What’s Your SPQ – Seed-Planting Quotient?

(Quotient Quizes #15)  Life is about planting seeds.  We don’t always have the opportunity to see the seeds flourish into plants.  I was blessed to experience seeing the result of seed-planting recently.  (see photo below)

JE planting seeds in shorts

I was at the Valiant Cross Academy which is housed in the old historic Dexter Avenue United Methodist Church in downtown Montgomery.  About five years ago two brothers, Anthony and Frederick Brock, came to meet with me and share their vision for a school that would meet a special need in Montgomery to give African American boys a better chance in life.  We prayed together.  I encouraged them.  God opened doors for them to start Valiant Cross Academy.  It is one of the most positive and effective educational ministries in Montgomery.  Here’s their website – http://www.valiantcross.org/about. 

I was speaking at their daily chapel service recently, and the two brothers shared with me a seed I had planted.  I had been invited to speak at the state-wide African Methodist Episcopal pastors and lay leaders meeting about 8 years ago.  One of the brothers attended that session with his father, and he took a lot of notes.  I was not aware of that!

In the course of the conference, I was asked about a servant leadership principle concerning my parking space at Frazer.  I simply shared that at Frazer, parking near the church entrances was always at a premium.  I suggested the staff not park near the church building on Sundays.  I started to park across the Atlanta Highway in the Hobby Lobby parking lot.  Our staff followed, and other people followed suit.  I didn’t need a private parking space.  As a leader I should walk as far as anybody else on Sunday morning, including rainy and cold and hot Sundays.

Anthony Brock heard that.  He was the principal of the St. Jude High School in Montgomery at the time, and he decided to put it into practice.  There was a private parking spot for him as the school principal.  He went back and pulled up the sign and gave that “Principal’s parking space” to a teacher.  He thanked me for that lesson. 

Frederick then told me about Willie Spears, the new head football coach at Carver High School in Montgomery.  He was a friend of the Brock brothers and was very excited about the leadership opportunity to coach the football program, but also teach students about life.  Frederick shared with him his experience about the parking place.

Coach Willie Spears took him seriously and went back to Carver High School where he had been given a private parking space.  He decided to give up his private parking space as head football coach, and selected a person who served on the janitorial staff for some 20 years and gave that spot to him!  He said he wanted to demonstrate servant leadership.

Following that chapel service, Frederick Brock began to tell me about some of the seeds I had planted that had helped make a difference in his life.  He remembered when I went every week to speak to the Jeff Davis football team when he played.  Every month I still cross paths with some student who played on one of those football teams, and he makes some positive comments about our time together.  To be honest, I had no idea that I was planting seeds.  I wish I had taken time to plant more seeds!

What kind of seeds are we planting?   Jesus tells in Mark 4 about a man who scattered seeds.  Some seed fell on hard ground and perished.  Some seed fell on soft ground but developed no roots and soon died.  Some seed fell on good ground and produced fruit.  It is our responsibility to plant the seeds faithfully.  We must plant the seeds.  God has a way of taking the smallest seeds and turning them into the biggest plants.  Robert Lewis Stevenson said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” 

It’s planting time!  What’s your SPQ – Seed-Planting Quotient?

What is your AQ – Accomplishment Quotient?

(Quotient Quizes #14)  March Madness had one of its most successful seasons this year.  So many of the games were extremely close, there were so many upsets, and the television ratings were higher than in many years.

One appalling thing to me was the inability of so many players to shoot foul shots effectively.  The National Champions North Carolina Tar Heels were extremely fortunate to win the semi-final game against Oregon.  They won by one point.  They missed too many foul shots during the game.  In the last few seconds, they missed four consecutive foul shots, which could have cost them the game.

The popular term for foul shots is “free throws.”  I remember my daddy told me when I started playing basketball that a free throw is free.  He told me I ought never to miss one.  If it’s free – take it and make it!

In March 2017 the world’s best free throw shooter died at age 95.  Tom Amberry was born in North Dakota.  He was “too lanky for football, so he took up basketball.”  After serving four years in the Navy during WWII, the 6-foot 7-inch man became a podiatrist and moved to California.  He didn’t touch a basketball for 40 years.

