Hunt for What is Scarce – Or Build Abundance – Your Choice

In my first year at university, I studied economics.  And the very first lecture I attended, introduced us to the concept of scarcity.  It’s a very useful concept to keep in mind, but it has some nasty side effects, when applied too generally.

The principle of scarcity very simply states that there is an infinite amount of needs, and a finite amount of resources to meet those needs.  This is not a static concept.  It grows.  When you first start working, you want a place to stay.  And when you have a place to stay, you want some music in there, so you buy a CD player.  And then you buy CD’s.  Then you realize that just listening to music is not enough, you also want to sit and read, so you buy a book-shelf, and start buying books.  And then you need a comfortable place to sit and read, so you buy a comfortable chair.  Then your apartment gets too small, and you want a bigger one.  Then that one looks too empty so you get more furniture.  And so it goes on and on.  Every need or want we fulfil, seems to give birth to more needs and wants.

When you run business with a scarcity concept, it becomes what is called a “zero sum game.” The concept of a zero sum game says that there is a certain amount of resources, a certain size of market, a certain amount of money that we are all competing for.  It means that if the business across the road succeeds, then it must have a negative impact on my business, because some of the money the consumers could have spent with me is now being spent there.

Another common approach to business success is to compare it to sport – where there are winners and losers.  Each company is like a sports team, and everyone else are the competition.  Survival in this mind-set is based on winning.

A building mind-set changes all of this.  When you build, you find that resources are not finite, but infinite.  They are not a static concept, but something you create as you build.  As you identify needs, you begin to identify strategies for building what you need to be able to meet those needs.  And once you’ve built that, you begin to realize that new opportunities have opened up to you because of your greater capability and improved facilities.  So you start engaging in these opportunities, and find more needs around them arising – which requires that you build some more, to be able to also meet those.  So the infinite nature of the needs around you, become the very source of your infinite potential for growth.

The winner-loser concept that we get from the sports mind set, is also no longer an issue when we have a building mind-set.  It is not about competing with those around you, but about building what you are best at, and in the process using some of the resources from what people around you have built, and making what you are building available, to those around you – and so you build an economic community of interdependent businesses.  Now the success of the business across the road is not at your expense.  They are busy growing the resources that are available to you, and that business and its employees is part of a growing market you can potentially serve.  And your growth is doing the same for them.

When there are a few hunters in the same field, they start hunting the same game.  There are only so many big animals around.  And once the biggest Eland has been taken down, the next one is smaller.  So it continues, and if the balance between the number of hunters and animals tips to the wrong side, then sooner or later the hunters have to start killing each other to get to those last, very precious heads of game.  And when those are gone, they all kill each other, and then the last one starves to death, or becomes a leaf eater.

But when the builder notices that stones are becoming scarce, he looks for something else.  He starts planting trees, and a few years later he has wood, with which to build.  Or he finds some clay and water, and starts making bricks.

Let me draw this right through to a modern analogy that everyone can identify with.  If you are reading this, chances are you are reading it on a screen, not on paper.  You have some form of computer in front of you – maybe a tablet, laptop, desktop, or maybe a smart-phone.

What was the market for computers, about forty years ago?  It was very small.  Only the biggest businesses and governments bought computers.  And how many businesses were in the computer industry?  How many people did you know that used a computer daily?  But there were some visionary builders out there.  And they kept building the computing concept.  And with it they built a market.  And as it grew, they built businesses that provided jobs for people, and provided contracts to smaller businesses.  And more and more of these businesses started buying computers, so the market grew.  Soon personal computing and cell phones began to come into the picture, and new industries were built around that.

The amount of value that changed hands in the information technology industry over the past four decades is probably thousands of times what was available to this industry forty years ago.  It was generated through the process of building products, services, and markets.

Which of course reminds us of the fact that successful builders don’t build alone.  But that’s a story for another post.

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The Fleeting Success of the Hunt

The hunter is always looking out for the next kill.  When he finds it, he kills it, drags it home, and eats it.  It doesn’t matter how big it was, it gets eaten, and when his family and friends have all had their fill, only the bones remain.

