Hi everyone, it’s been some time since I’ve last posted and I figured it was time to check in with a 2020 update. Life has been crazy as of late even before the world shut down. Back in the fall I started working on my Masters of Theological Studies and that has been taking up most of my productive time each week. I’ve also been teaching small groups at Horizon Church in Surrey from the material in both of my books which has been going very well before the shut down. I’m also about halfway done my third book that I plan on finishing when I get a little closer to having my degree finished, which should be next April.
As for Conway Christian Resources, it is still alive and well and in the coming months I’m looking at putting our more blogs and podcasts, I’m undecided on videos at the moment because of the time requirements (even a 10 minute video requires over 3 hours of work to go from idea to posting). I would also like to repurpose some of my graduate studies work and post a version of it here so others can learn and develop their understanding of God, the Bible and the church.
I hope all of you can stay safe during this season and can use the time to develop your relationship with God, because not matter what happens next one thing is for sure, the church may never look the same.
Are you looking to develop your relationship with God and better understand the Bible? Pick up a copy of one of my books today.
What happens when you finally arrive at the place or calling
you have been dreaming about for years? Long ago you received a great promise
from God just as David did from Samuel and after years in the wilderness you
finally come into your own personal promised land. We assume that just because
we finally leave the wilderness that everything will be ok and we can just kick
up our feet and enjoy the benefits of finally receiving the manifestation of
God’s grand promise in our lives.
However, what most people fail to realize is that exiting
the wilderness and coming into your own personal promised land brings with it
the opportunity to either succeed or fall into even more trouble than you
experienced in the wilderness. We expect a Disney style happily ever after to
soar across the sky when we receive our promise, such as when David was made
king of Judah. In our minds we expect the story to end there, no more
development just the enjoyment of what we have received.
This place is where we tend to get complacent and forget the
lessons we learned in the darker moments in the wilderness. This is where we
have a choice to either remain diligent and faithful or we allow ourselves to
abuse and neglect the great things God has done for us over the years. Just
look at the Israelites after they exited the wilderness and began to take the
Promised Land. They were delivered from the desert but still had to struggle to
claim that territory, and after they took enough of it to be comfortable, they
relented and assumed that now it was time to live happily ever after. But
that’s not what happened throughout the book of Judges. We see how Israel stood
at the crossroads of the two paths of a fulfilled calling and decided to take
the dark path which lead them to idolatry, rebellion and oppression.
When we face the culmination of our calling becoming
realized the temptation is there and stronger than ever to “forget” the three
great keys of 1) Go to church, 2) Read your Bible and 3) Don’t Sin. The entire
process of Anointing, Apprenticeship, Activation and Announcement which was
supposed to draw you closer to God becomes corrupted and simply makes you a god
This is why we have to take the lessons, experiences and
times with God we have lived though during the wilderness and become even more
diligent so we can make it to the bottom of the mountain and receive our
commission without sacrificing our relationship with God in the process.
Finally Reaching the
Place of Announcement
At this point of the story we see the day that David became
king in 2 Samuel 1. Despite the setbacks faced by the Amalekites raid in 1
Samuel 30 David proved to his men that he was a faithful leader who would stop
at nothing to take back what was stolen from them. He turned a moment of grief
and loss into one of victory and it’s no surprise that this is the last major
event which happened before the battle between Israel and Philistia which
claimed the lives of Saul and Jonathan (1 Samuel 31).
In the aftermath that followed that battle David finally
became king of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4), but this was not the end of the story. It
was another seven and a half years after this coronation that David became the
undisputed king of Israel (2 Samuel 5:4-5), albeit under less than ideal
circumstances. Such as the seven-year civil war ((2 Samuel 3:1), Joab’s murder
of Abner (2 Samuel 3:26-27) and the murder of king Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:5-8).
Both of these deaths were not by David’s hand but by overly zealous and selfish
individuals trying to force David’s promise into coming to pass. See, no
happily ever after guaranteed here for many of those involved.
Even at times when we feel we have a calling and a promise
from God we actually might be going against God’s will. It seems that
Ishbosheth was fully convinced that he was the true and anointed king of Israel
after Saul and Jonathan died. This is something we need to honestly ask
ourselves in our own lives and the pursuit of our promised land. In this story
are we David or Ishbosheth, Abner or Joab, Peter or Judas? To understand who we
actually are in God’s eyes as this story plays out we need to begin to
recognize the differences between the signposts of the false path and the true
The Six Signposts of
the False Path
When you go down the false path there are six things which
will begin to manifest in your life and lead you further away from God and
deeper into a worship of yourself and other things. Each of these signposts
will lead you further down into the darkness which seeks to corrupt and destroy
the promise from God in your life. Yet at each step there is still the
opportunity for repentance where you can escape this twisted trajectory, but it
feels that at each step that window of repentance gets smaller and smaller as
our own pride and desires overshadow the light of Christ trying to rescue us
What I’m about to lay out here is not a random process, you will see how each stage is a progression into the other. As people struggle without repentance in each step it is only natural to descend even further down into trouble and a corruption of their spiritual gifts and calling from God. You’ll also notice later that many of these steps will have a counterpart that we’ll see next month in The Seven True Signposts That’ll Supercharge Your Ministry.