When he retired from podiatry, he was very bored and realized he needed a hobby.  He went back to the gym every morning and started practicing free-throws.  He set a goal to “be the best.”  Tom made 500 consecutive free-throws on 473 separate occasions!  I wouldn’t have minded shagging balls for him because all you had to do was stand under the net and catch it when it came through the hoop!  He wanted to set a new record for making consecutive free-throws.  He had ten people come witness his attempt.  He made 2,750 free throws in a row!  He only stopped because the gym’s janitor insisted it was time to close up.  He said, “I could have made a bunch more.  I was in a zone, as the kids say!”

What Tom Amberry did in his retirement is a good example for every kid playing basketball.  It also has a lot of life lessons for all of us.  Here are a few:

1.      ADAPTATION – Tom had become a successful podiatrist, but he became bored in retirement and was able to adapt.  He looked for something that he could do differently.  I don’t think podiatry and free shooting have a lot in common, but he was able to adapt.  Can you adapt?

2.      ATTITUDE – He wanted to be the best.  Nobody had ever been that proficient in shooting free throws – his attitude was that it ought to be him!  What if each of us today decided to ask the question about how we will spend our time and energy – why not be the best.  Our attitude is the first step toward success.

3.      ACTION – Tom didn’t just set a high goal and dream about it, but he also decided to act upon it.  He went to the gym every morning to practice free-throw shooting.  He wouldn’t leave the gym until he had made 500 shots from the free-throw line.  He put in the hours.  He said his secret was “focus and lots of practice!”   Tom adopted a six-second routine for shooting every free throw.  He made sure his feet were parallel, his shoulders square, and shooting elbow tucked close to his body.  He would bounce the ball three times and then shoot.  He had a plan, and he executed that plan. 

4.      ACCOMPLISHMENT – Tom Amberry did something that nobody has ever done – he made 2,750 free shots in a row!  That’s incredible!  I think Tom teaches us “free” lessons about shooting “free throws” that can “free” us up to produce a lot in life!

Tom Amberry said, “A free throw is a gift.  You should take advantage of it.”  What gift has God given you?  How can you use it?  Are you willing to commit to “be the best you can be?”  Read I Cor. 10:31.

What’s your AQ – Accomplishment Quotient?

What is Your RQ – Resurrection Quotient?

(Quotient Quizes #13)   A few years ago, a man received a letter from his state’s Department of Social Services.  It read, “Your food stamps will be stopped effective immediately because we received notice that you passed away.  May God bless you.  You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.”

On the surface it seems an absurd suggestion that a dead person might want to reapply.  Everybody knows that when people die, that’s the end of the story.  How can a deceased person change his circumstances?

That is truly what Easter is all about!  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can have life after we die.  Hundreds of witnesses saw Jesus die on the cross on Good Friday.  Hundreds of witnesses saw His dead body being carried to a tomb and a stone rolled over the entrance of the tomb.  That’s the end of the story!  He’s dead.  That’s it.  But then on that first Easter Sunday, people encountered Jesus ALIVE.  Read Luke 24:13-35 about the two men walking to Emmaus.  They became excited and shared the message.  Many people realized that death was not the end.

Here’s the good part – Jesus said, “Because I live, you also shall live” (John 14:19).  Did you hear that?  Easter affects every one of us.  We too can live after death!

Rev. Wally Rendel was pastor of Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky.  He writes, “Our daughter, Jill Marie Rendel, was a senior at the Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary, preparing for a children’s ministry position in a local church.  In 1993 she was traveling with the girls basketball team heading for Battle Creek, Michigan and a tournament.  On icy roads the driver lost control.  The school van spun out of control and overturned several times.  Jill was thrown out and crushed to death.  Only four days earlier, on the college campus, his popular daughter had been crowned Homecoming Queen.  As word spread of her death someone remarked – “The queen has gone to meet the King.”

I feel the tenderness of this pastor writing about the death of his beloved daughter who had just been crowned homecoming queen.  It’s also a remarkable statement of his faith and hope to know that “the queen has gone to meet the King.” 

That’s the foundation of the Christian faith.  Because of Jesus, death has been defeated.  The grave is not our final destination or residence!  Nothing else in life can guarantee that!

