Why Bother?

imageWe may have all wondered at times if God is all powerful, all knowing and fully in control – what good does it do to pray? Why bother? After-all, isn’t God going to do what He wants to do anyway? These questions were beautifully answered for me as I came to realize how God was diligently shaping and using my various circumstances and experiences to unify my passions, purposes and profession in ways I could have never imagined:

Positioning: As we approach God in prayer, we learn to position ourselves under His authority. Our hearts must be positioned in such a way that we openly and willingly acknowledge our insufficiency, dependence, surrender and reliance on Him (2 Chronicles 7:14). In humility, we are more pliable and less resistant to God’s shaping and positioning to where He desires us to be and go.

Preparation: As we learn to wait and trust in God’s perfect timing and perfect ways, He goes to work on our physical and spiritual development. He does this by preparing our heart, hands and head to respond in the ways He desires so that we can be prepared to seize and maximize the opportunities He sends our way (Psalms 144:1). I see such preparation exemplified in my own life when I consider how I am routinely placed in positions to communicate on the various components of stewardship. If it wasn’t for persevering through public speaking classes, studying for financial certifications, attending leadership trainings and forced to apply these principals in my home, church and work, I would not have developed the fundamentals to do all God has for me today, much less tomorrow.

Promotion: This is not our promotion, but promotion of God’s purposes and for His glory. For when we are faithful in our prayer life, and seek God’s direction and guidance in all we do, He is faithful in getting us where we need to be, when we need to be there and doing what we need to do in order to promote His greater purposes (1 Peter 4:11). For example, whenever I’m blessed to lead financial literacy events, share the testimony behind my book, or publish weekly blog updates, they are all proclamations and affirmations pointing others to Jesus Christ.

Application: “It’s Always A Good Day To Pray” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Why bother praying? Frankly, we can’t be all we were created to be without it. If Jesus, God in flesh, passionately pursued prayer, how much more do we require it’s sustenance? In fact, why would we ever dare to live a day without it?

Makings of a M.A.N.

Recently, some friends of mine married and my gift to them both highlighted how the Bible defines the responsibilities and roles of a Godly husband. I told his wife that this was my present to her as well, for I could not think of a better gift to her than something that would contribute to making her man, a more Godly M.A.N.:

Mission Minded: Without a mission, a man’s impact is minimized by various distractions. However, when he knows his God ordained purposes, priorities and responsibilities, his contributions are maximized. The trouble is many men live out their lives never realizing their divine mission. As a result, they create their own and unfortunately, a man-defined mission, is one of vanity rather than victory (Proverbs 127:1-2). I know, because I was once one of those men. It wasn’t until I surrendered my life to God and allowed Jesus to be my Lord and first priority that my passion, profession and purpose became unified and my mission clear.

Aligns Ambitions: Our ambitions are aligned to our mission. Therefore, if we don’t know our divine mission, how can we expect to have divine ambitions? However, when we know our marching orders, the goals we aspire to propel our mission. It’s no longer just about us, but how we can reinvest our lives to better provide, protect, prepare and pastor others and those God has entrusted to us in order to bring Him the greatest glory (Acts 20:24).

Nourishes Needs: As our mission directs our ambitions, our actions begin to nourish the various needs God reveals to us (Titus 3:14). For when we become intentional, prayerful and focused on being all God has called us to be, families prosper, communities rebound, churches shine brightly with the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ marches boldly to work.

Application: “Loving & Leading” – 2 Corinthians 12:15
Since God is love, He empowers us to love others, and it is through this love, we lead effectively. Leadership is not abusive. It is does not promote fear and it does not intimidate. As more men discover God’s love, they can begin to love others and develop into the divine leaders of their homes, communities, churches and careers. It is through these “gateways”, our purpose and mission get fulfilled – pointing others to Jesus Christ. Then, by God’s grace, others discover their purpose, reinvest their gifts, realign their ambitions and eagerly nourish the needs God places around them.

Done In By Distractions?

imageThe list of things that serve to distract us from our divine priorities and responsibilities are practically endless. As a result, self interests can often compete against  best interests. For example, the pursuit for more is a major consumption of time and energy for many. For others, simply dealing with the stresses of life drains their devotions. Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the case. For God’s Word helps us identify when distractions are destroying our productive devotions:

Distortion: Our divine priorities get easily distorted when we begin to focus on the things the world dictates as important (Romans 12:2). For example, how much do we truly need and at what sacrifice? For me, this question came to fruition when I had to decide if a job opportunity for significantly more money was worth uprooting my family from everything they loved. Unlike some, we had a choice and didn’t have to move for work. However, the pull for more money and promotion tore at what I knew was best. My flesh and faith were battling it out. After all, it’s natural to desire promotion and to even celebrate it. In fact, there are few who would ever advise passing on promotions. However, by doing just that, I have received blessings that making more money could never have provided, and my family is still rejoicing over the decision; because for them, it was never about more money and prestige. That was my distortion. Thankfully, God will reveal our distortions – the challenge is being couragous enough to obey Him so that He can heal them.

