All posts by Steve

Football as god

I love football. I think about it, read about it, watch it and discuss it with my friends. I attend games whenever possible wearing fan attire and appropriate accouterments. I am grumpy when my team loses and pleasant when they win. I would be a bit ashamed of such behavior if there were not so many others like me. I must be normal!

If words and thoughts had weight, you could put them on a scale and measure the mount of time I spend on football as cofootball_religionmpared to other things in my life, like God and family. I really don’t want to know the results because I fear the scales would be terribly tilted toward football and that would make me feel guilty. Why do I waste so much time on a GAME when I should be more concerned with my relationship with Jesus?

The likely reason is that football is entertainment and life is difficult. The outcome of a football game, even the Super Bowl, has no real importance. It may make the winners and their fans happy, but it won’t cure cancer or stop wars. Football drama is make-believe. The rivalries may seem fierce but they are really just expressions of ego. The winner has bragging rights, the loser eats humble pie. So what?

Life, however, is serious and real. Disease, job loss, divorce, addiction… all of these are serious matters that create stress and make us feel depressed. Football games help us forget our troubles for a minute.

Recently a young man made a horrendous mistake at the end of a big game and cost his team a sure victory. He received hundreds of hateful messages and even death threats. I might have hated him too if he were on my team… yeah, I’m that shallow. I wonder what his life will be like in the future. Will he forever be the guy who lost the game, the subject of ridicule and hatred by strangers? (I’m thinking Bill Buckner here; if you don’t know who he is, Google him.)

Is football a sin? It can be. But wait, it’s just a game, a pastime for fans. It’s colorful, exciting and sometimes inspirational. There are post-game prayers, pointing to heaven and Tebowing. It is a spiritual experience! Right?

Football is like anything else; it can become an idol. An idol is something that you put in the place of the real God. Football sometimes interferes with my faith. I spend too much time on it and get too emotionally involved. There is only one thing that is worth genuine passion – Jesus. Is that a corny Christian thing to say? Maybe, but it is absolutely true. My life is a shanked punt without Christ. I love football, but football doesn’t love me back. Jesus does. If I had a football, I’d spike it!


Hard To Be Humble

Back in the 80s there was a song by country/pop singer Mac Davis titled “It’s Hard to be Humble.” The lyrics perfectly reflect the obnoxiously arrogant attitude I sometimes have.

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror.
Cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me.
I must be a hell of a man.
Oh Lord It’s hard to be humble,
But I’m doing the best that I can.

It IS hard to be humble! It’s a fundamental flaw of the human condition. Eve and Adam sought to be equal with God and look at how that turned out. Napoleon invented the Napoleon complex. Mohammed Ali claimed, “I am the greatest of all time,” yet he lost five times. If ego was muscle, Donald Trump could bench press the White House. Humility is clearly a problem for many people.

God-followers are certainly not immune to hubris. David’s pride led to egregious sin. Some pompous televangelists have fallen victim to their own egos and became national laughingstocks. Lucifer himself was an arrogant devil. Everyone is afflicted.

The phrase “pride goes before a fall” is not in the Bible, but in Proverbs we read, “pride goes before destruction.” That’s seems much worse! Proverbs also informs us, “There are six things that the Lord hates….” The first thing on His list: a proud look (KJV).

If the Lord God hates something, it is best to avoid it.

Occasionally somemotherteresaone will come along who understands the concept of genuine humility. Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun who became world famous by serving the poor in India, described herself as “…a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” Truth is, we Christians are all little pencils, though some seem to think they are Mont Blanc pens.

Humility is not listed among the “seven cardinal virtues,” but it should be. Few human characteristics are more valued by God. In Luke 14 we read, “…he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Mother Teresa was exalted for her love and humility – she won a Nobel Prize – but she always gave the glory to Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:3 states, “in humility value others above yourselves.” That is a righteous goal, but my ego, pride and selfishness get in the way. I value my own comfort. I seek recognition. I often judge people. Those are not the attributes of a selfless, humble servant of God

One cannot be prideful and obedient to Jesus at the same time. Jesus was the ultimate example of someone who humbled Himself in service to God. We are to be imitators of Christ, but when it comes to real humility, I’m probably closer to Mack Davis – I’m doing the best that I can.

My Dad

Every time there is an horrific crime, mass murder or urban riot, media pundits and social scientists wring their hands and point fingers. Too many guns. Too little education. Too few jobs. Too much violence in the media.

