3 Things You Must Do Before You Make A Big Decision

015Have you ever tried to write straight lines of text on a marker board (it’s not easy!)? You think it’s good until you step back and look at the board from a distance. Then you can see the lines going crooked, though you didn’t notice up-close.

Sometimes I think I have enough information to make a good decision, but I’m too close to the situation to see it clearly. I need to step back and get perspective from other people so I can see what they see. My emotions and fears and hopes and personality and preferences and theology are all tied up in my up-close perspective, making it tricky to see clearly sometimes.

Here are three guidelines for decision-making:

1. I need to ask people who love me what they think I should do

When seeking out advice for a decision, I need to include people who love me and want what’s best for me. Even if they’re not knowledgeable in the specific area of my decision, they’re knowledgeable about me — they can see things I can’t see because they understand how my personal weaknesses and personality tendencies affect my ability to make a decision. They know my blind-spots well.

After ten years of marriage, I’ve seen first-hand how David’s wisdom and feedback have proven true again and again in helping me see things more clearly than I would see on my own. I also turn to my parents and in-laws when I need advice, because I trust them and I know they have my back.

2. I need to hear them out (I should use “God told me . . .” carefully)

If I’ve prayed about this decision and believe I’ve heard from God, then it may be tempting to use the phrase “God told me . . .” to defend myself when they ask good questions. But using this phrase to shut down unwanted feedback is like saying, “I’m the only one who can hear from God about this,” and “I always hear correctly.” True, I may have more invested in this decision than others and I am able to hear from God,  but others can hear from God too and He may be speaking through them about my decision, so I need to hear them out and use “God told me . . .” carefully.

I’ve learned with time that I need to test what I believe is the voice of God, and one way to do this is to hear from other believers who have also been in the habit of listening for God’s voice (especially through His Word). They know what He sounds like, so they know how to help me discern His voice better than I can on my own.

3. I need to compare the advice to Scriptural commands and principles

I also need to find out what ways the advice given aligns with Scriptural commands or principles. Are there any commands or principles my decision would compromise? Commands are easier to catch, but principles are often in disguise, yet they’re woven through Scripture and are an important part of good decision-making. A principle gives me cause/effect information about a decision, helping me predict the end outcome. The book of Proverbs is a good place to start when looking for Scriptural principles. I need to consider these carefully as I come to a final decision.

Andy Stanley has a great DVD called “Discovering God’s Will.” I went through this video and study guide with a small group, and loved the practical advice he gave. Trying to hear from God can be complex, and this study helped clarify some things for me.

7 Reasons Not to Worry

7 Reasons Not to WorryI’m reading the book “One Thousand Gifts,” by Ann Voskamp. She writes on her personal experience of learning how to live out gratitude each day through finding God’s grace everywhere. Her writing style is transparent and poetic, inviting the reader to enter into her mind and trace her thoughts, causing them to search their own as well.

Today I started chapter 8, where she describes her struggle to trust in a loving God. It made me think about how I struggle to trust God too. It’s not that I question whether or not He exists, or whether or not anything in the Bible is true. It’s just that I don’t always know what I’m trusting in. I’m not trusting in a God Who fixes all my problems, protects me from all harm, and causes everything to go my way. So how do I stop worrying about life’s uncertainties? If I don’t have all these guarantees, what am I trusting in, exactly?

I made a list.

1. I’m trusting in a God Who hears my prayers. (Ps. 34:15)

2. I’m trusting in a God Who can do ANYTHING (ANYTHING!) (Eph. 3:20)

3. I’m trusting in a God Who loves me always (Ps. 103:11)

4. I’m trusting in a God Who has everything pass through His hands first (Matt. 10:29)

5. I’m trusting in a God Who is working for good (Rom. 8:28)

6. I’m trusting in a God Who will right all wrongs someday (2 Thess. 1:6-7)

7. I’m trusting in a God Who will trade every sorrow for joy in eternity (Rev. 21:4)

I need to be reminded of these things. Maybe you do too.

10 Ways to Be Blessed in the New Year

If one-hundred dollars were being given away, would you rather be the giver or receiver? Most of us would want to receive the money, but Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

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Since Jesus didn’t say what the blessings would look like or when they would come, most of us would rather have the cash now than wait for an unknown blessing. But think of it this way: if Donald Trump gave you the choice between a one-hundred dollar gift and a surprise, which would you choose? I think I’d choose the surprise. And since Jesus’ resources don’t have a limit like Mr. Trump’s, and since He can make things happen that are bigger than money, His surprises should be even better.

