7 Steps to Achieve Your Dreams

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I love and encourage dreaming.

I think dreaming is healthy for our emotional well-being. It’s a process that helps us accomplish great things personally and for God.

We are told we serve a big, creative God, whose thoughts will always be bigger and better than ours. We are to walk by faith. We are to trust God into the unknown. Dreaming should be natural to believers. Dreaming stretches the vision of churches and organizations, it fuels creativity, and many great opportunities develop first as a dream.

The reality is –‘however — that more people have dreams than attain them.

Perhaps you have dreams you have yet to accomplish. I certainly do. One reason dreams never come true is that we don’t have a system in place to work towards them. I love to be an encourager for people with great dreams, so with that in mind, here are some steps to help you move towards reaching your dreams:

Identify your dream – This is where you list specifically what the dream would look like. Obviously it needs to be attainable. If your dream is to create a new moon you may be disappointed, but don’t be afraid for it to be a stretch either. For example, suppose your dream is to be to be an author. That’s a dream you can accomplish, but it may not be realistic to write the next Purpose Driven Life.

Make an action plan – Write down specific action steps you can take towards attaining your goal. (The writing down part is important.) Sticking with the the idea of being an author, perhaps you could start with a blog for which you write post regularly to build the discipline of writing. Then move to outlining chapters. Then you might set aside a few hours a week to actually write the book. Record realistic dates to begin/complete each step.

Develop accountability – Most of us work harder when we know someone is going to challenge us to do so. Consider the success of programs like Weight Watchers. Accountability works, so share your plan of action with a few people who will continue to challenge you to completion.

Share the load – Even though it is your dream, the best ideas are accomplished when people work together towards a common vision. Don’t be afraid to invite others to help you accomplish your dream as needed.

Take a risk – If you really want to succeed, you must be willing to risk failure. Every great dream has an element of risk involved and the ones who achieve their dreams are the ones wiling to assume the risk.

Stay consistent – If you want to achieve your dreams, you will have to keep at the task, even during the set backs. Push yourself to complete scheduled action steps even on days you may not want to do anything. These is how habits are developed. Many give up too soon, often just before the tipping point towards success occurs. Unless you know it’s time to try another dream, stay consistent with the one in front of you.

Get started – The longer you wait, the more you delay achievement and the less likely you are to begin. If you know the dream is worth achieving, if you are confidant it’s a God-honoring, morally right, and worthy dream, then start today!

What is one dream you have yet to attain? Why not take one meaningful step to get started today?

Encouragement to Take a Leap of Faith and Continue the Journey

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If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp. Judges 7:10-11 NIV

God looked into Gideon’s heart and saw that he needed some encouragement for the task ahead.

Gideon had already agreed to obey God. He had kept the three hundred men God had ordained for battle and sent the rest of the men home.

Still, God must have seen fear in Gideon’s heart, so God allowed Gideon to hear something, which gave him encouragement.

I deal with a lot of people on the brink of greatness for God. They are often pastors and church planters, missionaries, ministers or believers who know God is calling them to something, but one thing stands in the way — FEAR. I understand. Been there. Have several t-shirts.

Here’s a word of encouragement for you.

If uncertainty is causing you to fear your next move or to act upon what you believe God is calling you to do — learn a lesson from Gideon’s story.

Understand that God knows your strengths and your weaknesses. He knows where you most need encouragement. God ultimately wants you to trust Him completely, without having to depend on anything or anyone else, but He also knows you are still a work in progress. You’re still growing your faith. He will be patient. He is fully prepared to see you through your doubts to His glory. However long that takes.

Keep in mind that God’s ultimate goal is the complete control of your heart. Therefore, God often sends people your way to encourage you in your walk. He wants you to fully and completely trust in Him, so He will kindly allow you at times to see the good you are doing in ministry. God wants your complete obedience, so He occasionally allows you the privilege of seeing the direction He is taking you.

Many times, however, you and I are left to walk with God simply by faith.

