Tips for Avoiding Personal Concussions

I don’t plan to see Will’s Smith’s new movie, “Concussion.” It’s probably a good movie, but I’m afraid it would tarnish my love for the game of football. I would rather hold on to the fantasy that there aren’t any consequences to all those hits to the head.

And I hate to break it to you, but here’s some startling news:

YOU might be at risk for a concussion, even if you never play football!

Here’s what I mean…

A concussion is defined as “an injury to the brain caused by a jarring blow to the head.” The symptoms include such things as headaches, vertigo, and disorientation.

I don’t know about you, but I do my best to avoid any blows to my head. However, if we look at this in the broader sense, we’ve ALL experienced “brain traumas” of one kind or another. Our mind is inevitably affected when we lose a spouse or child…get fired from a job…endure a serious health crisis…or suffer a divorce.

Events like that are jarring, to say the least. And yes, they certainly can cause us headaches, vertigo, and disorientation. It might even be preferable to be hit in the head by a linebacker.

So how can we protect ourselves from concussions of our mind and emotions? For some, the answer is to “play it safe” in life. In order to avoid any traumatic contact, they try to avoid any meaningful contact at all. They instinctively realize that the most painful experience in the world is to lose someone you’ve loved, so they do their best to avoid any deep emotional attachments.

But let’s be honest: Playing it safe is no way to live! Perhaps it’s okay for caterpillars to live in a cocoon, but not for butterflies. God has called us to fly and to be risk-takers. And that means getting out of our self-imposed comfort zones and bomb shelters.

This gets me thinking about football again…

What if we could design the perfect helmet—one that would minimize traumas and eliminate any serious concussions?

Thankfully, the Bible says God offers us something very much like that. But before mentioning protection against head  traumas, it describes special protection for our heart: “the breastplate of faith and love” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Guarding our heart is a subject for another blog, and it’s a very important matter for all of us (Proverbs 4:23).

But what about protection against traumas to our mind and emotions? God says to put on very special helmet: “the hope of salvation.”

Do you see how profound this truth is? No matter what kind of personal trauma you are going through, the most important factor in getting through it will be HOPE—a confident expectation that things will eventually get better.

If your mind is surrounded by hope, you can endure just about anything. But if you’ve lost hope, even life’s most minor trials will seem overwhelming.

So here’s my prayer for you today: May you put on your HOPE HELMET. Then you’ll be able to boldly face the “linebackers” standing in the way of the awesome touchdowns God has planned for you.

 

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When You Fall Short of Expectations

The Strange Case of Apple’s Disappointing Revenue

We all know what it feels like to let people down. Our boss…spouse…kids…parents…friends…customers…clients. The list goes on.

It feels terrible to let people down.

Apple, one of the world’s most successful companies, let its shareholders down last quarter. The company was expected to take in $76.54 billion in revenue for the quarter (yes, BILLION), but they “only” received a meager $75.9 billion.

Meanwhile, Apple only sold 74.8 million iPhones in the quarter, short of the projected 75.4 million.

How depressing…

In an effort to explain these disappointing results, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained that there were “a lot of great things happening in a turbulent environment.”

But Apple shareholders weren’t impressed by this explanation, and the stock value dropped more than 6% today.

There’s a lesson in all of this, of course. Probably several lessons.

If your life is focused on trying to live up to people’s expectations, you will find yourself frustrated and depressed much of the time. Occasionally, someone may give you an “At-a Boy.” But more often than not, you will find yourself living “below expectations.”

Which raises a critical question: WHOSE expectations will govern your outlook on your success or failure?

Put another way, the question is this: WHO are you trying to please?

If your answer is that you want to please EVERYBODY, you might as well check yourself into an insane asylum, because that’s surely where you’re headed.

So…

Each of us must decide who we’re ultimately trying to please. If we want to maintain some degree of sanity, we are wise to make it our primary ambition to please our Heavenly Father rather than anyone on earth. If you want to do a little Bible study on this, here are a few verses: Matthew 3:17, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, Galatians 1:10, Matthew 25:21.

