Tag Archives: God


I have taken many trips in my life but none have affected me as much as my recent trip to Israel.  During my ten day pilgrimage to the Holy Land I packed in a lot of sites.

I have visited other Holy sites around Europe in the past, including the Vatican, but they never made me think of anything beyond the beauty of the craftsmanship.  Israel is a different place entirely.  It is the living history of our Living God.

It is a land dripping in history and bloodshed. It has been conquered and reconquered for many centuries. The land is not rich in terms of resources.  They have to irrigate the land and desalinate the soil to make it fertile.  It varies greatly around the region, but overall it is very rocky with little water.  One plant seems to thrive there naturally, and that is the Olive tree.  Olive trees grow all over.  The olive is a hearty tree that lives for many centuries, so if you plant them today your great-great grandchildren can enjoy their fruit.

The modern State of Israel has turned a once barren land into rich fields of crops.  They have planted countless trees and made many improvements, despite being surrounded by enemies on all sides.

“Israel cannot bring you to God, but experiencing Israel can bring you closer to God.”

I heard these words shortly after landing in Israel.  This phrase went through my head a number of times as I explored the country.

People travel to Israel for many reasons.  My main reason for the trip was my love of the history.  I wanted to walk where Jesus and the disciples walked.  I wanted to see the land they knew, worked and loved.

I saw first hand the small desert village where a child, fully man and fully God, was born.  He would go on to impact people’s lives around the world for over two thousand years.

I could feel the tug of history when I visited Caesarea and its great theatre.  I knew Paul had been on trial and yet here I was sitting in the same arena where it took place.  It was there that the Pilate Stone was discovered by archaeologists. The stone was a dedication stone from Pontius Pilate to the emperor Tiberius.

Capernaum is a small fishing village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It is written about in all four of the Gospels and it is at the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus taught.  The house of the disciple Peter is located a couple of blocks from the synagogue. When you walk the streets of Capernaum you can begin to appreciate what the early Christians went through.

Traveling the country by bus is easy with modern highways and roads.  A trip from the shores of Galilee to Caesarea Philippi takes under two hours. Jesus and his disciples walked it, and it took weeks!  

The Dead Sea looks amazing when you first set eyes upon it.  It is only when you wade in and feel the water that you fully realize why it is called the Dead Sea.  The high saline content of the water feels more like a syrup.  You cannot sink and there is absolutely no life in it.

I was highly anticipating my trip to the old city of Jerusalem and when I first saw it up on the hill it took my breath away. It was when I arrived at the Western Wall of the first temple that I felt my trip was complete.  It was a huge victory for me, not because it is a holier place than any other place, but because of my former life.  I had only ever expected to see the wall in pictures.  

I saw people crying all along the wall.  I saw others who were clearly praying and had been for hours.  In other places on my pilgrimage I saw worshipers falling on their knees crying, brought to tears by the act of touching a rock Jesus may have touched.  

The best sign I saw was inside the Garden Tomb, which was most likely the Tomb of Jesus. It reads “He is not here, for He is risen”  That pretty much sums it up if you are a Christian.  There is no place, no rock, no statue, no clothing and no ritual that will bring you closer to God.

God is accessible whether you make it to Israel or not.  He wants to have a personal relationship with you regardless of your location, background or station in life.  If you do get a chance to visit Israel, I urge you to go.  It was a life-changing trip for me.


Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.



Don’t Ignore Today for Tomorrow

I must have read and heard the following advice thousands of times throughout my life:

Always do your best. Make do with what you have.  Life is a journey, not a destination.  You get the idea.  Instead, I always viewed everything I did in life as a means to an end.

Let me explain what I mean. I have always been goal-oriented.  I would have a big long-term goal in mind and I would work towards it. The problem is that whatever I was currently engaged in did not matter to me. It was just a step toward reaching my bigger goal.  I wasn’t worried about the quality of my work or life, as long as I was closer to the next big thing.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

In my former criminal life, bookmaking (sports bets) was my bread and butter.  It was the fuel for everything else. It paid for my travel to chase after the big scores. It paid for every side project I launched. I did not care about it other than it kept putting enough cash into my pocket to do what I wanted. I also ran stores and other businesses but I would neglect them, to focus on a new venture or bigger money-making scheme.  

