Alone

“You can’t win alone, but you can practice alone.” You may or may not follow Football (the real name, but we call it “Soccer”), but the picture above is of Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player alive and – many believe – the best to ever play the game. When Leo was a little boy, he was smaller than most kids and youth his age. But he was fast. Very fast. And he had a natural talent with the ball at his feet. He couldn’t play as physically as the bigger kids, but he did learn how to use his diminutive size to his advantage. He has built up some impressive stats: By the age of 21, Messi had received a FIFA World Player of the Year nomination. The following year, in 2009, he won it. He has won FIFA World Player of the Year the last four years in a row. He also won the 2010–11 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. At the age of 24, Messi became Barcelona’s (his club team) all-time top scorer in all official club competitions. At age 25, Messi became the youngest player to score 200 goals in the world’s toughest league – La Liga. Messi has won five La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, five Supercopas de España, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two Super Cups and two Club World Cups. In 2012, Messi made Champions League history by becoming the first player to score five goals in one match. He also matched José Altafini’s record of 14 goals in a single Champions League season. Messi became the first player to top-score in four successive...

But What If It’s Not?

The most common question I’m asked by my friends Bob Hamp and Alan Smith is one of their favorites: “But what if it’s not?” (NOTE: They’ve both authored books I HIGHLY recommend, so click on those links). If you’ve known me, even casually, you’ve probably realized I’m a fairly passionate guy; I tell it like I see it because I’ve typically given something a good deal of thought before I jump in with my perspective. And just like every other oxygen-sucking human, sometimes my thinking is mis-aligned with God’s thinking on a subject. Hence, the question “but what if it’s not?”, applied to any number of conversations, has confronted my assumptions and even some core beliefs over the years. One of my most fundamental beliefs was “Follow your passion and the money will follow.” But what it it’s not true? REDEFINING PASSION I used to believe the fire in my belly was, in fact, my passion. I could almost see the flames of personal pursuit of my passions licking at my heart, igniting within me a burning desire that I didn’t merely want, but actually believed! “Passionate people lead where others will not follow,” I’d declare. “Passion is the fuel of life, the very essence of willpower, distilled into a substance we can almost bottle and share with others!” But what if it wasn’t? Passions, I’ve learned over my lifetime thus far, actually change. What I was passionate about in my youth changed to more substantive (and realistic) matters in my young adulthood. Those, too, while still very real to me, waned and led to new fields of passion growth,...

A Hypothetical Election Delay

As the monster Hurricane Sandy brings high winds, rain and flooding to many parts of the Northeast USA, the possibility for the election to be delayed for those unable to vote in their precincts is likely. But what I see is a potential monster of an issue is how the delay could have both Democrats and Republicans crying “not fair” due to the so-called “safe harbor deadline” (six days before the Electoral College votes (deadline of December 17th). I’m not a political expert, but this has some crazy potentials. In no particular order, but off of the top of my head are the following scenarios: States unaffected by natural disaster will have their votes deadline by November 6th, as expected. However, the results of these states could be showing a favored candidate without all of the states able to vote (those affected by natural disaster). The result? An extra MONTH of stumping by the candidates, using the numbers to their advantage (either way). The “safe harbor deadline” is decided by each state, so it’s possible that there could be any number of states choosing varying new deadlines (up to December 17th). The election deadline per state could be different enough that the candidates use the pre-counted numbers as the states turn in their votes to their advantage (either way). With relaxed identification standards, it’s possible that people could cast more than one ballot (a concern already for some) through the nearly impossible coordination of voting precincts not voting on the same day. It is not unlikely that the losing candidate (to date based on votes tabulated by November 6th)...

Mine. Mine. Mine.

God is speaking clearly. Or perhaps I’m listening more attentively.  Either way, I’ve been pummeled by His love, admonished with His gentleness and encouraged with His kindness. He’s teaching and reminding me that everything is His. “When I think that something is mine, the only person I’m fooling is myself.” If there’s really nothing new under the sun, then thinking that I came up with the idea is flatly absurd. God is the owner of everything and that would include new ideas (at least new to me). Therefore, rather than assume I somehow deserve to take the lead for every idea I come up with, I should first acknowledge that if I had an idea, God gave it to me. I then need to ask him what He wants me to do with it, not try and figure things out on my own. “If I don’t stop to ask God if he wants me to do something, why should I be surprised when things don’t work out the way I planned?” It’s very easy for me to make a decision on my own. After all, I have experience to know how to work through situations and make snap-decisions. The problem with snap-decisions is that, unless they’re directed by God, I risk making the wrong decision. If I really want to live a God-centered – a God-chaser – life, then my will should be His will. The best way to know His will is to pray about everything. “Could it be your arrogance that makes you think God owes you an explanation?” (from Francis Chan) The short answer is: “Yes”....

Repairing The Breach

Trust equity is perhaps the most difficult thing to earn from people. It can take years to build this equity up and it can take mere moments to wipe it all away. Though I’m not living in condemnation, I have been reminded of times when I’ve dropped the ball and failed to follow through. These painful moments are stark reminders of the importance consistently earning trust. They’re also times when it’s so encouraging to have friends that will love you in spite of what you do, not because of what you do. The kind of friends that will go to the mattresses with you (Godfather reference) are those that will be there with you when you’re wrong – and tell you so without leaving your side. I count these friends – covenant friendships – as invaluable. We all go up and down, we all make mistakes and we all grow from those mistakes. These are the same friends that will also be with you on the highest points of your life to celebrate with you. Jesus said it best in John chapter 15, verses 12-13: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. If you’re one of my friends that I’ve dropped the ball with, or someone I’ve lost trust equity with at some place or time, then I want to tell you that I’m sorry. And I want to ask for your forgiveness. I don’t want to go through life with someone having anything to hold against me....

Tough Economy? Go Wander in the Desert

“It’s time to tighten things up.” “Show me a new budget with only the needs, not the wants.” “How can we save money on technology this year?” If I were to poll, I wonder how many of you working in churches have been hearing questions and statements like the ones above? Based on emails I’ve received and countless blog posts I’ve read, the common theme is a reduction in expenses across most church ministries. Yet I’m also hearing and seeing church leaders requiring budget reductions without the required reduction in expectations to match the new, lower budgets. “It’s the economy, stupid” are now famous words by James Carville, the former campaign manager for the Clinton administration. So much of the American psyche is built upon such phrases as consumer confidence and market fluctuations. We’re conditioned to think along the bull or bear market concepts and act accordingly. While I’m all for being responsible and conservative as a general rule of thumb, I also can’t stop reading story after story and truth after truth in God’s Word how He is Jehovah-jireh, or “God the provider”. Possibly my favorite lesson in God’s total provision was in taking care of the entire nation of Israel as they wandered the desert. According to the Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, it is reported that Moses would have to have had 1,500 tons of food each day (which is 3,000,000 lbs!). To bring that much food each day would require two freight trains: each a mile long – which is a lot of donkeys back in that day. So God provided Manna in the...