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.

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Recently, I’ve heard several people use the term “balanced approach” when they talk about their life and Christian walk with God. They’re referring to the many other things going on in their lives and the mission of Christ is among the “many.” This sounds helpful, but is it? Is it biblical?

Listen to  Jesus:

Matthew 10:35–39 (ESV)

35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Luke 9:57–62 (ESV)

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Does this sound like a “balanced” approach to life? Does it sound safe or “normal”? The temptation to make Jesus and His Mission one of the many things in our life (“balanced” approach”)  instead of “the” thing in our life is a real one that we must avoid.

Living the so-called “balanced” life means the cross we’ve been called to carry is one of the many pieces of luggage we’re trying to juggle because we wouldn’t want to get too crazy, radical or fanatical and make it all about Him.

This doesn’t mean we drop all of our responsibilities and stop working and taking care of our families. What it does mean is that we need to take a closer look at our responsibilities, time and resources and ask, “Is what I’m investing in helping move Christ’s mission forward or is it a distraction?”

Thoughts?

If We Only Had 5 Minutes….

Posted: September 5, 2011 in Counseling

I’ve decided to start a new technique in  my pastoral counseling and meetings. Here it is. When I sit down with someone and we’ve pushed past the initial “catching up” part of the conversation, I’m now going to say, “I want us to pretend we have just 5 minutes before we both have to leave our time together. What is the most crucial thing you want to discuss?”

Why 5 minutes? Because recently I’ve found that it’s in the last 5 minutes when the person knows it’s time to go that they share the most valuable thing. Then your left with this important issue and not having enough time to discuss it. Some people have a hard time just saying what’s on their mind. They end up beating around the bush and talking about everything else but what they really want to say.

So now in a loving way I can defuse that anxiety for them by “going there” for them and we can spend more time on what’s truly valuable to them. What has helped you in difficult conversations to getting to what’s most valuable? I’d love to hear from you 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.

 

The Last 10%…..2.0

Posted: August 24, 2011 in leadership

Many authors have written about the need for leaders to create an environment where the last 10% (saying the difficult truth) is said by them and those around them. A couple of years ago I wrote about sharing and hearing the last 10% here.  I’ve continually pushed this with my core leadership team here at RCC. Healthy leaders’ welcome honest–objective feedback—they don’t hide from it.

I’ve noticed however for many the last 10% seems to be just criticism. It can vary from being constructive to destructive.  However, the last 10% principle should not be characterized as just sharing the negative; it should be defined as sharing what is most valuable.

Sometimes it’s a hard truth that the other person doesn’t want to hear. At other times the last 10% could be an emotionally difficult thought that needs to be said, but feels impossible to convey. I don’t know how many people I’ve heard share the last 10% about a loved one at a funeral only to regret they had not shared this with them while they were still alive.

What Makes the Last 10% Principal effective?

Answer: Truly valuing the person you’re sharing the last 10% with. When you go into a last 10% conversation with someone with a genuine love for the person–that’s going to come through in how you communicate with them. Most people can hear the last 10% when given in love. It’s not enough to be right, leaders need to be effective. 

What about you? Any tips to offer when sharing the last 10%? Share the last 10% below.

The 5 Levels of Leadership

Posted: August 24, 2011 in leadership

Have you ever asked yourself what makes someone follow a leader? In fact, let’s try something. Ask yourself why you follow the people in your life that are leaders? It could be your manager, parent, teacher, pastor…..anyone you consider a leader? What makes you follow them? In John Maxwell’s soon to be released book, The 5 Levels of Leadership  Maxwell shares the five motivations for followers:

If you’re a leader ask yourself why those that are following you follow you? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

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