Monthly Archives: December 2012

My 2013 Theme

Great organizations and companies have vision and mission statements. They also have themes each year that are reflective of their goals. Whether it’s a Fortune 500 company, a church or any other organization, it’s important that everyone on the team knows what the goals are so they can work together. As a reminder, they put out a theme for the year and keep repeating it so that others can run with them to accomplish their goals.

In January of this year, God spoke to me out of Ephesians 4:1. The scripture says, “Lead a life worthy of your calling.” He said that this was to be my theme this year. All year long I have tried to make changes in my life that were reflective of that theme. When an opportunity showed up, I would ask myself if that would help or hurt my theme of living a life worthy of the call. By making better decisions based on my theme, I saw incredible growth in my spiritual life this year.

Was I able to live a life worthy of that call 100% of the time? No. Am I closer to being who God wants me to be because I have tried harder than ever to live a life worthy of that call? Yes. I believe having that theme has helped me in many ways. It kept me on track where I would have usually failed, it helped me turn my daily commute into prayer time, it helped me to be obedient in starting this blog and it helped me share with others the calling that I have.

Since tomorrow is the start of the new year, I have a new theme. My theme for 2013 is found in John 3:30. It says, “I must decrease and He must increase.” Everything I do in the coming year will be reflected and measured by that verse. The question I will ask in each situation is, “Will this be for my glory or for His?” If it’s for mine, it will go against the theme and be detrimental to my overall goals.

“I must decrease and He must increase” means that I am to put God’s needs above my own. I need to see that His ways are more important than mine. I must recognize that His message and will are more important than my own. This is not an easy theme to follow. It will go against my very human nature. It will take crucifying my flesh and desires daily. Honestly, I’ll need help from others to keep me on track. It’s not something I can do on my own.

Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that reads it.” Quite simply, this is why companies and organizations write out their themes and keep mentioning them. It is so others who read it can run with it. I’m writing mine out so that anyone who reads this can run with me and help me to accomplish what God wants me to this year. I know a few of the things God has in store for me this year and they will require me to decrease my desires and put His first. I’ll be writing about them for sure.

What is your theme this year? I’d love to know so that I can run along side of you to help you accomplish what God has for you this year.


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Surviving Your Season

Many people are ready for the new year. It’s not because of anything other than this year was so hard for them. Next year represents a fresh start. It’s an end to a year of hardships, challenges and troubles. It’s an escape from what has been and a bridge to what will be. I’m thankful for new chapters in my life. I know there have been times when I’ve needed some to close and others that were over too quickly.

I read two scriptures today that will help you if you are ready for a new beginning. The first one is Ecclesiastes 3:1. It says, “To EVERYTHING there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven. (AMP)” Each of us go through seasons of change, seasons of pain and seasons of hurt. It’s part of life. Some of us seem to get more of these seasons than others. Some of us have longer seasons than others. Whatever your case is, I believe there is a purpose to it.

It’s hard to see the purpose of it when you’re in that season. Your mind and prayers are full of questions that start with “why”. I have rarely been given that answer during the seasons of hard times. It’s when I looked back and reflected on those seasons after they ended that I was given the answers to those questions. Some still remain unanswered to this day. The further away from them I get, the greater my perspective becomes of them.

Just as that scripture says, it is a season and only for a time. I used to say my favorite scripture was “this too shall pass.” With my perspective, I now see that those seasons were my greatest times of growth. I was being pruned like a tree in spring so I could bloom more than ever. Did it hurt? Yes. It still does when I think of those times. Could I have gotten to where I am without those times? No.

In those times it’s hard to look forward. It’s hard to know what’s ahead. You struggle to make it through the day. You look for God and don’t see Him, but He’s there. This is where the second scripture I read today comes in. In Habakkuk 3:19 it says, “The Lord God is my strength, my personal bravery and my invincible army… He will make me to walk (not stand still in terror, but to walk) and make spiritual progress upon my high places (of trouble, suffering or responsibility)!” When you don’t have strength, bravery or the will to fight to move forward, He becomes those things for you!

I know what it’s like to not want to do anything. To not want to get out of bed and face the day. To be so embarrassed about where your life is that you don’t want to see anyone. You can’t stay there though. That verse just said He will make you to walk and to make progress! That’s His promise to you. You don’t have to stand still in terror as to what has happened this year in your life. You can make progress in His strength. In time, you will look back at this year and see it was for your good, for your growth and to take you where you couldn’t have gone otherwise.

