On Sunday, September 22, 2019, New York Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones stunned the sportsworld with a masterful performance of resilience, confidence and mobility for his debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The facts are clear: Daniel Jones tied an NFL record for the 2nd largest comeback victory by a rookies quarterback in his debut. It was also the Giants’ largest comeback victory since 1970 (we’re talking about almost 50 years ago).

As an avid NY Giants fan, I greeted the Giants’ first draft choice this year with trepidation. Most people never heard of Daniel Jones and did not pay attention to Duke’s football program. But, Jones’ debut as the starting QB for the Giants have awakened fans and foes alike. “Who is he?”, “Is this sustainable?” or “Alright, good start. But that defense is terrible!” are the statements and questions you’ll hear. NFL analysts and commentators will use much airtime and ink opining about his performance and future. But, here are three lessons Daniel Jones taught us in one game:

LESSON #1: YOUR PRIVATE DISCIPLINE WILL HAVE A PUBLIC DEBUT.

Daniel Jones has been working hard behind-the-scenes, earning the respect of his coaches and teammates alike. Like veteran QB Eli Manning, Jones is not flashy or boastful. He lets his game speak for itself. His private discipline and work ethic was met with a public (and national) opportunity to let his work shine.

After watching Jones’ performance, I was reminded of the value of private discipline. When you make the decision to commit to focused work, you may not see the results right away, but you will see them. And there are no shortcuts. Work is work. When you hear “I’m on my grind”, the probability is extremely low that the public declaration matches reality. If you’re on your “grind”, you don’t have time to talk about it. Jones didn’t have to talk about it…he was about it.

LESSON #2: YOUR WORK WILL OVERCOME “THEIR WORDS”.

I love the Monday morning quarterbacking. I love the revisionist history. The re-interpretation of the historical record cannot be overstated. When Daniel Jones was drafted #6 by the Giants in April 2019, the commentators were quick to dismiss the draft pick over potential franchise QB Dwayne Haskins (from THE Ohio State University) as “crazy”, “uninformed” and downright “stupid”. To their credit, most commentators were not aiming to disrespect Jones’ game, but they did not offer much confidence in it either.

When Jones lead the Giants to a comeback 32-31 win over the Buccaneers, the narratives began to change. Apologies were offered. Reconsideration of Jones’ talent and skill began. But Jones’ skill never changed. It was simply on full display. Here’s the lesson: Let people talk. Stop trying to manage the opinions of others. While they talk, you keep working hard to improve, to grow and to reach your goals. Your work will overcome their words.

LESSON #3: STAY HUMBLE IN YOUR SUCCESS.

After the game, I watched Daniel Jones’ interview and taking questions from reporters. His humility and words of his successful debut game as a “team effort” was refreshing to hear. Sure, there are many NFL players and athletes that offer words that speak to teamwork and winning as a whole organization. But, most would not have blamed Jones for taking a victory lap or giving a “take that” attitude. But, that’s not Daniel’s character. And that’s why he is the toast of the town and a proud addition to the NY Giants roster.

When you reach success and fulfill your goals, stay humble. Like Jones, recognize that your success is linked to how you go about achieving success. I heard Pastor Dharius Daniels of Change Church once say, “There’s such a thing of being successfully successful.” Your success, staying power and respect given to your work is based on how you successfully pursue your goals and achievements.

Whether the NY Giants have a successful and woefully disappointing season, one thing is clear: Daniel Jones has a great future in the NFL and we can learn from the lessons he taught us just by playing the game. — RF

Empathy is a rare commodity, but needed more than ever.

Recently, a story has been circulating newsrooms across the country. The family of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger, felt disrespected when President Donald Trump said to the grieving widow that the soldier “knew what he signed up for.” (Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/us/politics/trump-widow-johnson-call.html) Whether you take this exchange as valid or believe it is “fake news”, the sentiments reportedly expressed raises questions about how we value empathy in today’s culture and society.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of empathy is:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy)

You may not have experienced a specific tragedy or disappointment. You may not have endured another’s pain. Yet, when you value empathy, you can extend compassion and connect deeply to their experience. Too often, the value of empathy is being dismissed and replaced with a callousness and apathy that permeates every sector of society. If you are attempting to start a new business and fail during your first try, rather than being greeted with words of compassion or being coached, you may be on the receiving end of words such as “You should have prepared more” or “Your business plan was weak” or “You needed to do more research before making the leap”. Apathy’s default is always what you could have done better and how you are a victim of your own weakness and lack of preparedness. It never considers circumstances out of your control, unexpected roadblocks or the emotional roller coaster endured to reach a particular goal.

