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Posts tagged ‘Priorities’

Downsizing with Class – Possessions and Priorities

PossessionsFrom start to finish, the thrust of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was that God’s way of living contradicts the world’s way.

If you want to live for God, He warned, you must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world. His first-century words about what people work for read as if they were specifically spoken for the benefit of our consumer-driven age.

Interact with God’s Word

Matthew 6:19-21, Matthew 6:25, Matthew 6:31-33

  1. What is the answer to Jesus’ question in verse 25b? What else is there?
  2. Why don’t we need to be preoccupied by these things, according to verses 26-30?
  3. What are typical “treasures” for upwardly mobile people in our society?
  4. Why did Jesus say that majoring on accumulating these things is a mistake?
  5. Verse 21 says that our thoughts will gravitate toward whatever our treasure is. How can we shift our focus, according to verses 20 and 33?
  6. What is the divine guarantee (v. 33) for those who make following His will their priority?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God to help you trust Him for your basic needs and to keep your focus on Kingdom concerns.

Matthew 6:19-21, 25, 31-33

19 Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.

25 So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing?

31 So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. 32 Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, 33 and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.

 

Downsizing with Class – God’s Combo

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  –  Acts 20:35

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:9-13

Recently my adult daughter decided that she was no longer going to play her drum set because she’d acquired other interests. We agreed to get rid of the set since it cluttered our family room.

Initially we talked about selling the set, but we decided that we’d take a few days to think about other options. We prayed for inspiration.

Eventually we came up with the idea of giving the drums to a percussion student at an inner-city school. I called the school on Friday and told the secretary that we’d like to donate the instruments to a student. She promised to explore the possibilities.

The following Monday I received a call from the school’s music director. “You’re not going to believe this,” he said. “We were talking last week about starting a band and wondering where we’d get a saxophone and drums. When I came into the office today, I discovered a donated sax and a note from you about drums.”

That day my daughter and I delivered the set to the school. Initially we thought we were doing a good deed by giving away the drums. We discovered instead that God had called us to be caretakers of His drums.

—Quentin Schultze in Here I Am

My Response: I sensed I was “caretaker” of what God had entrusted to me when …

Thought to Apply: We have been called to stretch out the hands of God to a lonely, needy world.—Source Unknown

Adapted from Here I Am (Baker, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.

 

Downsizing with Class – Beat the System

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: Doesn’t life consist of more than food or clothing? … Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things. Matthew 6:25-32

Bonus Reading: Matthew 6:19-21, 25, 31-34

My wife and I enjoy finding ways around the economic pressures of our world. Bargain hunting, using coupons, and looking for deals can help us acquire the things we need without being extravagant.

When we were engaged, Christie started looking for a wedding gown. Several of our friends had spent in excess of $1,000 for theirs, but no matter how romantic we felt, we simply couldn’t rationalize such an expenditure for the sake of a six-hour afternoon.

We prayed about it, and she went bargain hunting. The end result? A beautiful gown in Filenes’ Basement in Boston for $29.

During my seminary days, I needed a suit for leadership in Sunday worship, but I had no suit and little money. Again, we prayed. Then we headed off to a “railroad salvage” warehouse to start shopping. For only $25 I got a Pierre Cardin suit that looked tailored to me and perfectly met my needs.

Beat the system. Used cars, discount outlets, buying in volume through cooperatives, and taking the time to research before purchasing can enhance our stewardship and cut back our spending. In the process, we can have fun.

—Paul Borthwick in How to Be a World-Class Christian

My Response: One way I’ve found to “beat the system” is to …

Thought to Apply: Resolve not to be poor; whatever you have, spend less.—Samuel Johnson (English writer)

Adapted from How to Be a World-Class Christian (OM Literature, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.

 

Downsizing with Class – When Less Is More

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine. Psalm 4:7

Bonus Reading: Job 31:24-28

Because we’ve lived on a modest income through most of our marriage, my wife wondered out loud one day if she should get a job to ease financial pressures. Yet if she worked even part-time, we realized, we’d pay more income tax and the net financial benefit would be minimal.

We reviewed the benefits of Donna remaining a stay-at-home parent. We eat nutritious meals because she invests time in planning and preparing meals. At the same time we save money because she makes time to be an excellent purchaser, not relying on packaged meals or fast food.  Her creative gifts are obvious through how she cares for and decorates our home.

