What’s Your Practice?

Have you ever watched an artist or athlete who made what they do look easy?

Their performance comes so naturally that, as you watch you think, “I could do that.” Whiney Houston opens her lips, amazing music comes out. Michael Jordan goes in for a layup, jumps from the 3-point line and soars through the air to the basket. Those who are genuinely world class have this way of making what they do seem effortless.

Behind every world class artist, athlete, craftsman or scholar is hours of practice. After thousands of missed shots Michael Jordan makes history. Before the Beatles break out they spend every night for a year playing the night club scene in Amsterdam.

Malcolm Gladwell says the difference between average and world class is 10,000 hours of practice. In his book, “Outliers” he quotes a long time study of violinists. They tracked the progress of a group of violinists. Some were more talented than others. Some had better opportunities. But the real difference between those who ended their ‘career’ as a hobbyist or a professionally paid musician – practice. 10,000 hours of practice.

Opportunity may provide a door. Talent may get you in, but practice will keep you there and take you places you never imagined.

The Practice Principle applies to everything we do. Apart from breathing there are very few things we get right the first time, every time, without thought or rehearsal. You can practice having a good marriage. You can practice your faith. You can practice being a good leader. You can practice creativity. You can practice being a good dad. Doctor’s practice medicine, which is unfortunate because I don’t want my surgeon to ‘practice’ on me. I want him to get it right.

Practice is what separates artists from amateurs. How you practice and what you practice determines your level of success.

What areas of your life need practice today? Is your marriage struggling? Learn from the struggle. Practice being the person your spouse always dreamed of. Is business stagnant? Stop doing all the same things, all the same ways. Change your practice and discover a new method for opening new markets and increasing existing ones. How is your spiritual life? Are your prayers more of an emergency phone call in times of trouble? Is your understanding of Scripture limited to John 3:16? Practice praying, reading His Word. Practice decision making based on godly principles rather than the automatic assumptions of the day.

Practice is the place where we work on smoothing out the rough edges. It’s the place where mistakes lead to breakthroughs that allow us to go farther than we ever imagined possible.

Today, you will practice something. What you practice and how you practice will determine if tomorrow will be world class or not.

1 John 3:7, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.”

 

5 Ideas to Build Healthy Relationships

We live in a disposable world.

TV’s break, we buy a new one. Dinner’s coming, get out the paper plates. Engines today are so computerized it’s no longer a simple thing to work on your own car. Best to always keep a new one in the garage so mechanical problems are never an issue.

Any more we do the same thing with relationships. There are so many people in our immediate community. When a problem develops why waste time trying to fix the old relationship when it’s so easy and exciting to go out and find a new one? Someone offends you at church? No sweat. There’s another church down the street. Problem solved. Your kid doesn’t get to be a starting player on their ball team? What’s wrong with that coach? Let’s switch teams. Your boss is a jerk. Your coworkers are idiots. Even in a bad economy I’ll bet you can find a better place to work. Your marriage doesn’t feel like happily-ever-after? It must be time to trade in this family for a new one.

The most difficult and most significant thing you will ever do is learn to have healthy relationships.

Here are 5 ideas to help build lasting, healthy relationships.

  1. Be quick to forgive.
  2. Be quick to repent.
  3. Give the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Boldly speak the truth in love.
  5. Value relationships more deeply than your own rights or opinions.

Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

An Extra Day

I’ve decided to ignore Leap Year.

After all, I turned 40 last year. I’ve experienced 10 Leap Years. The way I figure it, by ignoring Leap Year I get to stay 39 for 10 more days! I’ve always wondered what kind of conspiracy gives a math geek enough influence to force a politician to add and remove days to a calendar? It’s almost as crazy as Day Light Savings Time. But there it is, February 29, every four years, one more day added to the calendar.

It leads to some practical questions.

  • At work, will you get paid for an extra day or given an additional day of vacation?
  • At home, will you conquer one more thing on your honey-do list, spend more time with the kids, sleep in, go to the movies or play golf?
  • Will your favorite TV show have one extra episode?
  • Will football season have one more game?
  • Will that criminal’s sentence be commuted for a day?
  • Do you get one extra day to pay your mortgage? Does the bank charge you one more day of interest?

It leads to the ultimate Leap Year question. What’s the value of one day?

