I find a great deal of joy in my volunteer work. I get to work with a number of long term and short term volunteers. Often times we get people who show up for just a couple hours and that is great. I appreciate their time. Sometimes we get people who don’t know what they are getting into or just don’t want to be there and thus have a bad attitude. I appreciate their time as well. I try not to differentiate which ones will serve me but just treat their time as valuable. Not true of everyone I work with as they will dismiss people just by their look. Recently this happened in the case of a young volunteer who was in elementary school and only signed up for a couple hours. Small and unassuming. My partners dismissed him as worthless. I had other ideas.
Matthew 10:30-31 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” We are valued by God. He even sent Jesus as a sacrifice. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” We are worth the life of the Son. Consider that for a moment. This is priceless. Jesus understood the value of individuals and was willing to die for each of us. His life reflected love for us. Jesus embraced everyone including children. I try to reflect this in the way I treat others.
How foolish it is to dismiss anyone as not worth it. I was determined to show this young person that he was valued. On this day we were planting so we set to our task. To my surprise, this young man proved himself energetic. We moved quickly and efficiently. I showed him how to plant. He taught me how to count to 59 in Spanish. We talked about our common interest in animals. It was a joy to work with this young man. I hope he had a great time and would want to volunteer more in the future. He left after a couple hours as I continued to plant. I grinned as I realized how blessed I was to have had the privilege of working with this nice young man. I was glad I did not dismiss his value. I hope to see him again.
When I was presented with the truth about Jesus, it amazed me. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” How cool was it that God provided a simple answer to my biggest problem. I could not save myself. I simply was not enough, I already knew it as fact and Christianity had provided me with the very easy way to solve the issue that I had been struggling with. It was great! Thank you God! It was smooth sailing from here! Or was it?
It wasn’t too long after my conversion that I hit a snag. I started encountering roadblocks, temptations and doubts. What had I done! I wanted to get away! This was too hard! I thought this was supposed to be easy! Not at all what I signed on for. There was a part of me that wanted to abandon my new found faith and join my friends at their parties and fun loving, do what you want, easy life. In fact, I did walk away for a time but it turns out to be a lonely place. Separation from God was not what I wanted either. God was simply showing me that conversion wasn’t enough. James 2:26 “…faith without works is dead.” It was work to be a Christian, but I would learn that it was worth it in every way.
Little by little I gave up things because I thought I should. Out of guilt perhaps. It made me realize, though, that it was for my own good. 1 Timothy 1:8 “We know that the law is good…” There are reasons for the rules and regulations. God made them for my benefit. Sure, I could choose and did choose to ignore them but I realize now that allowing God to change you is hard sometimes but the benefits are real and long lasting. Experience has proven to me that I am so much better off doing what God asks of me rather than follow my own desires. It’s both easy and difficult at the same time. I will always have something to work on. I will never get there on my own. If I love and trust God, He will continue to help me get better at life. Striving for God’s kingdom is worth the struggle.
I used to begrudgingly follow God’s leading. Now I gladly seek out those areas God would have me work on. Proof is in the pudding. Chances are you are struggling with something right now. You know that God is calling you to make some change or take some action. To claim a slogan … “Just do it!” God will bless you. You won’t regret it. James 1:22 “But prove yourselves doers of the word, but not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
During the last major economic recession, I noticed something disturbing. Many more people were committing suicide. The University of Oxford estimated that 10,000 people committed suicide due to the bad economy. It seems like some people base their value on how much their personal bank account holds. When a persons bank account falls to zero then their self worth equals zero. I would suggest that we do not know what hitting rock bottom looks like and we are more than the value of our bank account.
Familiarize yourself with the story of Job. He was a righteous man who lost everything. Money, family, health and friends. In the world’s view he had gone from fame to misfortune in a most extreme way. To his credit, Job never lost faith. Hebrews 13:5 “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have…” We are called to be satisfied with whatever God gives us. Phillipians 4:11-13 “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity: in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” This is powerful! In whatever situation you are in, God will strengthen you. No matter how low you think you are, God still has you. The Bible even says that being poor is a blessing. Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But, also consider this. Being rich can be a curse. Mark 10:23 “…How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” So be careful what you wish for. The wealthy have a heavy burden and their money can actually blind them to truth. I recently read a Psychology Today article which found that making more money does bring with it a certain amount of satisfaction but does not bring you happiness. What people don’t realize is that the more you have, the more responsibility you have to spend it wisely. The stuff rich people buy are huge distractions from the important things.
1. List some ways that money and/or things it buys distract you. If necessary ask forgiveness and for God to help you in this area.
