Do You Make This Common Mistake In Your Prayer Life?

Photo by Will Foster

Photo by Will Foster

Praying For Lots Of Stuff

Do you have the tendency to pray for more and more stuff?

I’m talking about all of the prayers we offer up for our own individual needs and the needs of other people.

You know, like praying for a new bass boat for yourself, or praying for a special blessing on Aunt Martha’s hangnail. Ok, those are extreme examples, but I think you probably know what I’m talking about.

I fear that the modern day Christian prays for many things, but doesn’t really stop and praise the Lord for all the amazing things He has already accomplished in their life.

This is a common mistake that many of us make in our prayer lives.

Praising God For What He Has Done

Psalm 103 is an excellent reminder to all of us to not forget to praise God for all that He has done for us.

Psalm 103:1-5

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Don’t Forget The Benefits Of God

My favorite phrase in the first few verses of Psalm 103 is in verse 2, “And forget not all His benefits.”

The word benefit carries with it the idea of a “reward.”

King David is reminding us in this psalm to not forget about the rewards that God gives us. We are to praise the Lord for all the awesome blessings He pours into our lives. David goes on to list these rewards, things such as:

  • the forgiveness of sin
  • healing from disease
  • redemption from Hell
  • physical protection
  • an abundance of provision
  • renewed youth

Yes, God desires for us to pray for our needs and the needs of others, but He also wants us to praise His holy name for all the amazing blessings He pours into our lives each day.

Don’t make this common mistake in your prayer life by focusing your prayer life on just needs. Spend more time praising Him for all the good things in life as well.

Questions: So, are you making this common mistake? Are you spending the majority of your prayer time asking God for stuff? Or, do you need to make a shift in taking more time to praise Him for those special “benefits” He brings into your life? What amazing rewards has God given to you, today?






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4 Proven Actions To Avoid Spiritual Danger Zones In Your Life

Photo by Deanna

Photo by Deanna

Mountain Road Guardrails Save Lives

Mountain roads are the most dangerous roads.

There’s not a lot of margin when you’re driving on a mountain road. It’s either stay on the road and live, or drive off the side of the mountain and die. That’s it.

And, believe it or not, many of the mountain roads around the world have very few safety features such as guardrails to keep people from driving off the side of a mountain.

I recently read a story from November 2005, when a missionary was driving the dangerous mountain roads of Northern Bosnia–Herzegovina with a couple of pastors. The weather was terrible, but they were driving cautiously as they navigated their way to a conference. The majority of these Bosnian roads have no guardrails.

As they came around a curve, they unexpectedly hit a slick spot and started sliding toward the edge of the mountain. A river with jagged rocks was waiting for this missionary and pastors some 40-feet below.

As their car was sliding out of control, the men all cried out “Jesus!” Fortunately, this was one of a few curves on the mountain road that actually had a guardrail. The front bumper of the car hit the guardrail and pushed the car back on the road.

Once the missionary found a safe place to pull over, the all jumped out of the car to take a look. First, they were amazed that there was even a guardrail on this particular curve. Second, they were surprised that the guardrail appeared to be brand new.

The Purpose of Guardrails

Guardrails are designed to keep motor vehicles from straying into dangerous or off-limit areas, just like in the above story. They are normally found on bridges, in medians, and around curves.

Guardrails are a safety design feature that is an almost invisible part of our driving experience. We really don’t even pay attention to them until we need them.

In driving, there needs to be some margin of error. Mistakes will be made. Accidents will happen. The theory behind the guardrail is that your physical body and your vehicle will incur less damage striking the guardrail then if you were to experience whatever is on the other side of that guardrail (such as a drop off or an oncoming car).

So, yes, if you hit a guardrail, there is going to be damage, but it probably won’t be as bad as if you didn’t have that guardrail in the first place.

We Need Guardrails

We as a society need guardrails on the road. They are an important safety feature for all of us.

You and I need “guardrails” in our personal lives, too.

We’ve all had horrible, damaging experiences in our own lives or in the lives of family members. These damaging events may have included a financial bankruptcy, a moral failure, a divorce, bad business practices, or an addiction.

But, if we had included the safety feature of personal guardrails in our lives, these catastrophic events could have been prevented. Yes, some damage may have occurred, but maybe not at the level of the final, destructive outcome we experienced.

