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)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Personal Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts in 2011

Photo by Sam Churchill

During this holiday week, I thought I would share some of my favorite blog posts that I have written over the last year here on Rich Christian, Poor Christian. I believe these posts reflect some of my best writing and the most thought-provoking information that I have shared with my readers. Please note, this list includes my personal favorites, but they do not necessarily reflect the most popular posts according to pageview traffic.

In order to read each post listed below in it's entirety, just click on the embedded links. So, without further delay, here are my top ten favorite posts [drum roll, please]:

Larry's Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts In 2011

10. You Are An Alien. In this post, I discuss the concept that is introduced in the New Testament regarding the fact that Christians are really "aliens" in a foreign land. Earth is not our permanent home; heaven is. Unfortunately, the way most believers live, though, does not reflect this truth. We are so obsessed with our stuff here on earth, that we forget what is truly important in this life and our eternal life to come.

9. The Blessing of Experiencing God. In this post, I continue to get "real" with my blog readers regarding everything that has happened to me over the last couple of years, further details regarding My Story of divorce and recovery. During a horrible time of my life, I learned what it truly means to run to God and to lean on Him for his help and strength to get me through it all. Even though what happened to me and my family was definitely not my master plan for my life, God used a horrible experience in order for me to have a deeper encounter with Him.

8. Staying debt free through divorce. One of the cool experiences that I had with God during my divorce was how He kept me debt free during a painful and expensive process. Even after increasing my giving in order to help my church during these turbulent, economic times, God honored my faithfulness to Him and His Kingdom work by providing for my all of my needs in every way. To this day, I am still blown away by God's provision. God's math always works way better than our math!

7. Thankful for the Journey. In this post, I reflect on the truth that the Thanksgiving Day holiday was birthed out of a painful period in our nation's history. Whether times are good or bad, the attitude of the believer should always be one of thanksgiving. I had to discover this myself in my own difficult journey.

6. Who or What Is In Your Backpack? In this post, I reflect on a movie called Up In The Air starring George Clooney. The big takeaway for me in this film was the idea of "who or what is in your backpack?" The relationships that we build on our journey through life are vitality important. Stuff, not so much.

5. Radical Life Changes Challenge Us To Make Changes. In this post, I once again reflect back on the challenging times that I have encountered for the last few years. I acknowledge that if it were not for the extreme challenges that I have faced during this time period of my life, I would not have made the necessary changes in my life that I needed to make. All things truly do work together for the good of those that love God and have been called according to His purpose.

4. Lessons From Nazareth | Donkey Path Living. I was inspired to write this post while traveling through Israel back in May. During my trip, our tour guide pointed out the zig-zag streets that are present in towns that are built on the sides of mountains. These streets were originally donkey paths. Donkeys naturally take the path of least resistance when walking up hills and mountains. Many times, we need to take this same approach when dealing with major challenges in our lives.

3. How To Discover Your Wolrdview On Money. For the Christian, there are two possible worldviews you can take with money. The first is the secular worldview. The second is a Biblical worldview. Unfortunately, though, many believers are handling their personal finances according to the world's approach to money. God's Word, though, has a lot to say about money. Christians need to dig deeper into the Bible and follow God's financial principles.

2. Praying for the Double Blessing. Once again, in this particular post, I reflect back over the last few years of my life. I compare my journey to that of Job in the Old Testament. On the other side of his journey, God gave Job a "double blessing" for staying faithful to Him through all of his trials. The second half of Job's life was twice as good as the first! In my own life situation, I have been praying for that same kind of outcome. Now that I'm on the other side of a lot of my mess, I can truly say that God has been faithful and blessed me in incredible ways over the last year.

1. God Lessons at the Park. As a writer and a dad, this post was just a pure stroke of inspiration as I was taking a bike ride with my daughter one early, warm, spring day. It's my absolute favorite post of 2011 because I was moved to write about my relationship with my daughters and how that compares to our relationship with God the Father. Good stuff.

So, out of my personal Top 10 list, do you have a favorite post that spoke to you or that God used in your life? Feel free to leave me a comment below and tell me your story. I'd love to hear it.

Also, check out these related posts:

Friday, December 23, 2011

There Are No Shortcuts In Your Finances

Photo by Ronallan
Everybody Likes A Good Shortcut

Several years ago, the Star Trek franchise had a spinoff series called "Star Trek Voyager." The premise of the show was that one of the newest starships in Star Fleet, a ship called Voyager, was suddenly transported into the outer reaches of the Delta Quadrant and it would take several decades for the ship to return to earth, even at the speed of Warp 10, or something like that.

In several of the episodes in this series, Captain Janeway is trying to find a wormhole, a shortcut if you will, that will quickly transport her ship and crew back to the Alpha Quadrant where Earth is located. I mean come on, who wouldn't want to shave off a few decades off a really long space voyage? If the ship's captain could find a stable shortcut through the universe and back to earth, then she would save her crew from a miserably long trip!

Everybody likes a good shortcut. I've taken a few in my lifetime, whether it was a shortcut on the drive home, a shortcut on a walk to the park, maybe even shortcuts in my personal life. When given the opportunity, we will often opt to take shortcuts in our lives to avoid pain, save time, and gain instant gratification along the way.

I think many of us like to take shortcuts in our personal finances as well. We think we can get away with not having a budget plan. We assume that we don't need to track our expenses and spending each month. We think we can use debt as a tool to get us where we want to go a little bit quicker. We think we can beat up the credit card companies by taking advantage of some miraculous, special rewards, and then think we will always pay the balance in full every month.

Photo by Jason Riedy
Think Slow Cooker

When it comes to your personal finances, though, it really doesn't pay long term to take a bunch of shortcuts. Sure, in the short run, you can probably get to where you would like to arrive faster via the shortcut, but the rush to arrive is probably going to leave you with severe, long term consequences.

