The more you plan days you can complete the less stressful individual days will be and, ultimately, the more effective you will be.
When I’m really stressed about a specific project, I like to take a break and work on something different – at this point, hopefully something I can easily complete. Now obviously this can become a problem if you never complete the stressful project, so use it as a help not a crutch. Sometimes, however, the energy created in making progress on another project will fuel you for the stressful project.
Review your time commitments.
This is huge. We tend to over-commit. Monitor all the ways you spend time. If you were going to create a monetary budget for the first time, financial planners would have you track everywhere you spend money. The same principle applies here. If you’re always stressed chances are good you have a time management issue on your hands. There are often things we continually do which bring us the most stress. Sometimes you may be able to delegate them – other times you may not even need to do them – and, at times you simply need to quit procrastinating, knock them out, and move on to something else. Figure out the problem areas, begin to address them with a good, disciplined approach, and you’ll decrease stress.
Practice redirection of thoughts.
Stress is often caused because we let our minds think about the wrong things. We have a natural bent towards worry, which always leads to stress. Some of us are more prone to this than others. When stress hits you – read a Psalm. Listen to a song. Recite poetry. Look at pictures of your family. Pray – (Because, ultimately, God is in control and you can trust Him.) Turn off the news and social media, which tends to add to stress most of the time. Take a moment to reflect on something of greater value in your life than the thoughts which are causing the most stress. When it’s people who are causing me stress, I sometimes pull out my “encouragement file”. Every leader needs one. These are encouraging notes or emails people have sent me through the years. Changing your thought process often lowers your stress.
Move your body.
Stress seems to germinate in my mind when I am still for too long. Take a walk. Stretch your muscles. Head to the gym. I have found the more the stressful season the more exercise I need – even during the middle of a busy day. When I come back from time in physical activity I’m more energized to attack stress and win!
Talk to someone who listens and cares.
Sometimes just walking to another office and venting – or phoning a friend – will relieve a stressful moment. Others, especially those who know me and care for me, can see things from a perspective I can’t see. They can speak into my day. They can help redirect my focus and give me a fresh start. Again, I mention prayer. We have to learn how to communicate with our Creator. One of my friends always says, “Prayer doesn’t always change my circumstances, but prayer always changes me.”
Stop and dream.
This may sound corny, but it works. What’s something you can look forward to? It may be at the end of the day, the weekend, or a year down the road. Knowing there’s something to look forward to beyond today helps me handle current stress. As a husband, I’m always intentionally trying to have a mini-vacation on the calendar for my wife and me. I know she and I both need it in our marriage to handle the daily stress grind. Again, don’t let this become a distraction to progress. You’ll have to discipline yourself back to the task at hand, but,in my experience, typically people who stress the most (people like me) are wired for progress more than process. We stress when things aren’t getting done fast enough and we tend to overcommit. I’m not sure our basic wiring will ever change, but sometimes, in the midst of a stressful moment, stopping to “smell the roses” lowers our stress level, gives us more fuel for the journey, and makes us more efficient – and more happy!
Those are a few tips. I hope they are helpful.
What tips could you add?
The world is stressful. And, as I view the world, it is not getting any easier. There seems to be little relief in sight. If anything, life seems more stressful today than even a few years ago. It may be getting worse – not better.
I’ve written about the subject previously, but it keeps coming up in discussion, so here we go again.
What should we do? How do we handle the stress of daily living?
I want to offer some general suggestions today and then follow up with a post tomorrow with some specific suggestions. I hope they help.
Have a greater purpose than today.
If life is all about your current situation – when times are good you’ll be good, but when times are bad – life will be very bad. You have to live your life with a greater purpose. What’s beyond today? Where are you headed? What’s the future look like for you? Do you have a plan beyond the stress of today? It will help free your mind from stress when you can lift your focus. Of course, mine is an eternal purpose! And, I recommend it, but there must be something you are living for beyond the stress of today.
Direct your thought life.
