"Tests are not a plot and conspiracy against you.  A test is to determine what you know, to see if you're ready for the next level (ie - a math test).  Don't moan over tests — count them all joy, and pass them!" — Karen Jensen

Dear Crazy Goal-Setting Person...

Do you like waiting? I don’t! Waiting is hard for everyone, but especially for crazy goal-setting people!

In today’s gotta-have-it-quick world, we want everything fast – we don’t want to wait for anything, whether it’s an order online, a drive-through latte, or the next phase of our dream to come true.

But I’ve noticed that the word “wait” appears in scripture more than once, and it’s not really bad news -- it just requires patience. Let’s face it: sometimes, like it or not, we’re in a season of waiting.

So, if you don’t know what to do, or things just aren’t happening fast enough for you, you’re in a season of preparation or waiting, let me encourage you with this today: get the most out of the time that you can. Yes, right now, today. Just go ahead and enjoy your current season. It won’t last forever, I promise!

I think too often we set our sights on a goal for our lives and we push, push, push until we get there, without enjoying the journey. If that’s you, here are three things to remember:

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How to Get to the Next Level

I have good news for you today: God wants to promote you! He wants you to grow, to increase, to move forward so you can get to the next level in your life. That’s totally His plan for you.

How is that going to happen?

Well, here’s the deal: God’s method of promotion is, and always has been, faithfulness. And let’s face it, that’s on us. We decide how faithful we are.

How bad do you want the next level? How far do you want to go? Ummm….how faithful do you want to be?

God’s looking for people who can be trusted to stick with it through hard times, with a humble, teachable attitude. He’s looking for people who will get the job done and not quit in the middle of it. More than talent, charisma, or good looks, God is looking for faithfulness.

So if you’ve been seeking God about a certain direction or decision and you just aren’t getting a definite answer, go ahead and be faithful where you are until you know for sure. Here’s how:

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Cut the Chain, Let Go of the Pain!

If you’ve been alive longer than about 15 minutes, someone has probably hurt you or done you wrong. When that happens to any of us, we all have a choice – hold onto the hurt, or let it go and forgive.

Forgiving isn’t always easy, but holding onto hurt is like attaching a ball and chain to your ankle. Every time you try to run your race, that ball bangs against your leg, hindering your progress and causing you pain. It’s unforgiveness, plain and simple, and it affects every area of your life and steals your joy. It’s bondage!

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  

I truly believe that, among other things, unforgiveness is one of those weights and yes, one of those sins. Holding onto hurt weighs you down!

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4 Keys to Keep Your Faith During College

It’s that time of year, when Christian kids all over the country start classes at college. If that’s you, or someone you know, then read on.

College brings momentous changes in life and exciting opportunities. It’s a time when many young people are away from their parents for the first time in their lives. In the college atmosphere, there are all sorts of temptations and distractions that can way-lay a Christian.

Here’s the deal: you'll only be in college for a while, but you're setting a course for the rest of your life. Can you keep your faith? I believe you can. Here are 4 keys that can help you make right decisions and lead a godly life in college:

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I Forgive You, But You Don't Deserve It!

"I forgive you, but you don't deserve it!" Have you ever said that?

I think we Christians realize we should forgive, and we’ll even give it lip service, but really, are we sometimes thinking of forgiveness as an option?

If we’re honest, we have to admit we are. We’ll forgive someone if they’re really sorry or if they deserve it. But here’s what I’ve learned: forgiving and deserving don’t have anything to do with each other!

In fact, forgiveness doesn’t have anything at all to do with the person we’re forgiving.

I know, that’s sort of a crazy thought, but it’s freeing, too. It means you can forgive and go free no matter what the other person has done.

How in the world can we do that, even when the person who hurt us clearly doesn’t deserve to be forgiven?

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3 Things to Remember When Someone Hurts You

If you’ve been alive longer than 15 minutes, someone has probably hurt you, or ticked you off. Maybe they meant to, maybe they didn’t – the hurt and the anger is still real.

We all have choices to make when someone hurts us. And it probably won’t surprise you to learn that God has a way to set you free from the hurt! While it’s inevitable that we will all get hurt during our lifetime, it’s not okay to stay hurt. God wants you to go free.

And the way you can do that is through forgiveness. Because forgiveness is freedom! Here are three things to remember when someone hurts you:

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How Could God Let This Happen?

Let’s just be honest. Some of us are mad at God.

When something bad has happened, or something didn’t happen the way we wanted or expected, it’s easy to blame God. It’s easy to say things like, “How could God let this happen? Where was God in all of this? I prayed but he didn’t answer.”