You could compare this process to cooking food. Back in the old days when there were no microwave ovens, people would cook their food for long periods of time in the oven, on the stove top, or also possibly use a device such as a slow cooker. If you've ever eaten food prepared the old fashion, slow way, then you know how delicious it can be - thoroughly cooked, moist, and full of flavor!

But, as our society has progressed and gotten a lot busier, our food preparation has sped up as well. With the invention of the microwave oven, a whole new generation has grown up eating meals that haven't been quite as tasty or healthy as those prepared in the traditional manner. Sure, you can get by on these quickly cooked meals, but it doesn't necessarily leave you satisfied and wanting more of the same.

The best things in life aren't always free. The best things in life aren't those that were achieved easily and quickly. The same could be said of your personal finances. The majority of today's millionaires have acheived their wealth slowly, over time. They are disciplined in having a monthly money plan combined with long term financial goals. They avoid debt like the plague. They live frugally. They buy used, dependable vehicles instead of brand new. They pay for stuff in cash and never at retail prices. They focus on their balance sheet, not on how big their house is or how many expensive cars they own.

Are You In A Financial Hurry?

People who are balance sheet wealthy think like the tortise, not the hare...slow and steady wins in the end. They "cook" their financial meal in a slow cooker, not a super high speed microwave oven.

So, where are you at in your financial life plan? Are you all over the place like the hare? Are you looking for financial shortcuts and "get rich quick" schemes? Or, are you truly taking your time with your money? Do you have a strategic plan in place? Are you working that plan with deligence and consistency?

The majority of the wealthy people in the world today know from first hand experience that there are no shortcuts in personal finances. Are you a believer too, or are you still chasing a rainbow that's never going to materialize? The year 2011 is coming to a close and a new year is about to begin. Why not make it a goal for the year 2012 to get a financial plan in place and take your time with your plan?

There are no shortcuts. Be the tortise, not the hare.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lord, Have I Been A Good Manager For You?

Photo by Roger's Wife
Crown Financial Gives Me A Life Verse

Several years ago, I went through a Crown Financial Bible Study that revolutionized how I thought about my time, my talents, and my finances. As a result of going through that study, I adopted 1 Corinthians 4:2 as my life verse:

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

Although I’m already mostly “hardwired” to be a hardworking, conscientious, and a “do everything with excellence” kind of guy, this verse gives me a much better reason, a constant reminder to use everything I have been given to the best of my ability for God’s glory. One day, I will give an account to the Lord on how well I managed everything that He has given me to manage.

The Stuff We Must Manage Well

God has entrusted to each and every one of us a specific amount of time to live on this earth. How are we spending that time? Are we sitting on the sofa, playing video games or watching cable TV all day? Are we messing around at our workplaces and not using the time effectively for our employers? Are we faithful in showing up to church each week to worship corporately with our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ and connect with other believers in our small groups?

God has also invested in each of us specific talents and abilities. If you’re a musician, then you need to play your instrument or sing your heart out to the best of your ability for God’s glory. If you can teach, then you should teach others to the best of your ability. If God has shaped your personality to be a strong leader, then you need to lead with excellence. If God made you a writer, then write your fingers to the bone to further His Kingdom here on earth.

God has placed specific people in our lives with whom He wants us to pour our lives into: our parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, business relationships, and so on. Obviously, we have to prioritize these relationships and invest the majority of our time and energy into those closest to us. Never underestimate, though, the impact you can have on those people that are further down on your list. When I look back on my life and relationships, some of the people that have helped me the most at critical life moments have not always been those closest to me. You may be able to have that same kind of impact on others as well.

Finally, God has deposited money, assets, and resources into our lives to be used for His Kingdom purposes. How faithful have you been so far in managing His financial resources? Is your family struggling with massive amounts of debt? Do you have a spending plan in place? Do you have a shopping addiction? Have you been tithing purposefully? Have you been giving assistance to your fellow believers in Christ who may be in need? Have you been helping the poor?

One Day, We Will Discuss Our Management Skills

God has blessed our lives with so much. Right now, during challenging economic times, you may not necessarily feel like you have piles of blessing. Compared to other people groups and countries around the world, though, your life and material blessings far outweigh your possible financial problems.

The purpose of this incredible blessing of time, talent, relationships, and finances isn’t to use these resources for selfish purposes. God is watching us to see if we’re being effective managers of what He has given us to manage. One day, we all get to have a little chat with the Father about our management skills. Is He going to be happy with how effective you were? If not, what do you need to do today or even this next year to turn that around?

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Meeting Needs With Open Hands

Photo by Hindrik S
The Kibbutz Way of Living

In May 2011, I took my first trip to the nation of Israel. As you can imagine, it was a life changing experience to walk the streets of Jerusalem, the birthplace of the universal Church. One of the new concepts I experienced in Israel was the kibbutz. A kibbutz is defined as a collective agricultural settlement in modern Israel, owned and administered communally by its members and on which children are reared collectively.

Honestly, this whole collective settlement thing seems pretty out there. To our western, American way of thinking, it's unpatriotic and un-American to even consider merging all personal assets down into a pool of finances to be shared by multiple families. As Americans, we were born and raised to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps" and instilled with a philosophy of "rugged individualism."  This is how I grew up, anyway. Have you ever realized, though, that the early church did not operate in this individualistic manner?

The Early Church

The kibbutz sounds really familiar to how the early church operated in the book of Acts. Check out this passage from Acts 4 and examine how these early Christians lived as compared with the modern day kibbutz :
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had…there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need (Acts 4:32, 34-35).
These early Christians were in it together. They were one; they were united as one heart and one mind, working together for the common good of the entire Church body. They sold their property, threw all their possessions into one pot, and shared everything they had. As a result of their generous, openhanded spirit, there were no needy Christians in the early church. They helped each other. They provided for one another’s physical needs.

What's The Takeaway Lesson For Modern Times?

Photo by Alternative Break Program
Now, do I think we as a church body need to sell our stuff, buy some farmland, all live there together, and sing “kum-by-yah” around the campfire? I doubt that would work very well in the society in which we live. But, I do think there is a lesson or two that can be learned from these verses.

