Tag Archives: mercy

Hustling Errors


In 1992, Jimmy Johnson, then coach of the Dallas Cowboys, cut running back “Swervin’” Curvin Richards after he fumbled in the last game of the regular season.  That in itself wasn’t so surprising.  Coach Johnson had a temper, and he didn’t suffer fumblers lightly.  But what was surprising was that Johnson would cut Richards but defend two other players who made similar mistakes in the same quarter of the same game.

Truth be told, all three mistakes were inconsequential.  Dallas would go on to win the game 27-14 over the Chicago Bears.  They had already secured a bye for the first weekend of the playoffs.  The game was nothing more than a notation in the record books as this particular Dallas team went on to win its third Super Bowl in dominating fashion.

The problem was not that mistakes had been made.  Richards’ fumble did result in a touchdown for the opposing team, but so did Steve Beuerlein’s interception.  Alvin Harper also turned the ball over…and all these happened in the fourth quarter.  So, why didn’t Johnson cut all three players?  Why did Richards alone incur Johnson’s wrath?

According to Johnson, it was because Beuerlein and Harper committed “hustling errors” while Richards simply showed the sloppiness that comes from a poor work ethic.  Beuerlein and Harper were forgiven because they were hustling; they were trying to make something happen.  They were taking risks and trying to get the momentum back for an offensive team that had started to focus their attention on the playoffs before the game had even ended.

Richards, on the other hand, failed to execute one of the fundamentals of his job.  Had he shown more diligence on the practice field, he might have been spared.  But Johnson was irritated with the running back for his lackluster approach to the game.  Johnson used this opportunity to teach his team an important lesson.  There are mistakes, and then there are mistakes.  Mistakes made while taking risks and trying new approaches will be forgiven.  Mistakes made because of poor preparation will not.

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Filed under coaching, failure, forgiveness, grace, justice, leadership, management, mentoring, mistakes

Soft Hands


During a Monday night football game a few years ago, the Dallas Cowboy’s were defending at their own three-yard line.  The quarterback for the opposing team dropped back and fired a bullet…right to one of the Cowboy’s defensive linemen.  To my disgust, the lineman dropped the ball even though it was right between the numbers and even though he got both hands on the ball.

At the time, it seemed unthinkable that he would drop a sure interception, but I stopped yelling at the TV long enough to hear one of the commentators (a former lineman himself) explain why we should give the guy a break.  As he explained it, linemen spend their entire careers pushing against three-hundred-pound gorillas on the other side of the line of scrimmage.  Every muscle in their body is invested in the struggle to push past the opposing lineman to get at the quarterback.  When a ball is thrown their way, they don’t have the “soft hands” required to catch the ball.

By that last comment, he meant that because the linemen were totally focused on the goal of overpowering their opponent, it was supremely difficult for them to switch goals in the middle of battle.  I can relate.  I remember countless times when I was insensitive to my wife when she called me at the office.  Her calls always seemed to come right in the middle of my battles with three-hundred-pound gorilla projects and three-hundred-pound gorilla deadlines.  Bruised from her own battles with the kids, all she wanted was a sympathetic ear.  What she typically got were short, curt responses indicating I had better things to do than to talk with her.

Because I was so focused on the battle, I didn’t have the soft hands necessary to respond to my wife appropriately, and I forgot we were playing for the same team.  Each time I dropped the ball, I regretted it the second I hung up the phone.  Realization of how important and unrecoverable the moment was always made me wish I had not been so single-focused.

If we are going to be effective leaders, we have to learn to develop the soft hands required when our team members come to us for help.  We have to be skilled at transitioning from driving the line, chasing down the goal, sacking the competition… to taking time out, being receptive and possibly moving in a whole new direction.

While success requires us to be totally invested in our work, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that teams are made of people, and we can’t play this game alone.

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Filed under Attitude, Challenges, Change, communication, conflict, determination, emotions, family, Fathering, Goals, habits, Interpersonal, leadership, management, marriage, mentoring, paradigm shift, pressure, priorities, Prioritize, Priority, Relationships, Serving Others

Unforgiveness


The letter that Paul wrote to Philemon is a strange inclusion in the New Testament.  It’s short.  Just one chapter and 25 verses.  It seems to simply be Paul intervening on behalf of a new friend who has had a conflict with his master (Onesimus was Philemon’s slave).

But try reading it as if it were Jesus’ letter to you personally, and it takes on new meaning:

Therefore, although in I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love.  I appeal to you for my son/daughter who became my child as a result of their trust in my death and resurrection. Formerly (s)he was not much use to you, but now (s)he has become useful both to you and to me.

So if you consider me as a partner, welcome him/her as you would welcome me.  If (s)he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me…I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.  I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart as you show your faith in me.  Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

I think Philemon was included in the Bible to remind us of our need to forgive our Christian brothers and sisters.  Jesus is reminding us that we have been forgiven of so much more than we will ever need to forgive someone else.  He admonishes us that we owe Him our very lives and suggests that until we forgive, we are not much benefit to Him.  The parable of the unmerciful servant comes to mind.

