Tuesday, October 31, 2006

my schedule

Peter Drucker used to do these great seminars where he would teach all these amazing leadership principles. And at the end of the day he would hand out a blank sheet of paper and say, “Now I want you to write down all the ideas that you plan to go home and implement from today.”

Everybody would just sit there and write furiously. They had learned such great stuff. They couldn’t wait to go home and start to try all these new things.

Then after a few minutes, he told everybody, “Stop writing. Now I want you to turn your page over to the backside.” He said, “Now I want you to write all the things you are currently doing… that you are going to STOP doing in order to implement the new stuff.”

Everybody would just sit there frozen. “Give UP something? How am I going to do that?” That’s not the American way. “I shouldn’t have to give up anything. I want it do it all.”

This is a constant struggle in my life. What good things will I have to say "NO" to, in order that I might say "YES" to things that are even better?

  • My daughter played soccer this fall. I made the choice to say "NO" to some things in my schedule, so that I could say "YES" to being a father.
  • Other times I've had to say "NO" to certain family things, so that I could say "YES" to ministry responsibilities that I believe are helping to change the world.

There is also another thing I have found to be painfully true. Not everyone will agree with all my choices. But seeking God's direction and the guidance of wise counsel...I must daily evaluate where I can be most effective. I can't do everything, so the things I choose to do must be things that REALLY MATTER!

Monday, October 30, 2006

dessert first

Sometimes you need more complete information before you dive into the unknown. Maybe you should open the fortune cookie before the meal!

Or a more relevant application: how much wiser is it to seek God's guidance BEFORE making the decision, rather than waiting until after we get into the mess? It is shameful how often I find myself in the middle of a decision, realizing that I have not yet prayed and sought insight from God's Word.

And did anybody notice that the cat was missing from behind the restaurant?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

clear communication

We are so often guilty of this: expecting people to do something without clarifying exactly WHAT they're supposed to do. I am one of the primary offenders. "Well of course you should have done what I meant...not what I said."

With your kids, your spouse, your co-workers, etc...don't get angry when they don't meet your expectations. Often they have no idea what you expect.

And then of course there is the whole subject of the unrealistic and bondage-inducing expectations we place on others...but that is a subject for another day.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

big house sinful?

Bill White mentioned a Habitat for Humanity workshop at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary where 200 pastors gathered to discuss the challenges of providing adequate housing in their community. As he led the seminar, Millard Fuller asked, "Is it possible for a person to build a house so large that it's sinful in the eyes of God? Raise your hand if you think so." All around the room, hands shot up into the air.

"Okay," said Millard, "then can you tell me at exactly what size, the precise square footage, a house becomes sinful to occuppy?" The pastors were silent. Finally one of them spoke up and confessed the heart of the matter, "I guess any house that's bigger than mine!"

Doesn't that really get to the heart of the issue? I can't prejudge someone else's cirumstance. God may be using their position to accomplish his own purposes.

But I do need to check my own heart, making sure that all that I do (and own) is being used for God's glory and not just a reflection of my own pride and greed.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

too serious?

Do you ever grow weary with those who take themselves far too seriously?

One thing I find odd, is how often Christians brandish their titles and degrees and positions and accomplishments as a badge of honor. How often do we demand respect, and feel that we must get all that we deserve (and more)?

Isn't this something we all struggle with? God has called us to servanthood. Whenever I wonder how I'm doing at that calling, I just ask, "How do I react when someone treats me like a servant?" In those times when I don't want to be treated like a servant, it is a harsh reminder of how much room for growth there is in my journey to become like Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth (some perhaps, but not most). But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'

Monday, October 23, 2006

football history

This weekend the Michigan State Spartans staged the largest and most dramatic comeback in the history of college Division 1A football. And that's not just my opinion (as a biased fan)...it was literally a performance for the record books.

