To Give or…?

Would you drive your car with your eyes closed?  Nope!  You need to see where you are going!  So, why close your eyes to the poor?

The word “poor” can describe someone who is lacking sufficient money.  Beyond that, you can be poor in a number of areas.  Anyone could be lacking sufficient emotional, physical, or even spiritual health.  Perhaps there are more poor people around us than we think.

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses. -Proverbs 28:27

Notice this proverb tells us that people who give to the poor lack nothing.  Do you want to lack nothing?  Then be generous and give.  Do you want to be cursed?  Of course not!  BTW: It’s difficult to “see” any needs with our eyes closed.

So what to do?
  1. Ask God to help you “see!”  Lean forward in faith and “look” to bless others.  Open your hands.  Open your heart.  Open your eyes.  Don’t back away in fear.  Step forward and give.  What are some items that you can give?  Who might need what you have?  Can you make some deliveries this week?  God loves a cheerful giver.  Delight in the fact that God will make sure your giving will be rewarded.  God will make sure you lack nothing.
  2. Start with your stuff.  Do you have extra clothing, old furniture, and toys you aren’t using?  Donate them!  Give!  Don’t just throw stuff away!  Be a good steward!  Take time out of your schedule and donate.  You will lack nothing.
  3. Pray.  Lord, forgive me for closing my eyes to the needs of those around me.  Forgive me for any stinginess or closed eyes – stemming from a closed heart.  Help me to open my eyes and essentially open my heart to everyone.  Help me to not look down on others.  Help me to not be so distant, calloused, cold, or indifferent.  Help me to love everyone.

Let It Go

My wife and kids love the movie Frozen and every time they watch it, I get the Let It Go song stuck in my head…sorry, now it’s in yours!   Anyway, can you really let it go?

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If you are bogged down with stress, strain, and headaches; it’s time to let it go.  If you’re ready to be free of the constant nervous energy and the fear of the unknown; it’s time to let it go.  Or put another way, it’s time to stop relying on your own understanding!

The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way? – Proverbs 20:24 (NLT)

Too often we strain to know all the details before we take any steps.

Trying to know it all before we step out in faith simply wears us down.  You know what I am talking about.  We say things like:  “I’ll go if everything checks out first.  I’ll take that step when I gather more information.  I just need to fill out my pros and cons sheet, build a spreadsheet, crunch more numbers, etc.”   This need to know first thought process can inhibit our faith and unfortunately, it can become habitual.

So how do we break the cycle?

God wants us to trust him with each step of faith.

Do you think Peter understood how he was able to walk on the water?  I’m quite sure he didn’t fully comprehend it.  We all know the story.  He sees Jesus.  He steps out of the boat.  He begins to walk on the water toward Jesus.  Then, his ADD kicks in.  I’m not sure why, but for some reason, he gets distracted.

As soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink & panic.  He was fine until he shifted his focus from God toward his own understanding.  The results were quite noticeable.

This proverb messes me up, because on the one hand, we should always be growing in our understanding.  It is wise to study, grow, and further our education.  Yet, on the other hand, this proverb is telling us to not fully rely on our own understanding.

Remember, God alone sustains the galaxies, this earth, and our lives.  He knows exactly where we need to go and where we need to “let it go!”

Next Steps
  1. Where do you need to let go of trying to know all the facts?
  2. Where in your life do you need to trust God more?
  3. What step of faith is God calling you to take right now?

Angry Birds

I love the game angry birds.  It’s fun to sling-shot birds into the air and watch them smash into buildings, bridges and other structures.  The game is enticing as you try to get just the right angle, wipe out the foundations, and advance to the next level (3 stars).

angry-bird

Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.  – Proverbs 22:24-25 (NLT)

If there is one thing we should not learn, it is to be like angry birds.  Don’t learn their ways.  They leave piles of rubble in their path.  If anything, get far away from these people so that they do not sling-shot into your space.  The last thing you need is their model to copy.

Have you ever been around a live angry bird?  Angry people are quick to find fault, throw tantrums, and break apart the foundations of relationships.

It’s interesting that this proverb tells us that if we learn from angry birds we will endanger our souls.  What does that mean?  This sounds like anger can greatly mess up our faith and hinder our growth!  Is it possible that even our salvation is at risk?  Not sure!  Yet, what seems like a fun game of blowing things up is actually much more serious in the game of life.  The consequences appear to be far reaching (our souls).

