It’s Amazing How Much the Little Things Can Change the Big Picture

Small Things Can Make a Big Difference, So Do Your Part to Make it the Best

This past Sunday we had the Vacation Bible School program at church. As I watched those small children performing and sharing what they learned during the week, I was reminded of the importance of small things.

VBS has had such a huge effect on so many kids over the years, me being one of those. In this big, fast-paced world it’s so easy to lose sight of the little things.

Big things are made up of small things.

Regardless of what the big thing is…it can look and feel overwhelming. Most of us feel so small and insignificant that we don’t move forward, doing the things we should. We’re convinced we don’t have what it takes, or that what we can do won’t make any difference, or that nobody cares about what we have to offer, or…you get the picture.

The big oak tree starts out as an acorn. The field of wheat starts from small seeds. God’s Kingdom is built one seed at a time. Just like the tree in the forest or the stalk of wheat in the field…we’re not alone. The building of His Kingdom is not up to us only.

God provides us with the opportunities to build great things, the actions are up to us.

As I was thinking about the importance of small things, I once again was reminded of Andy Andrews and one of his books. Does my infatuation with Andy’s stuff border on addition? 😊

The Little Things, Why Your Really Should Sweat the Small Stuff is another great book and speaks to the importance of little things.

Andy’ perspective on principles that empower the human mind and spirit embodies his own approach to life and work. In this book he offers material that he uses to teach and coach some of the most successful corporations, teams, and individuals around the world. In his unique humorous style, Andy shows how people succeed by actually going against the modern adage, “don’t sweat the small stuff”.  By contrast, Andy proves that it is in concentrating on the smaller things that we add value and margin.

“In a world where so many feel powerless, wouldn’t it be great to feel in control?

 . . . that one tiny thing that, when understood and harnessed, allows us to create a life of extraordinary purpose and powerful results. It’s less about drive and will power than it is about understanding certain principles and why they work . . . every time.

Small things make a big difference. When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion. We need to unite and tie up some lions.

God’s Kingdom is built one block at a time. The little things that we do regularly are the building blocks of that Kingdom

It’s Okay to Embrace the Busy, it’s Part of God’s Plan

“Work” Isn’t a Bad Word, and it Shouldn’t be Used That Way

Last week I wrote about the topic of being busy and it’s current prevalence in conversations. This frequency was confirmed in a recent Ray Edwards podcast, “5 Reasons Why You Need to Take More Time Off”. My intent is not to throw Ray under the bus, on the contrary, he starts off by saying, “Make hay while the sun shines.” Having grown up on a farm, I can totally identify with this.

Growing up on the farm explains a lot about my work philosophy.

I think the issue of being busy, working too much, or taking time off, comes down to a couple of things. First is a societal push to have life goals of long weekends, vacations and retirement. Second is the meaning of words and how we use them.

It seems the subject of working less is being pushed more and more. I’ve heard Michael Hyatt speak of taking long sabbaticals. The internet, books and social media are full of ideas for working less and less, some say the goal should be 4 hours per day.

I don’t know but this just seems crazy to me.

I think the key to this issue is in understanding ourselves and finding the balance in what we do. This will be different for everyone. Balance doesn’t mean resting the same amount of time that working. It means resting proportionately to working.

I base my work/rest balance on God’s 6-1 ratio. He worked six days and then rested one. He completed His work and then rested. His focus wasn’t on resting, it was on accomplishing His goals. When that was done then He rested. And He loved what He was doing.

We definitely need rest…the question is what is rest and how much is needed?

I remember when people would say they were bored, I never understood that. How can someone be bored when there is so much important work to do. I think boredom is rooted in not having found a purpose. That or they were just lazy.

God’s Word makes it very clear that we are instructed to work hard and put our best effort forward. The Bible, especially in the wisdom-filled book of Proverbs, speaks often of the cause and effect relationship of hard work and rewards as well as laziness and ruin. Bible Study Tools, Bible verses about laziness, Knowing Jesus, Open Bible.

Part of the problem is in the misuse of words.

