Why we can’t be too heavenly minded

I’m fascinated by the power of words to influence people. And I’m particularly interested in those catchy phrases that immediately make you say, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” but that, upon closer inspection, cause you to scream, “No! No! No!”

In fact, I have a special category in my quote collection for what I call “deceptively appealing” quotes or phrases. Things like, “There are no stupid questions.” Or, “We learn more from our failures than our successes.”

The other day I was reading Unseen by Jack Graham, and I was reminded of this dandy: “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” As Graham points out, that might sound great but it’s totally unbiblical.

pixabay.com
pixabay.com

I blame Johnny Cash. Now, I grew up on 1970’s rock-n-roll, but I’ve always been a fan of the late, great Cash. I share his rural/Delta/East Arkansas (but I repeat myself) roots. I relate to his man-in-black persona. And I admire his amazing gift for storytelling. But I think Cash might be responsible for popularizing the “heavenly minded” phrase. I doubt he came up with the it, but he wrote, recorded and sang the song, No Earthly Good, and it includes the refrain, “So heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good.”

Who wants to argue with Johnny Cash? Indeed, the overall message of the short song is great. It’s about spreading the Gospel by helping people in need rather than bragging about your faith or living a life sheltered around only those who already know Christ.

The irony, of course, is that the type of people Cash described as too “heavenly minded” aren’t really focused on heaven, they’re focused on themselves. The truly heavenly minded can’t help but do earthly good. In fact, it’s impossible to be “too” heavenly minded.

That’s not my opinion, it’s from the Word of God. Hebrew 12:2 reminds us to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” And Colossians 3:1-2 puts it this way: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

And, of course, Jesus modeled this, noting often that He was here to do the will of the Father. (See Hebrews 10:7, John 12:49, Philippians 2:8, Matthew 6:9-10, and Matthew 12:50.) Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52) because He was completely heavenly focused so he could do the ultimate in earthly good.

Graham points out that if we want to improve our outlook – and, I would add, the outlook of those around us – we have to improve our “uplook.” I see this modeled in the commissioning of the prophet Isaiah. Read Isaiah 6:1-8 and look for this pattern that we can all follow:

  • Look up – see God for who He is and worship Him.
  • Look in – see yourself as who you really are; a sinner in need of God’s grace.
  • Look out – see what God is calling you to do and faithfully do it.

Then live completely heavenly minded, and I promise you that you’ll do some amazing earthly good things.

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7 Trust Biscuits to Feed the Soul

My work tends to go through cycles. That’s the life of an entrepreneur, especially an independent contractor. So, for the most part, I don’t worry and I don’t get stressed out by the ebb and flow. For the most part.

In reality, my worry/stress levels are just like my business: They run in cycles.

Earlier this summer, I wrapped up some projects and my client work slowed a bit. I counted it as a blessing. It allowed me to catch up in some other areas where I had fallen behind. As the summer moved on, however, I began to foresee a time in the not too distant future when our trickling cash flow would leave our revenue pond nearly empty.

I didn’t panic, but my prayers for “new work” took on a greater intensity. And at times I allowed worry and stress to creep into my life.

When I’m in that situation, every opportunity looks good, and it’s crazy hard for me to say “no” to any work that comes my way. And new opportunities came my way. God, as always, provides. In an ironic twist – because we all know God loves ironic twists – one of the new projects involves helping people deal with stress. For the record, I’m the student not the teacher.

Anyway, you might think that new opportunities lowered my stress and worry level. Instead, here’s what happened next: I was thankful for the new work, of course, but I now had multiple projects with multiple deadlines and multiple people to please. I went from worried we wouldn’t survive to worried I couldn’t deliver. How sad is that?

What I needed, I realized, was some nourishment in my soul. I needed what I call trust biscuits. God’s word is full of them – wonderful nuggets that remind us that He’s real, that He cares about us, that there’s more to life than, well, life.

Here are seven you can chew on over the next week:

  1. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:19
  2. “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10
  3. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” – Psalm 20:7
  4. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
  5. “Those who trust in their riches will fail, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” – Proverbs 11:28
  6. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13
  7. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” — Philippians 4:12

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4 Ways to Deal with Modern Goliaths

Some stories never grow old. No matter how many times I read them, they always teach me something new. And even if I’m learning the same lesson for the second, third, or forth time, it still seems fresh. It seems the older I get, the more I need reminders about the lessons I’ve learned before.