So, how’s your soul?  Are you hanging out with hot-tempered or angry people?  Start by looking in the mirror here.  How’s your attitude lately?  Are you angry about anything or with anyone?  Holding any grudges?  Want to go (hulk smash) something?

Do some reflection here and ask for some feedback with people closest to you.  Ask your friends how they would describe your demeanor over the past few weeks.  Think about the root of both behaviors.  Joy comes from the Holy Spirit.  Take sometime right now to pray for God’s joy to befriend you.

Next Step

Write down at least 3 people you would describe as joyful.

  1. How can you learn to be more like these people?
  2. What other attributes do these people possess?
  3. How can you spend more time with these people?

 

Got Vision?

Do you have a vision for a better future?  What kind of picture would you paint?   Imagine, instead of succombing to apathy or remaining “as is,” you dream of what could be, devise a clear plan, and simply implement it.  Sounds good right?  But, how exactly would that work?

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According to Andy Stanley, in his book Visioneering, there are simply four vital components to a vision:

  1. The problem.  The goal is to be clear about the problem first and foremost.  Too often we settle for fuzzy thinking when it comes to defining our current reality.  Writing down the problem allows you to see what you are thinking.  So…what is your current problem?  Why is it a problem?  BTW: Is your thinking the problem?
  2. The solution.  Next, determine the solution.  How can the problem be fixed?  Typically there are multiple solutions to any problem.  Writing down several solutions to the problem brings encouragement to your situation.  Embrace possibility thinking.  Once you have several possible solutions written down, prioritize them to determine the best solution.
  3. The reason something must be done.  Now it’s time to determine why “status quo” cannot continue.  Again, there must be clarity in why the solution is worth pursuing.   If you really want to see change in your organization, you will need a compelling reason for change.  Most people want improvement without making change.  This is where your “reasoning” makes all the difference.  Is it really worth your time & money?  Your people will only “buy-in” if you do!
  4. The reason something must be done now.   Mike Roach once said, “strategy without execution is hallucination!” A vision states that, “something must be done now; not two years from now!”  How common is it for our current budgets or schedules to dictate our ability to take action?   A great vision will tell your resources where to go; not the other way around.  Lincoln Brewster sings the song: “Today is the Day.”  Isn’t it worth singing your tune (vision) today?

So…got vision?   Granted, there will be obstacles and resistance.  In fact, the bigger the vision the greater the tension.  However, you can gain great traction right now by using this four step guideline.

Clarify and implement your better future.  

Take the next few minutes to answer the four questions: What’s the problem?  What’s the solution?  Why must something be done?  Why must something be done now?  Let’s go!

 

Are You Wise?

Did you know that wealth is a distinction of the wise?   Granted, there are different flavors of wealth: relational, physical, financial, emotional, etc.  Yet, according to the Bible, wise people yield some form of wealth.

Chess

Fools, on the other hand, can only expect to yield foolishness.  Why?  Because their efforts (daily actions) are foolish.  They spend all they have.  They do not store up treasures.  They do not have stores of choice foods and oils.  They do not save and invest.  Yes, their actions speak unfortunate volumes.

Wealth is a crown for the wise; the effort of fools yields only foolishness.  – Proverbs 14:24

When it comes to daily interactions, foolish people continue to act foolish.  They con, deceive, demean, connive, fight, slander, gossip, and the list goes on.  On top of this, they spend everything and live on credit.  Do you want to do business with people in this group?

However, there is another group of people.  No, the wise are not perfect but they do not continue in foolish activity.  Even if they dabble in foolishness, they tend to get out quickly.  Why?  Because the wise understand that relationship building is wealth building.  They work on being honest, helpful, upright, caring, encouraging, generous, and smart.

The efforts of the wise yields wealth.  Therefore, they get to wear a crown.  Their daily actions lead to profit.  They build their lists.  They continue to add value and offer great products.  They are diligent in their efforts.  Doing business with them is wise.

So, if you want to see better yields, first take a look in the mirror.  Ask God to give you a moral compass that points others towards Him.  Ask God to help your daily actions yield honesty, integrity, generosity, and a caring attitude.  Essentially, request to become wise.

 

Next Steps

  1. If you are wise, how so?
  2. What are your daily actions giving you?
  3. As you look in the mirror, what’s one area of character that needs improvement?

Push The “Faith” Button

Can you imagine what life would look like over the next 30 days if you only pushed the faith button?  With every encounter, opportunity, or challenge, you step forward in faith.  You just flat out decide not to push the fear button.

