Tag Archives: Christianity

Five Ways to Face the Fear of Change

We all face change. You can’t avoid it. Because of that, we all face the fear of change.fear of change

Change is built into our life experience as we make natural transitions from one stage of life to the next. We move from grade school to middle school. From middle school to high school. From high school to college.

Then we move from college to career (hopefully) and then possibly to marriage. Some of us will have kids and those that do eventually face the transition to an empty nest. We experience the change of our parents aging and eventually losing them. And then we face retirement and, of course, the ultimate transition: death.

These are just the normal changes. There are all the other changes that life throws at you: both good and bad: promotions and layoffs, divorce and remarriage. There’s financial and health setbacks as well as comebacks. We change our homes. We change our locations. And there are the changes that take place when we lose a loved one.

The Fear of Change

Every change evokes its own special set of fears because we’re not so sure we’re going to LIKE what’s on the other side of change. And maybe worse yet, we’re not so sure we’ll be able to HANDLE the change. We’re afraid that we won’t prove to be as competent as we are on this side. Or we fear we won’t be as successful or attractive or comfortable or have as much control as we do now. We fear that change will put a spotlight on our greatest weakness. The fear of change can stop us cold.

Resisting Change

Because of these fears we often resist change. When we are comfortable we’ll do just about anything we can to avoid change. We’ll ignore it. We’ll drag our feet. We’ll definitely complain about it. We’ll attack the person leading change. We’ll even try to sabotage change. But in spite of our best efforts, some change is unavoidable. For this reason we need to learn how to face the change as well as the fear of change.

I recently spoke a message on facing the fear of change by looking at the change that Jesus brought to his followers. You can read or listen to the entire message here. But I’ll share the main points with you:

How to Face the Fear of Change

  1. Anticipate change. A lot of change we should see coming. I know parents that melt down when their kids leave for college. But really, didn’t they see that change coming? I realize that some change comes out of nowhere. But much of it can be anticipated. So stay alert. Look down the road and prepare for the obvious. 

    We fear that change will put a spotlight on our greatest weakness. The fear of change can stop us cold.

  2. Understand God’s perspective on change. God is never surprised. He’s never unprepared. He has Plan B, C, and Z waiting. He’s never boxed in. He can make good out of anything. So see things from God’s perspective and then…
  3. Trust God. I know. That’s practically a cliche. But change is the best time to have your faith tested. Now or never. What have you got to lose? Sit back and watch God give you what you need to handle the change. No matter what the change is that you are facing today, God’s got your back.  You might not trust your new setting or circumstances but you can always trust God to be with you and to help you through your time of change.
  4. Focus on the gains and grieve the losses. Both are important. Don’t look for the sky to fall. Expect God to come through for you…maybe not like you’d like…but ending on top of the pile and not under it. Yet that doesn’t mean there won’t be any losses. You need to grieve your losses and not just fake your way through it. That approach will come back to haunt you.
  5. Embrace the change. Some people let change paralyze them. They refuse to move forward.  People do this all the time. Think about the college student that is so afraid of change that she just sits in her dorm room Facebooking her high schools friends back home rather than engage in her new college life. Or think of the new dad that is so afraid of being a bad dad that he turns over all of the parenting responsibilities to his wife.  Max Lucado says this about facing change: make friends with whatever’s next. Embrace it. Accept it. Don’t resist it. Change is not only a part of life; change is a necessary part of God’s strategy. FEARLESS

Your Defining Moment

Whatever the change is in front of you, it might be a defining moment in your life. God might be calling you to do something that will change your life forever. This could be your turning point. So don’t shrink back. Don’t miss the opportunity. God will be with you in your change and he’ll show you the good things about the change, if you let him.

Question: What has helped you face and overcome your fear? Leave your comment below.

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A Decision Making Process for Establishing Boundaries

I’m continuing a discussion that I started on boundaries last week. Track back to understand the illustration of “the rope”. Put simply, “the rope” symbolizes your taking on someone else’s responsibility. Today, I want to start to discuss a decision making process to help you know whether or not to pick up ropes that people hand you.

Ropes Can Come in Disguise

Someone commented that they wouldn’t accept the rope in the first place. Yes, that’s wise. But sometimes ropes come to us in disguise. You aren’t aware that you have a rope until you try to move on in life and someone jerks you back. They feel abandoned or rejected and don’t want to let you go. You look down and realize they put a rope in your hand a long time ago.

Someone else gave an example of how this happened in her life. Her mom used guilt to get her to take the rope. As a child she didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.  This can happen in a job setting too where you want to please a boss by taking on extra responsibility. But then, what you thought was an exception becomes a new level of expectation.

