Questions Lead to Thinking and We Could Sure Use More of That

Never Stop Asking Questions

You know how kids go through that stage in life where they ask why…why…why…why…

Parents get so tired of this non-stop asking they find ways to subdue these questions. Ultimately this squelches the appetite for learning. Then at some point we just quit asking.

This suppression of questions has led to a society of yes people. Too often things are just taken as face value and left at that.

“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.” Confucius

In Mark 8:27-38, Jesus asks His followers, “Who do People say I am?” This is just one of hundreds of questions that Jesus asked. There were several different answers. Some said John the Baptist, others said Elijah, some said one of the prophets.

The people had preconceived answers based on what they were told rather than reality. These conclusions without questions led many people to miss the answer to eternal life. A lack of questions left them lost. It does the same thing to us. 

Peter answered Jesus, “You are the Messiah.” Jesus goes on to tell them of the suffering that He would go through. The fact that the Jewish leaders would not accept Him and ultimately put Him to death and come back after three days.

This didn’t match Peter’s preconceived answer that Jesus was going to rule like a king, and he called Jesus out. In turn Jesus tells Peter, “Get away from me Satan.”

How often do we answer questions right, but come to the wrong conclusion?

We want “easy” and asking questions isn’t easy. It can lead to answers that are difficult. There is “true” and then there is the “truth”. These aren’t always the same.

Like a kid, at some point it seems easier to just stop asking questions and go along with what you’re told. This isn’t how we were made. This is why as kids we ask why…why…why…why… As adults we need to be asking more questions.

Never stop asking questions.

Doing YOUR BEST is More Important Than Being “The Best”

It Takes Radical Commitment to Accomplish Excellence

Doing our best requires attention to detail.

Pastor Lee told a story of a restaurant that was striving for excellence in the workplace. They had a regular customer that ordered the same soup every time he came in. One day after his soup was brought, he asked the waiter to taste it. The waiter assured the customer that it was the same exact soup as always. The customer was adamant that the waiter taste it. Finally, the waiter gave in and then reached for the spoon and realized there wasn’t one. Of course, this was the customer’s point.

Amazing soup is no good without a spoon.

Doing our best requires commitment.

Last week I wrote about the reduction in commitment. Commitment is needed if we are going to do our best.

When Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird started playing ball, he was committed to working hard to be the best he could be. At 13 he would get out of bed early to go to the gym to practice free throws. He would shoot 500 free throws every morning before his first class.

He was one of the highest ranked free throw shooters over his 13-year career with an 89% average. That’s 9 out of every 10 shots.

Doing our best requires never quitting.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers he says,

“In fact, by the age of twenty, the elite performers (violinists) had each totaled ten thousand hours of practice.” — p. 38

“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything,” writes the neurologist Daniel Levitin. — p. 40

“To become a chess grandmaster also seems to take about ten years. (Only the legendary Bobby Fisher got to that elite level in less than that amount of time: it took him nine years.) And what’s ten years? Well, it’s roughly how long it takes to put in ten thousand hours of hard practice. Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” — p. 41

Never quitting requires overcoming obstacles.

Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby shared a lesson her mother taught her about overcoming obstacles.

Her mother was stricken with polio when carrying her first child and was confined to a wheelchair and crutches. She never let that discourage her. She managed to raise five children and have a career as well.

Cathy was totally absorbed with gymnastics and by 1972 she was on the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team going to the Olympic Games in Munich. She could think of nothing but winning the gold medal.

After performing to the best of her ability, she didn’t win a gold medal and was crushed. After the winners were announced she joined her parents in the stands, all set for a big cry. She apologized and said, “I’m sorry. I did my best.”

“You know that, and I know that,” my mother said, “and I’m sure God knows that, too.” She smiled and said ten words that I never forgot:

“Doing your best is more important than being the best.”

We can never be the best this side of heaven, but we can do our best. Jesus is our example of being the best. Follow that example!

