Archive for the ‘Failure’ Category

On a morning and nightly basis I have a time with God where He and I deal with my sin. It’s not a long time, but it’s crucial. Last night as I laid down I asked the Holy Spirit to bring anything to mind where my heart was not right: any rebellion, any misaligned thoughts and motivations, any sins of omission (things I should have done, but refused to do.)

He quickly reveals any sin to me and I humbly lay it all down and repent. Many have the misconception that repentance is just telling God your sorry or that it’s just a one-time thing when you first get saved. Repentance should actually be a daily discipline so that our heart remains tender to God. I see Repentance as having four characteristics:

1. Confession: Whether verbally said aloud or acknowledged in the heart to God,  here repentance is acknowledging our sin before God. It’s owning it: “Yes, I did this. I’ve sinned against you when I _(fill in the blank_).”  This gets us past making excuses by either blaming someone else or our circumstance.

2. Spiritual: It’s not enough to say: “I was wrong, I feel bad, please forgive me.” Confession alone is not repentance. Repentance is truly coming to a place of removing our affections from our rebellion > hating it >betraying it > turning our back on it and walking out. It’s about seeing our sin in the light of Jesus and spiritually ripping it down from its place of prominence in our heart and putting Jesus back in HIS rightful place in our Heart.

3. Practical: So we’ve confessed, spiritually turned our back on our sin, now it’s time to reject our sin practically. If repentance is turning our back on sin what does that mean practically in our everyday lives? It means if there is anything of a tangible nature to it, we deal with it.  It can be easy for us to miss this third part of repentance and fall into the trap of managing our sin instead of killing it.

Tangible examples: Not going back to a “place” where we’re prone to sin, leaving a relationship that’s dragging you down (I do not mean a spouse here), getting rid of some phone numbers of people that we sin with, getting rid of any tangible items or resources that are an avenue of sinning. For example, let’s say that I’ve been falling into the sin of lust by watching inappropriate movies that I own. Should I keep them? Is it worth it if they’re causing me to sin? No! I trash them. Satan would love us to believe the lie that we can “repent” without having to change our lifestyle.

Listen to Jesus here:

Matthew 5:28–31 (ESV)

28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Tear your eye out???  That’s a bit over the top….right? Jesus is using a hyperbole. He doesn’t literally mean tear your eye out. He’s making an extreme statement to make a point. Be ruthless with your sin! Make war with it!

4. Relational: If in our sin we’ve sinned against another person we need to go them “own it” and ask forgiveness. This could also mean that you feel someone has sinned against you and you’re carrying an offence against them and they don’t even know it. Go to them right away. Do this in a timely manner otherwise you’ll end up making excusing and rationalizing about how “it’s not a big deal and I don’t really need go to them.” Go!

Keeping your heart tender through repentance should be a daily spiritual discipline. Allow this soul scrubbing in your life to be life giving as you turn your back on your sin and embrace the one who paid an incredible price so that you could be a new creation in Him.

What about you? What are some ways that you deal with your sin as a Christian? Would you share below?

My mom was a HUGE William Shatner fan. As a kid I remember her watching Star Trek every night it was on and I was left to endure Captain Kirk’s reflective monologues on a regular basis. The only high light of the show for me was when the crew was “beamed” anywhere. You remember, they were teleported down to a new planet and then back to their ship. I was amazed by the idea of being able to just show up somewhere without having to take the time or the effort to actually make the trip.

My life balloon was deflated at the age of seven when I was told that no you can’t actually be “beamed” up or out or anywhere for that matter.

Still, I think the frustration still lingers for many of us  that want to go somewhere without having to take the necessary steps to get there.

We want a short cut…….an easy button. We want to play without having to pay.

For example: we want a deeper walk with Jesus, but not have to invest the time with Him. We want to be a writer, without the work. We want to lead without having to learn. We want to go global with our faith without having to go across the street, (Insert your desired short-cut here.)

Sometimes this comes from just plain laziness. Other times it’s something much darker……fear.

Fear: of failure, of something not being what we’d thought it be when we get there, that we won’t have what it takes or of how it might effect other areas of our life.

There could be a million combinations of why we we’re not embracing the process that God wants to take us on to get us where He wants. But here’s a not-so-well kept secret: if we got our wish to avoid “the work” we’d be miserable. Why?

You’d  have no story to tell.

An ending is only as interesting as the story that takes you there. Our lives are no different. The challenges, the effort, the work, the process, it’s all the adventure……the good stuff in the middle of our story. To avoid it would mean you could never mentor, never be able to reach back for a much needed overcoming moment in your story for the encouragement to endure your present.

