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Friday Inspiration

The celebrated Scottish preacher, James Stewart, made a statement that is also challenging: “It is always upon human weakness and humiliation, not human strength and confidence, that God chooses to build His Kingdom; and that He can use us not merely in spite of our ordinariness and helplessness and disqualifying infirmities, but precisely because of them.”

Chuck Swindoll

grip

Hold on Tight

Why does God talk so much about money and “stuff” in the Bible? I thought it was because it was important to God. But recently I changed my mind. I think it’s because it’s so important to us.

Money is too important to me.

I’ve made some improvement in this area—not as fast as I’d like, but I think God is okay with my slow progress. I’m now a firm believer that the Bible is the ultimate authority on money and things, and I’m developing the habit of reading it regularly to see what God wants to teach me, asking Him what I should do with what He has entrusted to me. I’m also trying to have more conversations with other Christians who love Jesus and want to please Him, as well as seeking wise counsel from others who can advise Nicole and me as well as pray for us. I still have so much to learn—and just when I think I’m starting to get it, a stressful event occurs and whacks me back down to reality!

Handling money can be so challenging—always wanting more, never wanting to part with it. I think sometimes we hold on to our money and our things so tightly that they actually hurt us. I picture gripping money in my fist to the point of actual pain, and it reminds me how foolish that is. Sometimes we’re guilty of thinking far too much about money and how to get more. We believe that more money and more stuff will give us everything we need to be completely happy and fulfilled. I’ve learned the hard way that this is a lie.

When I read the Bible, I get a strong sense that I need to replace money and stuff with Jesus. If I am to hold onto anything so tightly it hurts, it should be Jesus. If I am to think too much about anything, it should be Jesus. Only Jesus gives us everything we need to be fulfilled. I want to get to the point where I will do anything to get more of Jesus.

Holding on to money and holding on to Jesus—two ends of the spectrum. The former is where I was when I started this journey, the latter is where I believe God wants me to be. And although God is not against wealth (money and stuff), He is teaching me that it is a stronghold in my life and as I loosen the grip, I am better able to grab hold of Jesus, my ultimate treasure.

“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).

Friday Inspiration

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

paul

The Life of Paul

I’m fascinated by the life of Paul. This hard-charging, super type-A personality was bent on doing what he thought was the work of God—only to find out it was the antithesis of it.

Talk about being outside of God’s will!

A man who, upon learning of his wrongdoing, does a 180 and starts proclaiming the name that he was trying to bring down: JESUS!

A man who, upon his conversion, goes away to Arabia for three years to do things about which we can only speculate. Preach and teach? Receive more revelation? Pray?

It would be like Bill Maher travelling to one of his gigs only to come across Christ, become blinded and filled with the Holy Spirit, get baptized, regain his sight, then fall off the face of the earth and emerge three years later to plant churches in San Francisco with Francis Chan and write books about Jesus, grace, love, forgiveness, gratitude and how to finish strong for Christ!

Can you even imagine!

Maybe if Paul never felt the grace of God he would have never become grateful. Gratitude became one of his greatest attributes. He urged his fellow Christians to be grateful all of the time. “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

His gratitude welled up and he wanted EVERYONE to experience this freedom in Christ.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Jesus was using this type-A personality to promote His name. Paul was literally risking his body so that everyone he came across would hear the Good News.

This, my friends, is the road to true generosity. It was through gratitude due to the grace of Jesus Christ, that Paul was able to freely and abundantly give of himself, risking the life God had given him to spread the Good News. He recklessly gave so others would be free ̶ FREE IN CHRIST!

Paul’s life is the perfect model for us to follow in order to have Jesus reign supreme in the calendar, cash and calling God has entrusted to us.

What did Paul do first? Did he become generous with the cash, or step immediately into the calling God had on his life?

No.

Jesus uprooted the calendar part of his life. Jesus reprioritized his life to what Jesus created him for. His true calling. But it first started with the calendar part of his life.

 

 

content

Arabia—A Time with God

Saul persecuted people of the Way. He witnessed Steven being stoned to death. He was marching his way to Damascus to inflict more persecutions when Jesus Christ met him and confronted him about his activities.

Saul was blinded, filled with the Holy Spirit, regained his sight, became a Christ-follower and was baptized, then started proclaiming the name of Jesus in the synagogues.

After a little time he went to Arabia. For three years! This hard-charging man was in the desert for three years. His job was taken away as he no longer had a heart for it. He lost all of his friends, his co-workers, and those who were part of the mission to persecute people of the Way. His life completely changed.

What happened during these three years?

