Got Protection?

We live in a world of uncertainty and yet many continue to live right on the edge, as if tomorrow will never come. However, as we know, there is no stopping time and tomorrows soon add into weeks, months and years – and before we know it, our time is up. Sadly, many fail to maximize the time they have. They never pursue their purposes, never think of anything beyond their own interests and never act to protect all they cherish.  Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be our story, and there are three primary ways we can better protect ourselves and others as we commit to making the most of the time we have left: 

Identification: The first step in ensuring a more secure future is identifying our primary goals and gaps to achieving those goals. For example, we may want to retire one day, but are failing to save. Another example is desiring better health, yet failing to exercise and eat properly. Thus, our behaviors are working counteractive to our goals. Therefore, there’s great benefit when we take the time to identify both our desires and deficits. The greatest deficit however is when we fail to identify our need for a Savior. We think we have time, don’t have the need and can do all that needs to be done on our own. This of course, has never proven true (Romans 3:23-24).

Information: After we identify our goals and gaps, we can begin taking steps to gain the information and education necessary to improve our conditions and protect ourselves from distractions. For example, we are told faith comes from hearing the good news about Christ. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to assume we don’t need church, Christian fellowships, or Biblical discipleship (Proverbs 11:14). However, all the collection of information in the world is still in vain when we fail to act on what we know.     

Implementation: Knowing we need Jesus and studying His Word is great, but what if we never surrender our lives to His Lordship? We see throughout the Bible people doing this exact thing. They follow Him, seek Him and praise Him, yet when He calls them to surrender all they have, they decide the cost is too high. This is because like all things in life, taking action is always the most difficult step. Sometimes it’s because we falsely assume we have time to act. As a result, many fail to do what they know is required to protect and propel the most important things in life, including above all, our eternal conditions. We are told God so loves the world that He gave His one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. We are also told by Joshua, that we are too choose this day who we will serve. Therefore, our life story can have a very different and joyful ending – when we surrender all and finally choose to receive God’s free gift of salvation in, from and through Christ (Romans 8:14).

Application: “Suit Up” – Ephesians 6:13

We don’t know how much time we have left. Therefore, we can not take today, or tomorrow for granted. This doesn’t mean we need to stress and worry and live frivolously, but quite the opposite. For those without Christ will face problems like we all do, but sadly they face them and life without a redeeming hope. However, for those believing in Christ, we have His endless protection, provision and promises that give us a sustaining hope that He never leaves us, or forsakes us – assurances that stretch beyond the realms of time.

Harvest Tap

I recently took my son on a mission trip to South Africa accompanied by several other men from my church. Although, this is a beautiful country with indescribable landscapes, the hills are scattered with townships – the underdeveloped living areas that serve as stark remnants to the country’s apartheid past. Interestingly, as we entered the townships and the homes of many of the residents there, we were routinely met with warmth and generosity. For despite seemingly dire and impoverished circumstances, many of the people there were eager to share sincere hugs and encouraging smiles. As a result, I found as I have before, that as we went to minister to them, we departed with them having also ministered to us. Clearly, they have struggles, as we all do, and as I reflect upon my time there, I can’t help but consider what we all have in common – the need for hope. How this gift manifests itself to each of us however relies on what we decide to do with the opportunities we have to be the distributors of such hope:           

Distribution: We have all been given measures of time, talents, treasures and testimonies; but what we choose to do with these gifts releases their power and potential. For we can either give in to our desire to acquire as much as we can get, or we can seek to distribute and share these gifts as often as the opportunities come our way (2 Corinthians 9:11). Ultimately, will our lives be defined by our pursuits of accumulation, or distribution?    

Activation: When we realize the liberating power that resides within the understanding that it is more blessed to give than receive, we then face the challenge of activating this truth (Acts 20:35).In other words, the reality must move from our heads to our hearts and through our hands. This can be more difficult than it may seem for there are distractions to keep us sitting on our hands. For example, we may fear not having enough to share and/or losing what we have. However, when we realize that all we have comes from the endless supply of God, we understand we can never out give Him for He is the possessor of all time, talent, treasure and testimony.    

