Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us.
“You are so creative!” I have heard these words most of my life. It’s encouraging, yet my response is almost always the same; “so are you.” Some will protest that they are not creative mostly because when we think of creativity we think of an artist, but creativity should not be restricted to the confines of the arts. Creativity should play into every area of our lives from strategies and systems at work, to the way that we play with and raise our kids, or express love to our spouse.
Creativity is the ability to deliver what we imagine. The first part of the word imagination is the word image. We were all created in the image of God, therefore we all have a creative nature. Studies have shown that up to 50% of the time that we are awake we are imagining. We call this day dreaming, it’s the place where the “what if’s” dwell.
The imagination is an incredibly powerful place, it can lock us down in fear, or cause us to move forward with hope. Our imagination can hinder our perspective and cause us to isolate ourselves from friends. In our imagination we can create the next breakthrough invention, or articulate the words that will transform somebody’s life forever. Think about it, everyday we use things that were initiated in a mind. It’s crazy! The way in which we live our lives is a product of somebody's imagination.
One of a leaders greatest assets is their imagination. Here are some ways that you can leverage the power of your imagination.
1- Take a Mind Break: Most of the time when I am lacking creativity, I know that my brain is exhausted. I am mostly thinking about work and my list of responsibilities. Sometimes I have to get out of the office and go walk around in a store or go get the mail, just to simply get away from what is in front of me. Sometimes I need to get away for a day and just spend that time to day dream. It is hard to do if you don't make time for it, so take the time! It may be 2 minutes in an hour or 2 full days a month. Your mind needs rest too! I have noticed I am way more productive if I will take the time to allow my mind to be refreshed.
2- Ask Questions: When pulling away from your work, ask how can this be done differently? How can I be more efficient? How can I be more effective? These questions will inspire new ideas and a fresh approach to the monotony of our work.
3- Pray: Years ago my Pastor Buster Russell peaked his head into my office and gave me a nugget I have carried for over 15 years. He said, “Josh, if you are ever lacking creativity, spend some time praying in the Spirit.” That is the best creative advice I have ever been given. Any time that I am in a slump I will get away from my screen and pray in the Spirit. It not only refreshes my soul, it energizes my creativity.
4- Write Things Down: Every idea you have, scribble it down. Some of the best ideas I have ever had I forgot because I didn't write them down. It may be a physical journal or a notes app on your phone. WRITE IT DOWN!!! This will help you process and develop the things that are in the space of your imagine.
I hope these tips will help you in your journey of expressing all the things God has put in your heart. May He nurture a spirit of creativity and empower your imagination!
It may just be me, but I’d be willing to say I am not the only one…. I am insecure. I am also pretty confident. It seems like those things are polar opposites. I suggest that the thing you are best at, the thing that you are most confident in, may be the same thing that you are the most insecure in.
I have been preaching in front of people for over two decades. I am confident in my ability to bring a strong word and bring it home to people in the room that are listening. At the same time I am very insecure about it.
I would like to say that refining my craft and equipping people was the only motivator, but if I am being honest part of the motivation is insecurity. It just won't go away, I have a fear that I will make a fool of myself preaching or fail to give the people something meaningful. After 13 years of marriage I still ask my wife after each message, "was it ok today?” I often look for affirmation to cater to my insecurities.
I would not say that my insecurity is total weakness. In fact, my insecurity is usually driven by the fact that I know I can do better.
The thing that I am most confident in is what I am most insecure in also because I know I can get better, do better, and be better at what I am doing.
Insecurity is not the same as humility and arrogance is not the same as confidence. In fact, arrogance often tries to simply cover up insecurity. Arrogance says, “I am the best” A healthy confidence says, “I do this well and I can get better.” It is vitally important that the fuel of improvement is not simply to feel better about our inadequacies. I am no way suggesting that insecurity is healthy, we need true humility, (a modest and mild disposition) yet healthy confidence in moving forward to improve our skills.
Growing in Healthy Confidence?
1- Seek HONEST feedback.
Feedback is important because it gives us a bird’s eye view of what we are producing. It’s crucial that we get feedback from people we trust and are objective. Sometimes we are blindsided by our craft because we are so subjective in it. We spend a lot of time, energy and emotion working so many times we can measure success about what we put into a project rather then how good the project actually is.
