Jack Canfield had an extra moment of time, so he walked across the street to watch a Little League game. He didn’t know any of the players––he just knew the game.
“What’s the score?” he asked the kid on first base.
“We’re behind 14 to nothing,” he said with a smile.
“Really?” he replied. “I have to say you don’t look very discouraged.”
“Discouraged?” the boy responded with a puzzled look, “Why should we be discouraged? We haven’t even been up to bat yet!”
When does faith become faith? Is it before or after?
The gospel writer tells the story of a “certain royal official whose son lay sick in Capernaum.” He begged Jesus to come and heal his son before he died. Jesus told him that his son would live. “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” When he got home, he realized that his son had, indeed, been healed.
On what side of the Red Sea did the Israelites experience faith? On this side? Or on that side?
On what side of your Red Sea do you experience faith? On what side of the situation are the men separated from the boys? Those who do from those who say they do? Those who live by faith from those who say they do?
It does not require much faith to wonder whether or not my friend, Ben, can play the guitar. It would be an act of faith for me to even take it out of the case.
Picking the Clippers is not an act of faith anymore. Picking the Lakers is. Loading up the car and driving to Newport Beach for a little sun does not require much faith. Driving the car to Honolulu would.
Being nice to someone you enjoy is rather easy. Being nice to the one who has hurt you deeply is a little more difficult. Bringing kids into the world because you are “supposed to” is not faith. Having kids because you want to see them change the world is. Working for the established, large company is a bit less faith than starting a company from nothing.
Even going to church this Sunday in our country is not a great act of faith. Whereas, going to church this Sunday in North Vietnam is. Furthermore, believing and saying is still not the same faith required as believing and doing.
After Jesus healed the royal official’s son, the household then believed Jesus’ words. The official only needed Jesus to say it. Who experienced true faith? Those who saw the boy healed or he who believed the boy would be healed?
Are you discouraged? Odds against you? Are you on this side of the Red Sea? Just remember whose team you’re on . . .
“Why should we be discouraged? We haven’t even been up to bat yet!”by Pastor Doug
There is a story of identical twins. One was a hope-filled optimist. “Everything is coming up roses!” he would say. The other was a sad and hopeless pessimist. Everything was sad and dismal. The worried parents of the boys brought them to the local psychologist.
He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twins’ personalities. “On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford, and give the optimist a box of manure.” The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results.
When they peeked in on the pessimist, they heard him audibly complaining, “I don’t like the color of this computer . . . I bet this calculator will break . . . I don’t like this game . . . I know someone who’s got a bigger toy car than this . . .”
Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure in the air. He was giggling. “You can’t fool me! Where there’s this much manure, there’s got to be a pony!”*
Have you ever been in a situation where everywhere you look, it seems so hopeless, so dismal? . . . and yet you know somewhere, somehow, some way there has got to be a pony just around the corner.
We call that faith.
Someone once said, “Faith is the pencil of the soul that pictures heavenly things.” The New Testament writer explained faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Faith is taking the risk to believe that the God, who created everything, who is omnipresent (everywhere), who is omniscient (all-knowing), who is omnipotent (all-powerful) is capable of solving our problems, snags, dilemmas, set-backs. Imagine that kind of God trying to fix our dilemmas. He sure seems more than up to the challenge.
And yet, we struggle. We fret. We worry. We fear.
Then, we risk. For, even when we know the situation, we trust––we act in faith.
Noah built a very large boat even though he was sitting in the middle of the desert. Joshua went ahead and walked around the walls of Jericho seven times even though that’s not how you typically won wars. The servants at the wedding in Cana poured out the newly made wine even though they knew it had just been water.
We act in faith, too.
We forgive even though we know that they were in the wrong. We give even though it’s risky. We pray even though we cannot see the face of the One we pray to. We trust even though we’re told it can never work in this set of circumstances. We believe even though the evidence might point in the other direction. We have faith even if it has never happened this way before.
