Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Monday, April 27, 2009

11 things that can never bring true happiness

A smiley by Pumbaa, drawn using a text editor.Image via Wikipedia

Too many believers and non-believers alike have placed their happiness and overall well-being in relationships or in material things. Here is a list of potential pitfalls on the journey to true happiness:
  1. Spouse/significant other - too many couples place their happiness in one another. Sure, we all want to have loving, happy relationships with our spouses (singles - boyfriends/girlfriends or lack thereof) but because we are flawed human beings, we are bound to fail each other from time to time.
  2. Children - for those of us that have children, we love them and want the very best for their lives. As they grow older, though, they start making their own choices and sometimes they will disappoint us and make the wrong choices. Also at some point, they will leave our homes. For parents that have wrapped their happiness in their children, they will eventually become extremely unhappy and depressed once their children leave home.
  3. Parents - some people place their happiness in their relationship with their parents. If the relationship is strong, they are happy. If the relationship is strained, they are unhappy. Again, our parents are also flawed human beings, so they will fail us at times and we will fail our parents.
  4. Friends - in reality, we all only have a small number of friends that we can rely on and talk to about anything. Even the best of friends, though, are only human and will let us down on occasion.
  5. Job/Career/Business - in general, men have the biggest problem with having their happiness wrapped up in this area. If business is going well, they are happy. If there are problems at work, they are unhappy.
  6. Food - some people are so obsessed with food that they have linked happiness with eating.
  7. Sleep - some people use sleep as a crutch to get them through unhappy times. They would rather be unconscious then face the real issues. They think more sleep will help them achieve the happiness they desire, or at least avoid the pain of their unhappiness.
  8. Addictions - similar to food and sleep, people use a wide variety of addictions (drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography) as a way to escape the discontent and unhappiness in their lives. They become deceived into thinking their addiction is making them happy.
  9. Hobbies - here is another possible escape mechanism. The hobby could be anything from golf to gardening. Hobbies are perfectly fine and normal, but if your personal happiness is dependent upon the amount of time you are able to put into your hobby, you will be disappointed.
  10. Money - many people have a mindset that if they can "x" amount in salary at work, then they will be happy. Or, if they can have a certain amount of money in savings and investments, then they will be happy and content. The problem that develops is the bar gets raised higher and higher to the point that no amount of money will bring them satisfaction.
  11. Stuff - similar to money, people get into a mindset that a new car, a new house, a new boat, or new clothes will bring happiness and fulfillment. This is how compulsive shoppers get into $1,000's in debt. They are trying to buy a happiness that doesn't last.
Only one thing can bring true happiness in our lives and that is a deep, personal relationship with the Lord. If we will invest in our relationship with Him as our number one priority, His joy will flow through us.

God blesses those people who refuse evil advice and won't follow sinners or join in sneering at God. Instead, the Law of the LORD makes them happy, and they think about it day and night. They are like trees growing beside a stream, trees that produce fruit in season and always have leaves. Those people succeed in everything they do. (Psalm 1:1-3)
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

10 Influential Christians to Follow

Over the last several years, the 10 people on this list have greatly influenced my life in some fashion. They have helped me in raising my family, confirming my life's calling, becoming debt free, and more. Their lives, their speaking, and their writing has changed my way of thinking in a positive way.
  1. Dave Ramsey - although many Christians find Dave a little on the edge for his "in your face" style, I find him extremely refreshing as being a "real" Christian. When it comes to personal finance, he takes a completely Biblical approach (i.e. no debt!). His program (FPU - 7 Baby Steps) really works if you work the program. Dave is hitting his stride on the radio, on TV, as an author, and as a shrewd business man. He will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. [Dave's website]
  2. Dan Miller - I first discovered Dan through Dave Ramsey (they are mutual, Nashville friends). Dan is the author of the popular books 48 Days to the Work You Love and No More Mondays. Dan gives some of the best career advice currently available. [Dan's website]. Be sure to sign-up for his newsletter and check out his podcast. Great stuff!
  3. Zig Ziglar - Zig is the "godfather" of Christian-based motivation, personal development, and corporate training. He has directly or indirectly influenced many of the people on this list. [Zig's website].
  4. Rick Warren - Rick has emerged as one of the most influential pastors in America today. His popular, best-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life has helped millions of Christians determine their life's mission. I admire Pastor Rick deeply for how he has handled the wealth and success he has achieved through his book. He and his wife became reverse tithers (live on 10%; give away 90%), he has not altered his lifestyle as a result of great wealth, and he has leveraged his stewardship of influence in a positive way. [Rick's website].
  5. John Maxwell - John is the leadership guru. Hands down. No debate. I admire John for the sheer volume of writing he produces and the leadership advice that he gives. He is a tremendous public speaker as well [John's website].
  6. Bill Hybels - Bill is the founding pastor of Willowcreek Church in Chicago, IL. He and his team have had a profound influence on the Mega church movement, as well as the impact of creativity in the worship arts. [Willowcreek's website].
  7. Steven Curtis Chapman - as a musician myself, I had to place one Christian musician on my list. I admire Steve as a great song writer. I also admire him for the longevity he has had in his music career. He is a tremendous family man, and I have been impressed with his walk with Christ after the recent tragic death of his young, adopted daughter. As a dad of two small girls, I can't help but cry every time I hear his song Cinderella. [Steve's website].
  8. Greg Vaughn - Greg is the author of the book Letters from Dad. His big idea about giving memory boxes and letters to your family members is a powerful one. His book is a must read for all family men. [Greg's website].
  9. Meg Meeker, M.D. - I had to put at least one female on my list! I became acquainted with Meg through Dave Ramsey's radio program. Meg is the author of the popular book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. In this book she reveals 10 secrets every father should know in raising and relating to their daughters. As a father of two little girls, I know I'll be referring back to her book for years to come. [Meg's website].
  10. Joel Osteen - many Evangelical Christians don't appreciate Joel's ministry (this is putting it mildly), but I appreciate him for a number of reasons. First, he gives the popular self-help industry a decidedly faith-based, God-centered foundation. I don't listen and watch Joel to get deep into the Word, but when I need encouragement in my walk, I turn to Joel. Second, he is leading a church that is exploding in its influence. Third, he is a shrewd communicator and businessman. [Joel's website].
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Still Rich...but questioning