2- Don’t measure a moment.
Never measure a moment, a single project. For me this is a single message that I preach. I can’t sum up the quality of my preaching of years worth of sermons with a single a bad day. As a graphic designer every project I design is not my best work, so I have to look at my work collectively. I have to make sure that I measure my growth NOT my moments.
3- Find inspiration.
When I want to be inspired, I don't go to my own work. I look for somebody that is better than me. Sometimes it can be intimidating but don’t let it, use it as fuel to get better! I would also encourage you to look outside your normal “go to” for inspiration as this will challenge you in new ways.
4- Be diligent.
This is not a article on hard work, but there is just no way around it. You cant get better without working at it. In my early days of preaching, I would spend 2-3 hours preparing a message. Two decades later I spend at least ten, and sometimes up to 15 hours preparing a 40-45 minute sermon. Your gift will open the door but getting better will keep you in the room!
Often times when we hear the word ministry, many people think about what preachers do. We think about people that “get paid to meet the spiritual needs of people.” We relate ministry to a vocation or an occupation. Although ministry may be an occupation for some of us, it’s an invitation for all. I will go a step further and say it’s an assignment for all.
If we are not careful, we can so personalize our faith in God that it becomes about us.( ie. peace through circumstances, joy for discouragement, the Spirit that is sufficient for me.) Albeit true that God sustains us personally, it is impossible to encounter an ALL sufficient God and it stay at a subjective level. Encountering him means his influence pouring in me and through me impacting my world. Our faith is a personal devotion that demands a public demonstration.
The concept that ministry is for the specific “called ones” usually comes from the idea of Old Testament priesthood where priests would minister to the Lord and represent the people to God.
However, when Jesus showed up on the scene he eliminated that system because people no longer needed to go through a priest to get to God. In the new covenant we have an all access to the Father. Therefore, we have full access to his presence AND his power. The focus is usually placed upon the accessibility of his presence: his availability to us. It is also important to remember we also have access to the power of God! It’s not just for us, it’s for the world around us. God has given us great power and if we learned anything form Uncle Ben it’s, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Here are some keys to affirm you in your ministry.
1. You are called into ministry
Callings are real and we should determine what we are called to. (see this blog about calling)
You may not have had a moment when God called you into full time or vocational ministry, but we all have an assignment to impact our world for Jesus. The great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to advance Gods kingdom on every nation is not for a select group of super christians, it’s a call for all who would follow Jesus. I suggest that if God called you to simply live a good moral life, then he would have taken you to heaven when you gave him your life. Instead he left you on the earth to accomplish his purposes. Remember, it’s not really about God’s will for your life but your life for God’s will.
2. You are qualified for ministry
You may not have a license form an organization, yet as a follower of Christ you have been qualified to share the the goodness of Jesus.
2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV) - He has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant.
Whereas our lifestyle does not qualify us with it, it may disqualify us with people. It is important to remember that as ministers of the kingdom that our currency is our credibility. Therefore, we should guard our credibility and never surrender it to our liberties or convinces. We should live worthy of this calling we have received!
Ephesians 4:1(NLT) I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
3. Your ministry is unique
God made you in such a way that there are very special assignments that were made for you! There are generic principles that we all are to follow, but there are certain things that he has set up for you to accomplish! I suggest that God has a list for your life, I encourage you to start asking God what he has on that list!
4. Your ministry is today
Don’t wait till you are a “better” christian, a more knowledgeable scholar, or for the right time. Start today.The Kingdom is at hand and God has incredible ways for you to demonstrate his goodness. There are people we encounter everyday that need to simply hear that Jesus loves and desires them. There are sick people that need to be healed, people that need to hear a word from God, lonely people that need encouragement…today. Don't wait, the time is now for people to encounter our great God. Make haste!
Revelation 1:6 (NLT) He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
1 Peter 2:9 (NLT) You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
John 14:12 (NLT) ”I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”
What if churches didn’t have someone to greet you when you got there? What if they didn’t have clean bathrooms to use, even worse a bathroom to use period? What if they didn’t have a place that you could drop off your kids ages birth to 11 so you could sit in a nice service? What if you had to bring your own chair to sit on? What if the church had no heat or air conditioning or electricity (let alone free wifi- gasp)? What if the church had no musicians to provide the worship? What if the church had no projection for you to know the words to sing along? What if the people speaking/teaching spent no time preparing and just got up and started speaking? Have you ever realized just how much goes into a church service?