Unforgiveness breaks our fellowship with God.  At the end of the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35), the man who wouldn’t forgive is released to the jailers (tormentors) to be tortured until he has paid back everything he owed.  That sounds like hell, but it can’t be, because the unmerciful servant is a picture of a believer, who has been forgiven for all his sins.

The torture that Jesus is talking about in this parable is the torture we go through when we have unforgiveness in our hearts.  We are separated from God and lack His protection and His favor.  We suffer from stewing anger and resentment, jealousy and sometimes hatred.  The good news is that it’s so easy to pay back everything we owe and get out of this prison.  All we have to do is forgive.  That’s what we were given.  That’s what we owe.

Jesus ends his letter to us in Philemon asking us to prepare a room for Him (in our hearts).  He wants to restore the relationship we’ve lost in our unforgiveness.  He’s ready to return His protection and His favor to our lives.  All we have to do is pay what we owe, and it’s no more than we’ve been given.  

Remember when Peter was asked about paying the temple tax?  He didn’t have the money to pay, but when he went to Jesus about it, Jesus sent him fishing.  The first fish Peter caught had a four-drachma coin inside – enough to pay the tax for both of them.  God won’t ask us to give more than we have.  He will supply everything we need.  We just have to be willing to be obedient.  If you are struggling to forgive someone, don’t try to find it in yourself.  Ask God to supply what you need.  You are just moments away from restoration.

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Filed under agape love, blame, christianity, forgiveness, grace, mercy, obedience, Relationships, Suffering, Unforgiveness

Flickering Candle


He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
(Isaiah 42:3 NLT)

Thank goodness!  I spend most of my time flickering and bending in the winds of my circumstances.  I’m a poor witness to the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God.  I put my faith in my money, my knowledge and my own efforts long before I turn to God for help.

My inconstancy is partially due to wrongs done to me at different stages of my life, but most of it is simply fear, selfishness and bad choices on my part.

Still, Jesus won’t crush me or put out my flame.  His patience and His love know no end, and He sees the potential me even though it is a long way off.  He is willing to wait for me to stand up straight against trial and shine brightly in the face of the storms of life.

He can afford to wait because His purposes are sure, and His sovereignty is complete.  I am confident of this, “that He who began a good work in (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

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Filed under agape love, christianity, God's Will, grace, justice, mercy, mistakes, Persistence, sanctification, Spirituality, unconditional love

Ripples


During parent-teacher conferences yesterday, our youngest son’s teacher gave me an analogy that was a huge help to me.  Our son is somewhat, uh, let’s say…self-centric, and I’ve had difficulty explaining to him how his behaviors impact those around him.  I’ve tried pointing them out in the moment, lecturing, role-playing…nothing works.

But armed with the analogy, I took another run at it.

“You see, son, it’s like this.  (As I draw a picture for him…)  This “X” is you here in the center.  And these other “Xs” represent all the people in your life.  Here’s Mom, and here I am.  Here are your brother and sister, and here are some of your friends at school.

“When you say things and do things, you send off ripples like when a pebble is dropped into a pool of water.  Those ripples go out from you and touch those people around you.  Now, you can send out positive ripples, or you can send out negative ripples.  Positive ripples usually make those around you feel good.  Negative ripples typically make them feel bad.

“What kind of ripples do you want to send out? (‘Good ones.’)  Sure, I knew that.  But sometimes when you say mean things or do hurtful things or even when you aren’t even paying much attention at all, you send out negative ripples.  I know you don’t want to make people feel bad, but what you say and do almost always affects those people around you.

“And even though you don’t always notice, there are more people around you than just the ones we’ve talked about here.  If you are too focused on yourself, you don’t even see them, but they can still get your negative ripples.

“When people get negative ripples from someone, do you know what happens? (‘No.’)  Many times, when someone gets negative ripples from someone, they send out their own negative ripples.  Those ripples go out from them to you and often to others around them – even people who had nothing to do with what happened between the two of you.  That doesn’t seem fair, does it?  (‘No.’)  I agree, but that’s what happens.

“Those negative ripples go out and impact other people, who then sometimes give off their own negative ripples that affect other people around them and cause them to give off even more negative ripples.  Before long, the first negative ripple you sent out could end up impacting lots of people – people you’ve never met.

“But what if you worked harder at always giving off positive ripples?  What would happen then?  (‘The good ripples would go out and make other people want to give off good ripples.  Then those good ripples would make other people want to give off more good ripples to the people around them.’)  Exactly!  That’s it!  That’s what I wanted to help you understand.  You could help a lot of people have a better day just by starting the first good ripple.”

As I shared the diagram with him, I couldn’t help but think about how it applied to my own life and how often I’m guilty of sending off negative ripples – particularly with those I love the most.  My moments of frustration and selfishness and unkindness can ruin an entire evening for my family.  Because of my leadership role, my ripples are sometime more like tsunamis.  All the more reason for me to work harder at sending out positive ones.

Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness, Unconditional Love…Positive ripples.

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Filed under agape love, christianity, family, grace, helping, Interpersonal, leadership, love, parenting, Relationships, Service, Serving Others, unconditional love

Every Trace


God wants us to remove every trace of sin from our lives, but sometimes we think that’s too hard. “We can’t get rid of all of it,” we rationalize. So we find excuses to go through that part of town. We procrastinate bringing up our spouse to the attractive new co-worker. We continue to watch the TV series that drags the Lord’s name through the mud. We keep a little bit back for ourselves.

What harm could it do? These aren’t bad sins, right?

But God call us to a higher standard. Remember the Israelites after they had entered the promised land? God told them to rid the land of all the “Ites,” (the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites). Specifically, He said,

“…when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.” (Deuteronomy 7:2)

You might think God was being rather harsh here. What happened to the God of love, right? But remember that God knows all things. The most loving thing He could do for His people was protect them from the Enemy. He knew that all the “Ites” would be used by the Enemy to pull His people away from worshiping the one true God. He also knew that there was no hope for the “Ites.” They were so deep into their sin that they were never going to give their hearts to God. If there were any righteous, trust that God made special provision for them just like He did with Lot before He destroyed Sodom.

Despite God’s command and warning, the Israelites didn’t completely destroy all the “Ites.” As a result, they paid the price. Fast forward to the book of Judges. The entire book is a catalog of the trouble Israel brought on itself by allowing some of the “Ites” to remain. By this time, the original “Ites” had attracted other enemies to the land. Instead of a list of just seven enemies, Israel now had to contend with at least twelve groups, including the Philistines, Amelikites, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites and Sidonians. Some would prove to be worse than the originals.

In Judges 2, God announces that He is letting them suffer for their disobedience.

“The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, ‘I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’” (Judges 2:1-3)

When God rescued us from our Egypt (i.e., brought us out of sin and allowed us to be born again as His children), He wanted us to remove from our lives all traces of sin as the Holy Spirit revealed it to us. When we disobey, those traces of sin become thorns in our sides and snares to us. As soon as we run into a little bit of trouble or have a weak moment, we go back to our old habits of the flesh.

What could have been complete deliverance from our sinfulness now turns into a prolonged and painful battle with the flesh. But even in this, God has a purpose that works to our benefit. Later in Judges 2, He explains why He left Israel’s enemies in the land:

Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did.” The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD’s commands, which he had given their forefathers through Moses. (Judges 2:20-3:4)

God left their enemies to discipline Israel for its disobedience and test its loyalty, but He also knew that the enemy would teach Israel how to fight. Maybe the reason why you are still struggling with a particular sin is because God is teaching you how to fight against Satan and his armies. I’ve learned more about how the enemy works from my constant battles with him than I ever would have learned if he had left me alone. And the strength and wisdom I’ve gained is helping me to help others.

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Fig Leaves


Genesis 3:7 tells us that Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness after their sin.  To cover themselves, they sewed fig leaves together and wore them.  This seems an expecially unfortunate choice, since fig leaves are rough and induce painful itching.

But isn’t this just like us?  When we sin, we try to hide our shame by beating ourselves up.  We practice negative self-talk, we kick ourselves, we acknowledge that we are terrible Christians.  Some even go so far as to chastise themselves physically.

God never tells us to beat ourselves up after we sin.  He tells us to return to Him.  But instead, we hide in the bushes, making God come after us.  Why do we do it?  You can bet that Satan has a big part to play in it.  He is the accuser, and we listen to him far too often.  Another reason is that we don’t understand God’s grace.  We mistrust it.  We can’t believe that God could really forgive us with no strings attached.  Surely we have to do some penance.  “God will forgive me if…”

We’ve also learned that some self-flagellation will go a long way to changing public opinion about us.  We know that we will be judged by the sins we commit, so we seek to lesson the criticism by doing some of the punishment ourselves.  It’s a pretty good strategy, actually.  People are less quick to dogpile if they see that a beating is already being administered.

Benefits aside, God wants us to come to Him in our nakedness when we sin.  No covering.  No self-disciplining.  Just us, admitting we were wrong and asking for God’s forgiveness.  Adam and Eve had it exactly backwards.  They prolonged their suffering by hiding from God.

When God found them in the garden in their sin, He replaced their covering with His.  His covering involved sacrifice.  An innocent animal had to die to pay for their sins.  Its blood covered their sin, and its hide covered their bodies.  God was demonstrating how they would now have to live in order to maintain a relationship with Him, and He was showing them how He would eventually solve the problem of sin forever. The death of an animal is a picture of Christ’s death on the cross.  His blood covers both our sin and our spiritual nakedness.

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Filed under agape love, christianity, Covering, guilt, Religion, sin, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality, Substitution, Suffering, unconditional love