★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Settle For First Place ★

As the winter doldrums are upon us, and frigid weather wreaks havoc across our nation, I think to myself, how can anyone work outside in such cold weather.  When the thermometer reads below freezing and it has been nothing but gloomy for weeks, it’s hard for me to get motivated to leave the house to go to my heated office.  As the stream of consciousness flows, I start to think about how incredible the athletes are who compete in the Winter Olympics.  I must confess, I don’t watch the Winter games as much as the Summer ones.  My personal favorite, (along with the rest of the world,) is American swimmer, Michael Phelps who holds the all-time record for Gold medals, and is the most decorated Olympian of all time!  My reason though is because I was a swimmer back in the day, and marvel at his superhuman skills!  But I digress…back to the Winter games…In looking for a “winner’s box” photo, I stumbled across this photo from February 12, 2014 of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia which really caught my eye.

The article that it was associated with was titled the “Best of Sochi: Day 5 at the Olympics,” (having not seen it, I will take their word,) but what got my attention was not the celebratory leap from Gold medalist Eric Frenzel of Germany, but rather the expressions and body language of silver medalist Akito Watabe of Japan (L) and bronze medalist Magnus Krog of Norway (R).  It is clear that Akito and Magnus were not as thrilled with their accomplishments as Eric was!  As each of these athletes stepped onto the winner’s box and received their medal, you know, a sea of emotions and thoughts were flooding their minds from “I can’t believe I placed” to…”How did I only come in second (…or third place).”  It is so easy for us to go from celebration to condemnation and that’s the pitfall of comparison!  One of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt is,

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”  

STOP!  Go back and read and ponder on that incredible truth!  “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  When we compare ourselves to others, we open ourselves to disappointment.  Have you ever felt like Akito Watabe that you are “Mr. 2nd Place?”  Are you tired of never making gold?  Though he is an incredible athlete, and has competed in two Winter Olympics, Akito has never brought home the gold!!  Are you always ending up second in line, playing second fiddle, or being runner-up?  Regardless of what you label it, second place can be very frustrating for sure, especially when you have put in the work!  For me, I have always finished 5th or 6th place…(out of 8), when I competed on the High School Varsity Swim Team; a very different league from “Mr. 1st Place” Michael Phelps..  Now before you start feeling bad for me, I am way over the agony of the defeat. Hahaha!  I learned long ago that nothing good ever comes comparing my accomplishments with others.

Do you know that there was one guy in the Bible who truly was “Mr. 2nd Place?”  This guy had a huge following, with many disciples and more and more converts coming to be baptized every day…but when the #1 guy showed up on the scene, people flocked to Him instead…that of course was John the Baptist, who very well could have been the originator of the “I Am Second” campaign…Just look at his response to the critics when the people left to go to follow Jesus…he said:
 65 - Daily Dependence - I Am Second - John 3-30
“He [Jesus] must become greater and greater,
and I must become less and less.”  John 3:30 (NLT)

See John the Baptist understood what his purpose was, that he was not the star…Jesus was!  Galatians 6:4-5 (MSG) says,

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.  Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

I love how the Message Translation puts it, “make a careful exploration of who you are,” once you know who you are, then what other people do or say will not affect how you think about yourself.  But it is very easy to get sidetracked looking outward versus inward, as a result of Social Media.
65 - Daily Dependence - Social Media Summary
Though it has revolutionized our lives, allowing us to share our interests, lives, and make new connections, whether you Pin It, Tweet it, Facebook it, Instagram it, Google+ it, or Link In with people.  But with every great thing, there is always a flip-side.  Steven Furtick has a new book called “Crash the Chatterbox” which is all about hearing the voice of God over all the other voices in our mind that try to tear you down causing us to be discontent and insecure with ourselves.  He said,

"One of the main reasons we struggle with insecurity: we're comparing our behind-the-scenes with everybody else's highlight reel." Steven Furtick

Wow!  If you struggle with insecurity, this truth should set you free right now!!  Receive that today!

The next part of Galatians 6:4 says that we should make a careful exploration of “the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.”  See just like John the Baptist knew who he was in God, he also set himself to the task at hand to “prepare the way of the Lord” in the desert, see Mark 1:1-8 for the full story.

Oh that we could “sink ourselves into the work that God has set before us.”  Francis Chan made this sobering statement what are we really succeeding at…

65 - Daily Dependence - Francis Chan - Our Greatest Fear

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

Where are you at?  As you compare your lives to others, trying to “Keep Up With the Jones,” I urge you to make that careful exploration!

As Galatians 5 continues, “Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t compare yourself with others.”  You think if you were the forerunner to the Savior of the World, you would have a big head but, John the Baptist’s response that “I must become less and less” should be our modus operandi.  Jon Acuff made this profound statement,

65 - Daily Dependence - John Acuff - Comparison

Again, nothing good comes from comparison!  Finally the last portion of Galatians, “ Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”  I will go back once more to “Mr. 2nd Place” for fulfillment of this directive, in Mark 1:4, 6 (ESV) the gospel writer says this,

“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.”

Now that is creative indeed!  But you don’t need to go to the desert, clothed with camel’s hair, eating locusts and wild honey to be creative for Christ, but what I think Apostle Paul is saying in this passage is that we need o be BOLD FOR CHRIST!  Amen?

I close this Thought with this final point about the Bible’s “Mr. 2nd Place,” recognizing that Jesus Christ is the hero, the main character of the story, numero uno, will change everything. Humility is the key to everything.  In fact, Jesus Christ’s first character trait that he showed us, was humility when he was born in a manger. All through the bible it talks about how God opposes the proud and exalts the humble, and that is what happened for John.  ( I posted this blog recently, ★ Re|Engage – Humility ★ talking all about Humility if you want to read more about this.)  John the Baptist’s attitude of humility lead to the Son of God, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ to say that John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived, (see Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28)…and that was because he knew his place and accepted it!

Can the same be said of you today?

So if you find yourself that you are always coming in second place or runner-up is your lot in life, consider yourself blessed to be in the same company of the greatest man who ever lived who also was second.  Don’t Settle For First Place!

“Comparison kills contentment in our lives.” Steven Furtick

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★ Thought for the Day – Are You Qualified? ★

I can’t tell you how many times that I have felt so inadequate, unqualified and unable to do what I do.  Whether be in my family life as a husband and father or in business or in ministry, doubts and insecurities are always screaming in my mind that I am over my head.  I once heard John Maxwell speak at a Men’s conference and he said something that blew me away…he said that

“I am always one step away from stupid.”

That is a humbling statement, and great wisdom, that no matter how far along in your journey, you are always one bad decision away from blowing it!  We need to daily renew our mind and renew our relationship with our heavenly Father in order to serve God in our vocation, our families and our ministry assignments!  I know myself, I am not worthy to be used by God, but only through His mercy and grace that am I able to do anything.  I love how Jon Acuff put it…

“Next time you feel unqualified to be used by God remember this, He tends to recruit from the pit, not the pedestal.”

Another way to say it is that…

“God doesn’t call the QUALIFIED,
He qualifies the CALLED!”  Unknown

10 - Daily Dependence - Qualify the Called
If you want the answer to whether or not you’re qualified, I will tell you with absolute certainty, you’re not (…and I’m not either!)  That is why we need a daily dependence on God.  Don’t worry about being qualified, all you need is a heart to serve others and a willingness to step out in faith…and God will qualify you!