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No Longer a Slave to Her Dream

Just as Christina’s dreams seemed to be coming true, she felt a tug in her heart

At the peak of her career, Christina quit! She felt enslaved by her lifelong dream. It no longer fulfilled her. Instead, it weighed heavily on her heart.

From a young age, Christina always wanted to be in front of the camera. Born in Romania, her family moved to the United States, but Christina remembered her parents always sent video tapes of her back to their families in Romania.

At fifteen, she received an opportunity to go to a modeling convention. “I remember asking my mom to go, and my dad was a little bit more against it,” Christina recalled. “My mom saw how much I wanted it.” 

Christina grew up in a conservative home. As she started her modeling career, she found herself experiencing moral dilemmas. “You had to undress in front of people,” Christina explained. Even before she received Christ, she struggled with what was expected of her in the industry.

“I thought something was wrong with me because everyone else seemed to be okay with it.”

Christina silently wondered if she was the only one  who felt that way. 

Christina’s mother, Cornelia, knew a lot of things could happen behind closed doors. She spoke with daughter about her concerns, encouraged her to be careful and not give herself to inappropriate things. Cornelia said, “I let it go, and I let God take care of it.”

At the time Christina says she didn’t know what the uneasiness was that she was feeling. But now she understands it was conviction. “It was a heart issue,” Christina said. 

She thought, I want to get married, and I’m all about being loyal and faithful, and I’m seriously missing that. Christina said: “I have that inviting expression – that inviting expression scares me!”

While living in Los Angeles, California, Christina went through a very hard time in her life. She found she’d become a slave to her dream. Little by little, she looked at her life and realized the Bible and the reality she lived each day, weren’t matching up. 

During a cover shoot for a really big magazine in Arizona, Christina recognized she was no longer fulfilled. She completely surrendered her life to that ten-hour shoot. She felt yanked back and forth between what she wanted and what was required. She technically had a say in what she did or didn’t do, but really felt like she didn’t have a say. “If I really didn’t want to  do something, I would say it, but at the same time, it was so high paced.” She said she just felt like she had to go through it and get it done. 

“I had decided to quit modeling.” 

At what might have seemed like to most, the peak of her career, Christina was done. It can be easy to leave when work is slow, but Christina decided to take the opportunity and leave the industry just as she was about to come out in a big magazine, and she had jobs lined up. 

Cornelia said the changes in her daughter are so drastic. “She was a great model for the world, but she was not for Christ.” Cornelia always referred to Isaiah 54:13: “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (ESV).

So very proud of her daughter, Cornelia said, “I look at her and see the person she became –what an angelic model she is compared to what she was before [Christ].”

Get the definition of beauty from God.

Christina shared her story because she wants any girl listening to know – “If you feel insecure, if you feel like you’re not pretty, or you’re comparing yourself to these images that you’re seeing, I want you to know outer beauty doesn’t mean anything. A lot of these girls you’re looking at have major issues. When you focus on the Word of God, and you get the definition of beauty from Him, it’s amazing how content you really are.” 

Christina says she is thankful when she doesn’t receive attention because it was the wrong kind of attention in the first place. And if she does receive attention, then she knows that it’s the right kind of attention. She desires for others to see her heart and recognize that God lives inside of her. She smiled, “That’s the kind of attention I want.”

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Pastor Appreciation

Why encouragement deeply impacts the church family

 

Pastor Appreciation Month, all 31 days of October, is a time set aside specifically for the Church to express their love and appreciation for their pastors. It certainly shouldn’t be the only time we convey our gratitude for them, but it’s a great time to pause and show our love and appreciation.

It’s biblical. Under the Holy Spirit’s direction, Paul writes, “Let the pastors that shepherd well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor faithfully at preaching and teaching the word,” (I Tim. 5:17, author paraphrase).

Now, to you who belong to the church body, always be an encouragement to your pastors, but especially during Pastor Appreciation Month. You may not think so, but they need your words and expressions of love and encouragement. Trust me; I’ve been there.

Please, take time this month to honor and celebrate them! There are a multitude of ways you can do that:

  • A written note.
  • A phone call.
  • An email.
  • A gift card to their favorite restaurant or store.
  • Season ticket holders, you can send them to one of your games.
  • Provide a date night for them.
  • Or even better, pay for some days away for them to be refreshed.

And don’t forget the pastor’s spouse and their children. It was always more significant for me when my children received gifts during pastor appreciation month. It told them they were noticed, valued, needed and loved!

I could go on with ideas, but you know your pastor and their needs. Be creative, be surprising! Do something individually, but also do something corporately as a church family! Most of all, make a memory for them, one that will cause them to know they are loved and appreciated. A memory they will draw on for years to come.

My wife Jan and I still have many of the cards, notes, and emails we received over the years. From time to time, we find ourselves reading them again. (Now, we don’t have the gift cards; we redeemed them at Cheesecake Factory!)

Again, the Holy Spirit used Paul to communicate the importance of honoring our Spiritual Leaders:

“Dear brothers and sisters, make sure you show deep appreciation for who diligently minister to you as your pastors; esteem and honor them highly in love because of their faithful service …”  (I Thessalonians 5:12-13 author paraphrase).

