How Should Followers of Jesus Christ Measure Success?

As I observe Christianity in America, it seems that success is often times measured by numbers that do not always indicate biblical success. Most evangelicals evaluate whether their church is healthy based on attendance, baptisms, giving, and buildings. But when we take a look at God’s word we get a much different way to measure whether a person is a man/woman of God or a church is pleasing in God’s sight.

The two biblical ways to measure success found most are FAITH and PERSEVERANCE. Hebrews 11, for example, is known as the Hall of Faithful Heroes of the Bible. And everyone listed is applauded for their faith, not how many numbers they were able to accumulate. Among those listed are the prophets (Hebrews 11:32). Today, I’d like to share a summary of the life of one of those prophets. This prophet has become one of my favorite heroes of the Bible. He is a fantastic example of PERSEVERANCE. Many times, I wonder just how many ministers would still be faithful and persevere if they had the results that my hero had. He is none other than, JEREMIAH!

So, brace yourself. We’re about to take a trip to one of the darkest times in the life of God’s people in Judah. Imagine if you were the only one in your entire country willing to follow God. That’s what Jeremiah faced. And he persevered by continuing to be faithful to God regardless of his circumstances. Needless to say, his book wasn’t a best seller in his day. Not a single person bought it. No one attended his worship service to listen to his preaching. And there were no numbers to evaluate.

Jeremiah the prophet lived in the final days of the crumbling nation of Israel. He was, appropriately, the last prophet that God sent to preach to the southern kingdom, which comprised the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. God had repeatedly warned Israel to stop their idolatrous behavior, but they would not listen, so He tore the 12 tribes asunder, sending the 10 northern tribes into captivity at the hands of the Assyrians. Then God sent Jeremiah to give Judah the last warning before He cast them out of the land, decimating the nation and sending them into captivity in the pagan kingdom of Babylon. Jeremiah, a faithful, God-fearing man, was called to tell Israel that, because of their unrepentant sin, their God had turned against them and was now prepared to remove them from the land at the hands of a pagan king whom He called “My servant” (Jeremiah 26:7).

No doubt Jeremiah, who was only about 17 when God called him, had great inner turmoil over the fate of his people, and he begged them to listen. He is known as “the weeping prophet,” because he cried tears of sadness, not only because he knew what was about to happen, but because no matter how hard he tried, the people would not listen. Furthermore, he found no human comfort. God had forbidden him to marry or have children (Jeremiah 16:2), and his friends had turned their backs on him. So, along with the burden of the knowledge of impending judgment, he also must have felt very lonely. God knew that this was the best course for Jeremiah, because He went on to tell him how horrible conditions would be in a short time, with babies, children, and adults dying “grievous” deaths, their bodies unable to even be buried, and their flesh devoured by the birds (Jeremiah 16:3-4).

Obviously, the people of Israel had become so hardened by the numbing effects of sin that they no longer believed God, nor did they fear Him. Jeremiah preached for 40 years, and not once did he see any real success in changing or softening the hearts and minds of his stubborn, idolatrous people. The other prophets of Israel had witnessed some successes, at least for a little while, but not Jeremiah. He was speaking to a brick wall; however, his words were not wasted. They were pearls being cast before swine, in a sense, and they were convicting every person who heard them and refused to heed the warning.

Jeremiah tried to make the people understand their problem was a lack of belief, trust, and faith in God, along with an absence of fear which caused them to take Him for granted. It is very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, especially when the focus is not on God. The nation of Israel, just like many nations today, had stopped putting God first, and had replaced Him with false gods, those that would not make them feel guilty or convict them of sin. God had delivered His people from bondage in Egypt, had performed miracles before them, and had even parted the waters of the sea for them. In spite of all these displays of God’s power, they returned to the false practices they had learned in Egypt, even making vows to the false “queen of heaven,” along with performing the other rites and rituals that were part of the Egyptian culture and religion. God finally turned them over to their idolatry, saying, “Go ahead then, do what you promised! Keep your vows!” (Jeremiah 44:25).

Jeremiah’s constant loneliness and isolation finally got the best of him, and he became discouraged. He sank into a quagmire where many believers seem to get stuck when they think their efforts are not making a difference and time is ticking away. Jeremiah was emotionally spent, even to the point of doubting God (Jeremiah 15:18), but God was not done with him.Jeremiah 15:19records a lesson for each believer to remember in those times when he feels alone, useless, and discouraged and whose faith is wavering: “Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.’” God was saying to Jeremiah, come back to Me, and I will restore to you the joy of your salvation. These are similar to the words penned by David when he repented of his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51:12).