Take, for instance, 1 Samuel 17, the chapter in the older testament that tells the familiar story of David and Goliath. We all know this one, right? You didn’t even have to attend a church, synagogue or mosque to hear it.

So what can we learn, or re-learn, from this story that applies to our lives today?

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pixabay.com

As my wife and I reread it recently, it struck me that our culture is filled with warriors standing in loud and open defiance of the living God. They aren’t physically big, but their presence is huge and intimidating – like a nearly 10-foot-tall warrior dressed in full armor and holding a huge spear.

They come out each day on social media, in blogs, in newspaper columns, on television talk shows, at protest marches, at political rallies, in courtrooms, and at work. They shout, in effect, “This day I defy the armies of Israel!” (1 Samuel 17:10) And they tell anyone who follows Jesus, “Come here … and I will give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” (1 Samuel 17:44)

So what can we do about the Goliaths in our lives?

Well, it’s not a good idea (aka not Biblical) to stick a smooth stone in their jagged foreheads. But we don’t have to model David’s approach exactly to benefits from his story. So here are some non-violent lessons we can learn from the shepherd rock-thrower:

Recognize evil as evil.

David showed up at the scene to bring supplies to his brothers and check up on them for his father. When he heard Goliath’s rant, he knew it was evil and he said so.

“What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel?” he said. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)

He immediately saw the need to take action and wondered why no one (including his brothers) was doing something. Too often we turn a blind eye to evil rather than confronting it in some proactive way. We sit around like Saul’s army and complain about it, but we don’t do anything.

Sharpen our skillsets.

When King Saul pointed out that David was smaller and far less experienced as a warrior than Goliath, David pointed out that he had some mad skills of his own. As a shepherd, he had defeated lions and bears. “This uncircumcised Philistine,” he said, “will be like one of them…” (1 Samuel 17:36)

If David had spent his days sitting on a rock eating pomegranates, he wouldn’t have been much of a shepherd – and he wouldn’t have been ready for Goliath.

When we face evil in our world, we don’t need skills with a sling. But other shepherding skills could come in handy. We need to be intellectually sharp, for instance, and skilled in emotional intelligence. These are some of the ways Jesus grew “in wisdom.” (Luke 2:52)

Fight for God, not ourselves.

David knew there was a reward attached to victory over Goliath, but he also knew he was fighting to defend God’s honor, not his own. And while he was confident in his ability to fight this battle, he knew victory would come from God – as it always had.

“The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear,” he said, “will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)

And he told Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. … All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45, 47)

Act in faith.

When Goliath “moved closer to attack him,” David didn’t run away or even stand and wait for the battle to come to him. He “ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.” (1 Samuel 17: 48) There was no doubt or fear in his heart because he knew God was on his side. Win or lose, his life was in God’s hands.

We know from 1 Samuel 16:13 that Samuel had anointed David and, so, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him. We also know that as followers of Jesus, that same Spirit lives within us. (Acts 2:38) If we walk in that Spirit, we know He will lead us. He will help us recognize evil when it defies God, and he’ll help us respond in truth and love, trusting God for the results and giving God the glory.

Does Life Have You Baffled?

A few weeks ago I bought a baffle. At the risk of getting all technical on you, it’s a cone-shaped thingy that goes on the pole that holds our bird feeders. It keeps squirrels from climbing the pole and eating all the bird seed.

It leaves the squirrels … you got it … baffled.

I no longer see squirrels lounging atop the bird feeders, but there always seems to be plenty of seed on the ground below. So the squirrels gather there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Are they somehow shaking it down or just eating the table scraps from the birds?

Frankly, it has me … you got it … baffled.

When life leaves me baffled, I look for answers. For things like keeping squirrels out of the bird feeders, I turn to Gsquirrel baffleoogle. On worldly issues, it has all (well, most) of the answers. For important matters, I still turn to the Bible. It has all the answers, and I do mean all.

But as I wrote in Grow Like Jesus, God often provides us with a limited amount of direction. It’s as if He’s looking down on us and saying, “Here’s a few clues. Now you figure it out.”

