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, November 30, 2009

Everything Is A Test

I recently watched a movie called The Recruit, which contained a number of "nuggets" of life truth woven into the movie.

For a synopsis of the movie, click here.

Throughout the script, a key point that is driven into all the CIA recruits' heads as they enter training is this: everything is a test. As each recruit is placed into a unique situation, paired with a partner, or forced to make a difficult decision, they need to place everything that they are experiencing in the context of a test of their knowledge, skill, decision making abilities, and fortitude.

The same can also be said about the Christian life. Everyone and everything we encounter could be considered some type of test. Take the following scenarios as probable life tests:
  1. Job Loss. This situation could be a test of your faith on a number of levels. Perhaps the Lord is wanting to see your reliance on Him for physical provision. Maybe God has a better position or business opportunity out there waiting for you.
  2. Money Problems. The Lord is looking for excellent money managers. Everything you have is not yours, it's all His. Have you run into financial difficulties because you have been acting like it's all yours? Run your family's finances according to the principles of money management found in God's Word. Manage well what He has given to you at the moment and trust in Him to provide more for the future. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (I Corinthians 4:2).
  3. Marital Problems. Problems in your marriage test how deep your love and commitment is for your spouse. At the first sign of trouble, are you going to duck and run, blaming all of your difficulties on your spouse? Do you have the emotional and spiritual strength to take a stand and heal the marriage. Is God trying to teach you something? Is God trying to develop the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) in your life? Allow God to heal the hurt and pain in your relationship. Forgiveness is another great lesson we can all learn. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).
  4. Divorce. Separation and divorce are huge challenges, especially if you have been the faithful spouse and your spouse has been wayward. Only you can control you and make right choices. Do all you can to heal the relationship, but if your spouse will not return, work on your relationship with the Lord. Allow Him to bring healing to your soul and be a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Don't create another dysfunctional marriage by jumping into another relationship because you're lonely and needy. Relationships don't solve problems.
  5. Difficult Children. I believe that many of us have been blessed with children to mature us, teach us more about ourselves, and pay us back for whatever problems we created for our parents (only half-joking on that one)! If you're having problems with your kids, just look in the mirror. The majority of the time, you are the problem and also the solution. Work on yourself, first. Gain control of your emotions and parenting process. Dr. Kevin Leman has a variety of books on parenting that I highly recommend.
  6. Death. The death of any loved one is the number one, stress-producing life event you will ever encounter. If your loved one has a personal relationship with Christ, you can rest in the knowledge that you will see them once again in heaven. Those of us who know the Lord will ultimately end up in a way better place than here!
Some of our life tests are going to be large ones like the list above. Most, though, are going to be those small, daily challenges that we encounter on a regular basis. Are you making right choices with the small tests in life? Better decision-making in the small tests will build our character and prepare us for the bigger events to come.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything... Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him (James 1: 2-4; 12).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Are you still thankful in 2009?

Happy Turkey Day 2009!

In a few months, when we all take a look back at the year 2009, I think many of us will be thankful it's finally over. This year has brought numerous challenges to a lot of people. Many have lost jobs this year. Many still have jobs but have taken major pay cuts. Marriages have fallen apart. Children have become rebellious and made extremely poor choices. People have lost their homes to foreclosures.

In spite of the difficult times in which we now find ourselves, here are a few reminders of things to be thankful for today, even if you don't necessarily feel very thankful this holiday season:
  1. Salvation. Those of us who claim the name of Christ can be thankful that someday there will be no more sorrow, no more pain! We can rest in the comfort that one day we will live in eternity with our Savior.
  2. Life. There's an old response that some people use to the everyday question, "how are you today?" The response comes back "every day above ground is a good day!" Even though it's a somewhat humorous statement, this is a great attitude to have each day - an attitude of gratitude!
  3. Health. If you and your family still have good health, consider yourself blessed!
  4. Marriage. If you're in a healthy, vibrant marriage, consider yourself blessed!
  5. Family. If you have happy, healthy children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, you are overflowing with blessings. If your parents and grandparents are still alive and well, God has been good to you!
  6. Church. If you have a great church family in which you are a part, you are blessed!
  7. Business. If you own a business that has weathered the economic storm, you are blessed!
  8. Job. If you still have a job in a climate of 10-18% unemployment, God has been good to you and your family!
  9. Food. If you can put food on the table and eat out occasionally, life is tasty!
  10. Vehicles. If you have a functioning car to get you to where you need to go, life is so much easier!
I could go on, but you get the point. In a difficult year, there are still many things in which we can give thanks to our Lord.

