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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Live The Dream

This is one of those posts for me that, even as I type this sentence, I'm not really sure what I'm going to say. This is one of those times when I am pumping away at the top of the well in order to bring what's deep inside to the surface. There is something churning inside of me, and I'm not sure precisely what it is.

I am filled with a certain sense of anticipation. I don't know how to describe this feeling. I am not a good golfer, but there are times when I'm standing over a putt of some significant distance where I just have this feeling it's going to go in before I even hit the ball. That's sort of what I'm feeling right now about where I am in life. I simply feel like I'm on the cusp of something special.

I'm finding a particular sense of purpose in the things I'm doing in my life. That's not to say that I haven't had purpose before. I just feel an increasing measure of purpose these days. I feel a sense of anticipation in that something that I will do today is going to bear great significance. That may be in my own life, or that of someone else. 

Perhaps, both. 

In any case, there is a palpable expectancy in my heart. I don't know that I'm writing this thinking that it may inspire you, or if I'm writing it to mark the day that I put these thoughts into something tangible. 

Perhaps both.

I have dreams. If I am to be honest with myself, I must admit that I haven't necessarily believed I deserved to experience my dreams in real life. But I feel a challenge in my heart that the dreams are not for self importance or attention, but because if they were to come to fruition, God would be evident and glorified exponentially beyond what I've personally experienced up to this point.

There is an urgency in my heart. This urgency does not mean I need to hurry, but instead, to not waste a moment. I need to put action to my dreams. I need to believe that God not only put the dreams in my heart, but He has equipped me to make them happen and live them. I need to stop believing the lie that the things I long for are out of my league. Instead, I have to accept that the dreams I have are only within my reach if I stand upon God's word and His promises.

I would be remiss if I didn't challenge you to look within yourself to tap into that thing that burns in your heart. That dream you have that you know would fuel your life to a new level. Maybe you've been afraid to pursue it. Maybe you feel unqualified. Maybe you've been intimidated. Maybe you listened to someone who said it wasn't possible and you were out of your mind for thinking it.

Those thoughts need to die. What is your dream? What is that thing God planted beneath the surface that is desperately needing to burst through?


If not now, when?

It's time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lie of the Tiger

Despite the title, this isn't one of those trendy 'bash Tiger Woods' articles. That's too easy, and frankly, who among us is deserving to throw stones? What I want to focus on is one very transparent paragraph Tiger shared in his worldwide apology last Friday morning. I don't care whether you think his apology was sincere or not. What he shared was absolutely the right thing to say if one were to be completely honest with themselves, much less the entire world.
"I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them."

Tiger Woods, perhaps the most famous, most wealthy and most recognized human alive is powerless to temptation. As I addressed in my post last week about the alluring nature of temptation, it always comes in a harmless and attractive package. But once you open the door to it, there are disastrous consequences. Once you give in to it, you are completely at its mercy. How much money do you think Tiger Woods has paid others to keep his secrets? It's all over the news and the subject of books the depth of deception former Presidential candidate John Edwards went to keep his ugly behavior from a public who was seriously considering making him the most powerful man in the world. The number of people involved to keep the lies away from the media and the public is astounding. The lives these men controlled, compromised and stressed to the breaking point is unconscionable.

Tiger Woods' admission that he felt the rules didn't apply to him was his Kryptonite. He has been forced to face that no matter how much money he has, no matter how big his house, no matter how famous, no matter how beautiful his wife, no matter how many cars he has...there is no such thing as enough. His addiction isn't sex. He has a lust for more.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The REAL Law of Attraction

Last Monday, I wrote a post expressing my thoughts relating to the so-called "Law of Attraction". Since then, I've still been thinking about this particular concept. I have a couple more thoughts I'd like to add. 

The first is in response to a reply to my original post by someone who said a particular "minister" taught that, "God wants us to have prosperity and abundance". My immediate thought was that God is infinitely less interested in our material prosperity than He is our spiritual condition. My thoughts then deepened to consider the question, "prosperity and abundance as compared to whom?" In other words, compared to our peers in our community, or perhaps with those in third world countries who live in mud huts and have to hunt for their food?

