The William Colgate Story

He was born in 1783.  His family was so poor that he considered himself a burden to them, so when he was just 19 years old, he left home and set off to make a life for himself. He had worked two years in his fathers manufacturing business of soaps and candles but failed to succeed in it. From there, William Colgate decided to go into business on his own, but within a year that business failed as well.

When two failures like these happen at a young age, it often becomes the breaking point where dreams are abandoned. But William traveled to New York City to start anew. On the way, a Christian friend of his gave him words that changed him forever. “Give your heart to Christ,” he said, “and give God all that belongs to Him. And make an honest soap. Someone will be the leading soap maker in New York. It may be you!

That day, William Colgate became a Christian and a giver. After working as an apprentice for another soap maker, William started his own business. Unlike his previous attempts, this was a success from the beginning. William proved to live out his Christian life and gave radically until his death.

I’ve learned some lessons from William Colgate.

The first is this: failures happen to the best of us. Don’t quit.And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9. Everyone fails at some point. But not everyone gets up again. Only winners do.

Learn from mistakes, both yours and others.

The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.” Proverbs 24:16 

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.” Proverbs 19:20

Honor God and give.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38

William’s success in business was directly tied to his commitment to God and his resolve to give. Let’s learn from his example.

Sowing Mercy, Reaping Mercy

There is a law that is always working.  A law that no one can ever break, but all too often, this law breaks people.  It is the Law of sowing and reaping. Whatever a person sows, they will eventually reap. Whatever someone does, consequences will soon follow.

Years ago at the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah, Robert Downey Jr. (who had lots of trouble with the law because of his addiction to alcohol and drugs) said, “Oh, I can’t drink these days. I’m allergic to alcohol and narcotics. If I use them, I break out in handcuffs.”  Downey learned the reality of  sowing and reaping. When he sowed into alcohol and drugs, he reaped a jail cell.

But it’s not just about sowing bad seeds. It is a law that proves true about whatever you sow. The law of sowing and reaping is neutral. It exists outside you and me, and it cannot be broken.   Usually people think of it as negative, but it’s not. It is also the law that allows you to plan your future. “What will life be like next year? In five years? What will my children be like? What impact will my life have?” Whatever you sow in these areas, you will reap.

It is as constant as the seasons.

As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night,  will never cease. Genesis 8:22

Now although God is sovereign (some things in life we cannot avoid) most of what you get out of life is based on what you sow into it.  

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7

One thing everyone needs either right now or in the near future is mercy. Are you in need of mercy? Jesus said if you are merciful, you will get mercy back. And if you’re like me, you need lots of mercy.  How do you ensure that in the months ahead people will forgive you when they don’t really have to?   How will you develop a life that people don’t hold grudges against? Start today by sowing mercy and giving it abundantly.

Change Your Life’s Direction

“I don’t like my job.”
“I don’t like my body.”
“I don’t like my house, my friends, my money situation.”
“Why can’t things be different?  When will things change?  I’ve been waiting for things to get better, but it seems they never will… why?”

People ask me these questions all the time.  People are always trying to change the world around them, but without success. Why?

Ever heard the saying, “everywhere you go, there you are again”?

One thing we need to realize is, the only constant in our lives is us. Leo Tolstoy once said, Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

We want our circumstances to change, but few of us do the one thing that will change those circumstances: seek to change ourselves. Usually we hear of this idea every January for New Year’s resolutions. But after about a month, they fade away. Why is that?  Why is it so hard to change?

Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it.

God’s Law of Change

Something bigger and stronger than you must act upon you for you to change. For years, I’ve seen men who want to be better fathers, husbands, or workers but they just can’t seem to change.  I’ve met young women who want to live their lives without compromising their moral standards, but the pull on their affections just keeps getting them into trouble.  

But there is good news.

The greatest change agent that has ever existed is Jesus Christ. He is God in the flesh.  Since his death and resurrection, He has been changing people who had tried everything else in life to change themselves but couldn’t do it.

