There have been several times since starting Avalon Church that I felt God leading us to do something that we simply could not afford to do. I knew that if God did not show up we would fall flat on our faces and that if we had success He would get all the glory. I could write pages of stories but I will just tell you one.
We were just a little over a year old and we had already met in four locations. We would grow and then get kicked out of our meeting place. We lost people in every move so our motto became “if you can find us you can worship with us.” Our attendance had grown from 18 to 260 and then it shrank back down to about 150 people each week. The turnover was constant.
We needed a more permanent space. I knew the danger of getting a place too small. It would limit the growth of the church. I also knew God was leading me to do something so I decided to obey. At the time the economy was booming and I went to talk to a man that owned lots of commercial buildings in our area. Everything he owned was leased except for this one building I had my eye on. It was a new building that had never been occupied. It had sat empty for 18 months.
As I sat in his garage looking at his 24 antique show cars I finally got up the nerve to ask him about the building. I told him that we wanted the building. He told me he would love to lease it to me. I told him we could not afford it but we wanted to buy it from him for what he had in it.
He laughed. I got quiet.
Finally he broke the silence and said OK. I told him that we would take it but I needed him to do one thing. Since we could not get a loan from the bank he had to owner finance it.
He laughed. I got quiet again.
After an uncomfortable silence he told me that he would owner finance it for what he had in it. Either God was at work or I was really good at staring him down so I asked him for one more favor.
He cursed. I told him we did not have any money to pay so we could not pay for the first 3 or 4 months.
He laughed. I got quite again.
He finally said yes and we had our first building. To tell you about all the lessons I learned from that would take too long so let me just tell you this lesson. If I had disobeyed God I would have killed our church. The vision would have died. Disobedience kills vision.
I hope you have the courage to obey.
When I was 23 years old I was talking to a pastor about a decision that I had made. I was having some major doubts about it. He looked at me and said, “Make your decision and then spend the rest of your life making it the right one.” I have never forgotten that advice. Obviously I have made some wrong decisions since that time. He was not saying that you should never admit a mistake; he was simply saying do not live your life in doubt or play the “what if” game. I have tried my best never to live my life in the rearview mirror.
Doubt is a major league vision killer. It robs us of confidence. It is a faith stealer. Doubt causes leaders to hesitate and that creates turmoil among those we are called to lead. Remember the old deodorant commercial that said, “Never let them see you sweat?”
I am not suggesting that you will always know the outcome of things or that every plan will always work out the way you want it to. I am simply saying trust God. He is the one who has called you. He is the one who has empowered you. He is the one who must make things happen. You and I can actually control very few things anyway. So trust God. Do not doubt His call on your life. Listen intently to His voice every day then go forth and lead with boldness.
P.S. Tomorrow I will talk about how disobedience can kill vision.
In June of 2008 I walked across the state of Georgia in seven days. Many people questioned my sanity and I was one of them after the second day. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. There were lots of things that made me want to quit – the hot sun, blisters, the agonizing mileage each day, cramps, swollen ankles, knees, and hands, dehydration, sunburn – but the thing that got me the most is probably going to make you laugh. It was not the pain or the tiredness or the thirst that discouraged me most. It was the flies. That’s right…yellow flies! In southern Georgia they constantly flew around my head and bit me. I looked like a reject from So You Think You Can Dance because I was swatting, flailing, yelling, and waving my hat at them. They nearly drove me out of my already fragile mind. It was not the daunting big things that got to me. It was the little, seemingly insignificant flies.
When it comes to vision killers I do not think it is the big things, the daunting things, or the major sins that get us into trouble at first. We would see that coming a mile away. I think it is the little, harmless distractions that take our focus off of what we are supposed to be doing. Many times it is not even wrong it is just not best, or wise, or on mission. Solomon said that it is the little foxes that spoil the vines.
What are the distractions in your life that could derail your vision?
P.S. Tomorrow I will talk about how doubt can kill vision.
