Friday, December 23, 2011

How's Your Reception?

My father recently purchased one of the new iPhone 4 smartphones hoping to now have a superior communication device. However, he has grown increasingly frustrated with the poor reception and number of dropped calls he has experienced since using the new iPhone 4. While he and my mother share the same service provider my mother’s phone, albeit just a regular non-smart phone, gets significantly better reception than my dad’s iPhone 4. After taking the iPhone 4 up to the storefront where my dad purchased the mobile device a sales representative informed him that the thin metal band which wraps around the iPhone 4 is responsible for the poor reception. He then added that Steve Jobs knew about this problem before releasing the device, but liked the way the metal band astatically looked on the iPhone 4 so he insisted on keeping it. After doing some simple online research of my own and even watching a demonstration on YouTube I discovered that if a user’s fingers touch the metal band wrapped around the iPhone 4 the bars representing the signal strength can drop from 5 down to 1. Apple has realized this mistake and plans to make a change in the new iPhone coming out later in the spring.

This scenario reminded me of times in my life that I have allowed sin or other things to interfere in my communication with God. Instead of removing those things from my life that I knew were not good for my walk with the Lord I insisted upon them because I either liked the way they looked or felt. I placed my will, what I wanted, above God’s will, which is what was best for me. I allowed my own desires to come between me and my relationship with Jesus Christ. To get right down to it I knowingly chose to limit my “reception” with Jesus because I wanted my own will over His. Ultimately, this has and will continue to cause me a lot of frustration in life, just like the thin metal band has caused frustration for so many iPhone 4 users. If I want my “reception” and communication with God to increase I have to make the conscious decision to do what is best by removing those things that I know are causing interference, confess my sin(s), and ask Jesus to forgive me. Doing so will not only restore my "reception" and enable me to avoid a lot of frustration, but will help me achieve God’s will and plan for my life.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Since When Did Anything Else Matter Except For The W?

