Great For Who?

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Photo taken by Sarah Van Middlesworth – with the author choosing which line to take when he drops in at Fernie Ski Resort, B.C.

“I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.”

– Herbert Swope

Something I’ve been thinking about is: Whose name do you want to make great?

Your name or God’s name?

Those are the only two options. Really.

Our world tries to convey to us that our life is really all about us and there is an assortment of ways, no end – really, of how we can do things that gratify & satisfy ourselves.

This brings us to the issue of biography versus testimony. (1)

A biography means: look at what I’ve done. Look at me, my accomplishments, my achievements, my resume, my trophies, and my accolades.

A testimony means: look at what God has done in my life. It is acknowledging that without Him none of the good that is in my life would ever have happened and simply would not have come to be.

In short, a biography is all about you and a testimony is all about Jesus.

So, what’s it gonna be?

Whose name do you want to make great?

We’ve each got one life to be great for God.

As Pastor Mark Driscoll would say, “Don’t waste your life, make your life count for God.” (2)

I love listening to music, especially the lyrics to songs.

Here are a couple below that help illustrate my point:

“One Life” from Hedley:

You’ve got one life

One life

One life

Don’t stop don’t stop living up (3)

“This Is Your Life” from the popular band Switchfoot:

This is your life

Are you who you want to be? (4)

To want to be great in this world, like anything else in life, brings up the idea of motives and what your’s are.

Here are a few questions to get you thinking on this:

Why do you want to be great?

Who do you want to be great for?

A phrase my dad has said to me over the years is: “live in an audience of one.”

This has been a helpful and guiding reminder for why I do what I do in life.

It helps put things back in perspective, where the main thing becomes the main thing.

After all, what God thinks of you is the only opinion that really counts anyway.

And He thinks you’re pretty awesome.

I’ll leave the last words to the band Switchfoot, in their song, “Dare You To Move”:

I dare you to move

I dare you to move

I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor

I dare you to move

I dare you to move

Like today never happened

Today never happened before (5)

Notes:

(1) “Empowered by the Spirit to Have a Testimony,” last modified June 29, 2014, http://markdriscoll.org/sermons/empowered-by-the-spirit-to-have-a-testimony/.

(2) “Investing For Jesus,” last modified June 26, 2011, http://marshill.se/marshill//files/2011/06/26/20110626_investing-for-jesus_en_transcript.pdf.

(3) “Hedley – One Life Lyrics,” last modified January 20, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeGd0yXEjXw.

(4) “This Is Your Life – Switchfoot Lyrics,” last modified April 20, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEeeseZobTc.

(5) “Switchfoot – Dare You To Move – with Lyrics,” last modified February 23, 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Qbnsk2_F5g.

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Great For What?

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Photo taken by the author; “The Land of a Thousand Hills” – Kigali, Rwanda

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”
– Winston Churchill

We all want to be great – each and every one of us.

It’s innate within us.

We don’t need to be taught or instructed in this; it is born from within.

We need not ask for it either as this desire is part of the birth package we receive upon our entrance to the world.

What is greatness?

How one defines greatness reveals a lot about a person’s inner convictions, beliefs, and morals.

It determines how they view themselves, other’s, and even God.

This world has a lot to say about what greatness is.

It says greatness is found in money, wealth, women/men, spouses, material possessions — essentially, everything that would revolve around you and make you look great on the outside, as your appearance is projected to those around you.

What makes a person great?

From my limited time on planet Earth, I have observed greatness not to be fashioned on the exterior, as many would believe, but to be developed in the interior of a person’s being.

Ultimately, greatness is about serving others.

In two words greatness is: Servant leadership.

You know what I’m talking about: putting others first, thinking about other people before yourself, that kind of thing – the kind of stuff that hardly comes naturally to any of us.

When you do that, serve another person, you are looked upon as being great by that person, as they take notice of this.

But the motive, of course, is the heart.

Why are you doing this? Why are you serving them?

Is it to receive praise from man or to genuinely make the other person great, and that’s it, with no strings attached, except for the other person’s happiness?

