Tag: calling

Why We All Should Stop Calling Ourselves Christians

Not many enjoy dealing with negative issues, certainly I don’t, but the reality we face is daunting—much of modern American Christianity is a kind of full blown, DEFCON 5 mess. Are we intrinsically bad people? No, of course not. Is the bulk of Christianity in dire straits? I believe so.

Whether by eyes-wide-open intention or some kind of unconscious seduction, many of us who claim the name “Christian” have sadly become some of the most hateful, selfish, condemning, privileged, demanding, and arrogant people on planet earth. I wish this weren’t true, but unfortunately it is—American Christianity’s overall deplorable state is the pink elephant in the room draped with blinking lights and sounding alarms that somehow is still being ignored by many of us who refuse to see beyond our ideologies and listen beyond the cooing sounds of our own ignorance.

Like an alcoholic in denial of their disease, many of us have gone nose-blind to the stench of our religious breaths. Sadly, as virtuous as our pursuits may seem and our intentions might be, we are drunk on everything but Jesus, who is pure Grace. We are the wasted guy at the bar who thinks their high is so spiritual and worthy, totally oblivious to the superficial buffoons we have become—a laughing stock to the world of the highest cringe-worthiness, increasingly dangerous to ourselves and even more so to others.

Despite the divine-pleasing nobility we seek, our creeds and our creed-doing are so far gone from Christ and His earthly essence that our wayward faith looks back from some distant planet and dares to declare it’s the world that’s moved away. We are self-professed experts at label giving, boasting of a “biblical” accuracy to put names to the sins and the sinners we decree. Yet, more and more, it seems our credibility to even place the title “Christian” on our own backs is showing itself to be anything but an act of genuine, on-target appropriateness.

Oh how we have fallen from Grace and stand in diametrical contradiction to the very label we profess—”Christian.”

A Christian is supposed to be a person who, first and foremost, is resting totally in Grace—as was Jesus. Grace is the Gospel—anything less or added along side is nothing but deceptive, cruel, bad news. Grace alone is our salvation, our sanctification, our justification, our preservation and our summation. To “believe” is to simply rest in Grace—to be awakened to all that God is (Love), and all that humanity is (sons and daughters of the living God)—whole, righteous, and fully alive because of Jesus’ performance, not ours. By Grace, from Grace, and through Grace, Jesus is the author and finisher of everything about everyone. To love Jesus is to love pure Grace, to believe in Jesus is to rest solely in Grace. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sadly, most Christians, especially Evangelical conservatives, aren’t resting in Grace but fidgeting in their souls, putting their trust in some level of spiritual performance for the existence, quality and closeness of their relationship with Jesus. They don’t believe they, or anyone else, are truly a finished work of Christ through the cross, but rather that one must embark on a spiritual process of sin-management, life-change, and evil-overcoming in order to establish and maintain a working relationship with God—what many call “becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.”

In technical terms, they think the Law, in all its forms of religious rule-keeping, is actually doable. If you just pray enough, press into Jesus enough, get radical enough, keep your sins at bay enough, subscribe to the right belief systems and complete the right steps enough, your spiritual faithfulness will result in a wellspring of life leading to blessings from God now, eternity with Him later, and a superior standing over the rest of humanity. God loves you “but,” if you don’t love Him back through a life of rule-keeping, expectation-meeting, church-playing, correct doctrine-believing, radical-serving and sin-overcoming, all bets are essentially off.

In essence, those who subscribe to this self-righteous way of living are ironically the ones leading the way at watering down sin as they pridefully lift up some kind of system of human capacity that’s able to overcome it—believing within the application and declaration of religious effort and striving there is life. A life, for them, that is attained by leveraging Jesus and mixing Him into a cocktail of personal performance they believe will satisfy the thirst of God and cause Him to release a sum of blessings and favor that wouldn’t be otherwise rendered. If one can just bolster enough spiritual steam and put Jesus in their pocket along the way, the conquering of sin is just a few sermon bullet points away. The need for Jesus is reduced to a pawn in their spiritual game purposed on check-mating God into being required to love, bless, and keep them because they, through their spiritual gymnastics, have fulfilled the just requirements, checked the boxes, and have done their part.

