Tell the devil where he can go…

By | Encouragement, Leadership

I am a dreamer (there, I said it!). Everyone around me knows I enjoy think-space and dreaming about what “could be,” especially when it comes to character building and spreading the Gospel. I love those moments – where EVERYTHING is POSSIBLE! The next step is a blank piece of paper that wants color, imagination, experiences, life, energy, some crazy cool component, and more. If you are a dreamer, you know what I mean. The excitement of a forward vision or a new t-shirt design or a change to move forward is breath to my lungs. Sometimes we use words like “God-sized Vision.” Amazing!

What’s even better than just a dream, is a clear word from the Lord. He speaks something into your heart and with everything inside of you, you know this is God’s will. It resonates in your heart because this could open up another opportunity to share the Gospel. So, what do we do? He reminds us in Isaiah 40 to “prepare the way.” Make sure you are casting vision, giving your why, communicating well. BUT … (there is often a BUT)

Whenever God begins to move us forward and we get passionate about an idea, there comes a simple but disastrous moment when the fatal words come out of someone’s mouth: “Let me just play the Devil’s Advocate for a minute …” After making that seemingly harmless statement, the person feels free to blast your idea to smithereens! And you are left with that blank stare, that “what just happened look.” You know that person loves you, but the “how” was almost too quick and now, the “wow” is gone and it makes you question. However, the “how” must come. There has to be an action plan to walk out what God is saying.

Remember this, NEW PLANS ALWAYS FACE RESISTANCE. It may or may not work. Don’t let the Devil’s Advocate kill God’s plan. Agree together in prayer TODAY, that you and your team WILL work together to find new ways to reach people. It will require some change, but not change for change-sake, but for the sake of the next man or woman who bows their knee to Jesus Christ. Trying something new is not wrong, just know your why behind it.

I don’t know about you, but the Devil gets way too much credit and tries to mess too much up! So, let’s walk together in unity and believe God for greater things. If you are walking with the Lord, there is no reason not to think your best days are ahead. Dream Big! Listen to the Lord! Reach out and love people! Try new things!

Let’s be united and tell the Devil where he can go …

 

Written by: Warren Jackson

Daring to Reach

By | Personal Growth

I started graduate school this semester and I was recently asked how it was going and whether or not it was an adjustment or if I just jumped right in. Thinking back over this semester, it’s hard to decide how to answer that question. It seems like it was a mixture of both. I definitely jumped right in, but it was a little difficult to adjust to all the reading and writing. There have been moments I’ve really asked myself why in the world I decided to start grad school now or why did I decide to go full-time on top of my already busy schedule. And then my roommates and I decided to move in October from our apartment to a house, so I threw moving into the mix.

It definitely made more sense to wait… I couldn’t afford it, I didn’t have time for it, I didn’t necessarily need it right now… and yet, I knew it was what I was supposed to do.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?

How many times do we let those reasons stand in our way from following the dream God placed inside us?

John Maxwell says, “The greatest stretching seasons of life come when we do what we have never done, push ourselves harder, and reach in a way that is uncomfortable to us. That takes courage.”

If you want to grow, you have to step outside your comfort zone. You have to do things you’ve never done before. You have to reach for things that seem so far beyond you. Because it is in the reaching that we become stronger, move further, and ultimately discover new and amazing things.

If you never dare to reach, you’ll never truly know what you’re capable of accomplishing.

I pray that you will dare to reach.

Written by: Alice Lothman

Courage to Face Reality

By | Leadership, Personal Growth

(Adapted from The Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley)

As leaders, we want to believe that things are good. No matter how things are really going, we have a tendency to put up a front that says, “Everything is great in my life!” Not only to other people, but even to ourselves. We think if we ignore or downplay the negative aspects of our lives, they’ll either go unnoticed or disappear altogether.

Leaders worth following are willing to face and embrace current reality, regardless of how discouraging or embarrassing it might be. To be that kind of leader, you must be relentless in your quest to know the truth about yourself and what is happening around you.

Facing the painful truth requires courage.

Ask yourself… What is really up with me and my current situation?

What is it today that you need to face that will unleash the rest of your story?

Don’t let your yesterday keep you from having the courage to be the better version of yourself tomorrow. You can’t let your mistakes drive you to shut down. You must begin to look at what you have instead of what you don’t have.

It is impossible to generate sustained growth or progress if your plan for the future is not rooted in reality.

This means that you must take a real assessment of yourself.