We live in such material abundance, it's embarrassing to complain. It's embarrassing that people who profess to be Christian continue to teach that God wants us to have lots of money and possessions as if it's some sort of sign of spiritual maturity. When I responded to the reply to which I referred earlier, I was immediately reminded of the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19. He considered himself a morally upright man. But Jesus challenged him when He went straight to what the man truly treasured. He told the man to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, then follow Jesus. The man ended up turning away because "he had great wealth." As Jesus was sharing this story with His disciples, he said this in verses 23 and 24, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." This is not because rich people are evil. This is because most people with abundance are not willing to sacrifice all they've acquired if it was asked of them.

I know many affluent Christians. Here's the thing. God isn't against us having wealth. But not all of us can be trusted with it. Tomorrow I'll go into this point further, so for now, I'll just leave it at that.

In closing this post, I want to leave you with the REAL law of attraction. Nothing more needs to be said beyond what I'm about to share with you. It is the definitive answer to this concept of life.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. 

~James 4:8 

 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Words In Season

Yesterday morning, I was having a bit of a tough day personally. Some words were directed to me which hurt. I have to admit, I can be a sensitive guy when it comes to wanting to please people. I know it's impossible to please everyone all the time. But if there is a way to do it, I'm going to try and find it. Don't get me wrong. There have been plenty of times I've had to make unpopular decisions, but in those times, the strength of my convictions means standing by those decisions.

God knows when we need encouragement. Yesterday, I received a phone call in the late morning which couldn't have been timed more perfectly. I was in my car, moon roof open as I enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and breeze. I felt a little wounded, but I was in the process of putting that behind me. Suddenly, my phone rang. My caller ID told me who it was, but I don't recall ever getting a call from them before. The call was from a person who wanted to compliment me on the worship in the Man Cave Wednesday night. The call took all of two or three minutes, but it meant the world to me. It was just a simple story about a man who was there the other night and had a special enough experience that they felt I should know about it. 

There is something very profound about a word in season. In other words, when someone shares with you the right message at the right time. It can be words of encouragement, affirmation, words of correction, words of advice...you name it. This seasoned word encouraged me that, A) I'm not entirely messed up, and B) God is touching the hearts of men through me. 

I needed that.

Today, maybe you're the messenger God wants to use to encourage someone who needs it. Don't ignore that still small voice that spoke someone's name into your heart. Even if they're not going through a crisis, you will bless them greatly just knowing you notice their effort, and that you appreciate them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Living With An 'All In' Faith

Last night, within the span of about 30 minutes, I had conversations with two different people who used the phrase "all in". These were completely different conversations, and completely different topics. This phrase has become particularly popular in recent years as television poker has become so prevalent. The phrase 'all in' means that you push every chip you have accumulated to the center of the table as your bet. It's all or nothing. If you win, you stay alive. If you lose, you're done.

These words just rang in my head when I heard them come from these different people. It's not that they're so profound, but because I felt that the phrase best described the attitude we need to have as Christians if we expect to grow in our faith. I know that in my life, I have to have the attitude of 'all in'. There is no half way. There is no sense holding anything back. I can't expect the full benefit of what God has for me if I don't give Him everything, keeping some of it for myself.

I have to take inventory and look at the elements in my life where I am only partly in. Maybe in some cases, I'm not in at all. All in for me means giving it all to God. I need to trust Him with everything. He knows my heart. He knows my desires. He knows the gifts He has given me. He knows what fuels my passion. He knows the plans He has for my future.


No matter what happens around me, I know that I've got the Creator of the ends of the earth on my side.

That is an unbeatable hand!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Breaking the Law of Attraction

This might be a bit of a controversial topic, but my passion is stirred, and this is one of the ways I express my passion. This post isn't meant to exclude anyone, but it is especially pointed to those who consider themselves Christian. 

Since sin was introduced to man in Genesis 3, we humans have been preyed upon with deception. The hook isn't baited with something that won't attract us. The serpent lured Eve by appealing to her instinct to have more than she was given by God. 

Temptation is never ugly when we look at it initially. I remember when I stepped into mainland China for the first time. As I walked out of the train station and down the street, I saw these beautiful, brightly colored signs which inspired a happy feeling. But in the gaps between the signs, you could look to see that behind them were dilapidated buildings. The signs were there to hide and distract from the ugly truth which stood behind them. Just like these signs, temptation inspires good feelings, but behind them is a world of ugliness. 

