Redesign Your Thinking

What Are Your Set Points?

A thermostat is designed to establish a temperature set point. If you desire the room to be at a comfortable 20°C (68°F), and the room heats up to 26°C the thermostat will kick in the air conditioning and regulate the room temperature to 20°C again. If the room temperature drops below the desired temperature then the thermostat would trigger the furnace to reheat the room back to the desired set point. But you already knew that. thermostat

What you might not know is that King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said that your heart is a type of thermostat over your life. He said in Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." He's not referring to your physical organ, but instead is using the heart as a metaphor for your sub-conscience thinking. He is boldly stating that your heart determines your life's set-points.

Maybe this is why Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." When the wisest man who ever lived says "Above all else," I pay attention. Plainly put, this verse is Solomon telling us that the most important thing we could do in life is to watch over our "heart" thinking. Why? Because your heart will determine everything you do in the future, good or bad.

In the original Hebrew language Solomon used the words totz'ot chaiyim which means the "issues" of life. The word totz'ot is mainly used to refer to the borders of territories or the boundaries of a city. This verse is literally saying that the heart of a person will build boundaries, or set-points in your life.

The state of your life right now was birthed from your heart thinking. The amount of money you make per year will be close to what your heart thinks you deserve or expect to earn. The state of your marriage or relationships can all be determined by your sub-conscience "heart" thoughts. The amount of success or failures you have, all flow from your heart. What your heart expects, your life gets. Albert Einstein once said, "Your imaginations are a preview of your life's coming attractions." In other words, how you think, how you dream, is very important.

Have you ever been turned down from something you really wanted and said to someone, "I knew I wouldn't get it anyway." Or, "I knew it was too good to be true?" Of course you have. We all have. And you know what? We were right. Because no matter how badly we want something in our conscience mind, if our heart thinks another way, our heart is right every time.

The question then is, how do we "guard our heart?" How do we change our heart thinking? I believe there is a way. The Bible never tells us to do something that is impossible to do. It always gives us the answer. I want to spend the next number of weeks blogging on this topic, hoping to uncover answers for you and for me, so that we can direct our futures and change our heart thinking.

Solomon said this in Proverbs 20:5, "The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out." Plainly put, you can't see what's beneath the surface in your heart unless you dive in and search it out. So, I encourage you to go digging by asking yourself, "What are my set points? What do I imagine my future will look like? What does my heart really think?"

Mentally Strong Leaders Cliff Jump

Dr. Daniel Goleman states that the higher a leader rises in an organization, the less important technical skills become, and the more important EQ becomes. “EQ counts for 80-90% of the factors that distinguish average from outstanding leaders.” Christopher Columbus

Mentally strong people avoid giving up after failure. 

The only way to guarantee failure is to quit. This is not about a stubborn refusal to hold onto something that is no longer effective but a fierce desire to succeed despite obstacles and set backs. Realign your thinking to see every failure as a chance to improve.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you willing to fail again and again as long as that failure brings you closer to your ultimate goal?
  • Is this a mission failure or a method failure? Never give up on your mission, but methods need constant adjustments.
  • What is the best way to...?

Remember the moment you say, “I give up,” someone else is seeing the same situation and saying, “My, what a great opportunity.”

Mentally strong people avoid shying away from change.

They embrace change and welcome challenges. It energizes them and brings out their best. Their biggest fear is not of the unknown but becoming stagnant and complacent.

Leaders are constantly challenged to:

  • Fight personal complacency. It is the last hurdle to greatness. It is the “success disease”.
  • When helping others change ask these 3 questions:
    1. Is it worth it? If not, why waste their effort?
    2. Will they do it? If not, why waste your effort?
    3. Can they do it? If they can’t, why waste both your efforts?

Mentally strong people avoid fearing taking calculated risks.

I’m not talking about jumping into foolish risk. This is about weighing the upsides vs. the downsides. Is there anything siting in front of you that scares you to death? There should be.

“the greatest risk of all is a life of riskless living” ~Dr. George Hill

How to get comfortable being uncomfortable:

  • Take the most difficult and important risk - be honest with yourself. “Show me a guy who is afraid of looking bad and I will show you a guy who can be beat every single time!”  If you aren’t making mistakes you are not taking enough risks.
  • Desire learning more than winning or losing. If you look at something you did a year ago and are still impressed by what you did it means you aren’t growing. Complacency is the enemy.
  • Be controlled by your dream, not your emotions.
  • Risk taking is a developed skill. You won't know how far you can go until you try.

Where did you push through a failure with surprising results?

