A common phrase we hear in many sports circles is “strive for perfection.” The goal is to execute the perfect play, or to have the perfect golf swing, or to make a perfect basketball free throw every time. Perfection can be, and sometimes is the only level of performance we accept. But if it’s carried to extremes, we develop a “perfection obsession.”
There is nothing wrong with setting excellence as a goal. But are excellence and perfection synonymous? Excellence defined is “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” Nothing in the definition indicates excellence is error free! So why do we associate the two together? And what damage to our society is being done by doing so?
Go to any little league baseball game anywhere during the summer and you’ll see the ugliness of perfection, or the insistence of it. Parents are yelling at their child through the chain-link fence because they’ve missed a grounder or a fly ball! And heaven help the umpire who makes a call that could have gone in favor of either team! Soccer games are no different. Physical altercations are commonplace at these venues, much to the amazement of the children on the field.
One more example of unachievable expectations manifested in human behavior can be seen at public forums. In all levels of our government, federal, state, and local levels, people can be seen applauding and jeering when a presenter, or even a public official’s character is attacked! While this situation is unfortunate for all involved, the loss of emotional control prevents the most simple logical decisions from being accomplished.
While we shake our heads at what we see in our society today concerning perfection, don’t think for a moment we have cornered the market in modern times. As long as humans are involved, excellence will be the victim of the perfection attitude.
An example of someone always taking the lead in actions, words, and thought is Simon Peter. He was called Cephas as well as Peter by Jesus, both translated as “Rock.” Rocks can be hard, solid, and larger ones can be difficult to move. This describes Peter’s personality, but not his actions. He was the one who stepped out of the boat and walked to Jesus on the water. But he let his emotions gain control and fear caused him to sink. He along with two other disciples saw Jesus transfigured on top of Mount Hermon, and immediately Peter took the lead on building shelters…..until the voice of God came from a cloud! Then Peter’s humanity kicked in and he fell to the ground hiding his face in fear.
It was fear that caused Peter to sink in the water. It was fear that caused him to fall face down on Mount Hermon. And it was fear that caused him to deny Jesus three times the night Jesus was arrested and tried. In spite of all of his humanness and shortcomings, Jesus still saw a strength in Peter. Before His ascension, Jesus restored Peter even after all his failures to His Lord.
Humanity was created in perfection. Adam and Eve let their humanness get in the way and they fell short of their intended perfection. But just like Jesus restored Peter, God will restore us every time we fall short. He knows we are human. And if you think of it this way, God has forgiven our sins through His Son, and therefore we are seen as perfect in the sight of our Heavenly Father.
Let’s not let our humanness get in the way of our worship to the one person who sees us in the perfection of His creation, nor loving our neighbors as we love ourselves!
Numbers mean different things to different people. You have statisticians who use
numbers to describe properties of a group of people, whether it is behaviors, medical conditions,
or in this day voting preferences. Entire companies and corporations have been established for
the sole purpose of gathering numbers (data) and using them for predictive purposes. But be
wary, statisticians can make numbers say what they desire. Numbers do not lie, but the use of
them can be questionable.
Numbers are sometimes called a language all their own. If you don’t agree, try to read a
statistical or algebraic formula without knowing the language! Trying to read an algebraic
sentence can be as daunting as trying to read a foreign language which is written in characters,
such as Chinese or Japanese. Without being educated or fluent in this type of language, you will
be hard pressed to understand it.
Numbers however are also called a universal language. Hold up one finger in a foreign
market and point to a fruit, and you’ll get “one” of what is receiving your pointing. Two means
a pair of something and so on. The use of numbers has been in existence since creation to
delineate time, quantity, and measurements.
God created the heavens and the earth, and then created man and woman – two. God did
all this in six days and rested on the seventh. In the days of Noah, it rained forty days and forty
nights. Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a whale, or a fish. Jesus referenced this
same number when He told His disciples He would spend three days and three nights in the heart
of the earth (See Matthew 12:40). God uses numbers throughout His Holy Word to help us
understand significance in His kingdom. Even though God uses these numbers, He would rather
we pay closer attention to events.