A Decision Making Process

I want to talk about how to let go of ropes gracefully. But over the next few posts I want to discuss a decision making process to determine if you should pick up ropes in the first place. I have a list of questions that I ask myself when trying to determine my involvement in helping someone.

As a pastor of a larger church, I have people handing me ropes all the time. I learned early on that if I accept every rope handed to me I will only be able to help a select few people.  But I’m not called to serve a few. I’m called to serve hundreds of people. Before I pick up a rope I have to decide how it will impact my ability to help others.

But this dilemma isn’t unique to me. This is true of everyone; it’s just magnified by my position. Everyone has to count the cost of picking up ropes.  So let me share with you some of the questions I use to process which ropes I pick up.  There’s no particular order I’m offering these questions. I’ll just tackle one today:

Can I bring an immediate solution to this problem?

Jesus told a story about robbers that attacked a man and left him for dead. The first two men to decision making processreach the victim were religious and found reasons to ignore the man.  The third person to reach the victim was less religious (if you know the story, he was a Samaritan: from a group of people Jews looked down on for not being full Jews) but he tended to the man’s needs and made sure he was nursed back to health.

The moral of this story is that people who truly know God help others. It doesn’t matter how religious you are: if you ignore the needs of others you don’t really know God. The Samaritan didn’t offer any excuses. He did what he needed to do to help. He was given “a rope” and he took it, no questions asked.

I mention this story because if we want to love God and love others, our first response should be to help others. This is a good starting point. Let’s be careful in this discussion to not become like the two religious men in Jesus’ story who found excuses to not do the obvious thing: help a dying man!  If my involvement can help someone immediately, then most likely I should help.

But of course, some people take this story to the extreme and feel the need to help everyone, no matter what the cost to them or their family. And/or their involvement doesn’t actually help a person. In some cases it makes things worse.  I’ll talk about reasons to not pick up the rope in my upcoming posts.

Learn more about boundaries in my book, STUCK. Subscribe to this blog today and I’ll send you a free 60 page overview of STUCK. 

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Grief, Loss and Letting Go

Many people don’t understand or appreciate what happens when they encounter a loss (a death, divorce, loss of job, etc.). Too often people either skip over grief or they get stuck in grief. Neither approach resolves the loss or allows grief to do its healing work.

How Do You Deal with Grief?

Any loss leaves a hole in your heart. The question is: what will you do with that hole?  Here are three things people try:

  1. Leave the hole empty and mourn forever. They never get over the loss.
  2. Kill the pain with addictive habits.  This will lead to more losses in t
    he long run.
  3. Fill the hole with busyness. This only delays the healing. When the busyness stops the pain will remain.

The Grief Process is when you allow God to rewrite your story.

What if instead you sought to seek healing? Healing takes place when you invite God to rewrite your story, this time without whatever or whomever it was that you lost. It will be a new life, but it can still be good: just different.  

Too often people cling to what was and get stuck in the pain and sadness of grief never accepting the good that God has for them. 

You want to let God close the hole over time. That is what grieving is all about…a process of renewal. But you have to let go of what was to embrace what will be.Too often people cling to what was and get stuck in the pain and sadness of grief never accepting the good that God has for them.

What Does “Letting Go” Really Mean?

griefI wrote the above as a brief post on Facebook. A reader immediately wrote back asking what I meant by “letting go”. She said a lot of people use that phrase without ever explaining it. I love questions like that. So this is what I said:

I talk about the process of grief and letting go in more detail in my book, STUCK. But quickly here, “letting go” means that you don’t insist that what was lost HAS TO EXIST for your happiness. “Letting go” means you are willing to entertain the idea that God can make good of your life without whatever it was that you lost. Many people refuse to go there. Even though they know what was lost is gone forever, they hold a thought that their life will never be good again.

Letting go is a process. The hole in your heart doesn’t fill up right away. That’s why it’s a GRIEVING process. It’s a time of mourning. And that’s okay. Think of a pie chart. When you encounter a loss your pie is reduced by, say, 25%. You are operating from a deficit. You aren’t 100%. But if you are open to God he will slowly start to rebuild your life. The pie chart slowly fills in…not with junk that you put there, but with new relationships, hobbies, faith, etc. that brings healing and closes the gap.

I hope this helps you understand what happens when you experience a loss and why it takes time to fully recover. Don’t try to fix it on your own. Let God bring healing to your loss over time.

Question: What is your typical response to loss?  How has that worked for you? Leave your comment below.

When you subscribe to this blog I will send you a free ebook copy of “Forgiven…once and for all”, a  reflection on how God has fully forgiven you.

