When You Visualize Success, You Can Achieve Success

Photo by Fortune Live Media

Photo by Fortune Live Media

[Excerpts from this post are taken from Larry’s book, Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan]

Sara Blakley and Spanx

Sara Blakely may not be a familiar name in the average American home. Some of the products she has created for women, though, would be recognized through her company called Spanx. As a young woman, Sara pursued several different business opportunities that were not working out for her. Before starting her own company, she was selling fax machines door to door. Sara recalls that this time in her career was a great learning experience for her. She learned how to handle rejection through hearing lots of “no’s.” She also learned how to get to a “yes” as well. The art of the sale was a valuable lesson she learned as she finally launched her own company. She also learned another valuable lesson—visualizing becoming successful.

Photo by Mike Mozart

Photo by Mike Mozart

Blakey says she could see her business succeeding from the beginning. She visualized herself being the successful owner of Spanx. Blakely says, “I believe you can take mental snapshots of your future and what success looks like to you. If you mentally see yourself in a scenario, you’ll start to make decisions in your life that get you there.”

Sara Blakely thinks differently than most people. As a result, Forbes Magazine has recognized her as the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.

Wealthy People Think Differently

Wealthy people think differently at many different levels. I’m not talking about the NBA basketball player who has the $10 million crib with ten expensive cars parked out front, either. One could make the argument that many professional sports athletes handle their money like poor people who have won the lottery. But, I digress.

Photo by Emma Lopez

Photo by Emma Lopez

When I mention wealthy people, I’m talking about people who have learned to generate income through the purchase of assets and not liabilities. This is the classic Robert Kiyosaki definition that he outlines in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The world has too many people running around today who appear wealthy. If one dug down into their finances, though, they would find they are actually quite poor. They have too many liabilities and not enough assets that generate income for their families.

Wealthy People Ask Questions

Rich thinking doesn’t mean driving a hoopty and living in a double-wide trailer while being the rental house king in our respective city with thousands of dollars in savings and investments. But before signing up for a book of payments on a $40,000 SUV or buying a $750,000 mortgage for the most expensive house in a great neighborhood, many questions should be asked. Wealthy people ask themselves money questions, such as:

  • Am I buying assets or liabilities?
  • Is this the best use of my money right now?
  • Is there a better place or better opportunity to leverage my money?
  • Do I need this particular item right now?
  • Is this a true need or a want?
  • What is the wisest thing I could do with this money, today?

For the Christian who is attempting to live according to these principles, this adds another layer of spiritual thinking. Additional questions could include:

  • Would God be pleased with this purchase? Why or why not?
  • Will this purchase impact my level of giving in the future?
  • Have I prayed about this purchase, or am I engaged in a worldly mindset?
  • Is this the absolute best use of God’s money?
  • If I make this purchase, would God be able to say to me, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”? Why or why not?

There are several key differences between the rich and poor concerning financial thinking. Wealthy people process money information, ask themselves a lot of questions, and seek the wise counsel of others they trust. Poor people follow the poor money habits of the majority of people around them. The poor make emotional purchases based on popular opinion and feelings instead of an overriding financial plan.

The information shared in this post can be found in Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan

How To Deal With An Inescapible Role That You Don’t Really Want To Fill

Photo by Chuck Olsen

Photo by Chuck Olsen

Funeral Minister For A Day

He’s dead?

There’s no way that could have happened. He’s still relatively young!

These are the thoughts I had a few weeks ago when I learned that one of my former church orchestra members had past away in his sleep.

My friend had moved out-of-state a few years ago for a new job position, so I hadn’t seen him in quite some time. As the news sunk in and became reality for me, I thought about my friend and our relationship. I reflected back on my memories with him.

I was under the assumption that his funeral would be out-of-state where he currently lived, but then, the phone call came. His wife asked me to officiate his funeral here in town. They were shipping his body back in order to do a local funeral for all the family members. She told me that he would want me to officiate his service.

Deep down, I knew she was right.

[Gulp]

What do you say to a request such as that? A request way outside of your comfort zone.

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of attending funerals, let alone officiating one for someone I know.

I’m Not Qualified

I have officiated several weddings, but only one funeral. That one funeral was relatively “easy” to officiate because I didn’t personally know the person who had passed away. I had no emotional connection.

But, with my friend, I did have an emotional connection. I knew this was going to be difficult for me to do.

So, how do you deal with a challenging, uncomfortable role such as this that you really don’t feel capable of fulfilling?

