Alluring Lures

Recently, during a speaking engagement, it was discovered the individuals we were working with all shared something in common – they had forgotten, or given up on their dreams. Why? Because they were in survival mode. They were struggling to simply make ends meet and whatever passion they once had was gone. The opportunity, of course, was to help them where they were. To help them realize there is hope out of their daily scramble and there was a place in their lives to live passionately once again. 

The lesson for us all is realizing how quickly our passions can get derailed and/or distracted when we focus solely on our circumstances and feelings. Therefore, it’s vital we prepare ourselves to guard against these derailments and identify those areas most likely to lure us away from true fulfillment:

Indulgence: Whether it’s shopping, buying bigger houses, or finer cars, being able to indulge in the finer things can definitely fuel our passions. Yet, as many can testify to, whatever satisfaction our indulgences may provide, they are temporary at best. For soon, that new car smell wears off, that new toy loses its luster and today’s best is eventually outdated. Clearly, all indulgences aren’t bad, but they can’t ever be the purpose behind our passions (Proverbs 25:16). Therefore, the best way to keep them in check is to define our priorities ahead of time and realize a person’s purpose is never defined by what they have, but Who they are in Christ.

Enlightenment: We have all seen examples of people who achieve worldly success only to find there is something still missing in their lives. So, they begin searching for a knowledge and enlightenment to fill the emptiness in their souls. Yet, this too ends in frustration for nothing can fill the deep void we all have placed within us other than Christ. Thus, earthly knowledge may fuel our passions for a time, but only when information is transformed into Godly wisdom that is grounded in Christ can the burning in our souls be relieved (Proverbs 2:6).

Enjoyment: Another area that can fuel our passions for a time is the pursuit of enjoyment. Clearly, enjoying things in this life isn’t a bad thing, but when it becomes a priority over our other responsibilities, it can begin hindering our impact, influence and integrity. For these three areas of our life operate like ripples in a pond, and none of us can escape them. So, let us consider the impact we are making with our resources and who we are influencing during our time. Does the integrity of our “walk” match that of our talk?  Or, have we prioritized our personal enjoyment over all other areas of responsibility, leaving behind little impact and influence beyond the concentration of me, myself and I (Matthew 5:16)

Application: “Ice Sculptures?” – Psalm 119:36-37
In this life, we have all been given talents. The question is how are we investing them? Like ice sculptures, a lot of effort, passion, vision, creativity and time goes into created them, and the results are truly magnificent. Some ice sculptures are literally breathtaking. However, what eventually happens to the best of them over time? They melt. Likewise, we can put everything we have been given by God into creating our own ice sculptures, but they too will eventually fade.  Our lives possess more value than to be spent building only temporary pleasures – especially when Christ’s abundant life beckons. 

Overflow

  What is overflow? One example would be when our cups are too full to hold any more. As a result, if more is poured in, there is an overflow. This is also a beautiful illustration of how our life with Christ can be. However, there are times we are tempted to try and catch the overflow, or restrict it by not believing such abundance of blessing could ever continue. So, we may try to cling to as much of it as we can, while we can. Yet, this is short-sided thinking, as well as a demonstration to a lack of faith on our part. Reminding ourselves to the three components of overflow however can aid our responses to it:

Reception: Many may be thinking right now, I wish I had some overflow! For our problems may seem insurmountable and it appears we can’t catch a break. However, as believers and followers of Jesus Christ, God’s word assures us He will always provide for our needs, protect us for eternity and can always work the problems that plague us for His glory and our ultimate good. These truths alone are a bountiful display to God’s overflow and blessing in our life! The question is do we believe and receive them (Mark 9:24)?

Release: When overflow occurs, we now face the opportunity of release. As a preacher once described, “God doesn’t desire His blessings to get trapped in cul-de-sacs. Rather, He desires conduits who allow His blessings to flow through to others“. God is generous and enjoys working through His reliable disciples, who in turn receive additional blessings by being willing participants in God’s plans – trusting His provisions never run dry (Proverbs 22:9).

Reward: Our rewards as Christians are too numerous to count. However, unfortunately many of us fail to claim many of the blessings God has stored for us. Any number of reasons, including our doubts and fears can hold us back from living the abundant life Christ promises (John 10:10). However, these lies don’t have to control our lives any longer. For Christ broke their chains, and as we walk in faith, trusting Him, we receive the rewards He promises and fear is replaced with faith, and doubt with trust. Thus, allowing us to receive his gifts with humble gratitude and share them with grateful praise. Truly these are blessed rewards!

Application: “Dead End” – Matthew 6:19-20
May God’s blessings never find us to be dead ends. Although we may feel we have nothing to share, or give, the greatest treasure anyone can possess is Christ. Therefore, if we have Him, we have more than all the world can give. Thus, let us share Him lovingly and willingly and as a result our lives will overflow with the treasures that never end, or fail.

