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Posts Tagged ‘stewardship’

Prosperity in Adversity

August 14th, 2015

“The Lord made all that Joseph did to prosper in his hand.” Genesis 39:3 NKJV.

Adversity around you will not prevent God’s blessings upon you.

My thoughts and comments today are about “prosperity in adversity.”

It never seems a person has enough money, so it is important that you learn some basic things about handling the money you have. God’s principles remain true and effective whether you have little or much. My Dad taught me to, “always live within your means and always save something for later.”That is a Biblical principle of stewardship. That isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is always the best thing to do. See Proverbs 21:20 NIV.

Gayle and I have done that for all of our married life, when we made less and when we made more. We have chosen to live without credit card debt and been very careful about long-term debt. Before our marriage, my Dad recommended allocating a fixed percentage of income for housing expenses as a helpful guideline to keep expenses in proportion to income, not allowing expenses to grow without proportional income.

It’s simple really. The world’s economy cannot provide you with Kingdom prosperity. God’s blessings provide prosperity. Joseph found himself in adverse circumstances – sold as a slave, indentured as a servant, and in a foreign land. “His master saw that the Lord was with Joseph and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him.” Genesis 39:1-6 NKJV. Joseph prospered in extreme adversity. Adversity around you will not prevent God’s blessings upon you. God intends the same for you. “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2 NASB.

Governments assume that giving taxpayers’ money to large banking corporations and requiring them to lend money to assure sufficient funds circulating in the economy can solve the problem. Actually, that fuels the source of the problem. The common wisdom – ill formed and wrongly believed – is that if everybody will spend more, we can borrow and buy our way out of the predicament. That is a false cure, temporary and shortsighted. The wheels of commerce are greased by the principle of leverage through a cycle of borrowing and growing debt. Debt is addictive and destructive. It doesn’t work for a nation, nor for your household.

Our country is in economic distress through mounting debt, which merely reflects a financial mess many of us have made for ourselves. Readily available credit does not make it wise. Availability is not the same as affordability. Families have chosen a lifestyle of debt in a culture that encourages and enables your doing so. When tempted to spend beyond your means, consider the financial, marital, and eventual emotional cost.

God will not bless your mess. Begin putting God first. Malachi 3:8-12 NLT. Everything you have belongs to God; you and I are stewards. Use wisely what God provides, always thankful for His blessings. “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.” Psalm 128:1-2 NIV.

Today, I pray that you earn diligently, save regularly, spend wisely, and give generously.

Christian Communications 02139

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The Burden of Debt

February 25th, 2015

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the debt to love one another.” Romans 13:8 NIV.

Love prompts more love just as debt provokes more debt.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the burden of debt.”

A father gave his son this advice, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” (Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602). That is sound advice still today. Debt has become a way of life. National economies depend upon increasing consumption, continually persuading and pressuring people that debt is a small price for gratification. You can resist; and you should. It’s simple really, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 NIV.

Marketing feeds the appetite for more, and newer, and bigger, and better, therefore more expensive. Actually, your needs are not more but your wants are. Credit cards have made debt difficult to resist, motivating the consumer economy and growing a staggering personal indebtedness. Debt can be described as, “Buying things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people who don’t care.” Debt merely begets more debt, adding more worry from a growing weight of debt.

I grew up in a modest but comfortable, mid-western family. We never had too much, but we never seemed to have too little either. I was taught that what you earn and all you have comes from God through His blessing on your honest labor. See James 1:17. Therefore, the first portion is given back to God as a tithe, in recognition of His benevolence and in obedience for His continued blessing. Read Malachi 3:10-12. After that, everything you have is a matter of stewardship, not ownership. 1 Corinthians 4:2.

From my Dad, I learned a useful, financial principle. “Never spend all that you earn, and you will always have something extra when needed.” That became a rule of personal economy that I still follow today. Most importantly, that works. Life is simpler; worries are less; greater freedom is enjoyed. Debt results from trying to provide for yourself what God has not yet made available.

The Bible says, “Give everyone what you owe him . . Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law . . whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbor.” Romans 13:7-10 NIV. That verse seems an unusual pairing of financial debt and a loving lifestyle, teaching that financial debt is not advisable; relational debt is not avoidable. One you are told to avoid; the other you are taught to fulfill. Here’s how I think they relate and differ. Both are responsibilities to which you obligate yourself. Financial debt is about you and your wants; relational debt is about others and their needs.