6 Thoughts On Filling A Role You Really Don’t Want To Fill

Here was my approach to filling this role that I was asked to do:

  1. Acknowledge the need. The family needed an officiant for the funeral. It would need to be me or another minister. Deep down, I knew my friend’s wife was right. I couldn’t argue with her. I knew that my friend would want me to officiate his service. I had to accept this role, even though it was going to be extremely uncomfortable and emotional for me.
  2. Be confident in whatever experience you do have to help you. The biggest argument I had against doing this service was lack of experience. I had only preached one other funeral several years ago. But how do you gain experience preaching funerals? There’s only one way, by preaching funerals. Yes, I do have public speaking experience. Yes, I have script writing experience. Putting together a funeral script and preaching that script may be challenging for me, but I know that I have enough experience to do this. Be confident in the abilities God has given you.
  3. Seek advice. As soon as I knew I was going to need to prepare this funeral service, I started emailing a couple of other pastors I know for advice. They gave me some great ideas, and I was off and running in getting the funeral script and service put together.
  4. Prepare heavily. I spent quite a bit of time writing and re-writing the funeral script. Then, I spent additional time reading through and practicing the script. I visualized myself standing before the family and his friends as I delivered the various elements of the service.
  5. Pray for strength. When I was in the car driving to the funeral that morning, I spent quite a bit of time praying to the Lord for supernatural strength. He provided exactly what I needed, when I needed it!
  6. Be Authentic. I’m an emotional guy. I’ve been this way since I was a small boy. I probably could have done a better job fighting back the tears as I preached my friend’s funeral, but I allowed myself to feel the emotions of losing him. I was really in tune with the words that were coming out of my mouth. I wept occasionally as I spoke. I was overcome with emotions. In many ways, I felt like a failure as a funeral minister, but I had several friends and family members approach me after the funeral saying what a wonderful job I did. People appreciate authenticity over “having your act together.” Isn’t it strange how that works?

Questions: Have you ever had to assume a role that you really didn’t want to do? Do you agree or disagree with my approach? What was your approach?

Book Review: From Zero to Hero in Your Finances

From Zero to Hero In Your Finances BookBackground

As a stewardship pastor and blogger, I was recently encouraged to check out the book From Zero to Hero in Your Finances by Dr. Richard Knapp.

Christian stewardship isn’t always the easiest topic to tackle, especially in a book format. If approached in the wrong manner, the subject matter can come across as dry and boring, or even worse, as legalistic and condescending. Dr. Knapp did an excellent job with his approach on the topic of stewardship. I found his book to be entertaining, and at the same time quite convicting!

6 Key Aspects Of The Book That Make This Book Worth The Read

There were several aspects of this book that I really enjoyed. Due to these key parts of the book, I know I will find myself coming back to this book for future research and inspiration in the area of stewardship.

Here are the 6 key aspects of the book I enjoyed:

  1. A Quick and Easy Read. As I mentioned above, the topic of stewardship can be potentially stuffy and boring to many, but I enjoyed Dr. Knapp’s approach to this book. Each chapter was concise, had a good flow, and got straight to the point. Nicely done.
  2. The Concept of Well-Digging. The opening chapter talks about this interesting idea of digging wells. I had never consider this approach in this way before, but it does make complete sense to me. I had one of those “I could have had a V8” experience when I read through this particular chapter. Dr. Knapp explains that “ … wells symbolize God’s provision and blessing. Abraham dug many wells, which were later filled with dirt by the Philistines, a type of the enemy.” You can read Genesis 26:18-19, 22 as well as Isaiah 12:2-3 for the Old Testament inspiration for the overall concept. Here’s a very brief synopsis of what Dr. Knapp writes about “well digging”: “When a well has been properly dug, the water flows freely into it. The water from a functional well will always be available, not only to us, but to others around us. The devil, however, will constantly try to throw unbelief into our wells to dry up our faith in that area … Digging a well is an active spiritual process, not a passive mental one.”
  3. Personal Stories from the Author’s Life. Stories are always excellent ways for an author to connect with his audience. Dr. Knapp shared several of his own personal stewardship stories that were interesting and convicting. His stories were a great reminder that I still have much to learn in the area of stewardship.
  4. Stewardship Testimonies from the Lives of Others. Not only did Dr. Knapp share his own stewardship stories, but he also included several stories and testimonies from others. These were very inspiring as well. I’ll probably be “stealing” some of these stories for a few Giving Talks at my church in the near future.
  5. Tons of Scripture to Support Each Chapter. At the end of every chapter, Dr. Knapp listed a lot of Scripture to support the particular concept he was teaching for that chapter. I will definitely be using this part of the book as a resource as I teach on key areas of stewardship.
  6. Written-Out Stewardship Prayers. Most chapters of the book have a written-out stewardship prayer of confession. I’m definitely coming back to these for inspiration for public prayers with our congregation.

If you have a passionate desire to grow deeper in this area of Christian stewardship, then I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book.

How To Do More With Less

Illustration by Chris Piascik

Illustration by Chris Piascik

Fewer Resources In A Difficult Economy

Money is tight.