Then he goes out, and gets an even bigger one.  Maybe this time it’s a big Kudu, or even a Giraffe.  But eventually, it’s also just a skeleton.  So he goes for an even bigger target – the Elephant.  But eventually the Elephant is also eaten, and there remains only bones.

When the hunter gets old, what he has to show for a life of labour, is a pile of bones.

Not so the builder.

The builder builds a little today.  It seems like nothing compared to the glory of the hunter spending his day out in the field, facing the dangers of other predators, and eventually dragging home the kill. But the builder simply builds a bit more tomorrow.  It seems even less significant when it’s just another few bricks or stones added to a structure that is already beginning to arise – and the temptation may be big to take up hunting when he sees the whole town going after the hunter to go cut up and bring back the elephant. But after a few months, the builder has a place to keep some livestock, and a field with protective walls around it, and his family never has to go hungry again.

And he keeps building; day after day, one rock upon the other.  A year later, his family has a small home to keep them warm in winter, cool in summer, with fruit and vegetables a-plenty and meat and milk and cheese and eggs all right there.

When the builder gets old, what he has to show for a life of labour is a homestead, fields, and livestock.

For most of my life, when it came to personal success, I had been the hunter, not the builder.  I had read many books on the topic of success, across the whole spectrum from the really wacko “thought vibration that impacts the universe” to the very spiritual approach of God’s blessing being something that is just poured out when He choose, to the very rational logical “the whole world is about cause and effect” approaches.  And when I had finished one book, I would move on to the next.

Until I realized that I had been looking for some secret formula – some key, that would suddenly unlock success.  Of course this wasn’t conscious or deliberate – it was one of those ideas that just hover just below the surface of your conscious awareness.  If I had recognized what I had been doing, I would have probably immediately also seen the foolishness of it.  Of course there is no single “key to success.”

Long term sustainable success is not hunted, it is built.

If we continue my example of reading:  Success is built by reading the book, taking from it the things you should apply, and building those into your life as habits and routines – or in your organisation, as systems and processes; then taking the next book, learning from it, and improving these habits, routines, systems and processes.  Then taking the next, learning from it, and improving once again.  In this way, success is built one improvement at a time, until you live a life that is modelled after the wisdom of all the most successful people and organisations you’ve been reading and learning about.

And since I’ve started realizing this, my reading habits have changed.  I will now sometimes pause on a page for a few days, reading it over and over, day after day, until I have identified the behavioural changes that I should make, figured out how to make them, figured out how to fit them into the rest of my life, and actually done it.

Success requires learning.  And like most good things, learning is built.  It is not hunted.

What have you got to show for the learning in your life thus far?  A useful building, or a pile of bones?

Don’t be disheartened if it is a pile of bones.  The great thing about building is that you can start doing it right now – maybe you can even use the bones as building material!

 

Blessings to You

Ashton

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Still Hunting?

Pro 28:19  Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.

The other day I questioned the wisdom of this statement, because it seems to me that unless we are chasing some of our dreams – our fantasies, no great things would be achieved.

But then I realized that it’s about chasing, as opposed to building.

The guy who is working his land needs to have a land to work.  How did we move from being the desperate hunter, to being able to go to a supermarket and buying the food I need?  It was done by the farmer who has tamed and built – so that he could stop spending his energy on the gamble of the hunt, and spend it rather on deliberate, consistent, systematic forward movement.  Not by the hunter who kept hunting until one day he was caught by a lion, or got too old and weak to keep hunting.

Real success is not chased and hunted down.  That “success” is not sustainable or repeatable in a consistent manner.  Real success is built.  It is built one brick at a time.  It is built through choosing a skill, and mastering it.  It is built through making sure that the skills I choose to master are building on each other.  It is done by finding people with complimentary skills to my own, and connecting to create things that are bigger than myself – and those things are also, in turn, built one brick at a time.