Could God have spent this time rebuilding the foundation of his life and faith? Saul had been going very hard for a very long time, possibly never stopping. (This sounds oddly familiar to me.) How cool it would have been to eavesdrop on the conversations between Saul and God.

Maybe during this time he learned to be content?

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Maybe he learned about Jesus’ grace and what Jesus had given up for him and everyone?

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Maybe he learned how to live and what to die for?

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Maybe he learned to count others more significant than himself?

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Maybe he learned to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4) even when you have been beaten and thrown in jail?

“And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:23-25).

Maybe he learned that it is far better to give than to receive? (Acts 20:35) Undoubtedly Saul became Paul—a completely new man. It was that time away from everything and everyone except God that caused this change.

When was the last time you were away from everyone and everything except God? Are we missing the life we were created to live because we have not had our time away with God?

shed

S.H.E.D. (Seek Him Every Day)

In order for me to say yes to Jesus being my CEO, I had to pray about what He wanted me to keep in the life He had entrusted to me.

These are the things I laid at the altar:

  1. The house we lived in.
  2. The car I drove.
  3. My career.
  4. The private golf membership.
  5. Hospital foundation board spot.
  6. Committee at the YMCA.
  7. Working out M-F at 5:30am.
  8. Large office space.
  9. Working ‘till 6pm most days.
  10. The MBA in Financial Planning I was pursuing.
  11. Where to live.

Surprise—God got rid of almost the entire list except for my career, and moved us to the Bay Area from LA.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

All of these activities were outside of God’s will for my life. I learned that if we are not asking God what He wants us to do, we can get off track—even if we are going to church, reading the Bible, and going to Bible study class.

As you can see, I had to shed a lot!

I now had space to seek Him every day. My relationships improved. God also slowly got rid of the façade I had in LA, so that I’m more fully the person He wants me to be.

I am now running my race better—not perfectly—but much better and more efficiently than before. I learned God’s way is so much better than my way.

How about you? Did you have to shed anything in order to seek Him every day?

hook

Financial Independence

The Bay Area is one of the wealthiest places on earth, during one of the wealthiest times in history. There are many people who have achieved financial independence or are striving for it. For Christians, as Jesus as our model, what should our aim be? Is it bad to be financially independent or striving toward that goal?

When I was a teenager, I thought if I had more money it would make me happy. I got a lot more money and I was not happier. It actually made me feel arrogant, entitled, selfish, and greedy.

I came to Christ and that did not change things.

I fell in love with Nicole, got married, and started having financial problems. I continued to think, “More money will solve these problems.”

Right around the time that Jeff took me to lunch I had a conversation with my stepmom Lana and she told me I did not have an asset problem but I had an expense problem. I had never thought of it that way. I was a financial planner but never applied these principles to myself!

We had no budget.

We did not track expenses.

We did not prepare a balance sheet.

We were out of control financially.

We were just tracking to be financially independent someday by making more money. Our focus was always making more money. The conversation with Lana was one of my first steps towards realizing that this track was wrong.

I believe chasing after more money was bad for me. Do you think it might be bad for you?

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

Friday Inspiration

No one will ever love us like God the Father.

No one.

Not even close.

Let’s start living in this truth and not to seek the love from God from others.

ram

God Our Provider

I had a major realization recently. While thinking about a symbol I believe God had given me, I heard these words: “God our provider.” The Holy Spirit then directed me to the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22.

As we know in this story, God called Abraham to sacrifice His only son, Isaac. When Isaac asked Abraham where the sacrifice was (they had probably sacrificed many animals before), Abraham said, “God will provide” (Genesis 22:8a).

As we know, God did provide a sacrifice. But we most likely would have never seen this provision if Abraham had not acted in faith like he did.

Maybe this is what is missing in our lives. Maybe we have failed to step into what God has called us to do because we do not believe He will provide.

But this is just not true. We have to stop believing the lies from the enemy.

God has provided.

God is providing.

God will provide.

These are the truths I need to sew into my heart and soul, and act accordingly.

When Abraham heard the words “stay your hand” and then looked and saw a ram caught “in a thicket,” his greatest calling had been tested and his greatest challenge completed. Abraham acted in faith that God would provide, and provide He did.

The ram is a reminder that God will provide. Maybe this reminder of His provision can help us get unstuck in the areas of calendar, cash and calling.

Perhaps God is calling you to do something absolutely radical in one of these areas and you are believing the lie that God will not provide. I used to believe this lie—and I still have to fight it—but now I understand that God promises He will provide.

From the depths of my heart, please know today that God has an absolutely amazing plan for each of our lives, and all we need to live it out is to believe that He will provide.

