Navigating the University of Adversity


Would you believe the university I’m attending right now has a robot that retrieves your books?  That’s right, there are millions of books and it has the ability to pick an individual book from a box filled with hundreds of titles.  All you do is tell the Librarian which titles you’re looking for and the rest is history.  Sometimes I wish it was that easy to answer some of life’s big questions, don’t you?

One of the biggest questions people really struggle with is their purpose.  We sometimes wonder, why am I here?  If that’s you lately, I want you to know you’re not alone.  There are a lot of people asking that same question right now- married people, employees, church members, leaders, investors.

But why you’re here isn’t the real issue. The real issue is what you’re doing while you’re here. You can use this time to grow or postpone any resemblance of joy until a  future date.  The choice is yours.

While you’re at it, remember, the same one who brought you here, God, didn’t leave you here so that you would be miserable! He has a purpose for you. Sure, it would be nice if we always knew what that purpose was at all times, but to be quite honest, we don’t.  However, sometimes just knowing you’re here for a purpose makes all the difference in the world, even if you’re unclear at times about what that purpose is.

If you’re struggling with your purpose right now, try this exercise.  Look back on your own life, especially at some of the darkest chapters.  Most likely, you’ll see that although you didn’t always know what your purpose was, you learned some of your greatest lessons during those seasons when you felt like you were in the dark.

Let me start. I worked construction in the summer during college in the early nineties. It was great. The weather was usually wonderful. I had a good tan, was fit, traveled, learned a lot, and was even able to save a little money toward tuition.

Then after college, when I couldn’t find a job, I went back to work construction. There I was introduced to working outside, winter, spring, summer and fall. Spring and summer weren’t so bad, but you know what comes after fall. Sometimes we worked in below freezing weather. There were days when I ran a 95 pound Jack Hammer for eight hours straight! You get the picture. If you were to ask me what Hell was at the time, I thought I could paint you a pretty good picture. The worse part was coming into a heated house at night and having your body’s thermostat go haywire.

However, while those were some dark, trying times, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’ve been to a couple of schools, but the University of Adversity taught me some of life’s greatest lessons. There I learned the world isn’t always a nice place. There I learned people will sometimes do everything they can to see you fail. There I learned that life sometimes means hard work and stickability.  But, I also learned a few more important lessons.

1. TAKE TIME TO REFLECT.  Looking back now, God knew I would have a house of my own and vehicles to maintain and now I can fix or build just about anything. I can’t tell you how many thousands of dollars I’ve saved over the years. There’s also the pride and confidence that comes with doing a job well. I also learned to work with difficult people and came to love those who work hard day in and day out to make a living.  Think back on some of the difficult seasons you’ve faced and ponder the good that came from them.

2. TRUST GOD TO USE THIS FOR GOOD. God uses everything for good in the life of a believer, so why are you wondering why you’re still here? Romans 8:28 says, “we know all things work together for good, to them who are the called according to his purpose!” Whatever you’re going through, you can be sure God is going to use it for good.

3. REJOICE! Just think, God could have picked anyone, but he chose you to be right where you are at this very hour. He could have given them to someone else, but God entrusted his children to you at this time and place in history. At the end of the day, you’re not on trial….your faith is! James 1:2-3 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

4. LEVERAGE THIS SEASON. Ecc. 3:1-2 says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” As farmers in God’s industry, diligence is never an option.  Leverage the opportunities you have now, until the ones you want are ready for harvest!

You know, even though I learned a lot of great things in the School of Adversity, I feel like I dropped out rather than graduated.  Rather than passing my Final Exams with flying colors, I kind of crashed and burned and just ended up getting better with the passing of time.  Looking back now, it could have been a truly positive experience if I had only maintained the right attitude and had a little more faith.  I would have hurt far fewer people than I actually did and would be able to look back on those days with much fonder memories.  How about you?

