What’s in your wallet?

A large banking company here in the U.S. runs a commercial advertisement to market their credit card to consumers. The advertisement has been running for several years now, so the marketing plan has clearly been successful in generating new business. The tag line that closes the advertising message is “what’s in your wallet?”

My regular wallet has numerous cards in it. So many that I tend to tilt to the left when driving in the car. A bit like sitting on an orange but not quite. In my wallet I have two credit cards, two debit cards, driver’s license, AAA card, health insurance cards, and numerous cards for the “reward programs” of retailers frequently visited. Occasionally, even “cash.” Most of the cards are related to the exchange of goods or value between myself and others. Those earthly treasures that are bought, sold, consumed and accumulated in life.

But I got to thinking about changing that tagline and adding a word. What if it said, “What’s in your spiritual wallet?”  What might my spiritual wallet hold? Treasures given by God perhaps. And what might those be? For one, He has given me His Son, Jesus Christ.[i]   Secondly, His Holy Spirit.[ii] Eternal life for all who believe.[iii] The gift of the Holy Scriptures. [iv] …..That’s a pretty big wallet.

Yet God in His abundance continues to fill my spiritual wallet with more. The wonderful gift of my wife, Marian.[v] Three precious gifts in my daughters.[vi] Gifts to minister to the fellowship of believers in Christ.[vii] Gifts for life: to work, to provide and to be generous.[viii] Yes, my cup runneth over…….

But what about that regular wallet? Where does that fit in? A couple of men stopped by earlier this month and provided some advice on a statement Jesus had spoken: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness.”[ix] What is the distinction between healthy or diseased eyes when it comes to earthly treasures? They proffered three recommendations in order for me keep my eyes healthy when working with earthly treasures. See them as 1) a tool; 2) a test given by God; and 3) a representation of my testimony for Christ. And being “wise men,” they provided support from God’s Word.[x] Wise men, indeed.

Living in a wealthy nation can challenge my eyes with respect to earthly treasures. Likely true wherever I may live. Will they stay healthy or become diseased? Jesus said that “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[xi] May my eyes, my gratitude, my treasure remain focused on my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

What’s in your wallet?

[i] John 3:16

[ii] John 14:16-17

[iii] John 5:24

[iv] II Peter 1:20-21

[v] Proverbs 18:22

[vi] Psalm 127:3

[vii] Romans 12:3-8

[viii]Deuteronomy 8:17-18, Romans 8:32

[ix] Matthew 6:22-23 NB

[x] I Timothy 6:17-18, Matthew 25:14-30

[xi] Matthew 6:21 NB

Kirk Thomsen

Kirk Thomsen

Husband, Father and Disciplemaker

“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

The Art of Listening

One item on my “to do list” at the beginning of each year is to work on a list of goals and objectives to help chart my course for the year. Generally, one of those goals is to spend time in the Bible during the year. Encouraged to do so by those who were faithfully helping me to grow as a disciple of Christ in my 20’s, the practice has stayed with me through the years. The principle of being saturated in the Word of God through hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditation has yielded a multitude of blessings. For example, one of my goals is to read through the Bible in one year. Another goal is to meet with others to study the Bible. The Word is the sword of the Spirit; God speaks to us through His Word. (Ephesians 6:17)  Indeed, it’s quite difficult to hear God’s voice when I’m not in the Word of God. The Bible is essential to my growth as a Christian.

In reflecting back on 2017, growing to be a better “listener” was not to be found on my list of goals and objectives. Not even a whisper in the back of my mind! But as the year progressed, the need to improve my listening capabilities became more and more apparent. In a meeting with a group of men in studying the book of Proverbs, a couple of Scripture verses were particularly impactful. A major theme in the book is the distinction between the wise man and the foolish man. A distinction that is made manifest in the choices one makes and the eventual consequences of those choices. Pride and humility, another theme, are contrasted throughout the book. One rests with the fool and one with the wise.  Proverbs 18:13 was especially poignant, “He who answers before listening, that is his folly and his shame.” As a person who greatly enjoys being with people, I have the tendency to also enjoy talking. Imagine that! A tendency that shows itself when I begin to think how I will answer someone while they are talking. Doing two things at once is not possible for me. So when I’m thinking about my answer, I’m obviously not listening. That’s where the fool lives and it is to his shame. I was convicted that I live there far too often. The second verse from Proverbs was also in chapter 18, verse two. “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” Obviously, my desire to share my opinions comes at the expense of not truly understanding people when I am with them. Now I’m twice the fool!