Because they have this lessor view of sin, they also have a lessor view of Grace and their need for it, reducing the cross to an ongoing, open-ended negotiation instead of a once-and-for-all, one-and-done salvation. Attend just about any church in America and you will experience this “Jesus plus me-and-my-faithfulness” concoction that’s sadly bottled as the Gospel.

I wish things were different, but I can’t be silent, this is the most anti-Christ, anti-Jesus-like way to believe and live—flipping Jesus the middle finger while we pat Him on the back in declaration that what He did on behalf of all humanity was pretty damn good, but not quite good enough—Jesus got us so far, but there is a significant amount of human pedaling to muscle in order to open up the heavens now and get us in later.

The truth is, for most Christians, we aren’t resting, trusting, and believing solely in Christ alone, but something much different and deeply sinister—and our performance-driven, legalistic, self-improving, judgmental, conditional-loving and pretentious faith is all the world needs to see as proof. We don’t truly worship Jesus, we worship Jesus plus “us”—Jesus plus repentance, Jesus plus church attendance, Jesus plus spiritual notches on our belts, Jesus plus this, that, and everything else. At the end of the day, we don’t truly love Jesus, rather, we are using Him like a street corner prostitute to empower our spiritual joy ride of self-righteousness, self-justification, world-judgement and world-condemnation. We want as much Jesus as we need in order to get what we want and yet maintain a sure level of control, superiority over others, and self-righteous satisfaction.

That’s why words about Jesus (the Bible) are more important to us than the living Word, Jesus Himself. We don’t interpret the Bible through the person of Jesus—as did Jesus. Rather, we interpret it through the lens of our selective agendas, self-justification, and a need for some skin in the game to quiet down our restless faiths that are afraid to acknowledging the full ramifications of Grace—you aren’t in control, He is; your performance doesn’t matter, only His does; you aren’t any better than anyone else, only different. In our minds, when Jesus doesn’t do and say what we need Him to do and say, we scramble for something or someone else to legitimize our convictions and justify our religious agendas—enter, the Bible.

Let’s be honest, we aren’t totally in love with all of humanity—as was Jesus.

We aren’t totally impassioned with equality and justice for all people—as was Jesus.

We aren’t totally focused on helping people see themselves through the lens of Grace instead of sin, guilt and shame—as was Jesus.

We aren’t unconditionally loving the broken and discarded, and confronting the religious, legalistic and Grace withholders of our day—as did Jesus.

So many of the things that are primary to Jesus aren’t even on the bus of our religious joy ride. Instead, we have become consummate, spiritual mixologists—diluting the purity of Jesus and His Grace with our religious additives and preservatives, pouring it all into our crystalline clubs with crosses on top and calling it faith and faithfulness—hoping the world will drink from the very same poison that’s killing us, while sadly we believe it’s bringing us Life.

We say we love “justice,” but it feels so much more like we love “just us.”

We say we love “Jesus,” but it feels so much more like we love “judging everybody but us”

We say we’re all about “Love,” but we have polluted Him and His affections with so many “conditions.”

“Evangelical,” “Conservative,” whatever name you want to hoist is fine with me, but with all due respect, please stop calling yourself a “Christian,” it simply doesn’t fit. The Christ you claim and the Christ you proclaim is almost nowhere to be found within all the spin, conditions, and condemnation riddled in your game.

Call yourself religians, sin-managians, world-judgians, homophobians, sin-hatingians, discriminatians, mixed-gospelians, legalismians, churchians, conservativians, bible-thumpians, church-franchisians, empire-christianityians—whatever title floats your boat, but please reconsider calling yourself a Christ-ian.