And that is done by focusing on where you are, creating a vision of where you want to be, and beginning to build the bridge from where you are, to where you want to be; not by trying to shoot arrows from here to there.  It is done creating a clear picture of the impact you want to have on your world, and then systematically beginning to build the strategy, the skills, the relationships, and the resources that you will need, in order to begin having that impact.

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Spiritual Weapons

2 Cor 10:4  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

It is easy to lose this awareness that although we are fighting what seems like a very material battle, it is still really a spiritual battle.  Although the weapons we re fighting with may look from the outside exactly the same as those of the world, they are not be the same, but are weapons of the Spirit when placed in the hands of the men and women of God.

The tools for eradicating poverty, and building interdependent, sustained abundance, still revolve around business – around the simple principle of creating more value than what you consume through running effective businesses and supporting organisations.  The Godly business looks the same from the outside, as any other.  It has people and computers and buildings.  It seeks to make a profit.  It grapples with the tensions of various stakeholders.

The nature of the weapon lies not in what it looks like from a physical perspective, but in its origin from a spiritual perspective.  Two men may start a business, using the same tools and instruments and basic economic principles, but one is born from the Spirit of God and establishes God’s abundance, and another is born from the greed of man, and brings forth all the pain that comes from greed and a lust for power.

What seems like the same instrument is in the one man’s hand a powerful weapon of God’s Kingdom bringing blessing, and in the other a weapon of destruction leaving in its wake empty and wasted lives.

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The Power of Mastery

It’s becoming increasing clear to me that we as human beings are at our most effective, when we bring together people who are masters at what they do.  In some situations this is obvious, for example when one looks at an outstanding symphony orchestra that is made up of really great musicians.  Each one of those musicians has mastered his or her instrument.  It takes several hours of practice, every day, for many years, to reach that level of proficiency.  And when they come together, they create something that is far beyond the mere sum of all their abilities.

But somehow, it seems we easily lose focus of this power, when we build businesses and organisations, and even our own careers.

The power of mastery in the area of business and our own careers, lies in the fact that when we master something that is economically useful, it becomes possible for us to contribute significantly more to our position of employment, than what we take out of it.  In very simple economic terms, it means that our time is bought for less than what it can be sold for.  Or, if our time is not directly sold, the cost of our time in the overall running of the company is less than the contribution we make to the overall profitability of the company.

The often elusive “magic formula” of synergy, has at its core, the concept of mastery.  Synergy refers to the idea that when you bring two or more people together, their output would become MORE than the sum of their outputs when they operate separately.  To achieve synergy, you need firstly that each person be a master of his or her own skill, and secondly, that each person have mastered the concepts of cooperation and interdependence.

Why is this important to you personally?  Because it means that if you master something you really love doing, and are really good at, then the value you generate enables your employer to employ someone else to do the stuff you hate doing (and which they happen to love doing – if they are following the principles of mastery).  So mastery is the key to moving your life to focusing on the stuff you love the most, and are the best at doing.

And why is this important in the greater scheme of economic development?  Because it means that by your performing your job masterfully, you are generating extra resources that can contribute to creating another job, for another person.  And at the end of the day, people doing useful work are the cogs that drive the engine of economic prosperity.

To use a simple example.  Let us say you were to work as a programmer for a small software company with ten employees.  You also happen to know a bit about accounting, so you also got pulled in to “do the books.”  If you are not a very good programmer, it would mean that you don’t program very fast, and you make mistakes, causing bugs, which you have to fix again.  There is only so much for which the software you are writing can be sold, and every hour that you work slowly, and every hour you spend on fixing bugs in your software, is an hour for which you are getting paid.  So the profit on your work is probably not very much.  On top of that, you have to spend some time every day doing the accounting stuff that you hate – which demoralises you and drains your energy.

Now if you were to start spending some time every night sharpening your programming skills, learning about better testing techniques and so on, then over time, you can begin to master the programming you love.  And typically, when you are doing stuff you love, it is not that difficult to spend a few hours extra on it.

