How To Enjoy Life And Make A Greater Contribution In The Lives Of Others

Photo by John Catbagan

Photo by John Catbagan

The Starfish Story

This story has been around for some time. Perhaps you’ve heard it before? In any case, I believe this story sets up this post well.

Strolling along the edge of the sea, a man catches sight of a young woman who appears to be engaged in a ritual dance. She stoops down, then straightens to her full height, casting her arm out in an arc. Drawing closer, he sees that the beach around her is littered with starfish, and she is throwing them one by one into the sea. He lightly mocks her: “There are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see, for miles up the beach. What difference can saving a few of them possibly make?” Smiling, she bends down and once more tosses a starfish out over the water, saying serenely, “It certainly makes a difference to this one.”

The Impact Of A Book

Have you ever read a book, seen a TV interview, or perhaps watched an online video that causes you to have one of those “AHA” moments? You know, when a light bulb goes off in your mind and you feel like a major shift in your thinking has taken place?

This happened for me about 7-8 months ago, when I watched a Youtube video of an orchestra conductor named Ben Zander and then read his book “The Art of Possibility.” You can read my book review on “The Art of Possibility” here.

In several chapters of his book, Ben discusses some of his challenges of being a conductor of a volunteer orchestra. As I continued to read through the book, I kept having these “Aha” moments of realization and learning.

For a large portion of his life, Ben Zander struggled with the drive to be to be successful as well as a fear of failure. He claims that this struggle caused both himself and those around him considerable suffering. The greater his success as an orchestra conductor, the worse this tension became in his life.

The tipping point for Ben came when his second wife walked away from their marriage. He began re-thinking how he was “doing life.”

He came away with the realization that he was living a life of selfishness. He was more inward focused on his own success. When being inward focused, he had more of an attitude that there was always another orchestra – aside from the one he was currently conducting – that he suspected would bring him more success, and so he was never fully present when he was on the conductor’s podium.

When he began playing the game of contribution, on the other hand, he found there was no better orchestra than the one I was conducting, no better person to be with than the one he was with; in fact, there was no “better.” In the game of contribution you wake up each day and bask in the notion that you can be a contribution to the lives of others.

A Shift Takes Place In My Thinking

This personally hit home with me about my own relationships within my family, as well as the volunteer orchestra I direct each week. I started asking myself questions about whether I was more interested in achieving success in my family or ministry, or am I truly more interested in living a life of contribution. This subtle but important shift in my mindset has (I believe) created a more enjoyable experience for those that I love and lead.

For example with the orchestra at church, in the past, I would get frustrated or upset with various problems such as excessive absenteeism for orchestra rehearsals on Wednesday nights as well as worship services on Sundays. My mindset before was too focused on having a successful orchestra and the roadblocks (in my mind) that my volunteer members were causing me to be a successful director.

Once I made this shift in my thinking, though, I started focusing on the orchestra members who decided to be present for a particular Wednesday rehearsal or Sunday worship service. I began realizing I could and should be a contribution in their lives spiritually, musically, and personally.

And you know what has happened? I’m enjoying my life and ministry a whole lot more by living a life focused on contribution rather than success versus failure. And, I hope those around me are enjoying life at a deeper level as well.

The Generous Life

Playing the game of contribution should really be of no surprise to those of us who are believers in Christ. The Bible has much to say about living a life of generosity versus selfishness.

In Proverbs 11:24-25 (MSG) we read these words:

The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
those who help others are helped.

Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why. Just like our starfish story at the beginning, don’t get overwhelmed and give up because you can’t help everyone. Focus on being a contribution to the few that you can be.

Questions: Are you living a tension-filled life based on a drive for success and a fear of failure? Is your life enjoyable or full misery? Do you need to consider a shift in mindset from success versus failure over to contribution?






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Does The Bible Really Contain A Secret Money Code?

Photo by Susan Kambalu

Photo by Susan Kambalu

Sean Hyman And The Biblical Money Code

His advertisements are everywhere!

Over the last few months, it seems like anytime I have my local talk radio station on, Fox News, or simply browsing the web, I keep running into advertisements for Sean Hyman’s Biblical Money Code.