Sometimes deception comes disguised as some form of godliness. That's what it looks like from the outside, anyway. There have been various forms of the current philosophy of the "Laws of Attraction". This crept into the church long ago in the so-called "Positive Confession" movement. It's also been known as the "Word of Faith", "Prosperity Doctrine", "Name It and Claim It", and the ever popular, "Blab It and Grab It". In any form, it is about the idea that if we really want something, and we believe that it is ours, it is! Even if it hasn't yet come to pass, it's a done deal. Now we have self-help gurus making fortunes off the "Eves" of this age with the so-called Law of Attraction.

Let me just say that any theology or "secret" that puts man at the center isn't of God. Christianity and all its benefits aren't about us, it's about God. Sure, we benefit in ways that can't be measured, but even so, it's not about us. As humans, we have a very selfish instinct. We seek out formulas which will make our lives more comfortable. Just as bubblewrap is cushy and fun, we want our lives to be insulated by a nice, comfortable concept for living. We convince ourselves that we should be able to will ourselves to more good events in life, while shrouding ourselves from things ranging from the inconvenient to the tragic.

The Gospel of Jesus is anything but comfortable. There is nothing simple and easy about the Christian life. If it were as simple as some Jedi mind trick to the cosmos that if we simply send out positive energy, good things will be drawn to us like static cling, that would completely nullify what Jesus did with His life, death and His resurrection. God did not send His son so that life would be easy for us. He is not a genie in a lamp. The Christian life is not for the faint of heart.

The fact that the world has devised a "secret" that shadows a miracle of God as promised to His people is nothing new. In Exodus 7, Moses and his brother Aaron were standing before Pharaoh trying to convince him to do as the Lord commanded in letting the Israelites free from slavery. In order to get Pharaoh's attention, the Lord instructed Moses and Aaron to do something. 

"Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12 Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs."  

Mimicking God's miracles is nothing new. However, as this example clearly demonstrates, the real thing, the truth will swallow up the imitation every time.

For those who call themselves Christians, it is about denying ourselves and living for the purpose of glorifying God. It is about submitting ourselves to His will. Jesus Himself uttered the words, "not my will, but Yours be done". Pretty bad things happened to Jesus following those words. Were they the result of negative vibrations?

They were the result of our sin, and God loved us so much that He endured horrific atrocities. 


If you're a parent, you don't give your children everything they want, even when they're being sweet and obedient. You probably reward them for their good behavior, but that's what they're supposed to do in the first place. If you gave them whatever they wanted, they'd have ice cream for dinner. You'd be broke buying them everything they want. They'd never be home because they'd abuse the independence given to them in being able to do what they want, when they want. Sometimes God says no to us. When you say no to your kids, you don't want them to pitch a fit like spoiled brats. You want them to respect your authority and accept your decision because you see the big picture of what is best for them and their development.


We must submit our will to God's. When the bible says in Psalm 37:4 that we should delight in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our heart, it doesn't mean that if we are happy Christians with a positive attitude that we're going to get nothing but green lights and great parking spots. It means that when we are in proper fellowship with God, His desires for us will become ours. He will birth His desires in our hearts which will please Him, and it will also bring us great fulfillment. God loves to lavish us with great gifts, but He knows what is truly in our best interest. He knows what we can handle and be trusted with.


Many Christians like to quote Psalm 37:4 and use it as an argument for material prosperity. However, they tend to overlook verses 5-7 which says:

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
       trust in him and he will do this:
 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
       the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
 7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
       do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
       when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Commit, trust and wait. Not in your "vibrations", but in God. When you do, it doesn't say you'll have good things and good times. It says your righteousness will shine. Lots of bad things happened to Job, but He trusted in God. He never turned his back on God, even when his wife and friends suggested he should. In remaining faithful and devoted to God, his righteousness shined, and he was validated by God.

Verse 7 tells us to submit ourselves to God's timing and not to covet what others have as they go about their schemes and formulas. Their rewards are temporal. 

Ours are eternal. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tough Memories

This past weekend marked the one year anniversary of the official word of my mom's cancer and its severity. I wasn't trying to remember it. In fact, I had to go back and look to confirm it because I thought to myself it was around this time last year. Turned out it was exactly this time last year. 

I found myself feeling pretty melancholy this weekend. I didn't expect it, but I was. Memories are really powerful. They're not only mental, but emotional. I was transported back to my mom's hospital room when the word came. I could picture her. I could remember the awful feeling in my gut when the news was delivered. I remember all the thoughts that rolled through my mind as what I've only seen happen to others was now happening in my family. 