To readers of my blog, I thank God for all of you. I pray that you find these regular postings thought provoking, inspiring, and educational. I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, (Philemon 1:4, NIV).

May God bless you and yours this Thanksgiving Day.


Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (I Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Goal Setting | Looking Back and Moving Forward

As the holiday season rapidly approaches, now is the ideal time to review what you were able to accomplish in 2009 and what God has planned for you in your mission in 2010.

Looking Back

So, how was the past year for you? Did you go into 2009 with a list of big, hairy goals that you wanted to accomplish? Here's a list of questions to ask yourself as you review your year:
  1. Did you set clearly defined goals for the past year?
  2. How many goals did you set for yourself? Too few? Too many?
  3. Were you able to accomplish all or most of your goals in 2009? Why or why not?
  4. Were your goals too big to accomplish in one year?
  5. Were your goals based on God's Word or selfish desires?
  6. Has God revealed to you His purpose or Big Idea for your life?
  7. Were your goals based on God's Big Idea for your life?
  8. What challenges or opposition did you encounter during the year?
  9. If you could have a "do over" on this year, what would you do differently?
  10. Can you knock out a couple of the goals on your list before 2009 ends?
Moving Forward

Now that you have perspective on your past or current goals, now it's time to ask yourself some questions as you prepare your goals for next year:
  1. What goals from 2009 are still important and relevant that you should carry over into the new year?
  2. If the goals you set for this year were way too big, can you break those down into smaller goals or tasks for next year in order to gain some momentum?
  3. If you could accomplish 3-4 key goals to move you forward in God's Big Idea for your life, what would they be?
  4. Do you need to let go of someone or something in order to move ahead in 2010?
  5. Are your 2010 goals in line with God's Word and your mission/purpose statement?
  6. Are your goals focused on helping others? Do they add value to others?
If you didn't feel like you were able to make much progress this year in your goals or life mission, take heart! I believe we all go through periods of plateau, decline, then progress once again. The key is to keep asking great questions of yourself, then seek out the right answers to your questions. Keep fighting. Stay in the game. Focus on your mission. Look forward to the day when you will hear:

"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness." (Matthew 25:23, NIV).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How to Win at Anything | The Simple Answer

Over the last several months, I have written a number of posts on the subject of winning. Some of these posts have been more complex than others, but today, I have some cliff notes regarding winning in the various areas of your life. Here is the really short, simple answer for winning:

ADD VALUE to every pursuit and every relationship
  1. with your business clients.
  2. in your job.
  3. in your ministry.
  4. in your marriage.
  5. with your children.
  6. in your friendships.
  7. in your professional network.
So many times, we approach our businesses, our jobs, and our relationships thinking what can I GET out of this. Can I GET more money, more knowledge, more contacts, more appreciation, more help, more love?

Instead, why not approach these pursuits and these relationships by seeking what you can ADD to them. The more we can GIVE of ourselves, the more we will receive. It's one of those strange paradoxes in life. If you want more, if you want to achieve more, you need to get out there and GIVE more.

As you add more value to organizations, business, and people, be sure to add both real value and perceived value. So, what's the difference between the two?

Real Value = actually making a difference in an organization or person.

Perceived Value = the person or organization recognizes that you are making a difference.

Adding value anonymously is a noble cause, but you will never reap the benefits of adding value. I realize that this sounds self-serving, and at some level it probably is, but if you have a desire to win and achieve great things in your life, people need to see and feel the value you are adding.

Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).

In everything I [the Apostle Paul] did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: "It is more blessed to give than receive." (Acts 20:35).

