The Ups and Downs of Life

wepnerLife is an adventure.  Some people seem to stumble their way through it, while others have the ability and agility to bob and weave their way through its obstacles.  Some people have the knack to fall face first into every mud hole that dots their path in life, while others can transform the sourest moments of life into a sweet and exhilarating experience.

Muhammed Ali’s life was more exciting than it was boring.  Ali was fond of saying that he “could float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee,” but even the Champ learned felt the brute force of a punch that was akin to the kick of a mule.

On March 24, 1975, Chuck Wepner introduced Ali to one of the universal laws of life:  Sooner or later you’re going to get hit by a punch you’ll never see coming!

Suffering is a thread that’s woven into the fabric of life, and it’s the sucker punch that can drop you to your knees.  

This universal law is the subject of discourse by both Peter and James:

  • Peter said you should not, “be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you (I Peter 4:12).”
  • Even though suffering is anything but pleasant, James said to, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2–3).” 

It’s important to note that James did not say that the suffering or trial is a joyful experience; instead, he said the joy comes in acknowledging the result of the trial—steadfastness.  The situations that shake your faith are the ordeals that form a faith that’s unshakable.

Your faith is like your muscle tissue—to get stronger, it must be stressed.

The trials of life can buckle your knees and make it hard to see the end of the journey. It’s only from the perspective of hindsight that we have 20-20 vision.  Paul confirms this in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. When he contemplated the past through the light of the present, he could see the boldly colored thread of hope in the tapestry of his heartache.  He could see God’s purpose in the suffering he had endured: “We want you to know, Christian brothers, of the trouble we had in the countries of Asia. The load was so heavy we did not have the strength to keep going. At times we did not think we could live.  We thought we would die. This happened so we would not put our trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead.”

“This happened”, so Paul would know that God is able and that He would enable him. What God did for Paul, He will also do for you.

 

The ME in Mentor

mentoring-pic-1Since I believe every knife should be a sharp knife, I keep a good edge on the one I carry in my pocket.  Whenever I sharpen it, I think of an analogy from the Proverbs: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Psalm 22:17).

You can validate the truth of this analogy by walking down the aisle of your local grocery store.  The shelves are stocked with many products that bear the Procter and Gamble name.

William Procter was a candle maker and James Gamble made soap.  The two of them became in-laws when they married the Norris sisters.  Through the encouragement of their father-in-law, they formed a partnership, and Procter and Gamble has been selling household products since 1837.

My HP computer is another good example.  Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were classmates in Stanford’s engineering program.  When they graduated, Fred Terman, a professor at Standford, encouraged them to pursue their dreams, and they founded Hewlett and Packard in 1939.

Neither of these famous partnerships may have been formed had it not been for the guidance and encouragement of an acquaintance or mentor who helped to hone and fine tune their skills. With this in mind, let me share the razor-sharp wisdom of two men:

  • John Maxwell: One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.
  • Isaac Newton: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

I encourage you to invest in the lives of others.  Allow them to stand on your shoulders; pick your brain; lend a listening ear; nudge them in the right direction; and, help them to clarify their vision and pursue their dream.

Everybody needs somebody to help them along life’s journey.  If there had been no Ben, would Jerry have ever made ice cream?  The world of comedy would be different if  Abbott  had never met Costello. How would Calvin have survived childhood without Hobbes?

Where would you be if someone had not been the ME in Mentor for you? Make this year the year you make a difference in the life of another.

As we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:10

Abbott & Costello Who’s on first skit.

Goodbye to the Prince, the Princess, and the Greatest

armedandsexyleia-officialpixAmong the many events that have happened during 2016, the most important to some people was the death of the idol they adored; for some it was a singer named Prince, for others it was the death of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and boxing fans had to bid farewell to The Greatest—Muhammad Ali. There was also the death of an author who was less heralded than these whose obituaries were printed in newspapers from the East coast to the West.

While he was well-known in some circles, Jerry Bridges, the author, did not have the notoriety of the Prince and the Princess, but he did know The Greatest One who is greater than any other; and, Bridges had found what proves to be elusive to some—the secret of peace and contentment.

Bridges was a prolific writer who said: “The Bible is full of God’s promises to provide for us spiritually and materially, to never forsake us, to give us peace in times of difficult circumstances, to cause all circumstances to work together for our good, and finally to bring us safely home to glory. Not one of those promises is dependent upon our performance. They are all dependent on the grace of God given to us through Jesus Christ.”

