Dare To Dream

When we’re young, we love to dream and are fearless with them. They seem to have no bounds. Yet, the older we get, many of these dreams fade away and are replaced with more “realistic” goals. An unfortunate result of this fading was confirmed by a recent study of those in their twilight years. They were asked to share the top regrets of their life now that it was coming to an end. Failing to pursue their dreams, financial or otherwise, ranked among the highest. For instead of pursuing them, they kept them locked away in their hearts and minds and never planted their seeds of potential. 

Clearly, some dreams are more imagination, but there are those that have true merit. In fact, they may be seeds God has planted in our hearts He desires us to pursue. Why then would so many of us let them fade into obscurity? Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be. Additionally, we don’t have to go to the other extreme and sacrifice all other priorities in pursuit of achieving our dreams. For the risk in pursuing dreams is that if they aren’t surrendered to God and balanced with Godly perspective, they can become a god and an unhealthy obsession that spirals us into a self-centered lifestyle that sacrifices all in pursuit of one self-focused passion. 

So, what is the balance and how can we protect our dreams from withering away, while at the same time keep them from consuming us completely? The answer of course is our faith in Jesus Christ and keeping Him and His purposes first and foremost in all we do and dream:  

Plant: We know the power of a seed. It is amazing to see how something so small, when planted and nurtured can grow into something both beautiful and bountiful. These are like our dreams. We all have dream seeds that we can either choose to plant, or keep locked away. When we pray, God will sometimes reveal these dreams to us (Psalm 37:4). They may seem unrealistic, but when surrendered in prayer, and if from Him, He will guide us into which ones He wants us to plant. Obviously, with God, we know anything He does is for the benefit of others and brings Him glory. So, consider and pray about which dreams benefit others and His Kingdom, and which ones are solely to benefit ourselves?      

Provide: Now that we have prioritized our dreams and began the courageous steps in planting them, we must now provide for and nourish them. Perhaps one of our dreams was to write a book. One that serves to encourage others and honor God. The problem is we don’t know where to begin. This is where we pursue gaining the skills and steps necessary to get the process started. Just like planting a seed we never grew before, we need to know how much sunlight, water and nutrients help it grow best, we need to do the same study in nourishing and providing for our dreams’ maturity (Ecclesiastes 9:10).  

Protect: We all have seen gardens and plants destroyed by weeds and insects. Thus, we take steps to protect them by regularly weeding and tending to our garden by adding select pesticides, either organic or otherwise. Likewise, we must protect the development of our dreams. Distractions and discouragements will surely arise. Therefore, being disciplined to set aside specific amounts of time is important. We may even decide to join a club or an accountability group of some kind to help keep us motivated. The important thing is staying in prayer and remembering that growing our dreams in a balanced and healthy way requires patience, planning and proactivity to reach full maturity (Proverbs 25:28). 

Application: “Little By Little” – Proverbs 13:11

There are various verses in the Bible where God reminds us to the benefits, value and purpose of gaining new ground little by little. There is a maturity that develops when we acquire slowly over time. For we learn the value of patience, persistence, perseverance and prayer. So many have squandered and wasted what has come too fast, or too soon, and God inspired dreams and visions are too precious to be wasted like that. So, we must remember, they take time and to trust and rely on God to help us pursue them for His glory. However, we must first choose to pursue them and that is a vital step so many fail to take. Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be true for us.

Work Weary?

I remember when I dreaded Monday. For Monday was drill down day at work. This was when everyone I served with had to get on a conference call, report team numbers and be prepared to address a flurry of questions. Not so bad, but the call was purposely structured to be more like an interrogation, rather than a collaboration. So, not only was preparing for this particular call grueling, but no one knew who was going to get setup as “the example” for that day. This was the person randomly selected to receive a particular harsh interrogation to help drive whatever point leadership wanted us all to understand. In fairness, we all got our turn and never knew which Monday would be our day. So, needless to say, everyone was on pins and needles and completely exhausted by noon. It also transformed others to adopt similar behaviors, and as a result, a cultural trend was being developed where many began leading their teams in similar ways. Not the best example of servant leadership, yet a powerful reality – for better, or worse, leadership style is contagious. 