Greeters. Cleaning crew. Nursery and kids workers. Finances. People serving with their gifts. Equipment. Paid Staff.
Incase you didn’t know, churches run solely off the people investing into them with their time and finances. People give, so the church can be there, the way it is, week in and week out. Hours of preparation work go into an hour or so service on Sundays. Like any other organization, the staff is paid by the funds that are brought in. Pastors aren’t getting a pay check provided by someone else unless they are bi-vocational, which many these days are. Then their time is divided between their job and their calling-the ministry, simply so that the church doesn't carry the full burden of providing their total income.
Your church needs you. Your gifts, your support, your encouragement, your attendance. Your pastor needs you. To be there, to be thankful for what they give, to be a supporter before a critic.
Must be easy being a pastor though, right? Preach for 30 mins give or take once a week, maybe twice, and then what do they do the rest of the week? Pastors don’t have a time clock. If someone calls at midnight, broken down and needing to talk, they don’t send it to voice mail and get back to you Monday- Friday 8-5. And when they give someone counsel in their marriage, they don’t stop thinking about it and praying about it, like, EVER. They hold onto that. Pastors carry this weight of making sure their church is inviting and put together, and provides an atmosphere of peace, and has enough helpers to accomplish the plans, and doesn’t do anything to possibly offend anyone, while obviously not doing anything that offends God.
Pastoring is probably one of the few professions that has to deal with rejection at such a high level. People come and people go, in every are of life. If you own a restaurant and someone goes to eat at a different restaurant, you probably won’t lose sleep over it. That is most likely because the owner of a restaurant isn’t invested in the lives of its patrons. They might know a few details, and learn a name or a favorite item on the menu, but when a person is broken down and needs hope, financial help, someone to perform a wedding or a funeral, or pray that their wayward teenager would come back home and find salvation, they aren’t going to go to their favorite restaurant. They are going to go to a place that offers hope, and provision, and support, and counsel, and helps carry the weight- long term.
Why did they leave? Did I offend them? What happened? Do you think they will come back? Why aren’t they responding to my attempts to reach them? These are the thoughts that go through a pastor’s head possibly forever. Because someone is always leaving and basically what they are saying is, “I fire you as my pastor.” Is that to say that you should pick a church and grin and bare it until you die, no, but would you want to be fired with out being given any reason why, with little to no notification?
So if you are going to leave, here is what your pastor most definitely wants: A conversation, an HONEST conversation, as to why you are leaving. If the nursery doesn't feel like a safe place for your child, don’t you think the pastor wants to know so that they can fix it? If someone in the congregation is spewing gossip, don’t you think the pastor wants to know so that they can fix it? If you disagree about one issue even though you see mostly eye to eye every where else, don’t you think the pastor wants to know so that they can fix it? Just like never returning to a restaurant because you had hair in your food once with out telling the manager and giving him a chance to make it right does not help to the restaurant, leaving a church with out giving any one a reason does not help. The real reason.
What am I getting at here? Is this post about leaving, no. It is about being there. Being the greeter, being the nursery worker, being the one to clean the bathrooms, being the musician in the band, being the person running the words on the screen. Being a part of a movement that is bringing hope and help to the lives of its community. The church isn’t a building, it is all the people that give of themselves to do life together while enjoying the process. The more you plug in, to the lives of others, to helping serve, to the vision of the pastor, the more you will receive and benefit from your church. But if you want to leave, because it will probably happen at least once in your adult life, don’t just be a disappearing person. Have a conversation with the pastor so he doesn’t deal with rejection and the “was it because” questions for ever.
I know it’s happened to you: you are in a conversation with somebody sharing life, talking, possibly expressing frustrations then here comes advice, unsolicited….advice. An opinion you didn't seek, from a source you were not petitioning. It’s so annoying. It has to be the most aggravating thing to me.. Seriously one of my biggest pet peeves.
OR you post on Facebook and people you rarely interact with chime in to share their wisdom!
“What you need to do is….”
“You know what I think…”
“What I always do….”