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If 99.9% Were Good Enough

I was cleaning out old stuff in my cubicle yesterday to get prepared for the new year when I came across an attention getter I used to use. You may or may not have seen it, but I’ll share some of it anyway. It’s called “If 99.9% Were Good Enough”. I used it in class to help front line employees know that even small margins of errors can have huge impacts on the business. Here are a few of the more notable ones:

If 99.9% were good enough
– 12 babies would be given to the wrong parents each day
– 268,500 defective tires would be shipped this year
– 14,208 defective computers would be shipped this year
– 2,488,200 books would be shipped with the wrong cover
– 5,517,200 cases of soft drinks would be flat
– 18,323 pieces of mail would be mishandled in the next hour
– 107 incorrect medical procedures would be performed today

What if you could live right 99.9% of the time. Would that be good enough to get to Heaven? Romans 3:10 says that there is no one who is righteous, no, not one. Later on in verse 23, it says that all have sinned and fallen short. Apparently 99.9% isn’t good enough. We all fall short of righteous living. Does that mean that we shouldn’t try? Of course not. Titus 2:12 says that “we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness and devotion to God.”

Just because we are unable to live right doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I was talking to a friend yesterday about an old group of friends I used to have. We called ourselves “Heathens Anonymous”. The concept was simple, but fun. Each of us are born with a sinful nature in us. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior it doesn’t mean that we all of a sudden live perfectly. That sinful (heathenistic) nature still lives in us. Just like an alcoholic becomes a recovering alcoholic, we become recovering heathen.

We still fall prey to our fleshly desires from time to time. We should try to refrain from our old way of living as much as possible. According to James our faith without works is dead. In Romans 4:5 it tells us to be careful though. We are not counted as righteous because of our works, but because of God who forgives us. It is His grace that covers our sins especially when our old sinful nature rears its head. Ephesians 2:8,9 says that we are saved by grace and not works so that no one can boast.

Wherever you find yourself from 99.9% down to 0.1% in living right, when you accept Jesus, His grace makes up the difference to get us to 100%! The older I get, the more appreciative I am of His grace. I rely on it, need it and trust in it. I’m not perfect. I’ll still be a recovering heathen as long as I live. There’s one thing I know though, His grace is sufficient to cover my mistakes and short comings. It’s sufficient enough for yours too.

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Lessons From Joseph

I have always been intrigued with Joseph. In the story of Jesus’ birth, Mary is the one who always gets the attention. I’m not saying she shouldn’t. I’m saying that I think Joseph needs some attention too. Just so you know, I’m also the guy who doesn’t stand and look at the bride in a wedding either. When I hear the notes on the organ and all rise and turn to the back of the auditorium, I turn and face the front. I love the look on a guy’s face as his wife comes out of hiding and he sees her for the first time in her dress. I identify with him because I’ve been there. There’s no feeling like it.

Maybe that’s why I’m concerned with Joseph. As a guy, husband and father, I identify with him. Since I can identify with him, it makes me impressed with what he did. We know that Mary was highly favored among women, but I think Joseph must have been highly favored among men. It took someone special to do what he was asked to do which is to be an earthly father to the Messiah. It was on him to raise a baby into a boy, a boy into a teen and teen into a man.

You know what kind of a person Joseph is right away when you first read about him in Matthew 1. The first thing you know is that his genealogy places him in the tribe of Judah and in the royal family line of King David. The Bible lists out the 28 generations from Abraham to Joseph. God couldn’t just use anyone to be the father of Jesus, he had to be from that tribe and in that lineage according to prophecy. He also had to be devout, willing and obedient.

When Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant, he knew that he was not the father. His reaction impresses me. He decided he wouldn’t marry her, that he’d keep it quiet and let her go into hiding since that was a crime punishable by stoning. If it was me and my fiancé told me she was pregnant, I would have been the first one with a stone in my hand. Joseph wasn’t like that though. Even though he must have been hurt and obviously disbelieving in her story, he decided to show kindness.

God had sent an angel to speak to Mary about the baby, now He sent one to Joseph. Once the angel spoke to Joseph, he believed and kept Mary as his fiancé. Not only that, but he married her and then did not have marital relations with her until after Jesus was born. What?!? They were married for months before he consummated their wedding vows. That’s a stronger man than me.

What he does next is even more impressive. God woke him up in the middle of the night and told him to take his family and flee to Egypt. Without hesitation, they packed up and left. He had already been displaced from his home in Nazareth because of the census, now he had to flee his home in Bethlehem. Through two other dreams Joseph was obedient to what God said in order to protect Jesus. He was a true father to Jesus by putting His safety above his own.