Here is how it happens:

  1. When a person believes Jesus is who He says He is, and they submit to Him, they are changed.

    But to all who believed him and accepted him, He gave them the right to become children of God. John 1:12

    He gives the power to become something else. The power to live a different life.

  2. The change Christ brings allows you to think differently about yourself.

    …but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

When you think different, you act different.  You begin to live out this other life that is “good and pleasing and perfect.” Then God becomes a perpetual help to you.  Instead of you “turning over a new leaf” only to fall back again, God’s love and commitment to you never fails.

God [is] our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.  Psalms 46:1

The permanent change we want comes from Him, not us. What a blessing!

Healthy Heart, Healthy Life

Have you ever had a friend that was bitter? A friend that is still talking about the person that betrayed them years ago. Or maybe a family member who is still talking about their divorce. Perhaps you know someone who is going to bring up her ex within fifteen minutes of any and every conversation.

If you look closely at these individuals, you will notice they have a long list of hurts and disappointments. In fact, for many their friendships are short lived, they keep changing jobs, and their closest family members seem to be as bitter as they are. How does this happened? It starts at the heart level.

Bitterness is a heart condition. Your heart’s condition not only affects you, it affects everything and everyone around you too.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23

Other translations express your heart determines the “borders” of your life. Just how far will your life go? Well, it depends on your heart. How healthy will your relationships be? Depends on your heart. What kind of influence will you have on your children and the people you love? Depends on your heart.

Not everyone hurting is bitter.

Perhaps you’ve had a chance to know someone who seems to be doing well even though they have known tragedies in their life. Perhaps they have lost someone, maybe they have had a huge setback in their career, or a debilitating illness, and yet they remain positive. What’s their secret?

The new testament says it like this.

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3 John 1:2

The truth is your life is going to be about as good as your soul. A healthy heart, a healthy soul will have good relationships and a good life in spite of trouble. A heart sickened by bitterness will make everything in life bitter. We see this in people all around us.

If you want a good life, put into place these habits to make sure you have a healthy heart.

1. Forgive. Jesus said unforgiveness brings torment and forgiveness brings freedom. I guarantee if you hold onto grudges, they will torment and spoil your life.

2. Get mercy. Guilt is like an infection. A proud person thinks they don’t need mercy, but if you spend some time contemplating your life, you’ll see that everyone needs mercy.

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9

People have joy because they have received mercy and live in it.

3. Humble yourself. Humility brings favor from God and from people. People naturally avoid arrogant people, but humility draws others to you.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 1 Peter 5:6

Getting Through Challenges

The frog is head-and-shoulders inside the pelican’s mouth, but his back and legs dangle outside of it.  His front legs act like hands sticking out of both sides of the pelican’s beak and wrap around the pelican’s throat trying to choke him.  The frog’s back legs are kicking. When I saw this picture, it grabbed my attention. But the best part was the caption: “Never give up!”  I love it!

God has a lot to say about difficulties in life and how He uses them to change us.  We think they are miserable. And when crises come and seem to last forever, we often grieve.  God, however, thinks those times are useful.

1 Peter 1:6-7 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Have you grieved over things?  You know that terrible feeling that comes when you get really bad news.  It saps your strength and makes you feel like you have been hit in the stomach.  Maybe several hardships have  happened and they all culminated in you feeling grief. These trials are usually of different types- money, people, illness, seemingly unanswered prayer. But the effect they have on you is that they grieve you. If that is you right now, this scripture is for you.   I am amazed that God says that not only are times for grief acceptable, they are necessary.  “Necessary?” you might ask, “You mean I NEED THEM?!” God thinks we do.  We tend to think, “Surely there is another way. I shouldn’t have to endure this.”  No it is necessary.

