Archives For February 2014

iStockWinningMark is best known for being the writer of the Gospel of Mark.  That in itself would put him in the winner’s circle.  Can you imagine being one of forty different authors whom God chose to write the Bible?  I cannot even imagine. What an honor. What a privilege. What a WIN!

Winning is fun. Winning alleviates a lot of pain. It makes you forget about your losses.

But Mark didn’t start out in the winner’s circle.

Actually he started out in the loser’s circle.

We first meet Mark in Acts 12:12 when the church met in his mother’s home. Mark must have showed some promise because when Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey, Mark accompanied them. It didn’t last long, however. For whatever reason Mark left and went home (Acts 13:13).

A few years later when Paul and Barnabas set out on another journey, Barnabas was ready to give Mark another chance. But Paul was not so keen on the idea. Perhaps he thought Mark was lazy, uncommitted, or lacked the necessary skills. He may not have been up to the travel physically. We don’t know.

Although I don’t know how Mark felt, I know to be rejected by Paul had to hurt deeply. Rejection is never easy, but to be rejected by one of your heros multiplies the pain.

A sharp disagreement ensued, and Barnabas wound up leaving Paul and sailing to Cyprus with Mark. Evidently it got pretty heated. “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other.  Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (Acts 15:36-39 ESV). Paul is vehemently saying, “I don’t want him on my team.” OUCH!

Towards the end of Paul’s life he writes to Timothy and asks him to bring Mark with him.  In 2 Timothy 4:11 he says, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”

As you can see, Mark is now considered valuable to the apostle Paul. I’d call that a win.

Clearly there were some hard feelings earlier, but these two men overcame those and were once again a team.

You need to understand Paul’s high estimation of Mark at this point. He is a lonely man since everyone but Luke has left him. To consider Mark very useful at this point says a lot about Mark. This was the guy who bailed earlier. Paul was not afraid of that now. Obviously Mark had grown personally over the years, and Paul noticed. Quite possibly Barnabas, Mark’s older cousin, was a huge inspiration to Mark’s personal development.

What did Mark do? What can we do in order to arrive in the winner’s circle?

1. Never give up on yourself.

There are only 32 NFL head coaches. It’s hard to believe you can actually make it into that elite group and be considered a loser. But some are. That’s how hard life can be.

One reason I love football is that there are so many parallels to life within the sport. For one, attitude plays such a huge role among NFL coaches. They all experience losing. Yet they all act like winners. How? Bob LaMonte, a sports agent who works with NFL coaches, said, “When I talk to a winning coach on Monday morning, I often detect that his mood isn’t much different than that of a losing coach.”

For another, it’s a game of second chances. As I write this the Seattle Seahawks have just won the Super Bowl. The coach is Pete Carroll. Several years ago Pete coached the New York Jets and totally bombed out. He was criticized for his coaching skills.  When he returned to the NFL as the Seahawks coach, he was criticized for his drafting skills. In fact, some said the 2012 draft proved he couldn’t coach. Needless to say, it was in that draft that he chose Russell Wilson, the current starting quarterback, along with a few others who were on the roster of the Super Bowl winning team.

Pete Carroll never gave up on himself.

Neither can you.

2. Surround yourself with people who have your back. You need at least one person who is going to hang with you and encourage you. For Mark it was Barnabas. Who is going to be your cheerleader? Who is going to go through the tough spots with you. Oprah once said, “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

How often do think about the company you keep? How often do you think of the influence they are having in your life? Are the people in your life the ones who will help you get to the winner’s circle?

Some are with you only because it’s convenient.

3. Add value to others. Near the end of his life Paul said Mark was helpful to his ministry. That is, Mark brought something to the table. Not only was Mark valuable to Paul, but Mark also spent time with Peter, another of the apostles (1 Peter 5:13). And we would all admit that the Gospel of Mark has added tremendous value over the years to millions of people.

Think of several ways you can add value to someone: Have a cup of coffee with someone and offer encouragement, spend time with someone, run an errand, etc. You could give someone you know a book on marriage, finances, ….Abraham Lincoln said, “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” The list is endless. Start today adding value to others.

