Apr 172014

Three Ways Parents Discourage Their Children

One of the most convicting verses in all the Bible says “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3.21).

It reminds parents, especially fathers, of how easily our parenting stirs discouragement in our children.

The idea of provoking reveals the temptation toward discouragement we all face. The text doesn’t warn us to take care so that we don’t create discouragement within our children; it warns us that we do not provoke them. The word provoke can mean to stir-up or stimulate.

You never want to provoke a sleeping bear. You desire to let it lie where it cannot hurt you. The same is true with discouragement. It lies dormant within all of us, but it can easily be brought to life.

No one has the ability to provoke discouragement within children like their parents. (See: Parenting and Authority–Who Has the Final Say)

Discouragement is present within all of us. This reality should greatly influence how we parent because we must proceed with tremendous caution so that we do not awaken the discouragement which is present within our children.

There are three primary ways in which parents provoke discouragement:

1.  Acting or Disciplining Erratically

A lack of consistency can provoke our children, leading to discouragement.  Consistency allows a child to understand how and when someone will react. It allows them to see patterns and interpret how their actions influence life.  By being consistent in our lives and with our children, we are teaching predictability, security, and cause/effect.

Whenever we act erratically, we are teaching our children it doesn’t matter what they do.  We train them that their actions do not have predictable consequences.  If we hug them one time and fly off the handle the next, what is the point of a child changing their behavior?  How can a child feel safe and secure if they have no idea how Dad is going to react?

Erratic behavior trains a child to resign themselves to a world they cannot influence.  It causes them to lose heart and hope.  Acting in a predictable way, encourages them to understand life and how they positively influence their environment.  It gives them hope of God’s transforming power in the lives of people. (See: Sometimes It’s Better Not to Play)

2. Passively Implying We Do Not Care

While there is a crisis of absentee fathers in our country, there is a second crisis of fathers who are physically present but emotionally and cognitively absent from the lives of their children. (See: What a Child’s Mistake Reveals About a Parent)

In passivity we are telling our children they are not important enough for us to care about.  We are saying other things are more important than them.  While it might be a false conclusion, it is an understandable conclusion when children of passive fathers lose heart, because if they aren’t important enough for their fathers to care about them then how could they ever be important enough for God to care?

We passively imply we don’t care when we are apathetic about the important things in their lives–school, church, friends, feelings, hopes, and dreams. When passivity about the important things is married with an aggression toward the less important things (like how many wins their team has in a season), it tells the children they are not important.

3. Failing to Model Courage 

If we lose heart, our children will likely do the same. God’s plan was for our first models of God’s presence of love to be our dads and moms.

One of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child is a constant hope in life, love, and God. By guarding and keeping our hearts, as well as trusting in God, we can show our children how to deal with difficult times or difficult people.

As a child ages, a parent should intentionally reveal more and more of their personal thoughts and struggles with their children. By doing so, they can communicate strengths and weaknesses from their experience and empower their children to emulate their successes and avoid their failures. (See: Parenting–Too Involved, Not Involved Enough)

We cannot give our children what we do not have. If we want them to be encouraged, we must model hope for them.

One of the primary roles of a parent, especially fathers, is to instill hope within their children. We have tremendous power to either stir discouragement or to place courage within them. It takes intention, thoughtfulness, and an abundance of mercy for parents to keep from discouraging their children.

 “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

Apr 162014

What a Married Believer Desires More Than an Unbeliever

You don’t need Jesus to have a good marriage. I wish that wasn’t true. It would be better for me if good marriages were only saved for those who believed in Jesus, obeyed him, and were clearly different than everyone else.

Yet it’s not the case. It is very possible to have a happy, healthy, and vibrant marriage without any connection with Christ.

However, faith in Jesus should create at least one major difference between a couple who does not believe and one who does.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you believe:

marriage is God-ordained

your vows were made not only to each other but also to God

at minimum God allowed you to marry your spouse and at maximum He created him or her specifically for you

every command given to the church can also be applied to your marriage for its benefit

your relationship symbolizes God and the church serving as a testimony to the world of God’s love.

All of this reveals what should be the major difference between marriages of believers vs. those of non-believers:

Because marriage is part of God’s sovereign plan, a follower of Jesus desires a relationship which thrives, not just a relationship which survives.