4 Actions To Protect Our Spiritual Lives

When I speak of personal guardrails, I’m speaking of taking the following actions to protect us from our own danger zones:

First, you must be honest with yourself and others regarding the areas in which you struggle and are most tempted.

Second, you need to seek out professional help, especially if you really struggle in the area of addictions, to get you back on the road to sobriety.

Third, you must put appropriate rules into place to act as your “guardrails” for your specific area of struggle. For example, if you have a spending problem that led you into bankruptcy in the past, then you must live on a budget and spend only cash; no credit cards or other debt for you. If you are a workaholic and this has damaged your relationship with your family, then you need to establish a strict schedule for work hours and family time. If you struggle with alcoholism, then you can never take even one drink ever again.

Fourth, you need to be accountable to those around you. You need to be accountable to your spouse. You need to be accountable to a trusted friend. You need to be accountable to a group of men or women. You need to check in with them on a regularly basis. Once a week is ideal. Every few weeks is okay. Being accountable to these people means they understand the areas in which you personally struggle and you are completely honest with them with how you are doing in those areas.

Questions: Do you need guardrails to protect you from specific danger zones in your life? Have you constructed these guardrails already? Have you been honest with yourself? Have you sought out professional help? Have you setup some rules? Do you have accountability partners to guide you back to where you really want to go?






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Do You Struggle With Your Church Worship Experience? I’ve Got The Secret Sauce To Turn It Around

Photo by Ani's Photography

Photo by Ani’s Photography

Mass Confusion On Worship

I believe Christianity today is severely confused on the true meaning of worshiping God, and this true meaning has been really distorted in recent years.

My observation over the last 20 years as a church worship leader has been that perhaps our Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) culture has made worship out to be some warm, fuzzy, existential, out-of-body experience. If you don’t have that experience, then you haven’t really worshiped! You could maybe compare it to chasing the high feeling from a drug.

But, nowhere in Scripture do I see that worship is about me, my personal feelings, or my experience. Worship is about God. Worship was created by Him, for Him, and for Him alone.

Worship is more than just a one-day-a-week experience as well. It should be part of the daily lifestyle of a mature believer.

Definitions

Let’s get a little technical and dig into what the worship terminology really means.

The actual definition of the word “worship” is somewhat vague at best. The Bible never clearly defines the word.

Here’s how the Free Dictionary defines it:

wor·ship (wûr′shĭp)

as a noun:
1. The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
2. The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.
3. Ardent devotion; adoration.

as a verb: (wor·shiped or wor·shipped, wor·ship·ing or wor·ship·ping, wor·ships)
1. To honor and love as a deity.
2. To regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion.
3. To participate in religious rites of worship.
4. To perform an act of worship.

There are two primary forms of worship: public, corporate worship and private, individual worship. In a wonderful web article at www.gotquestions.org, S. Michael Houdmann addresses these two parts of Christian worship:

Question: “What is the meaning of Christian worship?”

Answer: The meaning of the New Testament Greek word most often translated “worship” (proskuneo) is “to fall down before” or “bow down before.” Worship is a state (an attitude) of spirit. Since it’s an internal, individual action, it could/should be done most of the time (or all the time) in our lives, regardless of place or situation (John 4:21-24). Therefore, Christians worship all the time, seven days a week. When Christians formally gather together in worship, still the emphasis should be on individually worshiping the Lord. Even in a congregation, participants need to be aware that they are worshiping God fully on an individual basis …

… Since external actions are unimportant in Christian worship, there is no rule regarding whether we should sit, stand, fall down, be quiet, or sing praises loudly while in corporate worship. These things should be decided based on the nature of the congregation. The most important thing is that we worship God in spirit (in our hearts) and in truth (in our minds).

The Secret Sauce Of Christian Worship

When we are able to get our individual, private worship in alignment with God’s Word, then we open the door of possibility for an amazing corporate church worship experience.

Here are some of my thoughts on what can make a better church worship experience for all of us.

First, acknowledge that worship is not for us, it is for God. The very definition of the word centers on giving God honor, love, and adoration. Worship is not about us getting to sing our most favorite K-LOVE worship songs and in the process receiving some kind of warm, tingly feeling. Worship is an action. Worship is about giving to God, not receiving from God.