Like the word “work” for example. People use this word as if it were a punishment. It’s as if they’ve been bad so now, they have to go to “work” rather than being able to play. The definition of work is activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.

Sign me up…this sounds like something I would like to do.

Work becomes a problem when it causes us to become so focused on one thing that we lose sight of other things in life. (Take it from a recovering workaholic.) Work hard on all the different areas that make up a well-balanced life not just a job.

  • Build my relationship with God (Spiritual)
  • Build a family legacy (Family)
  • Help people build their dreams (Vocation)
  • Build wealth (Financial)
  • Build the best me (Personal Well-being)
  • Help others build a better them (Ministry)
  • Help build a better world (Social and Community)

The key is to find the work that you love and do it. This is where the real problem lies. Most people have settled for a mondain existence rather than finding their God given purpose.

Get clear on what God wants you to do and get BUSY, WORKING on that!

How Much are You Willing to Sacrifice for the Ones You Love?

God was Willing to Sacrifice His Only Son…That’s a Lot!

Most people are familiar with the Bible verse, John 3:16. It is the most popular verse out there. The reason for this is in its simplicity. This one verse summarizes the entire Gospel message in one simple statement.

This is the Gospel in a nutshell.  

  • Martin Luther called it “The Gospel in miniature”.
  • Biblical Commentator William Barclay wrote that it is “the very essence of the Gospel.
  • Comedian Jeff Foxworthy stated, “This is the promise that bears hope for the hopeless.
  • Gospel preacher, Robert Jackson, entitled it “The greatest sentence ever written.” 
  • Author Max Lucado described it as the “hope diamond of the Bible.”

John 3:16.

Jesus said to Nicodemus, the inquiring Rabbi, who came to Jesus by night:

For God

so loved the world

that He gave His only begotten Son,

that whoever believes in Him

should not perish

but have everlasting life.

John 3:16, “is a twenty-six word parade of hope: beginning with God, ending with Life, and urging us to do the same,” wrote Max Lucado. “Brief enough to write on a napkin or memorize in a moment, yet solid enough to weather two thousand years of storms and questions.

If you know nothing of the Bible, start here. If you know everything in the Bible, return here.

An unknown author penned this tribute to John 3:16

“God…………………………………………..….The greatest Lover

“so loved”………………………………………The greatest Degree

“the world”……………………………….….The greatest Company

“that He gave”………………………………………The greatest Act

“His only begotten Son”…………………………The greatest Gift

“that whosoever”………….………..……The greatest Invitation

“believeth”………….………………..…….The greatest Simplicity

“in Him”………………….…………………..…..The greatest Person

“should not perish”….……………….…….The greatest Promise

“but”………………………..………..………The greatest Difference

“have”….……………………………………..The greatest Certainty

“everlasting life”………………………..The greatest Possession

God’s willingness to give His Son to be killed on a cross by the very people that He came to save shows how much God loves us. This level of sacrifice is hard to emulate.

The Rev. George Bennard was “praying for a full understanding of the cross and its plan in Christianity.”, when he wrote the famous hymn, The Old Rugged Cross. He spent many hours in study, prayer and meditation, until he could say, “I saw the Christ of the cross as if I were seeing John 3:16 leave the printed page, take form and act out the meaning of redemption.

As humans we overcomplicate the simple. We think everything has to be difficult. We think the message in John 3:16 is too amazing to understand and too simple to accept. It’s not!

It’s everything we need to know and nothing we don’t.

God has done all of the hard work… we just need to believe, accept and share!

The Importance of Taking a Walk Down Memory Lane

Memories Help Us to Know Who We Are and Who We Can Be

This past Sunday we had another “faith sharing Sunday” combined with a 5th Sunday hymn sing. I’ve shared in previous posts about the “faith sharing Sundays”. This is where people have shared the stories of their faith journeys.

Wilma and Arlan shared their stories this time. I had heard most of these stories before, considering that they are my aunt and uncle. Even so, it is always good to hear them again and revisit those memories.