The Need For Trials

You see, these trials are used by God to give you something that is more precious than money. They approve your faith! Like Paul writing to Timothy, “I kept the faith.” That old man’s faith has an effect on us 1900 years later.  It was more precious than gold. It was not just for Paul, but for me as well.

What if the reasons you have been grieved by bad news and had to put up with it was so your children can see that faith in God can get you through a crises? What if it is because in 15 or 20 years they are diagnosed with cancer and they remember how YOU endured hardship and you rejoiced and did not complain. What if they take courage to do what is right because of your example?  The testing of our faith is precious, valuable, worth something to God to us and to others.  I am sure you have been inspired in the past by someone who persisted right in the middle of a terrible situation that would just not go away.   You admired their courage, their good attitude, and deep down inside you, you wanted to be like them.

You have, for a little while, been grieved. That terrible feeling you feel when you receive really bad news is really there.

Trials can be so bad, Peter said, that it feels like you are in a furnace. Things are burning up all around. Some tests are so bad, no one can bear them. It is true you can not endure, but your faith can. Nothing but your faith can get you through this kind of test. But your faith can bring you through it and make it work for your good.  When we keep our faith alive, the whole trial ends up working for us and not against us.

Just like Peter said, in the end you get the reward, your loved ones get an example, and Jesus Christ gets the glory.

Why Evil Things Happen

Photograph by Drew Angerer / Getty

I can’t imagine the grief of those families who lost someone in the Las Vegas massacre. Not just the pain of losing a loved one, but the senselessness of it. Losing a child, a spouse, a friend is a devastating life altering tragedy. People can take years to recover from things like that, and some never do. One of the troubling questions that humans have to deal with is, why do bad things like this happen?

There is a short answer to that and then an extended one.  The short one is that we live in a fallen world.  It isn’t just that there is evil in the world. It is that people do the evil. If you remember, the beginning chapters of the Genesis there lived a man and woman in the Garden of Eden. It was a virtual paradise. There was no pain, no suffering, no heartache, and no death. Still, Adam and Eve sinned. The bible says Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God. When they did that, sin entered the world as a wicked and sustained power. We live in a world that is full of sin. Adam and Eve opened up a door, and sin entered into humanity. That evil showed itself in the perpetrator in Las Vegas.

We live in a broken world. When we wonder why these bad things happen, it’s almost like going to the DPS and saying, “Why do you let all these accidents happen on our highways?!” It was the drunk who decided to drive home. It was the girl who was texting and putting on mascara as she passed that pickup going 75 mph.

Look at the story of King David. He was a good man who loved God, but even he committed adultery and had her husband killed. The godly man turned bad and killed the innocent. The evil nature of sin is here, but we can do something about it.

We can pray. You cannot talk anyone out of grief.  But God Himself has said He has the ability to heal broken hearts. God can do for them what the best of us can’t: heal them in their innermost.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

We can give. Just search online and you’ll find there are many resources we can give to. Countless ministries are sending chaplains to talk, pray, and comfort.

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Romans 15:1

We can encourage others to do the same. When we catch onto the fact that we can do something that will actually help others, we can unashamedly urge others to help with us.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Hebrews 10:24

Father to 10,000 Children

People liked seeing him come into work. Despite the fact that he had a huge responsibility, he was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Instead of acting as though life was a chore, he was genuinely cheerful day-in-day-out. Hard worker though he was, he didn’t let the heavy burden of his job steal his joy nor his good attitude. Instead of letting that stress make cold and stoic (someone people avoided) his positive attitude made people love and respect him.

The year was 1835, and because of Cholera epidemics, his city was full of orphans. Without the funds or the endowment of a huge philanthropist, he began an orphanage. And over the years he housed over 10,000 kids.

Think of that! Half a century ago, the average American couple bore 3.7 children. Today that number has decreased to 1.9. But can you imagine what it would be like taking in 10,000 kids?!  PLUS, this now-father didn’t quit his day job of pastoring a large congregation.