First, nothing we have is our own. Everything we possess, whether it be a house, a car, or money in the bank, is owned by God the Father, and He has loaned it to us to manage for His purposes. This is the area where I think we have our biggest struggle as westernized, American Christians. We have this extreme self-reliant, somewhat selfish, and very materialistic attitude when it comes to money and stuff. We have conveniently forgotten that the Bible teaches us the exact opposite: "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it..." (Psalm 24:1).

Second, we need to live with an openhanded attitude with our stuff because, again, it's God's to begin with. When there are needs in the body of Christ, we should be willing to do whatever it takes to meet those needs for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to take the focus off of our selfish needs and desires, and be outward looking. When the Church body is operating as it should, then no one will be in need. All needs will be met; our brothers and sisters in the Lord will have been cared for.

Don’t hold on so tightly to your stuff, because it’s not yours to begin with. Live today with an attitude of an open hand and generous spirit.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Useful to the Master

Cartoon/photo by Hartboy
The Job Interview

Job interviews. Honestly, it's been a really long time since I've been on any kind of "official" job interview. I can remember, though, the stress level, the constant smiling, and the being at the "top of your game" kind-of-feeling that can get really old, really fast. It's sort of like going on a first date - it's extremely awkward and everybody just wants to get through it pretty quickly without making a fool out of themselves!

At the core of any job interview, or perhaps even a first date, is this key concept: "how useful is this person to my company, my family, or my life!" Will this person we are courting here fulfill the needs that we have? Can he or she accomplish the job that we need them to do?

The best employee or maybe even the best spouse is that one who is the most useful. That probably sounds somewhat harsh, uncaring, or unloving, but it's true. Useful people get retained. Useful employees get raises and special treatment. Useful spouses are loved on and cared for. The husbands and wives that stick it out over the long haul are the ones that feel like they are getting a great deal and not a majorly raw one.

Useful For God

The American Church and modern day Christianity has done an extreme disservice to people that are in the process of becoming believers. We've essentially lied to people and told them that all they need to do is pray a prayer and then they become members of the Christian Club. While I believe that we Christians have the best of intentions in our soul-winning efforts, becoming a believer in Jesus Christ is more than saying a prayer and getting fire insurance from eternal damnation in hell. It's about radical life change. It's about a relationship with the King of Kings. It's about serving King Jesus and seeing that His Kingdom is moving forward in this life and the life to come.

In 2 Timothy 2:19-21, we read this brief passage regarding those who are useful to God's Kingdom purposes:
Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
According to these verses, the followers of Christ who are truly useful to His purposes are the ones that have turned from their sin. They have cleansed their lives and made themselves useful to God. They are prepared to do any and every good work that the Master calls on them to do.

It's really hard to do the good works of the Master when we're entrenched in a lifestyle of sin that doesn't please the Lord. I don't know about you, but I want to be a special, useful instrument for His special purposes. I don't want to be common; I want to be uncommonly useful for the Kingdom.

How Useful Are You?

Where are you at today in your Christian walk? Are you a pretender, a fake? Maybe you prayed the prayer and you're talking Christianese, but you're not really walking the walk? I get it; I've been there too.

At a certain point though, you will get to the place when you are tested in your faith and then you start questioning this whole Jesus thing. Why am I here? Did I really give my life completely over to the Master? Am I useful to God's Kingdom? Is there sin in my life that I need to confess and forsake in order to become useful for God's special purposes?

I have no clue where you're at today in your spiritual journey, but I would encourage you to take some time to re-evaluate your walk with Christ and determine if your life is truly useful to the Master.

Also, check out these related posts:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

If Not Now, When?

Photo by Jon Newman
Procrastination Rules

We live in a really schizophrenic society in regard to wanting certain things in life immediately and then, on the flip side, dragging our feet in other life areas. There's no consistent behavior across the board. On the one hand, we have a culture in which instant oatmeal and microwave popcorn are popular food items because they're super fast and easy. When we need a quick breakfast or late night snack, we don't like to wait. We want our food, NOW! Or, if we're in a hurry to replace our old washer and dryer or a family van that has a few problems with it, then we don't hesitate to run out and do a 90 days same as cash deal for the latest and greatest home appliances or take out a 7-year car loan to replace the old and busted van.

On the other hand, we also have a tendency to drag our feet in other areas of life. Many times, these are important areas that need to be addressed...and we know it. But, we deliberately drag our feet in making an executive decision or taking action. We know we need to get moving on these certain areas, but we fail to pull the trigger and get things going.

I'm Staring At The Man In The Mirror

The biggest life areas of procrastination, in my opinion, are in the arena of personal life change. Each and every one of us has certain issues in our lives that need to be addressed. We can stare at ourselves in the proverbial mirror knowing that we need to change our ways. Maybe we need to shed a bunch of weight because we've just been plain ol' lazy in the areas of diet and exercise. Or, we need to our personal finances in order bcause we've been really sloppy in this this area. Or, we have a bunch of excess stuff in our house that we need to sort through, and then throw away, give away, or sell. Or, we need to be more consistent with doing a monthly budget and working our debt snowball. I'm sure all of us have a mental list of things we need to quit procrastinating about and take action.

Fear is probably our biggest obstacle when it comes to making some major, life changes. We have a fear of how much time and energy it's going to take to get in better physical shape. Or, worse yet, we fear what people will think of us, if and when we fail. We're fearful if we get back into doing the whole budget, debt free, "I love Dave Ramsey" thing, that it's going to cause more money fights and money problems with our spouse. All of these fears are definitely genuine and in the realm of possibility when you take action in order to accomplish some great thing(s) in your life.

Create A Compelling Future

The most effective tool in helping us move past our procrastination and into action would seem to be creating a compelling future. We need to have such an incredible, forward looking vision that this vision pulls us toward it. We take the appropriate actions necessary to create that future because we can't wait to get to that new, exciting time in our lives.

