We love that the holiday season offers a chance to slow down and take a look at the gifts God has blessed us with over the years. God loves His children and it gives Him great joy, just as it would give any father, to bless his kids.
And while we believe that God loves to bless His children, if we stop there and think that His blessings are intended for us and us alone, we actually miss one of the greatest blessings of all!
The Bible is full of examples of how God blesses His people and then commands them to use those blessings to be a blessing to others who do not yet know Him. Itâ€™s one of the sweetest forms of evangelism! By sharing the blessings God has provided us and our families, we are pointing others to see that there is a good and loving Father who will love, care for, and provide for those who choose to follow Him.
So rather than simply focusing on the blessings God has given us this holiday season, how can we take inventory and intentionally share these blessings with those who do not know God yet?
Say for example you received a gift card to your favorite restaurant recently. Rather than using it for yourself, maybe there is someone who you feel the Lord is tugging your heart to get to know and show love and grace to. Then share that blessing by taking this person to lunch. This kind gesture could go a long way in building a relationship which God could use to alter this personâ€™s story.
What could be a better blessing than knowing that you could play a part in the salvation story of a friend, neighbor, or coworker? And what a great way to show God gratitude for all that He has blessed you with!
Letâ€™s try an exercise together and commit to taking intentional steps in sharing our blessings this holiday season!
- Take a sheet of paper and fold it down the middle from top to bottom.
- Consider what gifts God given you in this season. Write those gifts in the left-column of the paper.
- Consider how each of these gifts could bless someone else who does not know the Lord. List these in the right-hand column next to each gift.
- Look at the list and see if any specific faces or names come to mind that you could bless. Jot down those names next to each blessing in parentheses.
- Now itâ€™s time to take action! Place a star next to a blessing you can share this week. Then write it on your weekly calendar.
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Do you find it difficult to say the word, â€śno?â€ť Iâ€™ve met very few in my life, especially in ministry, who admit the word â€śnoâ€ť slips seamlessly off of their lips. Thereâ€™s something about the word â€śnoâ€ť that just feels wrong or selfish. In many cases, it feels like the word â€śnoâ€ť communicates weakness. While very few of us think someone is weak when they tell us â€śno,â€ť (often itâ€™s the opposite) we all have this rooted fear that by saying â€śnoâ€ť we will appear not organized enough, not dedicated enough, or not strong enough. How do we fight this fear and start to view boundaries as an act of strength and health for ourselves and our relationships?
Write a List of Your Current Responsibilities
If you sat down to list all of the tasks and people you are currently responsible for, chances are you might be a bit surprised by how many things are currently on your plate. If youâ€™ve been feeling tired or worn thin lately and your list appears long, well guess what! Youâ€™ve found the culprit! Itâ€™s tempting to pack our days with so many responsibilities that we are spread too thin to do any of them well. Before we can create boundaries and remove items off of our plates, itâ€™s important we take inventory first to become fully aware of the mental and physical loads we are carrying.
Pray and Consider what God has Called you To in This Season of Life
Itâ€™s simple math–there is only one you, and only so many hours in the day–so the longer the to-do list, the less energy, attention, and time you can dedicate to each task. The problem is, some responsibilities can afford less attention and time, while others, such as your family or your relationship with God, canâ€™t afford to be neglected.
You may be familiar Â with the rubber or glass ball analogy. Consider each responsibility or task in your day as either a rubber or a glass ball. If the rubber ball gets dropped (work, laundry, golfing with your friends, etc) it will rebound and bounce back safely in your hands. The glass ball, however, cannot afford to be dropped (God, family, finances, etc) because it will inevitably shatter.
Looking at the list of responsibilities you just made, consider which responsibilities are rubber balls which can be placed on the back-burner if necessary, and which ones are glass and should be made top priority.
Set Priorities and Cut-Out Any Areas You Canâ€™t Afford to Uphold Right Now
Now that you know which responsibilities you cannot afford to neglect, itâ€™s time to protect those items and take proactive steps to ensure you are able to do those tasks well. This doesnâ€™t mean that you create a list of good things to say yes to and a list of bad things to say no to. Serving in the church is a very good thing! But if saying yes to every single request for your time and service by the church starts to eat away at the foundation of your marriage, then itâ€™s vital that you say, â€śno.â€ť
Donâ€™t Apologize for Saying No and Holding those Priorities Firmly
Donâ€™t fall into the trap of feeling like you need to apologize for taking charge of the tasks God has called you to oversee. So what Â if your boss has a hard time understanding why you canâ€™t work late every night when you have a family to go home to. At the end of your life, you wonâ€™t have to stand before your boss and give an account of how well you treated your wife, how much time you spent with your kids, or how well you led the family youâ€™ve been entrusted with. You will have to give an account to God, though, so donâ€™t feel the need to be apologetic to the call God placed on your life. Once you realize that saying â€śnoâ€ť is an act of obedience to God, it becomes easier to see it as an act of courage and strength, rather than of fear or weakness.
