Choices. All day, every day, all around us. So much choice, in fact, that we often become paralyzed.
I have experienced option fatigue too many times in the last few years, and that was just when I was ordering at a restaurant. But option fatigue has now hit crisis levels… so tired of hearing opinions… so tired of left-leaning this and right-leaning that… So tired of, “do this and get rich quick!” and “follow this method to change” and much more…
We are a generation suffering from option fatigue.
Hundreds of television channels. Access to almost unlimited information on the Internet. Every form of entertainment and self-indulgent behavior available to me at all times.
How do we practice self-discipline and self-restraint in an age such as this?
And then this crazy media driven circus called the election… Self-restraint? Self-discipline? Taking responsibility? Acting like a leader? Not sure I’ve seen much of that. And these are the people running for the highest office in the land…
And then I look at my children. How are they going to learn it if they don’t have it modeled for them?
They do not know a world where they do not have immediate access to whatever television show they want, whenever they want it.
When I was growing up, if I had one show that I liked to watch, it only came on once a week for half an hour. When that show was finished, there was nothing I could do about it. The TV went off and I went outside.
How do I train my children to have self-control and self-discipline when they live in a world without restraint?
This might come off as a rant, but that’s not really my intention. I just wonder if we haven’t gone astray somewhere in the last few decades.
Check out this quote from an article on fastcompany.com
We make poorer decisions when we are tired. It’s caused by decision fatigue. The mind can only sort through so many options and make so many choices before it starts to run out of steam. That’s why impulse buys like candy bars and magazines at the checkout aisle in the grocery store can be hard to resist. We’ve exhausted all our good decision-making skills.
Do you feel like you are making good decisions lately? Do you feel like you are seeing things clearly? Are you tired?
Time to take a pause.
This is one my favorite verses in the whole Bible, spoken by Jesus himself;
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
Such good news. Such a refreshing thing to hear. Nobody trying to make anything great. Nobody trying to hide anything and get away with it. Just Jesus offering life and rest.
Perhaps the church could learn something from Jesus… Are we a place of rest for the weary? Is our yoke easy and light? Are we humble and gentle in heart?
We have the option to be a lot of things to the world in the days ahead. Let’s strive to be a place of rest for the weary just like Jesus…
Elijah was a pretty incredible man. He was a prophet called by God to bring correction to King Ahab and his incredibly wicked wife Jezebel during a particularly rough period in ancient Israel. He saw many miracles in his life and was used mightily by the Lord to demonstrate the power of God to Israel.
But Elijah was also a man like us and there was a certain point when things got tough and he freaked out. At one particular point in Elijah’s life, he had just called down fire from heaven and killed all the prophets of Baal. This had been a significant victory and an incredible display of God’s power but immediately afterward Elijah is terrified and running for his life.
“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.’ Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” 1 Kings 19:1-3
It is often difficult to relate to an ancient story because they feel so distant from our current reality. But this response feels all too familiar. A major victory takes place and the right afterwards there is a dramatic failure. How many times have we seen people at the top of their game throw away everything senselessly? It happens so frequently that it has almost become expected. Elijah was having a crisis. Now that the major event was over, an event that could have led to his death, he doesn’t know what to do anymore. He is a man without a mission and for someone with Elijah’s personality, that can lead to major depression.
Adrenaline is an interesting chemical in our bodies. Without it, we can barely function on a daily basis. It is responsible for producing amazing feats of strength and courage in average human beings. But, when your body has to detox from all that adrenaline, things can get a little crazy.
Elijah was crashing hard and he had no idea what to do anymore. Even though he had just seen God send fire from heaven, he had no clear direction on what to do and that created a crisis. Without hearing God’s voice, he could only react to his circumstances and he did – by running in fear.
Fear is not a good leader. It makes you question everything. It is a reactionary response, not an intentional choice. Very few wise decisions are made out of fear. If we are to be world changing followers of Jesus, we need a better leader in our lives than fear.