We also must have the wisdom to reject any unfair or unrealistic expectations people try to pin on us—because they inevitably will from time to time. Remember how Jesus rejected the expectations of those who hoped He would overthrow the Romans and immediately set up His kingdom? He was clear on His mission and wouldn’t let people squeeze Him into their mold.

So here’s my life-changing homework assignment for you: Take some time to get away by yourself and prayerfully review the list of people you’ve been trying to please. Then write down what these people are expecting, and ask the Lord whether those expectations are HIS expectations or something you should discard.

If you take this homework to heart, I have a prediction: You’ll exit the treadmill you’ve been on and once again experience the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

And if your revenue this quarter fails to reach $76 billion (or some other grandiose projection), don’t ask me to feel sorry for you. Instead, I would tell you to be grateful—to celebrate! Things could have been a whole lot worse.

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Wayne Gretzky’s #1 Success Secret

Today is the birthday of former Canadian hockey star Wayne Gretzky, nicknamed “The Great One.” After 20 seasons in the National Hockey League, Gretzky became regarded as the greatest hockey player of all time.

I’ll be honest, I know very little about hockey. But I’ve always been impressed by a brilliant key Gretzky used to become so successful.

“I go to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been,” Gretzky explained.

That sounds obvious, I suppose. But during my 40+ years serving in various leadership roles in businesses and churches, I’ve been astounded at how seldom the Gretzky Principle is implemented.

Consider this…

– Too often, new businesses just try to imitate the success of Amazon, Google, Apple, or some other notable company. That seldom works! A better approach would be to anticipate “where the puck is going” and come up with a whole new paradigm and business model.

– Too often, new churches mimic some other church that has been successful—but seldom with the same results. Why do so few churches break new ground with a unique, cutting-edge vision from God?

My concern is that many leaders are simply going where the “puck” has already been. And, sadly, many of my fellow Christians are especially guilty of this. We claim a desire to be culturally relevant, but our understanding of the culture is typically 5, 10, or 15 years behind the times. By the time we get around to implementing our new initiatives, the “puck” has long since moved on.

So what about you? Are you continually frustrated because you’re always a few steps too late in chasing the puck?

The reality is this: Very few people are gifted to be visionary leaders, able to anticipate the future. In the past 100 years or so, we can name innovators like the Wright brothers, Einstein, Steve Jobs, and some others. But the list isn’t very long. There’s clearly a shortage of people who are able to accurately foretell where the puck is going.

However, I’m convinced that God has already been to the future, so He knows all about it. And the closer we get to Him, the more we’ll be in sync with what’s ahead, not just with what’s behind.

The Bible describes a number of people who changed the world in innovative ways, and I aspire to be like them. For example…

  • David impacted the world by serving the purpose of God in his generation (Acts 13:36).
  • The sons of Issachar “understood the times” and had a strategy for what God’s people should do (1 Chronicles 12:32).
  • Queen Esther was a model of someone perfectly prepared “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

I encourage you to take a few minutes today to ask yourself, “Where is the puck going, and how can I best position myself and prepare?” You’ll be surprised by how this new approach will change your outlook and your life.

 

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When the Odds Are Stacked Against You

As you may have heard by now, the Carolina Panthers crushed the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC Championship Game, winning a place in Super Bowl 50. And in a surprising development, Las Vegas odds-makers have even made the Panthers a slight favorite in their Super Bowl matchup against the Denver Broncos.

What’s astonishing about this scenario is that at the beginning of the season the Panthers were a 50-1 underdog to win the Super Bowl. Few people even expected them to win their division, let along end the regular season at 15-1, one of the best records in NFL history. And the naysayers came out in force after the Panthers’ #1 wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, was lost for the season because of an injury in training camp.

Don’t you love it when the naysayers are proven wrong?

I think God loves it too…

  • When over a million Israelites are able to walk away from Egypt, the strongest nation on earth at the time.
  • When Samson slays hundreds of Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.
  • When David disregards his naysayers and defeats Goliath with his slingshot and five smooth stones.
  • When the fledgling band of Jesus’ followers becomes a powerful movement encompassing the known world.

And I bet you’ve had your naysayers too. People who’ve said you’ll never amount to anything. Critics who’ve predicted your dream will never come to pass. Enemies who were bent on your destruction or defeat.