All of those may have some effect on the crime rate, but the biggest factor in the decline of American culture is too few dads.

Ironicaldad+mugly, everyone has a father, but there are very few dads. Fathers are there at conception. Dads are there at midnight feedings. Fathers contribute sperm. Dads contribute love and discipline. A kid’s father may not be available when there is a crisis. Dads are always there. Always.

My own dad died when I was 18, so he never met my wife or my children. But in the 18 years I knew him he provided a steady hand. He was the proverbial man of few words, but his words were well considered. I can recall only one time that he used the word “son” when referring to me, but I knew without question that he was my dad in every sense of the word. He never told me “I love you,” but his love for me was real and evident.

My relationship with my dad blossomed when I became old enough to care about sports. In Little League and later in high school he would occasionally come see me play; in those days dads rarely hovered over their boys like some do today. In some ways he was the best coach I ever had, though he never coached any of my teams. Instead he would offer tips and advice. I listened carefully, and when I applied his wisdom I always improved. This was a lesson; pay attention to your old man and do what he says. I tended to follow his advice in all things, and he was usually right.

My dad didn’t give a hoot about Jesus or church until he was 52 and diagnosed with cancer. Funny how mortality will capture a man’s spiritual attention. At first he started attending church on Wednesday nights. Later he started going on Sunday nights, too. Finally he started showing up on Sunday mornings. Before long he professed faith in Jesus. He was baptized in the Arkansas River, a day I’ll never forget because we had a flat tire on the way home and he had to change it sopping wet.

My dad loved to sing so he joined the church choir. He had a powerful voice and, before long, began singing the occasional solo. He was good enough that other churches asked him to sing for them, as well. I think he was happiest when singing in church, and I can still remember him smiling as he belted out old gospel tunes like “He Washed My Eyes With Tears.” If he had a signature song, that was it.

My dad’s birthday was August 26. He died in 1975, just a few days after turning 57. My sister Janis and I remarked at the time that he had lived a “full life.” Fifty-seven seems so young now that I am near 60!

A family friend told me at the time of my dad’s death, “There will never be a day that you don’t think about your father.” He was right.


Life in the Arkansas River delta is tough. My dad and my granddad were “buckshot farmers” in Arkansas. Buckshot is the term used to describe soils with a large proportion of clay particles. This type of soil is typically dark, dense and rich, perfect for rice and soybeans. It is sticky when wet and cracks open when dry. Tilling this type of soil takes strength, the strength of powerful machines and the strength of men who are willing to work very hard over a lifetime.

When viewed from ground level, the Arkansas delta is ugly and unforgiving. It is crisscrossed by stagnant swamps and ditches, cluttered by thorny underbrush, populated with a wide variety of snakes and varmints, and thick with mosquitoes and other biting and stinging insects. Few would choose to live there unless their livelihood depended on it.

I’ve traveled a great deal in my business career and have flown over the Arkansas River delta many times. It’s funny how different it looks from 20,000 feet. When you look down on those buckshot farms what you see are lush green fields, glimmering streams and ribbons of blacktop roads that evoke thoughts of peaceful bucolic country living. It is beautiful. The perspective is much different when you are in rubber hip boots, standing in the middle of a rice field in August with snakes and skeeters vying for your attention. It was that type of work that motivated me to go to college.

Perspective. Life on Earth is all we know and our view of heaven is sketchy, at best. We don’t see our lives from God’s perspective, we see it from the hot, sweaty, uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous ground-level view of life.

A 10-year-old girl forced-perspective-photo_thumbnamed Rainey Lipscomb had a wonderful perspective on life and death that she shared in a classroom essay some years ago. In response to the question, “Why do people have to die?” she wrote, “Some people take dying too seriously. It’s not that sad really, if you know they have given their life to Jesus. You know that you will see them again in heaven.” Wow, what profound faith from a kid! Clearly, she had a heavenly perspective.

Rainey learned much of her spiritual maturity from her parents, Cindy and Mat Lipscomb. Cindy and Mat had an unwelcome “15 minutes of fame” in 1999 when their two oldest daughters, Rainey and Lacey, were killed in an Amtrak accident in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Cindy, their three young daughters and some family friends were returning to Memphis via passenger train from Chicago after a short vacation. About 9:30 that evening, a semi tractor-trailer rig hauling steel tried to make a late crossing in front of the train. The driver of the tractor-trailer misjudged the speed of the train and a collision ensued. The two oldest Lipscomb girls and nine others died in the crash.

