clock-people-pixabay

There are two things about human nature that are universal. We want any pain to cease immediately. And if we do something right, we want to be rewarded immediately

After all, that’s how we train our animals. Do this and there is immediate gratification.

In our dogs’ case, that equals food, pleasure.

When it comes to our piety, our faith & devotion, we tend to feel as if we should get some kind of hall pass on pain. After all, doesn’t God want us to be happy? I want my pets to be happy. But then I’m not trying to build character into my dogs.

Can you imagine a world in which God rewarded piety immediately? Sports would be non-existent. Because you can’t have two winners at the end of a game. What if both teams held a Bible study and prayed before a game? God would be in a pickle.

Ultimately we would become selfish and slaves to all of our prurient interests.

But it’s still a hard concept to shake. When God sets out to be build character in us, He includes suffering.

To be clear there is nothing wrong with asking God to remove the pain in your life. And we should expect God to bless our spirituality. That is pretty much the theme of Proverbs.

Let’s just not put God on a timetable. Perhaps a better solution is to make Proverbs 3:5-6 a daily reality:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths (ESV).

  

Let’s trust God to decide when it’s time to reward our piety.

others-pixabayLet’s be honest. We all need someone in our lives who believes in us. Actually it could make all the difference.

John Lynch is a former NFL football player. But let’s start at the beginning of his story.  Lynch went to Stanford University to play football as a quarterback. However, he never made it onto the field for the first two years.

After his sophomore year the coach suggested that he move to free safety, a position on the defense. But still he rarely played. He got on the field only about thirty percent of the time.

Since he was also gifted at baseball, Lynch decided to go pro and signed a contract with a professional baseball team, the Florida Marlins.

This happened at the same time Stanford got a new football coach, Bill Walsh.

Coach Walsh got wind of his decision to leave and called him into the office. Walsh had just spent hours reviewing the team’s game films and was convinced that Lynch was the best defensive player Stanford had.  That day Walsh persuaded Lynch to stick with football.

As they say, “the rest is history.” Lynch went on to play in the NFL and become a star player for many years. Of course, that doesn’t mean his path to stardom was easy.

In his second year in the pros he did not even know if he would make the team.

Once again, a new coach arrived in town and saw his potential.

John Lynch repeatedly discovered the power of others.  His rise to fame may never have happened without the influence of others, particularly those 2 coaches.

In the Bible it’s rather amazing that one day Jesus looked at a fisherman named Peter and saw incredible potential. And then He invited Peter to join His team. He became one of the 12 disciples, wrote 1 & 2 Peter, and became one of the pillars of the early church.

Later the apostle Paul met a young man, Timothy, and invited him along to participate in the ministry.  Timothy became Paul’s ministry assistant and the pastor of the church at Ephesus.

Sometimes we simply need the right people around us.  People who see potential in us and believe in us.

You can’t always control who is in your life, but you can pray that God would send the right people into your life.

So that you too can experience the power of others!

 

Man Sleeping

Sleep is a funny thing. We all need it. Yet many love to talk about how little they need. It’s as if you win some sort of medal for needing so little. Sort of like being busy. No one wants to admit a lack of busyness.

Somehow needing as little as five hours of sleep a night raises one’s value.

Or does it?

Growing up I was not allowed to sleep in. It was a huge sin to sleep until 7am. Fortunately for me I was always an early riser. Add in working in construction since the age of 16 and I was up at 4:30 or 5.  That just meant I had to go to bed earlier. As I age I still love to get up early, but I still need a good night’s sleep.

Yet the stigma of needing 7, 8, or even 9 hours of sleep still exists. Perhaps it’s time to shed that line of thinking.

Great athletes like Tom Brady goes to bed regularly at 9pm. Now stop and think about that. Sounds a little extreme. Yet Brady who has attained the highest level of an NFL quarterback wants to play as long as possible. His health routines are legendary. And today at the age of 39 he is arguably playing his best football ever. That is unheard of.

While his sleep routine is not the only part of what he does, it is an important component. One that many of us routinely overlook and devalue.

Jesus also valued sleep. His disciples even found him taking a nap in the bottom of a boat during a huge storm. You must admit, storms are very conducive to sleep!

The bottom line is we are all different. Most of us will need anywhere from 6-9 hours of sleep.

Sleep matters. It affects your productivity. And you can tell. Even if you wouldn’t admit it.

Are you getting enough sleep?

How do you feel during the day?

Maybe it’s time to get a good night’s sleep. And not feel guilty, but better!

dunking a basketball

Anyone who has ever played basketball has dreamed of dunking the ball.