On the hand, I don’t have much to figure out. My life has never been better. I have a wonderful wife, a great job, grown kids who mostly don’t need me, grand kids I can’t wait to see, and my biggest problem involves keeping squirrels from eating the bird food.

Yet, I’m still regularly baffled by many things of life where God is giving me limited specifics and mostly telling me to “figure it out.”

Here are some things that have had me baffled within the last week. Some go back months or even years. Regardless, I find no quick and clear answers; just the call to figure it out.

  • Why do so many people abandon or resist Christianity just because they see imperfect Christians representing a perfect Christ? What do they expect?
  • Why did God kill everyone at Jericho?
  • How do I make “speak the truth in love” more than a nice-sounding platitude?
  • Should I buy a gun before it’s illegal to do so?
  • Should I feel stupid that I didn’t even realize the Brits were thinking of leaving the European Union until a couple of days before it happened?
  • And should I feel even more stupid because I have no idea how that vote will likely impact my life?
  • How much of my work should be “my” projects versus “client” projects?
  • Why do I use the word “frankly” as a crutch in my writing?
  • Why do we try to shape God into an image that fits what we want and what we think is right?
  • Why do we park on a driveway and drive on parkway? (OK, I actually know the answer to that one.)
  • Trump or Clinton?

That’s just the short list. Frankly, I know God provides insights into everyone one of those questions, and, in some cases, the answers are clear if I’ll only look close enough or dig deep enough. But everything in life that leaves me baffled – from the squirrels to politics – has this in common: It’s in the hands of God. So whether I figure it out or not, I can trust that it will all work out. God is never baffled.

Isaiah 46:9-10

Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’

 

Lessons from the Flower Garden

When Audrey and I drove around town for the annual “garden tour,” we saw a variety of approaches with one thing in common: The owners had invested more than money; they had invested love.

My favorite gardener.
My favorite gardener.

We might not have the budget or the passion of the gardeners on that tour, but we still give it our best shot. Audrey provides the vision and creativity, and I’m available to help with some of the manual labor. Together, we do what we can to keep a few plants, flowers, shrubs, and herbs alive around our home.

Frankly, Audrey is much better at it than she admits. She takes the time to do the research, and that sets us up for success. Most of what we plant ends up growing and looking great, all to her credit. So when I walk on our back deck, down by our small pond, or across the front lawn, I see planters alive with color.

Now, if you know me at all, you’ve probably never thought of me as a flower. Maybe a weed. But not a flower. Still, when it comes to my spiritual health, I can relate to the various flowers around our house and to this entire process of getting things to grow.

Early Spring
Early Spring

So here are three lessons I think followers of Jesus can take from our flower gardens:

  1. The environment matters. Flowers need good soil, the right amount of sun, and just enough water. Otherwise, they get sick and sometimes they die. Likewise, we need a strong local church. We need to spend time each day feeding on things like prayer and time in God’s Word. We need to fill ourselves with the things of God so we can grow like Jesus.
  2. We need some Miracle Grow. I have no idea what is in Miracle Grow, but I know it works. We hook a bottle to the sprayer on our hose, soak our plants and flowers and watch them thrive. The Miracle Grow of our spiritual lives, of course, is the Holy Spirit. We don’t know how it works, either, but if we tap into it, our lives will thrive. Sadly, we often neglect to ask for help from the Holy Spirit. We’re too busy with life or we decide not to seek help from something we don’t fully understand. But for followers of Jesus, this powerful force is living within us and we can and should tap into it.
  3. We are all gardeners. We all own the responsibility for our personal spiritual growth. Our pastor doesn’t own it. Our spouse doesn’t own it. Our mentor doesn’t own it. But we’re also called to live in community. Flower gardens don’t thrive on their own. They need help. And while we should appreciate those who invest in us, we also need to invest in others, encourage them, and, at times, provide some wisdom that supports their growth.

Notice the one thing those lessons have in common: They don’t need money; they just need love.

Want Some Patience? Get in Line.

There are times in my life when I am the model of the virtue known as patience. Those times have a name: “The Exception.”

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A photo I took at SDC.

Some people describe me as calm and easy going, but they just don’t know me well enough. Patience is an area where I definitely need some spiritual growth. And because I need it, God seems eager to provide opportunities for that growth.

Two or three times a year, for instance, my wife and I make the 100-mile drive through the Ozarks Mountains for a visit to Silver Dollar City.