Many of the trials are the same but how we react and work in cooperation with God will determine the blessings or curses which come on our heart and life in general. I pray that you take a deep look at yourself as you read through this list and don’t just think about other people when you see each signpost.
1) Admiration: What I am speaking of here is the love and support of those around you, and those who helped you get to where God is calling you. This isn’t a bad thing to feel and experience on the surface, but it can become a stumbling block if you become addicted to the praise of others and base your choices on how the people will admire and praise you for your actions (John 12:43). This is the first test which will determine if your heart becomes entrenched in either pride (1 Timothy 3:6) or humility (1 Peter 5:5) as this process becomes a greater part of your life.
2) Addiction: When we begin to find our identity in the admiration of other people and not in Christ, we begin to get addicted to the sociological high we feel,or even the rush you get in ministry. We begin to fall into the same trap king Saul did where he disobeyed God in order to please the people who had lost patience with Samuel. Or you end up like the false teachers Peter spoke of in 2 Peter 2:12-17 who are referred to as wells without water, those whose true purpose is made hollow.
3) Adultery: From the place of admiration and addiction comes the next phase, adultery. This can run the gambit from physical adultery with a person other than your spouse all the way to spiritual adultery that you commit against God. The natural side of this is the climax of false admiration. Where you as person in ministry finds fulfillment in the arms of another who “appreciates” you or your giftings more than those closest to you. Or you do it just because you wanted to like David did with Bathsheba. The spiritual side of adultery comes in the form of setting other teachings, spirits, or the opinions of others over and above God in your life. Another form of this spiritual adultery comes in the form of grafting in teachings from non-biblical spiritual sources into the gospel and creating a mish-mash of people pleasing doctrines that lead people further away from God (even if they don’t realize it until its too late).
4) Accusation: When addiction to the opinions of people and the darkness of adultery (natural and spiritual) begins to reach their boiling point you often lash out in accusation against others who are making the same mistakes. Or you fight against anyone and everyone who could question your actions or even discover the problems of your own heart. Other times this is the season where the first whispers of your failings begin to escape from the places you prayed no one would discover (1 Timothy 5:24). Here you begin to convince yourself that because of grace or previous season of faithfulness God will overlook this darkness which is overtaking your life (Romans 2:1-6).
5) Adversity: From the place of accusation you move then to the place of adversity where you are either trying to defend the choices that placed you on the false path or you begin to openly attack all those who try to oppose or correct you. This is a terrible time not just for those in ministry but for the entire church (and larger body of Christ as well). A time where the world sees that those Christians are no better off (or are actually worse) than they are. This adversity is the last chance a person in ministry has to rectify their problems and seek help. Unfortunately, most people on this false path instead become more entrenched. This is similar to how Saul after being rejected by God fell into the place of madness, rage and an absence of peace.
6) Abdicate: Eventually once you come to the sudden end of the false path you will be faced with the command to abdicate your calling and purpose in life. Here the failures, sins and stubbornness of your life leads you to the place where you are disqualified from continuing in your ministry/calling/promise. That is not to say a person cannot be restored after years of repair, but this is the point where the needs of the many outweigh the sins of the one, so to speak. For Saul this began when Samuel declared him to be stripped of God’s favor and that judgment came to pass when he was killed in the war against the Philistines. Even in the New Testament we have examples spoken of by Paul such as Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:19-20, 2 Timothy 2:14-19) who were separated so they couldn’t do more damage to the church.
The Bridge To Nowhere
The end of the false path brings us to the place where all of the good things God has promised to do through our lives gets used against us to drive us further away from Him than we ever were before. Each gift and opportunity was corrupted and used to bring about the opposite intention that God commissioned. Here in this pit of despair you are left alone with the hauntings of your heart which show you all the damage you did to yourself, those around you and the church as a whole. There you are not like Jeremiah looking for help and justification for your faithfulness but rather you are there as a prisoner who can no longer be allowed to inflict damage on others any further.
This pit of darkness is the final realm of repentance where those who sacrificed their hearts and relationships with God little by little are left to wrestle with the implications of living a life or leading a ministry which was more concerned with pleasing people and becoming successful according to the worlds standards
You can compare these people to medieval knights who in the midst of battle began to take off their armor piece by piece so they can be freer to live out their calling as a knight. Yet each time they took off a piece of their armor they left themselves increasingly exposed to the perils of the false signposts. They wanted to be free of the weight and limitations the armor provided so they threw it away piece by piece until they were no longer protected on the battlefield. Eventually those knights were wounded, killed, captured, or they ended up betraying their allegiances and ended up serving the desires of their enemy.
Hope is not lost as next month I’ll show you The Seven True Signposts That’ll Supercharge Your Ministry and show you how to overcome the pitfalls of the false path and become a success in ministry according to God’s standards.