But for people like me, who tend to suffer from height challenges along with reduced jumping abilities, it’s out of reach. The basket, that is. But I can jump high enough to touch the bottom of the net. Granted, that’s over a foot away from the rim. And you can’t just touch the rim, you must be able to elevate above the rim.  That’s beyond me.

So I was pretty impressed when I ran across a video of a guy who is only 5’2” dunking the basketball. That is unheard of. It’s rather incredible, really. Most people at that height would assume it was impossible.  Maybe not even try.  Obviously this guy went above and beyond expectations.  It would be so easy to be like everyone else.  To assume it couldn’t be done.  But he didn’t sell himself short, and now he amazes everyone who sees him at his game.

Let’s move outside the arena of basketball. In fact, let’s go back to a guy named Moses.

I bet you have heard of him. Did you know that he almost sold himself short? Thankfully God stepped in and made him go for it.

It all started when God showed up one day and asked Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. Most would have jumped at the opportunity. Not Moses.

He balked. Big time!

Moses’ first response was to fall back on what others thought about him.  At least his perception of it.

First, he was a “nobody.” Because of that he didn’t think anyone would listen to him or follow his leadership. He had no credentials.

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” Exodus 4:1 (ESV)

And there was more to his insecurity issues.  Apparently he didn’t have the gift of public speaking. And since leaders have to speak on occasion, he was convinced he was the wrong guy. So he “said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Exodus 4:10 (ESV) 

And then he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13 (ESV)

Now stop and think about it for a moment. You have heard of Moses because he eventually relented and did what he thought he could not do.

He did what he was not qualified to do.

He did what he thought someone else could have done better.

Thankfully Moses trusted God to use him. But what if God had allowed Moses to sell himself short? Many today consider Moses to be the greatest leader in the Old Testament.

I often wonder what Moses thought about when he went to bed at night.

Did he ever think, “I almost sold myself short.”

Perhaps a good question to ask is “Where am I selling myself short.” Maybe it’s time to go out and try to dunk that basketball.

CheckmateAs another football season is about to begin, training camps are opening up.

However, there is one star Running Back who will not be in camp.

In 2014 Ray Rice was caught on video punching his wife–fiancee at the time–in an elevator. As the video went viral, the Baltimore Ravens were essentially forced to cut him from the team. Also, because of the despicable act the NFL also banned him for a period of time. Now that the ban is over, teams are not that likely to reinstate him.

All because of one foolish act.

One. Foolish. Act.

For Ray Rice it cost him millions of dollars. Let that sink in. Millions. That is costly.

And to some degree we have all paid a price for a particular act. Usually they are small things, like sleeping through our alarm one morning or eating too much during the holidays or even getting a speeding ticket.

But what about the more serious “foolish acts”?

Things that impact your entire life and derail you from the path you had planned to take.   Some things can even destroy your dreams.

I’ve witnessed the fallout of a happy marriage when a one-night stand destroyed it all.  Or what about the single Tweet that cost a young college-grad her job before it even started.  Or the person who didn’t get a promotion because of something posted on Facebook.

Many will have to watch their hopes and dreams crumble because of one foolish act. Sad.  Ray Rice is one of them.

Did you know the Bible tells about a person who could only look at his dream from a distance?  It was Moses.

In Deuteronomy 34:4 it says, “And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.”

Why?  Because of one foolish act during Moses’ time leading Israel to the Promised Land. Water was scarce and the people were complaining. If you are a parent and have ever traveled a long distance with your kids, perhaps you can relate a little.

At any rate Moses was human and lost his patience. In fact, he got angry. However, despite the circumstances Moses still needed to obey the LORD.

And the LORD had told Moses to speak to the rock.

But that’s not what happened.  “Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.”  (Numbers:20:10-11 ESV).

While it may seem like a small thing to hit the rock rather than speak to the rock, it was still an act of rebellion. Plus when you look more closely it appears to the people that Moses was the provider of water. After all, he is the one who hit the rock.

Had he spoken to the rock and water came out it would have been obvious that the LORD was the provider.

Because Moses that day, in a moment of anger, acted rashly and brought attention and honor to himself, he had to suffer the consequences.  God took it seriously, and that one foolish act proved to be very costly.

So stay alert in your decisions and your actions. Be aware of oncoming temptations. Don’t be sidelined by one foolish act.

Unsplash_successAre losers really losers?

It sounds contradictory. It seems like a dilemma.

In the sports world we define so many great athletes and coaches not only by wins & losses, but also by championships.

Can you imagine being a football coach who takes your team to the super Bowl 4 years in a row and you are still labeled as a loser by many only because you didn’t walk away with the trophy? It happened to Marv Levy as coach of the Buffalo Bills. In one of those games, the outcome would have been a win if a field goal kick had been just 2 feet in the other direction.

