The 4 Ingredients in My ‘I-deal’ Life

ideal life 1

Someone asked me an important question when I told them I was going on a sabbatical to seek direction for my life. Looking me in the eyes with great earnestness, they said, “What makes you happy, Jim? That’s what you should be doing.”

My reply probably surprised them, for many people would have cited romance or worldwide travels as their expected source of happiness.

“The thing that makes me the happiest is to have an impact on others,” I said without hesitation. “And the more impact I’m having, the happier I am.”

Although I don’t really think life is all about “the pursuit of happiness,” this conversation really got me thinking. What, exactly, would my ideal life look like?

I encourage you to ask yourself this “happiness question,” because your answer probably won’t be the same as mine. If you’re not fully satisfied with your present life, what are some things that would bring you greater fulfillment and joy?

After some soul-searching, I’ve identified four primary ingredients necessary to bring me the greatest joy in life. They all start with “I,” so I’m calling this my “I-deal” life.

  1. INTIMACY with God and people. The Bible says “fullness of joy” can only be found in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:11), so that must be the starting point in my ideal life. But it’s also clear that close relationships with people are necessary in order to experience lasting joy. By “intimacy,” I’m not referring to romance or sex, but simply the ability to open your heart to others on a deep and vulnerable level. Do you have relationships like that with family and friends? I do, and it’s a blessing I’m profoundly thankful for.
  1. IMPACT. As I told the friend who asked about my happiness, impact is very important to me—perhaps even too  important. I believe we’ve been put on earth not just to be “successful” or just to “hang out” with people. We’re called to make a tangible difference  in the lives of others. Of course, we each have different ways to bring about impact. My personal mission statement is “To change the world through the written and spoken word.” That means I love to write and preach, and those are two of the ways I can touch people’s lives. In my remaining years, I also want to find more ways to pour myself into the next generation. But you may have completely different gifts and passions. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to find your own God-given calling in how to make the world a better place.
  1. INCOME. I’m not retired yet, so income is still an important part of the equation for me. It’s easy to talk in glowing terms about such lofty objectives as intimacy and impact, but we all must find ways to pay the bills as well. If you’re making lots of money but falling short in things like intimacy and impact, I challenge you to make some changes. However, some of my friends have been so intent on their spiritual and social pursuits that they’ve neglected the basic necessity of having adequate financial provision for themselves and their family. Financial stress can really undercut your pursuit of a happy life.
  1. I-CARE. Sorry, but this is the only “I” word I could come up with to mean self-care. Of all the ingredients in my ideal life, this is perhaps the most difficult one for me. Although I’m passionate about impacting others, in the process I often neglect taking care of myself. In the coming season of my life, I must give a much greater focus to my health and fitness. I also need to take more time for rest and recreation, and I must reassess the margins in my work-life balance. As I was departing for my sabbatical, a friend told me, “Have fun!” Sadly, I had to admit that “having fun” is an element of self-care I really need to work on.

Identifying the elements of your ideal life won’t automatically answer all the questions you face concerning your future—but it’s a great place to start. So set aside some time, find a journal to write in, and get started in the process of defining what the life of your dreams really looks like. And don’t forget to solicit the input of trusted friends who can help you deal with any blind spots.

Your ideal life awaits! But you’ll have a much greater chance of experiencing it if you know what it looks like.

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The Perils of Being a Good Juggler

jugglers

I have an exceptional ability to juggle lots of balls at the same time. I don’t mean literal balls. My hand-and-eye coordination isn’t good enough for that. But, better than most people, I’m able to successfully juggle multiple projects, activities, and relationships.

Many of my best friends are only able to focus on one project at a time. Sometimes I envy them, for being a good juggler is both a blessing and a curse.

Almost anyone can successfully juggle one ball from hand to hand. And with a little practice, most people can handle two or three balls. Juggling four or five balls is far more difficult, though. Even if you can juggle four or five balls for a short period, the problem is sustainability.

I’ve found that when you’re a good juggler, people keep giving you more balls. It’s not really their fault, but your boss, spouse, kids, and friends seem to think your capacity is unlimited. So you go from juggling one ball…to two…to three…to four. And everything goes splendidly at first.

Yet when you’re a good juggler, you inevitably end up with one more ball than you can handle. Sadly, you seldom see how hazardous this progression is—not until ALL the balls end up on the floor.

Those of us who are good jugglers typically end up juggling many of the wrong  balls. We have a hard time saying NO. Instead of prioritizing and focusing, we try convincing people of our nearly superhuman abilities.