They may not always experience a thriving relationship. Believers can struggle just as much as unbelievers. When faith is only present via words and not actions, marriages between people who claim to be Christians can actually be far worse than those between non-believers. (See: Does Being a Christian Hurt Your Marriage?)

However, if a couple takes their faith seriously and is trying to live a life in grateful response to what God has done on their behalf through Jesus, those believers will not be content with a second-rate marriage but will do everything in their power to seek a marriage which brings the most glory to God by loving, serving, and forgiving one another. When we lose sight of God’s eternal plan for marriage, we can easily grow content with a relationship that just survives rather than pursuing one which thrives.

Are you content with an average or below average marriage? If so, you haven’t given up on your spouse or yourself, you have given up on God. (See: Change Your Marriage Today)

Yet if you believe in God, if you realize you are a recipient of his grace, if both spouses are attempting to grow in their spiritual lives, and if you see marriage as one platform through which God can use you to make his love known, a couple will NEVER grow apathetic about the state of their marriage.

They will always desire to grow, learn, and love at deeper levels. While they may be grateful for where they are, they will desire to improve.

Has your marriage hit a plateau? Has apathy set in?

Is it possible that the problem is a spiritual problem? (See: The Most Overlooked Characteristic of Who You Want to Marry)

I see it all the time. Couples grow stagnant in their spiritual pursuit and their marriage begins to suffer. It’s an obvious problem when an affair occurs or fights ignite, but it isn’t so obvious in most situations. A stagnant or apathetic marriage can appear okay to outsiders. Even one of the spouses (normally the husband) can believe all is fine. Yet to one spouse or a professional counselor, the problems are obvious.

You might have loved well in the past, but new love hasn’t grown.

All knowledge is past knowledge, nothing new has been learned about one another.

Past seasons were navigated well, but this current season (with kids or an empty nest or with grand kids) is not being handled well.

The marriage isn’t growing. And a marriage which isn’t growing is dying. (See: Why Marriage Matters to the Church)

While some of those marriages might survive, they won’t thrive and survival is too low of a goal. It’s especially too low when you believe marriage is part of God’s plan of making Himself known.

I desire a marriage which is better tomorrow than it is today. I do, in part, because I love Jenny. But I also do so because I desire to know God and make Him known.

Believer and unbeliever alike can desire and achieve a good marriage, yet only a believer can be driven by the dual love of spouse and God.

For more, see:

5 Keys to Save Your Marriage

The Easiest Way to Rejuvenate Your Marriage

Is it Dead or Dormant?

Apr 152014

Stay Out of My Wife’s Bed

There are two serious threats to my marriage bed. They aren’t the only threats, but they are the primary threats. And they have names—Ella and Silas.

Left to them, they would sleep in my bed every night. And who can blame them?

It happens often, especially in the winter. I will put my children to bed and think, “I feel sorry for them that they have to sleep alone.” (See: Why We Don’t Have a Television in Our Bedroom)

Few things are better than sleeping (yes, actually sleeping) next to someone. If you are cold, there is a built-in heater. If you are lonely, you have a friend. If you are afraid, you have someone to comfort you.

Studies have shown that few things calm our minds and prepare our bodies for sleep like physical contact with another person as we go to bed.

I can’t blame my kids for wanting to sleep in their parents’ bed, but I don’t allow them.

The parenting advice can be debated. Is it better for the kids to learn to sleep in their own bed or does the attachment with their parents outweigh independence? My guess is that for the child, it doesn’t really matter. Some kids will do better in their own bed while other kids will do better with a closer proximity to their parents. (See: When to Teach Your Kid a Lesson)

While the parenting advice can be debated, the marriage advice is more clear. It’s better for the marriage when kids sleep in their own bed.

It’s not always easier. Often it is easier not to fight the battle, throw the kids in bed, deal with sleeping on one percent of the bed, and do your best. But while it’s easier in the moment, it is harder in the long run. It would be far better to fight the initial battle in order to win the war than to continually concede to the sleeping choices of the children.

When kids are consistently allowed in their parents’ bed, what do the parents have left? What space is uniquely reserved for a husband and wife?

In our house, the bed belongs to the parents. The kids don’t like it. The parents are often tempted to concede. But in the end it has been worth the fight.