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Denial Lasts Seconds But The Damage Can Last Years

Denial is a wonderful thing…until you have to pay the consequences.denial

I’m working at losing five pounds. Yesterday I was grabbing lunch and I saw a small bag of potato chips. Kettle chips. I love Kettle chips. I grabbed them too. The “conversation” immediately started in my brain. “You can’t afford the calories. You are trying to lose weight.” “It’s not a big deal. It’s only 150 calories. And besides, I LIKE Kettle chips. It’ll be fine.”

But then I had a moment of clarity and I put the chips back. I knew that either I was working at losing weight or I was kidding myself. I was just rationalizing, justifying, excusing, denying, minimizing, and all that other stuff I wrote about in Healing the Hurts of Your Past.

Denial is for Fools

There is a proverb that explains what was going in my brain:

The wise see danger ahead and avoid it, but fools keep going and get into trouble. Proverbs 27:12

Wise people understand cause and effect. Wise people know that when you eat too many calories, you gain weight. The funny thing is, foolish people do too. Read the verse above; it’s not that fools don’t see danger. They both see it. But fools keep going, hoping that in their imaginary world, THIS TIME, consequence won’t follow their actions.  Either that or they just don’t care. They like Kettle chips too much to care, or whatever it is they like…you fill in the blank.

Denial Mishandles Reality

Foolish people disconnect truth from reality and suspend it in air, thinking that it will no longer impact their lives.  At least that’s their hope and they only need that hope long enough to eat the potato chips. They don’t have to live in their illusion very long. That’s key.

That’s why my little Kettle chip episode was so tempting: it caught me by surprise and only lasted a few seconds. If I would have eaten them it would have only lasted a minute.  Most of us allow ourselves that much denial because it’s not that long, but long enough to do us damage.

Denial Lasts Seconds While Consequences Last for Years

Here’s the lie/question in the moment of temptation: how can anything that takes so little time cause me much harm?  Hmmm.  Think about that. Most things that get us into trouble DON’T take that much time. But undoing the consequences can take years, maybe a life time. That’s why it’s so important to be mentally and spiritually prepared for temptation BEFORE it strikes.

This post was inspired by Kettle chips and chapter four of The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley.

Question: What is your Kettle chip? What could you do to better prepare to face temptation and not suffer the consequences of the fool? Leave your comment below.

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The Principle of the Path on Getting Lost


lost
This continues my discussion of Andy Stanley’s book, The Principle of the Path. The principle says: the direction you take in life, not your intentions, determine where you will end up. If you head into an uncharted forest, you will probably get lost even if that is not your intention.

The sad thing about getting lost in life is you usually don’t find your way back in hours or days. Typically you stay lost for years, even decades. Maybe you can relate.

Is Getting Lost God’s Fault?

I’ve had many people complain to me about their situation in life. They chart a life of self-destruction and then when it blows up they say, Why did God let this happen to me? Whoa. Say what? How did this become God’s fault? Most often, their situation is a result of their choosing to walk a certain path with very predictable results. To blame the consequences on God is an easy way to dodge responsibility. They need to own the consequences.

Good Intentions Aren’t Good Enough

Andy Stanley describes their problem saying that people don’t understand the connection between their behavior and the consequences that follow:

They’ve come to believe the popular notion that as long as their intentions are good, as long as their hearts are in the right place (whatever that means), as long as they do their best and try their hardest, it doesn’t really matter which path they take. They believe somehow they will end up in a good place. But life doesn’t work that way. page 20

He Partied Like a Rock Star

In chapter three he uses an example from the book of Proverbs in the Bible. It’s a story of a young man who goes to town and is seduced by a prostitute. He doesn’t see the down side to his decision. He feels like a rock star in a club but Proverbs says, “…he followed her like an ox led to slaughter”…like a deer stepping into a noose…like a bird flying into a snare…he has no idea it will cost him his life.” (Proverbs 7:22,23)

Why Do We Choose to Blow Up Our Lives?

Any casual observer can see the foolishness of his decision. Why can’t he see his fate? There are a few reasons:

  • He lacks experience. He doesn’t have the wisdom to connect the dots.
  • He minimizes and justifies his behavior, rationalizing why it’s not that bad. Why he deserves it.
  • He is proud. He thinks he’s the exception. Only fools are led astray. That won’t happen to him.
  • He tells himself it’s a one time event. He’ll just do it this once and be over it.

Do these excuses look familiar?  Have you used them in the past or are you using them now?

I write this blog to help people reclaim their life. My hope in reviewing The Principle of the Path is that you will use the wisdom to not just reclaim your life but hopefully prevent you from losing it in the first place.

Question: Which of the excuses above have you used? How many years did you decision keep you lost? Leave your comments below. Thanks.