Tradition is Important, but be Careful to not Lose Sight of the Why

It’s a Building Block in the Foundation…Not the Complete Project

Tradition, rituals and heritage seem to be the only things that matters…or don’t matter at all. It seems to be an all or nothing perspective. I think these opposing positions explain a lot about what’s going on in the world today…actually, ever since the beginning of time.

Most people are so stuck in their perspective and perception of who they are and what they believe that they can’t see beyond it. This is because that’s what they’ve been indoctrinated to believe. Or, in an effort to break away from that, they will believe only the opposite.

The important thing in either case is to ask why!

Tradition is an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior. A belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical.

Rituals are an established form for a ceremony. An order of words prescribed, a ceremonial act or acts repeated in a regularly repeated precise manner.

Heritage is something that is transmitted or acquired from a predecessor. Something that is possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth.

These things are critically important to who we are as individuals, families, communities, religions, states and countries.

The problem is blindly following without knowing why.

This is like the young lady cutting the end off a ham as she prepared to cook it. Her husband seeing her do this, asks why she was wasting good ham? She pauses and say’s “That’s the way Momma always did it.”

So, they call her mom and ask why she cut the end off the ham. Mom replied, “That’s the way my mom did it.

After hanging up from Mom they called Grandma and asked her why she cut the end off the ham when she cooked it? Grandma said, “So that it would fit in the pan.”

This is a good example of what happens when we get stuck doing things the way they’ve always been done, without asking why.

This kind of blind following is apparent in Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 when the Pharisees and teachers of the law question Jesus about His followers not following the Jewish traditions. Jesus calls them hypocrites. He tells them they have stopped following God’s commands, preferring instead to follow man made rules.

They weren’t asking why.

Traditions are a building block in the foundation…not the complete project.

We need to ask questions, gather information, learn and understand. Then, only then, make an informed decision whether to follow a tradition, ritual or our heritage.

Don’t blindly cut the end off the ham.

Why You Should Put on Your Armor Before the Battle Begins

Preparation is Important, But Only Goes So Far

Every day of our life is a battle…some bigger than others. The important thing is to be ready before we are in the middle of one.

Preparation is the act or process of preparing. The state of having been made ready beforehand.

What does, being prepared for the battle of life look like?

Being prepared requires intelligence. This is the ability to learn or understand new or trying situations. The ability to apply knowledge in one’s environment… Information concerning an enemy.

When it comes to intelligence most often, we think of IQ or Intelligence Quotient. This is determined by a standardized test assessing an individual’s intelligence… “Book Smarts”.

There is also another form of intelligence. EQ is emotional intelligence or Emotional Quotient. This is one’s ability to identify, evaluate, control and express emotions… “Street Smarts”.

When it comes to winning battles which kind of “smart” is more important?

Is IQ or EQ more important? It used to be thought that book smarts were the primary determent of success. Research has found that individuals with strong leadership potential, tend to be more emotionally intelligent, suggesting that a high EQ is an important quality for winning battles.  I think without street smarts it’s hard to use book smarts.

Too often we react without having thought. Being prepared before the battle will help to minimize saying things in the heat of the moment. Comedian Craig Ferguson says there are three things we need to ask ourselves before we respond in the heat of a battle.

  1. Does this need to be said?
  2. Does this need to be said by me?
  3. Does this need to be said my me now?

Taking the time to think before we speak is good advice.

We are all different and this means our armor will be different. Your armor won’t fit me and mine won’t fit you. When David was going into battle with Goliath he put on Saul’s armor, and it didn’t fit. 1 Samuel 17:38-40 It was too heavy and bulky. Instead, David used the armor that God had given him.

We all need to wear the armor that God has given us.

It’s up to us to put on that armor.

  • Belt of TRUTH
  • Breast plate of RIGHT LIVING
  • Shoes of the WORD of GOD
  • Shield of FAITH
  • Helmet of SALVATION
  • Sword of the SPIRIT

Preparation doesn’t mean we’ll never be hurt. But this armor helps us to continue standing during battles.