In his book Awaken the Giant Within, author Anthony Robbins gave this example of the power of creating a compelling future:
Venerable funnyman George Burns understands the importance and power of a compelling future. When asked to sum up his philosophy of life, he once replied, "You have to have something to get you out of bed. I can't do anything in bed, anyway. The most important thing is to have a point, a direction you're headed." Now in his nineties, he's still sharpening his wit, still taking on movie and TV projects, and I recently heard that he booked himself at the Lodon Palladium in the year 2000, when he'll be 104 years old - how's that for creating a compelling future?! (p. 321).
So, what's your compelling future? What's your vision of a "better life?" Christian, has God given you a vision and calling that He wants you to get moving on? Allow this vision, this compelling future to pull you forward into taking the actions necessary in order to see that future unfold in your life.

Also, check out these related posts:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Is Not Just A Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

Photo by Matt Knoth
Nothing More Than Feelings

The word "thanksgiving." What do you think of when you hear that word? Do you think of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and all the trimmings? Do you think of holiday trips to see family and friends? Do you think of professional football on national TV? Both of my brothers love to watch the Detroit Lions play every Turkey Day. It's a tradition.

I bet all of us have warm, fuzzy feelings about thanksgiving. I have always typically traveled to see my family around this particular holiday. Whenever I hear the word "thanksgiving," I think of cold weather, overcast skies, rain/snow mixes, long car rides, seeing most of my extended family, and an awesome meal that bloats my belly!

A Compound Word That Implies Action

If you just stop and think about the word "thanksgiving" though, it is a word made up of two words. It's a compound word made up of the words "thanks" and "giving."

The word "thanks" used as a verb means: to express gratitude, appreciation, or acknowledgment to: She thanked them for their hospitality.

The word "giving" used as a verb means: to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow: to give a birthday present to someone.

Put these two simple words together and you get a powerful compound word that implies some type of action. The definition according to the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God.

If we're truly thankful, we can't help but act through giving.

Give Thanks Today And Every Day

Hey, warm, fuzzy feelings are great to have on this day of Thanksgiving. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the warm fuzzies like anyone else does. But, this day and every day allow your thanksgiving to become an action. Give of yourself in time, attention, and maybe even material gifts to your spouse, children, and other family members. Give a special thanksgiving offering to God through your local church. Help a stranger in need this holiday season. Figure out a way to give of yourself in some unique, tangible way in order to demonstrate a thankful heart.

2 Corintians 9:11 states, You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Through the simple act of generous giving, thanksgiving to God becomes the result. A spirit of thanks and generosity are intertwined. There's no escaping this fact.

And, this active thanks shouldn't be a one day out of the year kind of deal, either. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 we read: pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

In every situation, on every day, we should give thanks to the Lord. This is His will for our lives.

May God bless you and your family on this Thanksgiving Day Holiday.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Do You Really Deserve God's Special Treatment?

I Think I Deserve Special Treatment

As Christians, I think we can fall into a trap of thinking that we deserve the special favor of God Almighty. We've worked hard for the Lord, been faithful in our service to His church, and attempted to do everything He has called us to do. This should all count for something, right? We're tight with God now; we're best buds with the Boss.

Because we're doing everything we're supposed to be doing for the Lord, then I believe we do start getting an attitude of "I deserve, because..." I am deserving of God's special treatment because I'm doing my quiet time each morning, being at church every time the doors are open, and sing in the choir. I'm giving at least 10% of my income back to God. I help provide meals for the homeless. Everything I do is for God's Kingdom and there should be some kind of pay off for all this hard work. Being a servant of God is challenging, don't you know?

Reality Check

I don't think anyone can blame us for falling into the "I deserve" mindset. We all get there from time to time. It gets really bad, though, when we think we're deserving of special treatment of the Lord in a special circumstance - healing from a deadly illness, extra money to get out of debt faster, or a new car to replace your Dave Ramsey beater [insert your item of special "I deserve" treatment here].

"God, I've been good, so give me x, y, and z for my faithful service to You!"

In Luke 17:7-10, Jesus addressed this Christian duty/special treatment mentality:

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Hmmm, we're just unworthy, lowly servants. We've done our duty. There should be no expectations of special treatment for doing the Lord's work faithfully.

What's Your "But God..."

But God, I deserve [insert special favor from the Lord, here] because I've been your favorite servant lately, right? But God, I put up with a lot of garbage from certain people because I am a faithful servant to Your calling on my, show me the money! But God, I'm tired of serving You right now. I need a little breather, so provide me with rest and relaxation. I need a vacation to Mexico. Yeah, God, that would be the bomb!

I don't know what your "But God..." is. I'm assuming you have one. We all do at some level. We all have something we wish God would give us because we're being good little Christians. As God's servants, though, we don't deserve anything. We have been given a duty to do. We are blessed to even be considered worthy enough of God's calling us to be His servants in the first place. In and of itself, that should be blessing enough.

I also know, though, that God loves us like crazy. We're not only His servants, but we're also His children! He enjoys giving great gifts to His kids (Matthew 7:7-11). I'm sure all of us have experienced some pretty incredible blessings from the Lord. The key here, though, is our attitude. Because we are servants of Almighty God, we do have a Christian duty to perform. We should have no expectations for special treatment for doing our duty.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Just Need A Little Debt To Get Me Through

Larry, I Need Your Advice

As the stewardship pastor at a large church, I often get people that call me, email me, or stop me in the hallway at church in order to solicit my advice. This week was a busy one for me in the advice department. I ended up talking to a business owner on the phone, and I also had some email correspondence with the wife/mom of a family of five. I believe as more people are feeling the pinch of a difficult economy, they are seeking out solid financial advice on how they should handle their specific situations.

In the first advice situation, I had a church member call me a couple of days ago asking for my opinion on using debt to carry his family's struggling business through a difficult time. They have cut their business operating budget down to the bare minimum. Now, this member is having a difficult time deciding on whether or not to go out of business or to get a line of credit in order to keep the business afloat for a period of time. If the business goes under, then he loses his job. Tough call!