There’s an old gospel song that says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” The challenge for good jugglers is that we often forget Who this song is referring to. God is able to simultaneously juggle all the balls in the universe—but we’re not God.

If you’re a good juggler like me, my heart goes out to you. As the Scriptures advise, I hope you’ll learn to cast your cares on the Lord, remembering that He’s the only limitless juggler. May you regularly seek His wisdom on which balls are meant for you, and which ones aren’t.

If you’ve taken on too many balls, running the risk of dropping them all, I pray you’ll recognize your precarious situation before it’s too late. In the end, you’ll be far more productive—and much happier—if you focus on your true calling. That’s where you’ll find God’s grace and strength.

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Obama, Jesus, and the Law of Proportionality

One of the most important—but often overlooked—principles in the Bible is the Law of Proportionality. But before I share what the Bible says about this, let me give you an illustration from today’s news.

Although I’ve recently tried very hard to stay away from “political” issues in my blogs, I can’t resist addressing a very strange situation in our country in recent weeks. And even if you don’t care much about politics or world events, the principle I’m going to share will have profound implications for your personal life as well.

Here’s the situation…

This week President Obama announced executive action to limit people’s possession of guns. This apparently was a very emotional issue for him, even bringing tears to his eyes.

I frankly haven’t studied the details of his proposals, and it’s really not my intention to weigh in on the gun control debate one way or another. I think most Americans are willing to allow law-abiding citizens to own guns, but we want to keep them away from criminals and crazy people. Hopefully, everyone can agree on those objectives. And the President should be able to find some common ground with Congress without having to resort to executive orders that are probably beyond his constitutional authority.

Here’s where the Law of Proportionality comes in…

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Obama is totally correct on his position regarding guns. (This is certainly debatable though, when most observers conclude that NONE of the tragic shootings the past few years would have been prevented by the new regulations he announced).

But things start getting really strange when you consider the backdrop provided by other events in the news. Around the same time as the President was passionately addressing the problem of guns, the North Koreans were testing a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Iran recently launched a missile that came within a mile of a U.S. aircraft carrier. And as we all know, the Middle East is exploding, and ISIS is causing havoc in ever-expanding circles of influence. Does anyone really think Paris will be the final episode of terrorism on the world stage?

And what about the thousands of Christians who’ve been beheaded by ISIS? Where are the tears and outreach over that?

So, while we all hate gun violence, the Law of Proportionality says we need to do risk assessments and prioritize our time and resources. We must address “first things first” and focus on the BIG threats before worrying so much about the SMALL ones.

This is pretty much a no-brainer: Gun violence normally kills no more than a few people at a time, while nuclear bombs can kill millions and destroy entire cities. And a crazy person with a gun or rifle cannot do even a fraction of the damage ISIS can do.

Here’s what the Bible says…

The Scriptures describe the Law of Proportionality in various passages. For example, Proverbs 11:1 says, A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” We’ve all had times when our priorities got out of balance, of course, but this is a serious problem when it happens on a national or international level.

Likewise, Jesus scoffed at people who strained a gnat out of their soup but “swallowed a camel” (Matthew 23:24). If we apply this to today, even if we concede that President Obama may be correct in straining out the “gnat” (trying to remove guns from the wrong hands), he seems to be overlooking the “camel”—much more dangerous threats.

One final passage should be a challenge to all of us, where Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for their violation of the Law of Proportionality (Matthew 23:23). These self-righteous people were so diligent in tithing that they took pains to offer even the tiniest of herbs, but they “neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.”

Let that statement sink in for a minute. If you look at your daily schedule or how you spend your money, you probably could make a case that you’re putting your resources to “good” use. But what about the “weightier matters”? Can you really say that your priorities are the same as God’s priorities? Even if you are doing the “right” things, are they being done in proportion to their true importance?

These questions are hard for me, because God is also encouraging me to learn how to have FUN from time to time. But I don’t want my life to be a game of Trivial Pursuits. I want it to count, to matter, to make an impact.

It’s not easy to get the proportions right. From time to time, we need to reassess our priorities and readjust our balance. It’s all too easy to criticize Obama for getting things out of proportion, when we need to examine our own priorities as well.

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Success Secrets of History’s Greatest CEO

By any measure, his accomplishments were astounding and unparalleled:

  • With virtually no start-up funds and only a handful of staff, he established an organization that has seen annual growth for 2,000 years.
  • He led the organization for just three years before leaving it in the hands of his handpicked successors.
  • Without any of the benefits of modern technology, his product was marketed in every known nation on earth in less than a century.
  • From its humble beginnings, the organization founded by this leader has grown to billions of adherents around the world, some of whom are willing to die rather than give up the life-changing product he introduced.

