Be Mean

be mean

 

….about the vision, that is. 

Wondering what I’m talking about today?

Vision. Tenacity. Determination. The ability to finish the race God called us to.

Whether you are a pastor, a leader, a parent, or an employer, you started with a vision.  We all did.

  • Pastors want to shepherd and disciple a group of people.
  • Parents want to raise God-loving, integrity-filled children.
  • CEO’s want to run purpose-filled, profitable organizations.
  • People want to accomplish their goals.

All of us have a vision of what we want to do and who we’d like to become, yet few of us stick to it over time. Even after short-term success, visions tend to blur, drift, and fade.

  • Pastors get sidetracked with people’s agendas and well-meaning ideas.
  • Parents get lost in demanding daily routines.
  • Organizations drown in red tape.
  • Our goals are forgotten as we address day-to-day minutia. 

Can you relate? I sure can. After 21 years in ministry, I can testify to countless times my vision for a particular ministry or group was threatened to drift away from what God originally tasked me to accomplish. Even as a parent I can feel the pull to get off course and pay more attention to a busy schedule than to the spiritual growth of my kids.

The bottom line is vision fades. We forget why we do what we do. We mean to do something specific, but we drift off course. 

That’s why I think we should be mean! We should mean to do what we do! All of us – in every role we have – should be mean about the vision God has given us. We should be intentional in our leadership! That kind of intentionality requires consistency, commitment, and yes, courage. Trust me, you need a lot of that last one. Being mean about your vision…sticking to it….saying no to some good things in order to say yes to the best things….not pleasing everyone all the time….making some tough calls….well, that’s rubber meets the road kind of stuff. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

But, here’s the payoff: life, passion, growth, success! When we resolutely stick to the vision God has given for our lives, our ministries, and our families, we flourish! And so do the people around us. Accomplishing what we set out to do brings satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentedness. That’s much better than drowning in daily minutia, don’t you agree?

My husband’s next book, Be Mean About The Vision, will help you protect and preserve what really matters. It launches April 19th, but you can pre-order it now. If you’ve ever drifted off-course or if you’d like to prevent it from happening, get this book today.

Don’t wander in random directions. Be mean about your vision. About the vision God has for your ministry and family. About the vision God has for your life. Be intentional. Be resolute.

Be mean about the vision!

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The One-Two Punch You Should Know

gloveBecause of the never-ending access to other people through social media, Christians today have a real battle on their hands to avoid getting tripped up by the temptations to play the comparison game or to seek to approval of others. Or worse yet, we read about ideas that sound good, and we incorporate them into our lives and belief systems.

It happens all the time.

We constantly see images of scantily clad, super thin women, and we come to believe that defines beauty.

We listen to sarcasm and foul language enough until we, too, think it’s funny.

We read someone’s post about a new car, new phone, or new outfit, and suddenly we are discontent.

We read rants on blogs or Facebook, and we begin to believe ripping others with our words when we’ve been wronged is a good idea. 

Living the Christian life sure ain’t easy. We are constantly bombarded with ideas that challenge our standards and sometimes make us stumble.

But, there is a way to avoid those temptations. To not believe those lies. To stand strong in our faith. 

The secret….the key…to standing strong in our faith and to avoid falling for the lies is found here:

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Col 2:7

In this verse, we learn the secret is a one-two punch:

  1. Let your roots grow down into Him: Our “roots” are our understanding of Scripture and our personal, intimate relationship with God. They anchor us in our beliefs! By reading God’s word daily, our roots will grow deep and strong, and our knowledge and wisdom will expand, helping us know lies from truth.
  2. Let your lives be built on Him: Once strengthened, our roots provide us the nourishment we need to live our lives! Our knowledge and understanding of God’s word equips us to make wise, Godly choices and decisions. Our lives are built one decision at a time…..and each of those choices can be made through the filter of God’s Word!

Soooo, as we grow our roots down into Him and then build our lives on obedience to God, we grow closer and closer to our Father and farther and farther away from the enemy and falsehoods. And, friends, close to God is exactly where we want to be!

The next time life takes a swing at you, hit back with your own one-two punch!

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The Sentence That Stopped Me In My Tracks

So I was reading through Romans  the other day when one sentence stopped me in my tracks.

“We must not just please ourselves.” Romans 15:1 NLT

Well, that advice flies in the face of what our society teaches, doesn’t it? Self-help books, talk show hosts, and advice columns all teach that we should never live to please others. Seeking to win the love and acceptance of other people by saying and doing certain things only leads to empty, one-sided relationships, and any counselor would agree.

I agree. And so would Paul, the author of that quote. 