In the second situation, a family of five in the church have been faithfully working through the Dave Rasmey FPU Baby Steps. Suddenly on Sunday, they discovered on the drive home from church that they are having transmission problems with their van. Now what do they do? Fix the transmission for $2,000+, or do they take out a small loan for $5,000 to find a reliable used vehicle and then pay off that small loan as quickly as possible? Again, another tough call. We all need reliable, safe transportation to get our families from Point A to Point B, not to mention to work each day.

Total Weirdness

Now, I'm a guy that has drank the debt-free kool-aid. Around 2005, I made that radical paradigm shift that debt was no longer an option for me. When you make this choice to live a debt-free lifestyle, that decision is going to get tested - water heaters go out, the roof needs to be repaired, or cars break down. You end up draining your emergency fund to fix these stupid problems and then have to start all over again. Sometimes it feels like a never-ending cycle of jumping back and forth between Baby Steps 1 and 2!

So, you may be asking, "Larry, what was your advice in these two situations?" Well, I am so glad you asked me that question! In the first one, the business debt question, I asked the church member if taking on this business line of credit was truly going to solve his business's problems or just delay the inevitable? Could he take a look at the general health of his industry and the economy and then truly say that his business would turn around and that the business would be okay? I told him that the reality is probably that our economic situation was probably going to remain pretty stagnant over the next couple of years, especially during the election cycle of 2012. Going into debt in order to keep his business afloat for a few months was probably not going to be the best choice. I closed out our phone call by encouraging him to check out the Entreleadership book by Dave Ramsey for business advice.

In the second situation, I encouraged this family of five via email to consider a different path than going into additional debt. First, I asked them to pray like crazy for God to provide for their need of a reliable vehicle in order to haul their family around - DEBT FREE! Second, I recommended that they connect with the small groups that they are associated with at church and make these small groups aware of their need. You never know, one of their connections at church may know of an inexpensive vehicle that will fill the need. Third, they need to see how much they can get for their messed up van. Fourth, they need to use their emergency fund to help them in their situation if necessary. That's what it's there for in the first place! Fifth and final piece of advice, if they get to the point where they just can't avoid going into some debt to get a reliable vehicle, then they need to try to get the smallest loan amount possible (such as $1,000-$2,000), combine that with their emergency fund as well as the proceeds from the busted van sale in order to buy their next vehicle. After that, they need to be committed to paying down their small loan as quickly as possible.

No Excuses, Just Results

We can all come up with an excuse to go back into debt or to take on additional debt. We can get weary of working our debt-free plan and throw in the towel when a little life stuff gets in our way. When you're trying to do the right things with your personal finances, it's never going to be easy. It's definitely going to be a lot of hard work.

You have to make a choice. You can no longer make excuses. You have to stick with your plan. Pray really hard as if everything depended on God. Let Him grow your faith during a time of financial diffficulty. But then do the hard work, expend the creative energy to work through your problem. I truly believe that God will honor both your faith and hard work in order to get through your financial challenges. He will provide a means of escape for you.

Don't make up additional excuses. Find better solutions that can lead to amazing results!

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Exercising Your Faith Muscles

Photo by Greatlist
Weight Training

If you have ever done any kind of serious weight training, then you have a basic understanding of how weight/strength training works. On one day, you may work your muscles really hard, break them down, and experience an incredible amount of musicle fatigue. The next day, you would typically rest your muscles and allow some recovery time. Then the following day, you would work your various muscle groups really hard, break them down once again, and experience more muscle fatigue. This hard workout day would, once again, be followed by a day of rest to allow your muscles some time to recover.

This cycle of breaking down the muscle tissue followed by recovery time is what gradually builds up the muscles in weight training. The very act of tearing down the tissue and giving it a little time to repair itself is what makes it grow larger and stronger. If you think about it, this process can be true in other areas of our lives.

Faith Training

Our spiritual lives are no different. In order to grow stronger in our faith in God, we have to exercise our "faith muscles." Many Christians are under an assumption that they need to pray and ask the Lord for more faith, especially during times of great difficulty.

Even the apostles thought this! One day, they walked right up to Jesus and asked Him to give them more faith. In Luke 17:5-6 (MSG), we read:
The apostles came up and said to the Master, "Give us more faith." But the Master said, "You don't need more faith. There is no 'more' or 'less' in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, 'Go jump in the lake,' and it would do it.
I love Jesus' answer to His apostles. He told them that they already had the exact amount of faith that they needed. At the point of salvation, we were given an appropriate amount of faith. If we're struggling in our faith, then we need to "exercise our faith muscles." The interesting part about this is many times we don't have a lot of say as to what, when, where, how, and why our "faith muscles" get exercised. God allows things to come into our lives to "break down" our faith in order to build it up.

James 1:2-4 (NIV) states:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Life problems are growth opportunities for the believer in Christ. When we face various trials in life, then our faith muscles are exercised and it causes growth and development of our faith. As a result, we mature as Christians. Even though this process can be painfully exhausting, God uses this process to build up our faith in Him.

So, Don't Be Dumb And Ask For More Faith

Okay, I'm half joking here, or am I? If you ask the Lord to increase your faith, then you better be prepared for some extensive faith exercising! As we have seen in the passages above, we were given an appropriate amount of faith at salvation. In order to strengthen this appropriate amount of faith, though, we need to exercise this faith. The Lord allows us to go through times of difficulty in order to break us down in our faith so that we may place even more faith in Him. This process is what creates our faith to grow and causes us to mature in our spiritual walk.

Are you going through a time where you feel as though your faith is being exercised? If so, then rejoice! Embrace the excercise so that you can tear down those "faith muscles" in order to build them back up. You're going to be a stronger, more mature Christian as a result. Get "ripped" for Jesus.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pay Attention To Your Walk

Photo by enggul
People Are Clueless

We live in an ADD (Attention Defecit Disorder) culture. I don't think there's any shocking news there. We have a tendency to bounce around from one interest to another. But, who can blame us? When you've got iPhones, iPads, WiFi internet, TVs, Wii's, music playlists, Kindle's, and many other things that pull us in different directions, we're going to get distracted in life.