A little boy’s father was driving down a country road on a beautiful Spring afternoon.  A bee flew into the car window.  The little boy was allergic to bee stings, and the sight of the bee terrified him.  The father quickly reached out and grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand and released it.  The boy grew frantic as it once again buzzed by him.  The father reached out his hand, but this time he pointed to his palm.  There, stuck in his skin was the bee’s stinger.  The father said, “Do you see this?  You don’t need to be afraid anymore.  I’ve taken the sting for you.”

We don’t need to be afraid anymore of death.  God has taken the “sting” out of it.  That is why the apostle Paul could write of death, “O Death, where is your victory?  O Death, where is your sting?  For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.   But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:55-57).

Jesus is ALIVE, and because He is, we too can live.  Sing (or shout) the chorus of “Because He Lives!”

“Because He lives / I can face tomorrow / Because He lives / All fear is gone / Because I know / He holds the future / And life is worth the living /Just because He lives.”  © 1971 William J. Gaither

What’s your RQ – Resurrection Quotient?

What’s Your HQ – Happiness Quotient?

(Quotient Quizes #12)  The United Nations has issued its annual report on the happiest people on earth.  The Number One ranking goes to Norway, the Scandinavian nation of five million, known for its fjords, reindeer and midnight sun.  Norway moved up from fourth place last year.  The metrics for measuring happiness favored Norway because of its wealth per person, annual income of $100,000, unemployment rate of about 4%, and low income inequality.  The U.S. was ranked 14th among 155 nations. 

I think one of the faults of the ranking is that it places too high a premium on materialist advancements, per capita income, etc.  In contrast, a Princeton University study showed that happiness is positively impacted up to the income level of $75,000 a year.  It does not increase significantly above that income level.

Dan Price, CEO and Founder of a credit card processing company called Gravity Payments, took this Princeton study seriously.   He reduced his salary to $70,000 so everyone in his company would make at least $70,000 by the end of this year.  That is an admirable move, but does it guarantee happiness for him or all his employees?

The Bible has very different criteria for happiness.  Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Chapter 5 with His teaching on happiness.  The Good News Modern Man translation begins each verse with “Happy are you when . . .” His criteria is that you are happy when you realize your need for God (v. 3);  when you are gentle and lonely (v. 5); when you are hungry and thirsty for justice (v. 6); when you are merciful to others (v. 7); when your heart is pure (v. 8); when you work for peace among all men (v. 9); when you are persecuted because you are doing what God requires (v. 10); when you are insulted because you are Jesus’ followers (v. 11).

That’s quite a different criteria for happiness!  Verse 12 says that, “You can be happy about it, you can be very glad because a great reward awaits you in heaven.”

The Bible indicates happiness is not based on climate, or income, or achievements as measured by secular culture.  Happiness is a choice – a choice to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.  Matthew 5 is clear that we are happy when we make the right choices!  Proverbs 16:20 says, “Whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he!” 

I was preaching in Mississippi last summer at the Shiloh Camp Meeting.  Services were held twice a day in an open air tabernacle.  Because it was hot, I elected not to wear socks.  I think I was the first preacher there who ever preached without socks.  One night the host preacher, Rev. David Slaughter, wanted to have some fun with me, so during the service, he presented me with a pair of socks.  He said, “These are Happy Socks!  They are advertised that when you wear these socks you will be 20% happier.”   We all laughed because we knew that was absurd.  I wore them the next day – and it was absurd! 

On my recent birthday, one of the things Lynn gave me was a couple of pairs of socks.  She bought them because of the design on the socks and didn’t realize they were Happy Socks.  That label, “Happy Socks,” is written right on each sock.  I’ve worn both pair of them – same result.  Even if I wore all three pair of happy socks at once, they wouldn’t make me 20% happier!  However, I do love the socks!!!

Happiness is not coming from what we wear or what kind of money we make or something we achieve in life.  Happiness is never found in our circumstances, but it is found in who we are and Whose we are.

Happiness is right at your fingertips.  It’s God’s plan for you to receive it.  It’s your choice!

What is your HQ – Happiness Quotient?

What’s Your AQ – Attitude Quotient?

(Quotient Quizes #11)   When an event happens in life, we tend to label it as either good or bad.  I am growing to believe more and more that the event is not good or bad – it’s our attitude toward that event that is good or bad.