I have to be honest with you about something. I have never been a big fan of homework. Even though I graduated from high school, college, and seminary I NEVER liked it. I would much rather play basketball, eat, have my back sanded, poke myself in the eye, or watch a movie on the Lifetime Network than to do homework. Never liked it. In fact, I disliked it so much that I would deceive myself about due dates, midterms, and finals. Ever do that? I just lived in a state of denial. But no matter how much I pretended it would not go away.
Isn’t it tempting to live in a state of denial or deception about things? We do all kinds of things to avoid the unpleasantness of dealing with problems. We “happy talk” things and pretend that things are better than they really are. We try to ignore the problem hoping that it will go away. Have you ever known that to work? Why do we do that? We surround ourselves with people who say only what we want to hear. We blame it on the weather, the economy, the dog, the cat, the neighbor, our schedule, the teacher, the culture, and about a million other things. When we do that we are living in deception and denial.
Deception and denial are sure fire vision killers. What are your thoughts about deception and denial?
P.S. Tomorrow I will talk about how distraction can kill our vision.
What is it that you want to accomplish in life? What goals have you set for yourself, your family, or your business? If you lead a church how are you casting the vision that will help you accomplish your mission? No matter what you call it – vision, goals, mission, objectives – we all need it. You will have to fight and stay the course to reach your goals.
This week I will write about five vision killers that will keep you from reaching your goals for your family, your business, your church, or your own life.
The first vision killer is discouragement. I have never known a discouraged person to reach his or her goals. We all get discouraged but I am talking about a person who stays discouraged. Here are a few things that I work on to fight discouragement.
• Proper rest. That sounds so simple but I have found that I am vulnerable to discouragement when I am too tired. Everyone feels like quitting from time to time. Most pastors feel discouraged on Sunday nights or on Mondays. Typically, that is when we are the most tired. Guard your schedule. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise regularly and eat properly and you will be less vulnerable.
• Regular refueling. It is more than important – it is vital – to refuel spiritually each day. Without reading the Bible and praying you will soon run out of gas. When you try to minister or lead on an empty soul you are more susceptible to sin, bad decisions, discouragement.
• Surround yourself with encouragers. We all have people who suck the life out of us. That is a part of leadership and life. I make sure that I surround myself with positive, helpful people. Some of them I know and some of them I have never met. I make sure that I have friends that bless me and encourage me. I am in a small group. I have pastor friends that I talk to regularly. I also listen to podcasts and read books that fill me up and encourage me. The good news is that you can have some of the world’s leading teachers mentor you through books, podcasts, and blogs. You can also be mentored by the Holy Spirit every day simply by reading the Bible.
Tomorrow I will talk about the vision killer of deception. Have a great day!
I have been writing this week about how to stay encouraged. Hopefully you have learned the importance of encouraging yourself and others. Here are ten reasons why you can be encouraged today.
1) I choose to be happy so it is a good day.
2) Today is Friday so that automatically makes it a good day.
3) It is the day that the Lord has made.
4) I get to live, breathe, and be alive for another day.
5) Jesus has saved me and forgiven me.
6) I have a family that loves me.
7) I have a job that I love.
I get to live indoors.
9) I have been blessed with a car, clothes, food, and lots of choices.
10) I get to pastor the most awesome church in the world!
Sometimes I get the most ridiculous e-mails or phone calls from people. It is amazing how much people who have never even spent 30 seconds in the ministry know about running a church. It can be entertaining, though. We once had a lady get angry about our children’s ministry so she called to tell us that church is not supposed to be fun. I bet it is as fun as a barrel of monkeys at her house. If you want to stay encouraged you have to keep perspective on things. Here are a few quick reminders about how to keep the right perspective.
• God is on control. This may be the most important thing of all to remember.
• Consider the source. Some people are just negative and hateful. No matter what you do it is never enough. It is best to ignore these people as much as possible.