The question is not if we want to be great, but rather, how will we be great?

Better stated, for whom will we be great for?

A friend and leader I’ve looked up to is Gary Nelson (not his real name).

I first met him at a Men’s Retreat my church was hosting and he was the guest speaker.

He has since been the speaker of many of our subsequent Men’s Retreats and I always enjoy listening to him and hanging out with him.

He can be described as a “man’s man”.

In hearing what he has done in his life would give thrills and chills to anyone listening.

I also consider him to be a model of one who leads by serving others, in a strong and masculine way, which is one that I look up to.

This idea of greatness is one of the core themes he would always speak to us men about.

It seemed each trip he would make from sunny and warm Southern California up to sunny and well-below-zero temperatures in Calgary, Alberta, he would remind us of this.

That is, for us as men to take responsibility for our own lives, and to sign-up to do the grunt work that no one else wants to do and that no one asks you to do (whether that be at home, church, work, or wherever.)

He was encouraging us to be the one to volunteer first.

Make it a goal to consistently make ourselves available to do the mundane, inglorious, behind-the-scenes tasks.

For by doing these “little assignments” is where we grow the most, and only then would we be ready for a leadership role, of any magnitude.

Come to think of it, this has been my premise for the work of service I have been involved in with my local church over the years and the different areas I have served in.

More Thoughts on Question’s

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Photo taken by the author; early morning sunrise in Kigali, Rwanda

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”

– Chinese proverb

You have heard this saying many times before: ”There’s no such thing as a dumb question.”

I have heard this quoted so many times over the years and in so many different contexts.

The problem, however, is that not many people seem to follow it.

There is a kind of stigma regarding this, as it has been my experience that unfortunately most people don’t follow this axiom.

Instead, they are often the first to burst out laughing or make an insensitive comment towards the person who asked a “dumb” question, in their eyes.

This really bothers me, as I have been on the recipient end of this many times.

It destroys a person’s self-confidence and will make them think twice before asking a question the next time, or any questions in the future, for that matter.

See how ridiculous this is?

It is loathed in insecurity and insincerity.

This is dumb, not that there are dumb questions, but it is dumb to think that there are dumb questions – and this needs to stop. It can start with you.

When we’re children and we don’t know any better, okay I get that.

But when we’re grown-up, reasonably intelligent and educated adults, then this crosses the line that is unexplainable and inexcusable.

As one of my sisters would say, “Don’t be dumb.”

Let people ask their questions and quit stunting their progress in life, as well as your own.

Questions should not be discouraged; rather, they should be very much encouraged.

Here’s a question for you: Why do you question negatively a question?

Enough said.

Since we’re on the topic of questions, where do they come from?

Questions arise out of a place of wondering, being curious, interested about something, inquisitive about a topic, or simply, just wanting to find out more, to name a few areas.

Questions are what gives birth to new ideas, which leads to increased knowledge, awareness, and understanding.

It also leads to unending creativity and innovation.

Questions stimulate a learner’s thoughts and drives them towards ideas and thoughts never once thought of before – either by themselves or by other people.

And this is where the impossible and the breakthrough occur: in a person’s life, in society, in a new way of doing something, or even in shaping and shifting cultural thought.

The release of its potential knows no end, as it can change families, churches, businesses, organizations, people groups, and ultimately entire nations.

All from the thought of a single question and the courage a single person had to ask that particular question.

Thomas: A Man of Question’s – Part 3 of 3

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Photo taken by Sarah Van Middlesworth from afar, while the author ski’s the ridge at Fernie Ski Resort, B.C.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

– Voltaire

“There is an important lesson to be gained from studying Thomas,” writes Mary Fairchild. “If we’re truly seeking to know the truth, and we’re honest with ourselves and others about our struggles and doubts, God will faithfully meet us and reveal himself to us, just as he did for Thomas.” (1)

So, go ahead, ask your questions.

Freely.

About anything – God, the opposite sex, your place in this world, or anything else you’re wondering about or curious about.

