You Spell Faith “Risk” – Part One

Not everyone is a natural risk-taker. Perhaps you are facing a risky challenge right now. Maybe you are considering taking on a high-risk project. Or maybe you desire to do something significant, and you sense that something big but risky is on the horizon. Or you are considering taking on a project that will require you to learn new skills and go where you have never been (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and skill set wise) before. I am currently in such a place and so have begun to think about what I am risking. Of course, I also see the hand of God and know that He is asking me to take a step of faith. You Spell Faith “Risk” 

On the other hand, maybe you have been risk averse your whole life, and yo recognize how much it has held you back and limited your potential. 

No matter what your circumstances are, here are some things you need to know that will help you to step out in faith and take more risks.

1> Reality is your friend during high-risk times

When taking big risks, you can’t depend on hype or wishful thinking, because those things cannot withstand the heat of risk. You need to understand what you’re dealing with, examine the worse-case scenarios, and look reality dead in the eye. 

How do you look reality in the eye when evaluating a risk? Ask yourself some questions:

    • Who else has done it?
    • How bad can it get?
    • How good can it get?
    • Can I try it on for size?
    • Is there room for error?
    • Do I believe in myself?

The more questions you ask and answer, the better prepared you are to weigh the risk and gauge whether the risk is smart or foolish.

2> You must learn to become comfortable outside of your comfort zone

Risk is rarely comfortable. It requires us to get out of our comfort zone. That’s where we need to live when we are risking big. How do you deal with that? For me, anything worthwhile that I have done initially scared me to death; made me uncomfortable. First sermon? Frightened out of my skin. First time I went witnessing? Scared stiff. I was never good at anything I attempted for the first time and I was always scared when approaching something new.

You have to deal with your emotions and doubts. To continually succeed in high-risk environments, you have to be emotionally comfortable being uncomfortable. How? Start with these three strategies:

A> Don’t look in the mirror

Take the focus off of yourself; you need to always keep in mind that life is not about you. You can’t worry about how you look to others. You can’t be afraid of looking bad.

B> Don’t count loses — Instead, count lessons

Instead of avoiding losses, learn from them. Ask, “What did I learn?” When you seek lessons more than you avoid losses, you become more comfortable with risk. 

C> Focus less on your fear and more on your dreams

When you focus on your dreams, your heart is 100 percent in.

3> Good leadership gives you a greater chance for success

Everything rises and falls on leadership. That is never truer than during times of risk. The size of the leadership must be equal to the size of the risk. If you’re going to attempt something difficult, you need good leadership. You need to either provide it yourself or find a partner who can help you lead. And if you’re going to try something huge, you’ll need lots of leaders. Any great attempt without gear leadership is destined to fizzle out.

If you are preparing to take a big risk, it may require every leadership skill you possess to accomplish it. Don’t take that lightly. Keep growing as a leader. The more you increase your leadership potential, the more you increase your capacity for risk.

And it you’re already a leader, you also need to provide others with a pro-risk environment so that they’re willing to deal with their fears and take steps forward, outside of their comfort zones. 

More next time… 

Growing Through Criticism – Part Three

We are looking at “tips for taking criticism” and we have seen:

1> Understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism

2> Don’t take yourself too seriously

3> Look beyond the criticism and see the critic

4> Watch your own attitude toward the critic

5> Realize that good people get criticized.

Jesus, those motives were pure and character was spotless was called a glutton (Matthew 11:19); a winebibber – drunk (Luke 7:34); a Samaritan (John 8:48); a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19 and Mark 2:16). If our lives are Christlike we can expect criticism. In fact, there are times when we should see criticism from the world as verification that our lives have been changed. A person whose mind is polluted and whose vision is not clear cannot understand or interpret behaviour based on obedience to God. So if you’re living on a higher plane than the world, expect some criticism.

6> Keep physically and spiritually in shape.

Physical exhaustion has a tremendous effect on the way we act and react; it distorts the way we see and handle life. Elijah succumbed to opposition when he was in a state of weariness. Jezebel was a firecracker, and her opposition sapped the preacher’s strength. Elijah complained, “It is enough, now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4). Elijah was completely shaken. Watch weariness because Satan will take advantage. When we become overly tired, we can become overly critical, and at the same time we are less able to handle criticism from others.

7> Don’t just see the critic; see if there’s a crowd.

The following story illustrates this point. Mrs. Jones had invited a great and well-known violinist to entertain at her afternoon tea. When it was all over, everyone crowded around the musician.