Contribution: The resulting impact of our generosity is a life of contribution. This is when we also begin to discover another powerful truth manifest itself – we reap what we sow, more than we sow and later than we sow it. Therefore, may we consider what we are contributing? For the harvest of opportunity is plentiful though the workers are few. Therefore, let us pray for more workers and when our names are called, may we not hesitate to go in faith wherever He leads (Luke 10:2)

Application: “Burning Beds” – Romans 15:13
The need for hope is a powerful one, but more important than hope is the source of our hope. For if it is placed in anything other than Jesus Christ, we will be let down and resting lives on something as wreckless as burning beds. So, what was the source of the smiles and hugs we found in South Africa? What was the hope we all shared? It was Jesus and He was the truth that unified complete strangers half way across the globe in small township homes – and He can do the same for anyone in need of hope that reaches beyond their circumstances too.

Knowledge Is Power?

We’ve always heard knowledge is power, but is this really true? For we have also been told there are street smarts and book smarts. Is one better than the other? Clearly, knowledge is better than ignorance, but I submit that even those with the most knowledge, aren’t very powerful until they begin to apply what they know. We see this all the time at New Years when resolutions are made. Inevitably, the top of all resolutions is losing weight. Yet, even though we know to lose weight we must eat better and exercise, momentum eventually slows and many resolutions are put off another year. 

Unfortunately, this is also true with financial stewardship. For most of us know financial empowerment doesn’t come from taking the easy road, and that’s why we innately don’t like what’s involved. For instead of being easy, it most often comes in the form of hard work and discipline in three key areas:   

Saving: It can be difficult to save and this challenge affects every income level. For example, I have attended several meetings where various professionals share just how little they have saved and worry about ever being able to retire, or make it if an emergency were to strike. Thankfully, there is hope and saving is possible, but only when we make it a priority. Therefore, the key is to place enough pain and motivation to the benefits of saving, and awareness to the dangers of not saving so that we no longer neglect doing it. So, let’s begin with the two vital areas of saving largely underfunded – emergency and retirement savings. The first step always begins with committing to put aside a set amount on a regular basis to both. Then, make it as automatic of a process as possible so that you never see the money and tempt yourself to spend it elsewhere. In short, begin the habit of paying your savings before your splurges (Proverbs 10:5).     

Giving: Generosity is an important foundation in accomplishing our financial goals that is rarely talked about. However, if we never learn to be generous, we can quickly become greedy hoarders seeking to accumulate all we can. This happens when we get trapped by adages such as the one with the most toys wins, or even worse, money eventually grows to be our master. Not good places to be for our overall well-being. Therefore, do not neglect giving to charities, tithing to the church you attend, and surprising others with gifts they never know came from you. For generosity breeds rewards beyond anything money can ever buy (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Living: Living beneath our means is probably one of the most neglected, yet powerful ways we can begin saving and giving. This is especially true in America where we have grown accustomed to faster is better and find it difficult to wait. However, this is also where we can learn much from nature. For example, I recently read where mushrooms take six hours to grow and oak trees sixty years. So, what do we want our financial future to look like – an oak, or a mushroom? If we desire strong long-term financial foundations, living beneath our means is a vital part of the equation.     

Application: “Wisdom Applies Knowledge” – Matthew 7:24

So, is knowledge power? Only if it is applied – then it blossoms into wisdom. So, the next question is really simple, are we willing to be wise enough to make the changes and sacrifices necessary to help secure fruitful financial futures? If so, track where your money is going. Are there cuts to be made, luxuries to be sacrificed and lifestyle choices to be downsized? Again, knowing this information does no good unless it is applied, but it can be done. You can begin changing your financial future today – it’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile truly ever is. So, choose to commit and not to quit

What’s The Point?