It’s all too obvious you are comfortable with making the world into an all-you-can-judge buffet as you cling to a bipolar God and a book you can wield to justify your angry deity, inner underlying hate, and an addiction to self-righteous justification. No doubt, the rest of us are beginning to clearly understand that because of you, to self-identify as a “Christian” in America today is to position oneself as a rabid porcupine in a world of balloons—rightly predisposed as haters, bigots, egomaniacs, ignoramuses, and overall life deflators.

For this, I am actually glad. It’s high time the people of Jesus put faith-handles aside and let our actions speak louder than a title ever could.

Let’s all stop worrying about the label and determine to be the Love.

Let’s stage our love and grace do the talking and the persuading—the best way to reveal the Who we are trusting. For by the way we love without restraint and adore without limits, people won’t even need to ask, they will simply know—Love has come to town.

But how will they know it’s Jesus who is the subject of our souls? Because Jesus is Grace, nothing and no one else truly is, and people aren’t stupid.

It’s sad, but true, the more I become unchristian, the more Jesus recognizes me as His own.

If you need the title “Christian” to be one and to do His work, then perhaps you have missed the entire point of who Jesus is and the true nature and essence of what is truly His work.

Perhaps the less we call ourselves “Christians” the more we truly show ourselves to be one.

And more importantly, the more the world might believe in the One and only who is Grace.

People who Adopt

Just days ago, we arrived home from China adopting our second little girl from Xiamen, China. We have two biological children, and now two, adopted special needs children.

During these two trips to China and our experience within the adoption community, we have grown to know many adoptive families and individuals.  People who know me, know that I like to study people. It’s a hard thing for me to turn off, even while spending 39 hours flying, two weeks traveling, and experiencing the whole emotional and physical process of international adoption.

Over the course of time, I have come to discern that there are several commonalities among people who adopt, many of which contradict myths about adoption.  Here is what I have observed…

People who adopt…

1) have a sense of calling to adopt. And most have a spiritual sense of calling from God.  They are not merely adopting to “have” a child, but believe God has given them a child through adoption. They don’t just believe that are saving a life, they believe that God has given them a life to take care of that is no different from a biological child. Yes, perhaps for those with an inability to have biological children, this reality was an influencing factor, but their sense of calling far exceeds any physical limitation’s influence to have children.

2) see adoption as a blessing.  For them, the emphasis is not on what they are doing or giving to their child, but rather a humble awareness of the blessing they have been given through the honor of adoption. They don’t see their adoptive children as a burden nor their adoption as a heroic act, but rather a gift from God. Do they believe or feel that’s it’s an easy endeavor? Not at all. People who adopt are often very realistic, but whatever challenges there are, the sense of being blessed through adoption always prevails.

3) are frugal with resources.  One might think that people who adopt, especially internationally must be loaded with cash. This is often not the case. Is adoption expensive? You bet! But many have worked very hard to raise the monies needed, whether through fundraising, savings, or connecting with benefactors. In fact, I have never met another adoptive family who was just wealthy and was simply adopting because they were financially able to do so. Many people wait months and years, working hard to exhaust every possible financial resource to make things happen, even going in dept to do so. People who adopt are normal looking and feel that adoption is “normal.” They are not fancy, but frugal.

4) have a deep sense of family. People who adopt see parenting as a top priority and even a calling. These are dedicated, family people. Not that people who don’t adopt, aren’t. But rather that people who adopt, are. I have never met an adoptive family what wasn’t all about being great parents and making family a top priority in their lives.

5) are compassionate and determined.  Adoption is not for the callous of heart nor the faint of heart. Adoption is hard work, requiring great determination, patience, and flexibility.  The adoptive families we have met are compassionate and determined to the highest degree. These are people who rarely take “no’ for an answer and would give their lives to defend, honor, and stand for their children, especially those who adopt special needs children.  They are strong people where strength is needed, and soft people, where softness is needed.  They see children through a lens some do not, and those that adopt special needs children do so out of a special compassion, calling, ability, and determination.  They do not see having this lens as being better than others, but rather as having a special responsibility.