Second, understand that worship should be a solely individual, 7-days-a-week, every minute of every day, type of experience. Then, on the first day of the week (Sunday), the local Body of Christ should gather to worship individually, but all together in the same location.

Third, recognize that worship can take place through a variety of means at anyplace and at anytime. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Paul also states in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” According to God’s Word, I can worship Him through eating a steak dinner, kneeling on the floor in prayer, cleaning a bathroom, playing a musical instrument, doing my job in the workplace, writing this blog post, or singing in the choir. If our attitudes, if our hearts and minds, if our physical bodies are focused on God in all that we do, then these are acts of worship as well. Live a lifestyle that centers on worshiping God every minute of every day.

Fourth, accept that if you struggle in your corporate worship on Sundays, then your other six-days-a-week, individual, private worship must be lacking. The most incredible corporate worship experiences I’ve ever encountered have been when I have worshiped with other mature, Christian leaders. And why would that be? Because, they already have a strong, daily attitude of worship. Our Sunday services lack passionate worship because the individual church members are lacking passionate personal worship the other six days of the week.

Fifth, admit that if you’re struggling in your daily, personal worship, then you may have unconfessed sin in your life. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity (sin) in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Perform heart surgery and see if you have any sin in your life that needs to be confessed and forsaken.

Questions: Are you missing the “secret sauce” in your own corporate church worship? If so, what do you need to do to achieve a deeper level of worship of Almighty God?






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3 Powerful Outcomes To Being Thankful, Even In Difficult Circumstances

Photo by Timothy Valentine

Photo by Timothy Valentine

Tragedy Led To The First Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States was birthed out of tragic circumstances.

After a brutal winter in 1620-1621, half of the Mayflower Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony died. But, with the help of a few English-speaking native Americans, Governor William Bradford and the surviving colonists were successful in establishing a colony and raising their first crop of corn. As a result, Governor Bradford organized the very first “Thanksgiving” feast, a festival that lasted three days! They gave thanks to God for helping them survive a very difficult first year in the New World.

As Christians, an attitude of thanksgiving should be a spiritual outcome of making it through difficult circumstances. Unfortunately though, I fear many times we get angry and bitter with God for His allowing us to go through the difficult circumstances in the first place.

Here are some outcomes of a thankful attitude, no matter the circumstances.

3 Powerful Outcomes To Being Thankful

1. An attitude of gratitude allows us to be content with what we have in this moment in time.

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

God’s will for you is to be thankful in all things. It doesn’t matter whether you’re having a great day, week, or even year. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you have everything that you could ever want or need. Acknowledge that He is in charge, that He has a plan for your life, and that you need to be thankful, no matter the circumstances. Focus on what God has given you, not on what you don’t have in your life in this moment in time. If you’re still above ground and sucking wind, then you have at least one thing to praise God for – life!

2. An attitude of gratitude keeps us humble and dependent on God.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

“Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” – Henry Ward Beecher

God desires your complete devotion and dependence on Him. This is the core essence of a growing relationship with the Lord. This is why He possibly allows difficult circumstances to enter our lives – to keep us humbly dependent on Him. A true attitude of thanksgiving is a natural result of being in total surrender to Him and His will.

3. An attitude of gratitude compels us to share with others.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:12-13)

“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” – W. Clement Stone

Thankful people share. They share their lives, their abilities, and their finances. They give to others because they want to, not necessarily because they have to. This is all a natural outgrowth of a truly thankful heart.

Questions: Do you have an attitude of thanksgiving, no matter the circumstances in your life? Do you find yourself displaying these three outcomes of contentment, humility, and sharing? If not, why not?

3 Ideas For Creating A Better Prayer Life

Photo by ☻☺ on Flickr

Photo by ☻☺ on Flickr

The Struggle

I don’t know about you, but I’ll admit it. I struggle with my prayer life and this struggle primarily deals with making the time to pray and having a focused mind when I pray.

I’m no George Müller.

But, I do know that I should pray. I want to pray. I even know what I should pray about.