A few weeks ago, I was curious enough to just go ahead and purchase the lowest subscription possible to check out what all the hype is on this Biblical Money Code book is all about.

Buying The Biblical Money Code book is really more of an opportunity for you to end up on an email subscription to the Ultimate Wealth Report plus NewsMax.com. Of course, this is the new normal in today’s digital marketing age, so now I am blessed with at least two to three extra emails cluttering up my inbox each day!

But, you do also receive several ebooks and other pieces of financial information for your purchase. It’s not a complete “bait and switch.”

Who Is Sean Hyman?

Sean Hyman is a former pastor who has allegedly moved from making $15,000 a year to now giving away up to $50,000 a year. He didn’t make this kind of money in church work, however! Here’s a portion of Sean’s bio regarding his financial work:

Sean Hyman has become a trusted correspondent on CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg due to his extensive background in the financial markets, having spent more than 20 years in the investing trenches. Over that time, he’s been a stockbroker at Charles Schwab, a trading course instructor for foreign exchange market maker Forex Capital Markets (FXCM), a financial writer for numerous outlets, and a key speaker at conferences both nationally and internationally. Over the course of his career Hyman has also held five financial licenses …

… Sean Hyman became the editor of the Ultimate Wealth Report newsletter because he loves teaching and helping others to have a better life than what they’d had before. His goal with the Ultimate Wealth Report is “to shepherd readers in the right direction so their wealth doesn’t get eaten away by inflation, but rather benefits from the rise of inflation.”

A Fast Overview Of The Six Keys

The primary ebook focused on the Biblical Money Code that you receive as part of your subscription is called The Six Keys To Financial Success. Like many ebooks you receive online, it’s a brief 47 pages and a quick read.

In the ebook’s introduction, Sean makes the case that in order for God to bless us financially, we need to follow all the financial wisdom in Scripture. In order to unlock the full potential of the Biblical Money Code in our lives, we must be fully obedient to all God’s wisdom, not just part. That won’t work.

Sean states that most people only follow some or part of the Biblical financial wisdom found in Scripture. Perhaps, they may tithe on a regular basis, but the rest of their financial life is a complete mess. Or, maybe they live a debt free lifestyle, but don’t tithe.

Sean drives home the point that a believer living in full obedience to each financial principle unlocks the full and complete blessing of God in the area of personal finances.

Here are the six Biblical financial principles that Sean focuses on:

  • Principle #1: Pray for God’s Favor and Blessing In Your Work.
  • Principle #2: Tithes and Offerings: 10% Plus Some, Not Just 10%.
  • Principle #3: Save Money and Reduce Your Debts
  • Principle #4: Invest for Your Future
  • Principle #5: Philanthropy
  • Principle #6: Being the Lender and Not the Borrower

My Take On The The Six Keys To Financial Success

I am of the personal opinion based on my own research PLUS personal experience that there is a “Biblical Money Code.” Is it some kind of big secret or something? No, of course not. But, the Bible does give us A LOT of common sense wisdom when it comes to handling money.

I do believe that God blesses complete obedience to His Word and His will. I also believe in the power of the Law of the Harvest. When you do the right things in the right order and in the right way, you will reap a bountiful harvest.

This is so very true in this area of personal finances. If you follow Biblical financial wisdom in every area (giving, saving, spending, debt, and investing), then God will bless you. You will reap what you have sown.

BUT, I would be hard pressed to say that this will happen every time for every person in every situation, though.

God is God, and He does not always conform to the box that we place Him in. He may allow negative financial circumstances into our lives, even if we may be following this “Biblical Money Code.”

Why would God allow this to happen, though, if we’re playing by these Biblical money rules?

It’s always difficult to pinpoint a definitive answer. We may never know this side of heaven. Perhaps God is teaching us an important spiritual lesson. Maybe He wants us to learn to rely on Him, rather than money. Or, maybe, He wants us to learn a lesson in controlling our emotions and growing in the virtue of patience.

I believe the key is remaining open to growth in your life when your expectations aren’t met, even when you are doing all the right things. But, don’t give up, though. Keep on doing all the right things in spite of the circumstances. There will be a tremendous payoff, eventually. Remain obedient, teachable, and press through to the end!

