Don’t Stop at the Obvious in 2015

New Year 2015

At the end of every year I ask God what He wants me to do differently, beginning January 1.

Several years ago He impressed on me to become more intentional and more sacrificial in my relationship with Him first and then in life in general.

The first thing He showed me to do was become more serious about fasting, not for health but for spiritual discernment. So every January now, I go on a long fast. So far they’ve lasted 21 days but I’m thinking about stretching it this January (2015) to maybe 25 or 30. Still praying over that one. I won’t go into detail at this point but I will say that I have seen amazing things happen as a result.

So what is God asking of me in 2015? I sensed He wanted me to do something sacrificial that would impact me in a BIG way. It didn’t take long once I began praying over it for me to see what it was. Ouch! This one is going to hurt. Since I’ve seen such benefits from the long fast, I look forward to it. But this new challenge … gulp.

I don’t feel free to share the specifics yet but here’s why I mention it at all …

God always wants more for us. He always wants to take us deeper and higher.

You may be setting new goals such as working out more, eating healthier, organizing your office or home, and keeping your car clean. All good things, so go for it. However, everyone needs to do that. Those things don’t stretch us any differently than they stretch the person next door. I’m not saying they aren’t important, or hard, or issues of obedience. But they are basic life disciplines that every person needs.

Don’t stop there! Ask God what HE wants to do in, through, and for you. Tell Him you’re serious about this. You’re serious about wanting what He wants. You don’t want the status quo – you want BIG and you’re willing to do what it takes.

If you want a relationship with God that explodes your life, tell Him that and see what He says about your 2015.

 

Nothing New for Christmas?

Is there anything fresh to say about Christmas?

I’ve been thinking and praying for the last few days over what new inspiring thing I could share about Christmas. I’m a creative, so usually my thoughts flow like water.

But as I pondered Christmas this year, God kept bringing me back to the manger. He seemed to be saying, “Just keep looking in there. There doesn’t need to be anything else.”

God wrapped in skin is enough!

The only Person who chose to be born so He could die, is enough.

In fact, it’s really too much. Too much to comprehend. Too much to pay back. Too much love to absorb.

So we simply gaze in awe.

Who needs something new to ponder when what we already have is more than enough to last a lifetime?

merry christmas green 2

 

 

What to Do with Fear

Deut 316

Have you been dealing with feelings of fear lately?

There surely have been other times in the history of the world when people were gripped with fear, but I’m going out on a limb and guessing that this is one of the worst times of fear. It’s no doubt fueled by social media and the media in general, but there’s no denying that unsettling global events are unfolding.

The top two disturbing recent stories are ebola and the advancement of evil terrorists in the Middle East. It’s almost impossible to avoid news stories about them – each one worse than the one before. There’s a collective awareness that we could get sick or be killed at any moment. That’s always true but it feels more “real” now.

God tells us not to fear. Period. Around 365 times He says that.

Do not be afraid. Don’t be troubled or afraid. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Don’t worry or be afraid of threats. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Do not fear bad news. Be not afraid of them.

Two main reasons not to fear:

1) It’s unbelief. God promises us He’s in control and will do what is right for us.

2)  It renders us ineffective. Fear means our focus is on the wrong things, meaning it’s not on God, so He can’t get our attention to use us as His representatives. We lose our witness and we lose opportunities.

But ebola and terrorists are alarming so how are we to feel? What do we do with our fear?

1) Admit it to God and ask for His help in rejecting fear.

2) Intentionally fill our minds with the truth about God.

3) Choose to believe what He says is true.

4) Choose to believe God is ultimately in control of how everything plays out.

5) Replace fear with praise. Sing praise songs or read Psalms about praise.

6) Focus on His presence in and with us. Nothing can come against us that He hasn’t allowed.

7) Believe that His grace will be enough for whatever we face.

One last word of comfort … the number of our days has already been determined. Nothing is going to change what God has already declared. If He said you’re going to live 82 years, then you’re going to live 82 years. No random event is going to alter that number.

Surrender your fear to God and live in His powerful blend of confidence and peace.

 

An Easy Way to Bless Someone

gift from MA

Sharing the love of Jesus is as easy as a bag and a marker.

