Posted in Character, Faith

Sometimes You Just Have to Push Through

obstacles

My niece, Morgan, is a clever little girl. As a five-year-old, she absorbs life lessons like a sponge. The other day, she was challenging my sister Sarah’s patience. After multiple times of addressing Morgan’s misbehavior, Sarah sternly warned, “Morgan, you need to stop!” Morgan looked up with all the innocence her blue eyes could hold and quipped, “But Mommy, I’m persevering.”

Perseverance. Morgan had the right idea, but the wrong setting.

Sometimes when life gets tough, you just have to push through.

As followers of Christ, our primary purpose is to glorify God. Some of us have a clear picture of what our specific calling looks like; some of us aren’t quite as certain. Glorifying God is something we are all called to do, and it requires perseverance.

Sometimes you just have to push through.

In order to persevere, it’s important we understand what types of obstacles we face.

There are external obstacles. Missed deadlines, failed goals, lack of resources, lack of moral support, broken dreams. They are really too numerous to mention. They are often outside of our control. However, external obstacles have no power in themselves. We determine their power by our response.

There are spiritual obstacles. There is an unseen enemy whose mission is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He is the master of deception and called the Father of lies (John 8:44). We are vulnerable to his schemes without the truth of God’s Word and the discernment of the Holy Spirit.

There are internal obstacles. Depression, fatigue, and other physical conditions wreak havoc with our minds. Being led by our feelings produces instability. Negative self-talk and the habit of giving up create barriers.

Obstacles can act in concert, exerting so much pressure that perseverance seems impossible. Everything within us demands that we quit. That’s the time to call out to the Lord, and keep moving forward. Sometimes you just have to push through.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

Perseverance leads to character and hope.

Perseverance makes the difference between retreating and thriving.

It isn’t easy and comfortable.

It can be raw and painful.

It doesn’t guarantee that we will always win, but we can do our best without regrets.

And we will be further down the road than if we quit.

We don’t power through on our own strength. We persevere by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we yield to Him.

Are you determined to glorify the Lord with your life? Don’t let the obstacles stop you. Sometimes you just have to push through.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9)

I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Psalm 16:8).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for calling me as Your child and for designing me with purpose. Teach me how to persevere in the face of obstacles. Teach me to keep my eyes on You and surrender to Your power. Help me thrive in adversity and glorify You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

No Matter What, Focus on Jesus

focus-on-jesus

At the beginning of this year, I chose one word to direct my course for the following twelve months. I selected the word after a lot of prayer, contemplation, and, to be honest, with great resistance. My word is “dare.” I would prefer “rest” or even “grow.” “Trust” has a lovely, comforting ring to it, too. “Dare” has a quality of boldness and courage that seems to go beyond “trust.” But “dare” it is, so “dare” has directed me since January.

As a leader, I have dared to extend a hand of forgiveness in order to restore broken community relationships. I have dared to address a huge misunderstanding with an influential church organization to build unity. Most recently my Board of Directors and I decided to add a new spring fundraiser to our calendar—a 5K fun run/walk.

Personally, I have dared to allow painful, hidden areas of my childhood to be uncovered and to invite healing.

In each instance, it required stepping beyond my own personal comfort into unknown and scary territory. There were obstacles that threatened to dismantle what I clearly felt the Lord had asked me to pursue. It reminds me of the account of Jesus in Luke 8, when He calmed the storm.

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” (Luke 8:22-24a).

Jesus issued a directive to his disciples to go to the other side of the lake. There was no doubt in the disciples minds’ what Jesus wanted them to do. Yet, when a severe storm quickly overcame them, they were overwhelmed by the serious circumstances. Their attention on journeying to the other side was diverted to the crisis at hand.

What has the Lord directed you to do?

What things has He placed in your heart to accomplish on the job or in your personal life?

What storms are you facing? Are they taking your attention?

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples (Luke 8:24b-25a).

The disciples knew enough to wake Jesus with cries for help. But their faith had been misplaced on what they saw and experienced in that moment. They woke Him up because they needed another set of hands to bail water and keep the boat afloat. Despite all the miracles they had seen Jesus perform, they assumed they would drown. The circumstances were bigger than Jesus.

Are you settling for less, because of the obstacles you see?

What circumstances in your life seem bigger than Jesus?

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:25b).

That day the disciples’ view of Jesus dramatically expanded. He went from being Teacher, Healer, Friend of Sinners, and Miracle Worker, to the Lord of the wind and water.

Who is Jesus Christ to you?

What do the Holy Scriptures say about Him that you have not yet realized or believed?