The Spartans have had a dismal season. After winning the first 3 games, the rest of the season has been a total stinker. Injuries, players being suspended and heartbreaking losses had led to a weekend game that very well could have cost John L. Smith his job as head coach.

This weekend was a chance for redemption. This game was the last ditch effort to turn an excruciating season around. And the good news was that we were playing the Northwestern Wildcats (perennial doormat of the conference).

But in the first quarter, it became clear that this would not be the day for which everone hoped. All of a sudden the Wildcats were on fire and the Spartans were left reeling. Before you knew it, the Spartans were down 3 to 24 at halftime. Disgusted fans had already decided this game was the last straw. By the middle of the 3rd quarter, we fell to an impossible score from which to recover:

Spartans 3
Wildcats 38

No team in college history has ever come back from such a deficit...especially not this late in the game. There was only 9:54 left in the 3rd quarter. I've talked to many people who said that they just couldn't take anymore. People turned off the TV or changed the channel. Game over.

But for the foolish fans like me, who often keep watching...hoping for a miracle. For the die hard optimists who are angered to see people leave the stands in the 3rd or 4th quarter...this was a day for history to be made.

The Spartans went on to score 38 points, kicking the winning field goal with only 13 seconds left on the clock!!!

Now the question: Why do we get so engrossed in sports? I believe in many ways it is a microcosm of real life.

When the world has counted you out (you're down for the count and nobody gives you a chance)... always remember that there is still hope!

History says, "You might as well quit. You're a loser." People have changed the channel and vacated the stands. But listen...as long as there is time on the clock, you're still in the game. Don't quit.

Friday, October 20, 2006

karma or grace

In the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assaya, the lead singer of U2 says of God's grace:

"It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between grace and karma."

"[Karma says] what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics-in physical laws-every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And YET, along comes this idea called grace to upend all that 'as you sow, so you will reap' stuff."

"Grace defies reason and logic. Love interupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff..."

"It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Have you been embarrassed today? Those moments are often reality checks that remind us of our humanity. Pride-Busters can be a good thing!

But please don't pee in the pool...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

deism among teens

Researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina interviewed more than 3,000 teenagers about their religious beliefs and have released findings in a new book.

The social scientists concluded that American teenagers believe:

- A god exists who created the world and watches over human life.

- God wants people to be nice to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

- The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.

- God does not need to be involved in one's life except when needed to resolve a problem.

- Good people go to heaven when they die.

As you delve beneath the surface of these assumption, it creates a hodge-podge of beliefs that (at many points) creates inherent conflicts of logic and rationale.

Commenting on the research, Gene Edward Veith writes, "Most teenagers believe in a combination of works righteousness, religion as psychological well-being, and a distant, non-interfering god. Or, to use a technical term, 'Moralistic Therapeutic Deism'."

Our calling is to help tap into the human God-given hunger for truth. Our challenge is lovingly communicating how truth rests upon the foundation of universal absolutes in a culture that rejects absolutes.

Monday, October 16, 2006

diminishing returns

Have you ever heard of the “Law of Diminishing Returns”? It is an economic principle… but Tim Elmore was talking about how it applies to this pursuit of happiness thing.

The “Law of Diminishing Returns” says: Each time it will take more, in order to get the same effect. In other words, “The more you get of something…the less you’ll appreciate it.”
-The more candy you eat, the less you’ll enjoy it.
-The more time you have to just relax, the less you’ll enjoy it.

Like this picture I found. This dude thought, “A little hamburger is good. A gargantuan hamburger is even better!” But, not true. If he ever finishes that thing, he’ll never want to have another burger in his entire life. (And what’s the deal with the helmet?!)

Or here’s another classic example. You meet a girl (or a guy) and you think, “They’re so cute. I just wish I could talk with them. If we could just talk, my life would be complete.”

So you talk, and then after you’ve talked a few times you think, “If we could just hold hands. Holding hands would be the ultimate.” And so you go to that scary movie and sit in the dark and think, “This is awesome. Holding hands makes me all tingly inside”.