“I’ve got to be honest with you,” said one of the guests, “I think your performance was absolutely terrible.”

Hearing his criticism, the hostess interposed: “Don’t pay any attention to him. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He only repeats what he hears everyone else say.”

I’m suggesting that you expand your vision; go beyond the critic and see if he has a cheering section. Consider the possibility that you are hearing the same criticism from several people. If this is the case, and the critics are reliable, you need to realize that you have a challenge to work on. If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with a pocket group of negative people, your challenge is to not be affected by them.

George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright, certainly had his critics, but he knew how to handle them. After one opening, a critic voiced his displeasure. He said, “It’s rotten! It’s rotten!” To which Shaw replied, “I agree with you perfectly, but what are we two against so many?”

8> Wait for time to prove them wrong.

Time is your best ally; it allows you to prove yourself right. Often, as events unfold, the cause for criticism is eliminated and you will be vindicated. You may be thinking, “ Easy for you to say, but you’re not where I am.” But I have been there many times. If you know your action or decision was right, hang in there. Time will prove you out.

Abraham Lincoln, the most loved president of the united States, was also the most criticized president. Probably no politician in history had worse things said about him. Here’s how the Chicago Times in 1865 evaluated Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address the day after he delivered it. “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dish-watery utterances of a man who has been pointed out to intelligent foreigners as President of the United States.” Time, of course, has proved the scathing criticism wrong. 

Loving Difficult People – Part Four

Perhaps you have recognized someone you know in each of these caricatures we have been looking at. Or maybe you’re dealing with a person so difficult, he is in a category all by himself. Take heart; there are certain general rules which you can put into practice that will enable you to work more effectively with problem people.

1> Love them unconditionally.

2> Ask God for wisdom in working with them.

3> Stay emotionally healthy yourself.

4> Set and maintain proper personal boundaries with the person.

5> Be honest with God, yourself, and them.

The Process of Relationships

It’s important to understand the process of relationships; specifically the stages of a relational breakdown. Let’s take a look at them one by one.

  • The Honeymoon stage is the one we begin with. We usually have an unrealistic view of the relationship at this point. Obviously, what attracts people to each other, whether it be a business relationship, a friendship, or a romance are their positive qualities. The excitement of finding someone who meets some need in our lives tends to temporarily blind us to their negative traits.
  • Specific irritation is the stage where we begin to open our eyes and see things we don’t like. Here we develop a memory bank of these negative traits. But then we also see the relationship in a more realistic light. If you look back at the early weeks of your marriage or of a new job, you will probably recall the first incident that shook you into reality — the time you realized the honeymoon was over.
  • General discomfort should cause us to deal with the specific irritations that have piled up in our memory banks. We become more open, honest, and transparent about telling someone why they are making us uncomfortable.
  • Try harder stage of development where we raise our energy level to make a success of the relationship. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s very hard to separate the problem from the person.
  • Exhaustion often becomes a serious problem in a relationship because we are too tired to try any longer. We tend to throw up our hands and quit at this crucial point. 
  • Separation is the final stage. By this time the relationship has usually been terminated with little hope of restoration. Usually, by the time this happens we are too numb to even care or hurt.

The series of stages does not have to be completed; the cycle can be broken. Most often, if the process is reversed, it happens during the stage of general discomfort. At that point it is still possible to make the decision to accept what you don’t like about a person and to love that person unconditionally. As you try harder to overlook a person’s faults, it becomes easier to again focus your attention on his or her positive traits.

Problems in Relationships

In most relationship it is inevitable that at some point a confrontation will take place. At this crisis point it’s very important to approach the offending party prepared with the right attitude. If a confrontation is handled correctly, it can actually strengthen the relationship. If not, it can bring an abrupt, unhappy end to the relationship. In order for this not to happen, follow these six guidelines:

1> Bring in principle persons involved in the conflict. Experience has taught me that unless all persons involved come together, the whole story will never be pieced together accurately.

2> Line up the facts. Relying on hearsay evidence or “general impressions” will only invite emotion-laden rebuttals and, possibly, resentful counterattacks.

3> Never reprimand while angry. Make sure you are in control of your emotions. The angrier you are, the less objective you’ll be — and the less effective you will be in dealing with the problem or issue. It’s prudent to delay a confrontation until you’ve coolly asked yourself two questions: Could I have contributed to the problem? Were there mitigating circumstances I’m overlooking

4> Be precise about the offense. Let the person know exactly what the problem is. Don’t try to soften the blow by hemming and hawing or refusing to cough up the details. 