Mentally Strong Leaders Aren't Afraid of the Dark

According to Dr. Daniel Goleman the higher a leader rises in an organization, the less important technical skills become, and the more important emotional intelligence or EQ becomes.  He claims “EQ counts for 80-90% of the factors that distinguish average from outstanding leaders.” tired

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Francois de Halleux

Technical skills are easy to identify and therefore easier to develop in others. Emotional skills are often hidden and therefore substantially more difficult to specifically identify and deal with. Here are 3 common characteristics of mentally strong leaders:

Mentally strong people avoid worrying about pleasing others.

“Do not become too concerned about what others may think of you. Be very concerned about what you think of yourself!" ~John Wooden

Realize that you can’t please everyone. There are times when you will need to speak up even at the risk of offending or hurting others.

“He who has no opinion of his own, but depends on the opinions of others is a slave. To only dream of the person you are supposed to be is to waste the person you are.” Friedrich Klopstock.

How to overcome people pleasing:

  1. Realistically see the people you are trying to please. Write down their names and ask yourself why are you trying to please them? Just like David in the Bible, you will either fight your giant or your critics. Trying to please people will distract you from slaying your giant.
  2. Consistently go to the people you want to be like. You will become like the 5 people closest to you. Do you have the right people around you?
  3. Visually look at the person you want to be.
  4. Persistently reject the pull of the people you once pleased. "The opposite of courage is not fear. It is conformity. The most exhausting and frustrating thing in life is to live it trying to be someone else.” ~John Maxwell.

Mentally strong people avoid resenting other people’s successes.

The moment you feel jealousy towards someone you lose your ability to learn from them.

“Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to achievers” ~John Maxwell.

Mentally strong people avoid fearing alone time.

This is usually harder for extroverts than it is introverts but learn to treasure the time alone. Use it to reflect, plan, and be productive.

Levels of loneliness:

  1. The loneliness of self-pity.  We wallow in our problems or what we don’t have.
  2. The loneliness of not being comfortable with yourself. “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” ~Wayne Dyer
  3. The loneliness of poor self-image. “Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion, what a man thinks of himself, that is which determines, or rather indicates his fate.” ~Henry David Thoreau. 
  4. The loneliness of winning. Remember the higher you go in leadership the fewer people you can take with you.
  5. The loneliness of aloneness.

What do you do when you are alone to reflect, plan and be productive?

Mentally Strong Leaders Refuse Unrealistic Expectations

According to emotional intelligence (EQ) studies by Dr. Daniel Goleman the higher a leader rises in an organization, the less important technical skills become, and the more important EQ becomes. Leaders who do not develop their emotional intelligence have difficulty becoming a 360º  leader. They struggle with building good relationships with peers, subordinates and their superiors. In fact “EQ counts for 80-90% of the factors that distinguish average from outstanding leaders.” This indicates that in order for you to move from good to great you need to grow your emotionally capacity.

6059832534_04e9456b65_z photo courtesy of Cali Lesson Illustrations on Flickr.com

Mentally strong people avoid expecting immediate results.

We need to understand that there is a difference between an immediate response (your direction) and immediate results (your destination). Do not confuse the two.

We live in a society that wants immediate results. Instant meals, instant credit, instant results. However, instant often bypasses the good for the now. Successful leaders understand that they are in it for the long haul. They apply their energy and time in increments so that they have staying power to accomplish the task. They realize that genuine change takes time.

“Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.” (Romans 8:22-25 MSG)

Mentally strong leaders understand they can change their direction overnight, but they cannot change their destination overnight.

Mentally strong people avoid feeling the world owes them something.

A sense of entitlement is a sure sign of mental weakness.

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living; the world owes you nothing; it was here first.” ~Mark Twain

Arguments about ‘paying my dues’ or ‘I’ve been here the longest it belongs to me’ take away your power to change and grow.  Mentally strong people understand that in order to continually succeed they must be prepared to continually work hard.

Mentally strong people avoid giving away their power. 

They realize they are in control of their emotions and refuse to allow others to make them feel inferior. They choose how they respond to any given situation, even those outside their control and whether they change in response to it.

Be aware when your emotions begin to control you rather than you control them. When you start losing the power over your own emotions it is an indication that you need to recharge/recreate to avoid becoming a mentally weak leader.

What are you going to do today to begin developing your Emotional Intelligence?

Mentally Strong Leaders Don't Walk Backward (Pt 1)   Recommended reading: 177 Mentally Tough secrets of the Greats by Steve Sebold

Mentally Strong Leaders Don’t Walk Backwards.