It is a discipline to think of the glass as half full. Stress often comes through what consumes our mind. Garbage in – garbage out. In times of extreme stress, we have to pull from a predetermined and preconditioned ability to look to the bright side. The Apostle Paul said it like this, “keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable.” (Philippians 4:8-9)
Stay as physically healthy as possible.
Stress attacks weakness. Exercise and eating healthy are always good ideas, but it becomes monumentally important during stressful times of life. We tend to do the opposite. We skip our workouts and grab junk to eat. In the process, we starve our bodies of energy and our brains of needed nutrition and activity.
We don’t often attribute this one to stress, but the lack of forgiveness injures you more than the person who injured you. Holding a grudge leads to bitterness. Bitterness leads to stored-up destructive emotions – which is a recipe for stress. Pile on the normal stress of life and you’re going to be one stressed out person. Let go. Forgive. Never hold a grudge for long. Forgiveness leads to freedom – and the more freedom you find the less stress will have an impact upon you.
Ground yourself in truth.
You need some roots in something which will sustain you during times of stress. God’s word is my foundation. I read it everyday. I memorize it. I sometimes write a verse down so I can see it during the week. Here’s a good verse: “He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.” (Philippians 1:6) Or, “When I am afraid I will trust in You, in God whose word I praise.” (Psalm 56:3-4) Find your verse – your truth – and cling to it; especially during stressful seasons.
Be a giver.
This one never makes sense to people until the try it, but people who cling tightly to what they have stress when they have less. The more we try to control what we have the more it leads to frustration when it seems to be in jeopardy. Giving does something spectacular in our hearts. It frees us to experience joy. (Again, you have to try this one for it to make sense.)
Take time to laugh. Decompress. Unwind. Choose the bright side of life. It is there even on the worst days. Sometimes I get up from my desk, put my headphones in my phone, crank up a fast worship song – and dance. I know – so much for being a Baptist preacher, right? But, it breaks the hold stress has on me at the time. Also, surround yourself with positive people when you can. Don’t surround yourself with negative people and don’t give them the same leverage in your life. Find a community of hope. This is what church does for me.
As I said, these are broad suggestions. Tomorrow I’ll share some specific suggestions for handling stress
What’s your remedy for stress?
You’ve failed. It was huge. Perhaps you did it on purpose. Maybe it was an accident. You may have stumbled into gradually over time or suddenly.
Bottom line: You did it. It was wrong. There’s no sense denying it now.
What you do next will determine if – and how well – you recover.
Be honest with yourself and others who need to know. Quit hiding from the truth. Stop making excuses. Your story is your story. Hiding only delays recovery. Own what you did and take responsibility for your actions. It’s a sign of maturity, but few make it to this point. Be one who does. You may have consequences to deal with – don’t try to run from them.
Ask God for forgiveness. If you are a believer, He’s already paid your penalty on the cross, but you need to acknowledge your sin to keep the relationship pure. Ask any injured parties for forgiveness. You’re not responsible for their granting of grace – only for your attempt to live at peace with them. Your hardest step may be to forgive yourself.
Create a new path. Consider the right way to do things next time – so you won’t face the same failure again. Do you need new friends? A new environment? Should you step away from a position for a time? How can you ensure those around you, whose trust you’ve broken can trust you again? Develop a plan of recovery – steps you need to take to move forward again.
Commit to your plan. They may mean new accountability. Commit to the people you love. Commit to yourself. Commit to walking a new path and writing a new story. You can do anything with the discipline and tenacity to see it through. Believe in the power and sufficiency of God’s grace in your life.
We should learn from every failure. You do not have to be defined by this season of your life, but you should mature from it. Move forward – looking back not to feel bad about yourself, but only enough to remind you to never go there again.
Have you ever recovered from a failure? What would you add to my list?
I’ve written before about my discipline of exercise. Honestly, it has to be one of the keys to me being effective in life and leadership. I can tell the difference in productivity when I exercise and when I don’t.