On my first day teaching WORD – Psalm 119 in 22 meditations this week, a friend brought me a thoughtful gift in this bag. Of course I love the gift, but the bag was just as great!

So simple but so meaningful.

Not only did it say something personal to me about my situation but it included Scripture to nourish my soul.

Next time you want to do something nice for someone or God prompts you to share Him, don’t agonize over how. Just remember …

a bag and a marker.

” … your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (GNT)

Where Prophets and the Merciful Meet … or Not

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I’ve watched with fascination the recent social media firestorm around Victoria Osteen’s video that went viral. Some people blasted her mercilessly while others took the full-on merciful approach of “don’t judge, only love.” Without getting into the details of it — too much has already been said on that account — two things keep coming to mind that  occur to me every time something like this happens:

1) Dangerous false teaching by its nature puts people at risk. Information that will ultimately take people further from God, creating all kinds of spiritual confusion, should be addressed. We wouldn’t let an adult tell our child that a bottle of bleach is liquid, just like orange juice is liquid, so it’s safe to drink. Not only would we disagree but we would stop the action from taking place so that no one gets hurt.

Potential harm is a Biblical motivation for addressing false teaching.

Jesus addressed false teaching. Paul did it. We are told to do it for others’ sake and for the exaltation of our God.

If we are participating in a small group discussion and someone asks whether Jesus’ comment about “pearls before swine” refers to pot-bellied pigs or Chester Whites, the answer doesn’t make any difference to our spiritual condition. We can let the discussion go with no obligation to resolve it. But, if someone asks if Jesus is the only way to God, the answer to that can make a huge difference. We have to make sure that by the end of the discussion, it has been clearly stated that Jesus IS the only way to God. We can’t leave that one ambiguous.

The approach is everything, though. Being mean or mocking is never honoring to God but lovingly pointing out error, or at least opening up a dialogue, is.  

2) Our spiritual gifting causes us to respond to things differently. Paul tells us we are equally needed in the body, so we are to be equally encouraged and supported in exercising our spiritual gifts.

When there are firestorms like the one that just took place, the prophets/teachers/discerners point out the error while the merciful ones protect the one being corrected.

You precious, merciful people, whom we desperately need in this harsh world … please let us do our job. Don’t make us feel guilty for pointing out error when that’s what we are wired and called to do. You don’t have to do it, but we do. Your calling is to comfort and have compassion. Our calling is to expose, challenge and apply Truth.

John the Baptist and Elijah probably didn’t have a lot of friends because telling the truth isn’t the thing that gets you invited to parties. So imagine the breath of fresh air it is when someone actually affirms our words rather than shakes their finger at us while telling us to give grace.

We need all the gifts functioning in the Body.

Don’t we want those with the gift of giving to be generous?

Don’t we need those with the gift of faith to cast our corporate visions?

Don’t we want those with the gift of administration to take care of daily tasks?

So please let us prophets and teachers speak the Truth without trying to shame us into silence.

We love grace and mercy just as much as you do. We have benefited from it and embrace it as God’s greatest action toward us. And believe me, we pray earnestly for the ability to speak and act lovingly! We know it doesn’t come as easily to us as it does to you.

Let’s all give each other the grace to exercise our spiritual gifts. In surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leading, I’ll do what I do best and you do what you do best.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good … God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 18

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Ask Your Kids This Question

Mueller wedding 3 of us #2

What’s the one-word question that undermines parenting faster than anything else?

“Okay?”

Ugh! Why do we do that? Why do we give our children an instruction and then make obedience an option?

“You need to clean your room. Okay?”

“Please take out the garbage. Okay?”

“Be nice to your sister. Okay?”

What if our kids said, “No, it’s not okay. But thanks for the suggestion.”

What then? If we give them the option, we have to respect their choice of “no.”

Why make a suggestion when we really intend to give an instruction? It reveals insecurity and poor leadership. It’s our way of softening what we perceive to be something unpleasant. We don’t want to create a conflict, make them unhappy, or have them not like us … all of which are harmful qualities in a parent.

If we approach our kids with confidence and optimism, we can stop a lot of their resistance before it starts.

“Hey dude, it’s time to clean your room. Having your things neat and tidy makes it more fun to play in here.”

“It’s Friday, so please empty all the garbage cans. I appreciate all the work you do to make our home nice.”   