Unfortunately, we live in one of the busiest, fast-paced, most distraction-filled times in human history. We have so many things and so many people competing for our attention. If we’re not intentional about it, then our prayer life will end up being one of those areas that keeps getting pushed off to the side of our lives. We end up giving God our leftovers in prayer time instead of our best focused energy.

Our prayer life should be about a relationship with God. Regular, transparent, intimate communication is all part of a growing relationship. God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit as we read His Word. We speak to Him through prayer.

Over the last several months, I have found myself making a number of changes to my personal prayer time. I have been looking for more focused time opportunities to pray. In this post, I wanted to share my prayer journey with you, and I hope that this will be an encouragement to you and your own prayer life with the Lord.

3 Ideas For A Better Prayer Life

  1. Spread your prayers throughout the day. Back in an earlier era, getting up early and spending an hour or two in prayer was perhaps portrayed as a “normal” activity within the Christian life. While we may go through individual times of intense, long duration times of prayer, I believe that our new “normal” should be praying short prayers throughout the day. If your spiritual life is defined as a relationship with the Lord, then doesn’t it make greater sense to have lines of communication open throughout your day? Prayer shouldn’t be just an item on our morning checklist.
  2. Discover your personal “prayer closet.” For me, I have recently found my car to be the best location for (mostly) uninterrupted time with the Lord. As soon as I jump in the car in the morning to drive to work, I praise the Lord for who He is and what He is doing in my life, in my church, and in my ministry. I confess my sin. I offer up prayers of thanksgiving. And finally, I offer up my daily requests to the Lord. I do this all out loud too while I’m driving down the highway. Other people in the cars around me probably think I’m nuts. That’s okay.
  3. Create a system to focus your prayer time. Previously, I tried to have a digital prayer list on my smart phone, but I found this distracting to use especially if I’m praying in the car. I’ve ended up going “old school” analog by just writing my various prayer requests on 3×5 cards and keeping these in the center console of my car. This system seems to be working pretty well for me so far. Just a reminder, though. Be sure to keep your eyes on the road and refer to your index cards when you don’t have a lot of traffic or other difficult driving conditions. Flipping through index cards during a thunderstorm or six inches of snow is a bad idea!

Questions: How about you? What does your prayer life look like? Do you have a “system” in place that works really well for you? If so, what does your system look like?

Serving One Another Through Our Presence and Participation

Photo by the The Lutheran World Federation

Photo by the The Lutheran World Federation

A Life of Service

The Christian life is a life of service. Nowhere in Scripture do I see a person coming to faith in Christ, and then the Lord asking that person to sit on their hands and do nothing. Quite the contrary. According to God’s Word, we are supposed to use our talents, abilities, and finances to build up the Body of Christ and advance His Kingdom here on earth. This is our mission as believers and as His Bride, the universal Church.

Serving Our Fellow Believers

Not only should we serve others outside of the church, but also we should serve one another within the church body as well.

We serve each other in two important ways. First, we serve each other as church members through our presence, by simply showing up. We need to be present on a regular basis for worship services and small group meetings. I think this is why the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 10:25, “ … not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” We need to show up, to be present, in order to encourage one another, to mature, to help each other grow in our walk with Christ.

Second, we serve each others through our participation, through using the gifts and abilities He has given to us. Each church member has their own special gifts and abilities that they bring to their church. These talents are important for church members to utilize in their own unique role within the Body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:4-14 (NIV) states:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

An Age of Distraction

Unfortunately, we live in a unique of age of distraction. We have more and more stuff that is distracting us away from our service in God’s Kingdom. We have more media to consume than ever before. We have more social networks to keep up with. We have more activities scheduled on Sundays. We have children’s sports games to attend on the Lord’s Day. We have professional sports games to attend, do the tailgate party thing, or watch on TV.

I recently heard the statistic that a church member who is considered a “regular attendee” actually only attends church 40-50% of Sunday worship services. So, what we’re talking about here is people attending every other week at best. And over time, this statistic is getting worse, not better.

There’s something wrong with this picture. In my opinion, this is an attendance habit that was never God’s intention for His children.

Satan is pretty smart, though. He uses all of these “good” activities in order to distract us from what is most important for us – our spiritual lives, and the Kingdom of God.