The general rule has been—kids sleep in their bed until morning. After 5am, we might allow them to slide in beside us to grab another few minutes of sleep, but generally speaking they do not sleep with us. (See: Are You Having Enough Sex?)

We might sleep with them. On occasion when a child is sick or scared, they need one of us to be with them to sleep. In those moments, we sleep in their bed. But they do not sleep in ours.

Why?

Because we must do some things to protect our marriage. We must carve out space which belongs solely to us. We must fight against things and people who might threaten our marriage. And if you don’t think your kids will try to weaken your marriage, you do not understand the nature of children. At nearly every age, they will attempt to get their way by putting a wedge between mom and dad. As teenagers it is a metaphorical wedge of disagreement on punishment. As toddlers it is an actual wedge of a small human being sleeping between husband and wife.

Guard the space or they will take it. (See: How to Protect Your Marriage)

Children need to know they are loved. They need to be protected, comforted, and secured. Yet they also need to know the order of relationships in a healthy home. They are part of the family, but they do not run the family. They are important to their parents, but their parents will place each other above their children.

I love Ella and Silas. I love them so much that I refuse to allow them to sleep in my bed. I choose to sleep in the same bed with their mother because it will help our marriage. And anything which helps our marriage will help them.

I love you kids, but stay out of my wife’s bed.

Apr 142014

Gossip Is More Damaging Than Adultery

There are few things as destructive as adultery. It can destroy families, end marriages, and splinter communities. Broken relationships are hard enough, but when adultery is involved the guilt and shame are compounded.

Yet gossip is more damaging than adultery.

Its danger is found in its subtlety. (See: 10 Communication Posts Your Co-Workers Should Read)

Everyone knows adultery is wrong. Even those engaging in the behavior are often quick to admit the immoral nature of their relationships. While some might deceive themselves into thinking their action is justifiable, rare is the case in which someone will claim adultery is morally acceptable. Even if they deny the activity to others, they know in their heart their action is wrong.

Gossip is different. Rarely does someone who is gossiping believe they are doing anything wrong. They are so blind to their wrong action that they will actually engage in the behavior in public, at church, in front of friends and strangers.

Because gossip is rarely seen for what it is, gossip most often gives birth to more gossip. Rarely will your affair lead me into an affair, but often your gossip will cause me to gossip. Without even realizing it, by listening to your gossip I will be prone to join you in gossiping about another.

The result is never positive. (See: Why We Should Never Give Up)

Gossip is a destructive form of communication which focuses on negative behaviors without any attempt to correct or improve the situation.

Leaders don’t have time for gossip.

Servants don’t have the heart for gossip.

Friends don’t have the desire to gossip.

Anyone who has ever been the object of gossip would never wish someone else be the subject of gossip.

Few things can destroy relationships, organizations, teams, companies, and churches like gossip. Where gossip thrives, trust dies. When trust dies, so does community.

To protect ourselves from gossip, we should ask ourselves the following questions before speaking:

  1. Can the person I’m talking to help the situation?
  2. Would I say this if the person was here? The person’s mother? The person’s child?
  3. Am I assuming to know the whole story when I only know part of the story?
  4. If I was in the other person’s shoes, what would I want said about me?
  5. If I’m speaking to someone who isn’t involved in the situation, am I seeking advice for my own action or am I degrading another person?

To protect ourselves from enabling gossip, we should ask another person the following questions before listening:

  1. Have you spoken with the person regarding this issue?
  2. How can this conversation help the situation?
  3. Is there more to the story than you realize?
  4. Are you giving the other person the kindness you would want to receive?
  5. Are you acting in a loving manner toward the person? (See: How to Speak So Others Listen)

Few people would doubt the destructive nature of adultery, yet we struggle to recognize the power of our negative words. Problems need to be confronted; issues need to be dealt with; life demands we speak truth in love. There is a time and place for nearly everything which can be said, yet gossip is speaking at the wrong time or in the wrong place or to the wrong person.

When we gossip, we are acting in a destructive manner. In doing so, we don’t just destroy ourselves, we also destroy those around us.

For more, see:

Three Reasons People Criticize You

You Hurt My Feelings

Apr 112014

This Issue Shames Me More Than Any Other

I know it’s not everybody’s issue. It doesn’t necessarily outweigh every other issue. Some are most grieved by starving children or orphans or the hungry. But the issue I’m most passionate about is this one:

Our society values money, sports and fame more than women and children.