What we learn from the life of Jeremiah is the comfort of knowing that, just like every believer, even great prophets of God can experience rejection, depression, and discouragement in their walk with the Lord. This is a normal part of growing spiritually, because our sinful nature fights against our new nature, that which is born of the Spirit of God, according to Galatians 5:17: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” But just as Jeremiah found, we can know that the faithfulness of our God is infinite; even when we are unfaithful to Him, He remains steadfast (2 Timothy 2:13).

Jeremiah was given the task of delivering an unpopular, convicting message to Israel, one that caused him great mental anguish, as well as making him despised in the eyes of his people. God says that His truth sounds like “foolishness” to those who are lost, but to believers it is the very words of life (1 Corinthians 1:18). He also says that the time will come when people will not tolerate the truth (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Those in Israel in Jeremiah’s day did not want to hear what he had to say, and his constant warning of judgment annoyed them. This is true of the world today, as believers who are following God’s instructions are warning the lost and dying world of impending judgment (Revelation 3:10). Even though most are not listening, we must persevere in proclaiming truth in order to rescue some from the terrible judgment that will inevitably come.

Be faithful and persevere. Whether you have “results” or not, God and God alone is the One who can change the hearts of people. It’s our job to be faithful by loving Him and loving people. If you do that, you’re a success in God’s sight. So, the next time you get discouraged because attendance at your church is down, you haven’t had a baptism in a while, or your church didn’t meet the last month’s budget…remember Jeremiah.

One of the most used passages for music has been Lamentations 1:12 > Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.” 

Here’s one of the most popular settings of this passage in Latin, Lamentations of Jeremiah (O Vos Omnes)…

Resources:  Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll and Logos Bible Software

Love & Learn

As mentioned in the previous post, Jennifer & I have been together for over 20 years. Exactly one month after that first date in 1994, we had our first big argument. We were on our way to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert in New Orleans. The Newboys opened the concert with their newly released “SHINE” show and SCC had just released “Heaven in the Real World.” It was a fantastic concert. And though we’d already began working through our disagreement, SCC put the finishing touches on the night with a song he’d just written for his wife, “Love and Learn.”

“Love and Learn” is not the typical mushy romantic song. It’s a song that gets to the nuts and bolts of sticking with your special someone through thick and thin:  learning from the mistakes we make together; trusting in God in every circumstance; and growing old together.

Marriage is hard work. But anything of value is worth working for. We’ve been through a lot together. Our home in Meridian is now the fourth home we’ve shared. We’re blessed with two fabulous children. God called us to the places we work. There’s nothing in this world I’d trade for the wonderful life Jennifer and I share together. Here’s the lyrics from “Love and Learn” that still fit so well in our life together:

Echoes of careless words and slamming doors
Are still ringing in the night.
I’ve taken my side and you’ve taken yours.
We’re both wrong and we’re both right.
Once again misunderstanding has turned us into enemies.
I will forgive you, will you forgive me?
CHORUS
Love and learn, that’s what we will do.
Love and learn through the flood and through the flame.
This world will turn and the seasons will change.
But there’s nothing we can’t get through
As long as we both hold on to the hand of God and each other
And take a lifetime to love and learn.
We start out believing we know love so well.
But through the years we find
True love is a story only time can tell.IMG_1953
And God has made this lifetime yours and mine.
BRIDGE
So until that day when one of us
Has to lay the other in the arms of Jesus
I will be with you and you will be with me…to love and learn.

We’ve had plenty of ups and downs over the years. But through it all, we’ve depended on God to carry us. So, here we are, 20 years after that first argument and approaching 17 years of marriage. We look forward to continuing to love and learn in the future.

Happy Valentine’s Day Jennifer!!!

The Better Half of My Life

20 years ago today, Jennifer (my wife of 16 years) and I went on our first date. God has blessed me in so many ways, but the greatest blessing has been sharing everything with the love of my life! Here’s just a little story (from my point of view) of how the Good Lord arranged for Jennifer and I to fall in love…

x0xx_MMeIL6v7KsBToYIjeK8LlThK3pE8AlypTstc-A

Providence would have it, that both Jennifer Donohoo (of Eupora) and Danny Davis (of Pascagoula) would end up pursuing the next level of education after High School at William Carey College. Jennifer, as a pianist and musician, knew early on that God had gifted her to be a music teacher. She sought out that journey at Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Delta State, etc. But Dr. Milfred Valentine at William Carey was the one who allowed Jennifer to focus on Music Education with a concentration in both voice and piano in order to prepare to become a High School Choir director. The other schools saw Jennifer’s piano skills and pushed that agenda without being open to listening to what she knew she was called to do. Thanks Dr. V!!! Without your openness, Jennifer and I would’ve never met. I, on the other hand, was still trying to balance a call to ministry with continuing to sow a few wild oats. I had applied and been offered to enroll in engineering programs at Mississippi State, Florida State, and LSU. But God has a way of “messing” up our plans. Dr. V (with the help of Harvey McClure) was also very instrumental in recruiting me to William Carey. So, somewhat blind destiny put me in Hattiesburg as well. After being a music minister in High School, I decided to enter Carey as a Church Music Major.