It doesn’t mean we won’t be afraid. It means we’ll act differently when we are.

“Things” Will Not Make You Happy…No Matter How Much You Have

What is True Happiness and How Do You Get it?

In today’s world we are more connected than ever before. We can instantaneously be bombarded with information. This can be good or bad. It depends on what you do with it.

This information “firehose” requires a heightened awareness.

It is easy to be pulled into the worldly aspirations of the rich and famous. The question is…is that what you really should want? Is that what’s best for you?

I’m currently reading Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights. This unconventional memoir is filled with raucous stories of outlaw wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction. In this book he shares the struggle of dealing with fame and fortune and how he would periodically take sabbaticals to get away and get re-centered. (Keep in mind parts of this book are R rated.)

What is most important, wealth, beauty or wisdom?

While on a trip in the desert a man stumbles upon an old lamp. To get a better look at it, he wipes it off. While rubbing it, a genie appears. The genie says that he will grant the man one of three wishes…he can either be the richest man in the world, the most popular or the wisest. The man says, “We all know that money does not bring happiness and popularity just makes you a slave to the whims of others, but wisdom is everlasting. I want to be the wisest man in the world.” Poof the wish is granted. Suddenly the man’s face has a serious expression. He sits down, rubbing his chin in thought. He looks at the genie and says, “I should have taken the money”.

Too often, wealth and popularity are what people long for. It’s what the world would have you believe is what you should be after. Choosing wisdom over the others is hard. There is a lot of responsibility that goes with wisdom.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote, “Be careful how you live. Live wisely, not like fools. I mean that you should use every opportunity you have for doing good, because these are evil times. So don’t be foolish with your lives but learn what the Lord wants you to do.”

The foolish person lives as if there is no God.

As Chance the Rapper was gaining popularity and beginning to spike as a hip hop artist, his grandma was not impressed.  She told him, “I don’t like what’s going on. I can see it in your eyes. We’re gonna pray.”

Chance said, “She prayed positive things for me all the time.” But this time, she said, “Lord, I pray that all things that are not like You, You take away from Chance. Make sure that he fails at everything that is not like You. Take it away. Turn it into dust.”

This left Chance thunderstruck. “Is she praying that I fail at everything I’m trying to do?” In reality…

She cared more about his soul than his success.

Chance went on to be a popular wealthy Christian artist with wisdom.

Our soul is more important than our success. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want you to be successful because He does. What it means is that we need to have our priorities in order. God first and everything else will follow.

In 1 Kings 3 Solomon asks God for wisdom rather than wealth or popularity. This made God happy so… “I will give you what you asked for. I will make you wise and intelligent. I will also give you what you did not ask for. You will have riches and honor in your life.”  And he did.

True happiness comes from God. Get your priorities in order and happiness will follow.

Movement is the Key That Starts the Engine of Success

You Have to Decide to Take Action if You’re Going to Accomplish Anything

Last week I wrote about life being one continuous choice after another. This topic has been front and center in my thinking since then. It’s been the focus of multiple conversations as well.

Thinking about choices led me to think about decisions. Choices and decisions are the same…aren’t they? Let’s think about this.

Choice and decision are simple words. Most people think they know when to use which one…but there’s a subtle difference between a choice and a decision.

Choice –

If you go into an ice-cream parlor, you have multiple choices. You’re tempted to choose one…wait maybe you want a different one. After going through this selection process, you finally decide on one – this is your decision.

Decision indicates you have reached a conclusion.

Choice comes from the word choose, it refers to the act of accepting, adopting, appointing, favoring, opting for, settling, gleaning or preferring. There are times when you have no choice. You can choose your friends but not your relatives. However, you can choose how you act toward both.

Decision –

A decision is the end of the selection process, it narrows several options until one is chosen. Decision is the final result of a thought process that begins with choices or opportunities. You decide the school you will send your children to, the bank you will use, the car you will drive and the dealer you will buy it from. Everyday is full of challenges. We’re required to make the decisions, some simple, some hard and some very important.