Your expression of love and appreciation and the gratitude you express may be the very thing that keeps your pastors from giving up.

To the pastors reading this
Let me remind you of how significant and vital you are to the church. I have served in pastoral ministry for almost 50 years and understand the many challenges and demands of your calling. I know well the highs and the lows – those times you wonder if what you’re doing is truly making a difference.

We always carry an awareness of our own inadequacies! I’m reminded that Jacob had a limp; Moses had a stutter; Paul had a thorn, and God chose them, called them and powerfully used them!

I think of the words of Dr. Beecher Hicks, who for 37 years pastored the historic Metropolitan Baptist Church in our nation’s capital. He writes in a powerful piece entitled: Captured by the Call.

“In a sense, the pastorate is the worst job you will ever love! Its demands are unreasonable; its calling inescapable, and its machinery often unworkable. Its concepts difficult to grasp, and the political realities of the work make success seem, at times, impossible to achieve.

“We always live with the uneasy knowledge that we haven’t arrived and yet we must lead a people who expect us to have it all together. But the simple truth is we have been captured by the call.”

Add to all that, we have an adversary. I’m sure you’ve encountered him a time or two!  He’s relentlessly at work against us, seeking to distract and discourage and even defeat us. He knows well our significance to God’s plan for His Church.

 

Pastors, you are making a difference!

 

You are impacting lives, families and destinies. You are needed!

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:3, where he exhorts us: “Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.

Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.” (MSG).

Listen pastors, the Lord knows the challenges, the struggles and the disappointments you are navigating. He knows the doubts and fears you wrestle with at times, but you are still His choice to lead His Church.

I pray during this month of October you would:

  • Have a Psalms 23 encounter with your Lord!
  • Experience a fresh infilling of His Spirit,
  • and discover a renewed vision from Him.

I’m so grateful we have a Great High Priest who understands our humanity and even now, He is interceding for you. He welcomes you to His throne to receive His mercy and grace to empower you. (See Hebrews 4:15-15; 7:25.)

 

Pastor Zane Anderson

Zane Anderson served as a senior pastor for over 40 years, and currently leads as an Apostolic Overseer for several churches across the nation. He travels internationally to minister and is a sought-after speaker at local churches, Bible colleges and conferences around the world. He has a zeal for the local church body and desires to train and develop strong leaders. His gifting as a prophetic voice has helped people around the world move into the ministry that the Lord has purposed for them.

Acknowledge the Real Stars

Consider the laborers behind the scenes this Labor Day

Pastor Zane Anderson

Pastor Zane Anderson

Labor Day is a day we pause as a nation to celebrate and honor the vast contributions of the American worker and all they have done to make our nation great! And it’s so right to acknowledge them and to express our appreciation and gratitude for their labor.

But on this Labor Day, I invite you to look at it from a different perspective, possibly one you may have never considered. As a pastor for more than 40 years, I’ve come to understand and appreciate the significance of these laborers. I’m talking about volunteers who, week after week, year after year, faithfully serve the body of Christ. 

And on this Labor Day, I want all of us to give a shout out to these special, significant individuals!  

We live in a culture enamored with prominence and celebrity, prestige and popularity, star influence and name power. It’s constantly highlighted and applauded. But for me, the laborers are the real stars in the Church. No, they may not be prominent, nor do they receive interviews or press releases, but they are so very significant and vital to the success of the Church!  

Like many of you, I enjoy sports. And even those who aren’t “sports minded,” usually know the name, Tom Brady. He’s widely considered the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. His success record speaks for itself:  

  • 11 Super Bowl appearances, 
  • 7 Super Bowl wins, 
  • 5 times the MVP in the Super Bowl and 
  • 3 times the league MVP. 

Without a doubt, he’s an amazing and gifted athlete.

But I’m sure most of us couldn’t name his offensive line. My point? If his offensive line didn’t do what they did, we wouldn’t be talking about the “great Tom Brady.” Oh, he gets the awards, the interviews, the accolades, and certainly he’s deserving of them all. But make no mistake, without the support of a whole lot of less prominent players who don’t receive the recognition of most would mean not getting the wins and no Super Bowl rings.

It reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s words in a familiar passage, one that speaks to the difference between prominence and significance. “If Foot said, ‘I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,’ would that make it so? If Ear said, ‘I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,’ would you want to remove it from the body” (1 Corinthians 12:15 –16 MSG)? The implication is clear – of course not.

Even in the Church, we tend to focus on those who are prominent. But like Tom Brady and his offensive line, the Church is filled with a host of people who, if they don’t do what they do, the Church won’t accomplish all God intends for us, His body to accomplish. 

In Romans 16, names we hardly know and often can’t pronounce are listed, but Paul knew of their value and significance to himself personally and to the Church. It’s a list of people who labored, served and gave behind the scenes and outside of the limelight. If Paul hadn’t mentioned them, history would have forgotten them. I call them the “Faithful Unknowns.” We can’t accomplish God’s purpose without them. 