During our freshman year at WCC, we were worlds apart. The only things we had in common was a relationship w/ Jesus and both being music majors. Jennifer was caught up in the BSU crowd. I didn’t fit in there (at the time). I hung with the music and theology majors. I was the guy w/ a natural singing talent that didn’t have to work as hard and sat in the back of the class. Jennifer was the studious hard worker that sat on the front row. We didn’t notice one another very much that freshman year until the last week of school in May. Jennifer was practicing piano one night on the grand piano in the auditorium and having a conversation w/ one of my partners in crime, Kevin Earnest. I have no clue why I was in the Music Building at that time of night, but saw Kevin and went in to say hello. That hello turned into the 3 of us exchanging phone numbers for the summer. I don’t know what I or Jennifer did w/ the phone numbers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if both hit file 13 by the end of the night. Little did we know what would happen the first day of our sophomore year in the Fall of 1994.

tBUnjgciP9dUCKkEbUd0XXLp_oOtxNVp2DedNXU04jUWilliam Carey began school with a special chapel service and convocation to begin each Trimester. Dr. Valentine asked me to lead the music and sing a solo for the service. Newly hired BSU director, Tim Glaze, asked Jennifer to give a testimony of her summer experience working at Camp of the Rising Son in French Camp. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I sang an arrangement of “He Leadeth Me.” Jennifer was wearing a flaming hot red dress!!! The moment our eyes met that day, was life changing. We connected following the service backstage and everything just began to click for us. The next thing I knew, Jennifer was sitting beside me in Music Theory. I was actually showing up for all my classes and doing my work. We were meeting in the Chain Garden and Library to study together. All the offers to go hang out with the guys turned into, “Naw, I’m busy.” It wasn’t just Jennifer and I doing things just the two of us yet either. We were having fun with lots of our friends.

Then a night of study brought a gang of us to IHOP for a big test the next day. If I remember correctly, Jennifer after having ordered some food, realized she didn’t have any money with her. I offered to pay. That kinda led to the next evening when good friend, Ryan Hays, invited a bunch of people in the music building to go to Taco Bell. Only Jennifer and I obliged. Honestly, we were at that stage where we would take any excuse to spend time together, but not ready to do it alone yet. So, that night at Taco Bell, I was the one who didn’t have any money. Jennifer offered to pay for my food and I responded with, “I’ll let you pay, if you let me take out tomorrow night?” She simply said, “OK”…later realizing I had smoothly asked her out on a date.

zGgwGAFgbtmZjzFsyAltI3TM-VhZTOiR7Iu9PSDgva0So, October 20, 1994, Jennifer and I went on our first official date. I picked Jennifer up in my black Nissan Sentra. She was wearing a blouse and a green dress with ducks on it. I was wearing my trusty plaid shirt. That night we had dinner at McAlister’s (doesn’t seem like much now, but it was a very hot spot in Hattiesburg in 1994). I think we both ordered the Club Sandwich and Sweet Tea. After dinner we went to the newly opened Turtle Creek Mall. It was pretty intimidating for Jennifer. We bumped into a lot of people that had known me and my family. But she wasn’t scared or ashamed to be with me. I knew there was something special that night but not ready to express that to anyone.

For the next two weeks, I think we did something together every night, including attending a marriage conference (by mistake, oops), sitting in the cold night air in the park by the zoo, and having a little picnic at newly opened Timberton Golf Course where we had our first kiss. After those two weeks, I remember calling my mom and telling her, “Mom, I think I’ve found her.”

W6FFMC7OwWFBnPEN3ideXeOEXnH1qEZQ6XmI4ruoveI

We dated from October 20, 1994 to Cinco de Mayo of 1997, the day we were engaged. Then we married March 7, 1998. It’s been a wonderful life spending it with Jennifer. More than half of our lives has now been together. I can’t wait to live the next 20 years with her. There’s so many family and friends that I’ve left out of this post. And they’re spread from that first home of ours in Petal to Pascagoula, Eupora, Laurel, Hattiesburg, Fort Worth, TX, to Meridian and beyond. I’m thankful that we’ve always had support from all of you. May God bless you and yours the way He’s blessed me and mine!