The girls’ father, Mat Lipscomb, is a successful businessman in Memphis. He was reunited with Cindy and their youngest child in Chicago as the facts surrounding the accident were revealed. Most of the blame was focused on the truck driver. Reporters covering the catastrophe were eager to get a reaction from the victims, and within hours began to approach Mat and Cindy for their response. The Lipscombs, overwhelmed with grief, were reluctant to comment, but a pastor friend, who knew well the depth of their faith, spoke to them about their responsibilities as followers of Jesus. “Tomorrow morning’s newspaper may be the only Bible some people will ever read,” said the pastor. “I think you ought to do the interview.” Mat and Cindy prayed, then relented to speak with a reporter.

They told a story of forgiveness. They admitted their heartbreak and pain to the reporter, but refused to blame the truck driver. Instead, they focused on forgiveness – the forgiveness we have through Jesus Christ. They repeated this theme in all the interviews they gave in the weeks that followed.

According to news monitoring services, the Lipscombs were able to share their message of forgiveness with 28 million people through various interviews. What was the impact? Mat related this report: “Many weeks after the accident, Robert Hooker, a Baptist preacher and friend of ours in Chicago, wrote me to say that he had just baptized the 37th person who had been saved, in part, because of our story and how it had affected their faith in Jesus. We’ve heard similar stories from other ministers.”

The Lipscombs chose to take God’s perspective; their girls had simply gone ahead to their permanent home and were now awaiting the arrival of their parents and baby sister. In August, 2012, there was a reunion in heaven as Rainey and Lacey welcomed their mom with kisses, hugs and laughter; Cindy Lipscomb died of a brain tumor at age 58.

“People have asked if following Christ is worth all of this, the loss of my girls and my wife,” said Mat.  “The short answer is, yes, it is absolutely worth it, but some explanation is necessary. I know the meaning of life; we are on this planet to learn to love God and to serve Him and accept His son Jesus as lord and savior, and to encourage others to do the same. Therefore, I am honored that God chose us to have this testimony. I can’t change what happened, but I can choose how I respond to it. I want to be a witness to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.”

Having the proper perspective does not mean there will be no pain.  That’s when we must remember the words of Jesus, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33 NIV)


Behold the salt on your dinner table. It is the stuff of life and legend.

Pity poor pepper. It sits as salt’s silent sidekick, comparatively worthless. Sure, peppSalt-Salt_Sense_Saltshakerer has the power to make you sneeze, but salt is mentioned approximately 40 times in the Bible! Pepper? Not once.

Perhaps the most famous reference to salt is in Matthew 5:13. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells His followers, “You are the salt of the earth.” This seems a curious statement until you know the value and utility of this savory chemical compound. From ancient times salt has been an important, even necessary part of everyday life. In fact, without salt, people would perish.

Humans contain almost a pound of salt and each day we need to replenish the salt used by our bodies to maintain our health. If you don’t get enough salt, you may experience muscle cramps, nausea and dizziness. So, was Jesus saying that without us Christians, the world would get dizzy and vomit? Not exactly.

In addition to medicinal benefits, salt also purifies and preserves. As a kid I discovered you could pour salt into a puddle of muddy water and it would become clear. Today, saltwater swimming pools are very popular, no doubt because the water is so clean. Salt also preserves. In the old days before modern refrigeration, pork was packed in salt to preserve it for long periods. For centuries humans have known the value of salt. Roman soldiers used to receive some of their pay in the form of salt, their “salarium,” from which we get the word salary. This is why we still say someone is “worth their salt.”

What does all this have to do with being a Christian? Think about our world today. Is it polluted, both physically and morally? Do people need clarity in the form of truth? Is human culture decaying from sin and decadence? Christians behaving as salt would help lend moral clarity and we could help preserve what is good and right. This would, no doubt, be delicious to our Father in heaven.

The world needs salt, it always has. But being salt isn’t always easy. That’s why some believers don’t even try to be “salty,” preferring instead to bland and blend in with the world. Jesus said salt that loses it flavor is good for nothing expect to be thrown out and trampled under foot.

The next time you salt your potatoes, think about Jesus’s words. He has sprinkled us on the world for an important purpose. Stay salty, my friends.


Water walking

What does it feel like to walk on water? Do the bottoms of your feet get wet? Does it feel squishy and soft, like a Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel Insert, or like hard, cool linoleum? If you just stood there, would you bob up and down like a cork?