The lack of empathy doesn’t end in the business arena, but extends in relationships, employment, and other areas of life. If you’re relationship or friendship failed, you don’t have what it takes. If you still are unemployed, you didn’t look hard enough. If you’re in need of assistance, you’re lazy. If you are having a hard time loosing the weight, you’re undisciplined. See the pattern? Apathy immediately resorts to what is wrong with you or what’s missing. Empathy relates to your pain, demonstrates compassion and serves to journey with you to healing and wholeness. Your pain may have been a result of wrong decisions. Your condition may have been a consequence of your poor planning. But, when you are bleeding, you need to address the wound with tender love and care. If I’m bleeding, I simply don’t need good thoughts my way or feeling sorry for me (pity or sympathy). I need sympathy with a compassionate response. I need empathy.

Whether you are in a leadership role or serving others, we all can grow in valuing empathy for our fellow man and woman. When I review the Scriptures, I see a man by the name of Jesus who spoke truth but in love. I witnessed a man who showed compassion, coupled with correction. I see a man who took time to tackle the problem and not the person. We can all learn from Jesus’ example. And if you find yourself having difficulty showing empathy to others, I would suggest you ask yourself this question: “How would I like to be treated?” – RF

You may hear this often from churchgoers, viewers of Christian TV or those who attend regional Christian conferences:

“I need more ‘meat’!”

“Now that’s a deep Word!”

“So good! So good!”


“I NEED MORE MEAT AUDIENCE”

Depending on the source, these phrases could have a different meaning. Oftentimes, the “I need more meat” audiences are referring to the Scripture passage in 1 Corinthians when the Apostle Paul was addressing the Corinthian church and said:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NKJV)

In this Scripture, the word “milk” means the basic, elementary teachings of Christianity that are studied by new believers. The “meat” or “solid food” refers to the deeper, spiritual doctrines. In essence, “I need more meat” audience desire deeper insights into spiritual doctrines of the Gospel.


“NOW THAT’S A DEEP WORD” OR “SO GOOD” AUDIENCE

The “Now That’s A Deep Word” or “So Good” audience often respond in recognition that what’s being communicated draws from a deeper well than what is written on the page. For many, when they hear something new or another way of looking at a Scripture, they may find themselves responding immediately with either phrase. This audience serves to affirm the speaker or preacher that they have “done their homework” and provided a fresh take on an ageless passage of Scripture.


GOING DEEPER QUESTION

If you are in need of “more meat” or you find yourself affirming with a “so good”, does it mean that you have made the deliberate choice to go deeper? In my Christian walk, I have found that going deeper is not limited to having more information about the Bible. It’s not limited to have a revelation of God’s Word that was hidden to you before. I offer to you that is requires this and more. Here’s my equation:

INFORMATION + REVELATION + APPLICATION = GOING DEEPER

A basic understanding of God’s Word opens up the opportunity to receive revelation about the text, the author of the Eternal Word and the one (you) reading it. But information and revelation are not enough. I’ve had to ask myself this question in my own relationship before God:

If it’s “so good” then why aren’t these truths being demonstrated in your life? Where is the application?

When the Word of God is not only given an Amen in words but in lifestyle and choices, you will discover that going deeper is not a cliché. It is a conviction. If I want to know the Creator of my soul, the author of my faith and the strength of my life, I make the deliberate, intentional choice daily to go deeper. Studying to learn, praying to understanding, surrendering my will to apply God’s will for my life.


PRAYERFEST: FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2017

My church, Christ Church, will be hosting a regional prayer gathering called Prayerfest 2017: Making History Through Prayer. Our church family is currently on a 40-Day Prayer Journey to go deeper in God (access the guide here). I want to encourage you to join us on this journey and meet us at Prayerfest on Friday, July 28th at 9 AM (Christ Church West Campus, 140 Green Pond Road, Rockaway, NJ – http://www.Prayerfest.net). Let’s go deeper in God together! – RF

“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” – Luke 23:44-47

 

Surely, this was a righteous man.

Surely, this is a righteous man.