• Things are probably never as bad or as good as they seem. Often our bad circumstances or negative comments from people are blown out of proportion because we focus on the negative. We can also be deceived and set ourselves up for failure by believing our own press. While momentum is the great exaggerator we need to recognize that things can be effective but never perfect.
• Focus on the good. I have found that I can obsess over one bad comment. I sometimes totally ignore the 99.9% that is good and let that one disgruntled person dominate my thoughts. When I do that I allow the devil to gain a victory in my life.
I hope this will help you keep the right perspective and stay encouraged.
You have probably heard the saying “happiness is a choice.” That is not just some expression that a TV pitchman came up with trying to sell you a book. It is actually a Bible principle. In 1 Peter 3 the Apostle Peter told us that we could choose to be happy. He was quoting a psalm of David from Psalm 34. So the principle is biblical and it is thousands of years old. Happiness is not a result of our circumstances but it comes from our attitude.
You have probably met people who had terrible circumstances but they were happy anyway because they chose to be. You probably have also met people who had almost everything life has to offer and yet they are miserable. How can one person who is dying of AIDS and living in abject poverty in a township in South Africa be filled with joy while another lives in America in a beautiful home, has two cars, plenty of food, lots of toys, and has nearly unlimited choices be so discontented? It simply comes down to choosing to be happy.
Let’s be honest, there will never be perfect circumstances in your job, your marriage, or your life. If you do not choose to be happy you will go through life disappointed, angry, bitter, and envious of what you perceive others to have.
Today your assignment is to enjoy the journey. Seize the day. Be thankful for what you have. Keep a positive attitude about life even if you are facing tough times. Encourage yourself by remembering God’s promises. When you do this you are choosing happiness.
I bet you feel better already, don’t you?
One of the best ways to stay encouraged and to keep a positive mental outlook is to be thankful for what you have. The Apostle Paul told us, “In everything give thanks.” That is a powerful, spirit-lifting, and life-changing attitude. Can you imagine how hard it was for Paul to say that? He had been stoned (not the kind of being stoned that some of you are familiar with but the kind where they throw giant rocks at your head to crush it and kill you), whipped, beaten, and imprisoned for his faith. He had been betrayed by friends and threatened by enemies. He had known wealth and poverty, hunger and fullness, freedom and imprisonment, community and loneliness, and yet he was still thankful.
Being thankful will encourage you! Stuck in traffic? Be thankful you have a car! Arguing with the in-laws? Be thankful for your spouse! Frustrated with your kids? Be thankful God gave them to you. Lost your job? Be thankful you still have your skills and soon you will be able to use them again! Don’t like your boss? Be glad you have a job! There are so many things to be thankful for that your spirits will be lifted if you just take time to say “thank you” to God.
You can start by thanking God for Jesus Christ and the fact that He offers forgiveness and a relationship with Him. What else are you thankful for today? Try writing down ten things you are thankful for and see if that encourages you.
Hey, I am thankful that you are reading this. Now have a great day!
I love it when people encourage me. You are probably the same way. My mother was a great encourager. She instilled in me a great confidence that if I would work hard and believe in myself that I could do just about anything. As I have gotten older I realize that I can’t do everything but still she had a profound impact on my self-confidence.
We all need encouragement. Let’s face it there are lots of things that can discourage us; bills, Atlanta traffic, report cards, the economy, the news, unruly kids, looking at yourself naked in the mirror, and negative people.
The Bible tells us that we should encourage each other. The Bible also tells us that we should encourage ourselves. David, the king of Israel, “encouraged himself in the Lord.” Over the next few days I am going to write about ways that you can encourage yourself. I hope you will check in each day to learn about how you can be encouraged and how you can encourage others.
Your assignment for today is simply to smile. Smile at yourself in the mirror, smile at everyone you meet today, and wear a smile all day. It will lift your spirits and people will wonder what you are up to.
You are going to be strong today so go and seize the day!