We’ve all met them. Kids who did so poor in school they were lucky to graduate but now are at the top in the business world. Or the co-worker who is absolutely brilliant but stuck in an entry level position blaming his boss for not recognizing his true potential. Why does one succeed where another fails? What distinguishes average leaders from outstanding leaders?

flickr.com/gareth1953/5219326886 (image courtesy of flickr.com/gareth1953)

Dr. Daniel Goleman, an internationally know psychologist and science journalist, asserts that emotional intelligence (defined as the capability to be self-aware, self-managing, interpersonally effective, stress tolerant, and optimistic) counts for 80-90% of the factors that distinguish average from outstanding leaders. His research indicates that the higher a leader rises in an organization, the less important technical skills become, and the more important EQ becomes.

This is a clear indication that in order to move from good to great we need to grow our emotional capacity.

Mentally strong people avoid wasting energy on things they can’t control. “Complaining is like bad breath, you notice it when it comes out of somebody else’s mouth, but not your own.” ~Rev. Will Bowen. Outstanding leaders understand that in a bad situation the only thing you can control is your attitude and response.

Mentally strong people avoid dwelling on the past. Successful people learn from past successes and mistakes and continually strive to move forward, eliminating the temptation to allow the past to become an anchor holding them back from growing to meet the next challenge.

“A retentive memory may be a good thing but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness... Be a good forgetter. Business dictates it, and success demands it.” ~Elbert Hubbard.

Mentally strong people avoid wasting time feeling sorry for themselves.  You can’t moan and lead at the same time, so don’t dwell on your circumstances or what happened to you. Never waste a crisis. Understand that sometimes life is not fair, and be grateful for the lessons you have learned.

Mentally strong people avoid making the same mistake over and over. Research shows that the ability to be self reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs.

How to avoid making the same mistake over and over:

  1. Reflect daily. “What happened in my world today?” “What could I have changed?” Past reflection can be good if it will affect future action.
  2. Be honest with yourself and take the excuses away. “What did I learn about myself today?” “Human nature seems to endow every person with the ability to size up everyone but himself” ~ John Maxwell.
  3. Self Talk. What what you are saying about yourself. “95% of your emotions are determined by the way you talk to yourself” ~Brian Tracy.
  4. Take action. “Does my reflection lead to action?”

What are you going to do today to begin developing your Emotional Intelligence?

6 Keys to Rethink Your Future

Gideon's encounter with the angel of the Lord in Judges 6 is one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible. Gideon goes underground just to thresh some wheat for a meal for his family because of the Midianites who had been terrorizing Israel for over seven years. They had been taking Israel's crops, animals and produce for themselves leaving nothing behind. rethink

The angel shows up and in a brief dialogue with Gideon, effectively changes his thinking so that Gideon rises up to defeat Midian. It's remarkable and I believe there are some amazing lessons we can learn from this interaction that may change our mindsets, too.

1. Trusting in God creates calm in the midst of a storm.



Judges 6:11 (NIV) The angel of the Lord came and sat down...



The angel didn't seemed bothered by the chaos around him. He didn't come to Gideon in a panic. He was calm. In fact, he was so calm he came and sat down. It reminds me of Jesus, falling asleep in a boat with his disciples in the midst of a horrific storm. He was perfectly calm while his disciples were frantic around him. Calm is contagious, and I've discovered that the best leaders are those who have the ability to remain calm in the midst of a crisis. How do they do that? I believe one of the only ways to live with a sense of calm, is by putting your complete trust in God. The apostle Paul said "the peace of God passes all understanding." In other words, in the midst of a storm, even though it doesn't make sense, if you trust God you will experience peace.

2. God wants to do things with you not just for you.



Judges 6:12 (NIV) "When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon," he said, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.
"

One of the most fascinating names for God in the Bible is is Emmanuel. It means 'God with us.' I find it fascinating, because we naturally desire God to do everything for us. Gideon felt the same way. In fact his response in the next verse would indicate that was exactly what he was expecting. While God does do things for us, what he desires most is to do things with us. After all, he created us for the purpose of relationship, and doing things with us generates a much deeper relational bond than just doing things for us. God wants to change the world with you, just like he wanted to rescue Israel from Midian with Gideon. Wow! What a thought.

3. Blaming brings bondage.

Judges 6:13-14 (NIV) "Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, 'Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Not only did Gideon expect God to rescue them, he began to blame God for their situation. Have you ever blamed God for your mess? When we blame someone else for our situations we strip ourselves of the power to change it. Blaming brings bondage. It gives the responsibility and power to change to someone else.

4. Be active not passive.

Judges 6:14 (NIV) 
The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Go in the strength you have...” What an amazing statement! The angel effectively said to Gideon that God had placed all of the strength, authority, ingenuity, and power in him to change their situation. It reminds me of the two questions Elisha asked the widow when she needed a miracle in her situation, ”what do you want?" and "what do you have?" When she replied, "I have nothing but a little oil," Elisha used what she had to perform an amazing miracle that transformed her life and the life of her son in 2 Kings 4.