The “CEO” I’m referring to, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth. I’ve recently been thinking about 5 of his success secrets we all can profit from:

  1. Put as much emphasis on preparation as on implementation. Jesus spent 30 years in preparation for a 3-year ministry. In contrast, many pastors today spend 3 years at seminary in hopes of having 30 years or so of fruitful service. In our impatient, microwave society, we nearly always undervalue the importance of careful preparation.

Jesus urged his disciples to take time to lay a firm foundation before trying to build anything. On a sunny day, it may be tempting to build a house on sand, but storms will surely come to every life (Matthew 7:24-27). Instead of being overeager to start the building process, Jesus said we should first “count the cost” and see if we have what it takes to finish the job (Luke 14:28-29).

Every successful sports team understands this principle. The key to victory is in painstaking preparation, not just showing up for the game.

  1. Carefully select your inner circle. Few things will impact your life more than the entourage of friends you choose to live your life with. On the positive side, the Bible says if you walk with wise people, you will become wise (Proverbs 13:20). But it also warns, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Jesus was very deliberate and purposeful in selecting his inner circle. In addition to spending time getting to know each of the men who ultimately would become his disciples, he spent an entire night in prayer before the final selection was made (Luke 6:12-16). How much time, attention, and prayer do YOU give toward selecting the main people you spend time with?

Notice that Jesus’ selection process wasn’t based on people’s resume or their outward qualifications. If you were going to choose a team to take your message and product to the ends of the earth, would you pick theologically inept fishermen and tax collectors?  However, guided by prayer and discernment, Jesus saw the great potential of these men, even though they seemed to be unlikely candidates for success.

Despite his careful vetting process, Jesus frequently had to confront those in his inner circle when they got off track. For example, Peter wanted to block Jesus’ pathway to the cross and was sternly told, “Get behind Me, Satan” (Matthew 16:21-23). Are you willing to stand against your friends when they try to hinder God’s will for your life?

  1. Remain focused on the mission instead of the numbers. Those of us in ministry can be especially prone to place an undue importance on statistics. How many people attend our services…the size of the budget and staff…how many seats in our sanctuary…etc.

And often the numbers are truly a significant indicator of God’s blessing on our endeavors. For example, I work at Inspiration Ministries, and in 2015 more than 125,000 people will have clicked the “I prayed the prayer” button on our salvation website. Every four minutes or less, someone is indicating a decision to make Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior! I thank God for this tangible fruit from our outreaches.

Throughout the Bible, we’re frequently told about the number of people involved in one story or another, so it’s fair to conclude that numbers matter to God. However, Jesus also realized how fickle and misleading numbers can be. His ministry rapidly grew to more than 5,000 people, only to fall back to the original 12 disciples when he preached an unpopular message one day (John 6). On another occasion, he experienced a crowd cheering “Hosanna,” followed just days later by some of the same people shouting, “Crucify Him.”  And then all of his disciples scattered at the cross except John. So much for “numbers” as a sign of success.

These illustrations in the life of Jesus also are a reminder that our mission is to make DISCIPLES, not just CONVERTS or fair-weather followers (Matthew 28:19-20). The next time a friend boasts of the Sunday attendance at his church, ask him how many of those people are truly becoming dedicated disciples of Jesus instead of spectators in the crowd.

  1. Have a clear succession plan. Even if you build a very successful organization, the real test will come when you die, retire, or leave. Will your successors have the skills they need to continue and even expand the mission?

Entire books could be written on this, but let me just quote two mind-blowing statements by Jesus about his succession plan. In John 16:7, he assured his disciples that it was actually to their advantage for him to leave them, because then they could be empowered by the Spirit. And he was so confident in the outcome of this empowerment that he promised they would be able to do even greater works then he had done (John 14:12).

So, who are you empowering in the next generation to follow in your footsteps and expand the mission you’ve started?

  1. Understand who you must please in order to be successful. Modern-day CEOs have lots of “bosses” that they must keep happy. For example, they must have the support of the board, the stockholders, and their management team, and it’s incredibly hard to please all of these people. You may not be a CEO today, but there’s a good chance you have many bosses you’re trying to keep happy: spouse, kids, friends, boss at work, pastor, etc.