The words of the Princess are a stark contrast to those of Bridges: “I knew better than I knew anything that what happens with stardom, with fame, is it goes away, and it leaves you in a humiliated space (Carrie Fisher 2006).”

Fisher’s assessment on life, reminds me of Solomon’s wisdom: Charm can be deceptive and physical beauty will not last, but a woman who reveres the Lord should be praised above all others. ~Proverbs 31:30

It’s a simple truth that this world offers nothing akin to genuine contentment.  Your health and wealth can vanish in a moment; fame is fickle; and the bright lights of Hollywood and Broadway fade away.

“Real contentment,” Warren Wiersbe said, “must come from within. You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.”  The “within” that Wiersbe spoke of is “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, and will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

If you’re restless, and feel as though there is a void in your life, I encourage you to give God’s peace a chance.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

Resolute Resolutions

ResolutionsChristmas is now past, and the sights and scents of the season have been crowded into the pages of history by the hopeful sounds of labor pains announcing the imminent birth of a new year.  Among these sounds are the voices of the optimistic and determined who announce their resolutions for the new year.

Some will achieve the goals they’ve set for 2017, while the not so resolute will bury theirs beneath the dust pile of defeat.  A few words from the wise might hint at the difference between the two:

  • Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday. ~Napoleon Hill
  • For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” ~Steve Jobs
  • Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express, planned for success. Before he left his office at the end of the day, he would jot down the top three things he wanted to accomplish the next day.
  • The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tony Robbins has said that the key to directing your life, is to recognize and control your consistent actions: It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.

To reach your goals, I suggest you need to perceive to achieve:  Identify what you are already doing, and use it as a cue to prompt the appropriate action. Your daily routine is a good example:

  • After I pour my first cup of coffee, I will walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes.
  • Before I take my shower, I will do 10 pushups.
  • While I am eating breakfast, I will _____________.
  • When I take my coffee break, I will ____________.
  • Before I go to bed I will read ____ pages in a book.

If you are considering resolutions and goals to help you change and rearrange your life, I applaud your effort and leave you with two more quotes to serve as motivators:

  • Arthur Ashe: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
  • Thomas Edison: Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

Let us search out and examine our ways,
and turn back to the Lord. ~Lamentations 3:40

Going Full Circle: Agony After Victory

horseI can still remember Jim McKay’s famous tagline: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” It was an invitation to stop what I was doing and to watch the weekly edition of ABC’s Wide World of Sports.  McKay’s famous words went full circle this past Saturday in the world of horse racing.

Trainer Francis Campitelli was enjoying the “thrill of victory’ as he watched Homeboykris cross the finish line in first place. A short time later, Campitelli’s thrill turned to agony as his horse collapsed and died while walking to the stable.

This sad incident lends credence to Solomon’s observation in Proverbs 27:24: “Riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations.”

If you know anything about horse racing, you should know that fame and fortune can be fleeting; it’s a dangerous sport that is prone to deadly accidents. In 2012, the New York Times reported that each week 24 horses had died on racetracks from 2009 to 2012.

I doubt the Apostle Paul was thinking of horse racing when he spoke of the uncertainties of life; however, his statement is interesting: “Tell those who are rich in this age not to be arrogant and not to place their confidence in anything as uncertain as riches. Instead, let them place their confidence in God, who lavishly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (I Timothy 6:17).”

Paul’s words to Timothy were no aggrandizement of the truth; they were based on a statement that Jesus had made: “First and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also (Matthew 6:33 ~Amplified Bible).”

I’ll close with Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Jesus’ logic: “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers — most of which are never even seen — don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you (The Message)?”

The Tennacity of Tennis

TTT

When you look at the picture to the left, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?  Is it tennis, effort, skill, or the disciplined regime that developed the muscled frame of France’s Gael Monfils?  The picture was shot at the Australian Open, and the first thing I focused on was Monfil’s shadow.

There’s something interesting about shadows—they’re universal.  Only about 1% of the world’s population will be born with red hair, but 100% of people have a shadow.