Financial debt preoccupies you more with yourself and with less thought and available means to serve others. Financial debt concerns you with satisfying your wants, paying your bills, while absorbing any extra. Relational debt redirects you toward others, giving instead of getting, meeting their needs before your wants, and sharing the good you have received. Love prompts more love just as debt provokes more debt. God’s way is always the right way.

Today, my prayer for you is that you realize that debt trades the ultimate for the more immediate.

P.S. Yes, the above comments were previously posted. In upgrading the website this week, this devotional, “The Burden of Debt,” was inadvertently deleted from the archives, and had to be re-sent in order to be included in the archives with other previous EDL postings.  Thank you for your understanding . . Christian Communications, Inc

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Options and Expectations

May 12th, 2014

“Much more is required from the person to whom much more is given.” Luke 12:48 TEV.

Discipleship is the process of relinquishing more and more options.

My thoughts and comments today are about “options and expectations.”

I don’t really like that word, “required.” I would much prefer God used the word, “optional.” But He doesn’t. There is really not much about life that is optional. You will discover that things that require little and are left to your option do not promise much if any reward. Here is a principle of life: assuming an increased level of responsibility is the only path to truly growing. That’s true in matters spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

That means accepting less as being optional for you and embracing more than is expected of you, even when wanting to do otherwise. Discipleship is the continuing process of relinquishing more and more options. To some, Jesus said, “Follow Me.” To others, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23-24 NIV. You must learn to joyfully take responsibility for your decisions, mistakes, well being, success, and happiness, not from any insistence of independence but as just doing what is expected – simply being responsible.

The Bible speaks of many things that are required in your Christian faith, not optional. Faith in Jesus is non-negotiable, required not optional. See Hebrews 11:6 NLT. Responsible stewardship is required, not optional. Paul wrote, “It is required that those who have been given a trust prove faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV.

“And much more is required from the person to whom much more is given!” Luke 12:48 TEV. Jesus said that when accepting all that has been generously given to you by God and man, “much more will be required.” The more you are given, the more that is required of you, and that only increases as you grow and progress. That seems only fair. Refuse what’s required and you do not continue to experience generosity in the same measure. There is a proportion to daily life that should not be avoided.

Let’s be practical about this: doing what’s required means giving up your right to make excuses, or exempting yourself from your fair share, or expecting of others more than you require of yourself . When I was preparing for a life in ministry, my Dad taught me this practical wisdom and necessity for effective leadership: “Never expect someone to do what you are not willing to do, nor expect them to give what you are not willing to give, nor expect others to go where you have not first gone.”

My prayer for you today is that you will fulfill realistic expectations, and so much more than expected.

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The Power of Focus

July 8th, 2011

“I am focusing all my energies on this one thing.” Philippians 3:13 NLT

“Focus is the opposite of distraction, and a focused life is the better option to a distracted life.”

My thoughts today are about “the power of focus.”

The distractions of noisy lives and the pace of busy lives with their demanding necessities and hectic schedules that result, make everyday lives challenging at best. All of us are likely to be busier than we probably need to be, which leaves us hurrying from one thing to another, our attention barely focused before being drawn away by pressing diversions. No wonder people are mentally tired and emotionally weary. Do you settle for doing a lot of things halfway, rather than doing much of anything well?

Focus is the opposite of distraction, and a focused life is the better option to a distracted life. It is pretty obvious which of those would be to your advantage. Consider the example of the power of focus as applied in laser technology – useful in science, medicine, manufacturing, entertainment, and common aspects of everyday life such as DVDs and Bar Codes. The Tower of Babel is also an interesting example of the power of focus, even when misdirected and wrongly applied. God said, “Indeed the people are one and have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” Read Genesis 11:1-9 NKJV. Jesus gave the opposite application of such focused power of agreement, “If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in Heaven.” See Matthew 18:18-20 NIV. Unrealized possibilities await a focused life.