Once you really begin to master programming, you will find that your programming speed increases, the quality of your software improves, the users’ experience is improved, you have less bugs that you waste your time on; and before you know it, the company can afford to employ an accountant – someone who loves accounting, and hates programming.

So by simply mastering what YOU have been designed to do, you’ve just created a new job which creates an opportunity for someone else to contribute what he or she has been designed to do, in return for economic gain.

Economic growth is driven much more by the combined efforts of every individual master of skills within that economy, than by the philanthropic efforts of the big givers.

Do you want to help eradicate poverty and build sustainable economic growth in your community?  Start by becoming clear on your greatest strength, and master this.  At the same time, look for an opportunity to apply this in an economically gainful way if you are not already doing so.  Your mastery is your greatest contribution.

Are you in leadership, or management?  Then start keeping your eyes open for people who display signs of living a life of mastery.  When you find them, and their skills fit your organisation, do everything in your power to grab a hold of them, and to create the best possible environment for them to flourish. (This, by the way is something every good manager must master!)  These people will create the synergy you need to build an ever expanding growing team, that continually contributes more than what it needs to sustain itself.

And you will find that once you start surrounding yourself with masters of their fields, they will attract others.

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The True Marvel of Success

About a month ago we had the name-giving ceremony for a new vessel that has been specially designed to lift and transport really heavy things. The reason we were involved is that two of our 900 ton cranes had been installed on to this vessel at our quayside, and these two cranes were the last equipment to bring the vessel to completion.

So while we were at it, we also inaugurated our new quayside. It is the strongest quayside in the world, and on it we have the crane with the biggest lifting capacity of all quayside cranes in the world. Our workshops are right next to the quayside – so all of this makes it possible for us to produce some of the biggest and strongest cranes in the world, and then install them directly on to our customers’ vessels.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, because in the course of the morning of the celebrations, after the usual speeches and watching a champagne bottle getting smashed on the bow, I had an epiphany about one of the most fundamental concept of sustained economic growth.

It happened like this.

We were walking around on the vessel and being shown the amazing capabilities of the vessel, including the integration of our heavy lift cranes into the very design of the vessel, when our Managing Director asked me, “So have you figured out why we build these things, yet?” My first quick answer was, “I thought we built them to make money?” but after a few moments of thought, it struck me, and I changed my answer to, “We build these things because we can, and very few others can.” He nodded his head. That was right.

That was the answer.

And it was the answer to much more than just that question. From that moment, I began to recognize that what is really impressive is not a specific crane, or some specific new engineering innovation which was brought about by coordinating the efforts of so many different disciplines of engineering, production, and support. No, as much as each crane is a marvel, and we regularly set some or other new record, or win some or other award for innovation, the thing to really marvel at is the fact that we CAN do this.

And it is from this starting point that I started thinking about every great economic and business success that I have seen, read about, or heard about over the years, and it became more and more clear to me that there is a common thread which runs through all of these success stories.

But before I tell you what the common thread is, let me take you back a bit in the history of this company I work for. It started as a steel company that did cutting and grinding and welding to build structures out of steel. From that they started building. They made sure that they ran their business well, so that they had money to invest back into buying better equipment, and building larger workshops. They tried to employ the best engineers and production staff they could find, and as they grew, one employee after another, they built the team we have today. Along the way they found some other companies that complemented them well, and they merged with these to build something that was even bigger and better than before.

At some point this had generated enough money for them to start building new plants in other parts of the world. And each of those plants started small, but kept building. First a relatively small workshop, and a few engineers, then bigger workshops, and bigger offices, more engineers, and more equipment, always investing some of the profits back into building for the future. And because they were always very clearly focused on producing heavy equipment for the off-shore industry, their building efforts could continually be focused on building the skills and the infra-structure that would serve producing heavy equipment for the off-shore industry.

And maybe by now you have figured it out.

The simple recipe for sustained success.

It’s not finding some special gap in the market and coming up with an amazing solution. That may help you, but you need to be able to respond to that gap, and create your solution.