6) are human. They cry, laugh, make mistakes, have personalities, and have hopes like everyone else. They are not perfect, nor declare so. They are not better than others, nor less than others. They are human, called and gifted for adoption. They inspire those around them, waving the banner and doing their part for the orphaned of our world.

We are deeply honored to know adoptive families and that God has called us to be one.

What would you add to this list? 

 

 

Servant Leadership Misunderstood

Matthew 20:28  20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down,asked a favor of him. 21 “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” 22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”“We can,” they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” 24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I want to start  this post with a statement… If we serve people, we may never serve our gift. If we serve our gift, we will serve both our gift and people.

Sound confusing? That’s o.k. Hopefully by the time you are finished with this post it will not only make sense, but revolutionize your life and leadership. I know this understanding has profoundly impacted me.

To understand what I am getting at, we need to start with understanding our “gift.”  Before we can truly serve people as God purposed us, we must understand what God has put in our hands to give. Otherwise, we end up trying to give people what we don’t have and meeting desires in people instead of needs.

Serving happens when we give something of ourselves so that a person(s) may move further into God and His agenda for their life.

I believe this was a dimension of Martha’s problem when she and Mary encountered Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).  Mary had a sense of what would honor  and serve Jesus because she knew her “gift.”  Her “gift” was, in part, to bless the Lord with her attention and devotion. She knew what Jesus, in a sense, “needed” and what  she could best contribute to Him. Martha was distracted because she was making sandwiches Jesus never ordered. She wasn’t serving her gift, but serving the anxiousness of the moment and what she thought was needed.  If being hospitable and having things domestically prepared was part of her “gift” she wouldn’t have been complaining about doing it herself nor would it have been left to the last minute.

Still a bit confused? That’s o.k., I think it will become clear.

So let’s talk about your “gift.”

In simple terms, our “gift” is the combination of our 1) salvation 2) calling 3) spiritual gifting 4) platform and 5) resources.

Salvation- As Christians, the greatest aspect of our “gift” is our salvation. It is the gift that ushers in all the others. God has given it to us freely, and by faith we have received it. We serve our gift by working “out” our salvation. This means two things. 1) That we share the Gospel with people with care and effectiveness. Everyone Christian has a ministry of salvation to people because we have been given and received the “gift” of salvation. We serve our gift by growing in our willingness and capacity to share the Gospel.  We best serve people when we can share with them clearly and articulately the reason for the hope we have. 2) We grow in living the Gospel through our actions and attitudes. We serve our gift of salvation when we strive to give people an inspirational example that makes them hungry for what we have in Christ because of how they see us live. Everyone needs salvation, but we cannot serve that need if we are not first serving our gift. This is the essence of servant leadership. We should all be leading the way in the salvation business because we are first serving our gift, and then our gift to people.

Calling-  We serve our gift by establishing and living our calling. Your calling is the specific, unique purpose God has placed in your life.  Obviously, there are general callings upon our life. For example, if you are a mom, you are obviously called to be a great mom. If you are a husband, than you are called to be a faithful husband.

Yet, there is a unique, specific calling that God has placed over your life.  This calling is related to the unique person God wants you to become and the specific thing He wants you to accomplish with your life. Moses was called by God to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt into the promised land. Nehemiah was called by God to lead the rebuilding of the temple walls of Jerusalem and the restoration of the people. Jesus was called to be and provide the Way by which all people can be saved. Ever person in and outside the Bible has a specific calling upon their life, including you.

We serve our “gift” by fervently discovering our God given calling and living it passionately and tenaciously.

Unfortunately, many people either don’t know what their calling is or they are’t following it.  Some are told early on that the burdens, passions, and dreams placed within us from God’s heart are unpractical, unattainable, or unrealistic. Others get lazy or content with simply making ends meet throughout life.  So, what happens? Many surrender to living ordinary, safe, and significance lacking lives.