This Labor Day, I encourage you to celebrate the servant-hearted, who faithfully give of their time and their lives so that the Kingdom of God may go forth. 

As a pastor, I acknowledge your value, significance and your importance to the church you are called to serve in. The church I was privileged to lead would have never accomplished all that it did without you and people like you with a heart to serve. 

As a significant laborer, here are some important truths regarding who you are and what you do.

  1. Your gifts make you valuable although not necessarily famous. That’s right, you might not be prominent in the world’s eyes, but you are so needed!
  2. Every labor done in love is remembered by the Lord. He sees; He knows and He’s mindful and thankful for your servant heart and your many sacrifices. 

“For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for other believers, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10 NLT).

      3. You are making a difference. Please don’t forget that. You have no idea the eternal impact your life and your ministry are having on the lives you are influencing for Him.

D.L. Moody, one of the greatest evangelists of our time whose ministry impacted an entire nation, accepted the Lord because of a Sunday School teacher in a small church. I’m sure most people don’t even know his name. I’m confident there were times in his life when he wondered if he was truly making a difference in anyone’s life. But he made an eternal difference for many because he wasn’t focused on being prominent, just faithful!

Can you imagine the Sunday school teacher’s surprise when he entered Heaven to hear the Lord say, “Look at all of these you helped bring to Me!”

       4. Your final reward will be determined by your faithfulness, not public applause. 

Back in the days when you had to travel by boat across the ocean, a missionary who spent most of his life overseas serving the Lord retired and boarded a ship for the long journey back to America.

A well-known celebrity happened to be travelling on the same ship. When they arrived, a big band and a host of people were there to welcome the celebrity home. As the missionary left the ship, he complained to the Lord, “Where’s my welcome home celebration?”

The Lord spoke to his heart, “Son, you’re not home yet!”

To all of you who labor for the sake of God’s truth, I want to borrow Paul’s words – I often think of your faithful service, your loving deeds to others and the enduring hope you have (1 Thessalonians 1:3 author’s paraphrase). You are indeed the real stars.

Pastor Zane Anderson

Zane Anderson served as a senior pastor for over 40 years, and currently leads as an Apostolic Overseer for several churches across the nation. He travels internationally to minister and is a sought-after speaker at local churches, Bible colleges and conferences around the world. He has a zeal for the local church body and desires to train and develop strong leaders. His gifting as a prophetic voice has helped people around the world move into the ministry that the Lord has purposed for them.

Read Part One Now!

Staying Focused

How you respond to life situations is a byproduct of what you’re focusing on

By Evan Carlson, CEO & President

The story of the 12 spies that God asked Moses to send into the promised land to explore the land is a perfect example to illustrate how you can stay focused during your own Canaan moments.

The Israelites have already left Egypt. They’re roaming around the desert. They get to the edge of Canaan. It’s like they could just taste the promised land. And God says, “Send in twelve spies (not eleven, not thirteen) to explore the land” (Numbers 13:1). 

After exploring the land for 40 days, the men returned to Moses, his brother Aaron and the whole community of Israel to report what they had seen. They showed them the fruit they had taken from the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:25-27). 

I can imagine them holding up the fruit. But …. There’s always that but. “But the people who live there are strong, and their cities are large and walled. We even saw the three Anakim clans. Besides that, the Amalekites live in the Southern Desert; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites are in the hill country; and the Canaanites live along the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River” (Numbers 13:28-29 CEV).

Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it” (Number 13:30 NLT)! 

“But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. We can’t go up against them. They’re stronger than we are. So, they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites. The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there” (Numbers 13:31-32 NLT). 

It sounds like Lord of the Rings or something that crazy.

“All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them, we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought to” (Numbers 13:33 NLT).

Our differences distract us.

Have you ever noticed when your mind is focused on something and you’re certain you have found the answer, and then suddenly, somebody interjects their thought and you’re not certain that you have the answer anymore?

Stay Focused

In my family growing up, vacation was calm. We’d get up when we got up. We’d have a light breakfast. We may do something today, or we may not. My mom’s going to read a book in the corner. We may hang out at the pool. But in my wife, Kelly’s family, vacation is a sport and I lose every time. 

If we’re going to do Disneyland, we’re going to be there from the time the gates open until the gates close. You should buy your new shoes because you’re going to walk until you can’t walk anymore.

We can all relate to the differences in views when it comes to Covid, masks, vaccinations … and differences can sometimes jam you up. Someone starts talking about something and you’re like, “Wait. Hold on. How did we get here?”

Different viewpoints can cause distractions. And in this Canaan moment, you had the twelve spies going through the land, checking everything out. They saw milk and honey like God promised, and they also saw the giants. Caleb and Joshua, they were like, “Bring it on. God said it; we’ve been promised this land. Let’s roll.” 

And the other ten spies saying “Hold on. We saw something totally different than you saw. We saw these guys that were huge. We saw enemies on every corner.” They saw things that put absolute terror in them, and it jammed them up. 