In what ways can you go out today and demonstrate real and perceived value in your work and relationships? Go out and give of yourself today!

Monday, November 16, 2009

When making major financial decisions, look for the unexpected

During a time of major decision making in our personal finances, we have too often become conditioned to seek out the easiest (and usually most expensive) path to solve our need.

Here are some various decision scenarios and possible solutions:
  1. Car breakdown. The easy fix for a lot of people goes something like this: "Oh, no! My car broke down and I need a dependable vehicle to get me back and forth to work. It's an older car anyway and I deserve something new and shiny. I know brand new cars are expensive and will depreciate like a rock, but I'm in a jam here and I need something!" So people go into thousands of dollars of debt and they didn't even seek the Lord's direction! Here are some possibly better alternatives. First and foremost, PRAY! Go before the throne and ask the Lord to give you wisdom and knowledge to make the best financial decision possible. Second, think outside the box on a possible solution. Make your need known to your church through your small group or other avenues. Sometimes, just letting your network of Christian friends know your situation might lead to a great mechanic that could fix your car at a lower cost, or someone let's you borrow their car until you repair yours or you are able find a suitable, less expensive replacement.
  2. Weddings. Why so many people go into thousands of dollars in debt to get married is beyond me. With the divorce rate above 50% even in Christian circles, it seems that it would make more sense to have a very small wedding and invest a lot of money in premarital as well as marriage counseling/coaching throughout the marriage. Get ideas and referrals in your personal network.
  3. Renting vs. Owning. Dave Ramsey always cracks me up when he makes the sarcastic statement "All renters go to hell..." In the past, the conventional wisdom has been that people should get into home ownership as quickly as possible because when you rent, you are just throwing money away. While that may have been true for the last several years, the current collapse of the housing market has really made people rethink homeownership. Owning a home is a huge expense. If you're broke, you are much better off financially to rent a small cheap apartment, pile up as much cash for an emergency fund and home down payment, then go out and purchase an affordable home.
  4. Growing Family. I have seen (and have personally experienced) this scenario too many times. When a young couple gets pregnant with their first child, they believe that they need to immediately rush out and buy a bigger house and vehicle. Unless you are Jon and Kate Gosselin or the Duggar Family ,who have a small tribe for a family, you can probably get by for now until you are in a better financial situation. Just sit tight, be content for now, and research like crazy. Most people run into big financial problems when they rush into a home or automobile purchase that is way over their heads.
  5. College. I believe that more and more people are beginning to wake up to the fact that college is way too expensive. Going into thousands of dollars of debt to attend the best colleges is no guarantee that you will land your dream job. A better plan would be to get a bachelor and master's degree at a decent university, cash flowing the whole process. While getting your degrees as cheeply as possible, network with as many people as possible. Also, you should consider doing an internship in an area of career interest. The "Power of Who" is what is going to help you land you your dream job or launch your business, not a degree from an Ivy League school!
Here's the mental progression you should consider when faced with a major financial decision:
  1. Pray. So many believer's underestimate the power of prayer in their lives. God wants to provide for your needs, but we never go to the Father and ask for help! A prayer that I started praying recently comes directly from John 14:13-14, and the prayer goes something like this, "Father, in the name of Your Son Jesus, I'm asking that you would bring glory to Your name through working a mighty miracle in [insert your request]. Your Son has told His followers that He would do anything for us if we simply ask in His name, and I'm doing that right now. If what I am asking for lines up with Your perfect will and Your Word, I'm trusting that You will answer my request. In His name I pray, Amen."
  2. Keep Giving. Don't allow your financial decision to be an excuse to stop giving at least at the level of the tithe (10%). God has claimed that money as His. God is not going to bless your decision-making process if you are stealing from Him. Everything you have comes from Him, anyway! Prove to the Lord that you are a wise and shrewd manager of His resources.
  3. Look around you. Find out what inexpensive resources are readily available to you at this moment.
  4. Wait. Too many people can't wait anymore. Since we live in a "microwave" society, everybody wants what they desire right now! Be unique. Be different in your decision making process when it comes to your finances. Be a crock-pot, not a microwave. Take your time. Let the entire process "simmer" for a time while you investigate all of the possibilities. There is a much better chance that you will make a wiser decision.
  5. Talk to people. Use your unique "Who Network" to explain your situation and the decision you are facing. Other people have been where you are at right now, and they can give you advice on a possible direction to follow. One word of caution, however. Get a variety of advice from various sources and sift it all through the wisdom of God's Word.
  6. Get Creative. Think outside the box when you need to solve a financial issue. If you need a car, maybe someone in your personal network would be willing to donate a vehicle to you. If you need to get more education, maybe you could get what you really need through a mentoring/internship relationship. Time, relationships, and bartering are all great tools in your arsenal of compensation.
  7. Research all of the possibilities. The internet is an incredible tool at your immediate disposal to obtain information, advice, and special deals. Invest time and energy in searching out this valuable resource.
  8. Use the Power of Cash. Debt is dumb. Cash is a much better negotiating tool to get what you need at a lower cost.
Here are some real-life examples from the life of Jesus Christ:
  1. He used what was currently available to Him. On two separate occasions in Matthew 14 and 15, Jesus was in a situation when thousands of people needed to be fed. In both the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand, His disciples only had just a few loaves of bread and a few fish in order to feed the multitudes. Through God's power working through Him, He was able to stretch out these limited resources in order to feed thousands of people!
  2. He saw resources that His disciples knew nothing about. In Matthew 21, Jesus was preparing for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As He approached the city, He knew about a colt that was tied up in a nearby village. He didn't need to go to the nearest "rent a colt" store to get what He needed. He just asked His disciples to go get it for Him and to let the owner know that the Lord needed to borrow it! In Matthew 26, we see Jesus preparing for His last supper with the disciples. Jesus knew of the perfect upper room, completely furnished, to use for this special meal. He asked His disciples to simply go to the owner and ask him to use it.
Have you ever faced a major financial decision similar to those above? Did you end up making good choices or bad choices? What was your result? I'd love to hear your story, just leave me a comment below.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No Excuses, Just Results