I seriously doubt that statement is too much of a shock to any of my readers.

In the early to mid 2000s, money flowed fast and cheap. People took advantage of the financial system, and then ended up in a world of hurt when the economy slowed way down.

For the last six years, we have lived in challenging economic times. Some people have struggled more than others. Some have been able to successfully make the transition over to surviving and even thriving on less, financially.

Somehow, these people have been able to take a little money and stretch it further than what is even considered possible.

Jesus Transforms The Little Into Much

In the Book of John, Chapter 6, we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.

This accounting was for 5,000 men and didn’t count all the women and children. So, the “real” people count may have been more like 15,000-20,000.

Jesus had taught all day on a mountainside near the Sea of Galilee, and this crowd of people listening to Him was getting hungry.

Jesus went to the disciples and asked them to find food for these 5,000 men, plus the women and children present as well.

One of the disciples, Phillip, told Him, “Lord, there’s no way we can afford to feed all these people. It would cost nearly half a year’s wages.” In today’s numbers, this could equal around $20,000.

Another disciple, Andrew, found a boy with a Jewish Happy Meal – five loaves of bread and two small fish. This boy had a $7 lunch. Andrew thought this amount of food was simply a waste of time. He had a scarcity mindset.

But Jesus didn’t think this way.

He had the people sit down. He took this small amount of food, he gave thanks for it, and he blessed it. Then the disciples distributed these five loaves and two small fish to the people.

In John 6:12-13, we read these words:

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

In this amazing miracle by Jesus, we see Him taking a small amount of food, blessing it, and multiplying it to the point that all the people’s physical hunger was satisfied, PLUS they had more than enough leftover.

Abundance Thinking

Jesus had an abundance mindset.

This makes total sense, though. He is God the Son. He owns it all! All resources are at his disposal at any time and any place.

When the disciples brought him the five loaves and two fish to feed thousands of people, He didn’t throw up his hands in frustration and give up.

Instead, He prayed.

He thanked God for the resources that were before Him. He prayed a blessing on the loaves and fishes, and then what happened?

God multiplied the resources and then there was more than enough to feed the people. In fact, there were HUGE amounts of leftovers after the people ate until they were full.

You can do more with less. When God is in something, little can be much.

Questions: Do you, like the disciples, struggle with scarcity thinking, or do you have an abundance mindset? Do you look to God as your ultimate provider of resources? When you come to the time of offering in your church, do you think that you don’t have enough financially to make any kind of impact in the Kingdom of God? Do you think that your giving would be a waste of time and resources?

Key Thought: Whether you have a little or a lot, it doesn’t matter. Be like this boy who obeyed Jesus, gave away his small lunch to the Master, and the Lord blessed these few resources in an amazing way!

A New Concept In Successful Living

Photo by TheTaxHaven

Photo by TheTaxHaven

A Doctor Reveals The Secret

Turn your head and cough.

Yeah, it was that magical time, once again, with my doctor. A few years ago, I had just turned 40, and I needed to go in for a physical evaluation, just to make sure everything in my body was still up to factory specs.

As he and I were sitting in the examination room going through my medical history, he told me I was a boring patient.

I was like, “Geez, thanks a lot, doc.”

Fortunately, he meant it as a compliment.

He told me that in the medical profession he loves boring patients – individuals who are proactively taking care of themselves physically and not engaging in risky behaviors.

I said, “Yup, that’s me. I’m about as vanilla as they come.”

Boring Means Successful

The more I have thought about my doctor’s statement, though, the more I have considered the importance of this as a life philosophy.

I also started thinking about successful people and their daily routines and rituals.

The successful people I know are extremely disciplined, proactive, routine-driven, and not given over to “cray cray.”

Yeah, there are a few exceptions to the rule such as successful, business people types who “party like it’s 1999” and can (sort of) keep their life stuff together, but that’s pretty rare.

The Success Habits Of The Boring

The successful boring people out there have several boring habits.

Maybe that’s a big part of why they are successful.

They wake up early. They engage in personal quiet time, prayer, or meditation. They journal. They write down and review their goals on a regular basis. They focus on two or three important tasks a day that only they can accomplish that will move their career or business forward. They work on the hardest projects, first. They fight hard against procrastination.

They delegate additional activities to others in order to stay focused on their vital few. They eat right. They exercise. They stay on top of their personal finances. They and their spouses are on the same page when it comes to business, finances, and their family. They enjoy spending time with their spouses and children.

They invest all of their time and energy into activities and processes that make a difference.

Now, how corny and square are all these activities? The majority of people on planet earth probably laugh at these type of people and call them “nerds.”

To the successful, though, these activities aren’t boring. They’re actually exciting.

So, if boring works so amazingly well, why aren’t more of us this boring?

Questions: Are you boring and successful in life? If so, what boring activities do you engage in that you would give credit for your success?

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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4 Ways To Reignite Your Passion Not Only For Your Spouse But For God As Well

Photo by danielmoyle

Photo by danielmoyle

Are You In The Doghouse?

Valentine’s Day and dog houses. For guys, they kind of go together.

This is the day when men are practically required to step up to the plate and hit a home run on this special day of love, or we end up in the dog house, right? Maybe some of you men reading this post right now were in the doghouse over the weekend.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to be extremely purposeful for this Valentine’s Day. I placed the order for the roses in advance. I made the dinner reservations ahead of time. I discussed childcare options with my wife. I wanted my wife to see that I took this day of love seriously. I wanted to demonstrate thoughtfulness and care. I wanted there to be no doubt that I love her.

So, since we just passed the Valentine’s Day holiday last week, I thought I’d share five thoughts I had over the weekend about marriage relationships and the lessons we can learn to apply to not only our earthly relationships, but also lessons that we can apply to our relationship with God.

4 Ways To Reignite Your Passion

1. Show up more. When I was dating my wife, we both had demanding responsibilities and schedules (and still do!). Because we loved and cared for each other, we were always planning our next opportunity to get together for dinner, a movie, or other event. We wanted to hang out. We wanted to spend time together. But, then you get married, life happens, and if you aren’t careful, you end up spending less time with each other. You must be purposeful in spending time alone on a very regular basis to renew and strengthen your relationship.

The same is true with our relationship with God. When we first accept Christ as Savior, we’re hungry to spend quiet time with Him. We can’t wait to be in church for every opportunity to gather with God’s people. But then, as we grow older in our faith, we find excuses to stay away from both our quiet time and from church. We’re just not in God’s presence as often, and the sad thing is that we don’t even really seem to care. We take God for granted. You must be purposeful and resolute in your relationship with God. If you have a challenging schedule, then you need to get God back on your schedule. As the saying goes, on paper, on purpose. Plan your day so that you give yourself enough time in the morning for some quiet time with the Father. Make church a priority. Don’t let other people, circumstances, sports, or other earthly pursuits dictate whether you will be in church each Sunday.

2. Talk more. A natural outgrowth of spending more time together with your spouse should be communication. When you started dating, you guys probably talked all the time. Over time, though, maybe you ran out of stuff to talk about. Sometimes, the conversation flows naturally. At other times, you may need to work at it, but keep on talking no matter what. Treat your spouse as your best friend and share not only your daily activities, but also your hopes, your fears, your very life with them.

God wants to converse with us. He speaks to us through His written Word. We speak to Him through the vehicle of prayer. We must set aside time in our busy day to read God’s Word and pray. My own personal recommendation would be to do it early in the morning before your day gets cluttered and your mind gets scattered. Again, we must make our conversation with God purposeful, otherwise our busy lives will quickly crowd Him out.

3. Give more. I believe the secret to a successful marriage is sacrificial, unselfish giving. When we purposefully plan and give our spouses the very best of our time, energy, and resources, then we end up appreciating each other more. Sacrifice would seem to be a dirty word in this culture. Everybody wants what they want, when they want it, and don’t even bother asking me to give any more than I’m already giving you. I believe this act of giving, though, is the key to success in any relationship. Give, and then be willing to give some more.

God wants us to give back to Him. He wants the “firstfruits” of our life: the very best of our time, talents, and money. But, what do we usually offer back to Him? I bet most of the it’s probably our leftovers. We “tip” Him financially by throwing a few bucks in the offering plate. We make it to church every other week. We don’t read our Bible or pray consistently. We don’t use our God-given talents to further the Kingdom of God, but we waste them on earthly pursuits. How do you think that makes God feel? Are we truly demonstrating that we love God with everything we have? I seriously doubt it.

4. Submit more. Submission is another one of those bad words were supposed to ignore in our modern culture. An attitude of submission, though, is critical for success in any relationship. When I speak of submission, I’m not talking about becoming a doormat and allowing yourself to be abused. Submission is simply recognizing the needs of the other person and putting their needs and desires above your own. A woman’s primary need is love and affection. A man’s primary need is respect. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:21-25, “ … submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” I’m not sure why we have made this issue so complicated in our (supposedly) Christian marriages.

In our relationship with Almighty God, He wants our complete submission. He wants us to be completely surrendered to Him and His desires. Once we have entered into a relationship with Christ, we should be completely submitted to Him. Our lives are no longer about living a selfish, self-absorbed lifestyle. Our lives should be about accomplishing His mission through us – advancing the Kingdom of God.

Questions: How’s your passion for your spouse? Are you showing up, talking, giving, and submitting? And how about your relationship with God? Are you really demonstrating a passionate love for Him as well? Do you think He will say to you one day “Well done, thou good and faithful servant?”






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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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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.