There are always seasons where the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’m traveling more, or I simply am busier than usual. I have to be more creative in those seasons.
I talk to busy, stressed pastors every week and frequently I ask them how they are staying physically fit. Most have been trained and are more disciplined in their spiritual life, but the reality is their physical life is impacting their health – and – if its not now, it will someday impact every other part of their life.
As much as it depends on me, I think it is important to take care of our health. But, I’ll admit, working 50 or even 70 hour weeks normally makes it difficult to fit exercise into an already packed schedule.
I’m purposeful enough though – and know the value – if I can, I’ll find a way.
Work on the elliptical.
This one takes practice learning to balance on the machine, but it’s proven gold in the quantity of my exercise. For example, a few times a week I go over my notes for Sunday. Why not do it while I exercise? I sometimes write blog posts from the elliptical. (Posts like this one.) It has become a great way for me to accomplish two things I need to do at the same time. What do you have to do that is a routine for you, but you could do while exercising? Anything? Be creative.
Exercise on lunch breaks.
One problem for me is eating three full meals a day. I can’t do it these days and maintain my weight. Sometimes my schedule dictates three meals, because many of my meetings are done at these times. I’m bad at resisting food when I have it in front of me. On days I can, I try to grab something light, fast and healthy and hit the road or gym. It fuels me for the rest of the day, gives me a sense of accomplishment and I’m healthier.
Walk to talk.
Weather permitting, Cheryl and I take walks together almost daily. It allows us to catch up on the day, debrief the week ahead and enjoy exercising together. I’ve done this with staff members too. If you schedule me for a phone call I will likely be walking as we talk. I’ve even gone to a stand up desk so I’m less tied to a chair. Remember this phrase: If you have an extended talk – take a walk.
Strategic mental breaks.
If I’m stuck in my thoughts, I can almost always spur myself if I exercise. The break in schedule always pays back dividends beyond the apparent loss of time. This is especially true during the most stressful weeks. (By the way, this means I’m always ready with clothes at the office or in my car.) If you need to think or pray through an issue – get your body moving. It’s almost always productive for me. It’s often my best prayer time.
Let my calendar be my conscience.
I love having a goal on the calendar. A half or full marathon – or even a 5K. You can walk it or run it, but knowing it’s coming for me is a motivator. I also sometimes plan my schedule around exercising. My long day to prepare for Sunday is Wednesday. I try not to have breakfast appointments this day because I want to get in a good run – especially if weather permits. Your calendar often controls the rest of your life – why not this vital area?
Again, I realize the value of exercise for my life – for the quality of my life – and so I’ll make time for it. You can find time if you are creative and disciplined with your time.
(By the way. This principle works for anything you value. Prayer. Bible reading. Relationships. We find time for those things which we value most.)
I’m open to learning new ones.
A spiritual leader, in my opinion, is called to lead well.
All leaders should lead well, but when one claims to be a follower of Christ their leadership reflects on his or her walk with Christ.
I have learned personally that leading well requires discipline. It doesn’t happen naturally.
You will never dream bigger than God. Imagine 1 Corinthians 2:9, as it relates to dreaming. (“No eye has seen no ear has heard”). It’s almost a challenge to plan bigger than God has in mind. God gave the creative mind to be used. Spiritual leaders must dream huge!
Oh, the neglected discipline of prayer! I’ve never met a spiritual leader who felt they prayed enough. Ask yourself, “What isn’t moving forward simply because I haven’t prayed?” The prayer of the righteous accomplishes much! (James 4:2-3, James 5:16)
A Christian leader should be a diligent worker. God honors hard work. Spiritual leadership is not only a Sunday event. There is no excuse for laziness when Kingdom work is at stake. (Proverbs 10:4, Proverbs 21:5, Matthew 25:14-30)
Waiting is a part of walking with God – a part of the faith journey. God does not give us every answer, nor commit to us the immediate outcome. He commands us to go sometimes before He tells us where. As followers of Christ, we must learn the fruit of patience and be willing to wait for God to move. (Isaiah 40:31, Hebrews 6:15, Psalm 25:21)
The Spiritual leader must learn to discern the voice of God and listen carefully for instruction. (John 10:27) Additionally, because the body is made of different people, spiritual leaders must be willing to listen to others – even when they have a differing opinion.
