Don’t Think; Just Throw

1 John 3:7

My son plays baseball. He’s 7 years old. In their first few practices the coaches spent time showing them the best way to throw a ball. Elbow up, glove extended, throw across the body, flick the wrist. Pretty basic stuff. They all quickly understood the correct form. All that’s really left now is enough practice to be accurate and fast, to throw with strength and distance. What happened next is a little funny. Coach sends them out to play catch. Every boy goes through the same process. Catch the ball. Extend the glove. Lock and load, elbow up, throw! It’s going so slowly you can almost see them counting the steps in their head like some kind of baseball-induced ballet move. It was taking every kid an eternity just to throw the ball.

Coach stopped everyone, “You’ve got the form down. You know what to do. You just need to practice. Don’t think. Just throw.”

This is often the problem with our relationships with one another and with God. We dig into Scripture or search the next self help book hoping to find a silver bullet that will fight the temptation or fix the problem. We look for the Midas touch that will make us wealthy or the magic words that will give us success in relationships when we’ve already heard what we need to know to be successful. All that’s left is practice.

Don’t get me wrong. Exploring, memorizing, understanding Scripture – this is a critical part of the process, but at some point you’ve got to practice. You’ve got to use the things you already know. At some point you don’t think. You just throw. Maybe you hit the target. Maybe your effort falls short. Either way you’ve taken a step forward.

Get in the Word today. Read it, but don’t stop there. Practice it. Even if you get it wrong the practice will do you good.

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

Groundhog Day

Proverbs 30:24-28

I guess I missed school the day they explained why people think a furry rodent can predict the weather. Can someone please help me understand? Oh, I know about Puxatony Phil. I’ve seen the movie. But the tradition itself, I’m not sure how something like Groundhog Day even gets started.

Predicting the future would be a useful talent. If I knew then what I know now I would have invested heavily in Google and Walmart. Did you hear? Facebook is filing a $5 billion – that’s BILLION with ‘B’ – IPO. I should have ‘friended’ Mark Zuckerburg. Being able to predict the future would come in handy.

Knowing the specifics of our future could make us ubber-wealthy or scare the schlamuckin out of us. Either way, history has proven we won’t know for sure what’s around the corner until we turn the corner to see for ourselves. Accurately predicting the future may not be in the cards, but we can prepare for it.

Those who appear to be the best at predicting the future are almost always the ones most prepared to meet it.

Andy Stanley talks about the principle of the path – you are where you are today because of choices you made yesterday. The course you take in the future is determined by the choices you make today. What steps will you take today to prepare for tomorrow? Here’s a quick inventory:
  • You have a family – What choice do you need to make today to strengthen your relationship with your wife and kids tomorrow?
  • You have a job – What decisions have you avoided that keep you from being satisfied with your career?
  • You have a spiritual life – Have you ignored it? Will you grow deeper in character, stronger in your walk with God and more certain of your own eternal purpose?
  • You may be involved in a church, small group or charitable organization – Are you prepared to receive new people, serve more effectively and increase the scope of your group’s influence?

We may never be able to accurately and consistently predict specific details of our future but we can prepare for it. Spring is coming whether that groundhog sees his shadow or not.

Fighting the Ugly

Romans 7:15-25

When I visit amusement parks, ballgames, concerts, community festivals, basically any public event, I’m always reminded of one simple truth.

The world is filled with ugly people.

That may not be politically correct to say out loud, but it’s easy to prove both statistically and scientifically. There are entire websites devoted to weird looking people at WalMart! Face it, ugly people far outnumber pretty ones. I think that may be why Hollywood is so popular. It’s a place for pretty people to gather and flaunt their pretty-ness.

Like slaves in the Roman Empire I think it’s time for ugly people to rise up and demand their place in the spotlight!

But that’s really the problem, isn’t it? Ugly is already in the spotlight. It’s not the ugly defined by physical comeliness or attractive beauty. It’s the ugly that comes from inside, the ugly that stains the soul. No matter how much make up, exercise, or Photoshop editing, regardless of the sparkle or shine on the outside the ugly inside has a way of making it’s way out. It’s why pretty people get divorced. It’s what tarnishes the beauty of success and strangles satisfaction.