A 5th Sunday hymn singing is just what it sounds like. It’s singing to the Lord with happy songs and make music to the Lord in our hearts. We haven’t done this for a while and it was a nice reminder of my growing up in this church.

Both of these things transported me back to my youth and so many great memories. To the point of it being hard to see the page through my tears as I write this. Memories of Jim Nichols and my time as a teenager singing next to him in the choir, or when he would lead hymns and hold out notes for an exceptionally long time.

Memories are a powerful thing.

Music has an amazing way of connecting us to memories and feelings. When you hear a specific song, it can remind you of a time and a place so much that it transports you back there.

Like hearing Buck Owns, Hank Williams or Glenn Campbell and being taken back to watching Hee Haw with my family or working along side my Dad. Then I’m dragging Main Steet or on a date when I hear Boston, Journey, Kansas or the Doobie Brothers. Bluegrass music takes me to Stu Mossman’s home or guitar shop and sitting there with him as he teaches me to play the guitar.

Something about music invokes feelings.

Granted, not all memories are good, nevertheless they are a part of who we are. We are an accumulation of those memories and who we choose to be. It’s up to us to decide what we will do with them.

Our past is a part of our present.

This means that our present is a part of our future…not only ours but the future of those people we interact with. We have a responsibility to relate with others in such a way that is beneficial to both our futures.

My friend Shep is writing a book that speaks to the importance of this connection. He is sharing situations with people from his past that have affected his present. His purpose of this book is to help others understand the importance of these connections in hopes that it will lead to a better future.

Our actions today will affect the future…be wise in those actions.

Extraordinary Things are Done Every Day by Ordinary People

You’ve Been Given Everything You Need to be Extraordinary, It’s Up to You to Use it

This past Sunday was Pentecost. This is the Christian commemoration of the coming of the Holy Spirit, celebrated the seventh Sunday after Easter. The coming of the Holy Spirit happened suddenly and came in a strong wind and fire, Acts 2:1-21.

The people who were together when this extraordinary thing happened, were just ordinary people. These followers of Jesus were feeling lost and alone after Jesus left. They no longer had their leader. How would they go on?

This small group of ordinary people are the beginning of our Christian faith. They are the core of the Church today.

These ordinary people did extraordinary things.

They didn’t think they had what it took to do the mission before them, but they did. Most of us feel this sense of inadequacy when we look ahead to our own missions.

It is amazing what long-range effect the little things we do, both good and bad can have. We rarely know what long term affect we will have and how those things will affect the future. Seemingly irrelevant things can make a huge impact.

In the book, The Butterfly Effect, Andy Andrews tells how the decisions you make and the way you treat others impact the world. This short book is a powerful story about a decision one man made over a hundred years ago, and the ripple effect it has on us individually, and in the world, today.

God will not ask you to do anything more than He knows you can.

Just like Jesus’ followers, we’ve been given the things needed to accomplish our mission. –

  • Power – Nothing is impossible with God. We’ve been given the strength needed to do the things we are supposed to. The power has been promised to us. It is available…not delivered. It is up to us to access it and use it.
  • Purpose – Just like the disciples were given their purpose on Pentecost, we’ve been given a purpose. Like power, this doesn’t work without our participation. We need to open our ourselves to God’s vision and do something. Without a vision the people parish, Proverbs 29:18.
  • Presence – The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in our lives. This is us inviting God in, to be an active part of our everyday lives. Once again, we have a responsibility, if we aren’t open to It and accepting of It, we won’t get It.

It is up to you every day to use your gifts and abilities doing ordinary things, letting God turn them into something extraordinary.

We All Have Different Strengths, Find Yours and Use Them for Good

Where Is Real Strength Rooted?

Everyone of us is unique. Our abilities and talents are also different. The problem is, too many people don’t use their gifts…or even bother to figure them out. This makes for a very mediocre world.

There is so much more available to us if we will just find and use our strengths!

Like the wind and the oak tree, strengths come in a variety of styles. The wind blows and carries on doing damage and causing havoc. While the mighty oak tree stands there swaying in the wind and weathering the storm with its roots firmly planted.