Obedience and Priorities

I know I’m probably old-fashioned and not hip like the hipsters, but I believe there should be a high level of obedience when it comes to our presence and participation at church. We should be active weekly in the our local church. We should make this part of our a spiritual life a high priority. I believe this is an expectation of God the Father, otherwise, why would He have founded the Church through His Son in the first place?

Making church a priority in your personal life and family life will mean that you will need to say “no” to a lot of good stuff. It’s also going to mean a lot more work for you and your family as you will need to investigate which activities your children will be able to participate in based on weekend scheduling. If it conflicts with church attendance and participation, I personally wouldn’t do it. My family’s spiritual life is way more important than whether or not my kids are well-rounded in sports or the fine arts.

God cares more about our relationship with Him. Our presence and participation in the Body of Christ is a major part of that relationship with Him.

Questions: So, how’s your family’s attendance and participation level in your local church? Are you fully engaged or merely half in? What changes do you need to make to your weekend calendar to make His church a priority in your life?

Praying In Faith, Even When You’re Faith Is Small

Photo by Ed Yourdon

Photo by Ed Yourdon

Have you ever prayed about a very challenging situation, and then you had trouble believing God might actually answer that prayer? Guess you could consider this kind of prayer similar to a “Hail Mary,” those desperation football throws by the quarterback. So, you throw up these desperate prayers to the Lord, but because the situation seems so hopeless, you don’t have an incredible amount of faith that God may actually move in amazing ways, right now.

You know that you should pray for this particular person or problem, but the situation looks completely hopeless. You will go for it. You will pray consistently and fervently, but you’re not holding out a lot of hope that the situation is going to change much in the immediate future.

Sure, maybe later on. Maybe a few years down the road, this person may get right with the Lord or this issue may resolve itself. What happens, though, when God starts moving faster than you were even expecting?

For the last few months, I’ve prayed for two people in a challenging situation. Honestly, the whole thing is a big mess with not much hope in human terms. In fact, I was sensing that the situation was getting worse, not better. I’ve questioned my resolve as a leader and person of spiritual influence in their lives. Maybe, I’m the problem? Maybe, the supposed cure is worse than the disease?

I keep praying, though. I even started praying Scripture back to the Lord a few weeks ago. I’ve driven down the road on my way to work, praying and asking the Lord to remember his promise in Philippians 1:6 (NIV), ” being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Then, my prayer will end with, “God, you started a work in these people’s lives several years ago. I pray that you will complete that work.”

Now, to my surprise, I’ve suddenly seen a glimmer of hope in both of the people I’ve prayed for. I’m seeing a new interest in spiritual growth. I’m seeing them take baby steps in the right direction. Thank you, Lord, for your Holy Spirit’s moving in their lives!

But, should I really be this surprised that the Holy Spirit is at work in the situation?

Are any of us really any different from the early disciples whom Jesus chastised, “oh ye of little faith!?” Unfortunately, we’re not. Most of the time, I think we act in exactly the same way as they did. Our faith is small. We don’t exercise and expand our faith as much as we should.

Let me speak a word of encouragement in your life, today. Stay in faith. Keep praying. God is at work in your situation, too.

“ … The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b, NIV)

Is God Your First Or Last Thought When It Comes To Money?

Photo by rhoadeecha

Photo by rhoadeecha

Shocked, But Not Really

I was recently teaching a Bible Study class regarding fundamental Christian stewardship principles. In the class was a really sweet, older lady who was telling the class about some mistakes she had made with her finances.

The mistakes she made were pretty serious, but her mistakes didn’t surprise me too much. What I did find surprising, though, was her statement that she had never even considered praying to the Lord about her financial decision-making. This was made even more surprising to me because she said that she had been walking with the Lord for 60 years!

As a stewardship pastor, I took this woman’s comments as a scathing indictment against those of us in leadership within the universal church. We as church leaders have done a very poor job in educating believers on a whole life, Biblical stewardship outlook.

God should be at the center of every part of our lives. He really should be the very FIRST thought in every aspect of our lives, including our personal finances.

So, How Should We Pray About Money?

When we pray about money, should we be selfish and ask for a million dollars in the bank and zero financial worries? No, of course not. These are not the kind of prayers I’m talking about.