It is safe to ask heartfelt questions.

Therefore, find a safe place or person to do this with.

Whitney Hopler also mentions that “God performed many miracles through Thomas to help the people with whom Thomas shared the Gospel message — in Syria, Persia, and India — believe, according to Christian tradition.” (2)

In your quest to find answers to questions that are important to you, God will use you through this process to help other people, as he did Thomas.

This is encouraging as God doesn’t just give us something for our own purposes, but also for the purposes of other people.

People like being helped.

I almost feel I shouldn’t have to put this in here, as it kind of goes without saying.

How cool would it be for the Creator to use you, His creation, for another creature of His?

Anyway, Thomas asked a ton of questions. So what?

What actually comes of him?

“Doubting Thomas does not stay a doubter. When he sees the risen Jesus, all that Jesus has taught over the years now clicks in, and to his death Thomas is an outspoken advocate for his Lord. Church tradition tells us that he preaches in ancient Babylon, near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, where Iraq is today. He travels to Persia, present-day Iran, and continues to win disciples to the Christian faith. Then he sails south to Malabar on the west coast of India in 52 AD. He preaches, establishes churches, and wins to Christ high caste Brahmins, as well as others. When the Portuguese land in India in the early 1600s, they find a group of Christians there — the Mar Thoma Church established through Thomas’ preaching a millennium and a half before. Finally, Thomas travels to the east coast of India, preaching relentlessly.” (3)

And how did Thomas die?

“Right before his death in 72 AD, Thomas stood up to an Indian king (whose wife had become a Christian) when he pressured Thomas to make religious sacrifices to an idol. Miraculously, the idol shattered into pieces when Thomas was forced to approach it. The king was so enraged that he ordered his high priest to kill Thomas, and he did: Thomas died from being pierced by a spear, but was reunited with Jesus in heaven.” (4)

Another source tells us that he died “near present-day Madras. Tradition tells us that he is thrown into a pit, then pierced through with a spear thrown by a Brahmin. He who had so fervently proclaimed his unbelief carried the Christian message of love and forgiveness to the ends of the earth in his generation.” (5)

I’m not saying you’re going to die if you ask questions.

What I am saying is the courage that Thomas gained from asking his questions before Jesus and other people, is the same courage that enabled him to stand up for his Saviour in the opposition of the evil king of India.

Here’s the point: Question’s stiffen the spine of the one asking, as well as those listening, for oftentimes they too had the same question but were all too afraid to ask it.

Notes:

(1) “The 12 Apostles,” http://christianity.about.com/od/peopleofthebible/tp/12-Apostles.htm.

(2) “Who Was Saint Thomas the Apostle?,” http://angels.about.com/od/MiraclesReligiousTexts/p/Who-Was-Saint-Thomas-The-Apostle.htm.

(3) “Learning Faith from Doubting Thomas,” last modified 2003, http://www.leaderu.com/theology/doubting_thomas.html.

(4) “Who Was Saint Thomas the Apostle?”

(5) “Learning Faith from Doubting Thomas.”

Thomas: A Man of Question’s – Part 2 of 3

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Photo taken by the author

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.”

– Antony Jay

Another important part about Thomas is that he, along with the other apostles, was chosen to spread the gospel after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

This was a very large weight of responsibility.

If it were me, I would have wanted someone on my team who doesn’t just accept instructions or orders, but challenges them and is not afraid to ask the hard questions to gain a better understanding of this enormous mission we’re about to be thrust into.

In addition to his new job description of spreading the Good News about Jesus, “the Apostle Thomas is singled out in the gospels because he put his doubt into words. It is worth noting that Jesus did not scold Thomas for his doubt. In fact, Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wounds and see for himself.” (1)

How do you put “doubt into words?”

By asking questions.

This is what Thomas did and it was his great question-asking ability that the Bible speaks most highly about him.

The asking of questions brings clarity where there was once doubt, and for Thomas this leads to his full belief in God.