If you’ve ever traveled to the Branson, Mo., area, you know that traffic is, shall we say, … an issue. It’s a mountainous area with limited options for getting from one place to another, and millions of tourists flock there each year for shopping, live theater shows, water sports, golf, and, of course, to visit the Silver Dollar City theme park. The roads simply can’t keep up with the driving needs of roughly 8 million visitors a year.

The actual population of Branson is around 10,000, but on any given day there are 100,000 people in town. And on the days we go, all 100,000 of them seem to get in line right in front of us.

It starts with the drive in. It takes a little less than two hours to drive the first 98 miles from our home to the parking lot at Silver Dollar City. The last two miles? That’s usually around 45 minutes. When we went last week, it took 75 minutes to cover that short stretch.

This, of course, is a warm up. If you don’t have tickets, you stand in line to get them. Then you stand in line to enter the park. Once inside, you stand in line for the shows. You stand in line for the major rides. You stand in line for food. You stand in line to stand in line.

In short, Silver Dollar City is a ton of short bursts of fun sandwiched around multiple opportunities to learn and practice patience.

Proverbs 19:11 says wisdom yields patience, and Jesus surely needed patience as He grew in wisdom. If it’s hard for me to put up with a 45-minute wait to get soaking wet on a rubber raft ride, imagine how hard it would be for a perfect God to put up with a history filled with people who are habitually selfish, prideful sinners and who can’t make it 10 seconds without messing up. You think Jesus was just a little frustrated His disciples kept falling asleep when they were supposed to be praying with Him?

Yet, there are no fewer than seven verses in the Old Testament that describe God as “compassionate and gracious … slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Exodus 34:6, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2) You see patience described in figures like Job and Abraham (he was 100 years old when God delivered on the promise to make him father). Paul talked about patience over and over. He described in verses like 1 Corinthians 13:4 and advocated for it in verses like Romans 12:12. The wisdom books like Proverbs, Psalms and James all preach the importance of patience.

So after reading and reflecting on many of those verses, here’s some of the wisdom I to absorb when it comes to patience:

We live in a me-first, hurry-up world, but we’re called to display endurance. The rewards of it are always worth the wait.

 

Insights into a Noble Character

There are times when I want to be a model wife.

Don’t take that the wrong way. I’m not going all Bruce Jenner on you. I’m very happy with the way God made me, thank you very much. But there’s something to be said for the qualities you find in a Godly wife – qualities I’d like to grow myself.shadows-1437332-639x402

I was thinking about this because Sunday was Mother’s Day, and it reminded me how much I value the character traits my mother has grown and shown through the years. They are many of the same character traits I see in my wonderful wife. And that I see growing in my three daughters, my daughter-in-law, my wife’s two daughters, and my wife’s daughter-in-law.

They are the traits of a noble character.

My mom, my wife, all of these daughters … they are Proverbs 31 women. And that makes them rare and “worth far more than rubies.”

I looked back at those 21 verses (Proverbs 31:10-31) that serve as the epilogue for a book on wisdom, and here are some reasons a wife of noble character is so rare and valuable:

  • She inspires confidence. (vv. 11, 28)
  • She serves others. (vv. 12, 15, 21)
  • She takes care of herself. (vv. 22, 25)
  • She’s smart and makes wise choices. (vv. 16, 24, 26)
  • She works hard on the right things. (vv. 16, 18, 24)
  • She’s not lazy. (vv. 15, 17, 27)
  • She gives to those in need. (vv. 15, 20)
  • She’s faithful to God’s Word. (vv. 26)
  • She makes others look good. (vv. 23)
  • She fears the Lord. (vv. 30)

I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s all stuff to which I aspire as I struggle to grow like Jesus.

And listen to how people respond to this type of woman: “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ … Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” (vv. 28-29, 31)

Who are the Proverbs 31 women in your life? And how are you honoring them, not just on one day each year but at every opportunity?

Fruits of a Jamaican Church Plant

What happens when followers of Jesus grow like Jesus? The church grows for Jesus.