But Paul didn’t teach that we should live to please others in order to win their approval. He didn’t advance a plan for winning friends and gaining popularity. Instead, Paul taught that we should seek to please others out of respect for their view of God. The bottom line is this: what we say and do influences others. So when we choose a particular behavior or action, those watching us are influenced. They have an opinion about us and about God.

For instance, when a group of Christians collects funds to provide gifts for the needy at Christmas, people are blessed and know that God cares about them. When we invite someone to church, they are reminded about God. When exhibit honesty, loyalty, or compassion because we choose to live by God’s standards, we model God’s character for those around us. And, when we choose to avoid certain things or activities out of respect for those with weaker faith, we are displaying love and sensitivity. Check out what Paul said:

“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” Romans 15:2 NLT

Living to please others is actually a very good thing…..it just has a vastly different definition in Scripture than it does in our culture! Our goal in pleasing others is to encourage them and their faith in God.

Today, live to please others. Not to win their approval, but to protect and encourage their faith.

Please others by showing love when someone has been rude.

Please others by displaying Godly character which encourages them to raise their own standards of living!

Please others by investing into a friend. Showing unexpected kindness models God’s love!

Please others by being patient with them.

All of these actions help to encourage the faith in others! You might not see the fruit in the moment, but we trust that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. We trust that the Holy Spirit plants seeds in their lives through our actions….seeds that will yield a great harvest!

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The 10,000 Foot View

Not long ago I listened as a friend confided some problems she was facing. It seemed as if her whole life was a mess, but it really wasn’t. I was able to see a few key adjustments she could make to reverse course and feel peace again. 

Fast forward to just a few days ago when I faced a problem that frustrated me and felt like withdrawing from those around me.

Why was I able to clearly see the answer for someone else but not for myself?

It’s called the 10,000 foot view! When we rise up above the minutia and details of our lives, we can more easily surmise a solution. It’s “seeing the forest in spite of the trees.” And, more often than not, we have a 10,000 foot view of the problems of other people, but we are too mired in the details to have the same view of our own.

Check out what Paul wrote:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5 NLT

The bottom line is Paul challenged us to have a 10,000 foot view of our own problems. He preached that if Christians rise up above the frustrations and hurt that our problems bring, we will see the bigger picture.

  • We will see how our problems build up endurance (which means the next problem won’t trip us up quite as badly as the last one).
  • We will learn that our ability to endure difficulties builds a strong character (which prevents us from wallowing in self pity and makes us models to follow)
  • We will learn that our strong character makes us confident in our salvation (which brings purpose and peace)

Friends, if we could learn to pause in the midst of our problems to gain the 10,000 foot view, we would benefit immensely. I’m convinced our problems, though just as difficult, wouldn’t cause us to stumble so badly. Just look at Paul. He faced unbelievable circumstances: betrayal, threats, misunderstanding, jail, beatings, loneliness,….the list goes on. His problems were difficult but he wrote often of his joy, his purpose, and his willingness to keep going.

How could we gain a better perspective on our problems? Could we talk to a trusted friend? Could we make a pro/con list? Could we read Scriptures for insight? Could we pray? Could we read a book for help? Could we visit a counselor? 

Your Turn: What steps could you take to “pause” in the midst of a problem and gain a 10,000 foot view for perspective? 

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Don’t Be A Knucklehead

Do you know what I’ve learned in life? Preparation is the key to success. In everything.

  • Better grades come when I’ve studied.
  • Parties go smoother when I’ve thought through the details in advance.
  • My cars last longer when I keep the engine maintained.
  • Money stretches farther when I have a spending plan.
  • Afternoons at home are less stressful when I’ve created a dinner menu and have meals ready.
  • I respond to life better when I’ve consistently spent time learning from Jesus.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. If we are spiritually prepared, success will be ours.

  • Knowing scripture helps us overcome temptation.
  • Knowing scripture helps us understand God and His ways.
  • Knowing scripture helps us not fall for the enemy’s tricks.
  • Knowing scripture gives us hope.
  • Knowing scripture helps us know the difference between false prophets and God.

Whatever you are facing today or even in this season of your life, be prepared. God’s Word is full of wisdom and encouragement to guide your every decision. Don’t be one of those knuckleheads who try to figure things out without reading the instructions!

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Bless Your Heart

blessI live in the South where the phrase “bless your heart” can be a warm sentiment or an insult. More often, it’s a pity-filled insult. Whether it’s the lady wearing the worst outfit ever or the man with the over-the-top personality, we notice. Oh yes, we size people up and judge their attitudes and behaviors.

