Preparations for the New Year: Planning in Humility

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James 4:13-17

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Psalm 39:4-5

“O LORD, help me understand my mortality and the brevity of life! Let me realize how quickly my life will pass!  Look, you make my days short-lived, and my life span is nothing from your perspective. Surely all people, even those who seem secure, are nothing but vapor.” (Net Bible).

Proverbs 16:9

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” (NIV)

It has been a joy for me to go through the process of blogging about planning and aligning our hearts, minds, bodies to God’s will and evaluating through His lens.  The planning process is necessary and often neglected because it is not a once and done occupation.  I want to dare to dream and try to do things that I would normally limit myself on, but simultaneously surrender it all to God, delighting in the truth that His way is best.

There is a fine line between planning for temporary pleasure and planning that is divinely inspired.  By saying divinely inspired, I mean it is something God truly placed on our hearts, and not us manipulating to have it be a part of His plan for our own desires.  Sometimes it is not clear.  We plan and wonder if it is what we are supposed to be doing.  That’s ok – as long as our plans are submitted to God and we trust His will.

At the root of our plans our motivation might be difficult to discern, but it reveals the impetus behind the inspiration for our goals.  Pride, insecurity, fame, jealousy, popularity or any other carnal catalysts toward a goal will be burned up in the end.  But purifying our motives before God can confirm whether a goal really is worthwhile, after all, and have eternal rewards. Recognizing that we are just vessels doing His work, not ours is paramount.

Planning in this way leads to encouragement rather than discouragement; if a venture or pursuit fails, then I know either the LORD was not in it or that I need to go back to Him again.  Self is removed when I consider the whole purpose is doing His will and I lay it at his feet again, praying whether it is something I need to cease or whether it is an opportunity to grow in character and not give up.  If I look for outward signs only, including man’s praise rather than an inner peace of walking in His plan, then I can easily become confused and misled.  Being hyper-spiritual is also not a beneficial solution to discerning whether God is in our plans.

If our goal truly is God’s glory, though, then the results are completely up to the LORD.  Failure or success in goals is not what matters most. The success of a goal might even just be the character earned in the process.   We must just be faithful to seek Him daily and press on toward our goals in Christ. Ultimately, our time investment needs to be with eternity in mind and the recognition that everything we have comes from Him.  Everything we set out to do is only by His grace.  Everything is all about Him.

Here’s to planning a godly year in 2015!  Happy New Year’s Eve!!

Lord, our time is in Your hands.  Your will be done in every aspect of our lives!  To you alone be all glory, honor and praise for any accomplishments You allow.

Thoughtful Thursday: The Purpose of Wealth

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Ecclesiastes 5:10-15, 18-20

10 The one who loves money will never be satisfied with money, he who loves wealth will never be satisfied with his income. This also is futile. 11 When someone’s prosperity increases, those who consume it also increase; so what does its owner gain, except that he gets to see it with his eyes? 12 The sleep of the laborer is pleasant – whether he eats little or much – but the wealth of the rich will not allow him to sleep.  13 Here is a misfortune on earth that I have seen: Wealth hoarded by its owner to his own misery14 Then that wealth was lost through bad luck; although he fathered a son, he has nothing left to give him. 15 Just as he came forth from his mother’s womb, naked will he return as he came, and he will take nothing in his hand that he may carry away from his toil.  18 I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all their hard work on earth during the few days of their life which God has given them, for this is their reward. 19 To every man whom God has given wealth, and possessions, he has also given him the ability to eat from them, to receive his reward and to find enjoyment in his toil; these things are the gift of God.  20 For he does not think much about the fleeting days of his life because God keeps him preoccupied with the joy he derives from his activity.

Proverbs 17:16

“Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?” 

Ecclesiastes 7:12
“Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.”  
Luke 16:13-15
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”  The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.  He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” 
1 Timothy 6:10
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 

Luke 12:33
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”

I hate money.  We never have enough of it and it can make life stressful.  Advertisements promise joy to those who pursue financial wealth and the belongings that wealth provides.  Ironically, materialism thwarts the enjoyment of life.  We think we will be happy with the more we own, but it ends up being entrapment.  The more we own, the more we have to take care of.  The saying, “the one who dies with the most toys wins” is clearly not the case – the stress of paying for such lavishness might be what drives one to the grave.  But money is not all bad . . .

Why do we have to have money in this society?  Silly question, I know.  Money is the currency with which we are able to buy goods needed to live.  God knows we need money – so how can it be evil?  Money is not evil in and of itself and is a necessary commodity for life, but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Why?  Is it possible for one to have money and not get sidetracked?  Looking into God’s word we see that loving money is the problem.  Not loving the dollar bills, but what money can do for us, or putting our hope in money.

We do not have to feel guilty for enjoying the things God has given us – Scripture says that is God’s blessing for us.  It is when the things own us or we rely on our paycheck instead of God that our hearts begin to falter.  This is surely tested when one loses their source of income.  My husband and I have walked through job loss twice in the past four years and seen God provide in miraculous ways.  It was an amazing time of learning to trust in Him.  It hurts to be in need, but it also makes us depend upon our Father more.  We gain perspective when their is an absence of money – it forces us to contemplate more carefully what we spend God’s money on.  So what should we do with money?  Buy wisdom.

Ultimately, like everything else God gives us, the Christian needs to surrender this practical aspect of our lives to God, too, and ask what His will is for the finances with which he has been entrusted.  God has not left us without instructions regarding money.  He knows how weak our flesh is.  The first thing we do is acknowledge God with the money He gave and tithe.  It is all His, anyway.  After that, we need to care of the poor, provide for our needs and get wisdom.  I had not thought of getting wisdom with money before, but this principle is repeated in Scripture many times.  How do you get wisdom with money?  Invest in things that grow us in Christ or in knowledge, which translates to skills and serving others. Paying for counsel might be another means.  Though it cost all you have, get wisdom.  A fool has no desire to get wisdom with his finances and wastes his money, but a wise person sees more than just their physical needs.

We can spend an inordinate amount of money on entertainment or having the best of things, but will we later regret those decisions?  My husband and I would one day love to drive a new car, maybe even from the same decade we live in, but God has not provided that for us.  Our vehicles have been mocked, but I am sure God smiles, too.  Saving money each month makes it uncomfortable to make it just to the next paycheck.  We have to do without some things now, but believe that setting aside for the future will be far more enjoyable in the long run.  Godliness with contentment is great gain – far more than worldly wealth could ever give.

We need to think now about where our finances are going before we regret what they could have accomplished for the kingdom of God.  The line at the end of Schindler’s movie still grips my heart.  Looking at the ring on his finger, Schindler asks himself why he did not sell it to save more of the precious lives slaughtered during World War II.  Reflecting on my financial decisions, good and bad, the radical decision to adopt a son instead of buying a luxury car has brought me far more joy than words could ever do justice.   Adoption was not without sacrifice and challenges, but I am so grateful the LORD led me to invest His money that way.  All aspects of our lives are for God’s glory.  Whether it is two mites we have or vast riches we own, all is by Him and for Him.

Lord, thank You for all You have given to us.  We want to be faithful stewards all for Your glory.  Please help us to invest for eternity and not just the here and now.