Let’s test Jesus on this in the new year, and see what happens. Just remember, blessings come in many forms, and while it sounds a little silly, sometimes the best blessing you could receive is the smile on the face of the person you helped. A smile might not sound like a better deal than a one-hundred dollar gift, but the joy you have in remembering it will last a lot longer than the money.

And you don’t have to be wealthy to be generous. Here are ten ways to give in the new year:

  1. Give someone a call
  1. Have someone over
  1. Do something helpful for someone
  1. Send an encouraging note to someone
  1. Buy a surprise gift for someone
  1. Pray spontaneously with someone
  1. Give a financial gift to someone
  1. Volunteer for a worthy cause
  1. Visit someone who lives alone
  1. Tell someone why you appreciate them

 

3 Steps to Making This Year Better Than Last Year

Facing a new year can be discouraging, especially if you look back over last year with frustration or regret, and don’t know how to make this year any better. Jesus said in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Following these three steps can help us experience the change we’re looking for.

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1. Ask for it

This is where you start. If you’re a believer, you’ve experienced the benefits of asking for Jesus’ help to change. If you’re not, consider giving prayer a try. Whether the change is internal or external, He can help. Be honest about where you are and specific about what you want to change, so you can recognize the answer.

2. Look for it

Unless you’re requesting a miracle, now is not the time to wait on God. Instead, it’s time to go find the answer. Actively searching demonstrates your faith, and that you believe Jesus is already moving on your behalf, preparing the answer for you. It might not be where you expect, so look carefully and persistently.

3. Move for it

Once you’ve located a possible answer, you have to make a move for it. Depending on the action required, you may need to show lots of vulnerability and boldness, but the answer might be on the other side, just one step away!

God’s priority is to make us more like Him, and sometimes what we want gets in the way of that, even though we can’t see it. If the answer doesn’t come, you may need to look elsewhere, wait, or change your request. Getting advice from a spiritual mentor can help give you clarity when you’re not sure what to do.

God wants to do good things in your life this year. Ask, look and move for them!

3 Reasons You Don’t Look Like Your Bad Picture

Have you ever wondered why your picture doesn’t always look as good as the mirror says you look? It happens to me, and it probably happens to you too.  Depending on what you were expecting, it can be anything from funny to frustrating to frightful. I think there are several reasons for this:

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1. The brightness of the flash is harsher than most lighting, and highlights our imperfections.

2. Some people know how to take nice pictures with their nice cameras, and others . . .

3. We are our own worst critics.

The point is, don’t let a not-so-nice picture ruin your day, or your self-image. It’s probably not an accurate reflection of how your normally look, and even if you thought you were prepared for a great picture, it doesn’t define you.

If you regularly see something you don’t like in your pictures, and it’s not built-in to your DNA, you can always experiment until you find something you like better. And if it is built into your DNA, it’s time to let it go. The less you let your imperfections bother you, the less attention you draw to them and the less people will notice them. The more you smile with confidence, the more people will like you and be drawn to you.

A genuine smile is the most beautiful thing a person can bring to their picture, regardless of lighting, camera or camera-man. Wear it proudly 🙂

3 Reasons to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

I watched the 2012 Summer Olympics Women’s All-around gymnastics competition hosted in London. United States competitior Gabby Douglas won gold, the fourth American woman in Olympic history to claim the title.

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During the competition, broadcasters commented that she and fellow US competitor, Aly Raisman (finished fourth), did not watch their competitors perform. They intentionally avoided looking, focusing instead on their own preparedness.

Gabby performed with precision and confidence, her hard work on display to the watching world. She was not affected by the successes and failures of her competitors, because she wasn’t focused on them. She knew if she watched them fail, she may become insecure about her own abilities and make a mistake, or she may become overconfident and not bring her best. If she watched them succeed, she may feel pressure to perform to their standard, rather than to the standard of her own abilities and training. She instead focused only on what she knew she could do, and it paid off.

Sometimes I can focus in the wrong place. While I should be concentrating on my own preparedness for the task at hand, I can get distracted and start comparing myself to others.

Comparing myself to others makes me:

  1. Insecure about my abilities, and afraid of failing
  2. Feel pressure to perform to the standard of others
  3. Overconfident about my abilities, and less prepared for the hard work success requires

Instead of comparing to others, I need to compare myself to my potential. I don’t need to be the best at what I do. I just need to be my best.

Comparing myself to my potential makes me:

  1. Confident about what I can do, and happy with the results knowing I did my best
  2. Free to perform to the standard of my capabilities
  3. Humble as I realize the hard work required to get where I want to go

When our focus is on our potential, we can maximize our abilities and take pride in the results.