Which Way?

imageMaking decisions can be tough, especially when our choices involve appealing options. Thankfully, as Christians, the Bible offers clear direction to support wise choices, regardless of the situations we might face. For example, I was once presented with two excited job opportunities. One position allowed us to remain in our hometown. The other required us to move, but offered higher financial incentives. For some the decision may appear easy, but of course, God customizes the options that come our way to accomplish the specific purposes He desires to work in & through us (Ephesians 1:11). For me, my family is uniquely fortunate to be in an environment surrounded by relatives, deep friendships & active church fellowship. Therefore, we longed to stay. Yet, we also felt the financial benefits the other position offered shouldn’t be ignored. Thus, the difficulty of the decision. Do we stay & enjoy a great opportunity, or do we move, make more money & enjoy an equally great opportunity?  In the end, we filtered our decision through three biblical principals I hope will support your upcoming decisions as well:

Peace: When we’re walking closely with God, His peace that surpasses all understanding guards our hearts regardless of our circumstances (Philippians 4:7). During periods of uncertainty, or decisioning we must trust in His leading and never settle out of panic, or desperation.  Remember, His peace helps guide us. Are you feeling pressured to do something you have no peace about? God is the Prince of Peace & there is a definite reason if you have none.

Alignment: God does not seek to confuse (1 Corinthians 14:33). Therefore, His Word, His Spirit & His Body will always be in sync & aligned. For example, I shared my job situation with a few pastors & friends at church (His body), who were able to offer scriptural encouragement & prayer. In addition, my own prayer life & Bible study reinforced God’s statutes & that life is not about me, but what He desires to do in & through me, for others & for His Kingdom (Galatians 2:20). Thus, my prayers were to be led to where my family could grow strongest spiritually & be used to encourage & disciple others the most. This was my motivation & God used His Word, Body & Spirit to guide our final decision. Have you bathed your decisioning in prayer, sought Scripture & shared it with Godly counsel? Don’t make a move until you do – not once, but continuously.

Restraint: There are times our flesh, the world, our friends & even our family may favor a particular option we’re faced with, but for Christians none of these are to have the final say. Thankfully, God offers us restraint (Proverbs 29:18). This is the small voice of unrest we sense in our heart. We may rationalize a choice all we want and try to do all we can to justify it, support it and defend it, but that small voice continues to disrupt us when we’re staying close to God. It keeps us from moving forward. The danger is ignoring this sense of restraint and plowing ahead any way, because it seems like the most rational thing to do. However, God rarely, if ever, does anything that seems rational to the world (Isaiah 55:8). Are you trying to convince & force yourself to make a particular decision? Consider why, and for what purpose – does it serve our kingdom, or His?

Application: “Bad, Better, or Best?” – Isaiah 42:16 
Many times our decisions aren’t necessarily a matter of right, or wrong. Instead, our choices may be between two good, or neutral things. So, the question becomes what’s best? What best promotes God’s purposes? What’s best for the people God has entrusted under our care? Where can we be most impactful to others & for His Kingdom, not our own? When we begin to view our decisions not based on personal gain, but surrender them to God for His gain, the answers become clearer. However, we may not always like the answers. For quite possibly we will be required to sacrifice something. It may be pride, possessions, position, or promotion, but whatever it is, it’s best we give it up. For me, our final decision was to accept the position that allowed us to stay. This wasn’t easy, but God confirmed in my heart it was His best for us at this time. Frankly, after I made the decision I faced attack internally, for I let go of some things my flesh found difficult to accept. For even though the local role was a tremendous blessing, I passed on more money. However, God’s gentle voice soon reassured me I received much more through the process.  Money was no longer my primary motivator, as it had been in the past. My faith grew stronger. My family maintained proper priority. Deeper fellowships were developed & I experienced God’s leading, peace, provision & protection in new ways. In short, the things only He can offer.

by Dagan Sharpe @ CareerCall.wordpress.com

Dog Tired? Refresh Your Stewardship Mind-S.E.T.

imageOne of the greatest strongholds today is irresponsible debt. Why? Because debt literally makes one a slave to the debtor, and unfortunately, there are few role models we can look to for leadership in this area, including our government. Clearly debt is only a symptom of a deeper issue. For many, the obsession for possession stems from believing the more they have, the happier they will be. However, materialism and greed is like drinking salt water, it only creates more thirst. Therefore, we are faced with an epidemic that is depleting us from maximizing the three primary areas of stewardship God has entrusted to us all – our time, talent and treasures. Rather than being used for His Kingdom expansion, we now use them in a vain attempt to expand our own. As a result, most of our resources are spent working in order to pay for more stuff and more debt. This of course leads to less intimacy with our family, more stress and less of our time invested for God.

I have a lot of passion concerning stewardship because my prior lack of it nearly cost me everything I care most about. I was caught up in the lie and convinced myself that my selfish behavior was somehow good for my family. Until we acknowledge God’s ownership and authority over all things, our efforts are in vain and lasting joy will always elude us (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). Thankfully, the Bible teaches how we can properly steward His resources in order to free our finances, restore our families and promote His purposes (S.E.T.):

Set Aside: In comparison with other prosperous nations, Americans tend to rank among those who save the least. We spend much of what we earn and largely neglect preparing for future responsibilies. Yet, the principal of setting aside also applies to time. In addition to financial reserves, we must also be diligent in how we allocate our time. Consider – how much uninterrupted time do we invest with our families? More importantly, how much time do we invest with God? Do we rush through our prayer, skip church, or even bother to read our Bibles? When God is first, He maximizes whatever is given in His name, including our time (Luke 6:38). As such, we are sustained and empowered to maintain our priorities so that we can offer our best to Him, our family, our work and share His blessings with others.