But God can’t wait to prove your critics wrong…

His Word says that if He if for you, it doesn’t matter who is standing against you (Romans 8:31).

You’ve already been promised that the One living in you is a champion more powerful than anything or anyone you’ll ever encounter in the world (1 John 4:4).

And just as the Panthers achieved more this year than even their greatest fans could have envisioned, the Bible promises that God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

So it’s time to set your sights higher, my friend. Even though the people around you may be counting you out, this could be your Super Bowl season after all.

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Decaffeinated Coffee & Other Oxymorons

I woke up this morning craving a good cup of coffee. Not the decaffeinated kind, but REAL coffee. You’ll never convince me decaffeinated coffee is legitimate. After all, they’ve removed the most important and most valuable ingredient. How can they still call it coffee?

That got me thinking…

Fill in the blank: “Coffee without caffeine is like _________________.”

Lots of things could be put in the blank, I suppose. Bread without gluten. Milk without lactose. Or what about sugarless ice cream?

What a weird world we live in. Some days I feel like I’m living in an Alice in Wonderland culture, where nothing is real.

It’s one thing to change the composition of our food products through the magic of modern chemistry, but many of the extractions today have far more serious consequences:

  • Loveless marriages
  • Fatherless homes
  • Christ-less Christmases
  • Churches and Christians with no evidence of the Holy Spirit

These are all quite grievous—never God’s plan. Marriages just aren’t the same without love and passion. Families without fathers are precarious at best, needing an extra dose of God’s grace and a mother’s love.

And what can we say about churches and Christians that have an absence of Christ and the Holy Spirit? Nothing could be a bigger travesty than that.

Yet we’re living in a day when there seem to be lots of decaffeinated churches and professing Christians. At first glance they may look like the real thing, yet they’re lacking the most important ingredient.

And one more word picture…

Perhaps decaffeinated Christians could be compared to a helium balloon that has lost its helium. There’s still some hot air, but no lift. Instead of rising high and victorious, the forlorn balloon languishes on the floor. It’s hard to have much of a party with balloons like that.

What about you? Have you allowed life’s most important ingredient to escape? If so, there’s still time to get it back.

And here’s the good news: You don’t have to put up with the agony and frustration of Christ-less Christianity (2 Timothy 3:5). It’s not too late to regain the joy and wonder of Christ living His life through you by the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27, Acts 1:8, Ephesians 5:18).

Friend, let’s not settle for empty substitutes. I don’t know about you, but I need as much “caffeine” as possible.

 

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Who Hijacked MLK’s Dream?

Every time I hear the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I get inspired—and angry. I get inspired by Dr. King’s powerful and lofty vision of a better world, where racial harmony is the norm rather than the exception. Yet I get angry because we’re still a long way from the fulfillment of that dream.

Think of how ironic this is. People on all sides of the political spectrum claim to agree with King’s stirring vision. Conservatives…liberals…independents. Who could be against racial harmony? In theory, no one is.

But there’s no doubt about it, Dr. King’s dream has been hijacked. Countless examples could be cited, from the trumped up rape case against the Duke lacrosse team to the George Zimmerman trial for killing Trayvon Martin. And then there was Ferguson and Baltimore. Right when you think you can breathe a sigh of relief and declare that peace and brotherhood reign supreme, some ugly incident proves otherwise.

And even Barack Obama’s two electoral victories haven’t created a harmonious, colorblind nation. Perhaps we’ve even taken a few steps backward.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, of course. Politicians, preachers, activists, educators, rappers, media executives, and self-described “civil rights leaders”—we’ve all fallen short of our responsibility to further the cause of racial harmony.

But it’s troubling that some of the primary culprits have been those who most piously claim to be the guardians of Dr. King’s dream. Yes, you know who I mean. Some race-baiters have gotten rich by stirring up the cauldron of prejudice and bigotry.

However, before we assign blame for the sidetracking of Dr. King’s dream, let’s first look at what he said in that majestic speech in front of a crowd of over 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. King did not pull any punches when he contrasted the continuing plight of many black Americans today with the American dream envisioned in lofty documents such as our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Emancipation Proclamation. MLK referenced such things as poverty, discrimination, segregation, and police brutality as ongoing problems even 100 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation.