According to Plato, “In a day and night of misfortune Atlantis sank into the sea.” There are days so tragic all that’s needed to identify them is a date – December 7, 1941 | September 11, 2001. There are days so triumphant we give them speciaal names – November 11, Armistice Day | December 25, Christmas.

What’s the value of a day?

James 4:13-17 says, ” Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

This year you’ve been given an extra day. How will you spend it?

 

Getting It Right

I heard a story about a little girl. Her dad was reading the newspaper. She was coloring a picture. She asked, “Dad, do you think we could be perfect like Jesus is perfect?”

Her dad responded, “No, honey. We’ll never be perfect like Jesus is perfect.” Discouraged, but not deterred she goes back to her drawing. She switches crayons and looks back at her father. “Hey Dad, what about for one year? Could we be perfect like Jesus is perfect for a year?”

“A year’s a long time, sweetheart. I don’t think we could do it.” He says.

This time you can tell she has an idea. “What about for one month?” she presses. Again, dad says no. “What about for one week, or one day, one hour, or even one minute!?” Excited now, she continues, “Dad, do you think we could be perfect like Jesus is perfect for just one minute?”

Thoughtfully, her dad puts down the paper. “Yeah. I think we could be perfect like Jesus is perfect for one minute.”

Without hesitation the girl looks at her dad, “Then dad, why don’t we try to live like Jesus – one minute at a time?”

Getting it right isn’t about one giant right decision. It’s about a million small ones. You can get it right today. It happens one minute, one decision at a time.

God Told Me

You’ve heard someone say it. You may have said it yourself. “God told me.” I’ll have to confess, my level of trust when someone says, “God told me,” is pretty low.

I went to Oklahoma Baptist University. It’s a great school, but the level of religious fervor as it relates to dating is often over the top. Guys and girls alike were prone to approach one another and say, “I just know we’re gonna get married. God told me!” It was weird, and a bit disturbing, that the girls who said things like this to me always seem to have some kind of growth spawning out from their forehead or an unusual lack of skill with basic personal hygiene. It’s an experience that makes me naturally distrustful of people who say, “God told me.”

History is filled with stories of really ugly things done in God’s name. King Henry VIII, in the name of God, would often decapitate both Catholics and Protestants on the same day because, “God told him.” Islamic extremists will strap bombs on their chest and detonate them in public places because, “God told them.” People who would never think to throw out God’s name as a cuss word and who would be offended by those who swear using the name of God are often as likely to take His name in vain by trying to strengthen their argument using God’s name as justification.

We need to be careful when we say, “God told me.”

However, the fact that I’m distrustful of the phrase itself or that I’ve seen some ugly things done in His name doesn’t mean it never happens. Sometimes, God speaks. Sometimes He moves so clearly that His direction is undeniable. How do we know the difference? How can we tell when the difference between God speaking in our lives and a bad bowl of pea soup?

Galatians 1:11-24 gives us the answer. It’s the story of Paul. He starts by telling us, “God told him…” He says this gospel He preaches comes directly from God himself. Paul experienced a moment of inspiration when God spoke truth into his life. But he didn’t live on inspiration alone. Paul spent three years on his own. He was in Damascus. There was another Believer there, Ananias. We don’t know if they spent much time together or not, but we know Ananias was there when Paul came to faith in Christ. We know Paul was a master of the Old Testament. He knew the Old Testament Scriptures like the back of his hand. It would appear Paul spent three years scouring the Old Testament to understand more clearly how it might be possible that Jesus could be the Messiah. From Paul’s other writings it’s clear he found the evidence he sought. Paul knew that whatever the inspiration may be, God is consistent, He would not contradict something already revealed in His Scriptures.

For Paul, “God told me…” started with inspiration. The inspiration gave way to Scriptural confirmation. Next Paul went to see mature Believers, established in their faith. He went to Jerusalem to see Peter and James, the half brother of Jesus. He spent 15 days with them. They could clearly see God’s call in Paul’s life. Inspiration led to Scriptural confirmation and then validation by wise, spiritually mature, godly counsel.

Finally, Paul’s story became this unstoppable history changing force. Verses 23 – 24 are beautiful, “And they were hearing only, ‘He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy. And they glorified God in me.’” If ‘God told you’, the outcome is unstoppable and the evidence is clear. It won’t be your story. It will be the story of God in you. Like Paul, people will glorify God in you.

How do you know when God told you? Inspiration leads to Scriptural confirmation then validation by spiritually mature mentors which results in an unstoppable movement of God – His glorification.