Tim Tebow has faced a lot of adversity over the years as an athlete and a Christian. I can remember watching the ESPN “Faces in Sports” documentary on Tim when he was in high school titled “Tim Tebow: The Chosen One.” At the time he was being recruited by almost every major program in the country. Tim actually almost committed to The University of Alabama before deciding to play for Urban Meyer at Florida. He is an intense competitor and this season with the Broncos Tim has, on more than one occasion, brought his team back from behind to win. Come from behind victories are not new to Tim. During Tim’s senior year at the University of Florida I had an opportunity to attend a game with my dad at The Swamp in Gainesville. Florida was playing the University of Arkansas. From the start of the game it looked like Arkansas would win. They scored fast and had a good lead. The Gator fans that filled stands were almost completely silent then at the start of one particular possession Tim walked out on the field to lead his offense. As he did he turned to the crowd and waiving both arms in an upward fashion much like a choir conductor would to motion his choir to stand, the crowd jumped to their feet and cheered. The roar of the crowd was so incredible that it still gives me goose bumps today just thinking about it. On that possession Tim marched the offense down the field and scored. The momentum changed in Florida’s favor and after several more successful offensive possessions Florida came back and won the game.
The X's and O's were not as important as the team's chemistry, camaraderie, and mind-made-up determination in the Gator's win over Arkansas and behind it all was great leadership. Tim seems to have some intangible qualities and God given gifts which help him lead his teams to victory. There is something about Tim that is infectious to all those around him. When Tim is in the game his teammates believe they can win and play sold out every down knowing and believing that if they can stay in the game Tim will find a way to win.
Like many other sports football is a team effort, but there is no doubt Tim Tebow makes an impact wherever he goes. The impact Tim makes far exceeds the playing field though. Currently there is a pending bill in the Alabama State Legislature named “The Tim Tebow Bill.” This bill was presented to allow homeschooled children to play sports for local schools. For a few this bill is somewhat controversial, but controversy is also not new to Tim. After Tim’s final year as a college athlete the NCAA established a new rule dubbed the “The Tebow Rule” which banned players from writing messages on eye black intended to help shade the eyes from glare. This is a result of Tim writing scripture references on his eye black each game. Recently a new term has been coined, “Tebowing.” This term is used to reference to the action of kneeling on one knee to pray as Tebow does before and during each game. The term originated as more of a mockery than a praise, but admires have begun Tebowing as a fun way to show respect. I’m sure Tim will continue to have an impact on pop culture whether he wins or loses, but for now his team is winning.
As a starter for Denver Tim is 7-1. Pretty good, especially when you consider that prior to his draft many NFL scouts and analyst were predicting Tim would play as a tight end or in some type of slotback position because he didn’t have the technique “required” to play as a quarterback in the NFL. Tim didn’t like that idea. He told team owners and coaches that he wanted to play quarterback and that they were going to have to prove to him that he couldn’t play quarterback in the NFL before he would play any other position. So if a team wasn’t going to draft him as a quarterback they need not draft him at all. I really like that about Tim. He is one of the most determined individuals I’ve ever seen.
After a disappointing loss to Ole Miss in 2008, Tim made his famous promise and pledge speech to reporters on national TV which is now engraved on a plaque at the University of Florida. Tim kept that promise and led his team to a National Championship that season. That whole season Tim seemed to will his team to some hard fought victories. But after that season ended skeptics of Tim and even some of his fans didn’t think his iron will and fierce determination would be enough in the NFL. That attitude could be changing.
While Tim’s first start this season resulted in a win, critics argued that his throwing motion and technique were lacking and gave a pessimistic career outlook for him. Tim’s next start resulted in a very ugly loss and this time no commentator held back on their negative comments or criticism of Tim’s style. I remember watching a sports show and listening to what sounded like the demise of Tebow’s career as a quarterback.
The following week Tebow got another win and sports analyst said, “Yeah, but…” The next week another and the next week another. Soon Tebow was 4-1, with three victories in a row. Now people were starting to talk more positive. I even heard one analyst on ESPN stick up for Tim when his co-host counterpart dogged Tim’s throwing technique by saying, “Since when did anything else matter except for the W?” (“W” as in Win). Tebow’s technique may not be perfect or the “best,” but the last time I checked no points were added on the scoreboard for style.
“Since when did anything else matter except for the W?” That night as I went for a walk I thought more and more about that comment, particularly as it relates to life. We are not promised life is going to be easy. Even as a Christian I have found life extremely difficult to face at times. People can be mean and circumstances can be difficult. We will most likely get scratched and bruised along the way. Our technique may not look so good and life may get pretty ugly at times, but when we come to the end the only thing that matters is the “W.” John 16:33 quotes Jesus saying “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Also quoting Jesus, John 15:18 says, “If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first.”
If you are experiencing a difficult time in life don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Hang in there, work hard, and keep moving forward even as challenging as it may seem. Your life may look more like a come from behind victory than a triumphant blow out, but remember that God hasn’t asked us to be perfect just persistent. Stay focused, stay in the game, play every down sold out knowing that when you get to the end of life all that matters is the “W.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

You Got Your Mind Right?

In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul encourages us to take charge of every thought to the obedience of Christ. Contrary to what some may say, positive thinking is Biblical. You might even say that God invented positive thinking.

Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Also, Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (NKJV). Julian of Norwich, in her book Revelations of Divine Love wrote, “For of all the things our minds can think about God, it is thinking upon His goodness that pleases Him most and brings the most profit to our soul.”

God wants us to think optimistic and uplifting thoughts because He knows whatever we focus on we will become. Actions follow thoughts. As you think, so will you act. If you want to be positive and happy, you have to think positive and happy.

The difference between thinking positive thoughts as a Christian and in other worldviews is that in Christian positive thinking Christ is at the center. He is the reason why you choose to think positively, whereas the secular model is a “self-help” technique with the self at the center. Christ is the only reason anyone can have hope and the only reason we can be positive. Self-help methods are egocentric and the self cannot save. Instead of an egocentric mentality our attitudes should be God-centric with Christ being the reason for our positive thoughts. Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist preacher who lived in London in the 1800s, said, “The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.”