I think there is a lot we can learn from Joseph. Although the Bible doesn’t give us much more than this about him, we can see that God chose the right man for the right job. I think He still chooses the right people to fulfill His purposes. Each of us has been called to do something in particular for Him. He’s needing us to be devout, willing and obedient as Joseph was. So what has He asked you to do? Are you being willing and obedient to do it while remaining devout to Him even when it doesn’t make sense?

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No Room

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus today, I want to go back to the original day of His birth. Joseph and Mary had been traveling to the town of Bethlehem and couldn’t find a place to stay. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I’m sure they tried to stay with there family first. After being unable to find someone to stay with, they went to the local hotel. There was no room there either. I’m sure Mary looked tired from all the traveling and she was clearly full term.

I’m sure Joseph was desperate and needed a roof over their heads. The inn keeper then mentioned the stable. Without any other choice, they took it. I imagine them walking into that barn and the smell hitting them. I imagine the noise of the animals was loud too. It wasn’t too long after being there that Mary went into labor. Jesus was born into a world that had no room for Him.

I look at our world today and wonder, is today any different? Is there room for Jesus today? People often think that they have to clean up to let Him into their lives or that they have been so bad that He wouldn’t want to come into their life. What we don’t think about is that God chose the stable for Jesus to be born in. God, who is all powerful, could have made room anywhere He wanted to have Jesus born. But He didn’t. He chose a stable.

I think He chose the stable because it represents you and me. Our lives are often full, loud and they stink. He isn’t looking for a palace to dwell in. He’s looking for someone who will give Him room… even if it is in their barn. It doesn’t matter to Him if you’re rich, poor, good, bad, clean or dirty. He just needs a little space to come into. It won’t take long though before you start making changes and giving Him more space.

Once you give Him that space, He is ready to bring others into your life to help you on your way. He sent shepherds and wise men to see Jesus once He was born. I think God sent the shepherds because of what they do. They guide and direct the sheep. They protect them and watch over them. He sent the wise men who brought gifts and I’m sure provided Joseph and Mary with much needed wisdom. We all need shepherds and wise men (people) in our lives.

God knows what you have need of. We all need people who will guide us, protect us and give us wisdom. When we create space in our lives for Him, He begins to place those people around us. We often don’t recognize or see them for what they are until later, but they’re there. It’s amazing what God does for those who are willing and make a little room for Him. Is there room for Him in your life? Do you need to give Him more space? I know I do.


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Christmas Eve Communion

One of my favorite traditions at Christmas is going to a candle light communion service. At a time when we are celebrating the birth of Christ, it’s a good reminder of why He was born. At the last supper, Jesus said, “As often as you do this (communion), do this in remembrance of me.” So in celebration if His birth, we take time to remember His death. Yes, His birth was important. I’ll talk about it tomorrow. Today, however, I want to focus on why He came.

It wasn’t just enough that He was born and took on flesh and blood. In order to be the advocate we need Him to be, He had to see what it was like living here confined to a body, time and space. It was something He had never experienced. While God created all three, they existed in Him, not He in them. Knowing what it’s like to have a schedule, a job, deadlines, dealing with customers and being tempted as we are we’re all part of His plan. Don’t forget He was a carpenter which meant He dealt with all the above.

He needed to know how strong temptation is for you and I so He could give us strength to overcome it and to provide a way out of it. He dealt with anger, frustration and needy people. He knew what it was like to have a family. We don’t know what happened to Joseph since he isn’t mentioned beyond Jesus’ 12th year. It’s possible He knows what it’s like to lose a parent and to be raised by a single mom. He understands those struggles.

He knows what it’s like to be falsely accused. He had a close friend stab Him in the back and betray Him. He knows what it is to have people lie about Him and then send Him to jail. He knows what it is like to be in court and to go before a judge. He knows what it’s like to be beaten, whipped, slapped and punched. He knows what it feels like to have the weight of the world on His shoulders. He even knows what it is like to face death.

I love what Hebrews 4:15 says about Jesus. It says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. (NLT)” In wrapping Himself in flesh and blood, He also wrapped Himself in our pains, our sufferings, our fears, our joys and our temptations so that He could be our advocate to the Father. He understands what you are going through today and was able to make it through each of these situations.