Two men experienced similar situations in their lives.  Both of them lost their jobs.  The immediate reaction was that it was a very bad thing.  For one person it was very bad.  He became depressed and disillusioned.  He lost confidence and became a very negative person.  He found ways to blame other people for his ineffectiveness.  He found excuses.  Losing his job was a miserable experience for him.

The other man also lost his job.  His attitude was to ask the question – “God, is there something different that you want me to be doing with my life?”  Instead of blaming and making excuses and becoming negative, he began looking for ways that God might be leading him in a different direction.  He began to network with people.  He began to assess God’s calling on his life.  God opened a door for him in a different field which has made all the difference in the world.  He sees his new vocation as a platform to live out his faith.  He is now the happiest person!

Two men with the same experience – one has a negative response and one has a positive response.  It is not the event itself, but the attitude that we have toward that event.

Two other men had a very similar situation.  Both men were called into their employer’s office.  Both were complimented on how much they had each contributed to the company.  Both were given big promotions and big salary raises.  The immediate reaction was that this was a very good thing.

For one man, the promotion and pay raise created in him an arrogant attitude.  He began to feel like he alone was responsible for all his accomplishments.  He soon forgot the help other people gave him.  He became a boss instead of a leader.  People resented him.  The big raise in salary created the illusion that he could buy anything he wanted.  His standard of living escalated, and it became higher than his income.  That big promotion led to disrespect from his peers, financial troubles, and challenges within his own family.

The other man received a similar promotion and raise.  His attitude was entirely different.  He thanked God for giving him this opportunity and blessing.  He saw this promotion as an opportunity to help the people he supervised become better employees.  He learned how to lead people rather than boss them.  The extra money he made did not lead him to a lavish lifestyle.  His grateful attitude prompted him to give more than ever to Godly causes.  That promotion helped him to become a better husband, father, friend and leader.

Similar things happened – yet there were two different attitudes and results.

Human beings have a huge capacity to mess up the best or worst things that happen.  God has the capacity to make the best out of the worst and best situations.  It all depends on whether we ask God to give us the proper attitude to handle all situations.  Paul writes, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).

I believe how far we go in life is greatly determined by our attitude.  Aptitude is not nearly as important as attitude in determining our altitude for living. (Tweet this)

Here’s good news!  While our IQ – intelligence quotient – is difficult to improve, our AQ – attitude quotient – can always be greatly adjusted and improved.  God is in the attitude adjustment business.

What is your AQ – Attitude Quotient?

What’s Your LQ – Luck Quotient?

(Quotient Quizes #10)  Often in life we falsely ascribe the term luck to situations and circumstances that really are the result of preparedness, hard work, and God’s intervention.

Some people collect lucky charms.  Neither life nor luck is enhanced by rabbits’ feet, horseshoes, or four-leaf clovers.  The real truth is that luck is what happens when hard work and opportunity cross paths.  As Louis Pasteur put it, “Luck favors a prepared mind.”

A few years ago 155 people on US Airways Flight 1549 had a rare experience when the plane made an emergency landing on the Hudson River after striking a flock of geese upon takeoff.  The plane didn’t break apart and there were no fatalities.  Many people referred to it as “luck.”

It wasn’t luck!  That plane’s pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, had worked hard and was prepared for such a moment.  He had a record as an excellent pilot instructor in how to react in the situation in which he found himself.  He had written manuals and had given lectures and offered training for other pilots.  On the Hudson River on that particular day, “Sully” had an opportunity to put all of that into practice.

When I am on an airplane, I don’t want a “lucky” pilot, but one who is ready for all situations.  I don’t want the plane built by “lucky” people, but experts who build with excellence.  I remember reading how the passengers on Flight 1549 said most of them were praying.  God answered their prayers.  That wasn’t luck – it was the result of the intervention of God coupled with the exceptional expertise and composure of a prepared pilot.

One of the greatest tragedies of American history occurred on April 14, 1912.  The “unsinkable” Titanic was on its maiden voyage with 2,224 people on board.  The Titanic hit a huge ice berg and began to sink.  Due to insufficient crew training, it took over an hour to deploy the 18 lifeboats.  Many of the lifeboats carried about half of their maximum capacity.  1512 people did not make it to a lifeboat and died.

