Saturday, September 26, 2015

Hooray for Hollywood

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

 -- 1 Chronicles 19:13
Did you watch the Emmy Awards on TV last Sunday night...or any of the other self-promoting awards shows that Hollywood presents throughout the year? The entertainment industry is one of the last places where anyone--especially Christ-followers--should seek guidance about godly behavior. After all, Hollywood is infamous for its moral relativism and feels-good-do-it lifestyle. Celebrity relationships are often shallow and short-lived, and they've long embraced political correctness to redefine marriage and the family. What's more, many in Hollywood mock Christ-followers and the Bible as being intellectually inferior, bigoted and behind the times. In Tinseltown, there's not much room at the inn for God and his people.

But maybe Hollywood can teach us something Awardafter all. If you've ever watched the Academy Awards or the Grammys, the winning actors and musicians often go to great lengths in their acceptance speeches to thank others for their success. They'll cite their producers, agents and writers--even their family members--for helping to make it all possible. Rarely if ever does an entertainer take all the credit.

This is not to suggest that most Christ-followers hog the acclaim for their own blessings and achievements. But what's true is that even faithful, long-time Christians can fall into the trap of selfishness. For example, prayer--what should be an intimate conversation with God--can become a laundry list of personal wants and must-haves. The Father becomes little more than a cosmic genie. And we think our wishes should be his command. It's all about I, me and mine without giving thanks to the One who deserves all of our praise.

Make no mistake: God does indeed want us to tell Him about our legitimate needs and desires. We read in Luke's Gospel that the disciples once asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, just as John the Baptist had taught his disciples. Christ responded through what we call the Lord's Prayer that we should always ask God to provide us with our daily sustenance and protect us from temptation and the Evil One (the devil).

Elsewhere the Bible teaches us to blend our prayers with thanksgiving, regardless of our circumstances. The Apostle Paul lived out this principle throughout his ministry. In fact, he spent time in prison chained to his guards while under the constant threat of death. But he always prayed thankfully. And instead of feeling sorry for himself, he used his circumstances to change the lives of fellow prisoners and jailers alike--and all while writing much of what we today know as the New Testament.

So let's be fair and give credit where credit is due. The Hollywood elite are quick to share the credit with those who deserve it. But rather than thanking the producers, writers and agents during our next acceptance speech, let's instead remember the simple admonition found in Psalm 106:

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Key to Success

In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him.

 -- 1 Samuel 18:14
Climbing the career ladder, beating tight deadlines and closing the deal are all marks of success in Western society. Millions of Americans actually skip or cut short their well-earned vacations because they're afraid to fall behind at work. They think they just can't find the time in their busy calendars.

But is that really what success is all about? KeyJesus had only three years to complete his mission of saving the world from the penalty of sin. He cured disease, raised the dead and even calmed raging storms with just a word. With such a tight schedule, it seems like Jesus would have little or no time to socialize. But the Bible tells us that he made a special effort to enjoy quality time with those who mattered most to him. And more than 2,000 years later, it's safe to say that his ministry was a successful one.

Luke's Gospel records an episode when Jesus visited the home of his friends Martha and Mary. While Martha busily prepared the food and straightened the house for the gathering, her sister Mary decided to take time out and listen to Jesus' message. Martha was very upset about Mary's attitude and complained to Jesus about the apparent injustice. But instead of scolding Mary, Jesus commended her for choosing the most important thing: quality time with him.

What is true success for Christ-followers like you and me? We're called to be Jesus' hands and feet on earth while we wait for his return. Until then, God wants us to help prepare his Kingdom by making the most of our talents, gifts...and time. And it's by adopting a mindset and lifestyle of service that we'll become more like Christ. In short, we're always to follow the Leader:

"In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served," Jesus explains. "He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people." 

To the world, success comes when we land that high-paying job, buy that big house and drive that expensive sports car. But our Creator sees things quite differently. Indeed, the real key of success is when we follow Jesus' example of service by using our gifts, talents and abilities to bless others. As Christ-followers, let's turn our faith into action by accepting Jesus' invitation to help brighten a dark world that's so much in need of light, truth and love.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What Could Have Been

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

 -- Proverbs 12:15
Several years ago, a group of centenarians responded to a survey that asked them what they would do differently if they could somehow re-live their past 100 years. Although their answers differed somewhat, a common theme was evident: They would take more chances in life.

That's not only great advice for individuals like you and me, it also makes sense in the business world. Silicon Valley high tech companies, for example, are infamous for going from boom to bust because they can fail to recognize and exploit opportunities. What Could Have Been might well be their motto. has long been one of the Responsibilitybest-known destinations on the Web. And back in 2006, it offered to pay $1 billion for an upstart social media website called Facebook. The deal was a remarkable opportunity--but one with considerable risk. After all, established competitor My Space had more than 100 million members at the time and had sold a year earlier for only $500 million. The issue grew even more complicated when Yahoo ran into financial difficulty and its stock value tumbled nearly 20 percent. Yahoo reacted by cutting its offer to $800 million, which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ultimately rejected. The rest, as they say, is history. Today in 2015--depending on whose figures you believe--Facebook has nearly 1.5 billion monthly active users. MySpace has shrunk to about 51 million users. And Yahoo has struggled with finance and leadership issues ever since.

Yahoo's failure to take a chance and pay top dollar for up-and-coming Facebook was literally history changing. Their executives and advisers had the data and could see the ingenious website's potential. But with their own company's finances in crisis, they decided to play it safe and essentially do nothing. And it cost them dearly.

Likewise, we all can reach a personal crisis point--such as with a toxic relationship--that demands immediate action. And with these crises comes the time when family members, neighbors and employers recognize the warning signs, which always find their way to the surface. It becomes a loud and unpleasant wake-up call--and a proclamation that the time for denials is finally over. But it's also a chance for a fresh start: one based on the abundant life God means for us. The issue then becomes whether or not we're willing to seize the opportunity and turn away from what's devastating us and ruining our future.

"Come now, and let's settle this," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow. If they are red as crimson, they will become like wool."

It's not easy. In fact, it takes considerable strength to accept responsibility for our actions without trying to justify them away. Unfortunately, we tend to let our pride stop us from doing the right thing. But it doesn't have to be that way. If you're facing a crisis, make the most of it. It might be your once-in-a-lifetime chance to turn your life around. And that's one opportunity you can't afford to miss.