15 Life Lessons

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The best principles we learn in life, apart from revelation in God’s Word, comes from life experience. Experience is a great teacher. Here are some of my favorites.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying I live by these always, just that I’ve lived long enough to know they are true.

15 life lessons:

Above all else guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life. – Proverbs 4:23, Eventually it all boils down to the heart of the matter.

God cares more about our character than He does many of the individual decisions we make – But if we are not careful we spend more of our prayer time focusing on those decisions. Being a good father is more important than buying the best house in town.

You’ve got to know when to fold them; know when to walk away; and know when to run. – Kenny Rogers was right. There are times to fight and times you know you can’t win and times when you shouldn’t be fighting anyway. Learning the difference is huge.

If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all. – Thumper knew a truth that Scripture plays out too. There are times when we need to “shut up” and say (or email) nothing.

Once it is said, it’s much harder to take back. – Thumper didn’t say this one, but maybe the warning should have come after it, because we usually don’t listen to the first suggestion.

It takes time to mend a broken heart. – As believers we don’t grieve like a world without hope, but we still hurt. Healing wounds take time, prayer, and truth. Some marriages need to know this principle.

Letting people get credit for something I did is okay if the organization is moving forward. – In the end, if I’m leading, I’ll get all the credit I deserve and more.

Jesus came full of grace AND truth. – We tend to err in one direction or the other.

More of the same will not produce change. – You can’t keep doing the same things and expect to get different results.

Sometimes the greatest fear we have is the greatest opportunity God has to use us for His glory. – God seems to always call us to that which seems bigger than we are. That causes us to rely on Him more.

God is faithful; you can trust Him. – This one comes with test after test, but He has proven Himself every time.

We tend to end in the direction we are headed. – We shouldn’t be surprised if we end up in a bad situation, if that’s the direction we were aiming our life.

You get more bees with honey than vinegar. – Being nice to people usually gets better results than beating them into submission. (Bible truth: It’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance.

People are different from me. – I tend to want people to respond to life and me as I respond to life and others. They don’t.

Every life experience can be used of God for something that gives God glory. – Everything! Maybe even reading this post!

Any you would add?

The Elasticity of the Heart

Be aware of the elasticity of your heart.

I’ve learned through hard lessons that a stretched heart never returns exactly the same.

The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart.” I think part of the reason is that once the heart stretches, it’s changed. Forever.

Let’s say you had a dream. You pursued it with passion. It didn’t work out. You failed. But, in the process you stretched your heart for something new. You’ll have to find yet another dream to fill the void you created by stretching.

You thought you had the job. You were beginning to get excited about it. You even looked at houses in the area. You didn’t get the job. Your heart stretched. You will have to refuel your passion where you are now or you’ll be miserable. Your heart was stretched.

You felt a call to ministry at some point in your life, but you ignored it. Or something happened. You’re not serving right now and your heart is empty. Your stretched heart has never been the same.

And, it works in other ways too. You looked at things online you shouldn’t have seen. Now you want more. And more. You can’t seem to find satisfaction. You stretched your heart.

Be aware of the elasticity of your heart.

My advice is to find something to fill the new space you have created. You can’t just “get over it”.

You have to fill the void left behind because of the stretching. That may require prayer, discipline, accountability, practice or even counseling. Maybe all of them.

But your stretched heart is too important to ignore.

Above all else…guard your heart“. (Proverbs 4:23)

7 Things Forgiveness IS NOT…

(I’m on vacation this coming week, and so for the next couple weeks I’m posting again some of my most read posts, but also ones I think are actually helpful. These are my “favorite top posts”. Some posts had more hits, but they simply do well in the search engines. I’m actually proud of these. :) None of these were posted this year. All are older than that. Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share these on Twitter, and Google Plus to get them circulated. I won’t be doing much of that while I’m gone.)

We get confused about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Maybe we don’t really know sometimes.

Forgiveness is not an option for the believer. We are to forgive others as we have been forgiven. For most of us (all of us if we will admit it), that’s a whole lot of forgiveness. Understanding forgiveness doesn’t make it easier to forgive, but it does make it more meaningful…perhaps even tolerable…but I believe understanding the process could make us more likely to offer the forgiveness we are commanded to give.

With that in mind, in two posts, I want to share what forgiveness is and what it isn’t.

Here are 7 things forgiveness IS NOT:

Forgetting - When you forgive someone your memory isn’t suddenly wiped clean of the offense. I know God could do that, but it seems that would be the easy way. I suspect God wants forgiveness to be more intentional than that.

Regaining automatic trust - You don’t immediately trust the person who injured you when you forgive them. That wouldn’t even be logical. Trust is earned, and they must earn trust again.

Removal of consequences – Even though you forgive someone, they may still have consequences to face because of their actions.

Ignoring the offense – You don’t have to pretend nothing happened when you forgive. The reality is an offense was made. Acting like it never occurred only builds resentment and anger.

Instant emotional healing – Emotions heal with time. Some pain runs deep and takes longer to heal.

Restoring the same relationship – The relationship may be closer than before or not, but most likely it will never be the same.