But after a while, holding hands isn’t quite as exciting and you think, “If we could just kiss.” (And it keeps going…but you can fill in your own blanks!)

You see the problem, right? The goal is always changing. You keep going farther and farther and (bam)… before you know it you end up in places you never intended to go. That’s the “Law of Diminishing Returns”. It says, “If it takes this much to give you the 'feeling' this time…next time it’ll take even more to get the same result.”

That’s how ADDICTION starts, isn’t it? I need a little bit, then a little bit more, and a little bit more. And it’s never enough.

When we look for contentment somewhere out there over the horizon, it’s an elusive goal. You’ll never find it.

But I am so thankful for the peace of God. He wants to give us joy from the inside out. Our contentment can’t be based on circumstances. In the good and in the bad, I will choose to be content (at least until the next time I forget)!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

small things

Hellen Keller said, "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble."

Or as we say at Faith, "Small things done with great love can change the world!"

Never underestimate the importance of what you're doing and how God can use you to make a difference.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

identity & baseball

Last night, the Tigers won another game in their quest for the World Series! I was in a meeting and I didn't get home till after the game was finished. But on the way home I immediately called Tracy to find out the results of the game.

A few weeks ago, I was teaching on identity and a sense of personal value. I shared some of my experiences from childhood. Some of my worst memories, and also some of my best memories (as a child)…were from playing BASEBALL.

I remember the terror of stepping up to the plate, and if I missed the ball my coach would yell at me. I remember the fear of going to a game, because I was so worried that I might mess up. I remember literally crying at times, begging my mom to let me quit the team. Those are hard memories.

But also some of my fondest memories as a child were from playing baseball. In one season, our team went to the Championship Game. It all came down to the last inning. We needed one run to win. And guess WHO went up to the plate? (Who do you think?... You got it baby, Little Red Gorveatte).

All of our jerseys had been paid for buy different businesses. My sponsor (written across the back of my shirt) was “Charlie Brown’s Toy Shop”. (No lie). If you know anything about Charlie Brown and baseball, you know that this did not bode well for our team.

I walked up to the plate and stared the pitcher in the eye. With a player on 2nd base… I nailed a line drive all the way out to the fence. It was a triple. I drove the winning run home.

The team literally carried me off the field on their shoulders. I was a hero.
And do you know what? I liked it! I thought “This is awesome. It makes me feel valuable.”

But here’s the PROBLEM. Those early experiences in life led me to a tendency to find my identity in my performance.
 If I WIN, life is good.
 If I LOSE, life is miserable.
And as I began to grow in Christ, I realized, “Wow, I had bought into this myth wholeheartedly.”

And (help me out there)…I’m not the only one, right? Don’t we all have this tendency at times? In some ways, we’re all still like little children…
> Trying to get approval from our parents.
> Trying to get people to like us.

Now DON’T misunderstand. If you know me, you know that I’m NOT saying we shouldn’t perform well. Heaven’s no. We should always give our best. Quit wimping around and get in the game. If something is worth doing, than it’s worth doing with excellence.

But here’s the real issue. This is the KEY QUESTION we need to answer: Who holds the measuring stick in my life? What is the standard?

Are you trying to impress everybody? That is a miserable way to life. Maybe your sense of value and worth comes from trying to impress a few select people (family and friends). Yet again...there will be times when you don't measure up in their eyes. Some people are impossible to please. It is a miserable way to live.

That's why our VALUE and identity as a person needs to be defined by God. Knowing what God says about me has the power to change everything else. It gives me a sense of security.

When's the last time that you sat down with a Bible and began to seek out the truth of what God says is true about YOU?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

don't be a meany

When you dream big, there will always be someone who tries to bring you down. And not just with the facts. The facts and a dose of reality can be a good thing. We need people who will occasionally provide some perspective.