5> Get the other person’s side of the story. Always give the other person the chance to explain what happened and why they behaved as they did. There may be extenuating circumstances. Sometimes, you may even be a part of them. 

6> Don’t harbour a grudge. Once you have handled the issue, don’t carry around hostilities or unforgiveness. Let that person know you consider the problem a closed book and act accordingly.

 Our ultimate goal in dealing with relational problems should be to present the truth in such a way as to build and strengthen the relationship, not destroy it. Unfortunately, this cannot always be accomplished. If a relationship cannot stand an honest face-to-face encounter, then it probably is not a healthy relationship. In some cases, ending the relationship is the only solution, but this should be the last choice. 

Sometimes I have Stinking Thinking

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-have-stinking-thinking/

Here is what I know:

Wrong thinking leads to wrong living

Here is another thing I know:

Manure happens

And, a third thing that I know:

One of the greatest stumbling blocks to spiritual life and spiritual growth is getting stuck in our negative, untrue, and impure thoughts instead of believing and living what God says in His Word

Our natural or built-in language is negative Read more

Loving Difficult People – Part One

Are you aware of the tremendous advantage frogs have over humans? They can eat anything that bugs them! Wouldn’t it be great of we could consume our relational problems rather than letting them consume us! What “bugs” you the most about people? Is it inconsistency? Inflexibility? Inability to give and take? Bad attitudes? Whatever it is that makes relationships difficult for you to build and maintain is something that needs to be looked at and dealt with. 

I personally can handle disagreements or differences of opinion, but people who refuse to engage in and embrace a relationship that they have chosen to become involved in really gets to me. It means that the relationship becomes very one-sided very quickly. All give and no take. You share feelings and thoughts and there is no response, no interaction. So, it is like talking into a void never knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling. 

I find that most Christian people suffer from very poor and even surface relationships. They truly are missing the relational skills needed to form and build healthy beneficial relationships with others believers and with non-believers. And, as a result they suffer from guilt in their relationships with others. 

Christians are often taught that we should be full of grace,. Sounds good. But, what does it mean? Does God expect us to get along peaceably with everybody? Are we suppose to simply overlook other people’s faults and idiosyncrasies? Right relationships with difficult people can seem like an impossible standard to reach. Just what are we suppose to do?

The Apostle Paul offers this practical advice, “If possible, so far as it depends upon you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). You might paraphrase that verse to read: Do the best you can to get along with everyone. Yet realize that once in a while you are going to have a relationship with a difficult person that may fall short of the ideal. 

A personal inventory of the “Three P’s” will help you determine your part in a difficult relationship or association.

    • Perspective. How do I see myself? How do I see others? How do others see me? Our perspective determines how far our relationships will develop.
    • Process. Do I understand the stages of a relationship? Do I realize there are some stages in a relationship that are more critical than others?
    • Problems. When facing difficulties in a relationship, how do I handle them?

Show me a person who sees themselves in a negative light and I will show you a person who sees others in a negative way. The opposite is also true. A person who sees himself positively also looks for the good in others. It’s all in one’s perspective. 

Some people see a relationship as a series of isolated incidents, and one bad incident can break the relationship. People who think this way never develop deep relationships. Their friendships are precarious, on-again-off-again types of associations. These people run every time a difficult situation arises. They seldom, if ever, develop long-standing relationships.

Let’s take a look at perspective first. We act in a way that is consistent with the way we see ourselves. I act as I see myself. In fact, it is impossible to consistently behave in a manner that is inconsistent with the way we see ourselves. Understandably, this is the cause of many relationship problems. 

Only when we view ourselves with 20/20 vision will we be able to see other people clearly. Perspective is crucial. That’s why Jesus spoke about judging others: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5). He is telling us we need to deal with our own attitudes before we criticize another person.

In Matthew 22:39 we read Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour as yourself.” He knew that if we truly loved ourselves, we would also love our neighbour. He also knew that before we could really love our neighbour, we would need to love ourselves — not a selfish, self-serving type of love, but a deep appreciation of who we are in Christ. Most of the time our relational problems stem from the fact that we ourselves have problems or issues that have not been resolved. It is not possible to treat another person’s hurt until we have first discovered the cure and accepted the treatment ourselves.