Many have designated the sinking of the Titanic as “bad luck.”  It was an extremely unfortunate tragedy, but bad luck did not play a part – poor preparation did.  There were only enough lifeboats to accommodate about one-third of the ship’s capacity.  It seems plausible that the ship ought to have had enough lifeboats to accommodate everyone, but somebody didn’t prepare.

There were other things that indicated a lack of preparation for such an emergency.  A telegraph message was sent concerning the sighting of an iceberg in the ship’s path, but somehow it did not make it to the captain of the Titanic.  Also, there was poor communication with the nearest ship, the S.S. California.  “Bad luck” is more the case of poor planning, poor preparation, and poor execution.

If I want to improve my luck, I need to improve my preparation for life’s experiences and rely more on the sovereignty of God.  As one successful lawyer classified as being “lucky” wrote, “I am inclined to recall that luck usually visits me at 2:00 am on a cold morning when red-eyed and bone-weary I am pouring over law books preparing a case.  It never visits me when I am at the movies, when I am on the golf course, or when I am reclining in an easy chair.”

The antithesis of luck is faith – knowing that we have a responsibility, but God has the final say.  Proverbs 16:33 says, “We toss the coin, but it’s the Lord who controls its decisions.”

Every day, pray this prayer – “God, help me make this a victorious day based on my preparation, hard work, and complete trust in You!”

What’s your LQ  –  Luck Quotient?

What’s Your FQ – Faith Quotient?

(Quotient Quizes #9)  Have you ever heard someone described as being “lucky?”  Have you ever heard a person brag about being “lucky?”  Have you ever heard of successful events in life described as just being a result of “luck?” 

I don’t believe in luck.  I think we have a choice of living by luck or living by faith.  Living by luck is determined by the immediate situation.  Living by faith looks at life not only in the present but also in the future.

The concept of luck is connected to the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.  In the 5th Century, Patrick was a missionary in Ireland.  As a teen, he had been kidnapped by Irish raiders, but while he was working as a shepherd, he was able to escape.  During that time, he found faith in the God who lives.  He returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary.   He had a tremendous witness in Ireland until he died on March 17 and was buried at Downpatrick.  He became the foremost saint from Ireland.

St. Patrick would use a three-leaf shamrock to teach about the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans.  Each leaf represented a member of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Since a four-leaf shamrock is rare, people began to describe it as bringing good luck. 

St. Patrick’s Day is more recognized today than it has been in the past.  There are huge parades in different countries.  Since St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, the Irish people would lift Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol for that day.  That is the reason Irish Whisky and beer were consumed heavily in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  Cider could be substituted for Methodists and Baptists!  The idea of luck came about in this celebration.  A shamrock was placed in the bottom of the drinking glass.  When you finished the drink as a toast to St. Patrick, the shamrock could be tossed over your shoulder, which was thought to bring you good luck.

You can throw a bunch of shamrocks over your shoulder, but I do not believe it will ever bring you good luck!  Arnold Palmer once said, “The the more I practice, the luckier I get!”  Accomplishments are much more determined by preparation, practice and execution than luck.  (Tweet this)

Faith – not luck – is the way to live.  Faith is understanding that God created us and loved us.  Faith is understanding that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  Faith is “living one day at a time” (Matt. 6:34 LTB).  Trusting in God every step of the way is faith. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105).

Tradition says that if you don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, you might get pinched.  Wear green and avoid the pinch.  But I have some better advice to avoid the pinch in life – move forward, inch by inch, trusting more in God with every step.

Wear something green on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate the life of a great Christian missionary, evangelist and saint.  Don’t spend your time looking for a four-leaf clover or throwing a shamrock over your shoulder – spend your time thanking God for His goodness and all the good things that He brings about in your life.

I recently had a series of events occur in my life that have been extremely important.  Some people would say I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time.  I know better!  I know that God had me in the right place, and He had designated the time, and He is responsible for the outcome!

I Thess. 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always,  pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”   That’s living by faith – not luck!

What is your FQ – Faith Quotient?

What’s Your WQ – Winner Quotient?

Quotient Quizes #8   People can make mistakes when announcing winners in relation to other people.   It recently happened on a global stage at the Oscars.  Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were the presenters for Best Picture.  There was a huge mix up when Beatty was given the wrong envelope.  Beatty and Dunaway misreported that “La La Land” had won the Oscar for Best Picture. 

