Monthly Archives: December 2012

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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Living by Faith

I grew up in a family with a modest income. Early on as a child I learned what it was like to live by faith. I watched as God supplied our needs daily. When we needed a car, someone gave us one. When we needed food, someone brought us food. When we needed money to pay the bills, someone gave money. Each time a need presented itself, God spoke to someone to provide for it. I know there was a lot more that was provided for than I ever saw, but what I did see, showed me that God was our provider.

Now, as an adult, I can appreciate more what God did for us through others. I understand the stress that living by faith can bring. I also understand the depth of faith you get when you solely rely on God. Growing up, I would pray that God would someday allow me to be on the giving end to where I could help provide for others in need. God has definitely answered that prayer and continues to answer it.

Somewhere along the way, my mind started equating being poor with living by faith. I’ve learned that when you don’t have much, you have a greater opportunity to live by faith. When all you have is a prayer, you don’t have a choice except to trust God. That doesn’t mean that when God blesses us monetarily we can’t live by faith though. It just becomes more difficult to. We begin to trust in our abilities and in the blessing rather than the Provider.

In Mark 10:17-27, there is a story of a man who approaches Jesus and asks what he needs to do to get to Heaven. Jesus lists off the Ten Commandments and the guy’s face lights up. “I’ve done that ever since I was a kid”, he replied. Jesus said, “But there is one thing you haven’t done. Go sell everything you have, give it to the poor and come follow me.” The man’s countenance fell as he walked away unwilling to commit to that.

That young man was trusting in his possessions rather than the One who provided them to him. I believe if he had truly been living by faith, he wouldn’t have had a problem giving them up. It comes down to perspective. Do you believe that what you have is yours or God’s? Did your hard work pay for what you have or did God use your job to provide for you and you purchased those things with His money? I was always taught that what I own is not mine. It is God’s. I am merely a steward over what He has given me.

When you learn to see things this way, God will allow you to be on the blessing end of living by faith. In order for the poor who are living by faith to have their needs met, there needs to be people who have more than enough to live by faith. While God can and has used the wealth of the wicked to be laid up for the righteous, why should we pass up the blessing of giving and allow others to take care of those in need? No matter where we fall on the scale of living by faith, one principle remains: Give and it shall be given to you, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over and poured into your lap.

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A World Changing Prayer

Have you ever prayed a prayer that changed the course of your life? I have. I was in church earlier this year. The service was closing and the guest preacher was praying for people in the altar area. I didn’t feel a need to go forward, so I prayed where I was sitting. I simply said, “God, I’m ready when you are. Use my life for your purpose. I’m tired of running. Amen.” As soon as I said “amen” the preacher spoke what God had already revealed to me and then asked for that person to come to the front.

Less than a year later, things in my life are still changing. I see every day things that are lining up to put me where He promised He would take me. It’s overwhelming sometimes when I sit and think of everything that has happened since that prayer and is happening right now. One of the first things berthed out of that prayer was this blog. More than anything, this blog is an act of obedience to God. Obedience is an act of worship to God and shows Him you are able to be faithful.

I was thinking this morning of others who have had life changing prayers. I imagine David out in a pasture watching sheep, singing psalms to God and just saying, “God, I’ll be who you want me to be and do what you want me to do. Even if it is watching these sheep for the rest of my life.” He became king. I can see Mary thrilled with her engagement to Joseph and praying, “Do with my life what you will, Lord. I am your servant.” She became the mother of Jesus.

What God looks for is a heart that is willing to obey Him whether He makes you a king in His kingdom or a caretaker. We all want to be great in His kingdom, but He said the least would be the greatest. Doing what He calls you to do is what makes you great in His eyes. Peter was told to feed His sheep. Seems menial, but He was faithful in it and became the head of the church. Greatness is not achieved by doing great things. It is achieved by doing the little things you are called to do when you’re called to do them.

Many of us want to change the world, but I’ve found is that being obedient often changes the world of one person. That one person then changes the world of someone else and the ripple effect takes over. Do you know who Albert McMakin is? He is the guy who was obedient and invited Billy Graham to a revival where he became a Christian. Since that time, Billy has lead over 3 million people to Christ and numerous other ministries have been launched where countless have been helped.

It all started with a small act of obedience and a person who said, “God, I want to do what you want me to do.” That small act of obedience for Albert has been world changing. What is it that God is asking you to be obedient to? Have you prayed and offered God a life of obedience? If not, I encourage you to do so. It will change the course of your life and be world changing.