Frank Minirith, M.D. and Paul Meier, M.D. wrote a book titled Happiness Is a Choice. The 200-plus-page book has a lot to say, but the premise is that you can be happy if you choose to be so. If you opt to be depressed or upset, you will be depressed and upset. If you decide to worry all the time you will only stress yourself out. Matthew 6:27 (NIV) says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

If you choose to focus on the good, and to think and meditate on things that are positive, you will radiate a positive disposition, and people will want to be around you.
You can choose to think about all the bad in life or you can decide to think about all the good in life. If you select to focus on all of your problems, people will most likely not want to hang around with you. After all, who wants to be friends with a grump?

You can focus on what you can’t do or you can focus on can do. Either way your outlook, attitude, and overall demeanor will resemble your thoughts. How you think coincides with how you feel and vice versa; there is a direct correlation. If you want to feel better, think better. In essence, happiness is more a state of mind than a set of circumstances. I’ve heard it said that happy people don’t have the best of everything; they make the best of everything.

Clinical psychologist and author Dr. Henry Cloud said, “Happy people set limits on what they will and will not allow in their lives.” If you don’t want to be negative, don’t allow negative people or things in your life. Likewise, if you want to be positive, place positive people and things in your life. Put friends around you that will speak truth in your life. Don’t waste your time hanging around people that are always putting you down. Negative people feed off of each other. Instead of hanging around people who tell you how dumb you are, put yourself around people who will encourage you and say positive things about you. Hang around people that will build you up. Most people will live up to or down to the expectations of others. If you want to be good put yourself around people who expect you to be good.

There are a lot of things in life you can’t control. You have no control over who your parents are, what your age is, your skin color, whether you are born male or female, but you can control your attitude.

You can choose to be a positive thinker. If you want to be a winner you’ve got to think like one. If you want to be successful you’ve got to see yourself as a winner and no longer a loser. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our LORD Jesus Christ.”
Don’t focus on your failures, focus on what you want to achieve.

Jesus has already paid the price for us as believers to be victorious over life. As I began to see myself the way God saw me, as a winner – and not as the person I use to be—my life began to pick up more momentum. Consider the message of the following poem (anonymous):

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

In their book Telling Yourself the Truth, William Backus, Ph.D. and Marie Chapian, Ph.D. discuss what they have coined as Misbelief Therapy. This brand of therapy encourages clients to take on a new way of thinking. Some people get stuck in negative thoughts, which over time becomes a cycle in which the person is trapped and thinks pessimistic thoughts all the time. The authors suggest that clients break the habit of negative self-talk by speaking truth into their lives. Some examples of thought pattern changes listed by the authors include the following:

Instead of thinking “I am dumb” think “Thank you, LORD, for giving me intelligence.”

Instead of thinking “I am unattractive” think “Thank you, LORD for making me attractive.”
Instead of thinking “I have no talents” think “Thank you, LORD, for the talents you’ve given me.”
Instead of thinking “I’m lonely” think “Thank you, LORD, for the friends I have.”
Instead of thinking “I am miserable” think “I’m content.”
Instead of thinking “I’m poor” think “Thank you, LORD, for making me prosper.”

Proverbs 15:15 says, “All the days of the afflicted are evil. But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

It’s not always what happens to you; rather it’s your reactions to what happens to you that make the difference. Many times the situation that you may think you are in is not reality, but your misbelief of the situation. Instead of allowing yourself to be afflicted by negative thoughts, be grateful for what you have. In other words, quit your “stink’in think’in” and choose to be positive.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Where is God?