Being rich is not based on circumstances. Wealth is a state of mind. Being rich is not based on bank accounts. True wealth comes from within. Being truly wealthy comes from a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Job was a Biblical character that had it all. He had a large family, wealth, and the respect of those around him. He was confident in his relationship with God and God was confident with Job. In fact, when Satan approached God to discuss Job, God bragged on the faithfulness of His servant Job. Satan then asked God for permission to test Job in order to see just how faithful he really was. God grants Satan permission to test him with one stipulation - that Job's life be spared.

Satan begins the test by destroying all of his livestock and his servants - the assets by which wealth was measured in that time. Next, he takes the lives of Job's sons and daughters. Finally, he inflicts painful boils on Job's body. Through all of these difficulties, Job will not curse God and renounce his relationship with Him. In spite of his circumstances, Job believes his relationship with God is secure. Job is rich in his relationship with God.

Job's response, though, is to question "why." What have I done to cause these events? What sin have I committed? Why have You (God) allowed or caused all of this to take place? In fact the majority of the chapters of the Book of Job contains Job's questions and arguing with his friends as to the reasons all of these trials have taken place.

God's eventual response to Job and his friends is that they are not in a position to question why and make assumptions or accusations. He is Almighty God and He will do what He will do. He never reveals to Job as to the exact reasons He allowed Job's sufferings. The good news, though, is that God restores to Job his health, wealth, and family.

Are you currently going through a major trial in your life? If so, renew your faith in Almighty God. He loves you and has a plan for your life.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Rebecca Principle

Before he [Abraham's servant] had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, who was the wife of Abraham's brother Nahor. The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again. The servant hurried to meet her and said, "Please give me a little water from your jar."

"Drink, my lord," she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink. After she had given him a drink, she said, "I'll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking." So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful. (Genesis 24:15-21)

Our senior pastor recently preached a message on "The Rebekah Principle."

The essence of The Rebekah Principle is that she had a giving, servant attitude.

Three important qualities of The Rebekah Principle:
  1. Abound in giving - time, talent, treasure. When Abraham's servant asked her for a drink of water, she happily gave it to him without question.
  2. Anticipate the needs of others. After giving Abraham's servant a drink, she recognized that his camels needed water and immediately acted by giving them water as well.
  3. Serve without complaining. Rebekah did these things without once complaining about it. She had a servant's heart.
Are you abounding in giving, anticipating the needs of others, and serving without complaining? Discover unique ways in which you can apply The Rebekah Principle today.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Letters from Dad - leaving a written legacy

Father with childImage via Wikipedia

Back in December, I read a great book called Letters from Dad written by Greg Vaughn. The book is essentially a "how to" book on leaving a written legacy to your family - to your wife, to your children, and to your parents.

Greg came up with the idea of letter writing from his own disappointment of not having even as much as his own dad's signature when he passed away. He wanted something tangible to be able to hold on to and remember his father. A great idea was born.

Greg then formed a small accountability group of men and then they began writing letters to their wives, children, and parents. They encouraged one another through the process and shared their experiences as they began to give these letters to their families. From this humble beginning, a movement was born. The idea spread in churches and communities, a book was written, and thousands of letter writing groups have now formed nationwide.

For Valentine's Day this year, I purchased memory boxes and wrote letters to each member of my family. My daughters are too young right now to really grasp the significance of their letters and memory boxes, but as they mature into teenagers and young adults, I pray that they will read and reflect on their individual letters, knowing that the words that I wrote came from their daddy's heart.