But I’m here to tell you God is not your enemy. All of his intentions and actions toward you are always good and never bad. First John 1:5 says that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all,” and James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

So what can you do when you’re feeling bewildered or mad at God?

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3 Reasons I Refuse To Hold a Grudge

Here’s the question I’m asking myself today: “Would I like to have raw sewage running through my living room?”

The answer to that question is a no-brainer, right? Of course I wouldn’t! Yuck! On so many levels!

But that’s just about what it looks like in the spirit if I decide to hold a grudge instead of forgive.  

Because forgiveness is how God deals with mankind. He’s not a grudge-holder. He is a forgiving father. Since you are his child, you should (and can!) also be a forgiver. It’s for your ultimate benefit. Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die; it’s not hurting the one you’re holding a grudge against, it’s hurting you. Here are 3 reasons I refuse to hold a grudge:

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How to Overcome the Hurts in Your Life

Have you been hurt?

I think we could all say “yes” to that! And really, we know we should forgive those who have hurt us, but maybe you’ve tried to forgive and you just couldn’t.

Maybe you thought you forgave, but what happened just keeps coming back, and it feels so raw and painful, you wonder if you’ve failed in the forgiveness department. Maybe you know you should forgive, but you’re just plain mad, and you don’t want to forgive at all.

Or maybe you’ve forgiven the same person again and again, and you don’t want to do it anymore.

First, let me say I’m so sorry you’ve been hurt. I know your pain is real. You may think, “No one understands what I’ve gone through” or “How can I forgive the horrible things I’ve endured, the emotional, mental, or physical scars I wear every day?”

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I Was Amazed by God's Answer for This Woman

I first met Barbara when she came to church on a Sunday morning.

She came not long after my husband, the founding pastor, had unexpectedly died, and I had taken over his job pastoring the church, so I was pretty new at it. (You can read more about that story in my book, Why God Why? What To Do When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.)

Barbara caught my eye because she seemed so unhappy and downtrodden. When I greeted her after service, she looked down as I shook her hand. She murmured “thank you,” then walked toward the parking lot.

It wasn’t until her third Sunday that I finally managed to catch her for a quick conversation, and was able to ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

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When You Disagree With Your Leader

We all have leaders in one form or another – they’re bosses or pastors or teachers or parents or public figures, etc. And the chances of agreeing with our leaders 100% of the time is zero. I know I’ve disagreed with my leader before – I’m sure you have too. 

When I was a pastor, I used to tell my congregation, “If you haven’t disagreed with me yet, you just haven’t been here long enough.”  Because nobody agrees with anyone else all the time – even if we love them (and especially if we don’t).  

So…what should we do when we disagree?  We live in a society that has taught us to rant when we disagree with someone or something. And our human nature is to tell people (loudly and clearly) when we disagree, in an effort to find people to take our side. But most of the time that just inflames the situation – it doesn’t solve anything. And it’s not God’s way.

Wait a minute – you mean God cares about this? I think so. I think He knew we humans would disagree with each other, and gave instruction for when it happens. Does the Bible have something to say about what to do when we disagree with our leader?

Yes, I believe it does. Here are some things to think about...

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Someone Is Praying for You

I once heard a story from a missionary who had been ministering in a foreign country many years ago. In those days he and his ministry team traveled mostly by donkey along very rugged trails to remote villages in the mountains, where most of the indigenous people had never heard the gospel or even seen a white person.

This team had made an agreement with one another that if any of them got sick or were unable to travel for any reason, they would go on without the person who had fallen ill. They felt it was that important to reach this region with the good news.

Well, one day this missionary got very sick….

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Get Encouraged and Stay Encouraged!

Have you ever been discouraged? I think we all have been at one time or another. You might even be discouraged right now.

Well, I want to help you. I’ve been discouraged and I’ve been encouraged, and I’ve found out that being encouraged is better! God doesn’t want you to be discouraged.   

Let’s face it, when you’re discouraged you’re not going to rise up in faith and conquer the enemy. You’re not going to help anyone. No, you probably feel like going back to bed and pulling the covers over your head!

I don’t think we’ve properly understood the importance of being encouraged. When you’re encouraged, you feel strong. You make things happen. You believe God. And you reach out to help and bless others. Being encouraged is more vital than we’ve thought!

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Encourage Your Child's Gifts

Here’s something I’ve learned in life: everyone is good at something. And no is good at everything! We all have giftings and strengths, and we all have weaknesses.

The same is true for your children. Just like everyone else in the human race, they aren’t good at everything. But they are good at something!

Maybe your child struggles in school or in social situations, but they’re great at running or putting things together. Rather than focusing on the things they don’t do well, understand that there is something they’re good at, and help them develop it.

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