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Want to Trade?

I grew up going to a Wednesday night scouting program through my church. We earned badges, learned how to set up a campsite and went camping. There were competition camp outs with the section and district that I enjoyed. Every four years there would be a national camp out where people from all over would attend. There were people from all over who attended.

At the national camp out, each district brings hat pins with them and trades them with kids from other parts of the US and world. Just like anything that is traded, some pins become popular and more difficult to get and others are less popular which no one wants. Every where you go, people are stopping you to see what pins you have. They are hoping to make a trade. Without any good pins, it’s hard to make a trade with anyone.

There was a man not far from where I was camping who set up a table outside his tent. He had a towel stretched out with pins from all over the world on it. There were Russian military pins, pins from European countries, pins from national monuments and pins that blinked. His collection was amazing. Word spread to everyone where he was set up. I walked over to look at his collection. It truly was amazing. He had been collecting for years.

As I stood in line to see, I got close enough to hear what was going on. Each boy that walked up to the table heard him ask, “Which one is your favorite?” The boys would think long and hard then point to their favorite. He’d tell them the story of how he got it and then he’d ask another question. He’d ask, “Which pin do you have that you like the least?” The boys were quick to point out which one they didn’t like. He then asked, “Would you like to trade that one for your favorite?” It didn’t take very long for each kid to jump on that trade.

It got me to thinking of how each of us have things, habits and flaws in our lives that we don’t like. We can all point to our mistakes and say, “I wish I could trade that for something better.” What I’ve learned about God is just that. He takes our worst and gives us His best. Galatians 5 mentions the flaws we have: immorality, impurity, indecency, selfishness, envy and the like. Then it tells us what God gives in exchange: love, joy, gladness, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

I’m not sure why we hang on to some of those old habits when you look at the list of what God wants to trade. Letting go of those is hard for us somehow. Accepting something so much better is somehow more difficult. We know the trade is completely in our favor and I think that makes us feel guilty or unworthy to accept it. Romans says that not one of us is worthy, but God showed us His love by sending His Son to die for us while we were still sinners.

What do you have to trade today? What have you been holding onto that you want to let go? Make the trade. Tell Him what you want that He has and what you want to trade for it. He’ll gladly do it and you’ll be better off for it.

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Liaisons for the Lost

If you knew someone famous and your friends knew it, would you give in to their pleas for you to introduce them? Most of us probably wouldn’t. We don’t want to jeopardize our friendship with the famous person in order to satisfy our friend’s desire. I wonder how many of us fail to introduce our friends to Jesus. We won’t introduce them for the opposite reason though. We don’t want to jeopardize our friendship with them instead of being concerned with our relationship with Jesus.

In Mark chapter two, four friends take another friend to see Jesus. When they arrive, the place where Jesus is speaking is full. There are so many people that they are spilling out into the street and these four guys can’t even get near the door. They are desperate for their friend who is paralyzed to see Jesus. They take him up to the roof of the place where Jesus was speaking and then start digging until they’ve created a hole big enough to lower their friend through.

When Jesus sees the faith of the friends, He speaks to the man who was lowered down and forgives his sins. Jesus was more concerned about healing him spiritually than he was physically. I don’t even know if is friends were thinking he needed a spiritual healing. I’m sure they were just looking for a physical healing. A physical healing is pointless without a spiritual healing first though. A physical healing is temporary, but a spiritual healing is eternal.

A friend of mine spoke to me yesterday about being a liaison for Jesus. When he mentioned it, I though of this story. These men were liaisons and made sure their friend was placed In front of Jesus. They didn’t care what else was going on, what Jesus was doing or whose house they were tearing the roof off of. They just knew that their friend needed help and Jesus was the one who could heal.

Each of us have people in our lives that need to be taken to Jesus for healing whether it’s physical, spiritual or both. What are we doing about it? Are we just mentioning our friend in passing? Do we get to the door, see it’s full and go back home? Or do we find a way to get on a roof, dig through all the layers of things that separate us from Jesus and make a way to get in front of Him? It was always those people who got more than they hoped for.

The woman with the issue of blood couldn’t get to Jesus. She wasn’t big enough or strong enough to push through the crowd to get to Him. Instead she got on her hands and knees and crawled through the dirt and muck so that she could at least touch the hem of His garment. Where’s that kind of tenacity in our prayer lives today? Where’s that kind of determination to see people healed and forgiven? I know I need to have more of it. I think when we get that kind of fire in us, we’ll start to make the difference we were called to make.

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