The problem I encountered in my life, again and again, was this: I would make enough money doing something to get what I wanted in the short term, and then I would be off again on some crazy adventure.

I wasted years of my life not giving one endeavor my full, undivided attention.

I caution you to learn from my mistakes.  No matter where you are at in life, no matter what you are doing – make the most of it!  Give it all your attention, work hard, master it, make it work and you will have no regrets. Don’t spend your life looking for the next big thing, make the most of every day and be the best version of yourself today.  

God has given each of us a specific set of skills that sets us apart from everyone else.  Invest your time in growing those skills and working with what you already have right now.  Stop viewing your time and your job as a means to an end. Each day is a gift and an opportunity to improve.

Ready or Not, It’s Time for Change

When change comes into our lives it is rarely welcomed.  It can turn our lives upside down and take us outside of our comfort zone. It is usually only looked at favorably in hindsight.

So when is the best time to make changes to our lives?  Most of us only change when we are forced into it by a circumstance of life.  There are seldom times when we decide that the way things are now is no longer acceptable so we truly commit to change.  I’m not talking about a three day cleanse or a week without sugar, I’m talking about a permanent lifestyle change.

I’m here to encourage you to stop waiting until you have hit rock bottom or you have a crisis to change.  

There will never be a perfect time in our lives for voluntary change, so right now is as good a time as any.  The world around us is changing every day and there is nothing we can do to slow it down or stop it.

Even if life is going along perfectly and we are content, there is always room for self-improvement.  There is nothing wrong with wanting something better in life. Goals are a great part of living. We should never stop learning or moving forward.

Changing because of what others think is not the answer.  Forget about other people’s opinions.  You are given one chance at your life, and you should stop letting others dictate your life, just like you should stop blaming others for the things in your life that have gone wrong.  

Take responsibility, step up and make positive changes.   If you take ownership of your life and take steps toward your goals, you will arrive where you set out.

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.


Become A Success By Helping Others

I spent many years viewing life through a flawed belief system. One of the faulty views I lived by was that life is a competition and that I need to get as much as I could for myself.

This turned out to be a lonely, miserable way to live, no matter what I was able to acquire.

I falsely believed that in life there are only a few real winners and the rest, well… were losers.

I have no idea when I came to the conclusion that there was only so much success to go around, but it was at a pretty young age.  It has taken me years to realize that there is always plenty to go around! Success is infinite and has no quota, and success is not defined financially or through social validation.

It was a real lightbulb moment for me when I realized that helping others to succeed ultimately helped me, and didn’t hurt my own strive for success.

Martial arts helped me learn that important lesson.  Jiu-Jitsu, in particular, is a sport that you cannot practice alone. You must learn by doing, with the help and patience of others. Many people took their own time to work with me and help me grow when I was just a newbie. I, in turn, pass that along by working with other newbies.  The feeling I get when I watch others reach their goals and grow their skills is actually far better than some solitary success.

What is your skill?  Everyone has something they are good at.  We are each gifted in different areas and we all have invested our own time over the years working toward something.  I challenge you to take your skill and invest back in the people around you who could benefit from your success.  

Our contribution to society can be far greater than a number in a bank account or an exciting biography page on Wikipedia.  Those that we help, will, in turn, be more likely to do the same for others in the future.  You can become the starting point for a big cycle of “pay it forward.” Your investment in one person could affect thousands down the road.


2018 Is Here!

2018 is here! What changes will you make? The new year is a great time to commit yourself to better health. Sadly, New Year’s resolutions to get into better shape and go to the gym rarely last out the month of January.  I encourage you to make a commitment to yourself to make fitness a regular part of your life and stick with it.

There is no use getting a gym membership where you either have no real idea where to start or you get into something that’s not a good fit for you.  