Had Mark given up, Paul and Peter would have lost out. The world would have lost out. If you allow failure to define you as a loser, you will never make it to the winner’s circle.

iStockWordsHave you ever thought about the power and impact of your words. No doubt we have all shared many that we wish we hadn’t.

As little kids we were taught, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Wow! Who thought that one up? And who passed that rhyme along? There is absolutely no truth in it, yet it gets repeated continually.

We all know it’s a lie. Words do hurt. We have been hurt by words. Right now you are recalling some hurtful words that were said to you.

Perhaps you are also recalling words that you said. It’s too late to take them back. Yes, you wish you could. But once they come out there is no taking back.

Plus they are rarely forgotten. Sadly, some we take all the way to the grave.

Many are said due to anger. We allow anger to take over and we let the words fly. Later we apologize, but the damage is done.

In 2 Samuel 16:5-14 David has lost the throne and is on his way out of town. One of his enemies, Shimei, berates him. His criticism of David goes over the top. There are some relational issues going on as Shimei was from the tribe of Benjamin just like Saul. Saul is now dead, but Shimei is still loyal to Saul, not David.

Time moves on. In 1 Kings 2:8-10 David comes toward the end of his life and gives his son Solomon some final counsel. Here David recounts the hurtful words Shimei leveled against him years earlier.

Those words still hurt. David had not forgotten them.

He took those hurtful words all the way to the grave. That’s sad. Perhaps even in your own life, perhaps even in your marriage you have said some words that you can’t take back.

We have all said things we wish we hadn’t. It’s time to move on. From here on out you can do a couple of things.

1. Stop. You don’t have to immediately say what has come into your mind.

2. Think. Not everything has to be said. Some things are better left unsaid. That little zinger you want to let fly will add nothing to the relationship.

3. Multiply. Research suggests that one negative can undo twenty positives. Do you realize now the power of hurtful words?

4. Ask. Is it helpful? Will this help the situation or exasperate it? Am I saying this while I am still upset and angry?

5. Proceed. If it is helpful and you have control over your emotions you will do a much better job communicating.

Just remember, if you fail to do these things your words may very well hurt…all the way to the grave!

 

 

Man in Wheat Field  With Arms OutstretchedWe all carry the burden of not measuring up.  That sense of not being good enough pops up at a very early age and follows us all through life.

A little girl starts out having princess birthday parties. She dresses up. She starts looking around and asking Am I pretty enough?

Then she becomes a teenager and asks Am I thin enough? In college she wonders Am I smart enough? When she moves along in her career she asks Am I successful enough? She gets married and her thoughts are Am I good enough? With the first child comes Am I providing enough?

The questions, the doubts, and the scarcity mindset flood our insecure minds. We jump on Facebook and Instagram and count up the number of likes. Do I have enough likes? Probably not. In fact, enough never is quite enough. So we continue to live in shame, insecurity, and self doubt.

What if there was some truth in the idea that we will never measure up? What if that was, in some ways, good news?

One of the more fascinating passages in the Bible is in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Fascinating because this particular passage is right in the middle of several chapters of genealogies. Most skip these. After all they don’t tend to hold our attention very well.

There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful.  He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request. (NLT)

Just two verses. But notice his attitude. He knew he was lacking and that was a good thing. It was that feeling of not being enough that drove Him to the Lord to ask for God’s blessing on his life. God has enough; actually, He has plenty. When I was a little boy I went to my dad because he had more than I did.

Before we get to Jabez, we have to read through forty-three other names. Why is Jabez given two verses? The writer of the book of Chronicles puts an emphasis on prayer in the book. Could it be that he stopped at Jabez because Jabez put an emphasis on prayer in his own life?

As a believer, one of the healthiest attitudes we can have is one of scarcity, which in turn leads us to an attitude of abundance because we have been driven to God in prayer. God’s abundant grace is available to those who pray. Our focus is taken off of ourselves and put on the Lord. That’s healthy.

Apparently Jabez’s life didn’t start out so well. We are not given the details and it really doesn’t matter. The family may have had very little, or perhaps his mother was a single mom, or maybe his mother died in childbirth.