When I was fourteen, I read a book about a man named Keith Green. He was a Christian musician who challenged the status quo, spoke the truth and impacted millions of lives. I wanted to be just like him. So, I began to pursue a career in music. Initially, I had some success that allowed me to travel all over the world as a musician and singer. But year after year, my career did not “take off” like I thought it would. I kept forging ahead believing things would change, but it didn’t.
I started to feel like a failure. In my thirties, I hit a point of crisis in my life. All of a sudden, I didn’t know how to reconcile my current situation with what I thought my life should look like.
“God, I thought you told me to become a great musician and singer and prophetic voice to my generation? I thought my destiny was to be the next Keith Green? What happened? Did I miss it somewhere?”
I knew who God was, but I was struggling to hear His voice for my present circumstances. I had become so attached to what I thought I had heard in the past that it had become an idol in my life.
Increasingly, I would suffer from severe seasons of depression. I didn’t want to feel the way I felt, but I didn’t know what to do anymore. The more I was on stage, the harder I would adrenaline crash afterwards. I felt like I was going crazy. In the midst of all of this, I felt like I could no longer hear God’s voice. I didn’t know what to do anymore because all my dreams had died and there did not seem to be any way forward. To be honest, I was scared to listen to God’s voice because it would probably mean I had to lay down the dreams I had spent 20 years of my life chasing.
I had made the dream of being a world changing musician an idol. But now that it was probably never going to become a reality, I was paralyzed.
I wish I could say that this experience is uncommon. It might not be the dream of being a musician, but all around us are people struggling to deal with the death of their dreams. Some of these people have even been successful but now that the moment has passed, they don’t know what to do anymore. In the midst of the pain of lost dreams, we have forgotten how to hear the voice of God and allowed fear to find a resting place in our lives.
We need to learn how to hear His voice for our future. God is speaking but our fear has disabled our ability to hear him.
I remember sitting under a tree one day when I felt like I had come to end of myself. I didn’t know what to do anymore and I was complaining to God about it. I had allowed fear to cloud any view of my future. God may have spoken to me all those years ago, but now I needed to hear his present voice. God may have used the dream of being a rockstar to get me moving, but now I needed a new word for a new season.
So I began to go on a journey to rediscover the voice of God in my life. I wanted to be able to hear Him in every situation, not just the “church related” ones. I wanted to hear him for my family, for my children, for my music, for my relationships, for all of my life. I began to ask the Lord to teach me how to be aware of His presence in the present. I knew that He was a good leader, but I needed to learn again how to be led by the leader within.
I met with some smart people and they began to help me form a grid through which I could actually discern what was going on. One particular friend, John Houghton, is a certified coach that I had been meeting with. We had been walking through this journey together and his advice had been instrumental in helping me decipher what was going on and what to do next. One day, as we were talking, he gave me a simple grid that immediately helped me silence the noise and hear God’s voice in any situation. It has become, for me, the noise cancellation tool that I needed to shut out the noise and hear the Lord’s voice for my life, my family and my future.
That grid was a series of questions to help me discern what was going on so that I could listen to the leader within.
1. First things first, stop the noise.
You can’t hear anything until you silence the noise in your life and listen. We live overstimulated lives and actually dialing down the noise to hear the voice of the leader within is vital.
2. Ask yourself, “What is actually going on?”
This requires you to be honest about the situation. Take a step back and get real with yourself. What is actually taking place right now? What are the key factors that I need to recognize in this moment? Sometimes having clarity about the reality of the situation can diffuse the fear. Am I making more of this than there actually is?
3. What am I feeling?
My emotions tell me a story about what’s going on inside. I can’t ignore them, but I can’t let them rule my decisions. What are my emotions telling me? Our emotions typically give us insight into what core values are being affected in our lives. The stronger the emotion, the more the core value has been impacted. As a friend told me one time – emotions can have a seat on the bus, but they can’t be allowed to drive the bus.
4. What is true?
This goes beyond the “facts” about the situation. This is about deciphering the truth. What is true about myself right now? What is true about God? This is the moment that you ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind and allow the truth to penetrate your spirit. Where am I believing lies? What is the truth that will set me free?