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make excuses and those who get results. The excuse person will find any excuse for why a job was not done, and a results person will find any reason why it can be done. Be a creator, not a reactor. - Alan Cohen

There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results. - Art Turock

I'm a trumpet player, and in my high school and college years, I was privileged to travel all over the United States with a great Christian brass group called the King's Brass. After each concert, we would swap stories of how our chops gave out on a certain high note or about how our memory was faulty on a certain song. Whenever we would get into this mode, we always had a running joke or saying that we would tell one another, "no excuses, just results."

This saying was a great reminder for all of us in the ensemble that we could make every excuse as to why something did or did not happen. What truly mattered in the end, though, were the results - did we as musicians do our absolute best in order to achieve the best concert performance possible.

The same is true in our lives. We can make every excuse out there as to why we aren't successful in our job, saving more money, tithing to our church, spending more time with our families, or fulfilling God's mission for our lives. God wants to create incredible results in and through our lives. We just need to quit giving the Lord, our workplace, our families, our churches, and our friends every excuse we can think of. Sure, some of your excuses may be valid, but have you explored every option available to you in order to achieve better results?

In what areas of your life have you been making excuses? What do you need to do to move from excuses to incredible results?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Relationship of Reading, Writing, and Idea Generation

Cutting Edge vs. Normal

The difference between cutting edge people and normal people is creativity and great ideas. They have a thirst for knowledge and information. They read from a variety of sources and genres - history, politics, philosophy, fantasy, science fiction, non-fiction, fiction, blogs, magazines, newspapers, and so on. They watch a variety of different media - online videos, different movie and TV genres (drama, sci-fi, documentaries, etc.). They attend various seminars (financial, leadership, business).

The key to idea generation is the variety of material. Oftentimes, the variety of material is what causes new creative connections to form in our minds.

OK. You have some new, creative ideas. Now what?