A leverage of powerGranting forgiveness does not give a person power over the person being forgiven. That would violate the entire principle and purpose of forgiveness.

Here is the companion post….7 Things that Forgiveness Is… Just a note before you get there: This post may have seemed easy, even freeing, but the next one may be more difficult.

What would you add to my list of things forgiveness is NOT?

7 Things Forgiveness IS…(Repost)

(I’m on vacation this coming week, and so for the next couple weeks I’m posting again some of my most read posts, but also ones I think are actually helpful. These are my “favorite top posts”. Some posts had more hits, but they simply do well in the search engines. I’m actually proud of these. :) None of these were posted this year. All are older than that. Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share these on Twitter, and Google Plus to get them circulated. I won’t be doing much of that while I’m gone.)

I often wonder if the reason we don’t forgive as we should is because we don’t understand the subject well enough.

Yesterday I posted 7 Things that Forgiveness is NOT. It seems appropriate to also post 7 things that forgiveness IS.

Here are 7 things that forgiveness IS:

Letting go of a right to get even – You give up the right for revenge when you forgive someone.

Moving forward – Forgiveness is like saying, “It hurt. I didn’t like it, but I’m moving forward with my life in spite of the pain.”

Dropping resentment and grudge – Forgiveness releases the angst towards the person who did the injury.

A choice – Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s a conscious decision made by the injured party.

A step towards healing – Forgiveness releases a weight from the shoulders of the injured, opening the door for emotions to heal.

An opportunity to display grace – There is no greater picture of God’s forgiveness of us than for us to forgive one another.

The removal of a roadblock – Forgiveness removes the barrier between us and living at peace again with ourselves, others, and God.

I know these are difficult. I know some of the pain runs deep. I can’t describe it for you adequately, but I can tell you that forgiveness IS all it’s claims to be. If you truly want to be free of the hold the injury has on your heart, forgive the one who injured you.

What would you add to my list of 7 things forgiveness IS?

What is the most difficult situation you’ve had to forgive? Do you have a story that could encourage us?

12 of the Biggest Lies I’ve Heard People Tell

Lies concept.

Here are 12 of the biggest lies I’ve heard people tell:

I’m not going to let him (or her) hurt me anymore.

I don’t need any help.

I’ve got this under control.

I’m only going to try it one time.

God and I have an understanding.

I’m a self-made man. (Or woman)

I can stop anytime I want to.

That would never happen in my marriage.

Be honest with me. I can take it. I won’t be mad.

I don’t have time.

I’ll call you soon.

I’ll be praying about that.

Add yours.

7 Ways a Leader Has a Better Weekend

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If you are like me you love your weekends. T.G.I.F…right? If we are not careful, however, the weekend passes so quickly and we begin another work week feeling we wasted the weekend we had. Or we are so stressed by the week behind or the week ahead that all we do is catch our breath and we can’t fully enjoy the weekend.

How can we help guarantee better weekends? Every weekend. I have learned the more intentional Cheryl and I are about planning for it, the better weekends we had as a family when our boys are home and now as empty-nesters.

Here are 7 suggestions I try to live:

Plan on Monday – Set your week up for success. Plan what you can realistically do in a week and end the week with a sense of accomplishment.

Do hard things now – Handle the hard stuff as they arise. Try not to carry it into the weekend. Obviously that’s not always possible, but many times it is. for example, don’t put off that difficult conversation you know you have to have until Monday if you can and should do it today. It will haunt you all weekend. Whatever the issue, bite the bullet and handle the tough issue, as soon as effectively possible.

Be honest with your schedule – Don’t feel bad about declining activities on the weekend. If you want to go then go, but if you’d rather relax then do that. No guilt. Say yes sparingly when accepting weekend appointments. They sometimes sound good on Monday but are less exciting on Saturday morning.

Attend church – That’s an appointment you should keep. I know it seems self-serving to suggest it, and I’m not being legalistic. That’s not my nature or theology. I’ve just hardly ever heard someone say they wish they’d skipped church. But I’ve heard many who believe it gave them a better weekend. God always seems to bless the time I give Him.

Plan ahead for a true Sabbath – Even though it makes for slightly longer weekdays, try to accomplish many of the “chores” you have to do before the weekend. Try to have some unplanned time simply to do what you enjoy.

Keep a fairly normal sleep schedule – If you always have to “catch up” on your sleep on the weekends, or you spend your week tired because of the late nights on the weekend, you never gain a healthy rhythm for life. Be reasonably consistent in your bedtime and waking up time and you’ll feel better and enjoy a more productive awake time.

Share time with people you love – The best memories center around time with people we love. When the family is running in many different directions you end the weekend feeling like you “missed” the weekend. Limit activities your family commits to or do things your family can do together. This takes prior thought and coordination but makes for a more enjoyable weekend.

Pastors, this list includes you too. I originally wrote it for you and decided to expand it to a more general audience. Your weekend may look different, but you need to protect it. I wrote THIS POST on how I protect my Sabbath.

What tips do you have for a better weekend?