The ugly inside, regardless of our external circumstance, finds a way to make its way out and corrodes even the most pristine of appearances. So how do we fight the ugly?


It’s a principle from Celebrate Recovery. We must recognize we are powerless, on our own, to overcome the ugly inside. The ugly has a source. It’s our own heart. We need a change of heart that will lead to a change of mind, attitude and action. We can slap on some new paint. We can turn over a new leaf. But until we have a change of heart we’ll only find old dirt.

Heart change is Jesus’ specialty. You can trust Him to lovingly work in you and through you to remake you into someone beautiful from the inside out.


Real change takes time. Whatever ugly is in you has been there from birth and has been reinforced through your life experiences. Patience with yourself and with others gives you the space – think bandwidth – you need for genuine transformation to take place.


Repetition is a powerful tool. Repetition is a powerful tool. Repetition is a powerful tool. Getting it right once isn’t enough. Get it right again. Then again. Then do it again. Take one step at a time and when you experience a setback get up and get on with it. The team that wins the Super Bowl, the artist giving the concert – they made it that far through hours and hours of practice.

I could give you more bullet points, but none of that matters without a change of heart. That’s not a change you can make on your own. Trust Jesus with your ugly today.



A Life Worth Living

Philippians 1:9-11

I believe my quality of life is measurably better because I try to live by the principles I find in Scripture.

You might think this boring, but I’ve never been addicted to anything. I’m not upside down deep in outrageous debt. I have a great relationship with my wife and kids. I have friends I enjoy and trust, a church I love and a life worth living.

I am blessed.

I can’t really take credit for it. I’ve made my share of mistakes. Stupidity runs genetically through me. But in spite of my own gaffes and guffaws, whether or not I’m popular, powerful or rich, my life is shaping up to be an exciting story worth living.

I’ll go back to my first statement. I believe my quality of life is measurably better because I try to live by the principles I find in Scripture.

Let me be clear. I don’t try to live by what someone told me the Bible said. I don’t try to jump through some kind of spiritual hoop in order to please a benevolent, but rigid dictatorial deity. That’s not who or what God is. I take the time to regularly read the Bible. I talk with friends about what they think it means. I pray about it. I ask God for wisdom and understanding. I meditate on the words and try to focus my attitudes and actions around following the principles I find. It’s not new age. It’s not strange.  It’s not mystical. It’s practical. It’s real.

And it works.

Philippians 1:9-11 says, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

This is my prayer for you today.

Pass the Wine

Pass the WineJohn 2:1-12

It’s a curious way to begin a public ministry. It appears Mary was invited to a wedding in Cana. Jesus and His Disciples went with her. They weren’t special guests, just friends of the family. In that culture a wedding celebration could last a week! Being good hosts was important to the family. The happy couple would exchange vows, the ceremony would end and the feast would begin.

They weren’t likely a wealthy family but for this wedding they spared no expense. Imagine the potential for embarrassment when the punch bowl ran dry. Mary was close to this family. Close enough to notice and be concerned when the wine ran out. She told her son. His response was respectful, but less than enthusiastic. “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

The story implies Mary was asking Jesus to do something about it, but it’s not clearly stated. Neither was Jesus being dismissive. He was simply saying this wasn’t His wedding. The celebration wasn’t about Him. His time would come to reach, teach, preach and work wonders, but in His estimation, this was not that time.

Mary, too, was respectful, understanding, yet undeterred. She goes to the servants and subtly motions toward Jesus, “Whatever He says to you, do it.

That’s good advice.

My mom gave me similar advice. I grew up attending church. I often questioned the things I heard or saw. My mom would sometimes answer, “Even if a person doesn’t believe in the spiritual truth or the supernatural reality of Jesus you can’t deny the practical benefits that come from making wise choices based on His teaching. If you do what He says, your life will be better.”