My mom lived another five weeks after we received word. I expect that the next month or so will be flooded with bittersweet memories. I may not see some of them coming. Others will be as predictable as the sunrise.

Today is Monday. It's a new week, and life moves on. 

I'm looking forward to what God has in store. I don't know what it is, but I'm confident that I am not alone. There are times when I sure feel alone, but God is faithful to remind me that I'm anything but. I had a special time with very dear friends last Thursday. Yesterday was a fantastic day at church. I received words of comfort and care during the weekend. Wednesday night is Man Cave where I'll get to lead worship before hundreds of men, doing what I love doing. This week, I'll spend time right here sharing my life lessons.

Life moves forward. Memories can paralyze us when we dwell on them. They can also propel us through the present and into the future. I spent a day this weekend in solitude thinking about things. Now it's time to move forward. Tough days are ahead, but dotting the road are gifts from God. It would be easy to dwell on what I don't have, but I will fight the urge and choose instead to focus on the fact that I am a friend of God, and He calls me friend!


I do not expect that I'm the only one with a heavy heart. There is a time for solemnity. There is an appropriate time to sit in quiet remembrance. But it's important to continue to live. It's important to use this day of life which has been gracefully extended to us. 

This is the day the LORD has made;
       let us rejoice and be glad in it.  
~Psalm 118:24

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Olympic Inspiration

The Winter Olympics start tomorrow, and you can bet I'll be tuned in. I enjoy the competition and all, but I am a huge sucker for the human interest stories that always come to the surface. One I remember very well was the story of speed skater Dan Jansen. During the 1988 games, Jansen was set to compete in two events, and favored to win the gold medals in each. The morning of his first race, he received a phone call from home that his sister Jane, who had inspired him to get into speed skating when he was a boy, had died from leukemia. Later that evening, Jansen, with the heaviest of hearts, showed up and competed in the 500 meter race. Unfortunately, he fell and failed to qualify for a medal. I remember how much I was pulling for him that night. The look on his face was one I'll never forget. You see so many Olympians overwhelmed with emotion when bad things happen. But his heartache went far deeper.

A couple days later, Jansen returned to the track for the 1,000 meters. Again, he fell. He left the 1988 games with no medals. Heck, he wasn't even able to complete a race. Jansen had just won the World Championships in his races just the week before. He was peaking at just the right time.

Olympic athletes dedicate years and years of training, travel, injuries, triumph and disappointment in an endless pursuit of excellence they hope will lead to an Olympic gold medal. The only reason Jansen stayed at the Games to compete was to honor his sister's memory. His head and heart weren't in it. I remember how unified people were, from all over the world, in hopes he would win a gold medal for his sister.

Four years later, in Albertville, France, Jansen returned as the reigning world champion. Again, he was favored to win his races, but again, he left with no medals. Pressure sure is a crazy thing. 

In his final Olympics, in 1994 in Norway, Jansen would have one more chance at the prize. His first race was in the 500 meters. He held the world record, but finished in eighth place. He had only one race left in his Olympic career which started in 1984. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that it just wasn't meant to be for Jansen. He was admired by everyone for his tenacity, and pitied for the results. But in his final Olympic race, Jansen not only won the gold medal, but set a world record. Fittingly, Jansen dedicated his gold medal to his sister, Jane, who died six years earlier.

I love stories of people overcoming adversity to reach, and even surpass their goals with perseverance and tenacity. In some cases, like Jansen, winning a gold medal took on a whole new significance due to the tragic death of his sister. It would be hard to imagine the triumph would have been as sweet had it not been for the difficulties he had to endure, and the beauty of honoring the one who inspired him. Sometimes, the crowning moment isn't in getting a medal, but by overcoming the obstacles which made the goal an improbable dream.

I get inspired by such stories. I can't wait to see what unfolds over the next two weeks in Vancouver.

Do you have memories from the Olympics that have inspired you? Please share them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Extreme Makeover: God Edition

This week, Facebook is rolling out a change in their user interface, (UI). It always cracks me up when you have an interactive site such as Facebook when a change is implemented. Everybody is griping for all to see. I can't think of a single time when the general tone of a change has been positive. In fact, it really aggravates many people.