Interestingly, I look back on that time in my work life with gratitude. For it taught me a lot about leadership, stress management and the power of prioritization. It was also during this same time I surrendered my life to Christ. So, I realize what a glorious time this truly was, despite its various hardships, and I’m truly thankful for the boss, the stress, the pressure and the quotas God used to get me where He desired me to be as a person. I also better understand the special place work has in our lives and how both the good and the bad experiences when surrendered to God add up to powerful blessings and benefits: 

Preparation: We not only acquire new skills and knowledge at work, but we also sharpen and improve the existing knowledge and skills we have. Thus, work develops us and helps prepare us for future opportunities, future hardships and even future blessings (Ephesians 2:10). Perhaps God has you where you are now to develop you for where He desires you to be? This is why we are to work as unto the Lord, give our best and trust He is in charge of our career and not man, or the world.  

 Platform: We also gain a platform at work. This platform allows us to glorify God by serving as positive influences to others. Granted, this platform is sometimes raised, or lowered by our performance, promotions and even demotions, but our attitude and perspective is always a choice. Thus, the higher we go, what type of example are we setting and when things don’t go our way, what type of example are we demonstrating? This is our leadership on display and influence at work. Thus, when handled Gods way, our work offers some of the greatest platforms we have to be “salt and light” in the workplace (Matthew 5:16). 

Provision: We clearly gain money from our work, which allows us to provide for our needs. Thus, this is a great benefit we receive from work. However, we must never see work as the primary source of our provision. Rather, God is our source and our job is simply a vehicle He chooses to help provide for our needs (Luke 12:24). Unfortunately, we often get this mixed up, as I once did. For if we’re not careful, we can begin to see our job as our source of security and identity and as a result risk making it a god, or idol in our life.    

Application: “Worship @ Work” – Colossians 3:23
Work can be hard, stressful and even painful at times. However, when we maintain a Godly perspective, we better understand the benefits we receive through all the circumstances work offers. This is not to say we are to remain in an abusive environment, or never seek advancement opportunities. However, it is vital we surrender our work life to God and seek His guidance and direction in all we do. This helps us avoid job hopping, chasing money, and ultimately making work the end all and be all of our lives. No doubt work is important, but it’s value rests in how God uses it to develop us, prepare us, offer us platforms for His glory, and help us provide for our families.

Money Plan

There are three primary components to any effective financial stewardship process. Good money managers learn how to spend money wisely, as well as save and give it effectively. Money is a tool and like any tool and resource, learning how to handle it makes all the difference in the impact we can positively make with it.  

Spending Plan: Most have heard the expression, money burning a hole in my pocket and perhaps have even felt this emotion. It’s when we have some money and our desire to spend it is like an itch we just have to scratch. This is impulse buying and a very real and powerful emotion, which is why a budget is so beneficial (Luke 12:15). It helps us develop self discipline with our finances. This is our spending plan and when we calculate just how much we need for expenses and even budget dollars for entertainment costs, we are better prepared to stay out of the pot holes impulse buying can create.

Savings Plan: Many people statistically fail to have any type of effective savings plan. Mostly because they fail to have an effective spending plan, which leaves them with little to no ability to save. Therefore, it’s vital we get our spending habits under control and establish an equally powerful savings plan. This includes putting money aside for emergencies. The typical rule of thumb is to have about 6 months of living expenses set aside for emergency costs. We must also look at saving for our goals and dreams. For example, college education, retirement, weddings and/or other large expenses. Retirement income will be of vital importance and is something no one should neglect, yet many do. Therefore, if we have access to a retirement plan at work, or an IRA, we begin putting money aside we can’t easily access without potential penalties.  This helps us develop good habits we will be thankful for in our “golden” years (Provers 13:11).  

Giving Plan: Of course if there’s little to no money to save, there most likely is little to money to give. However, this is an extremely important part to any financial plan for many reasons. Giving helps us fight against the natural tendencies of greed. It also enables us to help others, and keep our lives from the consequences of being self-absorbed. Scrooge is the best example of this of course. Yet those with generous spirits are less likely to fall into this trap. Studies have also proven that generous people tend to be healthier and have less stress. So, we want to make a budge to give, that way, we are empowered to be more generous and even proactive in looking for opportunities to give. Thus, everyone wins (Proverbs 11:24-25). 