God is there, even in the midst of uncertainty and even trouble.
I would speculate that most people have experienced a difficult time in their life and wondered where God was in the midst of their trying set of circumstances or if God had forgotten about them, or why He didn’t intervene in their time of trouble.
My wife has given me permission to share this story. A few years before she and I got married, my wife had to have back surgery and was told by the doctor that she would have to remain flat on her back for at least six weeks to recover. During her recovery she quickly used up what little sick and vacation time she had accumulated in her short tenure with a small company. She then had to start taking time off without pay. Her employer ended up letting her go.
She was very upset, lonely and depressed. In that moment she began asking God questions like, “Lord, where are you in all of this? I had to have back surgery and now I’ve lost my job.”
While she believed her back injury occurred while on the job she didn’t pursue any wrongful cause on the company’s part because she really just wanted to be done with it all. I won’t go into all the details, but the company she had worked for was not a good environment to be in and some of the employees were not positive influences in her life. Even still, it was difficult for her to lose that job especially when she was hurt and didn’t have another job to step into.
During her recovery and time away from work however, she began to spend more time in God’s word, meditating on Scripture and going through a Bible study. Her relationship with God and faith in Christ was strengthening with each day.
A few months went by before she approached a temp agency to find some work so she could pay her bills. She took a series of tests to measure various skills and, while she had a degree from The University of Texas at Austin, she was offered only a temporary secretarial position. The temporary position however, was with a Fortune 100 international company and she was paid more in that position than at the smaller company from which she’d been let go. She worked hard at her new job and was appreciated and recognized for her performance. Within nine months she was hired on full-time and given a raise with full benefits. The next year she was promoted and accepted into a two-year management-training program and rotated around in various departments within the company to gain more experience and a bigger picture of how things operate. With that opportunity her income doubled! A few short years later she managed a project and led her team, even as the youngest member, to receive the company’s Excellence Award, which is the most prestigious award within the organization. She was flown to the company’s headquarters in New York with her team and presented the award. (Knowing she was a UT grad the company also gave her two coveted tickets to the Texas vs. OU game that year.) She felt on top of the world.
Where was God when she underwent back surgery and was let go from her job? He was there all along; allowing her to go through difficulties because he knew what type of character it would produce in her. God had to remove her from that unhealthy environment to take to her a better place. God was protecting her from bad influences and used that situation, as painful, lonely and confusing as it might have seemed, to teach her to rely completely on Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Throughout Scripture we can read of story after story of how God used tragic circumstances to mold and shape the lives He used. It should be no surprise to us then that when He decides to use one of us He may take us through some difficult times.
Imagine being Joseph as recorded in the book of Genesis. Here’s the short version: One day Joseph is the favored son and the next day his brothers sell him into slavery never to be heard from or seen again. Joseph probably thought his life was pretty much over. He would never see his family again and would now be forced to serve at the pleasure of his master. Joseph had to get to a point where he would have to rely on God completely. God also wanted to build character in Joseph’s life and teach him some lessons along the way, mainly, lessons in humility. Joseph continued to trust in God, work hard and he was eventually elevated to second in command of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. Through the wisdom God gave him, Joseph was able to save the people of Egypt from a great famine. Later when Joseph was reunited with his family, he forgave his brothers, telling them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Most likely we will never experience being sold into slavery like Joseph, but many of us may go through a time when we wonder if God is even aware of our hardships. What do you do when you find yourself in one of these situations?
If you are going through a tough time right now, trust in God and continue trusting in Him. Stay faithful to Jesus Chris and believe in His faithfulness to take care of His children. Look for the good in the midst of the situation and try to discover what God may be trying to teach you or even protect you from. It may sound silly, but along with prayer regarding your situation, begin to praise God in the midst of all your trouble and acknowledge His sovereignty over everything. When you do you will be amazed how the anxiety you’re feeling will begin to shrink.
Dig into Scripture and meditate on God’s word. Even if you’re not sure what to read, don’t procrastinate, just open up your Bible. I am always amazed at how often I seem to find stories in the Bible that I can identify with. God’s word not only teaches us how to live, but encourages us through our difficult times. It’s one of the ways God communicates with his people.
Keep your head up, move forward and continue to work hard. Growing up I once heard my father say “There’s nothing unspiritual about hard work.” You never know who may be watching you and observing your work ethic. Even if no one else sees you, remember that God is always watching and it is our Lord that ultimately rewards us. No employer or person could ever give you what God can.
If you’re not experiencing such a circumstance look for the opportunities to minister to and encourage those who are going through a difficult time; they are all around you.