Today, what has God told you? Be careful not to use His name in vain.

Right Is Not Enough

Being right is not enough.

I have a friend who says, “I thought I was conceited till I found out I was perfect.” He usually goes on to say, “I thought I was wrong once, but found out I was mistaken.” And then tops it off with, “I’m not conceited. I’m convinced.”

There’s a difference between self-confidence and self-centeredness.

It’s one reason I’ve always been amazed at the story of Jesus. He is described as the perfect Son of God. The Bible calls Him blameless. He knows things no else knows. He’s able to do things no one else can do. Yet, we never see him strut. He works miracles and teaches with authority. He has confidence, but not conceit. He has the wisdom to win every argument and the ability to put everyone in their place with just a few words. But He doesn’t. Instead, He deals compassionately with people. Even when he argues with the self-righteous religious leaders of the day, while He always wins the argument, it’s with an amazing lack of swagger.

If I had that kind of knowledge and power it would be tough to resist the urge to make my point, work my miracle and then get up in someone’s face, “BOOM – stick that in your pipe and smoke it!” I’d want to spike a scroll and strut around the room doing a little miracle dance. But that’s not how Jesus did it.

It causes me to notice a few things.

Jesus didn’t come to prove points. He didn’t come to win arguments. He didn’t show up to show off. Jesus came to make a way. He came to speak the truth. He came to give us life. He came to save. No one ever came to faith in Christ after losing an argument. I’ve never met anyone who said, “Yup, I used to be a die-hard atheist, but after you put in me in my place with all those brilliant and undeniable facts about a Creator I just had to give in and believe.”

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have our arguments. We should speak the truth in love. As we do, we should remember that our purpose is so much more beautiful than proving points. The purpose is to prove love. That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t come to prove points. He came to prove love.

He was right. But He was more than right. He did the right thing, the right way, for the right reason. This is true righteousness. It comes with confidence. It’s convincing. It causes people to stop and take notice. I may not yet understand or agree with everything you just told me, but the way you told me speaks volumes. It means we’ll have this conversation again.

Being right is not enough. Be righteous. Show compassion to people. Speak the truth in love.

John 14:6

Stuck in the Bottom of a Hole

I heard a story about a man. He was walking down the street and fell in a hole. It was dark, deep and there was no way out.

The man at the bottom of the hole heard someone coming. He shouted, “Hey! I’m stuck in the bottom of this hole. Can you help me out?” The man walking by stopped, looked in the hole and said, “Sir, I’m sorry for your misfortune. But it would be irresponsible for me to help. See, I’m an Investment Banker. I could afford to buy a rope, a ladder, even a crane. But what’s to keep you from walking down another street and falling into another hole? You’re too risky an investment.” And the banker walked on.

Now the man at the bottom of the hole was frustrated and mad. He heard someone else approaching. She sounded like she was in a hurry, but she stopped when she heard his cries. “Hey!” He shouted, “I’m stuck in the bottom of this hole. Can you help me out?” The woman stopped, looked at her watch, then down in the hole. She was carrying a Bible. Anxious and clearly frustrated by the interruption she looks at the man, “I’m late for a very important Bible study. Besides, I don’t have the strength or the stuff to get you out. I’ll tell you what, I’ll ask the people in my Bible Study to pray for you.” She smiled, pleased wither herself. Winked, waved and ran along.

Now the man at the bottom of the hole was really angry. That’s when he saw his friend peak over the edge of the hole. “What are you doing down there?” The friend asked. “I don’t know. I was walking along, stumbled and fell in this hole. Can you get me out?” Said the man in the bottom of the hole.

The friend looked thoughtful. Stepped back. And jumped into the hole!

Now the man at the bottom of the hole is livid. “ARE YOU STUPID!?” He shouted. “Now we’re both stuck in the bottom of this hole.”

The friend calmly looked the man in the eyes, “You don’t understand. I’ve been in this hole before, and I know the way out.”

John 1:14 | Philippians 2:5-11 | 2 Corinthians 5:21

Good For; Good To

Do you ever meet a couple that seems mismatched? Maybe they’ve been married for 15 or 20 years but something just doesn’t seem to fit. How could a couple with a woman that smart and a man that daft stay together for so long? How is it possible that someone so driven and organized could endure someone so listless and free-spirited? What is it that holds together a relationship that seems built on a foundation of contradictions. She’s a little bit country. He’s a little bit rock and roll. She likes long walks in the park. He likes good seats at Fenway Park.