When we face the impossible, we, by faith, turn to the One who functions only in the possible. He can make it happen.
When we are given a box of manure, we look for the pony.
* (A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, p. 180)by Pastor Doug
Approx. 1450 BC. Updated: 2014 AD.
I have been watching people like you for years and years. It is amazing that nothing really changes. It is remarkable that even though you have more technology and information, you still do the same things as those who came before you.
You call it compulsive behavior. I call it sin. No matter what you call it, we are talking about the same thing. It is the destructive force that ruins lives––lives like yours. What starts out innocently becomes all-consuming. Every part of your life becomes captive. Every thought. Every decision. Everything.
It effects the way you worship me. It consumes your calendar––you work harder and harder only to find yourself get further and further behind. It makes you unable to tell the truth. Not only does nobody else believe you, but you do not even believe yourself. You want something that you do not need until it burns a scar in your mind.
You cannot look at the neighbor’s car without being sick in envy. You cannot find joy in your wife because you’re convinced that his wife will be so much better. You even find yourself taking things that are not yours––things you never rightfully earned.
Consequently, you are ineffectively taking advantage of the life I have given you. You have no joy. You are stuck in a life that is filled with compulsion, behavior that is out of control––a far cry from the life I intended.
I know how to help you. I know what you need. You need to be delivered from this bondage, because compulsive behavior is slavery in its deepest form.
It was not my intention to enslave my people for “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
Therefore, here are ten ways to discover freedom. It is my intention to free you by giving you a map for living that keeps you away from the lands of slavery––a map where I will highlight the fertile land, the land where I want you to go.
If you will allow me, I will trace the land of bondage in red. Stay away from these areas. Do not go near their borders. Do not cross into its’ territory. It will destroy you. It will take away your freedom. These lands will enslave you.
I know that if I leave you alone, you will find yourself trapped in those lands of bondage––states of forced servitude to habitual behaviors. However, if you will listen to me, then you will find a life that will be flowing with milk and honey.
Because I am the Lord your God, make sure that these ten guidelines rule your journey:
Have no other gods before me. I am the one and only God. There can be no other gods, especially before me. Trust me. I know. You can look for yourself and spend valuable years coming to the conclusion that I have already told you.
I also know that there will appear to be options of whom you will choose to serve. They are not the real thing, no matter how they appear. Your heart can only be given to me. When I look inside of you, I will not tolerate seeing anything other than me. I am the one and only God. Serve me alone.
Have no idols. Do not bow down to anything other than me. Whether it is from the sea or the land, I created it––it came from me. How can you think about worshipping something less than the God who created all things. Just because you can see it doesn’t mean it has any special power. Just stop and think about it: why would you want to commit your life to something that I could wipe away with one word?
Use everything I have given you to accomplish what I have called you to do. Utilize your machines. Rule over all of nature. Celebrate your creative artistic works. Milk cows. But, come on, bow down to them? That’s something that will lead you to emptiness, to fear––to great bondage.
Do not misuse my name. All I am is wrapped up in my name. All my power, all my authority, all my holiness is seen in my name. Your lips are never to use my name is a way that would bring shame to me. May the words of your mouth be pleasing to me, especially when they involve my name.
I take speech seriously. I spoke the world into existence. My only son is the living Word. My name stands for who I am, what I will teach you and the direction your life will follow. Since all of who you understand me to me is part of my name, use it with honor, with reverence and with respect.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Therefore, work for six days but give me the seventh. Because this is the day that I have made, worship me and not the day. I want you to rest. When I created the world, I did so in six days and I took the seventh day to rest. I did not rest because I was tired. I rested because I wanted you to rest. My resting made this day holy.
Of course, if you are not careful, you will find yourself a slave to work–-what you call a workaholic. This is not my idea of healthy behavior. I want you to live in balance not in slavery.