I ain’t gonna lie I have deleted a few annoying comments from trolls AND I have had to hit backspace on a few of my of my reply’s.
So how do we manage unsolicited advice?
1. Chill out.
Why does this issue bug me so much…because of pride. The pride of the unsolicited advice, possibly, but my pride as well. It is a pride thing on my end because my attitude is “hey who do you think YOU are telling ME what to do.” I am trying to get better at this and just chill out, take a step back, humble myself and value people. Even if what they are doing is difficult to tolerate. It’s hard, but we can’t allow pride to drive us to a place of hardness with people.
2. Understand people usually mean well.
Most people are not mean spirited and most people mean well. Most of the time people are trying to help. I know it’s irritating but it will help us if we can just try to see rationally through the irritating comment and love the person that is wanting to help. Even if we disagree or disregard the advice, we can still try to love the person that is frustrating us.
3. Ask yourself, “Do I do this?”
For me the answer is yes. I offer unsolicited advice and it probably annoys people and pushes them away at times. Now that I’ve come to grips with the fact that I am annoying at times, it will help me be gracious to those that do the same things.
4. Remember, advice fits best in relationship.
Something to remember when sharing advice especially unsolicited advice is that if we don't have relational equity with that person, our advice will most likely fall on deaf ears. Before we ever offer advice, it’s polite to ask, “Can I share something with you?” This takes the “unsolicited” part out off of the table.
If the advice is something that is challenging or possibly threatening to the person, keep in mind that it might not be accepted unless we have history and have built trust with that person.
This is really important for advice givers. ;)
5. Consider that possibly God is speaking.
People are valuable. Their opinions are important and valuable. God put that value inside of them and that value can be beneficial to your life. Many times God will deal with our heart by giving us a gift we need in a package that we don't like. This is why its important for us to maintain a humble and gentle spirit towards those that rub us the wrong way!
1 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV) 8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
When we speak of vision, some of us get intimidated and others of us get excited. When talking about people possessing vision, we tend to classify them into categories: those that are incredible visionaries and those that struggle with vision. I feel like there is a mystery that surrounds this topic and I hope to clear things up for you! (No pun intended)
#1. Everybody Has Vision
The reality is everybody has a vision. We all have a picture of what we want our lives to look like. Wether you are a stay at home mom, a college student, a young entrepreneur, or a minister, there is a level of success you are aspiring to. What does success look like for you? That visual is essentially your vision.The question is not wether or not you have a vision, but how big is the vision you have.
#2. A Big Vision Keeps You Moving
Vision has to be bigger than daily, weekly, or even annual goals. If it's not, there is nothing to work towards once the goal is reached. Goals are simply makers along the way of accomplishing our vision. You can have goals without having a big vision but you can't reach a significant vision without having goals.
Doing ministry over the past two decades there have been a number of times that I have felt like stopping. As a youth pastor it was always on Thursday mornings and as a lead pastor it’s Monday mornings. You see, it was always the day after the accomplishment of the last goal that I felt like giving up. If my vision was limited to one service I would have quit a long time ago. My vision is bigger than a single goal.
#3. A Clear Vision Can Be Carried Out
Habakuk 2:2(NKJV) “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it." Vision is something that should be clear….I mean, quality vision cannot be blurry.
What is your vision? How clear is it? Can you communicate it quickly and clearly? Is it abstract or does it change often?
Making the vision clear will allow you to be better focussed on it. If we don't solidify our vision then the demands of life will drain us of our purpose and we will never reach what we hope for. A clear vision will add drive to your purpose in life. It will also allow you to lead others with and to the vision you have. A significant vision will always be bigger than you, so if others are to rally around your vision, you must “make it plain” enough for them to see and run with it.
As the dawn of a new year is upon us, I would encourage you to set some time aside and write down your vision! I am not talking about goals for the upcoming year, but the vision of your life.
“Vision is a mental picture of what could be, fueled by a passion that it should be.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
As I kid, I found Thanksgiving to be boring, yet as an adult it has become my favorite holiday. I love the fact that it is not over commercialized and its meaning secure. We take part of one of the oldest traditions known to man as we gather around a meal and…..talk. Thanksgiving is centered around, well, giving thanks. At least it should be. Back home, my dad always asks us to go around the table and share what we are grateful for. It can be an emotional time. You always want to have the right answer and sometimes that is the only motivation. I’m learning to not just have the right answer but to dig deep and ponder what I am truly grateful for. I love that my dad taught me this important lesson and I am now passing it along to my children.