The Oak Tree

by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr

A mighty wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree’s leaves away
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark

But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke.
How can you still be standing Oak?

The oak tree said, I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two
Carry every leaf away
Shake my limbs, and make me sway

But I have roots stretched in the earth
Growing stronger since my birth
You’ll never touch them, for you see
They are the deepest part of me

Until today, I wasn’t sure
Of just how much I could endure
But now I’ve found, with thanks to you
I’m stronger than I ever knew

Having deep roots will make weathering storms more likely.

Navy SEALs are trained to swim miles under water in complete darkness, unable to see anything. Then they swim to the lowest, darkest part of the enemy’s ship to attach the explosives and then swim back to where they started. All of this is done in the dark. Their training prepares them for these types of missions.

We need to get trained and be prepared. It is likely that we will encounter dark times as we work to carry out our mission.

If we are prepared…we will be at our very best in our darkest moments.

Regular communication with God is the best way to get trained and prepared for whatever life throws at you.

In John 17:6-19 Jesus asks for strength to endure, not that problems be taken away. One prayer that God always answers is strength to endure. We just have to ask.

Plant your roots in God’s Word so that you can weather the storms of life and use your strengths wisely.

Moms Love Us a Lot, But God Loves Us More

True Happiness Comes from True Love and True Love Requires Sacrifice

A police chief was in the middle of a press conference when his mother called. He knew that she normally watched his press conferences, as any proud mother would. Knowing this he felt there must be an emergency, so he excused himself to take the call. When he answered, his mother asked, “Are you chewing gum?” After a short pause he responded, “Yes”. She came back in a sharp tone, “I taught you better than that. You know you shouldn’t chew gum when speaking in public.”

As funny as this example of a mother’s love is…

Mothers will go to great lengths for their children.

Love can go both ways. Here’s a true story of a son who put his life on the line to save his mother.

35-year-old Jermaine scaled a burning 19-story building in West Philadelphia to the 15th floor after receiving a call from his sister and finding out that his bed ridden mother’s building was on fire and she couldn’t get out.

Rushing to the scene, Jermaine said, he first tried to enter through the front door, but it was blocked by police.

“They said the elevators are not working,” he said. He told officers he could just take the stairs. “They were like, ‘we can’t let you in.’

“I took it upon myself because that’s my mother. There’s no limits. That’s my mother.” said Jermaine.

He’d hurt his hip earlier that day, “but adrenaline took over.” He started climbing the fenced-in balconies of the building.

“When I grabbed a gate, at the top of the gate, there was a ledge. Then I could step on top of the ledge and reach up to the other gate and keep climbing my way up,” Jermaine said.

He said he was worried about his mother’s safety, not his.

“She can’t get out of the bed or walk around, so if there’s a fire, she needs help out,” he said.

Once he made it to his mother, she told him that she was OK and that the fire was contained.

“She was more shocked,” he said. “She’s not surprised by the things that I do for her. She knows I’ll go over and beyond for her.”

He said that he thought he would be arrested as soon as he got down, but the Philadelphia Police Department said, “there was no crime committed.”

“The Police Chief actually did cut me a break,” Jermaine said. “He understood the circumstances. He knew – when your adrenaline is pumping and your mom is up there, you thinking she’s dying – you’d do anything you can.”

This is love going above and beyond.

Jesus went above and beyond by giving His life on the cross for us sinners that don’t deserve it.

True love is willing to make sacrifices for others. True happiness comes from true love.

Be willing to make sacrifices for those you love and experience true happiness.

Strong Connections Help Us to Accomplish Our Mission

The Important Thing is to Be Clear on That Mission

There is strength in numbers. We don’t have to look very hard to find evidence of this. Fish gather in schools, bees in swarms, birds in flocks, cattle in herds, wolves in packs. These connections can help avoid being eaten by predators or by joining forces they can take down bigger enemy.

The same is true for the military. Research has shown that groups who collectively experience pain, turmoil, catastrophe, or significant life events tend to form stronger social bonds and become more cohesive.