5. What do I do now?
Once I have a better picture of what is taking place, now I can begin to ask the Lord what to do about it. This is the point where we can actually hear the voice of God speaking to us. This is the decluttered zone. This is the place of clarity.
6. Re-engage in the present.
Now that I have heard from the Leader Within, now I can re-engage in the process. A lot of people never make it to this point. They might get clarity and understanding about the situation, but they fail to apply it after everything is said and done.
Remember what the book of Proverbs told us?
If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed. Proverbs 29:18 MSG
This is a grid that helps me “attend to what He reveals”. This grid helps me silence the noise, hear His voice and get the perspective and clarity I needed to deal with any obstacle I face. It’s not a fix-all, but it is a helpful tool to enable me to see and hear clearly.
Hopefully, it can help you do the same.
Is there anything you would add to this grid? Do you have a grid that helps you engage with the voice of the leader within?
It is a strange thing, our modern society.
We are so unaccustomed to pain. We know so little of it.
If we are ill, we are prescribed a medication to fix it. If we feel pain, we pop a pill. We eat and drink and make much of entertainment to silence out the emotional and spiritual pain we feel. Yet, with all our methods of self-medication, we cannot avoid all pain.
Two or three generations ago, death and pain were a common part of our existence. To eat we had to kill an animal of some kind and watch as it twitched and convulsed until its heart stopped. The agrarian culture forced us to acknowledge that life was cheap and pain was common. Before there was sufficient medications pain was a normal part of life. You did the best to manage it, but it was a normal part of your existence.
But now, we do not like the idea of pain or death or discomfort. We do everything we can to remain at ease. But we cannot avoid it forever.
Jesus understood pain. He understood misery. He had more than likely watched many times as the Romans crucified his people. He must have stood more than once at the bottom of a cross staring at the pinned body of a man taking his last breath. He saw sickness and disease all around him for thirty years. He was accustomed to pain.
It is no wonder, then, that he had compassion on the broken and the lost. It is no wonder that he reached out to the leper and the harlot and the widow and the children. He was familiar with their pain.
Isaiah 53, that great chapter that spoke prophetically of the messiah, tells us just what kind of man the messiah would be.
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Isa. 53.3
But we are not.
So, when a black man is shot in the chest by a police officer and a whole community rises up in grief, we don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to respond because we are so unfamiliar with pain and sorrow and grief. We are not people who suffer. We are not those who are familiar with pain.
So we try to rationalize it. We try to circumvent the pain by broadening the scope of the pain to include everyone. We make excuses and at the worst we trivialize the pain. Our theology doesn’t make a lot of room for pain and suffering and unanswerable things. We are supposed to be the people with the answer so rather than admit that we are lacking we make up answers that could never actually meet the need. We appeal to dogma and the security of somebody else’s opinion instead of just embracing the fact that sometimes we don’t have all the answers.
Jesus never did those things. He met pain with hope and life. He embraced the pain and took on the responsibility of carrying it for others. He didn’t always answer the question. In fact, sometimes he created more questions than answers. But He was always willing to meet the sick, the hurting, the oppressed right in the middle of their pain. He never shied away from those in true need.
If we are going to display the love of Jesus in the midst of the crisis that the African American community is currently feeling, then we must not make little of their pain. We must make much of their pain. We must embrace them as though it was our pain. We must respond as though it was our family lying dead on the street. We must love the broken and the hurting with a fierce love that transcends any skin color, background, religion or creed.
We cannot self-medicate away the pain or ignore their tears any longer.
A community is grieving and for us to look anything like Jesus, so must we.
Over the years, I spent a lot of time flying from place to place to do my job. One of the things you quickly acquire when you fly is noise canceling headphones. The background noise on a plane can drive you crazy. The constant noise makes it especially hard to hear if you are trying to watch a movie or listen to music. The joy that comes from flipping that little switch is remarkable. All of a sudden, your world becomes quieter and you can hear things clearly.
The science behind noise-canceling headphones is actually pretty interesting. Small microphones in each ear of your headphones pick up the background noise, reverse the phase, and then add the phase shifted noise to your headphone mix. Because sound is a waveform, the background noise and the phase shifted noise cancel each other out. You flip a switch and the background noise is gone. If two waves of the same size but opposite polarity hit each other at the same time, the peak of one wave will cancel out the valley of the other wave.