As Whitney Hopler says, “Thomas’ encounter with Jesus shows how the right response to doubt — curiosity and searching — can lead to deep belief.” (2)

By asking questions, it reveals to those listening that we are actually thinking and are the ones who are learning.

It is not the asking of questions that is wrong.

Rather, the refusal to seek out answers to those questions demonstrates a person who really isn’t all that interested in the learning and growing process, that is, in becoming a better person.

Asking questions is not wrong; rather, it is asking no questions that is foolish.

Dr. Steven Wilson has this to say about Thomas:

”Thomas would speak to doubters today, to those of us who have seen our hopes and dreams destroyed…Thomas would tell his story of how Jesus’ life had intercepted his own. He would tell us of his fears and his doubts. And then, with a radiant, joyful face, St. Thomas, Apostle to India, would recount his joy at seeing and knowing the risen Jesus himself. “My Lord and my God!” he would say. ‘My Lord and my God!’” (3)

Thomas, though he walked the earth in Biblical times, his influence is still talked about in our day, more than 2,000 years later.

That’s two millennia’s – way more than the human mind can fathom in time relation.

His life left an impact on his generation, and for all those generations in the centuries to come after his departure of this world.

As Whitney Hopler records, “[Thomas’] inquisitive mind led him to naturally doubt God’s work in the world, but also led him to pursue answers to his questions, which ultimately led him to great faith.” (4)

And therein lies the key.

The act of asking questions is not just in putting them forth.

Nor is to ask an entire string of open-ended questions. What good is that?

The purpose is to seek answers for your questions, each and every one of them.

You can think of it as a three-step approach:

Step 1: Ask a meaningful, thought-provoking question.

Step 2: Diligently investigate a truth-compelling answer to your question.

Step 3: Repeat Step 1 & 2, throughout your life.

Notes:

(1) “The Apostle Known as Doubting Thomas,” http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/a/Apostle-Thomas.htm.

(2) “Who Was Saint Thomas the Apostle?,” http://angels.about.com/od/MiraclesReligiousTexts/p/Who-Was-Saint-Thomas-The-Apostle.htm.

(3) “Learning Faith from Doubting Thomas,” last modified 2003, http://www.leaderu.com/theology/doubting_thomas.html.

(4) “Who Was Saint Thomas the Apostle?,” http://angels.about.com/od/MiraclesReligiousTexts/p/Who-Was-Saint-Thomas-The-Apostle.htm.

Thomas: A Man of Question’s – Part 1 of 3

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Photo taken by the author; Bow River at Edworthy Park, Calgary

“In school, we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question.”

– Richard Saul Wurman

On this topic, there is this guy in the Bible named, Thomas.

He is mentioned in all four of the lists of disciples in the Gospels (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:13-16; John 20:26).

The number of times “Thomas” appears in the Bible is 11 (ESV and NIV).

He was well-known for asking questions.

Lots of them.

He was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus.

He is often referred to as “doubting Thomas” or “Thomas, the doubter”, although these phrases do not appear anywhere in the Bible.

This man-made, inaccurate description has almost always been viewed in a negative way about this guy, like giving someone bad news.

But I think Thomas is onto something here with his questions.

There is something we can learn from him.

As The Daily Study Bible says, “Despite the label that has been put on him, Thomas was not lacking in courage or loyalty. When the other disciples tried to keep Jesus from going to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead…because of the danger from those in the area who had just earlier tried to stone Him…Thomas said to them, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him.’” (1)

This here shows that Thomas was a courageous man who had the guts to stand up for his King and not shrivel back in fear of what other’s (his friends, peers and fellow disciples) would think of him.

He was even prepared to die with Jesus.

This clearly shows that he saw something the other’s did not.

Thomas is the kind of person who wants first-hand, eye-witness accounts, especially concerning the events around Jesus’ resurrection and who He says He is.

He is relentless in his questioning and is persistent to find out all that he can about this man, Jesus, whom he has spent three-and-a-half years of his life with.

In fact, he won’t stop until he is satisfied with the answers he’s been given in response to the questions he’s proposed.