I hope God sends you the encouragement you need today to allow you to move forward in obedience to Him, but if He allows you to wrestle with your own doubts today, may I be a voice of encouragement to tell you God is trustworthy? He proves faithful. Every time.

Step big into the awesomeness found in a life that is fully obedient to God’s will!

I wonder if Gideon could have read his story in reverse if he would have lived it all over again. Somehow I suspect He would!

Having a Gut-Honest Talk with Jesus

Jesus asleep

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:38 NIV

I have been told that the stern is the strongest part of the boat. The Creator of the universe was asleep there.

The One who made the waters and was there when the waters were parted; who led Moses as Moses led the people through on dry ground — that same One had His head on a cushion — sleeping soundly.

The One who walked with three guys in the fiery furnace — in all of His current humanity — had decided He needed some rest.

The disciples, however, had apparently lost sight of the fact that, Jesus was not only human — not only needing rest — He was also God. Creator. Master.

The One who was asleep was never out of control. He was never without a plan. (It was His idea to get in the boat.)

I am reminded that I forget the same thing at times. I accuse Jesus of not caring. Of not being aware of my current situation.

No, I don’t say that — at least not very loud. I have too much respect for the Creator to do that. So, I just mumble it under my breath — or think it loudly — as if He who reads the heart doesn’t already know.

Have you ever felt like the disciples felt?

Have you ever wondered if Jesus cared?

Has the thought crossed your mind that Jesus might not even be aware of your current situation?

Have you thought, “Jesus, I see my problems, don’t you?”

Or maybe, if you are completely honest, have you ever felt something like, “Jesus, don’t you care?”

Wow!

Of course, our spiritual piety would never allow us to admit our weakness in this area fully. Could I as a pastor really admit that I doubted His love?

Could you?

Yet if I am honest, sometimes from my perspective, it appears that Jesus is nowhere to be found when I need Him most and I am left all alone to wallow in my sorrows.

Did I just say that?

I think the best thing we can possibly do in those situations is to be like the disciples and admit our frailty to God.

And, here’s the truth we may know but not always live.

When we get gut honest with Jesus about our insufficiency — is often when He is most willing to do what only He can do.

Do you need to have an honest talk with Jesus today?

20 Life-Changing Acts of Courage

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One single act of courage can change a life…often many lives.

No doubt, if you live a “normal” life there will be decisions you have to make that take courage. You will often have to walk by faith, be willing to risk everything, and trust God for the results, which often seem slow to arrive.

Sometimes doing the right thing is not the easiest thing to do. Most of the time, it takes courage to follow your heart, conviction, or God’s calling on your life.

But, when we act with courage into the places where God leads, it always brings greater rewards than we could imagine.

I reflected recently on some random examples that I have seen people make over the last few years…some of them from within my own family…that took courage, but the results were huge. At the time, some of them may or may not have seemed to be that “big of a deal”…and some of them were obvious risks, but in the process of completing them, the courage required can be equally huge.

20 Random Life-Changing Acts of Courage

  1. Leaving the job you hate (or love) so you can start the dream you’ve hidden.
  2. Taking the first step towards your God-given dream when everyone else is saying it can’t be done.
  3. Confronting the unspoken conflicts in a marriage.
  4. Offering forgiveness even when undeserved.
  5. Trusting God with money you don’t have.
  6. Beginning a Christian ministry in a predominately Muslim country.
  7. Letting go of the employee who is holding back the team, yet refuses to improve.
  8. Attempting again something you’ve failed at so many times.
  9. Planting a church…or trying to change an existing one.
  10. Ending the friendship that always drags you down.
  11. Trusting one more time the one who has hurt you so much.
  12. Moving the family for a new “opportunity” when the outcome is unclear.
  13. Speaking truth in love when it’s politically unpopular.
  14. Releasing the right to get even, even at the expense of your pride.
  15. Surrendering your will to God’s will.
  16. Putting other’s agenda ahead of your own.
  17. Standing up for someone everyone else is rejecting.
  18. Reaching out to a stranger, because you felt “led” to do so.
  19. Admit your struggle, sin, or failure to someone…even though you are afraid of the consequences.
  20. Ask for help even though you’re embarrassed to do so.

