Secrets to Success

Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes it seems as if everything is going great then suddenly it seems as if nothing can go right. Luckily throughout Scripture we see examples of the same thing happening to those we consider heroes of the Bible.
Job is one who experienced a gigantic rollercoaster ride! He was going along doing all the right things, his life being extremely blessed then suddenly WHAM! He lost everything! We also see Joseph on a bit of a rollercoaster ride. You might say he went from the pit to the pedestal then from the penthouse to prison. Talk about an up and down life. 
After being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, he arrived at a man’s house who had influence with the Pharaoh of Egypt. Instead of moaning and groaning about his situation, Joseph began to use his talents and gifts God had given him. The result was advancement in the influential man’s organization. The man placed Joseph in charge over all he owned and the Lord blessed Egypt because of Joseph.
Sadly, Joseph gained more recognition than he desired when the man’s wife made advances toward him. However, Joseph did not dishonor the man for whom he worked nor go against what God would have him to do, so he fled leaving her holding his garment. Sadly, the woman made up false accusations and Joseph was thrown into prison.
Even while Joseph was in prison, he conducted himself in a way which pleased God and therefore the Lord blessed all Joseph did. He eventually was in charge of all the prisoners and after some time interpreted the dreams of two men who had fallen out of favor with the king.
There are a number of things we can see in this story which brought continual success to Joseph. First, even while in prison Joseph did not feel sorry for himself, but instead embraced the moment. Second, he never allowed success to cloud his vision of what was ethically right. Third, he used the gifts God had given him and adapted to the varying situations rather than exerting energy to fight against the circumstances in which he found himself. Fourth, every problem was viewed as a possibility. Fifth, Joseph knew there was no substitute for hard work. Finally, Joseph remembered no matter what work he was doing, he was doing it for the Lord. Therefore, he sought to honor God in each circumstance he faced, either good or bad.
In short, all of the success Joseph enjoyed in the varying circumstances was rooted in his relationship with the Lord. When we live our lives for the purpose of glorifying God, the location from which we do so is of secondary importance…be it the pit or the pedestal, the prison or the penthouse. What really matters is the attitude with which we face the varying circumstances.
The way for success is to always honor the Lord in the circumstances, whatever they may be…

A Few Good Men

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all you do be done in love. (I Corinthians 16:13-14)
“We’re looking for a few good men” is the slogan of the United States Marine Corps and many men join this prestigious unit of the Armed Forces. It is not an easy task to be one of these few good men. The training is rigorous sometimes even brutal, however they make it through and we as Americans are thankful they do, just as we are thankful for all the branches of the armed forces. 
I am sure there have been times when they just wanted to pack it up and quit especially in basic training. I wonder what the reaction of their commander would be if they said, “we want to sleep in today” or “we don’t want to run this morning”? I bet their commander would say, “Well this is not optional”, along with some other phrases!
I think too often as Christian men, we take the Lord’s commands as something we deem as optional. As I look through scripture, I don’t read passages which say: “If you feel like telling them about Me”, “if you think about it, pray”, or “when you get a chance, help someone in need”. Instead, these all are commanded from our Commander the Lord Jesus Christ.
Is it always easy to do these things? No it’s not. Actually it can be difficult to do these things. There is never a convenient time, because there is always something else we could be doing. If we wait until we have time or until it is convenient, we will never carry out these commands. In fact, I am afraid this is where most of us are in our walk, we are waiting until we have time or it is convenient for our schedule.
Often we think someone else will do what needs to be done. We may think it’s not important for us to do what we are commanded to do because others are doing these things; I will help in some other way. However God has placed you where you are to accomplish His purpose. You are there to influence those around you for Christ. Someone else may not have the opportunity to show the love of Christ to those who are around you each and every day.
We have to understand we were not placed here on this earth to be the best husband, dad, son, worker, or anything else. We were placed here on this earth to glorify God. These other aspects come about as a result of being what God wants us to be but we can’t truly be the best at any of those things, if our main priority is not to glorify God. How can you be the best husband without loving your wife as Christ loved the Church? How can you be the best dad without being the spiritual leader of the home? The list goes on and on.
It only takes a “Few Good Men” willing to be obedient to God’s commands to change the community, city, state and then the country. After all God turned the world upside-down using just twelve who were sold out to Him completely. Those twelve were willing to carry out the commands they were given even though it wasn’t convenient for them. 
God doesn’t measure our success by any other standard than our obedience. How SUCCESSFUL are you? Be one of the FEW GOOD MEN God is looking for in the world today!    

Which Direction to Go?

Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;  (Proverbs 8:1-2)

As some are aware, I have been on vacation the last couple of weeks. We traveled over 2500 miles to visit family in Iowa and Minnesota. Of course like most, we utilized “Google Maps” for our journey. We placed our confidence and trust in this modern technology to help arrive at our destination safe and sound.

As we were entering Minneapolis, the voice sounded, telling us there was a delay ahead and to save time we should exit at the next ramp. Of course, I promptly disregarded the voice as it would have led me downtown, a place I certainly did not want to venture to on a Thursday at 4:30 in the afternoon.