This is a deep tragedy as so many people could be profoundly served through our calling, but if we don’t serve our calling, people will never be served to the fullest nor will we know best how to serve them.

This is why if we truly want to serve God and people we must first serve our “gift” through continually discerning precisely and living passionately our calling from God upon our lives.  When we know what are calling is, the needs are calling meets in others begin to appear in the lives of people we encounter.  It’s then that we gain a sense of our divine purpose and all the sudden we see all the divine appointments God sets up on a daily basis to live our calling into people’s lives. However without first serving our calling we would not fully see the opportunities God desires us to take hold to serve people. Instead, like Martha, we end up making sandwiches Jesus never ordered.

Spiritual Gifts-  We serve our “gift” by discerning and developing our spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are given by enabling us to accomplish our calling. Our gifts from God are always connected to our calling. They give us the spiritual power to accomplish our spiritual calling. Our calling from God will lead us to pursue things that we cannot accomplish apart from God. Along with a healthy dose of faith, spiritual gifts are purposed on enabling our spiritual calling to be realized.

Spiritual gifts and talents are different.  Spiritual gifts come to believers supernaturally through the Holy Spirit, talents come to us naturally.  If you only follow and develop what comes naturally to you ( your talents), you can miss your supernatural calling and the gifts that come with it.

Where your calling gives you direction on what you are to accomplish with your life with the specific things you are to become and do, spiritual gifts show you how you should be doing that. For example, God’s calling upon your life might be to bring healing to sick people. So, your spiritual gifts would determine how you are to do that. Perhaps your gifts are centered around teaching, so instead of being a hands-on medical doctor, you should perhaps be an educator of doctors.

When you are getting clearer on your calling and developing your spiritual gifts to accomplish that calling, you begin to get into what I call “the zone.” The zone is where we are most exercising true servant leadership in that we are effectively moving people onto God’s agenda for their life. But none of that can happen until we first serve our “gift” by discerning and developing our spiritual gifts.  Great people in the Kingdom of God work very hard at developing their spiritual gifts for maximum impact. People who are passionate about serving people are first passionate about serving their spiritual gifts by developing them t their fullest potential.

Platform-  We serve our gift by understanding, stewarding and maximizing our platform. Our platform is the specific role God gives us from which we are able to live out our calling.  For example, God has given me the role or platform of being a pastor in His church, and more specifically certain churches at certain times and locations. Serving people means I need to understand, steward, and maximum that role or platform.

God has a place (or platform) for everyone from which to be a servant leader.  Everyone has a God given, unique platform.  Our overall calling in life rarely changes, but our platforms can and will.  Yet, while we are in that role or platform, we need to understand that role, steward it, and maximize it.

Your platform comes with God’s favor and authority. With your platform comes God given power and the authority to accomplish your calling. God is not opposed to us having the authority that comes with our platform/role. In fact, He gave it to us. He is, however, concerned with how we steward that authority.  There is a difference between Lordship and Leadership.  Lordship uses authority as a first option and leadership as a last choice when it comes to influencing people. Leadership uses leadership as a first option and authority as a last option when it comes to influencing people. Notice that Leadership isn’t absent of the use of authority, the difference is in how it is stewarded.

There are plenty of people who want to minimize or completely remove the authority God has given you through your calling and the specific platform or role He has given you. Think about fathers and how are modern culture has tried to minimize, mock, and even remove their God given authority in the home. When we serve our gift we are careful to steward the authority of our platform that has been granted by God by both safeguarding it and using it wisely.

Stewarding your platform/role may also mean sharing it and delegate certain aspects of it.  Not every platform God gives you is necessarily an exclusive role but  may be a shared one.  Yet, how you fill that role or platform will be unique in a way(s) only you can accomplish.