Gratefulness, it’s the posture of those that consider themselves the recipients of something undeserved. It’s God’s will, not because it does something for Him, but because of what it does in us. It’s reflective in nature and causes us to take inventory of all that is good in our lives. To count our blessings. It’s not for the entitled. Gripping, complaining, criticizing does quit the opposite. It is poison to our hearts because it is rooted in the tension of what we do not have. Greed.
Dr. David Soper, in God Is Inescapable suggests that basically the difference between a prison and a monastery is just the difference between griping and gratitude. Imprisoned criminals spend every waking moment griping; self-imprisoned saints spend every waking moment offering thanks. When a criminal becomes a saint, a prison may become a monastery; when a saint gives up gratitude, a monastery may become a prison.
I encourage you, to take 30 seconds right now and think about something you are grateful for and tell Jesus that……
Now I encourage you to do that everyday and begin to watch the peace of God unfold in your life.
Colossians 3:12-17...As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
Am I Called?
The short answer is yes, but I think you should keep reading.
We have heard many times, “This is my calling.” In and out of the church we talk about our calling. Mostly I think we mean that it is something that we instinctively have to do. A voice, an experience, we woke up to a burning in our heart, or possibly it was an opportunity that opened up and we enter into an assignment that makes us feel alive. It’s the ultimate nonnegotiable in our lives, it’s our purpose, our mission, the ambition of our life. We all have a calling.
Scripture gives us some insight to our calling.
We are all called to:
#1. The Great Command
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 22:36-39 (NIV)
It’s pretty simple. God’s expectation is for mankind to love and connect with God in every aspect of our lives and to demonstrate love to those around us. We can’t get out of it, it hasn't changed for over 2000 years and it’s not going to change, ever. It’s the great command, God’s great expectation of every human being.
#2. The Great Commission
Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
The purpose of The Great Command is to love God and people enough to get the gospel to them and lead them to a life that follows Jesus. I’ve heard it said before, “It’s the great commission, not the great suggestion.” I think we are wise to devote our lives to The Great Commission if we truly follow Christ.
#3. The Great Contribution
The great commandment and the great commission are universal, meaning that they are for all people.
The great contribution is where is gets personal. This is where what we normally feel “called to” comes into action. It’s really the nuts and bolts of the universal mandates (commission/commandment) So how do we discover that?
In June of 1993, I was a new christian and attended a youth camp in Roaring Springs, Texas. Months before that our youth pastor had resigned because of an incurable disease, so every night I would help gather our youth group together to pray for him. That Thursday night as we were praying, I looked around that circle and felt that God was calling me to gather people around His presence. I knew that God was calling me to into pastoral ministry. It was an incredibly powerful moment and most days I still remember that moment. There have been many days over the past 23 years that that moment was the only thing that kept me in pastoral ministry. I understand 2 things about a calling:
#1. You don't pick a calling, a calling chooses you.
#2. You can quit a job but you cannot quit a calling.
There have also been dozens of moments over the years that have confirmed that moment. Not everybody has a moment like mine or a “burning bush” experience, but we are all called. Here are few questions to ask yourself in discovering your calling to the Great contribution.
#1. What bothers you?
What annoys you? What are the things in the world or the church that frustrate you? I have heard it said “your misery, your ministry.” We all know complaining doesn’t work, so how can you do to fix the irritation? Maybe God is causing this divine frustration to so that you can be the solution to the problem. If you see improvements that need to bet made, then jump in and make them! You may discover your calling.
#2. What burns in you?
What moves your heart and keeps you up at night? What are you passionate about? If somebody gave you 10 million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with it? This reveals what you are passionate about. What is the single thing you cannot get away from?
#3. What burdens you?
What breaks your heart? What is the thing that you have been thinking about over the last several months or even years that moves you heart? That is compassion in your heart. This is what moved Jesus to do much of his ministry on the Earth! Don't just feel sorry and pity the need in your heart, act on it, develop a plan, and do something. You may discover your calling.
#4. What blesses you?