The servants took Mary’s advice literally. They filled those water pots all the way to the brim with water, just like Jesus said. The containers held somewhere between 20 and 30 gallons.

You may know the rest of the story. The servants take the ‘water’ to the Master of the Feast – think ‘Wedding Coordinator’ – who takes one drink and declares his amazement that the couple had held back the best wine for the end of the celebration rather than the beginning. The water had turned to wine!

Jesus didn’t seek or receive credit from the couple or the crowd, yet He provided for them ‘exceedingly abundantly’ more than anyone could ask or think. I see this happen today. Someone will try to live by the ‘Golden Rule’. A charity will feed hungry people in an impoverished country. A family will adjust their lifestyle so they can get out of debt. The principles they apply have their source in the teaching of Jesus. The benefit they experience come from living according to His principles, yet He neither seeks nor receives credit. And that’s okay. Who gets the credit isn’t really the point. It’s as simple as a mother’s advice.

“Whatever He says to you, do it.”

You may have doubts about the spiritual truth found in Jesus but it’s hard to deny the practical benefit of living by His teaching. Put it to the test and see if it’s not true. Don’t take my word for it. Read the Bible, specifically the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), to discover what He taught and how He lived and then apply those principles to your life.

As you follow His lead I believe your quality of life will change and eventually you’ll come to the same conclusion the Disciples did. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Whatever He says to you, do it.

Stopping Jesus

Matthew 20:29-34

Have you ever prayed with such passion and persistence that you stopped God in His tracks? (Matthew 20:32)

That’s what these two blind guys did on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. People tried to silence them. But the resistance of the crowd only increased the resolve of the blind men. I don’t know what’s more remarkable, that they cried so loudly that Jesus stopped or the question Jesus asked when he turned to speak with them.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Seems obvious. You are the Son of God, right? Yet these men don’t hesitate. “We want to see.” Jesus makes it so, and their lives are never the same again.

What are you praying today? Will you pray with passion and persistence? When the time comes what will you ask Jesus to do for you?

Will your request open your eyes or the eyes of others?

People may try to silence you. Disappointment may discourage you. Let the resistance you face increase your resolve. God’s not afraid of your questions. He welcomes them. But get ready. When the answer comes, the way you see the world will never be the same.

Me, We, Them

Small Group ConnectMatthew 10:1-42

I’ve heard it said you should never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world. Do you know why?

It’s the only thing that ever has.

With nothing more than a noble idea, ink and a pen 56 men sign their name to the Declaration of Independence and a nation is born!

In a small town on the Sea of Galilee four men carry their paralyzed friend to the roof of a house where a popular preacher is teaching the crowd. They open a hole in the roof, lower their friend, and a miracle happens! The preacher heals the man! Their paralyzed friend picks up his bed and walks home.

With 11 other men an uneducated fisherman joins an unconventional Rabbi. For three and half years they live, work, learn and play together. They come to believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. After His death, burial and resurrection this small group of 11 men continue a movement that spreads around the world. We’re still talking about it more than 2000 years later!

It’s amazing what a small group of people, committed to God and one another can do.

Everyone’s part of a small group. The question is whether or not your group will draw you and others deeper in your walk with Jesus or push you further away from Him. No matter what the nature of your group is, there are three things that influence your decision to take part.

  • ME – What I do to live and speak my faith where I am.
  • WE – What we do to live and speak our faith where we are.
  • THEM – What I do with you to reach them with the gospel.

Said more bluntly –

  • What’s in it for me?
  • How are we better together?
  • Will people outside our group benefit from the activity together?

Take time to evaluate the groups in which you participate. Is your participation all about what you get out of it? Is it all about what you can accomplish together? Is it about how you can affect the lives of others? It’s not healthy for a group to get stuck in any one of these three elements. Is your group stuck or well balanced?

Are you part of a group at all?

Jesus mentored 12 men who changed the world forever. They were a tight group of friends, but they weren’t a closed group. Matthew 10:1-42 gives us a snapshot of one thing they did together. What do you think of the group Jesus assembled and the mission they accomplished? How does that group relate to yours?