My quest to be bold and courageous requires me to focus on Jesus. I can’t do what He has asked of me without Him opening opportunities and without the power of His Spirit. When my attention gets diverted by circumstances, I fear that I will drown.

We can fulfill God’s plans for our lives. We can thrive in life and as leaders. No matter what happens, we must focus on Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to always rely on You and to serve with Your strength. Remind me to keep my eyes on Jesus, to focus on Him no matter what. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

Mixed race businesswoman jumping over gap between cliffs

When you think of change what comes to your mind? For most people, change has a negative connotation. As a young woman I was passionately in love with Jesus. He rescued me from a life of misery and destruction, and opened my eyes to see true meaning in Him. The Lord changed my life dramatically and I couldn’t wait to share His amazing love with others. Change was a great thing, and I wanted nothing more than to become more like Jesus.

Then I would look at older believers, especially those middle age and above. They seemed so set in their ways and quite comfortable to stay there. I was bewildered to see pillars of the faith settle for a predictable and safe relationship with God. They were good people. They were there every time the church doors were open. They financially supported their church, as well as other ministries. They sang the old hymns declaring that Jesus grows sweeter as the days go by. However to an outsider looking in, they seemed satisfied with the status quo.

I confess that, as a youngster, I judged many of the old timers harshly. Today as someone approaching 50, a follower of Jesus for 35 years, married for 30 years, and new to the empty nest season, I have a much greater understanding of where those dear folks were coming from.

I can only speak for myself here (although I think it can apply to others’ experiences). It’s not that I’m satisfied with the status quo. I have found ways of doing things, through trial and error, that work for me. I have developed good habits and efficient systems. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Plus, I don’t have as much energy as I used to. I try to choose my battles wisely. If it’s not a non-negotiable, should I really address it?

There can be a fine line between contentment and complacency. I am committed to change. Whether personally or on the job, I believe it is important to continually improve and grow. I try to keep an open heart to the Lord, willing for the Holy Spirit to reveal attitudes and actions He desires to transform. If you work with me for very long, you will quickly notice that I like to look for more productive ways to do things, to streamline operations, or to serve people better.

At the same time, I battle with initiating change. It is painful to examine issues of the soul. When it comes to leading, I know that people generally resist change. Any successful change effort requires lots of time, patience, and on-going communication. I don’t want to wade into the unknown and look like a poor leader if it fails.

My husband and I just returned from celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. We traveled to Victoria, British Columbia, for a three day get away. We agreed before hand that this would be an adventure and that we would try new things. The idea sounded good until it was time to actually practice it. I became acutely aware of three types of fear that are obstacles to change and doing new things.

Fear of failure. We booked tickets with a passenger ferry from Seattle. Without a car, we would see the sites of the city on foot. We charted out the places of interest. While boarding the vessel and fighting off the initial feelings of motion sickness I started to dread our new approach. What if I get too tired walking? What if I can’t walk to the places my husband wanted to go? I hate being wimpy, and he is much stronger than I. I certainly don’t want to disappoint him. I don’t want to be the reason we’re stuck in our hotel our entire stay. The desire to succeed can be paralyzing.

Fear of the unknown. Our first evening we had dinner at an upscale restaurant. My husband and I both noticed that escargot was listed as an appetizer. Many times over the years (when not at a restaurant) we had commented that we had never eaten escargot but wanted to try it. Now here was our chance. And we both hesitated. Would it look noticeably like a snail in its shell? Could we get past that? What would it taste like? What if it was chewy and slimy and we couldn’t finish it? That would be embarrassing. When we step into the unknown we face our assumptions, many of which may be wrong.

Fear of being discovered. The afternoon high tea was one of our last activities in Victoria. We eagerly made reservations. As we walked into the beautiful historic mansion, I was struck with anxiety. I may carry myself with confidence, but I am not well versed in the proper etiquette for a British tea ceremony. What am I doing here? I am so out of place! Everyone will see that I am an impostor. Amid the dainty china and petite sandwiches and pastries, people would see the “real” me.

What is the Lord asking you to change? Is fear holding you back?

Be assured that if Jesus asks you to step out and do something differently, He is faithful to walk with you. Our Lord specializes in the transformation process and making things new. His perfect love is greater than any fear.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:19, NIV).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).
Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for your calling me as your child. Thank you for loving me and changing me from the inside out. Help me to walk in the confidence based on who I am in Christ. May I resist fear and step out in trust, as I follow You and do Your will. Don’t let fear hold me back. I believe that absolutely nothing is impossible for You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Beware of Fear!