But when you come across a negative person who just seems to tear you down, respectfully decline to be devastated by it. Receive the criticism with grace. Learn from it. And then move on...choosing to pursue the dream that God has placed in your heart!

Monday, October 09, 2006

character or results

This weekend the Spartans were embarassed (yet again) by the Wolverines. The season has gone from promising to devestating. One ray of hope: the opportunity to beat the #1 team in the nation this coming weekend would lift everyone's spirits and turn the season around. But what are the chances that the Buckeyes would stumble against this discouraged and wounded Spartan team?

Which gets me to thinking about our results-oriented society. In a recent article, many of the assistant coaches and Spartan players celebrated Head Coach John L. Smith for what a great job he has done. They trumpeted his focus on character and academics. They pointed to the charity and community service work John L. has led the team to accomplish. They were trying to remind everyone that leadership is about more than just winning.

And yet...when you get paid more than a million dollars a year to coach, people are expecting more than character development. Your judgment is based on the bottom line. Nothing more, nothing less.

Not to get political, but I always found it interesting how staunch supporters of President Clinton would speak of his leadership. I often heard comments like: "Well, he may be a bit sleazy, but he gets the job done!" Please understand, I am not speaking for or against Clinton. I just found it interesting how his allies would use that as their mantra.

So which is more important in your book? Character or winning results? The easy answer is "both". But in our society today we are often forced to choose. What choice will you make?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

male insecurities

Encourage someone today. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Brighten someone's day with a kind word. Go...do it! Right now!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

confusing intersection

This is a picture of an intersection in south Lansing. As complicated as it seems, there really is a plan in place to get you through the intersection safely. But the signs seem to create more confusion, rather than providing clear direction.

Sometimes we wish people would just come out and say what they mean. Other times we're glad that they don't just come out and say it. We'd rather pretend like we understand and everything makes sense. Meanwhile we continue to stumble through life without a clue.

And yet what do we do with the Bible? Admittedly there are concepts and passages which are confusing. Jesus often spoke in riddles. But when it really mattered, he just opened up his mouth and said what needed to be said.

Is there any area of your life where you have gotten lost in the riddles? Maybe it is time to get back to the plain word of Scripture. And as Mark Twain said: instead of worrying so much about what you don't understand, start applying the things you do understand. Is it possible that just doing the things we KNOW to be right, could bring many of the other parts of our lives back into focus?

Monday, October 02, 2006

gambling on campus

A recent report from "The Christian Science Monitor"says:

Poker is the latest craze on college campuses, as 50.4 percent of male college students reported gambling on cards at least once a month.

"At the college and university level, poker is pretty much the hottest thing going," says Mike Edwards of absolutepoker.com.

One Lehigh University student recently ran up over $5,000 in gambling debts, and then robbed an Allentown, Pennsylvania, bank to pay for it.

Colleges have been slow to deal with the problems generated by the growth in gambling, particularly poker. "The vast majority of schools we talk to have no formal or informal policy regarding gambling," says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Gambling numbers (from the Annenberg Public Policy Center):

-American men aged 14-22 who said they gambled once a month rose 20 percent from 2004-2005.
-2.9 million Americans between the ages of 14-22 gamble on cards at least once a week.
-50.4 percent of male college students gamble on cards at least once a month.
-26.6 percent of female college students gamble on cards at least once a month.
-Internet gambling generated $3.1 billion in revenue in 2001.
-Internet gambling generated an estimated $12 billion in 2005.

My question: Where do we draw the line in our lives? At one point do we say, "I don't want to mess around things that can lead to addiction?"

Gambling is not a sin (although it's a stretch when it comes to wise stewardship of God-given resources). But it is not a sin...it's a form of entertainment.

But it is also inherently dangerous. I've had many friends who got tangled up in internet gambling to such an extent that it nearly (and sometimes has) ruined their family finances.

Are the habits being developed in colleges today, possibly going to lead to the struggles of the next generation of marriages tomorrow?