Bud Grant was the coach of the Minnesota Vikings who also lost 4 Super Bowls. Was he a loser?

Many great coaches have only gone to the Super Bowl once. Because they walked away with the trophy that one time, we label them as winners.

But think about it. Do you realize how hard it is to get the Super Bowl even once? How about taking your team four times? Very few coaches have ever done that. So are they losers? I would say not.

In Hebrews 11, there is a list we often refer to as God’s Hall of Fame. In verses 36-39 there are a group of people who aren’t even named. They were virtual unknowns who never saw their reward on earth. No recognition, no pats on the back, no rewards. In fact, the polar opposite. But God was watching, and eventually God made it right. In verse 40, it says “God provided something better…”

And today while many still consider Marv Levy and Bud Grant losers, they did get elected to the Football Hall of Fame. Because there are those who recognize their true value as winners.

Guess what? You may be smart, loaded with talent, and loaded with skill. But the circumstances around you just are not in your favor. You may feel like you are losing your own personal “Super Bowl”. But you are not a loser. Keep on keeping on and stay in the game. God is keeping score.

WatchdogIsaiah 56:10 (ESV)

His watchmen are blind;

they are all without knowledge;

they are all silent dogs;

they cannot bark,

dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.

One of my favorite stories working with my dad happened at Andrews Air Force Base. Dad owned a steel erection company, and I was a foreman for one of the crews.  One day the crane operator was on vacation, so Dad came out to run the crane. That day I worked as a connector, which means I was up on the building and when the crane operator swung the steel into position, I was waiting with another guy to bolt it in place.

The connector is in constant communication with the crane operator using hand signals to position the steel where it needs to go.  Hand signals are the best way to communicate because the distance and the noise of the crane and other equipment make talking or even shouting almost impossible.

But on that particular day my dad shouted at me all day long, trying to tell me how to do my job. To be clear my dad was not mad at me. Loud was simply his normal way of communication, so shouting was not hard for him. Sometimes people thought his typical speaking voice was at a shouting level.

The next day the crane operator came back to work, so Dad stayed in the office.

When I arrived that morning a construction worker from another company on the job asked me, “Who was that man that yelled at you all day yesterday?” When I replied it was my dad, he didn’t buy it until another coworker backed me up that, yes, it really had been my dad. His final words were, “Man, I have never heard a man holler like that in my life.”

My dad could, and sometimes would, incessantly holler all day. But my dad wanted me to be the best. He was my most loyal friend on the job. Without a doubt, my dad molded my life more than anyone else.

In Isaiah’s day there were watchmen who would not bark. Granted most people do not want to be barked at. But prophets were to sound the alarm when the people drifted. Let’s be honest. It’s easy to drift…in our habits, in our eating, in our materialism,  in our time on the internet, and even in the way we dress (I could wear the same t-shirt for weeks).  Sometimes we need a person who cares enough to bark.  We need parents, coaches, mentors, teachers, professors, and pastors who will bark at us when we drift.

You know, that day is one of the fondest memories of my life and of the days working with my dad. 

I’m thankful I had someone who cared enough to bark.

July 1 is a big day in sports since many NBA (National Basketball Association) players become free agents. Which means they are looking for contracts with sweet deals and lots of money. Some have landed huge contracts, including guys you have never heard of.

I even mentioned to Carol that the amount of money is unreal when compared to some of the contracts in the NFL (National Football League), and football is by far a more popular and lucrative sport in this country.

And wouldn’t you know it?

NFL players have noticed and begun to compare. Now their huge contracts are considered peanuts to some of the newer ones in the NBA.

Before July 1 the NFL players considered themselves winners. Now they are losers. That’s what comparing does.

There is always someone who is faster, smarter, richer, prettier, talenter–OK, I made up that last word, but you get the picture.

One NFL player even tweeted that he had picked the wrong sport.

And you will do the same thing. You will think, “I should have chosen……….as my career.”

The fact is when you compare, you will never measure up.

No wonder the Bible warns against comparing. “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12, ESV).

No wonder depression is at an all time high. We are comparing our lives with the highlight reels of our friends and neighbors on Facebook, Twitter, or in life in general. It may happen in sports July 1, but it invades our lives when someone we know gets married, gets a new car, lands a new job, or takes an exotic vacation.

And we can’t catch a break. Or so it seems.

On June 30 NFL players went to bed as winners; when they went to bed on July 1, they felt like losers.

Avoid the trap. Avoid comparison or you too will go to bed at night feeling like a loser.

Photo By Erik Drost [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Erik Drost [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As a guy I typically don’t like to read instructions. Which means I sometimes get it wrong and sometimes it takes longer to accomplish the project.