The 7 Best Excuses We Make

Excuses File Contains Reasons And Scapegoats

There’s always an excuse if we’re looking for one. I’ve made so many. Even when we are certain God has called us to something, we will stall because an excuse is always near. Most excuses seem reasonable at first glance. Common sense even.

But, following a dream, especially a God-inspired, God-sized dream, always requires a certain level of risk. Walking by faith. Stepping into the unknown. Overcoming 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 help.

Here are 7 of the best excuses I’ve used or heard:

I can’t – You don’t have what it takes…and so far…aren’t trusting God to provide what you lack. (Gideon would agree. Judges 6)

I won’t – Or at least you won’t 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 that work for Jonah?)

I don’t know how – It seems overwhelming…and you are either too proud to admit it or aren’t willing to learn. (Think Noah knew how to build a boat that large? Genesis 6)

I don’t have time – God calls for obedience now…and you’re preoccupied. And, chances are…with this as an excuse…you never will have time. This has worked for me before too…for a season. (See Luke 9:59)

I’m all alone – It feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it? It’s true. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. I once thought I was the only one with a burden to plant a church. Little did I know. God had an army prepared. (Elijah thought He was alone…and found out otherwise. 1 Kings 19)

I’m afraid – And you can choose to let fear control you. I have. Many times. It’s a powerful, motivating excuse. Much could go wrong. And, our mind is capable of quickly creating worst-case-scenarios. (Could we learn 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 verbalized this one, but it’s real, isn’t it? (Tell that to the widow in 1 Kings 17…or the disciples who picked up 12 baskets of leftover bread. Matthew 14)

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.

Are you?

What excuse are you using to stall on God’s plan?

12 Random Pieces of Life I Love

Grandmother with grandson having fun at home - whispering secret

Sometimes it’s the little things.

A lazy Sunday afternoon nap after a great morning at church.

Picking raspberries in Michigan and “testing” them along the way.

Inside jokes with friends.

A song that brings back a nearly forgotten memory.

Sitting on a porch swing listening to a gentle rain.

Laughing as a puppy plays.

Discovering a “hidden gem” of a restaurant when not even looking.

Wrestling with a two year old boy.

Sharing a smile with someone you love.

Waking up at Grandma’s to the smell of fresh coffee and breakfast.

A small child whispering in your ear.

Saturday mornings with no agenda.

That’s 12 of mine. Add one, two or twelve of yours.

Take time today to reflect on the moments that make memories.

And don’t forget…

Sometimes it’s the little things.

When You Can’t Seem to Find Your Purpose

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The other day someone said to me, “Pastor, Sorry I haven’t gotten involved in the church yet, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I can’t seem to find my purpose.”

I hear that kind of thing often. In this case, it’s been five years and the person is still waiting. Doing nothing. Inactive. Waiting for that “purpose” which may never arrive with this manner of search.

Here’s a good principle when seeking purpose in life.

Sometimes you have to work a purpose to find a purpose.

I hear from people all the time who can’t seem to find their place.

In church. In work. In life.

They want to know their purpose. Their unique role. Their calling.

But they never seem to find it.

So they wait on the sidelines. They make excuses.

Never seeming to find their purpose in life. What they do best. What they were meant to do.

My advice.

Try something new.

Do things. Explore. Test. Experiment.

Do honorable, good, helpful things.

But just do something. Try lots of different things. But do something.

You’ll do some things well. Some not so well. You’ll fail. You’ll succeed. You’ll have fun. Some not so fun.

Along the way you may just find a purpose.

Life purposes seldom fall from the sky. Mostly they are discovered in the process of discovery. How you are wired. How you are gifted. Where you have passion. Where God wants to use you most.

Sometimes you have to work a purpose to find a purpose.

Seeing Behind the Tinted Windows

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I am in Orlando as this post is written. I come here in April for the Exponential Conference. If you’re into church planting or revitalization, don’t miss this conference next year.

While I am here I always run. I love to run in this city. One thing that stood out to me this time in Orlando is that most everyone here has tinted windows. The sun shines a lot. It makes sense. Some are tinted more than others, but almost all are tinted. Some are tinted so much that you can’t see the driver. That’s hard for us runners.

But car windows are tinted…

Where I come from, highly tinted windows are illegal. And, so when someone’s windows are highly tinted, people often assume you’re hiding something.

Selling drugs…in a gang…you know.

But almost everyone has them in Orlando…

And I don’t think all of them are selling something. At least not something illegal.

As I was running this week though, the thought occurred to me.

All of us…everyone of us…in every city…regardless of where you live…have tinted windows. To some extent.

We have tinted windows to our life.

Everyone has something to hide…

Something they’d rather everyone not know. Some secret. Some hidden pain. Some past mistake.

We all have tinted our windows. Some darker than others…But we all have a story we are hiding…or trying to hide.

Some we hide better than others.

That’s okay. Not everyone needs to know all our story. Sometimes it’s none of their business. Many times it’s none of their business.

But, here’s my experience. All of us need someone who sees behind the tinted windows. All of us need some people in our life who know the whole story. All of us need someone who loves us, but is willing to shine a light into our darkest places.

All of us.

Who sees behind your tinted windows?