I love you, Honey!!!

US Get a Result in 1st two matches of WC

2 weeks ago, if someone predicted the US would have 4 points and have a good chance to advance from the group of death, many would’ve laughed at that prediction. But after getting 3 points vs Ghana and a point vs Portugal, most of us feel robbed because of how the Portugal match ended. The full 3 points were there for the taking. And a 30 second lapse in the US team led to the tie. As Americans we tend to overestimate ourselves. Spain and England are going home already. US dominated possession against the #4 team in the world. I’m proud. But…

Alright, I gotta vent all this crap outta my system, then I’ll be over it. Here’s my plethora of questions…
A series of seemingly innocent decisions, late in a draining game – but if the US is to seriously challenge and advance far into this World Cup, these things cannot happen.
This isn’t to say these players were awful, but as Cobi Jones pointed out last night, it’s not one blunder that leads to a goal, but a domino-effect.
1st question: : Why did Yedlin not take the ball into the corner in the first place? Then, why stop the ball from rolling out for a throw-in?
2nd question: why was Jurgen Klinsmann calling for his team to stay upfield on the Portugal throw, rather than get numbers back?
3rd ?: A minor issue, but why was Cameron heading the ball back into the middle of the field, rather than out for a throw-in?
4th ?: Unfairly (but we expect a higher standard from him) taking vast majority of blame, but why did Bradley get caught on the ball, rather than an early pass back or just blast it out?
5th ?: Why did Beckerman get caught flat-footed, rather than retreat at first sign of trouble? And why is Beasley the only player marking Cristiano Ronaldo?
6th ?: Why’s Omar in midfield rather than between Besler and Cameron? Why don’t Johnson, Cameron & Howard notice Varela at the back post?
7th ?: Could Howard have made a better attempt to stop the shot? (Raised only because of his relatively poor performance in the first half.)
And ironically I just realized, that if we screw up Thursday, indirectly Ghana could eliminate us again…I’m done w/ it now. We’re gonna go through, but I had to vent the what ifs.
That’s all. Now it’s outta my system. Bring on Germany!

Official Away Jersey & K is Angry

As the World Cup approaches, USA now have released both it’s home and away jerseys to be used in Brazil.

USA will play a friendly match vs Mexico Wednesday night. Mexican clubs have not released Michael Orozco and DeMarcus Beasley purposefully. This is such a classless move on the part of the Mexican Federation. All Mexican players have been released to play for this match and this is clearly an attempt to make it difficult for USA to prepare for the World Cup. Klinsmann made this statement live on Spanish TV station Univision last night, “We are very angry, very angry about this because the Mexican clubs released all their players for this very prestigious friendly.” The match is set for 11:15 pm set tomorrow night and will air on ESPN from Glendale, AZ.

World Cup Fever is Growing

US Men’s National Team New Home Jersey

Today, US Soccer revealed the Home jersey it will use for the World Cup this summer in Brazil. It’s a very simple yet distinguished jersey. Combining top performance innovation and a classic and bold design, the new jersey incorporates a classic white with gray horizontal pinstripes across the body and sleeves. The jersey features a classic white polo shirt collar with red trim. Inside the back of the neck is a blue pennant tab with the 13 stars from the original American flag.

On the back, the top features a specially designed font for the USA names and numbers – a modern and angular style that is influenced by other U.S. sports teams. The jersey numbers also include a small U.S. Soccer crest at the bottom. The redesigned Nike Pro baselayer shorts are white with a red stripe on each side. The fit is slim and tailored to the body, with a cut specifically designed to aid movement and comfort. The center back of the shorts feature Nike’s signature laser vents to aid in cooling and moisture management.

The new classic Nike Elite Match Fit socks are also white with strategically cushioned zones to provide comfort and protection. Flex grooves were added to the ankle and the top of the foot. The shirt, shorts and socks all feature fabric made from recycled plastic bottles – 100 percent recycled polyester in the shorts, 96 percent recycled polyester in the shirt and 78 percent in the socks. The new U.S. Men’s National Team kits will be available worldwide online starting Wednesday, March 5. The USA kit is currently available in Nike stores and on nike.com for pre-order.

Rumor is, the above jersey will be the Away jersey for the World Cup. It has not been made official yet. We should find out soon.

Here’s the US Men’s Team training yesterday in Frankfurt, German as they prepare to play Ukraine on Marck 5 on the island of Cyprus.