During creation, was a day really twenty four hours long? Did it really rain for forty
days? Did Jonah really spend three days and three nights in the belly of a fish? God wants us to
look at the significance of the events and not dwell on the finite numbers our human brains
understand. Thank God creation happened. The Great Flood happened for a purpose. Jonah’s
mind was changed and once being deposited on the beach, He decided to follow God’s
instructions (and it only took 3 days to do it in a very convincing way!!).
God is event driven. But there is one number that is very important to God, and that
number is ONE. That is the number of steps it takes to return to Him. No matter how far we
stray from Him, He says He is always with us. The journey of one step is ours to take, not His.
Let us remember, the journey to God or back to God is only one step in length. All we
must do is turn toward the destination and take that one step. Therefore, the number one can be
the most rewarding and life-giving numbers we’ve ever known.
Remember, one step is all it takes to receive ever-lasting life, and can be the most
lifesaving and life-giving number you’ll ever know!!!
In today’s society, we are driven by titles. The military is very strict on titles, having everyone called by their rank and then their last name, e.g. First Sergeant Walker, or Chief Walker. But sometimes titles can be very misleading. As an example, a person we are all familiar with, the school head janitor can be called “Director of Refuse Relocation.” While this is a little amusing, here are a few titles that actually exist: “Wizard of Light Bulb Moments” (Marketing Manager), “Beverage Dissemination Officer” (Bartender), and finally “Genius” (Sales Associate at Apple), which isn’t far from the truth for us technically-challenged adults!!
Professionals in the workplace have nameplates on their desk, placards on their office door, and business cards with their names on them and of course, their title. We define ourselves by what we do, especially by titles. We’ve become accustomed to hearing a person’s title and making an immediate judgement, thinking we know the person.
Years ago, a politician I was engaging with became a little short on patience while discussing a statute. He said, “Do you know who I am?” In reality he should have said, “Do you know what I am?” I responded (gently) to his question, “Sir, I know what you are, but I do not know who you are.” He was taken aback and asked what I meant by my response. I quickly smoothed his ruffled feathers by telling him I knew what he was, but I didn’t know WHO he was! I knew nothing about his character or his person, only what his career path was. Face it, it’s easy to identify each other by our titles. But they only define what we are, not who we are.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus for the purpose of strengthening the believers in their Christian faith. To remind them who they were, Paul wrote “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
God has a plan for His creation from the first moment of His creation until, well, for eternity. Paul is reminding the people in Ephesus they were created by God’s wonderful craftsmanship to carry out His plan, which is good works through His Son. This is who we are. God continues to have a plan, and created us to carry out the workings of that plan.
If someone wants to define what you are, first and foremost you are the result of the Master Craftsman; the same Craftsman who created the entire universe and all that is in it. We are a product of God. And remember, Christ Jesus defines who we are by His sacrifice. We are His workers, bought by His blood, for a life in eternity with our Heavenly Father! Therefore, be strong knowing who, and whose we are!
Mankind cannot live by bread alone; we must have relationships! Or maybe you’ve heard this one – no man is an island. It’s a funny way to state it, but we need to have relationships in our lives. Even though some may dream of living all alone in the mountains in a little log cabin, isolation can be maddening. But we’ve seen the documentaries of men living alone in the woods or mountains, and how they interact with the animals! Ha! Gotcha! Relationships!
In the movie “Dances with Wolves” Kevin Costner plays a Lieutenant sent to a far western outpost. He alone in this small, one building camp with only his horse. He spends his days repairing the deteriorating building, writing in his journal, and talking with his horse. He befriends a wolf which he names Two Socks, and eventually develops relationships with members of the nearby Sioux tribe. Even though the Lieutenant was disillusioned by his experience in the Civil War and wanted to get away from it all, being alone was not the way.