Fly Courageous 

It can be difficult to maintain focus when we are bombarded with distractions and detractions pulling us from our divine destinations. Yet for the courageous Christian, willing to obey and trust God with whatever consequences come our way, the rewards are worth the sacrifice, especially in the areas seemingly under the highest assault:  

Faith: We must determine where our faith is placed. Is it in our circumstances, positions, or Jesus Christ? Doubts may come when things don’t seem to be going our way. Perhaps we lost our job, can’t find a job, our marriage is challenged, our children are rebelling, our health is failing, and the list goes on and on. As a result, if our faith is in our circumstances we will be filled with worry, anxiety, doubt and uncertainty. However, when Christ is our firm foundation, we know He is aware of our circumstances. This allows us to place our trust in Him and His purposes. So that we can be courageous in facing all things that may come our way. For we know, He is with us and promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Then, as we surrender our circumstances to Him and allow Him to use them and us however He desires to fulfill His purposes in and through us, our confidence and faith grows.     

Family: The family of God is under attack. However, it always has been. So, we shouldn’t be surprised. For we don’t have a people problem, but a sin problem. Therefore, we can’t possibly expect to protect and provide for our families as we should through our own efforts. Rather, Christ is the only One to win against sin – for He already has! Thus, we have this confidence that if we ask anything according to His will, He responds – and clearly God has a Christ-centered family in His will (1 John 5:15)! Let us invite Him into our families and place Him first and foremost and let Him have His way with us – for His way is the best way.

Finance: The Bible speaks of money often for good reason. For many unknowingly, or even pridefully place gold as their God. Money can quickly become a stronghold in our lives and consistently ranks as a top area of tension and struggle for many families. As we know, gold is clearly not a God and has no power, other than what we choose to give it. Therefore, the only cure for the creed, pride, envy, and discontentment driving us to money is a reconditioning of our heart. However, this work can only be completed by Christ as we surrender all to Him – even our money. For everything is His. We are simply stewards entrusted to manage wisely all He has given to glorify Him and promote His purposes over our own (Luke 12:34). 

Application: “Dare To Be Different” – Psalms 37:4
It’s so tempting to want to fit in. We see this with clothing styles all the time. For example, a certain brand of clothes may hit the market and people soon flock to have the new trend proudly promoted on their shirts, ties and/or pants despite the cost. Likewise, many of our priorities can also be twisted to turn us towards what the world wants us to desire. Let us therefore, dare to be different and courageous in the way we live out our faith, invest in our families and steward our finances.

Short Changing What?

Working in the world of finance presents me with the unique opportunity to interact with various types of people and businesses at an intimate level. For money is something quite personal to everyone. Whether they have a lot, or a little, money impacts them all; and over the years, I have found some possess a powerful perspective that contributes to their overall wellbeing regardless of their income level. Alternately, there are those who have allowed money to destroy much of what they once held dear. These lessons can benefit us all and are centered around three key priorities:  

Relationships: There was a man I once met who admitted he had “burned through” three families due to his intense pursuit for money and career. Another admitted it took two open heart surgeries and two divorces to get his attention. Why did these very intelligent men make such physical and relational sacrifices? Money. They, like many of us, got caught in the trap of materialism and workaholism. As a result, they may spend their later years with money in bank, but not much else. Thus, is our desire to acquire causing us to short change the people in our lives (Proverbs 28:20)?

Revenues: When we make our families priority, it may cost us moving up the economic ladder as fast as we’d like. However, Chuck Colson, former Special Counsel to President Nixon and later founder of Prison Fellowship summarized this concept best when he wrote, “As I think back on my life, my biggest regret is not spending more time with the kids. Making family your top priority means going against the culture where materialism and workaholism are rampant. It means realizing you may not advance as fast in your career as some do. It means being willing to accept a lower standard of living, knowing that you’re doing the right thing for your children, given them the emotional security that they will draw on for the rest of their lives“. Before we get caught in the trap of thinking more money is better, let us remember that short changing some revenue today, isn’t necessarily the worst decision we can make when it brings rewards money can’t buy (Psalm 128:3).

Revival: Then there is the priority of our soul. For if we are willing to short change our health and our relationships, what won’t we be willing to short change in pursuit of larger homes, newer cars, fatter wallets and bigger titles? Revival is defined as an improvement in the condition or strength of something, and from the conditions we see all around us, a revival of Spirit in Christ is something our homes, our communities, our nation and our world can use a healthy dose of (Psalm 119:156).

Application: “Empowering Priorities”Romans 8:28
The subject of priorities is admittedly something I believe strongly in because I was once heading in the same direction as the men I mentioned earlier. My pursuit for more was inadvertently causing me to short change the other more important areas of my life. However, I am thankful I reprioritized before I lost all I hold most dear. The good news is we can all get our priorities straight, and it’s never too late to make a fresh start. When we place God as our top priority and obey His word, He can turn our mistakes and misfortunes into glorious testimonies that bring glory to His name and restore the areas He considers most precious.