Most of us want to make wise choices that lead to good decisions.

Writing this, I had an epiphany. As many of you know I’ve often written about my favorite book, Andy Andrews’, The Traveler’s Gift. I think I now know what it is that makes this book my favorite.

It’s the awareness of the freedom that comes from understanding that WE HAVE CONTROL over our choices and decisions.

In the book…

Forty-six-year-old David Ponder feels like a total failure. He feels that he has no choice. Once an executive in a Fortune 500 company, he now works a part-time, minimum wage job and struggles to support his family. Then, an even greater crisis hits: his daughter becomes ill, and he can’t afford to get her the medical helps she needs. When his car skids on an icy road, he wonders if he even cares to survive the crash.

But an extraordinary experience awaits David Ponder. He finds himself traveling back in time, meeting leaders and heroes at crucial moments in their lives—from Abraham Lincoln to Anne Frank. By the time his journey is over, he has received seven secrets for success—and a second chance.

The subtitle of this book is…

Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success

The key is DECISIONS. Here they are:

  • The Responsible Decision
  • The Guided Decision
  • The Active Decision
  • The Certain Decision
  • The Joyful Decision
  • The Compassionate Decision
  • The Persistent Decision

In the book, David Ponder finds himself in the crow’s nest of a ship with Christopher Columbus. An excerpt from the Certain Decision.

A wise man once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Knowing this to be true, I am taking my first step today. For too long my feet have been tentative, shuffling left and right, more backward than forward as my heart gauged the direction of the wind. The power to control direction belongs to me. Today I will begin to exercise that power.

I have a decided heart. I am passionate about my vision for the future. I will awaken every morning with an excitement about the new day and its opportunity for growth and change. My thoughts and actions will work in a forward motion, never sliding into the dark forest of doubt or the muddy quicksand of self-pity.

Yes, I have a dream. It is a great dream, and I will never apologize for it. Neither will I ever let it go, for if I did, my life would be finished. My hopes, my passions, my vision for the future is my very existence. A person without a dream never had a dream come true.

I have a decided heart. I will not wait. I know that the purpose of analysis is to come to a conclusion. I have tested the angles. I have measured the probabilities. And now I have made a decision with my heart. I am not timid. I will move now and not look back. What I put off until tomorrow, I will put off until the next day as well. I do not procrastinate.

We can choose, we can decide…both require action.

Actions are required for accomplishment. This is in your control. Take action today and get your engine of success started.

No one can stop you but you!

Why is it That We Love Homemade Bread So Much?

It’s Because We’re More Than Machines…We’re Humans

What is it about homemade bread that generates so much pleasure for so many?

I think it’s a combination of things. Some instinctual, some deeper.

There’s no question that the smell of fresh baked bread is one of the greatest. And what about the overwhelming sense of comfort that comes from a fresh warm slice of bread with melted butter.

For me these sensations are connected to my childhood and the contentment I felt growing up on the farm. Both of my grandmothers and my mom baked and boy, do I have some fond memories of fresh baked bread.

There’s a connection to my history and heritage that is triggered when I smell or taste fresh warm bread. I hope you have similar memories.

A couple of weeks ago I referred to Jesus feeding the 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish. In the John 6:1-15 He performs this miracle and the crowd witnessed it.

Just the next day the crowd followed Him to the other side of the lake and looked to be satisfied with more “worldly bread”. He tells them that this bread will spoil and go bad. In John 6:25-35 He refers to Himself as the Bread of Life and they need to be looking for that Bread.

We too need to be looking for the Bread of Life.

Too often we are looking for things that the world tells us we need…the “worldly bread”. We get caught in the mundane repetition of machine-like actions. Now more than ever we are bombarded with messages of the world. We find our focus being on money, fame, popularity, importance, etc.  We get caught in the “worldly bread” trap.