This should be our greatest shame. (See: How We Respond to Suffering)

It is the issue which most shames me.

It’s not a unique story. Another football player assaulted more women but no charges will be filed because our society values money, sports, and fame more than women.

Notice why the women didn’t press charges. They were afraid of the backlash they would receive from their college town. And rightfully so. American cities both large and small have proven on multiple occasions that we will blame the victims and excuse the perpetrators.

It’s true in everyday cases:

  • What does she expect wearing that?
  • What was she doing out at that time of night?
  • Why was she alone?
  • Why did she drink so much?

We say these things as though women ask for abuse, desire rape, and deserve mistreatment. Yet no matter what a woman wears, where she is, or what she has done, she does not deserve to be mistreated by a man. We should be a society where the expectation is that every man will take care of every woman when they are at their most vulnerable whether by the general circumstances of life or their own poor decision making. Yet we do not live in such a society. (See: What a Drunk Girl Deserves)

Instead we live in a society where every woman must be leery of nearly every man and especially in the times in which the woman is most vulnerable.

This is true in everyday cases, but it is much more true when the man can catch a ball. The bigger the stage, the greater the license the man has to use women with no negative consequences.

It’s time for this to stop.

Professional sports must stop it. They must stop paying, employing, and excusing male athletes who fail at the foundational level of what it means to be a man—to use your God-given strength for the benefit of women and children.

College sports must stop it. They must stop claiming to be about the student-athlete while actually only being about the money a successful football or basketball program can bring in. The mistreatment of women must be rejected by the adults in the offices and the athletes in the locker rooms.

High Schools must stop it. They must stop following the model of college and pro sports and put a greater emphasis on producing men rather than athletes.

Fans must demand that it is stopped. We must value women more than victories. We must show with our voices, money, and physical presence that we will not support a team which enables players to mistreat women.

Imagine if an athlete said of the fans what the women said of the community where they lived. Instead of the women being afraid of the backlash of what might happen if they pressed charges against a star football player, what if the star football players were terrified of mistreating a woman because they would be afraid of the backlash from their fans.

When that happens, we will know that change has occurred. (See: Sometimes It’s Better NOT to Play)

It’s a buried headline within the sports page that another football player won’t be facing charges. The story is only written because of how it might effect spring football practice. Meanwhile, in another college town there has been yet another bold announcement to every woman—if you get assaulted or abused, we will blame you and excuse your abuser.

This should cause us great shame. (See: This Is the Kind of Husband I Want to Be)

We have created a culture which values sports over women. And it’s time for it to stop.

For more, see:

A Dangerous Assumption About God’s Will

I Wouldn’t Sleep With You Either

What a White Man Knows About Racism

Apr 102014

Do This Before You Put A Ring On It

It’s better than nothing. Sitting down with a counselor in the months before the wedding is better than never doing so. Premarital counseling can be a meaningful time which greatly influences the direction of a marriage. No couple should get married without first going through counseling.

Yet I don’t encourage premarital counseling. I don’t believe counseling is best suited before someone says, “I do.” I think it is most effective before they say, “I will.” (See: Never Call a Pastor for Premarital Counseling)

The problem with premarital counseling is that it is often too late. By the time a ring is on the finger, the mother-of-the-bride has already cried, dresses are shopped for, and ‘save the date’ cards are in the mail. It becomes harder to tackle the truly difficult topics which need to be discussed before marriage.

Once the engagement is public, the couple is often too biased to have an effective counseling session. (See: Pastoral Advice for Single Women)

I don’t encourage premarital counseling because I’m a proponent of pre-engagement counseling.

By discussing the important issues before a ring is involved and the news is public, the couple has an opportunity to honestly, openly, and privately wrestle with the meaningful issues regarding the most important decision of their lives.

Once the ring is introduced, everything changes. (See: Dating to Break Up, a Unique Perspective)

Only on a few occasions have I spoken with couples in a premarital setting where they came to the conclusion they shouldn’t get married, but each time it was a sad process. Many couples aren’t just in love with each other, they are also in love with the idea of being in love. The engagement process is a fun and exciting time, not only for the couple, but also for family and friends.

I have done more than one wedding where I assumed the couple was getting married as much for their parents as they were because they loved one another. Pledging your earthly lives to another just so you don’t disappoint your mother is not a wise decision. Premarital counseling can prevent that, but pre-engagement counseling is far better.