Learning to say, â€śno,â€ť and holding firm to healthy boundaries is not an easy thing to learn. It takes practice, effort, and a whole lot of prayer. As you begin to evaluate your own list of responsibilities, ask God to give you clarity. I promise He will! And feel free to use the following questions as a starting point:
- What has God called you to in this season?
- What is keeping you from investing fully into those responsibilities?
- What do you need to say â€śnoâ€ť to this week?
Chances are that after you set-up the coffee machine and turn off all the lights before going to bed each night, you instinctively walk to the doors and windows to see that they are shut tight and locked. If you have a security system, you likely set the code as well. Many houses have floodlights installed in their yards to expose threats and make it clear that intruders are not welcome. We go to great extents to keep our loved ones and property safe. Our mental or spiritual well-being, however, is often overlooked. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be around toxic people who hold unhealthy control over our lives. Sometimes we watch scary movies that keep us wide-awake at night, unable to get the dark images from our minds. When it comes to threats that are unseen, there are several precautions that we can take to ensure we are safeguarding ourselves from a spirit of fear. It is important that we identify easy access points where threats and intruders could enter our minds, and take steps to lock those doors and windows tight!
Identify Easy Access Points
The two easiest access points for fear to creep in and plant roots are the eyes and the ears. Current studies estimate that the average person spends between 5-9 hours on social media each day, listens to approximately four hours music of music a day, and watches anywhere from 22-29 hours of television a week! We can no longer fool ourselves into thinking that what we watch and listen to that many hours of our lives has no influence on our minds. Yes, watching a scary movie with friends from time to time might be an adrenaline rush, but if it affects the way we think or makes us less firm in our faith or more prone to fear, we should limit the amount of access we give to these influences.
Evaluate Your Influences
It may be easy to limit the number of scary movies we watch or find more wholesome music to listen to, but the greatest influences in our lives are the people we surround ourselves with. If you fill your inner-circle with people who are positive, faithful, courageous, and hard-working, you will naturally glean these qualities yourself. However, if your closest influences are negative, doubtful, discouraging, or fearful, then you will find your courage and faith slowly erode away. This doesnâ€™t mean you cannot be friends with or love these people, but be cautious when deciding how much access you want to give them to your mental well-being.
Make a Security Plan
Only you can know for sure what influences cause the most damage to your spiritual health. Therefore, only you can create a security plan that works for you! The trick is to be completely honest with yourself and consider the long-term effects of the music, videos, and friends you allow into your life. So when you go to bed each night and walk from room to room checking the windows and doors, take this time to visualize shutting and locking the doors to your mind as well. Identify new threats that could cause unease, and consider how you can protect yourself from those threats in the future.
When it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones, donâ€™t just settle for protecting your physical health. Make the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of your family a priority as well. Soon youâ€™ll see first-hand just how much fear in your life was a result of the influences around you, and youâ€™ll be able to live life in a more positive light! You can take the first step today by answering the following questions:
- What steps are you taking to safeguard your mind and your spirit?
- Are there any influences you are allowing in that are carving away at your faith and making room for fear?
- What doors do you need to bolt shut to ensure you and your family are living healthy lives free from the control of fear?
This month at New Vision, weâ€™ve dedicated a lot of time and resources to talk about the importance of facing your fears. God did not create us to be controlled by fear but to rely on Him to keep our fears at bay and live up to our full potential. That said, it is important that we are able to identify the warning signs of pushing ourselves too far or too fast. If you are currently challenging a fear in your own life or have been given the opportunity to help someone else face their own, there are three zones you should be aware of to ensure your efforts will create progress instead of regression. As you read, visualize a dart board with three rings. We will start in the center and work our way out. Take time to honestly consider which of these three zones you find yourself in today.