In Four Aromas God Loves Most, Denise Kohlmeyer, shares her love of the scent of coffee brewing and memories of her childhood. She compares this to God’s commands to the priests to burn incense and the sacrifice of animals that if performed properly were “a pleasing aroma to Him”.

Back to the question of what makes the smells of fresh bread and coffee so pleasing. I said that I thought it was both instinctual and deeper. The deeper part is, if we’re made in God’s image wouldn’t it make since that “pleasant aromas” would be pleasing to us too.

In John 17:15-21 we are told that we are in the world, not of the world. We need to be filled with the pleasant aromas and life-giving power of the “Bread of Life”. Machines can’t experience the sights, smells and sounds that we can. Remember…

We are not machines we are people made in His image.

Enjoy the aromas of life!

Life is One Continuous Choice After Another…Choose Wisely

Somethings In Life Are Out of Our Control, But We Choose How We React

Everything we do comes down to a choice. Every choice we make leads to another choice and another and so on.

Just like I chose what to write about today. This choice came from a series of other choices that started days ago, that will lead to future choices days from now.

Life is choices.

Choices are something that, too often are left to others to make for us. This might seem easier in the moment, but leads to living a life controlled by others. We have the power to make choices. This power was given to us by our Creator…use it and use it wisely

This most recent series of choices led to me writing this post.

As always, I had more things on my “to do” list yesterday than I could get done. This is also a choice. I know myself well enough to know that I get more done when I over-schedule than when I don’t.

The things that get done first are the things that I’ve chosen to give the highest priority to at that moment.

Here’s an example of how continuous choices can affect us.

Back to my schedule yesterday. A great nephew was having a birthday party at 6:30. I was working in my office when my floor installer came by around 5:00. Our work discussion led to him sharing about some bigger life issues.

I could have cut him off and got back to work or I could listen. I choose to listen. I could have stayed at the office and worked, or I could go to the birthday part. I choose the party.

After getting home from the birthday party I was watching some TV before going to bed. I kept falling asleep and it wasn’t like it was late (10:00). I’ve been a little tired lately, so I decided to sleep in this morning. (It’s been a long time sense I did this.) Another choice.

This choice meant less time today.

And there’s a niece having a wedding this evening. These darn nieces and nephews are playing havoc with my schedule. 😊

Some of you know that I’m a NASCAR fan and today is a two-race day. More choices.

I can work from home or go to the office. I’m more productive at the office, but going to the office means an hour on the road.

There’s work to be done. Am I going to write a post or do some proposals? Am I going to watch races or follow up with production schedules? Am I going to work on next week’s schedule or do paperwork?

Choices…life is choices.

Every second of everyday is a choice. The key is awareness of this amazing power and the importance of using it wisely.

Now I choose to go watch a race. 😉

How Many Friends Do You Have?

What Does Being a Good Friend Even Mean?

This past Sunday some of the young adults in our church took care of the service at Pastor Lee’s request. (He was out of town at his daughter’s wedding. Congratulations Pastor Lee and Kay)

They did a great job! It was a great message and great music.

Since the first Sunday in August is Friendship Day their message centered around friendship and what it means to be a friend. When looked up, most definitions of friend are pretty vague.

A friend is – A person whom one knows, likes and trusts.  An acquaintance.  A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause.  A comrade.

Like I said…pretty vague.

Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between people.  It is stronger than an impersonal bond of an association.  It is different for different people. It changes with age and personal preference.

I think a good place to find a definition of friendship is the Bible.

Here are 10 things the Bible says about friendship

1.     The First Problem in the World Was Not Sin but Solitude

            At each step of the way when God created the world, he pronounced that everything was “good.” But then once he created Adam, something was not good. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

2.     Friendship Is a Whole-Bible Theme

            The Bible tells the story of the creation, fracturing, and ultimate restoration of true friendship—friendship with God, and also with each other.