Consider a couple who gets into counseling only to discover they shouldn’t get married or comes to the conclusion that at least they shouldn’t get married right now. If the ring is already on the finger, they would then have to:

tell their friends and family the wedding is off

continually explain to others of a change of plans when asked

either live with or return items purchased for the wedding

decide what happens with the engagement ring

All of this could be prevented by several sessions with a professional counselor before the question is popped.

Rarely does a man ask a woman to marry him without some discussion. Conversations about the state of the relationship and the future intentions of each person normally take place before an engagement. When these conversations begin to take place, the couple should reach out to a counselor and spend several sessions with that counselor discussing:

Life goals

Expectations

Family history

Finances

Communication

This can be done with complete confidentiality, or the couple might choose to tell their families. Yet even if the families are told, they know the couple is only considering engagement and marriage–nothing is guaranteed. And if the relationship doesn’t move forward, the disappointment won’t be as much as if plans had already been made. (See: What to Look for in a Mate)

Of course, rarely does a couple conclude they shouldn’t get married when they go through counseling. Most of the time the issues which arise are more about skills which need to be learned than irreconcilable differences. Counseling before engagement isn’t just better in case the relationship shouldn’t continue, it’s also better if it should continue. If a couple decides to get engaged after pre-engagement counseling, they can have the confidence of a well-made decision and can spend the engagement enjoying the process and preparing for the wedding rather than wondering if they should get married.

If you are already engaged and haven’t received any counseling, do so. Call sooner than later. (See: You’re Not My Soul Mate)

If you are considering engagement, instead of asking her to marry you, ask her to go to counseling with you. Discuss the important issues and decide if you want to spend your life together.

Apr 092014

A Touchy Subject in Marriage

I remember the first time Jenny touched me. We were standing in a Wal-Mart looking for a birthday gift for a friend of mine. In case you haven’t read my bio, you now know I’m from Arkansas. A Top Ten sign you are from Arkansas is if the first place you touch your wife is at Wal-Mart.

In part, I remember the touch because the semester that Jenny and I began to date I was taking a class on Human Sexuality as part of my minor in Family Psychology. In class I had learned that women almost always make the first touch if they are interested in a man. So unbeknownst to Jenny, I was waiting all night to see if she would touch me.

And she did. (For more humor on our relationship, see: On George Straight, a First Kiss, and Seminary Women)

In a joking manner, she reached out and touched my arm. She probably didn’t even realize it, but I did. I also had read the importance of returning the physical touch in order to communicate equal interest, so I touched her as quickly (and probably as awkwardly) as possible. Side note: there is nothing more dangerous than dating someone who has taken a single psychology class, especially a class in Human Sexuality.

Touch Matters

Non-sexual touch is extremely powerful and it is a vital part of a healthy marriage. We know this as relationships begin. A dating couple often looks for every excuse to touch—to hold hands, brush arms, or put a hand on the other’s shoulder.

Touch is so powerful that an inappropriate relationship crosses a major line the first time a touch occurs. When feelings are expressed in touch there is often no turning back from the relationship. (See: You Will Have an Affair If…)

But touch can also be used in a positive way.

Communication is the center-piece of marriage. Nearly every problem is a symptom of a communication problem. Yet communication is more than simply words. Often touch can communicate in a way which words cannot.

It can:

ease the tension in a tough conversation.

communicate support when words are hard to find.

quietly comfort when silence is necessary.

Touch is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of marriage.

Yet too often we fail to use it.

Couples, especially men, rarely touch except for the purposes of sex. And while sex is important, non-sexual touch should occur far more often than sexual touch in a healthy marital relationship. (See: Are You Having Enough Sex?)

There is a direct correlation between marital satisfaction and the amount of non-sexual touch. If you want to improve your marriage, touch more often.

Try this today:

Every time you pass one another, touch.

Anytime you leave the house, kiss.

When you return home from the day, hug for at least 10 seconds.

When you are walking, hold hands.

When seated next to each other, put a hand on the other’s leg.

When watching TV, sit together and cuddle.

When going to bed, hold one another until at least one of you goes to sleep.

Do this and see what happens.