The “becoming” doesn’t happen when you arrive, it happens in the journey….in your story.

There is no easy button. There is no way around the hard stuff. It’s part of becoming.

Pray. Decide. Then get busy writing the story that God has meant for you.

Let me hear your perspective. What “work” are you being called to? How are you overcoming the temptation to avoid the work? Share below.

Ever feel like you are one step from triumph and one step from the wheels coming off the tracks at the same time? For those of us that find ourselves emotionally wrapped up in what we “do” it can seem like there’s a thin line between feeling like a victor or a victim. When I begin to feel like I’m teetering on that line I make an effort to remember three things: 

1. Life is seasonal. As a pastor I have to constantly remind myself that my life is full of seasons: our church, my family, myself, in the lives of others. As much as we’d like to we can’t park at one perfect spot in life. The writer of Ecclesiastes nails this idea when he writes: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Eccl. 3:1) Now deep down we know this, but it can be easy to forget when we’re in the midst of a down time. It feels like we’ve been here forever and things we’ll never change. That’s just not true.  Do this: reflect on the various down seasons in your life that you’ve walked through. What were the nuggets of truth that you picked up during that time. Choose to see the wins and the wisdom God has given you.

2. Obstacles Can Bring New Possibilities: Author Michael Hyatt writes, “One of the best questions you can ask when something negative happens is this: What does this make possible?“.  Asking this question allows you to take another look at your circumstances in a positive light. Seriously, try it. If you’re honest there most likely is an upside to the situation: more time with the family, less pressure at work, an opportunity to learn a new profession or trade, it could be anything! What you see as a negative, God is working for your good. (Romans 8:28)

3. You are not the sum of your successes or failures. We tend to fall into the trap of one side or the other. We either define ourselves by what we’ve achieved or by how we’ve blown it. This is a double edged sword. While we may feel great when things are riding high, we feel like we need to be on suicide watch when things hit the tank.  We have to be careful not to hook ourselves up to the crazy train of our emotions. You’re value can’t be measured by your success in money, number of clients, promotions, Facebook likes, attendance, acclaim…..the list goes on. If you hook your self-worth up to external inputs you’re headed for a train wreck. ( I write more about that here.) You’re value doesn’t come from what you’ve made of yourself but from who made you.

Here are some action steps I  move through when I’m discouraged:

1. Pray: I have clearer perspective on my life and my circumstances by bringing my needs to the Lord and allowing Him to speak to me.

2. Share: Don’t default to isolation and throw yourself a pity party. Take some time to share with a trusted friend how you’re feeling and allow them to give you some feedback.

3. Go: Don’t retreat and shut own. If you’ve taken time to reflect and learn from your circumstances it’s time to move forward. Anyone can shine during prosperity, maturity shines during adversity by moving forward.

I’d love to hear from on how you deal with life’s frustrations or when you encounter obstacles. Drop me a line below.

5 Steps to Dealing With Failure

Posted: August 29, 2011 in Failure

My life is a testimony of God being able to take a failure–apply his grace and mercy–and make something useful for His glory. God loves to use people that have fallen short because He gets the credit! Here are a few key points to remember when you’ve blown it:

1. Own. Before you can confess your sin, you must take responsibility for your failure with God and others. Sincere confession can only come out of true ownership of our mistake. No blame shifting…..own it and confess it. (1 John 1:9)

2. Receive. Honor God’s grace and mercy by receiving His forgiveness. Your mistake is not the one sin that is the exception to the cross. Your “sin has been thrown as far as the east is to the west.” (Ps. 103:12) To not forgive yourself is not noble, it’s pride. Your standard is not higher than God’s.

3. Evaluate. Some mistakes are a no-brainer and need little evaluation. It’s clear what broke down. Other instances need our evaluation to see how we can grow in wisdom and not make the same mistake. Many people have experiences but do not grow in wisdom because they do not reflect.

4. Release: Stop collecting your failures like trophies. Stop revisiting them. You’ve been forgiven. There is no probation period with God’s grace. Your failure is not final unless you choose to stay there. Let go of your past and fixate on Jesus.

5. Press On: Not just forward in life, but press on toward Jesus, becoming the man or woman God’s called you to be! (Phil 3:13-14)

Take a moment to share below what God’s taught you in regards to walking out of failure.

 

Open Letter to Self

Posted: August 23, 2011 in change, criticism, Failure, Humility

This last weekend I shared a message regarding God’s call for us to love difficult people. I ended the message by sharing a letter that was written to me. Only after I had finished reading the letter did most realize that I myself had written it.  I shared with our church that I’m the most difficult person I know. As you read my letter below, think about what would you write if you were going to be gut level honest with yourself about areas Christ wants to grow you.