Questions: Do you believe in a Biblical Money Code? Why or why not? Have you experienced the Law of the Harvest in your personal finances from following these principles?






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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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Does God Really Want Me To Live A Life Of Financial Abundance Or Not?

Photo by DavidZ

Photo by DavidZ

Answering A Young Christian’s Financial Concerns

Is it okay to be a Christian and be rich?

Great question.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from one of my blog readers. She is new to the Christian faith and wrestling with wealth and the Christian life. You see, she lacks nothing in this life. She’s uncertain about what the Biblical response should be to the financial blessing of God.

In this post, I attempt to tackle ten questions that my blog reader asks in her email.

Before I answer these questions, take a quick scan of her email:

Hi Larry,

I recently found your blog and find it very interesting. I am a “born-again” Christian (since 2012) and found that no one wants to talk about money. Consequently, I am very thankful for your blog. I have a question and I’m wondering if you already addressed this topic:

Should I feel guilty that I do not lack anything?

I consider myself to be pretty generous. I cheerfully pay my 10% to the church and contribute to many charities. On the other hand….I do not lack anything. Sometimes, I feel guilty about the comfort that my family enjoys. Simply put, how can I justify having anything above the minimum necessity of life while thousands are dying from starvation every single day? Aren’t Christians supposed to sacrifice their “comfort” for the good of others? Isn’t true that many early Christians sold everything they had to give to the poor? How much credit do you get when you give out of abundance without experiencing sacrifice?

I recently started questioning expenses such as new clothing, new furniture, going to the movies and even family vacations! If I can’t hardly justify these, never mind considering real luxury items such as spa treatments, Botox, 10 pairs of shoes and a fancy car!

Anyone else experiencing this guilt and questioning every expense? Am I worrying too much about this? Should I forget it since after all, my contribution will not put an end to starvation? Did God want us to live a life of “sacrifices”? Is it wrong to enjoy earthly pleasures while others are dying? Is it wrong to not lack anything?

Your thoughts would be appreciated,

God bless,

Blog Reader from Alberta, Canada

A Biblical Response To Wealth

Here is my response to my reader’s specific questions based upon what I believe God teaches us through His Word. I attempt to quote a key Bible passage for each question.