You've gone through the process of reading, viewing, and listening to a variety of good material. You are starting to make creative connections with various ideas from this material. You are creating your own ideas. What should you do with them?
  1. Write them down in a notebook.
  2. Once they are written down in your notebook, take the time to expand these ideas and play around with them.
  3. Start with one word. Then, think of related words, associations with that word, and new words.
  4. Get everything down on paper. Think of this as a "thought ticker." Regurgitate all of your ideas in your notebook, then come back later to organize them.
Share your ideas

Now that you have all of these great ideas down in your notebook, it's time to share them with the world by:
  1. Creating a product around the idea.
  2. Creating a business around the idea.
  3. Writing a blog around the idea.
  4. Writing a book around the idea.
  5. Networking with others around the idea. Join social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Have lunch with people interested in your idea that can push you farther and faster in its development.
What steps do you need to take to move from normal to cutting edge in the arena of ideas?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Becoming Resolute

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51, NIV).

Definition: Resolute - firm, unyielding, determined [Source: Wiktionary].

How determined, how resolute are you when it comes down to accomplishing God's mission for your life? Do you waver in your commitment, even though you know exactly what you must do in order to be faithful in your calling?

In this one simple verse, we see the strong, perfect character of our Lord. He knew that He had to travel down to Jerusalem in order to accomplish His eternal mission here on earth. He knew that He must endure painful beatings from the Jewish religious leaders and crucifixion by the Romans. He knew that He would would be all alone when His disciples abandoned Him. He knew that He would feel the painful separation from the Father when the sin of the whole world was placed on Him at the cross. When the moment came, though, Jesus never wavered. When the timing was right for Him to leave the safety of Galilee to travel to Jerusalem where His mission waited for Him, He left with incredible determination to accomplish the Father's plans for Him.

Jesus made a resolute choice to travel to a place where He knew He would need to suffer and die for you and for me. What unyielding choices do you need to make today to honor Him and His mission for you?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Dependency Class

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NIV).

We live in a world today where increasing numbers of people don't want to work hard and make their way in the world. I'm not writing about those who have lost jobs in recent months due to our current recession, but rather those that have become codependent. They're immature. They haven't grown up. These people are physically capable of working, but they choose rather to have others take care of them, whether it be the federal government, family members, the church, or other charitable organizations. Even Christians can get into a mindset that they are owed something in life, and they will take advantage of the government, other people, resources, and organizations in order to get what they think that they deserve.

In the verses above, the Apostle Paul encourages the believers at the church in Thessalonica to work hard and not be dependent on others. The purpose behind this way of living is to earn the respect of unbelievers. Every day, unbelievers are watching all of us who claim the name of Christ. They are looking to see if we have personal integrity in our everyday lives. Work is such a large part of our life where we can model a strong work ethic to those who don't know the Lord.

As you engage in work today, let me encourage you to work hard as if you were working just for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23). Be a shining example of what a strong Christian work ethic looks like in the life of a believer. Go out and earn the respect of your unbelieving boss and coworkers. Be a living testimony of what Christ is doing in your life. Perhaps the Lord will use your hard work as an open door to share Christ with others.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Personal worship | The best sequence

Those who are rich in Christ, those who have a deep abiding relationship with Him, understand the best sequence of personal worship:

Bible study, followed by meditation, followed by prayer.

When we follow this sequence in our personal worship, we allow God to speak to us through His Word. We can than meditate on what He is trying to tell us through His Word. Finally, once we understand what the Lord is communicating to us, we feel led to talk to Him and discuss what He is trying to teach us.

Several months ago, I wrote a
blog post regarding the great stewardship mindset of George Müller. He was a man of great faith who totally depended on God through His Word and through prayer to meet the needs of the orphanages he was called to establish in England. Regarding his own sequence of personal worship, he said,

The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul in a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.

Before this time my habit had been to give myself to prayer after having dressed in the morning. Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, whilst meditating, my heart might be brought into (an experiential) communion with the Lord.

The result I have found to be almost invariable this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately [Source: Light Their Fire for God by Anne and David Harper, p. 102].

What is your own sequence for personal worship? Do you agree with George Müller's own personal experience and assessment?