The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37 illustrates this principle. The robbers who beat the the traveler used people. They stole from the traveler and saw him as a victim to exploit. The priest and the Levite were legalistic and withdrawn. They saw the beaten, robbed victim as a problem to be avoided, because they believed if they touched a dead man they would be unclean according to the Law. The Good Samaritan was a social outcast — despised, ignored, and rejected by society. He knew what it was like to be passed by and uncared for, but he also had experienced the cure. When he saw this victim, he was able to empathize with him. He looked upon him as a person who needed to be loved, identifying with the traveler’s problem and sharing in the solution. 

It is perspective that helps build relationships. 

When you realize that people treat you according to how they see themselves rather than how you really are, you are less likely to be affected by their behaviour. Your self-image will reflect who you are, not how you are treated by others. You will not be riding an emotional roller coaster. This type of stability will have a tremendous effect on how you feel toward and deal with others.

The key to successful relationships really gets down to responsibility. I am responsible for how I treat others. I may not be responsible for how they treat me; but I am responsible for my reaction to those who are difficult. I can’t choose how you’ll treat me, but I can choose how I will respond to you. 

More next time…

Sometimes I Live Without Hope

https://rhm.podbean.com/e/sometimes-i-live-without-hope/

HOPE – A LIVING REALITY

In the last few weeks I have come to realize how many people – including believers – live without hope

They feel hopeless

They sense that they are hopeless

They live with this nagging feeling that no matter what they do nothing is going to change – hopeless

On my recent trip to Montreal I met with a man who is in his early forties … “without hope”

In his mind:

  • No future
  • No open door to a bright future
  • No way out
  • No potential for change
  • No possibility of overcoming “life”

In a recent visit with one of my sons: Read more

A Look Inside Yourself – Part Four

We are looking at questions we might want to ask ourselves several times a year when taking a good look inside our heart; when taking a spiritual inventory. A practice that all believers should adopt and implement in their lives. 

1> Is my personal walk with God up to date?

2> Am I keeping my priorities straight?

3> Am I asking myself the difficult questions?

4> Am I accountable to someone who knows me well and who can ask all the hard questions?

5> Am I sensitive to what God is saying to the Body of Christ, the Church?

6> Am I overly concerned with image building?

7> Am I overly impressed by signs and wonders?

8> Am I a loner in my walk with Jesus and service for the Lord?

Hebrews 10:23-25 admonishes us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

It is never healthy to be a “Lone Ranger” in our walk with the Lord and our service to the Lord. Bring others along with you – family, friends, colleagues. Not only is it more fun to share the joy of the journey with others, but being part of a team can provide a system of accountability as well. 

When we design our lives after the Lone Ranger concept, we are sure to suffer some unfavourable consequences. We develop a distorted perception of ourselves, our ministries, and other people. We are imbalanced and incomplete without the other members of the Body of Christ and their spiritual gifts. We become irrelevant because we don’t live where other people live. There is a sense of exclusiveness and an inability to relate to the real world. 

9> Am I aware of my weaknesses?

To be forewarned is to be forearmed! Perhaps we should ask an even more important question: Am I honest about my weaknesses? Most of us know our deficiencies, but we have a tendency to try to cover them.

Take a moment now and consider areas of weakness that could cause you to become sidetracked in your life. Realize that these are the very areas in which you will be tempted. Are you tempted by an opportunities simply because they may be ego-gratifying? Do you expect too much of others or not enough of yourself? Do you get your feelings hurt easily? Remember, that the first step to overcoming any weakness is to admit to yourself that there you have one.

10> Is my commitment constantly before me?

This is supremely important if God has called you into a position of Christian leadership. However, it is also important in all aspects of life as we are all called to live with integrity no matter what God has asked and gifted us to do and accomplish for Him. Every believer has a calling.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:24, “So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” Remember when Paul stood before King Agrippa and said, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” Paul could have been tempted to give up, take other options, or yield to the persecution, but the thing that kept him on track was the vision before him.

The world continually thrusts opportunities at us which would distract us from what God has asked us to do for Him – God’s calling on our life. There is nothing more tragic than when a Christian allows himself to become sidetracked. There is no higher violation of God’s trust. 

Cavett Roberts, a great motivational speaker, once said, “If my people understand me, I’ll get their attention. But if my people trust me, I’ll get their action. People respond quickest and most ably when we have credibility and can be trusted. If God can maintain His faith in you, so will others. 

So, ten questions to help us be a person that others respect….

1> Is my personal walk with God up to date?

2> Am I keeping my priorities straight?

3> Am I asking myself the difficult questions?