Guilty as charged. In the last hour, I’ve had opinionated thoughts about a local lawyer’s questionable TV ads and someone’s choice of social media posts. Don’t even get me started on people’s driving habits. In that arena, I always have an opinion.

But Paul challenged us in Romans chapter 2 to take a closer look at our swiftness to judge….and a closer look at what we are judging. Check it out:

“….When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you do these very same things.” Romans 2:1 NLT

While we might be guilty of shaking our heads at questionable outfits, we are probably also guilty of judging others for their actions.

  • “She hasn’t been to church in years.”
  • “He had an affair.”
  • “Did you hear? He embezzled money from his job!”
  • “She is such a gossip. You can’t trust her!”
  • “Wow. He is so sarcastic. All. The. Time.”
  • “She got caught in a lie. It’s not the first time either….”

The truth is it is much easier to tell someone else how to behave than to behave properly ourselves. It’s easier to quote the bible than it is to actually live out its principles. And it’s certainly more fun to point out someone else’s offenses than to deal with our own.

Yet, Paul didn’t mince words. He clearly stated that God will judge ALL of us for our secret lives.

“The day will surely come when God, by Jesus Christ, will judge everyone’s secret life.” Romans 2:16 NLT

YIKES. That put things into perspective. God desires us to be soft-hearted people who aren’t judgemental but are compassionate, patient with others, and kind with our thoughts and words.

And He expects us to turn our pointing fingers back on ourselves. Looking at the list of “judgments” above, we could choose to notice those actions in others but use those moments as a springboard to take an inward look:

  • I might be going to church weekly, but how is my personal love relationship with God?
  • He might have had an affair, but what am I doing to be the best spouse I can be?
  • He embezzled money, but do I take shortcuts with my money? Do I ever take what doesn’t belong to me? Do I steal in small ways?
  • She gossips, but do I protect others with my words?
  • He is insulting with his sarcasm, but do I proactively encourage others?
  • She lies, but am I always honest?

The bottom line, friends, is God is concerned not only with our integrity, but also with our compassion for others. Instead of judging, let’s love. And let’s evaluate our own personal integrity level so that we won’t bear the title of hypocrite.

Here’s our challenge for today: Each time we notice something negative about another person, let’s take an inward look to evaluate if any hypocrisy can be found in our hearts/actions.

This one simple exercise just might be a game changer in our lives!

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Two Simple Steps to Avoid This Age-Old Problem

facepalmI love shopping at Whole Foods. I was just there last night getting a few items that aren’t available at my local stores. Whole Foods offers some unique and healthful items, but not everything is what it seems. Recently, Whole Foods was in the news for selling items at a high price that aren’t worth it. Prime example: asparagus water. Selling for a whopping $5.99/jar, asparagus water is literally 4 sticks of asparagus soaking in a jar of plain water. People have expressed outrage all over America for the ludicrous cost and the proof that people were buying items at a high cost which were, in fact, worthless.

Has anything ever cost you a lot but proved worthless in the end? I can think of tons of examples: buying items to bring temporary joy, filling schedules with activities to bring a sense of significance or achievement, or saying yes to every opportunity in order to please other people. Yet, these actions often result in feelings of anxiety over money woes, exhaustion, disappointment, or a loss of personal identity.

Have you ever been there? I have. Sometimes our decisions can cost us a lot but give us nothing in return.

It’s not a new experience, though. I’ve been reading through each of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, and it seems the Corinthians bought some proverbial asparagus water, too.  Paul explained that the false prophets in Corinth had charged high prices for their preaching, yet Paul had preached the Good News for free. He even asked, “Did I do wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return?” (2 Cor 11:7 NLT). The Corinthians were probably a lot like you and me. They figured if it cost more it must be more valuable, and so they fell for the age-old marketing trick: a high price conveys worth. Spoiler alert: In the end, the Christians in Corinth recognized the false teachers as such, and they returned to the truth of Paul’s teaching. No word, however, on whether they got a refund on the bogus preaching.

Want to know how to avoid getting duped by pleasant-sounding people and opportunities? Pray for eyes to see and hears to hear God. (Prov 20:12)

  • Pray for eyes to see life’s circumstances and decisions the way God sees them. Don’t make decisions or confront situations without first seeing them through God’s lenses.
  • Pray for ears to hear God’s voice louder than all the false voices yelling at us. Don’t listen to the wrong voice and discover you’ve cost yourself time and heartache.

Our decisions don’t have to come at a high cost and give us nothing in return. We can avoid the d’oh! moments of life. Our lives – every decision, activity, and relationship – can be full of worth and value if we first filter them through God’s standards. 