Joshua and Caleb said, “Look, I’m not listening to you guys. This is what God’s Word has to say.” 

In order to fix your focus, you need to think about your response.

Your response in life is a product of your focus.

Let’s just talk about this real practical here. How can you have the same people going through that same exact journey with two different responses, both facing the same cancer diagnosis?  One is depressed, unable to overcome their fears and anxiety. The other is full of hope, full of peace and full of God’s strength. It’s all about what they’re focused on. 

Stay Focused

If you look back at the story about Joshua and Caleb, it doesn’t say in the Bible that the 10 spies went rogue. God told Moses to identify spiritual leaders within each of the 12 tribes. It wasn’t as though Caleb and Joshua were necessarily spiritual giants and the other ten were not. It’s easy to think these guys didn’t believe in God, that they were weak in their faith, but that’s not the case. They just didn’t have their focus right. 

You think about that popular vote thing. If Joshua and Caleb just decided to cave to the popular vote, that would be a totally different story.

Now, God eventually did what He was going to do through Joshua and Caleb because they stayed faithful to Him. We have faith, but oftentimes we get jammed up in our lack of focus. We believe in Christ. We believe in His saving grace and have faith that He can do it. He can overcome, but what are we focusing on that’s getting us sidetracked?

So maybe today you’re standing on the edge of something. Maybe you’re facing a Canaan moment in your health. Or maybe it’s something related to family. Is it relationships? When you’re standing on that edge, what choice are you going to make? Are you going to lean into to the hope of Christ? Or like so many, in this case, the majority – the ten that decided to go the other direction.

Read the second blog in this series.

Read the third blog in this series.

Read Part Three Now!

Staying Focused

3 things that can help you get your focus back on track.

By Evan Carlson, CEO & President

2 Corinthians 4:13 says, “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’” we also believe, and so we also speak” (ESV). 

What comes out of our mouths should start in God’s Word. In Paul’s case, he believed in God. This is the truth that he wanted to speak back into his own heart, into his own mind. What’s coming out of Paul’s mouth?

We are continuing with three things that can help you get your focus back on track. (Click here to read part one of this blog and click here to read part two.)

    3. Focus on what you say. 

 What do you allow to come out of your mouth.? What you’re saying impacts your life as well. 

Joshua and Caleb talked differently than the other spies about the situation. They we’re saying – 

  • We’ve got this. 
  • God has given us a promise.
  • He will allow us to conquer this land. 

They were speaking truth. They weren’t speaking their truth; they were speaking God’s truth. They got His truth from His word that He will deliver them. 

I was wrestling back and forth, thinking maybe the ten spies were just trying to create a lie to try to stir up the camp but there’s a really small detail in verse 32. “So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: ‘The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge’” (Numbers 13:32 NLT).

They didn’t lie or even give a false report. It says they came back with a bad report. It was not bad in inaccuracy necessarily, but bad in not speaking God’s truth over the situation. 

 

Joshua and Caleb were not deceived about what the real the real situation was. But if you go on to the end of the chapter, truth bleeds into exaggeration. The spies were saying the giants were so big that they felt like grasshoppers. That’s truth, but then the ten spies added, “And that’s what they thought too” (Numbers 13:33 NLT).

How could they know that? They got that stuck in their heads, and then they said it out of their mouths. It not only influenced their own thinking, but also the thinking of the entire nation – except for Joshua and Caleb. 

 

The enemy wants you to be thinking about everything that’s beyond truth. God said this, but is that really going to happen? We tend to add to the storyline before the story plays out. Often you get to the end of a story and realize what you had in your head didn’t play out the way that you thought it was going to play out.

  • God is saying to keep it simple. 
  • He’s given you His truth. 
  • Don’t add other things on top. 
  • Keep the main thing the main thing. 

 

God promised the land would flow with milk and honey. The reality is you will encounter giants. You’ll have to battle and tear down walls. These are real. But what’s not real are all of the other things that we add to the storyline in our heads. That’s above and beyond what God is telling us today. 

What’s coming out Caleb and Joshua’s mouths? They are speaking the truth. Joshua and Caleb said. “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke, we also believe, and so we also speak’” (Number 14:8 ESV). 

They’re speaking God’s truth back to the Israelites. They’re speaking the truth, regardless of who was listening. It’s an audience of one in their minds. They want to speak truth back, even if no one else was listening. 

If God has given you something … if He’s asking you to overcome something in your life … God’s given you a promise. If it’s in His Word, it will happen. God’s truth will be fulfilled. But we have to continue to say that back to ourselves. That’s why it’s so powerful. 

Think about how faith comes by hearing. Right? “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 ESV). 

We need to hear truth in our own ears from our own mouths.

The byproduct of what happened because of the ten spies was way worse than facing a few giants. The nation of Israel had to wait for an entire generation to pass before they could possess the promised land. Only the two voices that spoke God’s truth – Caleb and Joshua and to the next generation would be allowed to enter the land many years later. 

And they conquered the land through God because it was His promise. 

What is God sharing with you through your quiet time? What are you hearing in your heart and in your mind? 