In contrast, Jesus only had one person he was trying to please. And even before Jesus’s ministry had begun, his Heavenly Father had declared his great pleasure: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

When you recognize that you ultimately have just one Boss (2 Corinthians 5:9), all of life becomes simpler and more peaceful (Psalm 46:10).

My friend, whether you have any aspirations to be a CEO or not, I encourage you to put these 5 success secrets into practice. Your life will surely change for the better.

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4 Tips for Finding the Needle in Your Haystack

In a vivid dream recently, I was frantically searching for something that seemed very difficult to find. A huge stack of stuff was in front of me, but the object I was looking for was very small.

As I was about to give up my search, someone happened to walk by. Sensing my frustration, he asked, “What are you trying to find?”

“I’m looking for a needle in the haystack,” I said in dismay.

Unfortunately, the dream ended there, leaving me to reflect on the profound question: How can someone find a needle in a haystack?

This old word picture is pulled out whenever a search seems daunting, if not impossible. But as I’ve reflected on my dream, I think there are some other insights as well. It’s doubtful that any of us are looking for literal needles, so the issue is more about our quest for the important things in life amid all the superfluous “stuff.”

I’ve concluded that there are four keys for discovering the needle buried in our haystack:

  1. Separate the plentiful from the rare. Hay stands for something very plentiful, while needles are comparatively rare. Plentiful things have less value than something rare, and that’s why coal is less expensive than diamonds. Example: Why was the Proverbs 31 woman worth more than rubies? Because, sadly, a woman like that is very rare! So the principle here is to rid your life of the plentiful, less-expensive things. Instead, focus on the rare and exceptional things that are of much greater value.
  2. Separate the nonmagnetic from the magnetic. If you have a strong enough magnet, you might be able to attract the needle instead of wearing yourself out trying to find So if you’re upset because you can’t seem to find what you’re looking for in life, you might want to change your approach. Instead of working so hard to FIND something, put your focus on BEING something. You just might attract the missing “needle” in your life.
  3. Separate the light-absorbers from the light-reflectors. When light hits a needle, it shines. In contrast, hay merely absorbs the light, with no significant reflection. So in order to find a needle, one tactic would be to shine more light into the haystack. The needle will reflect more of the light back, especially if you do the experiment at night. The point here is that you’re called to reflect God’s light and glory, and you should eliminate the things in your life that don’t enable you to do that.
  4. Separate the temporal from the eternal. One of the other differences between hay and needles is that hay burns up in fire, while needles are purified by fire. That means if you want to find a needle from among the hay, all you really need is to start a fire! You see, when everything else is burned away, the needle will become obvious. However, I’m afraid most of us are far too attached to the hay to take such drastic measures. We have far too much “clutter” in our lives—temporal stuff that wouldn’t survive the fire. If you’re serious about finding the needle you’re looking for, you have to honestly ask yourself: Am I willing to allow the Lord to burn away the hay (the temporal things) in my life in order to reveal more of the eternal?

My dream about needles and haystacks ultimately led me to an even more sobering question: Is the underlying problem that we actually LOVE the haystack more than we want to find the needle? If so, we’ll never allow God to burn up the hay so the needle can be revealed.

If we love the hay (the things of this world) more than we love the needle (the eternal work God wants to do in our lives), we will inevitably face frustration. We’ll find ourselves so attached to the world that we’ll be unable to change the world.

Many of my fellow baby boomers are facing this uncomfortable reality. In our younger days we set out to be world-changers, but now we’re merely adapters, content to blend in with the haystack.

The apostle Paul wrote about this kind of thing in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, when he warned us to be careful about the building materials we use to construct our lives. Will we be content to build with “wood, hay, and straw,” creating nothing more than big haystacks? Or will we choose the more enduring materials instead, “gold, silver, and precious stones”?

Someday most of what we see around us will burn up. What will remain? The answer is being determined by the priorities and values we live by today.

 

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5 Simple Stress-Busters for a Better Life

I recently started playing my guitar again, and I’ve been struck by the importance of proper tuning. If just one or two strings are too tight or too loose, every chord will sound like discord.

Stress works the same way. If our lives had no stress at all, we’d be like a guitar string dangling in the air. That kind of life is boring, purposeless, and unfulfilling.

However, many of us have grown accustomed to far too much tension on our strings. Not only does that create an off-key sound, but it also runs the risk of snapping the string. Before electric guitar tuners were invented, I broke lots of strings that way.