Are you leaving a written legacy to your family?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Are you a pillar of faith? (part 2)

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, 16th century ...Image via Wikipedia

In my last post, we looked at the two great pillars of the Bible, Moses and the Apostle Paul, and what exactly made them the great pillars of our faith. Obviously, none of us will become a pillar of the faith to the historical extent of these two men, but in this post, we will explore 5 ways in which we can become pillars of faith in our own circle of influence using the examples of Moses and Paul:
  1. Learn. Both Moses and Aaron were highly educated. In today's world, though, an expensive college degree isn't always an option or even an necessity. We live in the greatest information explosion in the history of mankind. There is nothing stopping you from picking up free books from your local library to further educate yourself in order to become the best in your chosen field.
  2. Teach. Once you have acquired knowledge and have educated yourself, you need to turn around and teach others what you have learned. Some of the best learning actually comes from teaching!
  3. Write. Once you have acquired knowledge and begun teaching it to others, you need to start putting your thoughts and ideas down on paper. Keep a journal. Start a blog. Write letters to your spouse and children. Write a book.
  4. Lead. All of us are leaders to some degree. We lead our families. We lead in our church. We lead at work. Strive to learn more about leadership and how you can become a better leader to those that are following you.
  5. Relate. Life is all about relationships. If you look at the life of Moses and Paul, they both had significant relationships in their lives that propelled them forward in their ministry. Moses had God, Aaron, Hur, and Joshua as his primary relationships. The Apostle Paul had the Lord, Timothy, Silas, Barnabas, Aquila, Priscilla, and many more. Make your relationship with the Lord a priority, have a few close friends you can lean on in difficult times, and also mentor others.
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Are you a pillar of faith? (part 1)

Our senior pastor often talks about the two great pillars of the Bible:
  1. In the Old Testament - Moses (represents the Law of God)
  2. In the New Testament - Apostle Paul (represents the Love of God or Grace)
They are considered pillars of the Bible because:
  1. They were both highly educated, intelligent men. Moses was raised in Pharaoh's household and taught by the best scholars of the known world at that time. Paul was a Jewish, Roman citizen, fluent in Hebrew and Greek, taught by the great Rabbi Gamaliel, and Paul was also a Pharisee.
  2. Moses wrote considerable, important parts (The Law) of the Old Testament and Paul wrote many of the books of the New Testament.
  3. Moses was a key figure in the formation of the Jewish faith; Paul was a key figure in the formation of the Christian faith.
  4. They were both strong, influential, Spirit-filled leaders. Moses was the first leader of the nation of Israel. Paul was the first Christian missionary and a key figure in the spread of the church throughout the entire Roman Empire.
  5. They both had personal encounters and deep relationships with God. Moses often met with God "face to face" and was considered His friend. Paul had a number of unique encounters with the Lord: on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), three years in Arabia after his conversion (Galatians 1), and caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12).
In Part 2, we will explore how we can become a pillar of the faith just like Moses and Paul.
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Being successful in all your asked to do!

NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art: Limestone He...Image by wallyg via Flickr

Whatever Saul gave David to do, he did it—and did it well. So well that Saul put him in charge of his military operations. Everybody, both the people in general and Saul's servants, approved of and admired David's leadership. 1 Samuel 18:5 (The Message)

Why was David so successful in all that he did?
  1. God was with him. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power... (1 Samuel 16:3)
  2. He was submissive to the leadership over him - both the Lord and King Saul.
  3. He did whatever he was asked to do, and he performed his duties with excellence.
  4. He understood leadership. He was a leader that people desired to follow.
David led a rich life because he innately understood the qualities of stewardship of influence, productivity, and winning.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Need to Give (part 2)

6 ideas to help your church become a better communicator of specific needs:

[Let's use the following need as an example: replacing old, faded, worn-out carpeting]
  1. Be specific - explain to your church body exactly what carpet needs to be replaced. Is it really all the carpet in the building, or maybe just in the front lobby and hallways?
  2. Use Visuals - numbers, graphs, pictures, video. Map out how many square feet and locations in building where carpet will be replaced. What is cost per square foot, and total cost of replacement carpeting and labor.
  3. Before and after pictures - show pictures to the church body of how bad the carpet looks right now next to a picture of a new carpet sample. This would probably have the biggest impact of any of these suggestions.
  4. Get it in writing - mail out letter, church bulletin insert, email with specifics, numbers, and pictures. Clear communication to your church body is always a good thing.
  5. Demonstrate a track record of fiscal responsibility and oversight. Use committee team lay leaders to reassure the people that money given will be spent wisely and for the specific need.
  6. Testimonials - find someone in your church who has been impacted by church decor. For example, when they first visited your church, they were immediately impressed with a clean, well maintained facility, and this was possibly one reason they decided to join your church. Think about this: how many restaurants do you avoid because they're dirty and unpleasant to eat in? Atmosphere and ambiance do matter to many people!
People will enthusiastically give to a need that is truly perceived as just that, a real need and not just a "want." Be sure you present a true need in a clear and compelling way.