However, what I discovered was I-35 North soon became a parking lot, and there we sat. It appeared Google Maps was correct, there was a delay. A delay I did not see coming, yet it was a delay nonetheless. The longer I sat in traffic, the more I regretted not listening to the voice speaking through the speakers in the car. But how could Google Maps make a decision in my best interest when it did not have all the facts about my situation? How could it tell me which direction I needed to go in order to avoid the biggest problem?

What I failed to remember was Google Maps was able to see things I could not see. Through some strange process, none of us completely understand, Google Maps attains information about traffic patterns and accidents we cannot see. It then places this information in a program to figure out the next quickest way to arrive at our destination. 

All throughout our lives we come to crossroads where we must make decisions. When we were young, many of the decisions were made for us by parents or other adults who played a part in our upbringing. As young adults, we grew up making some of our decisions and often times had to suffer consequences for some of the wrong choices we made. 

Even as older adults there are choices we must make in taking care of our parents or planning for our personal lives after retirement. These are choices which often become more and more difficult as we age due to our faculties beginning to decline and fears about our future increasing. The need to make choices never ends and there is literally a crossroad at every corner.

Fortunately we see from the passage above we do not have to make these choices in a vacuum. We can make these choices with “wisdom” and “understanding” by our sides.  But where does wisdom come from? In Proverbs 9:10, we are told fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This fear does not mean living in terror but instead having a reverence for a gracious loving God who cares for us.

Is it any wonder it seems the world is full of people making bad decisions? Our culture continually pushes God to the side and says He is not needed, yet we see poor choices made repeatedly. James tells us, if any lacks wisdom we are to simply ask and God gives it generously (James 1:5). Sadly, most will not ask God for wisdom and understanding concerning decisions or circumstances because we believe we have become more wise than God. 

The results can be much like those I found myself facing on the outskirts of Minneapolis. Even though a voice was telling me over the speakers to turn at the next opportunity in order to avoid troubling circumstances which would delay my arrival, I chose to follow my own path and ended up being delayed over an hour.

While Google Maps has the ability to see things we cannot see, God has even greater capabilities to see things we cannot see and He desires for us to follow His instructions and listen to His voice as He calls out to us about the direction we need to go.

However, much of the time things of the world have our attention and we are not listening for His voice. We instead would rather follow our own path and lean on our own understanding instead of seeking wisdom from above.

Ask for wisdom and listen for His voice.



Staying Sharp

Have you ever thought about the people you have known in your life time and how they have influenced you? Who is in your life keeping you sharp for God? If your answer is no one, then how do we find someone we can rely on to help us along our spiritual journey? Someone to keep us sharp as Christians to become the people Jesus desires us to be?

(Proverbs 27: 17) As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. 

This proverb is widely recited and memorized within the Christian circles as a plug for disciple making. A group of Christians who “sharpen” one another have a better chance in becoming that which God desires us to be. The application of this truth can affect our lives in a positive way, men and women alike. As we think about this subject, we should ask ourselves one fundamental question.

Who is keeping you sharp?

Who asks the tough questions? “How’s it going at home? How’s your thought life? Are you walking too close to the edge in any area?”  “Who is keeping you sharp?” 

Most of us have some casual acquaintances, which pass in and out of our lives and though our lives are impacted by all of our relationships, the greatest influence comes from those we call close friends. 

People who help us try again when we fail, encourage us when we are discouraged, lighten our load when it gets too heavy, and give us strength against the evil forces we all face. 

Our friends either help us stay sharp or they facilitate our remaining dull. It’s like there is an invisible membrane between friends, and what passes between close friends are values, convictions, morals, habits, and goals. 

If you want to know what kind of person you are becoming, ask yourself: “Who are my friends?” 

We all need a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy to be sharp in our Christian faith.

First, you need a Paul: a mature believer willing to invest in your life. Someone who has been down the road and is willing to share the lessons they have learned and the experiences, which shaped their lives. An mature person to spend time with you, and show you the ropes of the Christian walk.

You also need a Barnabas: a brother who loves you where you are and encourages you to become the person you can be. People seemed to have changed for the better when Barnabas was around. We need to surround ourselves with people known as encouragers. This is important as you more likely become like those who surround you. If you are surrounded by positive people, typically you will be a more positive person. The opposite is true if you surround yourself with negativity…you naturally will become more negative.

Finally, you need a Timothy: a younger believer to whom you can offer help. A person you can help reach their potential. Every young believer the faith today needs someone who will care about them enough to get invest time with them.

Having these three types relationships is really what becoming a disciple is all about and also the process through which it typically takes place. Sadly, too many people try to go it alone in their Christian walk. When you attempt this, you quickly become dull. Who are you spending time with? “Who’s keeping you sharp?” Who is your Paul; Who is your Barnabas; and who is your Timothy? Just some thoughts to ponder…



Who Said That?