Although entire books have been written on the keys to handling stress, I want to share 5 of the most important and most practical lessons I’ve learned in my personal struggles with this important issue:

  1. TRIAGE. Perhaps you’ve heard this term associated with sorting out the victims in a battle scene, terrorist attack, or natural disaster. Often it’s not possible for the medical team to save all the victims, so they must prioritize. For example, some of the victims will die even if given medical care, while others will survive whether they are given treatment or not. So often the top priority is to determine where you can truly make a difference—starting with those whose very survival will be determined by whether they receive care.

Of course, this analogy is far from perfect. But like a triage situation, most of us have more problems coming our way than we can possibly handle all at once. We will inevitably be overwhelmed by anxiety unless we determine some kind of prioritization of the needs we face.

To put it rather crudely, most of us feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony: There’s plenty to do, but we just don’t know where to start. That’s why it’s essential to have some kind of grid or criteria to help us decide where to begin.

  1. FOCUS. This principle follows directly on the heels of triage. After triage helps us sort things out, focus enables us to devote our time and resources in the direction of one thing at a time. This is incredibly hard for most of us, especially in the age of multitasking, but it’s a crucial part of reducing our stress.

As a kid, I loved playing with magnifying glasses. It seemed almost magical to start fires by focusing the rays of the sun. In contrast, I noticed that unfocused sunrays only made things warm—there was little impact and no combustion.

If we truly expect our lives to make an impact, there must be focus, for that’s the only way to set the world on fire! Accordingly, a friend recently sent me this acronym: F.O.C.U.S. = Follow One Course Until Successful. That’s good advice, isn’t it?

  1. HONESTY. I’ll never forget the time a friend began an internship with a company that had the mistaken impression that he was a computer guru. As a result, the company was expecting him to do all sorts of things he was completely unqualified for. Talk about stressful! It was a very humbling situation, but the only solution was to honestly inform the company of his true competencies. It was a hard conversation to have, but quite a relief when things were out in the open.

While people typically use lies to avoid difficulties, such schemes always backfire. By its very nature, dishonesty is stressful. When we’re disingenuous, we inevitably create all kinds of unnecessary anxiety.

  1. SELF-AWARENESS. Not long ago, I was introduced to some new friends who specialize in helping people “brand themselves.” They asked me all sorts of probing questions about my mission and vision in life, trying to get me to clarify my true “identity” and purpose.

At my age, you would think I would be pretty good at giving an “elevator speech” about who I am and what I do. However, this was much more difficult than I had hoped. After all, I’ve been an attorney, a pastor, a writer, and a businessman during my varied career, so it’s not really surprising that focus doesn’t come easy for me.

But this is an important issue. Without a deep awareness of our God-given gifts and purpose, we have no way to screen out the distractions in our lives. There’s no grid to help us say “No” to things that are outside our sphere, because we don’t even know what our sphere is.

A lack of self-awareness will also cause us to struggle to know whether to delegate a task or handle it ourselves. Often we end up shouldering things that others should be doing—and this results in a lot more unnecessary stress.

  1. TRUSTING GOD. Perhaps this sounds like a religious platitude, but it must be much more than that. The Bible repeatedly tells us to cast our burdens on the Lord, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 55:22).

There’s NOTHING more stressful than trying to play God instead of allowing God to live His life through us. The old hymn correctly observed, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer!”

So the wisest advice I can give you today is this: Recognize that He’s God, and you’re NOT! It’s no wonder your life is stressful if you’ve inadvertently switched roles with the Almighty.

Take a moment to review these 5 keys once more. What practical changes do you need to make in order to tune the strings of your heart to the proper pitch?

———————————————————

I would love to preach at your church or conference, be a consultant to your leadership team, or help your organization navigate the waters of transition. You can reach me at info@JimBuchan.com.

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Jim Bakker’s Reflections on Lavish Lifestyles

“…as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet

possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

I doubt that any minister in church history has paid a higher price for his lavish lifestyle than Jim Bakker did. Not only did he end up spending nearly five years in federal prison, but he also faced widespread criticism and ridicule for his opulent lifestyle while building his PTL TV ministry at Heritage USA.

During a period of five years, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker received $3.7 million in salaries, bonuses and benefits. What few people realize, however, is that they also gave away  millions of dollars of their royalties to the ministry during that period. Although not entirely accurate, the widespread image still remains: The Bakkers were money-grubbing preachers who defrauded the people of God.

In prison Jim Bakker spent a lot of time studying the words of Jesus, and he came to some startling conclusions as to what Jesus had to say about money:

As the true impact of Jesus’ words regarding money impacted my heart and mind, I became physically nauseated. I was wrong. I was wrong! Wrong in my lifestyle, certainly, but even more fundamentally, wrong in my understanding of the Bible’s true message. Not only was I wrong, but I was teaching the very opposite of what Jesus had said (Jim Bakker in I Was Wrong, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).