  • Don’t think more than is there.
  • Don’t hear things that aren’t truth.
  • Don’t speak out things that you’re thinking about that are more than truth. 

Hear God’s truth; think God’s truth and speak God’s truth audibly. Take time to put things in your heart, mind and ears that are full of His truth.  

Read the first blog in this series.

Read the second blog in this series.

Read Part Two Now!

Staying Focused

3 things that can help you get your focus back on track.

By Evan Carlson, CEO & President

You can do three specific things to be intentional and walk with Christ through this journey –

  1. Focus your thinking. 

Israel had no king at the time of their Canaan moment. Moses was a prophet, but he was viewed very much as a king. In Numbers 13:1-2, God very simply gave instruction. “The Lord now said to Moses, ‘Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes’” (NIV). 

Now look at what Moses said to the 12 spies.  

  • See what the land is like, and 
  • Find out whether the people living there are strong or weak, few or many (Number 13:18 NIV).
  • See what kind of land they live in. 
  • Is it good or bad? 
  • Do their towns have walls, or are they unprotected like open camps (Number 13:19 NIV)? 
  • Is the soil fertile or poor? 
  • Are there many trees? 
  • Do your best to bring back samples of the crops you see” (Number 13:20 NIV).

God said, do one thing. 

Moses told the guys to do about 12 different things. And they got jammed up.

It’s kind of like when my wife Kelly sends me to the grocery store with one assignment – get salsa. That’s all we need for dinner. But halfway into the parking lot, I get a ping on my phone with a message we also need cheese and milk. I get home, and of course, I forgot the salsa. 

We start thinking about things that God never asked us to think about.

God gives simple instruction.

God sent the spies into the land because He wanted them to come back and be the encouragement to inspire others about the promise land. Instead, the majority came back and discouraged the people. They did the exact opposite of what God’s purpose was for that tour. 

God knew what was going on in the land. He didn’t need the 12 spies to go. He wanted them to come back and demonstrate their faith in Him. He wanted them to come back, celebrate Him and say He’s got this. The ten obviously got sidetracked. 

2 Corinthians 10:5 offers a practical answer to this situation. “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ” (NLT). He’s asking us to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Him. 

Our thoughts can go crazy, and we can be thinking about everything other thing than being obedient to Him. When’s the last time that you stopped to think about what you’re thinking about?

Think

When’s the last time you’ve done that? We’re busy people – busy with work, family and activities. We don’t live in a society that encourages us to do this. So, we need to focus our thinking. 

2. Focus on what you hear. 

The Israelites were not selective in what they heard. The spies lifted up the grapes and said, “Look, you’re right. The land flows with milk and honey, but …” and there’s that little word. And they go on to talk about the walls, the giants, the enemies and all the other things that they allowed them to become jammed up. 

So Caleb essentially said, “y’all need to just zip it.” He said, “But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. ‘Let’s go at once to take the land,’ he said. ‘We can certainly conquer it’” (Number 13:30 NLT).

Caleb and Joshua were aware of the giants. They were on the same journey as the other spies. They saw the exact same movie playing out in front of them. 

We don’t need people in our lives that are going to speak anything other than truth. I tell my daughters this. Don’t bring people into your life that are going to take you away from God’s truth.

The people you have in your life – either for good or for bad – will dictate your future.

 It’s the old adage, “Who you hang out with is who you become.” 

I don’t know why, but for some reason we choose to not listen to Mom and Dad, or Grandma and decide not to spend the time putting the right stuff in our ears. 

Hear

You’ve got to focus what you hear and bolster your faith. 

  • Don’t let just anybody talk to you. 
  • Don’t let just anybody share whatever they want to share with you.

Caleb was the minority here. He knew the truth. He encouraged the other 10 to get their act together because this is what God promised Abraham, and He told them to take the land and they knew they could conquer it. God put something in the hearts of the Israelites for a reason. He had a purpose for that. 

God has put things into your heart for a reason. He’s putting something into your heart and mind right now. I don’t know what that is. But He’s putting something there. Don’t let anyone say otherwise.

Thinking about the two different people overcoming cancer. Or you’ve got other things where God saying, “I want you to overcome, fill in the blank. Whatever that is. I want you to conquer the land. I want you to be careful and selective with what you’re putting into your ears.”

We have to follow God’s instructions and becomes selective in what we hear. It’s vital that we submit our lives to the words God has spoken. We need people who will stand in our corner. Do you have people in your corner who are speaking truth into your ears right now? If you don’t, find people who can speak truth into you. 

Read the first blog in this series.

Read the third blog in this series.

FAMILY PICNIC – BOUNDARIES

Stress less this summer with healthy relationships

When planning a picnic, perhaps the first thing you do is think about who you want to sit next to on the blanket. Picnics bring feelings of intimacy and connection, so the thought of inviting your greatest enemy wouldn’t cross your mind. Picnics are supposed to be fun, relaxing, and restorative. Strife may arrive at your door when you least expect it, but it will seldom find a seat on the picnic blanket. 