The problem is that we can get so distracted by these other things that we stop paying attention to some other more important parts of our lives; things like our physical health, mental health, rest, relaxation. Author Stephen Covey would call these areas "Sharpen the Saw." They are not urgent, emergency areas, but they are vitally important to our overall well-being.

Our spiritual life should be included in this list as well. This is an area that has a tendency to get neglected by Christians. Because the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life are important but not "urgent," they get pushed to the back burner for a more convenient time. The problem is that in most cases, there is no other "convenient" time. If it's truly important but not urgent, we have to make our spiritual lives a priority. We have to work Scripture reading, prayer, church attendance, and so on into our schedule.

Time To Get A Clue

This problem even existed in the days of the Apostle Paul. In Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV), Paul wrote:
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Paul encourages the church at Ephesus to be careful to live a wise life. Because our time on earth is so short, we need to make the most of every opportunity that the Lord gives us. When we have a good understanding of what God's will is for our life, then we can walk in wisdom.

In order to do this, though, we have to pay attention to our walk with Christ. If we're truly believers in Jesus, then our relationship with Him is going to become a high priority.

Ways To Get A Clue

So, if you're having difficulty paying attention to your walk with Christ, what are some ways in which we can start paying attention? Obviously, God's Word is going to be our guide, our roadmap if you will, on how to live a life full of wisdom. God speaks to us through the Bible, so we have to read it to hear Him speaking to us through it.

Also, we need to be sensitive to the speaking of the Holy Spirit in our life. Through our study of the Scriptures and communing with God in prayer, then the Holy Spirit can reveal truth to our spirit.

Finally, having a close network of a few friends that can help you get a clue by keeping you accountable in your walk with the Lord. These friends need to be "true friends" that are willing to speak the truth to you in love when you're acting foolish and not wise as Paul talks about in these verses in Ephesians. Being active in your church each week is a first great step to building relationships with fellow believers with whom we can be accountable to one another.

Are You Clueless?

So, Christian, have you been clueless and not really paying attention to your walk with Christ? Have you been living foolishly and letting really great opportunities to live out your faith slip right through your fingers?

Maybe it's time to finally get a clue and make your walk with Christ a higher priority. I would encourage you today to reprioritize the daily disciplines of your walk with the Lord. So, don't put it off. Today's the day to start paying attention.

Also check out these related posts:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Taking Pleasure In Problems

Photo by bunchofpants
Roll Around In Your Mess

Okay, I know this sounds gross, but stay with me. There's a point here. Have you ever seen a dog go number two and then flip over on his back and roll around in his own mess? Or, have you ever been on a farm and seen pigs that are wallowing around in filthy mud? Why do these animals do that? Don't they realize how gross and disgusting that is? While we may never know the true answer to why animals do strange things like this, they obviously get some kind of weird animal pleasure from their experience.

The Apostle Paul was a Christian who understood problems while living out the life that God had called him to live. He had been beaten on several occasions, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, tired, hungry, and lacking clothing (2 Corinthians 11:22-27). If living the victorious Christian life was all about the "health and wealth," prosperity gospel, then the Apostle Paul was a complete and miserable failure! In fact, dare I say that the prosperity gospel preachers of today would say that Paul wasn't even a true believer. I mean, how could he be when he wasn't experiencing the hand of God's blessing on his life?

Paul had a completely different view of all of these problems in his life. He actually took pleasure in his problems. I think he even liked to "roll around" in his messy situation.

Take A Different Viewpoint

Check out what Paul wrote about regarding the difficulties he experienced in living out his journey of faith in Christ in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (MSG):
Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, 
My grace is enough; it's all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness. 
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
As we can see from this passage, Paul first looked at his problems as a demonic attack. He prayed to the Lord on three separate occasions to take away a physical handicap. And when the Lord answered his request with a firm "No," Paul started to get an understanding of why he had problems. First, his physical handicap was given to him so that he would not become prideful. There were so many ways that Paul could have taken pride and gotten a swelled head for his own calling as an apostle. His handicap, though, put him in his place. It kept him in touch with his own limitations.

Second, his handicap pushed him to his knees. You know, severe problems have a way of causing us to fall down before the Lord in prayer like nothing else. If you want to recalibrate your worship with Almighty God, then all you need to do is go through a major life problem that you can't fix. God and prayer become our only option.

Third, the Lord revealed to Paul that His grace was enough for Paul's handicap. God's amazing strength was revealed in Paul's weakness. Through all of his problems, Paul realized that the weaker he got, God actually made him stronger.

Once Paul was able to get to the place of understanding these three important distinctions, he was able to get to the place of taking his problems in stride. He could actually be happy with his difficulties. He reveled in his problems. He rolled around in his mess.

So, What's Your Problem?

So, Christian, what are you facing in this life right now that has completely humbled you? What difficulty has driven you to your knees in prayer, asking God to provide a solution to your unique situation? Have you even gotten to this position, or are you still mad at God for allowing this stuff to happen in your life in the first place?

Honestly, I can't say that God is going to answer your request in the way that you may think is best. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. He may have a totally different plan for your life that doesn't "fix" your problem, just like the Apostle Paul.

So, what in the heck do we do if that is God's answer to our problem? All I can say is take the same approach as Paul. Enjoy the journey. Roll around in your stinkin' mess. Allow God's grace to grow in your life. When we're weak, God becomes even stronger in our lives.

This is an awesome thing, so don't fight it.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Limiting Choices Is Not The Answer

Photo by Harry Brignull
A TED Video Provokes My Thinking

I recently watched a TED talk video on YouTube that caused me to really consider if this paticular speaker had a valid argument. If you're not familiar with TED, TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then, its scope has become even broader. For more information on TED, check out its website at:

So, back to my story. I watched this TED talk video by Barry Schwartz titled "The paradox of choice." Schwartz has also written a book by the same name. Before you continue reading this post, I would encourage you to watch his video here. It's an incredibly interesting and thought-provoking talk, but I also believe there are a lot of inherent flaws in Mr. Schwartz's final conclusions.