“You need to speak kindly to your brother. Respecting each other is one of our family priorities.”

You get the idea. If you aren’t really asking them if they want to, then don’t make it a question. Simply state what you expect. Don’t make it sound like a negotiation or like you feel bad asking them to do it. You don’t need to apologize for teaching your kids responsibility or for training their characters. That’s your God-given job! Own it with confidence. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worst Advice Ever!

Advice blog pic

During my last elliptical workout I was watching a drama on Netflix. A married character was talking to her best friend, describing how much she wanted to have an affair with this guy at work.

After hearing all about the dilemma the best friend said,

“If it makes you happy I think it’s great.”

Wait. What?

Did that friend have any idea what he was saying?

There is a deep, abiding happiness in God that Christ followers can have but that’s not what he was talking about. He was elevating temporary happiness, a fleeting feeling of euphoria, above things like integrity, faithfulness, honesty, and selflessness.

He was telling her it was okay to implode her life if it would make her happy for awhile.

Happiness is never the criterion for making life decisions. Little ones, sure – like choosing a flavor of ice cream. But decisions that alter the course of life are worth far more consideration than whether or not they will produce happiness.

In fact, because of its fleeting nature, happiness is the worst thing upon which to base an important decision.

A real best friend would ask questions like …

     What’s the right thing to do?

     What will allow you in the long run to face yourself in the mirror?

     Which decision will make you feel ashamed vs. honorable?  

Even better, a godly best friend would ask …

     What does God say about this?

     Which decision would honor Him? 

When making decisions, successful people and Christ-like champions consider several things that look far beyond temporary happiness:

1) Short-term and long-term goals. Nothing that will hinder reaching their goals is allowed.

2) Their reputation. It only takes a moment to ruin a good name or a trusted brand that has taken years to establish.

3) Their relationships. Whether colleagues or family, they understand the value of a trusted and trusting inner circle.

4) Their spiritual integrity. They know that this is who they truly are. Their relationship with God is their number one priority resulting in every decision being brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Next time someone comes to you for advice, what will you say? 

 

 

 

 

“Pastor” Doesn’t Necessarily Equal “Integrity”

twitter logo

Just because someone is in Christian ministry, doesn’t mean they live with integrity.

The Situation

Not too long ago, I met a pastor on twitter. When you know someone is a pastor in a denomination you trust, you assume certain things. They’ve been vetted. They have people around them (or they should) who hold them accountable. They are part of a ministry team that prays together, studies together and serves side by side. There is an expectation of safety.

This pastor and I ended up meeting in person at the state convention. He was polite and gracious. He was there representing his church and I was there representing the state task force against human trafficking. He was engaging and interesting as were all the pastors I talked to. There were no red flags.

We talked for around 20 minutes about our various ministries and what God was doing. It was all good.

Later that evening when I got home and was checking social media, I saw some private tweets from him. Up to that point, all of our communication had been in public, both at the convention and on twitter. There had been no private messaging.

Assuming his messages would be something about ministry, I opened them.

Uh … his messages were not about ministry. They were sexual and completely inappropriate.

What It Means

I was somewhat surprised because he was a pastor but not shocked, because he’s human. He had a glaring area of weakness that evidently hadn’t caught up with him yet.

But I was sad. Sad for what it meant for his family and church, and sad because his behavior is one of the reasons people are so afraid of men and women serving together. They point to things like that as proof that men and women aren’t supposed to work together.

All it proves is that human beings are sinful and that sex is alluring. As our culture is changing, it could just as easily happen between two women or two men. Drawing separation lines between the genders no longer covers all the safety bases.

That’s because the root cause isn’t about gender! It’s about lust and habits and thoughts that are not under the Holy Spirit’s control. That can happen anytime, anywhere. That’s what we have to be aware of and prepared for. Not in a suspicious kind of way, but in a wise kind of way.

About a year later, I saw on the news that he had been arrested for sexual misconduct with a minor. He had been caught sexting with a girl in the youth group at his church. He lost his church and the life he knew as he went to prison.

How We Respond

Be careful. Guard your own heart first and then be aware of others’ behaviors. Keep those Holy Spirit antennae up. Don’t assume that just because someone is in ministry, they are safe. That is NOT to say that we should be suspicious of everyone and automatically think the worst. It IS to say that we should be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

Jesus loved but He discerned. He gave of Himself but sometimes held back.