Are you looking to develop your relationship with God and better understand the Bible? Pick up a copy of one of my books today.
If you take the lessons and introspections of the wilderness
seriously you will eventually find yourself at the edge of the wilderness. That
place where you can finally see what is waiting for you beyond the horizon,
that place you know as your calling and purpose in life. For some it’s
ministry, others business, or another type of career. No matter what it is this
is the place where you can finally see what you only hoped could be possible
It’s that place where promises get fulfilled where you can
finally enjoy the benefits and added responsibilities of becoming who God
created you to be. For some this could be a paid position at a church, others a
place on the mission field, or a job teaching, or even serving in any other
capacity. The years of grief, training, apprenticeship, seeming futility, small
victories and painful growth are finally about to bloom into something
wonderful. Something that you have hoped for and simultaneously expected to never
With David this was the place he found himself in during the last months of his trek through the wilderness avoiding the persecution of Saul. So many years had gone by since his original anointing and commissioning by Samuel as a teenager. Now the process of Anointing, Apprenticeship, Activation were about to culminate in the season of Announcement.
Finding Comfort in
The path to ministry, or any calling from God for that
matter is never just a clear trajectory from point A to point B. Often God will
take us through twists, turns and unexpected detours not to punish us or hold
us back but to give us what we need to flourish in our callings.
David faced an unexpected turn in his strategic retreat from king Saul, as he found himself serving a Philistine ruler named Achish the king of Gath. This same ruler that David pretended to be insane in front of years ago (1 Samuel 21:12-14), but since seems to have come to an understanding with. David received a home called Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:6) in exchange for him and his forces protecting the Philistines south-eastern territory from the Amalekites and other rogue tribes (1 Samuel 27:8).
On the surface David seemed to have sided with the same people who regularly raided his tribe’s territory and sent the likes of Goliath against his people. Yet by serving this Philistine king as a mercenary he also fulfilled a task which also benefited the tribe of Judah as well (1 Samuel 27:10), by keeping Israel’s ancient enemy the Amalekites (Numbers 14:43-45, Deuteronomy 25:17, Judges 6:3, 1 Samuel 14:48, 15:18) at bay deep in the southern wilderness.
What we see play out here in this story of David is how the path to our destination will sometimes take us to unexpected places. These paths seem to be taking us in the opposite direction from our calling but actually are preparing us in a way we didn’t expect. I had a season like this myself, for about three years I had a second job where I wrote investment articles about Canadian stocks. It wasn’t something I was particularly passionate about and at the time I was more focused on working on the home group curriculum and other sider project at the church I was attending.
During this season I was writing four to five 3,000 word
articles each week and it taught me how to present otherwise unexciting
information in an interesting and concise way. It was an education I probably
couldn’t have received anywhere else and it prepared me for what I’m doing now
with my books and the regular content on my website. It was the polar opposite
of what I wanted to do with my time and ministry but in the long-term it was
one of the best things I could’ve done with my time back then.
The experience helped me pay off my mortgage quicker, it
gave me the skills to write entire term papers in a day (without sacrificing my
GPA), and how to structure information in a way which helped me greatly in
writing my books. But that job was only for a season and many of you will face
the same unexpected twists and turns in your journey as well. You just have to
be willing to accept and recognize these detours and to do the best job
possible at them because later on you’ll see how those unexpected places helped
you become who God wanted you to transform into.
Typically, you’ll know this season of detouring and unexpected travels comes to an end because you’ll swiftly be kicked out of the nest so to speak. With my stock writing this came in the form of cutbacks which reduced the minimum payments for my articles to the point where it wasn’t worth the effort anymore. With David this came in the form of the other Philistine kings dismissing David and not allowing him to march with their army (1 Samuel 29:4-7).
While on the one hand the other Philistine rulers wanted nothing to do with David, Achish still recognized the faithfulness of David and had nothing bad to say about him (1 Samuel 29:3). Just because you’re in this place that feels nowhere near the place of your eventual ministry it doesn’t give you a license to do a poor job or to not be faithful in doing it. David remained faithful even in serving Achish and ensured his reputation was not eroded by his actions during a less that favorable point in his life.
Facing The Last Ditch
Attacks of the Enemy
After being dismissed from the Philistine’s army David and his 600 men returned to their home in Ziklag, but instead of finding their families waiting joyously for them they returned to smoke, ashes and silence (1 Samuel 30:3). In an instant everything was gone their wives, children, flocks and possessions were nowhere to be seen. It was that feeling of abandonment by God and hopelessness which many of us have faced at one point or another. You walk into your place of comfort only to find everything torn down and left in ruin.
Those who followed David went from faithful companions to near mutiny, where they wanted revenge by killing David because of their loss (1 Samuel 30:6). The Amalekites struck knowing that the Philistines and Israelites were too busy fighting each other to protect their southern frontiers. This also could have been done out of revenge for David’s earlier attacks on them (1 Samuel 27:8). Either way David’s enemy had struck leaving him and his followers broken and at the point of despair.