I know Jesus (NO FEAR!)
I know God (NO FEAR!)
I know Jesus, and I have got NO FEAR!
(Duff Rowden)

Years ago my worship leader friend sang this chorus at youth events. It was a fun reminder that as Christ-followers, we have victory over fear. The perfect love of God in our lives drives out all fear (1 John 4:18).

The trouble is that fear comes in many forms and is not always easily identifiable. It can be as overwhelming as a paralyzing panic attack, but it can also be as subtle as low-grade, gnawing worry. Fear is designed as an emotion to protect us from a dangerous or unwanted situation. However, it can become an obstacle to experiencing all that God desires.

I spent much of my life dominated by fear of some kind, although it may not have been apparent outwardly. What people could see was my dependability to meet deadlines and ability to perform well. They couldn’t see that my insides were tied up in knots. My driven personality was fueled by a fierce need to be in control at all times. Somehow I believed that being in control meant that fear was kept away.

It was not until I began to experience increased physical symptoms that I truly investigated the negative effects of fear. Headaches, stomach problems, chronic pain, fatigue, dizziness, and anxiety attacks prompted me to sincere soul searching.

Over time the Lord, in His great mercy, began to show me that fear was actually a key influence for my need to be in control. In spite of my external achievements, fear held me back internally and robbed me from living in God’s abundance.

Fear of rejection. My gift of connecting with others and caring for them was distorted. I became motivated to please people, spending a great deal of time concerned about making a positive impression, doing things to get noticed. It also caused me to guard my heart from the pain of rejection. I served people with one hand while protecting my heart with the other, not allowing them to get close enough to hurt me. Needless to say, this didn’t work well with my relationships at home, church, or on the job.

The remedy. I consciously focus on God’s magnificent love for me. While people matter greatly, intimacy with Jesus comes first. People’s opinions vary, and they will hurt me, usually unintentionally but sometimes on purpose. However, my security and acceptance are rooted in Jesus.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39, NLT)

Fear of failure. My gifts of achievement and dependability were tarnished. I strove for perfection in everything, and felt comfortable maintaining the status quo. Taking risks felt too threatening, and it stopped the flow of creativity and innovation. I could picture negative outcomes and was weighed down by them: A plan that doesn’t work; an event nobody attends; finances drying up, a program that falls apart; my marriage unexpectedly ending. It became paralyzing, prohibiting me from enjoying the adventure of learning and growing.

The remedy. I consciously focus on being led by the Spirit of God. His definition of success is different than the world’s, and is based on obedience to Him. According to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), when we work to glorify God and further His Kingdom, we are successful. As we follow God’s direction, serving Him and others, we please the Lord, which is the ultimate success.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6).

In what ways does fear affect you? Don’t allow fear to hold you back. Experience God’s freedom in answering His call and loving those He has placed in your life.

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs (Zephaniah 3:17).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for being my Deliverer. As I seek You, You hear me and deliver me from all my fears. Open my eyes to see the ways fear has held me back. Show me the truth, and empower me to walk in Your freedom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

God With Us

King Asa of Judah was between a rock and a hard place. The Ethiopians had attacked with an army of 1,000,000 men. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin had 580,000 warriors equipped to fight. By appearance, Judah was greatly outnumbered. The Ethiopians’ strategy was to overwhelm their opponents by fear of their great numbers. Against another king their strategy could have worked.

2 Chronicles 14 records King Asa’s prayer. “O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against their vast horde. O Lord, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!” (vs. 11)

I love what the next verse says about the outcome. “So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians in the presence of Asa and the army of Judah, and the enemy fled.”

Yes, King Asa and his army were there, but the Lord defeated the enemy. Against all odds, they won the battle, because God was with them and fought on their behalf.

What challenge are you currently facing? Are there difficulties where you lead? Is there fierce competition in the market place? Is your family struggling with relationships? Are there more expenses than income? Are you weak or sick in body?

Take courage, my friend. You are not alone. Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. He is with you.

Our Christmas celebrations highlight the miracle that Emmanuel came in the form of a Baby and dwelt among the people. He was touched by the brokenness and frailty of humanity, delivering hope and healing to the needy.

This is the same God who loves us today. He is touched by our brokenness and frailty. He freely delivers His hope and healing. He is not caught off guard when we are. He is fully in control and has the answers we need. He is God with us.

There is a bonus to living in this age. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised His Holy Spirit. Today the Holy Spirit lives in all who trust in Christ. Marvel at this miracle!

Is anything too hard for God? No! We can thrive no matter what the circumstances.