“Leadership does not begin just with vision. It begins with getting people to confront the brutal facts and to act on the implications.” –Jim Collins

Facing current reality is often nasty, but always necessary. Nasty because it may entail acknowledging that you aren’t as far along as you thought you were.

To ensure that we are leading with our feet firmly planted on the soil of what is, we must live by the seven commandments of current reality:

  1. Thou shalt not pretend.
  2. Thou shalt not turn a blind eye.
  3. Thou shalt not exaggerate.
  4. Thou shalf not shoot the bearer of bad news.
  5. Thou shalt not hide behind the numbers.
  6. Thou shalt not ignore constructive criticism.
  7. Thou shalt not isolate thyself.

Be persistent. Take some initiative.

Today can be the day of change. Do something different. Don’t let those things continue to shut you down.

Attempted to lead while turning a blind eye to reality is like treading water: it can only go on for so long. If you don’t face where you are right now, you’ll eventually drown.

Whatever it takes, will you find the courage to get real with yourself?

Adapted by: Warren Jackson

Caught Up In The Details

By | Encouragement

In John 6:1-13, we read about the miracle Jesus performed in feeding over 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish. The story begins with a problem- there is a large crowd gathered, but not enough food to feed them.

In verse 5, Jesus asks Philip where they should buy bread to feed the people. Philip’s response was much like how ours would be. He starts assessing the probably cost. And of course, the price tag is far beyond his ability to pay.

Jesus was the master of teachable moments. He could have easily just solved the problem (John even notes in verse 6 that Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do), but instead he chose to include the disciples in the process and teach them something.

In verse 8, Andrew joins the conversation and he gets a little closer to a solution. He calls their attention to a boy with 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish. But he concludes, “how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9)

Whether the boy came forward and offered his lunch, or if the disciples merely used him as an example, the point is that they had the wrong mindset.

They were looking at what resources they possessed rather than who could provide.
Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed the food.

Gratefulness postures you to receive blessing from the Lord. Too often, we get caught up in
what we don’t have or how what we do have isn’t enough to make a difference, when we should be thanking the Lord for how much we already have.

After everyone has had enough to eat, Jesus tells his disciples to gather up the leftovers. He
goes on to say in verse 12, “Let nothing be wasted.”

There is a lesson in the leftovers. God gives in abundance.

I’ve struggled in the past with this very principle. I had a hard time believing in the abundance of God when I had barely enough money in the bank to pay my bills. It wasn’t until I realized that God only gives in abundance in the things that He cares about the most: things that are used in advancing His Kingdom.

If you only think of abundance in terms of money, you’ve missed the point. Remember, money only amplifies what it touches. If you are not doing anything to advance his kingdom with the money you’ve already been given, why would he bless you with more? If you can learn to live and give when you have nothing, you will be a better steward of what you have when you have something.

Like the disciples, it’s so easy for us to get caught up in the details of an impossible task and miss the whole point. If you keep reading in John, right after Jesus performed this miracle he tells the people that He is the Bread from heaven that gives life.

While Jesus was meeting the physical needs of the people in performing the miracle, what he really cared about was the people understanding that he was the Bread of Life.

Don’t let your tasks distract you from the bigger picture. If you only focus on the task, you’ll struggle to keep the big picture in mind. You’ll only see what you can’t do, rather than what God can do.

The whole point of your life is for you to become a fully devoted follower of Christ and your task is to advance the Kingdom of God.

Written by: Alice Lothman

Insanity

By | Leadership, Personal Growth

In his book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell states, “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” He also says, “You cannot change your life until you change something you do everyday.”

In my own life, I have put those principles into place and have seen incredible results! Because they are so true! Growth cannot happen without change. Transformation cannot occur without change.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I’ve also heard it said that if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.

Which brings me to my point. If you are not satisfied with the way your life is right now, then what changes do you need to make to get to where you want to be? Because if you don’t change anything, nothing will change.

It begins with a decision to change your direction. You must decide where you are heading in life.

Then look at the things you are doing each day and start making changes. What is something small you could change that will eventually lead to big results? It could be something as simple as watching TV less and reading your Bible more. May seem small, but it will make a huge difference.

Your circumstances will not change until you are willing to change yourself.

Wherever you are in life, I challenge you to take a moment to stop and reflect on the direction of your life. Are you headed in the direction that will ultimately lead to the destination you desire? If so, keep going! Don’t stop! It’s not over yet because you’re not dead yet!