It’s not having the most competitive sales people. They may also help. But then you need something to sell.

No, the simple recipe for sustained success is:

BUILDING

Every successful business and every economically prosperous town, region or country, is successful because they have BUILT that success over the years. They have thought about what needs to be in place to create sustained prosperity, and they have begun building it.

For the business, it’s about selecting a product that would be useful to the market, and beginning to produce it, investing the profits back into building more production capacity, or building more distribution capacity, and then building the team to service the growing market, and then maybe building a sales team to find more markets – and so it has been built up, one product, one service, one employee, and one department at a time.

For a local economy, it’s about people getting together and identifying what that community needs, and beginning to work together to build the infrastructure to provide that, and as the infra-structure grows, to identify the further needs, and continually building businesses and organisations that meet the needs of the community, and the needs of that community to interact interdependently with the communities around it, and eventually with the global community.

In sports success may be achieved by practicing and winning.

Even for an individual in business, success may be achieved by competing and making an effort at just being better than those around you.

But for any business, and any local economy, sustained success is only achieved by deliberately and consistently building the systems, the skills, the infrastructure, the businesses, and the organisations that are needed to serve the needs of the community.

And this is something each of us can do. However, it is best done with others. So you can start right now. Either start building something of your own, or look around you and find someone who is building something you are passionate about. And then start, one brick at a time, together to build that which is needed for the success you want to see.

Success comes from building the capacity to succeed.

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Setting the Course

Today’s message is a bit more of an announcement, than a devotional.

Gal 3:7  Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 

:8  Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham:  “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:3, 18:8, 22:18)

:9  So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

 :14  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith be might receive the promise of the Spirit.

I’ve been pondering for a long time the history of Abraham, trying to grasp what the “blessing given to Abraham” might be, which should be coming to us as Gentiles, according to the above verses.

I’ve begun to realize as I was looking at this, is that it’s more than most of us think most of the time. There is a lot there!

The “central” blessing seems to be the one in verse 8 above:  “All nations will be blessed through you.”

This blessing creates a kind of reverberation through all ages.  All nations would be blessed through Abraham, and through Christ Jesus, through faith, we (the Gentiles) can receive Abraham’s blessings – which means that now all nations will be blessed through us – and those blessings that the nations get, if they believe, is Abraham’s blessings, one of them being that through them, all nations will be blessed – and so it goes on and on and on – echoing to and fro as it were, through the centuries – to where we are today.

Another thing that stood out for me, was that a good bunch of these blessings are spiritual in nature, but another good bunch were about land, and possession, and abundance, and favour and so on – with other words: They were blessings that relate to this life here on earth, in very practical matters that are important to us in our day to day living.

Now those of you who have known me for a long time, will know that one of the most significant changes my fundamental approach to life has gone through, is around the concept of focus.  I used try to do as much as possible.  I’ve learnt that this was ineffective, and that actually the people who have made the most impact on this world, generally did it in one area, on which they focused really hard.

So I’ve been relentlessly cutting things away from my life.  There was a time when I was working three jobs at the same time, studying for my degree, and doing some stuff in the precious little free time I had remaining for the local church. Now I have one job, I’m finishing off my studies, and I write in my spare time.  Life’s much better.  And I’m being much more effective.

So I’ve come to realize that this same principle applies to Abraham’s blessings – which are now the Gentile’s blessings – and therefore my blessings (and yours) – and therefore through me (and you) the nations will be blessed – with these blessings.  But I can never be a conduit of ALL the blessings that started with Abraham and has been accumulating over the ages.

So I’ve realized that as in so many other areas I’ve had to do in my life over the past few years, I have to choose.  I have to make a decision and say “This is the area of Abraham’s blessings that I really can relate to.”  And then THOSE are the blessings that I must begin to trust God to begin to channel through me, to those around me.

So I applied some prayer, and self-searching, and searching what God has been speaking to me about over my life, to try to get some clarity, and it has become clear to me that the one topic that my life keeps coming back to, the one that fascinates me more than anything else, the one that I’ve been passionate about for many years, is the fact that God has a heart for the poor.  I have always believed that God has put a calling on my life to eradicate poverty.

