Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Bullet of Making a Life: Little Things …

One of the most popular ballads of the nineteen fifties was entitled “Little Things Mean A Lot.” I’m sure the truth of this statement did as much to make the tune number one on the hit parade as did the melody and/or the beautiful voice of Kitty Kallen who sang it. Without question, it’s the correct performance of the little things that leads to great things!

For instance, the golfing ability of Jack Nicklaus made him a legend in his own time as one of the all-time great players and money winners. A closer look at his competition, however, provides a startling revelation of how “little” differences there really was between Mr. Nicklaus and the other pros on the tour.

During one season of his professional career, Mr. Nicklaus was the top money winner receiving $228,854. Fellow pro Bob Charles was in twenty-fourth place that year and won only $48,757. Mr. Nicklaus’ average stroke per game totaled 70.34. Mr. Charles’ average scores per game totaled 70.90. The difference of only a little over half a stroke (.56), but the difference in money was $180,097!! Yes, little things mean a lot.

The Lord Jesus Christ said the man who is faithful in little is faithful in much! Time for a friend. That extra moment for your child. That thoughtful note of gratitude to someone. A quiet moment of prayer. The little things done well become the great achievements of life.

There’s a fine line between a champion and an also ran. Little things do mean a lot toward “living it up” God’s way. Perhaps that was one of the secrets of our Lord’s magnificent life. He lived what He preached beginning with the little things. We can do no better!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Bullet of Real Life: Tossing Steaks Around

One of the church’s most tragic mistakes is that it tries to grab bones out of folk’s mouths instead of offering them steak. This is where Christians get the label of the “naughty no-no gang.” Unless the church crowd can demonstrate a superior lifestyle, consisting of abundant joy, problems being solved and a life of peace and purpose, no one is going to pay any attention to what they say.

Admittedly, the failures of Christians are evident everywhere. But so are the failures of non-Christians. Comparing degrees of failure is futile. Assigning blame is not the basic issue of life. The basic issue is to find answers…or THE answer. Those of us who have experienced Jesus Christ have had it both ways, life without Him and life with Him. The latter is by far the more fulfilling and joyous experience. My own testimony would be that I have given up nothing to follow Jesus Christ. He has simple replaced the things I used to consider priority with far greater and lasting values. I’ll never go back!

Jesus Christ came from heaven to clue us in on real living. Thousands who have believed Him have found His promises to be true. He delivers on what He says. Why gnaw a bone when you can eat steak? That’s not giving up a thing…so please don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it. And say, Christian, let’s get busy throwing some steak around!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Bullet of Real Life: Dried Bones or Juice Steaks

One of the biggest misunderstanding most “non-church” folks have about Christianity is that being a serious follower of Christ involves “giving up” something worthwhile. Nothing could be further from the truth! This is like saying I gave up being alone to fall in love, or I gave up my prison cell for the freedom of 40 acres, or better still, I gave up my ignorance for wisdom! (Remember, ignorance is bliss only if you remain ignorant!) The worth of Jesus Christ is so fantastic that nothing is worth keeping if it cheats us out of having Him! A man is a fool if he keeps something cheap when it could easily be replaced by something of superior value and quality!

I like to illustrate this truth by what I call the “Meat Bone” Philosophy. Let’s say a hungry, stray dog walks by you carrying an old dried-up chicken bone in his mouth. You reach down and try to take the bone! What happens? He growls, runs or perhaps even tries to bite you. No stranger is going to get “his bone.” But what if you had dropped a large piece of steak, cooked to medium rare, in front of him? Why, there’s not a dog in Dogland that wouldn’t drop his bone and grab the steak. In essence, that’s what the Gospel is all about. Why gnaw on bones of human limitation when you could just as easily eat the steak of God’s fulfillment?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Bullet of Success: The Value of Failure

Who hasn’t failed?

The Apostle Paul failed. Peter failed…every one of the twelve apostles failed.

David, Israel’s greatest kind, “a man after God’s own heart,”…failed. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived…failed. Moses, a giant among the Israelites, giver of the law, delivered of his people…failed. Jacob, father of Israel…failed. Isaac, son of the promise…failed. Abraham, progenitor of Israel, father of the faithful, prototype of those who are righteous through faith…failed! Even our first parents, in their human perfection…failed.

Who hasn’t failed?

It isn’t failing that is the problem. It’s what one does after he has failed. To take failure as final is to be a failure. To see in failure the school of the Spirit is to let failure contribute to one’s growth in Christ.

“To what do you attribute your success?” asked the young executive of the bank president. “Two words,” responded the president, “good decisions!”

“But how did you learn to make good decisions?” asked the young man.

“Two words,” the president answered, “bad decisions!”

Who hasn’t failed? Only one…Jesus Christ!