While Dr. King didn’t shy away from honestly addressing the issues, his message that day was also filled with abounding hope:

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

It’s important to notice that Martin Luther King Jr. saw his dream as being “deeply rooted in the American dream.” It could be argued that, like Barack Obama, King wanted to “fundamentally change America.” However, I think there is a difference between the two.

Dr. King wanted to see America transformed into the shining city on a hill that its founders proclaimed. In a nutshell, he was calling the nation to live up to its own dream and potential—to “walk its talk” and reflect its highest values. “I have a dream,” he said, “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed—‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”

There’s evidence that Barack Obama, in contrast, had his foundational worldview shaped by anticolonial philosophies that focus more on America’s flaws than its sublime and noble vision. His 2008 campaign famously preached “hope and change.”

But instead of being rooted in America’s original promises, not yet fulfilled, President Obama’s message seemed to imply that he alone could bring the country into the Promised Land. In contrast, just a few days before MLK’s death, he sensed that although he saw a vision of a Promised Land filled with racial harmony and justice, “I may not get there with you.” He fully understood that his dream was dependent on a higher power than human personalities.

But I digress…

Dr. King’s closing crescendo painted an awesome portrait of what race relations could look like in our nation:

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood…

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama…little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning: “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California.

But not only that.

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Notice that Dr. King’s dream was not only rooted in the American dream. He was a preacher of the gospel, and his message of hope and change was tied to his scriptural perspective that God is the ultimate Liberator. Why should people of all racial groups be treated equally? Because God is their Creator, and they all have a right to be His children.

Many people today claim to share Dr. King’s objective. Yet often there’s something missing. While their mission typically is fueled merely by well-meaning humanism, King’s was energized by holy zeal and a sense of divine purpose. Nothing less will get the job done.

 

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How I Won the Lottery — and You Can Too!

No, I didn’t win the lottery you’re thinking of. But I have won something even better.

Let me explain…

Years ago I was driving down the road, reflecting on a TV interview of Bill Gates I’d heard a few days earlier. Gates clearly is a remarkable guy, and the interview discussed how he founded Microsoft and became the richest man in America in the process.

Gates earned his first billion dollars by age 31, and his wealth has now soared to $79 billion—that’s 79 with nine zeroes behind it!

While pondering all of this, I sensed the Lord giving me an entirely different perspective on Bill Gates’ amazing wealth.

“Bill Gates isn’t really the richest man in America, Jim,” God assured me that day.

“Oh really, Lord,” I replied. “Then who is?”

You are!” He said with a chuckle.

“Lord, I admit that I don’t keep track of my bank account as closely as I should. But the last time I checked, my balance was a little short of Bill Gates’ $79 billion!”

I was astounded by His reply: “Jim, the most ordinary believer who is connected by faith to the resources of heaven is far richer than Bill Gates.”

The Lord’s message to me that day was brought to a pointed conclusion when He asked, “Would you rather have Bill Gate’s $79 billion, or have all the resources of heaven at your disposal?”

Frankly, His question made me squirm, because it wasn’t as easy for me to answer as it should have been. I had to think about it! If I had $79 billion in the bank, at least it would show up on my financial records. On the other hand, my credit rating might not improve much if I told the bank I had “all the riches of heaven” at my disposal!

As I struggled to answer the Lord’s probing question, He brought to mind what He told His disciples about this very issue: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). In addition to moths, rust, and thieves, I’m sure today He would mention stock market crashes and recessions as some of the dangers to our earthly wealth.

From this I realized that I’m not only the richest man in America, I am also the most secure. Not only do I have all the riches of heaven at my disposal as I act in obedience to Christ (Ephesians 1:3), but those riches will never be affected by Wall Street or any other earthly factors.

When the truth of my incredible financial well-being began to sink in, I became grieved at how often the issue of money has deterred me from pursuing the things God wanted me to do. Instead of asking His will first, and then trusting Him to provide the finances, I too often do an assessment of whether or not I can afford  it. I have a bad habit of trusting in my own visible resources, which are relatively few, instead of relying upon His invisible resources, which are infinite.

So, you are and I are much richer than we could have imagined. I guess you could even say we won the lottery.