Friday Inspiration

To be joyful and generous,  you have to see things as God sees them. When your beliefs, your vision, and your actions align with his perspective, the results will be nothing short of incredible.

Ron Blue, Generous Living

surrender

My 5-Part Surrender

I am a stubborn person, and God didn’t have an easy time with me. For years my progress as a Christian was three-steps-forward, two steps back. Finally after many years, I allowed Jesus to be CEO over my whole life—but believe me, I am still always tempted to wrestle control back from him!

Looking back over the last several years, I identified the five major components of my surrender. They were:

  1. I prayed for God to send strong Christians into my life to help me with my marriage. As you can imagine, my stubbornness was affecting my marriage as well as my spiritual life, and I knew nothing would change until I addressed it.
  2. God answered this prayer in the form of recreating my community to be what He wanted, and I forced myself not to fight it.
  3. By becoming involved in this new community, I learned about humility, grace, love, what the Bible says and how it applies to my life. Without the right community, I don’t believe I would have surrendered. I am far from perfect, but I’ve had a definite change of heart and mindset.
  4. The next step for me was moving from “believing” to “doing” which took faith and the continued reliance on the community. They stayed by my side, praying for me and encouraging me on the path God has set for me.
  5. This all led to me slowing down, to stop quenching the Spirit of God by striving so hard all the time. I’m learning to let Him lead me.

Even though I have less net worth and income than I once had, I have freedom, fascination and a lot more fun than I have ever had. It appears God wanted to make significant changes in my heart, and this took adjusting my net worth and income. This has been scary at times, but God is my provider and He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Getting the calendar portion of my life more in line with what God wanted allowed me to get the cash category more in line with what God wanted. When these two were more in line with what God wanted, this allowed the Holy Spirit to speak deeply to me, and whisper things I could have never have dreamed about. I believe now I am stepping into the calling God has on my life.

What is your surrender story? How has it led to more fun and stepping into what you were called to do?

disciple

Go and Make Disciples….

Discipleship is important. It seems like more and more churches are taking this topic seriously and I’m hearing about it from a lot of people I trust.

But are we missing something when we discuss discipleship? There are 2,350 verses about money and possessions in the Bible. Jesus gave thirty-eight parables and sixteen of them were about money and possessions. Should we be including money and possessions when we are making disciples?

When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He stated:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…..teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19 & 28:20a).

The Great Commission is so Great, as we know, because it was one of the last things Jesus said.

Can a person be a true disciple of Christ if the money and possessions with which they are entrusted are handled in a way that is outside of what the Bible teaches?

I believe we are missing something, something GREAT, if we handle money in a manner that is more in line with what we want than what King Jesus wants.

In the past, I never considered what God would have me do with my money. I can correlate, almost to the day, when Nicole and I started tithing to experiencing more joy in our lives. Then more joy came when we gave over and above the tithe. We started to be financially discipled by a fellow Certified Kingdom Advisor, Kalvin Sid, and budget coached by Brenda Haley. We started holding loosely what God had entrusted to us.

We were made into financial disciples and our lives have never been the same. How we view and handle the cash God has entrusted to us was turned right side up.

What do you think about the idea of making financial disciples?

“If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life.”
-Billy Graham

moneylove

Love of Money

Money has always played an important part in my life. As you can see from this picture, when I was younger I loved a lot of stuff—two TV’s on my desk (come on!) and if you take a closer look you can see a popular sticker from the 80’s: I love money.

Yep, that was me, and still is to a certain extent. I was raised with the idea that if I gained more money and “stuff,” my problems would be solved. I battle this mindset almost every day, but I have God’s word to help me, financial buddies with whom to talk to about money, and great resources to help further my education around the subject.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

When I achieved some financial success in my twenties, it created new problems and made the old problems much worse. Some of the new problems were that I felt a sense of entitlement because I had “made it,” in my mind, which combined with the pride I had, made for a miserable life. I thought the world revolved around me, and that all things that I was involved with should be to help further my own agenda in my life.

My love of money was preventing me from living the life God created me for. If I had continued on this “love of money” trajectory, I shiver to think what my life would consist of now.

I went very hard after money, and when I achieved financial goals, I was left with a deep emptiness which eventually led to a great anger that I had been duped. At times I felt it was just me and my money because I had no real relationships.

Thanks to God’s hand on my life and the partnership of my wife Nicole, I no longer love money the way I used to. It’s been a long road and I’ll continue to work toward Godliness in this area, but together Nicole and I have been learning to submit our financial lives to the Lord, and funny enough, we rarely argue about money like we used to. Maybe we’re on to something! We don’t have it all figured out, but we’re not where were before.