And in His perfection He laid down His life to cover the failure of all. “God works in everything for good to those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

The above words were penned by one of my favorite Presbyterian Pastors, Richard Halverson. My past failures have taught me that if anyone can do anything better than you can, let them do it. This is a case in point. I hope you’ve made the decision to let Christ go to work on your failures.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Bullet of Success: How to Evaluate Potential

A man might fail twenty times in a day but succeed a hundred times! That’s a pretty good record. To judge him by his twenty acts of failure is not only short-sighted but stupid. A man’s sins are meaningless unless they are compared to his acts of righteousness!! In the first months of a baby’s life the mother and father consider the dirty diapers, the messy food and cries in the night “as nothing” compared to the potential of the little life God has given them. Those of us who can not see the potential in our fellow human beings and, instead, complain about their weaknesses are life’s greatest fools. We cheat ourselves and miss the purpose of what God is up to! In 1 Corinthians 4, the Apostle Paul sums this whole idea up with these words,

It’s a very small thing to me that other men should judge me or evaluate me on man’s standards. I don’t even trust my own judgment on what kind of man I am. My conscience is clear, but even that isn’t final proof. It is the Lord Himself who must examine me and decide. So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether someone is a good servant or not. When the Lord comes, He will turn on the light so that everyone can see exactly what each one of us is really like, deep down in our hearts. Then everyone will know why we have been doing the Lord’s work. At that time God will give to each one whatever praise is coming to him. (Living Bible)

I’ve known some poor, pathetic souls who, no matter how good something is, will find something wrong with it. Yet, I have been blessed immeasurably by others in terrible situations who have discovered the good in it.

May God deliver me and us from that group of negative, sour, self-centered, bad-mouths who can always find something wrong. What they say or think really doesn’t make any difference anyway. When we all stand before God, He won’t show us the clips but the full film. Then and only then will we really see what we really are!

Keep playing the game, Christian. If you’re giving it your best shot and improving daily, it’s a “no seat” situation!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Bullet of Success: Everyone Fails

I suppose the greatest sin we commit toward our fellow human beings is condemning them for isolated acts of failure. One of the most thrilling truths of the Gospel is that a man is not judged just for his mistakes but evaluated on his total life.

I am most remorseful at myself and others when we participate in that nauseous pursuit of fault-finding. Anyone can find fault! Only the purest personalities have the vision to see potential! Many demented, self-centered and narrow people are experts in making other wonderful human beings look bad. Illustration: How easy it would be to televise a basketball game and isolate on one player for the entire contest. You could take that hour of film and cut out all the good plays and make a ten-minute clip of his fouls, bad passes and missed shots.

The finest basketball player in America could be made to look bad with this method; however, if you viewed the full sixty minutes it would have been one of his best games!! It all depends on what you’re looking for!!

Babe Ruth struck out twice as many times as he got a hit, yet he was one of the outstanding baseball hitters of all time! Knowing how many times he missed is meaningless unless you also know baseball and how many times he got a hit!!! You can’t judge an athlete by the isolated bad plays but by the total game. You can never evaluate a person correctly based on his single bad acts without also viewing his multiple accomplishments for good.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Bullet of Hope: Part 2, The Joyful State of Those Who Hope in God

There are only two options open for any of us if we are to escape the ravages of disappointment, despair and despondency … the wisdom of man or the wisdom of God! As indicated in part 1, only the tip of the iceberg tells us that man’s solutions are inadequate and illusory. Many people just “reduce their expectations so they won’t be disappointed!” Their joy is not in “the good achieved” but in “the bad avoided.”

In Psalm 4, King David wrote “Many say, where can we find happiness.” He answers by saying, “O, Lord, let the light of your face shine upon us. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety!”

In Psalm 3, David states flatly … “To the Lord I cry aloud and He answers … from the Lord comes deliverance!”

Those who hope in God are never disappointed! Let’s hope we’ll allow our disappointments to refocus our expectations! That’s the only way to conquer!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Bullet of Hope: Part 1, The Sad State of the Despairing

When expectations fail to materialize there is disappointment. Continuous failure to fulfill plans, hopes and desires leads to fear! Fear of inadequate ability! Fear of wrong values! Fear of low self-worth! Fear of antagonistic associates!

Give a man or woman enough disappointments and fears and the result is despair! A person whose hopes have been repulsed continually brings failure that wares out courage. Discouragements too frequently and long-continued may produce a settled hopelessness.

All around me I sense people living in despondency and despair! Despondence relaxes energy and effort and is attended by sadness and distress. Then comes despair, which results in strong apathy or desperation. Desperation is nothing more than despair in action!

Pills by the millions are being bought, stolen, prescribed and swallowed in hopes of some kind of balanced escape and restoration of joy! But “drug therapy” is not a long-term answer for the majority! America’s “kick” to buy “bottled happiness” is just that … a kick in the air that hits nothing and accomplishes less!