  1. Should I feel guilty that I do not lack anything? To be blunt – NO! If God has chosen to bless you and your family, then I say REJOICE! Approach Him daily with a an attitude of gratitude for His financial blessings. You also mentioned that you are cheerfully tithing and giving to others. Your blessing and financial generosity should result in thanksgiving, not guilt! “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 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” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).
  2. How can I justify having anything above the minimum necessity of life while thousands are dying from starvation every single day? There’s a Gospel story (The Alabaster Jar) found in Matthew 26 and Mark 14 when a woman (probably Mary Magdalene) took a very expensive perfume/ointment that cost an entire year’s wages and poured it all over Jesus. She anointed His body before He went to the cross. The disciples were mad about it, too. Their response was “why couldn’t this expensive ointment been sold and the money given to the poor?” Jesus’ response, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” Yes, we need to help the poor, but there will be other large financial priorities that can and will supersede poverty. We will never be able to fully eradicate it. Jesus said so, Himself. Help where you can, and then leave the rest in God’s hands.
  3. Aren’t Christians supposed to sacrifice their “comfort” for the good of others? Yes and No. It’s a slightly complicated question. God’s first priority for you after the tithe is for you to provide for your family. “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Now, I do realize the passage is dealing with taking care of widows within your family so that they are not a burden on the church, but I still think there’s an overarching principle here. God gives us financial supply in order for us to provide for our families. But, if you and your spouse feel that you have way more than enough, then you could always make a decision to place a cap on your lifestyle and give the rest of your wealth away. There are no hard and fast rules here. You and your spouse just need to pray this one through and see what the Lord has called your family to do.
  4. Isn’t it true that many early Christians sold everything they had to give to the poor? You’re actually referring to the Book of Acts in this question (read Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37). I believe this was an isolated incident in Scripture, completely based on the circumstances of the Early Church. The early church was being persecuted, and many of these young Christians were very poor. Apparently, they all threw their money together in a “communal pot” and took care of each other’s needs (not just poor people in general). Plus, these early believers thought Jesus was coming back sooner than later, so they didn’t really care about their wealth and what was going to happen to it. Unfortunately, some believers even stopped working and become idle in their lives as a result. In fact, the Apostle Paul had to chastise believers in Thessalonica about this very issue. Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14. As the church grew and matured, we no longer see this communal church living structure after the Book of Acts.
  5. Anyone else experiencing this guilt and questioning every expense? Many wealthy Christians struggle with these same questions as you do. You are not alone. My encouragement to you would be to embrace the struggle. That means the Holy Spirit is at work in your life. This is a great problem to have. Pray daily regarding what the Lord would have you do with your abundance.
  6. Am I worrying too much about this? Again, it’s a slightly complex problem you are dealing with, with no clear-cut answers to all of your questions. In Luke 12:25, Jesus poses the question, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Instead of worrying about it, pray about these challenges and discuss them with your spouse. With God’s help, formulate a game plan for your abundance.
  7. Should I forget it since after all, my contribution will not put an end to starvation? I would say do what God has called you and your family to contribute, and then leave the rest in His hands. You can only do what you can do.
  8. Did God want us to live a life of “sacrifices?” At some level, I would say “yes.” If you have modified your lifestyle to the point where you are not spending money at the level you could based on your wealth, then I would submit that you are already living in a sacrificial state. “Sacrifice” has a different definition at different income levels. Your sacrifices won’t look like my sacrifices. This may be a horrible example, but let’s say you could financially afford and had a strong desire to buy a brand new 2014 Cadillac CTS with cash, but you have chosen to forego that purchase and buy a really nice, used, 2-year old 2012 Buck LaCrosse instead. And with the money you haven’t spent, you decide to give that to the poor. I believe then that you have lived out a sacrificial lifestyle.
  9. Is it wrong to enjoy earthly pleasures while others are dying? No. In 1 Timothy 6:17 we read, “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.” In this one verse, the Apostle Paul mentions that God does give wealth for our enjoyment. You and your spouse may just need to set the limits on that enjoyment through prayer and insight from the Holy Spirit.
  10. Is it wrong to not lack anything? No. Nowhere in Scripture do I read that it is wrong to lack anything. As a matter a fact, I read the opposite in God’s Word, at least in the sense of lacking real world, everyday needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. In Matthew 6:31-34 Jesus tells us, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, 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. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Questions: So, what do you think? Am I on the right track regarding Christians and wealth? How would you answer this blog reader’s questions?






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How To Control Your Thoughts And Influence Your Outcomes

Photo by Nicola Albertini

Photo by Nicola Albertini

The Power Of Choice

“Make it a great day, or not. The choice is yours.”

This quote is on the back of an entrance sign for my daughters’ school. Every time I need to run up to school for an event, I contemplate this quote when I leave the school grounds.

This quote is a great reminder to all of us that there is tremendous power in our choices.

Before our heads hit the pillow at night, we can (and many times do) decide how the next day is going to go. We can dread it and decide that it will be a horrible day at the office. And, guess what kind of day it will be? Probably the worst day, ever, simply because we decided in advance, without even realizing it!

Or, we can take a better, more proactive approach. We can decide that tomorrow will be the best day ever, and we can’t wait to wake up in the morning and enjoy it!

Will it be a perfect day? Well, probably not perfect, but it’s going to be a better day because you made the choice in advance that it would be.

This is all rocket science, I know.

The Bible And Our Thoughts

You might be surprised that God’s Word talks about our thought life.

In Proverbs 23:7a we read, “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he …” We become what we think about.

That’s kinda scary when you contemplate that statement for a while.

Negative thoughts breed negative results. But, on the flip side, positive thoughts breed positive results.

Now, I’m not talking some kind of New Age mumbo-jumbo in these statements. But, our thoughts will guide our overall outcomes.

God wants you to have a thought life that is positively focused on faith and trust in Him for all things. Now, this doesn’t mean that our lives will be puppy dogs and rainbows once we make this switch in our mental focus. But, it does mean that God will give us the faith and strength to handle all outcomes.