4> Am I accountable to someone who knows me well and who can ask all the hard questions?

5> Am I sensitive to what God is saying to the Body of Christ, the Church?

6> Am I overly concerned with image building?

7> Am I overly impressed by signs and wonders?

8> Am I a loner in my walk with Jesus and service for the Lord?

9> Am I aware of my weaknesses?

10> Is my commitment constantly before me?

You might want to copy and save them your iPhone or iPad so you can ask yourself about them several times a year. 

A Look Inside Yourself – Part Three

We are looking at questions we might want to ask ourselves several times a year when taking a good look inside our heart; when taking a spiritual inventory. A practice that all believers should adopt and implement in their lives. 

1> Is my personal walk with God up to date?

2> Am I keeping my priorities straight?

3> Am I asking myself the difficult questions?

4> Am I accountable to someone who knows me well and who can ask all the hard questions?

5> Am I sensitive to what God is saying to the Body of Christ, the Church?

Are you sensitive to the fact that God speaks to others too? If you can’t answer an unqualified yes, you’re skating on thin ice. In the checks and balances of Christian integrity, the Spirit speaks to others in the Body who compliment and make up for our weaknesses.

Paul beautifully portrays this principle in 1 Corinthians 12 when he speaks about how one member of the body is not to despise another; rather, we are to compliment each other. Not one of us has the corner on God’s gift of hearing what the Spirit is saying to us as the corporate body of believers. And what we think He is saying to us should be in line with what He is saying elsewhere in the Body. 

6> Am I overly concerned with image building?

Too many believers have become more interested in image-building than in kingdom-building. Pretence has replaced passion in our lives. How we deal with the following four areas will reveal our authenticity, both when with other believers and when with non-believers; inside the church and in the world.

      • Character. Do I make decisions based what is right or what is most easily accepted? Do I follow the general flow of society ( or the Church in general) or do I flow with what the Spirit is saying?
      • Change. Do I change my personality, speech, or actions according to the people I am with?
      • Credit. When I do something for theLord, do people see me or do they see my God? And do I care who receives the credit?
      • Channel. Does God work through my life to touch others? If other lives are not changing as a result of mine, this is a good indication that the image I’m building is my own, not God’s. Only if you are open, honest, transparent, and vulnerable with others can God use you to change others.

7> Am I overly impressed by signs and wonders?

We all seek to experience revival. But more than seeking revival, we need to seek God. Then we will experience revival, healings, and miracles. But if we pursue revival for revival’s sake, we are seeking secondary results.

Luke 10:17-20 speaks to this. “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

God is not in the entertainment business. When He works miracles it is for one purpose only — the ultimate good of His Kingdom. A wise old minister once said to a younger one, “God can work miracles through anybody. If He made Balaam’s donkey speak by a miracle, don’t get puffed up if He decides to work a few through you.”

When God does a great work through you, does it humble you or does it feed your ego? The appreciation and fascination for God’s moving should never dim or replace our desire for holy living and righteous character.

A Look Inside Yourself – Part Two

We are looking at questions we might want to ask ourselves several times a year when taking a good look inside our heart; when taking a spiritual inventory. A practice that all believers should adopt and implement in their lives. 

1> Is my personal walk with God up to date?

2> Am I keeping my priorities straight?

3> Am I asking myself the difficult questions?

What are the difficult and critical questions? The first one is, “Why am I doing this? Why am I spending time on this project, looking at this web site, or with these people? What are my motives? Did the Lord lead me here or did I just come on my own?

The second question is, “How should this be done?” In other words, whatever your life today brings your way you should be asking the Lord how to deal with it, handle it, accomplish it? This question is dealing with presumption. The danger of presumption is ever-present especially for those who are suppose to be guided and directed by the Holy Spirit. Moses strikes the rock to produce water on one occasion and them presumes quite wrongly that this is to be God’s method on a later occasion.

The third critical question is, “When should I do it?”  This question obviously deals with timing. When does God want His task accomplished? When is the best time to move forward on that decision you just made (to build a friendship, to buy a house, to switch jobs…. Again, aggressive believers have a tendency to run ahead of God’s timetable for their lives. Many Bible characters had this tendency. We have a tendency to want short-term success at the expense of God’s long-term will. 