But if it’s not, then what is it going to take for you to shift course? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start now. Get going. And stick to it!

Written by: Alice Lothman

The Nine

By | Discussion, Leadership, Personal Growth

When men and women demonstrate the love of Christ and the fruits of the Spirit, people can see it. It is in the fruit that people know where it came from. The draw of a beautiful, shiny apple, a large orange, or a fuzzy-skinned, perfect peach are all indicators of how healthy and alive the tree is. The fruit really does sell the tree.

I love Teddy Roosevelt’s statement, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” I will always trust the one I know more than the average person speaking. I believe what people can see IN and FROM your life really is what is going on inside – our “fruit” represents our character.

Galatians 5:22 – 23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” I call these the nine!

I don’t think anyone has ever gotten mad at someone who loves, who is joyful, a peaceful person, who is kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled. These “fruits” in our character are very noticeable in this generation because they are not the norm.

Let’s take a minute and check our “fruit” …
Are you a loving person?
Are you a joyful person?
Are you a peaceful person?
Are you kind?
Are you good?
Are you faithful?
Are you gentle?
Are you self-controlled?

I believe that Leadership begins and ends with character – who we are precedes what we do!

There are 3 takeaways for living out the NINE …

  1. We are BEING like Jesus!
    Think about it. When we are loving, kind, and faithful we will talk to and love the forgotten like He did; we will be kind to the sick like He did; and we will be peaceful and calming like He was in the boat during the storm.
  2. God is the one who grows the fruit, not us
    God produces the fruit. We just reflect the “Gardener.” I don’t know much about gardens, but I do know that seeds planted become deep roots. There sometimes takes some pruning and some compost, but the actual growth of the fruit has nothing to do with me. So, my job is to share the Gospel (James 1); water and develop roots for growth (Jeremiah 17); experience some pruning (John 15); and even spread some compost (Romans 5:3-6).
  3. We don’t get to pick which ones we want based on our personality
    There isn’t a filter on this list of nine. I believe that God wants to grow all nine fruits in our lives. The NINE fruits of the Spirit are proof of His character in our lives. I want my character to look like Christ, therefore I must work at it.

Last thought, I have always said character is built in the “small things.” The “small things” aren’t really that small. Taking the trash out every day is consistency. Loving people just the way they are is acceptance. And so on …

So, what are we doing with the NINE?

Do those who know you see the fruit of the Spirit lived out in your life?

 

Written by: Warren Jackson

Confidence or Pride?

By | Discussion

As a musician, I have waged a lifelong battle with pride. Anyone with a talent or skill that is most often utilized on a public platform has inevitably dealt with this issue. And knowing that the Bible warns so strongly against having a prideful spirit has caused me to constantly be on guard against it, almost to the point of being fearful that I’m going to cross the line between confidence and pride. I used to use self-doubt as my tool of choice in determining whether or not I was being prideful about my abilities. I feared that if I grew too confident, it would allow pride to creep into my heart and rule my mind.

But what I realized was that by allowing self-doubt to be my gauge, I was making myself miserable and preventing any true momentum.

So how do you tell the difference between a prideful spirit and confidence?

I think the first thing to do is distinguish exactly what it is that we are referring to when we use the word, “pride.”

Here’s the tricky part. Pride is not always a bad thing to have. Yes, you did read that right. Pride isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Pride at its core is simply “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements or the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated.” It’s completely normal and acceptable to feel pleased (have pride) when you or someone you love achieves something great.

When the Lord was giving Moses instructions for the Tabernacle, God said to “tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron.” (Exodus 28:3) If those workers didn’t feel confident in their ability to complete the task, then they would have invariably questioned the Lord’s instructions and struggled with completing the task set before them by the Lord. And if they weren’t satisfied with a job well done, then what would be the point in having the skill in the first place?

So where is the line between confidence and pride? When does pride shift from simply a feeling of satisfaction to something dangerous?

Pride becomes a problem when it takes the focus off God and puts it on us. It’s a problem when we begin to give ourselves credit for something that God has accomplished. The key part of Exodus 28:3 is “to whom I have given wisdom.” We must remember and acknowledge that the Lord is the one who gives us what we have.

But how do you really know if you are operating out of pride or out of confidence? Is it enough to simply remember and acknowledge the Lord? Is it possible to give credit to the Lord and still harbor pride in our heart?

I think if we changed our verbiage, we would be able to properly differentiate between the times we are feeling a healthy form of pride and the times we are not.