I think ‘good for; good to’ is part of the answer. I love to talk with couples about what brought them and keeps them together. There’s all the standard comments: Love, respect, communication, patience, an occasional knock on the head with a frying pan. But sometimes they cut through the usual list of responses and say something truly interesting.

“She’s good for me.” I heard one friend say. “Before I met her I was a knucklehead. Today, I’m a recovering knucklehead with occasional relapses.” We had a good laugh. I thought I’d get in a friendly jab, “That explains why you’re with her. Why does she stick with you!?”

He got serious for a moment and didn’t miss a beat, “She’s good for me. I try to be good to her. It just works.”

Ephesians 5:22-33 gives us a brief snapshot of how to have a healthy, happy, even holy marriage. It could be summed up in this one principle: “Mutual submission out of mutual respect.”

It could be said as a series of questions:

  • Will you be good for or good to your spouse today?
  • Will you look out for their interests and their needs before your own?
  • Will you give more of yourself to them than you think you can afford and trust God to provide? (A good definition of sacrifice.)
  • Will you be willing to repent when you’re wrong and forgive when you’re right?
  • Will you value your relationship more than your own rights or opinions?

How we answer questions like these determines whether or not those mismatched couples will go the distance.

Good for | Good to – which are you?

Is It In You?

Romans 1:15 – Paul says, “As much as is in me I am ready to preach the gospel.” He goes on to tell Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5, “…you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work to introduce others to Jesus, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.” (NLT) 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “…the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him…

You don’t have to be an exceptional athlete, brilliant scholar, talented artist, or successful business leader to be useful to God. As a matter of fact, 1 Corinthians 1:20-31 makes it clear that words like ‘exceptional, brilliant, talented or successful’ don’t impress God. He’s looking for someone whose heart is loyal to Him.

A few years ago Gatorade asked a question, “Is it in you?” Today, I ask you the same question – but not about Gatorade, about something that really matters. What’s in you? What’s in your heart? Are you ready?

Paul said, “As much as is in me I am ready to preach the gospel.”

Is it in you?

This is a video of exceptional athletes doing unbelievable things. When your heart is loyal to God you can accomplish the unbelievable too. It’s not about your exceptional ability, but about the exceptional God you serve.

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHH-6ZQktRQ

Practical Steps

I like practical steps.

Jack Welch, Seth Godin, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll – these men are experts at articulating  practical steps for better business, leadership, living or scriptural application. They’ve built businesses and churches that have global impact and eternal influence. They speak in sound bites that become axioms for leadership, principles for success and proverbs for practical living.

It’s easy to see the value of practical steps. They are small, achievable goals, relatively easy to understand and attain. The big idea may be challenging. The mountain you intend to climb may seem impossible, implausible, even impassable. But take the right series of practical steps and you’ll find yourself at the top. With practical steps you can accomplish unbelievable things.

There’s also a danger to practical steps. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Good intentions may be the gravel under you feet, but practical steps are what move you down that road. People have to make a living. Chores have to be done. Dreams give way to the practical step of paying bills. The goal of business is to make money. Cheaper labor, higher prices sounds like a practical formula for bigger profit margin. Yet some companies find that formula failing while others, who choose to give away services for free, make money hand over fist. Christ-followers try to live ‘in the world, not of it.’ They take practical steps to separate themselves from temptation. They become so surrounded by ‘Christian’ people and ‘Christian’ culture they’ve excluded themselves from any real opportunity to be salt and light in a world desperately seeking the answers they hold.

Today, you’ll take practical steps. Will they be practical steps on the road to success or the road of good intentions?

It seems ironic, but here’s a list of practical steps to help you take the right practical steps.

  • Know the Word. The Bible says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path.” It’s filled with practical wisdom for daily living.
  • Know your purpose. There’s a difference between taking practical steps and taking a walk. Knowing your destination determines the difference.
  • Surround yourself with smart, godly people. They provide insight and accountability on your road to success.
  • Surround yourself with smart, godly people who disagree with you. If they’re smart and they’re godly it’s wise to listen when they push back. They likely have thoughtful, god-centered ideas you should evaluate and learn from.
  • Move forward. It’s not really a practical step without the ‘stepping‘ part.

What practical step do you need to take today?