Check out these additional Bible verses on our thought life [Source: Openbible.info]. Meditate on these spiritual words of wisdom this week.

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Isaiah 26:3
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Philippians 4:6-9
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Questions: How’s your thought life? Do you focus on the positive or negative? Do you purposely “guard your mind?” Do you think your current outcomes in life are related to your thought life? How do you need to think differently, starting today?






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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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How To Craft A Christian Personal Financial Theology

Photo by UnlockingTheBible

Photo by UnlockingTheBible

Let’s Review

In my last post Do You Have A Philosophy Or A Theology When It Comes To Personal Finances?, we explored four separate money beliefs that I believe many Christians operate their financial lives through one of these four belief systems:

  • Money Belief #1: Money is worldly and a necessary evil to survive. Let’s not discuss it.
  • Money Belief #2: Money is a taboo topic for the church world, but I recognize that money is addressed in Scripture.
  • Money Belief #3: I know what God’s Word says about money. I like my money system better. Now, leave me alone!
  • Money Belief #4: I recognize that I am God’s financial manager. I will follow His instructions.

Unfortunately, I believe many of us as Christians have never connected the dots between the whole money issue being addressed throughout the pages of Scripture and our role as money managers for God. The universal church has done a poor job of teaching and preaching what God has taught us about money through His Word.

In my last post, we also looked at the definitions of “Philosopy” and “Theology.” In simple terms, a philosophy is a life theory invented by man. Man’s theories are flawed and imperfect. A theology is a system of belief based on Scripture. If we believe that God’s Word is holy and without error, then a theological system of belief is flawless and perfect.

I believe Christians today are operating under financial beliefs invented by man, not a system of belief founded upon the Word of God.

Crafting A Christian Personal Finance Theology

Now is a great time for Christians to return to God’s ways about money. We live in a world that is severely confused on how to handle money at any level whether it’s personal finances, business finances, or government finances. This is why we’re living through such difficult financial times in recent years.

So, as Christians, how do we put together a belief system that is completely based on God’s Word? How do we craft a truly Christian personal finance theology?

Here are my thoughts on how to develop a Biblical theology of money:

  1. Be a regular reader of God’s Word. Shocking, I know. That’s rocket science right there! Seriously though, if you want to know what God has to say about money, you need to be reading through your Bible consistently. Don’t just camp out on a single book of the Bible. Don’t just read the New Testament or only the Old Testament. God’s financial belief system is sprinkled throughout the entire Biblical narrative. You can’t just read the book of Proverbs and nail down your theology of money, although that’s a great place to start.
  2. Attend a Crown Financial Bible Study and Financial Peace University. When people ask me the difference between these two small group studies, this is my response: Crown Financial is more of a true Bible study that is heavy on Scripture and truth. Financial Peace University is a practical, step-by-step financial plan based upon Biblical principles. I have done both, and I highly recommend both for a solid foundation in developing a theology of money.
  3. Google it! Again, I’m sure this is all rocket science that never even occurred to you. Type in the search bar “Bible verses about money” and you will receive 3,350,000 results! I’m looking at the search list, and I’m seeing some great pages to open up and explore.
  4. Read blogs that address personal finances from a Biblical perspective. There are many great Christian personal finance blogs out there, today. Here’s a list of the ones I’m most familiar with:
  5. Be sure to focus on these main areas in developing a Biblical theology: giving, tithing, saving, spending, debt, investing, business, contentment, planning, and stewardship. Check out this great article that addresses these issues and more: 250 Bible Verses about Money.

Questions: Have you ever gone through the process of developing a solid, Biblical theology on money? What other steps have you taken in developing your theology on personal finances?






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Focus On The Line Of Your Life, Not The Dots

Photo by robinparmar

Photo by robinparmar

Inspired Musical Performance

As a musician, it’s easy for me and other music-types to get hung-up on technique. We try really hard to play the right notes at the right time at the right pitch. We think we have achieved success if we can nail that musical trifecta and then stick the landing!