Why is this information not in the Bible?

These are questions I’d like to ask Peter when I get to heaven. The sensation he felt when he stepped out of the boat in Matthew chapter 14 must have been really weird. Otjesus_walks_on_waterher than Jesus, no one had ever walked on water before. You’d have to think it felt cool to his feet, but maybe he didn’t even notice because he was so freaked out that he was actually WALKING ON WATER! If you’ve read the story you know that he panicked, started to sink and had to be rescued by Jesus (haven’t we all?).

This story has great meaning to me because God used it to change the course of my life. In 1993 I was a mid-level executive at successful advertising firm. My company had recently merged with another agency to form a bigger agency. Within weeks of the merger I began to sense that I was gradually being squeezed out. I don’t think I fit their corporate culture and the new big boss didn’t see much value in me. My projects were floundering and I was under pressure to produce… but I was failing. Every day I prayed for God to help me do better, but I continued to sink.

One morning was especially bad. I had problems with multiple projects and some of my clients were grumbling. For days I had been wondering what God was trying to teach me. Was He putting roadblocks in my path to lead me in a new direction? Did He want me to quit my job? Or maybe Satan was creating havoc with my work to get me to quit or be fired. If I quit for the wrong reason, it might ruin my career!

When lunchtime rolled around I decided to stay at my desk and pray for guidance. I told my Father, “Lord, what do You want me to do, quit my job? Is this You, trying to lead me in a new direction, or it is the devil trying to deceive me? I want to be obedient, but I don’t know if it’s Your voice I’m hearing. Please tell me if it’s you, Lord!”

I kept a gigantic five-pound Bible on my bookshelf. I flopped it on my desk and randomly flipped it open. I wasn’t expecting an answer, just some comforting verses to calm my frayed nerves. I looked down and my eyes landed on these words:

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

I blinked. Then I read the verse again. I became acutely aware of how quiet my office was. Did God just speak to me through Scripture? I had asked the Lord a direct question, “is it You, God?” I didn’t expect to see His answer in black and white, but there it was. I continued reading.

“And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.” (Matt. 14)

So, Jesus tells Peter, “get out of the boat.” Defying physics, Peter steps out and, at least for a few moments, walks on water. He didn’t think about what he was doing, he just obeyed.

I sat there for the remainder of my lunch break pondering what this meant. That afternoon I walked into my boss’s office and gave him my two-weeks notice. He asked, “are you sure?” I explained that I really believed God was leading me in a new career direction. He probably thought I was crazy. I had no new job lined up and no prospects for work, but I was going to step out in faith.

A few weeks later as I sat at my desk at home, the phone rang. It was a former client who had called the agency looking for me. They gave him my home phone number. He had a project that he needed help with and asked if I was available. Yep, I was definitely available. Over the next several months more former clients called, and some then new clients called. Bottom line, God gave me a new business that sustained me for the next 20 years. I actually made more money than before and as a bonus, God gave me enough free time to devote to new interests, such as volunteering with a mission organization that plants churches in Third World countries. I’m now on their board of directors.

God doesn’t always answer you in an audible voice or with a verse of Scripture, but sometimes He does. When you finally step out of the boat and onto the water, it feels really cool.

Saints of Nepal

News of the recent earthquake in Nepal brought back some poignant memories for me. In 1998 I visited Nepal on a short-term missions project. We were there to help teach church leaders from remote villages the deeper truths about God.

How arrogant I was to think I could teach these saints anything. After hearing their stories of faith, I realized just how little I appreciate the incredible gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Nepal, the home of Mount Everest and eight of the world’s ten highest peaks, was at Mt. Everestthat time a Hindu monarchy. Its king and most government officials were Hindus and Hinduism dominated the culture (still does). Christians were a tiny fraction of the population, behind Muslims and Buddhists. As a minority, Christians were actively persecuted and some had given their lives for the sake of Christ.

There were, however, pockets of believers in various places across Nepal. One such area was in the south-central region. This very rural, remote location was selected as a relatively safe place for church leaders to gather for a leadership conference. On the day we arrived – following a harrowing two-day journey – the conference leaders were finishing a make-shift tabernacle on a hilltop in the jungle. It was made of wooden poles with palm leaves for a roof. A small generator and sound system had been carried in on the backs of the believers.