There are two primary reasons why a married couple may not be touching:

1. Apathy. Through a lack of intention a couple can slowly stop touching. If this is the case, the above list is all the couple needs. With just a little intention, a couple can reignite their non-sexual touch and in so doing can dramatically improve their relationship. (See: The Number One Cause of Divorce)

2. An Absence of Trust. When trust wanes, so does touch. We do not have trouble touching our spouse unless we no longer respect them and feel safe around them. If the above list is difficult, something is wrong. Trying harder will not help. You need to seek professional help to understand why non-sexual touch is difficult between you.

Few things can change your relationship as dramatically and quickly as non-sexual touch. Be intentional, have fun, and see how a little touch can go a long way.

holdinghands

Apr 082014

You Know More Than You Think

“I don’t know what to do.”

It’s the reason a majority of people communicate with me about about a situation in their life:

-A wife’s heart is dying but her husband refuses to listen to her cries for help

-A student is soon to graduate but few job offers are on the table

-A friendship is strained and neither friend is certain how to reconcile

Few people sit down with me with great confidence about their next step. They call because they are uncertain. They seek help because they don’t know what to do. (See: Dr. Seuss Said You Are Bad at Decision Making)

And we almost always find the next step.

We may not be able to define everything which needs to take place, but it is rarely difficult to find the next step.

“I don’t know what to do,” is a phrase I tell myself on many occasions.

It feels so true. A situation seems complex. Differing decisions all seem to have negative consequences. I want something to change but I don’t know what to do about it.

Yet why is it that I so often find myself in situations where I don’t know what to do, but I rarely talk to others in which their next step isn’t obvious?

I often don’t know what I should do but rarely do I not know what others should do. (See: The One Piece of Advice I Would Give a 7th Grader)

Recently I was thinking about a situation and I began to tell myself, “I don’t know what to do.” The situation really perplexed me and I couldn’t figure out how to make it better. While trying to find a solution, I tried to remember if I had ever walked beside another person as they dealt with a similar issue. What questions did I ask them? What advice did I give?

Quickly I began to realize I knew exactly what I needed to do. I might not know all the steps I should take, but the first one or two steps were obvious.

While I told myself I didn’t know what to do, it simply wasn’t true. I knew exactly what to do, but I didn’t want to do it.

Suddenly I realized that’s almost always the case. Nearly every time I say, “I don’t know what to do,” what I actually mean is “I don’t want to do what I know I should.”

It’s true for me and it’s often true for you. (See: Do You Know What Today Is?)

While there are times in which we do not know what to do, those times are rare. We almost always know the next step. We may not know the next ten steps. We may not know what the outcome of the situation will be. But rarely are we completely clueless as to do what we should do next.

There is a difference between not knowing what to do and not wanting to do what we know we should. The former is ignorance, the latter is cowardice. Truth be told, we are cowards far more often than we are ignorant.

Consider a situation in your life where you think you don’t know what you should do. Is it true? Are you really stumped toward your next action or are you rebelling against what should be done?

For More, See:

How to Determine What To Do: At Work, In Marriage, In Life

How Leaders (and Parents) Focus on the Wrong Things

Apr 072014

Success Is More Than One Shining Moment

We love the moment. The victory is won, the trophy is presented, and as the credits roll, One Shining Moment plays.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to stand on the platform and realize your dreams have come true. It’s something many long for, but few experience.

Yet as the players and coaches reflect on their championships, thousands of viewers at home are often deceived about the nature of success. (See: I Love People Who Have This…)

Success is often crowned in the spotlight, but it’s never achieved there.

While we long to hold the trophy, get the winner’s check, or take the title, we deceive ourselves when we think success is found when everyone is watching.

We should know better.

Success is accomplished outside the spotlight. (See: Every Successful Person I Know Does This)

It’s in the hot gym months removed from the season.

It’s in the weight room where a ball isn’t even present.

It’s in the film room studying yourself or your opponent.

What’s funny is that success is won in the moments for which few desire. While everyone wants to be in the spotlight, few want to be on the practice court. Yet to the extent you are willing to work when no one is watching, you will have a chance to succeed when everyone is watching.

That isn’t just true in sports, it’s true in life.

Chances are you want to be successful in something. You want to be a great leader, a successful husband/wife, and a successful parent. Yet success is not determined when everyone is watching, it is determined by what you do when no one is aware.