We have to understand that our enemy is also an opportunist who
lives at the edges of our own lives, looking for moments to invade and carry
away the blessings God has given to us. Satan always attacks hardest right
before you enter into something new and powerful. He and his forces watch as
you reach the summit of the mountain blocking your destiny and they wait just
below the peak to stop you from seeing the lush valley of promise and
They understand that the more successful you are at contributing to the expansion of God’s kingdom in this world the greater risk you pose to their own territory. In reality you are like David and his forces making raids into enemy territory and carrying off the spoils back to their own lands. The forces of the enemy see you as the great invaders who are coming to take their people away from them so they lie in wait for a moment where you are unprepared to resist their retaliations.
In that moment David lost everything, but he didn’t cower or give up but instead rose up and sought out God’s will in that situation (1 Samuel 30:7-8). Upon receiving the green-light from God David lead his forces to take back all that was lost. Days later David and his forces defeated the Amalekites and took back everything which was stolen, plus the riches of the Amalekites. David later shared those spoils with the leaders of Judah who supported him.
We must learn from this experience because we will have trials and times of failure and loss and we have to endure and push through it otherwise we will never recover what was lost and we end up drifting back into the heart of the wilderness and blaming God for our misfortunes. When we face these seasons of loss or spiritual attack, we have to come at it from the perspective of “I’m going to fight back and reclaim what was lost, plus interest.”
You cannot use these types of losses or attacks to discourage you from continuing in the path to your calling. Because if you throw in the towel, you’ll just become another beggar along the road or corpse in the ditch serving as a witness to all those who come along this journey after you, that “happily ever after” is not guaranteed.
There are struggles and battles that have to be won, and you
can’t do it all alone, what would have happened if David left the six hundred
behind and went off to fight the Philistines alone? He would have most likely
ended up like the swordsman in Indian Jones, struck down without any real
effort. Then all of the promises and anointing David received would have been made
meaningless. You need to fight these battles with others as well, you need the
support of those who are still in the wilderness and you need help from those
who have come out of it.
The End Is In Sight
If you have proven faithful in the seasons of unexpected
detours and the surprise attacks of the enemy, you’ll soon find yourself at the
edge of the wilderness. The place where you’ve reached the summit of the
immoveable mountain of your life, the one which said you could never enter into
the fullness of your calling.
All that remains now is to walk down that mountain and enter the valley God has been preparing for you. The place where you are announced as being who God created you to be, the place where the anointing placed on you long ago manifests into an active calling, a visible platform, and the added responsibilities become real. To make it to this place you have to have learned how to benefit from the detours of life and you need to have developed the courage to take back what the enemy has stolen from you.
Otherwise you still may find your way out of the wilderness, but you will be ill equipped and left with nothing but the proverbial shirt on your back. You’ll soon find out that you weren’t prepared and will have to go through the season of training and refining all over again. When we come to the summit of that mountain we don’t want to be like Moses who only received a glimpse of the promised land (Deuteronomy 34:1-4). Rather we want to be like Caleb who was able to enter into the promised land and take the territory promised to him, with a little help of course (Joshua 14:14, Joshua 15:13-17).
Just like the entire process of surviving the wilderness where you have to cultivate faithfulness, character and your relationship with God, exiting the wilderness takes even greater mastery of those matters. You can’t coast down the mountain so to speak because if you do you will inevitably fall over and impale yourself on a tree or fall off a cliff. This steady march down hill can be the most perilous part of the process because you begin to let your guard down and you try and rush the process because you are so close to the end.
This is where we tend to get lazy and “forget” the three great keys of 1) Go to Church, 2) Read your Bible and 3) Don’t Sin. Or we no longer see one or all of them as being important because we can almost touch the place of our Announcement into our calling. We hear that Saul has been killed and realize that in a matter of days or moments we will be made king so to speak. This is why we have to take the lessons, experiences and times with God we have lived though during the wilderness and become even more diligent so we can make it to the bottom of the mountain and receive our commission.
For those of you who do make it to the bottom of the mountain and are free of the wilderness, receiving your commissioning and having your calling announced to the world is not the end of the story, Next week we will look at the two paths your life can take once you have received the fullness of your long promised anointing.
Are you looking to develop your relationship with God and better understand the Bible? Pick up a copy of one of my books today.
By now you should be able to recognize in yourself the traits of either the Doer or the Dreamer. Perhaps you’ve even found yourself looking for the happiness that supposedly is found within. With those shadows of our heart exposed, we now come to the place where we can discover how to overcome the Great Lie and find the happiness which Doers and Dreamers spend their lives chasing after.
thing we must do is accept that we must turn toward our Creator in order to
find purpose, joy, and success, all of which are rooted in a relationship with
Him. This all begins with our making regular time for God in our life. No
matter how busy, convoluted, or chaotic our life may be, we must actively carve
out time to sustain our relationship with God.
The words of
Paul provide us with inspiration about how we’re to make time for God: “Rejoice
always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the
will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16‑18). Notice Paul
doesn’t say “some of the time,” or “every other week,” or “only on Sunday.”