While many of us are waiting for God to move on our behalf, he is waiting for us to move. God will speak to your future but He wants you active in your present.
 He's equipped you with what you need to change your situation, so go in the strength you have!

5. Change your questions and “I am” confessions.



Judges 6:15 (NIV) 
“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

I have a problem, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. My problem is that I often limit myself because I ask the wrong questions. Gideon asked the wrong question, too. He asked 'how' he could possibly be a deliverer rather than focusing on 'why' it was important for someone to step up. But then he took it a step further and began making excuses. Yet God didn't accept his excuses. In fact, the angel went to work to change Gideon's confession. I think many times we write ourselves off too soon with our excuses and poor confessions. I mean, think about it. How dare we tell our creator why we are too weak to accomplish what he is asking us to do! After all, he created us. He should know more than any of us what we are capable of accomplishing! Don't you think?

6. Realize that what you're a part of is more important than the part you play. 


Judges 6:16 (NIV) The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive."

Gideon's next mistake was assuming that God wanted him to act alone. God created us to work with others. Paul compared the church to a body, stressing the importance of each part working together for a common purpose. When the angel said "you will strike down all the Midianites," the word 'you' was meant to be plural. He was referring to the Israelites as a group, not just to Gideon. God was just asking Gideon to lead the charge. All of us must realize that the part we play is less important than what we are a part of.

Question: Which one of these 6 lessons do you need to work on the most?

9 Reasons Excuses are Kryptonite

Were you one of the people who lined up to watch the new Superman movie? Have you noticed that long lines are to be expected for most of the super hero movies? I can get excited about a movie just like everyone else, if it's a good movie. But, it seems that anything Marvel puts out comes with incredible anticipation, long lines, and record sales whether the movie is good or not. Why is that? no-excuses-nike-football_1024x768_338-standard-e1327798385501

I believe one reason we're drawn to superhero movies is because we all have this built in desire to be great. We all want to make our lives count, to leave a legacy, to not settle for average, to stand out from the crowd. This internal drive was placed in us by our Creator. God told us so in Jeremiah 29:11 when he said, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

So, if God desires us to be great and he created in us a desire to be great, why is greatness still a rare trait? I believe one of the main reasons people settle at average is because of the excuses we continually tell ourselves. Excuses are our kryptonite. Just like kryptonite strips Superman of his power, excuses strip us of our power and make us stay at average.

Here are 9 reasons excuses are so destructive:

1. Excuses justify staying where you are.

In Luke 14 Jesus tells a story of a banquet. A wealthy master invites a number of guests to a great banquet, “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’" (vs. 18). The story goes on to explain how the guests missed out on a huge opportunity simply because they made excuses. Jesus is telling us that excuses will keep you where you are and you will miss God-given opportunities.

2. Excuses validate mediocrity.

Excuses are a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. You may have a reason, but you will never push through to greatness if you can justify where you are currently at.

3. Excuses strip you of authority and power to problem solve.

A problem is an opportunity to change
. Excuses place the power to change somewhere else. Every time I justify why I cannot change my situation, I place the power to change somewhere else. Stop making excuses and you will regain your power.

4. Excuses are self-focused.

The difference between a super hero and a super villain is motive. A super hero uses their power for the benefit of others. A super villain uses their power for only their own benefit. 
Excuses often reveal someone pursuing their own interests above the interest of the Master.

5. Excuses is a language of victims.

Have you ever noticed that people who are quick to judge, judge others by their actions and themselves by their intentions. They are always quick to tell of how others hurt them, but when confronted with the same accusations, they justify their own actions with "I didn't mean it."

6. Excuses champion a defeated mentality and outcome.

When you act the victim, you empower the one who hurt you. You give reason to why you can't be great and settle for defeat. Take the power back by choosing to be great despite how others may treat you!

7. Excuses breed a culture of hopelessness.

Hope is life. Without hope you cannot have faith. Without faith you cannot please God. Without faith, hope, and love you cannot be great. Period.

8. Excuses will shackle you the rest of your life and disqualify you from your destiny.

The children of Israel "limited God" (Psalm 78:41) and did not reach their destiny. Why? Numbers 13 shows us that they made a bunch of excuses as to why they couldn't conquer their Promised Land. All of their reasons were true. Yet, they were still excuses and their excuses stripped them of their power and they were unable to fulfill their destiny. Let's learn from their mistake.