Here's a quick synopsis of the video: Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

Schwartz's Solution Is Flawed

On many levels, I do agree with Schwartz that our western, affluent society has created a number of challenges for those of us who do live in an extremely wealthy society. We do struggle with depression and other psychological problems as a result of too many choices. Because of our great wealth, we get fixiated on the accumulation of money and stuff, thinking that this will buy us happiness. In the end, no amount of money or material goods can ever make us happy.

The biggest problem, though, that I had with the talk was his conclusion. It made me want to jump up on my home office desk and yell "WRONG ANSWER, BUB!" Mr. Schwartz's answer to the problem was income re-distribution. If he were given the power to fix western, affluent society, he would take a lot of our western wealth and spread it around to those other parts of the world that have less wealth and fewer choices. The main problem with this solution is that it has been tried before around the world and failed miserably - communism. Here in the United States, we've also tried and failed in this income redistribution experiment and have created a poor, dependency class as a result.

The purpose of this post is not to discourse in a political debate, but rather to encourage better thinking in this area. Wealth redistribution does not work from both sides - from those handing over their wealth to those receiving the wealth. Here's why. When people educate themselves, work hard, and begin to accumulate assets, they resent others forcing them to hand over what they have accumulated, involuntarily. As this happens more over time, people have less incentive to create wealth in the first place. Why should they "bust it" when they're going to be forced to hand it over to the government or other entity? They will automatically seek a level of work where they are getting maximum payoff for minimial effort.

On the other side of the problem, just handing wealth over to other people groups or nations that have less choices is definitely not going to solve their problem long-term. Why work hard and achieve anything if people are just going to hand money and resources over to me for free? I'll take it easy and just let others do the hard work for me in order to give me a few additional choices in life.

Laziness, less wealth, and fewer choices will be the ultimate result on both sides of the equation.

A Better Solution

I would like to propose a better alternate ending to Mr. Schwartz's TED talk. People in western, affluent society have failed miserably at teaching the important concepts of thanksgiving, contentment, and generosity. I don't think we need another government program to accomplish this, either. If parents would take their role seriously, our society would not be so wrapped up in the pursuit of wealth in order to give us more choices in life. If we were truly thankful and content for those things that we do have, we wouldn't be as interested in the accumulation of more stuff. We would understand that money and stuff can never buy us happiness in this life.

And, if we coupled thankfulness and contentment with generosity, I think western, affluent society would be in a lot better place than it is, today. Since these are primarily Christian concepts, the universal church needs to do a better job of teaching these three concepts to the Body of Christ. Mature believers in Christ also need to do a much better job of living out thankfulness, contentment, and generosity in their everyday lives.

So, Christian, where are you at, today? Are you living out a life here in western, affluent society in the pursuit of more money, more stuff, and more choices? Are you suffering from depression and greed because you are too wrapped up in the pursuit of more money, more stuff, and more choices? I would encourage you to rethink your current pursuits. Compare what you're doing in light of God's Word. I think you will see that you need to make some major changes in what you currently hold up in life as important. King Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11,
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Roadmap For Living The New Life (Part 2)

Photo by Brain farts
Let's Review

In my last post, Roadmap For Living The New Life (Part 1), I opened up that post with the debate regarding the role of works in the Christian life. I asked the question if it is even possible for a believer to live out a daily lifestyle that runs completely counter to God's Word. My contention is that you cannot call yourself a believer in Christ and live in willful disobedience to the Word.

In a lengthy passage of Scripture found in Ephesians 4:17-32,  the Apostle Paul gives us a roadmap, if you will, of what a life of faith in Christ should look like. In the first three verses of this passage, we looked at Paul's insistence that we as Christians no longer live: as the Gentiles do, in the futility of the world's thinking, in ignorance, in living out a life of indulgent sin, and finally, a life full of greed.

In this post, Part 2, we will finish out this Scripture passage by taking a look at what Paul tells us that we should put off from our old life and put on in our walk with the Lord. In Ephesians 4:20-32, we read:
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Put Off The Negatives

Unfortunately, I think this is where Christianity gets a bad wrap, so to speak, but there are a lot of characteristics from our former life as unbelievers that we need to jettison. These are characteristics that demonstrate a lifestyle of living in the flesh and not a life of Holy Spirit living.
  1. The Old Self. Our old sin nature has been corrupted by deceitful desires. Through original sin by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we have inherited the sin nature. On this side of Heaven, we will never be rid of this sin nature, but we can minimize its control of our day-to-day living.
  2. Lying. We are to put off any kind of conscious and intentional falsehood.
  3. Sinning Through Anger. We cannot lose control of ourselves when we are angry. We get into trouble when we  lose control and sin as a result.
  4. Stealing. This is simply a lack of integrity by taking things that aren't ours to begin with.
  5. Unwholesome Talk. Of all things listed in this passage, I think this is where a lot of Christians get themselves in trouble. We gossip about others. We put others down behind their backs. We use language that isn't pleasing to the Lord.
  6. Bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. I see this as kind of the "catch all" phrase at the end of the list. These characteristics deal with our relationships with people and are representative of living a life in the flesh.
Put On The Positives

For all the negative stuff in the above list that we are to "put off," there is a corresponding positive characteristic that we are to "put on" as a believer in Christ.
  1. The New Self. At the point of our conversion, God gave us the Holy Spirit who dwells in the life of every believer. When we put on the New Self, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to take complete control of our lives.
  2. Truth. A key characteristic of God and His Word is truth. If we can't believe what He has communicated to us through His Word, then we don't have a very strong foundation on which to stand. Our lives should be the same, based on His truth.
  3. Righteous Anger. The Bible never states that anger itself is a sin. In fact, even Jesus got angry on a few occassions as seen in the Gospels. The key is to remain in control of yourself when you do get angry.
  4. Hard Work. Christians should be the hardest working people on the planet. We bring honor and glory to the Lord when we do our very best for Him in everything we do.
  5. Positive Speech. We should constantly be monitoring the words that are coming out of our mouths, making sure that they are words that build up and not tear down.
  6. Kindness, Compassion, And Forgiveness. As we deal with people in our various relationships, we should be kind, compassionate, and forgiving.
Are You Taking Off And Putting On?