He’s encouraging this Macedonian church to be constantly looking toward God.
Not in some legalistic or mystical sort of way, but in a real way that touches
and interacts with their actual lives.
even begin this journey, we must have a starting point. That starting point is
accepting Jesus as who He says He is, and who the Bible says He is: the Son of
God, the Lord of all, King of kings, born of a virgin, performer of miracles.
He’s the great teacher who came in the flesh, died upon the cross for our sins,
and was resurrected, all according to the words and prophecies of the Bible, so
we can have covenant fellowship with Him for all eternity.
Before we can go further, this matter has to be settled, because all that comes next is available to us only if we’re in a covenant relationship with God through the power and atonement of Jesus. Otherwise we’re still “outside the gate” and lost within the curse of sin.
If you’ve never called on Jesus, believed in Him, and received forgiveness, now is the time. All the benefits in this book and in the Bible begin with our saying, “Jesus, I believe that You’re who the Bible says You are. I come before You a sinner lost in the darkness. I ask You to forgive me and to make me clean. I declare that You are Lord and King of all, and I ask You to adopt me into Your family and covenant. I ask You to wash me in the power of Your blood and atonement, to give me eternal life, which has its origin in You. I thank You for dying for my sins and enduring the cross, and from this day on I shall live as a member of Your family and live as You did upon the earth.”
Being now in
this place of relationship with God, we next have to develop it. This is similar
to how you can be very close to some family members, while others you don’t
really know. Those you’re close with are those you’ve put in the time to get to
know; you’ve shared experiences and conversations with them, and you feel
closer. The others, even though you don’t know them, are still your family, and
you may see them at a wedding or other occasions, but you have no personal
relationship with them beyond that of family ties.
different between us and the Trinity. We have two options. We can be either
close friends or occasional acquaintances. To have that close relationship
requires time and effort, and as we’ve seen with the Doers and Dreamers, these
are scarce commodities which we’re used to spending on all sorts of other
all-encompassing formula to develop this kind of relationship between us and
God (although many have tried to produce one). There’s no step-by-step process
that automatically brings us to the level of Abraham and Moses as “friends of
God,” or like John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
signposts to give us a general direction? Yes there are, and the remainder of
this book will show those to you. They come in the forms of time and grace.
Tithing Our Time
In church we’re taught that tithing is an important concept in Scripture because it represents giving our best to God. When Abraham wanted to honor God through Melchizedek, he freely and cheerfully gave, knowing that God was trustworthy to keep His promises. Abraham trusted God and saw Him not as just a cosmic entity or simply the source of one’s possessions, but as the source of all creation.
Fast-forward to our modern Christian culture,
where we’re taught to give our money to the church—10 percent of all we earn
plus any other gifts or offerings that are on our heart. We’re taught that it’s
an act of faithfulness to give back to God, not because He needs it, but
because it’s an opportunity for loving obedience on our part. As Jesus said,
“You are my friends if you do
what I command” (John 14:14).
Although this concept is taught, very few actually apply this teaching in their own lives. I’m speaking as a member of a church’s financial council, where we have to manage programs that many people demand but few are willing to cover the costs.
The problem we run into these days is that
we’ve removed the value assigned to our money. If I were a Jewish shepherd
living before Christ, I would find myself evaluating my flock—the little lambs
I’d helped feed when they were having trouble suckling, and had risked my life
protecting from wild animals, and had watched grow. I had to give away my
best—the healthiest and my favorites to God. My tithe was tied directly to my
efforts. I was essentially giving the best of my life, my most prizewinning
Today we’ve separated our money from our
efforts. With a swipe of a credit card I can spend money I haven’t yet earned.
My paycheck magically shows up in the bank without any effort on my part, and
all I see are numbers on a computer screen. There’s no tangible evidence of my
work other than numbers and the ending of another week.
Work is seen as the thing we do because we need
to eat and pay the bills, yet money always seems to be in short supply. Most
people don’t tithe because they feel they’ve fallen so far behind with bills or
have overextended themselves so much that there’s nothing left to give. “God
doesn’t need this money; I need it to pay the electric company, plus I have to
put gas in the car, and I have to buy coffee so I can function at work, and I
need the cash for that sale at the mall later this week.”
While a tithe of our money is both scriptural and important, God also wants us to put Him first in all things. Time is the most precious commodity in existence. We can trade our time for money or things, but we can’t buy more time. We live life as a series of moments, and all we have is the moment we’re in right now. Money can be printed, gold can be mined, houses can be built, but you can’t create time, and you can’t open up a savings account to store up hours to use another day.
Maybe it’s time to look at this idea of tithing from an entirely different perspective. What if I took the concept of tithing and linked it to my desire to give my all to God?
This would never replace my financial tithing, which is both scriptural and good. Rather, in my desire to give God the best of myself, what if I also give to God the only real thing I have of value—my time? How I spend my time is how I spend my life, and every moment I deliberately focus on God, I change my life for the better. This is so much greater than anything the Doer or the Dreamer could ever imagine or accomplish with where they invest their time.
