There is no bigger question for sincere, young Christians (or all Christians for that matter) than this one: What is God’s will for my life? When we face major life transitions (like graduating from college), we stare into an uncertain future, looking for any signpost that will guide us toward taking that first step into the unknown. Where should I work? Who should I marry? In what city should I live? Our questions are large in scope and specific in nature. Because we desperately want to get it right, we beg God to reveal his will to us. Unfortunately, when we are young, we often lack the wisdom required to see or hear God’s answers to these pressing questions.

Paul prayed that the people of the church in Colossae would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. (Colossians 1:9) That is a beautiful prayer, one that resonates with me every time I face a difficult decision. But Paul isn’t praying that this knowledge would magically drop on them from heaven. Instead, he’s praying that they would undergo a process of receiving wisdom so that they can know God’s will for themselves.

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The church where I now pastor made an important decision not long ago that resulted in significant organizational change. Sensing God leading them in a new and radical direction, they voted to join forces with a church plant in the area, and together these two bodies formed one new church, which is now Hope Church in Westerville, Ohio. As we walked through this process together, it became clear to me that there is a wide variety of emotional responses to significant changes in life. I called this The Emotional Spectrum of Change.


Knowing where we are in the process of change will help us to understand how to respond to those powerful emotions.
Whenever we make a major decision in our lives that results in substantial change, we go through an emotional process before, during, and especially after the choice has been made. These emotions are often magnified when the change in question is deeply personal, like making a major adjustment in your church organization.

For most Christians, the local church to which we belong has a rich and vital role in our lives. Not only is our soul nourished there through worship each Sunday, but many of our closest friends are there. Church is more than something to which we belong; church is something we are. The community with whom we gather to worship and follow Jesus is one of the most important things in our lives. So when we experience change in this area, we often feel the effects of that change on a deeply personal and emotional level.

I believe that it is immensely helpful to be able to identify where we are, emotionally, with whatever change we may be experiencing. Knowing where we are in the emotional process of change, as individuals or families, will help us to understand how to respond to these feelings. God expects us to live wisely, to respond well, and to understand ourselves relative to both our circumstances and our emotional conditions. With that, I would like to introduce you to The Emotional Spectrum of Change.

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Entitlement is a silent killer. It creeps in through your mind, nestles down in your heart, and slowly eats you alive from the inside. Entitlement is a virus of the soul. It puts you at odds with God. It stridently shouts at heaven, “What you have given me is insufficient. I must have more!” Entitlement prays blasphemously, “Give me today my daily bread all that You owe me.”

Entitlement takes many forms, but it is always destructive. Shopping entitlement will impoverish you. Food entitlement will wreck your health. Emotional entitlement will ruin your relationships. Spiritual entitlement will shipwreck your faith.


We don’t recognize our entitlements for the soul-assassins that they are because we have bought into their lie.
My first year of seminary was a difficult time for me, emotionally. I had just left a thriving young adult ministry and a wide circle of friends in Ohio to enroll at a well-respected evangelical seminary in Boston. Moving from the Midwest to New England gave me a serious dose of culture shock. Everything is so much different on the East Coast. As the darkness of winter dominated my days, I sank deeper and deeper into depression. (I hesitate to use that word because I don’t know if I was clinically depressed, but I don’t know what else to call it.) By way of medicating myself, I began to collect DVDs – as in, I would go to the store and buy five or ten DVDs at a time. Shopping became a form of emotional medication, and my DVD collection quickly turned into a source of pride and a sense of entitlement. “I deserve to buy these DVDs,” I told myself. But I was wasting money and feeding a monster by giving into my entitlement. The more you feed your entitlement, the harder it becomes to kill it.

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The Year of No is predicated on the idea that you can only overcome the temptation you are faced with right now. You can’t resist the sins and temptations that are going to face you in six months. You can’t tackle your entire entitlement-mountain today, but you can take one step in the right direction. You can say “No” to what’s tempting you right now.


Small acts of self-denial make room for larger acts of God’s kingdom.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” In my experience, the way out is simply to say, “No.” Granted, this isn’t always easy. We are tempted by things we desire, and most of us are not used to denying ourselves what we desire. We want what we want, and our culture has taught us that self-indulgence is not simply normative, but a moral good. I’m convinced that this is destructive, both to our souls and to our society, and the only way to right the wrongs of self-indulgence is through self-denial. As I wrote last year, small acts of self-denial make room for larger acts of God’s kingdom.

Now it’s time to focus. Just as you can’t overcome today the sin you’ll be tempted by in the future, you can’t tackle every issue in your life all at once. You need to narrow the scope. There are a lot of areas in my life where I want to grow, but I can’t deal with them all at the same time. I need to focus on a few problem areas in order to experience real victory in my life. This means naming the two or three things you want to work on saying “No” to this year. The first step of self-denial is naming that which you feel entitled to or the sins to which you regularly succumb. As I said in the original Year of No post, “clarity is the first step toward victory.” We can only overcome that which we clearly and continually name.

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momentmakerCarlos Whittaker’s life is full of hilarious, awkward, and powerful moments. Whether it’s a bird feasting on his children’s just-released flock of pet butterflies, buying a round of drinks for a returning troop of soldiers, or humiliating a girl by being too romantic, Carlos Whittaker lives his life in the moment. He is a man who was born with an innate ability to seize every moment and draw every last drop of life out of it, and in his new book Moment Maker, he wants to show you how you can live this way, too.

Whittaker identifies three types of moments in life: created moments, received moments, and rescued moments. Created moments are those special events in life that we make for others – birthday parties and romantic dates, for examples. Received moments are those times in life when things just happen, almost out of the blue. Rescued moments are what happen when your plans go awry and you’re faced with the choice to double down on the moment or just cash out. The common element of the three types of moments are that they push us beyond the boundaries of our self-centeredness and into the lives and hearts of others.

Being a moment maker is about living for others on purpose. It’s about pursuing the happiness and well-being of those around you, whether they are family, friends, or strangers. Moment makers imagine possibilities in life that the rest of us don’t see. They open their eyes to those around them, living according to the schedule of love rather than their daily calendars.

With often-funny and always-engaging stories, Whittaker invites the reader to wake up to the possibilities of a life full of created, received, and rescued moments. This book is particularly challenging for introverts like myself who would much rather enjoy the comfort of a quiet room and a good book than take the risk of moment making for the sake of others. Not all of us will be able to live life the way Carlos lives his, but we can all stand to be more invested, and more interested, in the happiness and well-being of others.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

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