2. Write down some things you have that you are thankful for. (Health, family, food, etc.)
3. Dwell on and be thankful to God for providing your every need.
I have never really looked poorly on rich people because they have money. I do, however, often wish I had the things they can buy like cars and vacations. I don’t believe it’s wrong to have stuff. God has graciously provided finances to people in varying levels but I do realize that the pursuit of that stuff is not a worthy goal in itself. Romans 9:15 “I show mercy on whom I have mercy and I have compassion on whom I have compassion” I don’t know why God chooses some to have more than others. I just try to be faithful with what I have been given plus realize that more stuff is not necessarily good as it distracts me from God.
My prayer is that I would see God clearly in my affluence and appreciate whatever blessings He gives me.
Conclusion to Financial Freedom:
Money is a blessing no matter how much you have and there is so much in the Bible about it. I would encourage you to seek more wisdom about money. It is an area we should all seek God’s leading to grow in. What I shared is only scratching the surface. Be a good steward of the things God has provided and be wise with it. Make your resources an act of worship and you will find contentment in it.
When I was young, little was asked of me. I could come and go as I pleased, watch TV or do nothing at all if I so desired. I grew into a bit of a sluggard. It would infuriate me when people would even ask for help. Even into my adult years my initial reaction to the word help is one of negativity. I felt that my time was my own and I should be able to do what I want with it. Any extra burden placed on me is greeted with a certain amount of angst. I have to be reminded of some things.
1 Corinthians 10:26 “The earth is the Lords and all it contains.” This place I live in is not my own to do with as I like. 1 Corinthians 15:58 “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” God calls us to use our resources to his work. Time is one of our most precious, so why not tithe it. Giving up money seemed easy comparatively but time is a resource we cannot make more of. This was a difficult concept to swallow for me. I needed a change of attitude.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” One of the things I needed to dwell on was eternity. The time I am here is miniscule compared to eternity. In the grand scheme of things we are not really talking about that much time. Matthew 6:20 “…store up your treasures in heaven…” God was calling me to tithe my time. The things we do in this life matter in heaven. I wanted to work harder at those things that impact eternity. It sounded worth my time.
1. Pray that God would move you to tithe your time.
2. When you come across an opportunity to help, prayerfully consider how to proceed remembering that what you do impacts eternity.
3. Seek out some way to serve over the next couple of weeks. It does not need to be complicated or time consuming. Serve at a homeless shelter, pull weeds at church or help a friend move.
I started off simple but wanted something regular. I volunteered with a ministry that I was already participating . Sports at church. All I did was organize equipment and clean areas that often got forgotten. It was only a couple hours a week commitment. I could do the work with whatever my schedule would permit. I discovered something in my serving … JOY! I was having fun and it was reward in itself. It was only a little time and no pressure. I later moved on to varying levels of service with youth, maintining flower beds and setting stages. According to huffpost.com there are many benefits to serving … happiness, reduced stress, pain relief, longer life, lower blood pressure and others. Corporations are figuring this out and pay their employees to serve. Imagine that … corporations are figuring out that following God’s word make them money. Maybe Presidents and CEOs should read the Bible for insights about business.
Now I do nothing but volunteer. I have been called a philanthropist but I look at it as doing what God wants me to do. I thrive when I am serving others. It brings me great satisfaction to be able to help. Not everyone has this luxury to only serve but we need to be reminded that God calls us to service and that our time is not our own. Give it a try. Tithe your time. The reward is real.
My prayer for you is that you will serve joyfully and experience an abundance in your time that only God can provide.
This is a guest post from Bethany. She is a senior in college studying History and World Religion. Right now it is her ambition to work in the missionary field. I am very proud of Bethany for making her parents’ God, her own.
The other day my dad came to ask me if I would do a post for his blog. Now at first when he asked I was like absolutely not, what do I, a senior in college, have to say. God had other plans though. I felt I needed to write this piece, not because I am an expert or because I have figured it all out, but because I have messed this up multiple times and I know what it is like to ignore what He is saying. I have also seen the amazing things that He can do when we do listen.
God wants us to prosper. Now this doesn’t mean He wants to make us all millionaires, but it means He wants us to improve and grow in all areas of our lives. It says in Matthew 7:7-11 how God will give us good gifts, even better ones than our earthly fathers can. He knows what we need and what we desire.