Consider what Jesus told the religious leaders
of His day in Luke 11:42: “Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and
neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without
neglecting the others.” The Pharisees were giving to God financially, but they
lost the point of it all. They lost sight of God’s heart, and for the sake of
religious obligations, they traded away relationship with Him.
For a moment let’s replace my wallet with my clock. Let’s say I’m awake sixteen hours a day. If I wanted to tithe my waking hours, I’m looking at an hour and thirty-six minutes each day. Now, ask anybody who’s already starved for time if they could fit an extra hour and thirty-six minutes into their day to spend with God, and they’d say you’re out of your mind. How could anyone possibly change their life so drastically to even come close to doing that? Isn’t ninety minutes on Sunday morning enough?
But even if you somehow found that much time to
give to God—what would you do with it? After the first few minutes, your mind
would begin to wander, and it would be a constant battle to get it back. I’m
not judging you; I’ve experienced this as well. After two or three minutes, you
stare at the ceiling and wonder, “Okay, now what?”
Without any idea of what to do, we can quickly become discouraged or bored, and then a sense of struggle becomes associated with your time with God. Instead of trying to figure out how to set aside so much time in our day, we should just look for a starting point and take it one minute at a time.
One Minute at a Time
trying to lump the whole tithe of time together, what if we divided this tithe
of our time into more bite-sized increments that are easier to control?
In every hour we’re awake, what if we spent six minutes building our relationship with God? What if we then took those six minutes and break them down into separate one-minute exercises—six different things we could talk to God about for one minute each? Every time an hour goes by, and we see the hand of the clock change, we’re prompted to take a minute out of our busyness to pause and turn our mind toward God.
This is where the concept of “six minutes of grace” comes into play. In our time with
God each hour, we take these six keys, and we use each one for one minute at a
time. By focusing for one minute on each of these six elements, we’re helped to
draw closer to God and to align our will with His.
This isn’t just some magic number. And doing it
just for the sake of doing it won’t do us any good. It’s a starting point to
transform our lives from one which is focused on ourselves to one which is
focused on God and our relationship with Him.
Some people will do the six-minute exercises
every hour; some will do it only a couple of times a day, and others every
other day. What’s important is not checking the “done” box on a list, but
really developing a relationship with God.
In my own life, this practice of making room
for God hasn’t always been this formal. However, the heart of this concept is
what has changed life for the better for my wife and I. This lifestyle has
brought us through many rough patches. It’s the cornerstone of our relationship
with Jesus. This format is the easiest way to show us what’s important in our
lives, and it gives us a guideline on how to fellowship with the great Creator.
We must make room for God, and this approach of tithing our time helps to keep us accountable and focused until the novelty becomes a habit, and the habit becomes a lifestyle which produces fruit in our lives and draws us closer to God.
You can do these exercises out loud, or you can
do them silently. It can happen when you’re driving, as each red light gives
you a minute or so of opportunity. It can happen while you’re making coffee or
breakfast, or while you’re walking, or during the spaces between life’s
activities. It can happen anywhere and at any time.
Have we forgotten that God is the most
interesting being in all the universe? Yet more often than not, we treat Him
like a pet rock sitting on our dresser. Do we actually understand what’s
available to us? The One who created everything in Genesis is standing at the
door of our lives asking to be a part of it. But like the gentlemen He is, He
won’t kick in the door, but will knock ever so gently and wait for us to open
up to Him.
Even if we have only one minute in the entire day, we can purpose to use it to show gratitude to God (more on this in chapter 6). This is the personification of Philippians 4:8, where Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Spend even just a minute in appreciation of God
and of all He has done. If the minute has passed and you don’t have any more
time, come back to this exercise later when you can. Focus on one step at a
time, and spend longer or repeat the ones that are on your heart. Give God your
attention—deliberately—one minute at a time.
The desired outcome here is for you to carry on your conversation with God throughout the day, using GRACE as a guideline. Don’t make this a religious exercise, but rather a reminder of how much we need Him throughout our day.
Don’t worry or feel badly if you forget a step,
or do the steps out of order, or don’t finish. This is just the starting line
for what can become a deep, rich, and meaningful relationship that will bring
you so much joy.
The more you repeat the exercise, the more God will become a priority in your life. The time you’re giving Him becomes focused, because each minute has a purpose. Over time, your moments of praise will give you a new sense of purpose in all that you do. Your life will become about doing simple everyday things for the glory of God.
As you begin this journey, I highly recommend
that you incorporate journaling into this process. Journaling can be a key
factor in making time for God because it forces us to slow down and consider
what we’re writing down. It also gives us something to look back on later. We
forget so much because of the busyness of life; it’s amazing what falls between
the cracks of our mind.
From a young age, we’re led to believe that success will make us happy. Success will bring us a spouse, money, comfort, a home, stuff to fill that home, and the ability to take nice vacations. How often as a child did we see the phrase “happily ever after” flash across the screen?