George Muller’s life was busy (to say the least). But instead of being stressed out, walking around with a black cloud over his head, he chose to live happy and that made people flock to him. Many came from all around to his orphanage wanting to help him.

One must ask…How did he maintain a steady happiness that drew people to him? According to his autobiography,

  1. He started every day thanking God, reading the bible and praying for his needs. He wrote, “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.”
  2. He made lists of things he needed, and routinely prayed over that list. He would continue to ask God for answers until he saw them come to pass. “I believe God has heard my prayers. He will make it manifest in His own good time that He has heard me. I have recorded my petitions so that when God has answered them, His name will be glorified.”
  3. He believed hardships produced great faith. Even when hardships meant wondering where he get money for buildings, food, resources to care for so many children. “The only way to obtain strong faith” he said, “is to endure great trials.” Instead of simply asking for money, he would pray and others would give.
  4. He left a legacy. Johann George Ferdinand Müller became a world re-known Christian evangelist and the director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England. During his lifetime, he established 117 schools which offered Christian education to more than 120,000 children.

Great success came from Muller’s dependency on God and what was true for Muller is true for us today.

 

The Danger of Unforgiveness

I couldn’t believe it.  The man who had helped me come to Christ, who prayed the sinner’s prayer with me, was now full of bitterness!  His love for Christ had seemed so genuine, but now it seemed to be dying out. What had happened? By the way he talked, he sounded like a completely different man.

I found out there were problems in his marriage.  He had married a widow with kids. Things got complicated, and many problems did not get resolved. When I spoke with him, he would talk about how bad his family was treating him. But instead of working through the problem, he withdrew into a shell to protect himself.  The marriage dissolved because of it, and things were dire.

As the years went on, he would still speak about how unfair everything was and how wrong he was treated.  It became clear to me what had happened. He was refusing to forgive. He was still holding onto those offenses.

Jesus said unforgiveness  bring “tormentors.” Jesus said the one who refuses to forgive is like one forced into a prison where they are tortured.  This Christian brother of mine was in that prison. But Jesus was offering a “get out of jail free” card.  To walk out of that cell of bitterness and out from under that heavy burden of pain required him to forgive his wife. Unfortunately, he refused to forgive, and so he remained in that prison.

Jesus said because we have been forgiven so much from God, we must forgive others.

Then the king [who represent God] called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. Matthew 18:32-34

Of all the things I have seen destroy people’s lives, the one that I have seen most is not, alcohol, drugs, or adultery.  It’s unforgiveness, hands down.  Unforgiveness destroys families, businesses, churches, sports teams, and staffs. It makes it grand entrance through offenses and wreaks havoc on relationships.

Jesus was emphatic about this thing of forgiving others because He knew it would be a huge stumbling block. But to show us how important it is, He said,

But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:15

How do you know you’ve actually forgiven?

Well, first let me tell you this. I’ve had to forgive the same people for the same offense over and over again. I may not “feel” different (at least not right away), but I choose to forgive every time I remember it.

Here are some things forgiveness is not:

Forgiveness is not conditional. Forgiveness is given regardless of how the other person responds. They may not earn it, deserve it, or promise to do something to receive it. Real forgiveness isn’t waiting for the offender to apologize, it is given anyway.

Forgiveness is not pretending there was no offense.   It takes courage and truth to admit you were hurt. When Jesus taught us to pray, He said we should speak to the Father this way, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” That means they took something form you, or maybe you trusted them and they betrayed you. There are many things people take from us:

Our Reputation
Friends
Job
Family
Innocence
Money

If they owe you an apology, guess what, they owe you something. Don’t pretend that they don’t. To say, “It’s no big deal, I’m fine” is a lie.

Forgiveness does not mean you must trust them again. Trust is earned.  Some people are afraid to forgive because they believe they will go have to go back to trusting that person. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to be their best friend again, or go into business again with them. It simply means that you’ve released them from the debt they owed you.