4> Am I accountable to someone who knows me well and who can ask all the hard questions?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 we read, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”

You are at peace in yourself when you are walking with someone who knows you well, has permission to ask you the tough questions, and to whom you have willingly submitted your life and are thus accountable to. This can be someone in official authority such as a pastor or a team leader. But it can also just be a friend or family member who sees and knows the real you and to whom you have given permission to check up on you and the way you are thinking and living and do so on a regular basis. 

One of the reasons I believe in the local church is because this can be a safe place to be open and accountable. Every Christian should be a member of a local assembly and should submit to someone in the group who they relate to and trust. In other words, someone you have a healthy and open relationship and connection to.

Here are the accountability questions I have adopted in both my life and my ministry…

  1. Have you spent daily time in God’s Word and in prayer?
  2. Have you flirted, or had lustful attitudes, tempting thoughts, or exposed yourself to any explicit materials which would not glorify God?
  3. Have you been completely above reproach in your financial dealings?
  4. Have you pursued the hearts of your wife and kids?
  5. Have you done your 100% best in your job, school, etc.?
  6. Have you told any half truths or outright lies, putting yourself in a better light to those around you?
  7. Have you shared the Gospel with an unbeliever this week?
  8. Have you taken care of your body through daily physical exercise and proper eating/sleeping habits?
  9. Have you allowed any person or circumstance to rob you of your joy?
  10. Have you lied on any of your answers?

A Look Inside Yourself – Part One

Too often believers don’t take the time or make the space for personal reflection and self-examination. I call this taking a ‘spiritual inventory.’ It means actually scheduling the time to take a deep dive inside your own heart or spirit and being honest with yourself about the condition of your inner life. This is important for many reasons but especially because Jesus stated clearly that “out of the heart the mouth speaks.” And, the Bible teaches that your heart defines how you live and who you are. It is from the heart that life flows. This then plays a major influence on what you accomplish in life.

Over the years I have practiced taking a ‘spiritual inventory’ during the New Year’s break from my regular routine and again during my summer slowdown from ministry. And, I have collected a series of questions that enable me to focus on my inner life and take an honest look at the condition of that “life.” Let me share them with you.

1> Is my personal walk with God up to date?

This question should prompt a quick and positive answer. If not, you are getting too close to the edge, too close to trouble. Each day you need to be hearing the voice of the Lord for yourself. His Words are spirit and life (John 6:63) and without hearing directly from the Lord regularly then you are drifting and in danger (Hebrews 2:1). So, the question you should ask yourself (or have an accountability partner ask you) is:

“Do I have a word from the Lord for myself that is current and up-to-date?”

“What have I been learning recently in my time with the Lord?”

“What aspect of my life has the Lord been speaking to me about in the last few months?”

The most active and alive believers are those who have a disciplined daily walk with the Lord. This walk is the best protection to keep us from falling into sin.

Why is this so essential to the believer? Because the Word of God convicts our hearts. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you …” It also helps us think like God. The things that we think on are the things that we become (Proverbs 23:7). 

If we are not spending time with God, we are spending that time with whatever it is that has become more important to us. When this happens we quickly become insensitive to His Spirit and therefore, we no longer have the strength to resist temptation. It boils down to the simple fact that I first learned when saved many decades ago: “Sin will keep us from the Word or the Word will keep us from sin.”

A person of integrity is one who has established a system of values against which all life is judged. The system of values is determined by a person’s walk with God. When we attempt to “talk the talk” without “walking the walk,” we are destined to failure. We can avoid this pitfall by keeping our walk With God vital and daily, close and consistent. 

2> Am I keeping my priorities straight?

Priorities have a tendency to sneak out of position when we are not paying attention to them. Countless number of believers have become busy living life only to discover the tragic price of their being so busy was a broken marriage, the loss of personal health, or the failure of their walk with God. At some point along the road, their priorities shifted and their journey changed. 

The first priority of any Christian should be his or her relationship with God. That means growing closer to Him, worshipping and loving Him, and being obedient to Him. The careful maintenance of this relationship is the surest safeguard against life ending up where it should not be. 

One of my favourite passages is John 21:15 where Jesus asks of Peter, “Peter, do you love Me more than these?” The question the Chief Shepherd most wants us to answer is not, “How much do you know about Me?” Or even, “How much are you telling the world about Me?” It is, “How much do you love Me?” Our relationship with Him must be a priority. 

Our second priority should be our family responsibilities and our third concern should be touching others with the love of God and the message of the Kingdom and salvation. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 5:8, “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.” 

Such sober warnings in the Word of God should impress upon us the important of keeping our priorities straight: God first, family second, career and ministering to others third.