Distance: When we allow distance to come between us and God, there are plenty of distractions ready to fill the gap. How can such distance occur? Unfortunately, it’s quite easy. All we need is to get too busy. Suddenly, our prayer time gets rushed and our Bible gets read less, or simply skimmed. Going to church becomes an option based on our feelings, or substituted for “other” commitments. Then, before we know it, God’s voice gets quieter in our lives. Now, before we call foul and say this is all legalism, we must remind ourselves to the basics of maintaining any relationship – time. Time together is a powerful unifier and what we love, truly love, we desire more time with (James 4:8). Therefore, how much do we desire our time with God? The distance we allow to come between us can be a revealing indicator.

Division: The unfortunate result of allowing distortion and distance into any relationship is often times division. If truly saved, this doesn’t mean we lose our salvation, for once saved by God’s grace, nothing can snatch us from His hand (John 10:28-29). However, His devotions and desires for us can get drowned-out when we permit distractions to divide us from His Word. Thankfully, when we walk closely with God, clarity, closeness and connection will replace the distortions, divisions and distractions of the world.

Application: “Divine Devotions” – Colossians 3:2
We have so many opportunities to trust God and rely on His goodness. However, to do so effectively, we must submit and surrender our ways to His and when He speaks, we must obey. When I passed on the career promotion it wasn’t easy. However, God’s voice was clear. For me, moving would have been disobeying the voice of God in my heart and ignoring the best interests of others. In fact, to accept the position would have been a direct inversion of my priorities – it would have been all about the money. Clearly for some, God’s direction may be to relocate, but for me, it was to pass in order to trust God more. This has solidified my desire to do my best wherever He directs me, regardless of the benefits and/or promotions – for in the end, is it all for His glory, or our own?

Passion Points

imagePassion is defined as a powerful and compelling emotion of love, or hate. Therefore, what we are most passionate about greatly determines our decisions on matters and ultimately our actions. Whether these actions serve the desires of God are greatly based as to where our passions reside. Do we seek those things He seeks and desire those things He desires, or not? To best answer this question, we must consider our motivations:

Rejection and Ridicule: The fear of failure and rejection is a primary and powerful motivator for many. In fact, I used to fall into this category, and recall being applauded for it at work. It was almost a badge of honor to fear failing, because when this was the primary driver, failure was avoided at all costs – even to the sacrificial detriment of health and family. Just as long as the bottom line was prosperous. Obviously, this is not what the Bible teaches. We are not to sacrifice our families and health in order to avoid public rejection. Yet, how many of us have fallen into this trap? Thankfully, God never rejects us (Psalm 27:10). Instead, He stands with arms wide open to receive us and then help us in all our endeavors – all for His glory and our best.

Rewards and Recognition: The flip-side of the fear of rejection is the need for public recognition. Again, this is a motivation tied to how other people perceive us. People get themselves into insurmountable debt for example, just to impress others with their “stuff”. Additionally, we can begin desiring the praise of others for our works. Even though it’s natural and in many ways a positive trait to appreciate compliments for a job well done, it enters the “danger zone” when we begin to crave it. Unfortunately, the need for recognition can even make its way into the church. We see this point illustrated very well in the biblical account of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 4:36-5:2). Thankfully, with God there is no need to impress. He already loves us and will multiply our talents for His purposes when surrendered to Him.

Reconciliation and Restoration: Another passion many of us share is the need for peace. We struggle with worries, fears, anxieties and ambitions. Thus, many are driven to alcohol, sexual stimuli, drugs and other substitutions in order to cope with the demands of everyday life. However, with God, He reconciles our lives and restores peace to our souls – nothing else in this universe has the power to do that (John 14:27).

Application: “Destined To Decide” – 1 Corinthians 10:21-24
God promises to give us the desires of our heart, but this is when our desires are aligned with His. Therefore, we must analyze our passions. For whose benefit are they directed? To help us determine this we can consider if they promote clarity, closeness and connection, or distraction, distance and division with God and His purposes. We can not straddle the fence, remain lukewarm and be casual with our devotions. They are either with His, or against – which will we choose?