Nearly 300 pastors and lay-leaders had come from all over that region of Nepal to participate in the conference, which was being led by my friend, a Nepali who had suffered much for the faith. A mutual American buddy called him “the Billy Graham of Nepal.” Two preachers from the U.S., and a worship leader from Hong Kong were the featured speakers.

On the second day of the conference the Nepalese Billy Graham introduced me to a man I will never forget. His name was Vabikan. He was in his 40s but his weathered face looked more like 60. He was tiny, maybe 110 pounds, and somewhat somber. When I heard his story I understood why his countenance was low.

Vabikan had once been a tribal witch doctor, a religious man who worshipped non-existent gods. Many years earlier his daughter became very ill, but despite his best efforts, he could not heal her. A friend suggested he take his girl to a nearby village where there lived an Australian missionary. Perhaps he had the right medicine to cure her disease.

The missionary was sympathetic, but admitted he had nothing to offer the daughter except prayer to the one true God. So he prayed. Vabikan and his daughter went home disappointed and a little confused.

God, however, had a plan. Soon the girl’s condition began to improve. This delighted Vabikan, who wanted to know more about the missionary’s religion. Under the tutelage of the missionary, Vabikan came to faith in Jesus. His excitement was such that he went home and began to tell others about Christ and soon they had a small church going in his village. From there, they started taking the Gospel to other villages and more people became believers.

The regional police eventually got wind of Vabikan’s activities and paid him a visit. He was beaten and told to renounce this new religion. Undeterred, Vabkian kept preaching. The police came back and beat him again. This cycle went on for some time until one day the police hauled him into the jungle and gave him an ultimatum – either renounce Christ or they would hack him to pieces.

Vabikan the faithful replied, “If you kill me today, that’s good, because I will be with Jesus. If you don’t kill me, that’s good too because I can tell more people about Jesus. Either way, it is good.”

The police were flabbergasted by the response and decided to let him go. Must be crazy, they thought. Over the next few years Vabikan would lead hundreds of people from his tribe to salvation in Christ. He became such an important leader that he was elected to represent his tribe in the Napali congress.

The sad Vabikan that I met that day in 1998 had good reason to be despondent. Less than a month before I met him, his wife, son and two grandchildren had died from poisoned food. Some speculated that his enemies were involved, though there was no proof of a crime.

When I asked Vabikan how he could endure such a tragedy, he replied through an interpreter, “I wanted to die myself from the grief, but God came to me and told me that I cannot die yet because there are more people who need to know about Jesus. That is why I will continue to live.”

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21.

I pray for the believers in Nepal who are suffering because of the earthquake. Their faith is as big as the Himalayas.

Church Words

Why aren’t more people Christians? Maybe it’s because they don’t speak our language.

confused-black-man-green-shirt-400x2951Christians, especially evangelicals, use a lot of words that are rarely heard outside of church and are confusing to folks who are “unchurched,” which is a word invented by Christians to describe people who don’t understand church speak. We believers have a whole vocabulary of special words and phrases we use as shorthand to describe what we believe about God. It’s Christian jargon that can complicate the gospel, and the gospel is really a simple proposition.

A few years ago I participated in an English-language camp in China and used the phrase “bent over backwards” with a group of students who spoke only rudimentary English. They were flummoxed by the expression, assuming I talking about yoga or torture. In the same way we can create confusion when we use simple church-speak like “have you given your heart to Jesus?” An 8-year-old who has been to Vacation Bible School may know what you mean, but there are Ivy League graduates who would furrow their brow over that statement.

The challenge for Christians is to speak clearly the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s one reason I typically refer to myself as a Jesus follower, rather than someone who is “saved” or “redeemed.” I rarely use the word “Christian” to describe myself because “Christian” has such an ambiguous definition in the secular world. By the way, the word “Christian” is used only three times in the New Testament. By comparison, the word “disciple” is mentioned 296 times.

When you attend a typical evangelical church service you may hear words such as “sanctify” or “iniquity.” You may hear the phrase “plan of salvation.” These are perfectly good expressions if you know they are church shorthand for deeper concepts. A 19th Century dude named Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “one should use common words to say uncommon things.” Schopenhauer was not a Christian, as best I can tell, but he nailed it regarding clarity of communication. When we tell someone, “accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior,” maybe what we should say is “follow Jesus.” That statement conveys more clearly what it actually means to be a Christian, which is literally “one who follows the teachings of Jesus.”

And don’t get me started on the word “propitiation!”




Gimme blessings!