1) Comfort Zone
This zone is exactly what the title implies–comfortable. Without pushing ourselves, this is where we fall by default. Our heart-rate is low, our posture is relaxed, and our feet are likely propped up, completely at ease with the world. While this does not sound half-bad, it is important to note that very little growth happens when we are comfortable and unwilling to break a sweat. Is there a time and a season to step back and recharge, absolutely! But should we aim to stay in this zone for fear of really pushing ourselves to face what scares us? Iâ€™m afraid not. In the dartboard analogy, we will place the comfort zone in the center, or bulls-eye.
2) Grow Zone
Taking a step outside of the center circle, we enter the second ring, called the grow zone. The grow zone is where we feel most alive! When we step into a new situation that makes us nervous, our posture becomes poised to react, our heartbeat quickens, and our minds become clear and attentive. Yes, this zone may make our palms a little sweaty, and we may find ourselves uncomfortable or unfamiliar with our surroundings, but the benefits far outweigh these slight inconveniences. You see, as we step outside the comfort zone and challenge ourselves to face what scares us, we become more confident and courageous and our comfort zone or bull-seye begins to grow! In the moment the task you face may seem like a challenge, but in the long-game, you are expanding the boundaries of where you feel comfortable and confident. Whenever possible, strive to be in the grow zone and just watch how you live as your attitude begins to change!
3) Panic Zone
The third and final ring of the dart board is the panic zone. This zone is dangerous because once we push ourselves past the limits of the grow zone, we are no longer able to grow because fear has taken over. Our hearts are pounding out of our chest, the mental clarity we found in the grow zone becomes jumbled, and our minds are not able to cope with the experience around us. While itâ€™s relatively easy to identify when weâ€™ve pushed ourselves to the point of panic, it is vital that we learn to recognize the signs of panic in those we are helping. Once we reach this zone, the panic zone begins to grow and the comfort zone in the center of the dartboard becomes smaller. If we are in the panic zone, we are providing more strongholds for our fears to take control which force us to run back to our comfort zone until we are able to calm ourselves to try again.
We hope this analogy proves to be helpful next time you are in a new situation which makes you nervous. Here are some questions to guide you in self-reflection. Be honest with yourself and set safety barriers for to help channel you into the grow zone. Keep yourself from slipping back into the comfort zone and be cautious not to step too far into the panic zone.
- Which zone is your default zone?
- What area of your life do you need to step back into the grow zone?
- What signs does your body give you when you are about to slip into a place of panic?
Weâ€™ve already discussed in this series how as Christians, we are called to face our fears and take steps towards overcoming them through faith and perseverance. Weâ€™ve also shared how this is not an easy command which is why God provides over 365 daily reminders to â€śBe strong and courageous.â€ť The fact is that facing our fears takes practice, and what better way to equip our children and our families to be bold and courageous warriors of God than to begin training them young. Of course, it takes a great deal of discernment to decide when a child is ready to take the first step towards overcoming a fear, and the method should always be age appropriate. However, no matter what ages your children are, here are five simple steps you can take today to create a culture of courage in your home:
You may not always be around when fear creeps into your childâ€™s heart–but God will! By teaching your children to pray when they are afraid, you are teaching them that ultimately God is the only one who can protect and shape their hearts into hearts of courage, and that He will always be there for Â them, even when you are not.
If we avoid facing our own fears, how can we expect our children to willingly face theirs? By acting as though nothing scares us, we are setting the wrong example. Model what it means to face your fears. Be transparent about what you are afraid of with them (age appropriately). Allow them to help you work through a fear of your own and donâ€™t be afraid to let them see you struggle at times. This will reassure them that even their role models struggle with fear from time to time.
3) Look Deeper
Many fears are shallow, but some are much more complicated than face-value. Yes, your son may be afraid of the dark, but maybe the dark represents a deeper fear–fear of the unknown. Maybe your daughter is afraid of sitting in a room alone, but what if deep down she is afraid of being abandoned or left behind? You canâ€™t heal what you canâ€™t see so try to look beneath the surface ask questions identify the root of your childâ€™s fear.
As parents, our first instinct may be to protect and nurture our children from what scares them. However, without the ability to face their fears, they will struggle as they grow to be more independent. Hold their hands but fight the instinct to carry them through their fears or they wonâ€™t learn to walk through fear themselves. This may be the most difficult step!