Red Button

Too many of us are not even aware that we allow fear to dominate our daily decision making.   It only takes one or two fear based decisions each day to throw off our compass.  Next thing we know, we are sailing off course, not hitting goals, and scratching our head wondering how it all happened.

 

What if it getting things done were as simple as pressing a button?  For instance, think of a task right now that you have been avoiding.  Whatever it is, imagine yourself releasing the big red fear button.  Great, now lean forward and press the big green faith button.  Face your task or goal!  Smile at it and go to work on it!   In fact, you are no longer afraid of it because you just pushed the “faith” button!

 

Are you still reading this?  I get it…sometimes taking the leap of faith is scary!  Look at Peter in the Bible.  He stepped out of the boat and began to walk on water only to realize, “wow, this is scary,” and the sinking began.  Even if you are being asked to walk on water, try pushing the faith button and see what happens.

 

Next Steps

  1. Does your current thinking empower you?
  2. How might your life be different if you only pushed the faith button?
  3. Which of your goals needs a giant faith button?

3 BIG STEPS TO OVERCOMING FEAR

What Are You Afraid Of?

Public speaking used to scare me to death.  I dropped out of my speech class three different times in college.  Speaking in front of people back then was complete torture.  Why?  Deep down inside I did not want to be rejected.

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As a teenager, I would do my best to pretend that I was not scared.  I did my best to cover up, be the life of the party, and hold it all together.  Despite my best efforts, deep down inside, I was a wreck.  The problem:  I wanted to be courageous and confident, but felt stuck in an endless cycle of fear.

What are you afraid of?  Right now, there are people afraid to write their books, start their businesses, or launch their podcasts.  Others, are afraid to sell, promote their brand, make presentations, or simply invite their neighbors over for a bbq.  Regardless of the reason, many allow fear to control their decision-making.

The definition of Fear (noun): An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or is a threat.  For many of us, success sounds dangerous, rejection sounds painful, and failure sounds like a threat.  Fear wants to hold us back and it’s yelling, “Give up; don’t even try!”  Ouch!

It’s time to stop allowing fear to dictate our lives.  But how?

Take These 3 Steps

  1. Reveal it.  Call it out.  Get very clear about what it is you fear and write it down.  Create a list of all your fears.  This will help you see what you are up against.  Then answer 3 questions for each:  1) Why does this exist?  2) Why is this holding me back?  3) What will life look like when I no longer allow this to hold me back?
  2. Renounce it.  Declare your abandonment.  It no longer has to be your boss.  Tell it to go and take back control.  For each one listed, write down why you are leaving.  That’s right, you are done with this relationship.  Explain why this is no longer working for you.  You are kicking this toxicity to the curb.  Don’t allow it to rob you from what you believe you could and should be.
  3. Replace it.  Replace it with faith.  2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline,” (NLT).  Combine God’s word with prayer.  Then step toward the fear.  For example, let’s say you are afraid to write your speech.  Take action immediately.  Do not second guess.  Begin writing.  If you delay: “Well, I just need a little bit more time, collect more information, etc.  I just need to…”  Stop!  Do not allow the delay button to be pushed.  The “delay” button is really the “fear” button.  Do it now in faith!
These 3 steps have helped me greatly.  I continue to rely on them daily as fear tries to stomp out my faith.  For further help I recommend the book: Freedom From Fear.

Questions: What fear has been most gripping in your life?  Which of the steps do you find most helpful?  You can leave your comment below.

How’s Your Self-Talk?

I Can vs. I Can't

Negative self-talk hinders growth!


For years I believed the lie that said, “I’m no good.  I’ll amount to nothing!”  Unfortunately, the more I repeated this self-criticism the more I believed it.  Imagine believing a lie for so long that it disguises itself as truth.  You begin to say things like, “That’s just the way I am,” or  “I will always be this way.”  Does this sound familiar?
Our 6-year-old son loves the phrase “I can’t!”  When we ask him to do his homework, pick up toys, or do any chore for that matter, he emphatically declares, “I can’t!”  In reply, I like to ask him: “Who told you that?”  He never gives me a clear answer.  The fact is, he has simply made up his mind.  He is convinced that certain tasks are downright impossible.