Most of us have wrestled with questions of purpose and meaning at some point. For some, we may have allowed the distractions and attractions of this world to get us off track from our true purpose in life. It’s easy to understand how this can happen, especially when we fail to keep Christ front and center in all we do. The Bible however, reveals to us three areas we are most susceptible so that we can realize and resist misprioritizing them in our life:

Pleasures: Who doesn’t enjoy pleasure? Often times, these are those gifts in life that bring smiles to our faces, and joy to our hearts. However, if we aren’t careful we can quickly become addicted to them. For pleasure is a temporary rush that needs constant refueling. Therefore, we can inadvertantly become pleasure seekers – never truly satisfied, and instead remaining in a state of constant pursuit for the thrills in life. Thus, in time, we require higher and higher doses in a vain attempt to gain a sense of meaning and purpose. However, in Christ, He finds pleasure in giving us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). So, we don’t have to go out seeking them. For when He gives them, they come as a gifts to those who already know where true pleasure lies – Jesus Christ.    

Possessions: We all know the negative impact materialism can have in our lives. Even for the most committed Christian, the allure of bigger and better is an easy distraction because it doesn’t come with the claws and fangs many temptations do. Even though possessions are harmless in and of themselves, they can serve as indicators to the priorities of our heart. We see an example of this when the rich young ruler walked away sad after Jesus informed him he must rid himself of his riches and follow Him if he truly desired to find what he lacked (Luke 18:22).  Clearly, this doesn’t mean we are all to be financial paupers, but it does reveal Christ’s desire to be paramount in our life. And if He isn’t, He will lovingly reveal it to us. For it’s not a matter of what we possess, but Who possesses all of us.  

Power: The desire for power is a basic desire of man. We have gone to wars over it and fool ourselves into thinking if we only have more of it, all our problems will fade and we can use it for good. Perhaps, but a problem arises when we consider what we’re doing and have done with the power we have been entrusted with now. For those faithful with the little they have can be trusted with more (Luke 16:10). So, the amount of power isn’t the problem. It’s again a matter of how faithful and fruitful we are with what we have today.  

Application: “Meaningful Territory” – Ephesians 6:12
When we read the Bible, we see example after example of God’s people taking new land. We see Israel given new land when they walked in faith. We see Jesus entering places and healing people in forsaken areas and we even see demons begging not to be sent away from certain territories. Therefore, we can quickly begin to see how powerful the concept of territory is. There is enemy territory, but it’s not the people of a territory who are the enemy. For this is a spiritual battle. Therefore, as God’s people, we are sent into darkened lands to bring light. We are sent to areas stricken with blindness to bring sight and we are sent to rescue enemy lands for God’s Kingdom. This means everywhere we go, our priority is Christ and sharing His truth so that we are blessed by the opportunity to participate in meaningful expansions that are expanded for His glory, His honor and His Kingdom.

Cloudy “Daze”

When I travel by plane, I always enjoy the take off, especially when rising above rain clouds. For it could be cloudy and rainy one second and as soon as we burst through the clouds it’s back to sunshine and blue skies.

In all aspects of life, wouldn’t it be great if we could rise above all the distractions keeping us from brighter days? Although nothing will ever go perfectly this side of heaven, when we are aware to the things that typically cause us disappointments, we can better adjust our perspective in order to overcome them quicker:

Praise: We love being praised by others and that’s the problem. For when we seek the praise and approval of others, our satisfaction can become based more on their opinions rather than what’s best. For example, Jesus and many others in the Bible sporatically received public praise and when they did, it was short lived, or fickle. Instead, we learn that obeying God and seeking His approval is always the best course, regardless of public endorsements (Galatians 1:10).

Problems: When we face problems, the brightest days can soon turn dark. However, with most problems, there are also opportunities. For instance, we get to trust God during problems and rely upon Him, more than ourselves. We get to also learn and grow in ways we may not have if the problem hadn’t existed. Thus, problems can sometimes be the best things to happen to us. They force us out of our comfort zones, challenge us and can propel us closer to Christ, when we allow them (Psalm 50:15).

Possessions: When we focus more on what we have, or don’t have, our possessions can begin to control our perspective of self worth. However, like we have heard, our self worth is never determined by our net worth (Luke 12:25). Therefore, once we realize what we possess are resources we have been given to manage for the glory of God, we can then begin to see them as reinvestment opportunities to help others, our communities and His Kingdom.

Application: “Rise Above” – Colossians 3:2
We will undoubtedly face cloudy days, but when we are empowered with a Godly perspective, He allows us to rise above our circumstances, situations, problems, praises and possessions in order to participate in His greater purposes.