Surely, He is the Righteous One.

 

The death of Jesus on the cross was no ordinary event. It marked the exact time when the debt of our sins, that could not be paid by man alone, were paid in full. The blood of Jesus satisfied our debt and granted us access to the Father. When we pray, we pray in the name of Jesus because His life granted us the authority to boldly approach the throne of grace.

But for the enemies of Jesus, this was the end. No more need of a rousing prophet and preacher who said He was the Son of God. Yet, his actual death sparked reactions that were surprising and alarming. In Luke 23, we see that the event was so impactful, even doubters and skeptics said the word SURELY. In death, Jesus revealed His divinity for those who wanted to see. While the enemies of Christ and the Father of Lies surely celebrated the final breath of Jesus on this side of eternity, these same enemies forgot who they were dealing with.

As we think of the day of crucifixion and the day of resurrection, it’s the 2nd day in between that may stir up doubt, skepticism, worry and fear. Did Jesus really mean what He said? This question among others may taunt us today. Before a breakthrough, we wonder if it will come. Before the miracle, we question if God will show up right on time. Before the blessing, we may get weary in our belief that Jesus will be what He said He would be. Is He the One who can redeem, restore, and set free?

I can assure you, backed by the authority of Scripture, Jesus is the One.

Sunday is coming…

Surely…

Sunday is coming.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Love is best defined through sacrifice. When we witness a couple exchange vows on their wedding day, seasoned married couples know full well that this moment is a promise of commitment and love. These vows are tested by the challenges and opportunities that life presents. It’s the sacrifices by each spouse from day to day that leads to the success of a marriage. While words and verbal declarations are important, the fulfillment of those words through action carries even greater weight.

Jesus personified love through His sacrifice on the Cross. This sacrificial act of love was not under compulsion, but under obedience to the Father. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” – Luke 22:42

This Scripture passage demonstrates that Jesus preferred another route to save the world from sin and eternal damnation. This “cup” was a hefty price to pay. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary was a risky proposition. Jesus committed to die on a cross for a people that may ultimately reject Him. Yet, the promise of each member of humanity to become the righteousness of God (in right standing with the Father) was worth the risk. The reward was a people reconciled back to God.

On this Good Friday, we are reminded of the great sacrifice of the Father. He surrendered His one and only begotten Son for the sins of the world. This day, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus, who surrendered to the brutality leading to and at the cross. Jesus took the ultimate risk for the reward of relationship with you.

I know Whitney Houston was sang of “The Greatest Love of All”. No greater love was personified than Jesus laying down His life for His friends.

On this Good Friday, we are reminded that death died so that we may have life and life more abundantly.

What will you respond to the greatest love of all? 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

 

The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16)

The Savior of the World. (1 John 4:14)

The Alpha and The Omega. (Revelation 22:13)

 

When you reflect on the titles given to Jesus, any position or title we’ve ever had or will have pales in comparison. It’s not everyday that you hear someone called The Savior of the World. The reason for that is because there is only one. While Jesus walked on the earth, He could have carried these titles like a badge of honor, esteeming Himself and demonstrating His great power for recognition. But the Savior didn’t do that. The King didn’t choose that route. He humbled Himself as a servant.

 

Jesus’ greatest service was to obey the will of the Father. This led Him to seek and save the lost. For there were many that didn’t even know they were lost or needed saving. I was in that place too. I attended church and understood religious terminology. I acknowledged and accepted the Lord as my Savior at the young age of 13. I was practically raised in the church. But, I soon discovered that Jesus was looking for more. Rather than merely attending church, He wanted me to be the church. He was still chasing me down. He wanted a relationship beyond the surface. He was seeking me out.

 

Whether you are in a place of searching to discover the truth of Scripture or have embraced the Word of God as the final authority in your life, Jesus is still on a mission of seeking you. For God is not through with ministering to your soul, shaping your character and directing you into purpose. This chase and this pursuit led Jesus to the rugged cross on Calvary. As you read this right now, He is seeking you out. His love for you compelled Him to surrender His very life on behalf of yours.

 

Let Jesus find you in a place of surrender. If you do, you’ll discover you have much in common with the One who surrendered everything for you.

