Christian Devotionals

"What's Choking Him Out of Your Life"

We all have things that get in the way of our relationship with God. For some it might be their careers, for others it might be a relationship and in many instances it’s just plain busyness. Our schedules are so jam-packed that God gets little or none of our time. And of course there are sinful habits that really get in the way of our relationship with the Lord. This could be excessive partying, pornography or improper relationships with members of the opposite or same sex. That is a sure fire way to not only drift away from the Lord, but to get yourself into some serious trouble too.

Okay so here I am warning you about the things that can harm or weaken your relationship with your Maker. I’m far from innocent in this area and God let me know about nearly three weeks ago. You see I’ve had this passion for investing in the stock market. I loved to read up on all the global business trends, follow the markets and look for undervalued companies that could earn me a good long-term return. I read the Wall Street Journal, Barons, Forbes and Fortune and occasionally the Investor’s Business Daily. When I wasn’t reading about the stock market in the papers, I was all over it on CNBC, the Bloomberg Reports and the internet. Before you knew it, all of this reading and research was eating into my time with God. My morning devotion got shorter – gotta be ready for the opening bell at 9:30 AM – my afternoon scripture memorization time was replaced by eating lunch in front of the tube – you guessed it, watching the talking heads on CNBC. Even my evening slow down period with God – including a reading from the Book of Psalms and some end of the day prayer – was replaced by the Yahoo finance site and what was happening after the market had closed (it never really closes). Gotta be ready for tomorrow’s market.

Looks like my little hobby in the investment world had become an obsession. Worse, I was micro-managing my retirement savings through my Fidelity Active Trader Pro account. I started trading more and investing less. Here I am, a man with stage IV cancer, who may not even see my retirement years, yet I’m acting like a professional Hedge fund manager. What’s ironic is that I left all the corporate ladder climbing and money groping of the business world in order to follow God into full time ministry. Money and position no longer had a hold over me, I was choosing to serve God. Here I was trusting God wholeheartedly to provide us with our daily bread, but failing to trust Him with my long-term retirement savings. Moreover, this new obsession was giving the enemy a stronghold over me. I was doing remarkably well in the market as well. Beating the market averages and topping many of the big time pros. But is that what God called me to do? I was not giving the Lord my best effort. I was splitting my time between God and Wall Street. Sure I was putting in a lot of ministry hours, but God wants wholehearted devotion. He was competing for heart time with me and I was sharing my affections with Wall Street – a place of unequaled avarice and greed.

Well God spoke to me loud and clear during a worship service. He was saying to me, “Joe, this has gone too far … it’s out of hand. I want all of you. If I’m going to use you in a mighty way in ministry, you have to stop this Wall Street stuff immediately. You can’t have it both ways. It’s either Me or them.” Wow, I was convicted big time. I knew that the Lord was absolutely right. So I told Him that I would give it up. I’ll stop monitoring my real time watch lists on the Active Trader Pro. I won’t renew my subscriptions to the investment publications. I won’t even monitor the daily market news during the week days. It will just be You and me, Lord. So I asked Jesus to be my portfolio manger and I left it in His hands. Let Him watch over that retirement money, it’s His anyway.

I’ve been faithful to this agreement for over seventeen days and counting. It hasn’t been easy and I do miss the excitement of “The Street,” however, I’m walking in obedience and enjoying the privileges that go along with it. I have a lot more peace now and time for what really matters. Recently, the publisher of Barons investment paper called me and offered me a renewal subscription that was an absolute steal (cheaper than I’ve ever seen it). I was tempted to subscribe, but decided to hold off and pray about the decision. “It’s only one weekly newspaper, Lord … can I get it?” I prayed about it for a day and God answered me through not one, but two devotional booklets. The first was our “Our Daily Bread.” It talked about how a German ivy plant, non-native to the Redwood forests, is choking off and smothering these majestic trees. It went on to say that Jesus warns us that anything that competes with Him for our hearts can choke off our spiritual lives … Our Lord demands our undivided loyalty. Don’t let anything compete with Christ. Then my second devotional “Turning Points,” talked about the parable of the sower. This parable compares our hearts with four various types of soil. My own heart is a cross between two types of soil: the soil in the thorns and the good soil:

18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."
Mark 4:18-20 (New International Version)

My friends, let your hearts be like the “good soil.” Take in God’s Word daily and allow it to transform you and truly bless you. I’m much more at peace now that I’m out of the thorns of Wall Street and in the good soil where I belong.

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