Now one would think we would trust a father who wants us to prosper and who wants to bless us, but we don’t. We ignore what He is telling us and ignore the good gifts He has already given us. We desire to follow Him, but we don’t do anything to do so. I have seen many believers with passionate hearts to love and follow the Lord, but then I look at their lives and something doesn’t match up. They say they love God and will do anything for Him, but then they are unhappy and broken. God isn’t a god of bondage and brokenness. He is a god of healing and freedom. This begs the question of what is happening.
How many times have you read the same passage in your Bible? How many times will it take before you really see it? I have listened to people go on about how God has convicted them on something, but then I watch them continue to act in the same way. They talk about Matthew 6:5-8 which warns us about being a hypocrite in prayer. The Pharisees would stand out on the corners and pray so that they could be seen by others. The same person who explains they have been convicted of this is seeking my praise on their prayer life. I may be wrong, but didn’t God just convict them of this. I have seen this in my own life, reading Matthew 6:12,14-15, about how we must forgive our debtors or God will not forgive us. I have read this numerous times, but I convince myself it can’t be talking about me. I make excuses, “Well that person really hurt me so I don’t have to forgive them” or “They deserve my unforgiveness because of what they did.” These are lies that I convince myself of because I don’t want to forgive. I value myself as better than them not realizing that I have also sinned. I don’t deserve the forgiveness God grants me, but He still gives it to me.
When reading the Bible, it is easy to put distance between ourselves and what it is saying. It is easy to do our morning bible study and walk away never thinking about what we just read. God didn’t intend for this. The Bible is not just another book on our to-read list. The Bible is meant to change our lives. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This is something powerful we have been given. Are we going to waste it?
The next time you sit down with your sword in your hand, don’t just read it, but allow it to change you. A key to growing with God is your heart position. Go into it open to what God has to show you. Be willing to be changed. It may be uncomfortable, but it is worth it.
Now with anything remember to pray. We are human. This means we will mess up and we will continue to miss things, but it doesn’t mean we have no hope. Luckily, we have God and James 1:5 says He will give wisdom generously to those who ask. So start asking. Let God change your life and take action with what He shows you. God won’t force you to choose Him. He won’t force you to answer His call, but remember this is a father who wants to give you an abundance of good gifts. Start living the Bible and you will be shocked at what you find.
I pray for all of us as we open our hearts to your will. I pray the next time we open our bibles that we see it in a new light. I pray we start acting on the things we see and start living a life that is yours, in Jesus name.
My wife and I try to live within our means. In general we have stuck to this commitment. However, for many years large purchases seemed impossible. We did incur a large amount of debt in our cars and home. We were not alone. According to Money.com in 2018 the average debt for a 51 year old like me in the U.S.A. was $134000. It seems like the banks have a great deal of control over our finances. Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” The average credit card debt in March 2019 according to the Federal Reserve was $5700! This means a massive amount of money is being transferred from your bank account to someone else! This did not sit right with me. My goal was to do something about this.
I look at it like the reverse of compound interest. When you buy something with credit then you end up paying much more for it. Let’s say you have $5000 of credit card debt and assume you charge nothing else to that card. You make payments of $100 a month at 18% interest. When you have paid off that credit card you will have added an extra $4311.25 in interest over 94 months. Let that sink in. A purchase of $5000 cost you almost double. Compare that to saving the $100 over 50 months and paying cash. A little patience and self control will make you $4311.25 richer. This same concept can be applied to larger items like cars and houses. This sounds impossible, right? However, the Bible calls us to it. Romans 13:8 “Owe nothing to anyone…” This idea is repeated throughout the Bible. If God said to do it then shouldn’t we give it a try?
Most people think it impossible but can you really afford otherwise? Here is what can be done. Lower expectations. Do I really need that sports car and a massive house? The bank wants to maximize it’s gains and will encourage you to buy as much as you are able. Paying cash will make you consider cheaper alternatives as well as paying less for that item over the long term. Before considering large purchases get other debt paid off. Pay down credit card and student loan as much as possible. It is a better investment to get out of debt first. Apply windfalls and raises directly to this debt. Then save! Start paying for cars and houses cash. If you already owe start double or triple paying as you can. Keep reminding yourself that debt equals slavery. Give it a try. God will not disappoint.
1. Make a plan to become debt free. If you are out of debt stay that way. If you are in debt, figure out how to get out of it.
2. Pray that God shows you how to stay out of debt. You may need forgiveness for acting outside of God’s will.
3. Be thankful for God’s direction and pray to honor God in this commandment.
We are currently working to become debt free. We now pay for cars cash and make double payments on our house. How cool is it to never have a car payment! It’s an amazing thing. I am so thankful for the freedom God gives my wife and I in that. I can’t wait to have our house payments disappear! It’s still a long way off but could you imagine what your life would be like to no longer have that massive debt? I can imagine how great it will feel to have no house payment and a peace of mind knowing we always have a home. No more stressful days wondering if we will make rent even when facing job loss! Doing the things God calls for is super cool!