A marriage thrives from small sacrifices and unnoticed choices of faithfulness

Good parenting occurs when we make small choices to put our children before our careers.

Strong leadership is often defined when no one is in the office.

Few things deceive like the spotlight. We can be lured to it like a mosquito on a dark night. The adulation of a crowd can make a champion appear like an overnight success. We can long for their rewards, but what we need to emulate is their work-ethic.

In 2007 Lebron James lost in his first appearance in the NBA Finals. The next morning the head coach went to the office to pick up some things for the off-season. Assuming no one would be in the building, he was shocked to see Lebron completing a workout less than 12 hours after a long and disappointing season came to an end. (See: 14 Examples of Lebron James’ Incredible Work Ethic)

It’s easy to see Lebron’s success and to assume because of his height and strength that he has been given an amazing ability. While he has natural ability, it’s his work ethic which makes the difference between wins and losses.

It’s true of Lebron and it’s true of us.

We all claim we want to be successful, but what will you do today to take a step toward success?

What will you do which no one else will ever see or know about?

What advice will you seek?

Whose coaching will you adhere to?

What work will you do? (See: The Number One Cause for Divorce)

A champion is being crowned tonight. As the nets are cut down and the trophy is presented, One Shining Moment will play. Yet as you hear the song, do not be deceived into thinking success happens in a moment. It doesn’t. Success is most often determined, not in the spotlight, but in the countless hours spent when no one is watching.

Do you want to be a success? In marriage? In parenting? In life? Don’t covet the spotlight. Instead, desire the work-ethic which champions display. Emulate how they practice and you will experience success.

For more, see:

7 Leadership Lessons from Gus Malzahn

Lessons Learned from a Crisis

 

Apr 042014

Why We Don’t Like Grace

“Truth!” they shout. “We must speak truth!” But they do so without any sense of compassion. It’s screamed and shouted; it’s proclaimed with a sense of glee and superiority instead of a sense of brotherhood and understanding.

“Love!” others shout. “We must show love!” But they do so without any sense of fact. It’s stated more as a deserved condition rather than as a result of God’s amazing act.

Everyone claims to like the concept of grace, but when it’s true nature is realized, we balk. We like an aspect of it, but we don’t like it in its totality. And because we don’t like the fullness of grace, we often reject the true Biblical nature of grace. (See: What I Mean When I Say ‘You Are a Sinner’)

Grace, as Paul Zahl has defined it, is a love that “negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold.” Grace is not a right; it’s an undeserved love which is present in spite of the receiver, not because of the receiver.

This is why we don’t like grace. It does not exist because of the denial of truth; it can only exist in the presence of truth.

Those who follow Jesus dislike grace because we like to believe God loves us because we are better than others. We assume we have done something to earn God’s grace. We assume God could never love us unless we are somewhat different from others. So when we speak truth about the nature of sin, we are deceived into thinking we aren’t really sinners. We believe God’s love is a sign our actions aren’t as bad as others.

Those who don’t follow Jesus dislike grace because they like to believe God loves them because there is no right and wrong. They believe they have not offended God in any way with their actions. It is assumed that love doesn’t speak truth, never says a hard word, and always accepts whatever someone desires as good and right.

Both of these approaches equally miss the true nature of grace.

When it comes to grace, all of us face the temptation of either downplaying our sinful condition or denying God’s truth. We will either believe we are better than we are, or we will convince others they are not as bad as some say. Neither is true.

Grace fully announces our true sinfulness, without hesitation, while also proclaiming God’s tremendous love for us. Truth and love co-mingle in a way which makes every human uncomfortable.

Only God lacks any uneasiness when it comes to the relationship between truth and love. Because of our uncomfortableness with the two, we attempt to shade one or the other.

So some speak truth without any semblance of compassion.

Others proclaim mercy while downplaying the very reasons why need mercy.

Thankfully God embraces both truth and love.

Ironically, those that embrace grace will likely be disliked by both the believer and unbeliever. We will be called too loving by the religious and too judgmental by the secularist. (See Tim Keller: When Sin is Grievous and Grace is Stunning)

The good news is that is exactly how they treated Jesus.

To those who are afraid to say what the Bible says, understand that grace demands truth.

To those who are audacious enough to feel superior to others because you sin differently than them, understand that truth demands grace.

 For more, see:

Who Am I to Judge?

 

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