Application: “Money Like Honey” – Proverbs 25:16

Money and honey have a lot in common. As the Bible states, too much honey will make you sick, but just the right amount adds flavor and enjoyment. Likewise, money when out of balance has sickening results. However, when used responsibly and effectively it can enhance most environments. It can add to good causes, support missions, propel goals and dreams and help add value to others. However, this is only when it is in the hands of Godly stewards. Otherwise it can quickly become a false god that enslaves, injures and destroys. Therefore, let us seek and strive to be the good stewards that seek to use God’s resources for God’s purposes

Leading A Legacy?

There is no doubt that the lack of quality leadership today is rampant. In fact, one of the primary indicators to a business’ long term success, employee engagement, community prosperity and strong family ties is leadership. Which begs the question, if leadership is so vital to positive outcomes, why is there such a deficiency of quality leaders? As I look back over my career, I have had the good fortune to have had many leaders. Some were good, some bad and others made no influcence at all. However, it wasn’t until I began studying what the Bible has to say about the subject and looked at the leadership examples it highlighted, that my perspective on the subject was inspired and truly transformed. I wouldn’t claim to be a great leader nor assume to have all the answers, but I definitely know I desire to be a Godly leader. My guess is many of us may feel the same. So, provided below are a few insights gleaned from the Bible to help us in this worthy pursuit:    

Influential: What type of influence do we make, or do others make on us? Ultimately, there is either a positive, neutral or negative impact. An interesting illustration to this point arises when we look at the nation of Israel and how their progress was greatly determined by the heart of their king at a particular time. If they had a Godly King, blessings followed, if not, chaos and breakdown ensued. Thus, as we look around us and our spear of influence, is there chaos breaking out in our homes, jobs and community, or blessings, unity and progress? We must then examine the type of influence we are making, and adjust accordingly (Psalm 101:3). It won’t be easy and will require sacrifice and commitment, but making a positive impact always does. It’s the neutral and negative impact that’s easy, which is also why it’s so common.

Relational: In order to have influence however, we must have relationships. For effective leaders are relational leaders. They get involved, are committed and care to know the people around them. They aren’t the dictators that stand alone and never interact, or get involved with others. Quite the opposite. They care and they seek to discover the strengths in others and pull that out of them so that they develop to be better leaders (Proverbs 27:17). For in the end, Godly leaders seek to multiply Godly leaders. Jesus demonstrates this well when he built relationships with twelve common men, and as a result, we continue to feel their impact today. 

Developmental: As mentioned, once we have relationships established, we are better able to develop others. As an example, I once had an executive coach assigned to me during my corporate career – an experience I’m very thankful for having had.  One of the most rememberable insights shared during this time was when I was directed to stop paying so much attention to my weaknesses, but rather focus more on my strengths. This was hard to do because I felt to get better I had to work on my weakest areas. Yet, what her wisdom revealed was that my efforts to improve weak areas was taking too much of my time and left me feeling discouraged and exhausted. Alternately, focusing on my strengths generated better results faster and left me feeling motivated and encouraged because I was seeing success as I leveraged my gifts (1 Peter 4:10). This was a light bulb moment for me and wisdom we can all apply – focus on our own strengths and the strengths of others and develop those areas. Not that we neglect weaknesses, but focus more energy on the gifts we’ve all been given. 

Application: “Good To Godly” – Psalm 78:72

Most in the business world have probably heard of the book, Good to Great.  However, I’d like to humbly suggest there is something better. Good To Godly. We may be doing good, but we will truly never achieve greatness until we are Godly. For God transforms our hearts and a transformed heart empowers us to leave a Godly legacy. Again, just look at the disciples for evidence of what Godly leaders can do. Now imagine our churches, our homes, our communities and our businesses filled with more leaders like that! We can be one of them and that’s truly a great way to “lead” a legacy.