Here is something else that is noteworthy about Thomas:

His “full name was Didymus Judas Thomas, [and] lived in Galilee when it was part of the ancient Roman Empire and became one of Jesus Christ’s disciples when Jesus called him to join his ministry work.” (2)

His name appears in the Canon of Scripture.

Not once, but eleven times!

This should tell you something about the man.

After all, how many people do you know that are penned in the very book God wrote?

Did you make the book? I rest my case.

Here’s a thought for my reader’s: What would you say is the most important question that has ever been asked of all-time?

Think about it for a few seconds, give it some thought.

What would it be? You can only pick one question.

It was Thomas, after all, who asked the most important question in the history of the world, in general, and the most important question in all of Scripture, in particular.

In John 14:5-6 (ESV), Thomas asked Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus replied by saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

From this one man’s bold question, it led to Jesus revealing keen insight about his divinity.

Notes:

(1) “Thomas,” http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/thomas.htm.

(2) “Who Was Saint Thomas the Apostle?,” http://angels.about.com/od/MiraclesReligiousTexts/p/Who-Was-Saint-Thomas-The-Apostle.htm.

Thoughts on Questions (And Why We Ask Them)

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Photo taken by the author; Harvest Hills Golf Club, Kelowna, B.C.

“What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.”

– Jonas Salk

My favorite word in the English language is, “Why?”

It’s a question that will inevitably lead to subsequent questions that begin with this phrase.

I’ve been naturally asking this for as long as I can remember.

Only recently did I learn there’s an actual phrase used to describe what I’ve been doing all along: the Socratic Method.

There is where you ask one question, followed by another question, and so on, in an attempt to find out more information from the person you are talking with.

I am a deep, reflective person and I instinctively know there is much more that lies beneath the surface – and I am determined to find out what that is.

Not in a weird or awkward kind of way, but because I’m a curious guy and want to know more about what is around me, including the people I’m interacting with.

I am a huge (watch Jimmy Fallon’s impersonation of Donald Trump of this word) advocate of asking questions.

As I already mentioned, I do this instinctively and it comes as second-nature to me.

I enjoy honing the skill of learning to ask the right questions in order to fully grasp and understand somebody or something.

I’m always asking questions and I’ll ask questions to anyone and everyone I get a chance to.

People don’t intimidate me and I’m not afraid to engage in a conversation with a total stranger.

It brings me great confidence knowing that I can approach anyone, strike up a conversation, which naturally leads to asking questions about whatever it is we’re talking about.

When I do this with people, I notice how much the other person enjoys this.

After all, everyone’s favorite topic to talk about is themselves, and when given the chance, people will gladly tell you lots of cool stuff about themselves.

Asking other people questions is a way for them to tell me more about their favorite subject.

What I enjoy most about asking questions is the ability to pull information out of people that I otherwise would not have known. This allows me to learn new things about a person, which are clues into their personhood and how they think.

But it’s more than this, too.

What I’m referring to is listening as opposed to talking.

When I ask the questions, this invariably means that I’m the one doing the majority of the listening, with the other person doing most of the talking.

This process of asking other’s questions can be difficult in our world today.

Given that we live in a culture that is very self-centred, it can be a trying task to focus our attention on another person, other than ourselves, even for just two minutes.

I like what author Dave Kraft has to say: “the most important thing [to be] learning [is] being a better listener and asking lots of questions, rather than doing most of the talking.” (1)

To continue, God has given each of us a mind for a reason – to be used.

So use yours.

One part of Luke 10:27 (ESV) says, “You shall love the Lord your God…with all your mind.” (Emphasis mine)

There’s the Scripture for this. It’s in the Bible.

For those of us who love working our minds will agree by saying, “I will.”

Part of using our minds is to ask questions that has the ability to unlock new thought patterns, crazy ideas, and creative innovations that have never before been imagined.

Notes:

(1) Dave Kraft, Leaders Who Last (Illinois: Crossway, 2010), 108.