Just as the writer of Chronicles did not focus on Jabez’ background, so it also doesn’t matter where you find yourself at this particular stage in your life.  Perhaps you are living in an era of scarcity. Don’t let that discourage you. Let it drive you to prayer so that God can change your attitude to one of abundance.

That is what happened for Jabez. He began to ask God to bless him, enlarge his territory, and provide protection so that his life would never go back to a point where he was living without God’s help.

Let’s break this passage into three parts, which will lead to three action items–three things you need to do.

Oh, that you would bless me…

1. Pray every day for God’s abundance. It may be that you need more patience. Maybe it’s more kindness. We could all use a little more self control. I don’t know what you need to pray for, but when God invades your life and abundance is noticed, God is glorified.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:8 (ESV)

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a (NLT)

God is able to produce abundance in your life. So ask for it.

…expand my territory!

2. Get ready for more. If you are praying for ten more clients, are you ready to service ten more clients? Maybe you aren’t ready, so God hasn’t answered your prayer yet.

Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!

3. Stay dependent. Once God blesses you, there will be the temptation to believe you did it through your personality, your talents, your giftedness, or your training. Don’t fall into that trap.

Listen to Zechariah 4:6 (ESV) Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

Let go of your scarcity attitude and replace it with an attitude of abundance.

Start today!

ColdSprayIs there a cure for the common cold? Well, not exactly. But we all wish there was. And there are some things you can do to prevent from getting one. If you don’t do those things, you are likely to get a cold. When do colds tend to hit you? At the worst possible time.

While Carol and I were in Rome, just before we were to come home, I came down with the dreaded common cold. Thankfully it was not as bad as it could have been and did not interfere with the things we wanted to do. However, I still wanted to be prepared in case it got bad, so I went to a local pharmacy and picked up some nasal spray. Fortunately, they had one bottle written in English so I knew what I was getting.

When I’m at home, my game plan for curing the common cold is to not get one in the first place.

Not long ago my son Gabe came down with a cold. Now, everyone in our house knows I get paranoid when someone gets a cold.  Actually, they would say that paranoid is an understatement.

After all, I have to speak every Sunday and I want to be at my best. Plus, I just don’t like colds.

So in my typical fanatical fashion, I questioned everyone to check up on how often they were washing their hands.  And I monitored what they were touching.  I don’t even touch door knobs when this kind of thing hits our house!

To top it off, Gabe was banned from using my iPad.  Yes, I go a little over the top. But, hey, I don’t get very many colds.

Sadly, most of us are not very fanatical about things that contaminate our marriages, our health, or our finances.

We could sit down and come up with a long list of things that destroy us and our relationships or our physical health.

Things like sugar, but who wants to cut down on sugar?  And no one is touting it as a great food source.

I can’t believe how many marriages have been affected by an unhealthy overdose of sports.  For many, sports is contaminating their relationships.

My spiritual walk with God can be contaminated by busyness, overcommitment, bad attitudes, and irresponsibility.

We could go on, but you get the point.  Go radical on contamination. We allow way too many things into our lives that should not be allowed.

And don’t forget that even good things can contaminate.  It could be a person, a food group, or a thing.

The bottom line is this:  Are you taking contamination seriously?

 

A senior worker teaching his junior the operation of a fork lift vehicle in a factoryFor me my dad was my role model when it comes to work. Granted, he could be called a workaholic with total justification. And he did go overboard. Perhaps it had something to do with his childhood. He never finished the 8th grade, and his family was very poor with little indoor plumbing, if you know what I mean. Let’s just say that if you had to go to the bathroom in the winter time you made it quick!

However, he taught me some things that will always be a part of me.

Another person who I have admired from a distance is Jack Welch, the well known former CEO of GE. Once he was asked about the secret to success.

Without hesitating he unequivocally said, “Find out what your boss wants and then over-deliver.”

My dad personified that.

Here were a few of his work rules. I use the word rules because in my dad’s way of thinking this is simply the way it is. Any other approach was simply unacceptable.

1. Show up ten minutes early. Hit the ground running. Walk around and make sure everyone has what they need to start the day. We all know how easy it is to waste the first ten minutes of a work day.

2. Stay late. Walk around the job site and start planning for the next day. Even today successful business people suggest that one of their secrets to success is planning the next day the day before.