The greatest advantage has been her availability to our children. She involved them in projects for both work and play when they were younger so that creativity, instead of television, nurtured their development.

Though we’re closing in on the empty nest, the kids thrive on knowing that she’s available when one of them needs reassurance, help, or advice. We’re able to plan our schedules without considering another job commitment. And her involvement in teaching small group Bible studies has changed other women’s lives.

—Grant McDowell in Alberta

My Response: Is a second family income required for subsistence or elected to support lifestyle choices?

Thought to Apply: One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.—Sidney Coe Howard (playwright)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.

 

Downsizing with Class – Staying Freed Up

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: If your wealth increases, don’t make it the center of your life.  – Psalm 62:10

Bonus Reading: Luke 12:16-21

How do you decide what you’ll buy and own?

For seven years my wife and I owned a weekend lake house just outside of town. Virtually every Friday afternoon we’d “kidnap” our children and spend the weekend doing country things.

When our daughter turned 11, though, her in-town friends became very important to her. We only went to the lake house once that year, so I decided to sell the property to a neighbor who’d expressed an interest in purchasing it. That decision, and similar ones I’ve made since—to not own anything we don’t use on a regular basis—has kept my wife and me lean and responsive to God’s leading in our lives.

A neighbor of mine owns a 1957 Chris Craft Sportsman inboard boat. It’s magnificent. He’s completely restored the mahogany to its original luster. I love the throaty purr of its engine when he drives by.

Three years ago I told him that I’d be interested if he ever wanted to sell the boat. He recently decided to take me up on that offer. But as we prepared to close the deal, I had second thoughts. I concluded that I shouldn’t buy something just because I can, that denying myself the boat would be a good lesson in self-restraint and personal discipline.

—Patrick Morley in New Man

My Response: How can I tell whether I own my things or they own me?

Thought to Apply: He has much who needs least. Don’t create necessities for yourself. —Jose Escriva (Spanish founder of Opus Dei)

Adapted from New Man (7-8/00)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.

 

Downsizing with Class – The Good Old Days

PossessionsKey Bible Verse: Enjoy prosperity while you can. But when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.  – Ecclesiastes 7:14

Bonus Reading:  Deuteronomy 8:7-18

“When you are my age,” wrote James Michaels in Forbes magazine, “You don’t have to ask: Are Americans really materially better off than they were in the recent past?

Those of us born in the 1920s and with vivid memories of the Depression simply know how much better things are today. … If he was fortunate enough to have central heating (less than one third of the population did in 1920), the middle class dad had to pull himself from bed at 4:00 a.m. on cold winter mornings to unbank the furnace and shovel coal; if he overslept, the pipes froze.

But he usually didn’t have to rake leaves or shovel snow. Not in the 1930s. That was done by shabby, humble men who knocked at the back door in the mornings asking for a warm meal in return for doing chores.”

Michaels goes on to remind us that:

  • 80 years ago the typical workweek was at least 60 hours.
  • The leisure industry didn’t exist because no one had leisure.
  • For half of the population, the family toilet was a hole in the backyard.
  • Life expectancy was about 54 years, which was just as well, because there were few pensions beyond what a gold watch may have brought at a pawnshop.

—M. Craig Barnes in Hustling God

My Response: I’ll thank God for the prosperity I enjoy compared to other times and places.

Adapted from Hustling God (Zondervan, 1999)

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.

 

Downsizing with Class – Bucking the Trend

PossessionsWho Said It …Cliff Denay

Clifford E. Denay Jr. is an outdoorsman who loves running, walking, hiking, bicycling, and kayaking with his wife Jane. They have camped and traveled regularly with their children Nathaniel and Emily, now young adults.

Cliff teaches psychology at the community college in Petoskey, Michigan, and also provides its students with mental health counseling. He’s involved in the leadership of his church.

What He Said …Bucking the Trend

I had been out of the real estate market for 17 years. Recently I walked back in—and quickly discovered that you can’t always have what you want.

I’m not talking about affordability. Sure, cost is always an issue. But I’m talking about size—the restrictions that developers place on the size of dwellings. I examined the restrictions on the lot we were considering. The homes on either side were big. “This may not be the property for us,” I told our realtor.

