Wednesday, December 19, 2007

a scriptural investment strategy

Whenever I read thse words from James 4:13-17, I am awakened again to the importance of seeking God as I "plan" my life.

"Now listen you who say 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that'..."

I have recently been teaching a three week Sunday School class on the subject "A Scriptural Investment Strategy". About sixty have bene participating in a workshop environment that included three sections.

Part #1 A "State of the Union Address", an overview of how I am--we are--doing in relationships to God, family, my job/vocation, etc.

Part #2 A "Survey of My Assets and Liabilities", inventorying my strengths and weaknesses, identifying potential areas of needed growth

Part #3 A "Strategy for Growth and Joy", an examination of scriptural principles to guide me in challenging myself to seek God's will in facing the new year

The final section included a "Twelve Step program for Reallignment", built around the concept that as believers we are commanded to "offer your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to god--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will", Romasn 12:1,2.

I believe that we can discover how to move from the self-centeredness of the pursuit of our own will ("plans") to a reallignment of our will with God's through His work of grace, because "now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness..." Romans 6:22.

Here are some suggestions to prayefully consider through this twelve step program...

R-ecognize where the areas of need for growth exist. Own them. II Peter 3:18

E-valuate the resources you have in Christ to address those needs. Thank God. Philippians 4:13

A-ffirm your need fo help from God and for personal discipline. Ask Him. Hebrews 12:11-13

L-ist what you can do to address the needs before you. Be intentional. II Corinthians 12:9

L-et go of any excuses that would keep you from moving ahead. Be firm. Philippians 3:13,14

I-dentify an accountability partner to help chart your progress. Invite someone. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

G-et started by coupling your personal resources with the resources you need for help and support. Think carefully. Galatians 6:2-5

N-etwork with a small group--Bible study, care group, Sunday school class, etc.--as a necessary help/support resource. Make time. Hebrews 10:24,25

M-onitor your progress by measuirng where you are with the Word of God. Read daily. II Timothy 3:15-17

E-xpect this to be a process, not an overnight "fix". Be real. II Thessalonians 1:3

N-egotiate with others the support you need. Speak clearly. Romans 12:9-21

T-hank God for what He is doing today. Begin now. Colossians 3:15-17.

As we enter a new year I am reminded of these words from Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." If I want to invest in my life with things that will produce eternal dividends--things of lasting value--then I must embrace God's will--God's plans--for my life.

If I do this, I can face the new year with "hope and a future" that will surpass any plans I could make for myself independent of God. Reallgnment may be in order..take the steps.

(Materials are available through Grace Fellowship Church at 8040 South Highway 49, Jackson, California 95642, or, at 209-223-1971)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


So you wake up and you are in a hospital and a doctor is explaining your recent loss of memory, some of your unusual behaviors, and affirming your excellent health. He finishes by saying, "But, we have found a large mass on your brain".

It's on to a bigger hospital, more tests, anxious people crowding around to know how you are doing...and then another doctor arirves with the newest verdict. "You have a malignant tumor that has grown deep into your brain. We are going to try to take it out although I am pretty sure we can't get it all. We will deal with what's left after surgery is over..."

Now some friends arrive, family members begin to congregate...and the pastor comes. He sits quietly by your hospital bed while you are trying to make sense of everything that is happening, bewildered by a brain beseiged by an attacking tumor. Your pastor asks if you are afraid--you weakly nod your head--and he quickly affirms how natural that is but hurries to assure you of the confidence and peace we can have knowing God is on the scene.

Your pastor prays for you--your spouse is crying--and you are hanging on to every word, trying to make sense of everything that is happening. Trying to believe and to have faith, still confused by what you can't process because your brain is running on low.

And then the pastor leaves...your spouse follows him our of the room, hopefully to get some last minute tidbit of hope.

In bed you try to sleep. Tomorrow is surgery day and you want to be ready. What was that surgery for again? Your mind is cluttered with fragments of information, unable to be processed. What you can remember is who Jesus is...and so you call out to Him in the darkness of your room.

Friday, December 07, 2007

when a young person dies...

A week ago yesterday I was called to the hospital where a thirty-two year old mother of three children had died in her sleep. She was a sepcial part of our church family and a special friend to me. We had spent time together on many occasions visiting about her life and more than once we had prayed over the telephone for the migraine headaches that haunted her. In the past year her husband survived brain surgery and we walked together through that crisis with her family as well.

As I stood with this young woman's mother, she grieved quietly by saying, "Mothers are not made to bury their daughters..."

As I visited with her husband, her sisters, her extended family and many of her closest friends, I was struck by the fact that when a young person dies we are "gifted" with a sharpened sense of our mortality.

Six hudnred people filled our sanctuary and the local mortician commented to me that this was one of the largest funerals in our small county...because the news of a young life interrupted in full bloom has such impact.

As I have listened over the past days I have heard young people and older folks alike say to me in many different ways the same thing--"We need to be more serious about our relationship to God because we don't know what time any of us could be called home..."

When a young person dies, reminded of my mortality, I am also reminded of my hope in Christ. Ii is enough to make me think about living every day as if it could be my last...and rejoicing about what lies ahead in Christ.