To help fight against the negative aspect of pride, let’s replace the word “pride” with “arrogance.” Pride is a feeling that occurs when a person feels satisfied with his abilities or possessions. Arrogance occurs when a person has an inflated opinion of his abilities or possessions.

Arrogance is based on external perception. It’s performing so that others will notice and acting in order to influence someone else’s perception of your skill level. Whereas confidence is operating out of an accurate assessment of your skill level and performing well regardless of other’s opinions or acknowledgment.

A good way to gauge yourself is this: if you ever do something well and it hurts your feelings that nobody noticed, you were operating out of arrogance. If you want your talent or skill to be acknowledged by others, and you do not feel successful without it, then you are experiencing the negative version of pride.

If you are an excellent speaker or teacher, go forward in confidence, knowing that you are able to complete the task set before you. If you have a talent for dance or music, then don’t let a fear of pride keep you from performing confidently. Self-doubt is not the antidote for pride.

If you have struggled with pride in the past or if you are afraid of becoming prideful in the future, then I encourage you to do two things. First, acknowledge the Lord as the source of your talent and skill. And second, evaluate yourself and determine if you have an accurate assessment of your skill level.

Sometimes the Lord sets a task before us that is beyond our own abilities so that we are required to depend on him. But that doesn’t mean that the Lord hasn’t given us any talents and skills to use for His glory. Don’t let fear hold you back from God’s call!

“Then Moses said to the Israelites, ‘See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers- all of them skilled workers and designers. So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.’” Exodus 35:30-35

 

Written by: Alice Lothman

Fully Devoted

By | Discussion, Personal Growth

I was recently reading John’s account of when Andrew, John, Peter, and Philip first followed Jesus and I learned something pretty incredible.

I learned that every lesson I’ve ever heard or taught about the call of the first disciples has not been entirely accurate.

If you read each account in the four gospels (Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:14-20, Luke 5:1-11, and John 1:35-51), you’ll notice that while Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s accounts line up, John’s account is very different. I challenge you to take a few moments and go read each of the four stories.

At first glance, you might even think to yourself that the Bible is contradicting itself. How could their accounts be such a completely different set of events?

Well, since I believe that the Bible is true and that it doesn’t contradict itself, I started reading each story and what’s around those recorded events.

And what I discovered has radically changed my perspective of the call of those four fishermen. I’ve always been taught that when Jesus approached the four fishermen by the Sea of Galilee, that they immediately dropped everything for a stranger. That their faith and trust was so great that they were willing to leave their nets behind and follow Jesus.

Honestly, I’ve always had a hard time accepting that. What kind of person drops everything for a stranger? Not the kind who didn’t really understand who Jesus was until after He ascended. (John 2:18-22)

I could accept and relate to Luke’s account a little more because Luke records that Jesus performed a miracle at that event. That might compel me to action.

But still, it was a little difficult to believe and relate to if I’m being honest.

And then there is John’s account, which seems to tell the story from a whole different set of events.

So after reading and researching, I discovered that when Jesus told the 4 fishermen to follow Him and He would make them fishers of men, Jesus was not a stranger to them. In fact, those men had already been following Jesus for several months when He found them by the Sea of Galilee. We know this because John’s account actually occurs months before the event recorded by the other gospels.

The key point in the timeline is John the Baptist’s arrest. If you read Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there’s a key phrase that occurs: “After John was put in prison.” (Matthew 4:12, Mark 1:14, Luke 3:19.) So, when Jesus approached the four fishermen by the Sea of Galilee, John the Baptist was in prison.

If you read John’s gospel, however, his story occurs the day after Jesus’ baptism (John 1:35). This means that when Andrew, John, Peter, and Philip first started following Jesus, John the Baptist was still preaching and baptizing. This tells us that the story John recorded was a completely separate event from the one recorded in the other three gospels!

This discovery has shifted my entire perspective on what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. In Jesus’ day, it was very common for a disciple to maintain their vocation while studying under a teacher. This is exactly what Andrew and John would have been doing as a disciple of John the Baptist and what they continued to do for the first few months of following Jesus.

When Jesus came to the four fishermen by the Sea of Galilee and told them to follow Him and they would be fishers of men, this was the moment that they dropped everything and started following Jesus full-time.

My question to you is this: are you a pre-John’s arrest disciple or a post-John’s arrest disciple? Are you trying to follow Jesus part-time or are you all-in? Have you risked everything? Have you trusted everything to Him?