9. Excuses will put success out of reach.

You may not be certain on how you will become successful, whatever success means to you. However, you can begin to move towards that destiny today by simply removing all the excuses. Take the power to change back. Take regular, small steps towards your destiny and you will get there!

Question: What excuse are you making today that is holding you back?

4 Common Mistakes That Will Limit Your Future

In Psalms 78, King David, arguably Israel's greatest king ever, began to recount the historical journey his ancestors made from slavery in Egypt to the settling of their "promised land." He boasted of their miraculous escape from Pharaoh and how God supernaturally supplied for their needs in the Wilderness. But when it came time in the story for the Israelites to cross the Jordan River and take possession of Canaan, King David made an alarming statement as to why they failed. He said in verse 41, that they "limited God." no-limits

Is it possible for a human being to limit the limitless God? If the Israelites were able to limit God, then that would suggest that we, too, are capable of limiting Him.

The facts are: God promised them they would inhabit and establish a nation in the land of Canaan. Yet, the group that had received this promise died in the Wilderness on the border of their dream. It was God's will for them to settle in Canaan, so it wasn't God who limited them, they limited God. But how? And if they were capable of limiting God, how can we avoid limiting Him in our lives?

I think the Israelites made 4 mistakes that caused them to miss God's will for their life:

1. They asked the wrong questions.

18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Numbers 13:18-20 (NIV)

Moses asked the wrong questions. In fact, I think his questions set the spies up for failure. What report would have come back if Moses had asked them to report on their enemies weaknesses instead of asking "are they strong or are they weak?" The spies came back with the report that they were strong. This put fear into the people's hearts. What if Moses would have asked the spies to report on the vulnerabilities of their cities instead of asking if they were "unwalled or fortified?" The spies answered the questions Moses asked honestly.

What questions are you asking yourself? I believe one of the reasons we talk ourselves out of our potential is we are asking ourselves the wrong questions. If you ask the right questions, you will get the right answers. So, one way to remove the limits we place on ourselves and on God is to ask ourselves better questions.

2. They didn't think in steps.

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” Numbers 13:31 (NIV)

They made a crucial mistake that we are all prone to make. They looked at the project in it's entirety and didn't break it down in steps. When they looked the people who inhabited the land as a whole group, they saw strength. But, history tells us that there were at least 5 different people groups that occupied the land of Canaan and these people groups were continually at odds with one another.

29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” Numbers 13:29 (NIV)

God wanted them to think in steps. The fact was, years later when Joshua did conquer the land of Canaan they discovered that when they attacked one people group, none of the others came to their rescue. They hated each other. It was a simple divide and conquer. Individually these groups were small and weak and could be conquered one at a time.

It's the same with you and me. I often look at a project as a whole and get overwhelmed by the magnitude of it. But when we learn to think in steps we can conquer virtually anything. I believe there are 2 reasons people don’t reach their full potential: 1.) They don’t think big enough; and 2.) They don’t start small enough. Dream Big. Start Small. Think in steps.

3. They didn't see the opportunities in their problems.

32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. Numbers 13:32 (NIV)

Historians say that at this time in history there was a great plague sweeping the land. Many died. This is why they said "the land devours those living in it." This was a crisis. Often, the opportunity of a lifetime comes through a crisis. The plague made the people weak and vulnerable, yet the Israelites chose to look at it with fear.

The word crisis in the Chinese language is made up of two characters that mean: 1.) Problem; 2.) Opportunity. In every problem there is an opportunity if we choose to look at it that way. You can live fear minded or you can live favor minded. What problems are you facing right now? Search for an opportunity in the problem and you will find it.

4. They empowered their fear through their focus and confessions.

All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Numbers 13:33 (NIV)

What you focus on you give power to. If you focus on your giants, they will get bigger and bigger in your mind until they are unconquerable. The spies actually reported that ALL of the people were of great size. If that was true, how did they spy out the land and come home undetected? Wouldn’t they have stood out if they were the smallest? All of the people weren't giants! In fact, verse 22 in Numbers 13 names only 3 giants! Do not magnify your giants!! They exaggerated the giants so much in their own mind that they confessed that they "seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes." Isn't that the truth? The more we focus on how big the problem is, the smaller and smaller we feel. That's why the Apostle Paul told us in Philippians 4:8-9 to think on the positive things. The truth is, if you change your view of you, then the world will, too!

Question: Which one of these 4 mistakes do you struggle with the most? How do you plan to address that limitation?