I pray that God will help you be resolved in getting out of debt and staying that way so you may know a peace and fruitfulness in your finances as we are commanded to do in His word.
The one thing my wife and I learned to do from our parents was creating a budget. We even took a class at church on how to make a budget together. We had fun with it. However, the first year of marriage was lean. If we had $2 left in a week for the dollar movie theater, it was exciting. This budget thing was extremely useful to know exactly how much we could spend. At the time we were acting according to God’s plan.
Christians are called to budget. Proverbs 21:5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” Making a budget and following it were very helpful in keeping us out of debt. Besides a car payment we had no debt. Our credit cards were paid off each month. Jesus talks about counting the cost of a project. Luke 14:28 “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” To run a country, company or household you must know the cost of things and make a plan. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” Our positive example in stewardship of resources is representative to the world as faith in God.
To make a budget, simply make a list of everything you spend money on … tithe, housing, allowance, car payment, gas, etc. There are many resources that can help you determine where money is spent. Everyone’s list is different. Some will be estimates. It does not need to be perfection. Just a general idea. I like to think of it by month but whatever is easiest for you. Compare to your take home pay. If the numbers don’t add up then make adjustments as necessary. Easy right? Maybe not for some. It may require difficult decisions.
1. If you do not have one already, create a budget making sure that your tithe is top of the list.
2. Prayfully consider where adjustments can be made.
3. Be thankful for the provisions God has provided and doubly so if anything is leftover like $2.
Our parents did well to show us how a budget was made. It kept us out of financial hardship. I prepare a budget every year or when we have some life change. I share the budget with my wife and children. Yes, I think children should be aware and taught financial planning. Making a budget brings me peace of mind. The budget has transformed over the years with a variety of life decisions. At first, it was a way to figure out how to spend every last penny. Now, it is a useful tool in reaching our financial goals and making us more secure. Knowing the cost has allowed us to better serve God in our tithing and giving. How cool it is to obey God and bare fruit.
My prayer for you is that you will become a good steward of your finances and “count the cost” by creating a budget.
I have many stories about answered prayer but this one sticks with me for obvious reasons:
My son was in high school. He was a good student, a reasonably good soccer player and was generally easy going. I was becoming concerned, though. His salvation was not in hand. It was looking like we were at a cross road. Join the world or live for Christ. I had prayed for years on a daily basis that he would choose God but I knew that I could not press. Like me at his age it would be on his own terms. There was one day that changed my way of praying.
On this day I was hungry, tired and busy when my son made me exceedingly angry. It was over something I had talked to him repeatedly. Not only that but I had a laundry list of ways he had offended me over previous weeks. When I got to him I was seeing red and ready to explode. I knew my state and tried to calm but it was impossible for me at that moment. Something stopped me in my tracks. It was literally the words in my head … “STOP! Walk away.” Stopping in my driveway the words resounded in my head, “Keep walking.” As calm began to seep back into my body the real reason I was upset was being revealed. I was concerned for his salvation. My reaction was … “I can fix this”. God’s reaction was … “No! I got this. You will do nothing but pray and back off.” It was clear to me that my son was in good hands. The way I prayed for my son changed that day as well as the way I viewed him and my roll from then on.
Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
The next day I apologized to my entire family for my poor behavior and was resolved to do things differently. The way I prayed went from pleading for my son’s repentance to thankful for his salvation. Gratitude and tears of joy flowed freely at the knowledge of his soon to be transformation. I knew that my son was quite safe in God’s great and powerful arms. A feeling of peace and joy began to wash over me about him. No longer was I crushed by any minor infraction he made. What I did not know is besides my wife and I there was a group of my son’s friends that were praying for him as well.
I wept the day my son was baptized. Still get tears when I view the picture of him at the beach. Even as I write this, I want to give him a big hug. He is now a youth minister. I am so thankful that God has both my children in hand and they pursue their Daddy in a way that makes their dad proud. They confirm for me that prayer works.
I would love to hear your stories of prayer answered. Please share as it is a powerful testimony to God at work in peoples lives.
This is number 6 in a series I call Financial Freedom. The last post was entitled “You Need a Vacation”.