A spiritual leader, who desires to be like and lead like Christ, must discipline to be a student of God’s Word. (2 Timothy 2:15) Moses said “these words are your life.”
Investing in others – the ultimate call of the Christian’s life. Following the example of Jesus, delegation is not an option for the spiritual leader. Spiritual leaders must always be kingdom-minded and disciple other Christ-followers and leaders.
Be honest, which of these do you most need to improve upon as a spiritual leader?
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17
Wounds from a friend can be trusted… Proverbs 27:6
rebuke |riˈbyoōk|verb express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behavior or actions.
Years ago in high school, I had a friend tell me I was hanging out with the wrong people. It was hard to hear, but I listened to the advice and switched my sphere of influence. Looking back, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made, considering the different path my life took and the life of my former friends.
That’s only one example. Thankfully there have been many other times a friend loved me enough to help me see the mistakes I was making. Usually I knew, but the rebuke challenged me to alter my ways. I’ve had to “return the favor” many times.
There are times when you have to rebuke a friend in order to be a true friend. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is tell another what he or she is doing wrong. You may be the only one who cares enough to point out what everyone else sees, but refuses to address.
If you choose to accept the assignment of rebuking or correcting a friend, you should be sure you are accurate in your assessment – as much as you can be without a conversation, you should pray through the proper timing of your approach, and you should address the person and not others to keep from spreading gossip. And, this should go without saying, but you should make sure they are actually a friend. If the relationship isn’t a close one – you may not be the right person to approach them.
I’ve titled this post ways for a “Christian” to rebuke a friend. I believe these could apply to believers or non-believers. But, I did so because part of being in the family of God comes with certain expectations, such as love and forgiveness – which we are to extend to all our friends – whether or not they share our faith.
A rebuke should not be vindictive in nature or driven by jealousy or selfish interests. The betterment of your friend should be your sole objective. If this is not the case, you may only be acting from your emotions – and things will not go well. You will likely not be received well by your friend. Check your motive first. This is where prayer beforehand comes in handy.
As we should do with everything, correction of any kind should come in the context of a loving relationship. In fact, one standard might be to not rebuke people you don’t love. If done correctly a rebuke is a part of love. (If you don’t know how, THIS POST was written for a different purpose, but may offer some suggestions.) Part of maturing as a person is learning how to say hard things and still be kind doing so.
Don’t dance around or use subtleties when addressing the issue. State the problem as you see it. Keep in mind you may be wrong on some of your assumptions, so be prepared to listen as much as talk, but don’t leave them guessing what you mean either.
In addition to pointing out the problems you see, a loving response comes with some offers for resolution and a willingness to walk through any necessary recovery with the friend. Help them process where they are in life. Recommit your friendship to them. Follow up with them afterwards to make sure they know you care.
Be willing to extend grace and forgive the friend for any wrong they have done – towards you, others, or themselves. Make sure he or she knows you are still in their corner. Don’t offer a rebuke or correct someone if you aren’t also willing to forgive or if you don’t ultimately want the best for them – regardless of how they respond.
Do you have a friend you can count on to rebuke or correct you if needed?
Our series – simply called NEW – began encouraging you to discover something new. The God who never changes is always doing something new.
This was a New Year challenge – appropriate for all the year. In this message I explain, “Much of what you get out of your year is going to be determined by what you put into it. If you simply go through the motions, don’t expect to receive a lot from it.”
And, “if one of your goals in the New Year is to be a better disciple – the reality is – you’ll have to be intentional. It won’t simply happen.”
Live intentional. I pray this message, and the ones to follow, help you. God bless.