How to Trust God in the Midst of the Storm

This article was originally posted on September 24, 2012. This is a re-post because today I am going to be on the television talk show "Insight with Paul Arthur" on the Miracle Channel at 11am MST discussing this same topic. You can tune in and watch live online at www.miraclechannel.ca. September 23, 2007, five years ago this week, was the worst day of my life. It was a Sunday, and we had just finished church. I was unloading our church sound system into our home's garage (the privilege of being a church planter), while Joy-Lynn and the kids went into the house to begin the preparations for lunch. About 5 minutes later, Joy-Lynn came into the garage and I could tell by the look on her face that something was terribly wrong.

"It's your mom," she said quietly. "She's been taken to the hospice and the doctors said it will only be a couple of hours. We need to go now."

My mom had been fighting her second bout of breast cancer. By the time the doctors had caught it this time, it had spread to her spine and into many of her organs. We knew the diagnosis wasn't good, but we were people of faith and we were going to fight for healing regardless of what the doctors told us. And fight we did. We even held a church service, just for mom, about a month before to give her an opportunity to worship with her friends and family and to corporately pray for her healing. The service was amazing! And she seemed to dramatically improve in the weeks that followed. We were so encouraged and hopeful.

Nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen.

Joy-Lynn and I loaded our 3 boys into the van and rushed into Calgary to the hospice where mom had just been moved to. We weren't sure what to expect or even what was really going on, and my heart was pounding.

"God," I prayed, "don't let this happen. PLEASE heal her!"

When we arrived at the hospice about an hour later, we were met at the door by my youngest brother, Craig. He was crying and he gave me a hug. I consoled him, but he didn't speak, other than to say, "she's upstairs." As I proceeded up the stairs, I saw my dad. His face was solemn, but he wasn't crying. He looked deep into my eyes, tried to force a smile and then gave me a big hug. In the midst of our embrace, he whispered in my ear, "she's gone."

I collapsed right there on the floor and began to sob. It felt like the wind had just been knocked out of me. This can't be, I thought. I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye. We were ten minutes too late.

The week of the funeral was a blur. In the midst of preparing a funeral and comforting my family, I was still trying sort things out in my head. I was angry. Really angry. I was angry at God. How could he have allowed this to happen? My mom was a great woman of faith. She firmly believed God could heal and that he would heal. My dad believed. My brothers believed. I believed.  I had laid hands on many people with illnesses, including two with terminal cancer, who had been instantly healed. Why did God heal them but not my mom?

I think the thing that made me the most angry, was that God felt a million miles away that week. I was a pastor and had served Him for all of these years and the moment I needed Him the most, it felt like He abandoned me. I contemplated resigning. How could I preach the Word of God if it didn't work? How could I serve and trust God if He wouldn't show up when I needed Him to?

It was in one of these angry, feeling sorry for myself moments, that Joy-Lynn entered the room with a Bible and plopped it on the bed in front of me. It was open to Mark 11. She pointed to verse 22 and said, "read." It said, "Have faith in God."

This was a turning point for me. You see, it didn't read "Have faith in your faith." Or, "Have faith in your prayers." Or, "Have faith in yourself." It said, "Have faith in God...period." I knew then and there that I needed to trust God regardless of my feelings, regardless of my pain, and regardless of the circumstances surrounding me. Trust was a choice, and I need to choose to trust Him no matter what. I knew it was the right thing to do. And so, right there I said, "I'm sorry God, I will trust you. I don't understand and probably never will, but I choose to trust you anyway. Your ways are higher than mine and so I surrender to You and Your will."

The next day was the day of the funeral. As we were driving to Cochrane for the service, I was still searching for God to show up in a tangible way. I wasn't sure how I'd make it through the day and I really needed Him. I sensed nothing. Just an empty hollow void. I cried out and still nothing. It wasn't until we were descending the hill into the town of Cochrane that I felt this physical rush of peace. I don't know how to explain it, I just became overwhelmed by a strong presence of peace. It was so tangible that I gasped and whispered, "there you are!"

I made it through the day and through the next 5 years. I have chosen to trust God, no matter how I feel or what the circumstances are around me. I have come to realize that I don't need to understand everything in order to put my faith in Him. He is God, I am not. It's that simple. And you know what? My relationship with God is somehow deeper now, and I have an incredible internal peace I didn't have before.

Do I believe God heals? Absolutely! In fact, I witnessed one of the greatest healing miracles only a month later, but I'll have to save that story for another time.

Question: Do you trust God? I mean, really trust God? Even when your circumstances are confusing or frustrating or painful? How did you get that trust? Please comment below in the "Leave a Reply" box.