As I stated, those are random examples and your examples will be different from mine. Granted, some of these “appear” harder than others…requiring more courage. I never know when I write a post like this which chord I will strike and with whom. I have learned, however, that context makes life relative. Your act of courage can be “equal” to mine if God is calling you to an unknown reality. Moving forward into uncertainty requires a courage you don’t always have initially. Choosing whether or not to move forward and mustering the needed courage, is often what separates the ones who achieve great things from those who remain disappointed with their progress in life.

Here’s a voice of encouragement to you today…if you know you need to move forward…but you are afraid…I understand. I’m praying you’ll find the courage to trust God with the outcome and do what you know to do next.

What is something you have had to do that took a great deal of courage?

Facing Fear at the Crossroads of Influence

Jenni Catron

This is a guest post from my friend Jenni Catron. Jenni serves as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, where she leads the staff and oversees the ministry of five campuses. Jenni and I have had the privilege of brainstorming together. She has a great leadership mind. She loves a fabulous cup of tea, great books, learning the game of tennis and hanging out with her husband and border collie. Jenni’s passion is to lead well and to inspire, equip and encourage others to do the same. Recently Jenni announced on her blog a new adventure in ministry. Read about it HERE. Jenni blogs at www.jennicatron.com. Excerpts of this post are from her new book CLOUT:Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence

Facing Fear at the Crossroads of Influence

Alex had the makings of a star staff member. He was passionate about his job. He had inspired vision for where he wanted to lead people. He was eager to step in and provide leadership to a group that had been floundering for some time. As his leader, I was so excited for him and the possibilities of growth ahead. The first year was challenging, but he kept his chin up and pushed through difficult growing pains. But soon I began to notice signs of discouragement in his eyes. Something had changed, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I saw fear instead of excitement and optimism. Where I still saw obvious potential, he saw roadblocks.

Over the next six months the situation deteriorated. I couldn’t make sense of why things were spiraling south so quickly. Gradually as I kept engaging him in conversation, he shared that he was terrified of being a failure. He feared that he wasn’t capable of doing the job that he had been hired to do. His fear that others would see him as a failure caused him to try to cover it up rather than share that he was struggling. Because he wouldn’t confront the fear with truth, many of those he influenced eventually lost trust in him.
As leaders, we often confront our greatest fear at the crossroads of influence. We face our greatest fear at the threshold of our greatest opportunity to make an impact. Not to confront this fear would be to deny who we are created to be. We’d be sabotaging the very calling and purpose we are designed for.

Fear impacts our influence in several ways:

Fear Hides
We often try to hide from our fear by ignoring that it’s there. Rather than acknowledge it and replace it with truth, we allow ourselves to live with the darkness it creates. We don’t want to acknowledge we fear failure, so we cover it up with pride and the drive to perform.

Fear Isolates
In the isolation of our minds, fear can be tormenting. The truth found in 2 Timothy 1:7 is an important reminder: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (nkjv).
We fear not having enough, so we are scarce with praise and stingy with our resources, which continues to close us off from developing relationships with others.

We fear that others won’t love or accept us for who we are. Our imperfections feed our insecurity, so we remain distanced and walled off from others.

Fear Paralyzes
Fear can also paralyze us from moving forward. We fear chaos, so our constant need for control causes us to slow things down while we try to get a handle on it. Our need for control can become paralyzing and is extraordinarily dangerous to our leadership and influence. If we’re unable to get some sense of control, we may give up altogether.

God equips us with plans to use us. Yet I believe that many of us miss opportunities to cultivate our influence because we choose the wrong route at the crossroads of influence. We turn around and run back when faith requires a leap that we’re too afraid to take.
Economist and political adviser John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time.”1

To influence others you have to help move them to new realities and possibilities. You can’t take them where you haven’t led yourself. You must be willing to confront your fears and lead others through theirs.