What Makes Happy Married Couples Happy?

Couple holding handsMy wife Libby and I recently celebrated our 43rd anniversary. Sounds like forever, doesn’t it? We married just after leaving the “hippie” life and becoming Christians. We stepped into a new world of learning what the Bible teaches about husbands and wives, and we faced a radical change from our previous life.

The scripture commands a husband give things up for the sake of their wife. It tells us to give and care for them unlike anything I had seen before. And for Libby, she was to honor and respect me as the husband and leader of the family.

These ideas were absolutely NOT what our counter-culture of “hippieness” advocated. But it was obvious: Christian marriages worked. When we had serious problems where the marriage could have easily dissolved, we stayed together.  The only reason it worked out was because we had discovered principles God had established, and we cried out to Him for help. Some of these might surprise you, but every married couple needs these principles at work if they want to stay married.

The first is this: love God more than you love your spouse. This simple command is much harder to walk out than you might think. But Jesus commanded it:

And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

That means we choose to do what God wants over what we (or our spouse) wants. His plan for your life must take precedence. So, what is his commandment about marriage?

Husbands, love your wife. Seems obvious, right? But loving your wife means more than just buying her roses on Valentine’s Day (which is never a bad idea, guys). It means giving up things I want so that I can give her things she needs. It means putting her needs and desires above my own.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25

What does look like practically? It means we give up time, money, and make choices for her benefit. Ladies, if you are looking for a husband, here’s my advice: find a man who loves God more than he loves you, and he will love you more than any woman on earth.

Wives, honor your husbands. 

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives. 1 Peter 3:1-2

To be frank, Libby put up with me because she loved God more than she loved me. She honored me even when I made great mistakes, which just made me love her all the more. The God who created us, who designed our psyche, gave us instructions for marriage. He gave us the blueprint of how to have a happy and successful marriage.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established. Proverbs 24:3

Wisdom is to live by God’s design. I’ve realized I am happiest loving my wife, when I love her God’s way. That is how He designed marriages to thrive.

The Only Time God Opposes You

Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. was the United States General who led the coalition forces during the Gulf War. He once told a story of his first class at “charm school” which he attended when he became a general.

He and 35 other “one star” generals were all required to attend classes designed to help them get a broader view of their responsibilities as general officers of the army. The classes were also designed to teach them better manners and the political realities of a military that is under civilian authority (I guess that’s why it’s called “charm school”).

When the 36 men gathered there for their first session, they all expected to be affirmed as the best of the best the army had to offer. In the front of the class behind the podium stood the more seasoned general who would instruct them. His eyes grazed over his students a long time before he spoke.

When he finally began he said, “If you had all traveled here together in an airplane, and it crashed and killed you, do you know what would happen?” The young generals kept their eyes focused on him, hanging on his words. He continued, “We would go back out into the field and get 36 more colonels just as good as you to take your place.”

I love that story.  That general knew what he was doing. He just helped those men escape a trap. The trap that is Pride.

Pride is such a dangerous disease. It crawls into your mind and then spreads like a toxin into your whole body. It can make good men into fools. Let me warn you. Before you start elevating yourself in your job, or in your family, consider what the bible says about being proud:

Pride is dangerous because it not only causes God to resist you, He sets a battle against you….

God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6

To oppose means to square off in battle. It’s one thing to have an argument with a family member, but to have the Creator of the Universe designing strategies to humble you (in other words, bring you down)… Trust me, you don’t want that.

Pride is the precursor to calamity.

It’s like a road sign “Catastrophe up ahead”

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3

That is why we need good honest friends who can tell us if they see or smell pride on us. It blinds us. We usually can’t see it, but everyone else can. This price for pride is too great to be ignored. It will bring calamity on you and those closest to you.

So I encourage you, ask someone who knows you (and isn’t afraid to be honest with you) to give you a pride check. It will guard you in the long run.