Everything in creation has been made to rest. The soil will need to be rested. Your oxen and your horse will need rest too. Give your employees the day off. Do not make them work themselves into the ground. Use this day to honor me.
Honor your father and your mother. Therefore, treat your family with sanctity. Prize them highly. Care for them and show them affection. Treat them with honor and respect. Be aware that the family is an important part of who I have made you to be. When it is discarded and cast away, you will never be who I have made you to be.
It makes me sad to see men and women show contempt for their very family––the essence that defines their human connection, the root of their earthly existence. Children are a heritage from me. Families who honor me are families who operate effectively.
The way your children will learn to honor you is how you have shown honor to your parents. Forget about saying one thing and doing another. Honor them as you would be honored. Then, you will live long in the land that I intended for you.
Treat life with sanctity. Do not murder. I created you, fashioning you after my very image. Your life has been given dignity because your life reflects who I am. Therefore, if that is true for you, then it must be true for every man and women. When you snuff out the very life I gave, it is as if you have snuffed out me.
The ultimate insult that you could give me is to reject the my very nature by murdering another. Once you cross this line and use your power to destroy life, you have done your best to destroy what you have of me. Life is precious. Do not trade in the freedom to enjoy life for the bondage that will come when you deliberately choose to destroy life.
Treat marriage with sanctity. Do not commit adultery. The marriage between a man and a woman is intended for their mutual joy. The intimate bond they share should not be broken by a compulsion to be with another. Purify the marriage bed. Keep it holy. Spend your days keeping your promise to be faithful till you are parted by death.
Keep your body pure and free from the mess of sin. Husband, give yourself only to your wife. Wife, present yourself only to your husband.
Allow nothing to taint the purity of your intimate relationships. Find pleasure only in your spouse. Do not fill your mind with images of other women or other men. These graphic memories will destroy the purity of the joy you share. Do not reduce the gift of sexuality to a joke. Preserve it. Honor it. Protect it. Find the freedom to enjoy, not be a slave of it.
Treat your property with sanctity. Do not steal. Everything you have has been given to you by me. You have everything you need to do my will––nothing more, nothing less. What you do not have that I think you need will be provided for you when the time has come.
In the meantime, be a good steward of all that you own. Do not take what is not yours. Do not take what you have not earned. Focus on me and the things of this earth will take care of themselves. Never let the desire for stuff become a compulsion that rules your heart. Use things. Serve me only. Then, you will have freedom to enjoy all things, even that which you do not own.
Treat the truth with sanctity. Do not lie. Only speak the truth. May your heart be as my heart, filled with only that which is true. Never believe that your life will be easier by lying. It only destroys the freedom that I have given you.
When you lie, you trade in the freedom that comes with an honest mind for the bondage of a mind that is enslaved with deception. To believe anything other than the truth will only destroy you as each lie adds additional weight upon the load you will carry. Speak the truth and your load will be free.
Do not lie to your boss. He will never trust you with important responsibilities. Do not lie to your wife. Each lie will drive her further and further away from you. Do not lie to your friends. They will find others with which to share their lives. Tell the truth and live in the freedom I always intended for you to enjoy.
Treat your motives with sanctity. Do not covet. Take your eyes off of your neighbor’s stuff. Enjoy the things that I have given you. Take your eyes off of your neighbor’s wife. Find deep joy in the wife of your youth.
Be content with what you have. Be content with who you are. Be content with what I have designed you to do, called you to be. Enjoy the freedom of knowing that I have lovingly crafted and blessed you with gifts from above. Never desire something other than that freedom, for you will spend your days missing opportunity upon opportunity to enjoy the world I have given you.
I want to protect you from the lands that will enslave you. Sure, it may glitter and it may seem to be full of pleasure, but that is merely a facade for the desolation that lies within.
If you, however, have crossed those boundaries and have found yourself trapped in the prison of your sinful behavior, then . . .