Shadows were the focus of Paul’s discussion in the third chapter of Colossians where he contrasted the shadow of your old nature to your new nature in Christ.  Paul challenged people to come out of the shadows and to live in the light. There are three things you need to do to accomplish this:

  • You need to “set your mind” or focus your thoughts in the right direction: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2).”
  • You need to peel off the rags of unrighteousness and walk away from the shadows of your former life: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you… in these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices (3:5-9).”
  • You need to wear a new wardrobe: “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator…Put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other; And above all these put on love (3:10-14).”

To shake off the shadows, you’ll need to develop spiritual disciplines that are as demanding as the physical regime that’s practiced by Gael Monfils.  When you begin to do this, you will find that you are walking in the light and in fellowship with Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Daddy Bad Day

02There’s no failsafe vaccine for it, and everyone who has ever lived has felt the crushing power of the vice-like grip of Big Daddy Bad Day.  The physical symptoms are nothing like the chills, sweats, and fever that typify malaria, nor the feigned symptoms of malingering. When Big Daddy slaps you down, you feel a nauseating surge of melancholy with its brooding sadness and boiling madness.

The moment you hear Big Daddy whisper in your ear, you need to tune him out, and shake him off before he shakes you down.  If you listen to these mendacious musings, you will succumb to feelings of worthlessness, and you’ll hear him as a voice within that accuses you of being dirty, a failure, a quitter, and unlovable.

These fits of unjustified self-accusing are akin to a-cussing that’s detrimental to your mental well-being.  If you let Big Daddy beat you up and get you on the ropes, he’ll chuckle as you buckle under the weight of his lies.

To beat him, you need to learn to bob and weave, and to counter punch.  When Big Daddy throws a jab that says you are unlovable, give him a stiff uppercut to the jaw with Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

If he tells you that you’re a worthless failure and quitter, hit with a heavy cross.  Your worth, value, and victory is found in Jesus, who is, “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).”

By now Big Daddy is weak-kneed, so you can finish him off with a massive 4-1-3 hook found in the book of Philippians:  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (4:13).

The next time you hear the whispers of Big Daddy, stop him in his tracks by demolishing his arguments and false ideas, and his worrisome philosophy by taking every thought captive in obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Counting Down The Days

count-downMany people, and especially the kids, are counting down the days to Christmas and know that it is just a couple of weeks away.  A much smaller number of people are eagerly counting the days to another event that will happen eight weeks after Christmas.

In about 72 days, the umps will shout “Play Ball,” and baseball’s Spring Training will begin.  Each of these talented players caught the eye of a scout because he was an All Star during his high school or college years. When he steps across the white chalk line to play America’s Game, he joins the best of the best and the cream of the crop on a finely manicured field of dreams.

Aren’t you thankful that God didn’t scout you and make you prove your worth before He chose you?  He selected you just like He did the Hebrews:

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” ~Deuteronomy 7:7-9

Even though there’s nothing special about you, Moses says that God has chosen you and made you the special object of His love. If the two verses above were a book, the four chapter titles would be:

  • The Lord Loves You
  • God Keeps His promises
  • You Can Be Redeemed From Whatever Enslaves You
  • God Is Faithful and His Love Is Steadfast

He doesn’t love you because you are good, smart, pretty, wise or because you have great faith. God loves you because He is love; and, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (I John 4:10).”

 

Blending In or Standing Out

01hunter-girl-buck-wear-realtree-pink-shirt-3I’m not sure how they have been success in doing it, but many retailers have convinced the consumer to pay high dollar$ to purchase their goods and then become a walking billboard advertising their wares.  The clothing  companies are a good example:

  • Under Armour: Earn Your Armour
  • Nike: Just Do it
  • Reebok: Because Life Is Not A Spectator Sport

On a recent trip, I noticed the many different messages emblazoned on the clothing of people as they walked past me: I noticed their behavior as well.

When I thought of the contrast between their messages and they were actions, I was reminded that Jesus said we are known by the fruit we bear.  He also said: “Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).”

Some of these walking billboards were advertising their faith.  Sadly, many of them were in violation of the truth in advertising laws.  Their shirts made bold statements declaring their allegiance to Christ; however, their words compromised the integrity of the message.

The incongruity between their walk and their talk, reminds me of James homily on the tongue:

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!

My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you? ~James 3

One of the reasons people are so conflicted today is they’re more concerned with their reputation than they’re their character.  You may coast through life with a good reputation; however, character flaws made of sand eventually crumble like a weak foundation in a massive earthquake.

Take Me Out To The Ball Game