Allow me to share an example …

Last weekend I went on a business trip to Jamaica. I know, it’s a tough life, but somebody had to do it, right? I got this call from a client who wanted me to shadow a film crew doing a commercial with track star Usain Bolt. I would spend a few days in and around Kingston, including a 15-minute interview with Bolt, and then write a series of stories about it for the product’s US website (Enertor.com).

photo credit: jamaica-march-2013-007 via photopin (license)
photo credit: jamaica-march-2013-007 via photopin (license)

Audrey was able to take a little time off from work to go with me, and she entertained herself while I was working. When we travel over a weekend, we try to visit a local church. One, we believe in the value of regular corporate worship with other followers of Jesus. Two, we enjoy and learn from experiencing worship and teaching in settings that are very different from our home church.

One of the options Audrey found online was Bethel Baptist Church, so we asked the hotel staff about it. When the front desk clerk seemed clueless, a waiter stepped in and confirmed that it was close – a short cab ride – and a very good option.  So off we went.

The worship center seats about 200 people, and the church holds three services each Sunday. In other words, it’s Jamaica’s version of a megachurch. There’s no air conditioning, but the side walls are all open windows so the breeze can flow through and large fans are mounted around the room. We found a seat near one, and settled in for the next two hours (this ain’t America, folks!).

We enjoyed the message – Rev. Burchell Taylor taught on 1 John 5:1-5 and how faith is our victory – but the other thing that jumped out at me was the life of this church.

Charles McCullough, a pastor from America, helped launch the church in 1954 with 20 members, and then moved back to the States three years later. In other words, he planted, many others watered, and the church began to grow, grow, grow.

On the day we visited, Taylor was celebrating 46 years as the pastor, but there were no signs that he or the church had lost their focus on growth. Their timeline – past and present – is full of partnerships with other churches and organizations, church plants and evangelism around the island, and social and spiritual ministries to the people of Kingston.

Bethel clearly has a focus on growing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man – for each person and as a church body. It’s Luke 2:52 in action.

The visit reminded me that growth never happens unless something is planted and nurtured. We all play a role in that, for ourselves and for those around us. When we grow like Jesus, His church grows in ways that impact our community and the world around us. And who knows what fruit that growth might produce in the decades and decades to come, even long after we’re gone?

Note: Planting seeds is sometimes dangerous work. When we returned home, we read about the deaths of Harold Nichols and Randy Hentzel, two missionaries who had been working in Jamaica since 2002 with TEAMS for Medical Missions. “I don’t ever want anything portrayed that Jamaica is a terrible place,” Nichols’ wife Teri told a CNN affiliate. “I know this is a tragedy, but tragedies happen everywhere. They’ve been really good to us.”


Note: If you haven’t read the Grow Like Jesus, why not check it out now? If you’ve read it, drop me a note and let me know what you thought about it. Also, please go to Amazon.com and rate/review it. Thanks! Stephen

7 Habits of Financial (and Spiritual) Success

Not long ago I came across a blog about the seven habits of self-made millionaires. And it occurred to me that most of the habits that help someone grow rich financially are the same habits that help us grow rich spiritually. We just apply the habits differently.

The blog was based on an interview with a Tom Corley, a researcher who has spent a dozen or so years studying wealthy people and writing about what he’s learned (e.g., Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals). Corley points out that “Your habits are the reason why you’re rich or poor. In fact, it’s often two or three habits that separate the wealthy from those who are financially challenged.”

That makes sense (and cents). Then I began to wonder if the seven habits Corley shared for financial success translate into habits that help us achieve something far more meaningful—spiritual success.

Let’s compare.