If you were to throw a picnic this weekend, who would you invite? A best friend? A co-worker you click with? Who would you not invite? Chances are, you can answer these questions instantaneously. The answers to these questions reveal who adds value to your life and who adds strain to your life. These are the easy questions. 

Here is the hard question. Who is the person you’d feel obligated to invite to your picnic and would reluctantly do so? They may not be a bad person or your greatest enemy. They may even be a person you like, but not a person you would elect to share a PB&J and sweet tea with on a sunny summer day. Yet somehow you find it impossibly hard to say “no.” You know you’ll not enjoy the day as much, but you feel a tension to invite them anyway. Perhaps it’s a proactive way to stave off future drama. Maybe you are concerned about their feelings, and you know they’ll feel hurt and rejected. So navigating a little less joy on your end feels negligible in light of their emotional wellbeing. 

Your reasons for reluctantly inviting people to your picnic are not inherently bad. They show you possess a measure of empathy, intention, and self-awareness. Unfortunately, they may also show that you struggle creating healthy boundaries.

Brené Brown notes, “Living a connected life ultimately is about setting boundaries, spending less time and energy hustling and winning over people who don’t matter, and seeing the value of working on cultivating connection with family and close friends.”

Establishing intentional interactions for various people in your life

This does not mean you reject everyone who makes you uncomfortable. It simply means establishing intentional interactions for various people in your life. The older you get the more you realize it is impossible to please everyone. The Apostle Paul phrased it this way:

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10 NIV).

Paul understood the cost of conviction. He understood that by living a spirit-led life he would not always do what people thought he should do. Despite their best intentions, people are fickle, and their opinions change direction like the wind. 

  • One day they may be a vegetarian; the next day they’re eating a steak. 
  • One day they hate their job; the next day they love it. 

People often lack emotional stability and reliability, but you don’t have to be that person. It begins with clarifying what you will and will not accept in your life. 

This isn’t just about people. This is about purpose. You’ve probably heard someone say, “If you don’t schedule your life someone else will schedule it for you.” Setting healthy boundaries means taking responsibility for the gifts God has given you, aligning your time and energy to best utilize those gifts to make an impact for the Kingdom of God, and informing people of these convictions. 

When Peter attempted to inject his opinion on what Jesus should do and should not do, Jesus responded, 

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23 NIV).

One of the greatest gifts you can give your friends and acquaintances is the clarity of boundaries. When you can model what is acceptable and unacceptable in your life, you free people around you to do the same without guilt or condemnation.

Sure, they may huff and puff and create some temporary tension, but in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” People will adapt.

According to Alice Boyles of the Harvard Business Review: “Here’s a very basic law of psychology: When behaviors are reinforced, they increase. When you ignore them, you might see an ’extinction burst’ — a short-term rise in the problematic behaviors — but then they will stop.

For example, if a colleague emails you after-hours and you reply, you’re encouraging more work at night. The sender will ask for more — from you and everyone else. If you instead ignore inappropriate attempts to push you to overwork, the person may for a short period of time try frenetically and in more manipulative ways to get you to comply — the extinction burst — but then they’ll adapt. People are wired to learn.”

It’s ok to enjoy YOUR picnic. 

It’s ok to schedule something that is life-giving to you without feeling an obligation to appease others. Ultimately, you are not responsible for their happiness. 

According to Psychologist Henry Cloud, “We can’t manipulate people into swallowing our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Boundaries are a ‘litmus test’ for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our no. They only love our yes, our compliance.”

In short, if people only like you when you do what they want, they are likely a relationship to keep at a distance. Great love never lasts when it has been built on a foundation of manipulation. Sometimes the greatest boundary you can set only consists of two letters, requires no explanation and needs no clarification. 

No.

“No” is a complete sentence.

People often look at boundaries as harsh overreactions to simple demands. This is not the case. Boundaries are not cold, hard walls erected to keep people out of your life. They are more like gates or fences. You can peer through a gate or fence and determine whether or not danger is approaching. If so, keep the gate locked. 

However, if what approaches your gate is kind and will add value to your life, open the gate and let them in. 

Jesus understands the significance of boundaries, and even more so, He respects them. He does not forcefully barge into your life and demand obedience, sacrifice, and love. No, he comes up to the gate of your life and says:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends” (Revelation 3:20, NLT).

The danger of establishing boundaries is that fear, failure, and trauma may also cause you to keep out things that are good. Your self-esteem may be so battered and worn that you would schedule a picnic, bring the food and games, but invite no one. This is an unhealthy boundary that feeds an unhealthy thought pattern. 

Healthy boundaries will empower you, build confidence, invoke peace, and bring fulfillment. You’ll be more productive, purpose-filled, and more effective. If the boundary causes you to feel depressed, stressed, overwhelmed, and fearful, it’s not a healthy boundary. 

So how do you set healthy boundaries and keep them? 

Here are a few tips.

1. Determine External Invasive Actions

Sit down and write a long list of things people do or say that make you feel bad. For instance, it may bother you when someone walks into your office and begins having a conversation with you without knocking. It may seem minor to them, but you find the interruptions negatively affect your work production. 