The poor orphan goes on an adventure and
becomes the king or queen of the land, or becomes a great hero in battle. It’s
the idea that if we just sit around and go about our mundane lives, eventually
adventure and rewards will come knocking at our door. Only then can we truly be
happy, for just beyond where we are is the place of bliss, contentment, and
This idea, which has been embraced by so many
people, gets reinforced as we’re indoctrinated to focus on the externals of
life. Yet we tend to forget that these external things aren’t always within our
We think the reason we’re unhappy is that we
don’t have the things we want—the perfect job, the ideal spouse, or more money
in the bank. Regardless of what our “white whale” might be, we find ourselves
thinking, “If only I had ________, my life would be better.” We idealize the
perfect life and attribute our own unhappiness to our failure to possess it.
For some, it’s the white picket fence and the nuclear family. For others, it’s a mansion filled with staff to cook and clean for them. There are those who long to live in the forest, by a lake, or up on a mountain. Each person has an ideal of what their perfect happy life would look like, and they engineer their life to reach those dreams.
I watched my wife buy into these ideals as she
followed the script of working hard to achieve the things that all earthly
standards testify to as success. I marveled as she became a partner in a
successful business with a contract to buy it out completely.
I had married my best friend from high school,
who was (and still is) a loving, kind, and attentive spouse. Through our
combined efforts, we became financially secure at a young age, thanks to our
diligence and many sacrifices. We also regularly attended our church as
card-carrying members. I was a member of the church financial council and coauthored
the church’s weekly home group curriculum. Later I founded Conway Christian
Resources and published my first book, Understanding
Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Beliefs.
From the outside, life looked great, but deep
inside something was missing. Success didn’t equal satisfaction. We found what
many others have discovered: that the hard work put in to achieve our dream
rewarded us with only more hard work. There wasn’t much more happiness in our
lives, but only more responsibility and less time to do the things that
actually made us happy.
When Succeeding Isn’t Success
we’re taught from a young age to strive toward is something external. And being
external, it’s only temporary. That new car will rust out, fall apart, and end
up one day in a wrecking yard. That new job title will eventually go to someone
else, if the company even survives that long. That nest egg will eventually get
spent, and the gains erode as they’re taxed into oblivion.
All these things we work toward either degrade,
disappear, or become valueless. But at the same time, all these things tell us
(and those around us) that we’re successful, that we’ve achieved and arrived at
a higher and better level of existence.
How will I know if I’ve succeeded if I can’t have things others are unable to possess? How will people around me know that I’m superior and successful unless they can recognize it half a mile away?
It’s the idea that “the person with the most
stuff wins,” so by definition shouldn’t that person be the happiest of them
all? In reality, those with the most stuff can be the most miserable, because
they constantly fear losing all they have. They’re unable to enjoy it and be
happy, because around every corner is someone looking to become happy at their
expense by taking what they have.
On the other hand, there are those who feel
that they haven’t succeeded, and they spend their time grumbling and
complaining that the grass isn’t as green for them as it is for others. They
look at the lush, well-manicured lawns of the successful and believe the lie
that they’d be happier if their lawn looked like that. Once again, it’s the
externals that are used to tell us and others if we’re happy or not.
“The greener the grass, the happier the life”
is the idea accepted by many, but at no point do they question why the grass is
greener. Maybe it’s because the successful person hires someone to make it like
that, because they’re so busy they could never do it on their own. Or it could
be that the other person actually put in the time and effort to make it look
that way. Those who grumble and complain about their grass tend to be those who
are unwilling to put in the work to make it better.
I remember when I moved into a house with three
lilac bushes on the property. They were in rough shape and hadn’t produced flowers
for several years. I had three choices. I could leave them as they were and
hope for the best, I could cut them down, or I could put in some effort and fix
them. It took two years of pruning, fertilizing, watering, and managing, but
finally those bushes sprouted their lilacs for the first time in years.
Did this bring a sense of accomplishment? Yes.
Did it make the yard look better? Yes. Did it make me happy? No. I was glad
that my effort brought about a good result, but it didn’t change how I felt on
the inside. To top it off, the summer that the lilacs finally bloomed was also
the same summer that we moved across the country. After all the hours of work I
put in, the benefits were to be enjoyed by another family.
There has to be more to life than houses, cars,
and landscaping, but if these aren’t the keys to happiness, what is? Since
trying to solve the matters of happiness with the external wasn’t the answer,
my wife looked inwardly. She turned to self-help books, having been reading
them since she was a teenager.
It wasn’t because something was wrong, but in
response to her aching for more. There was something missing, and yet the books
couldn’t create inner peace or transform their information into joy. Any fix
was only temporary relief, a distraction from the emptiness and the gnawing
feeling that in the midst of a fairy tale existence, something was still
Inside, there’s a cry—and not only in myself,
because I’ve heard that cry everywhere: “I know I was made for more.” It’s the
feeling of unfulfilled purpose. It weighs on my heart and leaves me
unsatisfied. Stuff doesn’t satisfy it, information doesn’t satisfy it. Neither
do titles, success, or the praises of others.