Focus keeps you on track and on task. The Bible says of Paul, “I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing. Forgetting the past, and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to Heaven.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT. What one thing was Paul’s focus? Paul guarded against the distraction of anything of his past (Vs 4-9), or anything second best to his primary goal – to be, in Christ, what he had not yet become and receive from Christ the eternal prize promised. (Vs 8-12).

Focus clarifies what needs to be your priority and what is not. You can’t say yes to every invitation or prospect that comes along without sacrificing some more primary responsibility and/or more profitable opportunity. “They made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not kept.” Song of Solomon 1:6 NKJV. Sadly, that may describe a lot more of us than we would wish. Priorities are not always easy to keep in order.

Focus provides the best stewardship of what you have been given. Apply yourself purposefully where you are most productive and fulfilled. Abilities, capacity, and concentration are no more limitless than are the realistic limitations of time and talents; use all you have for the blessing and benefit of others, and to the profit of your eternal soul.

Nehemiah led a group of Israel back to Jerusalem, generations after the city had been left in ruins by its enemies; they found the desolation of its gates destroyed and walls in rubble. He masterfully administered a daunting task in the briefest of time, by focusing groups of people on a section of the wall for which they were responsible. Read Nehemiah 3. “So we rebuilt the wall . . for the people worked with all their heart.” Nehemiah 4:6 NIV. By the concentrated attention of an individual or the coordinated efforts of a group with one heart, amazing things are accomplished.

My prayer for you today is that you have a single-minded devotion to do God’s will fully.

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Failure Isn’t Final

March 8th, 2010

“I was afraid.” Luke 19:21 NIV

“Life has direction – flowing toward you with blessing, or away from you from lack of that.”

My thoughts today are, “failure isn’t final.”

How would you reward a very capable financial adviser who accepted management of your retirement savings, but did nothing with them? His only explanation? He was afraid to lose your money, and simply held your original investment for safe return. Would you praise him for his caution, or replace him for his waste of valuable time and loss of expected gain?

Jesus told just such a story about the Kingdom of God, illustrating each individual’s responsibility for good stewardship of Kingdom opportunities – both ample resource and generous reward. Read Luke 19:11-26 NLT. Among several people given valuable opportunity for reward, one was overcome with his fear of failing and simply hid what was trusted into his hands for safe return it later. Fear keeps you from trying. His ultimate failure was greater than the failure he originally feared.

Here, in Jesus’ own words, is the principle He is teaching you, “To those who use well what they have been given, even more will be given. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken from them.” Luke 19:26 NLT. “To those . . from those!” Do you notice in Jesus’ words the direction that life flows? Life has direction – either flowing toward you with blessing, or flowing away from you because of your lack of that. What he thought safe cost him more than he knew, until all was taken and entrusted to another more committed to his master’s pleasure.

There’s a life lesson in that. Don’t try to fail, but don’t fear to fail either. Everyone deals a bit with a fear of failing. I don’t think anyone enjoys failing. It doesn’t feel good. It’s embarrassing and discouraging. It seems a waste of one’s time, effort, and expense – and often is. There is a difference between failing and being a failure; anyone can do the first; no one has to be the latter. And there is a distinction between failing something you try to do, or failing to be who you are meant to be.

But here’s another side to consider; some of life’s most valuable lessons can come from attempts that failed. Often future success can be built on past attempts that didn’t work. Failure sometimes is the cost of learning how to succeed. It’s not the end of the world; learn something useful from it.

Thomas Edison, inventor of the electric light bulb, had many failures in his experimentation. Rather than be discouraged by those, he is reported to have reasoned that he had eliminated hundreds of ways that would not work. He was that much closer to success, and he did succeed. He made failure serve his efforts. So can you. Failure isn’t final, unless you let it be.

Being averse to every risk is a sure way to miss any reward. You won’t do everything right the first time; no one does. Keep trying. You won’t do everything well on your first try; no one will. Keep trying. But if you are afraid to try, you will never do anything right or well, maybe not do anything at all. You are gifted and possibly needing to believe that.

“God has given gifts to each of you from His great variety of gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you (see that life-direction?) . . do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 NLT. God has given you many gifts; gifts for His purpose and use. How you use those determines your life’s rewards.

My prayer for you today is that you freely give your best to God and others, without fear.

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