True Success

A few years back my family and I watched most episodes of American Idol. Being a musical family, we enjoyed the time together listening to some excellent young musicians.

Ultimately, the American viewers determine who will be the “American Idol” by their votes. “Success” is defined as winning the show or at least releasing a hit song as a result of being on the show.

In America, there are many symbols of success. In golf, success is winning one of the major tournaments: The Masters, The U.S. Open, The British Open, or The P.G.A. In baseball, success is winning the World Series. In basketball, success is winning the NBA Championship. Our culture sometimes defines a successful person as the one with the corner office, the one with the good-looking spouse, the one with the expensive sports car, or the one with the huge house.

Have you ever thought about what success looks like in the Bible? In the 13th chapter of John, just hours before His crucifixion, Jesus gave the answer. Wanting to make a lasting impression on His disciples, Jesus provided them with a symbol of success–the TOWEL.

Success is symbolized by a TOWEL!

“….so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”  John 13:5-5

The towel represented service and service represented success. Although He was the leader and was in fact God, Jesus washed the feet of His followers. He performed the act of a household servant. Think about it, if HE served, we should serve. In explaining his actions, he told them:

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:15-17 (NIV) 

Late in life, Albert Einstein removed portraits of Newton and Maxwell from his wall and replaced them with portraits of Ghandi and Schweitzer. For Einstein, it was time to replace the image of success with the image of service. But Jesus went further by demonstrating that SUCCESS IS SERVICE! Reacting to the disciple’s obvious misconceptions about success, Jesus clearly told them:

“….whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV)

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UK or U of L?

One day I was in a barbershop getting a haircut.  As you try avoiding the thoughts of a hair joke next time you see me, let me share my “spiritual” experience.

While my bushy flocks were being trimmed and thinned a gentleman walked in the shop wearing telling apparel.  He was wearing a UK hat, a UK coat, a UK sweatshirt, and possibly some unseen UK clothing as well.  I looked up and said, “Looks like we have another one of those Cardinal fans coming for a haircut.”  Everyone laughed because it was obvious that this man was on the side of the University of Kentucky!

Moses once asked the question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”  I believe it should be obvious whose side we are on!  Our words, our dress, our drink, and most importantly, our life should scream that we are on God’s team.  Everywhere the barbershop UK fan went throughout the day folks would clearly know that he was for UK.  It’s likely that UK basketball would sometimes be part of his conversation, but even when it wasn’t he was sharing his allegiance.

“Lord, help us to be obvious Christians.  Show us ways to provide both a silent and verbal witness of our allegiance to you!  Lead us to be far more excited about the eternal things of God than the temporary things of this world.”

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Today Is Christmas At Our House

Today is Christmas at our house, well, kinda!  Our daughter Lauren will be working with the International Mission Board over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.  Because she will be leaving soon, I worked out a deal with Santa to come early at our house.  As I type, I’m looking at her full stocking hanging from the fireplace.

Please pray for Lauren as she travels and represents the Lord.  Pray for the children, youth, college students, and missionaries with whom she will be working.  Naturally, we will miss her this Christmas, but we’re happy she will be serving in this capacity.

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“Beam Me Up, Scotty”

Star TrekHave you ever taken a shortcut?  I live for shortcuts.  I love side streets and back roads that save time and keep you moving toward the desired destination. A while back, I bought a GPS unit, in part, so I can find additional routes that can save time.

Unfortunately, I have discovered there are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity! If a person wants his or her life to count for God in a significant way, there is no shortcut. It’s not all that complicated, but, it’s certainly not easy!  No shortcut will lead you into the power of God and impact for His kingdom.

How can a Christian make a Godly impact on his world?  The answer can be found in a simple Scripture written by the Apostle Paul to the church of Galatia.  Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Paul alludes to this same truth in 2 Corinthians 12 when he tells about his William Shatner, Star Trek experience of being “beamed up” into Heaven where the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Paul responded by saying, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

These verses teach us that we cannot rely upon our own strengths to accomplish God’s will.  We will only see the power of God when we are filled with His presence and His power!  We trust Him to do what only He can do. The formula for spiritual success then is as follows:

Surrender +  faith  =  God’s Power

We do not apply this formula to our lives one time and then that’s it! No, we apply it daily–sometimes several times throughout the day. Walking with Christ implies a journey where we take step after step. Sometimes we will run; sometimes we will walk; sometimes we will stand still!

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Real Bull’s-eyes

BullseyeA little boy got a real bow and arrow for his 10th birthday and immediately went outside to practice in his yard. A few minutes later his father stepped outside to check how he was doing and was amazed to see a dozen arrows dead in the center of a dozen different bull’s-eyes that were painted on the trees in the backyard.

“That’s astounding, Son! You just got that bow a few minutes ago. How do you manage to hit a bullseye every time?” “Easy, Dad. First I shoot the arrow. Then wherever it lands, I paint circles around it!”

That’s a cute story, but a deeper lesson is easy to find. I have found that many live theirs lives exactly that way. Instead of aiming for the targets of life set forth by the Bible, they draw circles around their own lifestyles and call it a bullseye. As a preacher, I must strive to preach the truth of the Bible without compromise. When this is done, we know where to aim in life.

As Christians, we should stand for what’s right! We should stand for the truths in the Bible. I believe if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything! With that in mind, let’s stand for what we know is right even when others don’t understand. I like the way the Apostle Paul said it in Philippians 3….

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:14

Paul did not say, “I’m not pressing toward anything in particular . . . I’m just drawing a bullseye around my lifestyle.” Paul didn’t say, “I press toward what this cultural deems acceptable.” Paul didn’t say, “I press toward what would make me appear to be a really super nice guy!” No! Paul said, “I press toward the mark!”

This mark had been set forth for Paul by the Lord. Our marks are given to us in God’s Word. Take a solid stand on God’s Word, but be nice about it!

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Book: “Financial Peace”

dave-ramseyI just finished rereading Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey. The book is a must read for every young couple considering marriage and every couple struggling with their finances. Through the years, I’ve read a number of books like this one, but I like Dave’s straightforward, in-your-face approach the best.

Dave also has a financial training course that can be taught in local churches called Total Money Makeover. I hope to offer it at our church on a regular basis as a part of our discipleship program. I also recommend that you listen to Dave’s radio program for further information and inspiration. Radio program airing information can be found here.

This is book 9 of 52 of my quest to read 52 books this year. For more information on this quest please see One Book Per Week = 52 or this series of posts.

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