If you’re ever in the Charlotte area and want to meet the richest man in America, I invite you to give me a call. However, if it’s a loan you are after, I will probably turn you down. Instead, I will try to help you see that you really don’t need a loan. Why? Because if you’re in touch with your Heavenly Father, you are the richest person in America too.

 

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Is CONFUSION Slowing You Down?

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said something profound in a radio interview this week: “You’ll never play fast if you’re confused.” His point was that each player needs to know his assignment…his place…his role…on any given play. Confusion causes hesitation, and hesitation in a fast game like football will likely spell defeat.

But Rivera’s comment has an application far beyond football or other sports. It’s a principle of life, and it applies to me right now far more than I would like to admit.

When I’m clear on my God-given role and assignment, I’m bold…decisive…confident…tenacious. But if I’m confused or double-minded, I’m inevitably timid…hesitant…unsure…and liable to quit when the going gets tough.

This axiom is so important that it impacts every area of our lives: our health, our emotional well-being, our relationships, our career or ministry, and even how we spend our time and money.

So what about you today? Are you walking in CLARITY or CONFUSION?

Perhaps you think confusion is too strong of a word, so let me explain…

“Con-fusion” basically means to fuse together two incompatible things. Sometimes the two things are blatantly opposite: truth and lies, right and wrong, God and Satan, etc.

However, today much of the confusion is more subtle and nuanced. We lived in a confused culture, where a great many incompatible things have been fused together to bring us to where we are today. Although there still are some remnants of a Biblical worldview in our society, most people can’t really distinguish that from what the information they’ve picked up from Oprah, Dr. Phil, CNN, or Cosmopolitan magazine.

Yet when the heat is on and your beliefs are tested, you’ll need to know whether you’re standing on solid ground or whether you’re a victim of confusion. And the truth is that all of us—myself included—have adopted some beliefs that are faulty. The errors seldom are apparent when everything is going our way, but they’re exposed when we face a major trial or crisis.

The Bible says a lot about confusion. “God is not a God of confusion but of peace,” Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 14:33). What a powerful statement! God desires to bring us to a place of peace, while the devil always sows confusion and unrest. That makes it pretty easy to tell who we’ve been listening to, doesn’t it?

And Coach Rivera was correct about how confusion causes hesitation. The prophet Elijah pointed this out to the Israelites, who had fused together worship of Baal with worship of the Lord: “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21)

Thankfully, I’m not struggling with whether to worship the Lord or Baal, but I’ve seen recently that I’ve had “two opinions” on some other issues in my life. And I’ve concluded that this subtle confusion has hindered me and slowed me down. At times I’ve even been paralyzed because of uncertainty on my role, my assignment, or my priorities.

So I’m asking God to clear up the confusion in my life—and in yours as well. As we hear His voice again, we’ll return to a place of peace, confidence, and boldness. And we’ll gain new clarity on our mission, enabling us to radically abandon ourselves toward its fulfillment.

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Obama, Jesus, and the Law of Proportionality

One of the most important—but often overlooked—principles in the Bible is the Law of Proportionality. But before I share what the Bible says about this, let me give you an illustration from today’s news.

Although I’ve recently tried very hard to stay away from “political” issues in my blogs, I can’t resist addressing a very strange situation in our country in recent weeks. And even if you don’t care much about politics or world events, the principle I’m going to share will have profound implications for your personal life as well.

Here’s the situation…

This week President Obama announced executive action to limit people’s possession of guns. This apparently was a very emotional issue for him, even bringing tears to his eyes.

I frankly haven’t studied the details of his proposals, and it’s really not my intention to weigh in on the gun control debate one way or another. I think most Americans are willing to allow law-abiding citizens to own guns, but we want to keep them away from criminals and crazy people. Hopefully, everyone can agree on those objectives. And the President should be able to find some common ground with Congress without having to resort to executive orders that are probably beyond his constitutional authority.

Here’s where the Law of Proportionality comes in…

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Obama is totally correct on his position regarding guns. (This is certainly debatable though, when most observers conclude that NONE of the tragic shootings the past few years would have been prevented by the new regulations he announced).