So on Christmas Eve, I choose to remember all of these things in His life as I celebrate His death on the cross. I take time to remember that it wasn’t His birth that saved me. It was His death on the cross and resurrection three days later. Without living a sinless life and dying on the cross, I would still be lost and in sin. Tomorrow I will remember and celebrate His birth, but today, I remember His life, death and resurrection in order to be my advocate.


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Sinking Like a Rock

About 15 years ago, a buddy and I went to Cancun for vacation. We had a great time planned out and were excited to be going on an adventure. When we checked into our hotel, they said that each day the hotel would be hosting games and activities. If we met in the lobby at a certain time each day, they would tell us the activities.

At one such meeting, they told us about a snorkeling trip. That sounded fun. I had been snorkeling in the Red Sea and it was an amazing experience. We decided we were in! They gave us life jackets, snorkeling gear and then took us out in a boat. They dropped us off in groups and we were to follow the flags to get the best experience. While I was admiring the ocean floor and sea life, I saw something that didn’t belong. It was my buddy.

He was steadily sinking like a rock with his arms waving and he had a look of terror on his face. I looked up for the boat, but it had gone off about 200 yards. There was only one thing to do. I had to go against everything I’d been taught. I took off my life vest, I swam down to get him, grabbed him, kicked off the bottom and swam for the surface as hard as I could. As soon as we got there, he did what experts said he would do, he panicked and pushed me under.

All of a sudden I was in a battle for my own life. I couldn’t break free from his grip. I had to punch him to get him to release me. When I got to the surface for air, he was still thrashing the water looking for anything to hold onto. I yelled at him to relax. “You have a life vest on,” I told him. “Relax and let it do its job.” Once he did, he found that he was floating. I told him to lay his head back and breathe while I got the boat’s attention.

As I was yelling for the boat, a wave came over his head and water got in his eyes and mouth. Panic set in again. He grabbed me, pushed me under and began thrashing the water again. I punched him, got away from him, made it back to the surface and calmed him down again. Finally the boat came to pick him up. He stayed in the boat until we got back to shore. That’s when he told me he couldn’t swim.

Many of us find ourselves in his situation on life. We are overcome by waves and we panic. We are sinking to the bottom. Drowning in problems. Our life preserver isn’t working like we thought it should. The opposite of what’s supposed to happen is happening. We thrash and kick and fight. The more we do, the more we sink. We are overcome with life.

God is looking down through the water. He sees you looking up at Him. He is not unaware of where you are. He has given you a life preserver in His Word. Read the Bible. Cling to His promises. Proverbs 4:22 tells us that His words are life to those who find them. Hebrews 13:5 echoes, “for He, God Himself, has said, ‘I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not (3 times) in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down or relax my hold on you!'” Wow! That’s a powerful promise from God. Hold on to that today and trust in Him. Just like in swimming, if you’re drowning, quit fighting and trust. You will rise to the surface and get air again. God is on your side even when you can’t see Him.


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Jesus and Tom Landry

Since I was a child I have known that the shortest verse in the Bible was “Jesus wept” in John 11:35. What I haven’t known is why He cried. At first I thought I was because Lazarus had died, but Jesus knew his death was temporary and specifically went there to raise Him from the dead. If that was the case, why would He cry over his death? It made no sense to me. And it wasn’t just a regular, tears streaming down the face cry either. It says He wept which implies a lot more.

I was watching an American football documentary earlier this year on the life of Tom Landry. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that name, he was the coach of the Dallas Cowboys and always wore a “funny hat”. He had a complex system that changed how football is played. He was also very stoic. A player was once asked if he ever saw Landry smile. He said, “No, but I was only on his team for nine years.”

Despite his ingenious methods of coaching, he had six straight losing seasons with the Cowboys. At the end of the sixth season, after losing to Vince Lombardi again, he broke down and wept in the locker room in front of his players. For the next twenty years, the Dallas Cowboys had winning seasons with five Superbowl appearances. When asked about what made the change, the players all pointed to that moment when he cried. For the first time, they saw him as human.

I wonder if the same thing happened when the disciples saw Jesus cry. They had watched him perform miracles every day for a while. Could they have focused so much on the God side of Jesus that they failed to see His human side? Could they have been following Jesus without being emotionally attached to Him? Did this event change how they saw Jesus and then changed their focus and enthusiasm? I don’t know. I think it’s a possibility though.

Jesus understood relationships. He valued them as we should. He knew we needed to see His human nature as well as Hid God nature. He understands what it means to cry. He knows what it’s like to have someone you love die. He has been wounded by a friend that turned their back on Him. He experienced a wide range of emotions while here and can empathize with you in your pain and suffering. He was fully God and fully man.