 

Today’s Prayer


Lord, I recognize there have been times I have subtly or directly pulled away from Your Presence. I may have even rejected Your love thinking I was not worthy to receive it. Yet, Your pursuit of me and of others proves that You count us worthy. I position myself today to surrender to Your heart and Your will for my life. I count it a privilege to journey with you on this adventure called life. In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen.

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:27

Whenever I receive an invitation to a wedding, I’m reminded of how much thought went into choosing the guest list. Each invitation comes at a cost: the reception venue, food, entertainment and the price of hosting family and friends. For a couple to think of me as a worthy guest to their most special day is an honor. While I enjoy the festivities, I’m acutely aware that someone paid for my plate!

 

Like a wedding guest list, Jesus invites us in relationship. But, this is no ordinary relationship. Jesus (self-described most as the Son of Man) invites our humanity to connect with His divinity. While the invitation is extended, He doesn’t demand your acceptance. His desire is that you will come to embrace the call to follow Him. But, He offers a disclaimer. If you want to be a true Christ-follower, it will require a bearing of your own cross.

 

In essence, Jesus invites us into cross training! If we are going to give our lives over to Christ, there’s a price. There’s a cost. And anytime a cost is involved, you can expect a thinning out of the crowds. Everyone is not ready or willing to pay the price of following Christ. But, the Word encourages us to see the great benefits of doing just that!

 

While salvation is open to everyone who will come in faith, discipleship is another thing altogether; it’s cross training! It’s a death to self. It’s identifying with the shame and pain of our Suffering Christ on the cross. It’s counting the cost of aligning your will to His. When we count the cost of following Christ, we also can expect to count the blessings of serving Him.

 

Today’s Prayer


Lord, words cannot begin to describe the joy of being in relationship with You! Grant me the courage and boldness to take up my own cross to follow You. And when I am weak and weary, remind me that You give strength in my weakness to do the very thing You’ve called me to do. In Your Name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24

When Jesus bore our sins on the cross, it was and remains the greatest sacrifice. Jesus took on the curse, the guilt, and the punishment of our sin. Think about this. Here an innocent, blameless man voluntarily takes on the role of guilt-bearer. While many identify Jesus as Savior and Lord, the title of guilt-bearer took on a role new meaning from the perspective of the cross.

What guilt and shame are you carrying? Oftentimes, our spiritual progress is hindered when the chains of condemnation arrest us. Even when appearing to be free, regrets and missteps may bind us. You may have raised the question, “How could a perfect God forgive me with my imperfections?” God answered this question through His only begotten Son, Jesus, accepting the call of surrender. As Christ surrendered His self for us, we are called to surrender our will for His. He is not asking us to do something that He was unwilling to do. He modeled surrender before the cross, at the cross and after the cross.

Today, you may be at a crossroads. As we reflect on the life of Jesus this Holy Week, you may find it challenging to surrender and submit because of the cost. Don’t fear. When we surrender to God’s will, there will always be a price. But the price of surrender pales in comparison to the joy of relationship with Jesus. Let’s not forsake the call of surrender – the blessings far outweigh the cost.


Today’s Prayer:

Lord, thank you for Your sacrifice on the Cross. As you’ve modeled surrender on my behalf, I make a commitment to you today to surrender my will to Yours. Grant me the courage to follow You everyday. As I reflect on Your sacrifice, may I never the price you paid. Thank you for giving your life for mine. In Jesus Name. Amen.

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2

 

In 1 John, Jesus is described as the propitiation for our sins. While we often do not use this word in our modern vernacular, it does befit us to explore what this means. Propitiation was a way to satisfy the anger of God whose holy standard was violated by our sin. In the Old Testament, sacrifices were offered to make amends. But, the Scriptures highlight the fact that Jesus actually embodied the full measure of sacrifice for our violation. Jesus made this sacrifice by dying on the cross for the sins of not only Christians, but also the whole world.

 

What does this mean for us? There is no sin that you’ve committed that is not covered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Remaining in a place of condemnation and shame over past offenses and sins rejects what Jesus gave His life for. God’s heart for you demanded that His Son Jesus be offered to you as a gift for new life. On this day, will you accept the gift of Jesus?

 

Jesus died for everyone. And His death on the cross extends forgiveness for all those who enter into relationship with Him. If you’re a Christian (Christ-follower), pray that God will continue to reveal to you the depth, width and height of His love. If you’re searching and investigating the truth of Scripture, my prayer for you is that as you read the Bible, the truth of Christ’s sacrifice and its meaning will change your life forever.