As humans, we settle into a routine. The last time Facebook changed their UI, people complained, started groups and petitions to complain and try to strong arm the powers that be to change it back to the old look. Several months go by, another change. Then, everyone clamors to go back to the look that once inspired them to gather by the thousands with their pitchforks and torches to storm the Facebook castle.

Isn't this typical of human behavior? We are so resistant to change. Why? It requires us to adapt. We'd much rather adapt on our own terms. Think about this. Facebook is absolutely free. The services they offer haven't changed one bit. The only difference is the visual layout. When people have gotten so accustomed to looking in the lower right corner to see if they have notifications, they have to retrain their brain to look to the top left. 

Curses!

Really? I mean, there are other changes, but really, no one's life is going to be affected in any way as a result. For now, everyone is in an uproar. The angry mobs are dusting off the pitchforks and torches from the last time. The groups and petitions are being organized as you read this.

Could you imagine if any real significant areas of our lives changed as suddenly as a social media website? Imagine if we looked exactly the same for ten years. You don't age a day in that time. Then one morning you look in the mirror, and your appearance has corrected itself to show your current age. That would be a harsh wake-me-up, wouldn't it?

Some changes in our lives are subtle and virtually unnoticeable. Other changes are radical and easy to recognize. I don't know about you, but more often than I care to admit, I've been in desperate need for a Divine Makeover. They're not easy, let me tell you. But the end result is pretty exciting, and people will notice. What is awesome about divine makeovers is that other people's lives are changed. When you surrender yourself to accept the design change God has for you, you won't be able to keep from touching and affecting the lives of people around you. 

Don't resist change. Take some time today, tomorrow...heck, everyday, and make yourself available for a divine makeover. Maybe it's something subtle that only you and God will notice. But maybe it's something that will change you, and change your world.   

Monday, February 8, 2010

Confessions of a Homebody

I have to admit, I do enjoy quiet time at home. That doesn't mean I'm agoraphobic or anything. I do enjoy going out and doing things, but I also enjoy the serenity of home. There is a peace, a comfort, even a safety in being at home. More than anything, I'm in control of my environment at home. 

When you're out, you have to deal with people who seem to have forgotten they share the world with others. They think that because their turn signal is on, they have a Constitutional right to just merge into your lane even if you're currently occupying the very space into which they're moving.  Or at the grocery store. What happened to honoring personal space? I feel as if I should ask them to back off so I don't accidentally burden them with having to see my debit card's PIN as I'm checking out. And when did it become socially acceptable for people to subject everyone within earshot to their profanity? I mean, didn't it used to be embarrassing to talk like that in public, especially when around children?

I've had a few random conversations with people recently which I found worthy of thought. There's a guy who runs a barbeque joint about a mile from me. He has all kinds of Christian stickers, scriptures and quotes stamped all over his place, so I asked him what church he goes to. He told me he doesn't believe he has to go to church. He had a well-rehearsed monologue saying why he feels the way he does, but the more he spoke, the more he peeled back the layers to the real reason. He's in an interracial marriage, and he claims they've had trouble finding a church that would accept them. 


Bingo.


I've had several conversations with people like this man over the years. Despite their different experiences, they've all said the very same thing, almost verbatim. "I don't have to go to church to be a Christian." Technically, that's true. However, here's the thing. In each of these people, their reasoning always leaves a trail of bread crumbs that leads directly to some unresolved hurt. They have stories of feeling betrayed. Feelings of not being accepted. They have felt that way for years. And guess what. Their Homebody Church hasn't challenged them to forgive. Their Homebody Church hasn't challenged them to let go of their hurts. Their Homebody Church hasn't challenged them to accept others as they wish others would accept them. Instead, their Homebody Church has stunted their growth and maturity. They still have chips on their shoulders.

Like oblivious drivers on the road, like invasive knuckleheads in the store, people are people. Yes, even in church. I had a bad experience in a church within the first year of my decision to become a Christian. I was hurt badly. But even then, as an 18 year old in my first church, immature in every sense of the word, I was able to distinguish between God and His people. I remember praying these very words:


"God, you're cool. But your people suck."