Another reminder of the need for good listening skills occurred during the Bible study, “Every Man a Warrior” series, which another man and I studied last summer. Specifically, the second book which zeroed in on my role as a Husband and a Dad. It hit this area hard. It’s extremely difficult for me to know the deep issues going on in the lives of those closest to me, my wife and children, if I am not a good listener. And to be a good listener, I need to spend “time with them!” That requires an alteration in my agenda and my schedule to accommodate theirs. The time involved here is quantity, rather than quality. The time is also dedicated toward me “asking questions,” rather than telling others what “I’m doing” or what they should be doing! The study required us to put these skills into practice. In doing so, one becomes painfully aware that my skills are not anywhere near where they ought to be. Felt a bit like I was back in sixth grade instead of operating at the PhD. level which is where I should be by now! Gratefully, God never gives up on us, so there is still time for me to change.

As the year progressed, more hints came my way. Another Bible study called “The Way of the Alongsider” carried a chapter entitled the “Way of Depth”. In order to grow deeper in relationships, we need to be exceptional at listening. By this time in the year, I had received the message that this area needed a lot of focus. Good communication can only take place when I listen well. As Stephen Covey noted many years ago in his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we must “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Toward the end of the year, a good friend asked for assistance in facilitating the “Deep Dive” coaching seminar with him. A seminar dedicated to help leaders turn their ministry dreams and life goals into practical and life-changing realities.  One of the sections that fell to me, (Yes, you guessed it!) was on developing “active listening” skills. Needless-to-say, the opportunity was welcomed as another venue to put these skills into practice.

Improving in this area of “listening” is indeed an art. It takes on going practice and diligence to truly seek to hear what others are seeking to communicate. In doing so, my understanding of others and my relationship with them will greatly deepen. I’ve found that it clearly takes focus to ask good questions instead of telling my stories and my experiences. My goal is to reach a high school diploma in this area of listening. And perhaps even grow further! Gratefully, God is answering prayer and enabling progress one step at a time. In the words of Familyman Todd Wilson, “It’s hard, but it’s good!”

The Best Defense is a Great Offense

Last month our family traveled to the great state of Texas to attend a convention in The Woodlands. Along the way, we made a stop in the Cincinnati area to visit Uncle Denny. He joined us as we spent a day to visit “The Ark Encounter” in Florence, Kentucky. Quite an experience and one we plan to enjoy again in the future. Our time with Uncle Denny is always a delight. With a heart fervent for the Lord, he is an encouragement to be around. He attends church twice on Sunday. Once in the morning at an apartment complex nearby and again in the afternoon at the nursing home care center which is also a short walk from his apartment. The morning session is held twice a month by an itinerant pastor in the Wesley tradition who stops by to share the word of God and sing hymns with the willing tenants. Recently, the pastor asked Uncle Denny to consider picking up his mantle to share the word of God on one of those two Sundays when the pastor is not able to be there.  It was not a surprise to hear that he had been asked. Uncle Denny has a passion for Christ and it shows. He delights in sharing the Word of God with those he meets; friends and strangers alike. Well, Uncle Denny accepted the mantle and began his first sharing of the Word in June. While we were with him, he was focused on preparing to share his next message on John 14:6, where Jesus stated that, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Those who hear will be blessed!  Uncle Denny just turned 85 earlier this month. 

At a breakfast this past month my dear friend, Steve, shared that his world as a grandfather was going to be expanding very soon. His second and third grandchild were to arrive during the third quarter this year. He was excited and I was excited with him. Or as a friend from Australia shared last year, “I was upcited!” With emphasis on the “up”! It provides a better mental picture! My friend had a prayer verse posted in his home that provided guidance for him in his role as a grandfather. It was Psalm 71:18 – “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”  Steve’s desire was to not only spend time with his grandchildren, but to invest in them spiritually.

Both Uncle Denny and Steve’s examples were encouraging. These men are making a difference. Investing in others. It reminded me of the phrase, “The best defense, is a great offense.” A term historically associated with military campaigns but used more frequently today in the world of sports. A good offense keeps the enemy off guard and less capable to attack. It also focuses on taking new ground.   Playing offense is something we should do our entire life. There may be times when limitations surface in our lives, but the Lord will be faithful to provide new opportunities to guide our steps. We need to remain faithful to follow His lead.

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