Today’s Prayer:

Lord, remind me that you offer forgiveness for my sins and faith to live a life that represents You. I humble myself before You, recognizing that I need You to live a fulfilling, fruitful life. During this Holy Week, help me to know You are near and ready to offer restoration for my brokenness. In Jesus Name. Amen.

How in the world can you make a mistake in faith? It’s faith – the simple trust in God. How can you make a mistake with that?

You can. I have. And it’s simple to do.

The common mistake when it comes to faith is its actual definition. Growing up, I used to hear sermons and songs speaking to faith moving mountains. Scripture backs it up. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 17, verse 20 where Jesus said:

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

What an encouraging passage! But, here’s a word of caution. The context of this Scripture is when Jesus is disciplining his disciples on not being able to heal a boy who is demon-possessed. Jesus was correcting them by saying they were unbelieving and a perverse generation. Jesus even questioned out loud of how long should he put up with faithlessness. WOW! How could they make such a dire mistake?

Contrary to popular belief, everyone has faith. The real question is who and what do we have faith in. And here lies where the mistakes become very clear. You may see it all the time. Someone puts their faith in an investor for their portfolio to grow. Others may put their faith in their own experience. Even in the midst of an election, we see Americans placing their trust or faith in leaders to make a lasting change or impact. While we all can voice reason for why we’ve placed our faith in certain things – biblical faith is rooted in faith in Jesus Christ. And this faith may not match up to the way we want things to go.

Mistake #1: Unyielding to God’s Way

We may never say it out loud, but our actions reflect when we think we know better than God or anyone else. There’s a certain swagger and confidence we place on our approach. We can even find ourselves stubborn and think that we can negotiate our way out of obedience. I remember this clearly sitting at a youth event at what was then known as the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ. I’m sitting with my girlfriend (now wife) Kristyn and friends from church. A representative from Compassion International comes up and shares about the joy and responsibility of sponsoring a child who needs basic services. I heard the presentation but I couldn’t shake the conviction – “Sponsor a child!”

At the time, I was a seminary student struggling with the finances I already had. Now, I sense in my heart God prompting me to sponsor a child. I asked myself: “With what money? I cannot even help myself – I’m going to help a child that I don’t even know?” These questions were loud but the conviction to sponsor was even stronger. I looked at Kristyn and she already knew. I wrestled with it, wondering how this was going to work out. I sponsored a child that day. I’m still sponsoring since 2009. I realized that there’s no need to fight God. You will lose. Yield to His Way! Let faith lead you to make decisions that honors God and in turn, blesses you.

Mistake #2: Trusting God Only When Things Are Good

Death. Divorce. Health Crisis. Financial Strain. Relationship Breakdown. I’ve experienced all and more in my life. It has not always been easy. One of the easiest mistakes to make is to trust God only when things are good. By good, I mean what we each consider good by our standards. We can fall easily into the trap of treating God like Santa Claus, expecting all our gifts and wishes to be granted in a moment, no questions asked. Trusting God in the fire of challenge is where faith is tested. Claiming to have faith and living out your faith are two separate things entirely.

Here’s the hard-hitting truth that challenges me: Trusting God in the good times only reflects poorly on the quality of your relationship with Him. Ouch! I cannot raise the faith flag when it’s convenient and lay it down when it begins to challenge my comfort zone. Yes, faith in God will stretch you. It’s supposed to! Yes, faith in God will challenge your perspective. It’s supposed to! But, faith in God during adversity does another thing – it demonstrates the strength and resilience of God never to let you go.

Mistake #3: Thinking that God Doesn’t Have a Plan

One of my favorite Scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 where it says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I get excited reading this! But, one mistake I made early on in my faith journey was taking this text out of context. Yes, God wants to prosper me. But, it may not mean a large deposit in my bank accounts. Or even this – His purpose is not to harm me, but it never said it wouldn’t hurt. Faith stretches us where it hurts. It deals with our wounds and our misconceptions. But, God’s purpose is for faith to inform our everyday living. It’s to help us grow and not to tear us down.

The highlighting of three major mistakes serves to point us to this truth – when we yield to God’s way, even when things are not always good, we can trust His plan will work through and in us. When this happens – our mistakes turn into a message that leads others to God. – RF