  1. Read, read, read. Corley says this is the number one habit. His study found that 85 percent of millionaires read two or more books a month. Not only that, they choose books that help them grow. As the author of a book titled Grow Like Jesus, I love this one. It reinforces the idea that we need to study and learn how to grow if we want to improve our lives. Start, of course, with the Bible. Read it every day. Study it. Learn from it. Grow from it.
  2. Pursue your passions. Corley points out that, “When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you work harder.” Are you passionate about Jesus? If you are His disciple, then you probably were on fire for God the day you gave Him your life and in the weeks and months that followed. Rediscover that passion, because nothing else on this planet is more worthy of our enthusiasm.
  3. Find mentors. Corley’s study found that 93 percent of self-made millionaires credit mentors for aiding in their financial success. Mentoring and discipleship, of course, are two sides of the same coin. If you want to grow spiritually, find someone (or a small group) who will challenge you, stretch you, teach you, and otherwise help you along the path. And, by the way, you’ll find that mentoring others is one of the greatest approaches to growth for yourself.
  4. Use dreams to set goals. Self-made millionaires apparently dream up what they want their ideal life to look like and then set specific goals to achieve each dream. They evaluate their dream and take action. When we grow our faith, we need to abide in Christ so we can discern our calling. Then we need to make specific plans to carry out whatever God is calling us to accomplish.
  5. Create a process. I see this as an extension of the previous habits. “When you create processes,” Corley says, “you don’t have to think, which takes energy and contributes to decision fatigue. Habits are valuable because they brain fuel that can be used doing something else.” To grow our faith, we need to have good habits. We need a process. Set aside specific times in the day for reading God’s word, for specific types of prayer, for reading other books, for meeting with mentors or protégés.
  6. Find multiple streams of income. Self-made millionaires typically have at least three sources of income. They diversify. For followers of Jesus, we need three in one: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. If we rely on those three sources of spiritual income, our output will be phenomenal. We can support them with things like mentors and books, the teaching of great pastors, the community and fellowship of a vibrant church, but the ultimate source is God.
  7. Invest in time. It’s probably not surprising that self-made millionaires don’t waste time. They don’t watch much television, and they don’t spend much time on Facebook or watching videos on the Internet. I believe growing our faith requires a sense of urgency because we don’t know how much time we have on this earth. We should long to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23) Not, “Well, you were awesome at video games!”

So what’s missing from Corley’s list? Well, lots of things.

The one that jumped out at me first was “generosity.” I know this to be important to our walk with Christ, and, from all I’ve read, I believe it to be important to financial success. So I went to Corley’s website and here’s something I found that he said: “One of the hallmarks of the self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits Study was their generosity.” In other words, they gave their time and money.

I also wondered about faith. This isn’t spelled out as directly in what I found in Corley’s research, but I did see plenty of evidence that financially successful people tend to get that way in part because they have faith. They believe. In God? Not so sure. Certainly in something bigger than themselves.

Trusting God for the results, in my view, is essential to our spiritual growth, because it keeps us from adopting a works mentality. We can do His will and leave the results to someone more qualified than us – the God of the universe. That’s how we find joy and peace and true success regardless of our financial condition or any other circumstance. Because it’s never about how much we have, but what we do with what we’re given.

 

What if Jesus wrote you a Letter?

Here’s the question that kept me up one night: What if Jesus wrote me a letter?

Seems simple. Not scary. Sort of cool, right? Who wouldn’t want a letter from the Son of God?

Without question, I’d love to get such a letter. But I can’t say for sure that I’d like everything it might say. In fact, it could be especially difficult to take, and that’s why the question was keeping me up that night.

Audrey and I had been reading the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation, so naturally we noticed that a few of them easily could be letters to the church in America. That’s when it hit me: What if Jesus wrote a letter like this to me? I am the church in America, or at least part of it. Would he find something good in me? Would he call me lukewarm? How would he challenge me to live differently?

With that in mind, I recalled a little writing exercise I learned several years ago during a parent’s weekend at Rollins College. A professor found himself in a room of assembled ne’er-do-wells—dads, moms, and other interested parties. The prof either wanted to give us a taste of what his students typically experienced, or he just needed a way to kill some time before lunch. Regardless, he gave us an assignment: Write a letter to yourself from someone you love but who is no longer living. If you can do this, he explained, you can write fiction, because fiction is something we make up based on what our experiences tell us might happen.

I wrote a letter from my dad to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise.

So as I considered the letters Jesus wrote to the churches, I mentally wrote a letter from Jesus to me. Was it fiction? I don’t know. I asked the Holy Spirit for some help, so I believe there was some inspiration and, well, revelation, involved.

Here’s what I learned: There’s room for improvement.

Well, duh!

I felt affirmation about some areas of my life, but I also felt the pangs of conviction. I felt like God wanted me to experience Him more in two or three specific areas. I shared this with Audrey and asked her to pray with me, asking God to show us what “change” would look like and provide opportunities to pursue it. Frankly, I’m still not so sure how well I’m living it out, but I’m doing my best to trust God to show me the way each day.

So if Jesus wrote you a letter, what would it say? And how will you respond?