The good news is that you don’t have to completely understand or even fully believe everything Jesus says to be all-in. The disciples initially recognized Him as the Messiah, but they didn’t fully get it until after Jesus ascended. But that didn’t stop Jesus from using them to advance His kingdom.

I love the song, “Jesus Be the Center,” because of the perspective of Jesus being the center rather than the first. If something is first on a list and gets taken away, everything below it just moves up. It’s very easy to replace. However, if something is in the center and you remove it, everything falls apart. It’s a noticeable absence.

If I removed Jesus’ influence from your life, would everything fall apart? Would you even notice? How much of your life would be affected? How much of an influence does Jesus truly have in your decision-making?

Are you a fully devoted follower of Christ?

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

Written by: Alice Lothman

Begin to Dream

By | Encouragement

Did you know that God has a dream for you?

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Joseph.  Joseph was the beloved and favored son of Jacob and Rachel who lived in the land of Canaan with his 10 older half-brothers and one younger brother.

And Joseph was a dreamer.

God had plans to use Joseph mightily for His Glory and gave Joseph two dreams suggesting that one day his brothers would bow down before him.  Already envious of Joseph’s favor with their father, as made evident by a gift of a “coat of many colors”, his older brothers instituted a plan for his demise.

God’s intervention through his brother Rueben allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery where the next years were spent being humbled by circumstances, such as prison, yet favored and prepared for His ultimate calling to save God’s chosen people.

In the end, God positioned Joseph with the “keys to the kingdom” and he saved his family and God’s people from famine through his planned provisions and preparation.  This came through the interpretation of yet another dream.

You see, God is always dreaming.

And did you know that God’s dream has never changed?  God still has a dream to save His people and He wants to use you to help fulfill that dream!  Your circumstances today do not determine your destiny!  Your destiny is a foregone conclusion!  Your calling is irrevocable!  And His plans for you are oh so GOOD!

So my challenge to you today is to begin to dream God’s dream for you!  To take your eyes off of your current circumstances and focus your gaze on the One who created you for His glory.  Because, my friend, God has always had and always will have, a dream for you! 🙂

Written by: Deb Brittan, Clear Board Member

Uninvited

By | Encouragement

The other weekend I found myself in a new group of people and for the first time in a long time I felt uninvited. I sat there watching everyone merge into their group to discuss the latest on their life. I watched my husband embrace conversation with others and glide smoothly into this new community. I found myself sitting there fighting back tears, pondering what everyone was thinking of this new human who had entered their community, wishing I could make an excuse as to why I needed to leave, and looking at my watch wondering why my husband was staying past the time we had chosen to leave.

These thoughts clouded my mind and skewed my view. This thought made me feel alone and it crippled me from embracing the people around me. Choosing to entertain those thoughts created me to be self-focused and to feel unwelcomed.

The feelings of uninvited are not one we embrace, but usually try to run from. Uninvited does birth the thought of “I am all alone.” And I was already feeling alone, since the mountain of changes that have occurred over the last few months, I was hit even harder. My thoughts were already struggling with friendships and feeling slightly important, so walking into this group was the icing to it all.

There are many times where we label moments as “uninvited” or “alone,” but those moments are not based usually off someone telling us that. They are based off our own assumption of a situation. My thoughts were solely based off a previous hurt and therefore when I walked into that group I felt even more uninvited.

There are a million ways in which we could receive advice on how to fix this feeling, but I will share what I am learning. When I feel uninvited it is not just with people, but I feel that same way with the Lord. I choose to distance myself from all things and find myself uncomfortable in most encounters with people, unless you’re a stranger. I do not care to spend time with the Lord, which is the One who is always welcoming me into His presence. It becomes a battle because I do not always “feel” that the Lord can fix all issues. So, what do I do? I keep fighting against the feeling. I push myself to sit with the Lord. To remind myself that I am invited, even when I do not feel like it. I create time to hangout, call, or text my friends because that helps combat the lies. And some days I cry because the thought is more overwhelming than what I can handle for that day.

You have something to share with those around you and you are invited. You do not need permission from some human, because the Lord has invited you. He has invited you and that my friend is enough. It does not always feel enough, but I promise it is. Because the moment I found myself embracing the Lord again, soon followed with me not walking away from people disappointed. I walked away okay because it was not based off what they could give to me, but what could be shared.

Written by: Kassie Cash, former Clear Summer Staffer