In simple terms, part of your “gift” is the reality that God has a place for you, and a specific role to play. That role comes with power and authority. Serve your “gift” means understanding what that role is, to what extent God has given you power and authority within it, and stewarding and maximizing your use of that role for God’s glory.

Unfortunately, we end up wanting everybody else’s platform but our own. We want other people’s jobs, success, geographical locations, positions, and circumstances in life.  In short, we get platform envy. Therefore, we try to be who were not meant to be, have what we were not meant to have, and do what we were not meant to do. Meanwhile all the good things and potential greatness that God graced us with within the platform of our calling goes wasted and unrealized.

Additionally, some allow people and circumstances to minimize or steal from their platform/role of their calling through intimidation, insecurity, and a misunderstanding of leadership. If we want to truly serve people, we cannot let that happen. Leaders develop people into leaders, this is true. However, there is a common statement in leadership that I believe is a bit misguided.  The statement is… “the goal of leadership is to work yourself out of job.” I understand the idea behind this, but I don’t believe God wants us giving up the very platform He gave us. Rather, our job is to help people discover their gift and the platform that comes with it. Jesus didn’t try to work Himself out of His job/role/platform.  No one can do what He did and does, nor has God given anyone else that exact platform. Jesus rather delegates His authority and power and develops people to lead His cause.  Jesus serves people while first serving His “gift” which includes His platform.

Insecurity in leadership is put to death when we take care of our “gift.” Because, when we do, we realize our platform/role is ours and ours alone, given to us by God. With this awareness, we are free to develop others and rejoice in their greatness. Within a church ministry context, understanding your role and platform should be done through the discernment and counsel of the pastor and ministry leaders of the church.

Resources- We serve our gift by stewarding and investing our resources.  In the Kingdom of God you only get to keep what you are willing to give away. God has given you many resources that God desires to be leveraged for the purpose of moving people onto God’s agenda for their life. Serving our gift means valuing what we have been given, and understanding the greater purpose for our “stuff.”

Summary

I believe servant leadership is not about serving people first, but serving our “gift” first so that we can best serve people. Servant leadership isn’t about giving up who you are and the unique calling and role God has for you, but rather serving it in such a way so that you can freely and effectively help and develop others to serve their “gift” into people’s lives for the glory of God.

Jesus is not opposed  to greatness. In fact, He is even willing to teach us how to become great. Serving our “gift” so that we might best serve people enables great Kingdom work to be done through us.

When I read the Gospels it’s clear that Jesus indicates that He came to serve rather than be served and as Christians we are to have a servant’s heart as we live and fulfill God’s purposes for our lives.  Yet, it some circles this mindset has been translated into a brand of “serving” that means we are to serve people by making them happy as we fulfill their desires and impact their needs.

This all sounds well and good until the moment a person’s loving leadership of people requires influencing them to a place that may temporarily reduce their happiness and even contradict their desires, even asking them to sacrifice their needs instead of meeting them. Furthermore, I am hard pressed to find examples of Jesus serving religious-spirited people.  Again, by “serving” I mean a kind of goal that is to make people happy as we fulfill their desires and impacts their needs.

Rather, I believe what Jesus displays is that we are to serve our “gift” to people as we live to glorify God and build His Kingdom.

The important distinction is that we are to serve our gift first and foremost, and then we serve our gift to people. There is a vital difference between the idea of “serving people” and “serving our gift to people.”  If we serve people, we may miss meeting true needs by being enticed by a person’s desires and emotions. If we serve people, we may miss utilizing our gifts and realizing our calling. If we serve people, we may lose ourselves instead of giving ourselves. If we serve people, we may miss God and His purposes. If we serve people, we may mislead them.

However, when we serve our “gift” to people, we end up serving from God, through us, into people’s lives. When we serve people, we serve from people, into us, to God. The result is the difference between doing what God is blessing and asking God to bless what we are doing.  When we serve people, God may or may not be involved. When we serve our gift to people, God, we, and people are always involved and in the right order.