Eliminate: Just like irresponsible debt is destructive, so is anything that distracts us from our highest priority – God. Therefore, in addition to saving, paying cash in lieu of credit and setting a plan to payoff our debts, we must also eliminate any distraction impacting our intimate walk with Christ (Mark 12:30). For example, what do we think about and desire the most? Where do we invest the majority of our time, money and energy? There are many bright and shiny objects to allure our attention from what truly matters – let’s not take the bait. Remember the recipe for J.O.Y. – Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last.

Tithe: Very few Christians tithe. In fact, most don’t, or contribute very little to God’s storehouse. Why is this? Do we not trust God will meet our every need? If we don’t pay the government what’s due, there are consequences. So, why do we think God, who establishes governments, overlooks our negligence in returning what’s His? Clearly, He doesn’t need the money, and there’s no legal obligation since we are free under Christ, but God does continue to seek grateful hearts who acknowledge His authority, ownership & supply in their lives (Malachi 3:7). Therefore, let’s put the money where our mouth is.  If we believe, let’s act on it and give in faith to the only sure thing there is – His Kingdom.

Application: “Return To Sender” – Psalm 50:14-15 
We are the creature – He is the Creator. There is a distinction and when our hearts acknowledge this reality, rather than seeking the position for ourselves, heaven moves. We’re either contributors to what He’s doing by actively participating and investing in it, or not; but if we opt out, we shouldn’t be surprised when we also miss out on His Kingdom blessings. The truth is there’s nothing we truly own. It’s all on loan – but what a freedom that is! Just think, if God owns it, He’s also responsible for it. This means He takes full responsibility for us as His children and in guiding us to properly invest the resources entrusted to us. Therefore, as we realign our priorities placing God at the helm and applying His truth in our lives, we get the benefit of living under His authority, participating in His plans and being used for His purposes.  Now, that’s living the good life – no amount of money can match!

Also see the Making Money Matter post @ CareerCall.

Haunts That Hinder

imageHenry Thoreau wisely advised to, “never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” Yet, how many of us still break into a cold sweat when reminded of the things we once said & did? Thankfully, our past doesn’t have to haunt, or hinder us. For our new life in Christ sets us free & empowers us to abandon the following burdens forever:

Self: It’s literally out with the old & in with the new for those who have surrendered their life to Jesus (2Corinthians 5:17). Although our past can’t be erased, does our mind still dwell there & foster shame? We can be confident knowing our “old self” is a mirage that no longer exists. Instead, our new reflection is that of our Savior, who now lovingly resides as an oasis in & through us (2Corinthians 3:18).

Strongholds: Our surrender to Christ means nothing has the right, or authority to be our Lord & Master other than Him – this includes people, possessions, problems & passions. Are we allowing such things to hinder & hold us captive? Let’s not linger amidst the rubble, for those prisons to our potential in & for Christ have been destroyed! We have been set free & never need to return to their walls again (Isaiah 43:18).

Sin: Although relentless in its pursuit to steal, kill & destroy the gospel & our testimonies, sin is incapable of overpowering Christ’s church (Matthew 16:18). Therefore, we are never defenseless, or in a position of surrender & compromise. Do the deceptive pleasures of sin still allure us closer? Let’s gear up! For in Christ we have been equipped for victory & never need to surrender as victims (Ephesians 6:11).

Application: “Free For Forward Focus” – Galatians 5:1
When we look back on those things that once held us captive & refuse to leave our broken shackles behind, they only serve to focus us on flaws & limitations. Therefore, let us abandon them with joyful praise & direct our attention to our loving Savior who enables us to step forward into the abundant new life He has prepared for us (Philippians 3:13).

Help Wanted?

imageDo you sometimes feel you’re climbing a mountain of challenges on your own? As followers of Christ, we can know with confidence that we’re never truly alone for God repeatedly assures He will never leave, or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). As a result, no matter what challenges, obstacles, or troubles may surround us, we can trust in God delivering on His promise(s) in several significant ways:

Provision: When we surrender our life to God, we become His responsibility. We also begin to realize that since we belong to Him so do the provisions He entrusts to us (1 Corinthians 10:26). Therefore, what justification is there to anxiously maneuver like those lacking this understanding? Rather, a Kingdom mindset replaces uncertainty, idleness & entitlement with a sincere appreciation that propels our desire to be diligent stewards of all the treasures & opportunities He assigns to us, including our faith, family, fitness & finances.

Preparation: Feeling overwhelmed, or in over-your-head? Remember, in the hands of God, trials often serve as productive environments where we gain further refinements to promote His purposes both in & through us (2 Corinthians 4:17). As a result, our faith is strengthened & our spirits are purified which glorifies God & helps us be better encouragers to others.

Protection: Although we’re never promised material prosperity & a life free from discomforts, we can be secure in His protection over our lives. Not only are we promised eternal salvation, but God is present to guide us through every dark valley & villain we may encounter (Psalm 23:4). May we encounter pain & suffering? Most likely, but we can take comfort knowing that if God allowed it, there is benefit & purpose for it.

Application: “Our Reliance In His Reliability”Psalm 107:28
Do you need direction & dependability with what your facing? No matter what our present circumstances & challenges may be, we can rely on God’s restoration & rescue. His response may not be what we expect, or on our time table, but it is always best. Additionally, as we actively seek & trust in Him, our dependence grows, & we begin to realize that our waiting is never in vain, but rather a valuable expression of praise & worship.

by Dagan Sharpe @ CareerCall.wordpress.com