Regardless of what you’re going through right now, why not encourage someone who’s going through a tough season right now? It doesn’t matter how happy or successful people appear to be, we’re all fighting a battle nobody else can see. If you look at the top of this post, there are convenient ‘share buttons’.  I’m sure someone is just waiting for a post like this to help them.  Why not help a fellow student in the University of Adversity?


Speed of the leader, speed of the team

Foundations aren’t just good ideas, they take time. So, what if there was a simple principle to help you lay a strong foundation to build upon?


Jesus said if a man wants a house to last, he needs a solid foundation. The same can be said of a life, if you want to be successful, you need to take the time necessary to lay a good foundation. Jesus said, “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit- but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 The Message.

Now for a principle which captures a truth found in this verse….Successful people make up their mind quickly and are slow to change it. Amateurs, however, take forever to make up their minds, but are quick to change them.

This principle is helpful, especially if you’re considering a move, a new position, kids….you name it. Regardless of what you decide, you have two options- you can decide quickly or take time to decide. However, if you take too much time to decide, the opportunity may pass. The biological clock stops for no one. Seasons change and you may have to wait even longer than you anticipated if you don’t seize new and exciting opportunities relatively quickly. In some cases, they may elude you forever if you don’t act on them.

But there’s more. Whatever you decide, commit to the long haul. If you decide to have more children, decide ahead of time that you’ll do whatever it takes to carry through and raise them through the good and bad. Remember, it’s one thing to start digging and quite another to continue building through rain and shine. But that’s what successful people do. They seize opportunities and follow through.

Immature people are just the opposite. They take forever to decide and then bail out quickly. Society calls them ‘Fairweather Johnson’s’. As soon as the sun starts beating down or the heavens open up and pour, they’re onto their next venture. Surely, they reason, it shouldn’t have to be this hard. Successful people, on the other hand, anticipate difficulties and embrace challenge for the long haul.  Successful people run toward fires and stick around to put them out.

Instead of picking up their roots and moving every time difficulties come along, successful people dig deep and hunker down where they are. They weather the storm. The time they take to decide quickly and stay committed, pays off in spades. Meanwhile, the fools who rush and cut corners pay dearly for their indecision and fickleness and when it gets hot in the kitchen, they’re the first to bail out.

The choice is always ours. We can pay now and play later or play now and pay later. Sometimes we tell our selves our decision to delay is wise, but in reality we’re just squandering precious time and the results can be deadly both in personal and kingdom losses. “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways,” James 1:8.

If you have a decision to make, why not give yourself a deadline? Pray and ask God for wisdom. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him,” James 1:5.

Here’s a sentence to get you started. I will make a decision about _________________________by_______________.


Navigating the Sea of Pride


Being humble used to come easy for me until I realized something was missing. 🙂  Here’s how I’m navigating those seas these days.

More than once, I can remember consciously humbling myself before God.  Usually, just because I knew there was a promise attached to my obedience.  James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”  Who doesn’t want to be lifted up, right?  It was as easy as just mouthing a few words to God and just waiting for the treat.  Kind of like a dog who does tricks for pay.

Then my thinking changed after reading the book of James.  Yes, God can lift you up, but first there may be more required than just talking with him about how humble you are or sorry.

Remember when you were a child and you wronged somebody?  Remember what your parent or teacher did?  They made you apologize to the other child….out loud.  In most cases, more than once, because your face didn’t line up with your words.  You were apologizing on the outside but on the inside you were clearly not sorry and it showed in your body language in the form of a pouting face.  So then the parent or teacher would say something like, ‘This time, say it like you mean it!’.

To this day, do you find it hard to apologize to someone in person.  If you were honest, the answer is yes.  It’s not easy.

This is no joke.  We’re out to sea in a life and death battle and we have the potential to accelerate or devastate our relationships with God and others.  The choice is ours.  We can insist on our own rights or  lay them down for the good of others.

Yet for some reason, we find it easy to humble ourselves in the sight of an invisible God, yet difficult to apologize to a person.  James knows this.  All throughout his book, he encourages us to put shoe leather on  our faith; to live out our faith wisely and practically.  So in chapter four, it makes perfect sense that we’re to exercise humility in a visible manner, out loud in word and deed.