Most Christians define a “blessing” as “something good that comes from God.” God certainly can provide a lot of good things – health, wealth, happiness, salvation, the promise of heaven, forgiveness of sin…  Some people say children are a blessing. I have two adorable grandkids, Tucker and Tessa. Tessa, the future Miss Mississippi, recently turned one. If she were any sweeter, she would be a lump of sugar. Tucker is two-and-half. He and I have a complicated relationship – I ask him to do stuff and he says “no.” We’re working things out.

1971-toon-tiny-timWe often “bless our food” before we eat a meal, which seems confusing because the food IS the blessing, isn’t it? Some folks say, “bless you” when you sneeze. I saw this sign recently, “Bless This Mess.” It was hung over someone’s workspace, which certainly was a mess with loose papers, food wrappers, family snapshots and half-empty drink bottles all over the place. Timothy Cratchit famously said, “God bless us, every one” in A Christmas Carol. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” is a familiar doxology, which the dictionary defines as a “a liturgical formula of praise to God.” I should also define “liturgical,” but I’m tired of this paragraph.

I’m constantly asking for God’s blessings when I pray. I ask Him to bless me, my wife, my kids, my grandkids (even you, Tucker), my friends, my church, my business, my neighbors, missionaries, the persecuted church, government officials, the sick, the oppressed, the downtrodden (not sure what that means), those who are in need (spiritually and physically), the incarcerated, my relatives and even my in-laws. I want God to bless ‘em all.

It’s okay to ask God to provide “blessings” for yourself and others, but what precisely are we asking for? I suppose we are asking for health, wealth, happiness and all the rest. But is that what we really need? Looking back over my own life, some of the greatest blessings I’ve ever received were spiritual, not material. Despite my life experience, I still pray, or at least long for, things that will make my life more comfortable – freedom from illness, a secure income, happy kids and so forth. Those things are nice and it’s okay to want them, but there is a much greater blessing that we should desire.

Paul wrote the book of Philippians while he was in prison. He was often cold and hungry. Yet, it was in jail that he found the secret of happiness – Jesus. Paul discovered that complete and total reliance on the Lord results in peace and contentment. Material blessings like a comfortable house, a lucrative job and even good health may come and go. The big kahuna of blessings is a close relationship with God Himself. He is not only the source of blessings, He is THE BLESSING.

See how that perspective changes your prayer life.


“NO” is a complete sentence

We have a small plaque in our kitchen that emphatically states, “’NO’ is a complete sentence.”

NOThat declaration is extremely important for children, especially teenagers, to understand. There is a lot of wisdom in those words. It expresses the same sentiment as “BECAUSE I SAID SO!,” in a less confrontational manner and it is far more articulate than “NO MEANS NO!”

Sometimes the best answer to a question is “no.” As a people pleaser, I always want to say “yes,” but it is unwise to do so. Saying “yes” every time would make me easy prey for telemarketers and committees seeking volunteers. Saying “yes” more often would make my waistline expand even faster.

Saying “yes” when you should say “no” makes you a pushover. We once had a neighbor who moved to another town but had business in our city that required him to commute for a time. He asked if could stay with us to avoid hotel expenses. Even though we were not fond of the guy, we said yes. We assumed he meant to stay for one week. He ended up staying with us for five weeks! He ate our food and monopolized our conversation. He never helped with chores or chipped in for meals. He even had us feed some friends of his who were in town for a visit. To him, we were the Doormat family and he was happy to take advantage of us. It was a fantastic lesson in the benefits of saying “no.”

Our Heavenly Father hears a lot of requests from His children and He always answers the prayers of believers. Fortunately, His answer is not always yes.

God sometimes says “no” for very good reasons. Sometimes we ask for things that are not beneficial to our spiritual development. Sometimes we pray for things that are contrary to God’s perfect will. We often ask for things out of selfish or prideful motives. We even ask for things for will hurt us.

There’s this thing I’ve been praying about for months now. I’ve prayed fervently and reverently. This thing I’m praying for is (in my opinion) a good thing that will benefit God’s Kingdom and me, as well. So far, God has said “no.”

I have to admit, I’m a little frustrated.

It’s interesting, and maybe a little ironic, that humbly accepting God’s “no” requires more faith than praying in the first place. When you accept God’s no, you acknowledge that He knows best.

If “no” is God’s answer to your prayer, don’t be angry and try not to be disappointed. He loves you more than you love yourself. God has a divine purpose and He doesn’t have to explain it to you. His NO is a complete sentence.