We can search for meaning in relationships. We have relationships with new friends, life-long relationships with best friends, relationships with our favorite business, and relationships with our neighbors, as well as many more.
Each type of relationship fulfills a specific need in our lives. Our best friends fulfill the need of trust and honesty. We need to have someone in our lives with which we can tell all, whether that is that life-long best friend or a spouse. Non-judgmental confession and acceptance can only come from a person we trust. The business relationships also have a thread of trust within them. We trust our favorite mechanic to repair our car correctly, and not add a lot of unneeded repairs. We have our favorite restaurants we patronize knowing the atmosphere is good, the food is consistently good, and even a welcome smile from the owner as you walk in on your regular evening makes us feel good. We all have the need to not only trust and be honest in our actions, but to be treated in the same manner by others. Kevin Costner needed the company of Two Socks, and over time each trusted and relied on each other’s abilities to spot trouble on the prairie.
Were we created for relationships? God’s Word says we were. Man (Mankind) is the only part of creation that was created in God’s image. In the book of Isaiah, we find man was created to glorify our Creator. But exactly how do we glorify God? In Psalms, we are told to worship God with gladness and “know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Part of what it looks like to glorify God is to acknowledge who God is (our Creator) and to praise and worship Him as such.
The purpose of glorifying God is when we live our lives in relationship and faithful service to Him. If we keep the relationship with God first, the one for which we were created, all other relationships will be established, guided, and sometimes even tested through the revelations God gives us.
Messages and opinions seem to abound these days. Or it might be more accurate to say they take up most of the news cycle and talk shows. Everyone has an opinion about issue “du jour” and are all too ready to give it to the listening public. As a listening public, we need to be keenly aware of several aspects of the issue, such as the message, the messenger, and sadly the motive in the delivery. Suffice it to say we need to be an educated listening public, taking in as much data as possible before forming our own opinion.
In the scientific and research community, a research design must first be established that will discover new theories, test or validate old ones, or the findings used to set new policies. There are many other uses of research, too many to go over here. The reason for setting the paradigm in the beginning and then gathering data is to test your theory with the interpreted findings, not determine your findings and write out a theory that validates your paradigm! There are many ways to ensure research is done in a proper way by setting a good paradigm, but such is not the case with the issue “du jour.”
So many times on our news programs, a subject matter expert is brought on the broadcast show to give their opinion of a past event and speculate as to its impact in the future. The credentials of the expert are usually seen on a banner below them to add reliability and validity to their message. But it sometimes seems opinions are given by these experts that are neither valid nor reliable, because the news program wanted to be the first to break the news story or push what they think matters. As a result, very few actual details are given and the majority of their opinion is speculation. I would call this “data blindness” or “knowledge malpractice.”
This phenomenon is not new in our day and time. During Jesus’ day, there were several groups who refused to see prophetic writings of the prophets being fulfilled before their eyes. They believed their knowledge to be perfect and complete, and anything to the contrary was just plain wrong. This led to the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees experiencing spiritual blindness. They just didn’t believe what was going on in Jesus’ ministry, nor did they want to because it threatened their power and authority.
In the Gospel of Luke, we find Jesus has returned to his hometown of Nazareth in the region called Galilee. As was his custom, Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. On this day, he stood to read and was handed the scroll which contained the writings of the prophet Isaiah. The words he read very vividly described the reason and ministry for which he was sent by the Father. Once completed, he told those gathered the words he had just read were fulfilled that day before their very eyes. But all they could do was ask “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” The leader’s failed to see the outcome of all the data they had been studying for years! They wanted a different outcome regardless of all the evidence; one where they stayed in power and control!
It’s easy for us to form opinions about a great many matters, even using other’s opinions as our own to serve our own means. When in question, we should go to God’s Word to see what He says about matters, because in the end off all things, it’s only His opinion that really matters!!!