In the beginning of chapter 4, James talks about how wars start to churn.  Usually they start because someone insists on their own way.  In many cases, neither person is wrong, just selfish.  For example, in some cases it’s a matter of each country wanting oil.  The only way to stop the war is for one party to surrender their rights for the good of others.

So when is the last time you apologized for wanting your own way?  When you do, you’re not telling the other person they’re right, you’re telling them, ‘look, I value our relationship more than my ego.’

Virtual  humility on the other hand is easy because you can experience it on your own.  You just have to mouth a few words to God and it’s done.  There is no accountability and you can be sure of a 100% success rate.  Real Christianity is messy and requires faith.  Real Christianity requires turning up the volume on our humility.

This played out in real life recently when I met a guy who is going through a divorce.  When I told him I was sorry he had to go through such a thing, he responded by saying, “It’s not so bad.  She’s been gone a month and now there’s nobody to tell me what I can and can’t do.  In fact, I’m looking forward to repainting all of the rooms we couldn’t agree on over the years!”

What?  You just ended a relationship with the most important person in the world and you’re glad because you won’t have to fight over paint chips anymore?  What about your children, let alone the vows you made?  I was reminded of the teenager who told his parents he didn’t want anyone telling him what to do, so he was going to move out of the house and join the Army!

James was right.  Being selfish may seem like no big deal, but it has the potential to destroy everything in sight!  Why not surrender our rights while there’s still time and salvage our futures before they sink and wash up on shore.

You see, when we’re selfish, we don’t just miss out on what God has for us today, it’s also a good way to kiss tomorrow goodbye and any hope we might have of a bright future.  As a pastor, I haven’t talked with many guys who are still excited because they can pick out their favorite paint color twenty years after their divorce.  However, I have talked with more than one guy who said he’s pretty sure he could have worked things out if he had been a little more forgiving and a lot less selfish

On the sea of life, there are decisions we make that will not send us to hell, but they do have the potential to make our lives hell on earth.  Why not come down from our look-out while there’s still time to serve others.  “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-24.

Please be sure to share your thoughts on virtual vs. real Christianity via Facebook or Twitter and/or the comments section.


Something I Learned While Running


One day last Summer, the point where I turned for home was quickly approaching while jogging the bike path.  However, on this particular day I decided to keep running straight past my turn.  In fact, mentally I decided I was going to run twice as far today.  That’s when it happened.

Immediately, my mind was inundated with thoughts.  Things like, “You have to turn for home, you can’t do it!….”If you keep going, you’ll have to run twice as far than you normally do….”You hurt, there must be something wrong.”  You get the idea.  My body was telling me, don’t do it!

A wonderful lesson began to unfold.  I kept running, straight, past my turning point for home.  Farther away from my destination.  And as I did, guess what happened?  It wasn’t any more difficult than my normal routine.  In fact, I felt twice as good when I ran down the homestretch and crossed the finish line at my driveway.  When all was said and done, I’d ran TWICE as far as my normal routine.  How is that possible?

This is what happened.   When my body began to tell me I couldn’t, something greater began to tell me I could!  Up until that turning point, I’d always listened to my body, but amazing transformations take place when we stop listening to ourselves, and start talking!

I’d like to report that I do respond that way everytime a similar scenario plays out, but sadly, I don’t.  How about you?

What’s the impossible thing you’re facing right now?  What self-limiting beliefs are holding you back?

Is it a lack of confidence?  Finances? Family?  An employer?  What is it?  Maybe it’s time to stop listening and start talking to yourself.  It’s a silly illustration, but one you’ll remember- are you the little engine that can or the little engine that can’t?

The apostle Paul said it this way,”…work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you…” —Philippians 2:12-13.  It’s not our wills that give us a problem, it’s something smaller than that.  How do I know? Because there is something far greater, working in us, namely God!  As Christians, we want to do God’s will.  We have the power in us, Paul says, we just have to work it out.  God is already doing a perfect job working in you.  Do your part, by using dynamite….that dynamite is obedience to his will.