But lately I’ve also begun to realize more and more that poverty in itself is not something.  Just like darkness is the absence of light, and not something in itself, and cold is the absence of heat – so poverty is not “something” but merely an absence – the absence of abundance.  And God created us to be abundant.

So whilst other people may feel strongly about different parts of the blessings that God wants to pour out on this world, such as ending conflict, getting people saved, bringing healing etc., this is the one that I feel strongly about. I feel strongly about replacing poverty with abundance.

And the reason I am telling you all that, is because this devotional of mine is going to have a bit of a flavour shift.  I am going to be focusing more and more on the principles that I believe support a life of abundance.  My hope and my prayer is that through this, I will be able to equip many of you to build abundance into your own lives, but also to let that equipping begin to flow to those around you.

I will talk more about what I mean with abundance, in some up-coming posts.

But I thought it just right to let everyone know, that the direction of this blog is changing a bit.

I will still keep a strong spiritual focus here.  I will still keep the Bible as the foundation for everything I teach and talk about.  But whereas until now I really just kind of focused on writing about whatever seemed interesting to me at the time, I am going to be much more focused on topics that can help build abundance – because I believe that one of the many roles of the church, is to become a source of abundance in the communities in which it operates.

So if this is not your cup of tea, feel free to unsubscribe safely by clicking on the link below.

But if this is something you are interested in, stay on board, and let’s see where God takes this.  And if you have friends who are also into replacing poverty with abundance, why not invite them along.

As Always:  Blessings to You!

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Another Beacon – The Faith that you Find Easy (or less difficult!)

One of the posts I refer to most often, both in my own life, as well as in answering questions that people send me via email, and even referencing back in posts like I am doing right now, is The Four Beacons of Life Direction.

Well, I think I have found a fifth one.

It started with this little verse:

Eph 1:3  Praise  be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

We are not living in the heavenly realms.  We are living here on earth.  When God recreated me, He began to manifest heaven within me.  I became a carrier of heaven.

As I was sitting and pondering this, this morning, I thought to myself that heaven is closer to the real world than what we realize.  It is, in fact, right here.  It is as if there is a very thin veil that separates the heaven within me, from the world around me.  But as thin as that veil is, it seems often impenetrable. 

There must be a key to opening up that veil, and allowing the power of heaven to begin to flow out of my inner world into the physical world where I live, and through me then into the world around me, becoming an ever growing circle of blessing.

What is that key?

I think it is faith.  It is through faith that we connect the spiritual world with the physical world.

But the problem is then that I struggle with faith.

Or do I? 

I don’t find it very difficult to believe that God wants to eradicate poverty in the world. I have found that other people really struggle believing that, but for me it is almost impossible not to believe not only that God wants to do it, but that it can, and will be done through the church – and even though I still haven’t figured out what exactly I should be doing about that, I have a very deep, unshakeable certainty that God will be using me to replace a lot of the current poverty, with sustainable abundance.

It would be more difficult for me to NOT believe this, than to continue believing it.

 On the other hand, I find it really difficult to believe God for healing of even the slightest ailment.  Come to me and ask me to pray for your headache.  I will try to pull together all the faith I can muster, and then I’ll still find it really difficult to believe that you will get better after I’d prayed for you.  I know other people who pray for cancer and are truly surprised if it is not healed.  They find it almost impossible not to believe that God wants to, and is going to heal that cancer.  And they have many testimonies of seeing it happen.

 So I am wondering:  Is it possible that God gives us specific faith?  “Aimed faith”, as it were?  Is it possible that the faith I have relates to the way God has designed me, and to the calling God has placed on my life, and the faith I don’t have helps me see where I should not be spending my energies.

And if that is so, then there is a new item to add to the general alignment of my life – and it is faith.