My wife and I started late preparing for retirement. When we were young it was not an imperative and we lived paycheck to paycheck. Our parents never really instilled the necessity of getting ready for retirement. They did not really prepare themselves for their eventual loss of income. In fact, JP Morgan calculates that 74% of Americans are not saving properly for the future. As I realized their inevitable position it made me think about our own lack of preparation. 2 Corinthians 12:14 “…Children should not save up for their parents but parents for their children.” I did not want to be a burden on my children and as always God provides ways to do so. Proverbs 6:6-8 “Go to the ant, o sluggard, observe their ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gather her provision in the harvest.” Was an ant being wiser than me? I was being called by God to make a change.
The best way to do this is invest in a 401K and never touch it. In our first few years of marriage we did have a 401K. It accumulated $1500. We closed it out and took the cash for other things. It seemed like a small amount and we really needed the money. I now think differently. Proverbs 27:23 “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds.” We do not have flocks and herds today. We have money. Different times and ways of exchange but the concept holds true. I needed to be aware of what I had and the future. What preparation was I making? Really none! I knew something was wrong until the title of an articles caught my eye …”How to Become a Millionaire”. Who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? The article was about something called compound interest. The concept astounded me. Leave it to God to come up with answers to hard questions. Here is how it works.
Let’s say I was 25 when I cashed in that $1500 but this time I decided to leave it in a 401K. If I left it alone and never touched it along with a conservative rate of 8% return then that would grow into over $80000 by the time I was 75. Pretty cool! I did no work and gained $78500. Now let’s say I was really wise, like the ants, and put in an extra $30 a week. Cost of a cup of coffee every day? At the age of 75 that looks like 1.1 million. Wait what!? Yes, that’s right. An investment of almost $80K over 50 years will make you a millionaire in retirement. Not only that but most companies have a matching program and investing more will inflate that number.. Praise God that He has come up with ways to do the thing He calls you to do. BTW … Had I started saving with my first job at the age of 15, over the course of 60 years that is 2.5 million. Can anyone afford not to invest in their future?
1. Prayerfully decide how much you will set aside for your future. Figure out how much you will need to retire. Seek advice from a professional if necessary.
2. Ask God to give you the resources necessary to prepare for the future.
3. Thank God for the abundance He has provided so that you can prepare for tomorrow.
I wish I had started saving at 15. We started saving later in life. The good news is that it is not too late to start. For us we still had some time but needed to be more aggressive than if we had started earlier. We started by contributing the minimum amount matched by our work. We then increased this amount as promotions and raises allowed until we reached our goal. Right now we are on track. We have been fortunate. God has been very good to us. We did have to make some sacrifices at first. Lesser vacations and fewer dinners out. A warning though. Matthew 6:24 “… You cannot serve both God and money.” The goal is not to accumulate wealth. The goal is to make preparations for your elderly years. It’s our responsibility and our calling.
My prayer for you and me is that we trust God’s word, do as He commands, make a plan then faithfully act on our preparations for the future.
A number of years ago I was going through a rough spell. It was not a good place for me. Sick, tired and miserable. I couldn’t seem to pull myself together. I had noticed Galatians 5:22-23 “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”. It dawned on me that I was not experiencing these things in my life so I attempted to fabricate them. On my own I tried to have joy and peace every day. It was an exercise in futility! I couldn’t seem to understand why. Apostle Paul was thrown into jail, yet he continued to exhibit fruit and I was not experiencing anything close to that type of oppressive environment. How can somebody be a Christian and not be fruitful? For awhile this question perplexed me.
Something clicked during a church service, though. Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” There was something I needed to change to achieve fruit. An underlying sinful nature, some deeply ingrained in my character, were getting in my way. A sacrifice needed to be made to experience the things God promised. Now the wheel was rolling. Sure I was in a place that I did not want to be but there was no reason for my situation to be unfruitful. I began to pray and ask forgiveness. 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” God is abundantly able to use that bad place I was in to use me in ways I could not imagine. Then the flood gates opened. It revealed sinful natures that I would never had realized. There was a trust issue and preconceptions on the way things should look plus the underlying lie that God might have abandoned me. Not only did I identify my own weak nature but an inability to apply truth when I was being lied to constantly. The Holy Spirit started working. God began to use me in situations I would not have thought possible. Yes, I was experiencing fruit again. Thank God!
Now I use the fruits of the spirit as a barometer. If I am not experiencing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, I immediately start asking questions. Why? What am I doing wrong? What do I need to change? Confess. When the Holy Spirit works the sinful nature out of me I no longer need to fabricate fruit. Fruit shows up on it’s own. All Christians can be in this place. It is God’s promise.