Lets face it, our bodies lie to us!  They have a mind of their own.  They are like the animal who doesn’t want to work.  They lie and connive.  They cheat and rob us of all that God has for us.  They prefer the path of least resistance.  The only way to master them is to stop listening to them and start talking to them.

This isn’t a ‘no pain, no gain’ post.  Instead it’s an invitation to tune into your greater self and tune out everything that’s telling you it can’t be done, whatever ‘it’ is for you right now.  Chances are there is opposition because what you’re trying to do needs to be done and you’re the only one who can do it!

Just think, you were born at just the right time to be in the position to face the particular challenge you’re facing right now.  So lean into it with faith and stop listening to the opposition.  When you do, you may be surprised to find you’re capable of accomplishing twice as much as you think you can.





A Powerful Combination that Will Boost Your Impact


Nearly twenty eight years ago, this summer, I was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident.  Here’s the thought that occurred to me at the time and here’s what I’ve learned since.

I was getting onto the Northway at Exit 9 in Clifton Park, heading south.  Being seventeen years old, I was traveling along at a pretty good clip.  Getting ready to merge with traffic, I looked over my left shoulder and got ready to duck in behind a dually pick-up.  The problem was I didn’t see it was towing a pop-up camper. OUCH!  Yep, I hit the road doing around 70 m.p.h….wearing shorts, sneakers, and a helmet.  BTW, I only chose the picture to the left because I loved it.  It actually has nothing to do with the post as far as I know.  🙂

When my world finally stopped spinning and sliding, I had some major road rash in the form of third degree burns.  But up until that point, I’ll always remember the thought I had as my whole life up until that point flashed before my eyes!  What I remember clearly thinking is this….I wish I’d told more people how much I loved them.

I write this today, celebrating my 45th Birthday.  Although all this time has passed, it’s something I’m still working on.  Since then, I’ve learned there is something even more important than telling people you love them.  You need to tell and show them.

You learned about the concept of Show and Tell in Kindergarten.  Whoever thought of this idea was a genius!  For the uninitiated, education actually took place before Common Core.  You brought an object to school and stood before the class.  Then, you showed the object to your class mates and talked about it.  It was a wonderful concept.  However, as we all got older, somewhere along the way we started depending on our powers of explanation and stopped demonstrating.

How about you?  Life is short, and the last thing people will remember you for is the house you lived in or your salary?  What they’ll remember most about you is how much you loved them.  So, are the people you truly care for hearing you love them or are they also seeing it?  Are you SHOWING and TELLING?  Someone once said, “Even a blind man knows when the sun is shining!”

The thing about love is it doesn’t always feel good.  It’s not always fun doing the dishes at 10:00 at night after you’ve worked all day.  There are things you’d rather be doing.  That being said, love is not always convenient.  But unless you go through the pains of showing people how much you love them, you’re words will only take you so far.  People eventually get very frustrated and discouraged when there is a proclamation of love and no demonstration.  SHOW and TELL.

When it comes to the gospel, there are some people today who believe we should show and not tell.  Others are very good at not showing, but telling.  Miracles occur when we SHOW and TELL.

Love will cost you more than breath, it will cost you time, energy, money, strength and more.  Why?  Because love is more than words, it’s a demonstration.  In the words of a wise mentor, “People can’t see our hearts.”  God, for example, didn’t just say “I love you!”, he showed his love.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but everlasting life.”  God displayed his love on the cross for all the world to see, and his love has been transforming people for centuries.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I’ve been given a second chance to show the world God’s love.  Up until that point, all I knew about love was that it gave you the warm fuzzies.  Several years later I came to know love on a much deeper level when he came into my life in the person of Jesus Christ.

My challenge today is to go out and show someone how much you care.  You can do it however you choose, in the form of a phone call or  a text, you may even have the opportunity to sit down with them.  But whatever you do, SHOW and TELL.