What gives you great joy? When you hear about or see something that makes you so happy inside no matter how many times you hear or see it? Don’t let your joy be in the hands of others. Get out there and accomplish the things that bring pleasure to your heart. Doing what ever that may be is also going to bring great pleasure to your Father’s heart!
Friends, I wan't to talk about the opportunity you have. No not your opportunity to vote, albeit that is important. I voted, and I have a lot invested prayerfully, emotionally, and mentally in this election. In fact the next 40 years depend on it. Not just my children but my grand children will be affected by it. It’s that important.
This is more about you than your vote.
I want to talk about the opportunity you have IF things don’t go your way. The way you hoped, prayed, and thought they should go. The way you thought that God would have it. You will have the opportunity to demonstrate Christ or demonstrate your flesh. You have an opportunity to be like Jesus and love those that voted different than you, and you will also have the opportunity to honor a candidate you possibly despise. You will have excuses for your instincts. You can blame the character of the individual you slander or you can reveal your character by slandering them. You can pray for them, their character, their protection, and pray that God would do a work in their heart. It seems to be the way of Christ and the way of the early church when they faced grave injustices and their liberties were taken away.
Before you say “well the disciples didn't face a king like this…”,
I would encourage you to do a little research on the kings of old, especially Nero. He was one of the most vile kings in history. His life was characterized by debauchery, violence (he caused his own mother to be killed), and extravagance. A lot of people thought he was the Anti-Christ. He torched cities & killed Christians.
This is God’s unchanging word to them that were under a vile kings rule:
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” 1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV)
“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” -1 Peter 2:17(NASB)
It wont be easy, but let’s choose the way of the righteous.
Choose love and honor towards the candidate that wins and the candidate that loses. Before you cuss (or almost cuss) at the television, before you rant on Facebook, remember Jesus. His words, His heart for that person and for our nation. Remember that God deeply loves each candidate and each person you disagree with.
I like my candidate. I think they are the better choice, and although I think they have a great shot at winning, it may not happen. I faced this test 4 years ago and there is a real possibility I will face this tension again. Will you join me to control the thing I can control…. My response?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)
I encourage you to turn the page in your story. I have known too many people that have been defined by a single chapter in their life and the story ends in misery. They simply get locked into a season of life and never get out. Embark to the next page, it’s risky, But you will never know until you...well, turn the page.
I want to share with you a few thoughts that will help you embark on the next chapter:
1. Divorce Your Past:
It is time to divorce your past! You may have some incredible memories during that season, but the relationship with your past is killing you and hindering God's best in your life. In no way do I insinuate that we simply bury our memories,In fact we need to cherish our memories and embrace our history. However, our story does not end there, that is why we call it history. It is critical if we want to leave a legacy and provide a good story for others to tell, that we are not restrained by our memories. Memories are great for reflection and even motivation. They are a great place to visit but a terrible place to live, good or bad. Its time to sever the ties with yesterday: the failures, the success, the sin, the shame, the guilt, and all of the problems.
- Philippians 3:7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ ….13 Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus
2. Trade Up:
Its not time for a tune up, its time for a trade up! Why are you driving around in that old, beat up, broken down life? Jesus has a better ride for you, so its time to trade up. He has already made all the arrangements and it doesn’t cost you anything, you just have to leave the old ride at the dealership. Simply trade the old for the new! I love the great exchange with Jesus. We bring him the ugly and he makes it beautiful. We bring all of the negativity, all of the sin, all of the shame, and Jesus transforms us. Our situation may not be pretty but there is a man walking with us who promised to never leave or forsake us. (Duet 31:6)
One of my favorite passages of scripture is Isaiah 61. Its such an incredible reality of what Jesus paid for.
- Isaiah 61:3 To provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
3. Embrace the New:
You may think that you have a reason or some sort of need to stay stuck in your past or in your pain. Your reasons for sadness, or feelings of hopelessness may be very real and difficult for others to understand. Can I tell you that Jesus has a plan and that plan is to remove your heart ache?! Jesus came to provide a new way. Its different from the way that we have known, full of life and abundance,(John 10:10) freshness and joy, peace and fulfillment.
Forget your reasons for misery! Jesus is a good king who is deeply in love with you. His thoughts towards you are good and his plan for your life is way better than you could ever imagine.
- II Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
- Lamentations 3: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.