Maybe your spouse continually cuts you off when you are talking, and it makes you feel unheard and uncared for. Maybe they are too physical with you or use language you find unacceptable. 

Whatever it may be, there are things people do and say that make you feel uneasy. Write them down

2. Commit to the Conversation

You don’t have to be a jerk to create boundaries. You just need to be clear. Whenever you set a boundary people don’t like they may 

  • Respond with greater aggression because you are cutting off the power they have over your life. 
  • Try to manipulate you into retracting the boundary by making you feel guilty. 
  • Throw out excessive ultimatums. 
  • Try to induce fear. 

These reactions are merely confirmation of the path you are on and the boundaries you are setting in place. If a healthy boundary causes someone to leave a relationship with you, gracefully allow them to leave. You are not responsible for their happiness.

If they genuinely care for you and did not mean to violate an unspoken boundary, they will be sorrowful and apologetic and will gladly honor the boundaries. They may likely have some boundaries of their own they had been reluctant to share, and your courage has inspired them to take responsibility for their own mental health.

3. Stay Consistent

Don’t undermine your efforts with inconsistency. Write the boundaries down so you don’t forget them. Write out why you established these boundaries in the first place. Write out how you’ll enforce the boundaries. Keep them in your mind and don’t deviate. You know what’s best for you and no amount of debate should sway you from your goal.

As you open the weather app on your phone you see that the weekend looks bright, sunny and the weather will be a perfect 78 degrees. Go to your favorite park, beach, or rooftop and have a picnic with the people YOU want to be there. 

And don’t feel bad about it.

 

Brené Brown (2012). “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”, p.122

Henry Cloud and John Sims, Townsend. Boundaries: When to say Yes, when to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 112.

https://hbr.org/2022/05/resisting-the-pressure-to-overwork?position=9

FAMILY PICNIC: MAKING MOMENTS

Family Moments

How to handle the times you wish you could take back

The first baseball game was broadcast in 1921. One can imagine families sitting outside on a picnic blanket, enjoying sun and lemonade while gathered tightly around their radio listening intently to the announcer describe every play in detail.

Jeff Curtis once wrote, “One of life’s simple pleasures during the summer, especially for a sports fan, is the joy of listening to a baseball game on the radio …. Baseball is the perfect summer companion, the game has a rhythm that mirrors summer – the pace is gradual, sometimes slow, and often laid back.” 

The golden age of baseball, from about 1920-1960, touted great baseball stars like Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. In 2021, a mint condition Mickey Mantle rookie card sold for $5.2 million. 

Baseball history is marked by amazing moments. Game winning home runs, unbelievable catches,and unprecedented accomplishments were bestowed upon the sport the moniker, “America’s Pastime.” The players were remembered for the moments they gave us. 

Yet, one could argue a single moment does not make a person who they are. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop the good and bad moments from cycling through the mind on repeat. 

We tend to view our lives as an average of high and low moments.

Sure, you experienced colossal mistakes but you also have had monumental achievements. Each one of us are a concoction of rights and wrongs mixed together to form the infrastructure of our lives.

If we truly believe a moment does not make or break us, how is it that we come to be so influenced by a single one of them? The answer is quite simple.

We choose to. 

We choose to give moments more power than they deserve, no matter if they are excellent or atrocious. A prime example is Bill Buckner. In the 1986 World Series, the Boston Red Sox lead the series three games to two and stood on the verge of winning it all. In the tenth inning, the Red Sox were winning by one run with two outs. All they had to do was get one more out and they would become world champions. Then came an uncanny series of moments.

Family Moments

A wild pitch by Bob Stanley caused one run to score, tying the game. Then, on the tenth pitch of the tenth inning of game six of the 1986 World Series, Mookie Wilson hit a ground ball to the veteran player Bill Buckner. As he bent down to field the grounder and end the game, the unthinkable happened. He misplayed the ball and then watched with horror as it went between his legs and trickled into the outfield. Another runner scored and the Mets stole the win. Not only did they steal game six, but the Mets also went on to win game seven and the championship.

Bill Buckner isn’t known for his twenty-two-year career. He’s not known for being an All-Star player, or for his kindness, generosity, or relationship with Jesus, although all those things are true. He is known for a single moment in time when a ball rolled between his legs, and it cost his team a World Series win.

In this instance, the moment meant more than the person. Buckner was abused by the sports media and fans for years. He received death threats and some even worried that he would commit suicide. 

In 2004, the Boston Red Sox finally won another World Series, and again in 2007. But something lingered over each win, a wrong that had to be made right, a moment in time where one man was treated unfairly. Finally, on April 8, 2008, the Red Sox invited Bill Buckner back to Fenway Park to throw out the first pitch. He received a standing ovation for over two minutes. All was forgiven.

Interestingly, no one talks about Bob Stanley, the pitcher who allowed a run on a wild pitch one batter prior. His moment was just as costly. So were the mistakes of the previous pitcher for allowing so many runners to get on base, yet the only person baseball fans think about when someone mentions the 1986 World Series is Bill Buckner and his infamous error.  