I’m currently reading the book, “Lone Survivor”, this is the story of Marcus Luttrell. He was the only survivor of the extraordinary firefight on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border which led to the largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history. The strength of the bond between these SEALs was evident before I even finished the prolog.

God knew there was strength in numbers from the very beginning.

At each point in the creation story, God steps back and says that what He has made is good, up until He makes human beings. Having made Adam, our Creator steps back and says that something about the first man and his situation is not good: “It is not good that the man should be alone”. To make things right, God creates Eve…  Genesis 2:7, 22

In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, we’re told that, Two are better than one…

Three strands of rope are harder to break.

The importance of community is as evident now as ever, after this past year. The value of online masterminds and the connections I’ve made through the virtual groups has been amazing. Not to mention the connection of my family and my church.

Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches in John 15:1-8. Whatever vine the branches are connected to will determine what kind of fruit the branches will produce. He also says that if we aren’t bearing fruit, we will be cut of and thrown into the fire.

The clearer we are about what our mission is and the better connection to the vine, the better the fruit will be.

Get connected to the Vine and to other good branches and produce good fruit.

Talk is Cheap…Actions Are What Matter

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s much easier to say that we’re going to do something than it is to actually do it. I think most times the intention is sincere, but too often we’ve said yes to too many things. You know what they say…

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

We often find ourselves on runaway trains, wondering how we got there. Know this…it’s nobody’s fault but our own. We made the choices that got us there. We can make choices that will change that.

It’s important to have realistic expectations. Just because I want to do something and say that I’m going to, doesn’t mean that’s possible.

You need to have clear expectations.

There was a fisherman in town that caught more fish than anyone else. Every time he went out, he would come back with a boat full of fish. No one could figure out how he did it. One day a man came up and asked him how he did it. The fisherman told him that he would take him fishing the next day.

Once they got to a secluded area of the lake the fisherman opened the tackle box and took out a stick of dynamite, lit it, and threw it in the water. After the explosion fish started floating to the top of the water. He took out a net and started gathering up the fish.

The other man reached into his pocket and took out his game warden badge and told him that this was illegal. The fisherman took out another stick of dynamite, lit it and handed it to the game warden and said, “Are you going to fish or talk?”

As funny as this story is, there are other options to blowing up the boat or fishing.

Too often we find ourselves holding a lit stick of dynamite not knowing what to do.

In 1 John 3:16-24 we’re told that Christ loved us so much that he sacrificed His life for us. His actions matched His words. He knew what the cost was going to be before He ever agreed to it.

We need to practice this kind of love when we make promises to others. We need to say what we mean and mean what we say. This isn’t easy, but needs to be done.

We need to be clear about what we say yes to.

Having Your Debt Paid, Means You Have to Accept It and Share It

Just Because It Was Paid, Doesn’t Mean It’s Free

There is a lot of debt in the world today and it continues to grow. I’m not talking about only financial debt (even though this is a major issue). I’m talking about the debt of life.

We’ve done nothing to earn this life we’ve been given.

It’s not like we went to the life store and bought it. One day, we just showed up here on this planet. We did nothing to deserve this opportunity. So how do we pay that debt?

The first thing is to be aware. We need to realize what an amazing thing we have.

We’ve been given sight, sound and breath…skills, abilities and knowledge. It’s our responsibility to use these things to pay the debt we owe.

Just like life, our abilities and skills don’t start out being fully developed. As we use them, they improve. These improvements come with bumps and bruises as we learn and grow. Too often we try to hide these scars. We don’t want anyone to know about our failures or mistakes.

It’s okay to show our scars.

When others see those scars, they can see that we have been paying our debt. It makes our message more relatable.

In Luke 24:36-48, Jesus appeared to His disciples. They didn’t believe it was really Him. They had seen Him die and be buried. He showed them His scars. These scars were proof of the price He had paid for their eternal life, but it was still up to them to accept this payment.

Even though He has paid the debt, it’s up to us to accept it and share it.

If we don’t it was paid in vain. Don’t let the price that was paid for our eternal gift to have been wasted.