3. Know what your boss wants done. For those of us working for dad this was easy. He was more than very clear as to what he expected.

4. Then exceed those expectations. Here is how it played out for my dad. He was a crane operator in the steel erection business. While the guys were eating lunch my dad would wipe down the crane and keep it spotless. Put an emphasis on “spotless” and you get an idea of what I am talking about. That would exceed anyone’s expectations. And no one would ever expect you to do it during lunch!

5. Never lower the bar. My dad never did.

And one day someone noticed. Outside the company. When this particular person was looking for a business partner for his company, he thought of my dad. And my dad was offered an opportunity that changed his life.

My dad never set out to run and own his own business. It was the furthest thing from his mind. He didn’t set out to be different. He never set out to WOW others.

He just did those five things and he stood out at work. And it paid off in a big way.  Anyone can do these five things. This week you can stand out at work.

Will you? It’s your choice.

 

 

CouplewalkinginwoodsPrior to meeting Carol, a friend of mine, Tommy Moore, invited me to come work with him in Kenya. I jumped at the opportunity to go help build churches and hold evangelistic meetings.

While there I was impressed with Tommy and LaDel’s marriage. The culture actually helped them build some healthy rhythms into their marriage.

They lived in Eldoret, Kenya which is just above the equator. Sunrise and sunset are about the same time year around, 7am and 7pm.

A typical day included Tommy and me getting up around 5am, having our quiet time and then he attempting to teach me Swahili.

After breakfast we headed out to either frame up church buildings or hold various meetings. Then we would call it a day and have dinner. After dinner that was it. I mean there were no distractions. No TV (this was the early 80’s in a third world country), no outdoor activities (not the safest thing to do) and nowhere to go. When the sun went down everything was locked up. They had iron gates to get onto their property and another iron gate at the front door.

But this allowed them to build in some deliberate practices into their marriage. For instance, after dinner they would typically sit on the couch and talk. Also, there was some minimal British TV (definitely not my style of humor) which they had adapted to. When there is none, even bad TV is watchable, I guess.

They also planned 2-3 day getaways. Once again, even in a culture with almost zero distractions, they were deliberate.

For the rest of us, you would think that all the deliberation that was evident during our dating time would carry over. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

Think of all the distractions we have here in the States. We have hundreds of TV channels, Gold’s Gym, Starbucks, Sunday afternoon football, sporting events for our kids, cleaning house, and yard work.

These distractions lead to drift. The only way to overcome the drift is to be aware of the distractions and be more deliberate in your marriage.

Every marriage is different. Some have little kids, some have grown kids. Sometimes both spouses work. Schedules get complicated. Priorities shift. And drift happens.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Today you are deliberate. That’s the scary part. Too many are ready to pat themselves on the back for thinking ahead and planning a great evening.  But this is just one day.

Tomorrow and every day after that the distractions will once again begin to pile up. Marriages will drift.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

3D marriages…

Are Aware of Distractions

Understand Drift

 

Do Deliberate Things

You can be deliberate. The question is… Are you?

CoupleonrockinwaterLet’s be honest. With Valentine’s Day just hours away many are planning something big or special.

Now that is all fine and good. And I’m not suggesting you don’t celebrate the day. Just don’t get caught up in the moment of the day. What I mean is you can’t create a life time of romance around the big days.

One of the sad realities of marriage is that romance dwindles simply due to natural drift. We simply don’t think about it. Until a big day arrives. Then we make some reservations at a restaurant and order some flowers.

If marriage was that easy we could all take a one week cruise to the Caribbean and be done for the year. Which all points to daily romance, not monthly or yearly romance.

Romance is built everyday.

Romance is in the every day things. Romance is…

Running to the store to pick up some lettuce.

Sitting around chit chatting.

Listening to my spouse’s viewpoint.

Sending a text that encourages.

Cooking a favorite dish.

Watching a TV show together.

Hiking in the mountains.

Planning your next trip.

Sharing feelings with one another.

All of the above actually cost nothing. Yet Valentine’s Day is THE day to buy flowers and go out to dinner. But if you are not careful, your investment on that one day can go south in a hurry, if you ignore what romance is really built on: Daily things.

What have you done today to build a romance filled marriage?