Regardless of our age, we all face certain barriers to growth.  With each challenge that lies before us, our goal should be to grow through it.  So how does one arrive at this new “I can” mindset?  Take two simple steps.  First, believe you can make the shift.  Second, practice new phraseology.
  1. Renew Your Mind

If we are going to make this transition, we need to believe we can.  If we really believe “we can’t” we will not even attempt to try.  Proverbs 26:11, “As a dog returns to it’s vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness” (NLT).   In other words, we cannot keep doing the same things and expect different results.  We need to change our thinking.  Our brains need new data plans.  The negative data needs to be deleted and replaced.  So, here are a few tips to renew:

  • Be Thankful.  Take the first minute of every morning and focus on everything you are thankful for.  You can journal, make a list, spend time in prayer, etc.  The point is to trigger positive thoughts and to write them down.  We have much to be thankful for.
  • Don’t Complain.  Take up the challenge to not complain for a whole week.  Give yourself grace when you mess up because old habits run deep.  However, it’s time to become conscious of our inner dialogue.  Pay attention and stop the negativity cycle.
  • Think Positive.  Meditate on positive thoughts.  Personally, I prefer to read the Bible every morning.  I find that going to God’s Word renews my outlook for each day.  There are plenty of Scriptures to camp out in.  For example, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  If the Bible is not your thing, find some positive quotes and allow them to take root.

Ok, now that we are renewing our mind.  We need to change our phraseology.

  1. Ask: How Can I?

Either possibilities abound or they don’t; our thinking makes it so.  This week, whenever you hit a roadblock in your thinking, planning, work, or whatever; hit the pause button.  Tap your brain and ask, “How can I?”  Whenever negative self-talk rears it’s ugliness, we need to enforce this new phrase immediately.  This moves us from merely wanting to achieve goals to actually working on goals.  Like all positive habits, this will take some time to form.

In addition to these suggestions, I like the question Tony Teagarden asks: “Would you talk like that to a 5-year-old?”

Next Steps

  • Where is negative self-talk showing up in your life?
  • What do you complain about?
  • How can you refrain from complaining this week?  Track your progress.

Thank You Plastic!

See The Possibilities

It’s amazing how plastic can entertain – especially the plastic “legos.”

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My kids had a blast @LegolandChicago on a very (crazy busy) President’s day!

My wife and I enjoyed watching them build & race their lego cars.  They marveled at all the giant and life-like characters built out of colorful plastic pieces.  Of course, we certainly did not leave empty-handed.  Nope!  Thanks to the gift shop, located conveniently at the exit, we were able to purchase more plastic!  Woohoo!  Although my wife and I are still recovering, in all seriousness, it was a great day.

This recent excursion got me thinking…I suppose we really are “plastic” people.  We use plastic everyday and just take it for granted – water bottles, keurigs, computers, cell phones, sunglasses, cassette tapes, etc.   If we are not careful, we can begin to take life for granted too.   Unfortunately, we are all prone to getting into ruts.  We certainly don’t set out with the motto: “everyday is just another day.”  But ruts do happen.  So what to do?

Well, if you look close enough behind the plastic, you get to see a key Lego value:

Play is essential because when children play, they learn! 

Remember, legos are simple plastic pieces.  Yet, when pieced together, they create endless possibilities.  Kids don’t just see the plastic, they see the endless possibilities!

Do we as adults need to learn from our kids?   What if we took an upcoming business meeting and threw some plastic on the table?  Imagine your leadership team having fun – creating, dreaming, building, and playing together?  Sounds goofy?  Yep!  Try it anyway?  Yes!  We need the reminder that “when we play, we learn!”

So…”Thank you plastic!”  It’s time to have some fun as we learn a thing or two.

Next Step

  1. Is your leadership in a rut?  If so, why?  How can you tell?
  2. When can you take your team offsite for some fun?
  3. How can your leadership team implement the motto: “when we play, we learn?”
  4. Specifically, what will you do this week to play, learn, & see the possibilities?

God Is Able

Feeling The Heat?

Remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

fire texture faming hot burn furnace place burning stock photo
Nebuchadnezzar was about to cast these three prophets into the furnace because they did not worship the idol he chose!  So he mocked God by saying, “What god is able to deliver you out of my hand?”

 Their response, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
Wow!  What amazing faith and obedience!  It’s as if they knew Luke 16:13, “You cannot serve both God and money.”  Having two masters will not work.

Our security is either in Christ alone or it is in something else.

Everyday we are put into a position to reveal our faith or lack thereof.  BTW: The way we handle money says a lot about us.  When the heat gets cranked up…do we truly believe God will provide for all of our needs?

Next Step

  1. Where in your life has the heat been cranked up?
  2. How can you see your current challenges as opportunities to grow your faith? (see James 1:2-3)
  3. Do you believe God is able?  If so, how will that look today?