Bottom line: I needed the help the instructions provided.

But the greatest help we need comes from people. (Yes, I do believe our greatest help comes from God, but God Himself often provides help in the form of people).

The city of Cleveland just won their first championship in 52 years because Lebron James had help.

Let’s back up. Lebron had earlier played for Cleveland seven years with no help and no title.

So Lebron left and headed for Miami. Why? He was chasing a ring. A championship ring, and it was obvious that no help was coming to Cleveland. Miami already had a star player and Lebron invited another friend to join with him in Miami. Now there are three superstars in Miami, just the kind of help Lebron needed. Two championship titles soon followed.

But Lebron’s heart was always in Cleveland — he grew up in nearby Akron. However, when he left earlier there were a lot of hard feelings. People even burnt his jersey. When Lebron was gone, Cleveland was terrible. So terrible they were awarded high draft picks. And they used a number one pick in the draft to draft a star player, Kyrie Irving. (Note: When Lebron was at Cleveland, they were a decent team, which meant they never were awarded high draft picks, which mean Lebron never got the help he needed).

After two championships in Miami, Lebron headed back to Cleveland with one goal: bring the city a championship. He knew Kyrie Irving was already there.  And he invited a couple more players to come with him. Why? He knew he needed help.

And let’s not forget that Lebron James is considered to be the best basketball player in the NBA….for the last ten years.

Even the best need help.

As a result, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Championship, and Lebron James was voted the Most Valuable Player of the series.

The best of the best needed help.

So where does that leave us?

In need of help.

In need of others.

In the Bible Moses had Aaron, David had his mighty men, and Jesus had his twelve disciples.

The best and the brightest realize their dreams need help.

Perhaps today the only thing standing between you and your dreams is help.

Timed excuseSo far we have only introduced a couple types of wisdom. Clearly you can be wise and unwise at the same time. Which leads us to the final aspects of wisdom.

In my last post I talked about planning well and persuasively presenting your plan. But that alone will not guarantee the outcome you want. So let’s press on.

3.  You also need philosophical wisdom. This is not the Greek idea which was often simply theory. That sort of wisdom is all bark and no bite. Here I am using the term to describe the ability to think clearly, concisely, and concretely. That will come before the type of behavior that will honor God. True wisdom is knowing and doing. Of course, our thoughts should line up with biblical teaching. Too often someone will voice an opinion and say, “Well, I don’t have a verse to substantiate my belief….” Let’s be honest. That may be an indication that it is not true wisdom.

So why did Absalom side step Ahitholphel’s effective plan and turn to Hushai’s plan? Absalom lacked number 4.

4. Perceptive wisdom is similar and also desperately needed. When the woman shared her story, as persuasive as she was, David soon smelled something fishy. His perception was right on target. However, not long after that when Absalom came and feigned spirituality, David lacked the perceptive wisdom to smell disloyalty in the air (2 Samuel 15:9). Granted, whenever someone plays the God-card, it can be very difficult to argue with them. But this only underscores the need for prayer.

What if Absalom had this? He would have gone with Ahitholphel’s superior plan and not lost his life as a result of his poor decision.

5. Most of us on a daily basis need practical wisdom. During the day some of us are not the best at execution. We plan well, but at the end of the day we fail to get stuff done. We’ve all had wasted days. Which means we could all use a little more practical wisdom and thereby have more productive days.

6. Last, but not least, is proactive wisdom. David seems to have lacked this at times. As proactive as he was on many occasions, often it was his lack of proactivity that cost him greatly. Sometimes he, like us, failed to act. Absalom was recalled home, but for two years the king never went to see him. That proved to be unwise.

7. At this point I would like to talk about a seventh type of wisdom that has more of a wide angle view.  It is panoramic wisdom. It may seem a little redundant; however, it does underscore our often limited view of what wisdom actually entails.

For instance, on my phone I have the ability to take a panoramic photo. That is, I can take a picture that will take in the entire scene rather than just a part of the scene. Sometimes it’s helpful to take a very wide angle or inclusive photo. After all, if it involves a group of people, who wants to get left out? The same is true with wisdom. Which aspect of wisdom do we really want to dispose of?

Wisdom involves a host of virtues like knowledge, insight, understanding, learning, and discretion. Wouldn’t you agree that we should be praying for all of those? Also, because it’s often hard to possess all the wisdom you need, it is helpful to seek the counsel and advice of others. David did, and Absalom did.

Within these chapters you will find a mixture of wisdom and a lack of wisdom. Isn’t it amazing how we can be so wise and yet unwise all at once?

Full of wisdom, yet devoid of wisdom?

Which underscores the need to pray for wisdom.

What kind of wisdom are you praying for today?