• Admit you have a problem. If you will confess your sin, I will be faithful and just to forgive you of your sin. Are you willing to admit you have taken residence inside a land that you are unable to leave––a land with walls so high you cannot scale them?
• Allow healing to come to your life. I will forgive you. I will be the strength of your heart. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will go before you. I will be your God.
• See the wisdom of my ways. Follow them day and night. Tie them around your neck. Never forget them. Listen to them. Enjoy the life I have given you. Always stay in the land I have provided. Never desire to be a slave again.
Bottom line: I want you to look like me. Since you were created in my image, you will function best if you look like me. This is how you ought to act because it best reflects my character, my nature and my will.
I am a God of freedom. Be a people of freedom.
For not only will you find joy, but I will too!
Love, God––the One who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.by Pastor Doug
I am a pastor.
It is my job to be moral. I get paid to be a person of integrity. Professionally speaking, I must be committed to living righteously. Throwing aside my morality would be job suicide, the end of my career. I do not have the luxury of dichotomizing my private life from my public life. They must coexist harmoniously.
Regardless of how fair that expectation feels, I have an obligation to back up the message I proclaim with a suitable, complimentary lifestyle. I cannot say one thing on Sunday and live a different thing come Monday. I am not striving for perfection, just striving to live a life worthy of my calling.
My morality, however, goes beyond my profession. As a follower of God, I am called to be moral. If I identify myself with Him, I am called to live differently. Regardless of my ministerial duties, I have a vested interest in being moral. When I live ethically, I become a better man. I am at my best.
A concern for morality makes you a better person. When you are living within the boundaries of integrity, you function at your peak capacity. You are productive, focused and much better at doing what you do best. Morality isn’t just for men of the cloth. It is for all who want to experience life to it’s fullest. It should be an expectation of all in leadership.
So what about politicians?
Does their private life influence their ability to lead? Is it any of our business? Should we vote on the basis of a candidate’s character?
If a political office is best held by one who is both productive and focused, then it is also important that the person campaigning for the job has a high sense of morality. A troubled personal life, like it or not, will hamper their effectiveness as a leader.
A politician who adheres to ethical conduct finds himself free to lead effectively, not bound by an impossible standard of self-righteousness. Morality frees. Amoral behavior constrains.
When God gave us the Ten Commandments, He did so with the intention of simplifying our lives. There is incredible freedom found in living God’s way. Likewise, ignoring God’s advice only complicates one’s plight.
If an elected official has a record of living morally, he/she has a greater potential for increased effectiveness. Likewise, a scandalous private life binds the potential of a public leader. His/her commitment to duplicity erodes his/her effectiveness for public service. They may indeed fill the position with adequate competence, but they never live up to their God-given potential.
Here are a few examples of how an abandonment of God’s ways affect the way one leads:
Honor your father and your mother. A leader who publicly dishonors his/her father and mother is psychologically inferior to one who publicly honors his/her parents. The anger and bitterness directed towards immediate family cannot be overlooked while on the job. It stifles productivity.
You shall not commit adultery. You may not desire to know the details of a politician’s adulterous affair, but you can bet that the energy invested in the cover-up was taken away from the energy that should have been spent leading.
You shall not steal. Stealing is a rationalization that is made in order to compensate for the lack of some commodity in one’s life. An elected official who can do this type of mental–moral gymnastics is an official who cannot be trusted. If you cannot trust their integrity, you cannot be led by them. Their public service will be seen as fraudulent.
You shall not give false witness. Reckless use of information to destroy or falsely accuse a political enemy may win initial votes but it will, in the long run, deteriorate one’s perception of the truth. Without a handle on the truth, a leader wanders aimlessly, helping nobody at all.
Bottom line: morality matters. God’s moral criteria is not just a method to discriminate those of opposing beliefs, it is a practical, pragmatic way of filtering worth.
My vote is worth something. I choose to spend it on the one who is willing to be used to their God given potential.by Pastor Doug