Another article on a similar topic: The Purpose of Storms

How Should Christians React to Starbucks

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sent a clear message of his support for gay marriage at the annual shareholders meeting last Wednesday in Seattle, telling an investor if he disagrees he should sell his shares and invest in some other company. This statement has created quite a stir among Christians on Facebook and other Social Medias. Although I don't agree with Mr. Schultz's opinions on marriage, I would like to take this opportunity to weigh in on an issue that I believe has plagued the Christian Church for some time. nf_starbucks_schultz_0325

The problem is this; most people outside of the church are more familiar with what Christians stand against than what we stand for. I know it's important for believers to make a stand for righteousness. However, Jesus made a major point to a group of Pharisees who were making a "stand for righteousness" against a woman caught in adultery. He said to them, "He who is without sin cast the first stone." In other words, we cannot demand perfection in the life of another when we ourselves are far from perfect. And we should not ever be shocked when the lost act like they're lost!

The Pharisees were notorious for their unrealistic demands for perfection, even boycotting the "sinners" and proudly labeling them as outcasts. Jesus treated these outsiders differently. He shamelessly befriended Matthew and Zacchaeus, both of whom had betrayed their Jewish roots to collect taxes on behalf of Rome. It was common practice for these tax collectors to take more from their countrymen than what Rome required so that they could line their own pockets. These men were known for their corruption and vile business practices, yet Jesus associated with them and even made Matthew one of his twelve disciples. Jesus was often seen in the company of these outcasts, tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, zealots and other notable sinners. This wasn't common behavior for a "religious" teacher.

Before we react to Mr. Schultz's comments by boycotting his company we should consider Jesus' example and follow his instructions in Matthew 5:14-15, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."

Darkness is simply the absence of light, therefore it makes sense that if we are the light of the world we should not remove ourselves from the dark places but instead invade them. A candle does not impact a room full of light, yet if you turn the lights off that same candle will brighten the entire room. We were not instructed by Jesus to boycott places where there is darkness, we were commissioned to go to them and be the light!

Am I endorsing Christians to frequent Starbucks? Not necessarily, and that's not my point. My point is simply to make us think as Christians before we react to reports like these. We need to make decisions and choose our battles in light of our mission - the great commission - and ask ourselves if taking a stand against Howard Schultz and Starbucks will help or hinder our ability to lead more people to Jesus?

Question: Do you think Christians should avoid Starbucks and other companies that make stands for gay marriages?

2 Keys to Taking the Limits Off Our Prayer Life

"Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel."Psalm 78:41 (NKJV)

Have you ever blamed God for unanswered prayer? or for being not fair? or have you tried to link your behavior to the answer and so when you really wanted something from Him you were on your best behavior, just hoping he would approve of you and give you your desires? Have you ever bartered with God saying something like, “if You do this for me, I’ll do that for You?”

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Of course you have! Let’s be honest, we all have. But what if this thinking was actually limiting us - especially in our prayer life? Wouldn’t you want to remove that limitation and open the door for more answered prayer and more spiritual authority?

There's a story in the Bible that I believe could really help us remove these limitations and allow us freedom and give us more answered prayers and miracles!

2 Kings 4:1(NASB) 1 Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”

Elisha was a prophet of God who is most famous for being the apprentice of the great prophet Elijah. However, Elisha is credited for twice as many miracles in his life time as Elijah and became the most respected and feared prophet in his day.

The woman in this story was the wife of one of the prophet’s sons whom Elisha knew, so the chances are good that he was familiar with her and she with him.

2 Kings 4:2 (NASB) 2 Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?”

Elisha knew her problem and yet he asked two very strange questions, “What do you want?” and “What do you have?” These questions are weird because EVERYBODY knew what she needed and what she wanted and yet Elisha still asked. Why? I believe he was testing her. He wanted to know if SHE KNEW what she wanted and if she was bold enough to say it. James, the brother of Jesus, made this statement in regards to prayer in James 4:2,

"You do not have, because you do not ask.

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The second question Elisha asked is "What do you have?" This is a key question as well, because she didn’t have anything. That’s why she needed a miracle, but yet he asked anyways. Why? Let's keep reading to find the answer.

2 Kings 4:2-4 (NASB) And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” 3 Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few. 4 And you shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out into all these vessels, and you shall set aside what is full.”

Notice, he didn’t just do a miracle and leave. He gave her a task, a responsibility to fulfill. The size of the miracle was really determined by the level of action she applied to her faith. Notice Elisha instructed her not to limit the miracle. He said, "don't get a few."

2 Kings 4:5-7 (NASB) 5 So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they were bringing the vessels to her and she poured. 6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not one vessel more.” And the oil stopped. 7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

There are two important lessons to learn.