What these words lacked in eloquence, they made up for in honesty. Yes, I've been there. I could have gone the route of making my own church the way I've set up a home office for my business. But I can honestly say that despite the difficulties I've experienced with some people, I have grown as a man and as a Christian by being faithful in my attendance. Even on the days when I absolutely didn't want to interact with anyone, I'd still attend. I'd slip in and slip out without dealing with anyone. But God was faithful to meet me there. 
  • Would He still love me if I had stayed home? Absolutely.  
  • Would I have loved Him if I had stayed home? No question.  
  • Would I still have a chip on my shoulder and judgment in my heart if I stayed home? Without a doubt.  
  • Is there much I would have missed out on in my own spiritual and social development in applying God's word to every facet of my life? I can't say yes emphatically enough.


Hebrews 10:24-25 says this, "24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Yes, there are times we're genuinely hurt. Sometimes, others really do us wrong. Other times, it very well may be us to have done wrong and hurt people. There comes a time when we have to grow up and deal with it. Yesterday was the Super Bowl. I'm reminded of one of my favorite football players of all time, Ronnie Lott. In a very important game against the arch rival Dallas Cowboys, Lott's pinky finger on his left hand was mangled in a play. I'll spare you the gory details. You can Google it if you want. But suffice it to say that no one would have questioned his toughness had he come out of the game and even missed future weeks due to his gruesome injury. Instead, he taped what was left of his pinky to his ring finger, and played not only the rest of the game, but the rest of the season in excruciating pain. 

Sometimes we just need to play hurt. That may sound insensitive, but it's a fact of life. 

We need each other. We even need the difficult experiences brought on by people who rub us the wrong way. We need to learn how to coexist with all kinds of people. We need to learn how to forgive. We need to learn how to let go of the bitterness. We need to humble ourselves and not judge everyone as guilty and inferior because we've been hurt. It is no excuse to turn your back on attending church. 

Can you still be considered a Christian if you don't go to church. Yeah. But just like the person who chooses to stay home and never leave their house in order to insulate themselves from any bad things which could happen if they ventured out, I have to question the quality of your Christian life when you seclude yourself from God's family. Besides, you must know the truth of where the most injuries and deaths by accident occur. The safe route is actually the most dangerous.







Friday, February 5, 2010

The Power and Impotence of Words

I'm a bit of a political observer. I'm not a junkie, but I do enjoy talk radio and the cable news channels. Let me review some recent headlines I've noticed to help illustrate my point. One headline I saw online yesterday said, "Obama's words fail to bridge health care divide." Another story was about the President's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel's use of the word "retarded" when criticizing people during a strategy meeting last August.

In these stories, we see how powerful and how empty words can be. 

This post is not about politics. It's about how words can reveal, and even betray what is in our hearts. It is also to illustrate that words carry little weight if they can't be backed up by action and our character. 

Mel Gibson's first movie since his infamous drunken tirade is now out in theaters. While intoxicated nearly four years ago, Gibson made many sexist and anti Semitic comments which made the news. In an instant, a reputation which he had cultivated for years was significantly, and possibly forever damaged. Is it possible that what is buried deep in a person's character can be revealed in a moment of intoxicated rage? I say yes.


Many politicians, radio and television personalities, athletes and movie stars have had their careers, and even their families ruined in light of things they have said. It's not that they chose their words poorly as much as the things they said revealed an ugliness in their character. 


In other cases, people often say things they can't back up. There are many people who are very good with their words. They can mesmerize audiences with eloquence. They can charm people into following them off cliffs, or motivate them to run through walls. So many cults have formed around very charming and eloquent leaders. Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite and David Koresh led thousands of people to their deaths. Many of the deceived were very intelligent, educated people. Charles Manson was a songwriter who was gifted in the ways of charming people with words. He convinced a small but devoted group of followers that if they followed him to an underground city of gold, they would be saved from a racial Armageddon.

In each of these notable cases, the leaders never were able to live up to their words. Whether they claimed to be Christ incarnate, or some other kind of messiah, they were never able to back up their words. 

The bible says in Luke 6:45, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases this verse this way, "It's who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds."

If you rely on words to convince others that you're a good person, you're going about it all wrong. The people I have admired through my life have all been very humble people who never sought attention. Instead, they took great pleasure in serving and promoting others. 

Who we are at our core is what will define us. Our actions and our words will reveal who we are. The question is, will the revelation be a blessing, or a betrayal?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Self Promotion

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs. The things that are available to us these days to keep us connected, to share our thoughts, and to promote ourselves. Now don't get me wrong. I participate in each one of these to one degree or another. It's just that there are times when I'm more keenly aware of the purpose of these services to feed our need for attention. 