*I wrote this post for the July 2011 edition of Frisco Style Magazine and is printed on pages 76-77 (

Saturday, July 2, 2011

You're In My Seat

Just after my wife and I were married we decided to support Buckner’s Shoes for Orphan’s Souls program. A few months after making our first donation we were invited to attend the annual R. C. Buckner Founder’s Day dinner held at a fancy hotel in Dallas. We were excited and felt privileged to be invited to this event.

On the evening of the dinner we dressed up in our finest attire, doing our best to appear sophisticated. When we arrived at the hotel and checked in we were told that we could sit in open seating. As we entered the banquet room it was filled with who’s who. I wanted to get as upfront a seat as possible so after saying a few “hellos” I walked my wife all the way to the front row. I noticed there was no name on the table so I sat down and took a sip of the water at my seat. Moments later a middle aged man walked up to us and informed me that we were sitting at his table reserved for his family and that he was being honored that evening. How embarrassing? I had just taken a sip from the guest of honor’s glass. Immediately my mind went straight to Luke 14:7-11 which says,

When he [Jesus] noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Each time I go to a banquet I am reminded of that embarrassing event and of Luke 14:7-11. On most occasions and unless I have an assigned table or seat I will now try to wait until everyone has sat down and then fill in at an open table (not wanting to repeat that embarrassing moment). Not every time, but sometimes as a result of waiting I’ve ended up at a much better seat than I might have picked out on my own.

One great example happened to me during this last 82nd Texas Legislative Session in Austin. I was attending a luncheon and was subject to open seating. I waited until everyone at the luncheon had found a table and sat down. While I was still in the doorway entering the banquet room someone asked me where I was sitting and when I told them I had not yet found a seat they invited me to sit at their table. Would you believe I was invited to sit at the head table on the front row along with a state senator, two state representatives, the two guest panelist, and two senior level executives (one from a fortune 100 and one from a fortune 500 company)? As the program portion of the luncheon began the state representative I sat next to went up on stage to make a few opening remarks and introduce the guest panel. During his opening remarks he mentioned me by name and the organization I was with.

As I sat there I thought this is exactly what Jesus meant. Don’t try to exalt yourself by rushing to sit in the best seats. If you do you just might get humbled when you’re told the seat was meant for someone more important than you. Instead humble yourself by allowing others to choose a seat before you do and allow God to exalt you. I learned a great lesson the hard way, but I’ve also experienced the reward of doing it God’s way. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not holier than thou and I’m not saying that every time you humble yourself at a banquet you will end up with the best seat in the house. (It hasn’t always happened that way for me). But I will confirm that God’s word is true. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself before the Lord and He will life you up.”

A few months after I posted this blog I was at a luncheon and didn't have an assigned seat. I was standing in the back talking with a County Commissioner and he was about to head toward his seat when he asked me if I had a place to sit. I told him that I did not, but that I typically just wait around in the back for a seat if I'm not invited to a table. (The Governor of Texas was speaking at this luncheon so the room was packed.) The County Commissioner pointed out the only remaining seat in the room which was on the back row so I made my way over to it and sat down. I was literally the last one in the room to take a seat. I sincerely enjoyed visiting and getting to know the people at the table I was sitting at. Then the Governor walked into the room and stopped at my table and introduces himself and starts a conversation. Crazy. It was the one table he stopped at before making his way to his table. If that wasn't enough, the media videoed our conversation and it made the news that evening. (See picture below. BTW - The Governor told me to stay seated.)

Trust God With Your Money

I am grateful to have parents that modeled for me obedience in tithing. After my wife and I married in 2001 we discussed and agreed tha...