How about you? What is your money story and what part is currently being written?

Friday Inspiration

 

The Bible is unclear on exactly how much we should give. I believe this lack of clarity is because the decision concerning the amount an individual gives should be based on a personal relationship with God. As we seek the guidance of the Spirit through an active prayer life, giving suddenly becomes an exciting adventure.

Howard Dayton, “Your Money Counts”

vapor

Fast Forward…..2072

In 1907 my Grandmother was born. Lulla Belle Stewart. She was an amazing, strong, feisty woman. I loved her so much. Most importantly, she loved the Lord. She came to Christ later in life even though she was born and raised in Kentucky.

In 2010 my son Luke was born. He too is feisty, strong and may turn out amazing. Who knows? My prayer is that he will love Jesus more and more every day, much like his great-grandmother did.

I was born in 1972. I’m thinking if things work out, I could have a great-grandson born in 2072.

Yes, I have a problem. But maybe I will live to 100 and see this young whipper-snapper?

I often think of what my legacy will be. What characteristics of mine will show up in that young baby boy in 2072?

I try and live my life as if I will not live till the end of 2016, much less until 2072. I struggle with how much I need to show, teach, and love Luke now so he will keep it going with his children, and others beyond our family.

As we know, Jesus had 33 years on earth. I am 10 years past that and thinking I’m living on borrowed time. Why, I don’t know. Maybe it is because I think of this verse often:

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

Time is running out to love fully, laugh a lot, and to make the greatest impact in this life I’ve been given.

One day my story will be over so I want to live and love fully while I still can. Sadly, some of my time is spent comparing myself to others; in self-doubt; and being jealous of friendships I wish I had.

How about you? What do you think of when you think of your legacy?

How do you stay focused on making the greatest impact possible and avoid wasting energy on petty worries?

 

grump

I Am a Grump

Being raised an only child, when I was growing up everything revolved around me. Even when I was older, this continued, and I often felt frustrated when things didn’t go my way.

This is a battle I fight to this day. It gets worse around my birthday, November 13th, and continues until college football crowns another champion for the year.

So this year, I’m changing the game plan. Instead of focusing on myself and my issues, I am attempting to be strategic and do the following:

  1. Focus on things above. “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth” (Colossians 3:2).
  2. Seek God’s Kingdom first. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
  3. Think of others more than myself. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

How?

An event to kick off the holidays.

On Facebook, I have created a page that says the following:

I am turning 44 on November 13 and I need your help. During the Christmas Season, every year, I get the blues and I act like a GRUMP! On Sunday, November 13th, join me at Yerba Buena Gardens from 1:30-3:30 pm. There are 4 things that would make me happy (not 44).

– Give me a hug

– High-five me for making it to age 44

– Consider throwing the Frisbee with me.

– Bring a small gift card ($5-$10)

If you want to join, put it in the comments and we look forward to seeing you then!

What I plan to do with the gift cards is give them out to strangers during the next month, sharing with them that this gift is from God, and that the greatest gift ever is Jesus.

I hope you can join me this Christmas Season as we learn to be more and more like Christ.

 

 

all

All

I have been fascinated with this word lately.

All.

That is a big word, and a scary word. I think of when someone demands, like my son Luke, “give it all to me”—that is quite a bold statement. Or the bank robber: “give me all of your money.”

I did an exercise where I circled the word “all” in the Bible for months on end while reading it and how many circles I ended up with.

So many!

One verse that contains the word “all” is the Greatest Commandment:

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

All of your heart. That is a huge request.

Another one is:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

We are to both love and trust the Lord—with all of our hearts. (Trust and love, I’ve written about them before. Please check it out here.)

This makes me both a little concerned and little hopeful all at the same time.

I’m concerned that I am not doing it, and I’m not all that familiar with how to do it and what the ramifications could be if I don’t do it.

I’m hopeful there is a way to do it. God wouldn’t command it otherwise.

Our time and our calendar have to be involved, don’t you think? If I could say “no” to more things in order to say “yes” to more of God I know this would be a move in the right direction, because those I love the most I want to spend the most time with. Yet I struggle with this and I am not sure I love God the most, let alone with all of my heart.

The pressure is there to:

  1. Perform “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23) and
  2. Provide “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

But, wait, hey, what am I supposed to do?

I need to constantly remind myself: “….love the Lord your God with all of your heart…..”

Maybe I need to revisit this exercise I mentioned earlier in order to get my priorities straight and gain more clarity on my God given priorities.

As we can see, God wants us to love Him with all of our heart. How you are doing this?