We walk each day, come what may, with the God who is with us and in us.

Posted in Character, Vision & Goal Setting

Don’t Try Harder, Try Different

Don’t try harder. Try different. That was the theme of my sabbatical this summer.

We know what we know. We build habits around what we know. When we encounter problems, we do what we know to solve them. Unfortunately, when our handy dandy tools aren’t working, we keep using the shovel to dig a deeper rut. That’s when we need to stop what we’re doing and try something else. Something different.

Different routine

For me, the first thing different was taking an extended break. My schedule had become busy and the demands so great that it was taking a physical and emotional toll. Of course, my personal struggles had a negative effect on my marriage. Thankfully my regular time with Jesus sustained me with grace, as other pressures bore down heavily. A different routine provided freedom to stop, to take stock of what was really going on, not from the surface, but on a deeper level. The insights I gained provided the impetus for trying different.

Different location

There is something powerful about a change of scenery. A change in routine and location provided a break from the habits I had established. This allowed me to step back from the situations in which I was so closely involved, and gain a different perspective. My focus was able to broaden, and I saw the bigger picture and things I had missed.

Different tools

Because my limited knowledge is what helped to get me where I was, I needed to stop doing what I’d always done and find some new tools. I found people that knew what I needed to know. I read books that addressed my situation. However, developing real, live relationships with others created accountability, ensuring I actually put the new tools into practice.

Different mindset

I confess, I had allowed a negative attitude about myself and my situations to dominate my thinking. While I know the Scriptures and can quote many of them, they were not what my soul was anchored to. It was time to remember who I am in Christ, and make that the truth by which I live. It was also time to remember who I want to be. I had lost sight of my dreams and desires, things that God had placed in my heart. I dusted them off and re-calibrated my vision.

It might not be feasible for you to take a sabbatical like I did, but I urge you to make time to stop. Step back. Take in the view from a different perspective. Find a mentor, accountability partner, expert, counselor, or coach with the tools you need. Really, it doesn’t matter their title. What’s important is that you glean from their resources. Reconnect with who you are in Christ and His calling.

Rely on the Lord for courage to stop trying harder, and try (and keep trying) different.

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Do You Need a Fresh Start?

The business plan you lead has bumped into obstacles. Funding is running out and profits are low.

Your marriage is on the rocks. It feels like you are strangers living in the same house, and you wonder how long this can last.

You have been promoted to an area requiring increased public relations. You know that you are an introvert and wonder how you can succeed.

When you look at situations, all you can see are the negative aspects. You worry that you’re becoming cynical.

Perhaps you can relate to one of these scenarios. Perhaps you cannot. But, do you ever feel stuck, that where you are is not where you want to be? You would change if you could, but you lack the expertise, personality, talent, or wisdom to move forward. Do you ever find yourself in a place as a result of a long, disappointing, even hurtful, line of decisions? The past and present seem hopeless. Can you really cut ties and make a better future?

There is hope.

No matter where you find yourself today, a fresh start is ALWAYS possible.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

The prophet Jeremiah wrote these words during the destruction of Jerusalem. God had allowed Babylon to conquer His people. Because of their on-going disobedience they were exiled from their homeland. And yet, in the midst of devastation and hopelessness, God reminded them of His steadfast love and mercy.

Every day is a brand new day when God’s mercy is present.

We are not stuck where we are, being someone we don’t want to be. In Christ we are new creatures in the process of becoming new. What we achieve is not determined by our level of intelligence or talent. What we become is not defined by our personality or set of leadership strengths. Where we end up is not decided by where we have been.

Whatever God has called you to be and do, His Holy Spirit will equip you. He is the Author and Master of your transformation.

God took Moses, who was timid and reluctant to answer His call, and transformed him into the greatest, most powerful leader of Israel.

God took Ruth, who was a foreigner and idol worshiper, and transformed her into a devoted God-follower included in the lineage of the Messiah.

God took Peter, who denied Jesus Christ three times in His hearing, and transformed him into an empowered apostle responsible for leading thousands of people to faith in Jesus Christ.

God took Paul, who was a zealous persecutor of the Church, and transformed him into an anointed leader and author of the majority of the New Testament.

God can give you creativity to think outside the box and address the obstacles in your business.

God can provide you courage to build love, respect, intimacy, and passion in your marriage.

God can develop you into an extroverted introvert, so that you are comfortable speaking and interacting with others.

God can help you cultivate a heart of gratitude and notice the blessings in life.

God can take you where you are and move you to where He wants you.

It’s time for a fresh start!