One Way to Discern a Change

Lately I’ve been going through a season of helping people discern change. It’s been change of churches, change in jobs, and change in ministry assignment. It could be because I’ve wrestled through changes in my own life recently. I’ve learned God uses experience to help others going through similar experiences, so I’ve been more able to help people with change.

Anyway, recently I was listening to National Public Radio and heard an interview with a Canadian born, European artist Chilly Gonzales. Chilly is a piano player. I don’t know a lot about him, but I’m excited to check out his music. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

The interviewer asked him a question that spoke volumes to me. I thought his answer was a great test to discern a change.

The interviewer said (and I paraphrase), “Chilly, you write lots of songs. How do you know which ones to record?

Chilly’s classic answer:

“I wait for the one that won’t leave me alone.”

Wow! Classic. Genius. Helpful.

I instantly realized that was my experience with my recent change. I resisted coming to Immanuel, thinking I wasn’t a good fit for them, nor them for me. Yet, God wouldn’t leave me alone. The position wouldn’t leave my thoughts. I couldn’t get over the idea of being here.

What’s the thing that won’t leave you alone?

Could God be using the repetition of thought to draw you to His will?

How do you discern a pending change in your life?

Be sure to read the “related posts” on discerning change.

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.

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?

Solid Advice for Young Leaders from Dr. Billy Graham

My friend coach Craig Candeto is a former Navy standout quarterback. He’s still a young man, but he’s already started an impressive career as a coach. Currently he’s coaching quarterbacks for the Citadel. In addition to being a great football player and coach, Craig is a solid believer. He lives his faith boldly in all he does.

Recently, Cheryl and I were visiting with Craig and his wife Maribeth, and Craig told me a story of meeting Billy Graham recently. Craig was invited as part of FCA with a few other coaches to go to Dr. Graham’s house in the mountains and visit with the famous evangelist.

He said Dr. Graham was frail, obviously weakened from how most of us think of Billy Graham, but he was gracious, gentle, and still very alert.

One of the coaches asked Dr. Graham a question.

What word of advice would you have for guys like us, just beginning our careers and still young in our faith?

The young coaches expected something profound from the famed pastor, but Dr. Graham frailly and simply answered:

Read your Bible and pray everyday.

Did you catch that? Was it too fast for you? Should I write it again?

Read your Bible and pray everyday.

Wow! Deep!

Billy Graham, after years of influencing others with the Gospel, encouraged these men with what was most important in developing themselves longterm as believers.

Spend time with God everyday!

Here’s my take on Billy Graham’s encouragement:

Don’t try to make it more complicated than it is. Sometimes simple is the most profound.

Read your Bible and pray everyday.

You got it? Any questions?

You can follow your heart

I talk to so many people who are waiting on a burning bush experience before they move forward with an idea or dream. With the best intentions, they want to make sure what they are doing is God’s “will” for their life. They keep waiting for some sign…maybe a writing in the sky…a letter from God…or certainly some definite “sign” that this is God’s plan for them.

I also know pastors who are afraid to let people “follow their heart”. Anytime I post about following a dream some well-meaning person challenges me that following the heart is dangerous.

Can you trust your heart apart from Christ? You better not. Could we misunderstand God’s will? Absolutely. Could we move in a wrong direction? Of course. But, telling people not to follow their heart?

I’m not sure that’s the right approach.

God didn’t make us a robot.

If your heart is closely following Christ…

If your desire is to please Him…

If you aren’t being convicted otherwise…

You don’t have to sit on the sidelines and let the world pass you by.

God is creative, and He’s made you creative as a part of His image.

I’d rather tell people to get their heart close enough to hear Christ…then go!

  • Check your heart
  • Continue to check your heart
  • Check your motivation
  • Continue to check your motivation

If it’s not sinful…if the Bible doesn’t specifically address your issue…if you don’t have any sense God is telling you otherwise…if what you are doing is good and honorable…if it is helpful to others, or…if it is in line with the direction and experience you’ve had in life…

Give God all the glory…

But quit sitting on the sidelines and follow your heart.

Have you been waiting for a “sign”?