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Hard Times Reveal Strength or Weakness

You never know how prepared you are until you hit hard times. Andy Stanley makes this point in his book, The Principle of the Path. This is part three in a series on the book.

Hard Times Don’t Cause Problems. Hard Times Reveal Problems.

It’s true isn’t it? Hard times are revealing. Andy says that economic downturns don’t cause problems as much as they reveal them. When you are flush with income, it doesn’t really matter how well you save or invest. You can afford to run up some debt because you always have enough to make the next payment. No one really knows if you are financially responsible or not because there is always enough money to go around.

But turn off the cash flow and it’s amazing what you find.  Some people are able to whether the storm because they’ve developed a cash reserve. They aren’t overextended on credit so they don’t have many bills to pay. Others aren’t so lucky. When the money dries up they are in crisis. No reserves and heavily leveraged.

Warren Buffet said you never know who is skinny dipping until the tide goes out. Exactly. Hard times are revealing.

Death and Sickness Reveal Your Relational Path

I’m currently involved in a funeral preparation for a family in my church.  As I drove away from the hospital on the night of the death I was impressed with the level of support that immediately surrounded the family of the deceased.  I have another church member suffering a significant, life-threatening disease. They too have been pleasantly surprised at the depth of support they have received during this time. As hard as these two situations are, they both revealed something very positive.  Through the years they walked a path that cultivated strong relationships with quality people.

What Path Are You Following?

But not everyone is so lucky. The Principle of the Path is a warning that we are all on a path somewhere.  You might think life is good and you are headed in the right direction until you hit hard times. You might not have the money you thought you had. You might not have the friends you thought you had. You might not have the connection with God that you wished you had.

The Principle of the Path asks, if you hit hard times today, are you deep enough financially, relationaly, spiritually, etc. to not just survive but overcome?  Answer that question and then make the corrections necessary to get on the path that will help you thrive, even in the face of hard times.

Question: What have hard times revealed in your life? Leave your comment below.

Subscribe to this blog and receive my ebook: Forgiven…Once and For All.

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Forgiveness Makes You Perfect In God’s Eyes

forgiveness

Forgiveness makes you perfect in God’s eyes.

This continues my series on God’s forgiveness.

God sent Jesus into the world to deal with our failure.  The Bible refers to that as “sin”. Dealing with our failure cost Jesus his life.

If you gave your life for something you’d hate for your sacrifice to go to waste, right? So, you can imagine how God’s passion is to have everyone receive the forgiveness that Jesus bought for us.

Forgiveness helps you connect with God.

Have you received God’s forgiveness? Maybe you don’t think it’s necessary. I’m not trying to convince you of that here. I’m really speaking to people who feel separated from God and want to make a connection.  Forgiveness makes that connection possible. Forgiveness removes every obstacle between you and God. Can you believe that?

Forgiveness makes you perfect.

Maybe that’s sounds too good to be true. I had it explained to me like this.  Imagine that you and Jesus are sitting side by side and Jesus says to Father God, Which one of us is more perfect in your sight?  What would the Father say? He’d say, You are both perfect in my sight.

When I first heard that, it sounded wrong. How could I be equally perfect in God’s sight with Jesus? But that’s what Jesus’ death did for you and me. The Bible tells us,

By one sacrifice God has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:14

This verse is about you. Jesus’ death made you perfect in God’s eyes. It says Jesus’ death cleaned your slate…forever.

When is the last time someone looked at you as completely blameless? Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone look at you without remembering all of your mistakes, all your sin, all your failure, and past history? That’s how God looks at you.

I started this series talking about Eliot Spitzer and his public disgrace. Do you think Eliot would like someone to look at him and see nothing but perfection instead of the biggest hypocrite in New York?  Do you think that would bring healing to his soul?

Forgiveness makes you a new creation.

Spitzer may never again have anyone on earth look at him this way, but the Bible says God sees him as perfect if he is in Christ.

If anyone is in Christ, – that is, a believer and a follower of Jesusthe new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

That’s a great promise isn’t it? That’s what happens when God has forgiven you. Your old life is buried and you are given a chance to start over.  Forgiveness pushes the “restart” button on your life.

Would you like to start over? Are you tired of carrying a load of guilt and feeling stuck in your past? How would you like to let go of your past in exchange for a new life? If so, then let me offer this prayer for you;

Father…thank you that you don’t let our past failures define our lives. You define our lives by your Son. You said that if we are in Christ we are new creatures. What a promise. What a hope. Help us to let go of our old lives and embrace our new identities. Help us to receive every bit of forgiveness that Jesus’ death paid for and nothing less. And help us to live out this new life. Amen.

This post is adapted from my ebook, “Forgiven…once and for all”. Subscribe to this blog to receive your free copy. 

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