For someone who spends more than enough time in a plane, a set of noise canceling headphones can be a lifesaver. But what happens when you leave the plane? Is it possible to get noise canceling headphones for regular life?
You see, we live in a world of constant noise. It’s not just physical noise either, it’s also emotional noise and spiritual noise. Physical noise shows up in the form of media, entertainment, life chaos and sometimes airplane seats. Emotional noise comes in the form of stress, anxiety or the weight of expectations in your life. Spiritual noise shows up in the form of oppression or negativity. All that noise adds up in your life and makes it incredibly difficult to hear the voices that actually matter.
Some of this noise is self-imposed. At times, we are intentionally drowning out noise in our life. We self-medicate through any number of means – entertainment, substance abuse, work. Some of it is just the nature of the lives we live. Every day we are subjected to thousands of advertisements through the internet, television, billboards, street signs and many other sources. All that information is processed by our brains, even if only subconsciously.
No matter what it is, that noise makes it very difficult to hear the things that matter. But what if you could flip a switch and shut out all that noise? What if there was a noise canceling option for all the physical, emotional and spiritual noise in your life? What if you knew that at any point in time, you could get clear direction and clear answers, not matter what the situation?
If you are a follower of Jesus, a born-again Christian, then you have access to the world’s greatest leader. That access is not found by going to a church building or talking to your pastor or priest, it’s found by listening to the leader who dwells within you.
“To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. 1:27 NASB
“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11 NASB
We have God dwelling in us! That’s a pretty remarkable realization. What makes it more amazing is that the spirit of God that dwells in us was a request from Jesus to His Father.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. John 14:17,18 NASB
If this is true, why do our lives seem to be so lacking the ability to hear His voice? Why do so many stumble around as though they don’t know what to do? The problem is that all that other noise is blocking our ability to hear from the greatest leader we have available, the leader within. Because we can’t hear His voice, the decisions we make lack wisdom and spiritual discernment. When you lack vision and wisdom, you end up reacting to circumstances instead of being led by faith.
The writer of the Book of Proverbs, one of the most remarkable books written on wisdom in history, speaks directly to what happens when we lack vision.
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18 ESV
When we don’t have the ability to see the thing God is trying to get us to see, we go astray. We try our own way. We stumble around hoping for the best but never achieve it. A man named Eugene Peterson wrote a wonderful paraphrase version of that verse that says this:
If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed. Proverbs 29:18 MSG
If we can’t see what God is doing, we will end up stumbling over ourselves. If we can’t hear what God is saying, we will end up wandering in the wilderness hoping that we are headed in the right direction but never knowing if we are. Our lack of seeing and lack of hearing is not because of a lack of availability on God’s part. God promised us a helper that would be with us forever. He promised a counselor that would teach us all things. He promised us a guide that would lead us into truth.
It is when we attend to what God reveals that we are most blessed. If we are going to attend to what God reveals, then we need to find a way to hear what He is saying. We need to find a way to flip on the noise canceling headphones for our lives and begin to listen. Because He is speaking.
God has given us the gift of His Holy Spirit who dwells inside of us. But due to the overwhelming amount of noise we encounter on a daily basis, we have great difficulty hearing Him. But, what if you knew that you could have access to the world’s greatest leader at any point of time in your day? Well, you can. All you have to do is quiet the noise and listen. Next week, I will give you the 4 questions I use in my life to quiet the noise and listen to the leader within.
(This is part 1 of a 2 part series on “Listening to the Leader Within”)
There are times when our own words are insufficient. Our mouth feels like it is full of sawdust and our tongue feels like sandpaper because we don’t know how to respond to a crisis of this magnitude.
But, for a multitude of reasons (good and bad), people will try. In trying they will do everything from blaming God, to blaming religion, blaming people, calling it God’s judgment and everything in-between.
In our modern day socially driven media circus, everybody is looking for an angle to get more clicks and more subscribers.