I do believe, though, that there are specific ways we can pray about the money and resources He has entrusted us to manage:

  • Pray for wisdom. James 1:5 tells us, 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. If you’re struggling in some of your financial decision-making, then God wants you to talk about it with Him. Don’t just rush in and make a hasty decision when it comes to your finances. Press pause, pray, read His Word, and reflect on God’s wisdom when it comes to His money.
  • Pray for His will to be accomplished. James 4:13-15 states, Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” It’s too easy for us to assume things will happen for us tomorrow because we desire them to take place. In these verses, James reminds us that this life holds no guarantees. We should pray an attitude of “ … if it is the Lord’s will, then He will accomplish whatever He desires to do through us.”
  • Pray for provision. Matthew 6:11 says, Give us this day our daily bread. In the Lord’s Prayer (or model prayer), Jesus gives us the example of praying for our daily needs. In order for us to survive as human beings, there are basic needs that we all must have: food, water, clothing, and shelter. A few verses later, in Matthew 6:32-33 we read, For the pagans run after all these things (basic needs), and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. God loves us and cares about our needs. If we will simply place Him and His Kingdom as our number one priority, He will take care of our daily needs.

Questions: So, is God your first or last thought when it comes to money? Are you praying for wisdom and guidance in your financial management? Are you praying for His will to be accomplished in your finances? Are you praying for His provision when you have needs? If not, why not?

What Should You Do When You’re Waiting On God For Your Next Move?

Photo by mikevazzovski

Photo by mikevazzovski

In The Waiting

Waiting (definition): The action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.

Do you enjoy staying in one spot for too long? Do you relish delaying action while you wait on someone or something to change?

Personally, I hate waiting. I’ll admit it. I’m a time nut, and waiting around for something to take place would seem to be a total waste of time, money, and energy.

So, why does it always seem like we need to wait around all the time?

We must wait until we have a clear direction to move forward in a career change. We must wait for medical treatments to work the way they’re supposed to and finally heal our body. We must wait patiently to declare freedom from debt while we keep chunking down extra money month after month on our debt load. We must wait anxiously and prayerfully as our children move through a rebellious period in their lives.

What Now? That Awkward “In-Between” Stage

So now, we’re waiting around for God’s next move for our lives. We’re in that awkward, in-between stage that no one enjoys. What now?

Well, we have at least three choices to choose from in our response to this in-between time period.

Choice one: we can get mad and frustrated with God. We can mope around and get into a “funk” because God won’t answer our prayers immediately. God’s not on our time-table, so we’re going to pack up our toys and go home, so to speak. We become disillusioned with God. We disengage from living the Christian life, at least to the extent God intended for us.

Choice two: we can get impatient with God and strike out on our own. We attempt to force a change to take place. This is usually when we make poor choices and bad stuff happens to us. We go into massive debt that will be difficult to get out of later on. We marry the wrong person. We take a job position that is a poor choice for our gifting and personality. We end up driving a relationship wedge between us and those we love.

Choice three: we can assume an attitude of patience with our Heavenly Father, recognizing that He knows all things and that He knows what is best for us as His children. We can take on the attitude that God wants to use this in-between time to shape us in to the man or woman He wants us to be.

Becoming The Person God Intends You To Be

Do you know why God hasn’t taken you from where you are currently to where you would like to be? Most likely it is due to the fact that you are not yet the person He needs you to become in order for you to be successful at the next level.

Your ultimate focus in this period of waiting should be becoming the person God intends you to be. He wants you to grow up. He wants you to become more mature in your walk with Christ. He wants you to shed sinful habits that are holding you back. He wants you to learn patience. He wants you to become “a better you” as a result of the waiting.

James 1:2-4 tells us, 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.

In these times of waiting on God, we are being tested. The purpose according to James is two-fold. First, the testing of our faith should produce endurance. Second, our new-found endurance should produce maturity.

During these times of waiting on God, simply allow Him to shape and mold you into the person He wants you to become.

Questions: How patient are you during these periods of waiting on God? Have you ever considered that God is wanting you to focus on becoming a more mature believer as a result of the waiting? Do you have any personal examples of God radically changing your life as a result of one or more of these times of waiting? If so, I’d love to hear your story.