3.     Proverbs Is a Practical Guide to Forging True Friendship

            Proverbs gives us wisdom for navigating the complexities of our relationships.  And it doesn’t just address relationships in general, but also, friendship in particular. 

4.     True Friendship Is More Like a Covenant Than a Contract

The Bible shows us that real friendship is more covenantal than contractual. Proverbs teaches us about “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). 

5.     Friendship Thickens Church Community

            Studies show our culture’s increasing social isolation.  We are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. The book of Acts portrays the church as fulfilling ideals of friendship (Acts 2:42-47Acts 4:32­- 35). 

6.     Friendship Is the Goal of the Gospel

            Christians rightly think about salvation as forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  But it is more than this. Jesus gives all who trust him the privilege of being his friends (John 15:14–15). 

7.     The Cross Is History’s Most Heroic Act of Friendship

            Jesus wants us to view the cross in terms of friendship.  Jesus said, “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

8.     Jesus Is Our Truest Friend

            Many Christians hesitate to call Jesus a friend.  But Jesus doesn’t share our hesitations. He invites us to understand our relationship on terms of friendship (John 15:12-17). 

9.     Friendship Shows the World That We Belong to Jesus

            Jesus said in John 13:35: “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

10. Friendship––with God and One Another––Is Our Greatest Joy

            The apostle John wrote to believers for a purpose: “so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and   with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:3-4). 

True friendship is something that is hard to find and when you do, you need to honor it by “being” a good friend.

Like I said earlier the young adults did a great job of choosing the music.  One of the songs that we sang was Alan Jackson’s version of What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

Having Jesus as a friend is life changing!

In today’s social media world, we can have a lot of friends, but are they true friends?  Having a lot of friends is way less important than having a few good ones.

Jesus is our example is what it means to be a good friend.

Going Slower Once in a While Helps Us Go Faster in the Long Run

Relax and Have Faith…Fear and Worry Won’t Solve Anything

There was a military study done to see how long soldiers could go without a break. It was determined that on the seventh day their output and performance was significantly less, even though the soldiers themselves didn’t see any difference.

Slowing down and resting is important. Even God rested on the seventh day after working hard for six. And we were made in His image after all.

We were designed to rest one day each week.

Most are familiar with the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 with five small loaves of bread and two fish. As is the case with all the Bible there are some great life lessons in this message.

Don’t stress – Jesus asked Philip, “Where can we get enough food to feed these people?” This was a text because Jesus already knew what He planned to do. Philip began stressing…he said, “We would have to work months to buy enough food for every person here to have a little piece.” Philip forgot who he was with. Jesus had this. Too often we forget who we’re with.

Trust in Jesus – Andrew on the other hand spoke up and told Jesus, “Here’s a boy with five loaves and two fishes. But, this isn’t enough for so many.” Even though Andrew didn’t know how…he knew Jesus did. He believed.

Sit down and be fed – The crowd was told to sit down, and they did. Jesus gave thanks for the food they had and passed it out. After the crowd had eaten all they wanted, there was twelve baskets of leftovers. If we will take time to sit down with God, in His Word and with other believers, we will be fed more than we can hold. Enough that we will have leftovers to share with others.

Make Jesus a priority – This crowd had walked a long distance without planning for the trip, just to be near Jesus and learn from Him. They were willing to put forth the effort just to be in His presence. Are we willing to make this kind of commitment to be near to Him?

Give everything we have to God – The small boy gave everything he had to Jesus and God expanded it to enough to feed the boy as well as everyone else that was there. He wasn’t stingy holding on to it, afraid that if he gave it up, he wouldn’t get any. He gave freely of what he had. Do we share our skills and abilities with others by giving them to God first?

God will fill our cup so full it will run over if we give everything to Him first!

It doesn’t do us any good to stress and worry about things. God has got this if we will just remember to slow down ‘once in a while’ and give everything to him.

When asked the definition of abundance, a 10-year-old boy answered, “It means…

We have everything we need, even if we don’t have everything we want yet.”