If we live and love like Jesus, we’re good to go.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Leaders and Influencers Stay Focused

Juliette vball 2013

My daughter is a collegiate athlete so her schedule is packed most of the time. When she’s not in class, she’s studying, on the road, at practice, or weightlifting. She has very little down time.

Because she’s a chemistry major with a heavy load, she has to take summer classes to keep up.

When school ended in May, she moved back home exhausted. She slept for two weeks and then her summer course started. It’s a long class and a lab so she’s at school most of the day, fitting in a workout in-between.

Last weekend her roommate, and best friend, was hosting an event that my daughter really wanted to go to. She lives across the state so attending the shower would actually be an overnight trip. She agonized over whether or not she had time to go. She decided it was worth it, so she worked on homework all day Friday (her day off) to get ahead. She made the trip but cut it short so she could get back home to study.

Her commitment amazes and inspires me. At such a young age, she knows what she wants and sacrifices fun to go after it. Many of her athlete friends at school choose easier majors because the schedule is so rough. While they’re going to movies, hanging out at each others’ apartments, and staying out late, she studies. Sure, she takes some time to be with her friends, but her eyes are on the prize.

She wants to get into medical school and she knows what it takes.

As leaders, having the influence God wants us to have, making the impact He wants us to make, leading people into transformed lives, takes focus. It requires choices … sacrificial choices. A purposeful life isn’t all fun and games.

As we journey however, we discover that our joy isn’t found in fun and games but in our relationship with Jesus. Family and friends are beautiful blessings, but sometimes time with them has to be sacrificed in order to do the work God has called us to do. And in that sacrifice, there is a joy that defies description.

 How do we stay focused and sacrificial?

1) Realize that every “no” we have to say to someone or something is a big “YES” to God. It isn’t limiting us, it’s opening up the opportunities God has for us.

2) Know that the joy we will experience in God’s will is far greater than a temporary thrill we’ll get from an activity.

3) Trust God’s all-sufficiency to cover the needs of the people we say “no” to. Our obedience is not at the expense of their well being. God will provide what they need.

4) Keep Bible study and prayer time our first priority. When we are filled with God – His vision, His calling, His passion – we won’t be needy for the things of this world.

“If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full.”  John Piper

What Leaders, Visionaries and Influencers Don’t Do

Dinosaur drawing

In the waiting room a few weeks ago, I watched an intent preschooler color a picture in her coloring book. She wasn’t bored, scribbling mindlessly, but purposefully coloring in and out of the lines in patterns. An older woman, I’m guessing her grandmother, leaned over and said, “Stay inside the lines.”

Oh, how I wanted to say:

“No! You don’t have to stay inside the lines. Color however you want. Imagine! Draw your own lines! Create! The picture printed on that page is someone else’s idea. Color your own ideas.”

As a toddler and preschooler, my son would get frustrated in the church nursery when he was made to sit at a table and color preprinted pictures. He had no interest in staying in the lines so he would just scribble and be reprimanded.

One of the best gifts given to him when he was around eight was a blank artist’s sketch pad and a set of pencils. No coloring books. No preprinted pictures and lines. He was free to doodle and dream as God created him to do. He spent many happy hours lying on the floor drawing in that pad. It was so fun to see the creatures and funny people that came out the ends of those pencils!

Erwin McManus says that by the age of 12, kids have had their wild, crazy imaginations tamed and contained by parents, teachers and society.

Lock-step living.

Dreams tucked away as impossibilities.

Forced into conformity … inside the lines someone else determined.

That is not what God had in mind when:

  • He created people and proclaimed them, “Very good.”
  • He formed us fearfully and wonderfully.
  • He gave us unique personalities and specific spiritual gifts.
  • He made us to be reflections of Him on earth – creative, expressive and intentional.

Leaders, visionaries, and influencers don’t live inside the lines someone else drew. They listen to God for direction. They soak in the Holy Spirit’s boundless imagination. They’re at their best when the vision is impossible to accomplish. They thrive on surprising people with big God-plans and goals.

God’s plan for each of His kids was to unleash us on the world in order to color it with His magnificence.

We can’t do that by staying inside the lines where it’s safe and predictable.