5 Spiritual Lessons On Stuff Management From A Busted iPod

Photo by DaveOnFlickr

Photo by DaveOnFlickr

My Daughter’s Story

My number two daughter (who shall remain nameless) recently received an iPod 4 touch as a special gift. She has been wanting this particular model for some time now and has been pretty persistent with her asking. She gave me all the special features she wanted, even the color. “Girls have to have a white iPod. You do know this, right daddy?”

A couple of months ago, my daughter’s piano teacher and I made a deal with her: if she could finish out her current piano lesson book within a certain time frame, then her daddy would buy her the iPod 4 she wanted. That’s a pretty sweet deal for her. Well, she did end up finishing her lesson book in record time. So, on a Monday evening, immediately after finishing her piano lesson and accomplishing the goal, daddy and daughter went to one of the big box stores down the street and found the exact model and color she wanted.

As we finished making that purchase, I congratulated my daughter for her accomplishment, and then I proceeded to inform her that as the owner of the new iPod, she was now responsible for it. She needed to handle it carefully and not damage it. And, if it did become damaged, then she would need to figure out a way to pay for the repairs. “Oh yes, daddy. I know. I’ll be careful with it.”

Exactly two weeks to the day of purchase, my daughter came and found me in the house. Her head was hung low, as if she had just lost her best friend. She eked out, “Daddy, I busted my iPod.” Apparently, she had dropped it outside on our concrete driveway, and this drop cracked the glass screen. Obviously, after having my little talk with her exactly two weeks prior, I wasn’t too impressed. As gently and calmly as I could, I reminded her of that conversation. The iPod was now her responsibility. If she wanted the screen fixed, then she would need to figure out a way to earn the money for the repair bill.

I am sticking to my guns on this one, too. There are life lessons to be learned here.

So, the other day, as I was reviewing this whole busted iPod scenario in my mind, I realized that this story has several great stewardship lessons for all of us who are Christ followers.

5 Spiritual Lessons On The Stewardship Of Stuff

  1. God loves us and wants us to have good things. See Matthew 7:11 and 1 Timothy 6:17. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you can relate to my iPod story. You love your kids. You want them to have nice stuff. You occasionally reward them with special, even expensive gifts, simply because you love them. The same is true with God. He is our Heavenly Father. He delights in giving us great things. He is a good God.
  2. God expects us to be good managers of the good things He does give to us. See Luke 16:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 4:2. When I bought my daughter her iPod, I laid out the expectations. I expected her to take care of this expensive gift. Technically, God owns everything. The stuff He does allow us to use, even the good stuff, He has expectations that we will take good care of it for Him. We need to manage His property, well.
  3. God is disappointed when we mismanage His gifts. See Matthew 18:32-34. I was extremely disappointed when my daughter came back to me with the report on the busted iPod screen. As a dad of two preteens, though, I do understand that accidents happen. Our Heavenly Father delights in good stewardship. He is disappointed in us in times of mismanagement. He also understands, though, that we are sinful human beings, and that we will mess up from time to time because we are imperfect.
  4. There are consequences for our mismanagement. See Matthew 25:26-30. When I first bought my daughter the iPod, I laid out the expectations and consequences from the very beginning: “ … you are now responsible for it. You need to handle it carefully and not damage it. And, if it does become damaged, then you will need to figure out a way to pay for the repairs.” After she damaged the iPod, I gently reminded her of that conversation. There are natural consequences to mismanagement, even so-called accidents. So too in life, there will be natural consequences for our mismanagement of God’s stuff.
  5. God extends grace and forgiveness in spite of our failures. See Romans 9:15-16. Did a broken iPod change my relationship with my daughter? No way! I still love her to pieces. She is my daughter and always will be. Does the same level of trust exist between us? Not so much. The same is true of God. If we are truly His children, then He loves us no matter what, even when we screw things up. Does the same level of trust exist for God? No, and I would say there’s an excellent chance that He will test us, again. He will check to see if we have learned our lesson in managing His stuff, well.

And then, this entire 5-point cycle will begin, once again …

Questions: Have you been a good manager of all the good stuff God has given you: your family, financial resources, cars, homes, talents, and special abilities? If not, why not? Have you suffered any consequences for that mismanagement? Will you be able to pass your next management test? Have you finally learned your lesson?