  1. God will use what you have - so ask...what do I have?

 Some people lack because they don’t release the common things to God.
 God asked Moses in Exodus 4:2 "what is in your hand?" Moses replied, "a rod." God used what was in his hand as a foundation for most of the miracles he did through him. He used the rod to turn into a snake; to turn the Nile River into blood; to part the Red Sea; to get water from a rock and many more! What's in your hand?
  2. You need to know what you need - pray specific prayers.

 My mentor and Spiritual hero, Dr. George Hill says, “Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific.” 

Pray specific prayers. Your vision determines the size of your miracle! If you can see it, you can seize it!

Question: Do you know what you have? What is in your hand? What are your strengths? your opportunities? and have you been specific with God? Do you know what you want? What are you specifically asking for? believing for?

How to Lead Someone through the Salvation Prayer

I have been asked many times, "how do I pray the prayer of salvation?" or "How do I lead someone through the prayer of salvation?" What people are really asking is what are the right words to say? 338414875_640

Paul gave us the answer in Romans 10:9 when he penned these words,

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

In other words, there are two important parts of the prayer. 1) proclaim Jesus is God; and 2) let what you are saying come from your heart. Simply believe.

Here is an example prayer you can pray. I lead our congregation through this prayer or something similar every single Sunday in our church. Notice, how it covers the main elements of Roman 10:9 and how simple it is.

Dear Jesus, I believe that You are God, and that God raised You from the dead. I ask You now to become my God, my Savior, my Lord, and my friend. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins, for making my past past, and for giving me a fresh new start with You today. I give my heart completely to You. I am Yours. Amen.

Question: If you prayed this prayer for the first time, would you please send me a quick comment below in the "Leave a Reply" box and let me know you made this amazing decision?

Make Memories

I love the Christmas season! There's something in the air that is unlike any other time of year. For a few weeks a year, people hustle and bustle around, not for themselves, but for the sole purpose of giving to others. Families begin focusing on one another, eat together and share in rich family traditions. It's awesome! christmascard2012

Our little family has established our own little Christmas traditions. Each year, we spend a few days before Christmas with my side of the family. As many of you know, we lost my mom to cancer 5 years ago, and so time with my family is a little deeper and more solemn than it used to be. When you experience a loss of that magnitude it makes you reflect on what you have and although it is still tough to celebrate without mom, I feel strangely closer to the rest of my family. And just over a year ago, my Dad remarried to an amazing lady who brought with her a family of her own. Now Christmas is a bit brighter and a lot louder and more fun. We absolutely love and adore her and her family and it's kind of neat to have 3 more brothers and a bunch of more nieces and nephews.

On Christmas Eve, our family enjoys celebrating with our extended family at the church. We have always enjoyed intimate Christmas Eve services and love sharing it with our church family. Each year, we attempt to add to the family by inviting as many as will come into a personal relationship with Jesus. I can't think of a better way to celebrate His birth!

Following the Christmas Eve service Joy-Lynn and I love to come home and celebrate with our 5 amazing children. We each open one gift that night and then settle in to play a game or watch a Christmas movie.

Christmas Day is a blast. Joy-Lynn and I set this day apart to focus on just our kids and on each other. We begin the day with opening our gifts, followed by a hearty breakfast of Kethla, a German fried bread that has been a family favorite ever since I was a kid. Later in the day, I slave over the stove to prepare our annual seafood feast. We have lots of turkey between my family gatherings and Joy-Lynn's family and so a number of years ago we started this new tradition that our kids absolutely love. On the menu is lobster, crab, scallops, shrimp and other fun trimmings.

On Boxing Day we travel to Joy-Lynn's family in Saskatchewan. It's always an adventure as 35 of us converge at her parents place for a week of food, games, and lots of laughs. I enjoy the week as it is always refreshing and is an opportunity to rest and refresh for the New Year.

This is a simple look into our family's Christmas traditions. Our goal is simple: Make memories. We want to make memories with our families that will last a lifetime. Family is one of God's greatest gifts to us, and we must never take it for granted. Whatever your traditions are, enjoy your family and make memories that will last a lifetime!

A very special Merry Christmas from our family to yours and may God bless you and your with a Happy New Year!

Lest We Forget

I did a Skype interview this week with my friend Adam Halliday. I taught Adam at the Victory Bible College 10 years ago and he interned with me at our church in Canmore. Shortly after that he joined the Canadian Armed Forces and ended up doing a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Halliday and his unit were hit by road side bomb's twice during his tour. This interview details the horrific story of one of those attacks on December 30, 2009. [wpvideo sBKdKe3A]

This Remembrance Day, while we honor those who have fought so bravely for our freedom in the past let us not forget those who are fighting for us now.

Question: What would you say to a soldier on tour right now around the world if you could? Leave your message here in the "Leave a Reply" box below.