So the key, or at least one of the keys, to connecting God’s spiritual blessings in the piece of heaven that He has begun manifesting inside of me, with the world around me, is to identify where my faith is strong, and to focus my thoughts around those areas, which will lead to my words and my actions beginning to also align to those areas.

Jesus often said “Let it be according to your faith.”

What is your faith?  What do you believe is possible?  Take some time to explore that, because there may be a very important clue to the area in life where you will find your greatest effectiveness in life.

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What Are You Bringing?

Eph 2:10  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 I’ve written before about the importance of finding your design, and living according to that, and I’ve tried to apply this to my own life over the past few years.  The results: My life has become systematically more and more fulfilling as I’ve been considering these principles, whenever I’ve been facing decisions as to what to do with my life.  And as my focus and effectiveness has increased, so has our financial situation.

But recently I’ve been thinking more and more about our role in the church where we find ourselves.  Most of us are not in full-time ministry, yet we are involved in the church.  And I’ve realized we should be doing this same exercise in our church involvement.  We should be really seeking God’s face and asking:  “What did YOU design me for?  And what are the good works YOU had prepared in advance for me, here (or elsewhere?) to do?”

The power of the church lies in the fact that we are a body.  Don’t worry about what you are NOT doing.  God designed someone else for that.  Find out what YOU have been designed for.

What are YOU supposed to be doing in that body?  And if I may be as arrogant as to pre-empt at least part of the answer:

Pro 3:9-10  Honor the LORD with your wealth, [and*] with the first-fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

*Most translations I looked at (five out of six) add “and” between these two phrases.

I want to offer an interpretation to the above verse that powerfully impacted my life.  It started from reading the above verse in a translation (that I now cannot find), which didn’t say “first-fruits,” but “the best.”  It caused me to start asking “what is my best?” and I began to realize that my best was not my money, but the deposit of design, strengths, natural talents and passion that God had put inside of me. 

Your wealth may be your money.  But the first-fruit of your crops is not money.  Money is merely the reward for the crop you’ve already sold.  The first-fruit of your crop is the work that you can do by using your strengths, natural talents and passions that God had given you.

I want to encourage you to become quiet, withdraw, if you have to, for some time from doing too many activities in the church.  Begin to look back at what activities really made you feel alive.  What do you think and dream about when you are not busy?  Those are your passions.  God gave those to you.  The church is a great place to make those come alive.  Don’t try to just do more and more.  Rather focus on where you can truly bring your best.

Don’t bring God just your wealth.  Also bring him a piece of all that He had designed you to do, and begin to find the good works that He had prepared, just for your, for this time.

 Blessings to You

Ashton

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How Straight is Your Path?

Pro 10:9  Whoever walks in integrity walks in security, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

What are crooked paths?  They are the white lies we tell, because we are trying to sidestep some problem in taking the straight path. 

One of the main reasons we take crooked paths is because of fear.  Most of us are not pathological liars who tell lies because of some strange pleasure or because we are drawn towards falsehood by some irresistible power.  Most of us actually believe that we should tell the truth.  But often we believe, or fear, that there is danger, or a problem in the simple truth.  In my life, when I have lost integrity and started twisting the truth, it was often because I was under pressure and wanted to appear more, or less, in control of a certain situation.

The other reason I sometimes find myself exaggerating a truth, or minimising another, is because I am trying to obtain something.  I guess it’s the salesman within me that tends to try and convince.  But the result is that sometimes I’ve oversold myself, and then later, I really struggle to cope with what I had convinced myself and everyone else, I’m capable of doing.  Overestimating my own capabilities is one of my personal weaknesses.  But that weakness swings about later, when I find myself doubting myself and then beginning to underestimate my own abilities.

When I look back on each of those situations, I always realize that in the long run, the most exact truth I was capable of, however harsh, or unflattering it may have seemed at the time, would have served me, and the people around me, better in the long run.  There is security in bringing out the truth as quickly as possible, and then dealing with it. 

The more you can learn to walk in integrity, the more you will be able to also walk securely.

 Blessings to You

 Ashton

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