The moment was an albatross for Buckner, and while many people would have preferred it to derail his life, he refused to let that happen. Even if he had caught the ball and made the out, it would never have been his biggest moment. It would just have been one of many moments in his life that he looked on fondly or regretfully.

We all have moments we wish we could take back.

What would you pay for a “do-over,” whether it be for a great failure, embarrassment or inaction? Knowing who you are now, would you let it happen again?

Family Moments

In his book, Failing Forward, John Maxwell says, “The essence of man is imperfection. Know that you’re going to make mistakes. The fellow who never makes a mistake takes his orders from one who does. Wake up and realize this: Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success.”

Failure is a moment, not a person. You are not a failure; you simply have moments where you have failed. If you ask any high achieving person to list their failures, the list will be wrapped around the world. American author Napoleon Hill once said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

In this perspective, the moment is only a failure if you give it power to be such. If you choose to leverage the pain of that moment to propel you to greater things, the pain of that moment lessens, and the joy of the next achievement causes hindsight to be your friend and not your enemy. 

We often allow bad moments in the past to rob us of great moments in the future. We don’t approach the summer with joy and expectation, looking forward to the picnics, the beach trips and large doses of Vitamin D. No, our bodies may be experiencing summertime, but our minds are stuck in the trapping snows of winter. 

Moments have the power to bind us or free us.

The Apostle Paul knew the power of moments. He likely remembered his worst moments daily, yet he was also the man who said:

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV). 

“James echoes the statement when he adds, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 ESV).

Family Moments

It turns out the bad moments can actually become the best moments if you shift your perspective. When you shift your perspective, you steal the power of the moment, much like the Mets stole game six of the 1986 World Series. When this power shift occurs, you begin looking for moments instead of shying away from them. You build your life around winning moments, and you insist on taking valuable life lessons from losing moments. In the Kingdom of God, nothing is wasted.

  • It’s not a trial, it’s an opportunity to develop steadfastness (James 1:2-4 ESV).
  • It’s not a failure, it’s an opportunity for God to show how He can take anything and make it good (Romans 8:28 ESV).
  • It’s not suffering, it’s the production of endurance, character and hope (Romans 5:3-5 ESV).
  • It’s not temptation, it’s an opportunity to escape unscathed because God always makes a way (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV).
  • It’s not a reason for fear, it’s preparation for a crown (Revelation 2:10 ESV.)
  • It’s not discipline, it’s love (Revelation 3:19 ESV).
  • It’s not an unending affliction; it’s never-ending comfort despite affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Here’s the great news. Moments don’t just happen to you. 

You have the power to create your preferred moment. 

  • Do you want kindness? You can create a moment of supernatural selflessness. 
  • Do you want to be surrounded by generous people? Be unexpectedly kindhearted. 
  • Do you want love? Love those who may not deserve it. 

You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). Many of us want great moments to happen to us but we are unwilling to sow seeds for those moments. We don’t want to till the ground, but we want a healthy orchard, yet seed only produces fruit after its own kind. 

Family Moments

When you choose to make moments – not just make the best of moments – you proactively shape the world around you. One of the greatest lines in the book of Acts is often overlooked. Paul preached over the course of three Sabbath days the resurrection and divinity of Jesus Christ. Things escalated quickly:

“But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd” (Acts 17:5 ESV).

If this occurred in the 21st century, the news stations would be all over it. There would be additional political debates as each side condemned the other. Jason would have been invited onto morning talk shows to share how he “felt” in that moment. Memes would be made, and the internet would simultaneously attack and condone the actions of the city. It was an angry mob and people would use it for power. But there’s more.

“And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6 ESV).

What a great line! “The men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” You may think they were exaggerating, but what they are saying is as accurate an assessment as one could make. Paul waited around for someone else to do what needed to be done. He created a moment for Christ to be glorified. It wasn’t ideal, and Jason had to bribe the governing officials to be set free, but some of those who heard about it were forever changed. 

Plenty of moments would “happen to” Paul. Shipwrecks, floggings and imprisonment were cast his way, but he never allowed the moment to have more power than it ought to. He immediately filtered his moments through the cause of Christ. He sang in the jail, thanked God to be called to suffer for His name and learned the secret of contentment; he could do anything because Christ was with him (Philippians 4:13 ESV). 

It’s time to create the moments that will last a lifetime and steal the power of past moments as you filter them through Jesus’ redemptive work. Bill Buckner could have dwelt on that one bad moment like everyone else, but there were too many other great baseball moments he was not willing to surrender. He refused to give up, and he left a legacy far greater than a game. He left a family, a lineage of forgiveness and he retired with more hits than Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. He defined the importance of that moment for his life, and in his mind, it wasn’t worth much compared to the eternal. 

Family Moments

Take some time this summer and reflect on your best and worst moments. Once you’ve submitted them to Jesus and gained a proper perspective (here’s a hint, it will involve the fruit of the Spirit), begin making new moments, Kingdom moments, eternal moments. You may not hear it on earth, but you’ll probably get a two-minute standing ovation in heaven.