Fear finds us at the edge of the cliff: the moment when we must make a decision. When you find yourself there, do you give in to fear or step out in faith? Fear turns tail and runs. Faith takes the leap. Faith sees beyond the fear and recognizes that you were uniquely designed and created for this moment!

1. John Kenneth Galbraith quoted from his Age of Uncertainty (1977), in Bill Clinton: The Inside Story by Robert E. Levin (New York: S.P.I. Books, 1993), 246.

Confusing Critical Thinking with Negativity

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I love development within an organization. It challenges and inspires me to attempt to make things better. I previously wrote about three activities every organization and everyone in the organization must do to be healthy; growth, maintenance and development. (Read that post HERE.) Each of us tend to specialize or prefer one of those activities and mine is development. Development, by the way, is often the one neglected by organizations and/or leaders. We tend to push growth and then we attempt to maintain the growth. Over time, however, growth stalls unless things are developed (made better).

Development involves asking questions, thinking how things can be made better and desiring consistent improvement.  The problem for developers is that we get push back from those that prefer growth or maintenance. (Or those who operate out of fear or insecurity. I wrote about that HERE.)

As I see it, we often confuse critical thinking with negativity. I realize some people don’t know how to think critically without being negative, and some people can never celebrate the moment, but because of that, we often think of the word criticism and automatically take it personal. We develop turf wars over our areas. Fear keeps us from being open to critique. Critical thinking, however, when used correctly, is an effort to think towards making things better for the good of the organization and everyone on the team, not attacking a particular person or program.

Whenever people reject evaluation, I’m always tempted to ask:

  • What are you afraid of people finding out if they question your decisions?
  • What fear is causing you to avoid critical thinking?
  • If you want improvement, how will it come if you don’t critique/evaluate?

Don’t be afraid to think critically about your area or allow others on your team to help you do so. Your best days may be still to come, but you won’t realize them unless you think critically about the opportunities before you. Welcome them…even when they appear difficult or uncomfortable.

What do you think about when you hear the words critical thinking?

5 Options for Dealing with Emotional Pain

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What do you do with pain? You’ve been injured. It wasn’t fatal, but it hurt. In this post, I’m talking about emotional pain. The fact is emotional pain often hurts more than physical pain. It certainly can last longer. All of us have experienced emotional pain. Some more than others.

What do you do with emotional pain?

You have options. Here are 5:

Rehearse – You can keep reminding yourself how much it hurt. You can go over and over again in your mind the people to blame. You can live the hurt repeatedly in your mind. The longer you do the longer it seems to hurt.

Repress – You can pretend it doesn’t hurt. With the right performance you can even convince people you’re okay…even yourself…for a while. But, deep inside, when the fake smile goes away and the pretend laugh goes away, it still hurts.

Resent – You can build a grudge. You can increase your anger towards others. But the depth of the grudge will be directly proportional to the depth of the pain and the time of recovery.

Repeat – You can hurt others because you were hurt. Get even at your next opportunity. Take out your hurts on another. But the emotional pain remains. It does.

Release – You can let go, admit it stinks, ask God to begin to restore your heart and allow you to begin again. Emotional healing is almost always a process that takes time. It may require outside help. It won’t be easy, but it begins with the intentionality to release the pain and move forward.

Choices…choices.

Which will you choose? 

Obviously this is a simplistic approach to a very complex issue. But the principles are true. If you have serious emotional injury, get help. Don’t struggle alone. See your physician. See a counselor. Talk to a minister. (As a word of counsel, if it is serious emotional issues most ministers aren’t equipped to counsel through this. But, most can refer you to someone trained to help you.)

10 Suggestions for Healthy Grieving

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Part of my work is helping people grieve. Or at least learn how to grieve. It’s not one of my favorite parts, because it always stems from the reasons why they need to grieve. It means hurt. Brokenness. Pain. Disappointment. That never feels good.

Yet the fact remains…part of living in a fallen world…is living among the thorns. We must learn to grieve because there will always be reasons to do so.