So, Christian, how are you doing with these two lists? Are you constantly living in a state of putting off the characteristics of our old sin nature and putting on those of the new self? In what areas do you need to spend time focused on changing some characteristics to look like the new nature that still look like the old nature?

Allow the Holy Spirit to take complete control of your heart, mind, and body. It's only through His power that you will be able to put off the characteristics of the old self and put on the characteristics of the new self.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Roadmap For Living The New Life (Part 1)

Photo by Brain farts
Can I Really Sin All I Want?

On semi-regular occasions I have spirited discussions with certain people about sin, Biblical rules and regulations, living out the Christian life, and so on. In our modern, post-reformation times in which we now live, there is always a debate in evangelical circles regarding the role of works in the Christian life.

If we're truly saved by faith and not works as Ephesians 2:8-9 would suggest, then it would stand to reason that we can "sin all we want with Jesus' permission," right? If we take the faith versus works argument to its ultimate extreme, then we can live a life of sin in the flesh because "once saved, always saved."

So-called believers in Christ that struggle with certain sins in their lives often hold on to these specific arguments regarding faith in Christ and works. Believe me, I'm not here to judge people because I have my own war with the flesh and Spirit that wages in my own body on a daily basis. In fact, the internal battle that wages in our hearts and minds could be considered further evidence that conversion has taken place in someone's life.

But, I would also contend, though, that if the fleshly, sin nature is winning out on the majority of your battles, then there is something seriously wrong in your walk with Christ. You need to go back and evaluate if you truly even have the Holy Spirit living inside you. If there is no guilt, no shame in living a lifestyle that looks like the world, then I would question whether or not the Spirit even resides within you.

Live No Longer...

In Ephesians 4:17-32. the Apostle Paul addresses this very idea of what it looks like when believers live out the new life. He gives us a roadmap, if you will, of what a life of faith in Christ should look like in the life of a believer. Over the course of my next two blog posts, we will explore this roadmap for living the new life.

In vss. 17-19, Paul begins our roadmap with not living as the world lives:
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
In this passage, Paul begins by insisting that we as Christians no longer live:
  1. As the Gentiles do. These are those who are of the world that have no knowledge of God. The Christian life should be lived out in such a way that is markedly different from the world's system of living.
  2. In the futility of the world's thinking. The way that world thinks is useless and ineffective for victorious living. It is impossible for believers to live out an effective walk with Christ if their thought patterns are the same as the world's.
  3. In ignorance. Unbelievers do not understand God and His ways. Because they do not know God or have totally turned their backs on God, they have hard hearts and have no sensitivity when it comes to living in sin.
  4. In living out a life of indulgent sin. Unbelievers have completely given themselves over to indulgent, sensual sin. They have jumped in the deep end and are loving it!
  5. Full of greed. Hmmm, something about money and possessions has to enter into the discussion of living like the world. I find this fascinating. There really should be a marked difference in our attitude and actions with money between those of an unbeliever and a believer.
Where Are You At?

Wow! This is powerful stuff on the beginning stages of our roadmap on what the new life looks like. How's your life lining up with these five areas in which we should no longer live? Do you need to confess some sin in your life? Do you need to take on a different attitude when it comes to living out your faith? Are you questioning whether or not conversion has even taken place in your life?

In my next post, Part 2, we'll be adding additional information to our roadmap. The Christian life is not all about what we are giving up, but also about what we are putting on. There are positive characteristics that we should be living out in our walk with Christ.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Our Character Is Shaped By The Inconvenient

Photo by DonnaGrayson
Life Can Be Problem-Filled

Let's face reality. Life here on earth can be really awesome at times, but there can also be a lot of inconveniences.  This is probably an understatement. Our spouse is behaving badly. Our children are having mental-emotional problems. Work is stressing us out because the economy is in the tank and we can't hire additional employees to help with the work load. We have a mountain of debt we're trying to pay off and there seems to be no end in sight.

Whatever personal, family, or work-related problems we may be facing right now can certainly be stressful and overwhelming. When people encounter these small inconveniences all the way up to major life difficulties, they react in a variety of ways. Some may hit the bottle. Some may curl up in the fetal position. Some run into the arms of another person. And some may even choose to take a more mature approach.

Using Problems As An Avenue For Growth

I have a better idea. What if we used these life problems as an avenue to grow in our lives? We can stop, assess the situation, and choose a mature path that leads to solutions. Instead of reacting in an immature manner, we can admit we have challenges and work through them by growing as believers in Christ.

God is interested in our character. That's why He allows us to go through difficulties in the first place. He's letting various problems into our lives to find out how we're going to respond. Is Larry going to walk by faith and trust Me, or is he going to live in the flesh and make a total fool out of himself? Is he going to get in the Word and on His knees, or is he going to drown his sorrows through the ways of the world?

In James 1:2-8, 12, we read these words:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do...Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
What Will Be Your Response?

So Christian, when you come under inconvenient, difficult circumstances, what will be your response? Are you going to respond like the world responds? Are you going to whine, moan, and complain and attempt to distract yourself through other means? Or, are you going to embrace your problem and thank God for allowing these inconveniences to grow you in your walk with Christ?

Just because something is overwhelmingly difficult, doesn't mean that we should just throw in the towel, admit surrender, and give up. Ask God to help you. Seek professional help. Do whatever it's going to take to grow and mature in Christ. Allow your character to be shaped by the inconvenient problems of this world. In this way, you will have zero regrets in this life and the life to come.

Also, check out these related posts: