“Rough” Riders

image What does it mean to be thorough? The dictionary defines it as being “extremely attentive to detail & accuracy; painstaking.” Therefore, as we consider our call as followers of Christ to be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17), the painstaking processes sometimes required to achieve this goal shouldn’t surprise us. For the word, thorough, when dissected reveals a unique insight – “Tho Rough.” Three primary areas in our life typically require these seemingly rough refinements:

Courage: We may think we’re courageous until God places us in a position of total dependence on Him – when no person, no amount of money & no position of influence can deliver us from our situation. This is a precious, yet painful moment of refinement. Will we remain confident in Jesus & His promises? Or, will we settle for panic, impatience, compromise, doubt & fear? Are you at this type of crossroad in your life? Let us be courageous & thank God for these times – for this is where power & contentment in Christ are fully realized (Philippians 4:12).

Consistency: Do trials, or triumphs interrupt our relationship with Christ? Does our commitment to seek, or serve God fluctuate based upon our circumstances? Thankfully, God assures us it’s possible to possess an unwavering faith – one that empowers us to remain consistent & productive despite our situations (James 1:2-8). After all, there aren’t any circumstantial caveats in the great commission.

Compassion: We may be compassionate, but a close examination of our prayer life may reveal additional opportunities. For example, who do we pray most often for? A friend revealed he began refocusing his prayers after realizing most of his were spent on self-benefitting requests. So, he created “The Dirty Dozen,” which is a list of twelve people, non-family, to be included in his daily prayers. Also, if possible, he suggests letting the individuals know you’re praying for them & to ask what you can pray for. When he did this to me, I was overwhelmed, convicted & immediately incorporated this blessing in my own life. Clearly, praying for ourselves isn’t wrong, but my friend realized a profound truth – loving others is the second greatest command Jesus ever gave (Mark 12:31) & sincere prayers for someone is a powerful way to love.

Application: “Ready To Rumble” – 1 Samuel 17:48
When David faced Goliath, he was fully equipped with a level of confidence in God that empowered him to “run quickly to the battle line” when others wavered. Do we view our trials as opportunities to glorify God? Do we so trust Him that we eagerly run toward the “giants” in our life? These are just a few benefits to our refinement. For God desires the same level of faith for us so that we too may be fully equipped for every good work.

by Dagan Sharpe @ CareerCall.wordpress.com

Call To Uncommon Character

imageCharacter can be defined as one’s ethical quality, or as Lincoln once described, “Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree.” In examining this illustration further – how far does our own shadow stretch? Is it expansive & serve as a refreshing refuge for many, or is it a narrow shade offering little in provision, or protection? Thankfully, character can be developed. Three components operate to distinguish believers from the crowd & shape us into the uncommon likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29):

Uncommon Traits: Why would anyone aspire to be uncommon? After all, being different increases one’s exposure to rejection & ridicule. Yet, this is why Godly people are described as noble, courageous & rare (Proverbs 31:10 & 1 Timothy 3:1). For even though nonbelievers can possess many of the character traits the Bible highlights, no one can fully discover, develop, and/or deploy them apart from Christ. This is because these traits are a reflection of Jesus Himself & are developed in us so that we can better serve Christ, share Christ & glorify Christ. Consider – does our character safely blend in, or courageously stand out?

Uncommon Training: What Gold’s Gym is to the body, God’s gym is to the spirit. Therefore, dedication, discipline & discomforts are necessary in order to acquire the benefits we desire – whether physical, or spiritual. For ultimately, in order for anything to be proven genuine, including character, it must first be refined (Psalm 66:10). In God’s gym He is our coach & will encourage us as He refines us. But are we committed to do our part? Our time with God & trusting Him are vital elements to our development.

Uncommon Targets: What good is Godly character if it isn’t used? Like carefully crafted arrows, we are aimed with precision to impact specific targets that ultimately serve to expand God’s Kingdom (Psalm 127:4). As arrows, we cannot fly on our own. In vain, we may still try, but this only leaves us exposed to be picked up & used by the enemy. Let us examine our targets – who’s kingdom do they seek to expand?

Application: “Willing Weapons” – Isaiah 49:2
Character is a powerful weapon in promoting good, or evil, that can be passed down for generations. However, only when we willingly place ourselves in God’s hands will we be shaped, sharpened & sent with divine purpose. Are their any targets, or priorities we desire more than Christ? Let us boldly pursue the uncommon & be identified as the arrows of His quiver.

Pursuits Of Priority

imageDiscontentment once pressed heavily upon my soul as I blindly pursued the prominence this world defines as success. As a result, my health suffered, my finances were misaligned, my family craved more intimacy & my time with God lacked priority. These sacrifices eventually converged to create a level of brokenness I will never forget & a crossroad of decisioning that forever changed my life. It was when I finally understood the meaning, necessity & power of complete surrender.

Is there a past decision that has greatly impacted you & others? Do you regret it, or rejoice from it? Thankfully, by God’s grace, it’s never too late for us to start experiencing life as He intended & to begin strengthening the four primary stewardship areas entrusted to us all (John 10:10):

Faith: We know “the cares of this world & the deceitfulness of riches,” along with the desire for other things, choke out the life of God in us (Matthew 13:22). Yet, many of us remain trapped by this deception. Has our regular time with God dwindled? Has our church attendance & fellowship with others diminished? Have our anxieties increased? Let’s examine our pursuits & seek to protect prioritizing any of them before God.

Family: Not providing for one’s household denies the faith (1Timothy 5:8). However, “provision” includes more than what money can offer. For how many can give in this way, but miss the spiritual, emotional & physical requirements of provision? Family is strengthened when Christ is priority because His love & wisdom infects our life for us to then share & apply in the home. Has anything distracted us from praying as a family, playing as a family & prospering as a family, no matter how diverse our family may be?

Fitness: We know we’re God’s temple & that we’re to care for our bodies as such (1Corinthians 3:16). So, why do we neglect healthy eating, necessary sleeping & regular exercise for other commitments? Clearly, there is a balance between caring for ourselves & obsessing over ourselves, but how impactful can we be if we’re sick, weak & tired? Whipping ourselves & others to performance without proper maintenance isn’t heroic. Yet, many of us do it & seem to wear it as a badge of honor. There’s always time & great wisdom in taking care of our health & leading others to care for theirs – spiritually & physically.

Finances: Irresponsibility with worldly wealth, denies us the opportunity to be trusted with true riches (Luke 16:11). Power, prominence & possessions are alluring motivators, but can never serve as true measures of success. Rather, they are potent revealers of character. Therefore, they can never be allowed to conflict with our responsibilities to faith, family & fitness. We must guard ourselves from mistaking any provision with the Provider. For all we have is from Him & we are presented with opportunities to serve as His faithful vessels of distribution. How much & with what can He trust us with? Will it be used as He directs, or go to build our storehouse over His?

Excerpts from Bank On It: Empowering Insights The Rich Already Know.

Mining For Mentors

imageGreat leaders are great learners & great learners seek out great leaders. Therefore, we all need & benefit from great mentors. Though they’re seemingly rare in a world of self promotion, pursuing them is worth the expedition. Success however resides in knowing where & who to look for:

Identify Where: To be effective in battle, wise counsel from various advisors offers strategic advantages (Proverbs 24:6). Yet, many of us continue to engage the barrage of worldly pressures, fleshly desires & spiritual attacks alone. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be, for God has His servants readily available through multiple sources. For example, Indirect mentors can be found through books, podcasts & videos. Direct mentors can be discovered through peer relationships, church fellowship & personal interactions. Historical mentors are provided for us in the Bible & biographical resources. Thus, we don’t ever have to be without wise counsel. Do you have quality advisors & mentors in your life? May we continuously seek, carefully consider & diligently pray for God to increase our arsenal.

Identify Who: Positive teaching can be discerned from secular sources, but the primary issues in life are already addressed in the Bible. Therefore, it’s only rational to discern God’s guidance on these matters, including such things as work, joy, money, family, health & leadership. Thus, we are wise in acquiring mentors whose teaching & living is in accord with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). Consider – does the instruction promote the power of man, or the power of Christ through man? Is it based from worldly perspectives, or a Wordly perspective? Let us not risk settling for less than the best – pursue & invest in Godly mentors.

Application: “Seek Out. Reach Out. Speak Out”Luke 22:32
As we grow in knowledge & truth so does what is expected of us (Luke 8:18). God will provide us with opportunities to engage our learnings, but we must be alert to capitalize upon them despite our fears & reservations. As a result, our trust & obedience glorifies God & we have the opportunity to serve as an extension to His battalion of mentors blessing others with the same reinforcements we once received.