5) Give Grace
This process will take time. Sometimes, if the fear is encroaching on your own life (ie. you have a child terrified to sleep in his own room so he still shares your pillow) it is easy to lose heart and patience. In moments of frustration, remember that God how patient God has been towards you as you faced fears of your own, and whenever necessary, pray for more grace towards your child.
We hope these five steps will help you nurture your children to be courageous and brave warriors of God! We want to hear from you, what steps have you taken to help your children face their fears? Share your tips in the comments below!
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Of course thatâ€™s much easier said than done.
The Bible shares some variation of â€śfear notâ€ť over 365 times! Thatâ€™s right–a reminder for each and every day of the year. God in His grace knew before we were even designed what would keep us lying awake at night. He knew what circumstances would make our palms sweat and our knees wobbly. When God tells His people to â€śfear not,â€ť He isnâ€™t condemning them or shaming them for being afraid. God is always kind not to minimize our problems or our fears. The things we fear can be very real and very big to us, but the kicker is thisâ€¦
God is bigger.
Remember David and Goliath? David didnâ€™t step up to battle because he thought he had any stamina, experience, or height over Goliath–he stepped boldly up to a giant because the God He serves, who loyally protects him, is so much bigger!
Many times when we are afraid of something, itâ€™s because we feel outmatched or out of control. Something we all need to learn is how to be okay with taking the reins out of our hands and placing them into the willing and able hands of God. Take some time to reflect today by asking yourself these simple questions:
- What are you afraid of giving to God that is holding you in a life of fear?
- How has God been faithful to you when you gave Him your fears in the past?
- What Bible verse do you need to memorize for when fear starts to creep in?
If you would like to learn more aboutÂ our servicesÂ and see how New Vision can serve you or your family,Â contact usÂ today. If you have a loved one who is struggling with fear or anxiety, share this message with them so they can feel empowered to regain control in a healthy way.
Sometimes change can be seen far down the horizon, and whether itâ€™s welcome or not, we have time to brace ourselves for what lies ahead. Weddings, a babyâ€™s due date, graduation, and the changing of the seasons are usually predictable and provide plenty of time to prepare.
But what about the changes that occur suddenly with little to no warning? What do we do when a routine screening tests positive for cancer? What happens when a meeting with your employer ends with a pink slip or transfer papers? How do we respond when a police officer knocks on our door with news that there has been an accident?
When the proverbial rug is snatched out from under us, we have to be careful in choosing our next steps. To handle change in a healthy way, we need to be aware of our own instincts, surround ourselves with healthy relationships, and know our own limitations.
Know Your Instincts
When change comes unexpectedly, our fight-or-flight responses kick in. Some of us are naturally wired to attack the situation with every ounce of energy they can muster. They become consumed by it, believing they have the power and ability to make it go away if they fight hard enough against it. Others will push the change out of their thoughts or even live in denial of what has happened to them. They go about their lives as normal, neglecting what needs to be done and the changes that need to be processed.
Whatever your instinct is, there is a verse in scripture that can help you accept change in a healthier way. Psalm 46:10 says, â€śBe still and know that I am God.â€ť For those of us who are fighters, we need to remember we canâ€™t face anything in our own power but we can with His! He is the creator and sustainer of all things, including your situation. So be still and let Him fight for you. For those of us who are runners, we have to remember that while this may be a surprise to us, it certainly isnâ€™t a surprise to God. He promises to get us through any situation He has called us to, so stand boldly and let Him work His strength out in your life.
Find Your People
The Bible is very clear that none of us are called to face life alone. Time and time again, it describes the disciples going out two by two or meeting in each otherâ€™s homes to encourage and motivate one another. When change takes you by surprise, donâ€™t underestimate the power of a coffee date with a friend, or a phone call to your sister. Just as you would hope your loved ones would call you if they needed help or encouragement, your friends would be honored to face this challenge with you.
If you donâ€™t have a strong community of friends, pursue a membership in a local church. Make it a point in seasons of stability to surround yourself with healthy relationships with other believers so when change does come–and it will–youâ€™ll have people ready to step in and lend a hand.
Know When to Seek Professional Help
While some changes can be managed with the help of a friend, you also need to be aware of your limitations. Some situations are far too complex to be handled alone or in the church. Sometimes professional counseling is the next step. We at New Vision Counseling and Consulting believe that by integrating Godâ€™s truths along with proven counseling techniques, we can help your mind, body, and soul as you cope with the changes ahead. We want to become part of your community as a source of encouragement, motivation, and understanding.