Few issues are as thorny as the question of a minister’s lifestyle in relation to material things. One extreme is exemplified by the deacon’s prayer, “Lord, we ask you to keep the preacher humble, and we will keep him poor!”

This view expects those in ministry to practically take a vow of poverty in order to keep from seeming greedy or materialistic. Having a nice house, car or wardrobe is seen as a sign of worldliness—unbefitting a person in ministry. Peter’s declaration of “Silver and gold have I none”  (Acts 3:6 KJV) becomes a proof-text model for the financial condition of all those in ministry.

As imbalanced as this view is, there are many scriptures sometimes cited to support it. Those in ministry are repeatedly warned about the dangers of greed and of trusting in money. For example, Paul wrote that “the overseer must be above reproach…not a lover of money  (1 Timothy 3:1-3 NIV). And Peter said that leaders should be “not greedy for money, but eager to serve  (1 Peter 5:1-2 NIV).

Paul warned that people of “depraved mind”  would “suppose that godliness is a means of gain”  (1 Timothy 6:5 NAS). If you are a minister struggling just to make ends meet, this may be a scripture that is hard to imagine. How could someone seriously see the ministry as a way to get rich?!  you might wonder.

However, while most of those in ministry have very modest lifestyles—whether they want to or not—some indeed have been guilty of “merchandising” the gospel. The anointing of the Spirit has literally been sold to the highest bidder.

Jim Bakker echoes these biblical warnings:

I believe one of the reasons I had to go to prison is because I was teaching people to fall in love with this present world…the gospel began to take second place. I began to write books on how to get rich, even though Jesus did not have one good thing to say about money. Take another look at what Jesus says in the Gospels. Instead of teaching people to get rich, He warned people about the deceitfulness of riches (Jim Bakker in “Loving Jesus—and Your Enemies,” The Morning Star Journal,  Volume 7, Number 2).

This issue of Christians and money is one that will not go away—it will only intensify as we approach the end of this present age. If the church does not sound a clear message, people’s thinking will be shaped by the unbalanced dictates of the world.

But just as there is danger in Christians falling in love with money, the opposite side of the coin is also dangerous: Many Christians are tragically entrenched in a poverty mind-set. While they may feel “spiritual” about their lack of material goods, their poverty is actually restricting their ability to bless others and extend God’s kingdom.

Jim Bakker finally came to this conclusion about the prosperity message:

I am not against prosperity; I believe in it. I believe that if God wants to give your ministry a billion dollars or give you an entire city block in New York City, He can certainly do it. But we need to beware of falling in love with things rather than with Jesus (Jim Bakker in “Loving Jesus—and Your Enemies,” The Morning Star Journal, Volume 7, Number 2).

That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Will we fall in love with things  rather than with Jesus? However, rather than casting stones at someone else’s lifestyle, let’s examine our own  hearts–making sure our priorities are truly aligned with the purposes of God.

 

 

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If Your Life Was a Word Cloud

I love word clouds. These computer-generated word assortments depict the frequency, size, or relative importance of the words on a website or print document.

The main thing I love about word clouds is that they don’t lie. You may think the theme of your website or document is one thing, but the word cloud will tell you what your REAL message is.

If you do a word cloud of the Gospel of Matthew, for example, it should be no surprise that the name Jesus is very BIG. The other key words are God and Kingdom.

In contrast, the word “church” is only used in two passages of Matthew (16:18 & 18:17), and these are the only  times it is mentioned in the four Gospels. Think about this for a moment. Is it possible we’ve sometimes been guilty of magnifying the church as even bigger than the kingdom—or even bigger than Jesus Himself?

The beauty of word clouds is not only the words that turn out to be BIG and bold, but also the ones that are SMALL and faint. What a wonderful illustration of life’s priorities.

So, what if someone created a word cloud of your life—your words, thoughts, motives, and actions? What words would be BIG, and which ones would be SMALL? Would JESUS and KINGDOM be big or small? Would you be encouraged by your life’s word cloud, or embarrassed? Would you be willing to have the words projected on a screen for all to see?

The good news is that there’s still time to improve your life’s word cloud. Of course, this won’t be an easy process. You will have to deny yourself daily, take up your cross, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).

But changing your word cloud will be worth it. Just think of the beautiful new picture God will create as Jesus increases and you decrease (John 3:30).

 

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