Immediately the judges started scrambling.  “La La Land” producers were already making their acceptance speeches when they were interrupted by accountants from Price Waterhouse Coopers.  They quickly took the microphone and said a mistake had been made, and that “Moonlight” was the Best Picture winner.  A colossal mistake!  Humans make mistakes naming winners.

A similar thing happened on a global stage when comedian Steve Harvey was the MC for the Miss Universe Pageant last year.  When it came time to announce the winner, he was given the wrong card.  He crowned Miss Colombia as the winner, when it should have been Miss Philippines.

I love the reaction of Terrell Owens, the great professional football player from Alex City, Alabama when he was not selected for the National Football Hall of Fame this year.  He said he is going to look into the issue to see if maybe the winners going into the Hall of Fame were mistakenly announced and his name should have been there!

God doesn’t make mistakes!  He picks winners in life.  A lot of time people may try to tell us that we are in-competent, little, unimportant, failures, misfits, etc.  God never says that.  He created each of us just as we are.  We are precious in His sight.  We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “His works are wonderful” (Ps. 139:14).

Where do we find our true self-identity?  The world tells us to find our self-esteem and identity in life through trying to accomplish great things or by accumulating wealth.  That is not the truth.  If you need a fancy car or expensive clothes to make a statement about yourself, you don’t have much to say!  (Tweet this)

Sometimes we try to find our identity in comparing ourselves to other people.  God did not make any of us like anybody else.  He created each of us uniquely different.  I like Tim Teebow’s statement – “We never become who God created us to be by trying to be like somebody else.”  Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself  instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” 

Our true identity comes in knowing that God loved us, that He sent His Son into the world to redeem us, and He designed a perfect plan of purpose for each of us.  He announces us as winners!  We find our identity in Him.  Read Jeremiah 29:11-13.

I heard once about a boy who took an eagle’s egg and put it into the nest of a prairie chicken.  The eaglet hatched with the rest of the chicks and grew up with them.  The baby eagle thought he was a prairie chicken and did what the prairie chickens did.  He clucked and cackled with a brief flurry of his feathers to get a few feet off the ground, because that was what the chickens were doing.

Years later, the eagle was growing old.  He saw a magnificent bird soaring in the sky.  He said, “What a beautiful bird.  What is it?”  Someone chuckled, “That’s an eagle, the chief of all birds.  But don’t give it a second thought, you could never be like him.”  The sad thing is the eagle gave up the thought of being what he was created to be and died thinking he was a prairie chicken.

The Oscars and beauty pageants don’t pick the right winners.  God does.  He picks you.  Get out of the chicken pen and start flying!

What is your WQ – Winner Quotient?

What is your FQ – Focus Quotient?

(Quotient Quizes #7)

One of my good friends in ministry was Dr. Bill Hinson.  We knew each other in college, and we were in seminary together at Emory.  He became the pastor of the largest Methodist Church in America at First Methodist in Houston, Texas.  I had the privilege to work with him on a lot of things for renewal in The United Methodist Church.  He retired early to North Alabama; sadly, he suffered a heart attack and died.

Bill was a great preacher.  I’ll never forget his telling about lion tamers who go into the cage with lions.  They carry a four-legged stool.  They also carry whips, poles, and pistols, but the purpose of the stool is fascinating.

The lion tamer always holds the stool by the back and points the four legs toward the face of the wild animal.  The animal tries to focus on all four legs at once.  When he does this, a kind of paralysis comes over him, and the animal becomes weak and disabled because his attention is fragmented and is unable to focus.

Too often we try to focus on too many things, and we become victims of discouragement and disappointment, and ineffective living.  A lack of focus is destructive.

One of my favorite passages is Hebrews 12:1-2.  The backdrop is an athletic event, the race.  The writer describes that the runner always runs with focus and purpose.  He says, “We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus, who is the Alpha and the Omega of our faith.” 

You never see a runner win who is multi-focused while he is running.  You don’t see him waving to people up in the crowd, or “hot-dogging.”  The runner who wins focuses on the finish line and runs straight towards it.  He  doesn’t look at his competitors!  He doesn’t get distracted.  He is focused!

