Thursday, March 29, 2012


John the Baptist is one of the people I admire the most in the Scriptures. He was courageous and yet, at the same time, a man of tremendous humility. Those two qualities almost seem opposed to each other in our culture. John began his ministry suddenly with a commanding eloquence that reminded people of an earlier great prophet, such as Isaiah or Elijah. If you were one of those fortunate enough to hear John speak, you had nothing to compare it with. It was unbelievable to hear this man preach. People trekked for days into the desert to hear him deliver his fiery sermons. Although he performed no miracles, his powerful messages brought conviction to the souls of his listeners.
The rumors circulated that John was possibly the Messiah. The people agreed, never had there been a prophet like this man. As anticipation built, they asked him if he was the long awaited Messiah. John’s answer was as direct and forceful as the man himself:
John 1:20 “He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ.’”
Then who are you, John, if you are not the Christ? John’s answer was an echo of Isaiah’s words spoken some 750 years earlier:
John 1:23 "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" 
This is why I like John. What an answer! I don’t know very many people who could have resisted the temptation to accept the accolades that were being hurled at him. Here is strength and humility on display.
Later, another test came for John when Jesus’ ministry surged forward and his ministry diminished. John is informed that Jesus is baptizing so many now—even more than John. They want John’s take on the new development.
John 3:26 “They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan — the one you testified about — well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.’"

Such tests would have caused most people to stumble, but not John.

John 3:27-29:

To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.

What is ironic about John is that he knew his ministry would cause Jesus to become greater and his own ministry would diminish in influence, and yet he gladly accepted his role. His humility allowed him to live selflessly. Not only was John not driven by envy, but he also displayed a magnanimous spirit. John truly learned the meaning of contentment. He made no comparisons and fully accepted his role as a gift from heaven. How much John could teach us all about living.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Boundaries are very important. If the giant Mississippi didn’t have boundaries, we would be flooded. Freeways have clearly marked lanes so that the traffic flow remains inside the correct boundaries. When the Mississippi breaks out of its boundaries, as it does every few years, there is massive flooding. A few weeks ago, a car drove five miles on Interstate 55 traveling against traffic. The driver caused several accidents, and he was killed.
We as people are supposed to have clearly defined boundaries that identify our personality traits, our values, desires, goals and responsibilities. Unfortunately, many people don’t have clear boundaries in their lives. Imagine a person with a hula hoop around his waist, and let’s say the hula hoop represents his boundaries. Imagine a second person with a hula hoop around her waist. Now, see if you can visualize these two people with their hula hoops intersecting each other. That is exactly how many people live their lives. Their boundaries are enmeshed with other people’s boundaries.
You can tell if people have clear boundaries in their lives when they have a good measure of self-confidence and are clearly responsible for their words and actions. They know the limits of their boundaries and respect other people’s boundaries. They have discovered their own talents and are using them in a way that brings self-satisfaction and benefit to others. They feel comfortable with who they are and don’t feel the need to put anyone else down. They are honest and forthright and don’t resort to manipulation to get things done. They know when to say yes and when to say no. When they make a wrong choice, they take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and make things right.
 By the same token, you can tell when people have weak boundaries in their lives. They are very concerned with pleasing other people and are worried about their decisions. They may also be the opposite—so head strong that they seem incapable of caring what others think or feel. They may blame others for their own shortfalls and may refuse to accept blame for what isn’t working in their lives. Either way, if they don’t have their identity clearly defined and know the path God has called them to walk, they will often have weak boundaries.
 Sometimes we learn these weak boundaries from our childhood years, and then we take these patterns into our adult lives. How we treat people is usually how we saw people being treated when we were children. Those examples were recorded in our brains, and they became our default model. In order to correct what is wrong in our lives, we have to first understand it and then ask God to help us. This is what David did in this prayer:
 Psalms 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

To Each Is Given Grace

I once asked a man I was interviewing how he overcame discouragement. He responded that he never had been discouraged. I reworded the question because surely he didn’t understand what I asked, but again he responded with the same answer. Later, I informed him I wasn’t going hire him for the position, and that seemed to discourage him. If we are truthful, we all get discouraged.

Have you noticed that our world knows how to set us up for disappointment? It is as if it is constantly telling us “Buy me!” “Choose me!” “Drive me!” or “Wear Me!” We are promised that if we do, we will be healthier, richer, wiser and, of course, more popular. How many have been disappointed with the product? Anybody who has taken the bait.

There is the temptation to compare ourselves with someone else. “If I just looked like that person,” “If I just had her talent,” or “If I just had his money,” are common lures that snag us. Anytime we envy others, we are despising what God has given us.

John Bunyan, who spent a good part of life in prison for preaching the Gospel, never lost track of what he still had. With eloquence Bunyan referred to the words of the Apostle Paul (Eph. 4:7) “to everyone of us” as being our greatest possession. God has given to us all his grace. No matter how often you have failed or how far off the path you have wandered, God still extends his grace to you. If Jesus prayed from the cross for those who crucified him, what does he say to you? He says look at me and I will show you what you have been given. Maybe you could use a new perspective of your life. Looking at Jesus’ death on the cross will show that he has given to everyone of us his grace and love.

Many years ago when my son Eric was very small, he was standing at my side in a very large hardware store in Argentina. I had taken a number and was waiting my turn, and judging from the line, it would be a good wait. In every direction you looked, there was something to gaze at while we waited; there were tools of all kinds and the latest building materials. My eyes went from one thing to the next as I surveyed the immense store. While I was eying the merchandise, my little son tugged on my hand and inquisitively inquired, “Dad, what does it look like from up there?” Before I picked him up, I decided to bend down on my knees beside him and see the store from his perspective. I have to admit that the view from above was considerably different than his view. Mostly, I saw people’s shoes, legs, knees and the bottom half of a lot of things. It was an incomplete picture. Then I reached down, picked up my son, and sat him on the counter where he had a complete view at my eye level.  He commented, “Things really look different from up here, Daddy.”

My prayer for you today is to allow God to pick you up and let you see your world from his perspective. What is missing won't matter when you see life from God's view.