I’m glad that John recorded the smallest verse in the Bible. I think it is actually one of the biggest verses there is. It reminds us of His human nature that allows us to emotionally connect with Him. It shows that He had feelings. It also leads to the part where He raised Lazarus from the dead reminding us there is nothing He can’t do. I hope the next time you come read the shortest verse in the Bible, you don’t skip past it. I hope you stop and think about what it means to you to know he wept and felt pain just like you.

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Lenses that Lable

I have to confess I have a problem. When I look at people, I see them through a lens that places a label on them. When I first see someone, the first thing that comes to my mind is what I think they are. I may think, “Smoker. Muslim. Homosexual. Thug. Diva. Punk.” There are numerous things that can come to mind when I see someone. This morning, I was challenged to see them as Jesus sees them. “Soul”. Each one is a soul that is either lost or found.

By placing my own labels on people, I covered up who they really are. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this, but that doesn’t make it right. As I drove by each car this morning, I looked at the driver and began to look past the label my mind wanted to place on them. I focused on their soul. The moment I did, a compassion for them welled up inside of me.

When we label people, we are really building up walls so we don’t have to get involved. We use them to create excuses why we shouldn’t or couldn’t be Jesus to them. Over time, we end up forgetting why we are here. It is to be salt and light. I often read in Scripture where Jesus is approached by someone or a large crowd gathers around Him and the verse will almost always say, “And He had compassion on them.”

Compassion is what compels us to do something for someone else. Jesus’ ministry wasn’t about taking up a larger offering or getting more people to follow Him. It was about seeing the lost, having compassion on them and then doing something about it. His heart broke for the people He saw. I believe it still breaks today with as many lost people as there are.

Brandon Heath wrote a song a couple of years ago called “Give Me Your Eyes”. In it he says, “Give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see everything that I keep missing. Give me your love for humanity…I’ve been there a million times. A couple of million eyes just moving past me by. I swear I never thought that I was wrong.” They are challenging lyrics that is a prayer all of us should have. We pass people every day who need compassion. Who need Christ.

So what do we do about it? Should we give up because there are so many? Should we sit back and do nothing because we are outnumbered? No! It only takes a little salt to flavor an entire meal. It only takes a little light to make darkness leave. As individuals, we have an ability to affect so many with what little we have. We have to get past the lenses on our eyes that see labels to where we see souls. We have to see them as God sees them. Only then can we have the compassion necessary to do what we were called to do: Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.


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God is With You

I think it’s important to stop and remember what we are celebrating this time of year. People can argue that Christmas is commercialized, that some of the traditions have pagan roots or that Jesus wasn’t born in December. Honestly, what we are celebrating now, should be celebrated all through the year. God wrapped Himself in flesh and lived among us. The prophet Isaiah said He would be called Emmanuel which is God with us.

I’ve always loved the meaning of that name. God is with us. It’s present tense. It’s not He was with us or He will be with us. He is with us! There are times we all face where we feel alone. We feel the world is against us. Our friends are scarce. Our troubles are compounded. Our stress is through the roof. Our bills are too many and too high. We feel abandoned and are afraid. How we feel and what circumstances look like don’t change the fact that God is with us.

I’ve always heard it said that you plus God equals a majority. It’s important to remember that when you’re overwhelmed or feel alone. You have the Creator of the universe standing beside you, fighting for you and working things out for your good. When I look back at the hardest times in my life, I can see now that He was working things for my good. I had to go through the fires and the difficult times to be who I am now and to get where I am. It never feels like it during the struggle though.

When we’re surrounded by the storm and the waves are crashing into us and we feel like we’re sinking, He is with us. He isn’t panicking like we are. He knows that things are under control even when they appear not to be. The disciples found themselves in this same situation. They were on a boat in the middle of a fierce storm and they were taking on water. They were terrified until they remember Emmanuel. God is with us. They woke Jesus up and He calmed the storm.

Maybe that’s you today. You find yourself in the middle of a storm. Your mind is occupied by all the “what if’s”. You feel as though your life is sinking. Nothing is going as planned. If that’s the case, remember there is no storm He can’t calm. There is nothing that life can throw at you that He can’t turn into good for you. Even if you can’t see it, have faith. It’s now that you need to remember Emmanuel. God is with YOU. And if God is for you, who can be against you? In all things, we are more than conquerors through Him.

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