One of the big differences in success and failure is how well we are able to focus.  Someone has said, “The successful man is the average man – focused.”

When a football team goes out of town for the big game, much of the planning centers on how to keep the team focused.  Play off and championship games carry with them many distractions.  The more focused a team can be, the better it will perform.  Last year a German soccer team immediately changed hotels for its training camp.  They found that a beauty contest was taking place at that resort hotel with 400 Russian models.  Smart coach!

There is a convicting Old Testament story about a guard who was looking after an enemy who had been captured.  His responsibility was to focus on keeping the prisoner secure. 

When his leader came to check on him, they discovered the prisoner had escaped.  The leader wondered how that could happen.  Was the guard overpowered by the prisoner, or did some colleagues come and help the man escape?  He asked the guard to explain.  His explanation was, “While I was busy here and there, the prisoner escaped” (1 Kings 20:39-40).  The guard had not stayed focused on his duty!

Stay focused on your purpose.  A huge traffic jam recently occurred in Alabama where a truck driver took his hands off the wheel to pull out a loose tooth.  He crashed his 18-wheeler along Interstate 20.  While he grabbed hold of the troublesome tooth, he lost control, jack-knifed and veered off the road.  He forgot about driving and focused on pulling his tooth.  The highway patrol verified his dilemma when he said, “He had the tooth in his shirt pocket as proof!”  But that did not untangle the traffic jam or fix his truck.

Remember, a lack of focus can paralyze you.  Stay focused!

What is your FQ – Focus Quotient?

What’s your GQ – Growth Quotient?

(Quotient Quizes #6)  Growth is essential in life.  Growth involves knowing how to handle success and failure because success or failure can either negate or fuel growth

We sometimes get into a situation where we think that we can’t go forward.  When this happens, it’s a good idea to stop and see if we are facing in the wrong direction!  Remember, God judges a man not by the point he has reached but by the way he is facing.  God doesn’t judge by distance but by direction.

Growth requires taking a risk in the forward direction.  Someone has said you can approach life in two ways – protect it or pursue it.  When the voice of safety says, “Build a fire in the hearth and stay in where it is warm,” the voice of growth says, “Build a fire in your soul, then go out and pursue your vision with a passion.”  (Tweet this)

C.S. Lewis wrote, “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird – it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.  We are like eggs at present.  And we cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.  We must be hatched or go bad.”  Life really has two options – grow or die.  What is your GQ?

A man went back to his alma mater for his 50th anniversary of his graduation.  He had accomplished many things in his life as a physician.  He served as a surgeon in a large hospital, he was decorated as a military hero in World War II, and he was an accomplished bicyclist, a devoted husband, father and grandfather. When he went to his school, the old graduate was interviewed by a student reporter who asked, “What is the most important thing you learned in college?”  Without hesitation, he replied, “How to go on learning for the rest of my life.”

Life is a process of learning and growing.  Oliver Wendell Holmes was studying Greek at age 94.  When somebody asked him why he was studying Greek at that age, he replied, “My good sir, it’s now or never!”  I heard a good friend often say, “What matters most is not the years in your life – but the life in your years.”  (Tweet this)

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived out this concept.  When he was way up in years, his hair was white as snow.  A friend asked him how he sustained his vigor and zest for life.  This person wanted to know how he could keep on writing so beautifully.

Longfellow pointed to a blossom on an apple tree and said, “That tree is very old, but I never saw prettier blossoms on it than those which it now bears.  That tree grows new wood each year.  Like that apple tree, I try to grow a little new wood each year.”

How much new wood are you growing this year?

The Bible says, “We grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s plan for our lives” (2 Pet. 3:18).  “We are to grow up into Him” (Eph. 4:15).  “You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you” (Col. 3:10).

I believe God tells us like He told Israel – “Clear lots of ground for your tents!  Make your tents large.  Spread out!  Think big!  Use plenty of rope, drive the tent pegs deep.  You’re going to need lots of elbow room . . . Don’t be afraid – you’re not going to be embarrassed.  Don’t hold back – you’re not going to come up short” (Isaiah 54:2-3 MSG).  Don’t get discouraged when you don’t have immediate growth in every situation.  Growth isn’t always consistent, but it must be evident in measurable increments.

What is your GQ – Growth Quotient?