To avoid the temptation to use a tragedy as a platform, it would be best to put aside opinions and turn to God. How, then, should we pray? How do you pray without an agenda? The best way I know to pray without an agenda is to pray using the character and names of God as my focus in prayer.
Here are some examples that you might want to use as you pray for the families who lost loved ones, a city in mourning, the political ramifications of the tragedy and our nation as it moves forward.
(Note: The scriptures have been adjusted so that you can personalize them.)
As you pray for the families who lost loved ones, pray that “the God who see and cares” would be present among them.
|[You look] from heaven; [You] see all the sons of men; from [Your] dwelling place [You] look out on all the inhabitants of the earth, [You] who fashion the hearts of them all, [You] who understands all their works.|
|Psalm 33.18||Behold, [Your eye] is on those who fear [You], on those who hope for [Your] lovingkindness.|
|2 Chronicles 16.9||For [Your eyes] move to and fro throughout the earth that [You] may strongly support those whose heart is completely [Yours].|
|Hebrews 4.13||And there is no creature hidden from [Your] sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.|
As you pray for the city of Orlando, pray that “the God who is loving and caring” would be on display.
|Psalm 33.5||The earth is full of [Your] lovingkindness. [You are] near to the brokenhearted and [save] those who are crushed in spirit.|
|Psalm 36.5,7-9||Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies. How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. [I] feast on the abundance of Your house; You give [me] drink from Your river of delights. For with You is the fountain of life.|
|Psalm 103.8-17 (NKJV)||[O Lord You are] compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. [You do] not treat [me] as [my] sins deserve or repay [me] according to [my] iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is [Your] love for those who fear [You]; as far as the east is from the west, so far [have You] removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so [You O] LORD [have] compassion on those who fear [You]; for [You know] how [I am] formed, [You remember] that [I am] dust. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear Him.|
|Psalm 145.17-20 (NKJV)||[You are] righteous in all [Your] ways, gracious in all [Your] works. [You are] near to all who call upon [You], To all who call upon [You] in truth. [You] will fulfill the desire of those who fear [You]; [You] also will hear [my] cry and save [me]. [You, O] LORD [preserve] all who love [You].|
|John 3.16||For [You] so loved the world that [You] gave your only son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.|
As you pray for the political ramifications that will come from this tragedy, pray that “the God who is righteous and just” would step in and give wisdom to those who are in authority.
|Deut. 32.3-4 (NIV)||I will proclaim [Your name]. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! [You are] the Rock, [Your] works are perfect, and all [Your] ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just [are You].|
|Psalm 9.4-6||You have sat on the throne judging righteously. You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever. The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins, And You have uprooted the cities; The very memory of them has perished.|
|Psalm 36.6 (NIV)||Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the great deep.|
|Psalm 45.3-7||Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, in Your splendor and Your majesty! And in Your majesty ride on victoriously, for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let Your right hand [display awesome deeds]. Your arrows are sharp; the peoples fall under You; Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.|
|Psalm 71.19||Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You?|
|Psalm 96.10,13 (AMP)||[I will] say among the nations that the Lord reigns; the world also is established, so that it cannot be moved; [You] shall judge and rule the people righteously and with justice…[You come] to judge and govern the earth! [You] shall judge the world with righteousness and justice and the peoples with faithfulness and truth.|
As you pray for the nation, pray that “the God who has all authority” would lead this nation and that God would restore righteousness as the foundation for how we move forward as a nation.
|Matthew 28.18||And [You] spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”|
|Eph. 1.20-23||[Jesus, You have been raised] from the dead and seated at [The Father’s] right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And [the Father has] put all things in subjection under [Your] feet, and [has given You] as head over all things.|
|God highly exalted [You], and bestowed on [You] the name which is above every name, so that at [Your name] every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that [You are] Lord, to the glory of God the Father.|
|Psalm 24.1 (NIV)||The earth is [Yours], and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.|
(scriptures were taken from the Adoration and Proclamation Prayer Book)
My heart is broken for those who lost family and loved ones. I pray that you will turn your concern and grief into prayer during this time,