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Do You Want My Honest Opinion?

honest_opinionWould you like to know one thing I’ve learned after 20 years in ministry? People get defensive easily. And often. Most people bristle when offered unwarranted advice, and they certainly get angry when confronted about some disagreeable act. I’m no different. All is takes is my husband having a different opinion than me, and I’m all abuzz. The bottom line is most of us aren’t very teachable. Oh, we can learn a new social media app or some new fangled math, but we often lack a teachable spirit. What I mean is, we don’t handle it very well when someone calls us out. Rather than assessing the situation and making changes for the better, we usually defend our actions and act incredulously that someone would dare poke their nose in our business.

Are you relating at all?

The apostle Paul held his Christian friends accountable in lots of areas and they were better for it. Because of Paul’s encouragement and admonishment, Christians in Galatia, Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and many other New Testament cities returned to their faith when they strayed. They could have balked and been overly sensitive. I’m sure some responded poorly, but the Bible records that many of them were, in fact, teachable. They shelved their pride and make adjustments in their lives to become more like Jesus.

Let me ask you: do you have someone in your life who can ask you the tough questions? Someone who can encourage you to keep running the race? Someone who can call you out when you are straying off the path? More importantly, are you teachable? Do you become defensive, or do you listen and make changes?

Today, let’s be teachable. Let’s shelve our pride and allow a trusted friend to challenge us from time to time. Remember, our goal is to become more like Jesus, not stay like we are!

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There’s A Harvest Coming

reap“You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” ‭Galatians‬ ‭6:7-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Our God is the Author of order and justice. The whole world is run by His system of blessing and consequence, and He longs for us to choose paths that lead to blessing rather than pain. Small daily decisions can reap a harvest of goodness in our lives. Check it out:

  • If I plant love, I will reap a life that others will honor and cherish.
  • If I plant joy, I will reap the satisfaction of seeing joy in others.
  • If I plant forgiveness and grace, I will reap a heart that is free of bitterness and pain.
  • If I plant words that are guarded rather than allowing words to roll out of my mouth without thought, I will reap healthier relationships and friends/family who feel valued and respected.
  • If I plant service toward others, I will reap the smile of my Heavenly Father as I model my life after His.
  • If I plant contentment, I will reap feelings of thankfulness and gratitude.
  • If I plant discipline, I will reap a successful life with few regrets.
  • If I plant time in Scripture, I will reap wisdom, understanding of God’s ways/purposes, and I will have a Psalms 1 life (my life will be like a tree planted by streams of water who yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither!).
  • If I plant time into relationships, I will reap friends who deeply cherish and value me.
  • If I plant tithes into the church, I will reap blessings from God as He provides for my every need.
  • If I plant consistency in church attendance, I will reap spiritual knowledge and Godly relationships that will help me remain true to my faith.
  • If I plant time in worship, I will reap a humble, God-centered heart as I celebrate His attributes and goodness (which brings another blessing: God opposes the proud but draws near to the humble).

We harvest what we plant. What are you planting today?

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What Kind Of Story Are You Telling?

story“Your lives are a letter written in our hearts, and everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.” 2 Corinthians 3:2 NLT

If our lives are a letter for others to read, what kind of story are we telling?

To answer that question, I really don’t want to get caught up in a list of do’s and don’t’s regarding our activities, and I’m not interested in wagging a finger at mistakes or failures. No, to answer that question, I want to take more of a 10,000 feet view rather than diving down into the minutia of our lives.

In the big picture….in the broad spectrum….what kind of story do we want our lives to tell? If our lives are a letter for others to read, what would we want to say?

Personally, I want to point others to Jesus. Plain and simple. That has been my desire since I was 21. I want others to know His forgiveness and love. I want others to experience His wisdom and peace. I want to show others how to navigate life. But, more than helping others, I want to know God’s love personally. I want to be passionate about Him. I want to hear Him speak just to me…to know I’m special to Him….to experience Him firsthand.

That’s the 10,000 feet view of it all. If we dive down into the details of my life, we would see that I often allow those details to rewrite my story. I sometimes get tangled up in activities, lists, and demands, and I forget that I’m telling a story. I forget that others are reading me.

That’s why reading Scripture and sitting with God each day is critical to our spiritual health! Scripture reminds us who we are called to be. It teaches, rebukes, and corrects. It encourages, motivates, and inspires.

Today, I’m going to be worth reading! I’ll share God with someone. I’ll pursue my relationship with my Father. I’ll bless and serve others with a smile. And, I’ll celebrate with joy in my heart because I’m forgiven, accepted, befriended, and loved!

That’s a beautiful story, my friends!

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