If you would like to learn more about our services and see how New Vision can serve you or your family, contact us today. If you have a loved one who is struggling through a season of change, share this message with them so they can feel empowered to regain control in a healthy way.
Ah, the good old daysâ€¦when life was easier, we were younger, and the world was as it should be.
If youâ€™re like most people, chances are youâ€™ve surrounded yourself with items that bring back memories of a special time in your life. Maybe youâ€™ve stayed in touch with friends and laugh over old photos on social media. Perhaps you kept certain items from those years, even if they are now outdated. You may even find yourself doing things a certain way simply because thatâ€™s how youâ€™ve always done them.
Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with feeling nostalgic of the past. In some seasons, it can even be healthy to look back and remember the ways God blessed you. But sometimes, what we may mistake as nostalgia is actually a deeply-rooted fear of change.
It is only natural to fear the unknown. We are creatures of habit and cling to whatâ€™s familiar. But if our eyes are constantly locked on the past and the way things used to be, we miss valuable opportunities to make new memories here in the present. Even worse, though, we take our eyes off of God and the incredible blessings He has in store for our future.
I had a client several years ago who shared the negative impact nostalgia had on her family. When she was in high school, her grandfather unexpectedly passed away. While she and her family grieved over this loss and painfully accepted the new way of life, her father became so fixated on the memories of his childhood with his dad, that for the next five years, her family wondered if any of the new memories they created were valuable to him at all. Her father was so fearful of what it would mean to live in a life without his dad, that he unintentionally forced his children to live without theirs.
In Jeremiah 29:11 God makes a promise. He says, â€śI know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.â€ť You canâ€™t afford to miss out on the amazing plans that are about to unfold, even if those plans come after a season of difficult and painful change. Remember, when God calls you to something, He will get you through it as well. So when you find yourself reminiscing, make sure you arenâ€™t grasping for the past, but instead remembering Godâ€™s faithfulness so you can face this new season without fear.
Some questions to consider as you enter your weekend:
- What memories are holding you so tightly in the past that youâ€™re distracted from the present?
- In what ways was God faithful to you in those seasons of blessing?
- Do you believe God wants to bless you in this new season He is calling you to as well?
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone was unabashedly destroying you with their words. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar â€śYou stupid idiot, why did you do that?â€ť Or how about â€śCanâ€™t you do anything right?â€ť Or how about â€śYou are not as pretty as, smart as, fast as, rich as, loved asâ€¦the list seems to never end.â€ť If you have ever been talked to like this you know how awful it feels. How we can feel paralyzed and hopeless when someone who is close to us criticizes us like this. How can we value ourselves if someone who is supposed to be for us betrays us like this? Many of us have had a parent talk to us like this. Others, like me, have suffered feeling not good enough by the absence of a parent. But right now I am not talking about any of them. I am talking about you. What if this is the way your internal critic talks to you. Ouch!
The great news is today is your day to take back control. God did not wire us to tolerate critical and abusive words. He wired us to live and give love and that is where we are headed today. You have already done Step one and thatâ€™s identify the critical voices that are not serving you well.
Step two is to identify who they sound like from your present or past. If you are not sure then ask if it sounds like a male you know or a female you know. Sometimes you may need to pray and listen to identify the origins. When you get the answer write it down.
Step three is to look up in your Bible (or just ask Alexa) who God says you are. Ask how much He loves you and how He sees you. Does he think you are worthy of love, intelligent, good enough, and worth fighting for? If you are still not sure then Jesus dying to take your place is a good start.
Step Four is where the rubber meets the road and you activate Godâ€™s truth in your life. Select the top 5 scriptures and phrases you have found and immerse yourself in them. Do this a minimum of three focused times per day. This could look like morning, noon and night. In addition to reading and memorizing what is true, where a rubber band or set alerts on your phone to remind you to look at them throughout the day. And every time the negative voices begin spewing their venom choose to replace them with Godâ€™s truth. And watch your belief system slowly but surely begin to shift.
Shawn Maguire is a Licensed Professional Therapist who has served marriages, families and individuals for almost 25 years. He is the owner of New Vision Counseling, a place where therapists integrate. their faith with cutting edge counseling techniques to offer hope and healing in any circumstance of life. You can find out more about Shawn and his team at NewVisionCounseling.org or follow him on facebook and Instagram at NewVisionCounseling.