Dear Nathan,

No one ever likes to sit down and write a letter like this, but I thought I would be doing a bigger disservice to you by not being honest and just acting like everything was fine. So here goes:

You are one of the most difficult people I know…..and I know a lot of people. On a regular basis you seem to push your opinion onto others and can come off somewhat arrogant. This makes you come across as manipulative and as trying to push your own agenda onto others. It’s incredibly frustrating when I see you leverage your people skills to get things done.

Your insecurities seem to shine brightest when you are critical of others and how they go about doing things. You always seem to think you are all knowing and know exactly what should be done. Did you ever realize that God has gifted others in the church besides you? What’s worse is that you mask your critical comments by saying, “you only want to further the work of the church”, when really you only mask your own insecurities.

You can really be a needy leech at times. You can be borderline narcissistic in your need for approval from others. Fishing for compliments is not my idea of walking in humility. Your constant need to please other people not for their sake but your own is really contrary to the “Man of God” that you desire to be.

So before you go running off to complain about someone else’s difficult behavior and before you begin to change other people, take a good long uncomfortable look inside yourself. Confess to the Lord your sin, Ask him to forgive you, and make better choices in how you treat people. I say all this in such a brutally honest fashion because I know that you know yourself better than anyone…….other than Christ. Christ knows you for who you are and who you long to be. With God’s Love, grace and mercy I believe you’ll get there.

Yours Truly,

Nathan

Last week while upstairs ironing a shirt I heard a pop downstairs followed by yelling and crying. My oldest son had hit my youngest son in the face out of anger. I sent him to my room to wait for me. He knew what was coming. I took my time. (I never spank my kids while angry.) Once in the room I shared with him my deep love for him and why he was being spanked. My 7yr old understood clearly that I loved him and because I loved him I needed to correct his behavior.

No one likes to be corrected. I know I don’t. Even if I know I’m wrong I can feel my pride invading every fiber of my being when someone points out a  mistake (even a small one) to correct me. Why is that my 7yr old can understand the idea of sowing and reaping, poor judgement and correction, but as adults we many times don’t have the ability to receive correction well?

Obviously, pride is the main issue and hardly needs explanation. A secondary issue that I believe is not addressed is motivation. Many of us cannot receive correction from others because we don’t honestly believe that the person bringing the correction truly loves us. Our insecurity shines through as we tell ourselves, “They’re just on a power trip”, “Who do they think they are?”, “They don’t have the right to….”, “Why don’t you come talk to me when you’re perfect!”

But what if they really love you? What if they truly want God’s best for you? What if God is speaking through them?

Hebrews 12:5–7  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?   (ESV)

Proverbs 12:1  Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,but he who hates reproof is stupid.   (ESV)

Experiencing dysfunctional correction by others in the past doesn’t make correction in the present bad. God many times uses people in our lives to bring loving correction to us: spouses, friends, pastors, co-workers and even strangers.

It’s such a beautiful thing to witness someone receive correction with humility and truly own it. God help me stay in that place.

What about you? How has God brought correction to you through others? Would you mind sharing below?

Have you ever had a difficult time ending something? It could have been moving past a dream, a relationship, an employee that wasn’t contributing, a strategy or program that wasn’t working, a way you’ve always done something. This last month I started our Elder board on a journey through a book by Dr. Henry Cloud, “Necessary Endings”. In it Cloud discusses some of the obstacles that keep us from “ending” these things in our lives. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to face reality, maybe we don’t want to admit defeat or maybe it’s just because we don’t know how. Cloud points to pruning in a garden as an example of what happens when we don’t prune the things in our life or organization. These situations end up draining energy and resources that are needed else where so there can be thriving growth.  For a Christ follower Jesus is the vine and He points to the “Vine Dresser” our heavenly father who desires to “prune” what is not helpful or necessary in our lives or in the life of a church.

As a pastor I’ve seen churches be so in love with their strategy that they could not “end” it when it was clear that it was not working. Pastor and author, Andy Stanley, states that “we should be in love with our vision but only infatuated with our method. I don’t want to be that leader that can’t see when something needs to end.

I’ve asked our elders to go on a journey with me over the next few months to pray and think through any areas that might need to be “ended”in our lives personally or in our church so that we can thrive.

What about you? What areas in your life are you holding onto that just need to be ended? A friendship, relationship, an employee that does more harm than good, a dream, a goal, a strategy? My prayer is that God would give us the courage to do what’s needed.

Pruning is painful, but necessary,

Nathan