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. (James 3:7-9)
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me! We have all heard that saying as we were growing up and some may have believed it. However for most of us we would be like Barney on Andy Griffith and say, “Whoever wrote that must have been some kind of nut!” 
While the results of our words may not be seen physically, they do hurt. They are often used as a quick way to wound someone and cause them great pain. Besides being hurtful, they are also permanent. Once words come out of our mouths, they are out for eternity. We can apologize for them and try to take them back, but they will always be out there and can be used against us.
It is no wonder James said the tongue was an unruly evil and full of deadly poison. It is definitely a weapon which can be used against others. James tells us no man can tame the tongue, so what hope do we have? How are we expected to do the right thing when James tells us we can’t control it?
We have a couple of options here. First, we all need to practice allowing only good things to come from our mouths, for they are permanent also. If we encourage others with our words and say good things about people, they are out there forever too. Encouraging others can become a habit just as saying harsh things to others can become a habit. This is not an easy thing to accomplish, because good habits are hard to develop and maintain, while bad habits form easily and come natural to us. It takes time and effort to train the tongue to be an instrument of encouragement.
This is one of James’ concerns when he writes, that we use the same tongue to praise God and curse men. The reason we have such a hard time controlling our tongue is because our tongue is controlled by the heart. We have all had times when something just flies out of our mouth and we think, “Where did that come from?” The reality is it came from our heart.  Jesus said, what is in the heart eventually comes out of the mouth. If our hearts are harboring bitterness and resentment, that will be the poison the tongue uses when it lashes out.
Another option to help with the tongue is choosing the option to say nothing. Doesn’t it seem more logical if we keep our tongues behind the cage of our teeth and lips the chances of controlling it are much greater? The problem comes once we begin to talk. When we untie the beast, not many are capable of putting it back in the cage before it does its damage. The old saying of, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all” really are words of wisdom.  
We need to turn our tongues into instruments of praise for God and encouragement for others instead of weapons of destructions. Remember we are to glorify the Lord in not only what we do but also in what we say. The reality is for most of us; our words will last far longer than our actions!

What’s Your Part?

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (I Corinthians 3:6-9)

Many times in our Christian walk, we may feel we have no part in what God is accomplishing in the world. We feel we are inadequate to have a role in growing Disciples as God has commanded us to do. Often we feel this way because we take things personally and are afraid of rejection or failure.

Each of us are to sow seeds. We are to do this by verbal presentation of the Gospel as well as living it out. We do not do this, as we should because as mentioned earlier we are afraid of rejection or isolation from others. Nevertheless, we cannot take it personal. This is the Lord’s work not our own. When they reject the Gospel or shun us, it is not personal but instead, against God.

We are also to water the seed, planted by others. Many times this comes in the form of lifestyle evangelism. Someone plants a seed and then the unbeliever watches to see if Christians handle things differently. They want to see practical ways in which Jesus makes a difference. They want to see how Jesus affects our decision-making and how we handle situations differently than they would.

If we are going to do lifestyle evangelism, we have to remember people are watching us all the time, not just when we want them to. It is easy to do lifestyle evangelism when things are going well, but how about when things are not going well. This is when they really watch! They want to know if our Jesus makes a difference when difficult times come not just when we experience the good times. Therefore, if we are going to water, we have to drip Jesus all the time not just when times are good.

God gifts each of us differently. Some have the gift of evangelism while some have the gift of watering. We are ALL TOLD TO DO BOTH, but we are usually gifted more at one than the other. Just remember as Paul said, do not take it personally, God is the one who provides the growth. We do our parts, but God changes the hearts of man. 

Think about planting a garden or flowers. You plant the seed, you water where you planted but you are not making the crop or the flower grow because God controls the process. God’s law of nature is what produces a crop and then we are a part of the harvest. Without God’s part, we could plant and water but would see no crop.

This is important because it keeps us from being discouraged when we do not see people accepting Him as Savior. It also should keep us from being prideful when we see God move. It is God working in them not man. We will receive our rewards as Paul points out, but it will be from God not from man.

 Keep planting and keep watering and watch God change hearts!



Into the Light

man sitting on edge facing sunset
Photo by Abhiram Prakash on

Into the Light

“This, then, is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.” (John 3:19-21)
One afternoon as I was getting ready to go to a funeral, I pulled my black suit from the closet and looked it over to make sure it did not have anything on it before putting it on. I got dressed and walked outside and was suddenly surprised at what I saw. My black suit had lint and loose fibers all over it. I thought, how could this be, since it seemed clean when I looked at it in the house.
As I looked at my suit under man made light, everything appeared okay. It was when I walked out in the Sun that I found things on it, which did not belong. The same is often true with our lives. When we evaluate our lives by the world’s standards, things tend to appear okay. It is when we see our lives in the light of the Son’s expectations that our imperfections are shown.
When we become Christ followers, we should begin to see ourselves in a way we have not before. Things, which seemed acceptable before, now should not be so. When walking according to the light of man, it is easy to overlook our wrong thoughts and actions. The man made light or standards allows us to overlook our sins and be comfortable with just about anything in our lives. 
However, when we walk in Christ, we are in the daylight, measuring ourselves against the Son. How do our thoughts and actions measure up when seen them in the light of Christ? Do they still appear acceptable or are there suddenly things made visible that we did not see before?
How does your life look in light of the Son?