As much as we need to know how to grieve, however, I continually meet people who either don’t know how or refuse to allow themselves to grieve. I’ve even met well-meaning believer who believe they shouldn’t. The Scripture is clear. We do grieve. We simply don’t grieve like the rest of the world.

So, here are 10 suggestions for healthy grieving:

Don’t deny the pain – It hurts. Admit it. Be honest with yourself with others and especially with God. If it’s anger…tell it. If it’s profound sadness…say it. You’ve got to grieve at some point to move forward, and you’ll grieve sooner and better if you’re honest about the need.

Learn to pray – Grieving can draw you close to the heart of God. See that as one blessing in the midst of pain. The Scripture is clear…draw close to God and He will draw close to you. He is close to the broken hearted. Use this difficult time to build a bond with God that you’ll never regret having.

Remain active – You may not feel like being around people, but if you’re normally a very social person, discipline yourself in this area. Granted, some people were never very social, even before their grief. We shouldn’t expect much more from them in grief, but even for them, community matters. Don’t shelter yourself from others.

Stay healthy – Eat well and exercise. Sleep as regularly as you can. Stick to a schedule. You’ll need the strength to carry you through this time.

Help others – There is a special blessing that comes from serving others that can help you recover from your own pain. Serve at a soup kitchen. Deliver toys to needy children. Find a way to give back and you’ll invest in the health of your own heart.

Journal your thoughts and feelings – One day you’ll be glad you did. You’ll see the process God has taken you through and the healing He has allowed you to experience. You’ll need these reminders again some day.

Give it time – Grieving doesn’t complete itself in a day…or a week…or even a year. The depth of the pain always is relative to the time of a sense of recovery. And, some pain never leaves us. We simply learn to adapt to it. We learn to find contentment and even joy in the midst of sorrow and loss.

Share your story – You help others when you allow others to see you share and understand their pain. When you hide your story, you deny others of the privilege of healing through your experience.

Get help when needed – Don’t suffer alone. There are times all of us can use professional help. Don’t be ashamed to seek it.

Remember hope – If you are a follower of God…the best days are still to come. Even in your darkest days, remember, one day…every tear shall be wiped from your eyes.

You can get up, recover and move forward again even stronger than you were before, but please don’t fail to grieve. It’s necessary. Vital. Healthy. Natural. Even Biblical. (1 Thessalonians 4)

Praying for you who need to grieve.

What suggestions do you have for healthy grieving?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

Fear Devotional, Part 5

Fear

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. Genesis 46:3 NIV

Jacob was obedient to God because he shifted from fear to faith.

If you recall the story, Jacob would have to leave for Egypt, a foreign land, in search of food and to see his son Joseph again, whom he thought was dead. It could have meant death for him and his remaining sons too. And, he was old. Past the prime risk-taking years. He had faced so many trials and disappointments in life…many he brought on himself…but at the end of his life, Jacob was willing to face his fears and walk by faith again.

In fact, he had a history of times he moved from fear to faith.

All of us will have fear. Fear began with the fall of mankind and, since we still live in a fallen world, we are still subject to fear. We shouldn’t be surprised when we are afraid when facing something that seems beyond our abilities or when the outcome of the situation is unknown. That’s natural in a fallen world.

To counter our nature we must do something spiritual. We must place our faith in something…really SOMEONE…who has the power and ability to accomplish what appears to be the impossible…the unnatural. That someone, of course, is the Creator God. The controller of nature. When we place our trust in God, He takes our inabilities and turns them into His abilities. Then, working all things towards an ultimate good, He works through our situations and circumstances to bring about His final plan. Our job in all this is to be obedient…in spite of our fears…by placing our complete faith in Him.

What is that fear that has you stagnant right now?

Perhaps you need to move from fear to faith!

Do something which may seem unnatural, depending on your circumstances. Turn your fear into a complete and total trust in God. Then watch Him do His miracle work and transform your situation into a glorious tribute to His power and strength.

Let me give you an easy 4 steps to begin this process:

1)Admit your fear

2)Renew your faith

3)Obey completely

4)Repeat steps 1 through 4

Again. And again. And again.