 

AncientOlympiaWhat’s my ONE thing?  That question is much easier to ask than answer.

This past fall Carol and I took a couple of weeks to celebrate 30 years of marriage. While traveling we visited ancient Olympia. This is where the first Olympics were held. They took place every four years from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D.

The athletes actually had some amazing facilities for their time. This was before electricity and running water to be sure, but ingenuity ruled the day. There was an indoor gymnasium, an outdoor stadium with a track, and bath houses. Also, there was a temple to Zeus right in the middle of the sports complex.

The early games consisted of events like running, wrestling, and horse and chariot races. In today’s Olympics the site changes every four years, and athletes come from all over the world.

When they show up it is typically to participate in only ONE event. The fact is, it is very difficult to compete and excel in multiple sports. Swimmers swim and runners run. Ice skaters skate. And if the ice skaters decided to run, they would be considered failures. But as long as they skate, no one will notice that they cannot run very well. Stick to their ONE thing, and they look exceptional.

We admire people who have chosen to excel in ONE thing, yet we fall into the trap thinking that we can excel in several things.

As great an athlete as Michael Jordan was he never could excel at baseball, even in the Minor Leagues. So he wisely decided to stick with his ONE thing, basketball.

Now you may be asking, What is my ONE thing?

This is not an easy question to answer. It involves a number of things like honesty, clarity, understanding, choices, and time. There is no magic formula.

Olympians get this. Think about it.

1. Honesty: They start out being very honest about their strengths and weaknesses.

2. Clarity: That brings clarity as to what they will work on. Hint-It’s not their weaknesses.

3. Understanding: Over time they understand how to excel, improve, and increase their skill level.

4. Choices: They learn to say yes to some things and no to others. It may be saying no to TV and yes to fruits and vegetables. Those are hard choices for many, but not Olympians.

5. Time: In due time others notice their high level of skill, sponsors step in, and their journey to the Olympics begins.

These five things do not represent five easy steps. They simply illustrate that sometimes finding your ONE thing is not as easy as it sounds. But it also illustrates that you can begin the journey.

What’s your ONE thing? Why not start the journey today?

SuperBowlXLVIIIRight after the game the critics came out. I’m not a big fan of the critics, because they are often wrong. Sure, they appear to be right in the moment, but time often tells a different story.

Before I give you some of my observations on the game, let’s go back to the NFL Draft of 2012. One sportswriter heavily criticized Pete Carroll. In fact, he gave Pete an F for his draft skills that year.  Oh, and he also considered Russell Wilson “by far the worst move of the draft.” To be fair there were many who doubted Wilson’s ability to play in the NFL.

In case you are not aware, Russell Wilson was the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks in their blowout win in Super Bowl XLVIII! So much for any credibility regarding the remarks of the sportswriter.

Now let’s move on to Peyton Manning. Yes, he gets a lot of attention due to his spectacular play on the field. Yes, he was expected to have a much better game than he did.

I am not going to defend or take up for Peyton except to say football is a team sport. Also, I don’t think Denver could have won even if Peyton had a great game. Seattle was playing at way too high of a level.

With that said, at least four things happened in the game that Peyton had nothing to do with, yet he was expected to overcome.

1. The first play from scrimmage consisted of a poorly snapped football that turned into a safety.

2. At halftime the score was 22-0. That is not good by any stretch of the imagination. However, if the defense can hold Seattle’s offense on the opening possession of the second half, have them punt, and then put together a scoring drive, we have us a ball game.  But that is not what happened. The opening kickoff of the second half was returned by Seattle for a touchdown, all while Peyton is on the bench. Now he gets the ball back and the score is 29-0. That’s very difficult.

3. But Peyton is able to complete some passes and makes a good throw to Damaryius Thomas who makes the catch, runs for extra yards, but then has it stripped from him for a fumble and Seattle recovery. Once again, Peyton is expected to overcome that mistake also.

4. The defense. What did they do to help the cause? Nothing. No one stepped up and made a great play or caused a turnover. That’s what good defenses do. But not Denver’s.

With that said, yes Peyton did not have a good game. And he will be highly criticized for some time, perhaps forever in football world. But football is a team sport, and where was the rest of the team?