The Vanity of Vanity
What can you do when you’ve done everything right and found it lacking? This is what we and many other people have found out about life. Even Solomon dedicated the book of Ecclesiastes to this idea. The things we can buy at a store cannot make us happy over the long-term. We see that everything either fades away or forces us to pursue something else.
This is what’s referred to as vanity, where we have a high view of something or ourselves, but in the end it’s useless. It’s like dressing up a salmon in a top hat and a coat while calling it Lord Sebastian the Salmon, Ruler of All in the River. It doesn’t matter; you wasted your money, and no matter how that salmon was dressed up, it still ends up in an oven with some lemon and seasoning sprinkled over it.
the richest man in the land, but still felt hollow. He eventually drifted away
from God and into idolatry. He had gold, silver, wisdom, and women, but each of
those things on their own couldn’t produce happiness, joy, or purpose in life. Instead,
these things got in the way of his true purpose and brought about dark
consequences which shadowed his nation for generations.
So what then can we do? Should we give up material success and possessions in pursuit of the spiritual? Many have tried this and failed. The idea of shunning everything made of matter was the source of many troubles for the church, and it did nothing to fill the void. If we were all to abandon what we have and hide out in a cave seeking enlightenment, we would actually be ill-equipped to meet the needs of the church and the world around us.
On the other end of the spectrum, what if we
gave up the spiritual in pursuit of greater success? Again this leaves us off
balance and without any type of lasting joy.
Many things we consider to be the finishing
line are nothing more than tools to be used to get us to the actual finishing
line. Money can be good if it’s used correctly. Possessions can be helpful and
enjoyed if we understand their place in our lives. A career can be good if it’s
balanced with the rest of our lives. Vanity comes when these things or anything
else takes control of our lives, or we find ourselves in an endless chase for
the next big thing to achieve or buy.
I routinely find myself looking at what I have
and wondering if any of it is worth it. All the time and effort that went into
earning money so these things can sit on my shelf and get dusty. The same goes
for my music hobby. I know spending money on a guitar pedal won’t make me
happy, but it sounds good. At other times I think everything’s just a giant
waste, and I regret spending the money rather than saving it where it could
grow (unless the stock market has something to say about it).
Do I enjoy my hobbies? Yes, most of the time,
but they cannot make me truly happy. Instead, they help occupy the time,
sometimes to avoid life and other times to just unwind from it. No matter how I
feel, all those things will either break down, get sold (or given away), or
thrown in the trash. All that expectation, research, and the purchasing and
using of those things will eventually bring about a day where it doesn’t matter
This isn’t meant to be a depressing look at our
lives, but what’s being shown here is a picture that most people don’t like to
look at. The reality is this: Deep down, what we hold dear and see as valuable
will inevitably control our thoughts, desires, and time. If we place more value
on money than on people, then our lives will reflect that. If we put more value
on achievement than on family, our lives will reflect that. If we put more
value on being entertained than on true joy, our lives will follow that course
like a sailboat on a river.
Appreciation gets lost when we look for the greenest grass or biggest house. I had a friend who was quite well off financially, and when he encountered new people trying to be his friend, he would test them. It wasn’t something big or grand; he would give them a penny (or a nickel), and see how they reacted. If they were grateful and thankful, he invested time and friendship into them, because they weren’t driven by his bank account. If they tossed the penny aside, or complained or asked for more, he cut them out of his life. He was looking for people who valued him more than his money, or what he could do for them.
Why Am I Still Not Happy?
We see then
that being happy doesn’t automatically come from things, position, pride, or
gold. It comes from something deeper which cannot be bought. This has to do
with what we perceive to be important and whether or not we can be appreciative
of whatever we have at the time.
We see that many people turn to the wrong
things to try and answer the question, “Can I be happy?” We turn to
entertainment, sex, drugs, music, meditation, exercise, isolation, shopping,
food, and a host of other things to try and coax some happiness out of this
life. Happiness is fleeting and subject to so many variables. It’s also
incredibly picky, and thrives on unrealistic expectations.
Wanting to be happy is only part of the
equation, along with understanding our purpose and looking for something that
goes beyond our natural lives. The truth is that we cannot buy this happiness
because we can’t afford the price of it. No one can, because happiness doesn’t
overcome life, and the two are most often at odds with each other.
Understanding this conflict of expectation versus reality, we can start to come to terms with our lives and what to expect out of them. No longer should we continue to live according to “happily ever after”; rather, we should be hoping that our life can be summed up by the phrase “joy everlasting.” There’s something greater at work here, and how we can get to that place is determined by what kind of person we are.
“I’m in awe of Cameron D. Conway’s ability to pack all the major theological ideas into such a thin book! I also appreciate how he infused every chapter with practical analogies. This book is a great reference for every believer. I highly recommend it.”
Assistant Pastor, Maranatha Church, Nanaimo BC
In recommending a book, I am really recommending a person. Cameron Conway is well read and theology is more than an academic discipline, it is a way of life for him. “Understanding Who You Are” provides a high level view of what we need to know about God. You will enjoy Cam’s insights and his wit. Enjoy!