“Why not, Cliff?” she asked. “You said it’s what you’re looking for.”

“The square footage requirement. It’s too big.”

“How big were you thinking,” she asked.

“Small,” I answered. “Smaller than you think.” I sighed.

My wife and I are clearly out of step with the times, but in step with Solomon who said, “have the wisdom to show restraint” (Proverbs 23:4, NIV).

Neither of us believes that “trophy” homes are a good use of the earth’s resources. It’s hard to think small in a “super-sized” culture. Hard, but not impossible.

Prayer for the Week: Lord, help me to hold my belongings loosely so that I’m not diverted from Your Kingdom priorities.

Lenten Devotional – Day 8

Lent 3Many people commemorate the 40-days before Easter by choosing to fast in some way.  Some give up chocolate, caffeine or food in general.  Others turn off media outlets or choose to wake up a bit earlier every morning, a sacrifice of sleep, to spend more time with God.

The big idea is to identify with Christ in His suffering and focus that time or desire more fully on Him.  I didn’t grow up practicing this tradition but I like the idea of having a tangible reminder that redirects me back to Jesus.

Yesterday when I answered the question about what I didn’t want Jesus to ask me to give up – it revealed (again) an area of dependence in my life, sugar.

I move toward sugary snacks out of familiarity, routine, boredom and a desire for comfort.  That might sound bizarre to some of you but it’s true for me.  Sugar influences my day more than God does at times.  It’s a substance that I have to continually evaluate and guard against or an unhealthy dependence begins again.  I am in a season of unhealthy dependence right now.

For this 40-day fast, I could have chosen something easier – something that would have been inconvenient to give up for 40 days but would have ensured “success” at the end.  But in light of the passage in Matthew 19:16-30, I couldn’t help but sense that I would have been only trying to look religious and in doing so might miss the presence of God with me.

The young man in Matthew was calculated about his worship, and he walked away when real sacrifice was required.  When Jesus upped the ante and asked the young man for his the things he depended on apart from God, the young man walked away, sad.

I do that.  I give in to things like sugar because they don’t require anything from me.  In the next 40 days I want to bring those sin patterns to God. I want all facets of my life to bow to Him alone.

Should I fail to resist sugars hollow charms at some point over the next few weeks, I want to keep my error in perspective with these questions.  Maybe they will be a help to you as well.

What is your hope for Easter Sunday?  Do you want to celebrate how much self-control you have?  Or, do you want to celebrate the fact that you have a great Savior who meets you in times of defeat?

– Katie Croft

Lenten Devotional – Day 7

Lent 3When I think about what Jesus gave up for me on the cross I can’t help but wonder at our contrast.  What would I be willing to give up for someone who had wronged me?

Jesus met with a prominent man who had toed the line of morality and religious rules well for years.  Jesus’s friend Matthew records his observations of the interaction in his gospel – Matthew 19:16-30.

Jesus used questions to communicate with this young man.  When Jesus listed many of the 10 commandments the rich young ruler stated that he had successfully obeyed them all.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus did not correct him.  The disciples must have been impressed with the man’s spiritual display as well.  The rich young man’s external choices of obedience and worship were good.

But Jesus knows our hearts – better than we know them ourselves.

Jesus says, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  With this second statement, Jesus channels to the man’s internal loyalty to possessions before God.

The first commandment, Thou shalt have no other gods before me, was not in the young man’s list of successes.  Jesus gave him an opportunity to realign his worship by walking away from entrapment of possessions to serve Him.  But the man couldn’t do it.

We read that the rich young man walked away sad.  That puzzles me.  What could have been so precious that he wouldn’t give it up to be with Jesus?  After all, he was giving up so many other things for God.  Why not this last straw?

The question becomes profound when I put myself in the young man’s shoes.

I can think of a few habits in my life where I do the same thing.  These habits, loyalties and choices keep me from Jesus.  Like the rich young ruler I too grow sad when I say yes to them instead of Jesus.  But, I’m entangled with these counterfeit gods.  I live for their quick fixes and their false protection.

Once again I find myself living for the “x” and choose to sidestep the work or sacrifice that a life lived for eternity might bring.

Take a moment to consider what question you would not want Jesus to ask you.

What do you fear He would require from you?

Talk with God about the habits, beliefs and choices that are keeping you from Him.