I've never considered myself what I call a "HEY, LOOK AT ME" person. That personality is exactly the kind that gets under my skin quicker than any. You know the type. I don't want to draw attention to a beer commercial, but if you've seen the ones with the "Too Light, Too Heavy" campaign, you might now what I'm talking about. They're pretty funny. One such ad compares a guy arriving through a gate at a an outdoor barbeque party and meekly saying, "hey everybody." Of course, no one notices. This is then juxtaposed with his "too heavy" arrival as a giant monster truck, with a giant papier mache head in his image on top, mows down the entire fence. Then, a twenty foot "tongue" unrolls from the mouth like a red carpet as the body of the truck lifts, and the man emerges from inside the monstrosity shouting, "HEY EVERYBODY! WOOOOOO!"

Yeah, I'm definitely not one of those guys. I live in kind of a world of dichotomy. On one hand, I'm introverted and hate attention, and on the other hand, I sing publicly and write out my private thoughts and experiences on ye olde world wide web. 

Yeah. I know.

I have become a bit more comfortable in "promoting" my blog posts. It wasn't easy. It's against my nature. But a passion of mine is encouraging and inspiring people to pursue their goals and dreams. When I write, it's equal parts self discovery and hope that someone will be able to relate and find encouragement. I do not write to draw attention to myself. I have received so many wonderfully encouraging comments about my writing, for which I'm humbled and blessed. But I never want to be guilty of doing this for the atta boys. I want to draw attention to the Giver of gifts. I want to illuminate that we all have an innate desire to succeed in life. But success isn't measured by the square footage of your home and the Blue Book value of your cars. 

In my life, I have defined success as doing my best to promote God with the gifts He has given me. Those gifts don't always come in the form of singing or writing. In fact, they make up an extremely minimal percentage of my life's activity. Among my greatest gifts were the parents who raised me, and the country in which I was raised. I am a reflection of these gifts, and I'm profoundly grateful. The fact that I am free to write these words without fear that my door will be broken down for violating some decree by a maniacal dictator is something many in today's world cannot enjoy. 

With all this being said, let it be understood that I never want to be guilty of self promotion. I never want to be guilty of abandoning the message of hope and encouragement, and stray into the murky and lifeless waters of drawing attention to myself. We all possess talents and abilities in greater measure than the average person. God delights in giving gifts to us. I'm blessed that among the gifts He has given me, I have received compliments. I'm human, after all. You have encouraged me to keep doing what I do. You've encouraged me to push through the obstacles and difficulties. I pray that in some way, I reciprocate not only what God has given me, but what you have given me. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Blurred Vision

You know, I've never expected life to be easy. I guess I just hope that at some point it will lighten up a little. I remind myself that my problems are so minor in the big picture of life. I remind myself of the tremendous blessings which have surrounded me throughout my life. But it seems like there's always one fire burning at any given time. OK, I expect that. But what frustrates me is when fires flare up in places where you think they really shouldn't.

Now that I've pigged out on a heaping bowl of Whiney Flakes, it's time to get fortified with some Vita-Truth. When I was thinking about all of this, a passage of scripture came to my mind, so I went back to read it. After reading it, I felt better. God's word is good that way. It serves to calibrate every aspect of who I am. There are a lot of moving parts in there, so calibration is key. I read the passage, then took it a step further by reading it as written in The Message. I want to share it with you now. This is Eugene Peterson's interpretation of Philippians 3:14-16.

12-14I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.
 15-16So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it. 

 Wow. Blurred vision. That really spoke to me. In a few weeks, I'll recognize yet another birthday. This past year has introduced me to the not-so-wonderful experience of having to hold reading material further and further from my age-defected eyes. I noticed while in church one day that I was fine reading and taking notes, but as soon as I looked up to see the pastor on stage, it would take my eyes 5-10 seconds to focus. Sometimes, this same phenomenon happens in my life. I find myself focusing on the details of my day, and when I do finally look up to take a look at God, it takes me time to get Him into focus. 


This passage simplifies things quite nicely. Stay focused on the goal. If I don't get distracted with the inevitable obstacles, I'll be fine. If I keep my eyes on Jesus and all that He has for me, and and not the nattering nabobs of negativism, my sight will be clear and singular. 


It's Monday morning. All the events of the coming week lie ahead of us. Let's strive to keep our eyes focused on The Goal. Now that we're on the right track, "let's stay on it!"