While technique is vitally important to achieving a successful music performance, we’re definitely missing the boat as musicians if that’s our only concern. The purpose of performing any piece of music is to communicate the intended interpretation of the composer. We need to consider the overall line, shape, musical structure, and phrasing. We need to be more interested in communicating the message of the music rather than playing a technically perfect rendition of the song.

The greatest musicians of all time have been able to detach themselves from their performance technique and communicate the message of the music. They have inspired us with beautiful performances that have transcended the written notes on the page. These musicians passionately touch our lives in amazing ways.

Your Greatest Performance: Living Life

I believe several analogies can be drawn between musical performance and our own life performance.

As with too much focus on musical technique, so too can we get hung up on the proper technique of living our lives. We get focused on the individual points of our lives, instead of connecting these dots into an incredible life line that communicates an amazing message to those around us.

Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about.

When I speak of the “individual points” of our lives, I’m mostly talking about those BIG life events that we think about being able to accomplish: graduating high school, graduating college, establishing your career, getting married, having 2.5 children, getting those children raised, socking enough money in IRA’s to retire, retiring, traveling the world, crawling into the casket, and passing away.

What happens, though, when we get focused on the technique, the main points of our lives?

A number of things can happen. We can lose sight of the big picture of our lives. We can get bogged down in one area (such as finishing college – I know I did!). We can desire the act of marriage so much that we lose sight of our life line and marry the wrong person. We can get so worked up about putting enough money away for retirement that we’re working too hard in a job in which we feel unhappy and unfulfilled.

So, what if we flipped this whole life process around? What if we started living out the line of our lives instead of getting hung up on these individual parts of our lives?

Focus On The Line

The best way to overcome this point-by-point, event-by-event living is to stay focused on the line – your unique path to your ultimate, desired destination.

Stephen Covey called this type of thinking, “Beginning with the end in mind.” This is visionary, possibility thinking.

Have you ever sat down and figured out your life destination, where you intentionally want to end up? In your mind, you may have a general idea, but have you purposely crafted a statement of life intention? Have you created an extraordinary vision that you are running toward each and every day?

Perhaps you desire to live to age 100 and be the reigning patriarch of an amazingly large, Christian family of 5 kids, 15 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren! How amazing would that be?

So, how are you going to get to there? How would you live if this was your desired destination?

I can just about guarantee you won’t get there if you’re out partying each weekend, you and your spouse fight constantly, and your family is an absolute train wreck. In this situation, your daily actions don’t line up with your intended life destination. So you’re going to need to stop and spend a little time on your life technique so your life can play out to its intended conclusion.

Fix Your Technique

Let’s go back to my example above and think through the technique on how to possibly accomplish the following life statement:

“I desire to live to age 100 and be the reigning patriarch of an amazingly large, Christian family of 5 kids, 15 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren!”

  • Part 1: “I desire to live to age 100.” [Personal note: I recognize that our time here on earth is totally in the hands of Almighty God (James 4:14). This is still a vision that we can live toward]. So, does your lifestyle currently support your being able to live a mostly healthy life to age 100? If not, what needs to change today in order for you to live into the possibility of age 100? Do you need to change your diet, start exercising, and get yearly physicals?
  • Part 2: ” … and be the reigning patriarch …” Are you a strong leader in your family? How do treat your spouse and children? Are you a servant leader to your family? What do you need to do, who do you need to become in order to be the respected leader within your immediate and extended family?
  • Part 3: ” … of a an amazingly large, Christian family …” Are you strong in your own walk with Christ? Does your walk match your talk? Are you in the Word and in prayer on a consistent basis? Is weekly church attendance a priority? Can you look your family members in the eyes and say with the confidence of the Apostle Paul, “follow me as I follow the Lord?” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Work on your life technique just like a musician would, but also don’t forget to play the song of your life with everything you’ve got! Have a vision and live toward that vision each day.

Questions: How is your “life song” playing out, today? Are you hung up on performing the right life techniques or are you focused on your life line and ultimate destination? Have you ever crafted a vision of intention for the ultimate destination of your life here on earth?

As we begin a new year, now is a great time to work on the line, the ultimate destination of what you desire to achieve in this life.

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?

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)