But things start getting really strange when you consider the backdrop provided by other events in the news. Around the same time as the President was passionately addressing the problem of guns, the North Koreans were testing a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Iran recently launched a missile that came within a mile of a U.S. aircraft carrier. And as we all know, the Middle East is exploding, and ISIS is causing havoc in ever-expanding circles of influence. Does anyone really think Paris will be the final episode of terrorism on the world stage?

And what about the thousands of Christians who’ve been beheaded by ISIS? Where are the tears and outreach over that?

So, while we all hate gun violence, the Law of Proportionality says we need to do risk assessments and prioritize our time and resources. We must address “first things first” and focus on the BIG threats before worrying so much about the SMALL ones.

This is pretty much a no-brainer: Gun violence normally kills no more than a few people at a time, while nuclear bombs can kill millions and destroy entire cities. And a crazy person with a gun or rifle cannot do even a fraction of the damage ISIS can do.

Here’s what the Bible says…

The Scriptures describe the Law of Proportionality in various passages. For example, Proverbs 11:1 says, A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” We’ve all had times when our priorities got out of balance, of course, but this is a serious problem when it happens on a national or international level.

Likewise, Jesus scoffed at people who strained a gnat out of their soup but “swallowed a camel” (Matthew 23:24). If we apply this to today, even if we concede that President Obama may be correct in straining out the “gnat” (trying to remove guns from the wrong hands), he seems to be overlooking the “camel”—much more dangerous threats.

One final passage should be a challenge to all of us, where Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for their violation of the Law of Proportionality (Matthew 23:23). These self-righteous people were so diligent in tithing that they took pains to offer even the tiniest of herbs, but they “neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.”

Let that statement sink in for a minute. If you look at your daily schedule or how you spend your money, you probably could make a case that you’re putting your resources to “good” use. But what about the “weightier matters”? Can you really say that your priorities are the same as God’s priorities? Even if you are doing the “right” things, are they being done in proportion to their true importance?

These questions are hard for me, because God is also encouraging me to learn how to have FUN from time to time. But I don’t want my life to be a game of Trivial Pursuits. I want it to count, to matter, to make an impact.

It’s not easy to get the proportions right. From time to time, we need to reassess our priorities and readjust our balance. It’s all too easy to criticize Obama for getting things out of proportion, when we need to examine our own priorities as well.

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Fear, Betty White, and Me

This month Betty White celebrates her 94th birthday, and I bet she won’t even invite me to her party. Many years ago, Betty and I starred in a musical together. Well, it’s more accurate to say that she was the star, but I had a pretty good role too.

At age 10, I played Betty’s son in “Take Me Along,” a musical you’ve probably never heard of. We got to sing and dance together in front of about 4,000 people a night, and it was a great experience.

There are two lessons I learned from my experiences with Betty—who was a really nice person, by the way.

First, I learned that fear is a normal part of life, and sometimes we need to jump into our role and do things despite our fears. Before Betty and I took the stage the first night, she asked, “Jimmy, are you feeling afraid at all?”

“Yeah, I sure am!” I replied sheepishly.

“Well, I am too!” Betty told me with a wink. “But I’ve found that when I confront my fears, they always go away soon after I get started.”

Her words were very reassuring, and I’ve never forgotten them. It was okay to feel a little nervous before singing and dancing in front of thousands of people. Even Betty White was a little scared before the curtain rose. But she had done it many times before, and she knew the fears would soon pass.

What about you? Are your fears causing you to procrastinate about “taking the stage” in a new phase of your life? If so, it’s time to cast your fears aside and “do it afraid”—because the curtain is opening on a new year and new opportunities!

The second lesson about Betty is that I never realized how successful and famous she would ultimately become. Wouldn’t it have been great if I had the foresight to stay in touch with her all these years?

I hope you will take this important lesson to heart today. You may be rubbing shoulders with someone destined for greatness, so the best policy is to value and honor everyone you encounter along the way. You may even want to get their phone number in case they become a celebrity!

In Genesis 40 we read about the king’s butler and baker who shared a prison cell with a young Hebrew man named Joseph. Who could have imagined that one day he would be the most powerful man in Egypt?

The moral of the story is that we should treat everyone as if they are destined for greatness—for in God’s eyes, they are.

 

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