Many times, we simply serve people without much thought to what we are to give nor what God is up to in that person’s life. When we see our “gift,” we see why God has uniquely positioned us and put us into people’s lives. Our gift gives us an important glimpse into how, when, and why we are to serve people.  Our gift gives a sense of purpose for what should be the desired result in the person’s life that we are to serve.

That, to me, is true servant leadership.

Looking forward to your thoughts…

Backpedaling or Giving Up?

Some time ago, we went through an experience with our son that has served to teach him (and all of us) the difference between backpedaling and giving up.

If you are like me, as a parent you never want to see your child “give up” on something. Whether it’s plans they have established, a team they are on, or a promise they have made. And so we teach them phrases like, “You need to finish what you start” and “Quitters never win, and winners never quit.” And rightly so, giving up is not a principal that one is served well to live by. In our convenience-laddened culture, the idea of “giving up” comes much too easily and prematurely. Many simply “give up” the moment the going gets tough or causes them inconvenience. Indeed, commitment is the willingness to be unhappy for a while.

Yet, at the same time, there are times when we need to backpedal. That is, we get into a situation we thought was healthy, right, and in the flow of God, only to clearly find out, it wasn’t. The writings are all over the wall, “something is deeply wrong and even evil here” or “there is something not of God about this” or “this is not something for which God is anointing you.” You may not see those messages with your physical eyes or hear them with your ears, but your discernment and spiritual eyes see it clearly. It’s not a matter of trying harder, cow-boying up, or just enduring a difficult season. It’s not about you merely being frustrated, tired, hurt, or discouraged. It’s about that fact that you pedaled into something thinking it was God’s leading, only to find out, God’s no longer into it, He was never into it from the beginning, or He isn’t into it for you.

Obviously, this takes some skills in discernment to know the difference. God often leads us into situations that are challenging to grow our character and dependence on Him. But at the same time, Satan loves to entice us into things that waste our time, steal our joy, and distract us from God’s true leading in our life.

What’s the difference? God’s presence.

The moment you feel God’s presence/anointing leave you or a situation, it’s time to back pedal, and fast. Yet, as long as you sense God’s presence/anointing, you should never give up.

There have been times of great challenge, adversity, pain, and struggle in my life where in my head I wanted to give up, and could come up with all kinds of reasons and excuses as to why I should and could even spiritualize them. However, God presence/anointing was still there, and so I couldn’t give up. It’s hard to explain in words, but to those who are sensitive to it and seek it out, you can have a sense of what God is anointing (putting His presence into) in your life, and what He isn’t.

A couple years ago, our son Harrison signed up to play challenge-level soccer. He made the U-11 team and was excited about the season ahead. Yet from the beginning, with coaching problems, parent problems, and player problems, we began to discern, “something isn’t right here.” But instead of pulling the trigger too soon, we decided to give it time and see what happens, even to the point I agreed to be the head coach of the team, even after two coaches had previously opted out. Yet the more I got involved, the more the signs became loud and clear, “something really isn’t right here” and this wasn’t a battle God wanted me to fight.

In life, we need to choose our battles carefully, and especially make sure that if you tee-it-up for battle, God better be in it with you. Sometimes we take on challenges and battles God never gave us the green light for. And then we wonder why we tire easily, get bruised and battered, and ultimately wind up discouraged and even defeated.

So what did we do? We back pedaled. We didn’t give up on soccer and I didn’t give up on coaching. Not a chance. Rather, we backpedaled off the team and redirected ourselves to another opportunity for Harrison and our family where we felt God was putting His presence into. It wasn’t an easy decision, but one we knew we had to make if we wanted to be in God’s flow for our family.

Three great questions we all need to ask about every opportunity before us…

1) Is this God’s will? 2) Is this God’s will for me? 3) Is this God’s will for me at this time?

And even after all of your best discernment, always remember, there is nothing wrong with backpedaling when you find yourself into something God is simply not into, or God is simply not into for you

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