Fitness is not a quick fix.  Instead, it is all about the steady, long-term, day-to-day training.  If we all take an honest look at our lives, we can all get an idea of how long we have been abusing our bodies.  The changes for the negative did not happen overnight, and it is going to take some time to get it healthy again. There are no shortcuts.  If something promises a quick fix, run away from it.  

It will be hard to stay committed. You will be tired and sore and there are many days you will not feel like training.  Excuses are a dime a dozen, but those of us that stick with it will find that reward worth it.

There will come a point where you will be amazed at how great you feel.  You will eventually come to the realization that you accepted feeling bad as normal.  

Life is short.  We have no guarantee for tomorrow.  Take care of your body while you are in it.

This could be the year that more of us come to the realization that food is fuel for our bodies. It’s purpose is not to make us happy or comfort us.  Good food, unlike medications, has no negative side effects.  Proper diet is important to our health and can keep us functioning at our best.

You have heard it before,“Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.”

Eat smart, train smart, make it fun and stick with it. You will be amazed at the difference it will make in your life.


Making Time

Making better use of our time while enriching our lives sounds a little bit like a self help guru’s pie-in-the-sky sales pitch. In all honesty, it is possible to accomplish both of these goals by making a few small changes to our daily routines.

I love to wake up early before most of the world around me is awake.  The early morning is a quiet time when (after a cup of coffee) my mind is working like a well oiled machine.  I can get a lot finished in a short period of time.

I realize that most people will not want to wake up as early as I do.  We can all, however, plan our lives so we have a routine where we go to bed a little earlier, and get up a little bit earlier.

The extra morning time is time we can use to enrich our lives.  How?  Reading, for one.  I always read books at night before I go to sleep. Reading helps me unwind and relax before I go to sleep.  I also enjoy catching up on world news and reading my Bible first thing in the morning.

Books open up new worlds. They let us experience other lives, other periods of history and other places. Books can teach us or entertain us. Often, they do both.   I have read so many books that I thought I would have no interest in, yet once I started I was sucked into the story.

The year is winding down.  It’s time to think about the new year ahead and making some changes.  I encourage you to wake up earlier and enjoy the morning hours.  I also urge you to spend more time reading books.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.


Stand Out

Each of us defines success in a different way.  My definition of success today is being content, loving those close to me with a full heart and enjoying life to the fullest.

One of the things I like to do is speak to people about life and what they can do to accomplish their dreams and goals.  I listen to their stories and try to find the commonalities with others who have become successful in life.

I was speaking with two people, in particular, this week with very different lives, yet their stories share common threads. One is an actor who started out for many years as a carpenter first. He studied acting on the side as he worked his woodworking craft.  He lived frugally and held himself to a high standard. He pushed himself and never lost sight of where he wanted to be.  There were no roles available for guys like him, yet he never gave up and today he is in a number of shows working as a full time actor.

The second is a professional athlete who has worked at his craft his whole life.  He reached the top of his game and still he kept at it.  Even when his career started to wind down, he stuck to his personal code.  He faced tough times and many changes, but with each move and shift he learned and grew. Those tough times helped shape him and equip him for his life today coaching and pushing other athletes to reach their potential.

We can all learn from their stories.  First, they each had a clear vision of where they wanted to be, and worked toward it.  They did not get caught up in the small things that drag us down in life and will do nothing for us.  Second, they demanded excellence from themselves.  They went to bed early, got plenty of sleep and woke up early on a schedule.  Each of them was willing to sacrifice immediate temporary pleasure for their long term goals. They were willing to put as much time as they could possibly find into mastering their craft.

In doing this they cracked the code of success that many others have followed. Hard work at every stage. They gave it their all no matter how small the work seemed at the time.  People took notice because of their hard work.  Good work never really goes unseen, even if you feel like it does not matter at the time.

After many years of toil, when they finally had their big opportunity, they were ready.

Another thing that stands out to me about these two, is that they both give thanks to him who made it possible. They will tell you that God will never give you more than you can handle.  Their advice is to stay focused, do everything to the best of your ability, demand excellence from yourself and make no excuses. By following these guidelines, we can all reach our full potential.

Titus 2:7

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.