Give Joyfully

This is number 4 of a 10 part series I call Financial Freedom. The previous part is called Misers Never Prosper.

For years I had a bad attitude toward homeless and pretty much anyone who was down on their luck. I just assumed they deserved their situation. In my opinion most homeless chose their situation and only a very small percentage were experiencing things out of their control. It actually angered me to give away my hard earned cash. Handing money over to homeless was perpetuating the problem. My mind was changed after seeing some bothering statistics.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness approximately 500,000 people are homeless every night. Even more concerning is that around 180,000 of those were in a family unit. Yes … families … that means dads, moms and kids! This did not sit well with me. Did families with kids want to be homeless? Then I noticed a verse. Proverbs 28:27 “He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.” My attitude was not only flawed but I was suffering for it. In fact, Jesus calls us specifically to do it. Luke 14:13-14 “When you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Not only would I be cursed if I did not give, I would be blessed if I did. Personally, I like the blessed part better.

This did not need to be complicated or put me out a great deal. A simple meal for a sick friend or serving food in a homeless shelter. I just wanted to change my way of thinking and give somewhere. I know I can’t solve the worlds problems but I can make somones world a little better. Starting small and see what happens. I would encourage everyone to do the same.

  1. Pray that God would reveal to you where you should give plus forgiveness for any wrong attitudes you may have displayed. Write down a few ways you could give to the hungry, afflicted and poor.
  2. Choose one or two of these. Make a plan to get these things accomplished and prayerfully request that the Holy Spirit move in these activities.
  3. Give thanks for the abundance God has provided you that it would overflow into those in need.

This is a process for me. Nobody ever helped me when I was in need! (Not true by the way.) I got myself out of any bad situation I was in! (Also not true. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ” No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”) I do not need anyone to help me (Ugh! Galatians 6:2 ” Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”) Lots of “I” in those statements. There is an attitude problem here. Self-centeredness. It made me prayerfully move my focus from in to out. Giving to random strangers is still not my thing. I need to know a little about a situation first, although I try to keep myself prepared to give if the spirit calls. I do however, appreciate my wife and son who joyfully help stranger. It’s a cool thing! God moves me now to give in other ways. It is a joy to provide meals to families at thanksgiving and Christmas. Offering help to people who have had major life changes like illness brings me a satisfaction I cannot explain. Christmas presents for kids who would otherwise have nothing literally warms my insides. There are so many ways to help and my response is very different now. It feels great! Why does giving feel so good? God promised He would bless those who give!

My prayer for you is that you would follow God’s leading and joyfully give to those who have need.

Misers Never Prosper

This is part 3 of 10 in a series I call Financial Freedom. The previous was called Save for a Rainy Day:

I’m a saver. What that means to those who may not understand is that any time I spend money on anything frivolous I feel guilty. It could be something as inexpensive as a pack of gum. A totally unnecessary expense in my mind that carries a small amount of burden with it’s purchase. I am not exactly sure why I get this feeling but I will say it may be a product of my youth.

My grandparents grew up in a different time. When they were young, times were difficult. They learned to use everything they had. Nothing was thrown away because there was always a use for it. When my grandfather died, I had the job of helping get my grandmother organized. What I found astounded me. I wouldn’t exactly call them hoarders but they did save things that may one day have a use. There were 3 freezers full of leftovers, a closet full of empty plastic containers for more leftovers and another closet full of shoes along with a shed full of cardboard. All useful things. Their house was tidy and clean but full of things they would never be able to use. I don’t hold any ill for them as I understand that they were a product of a different time. Indeed, we could all learn from there frugal habits but there needs to be boundaries on what is practical.

There are much more extreme examples. An 18th century man named Daniel Dancer is known for his miserly ways. His saving went to the extreme. He would not bathe or wash his clothes with soap because he did not want to spend the money. Dancer barred his front door and exited an upper level window so no thief could steal his things. Only taking one meal a day he died a lonely life. In fact, Dancer refused medical attention in the end even though money was hidden throughout his house. Consider these verses Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal: for where your treasure is, there our heart will be also.” and Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Do not worry about tomorrow: for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Was fear creating an unhealthy attitude toward saving in preparation for what could happen? We know that saving is good but at what point are we not trusting God for tomorrow? Consider this … Jesus himself used resources in ways that seemed frivolous. Familiarize yourself with the story of Mary anointing Jesus in John 12. Mary anointed Jesus feet with very expensive perfume which could have been sold for a great deal of money. When she was chastised by Judas, Jesus proved her act justified. Now there are many things that could be learned from this passage but what I would submit is not everything need be used for the poor or in seemingly righteous means. There is benefit in sometimes spending some on ourselves. Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 ” Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God had given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.”

My interpretation of this is to spend some of your hard earned money on yourself. This is God’s gift to you! Working hard with no reward is draining. Forbes magazine suggests that those who spend money on experiences are happier than others. It does not need to be a lot, complicated, righteous or hinge on anyone elses expectation. It just needs to be meaningful to you. It could be movie tickets, dinner out, a pair of shoes or an origami class. You decide but it must bring you personal satisfaction and cannot break the bank. It will be different for everyone based on budget, time, ability and personality.

  1. Ask God to reveal in you any misplaced attitudes you have toward money and the things it buys. Put fear of the future at the top of that list. God has the future taken care of.
  2. List areas that may be hold outs for a sinful nature. These may include overspending, hoarding or miserly ways. Ask forgiveness for these impediments to your relationship with God.
  3. Consider ways you can spend a little on yourself. Make a list and prayerfully consider which ones are doable within your budget. Enjoy!

Here is an experience I had a number of years ago. It was a big leap for me at the time but it was a hobby that brought me joy. I wanted to save $500 to build a climate controlled room in my garage to hold reptiles. I know this sounds odd to most but it was a frivolous expense at the time. I saved a little out of my personal allowance for months. It took about 1 year but was very satisfying and it paid dividends in some unexpected ways.

I had no skills to do the job so I enlisted the help of my stepfather. Quite the handy guy! In a couple days we built a small space in my garage. I learned how to build walls, run electric and hang drywall. However, the best part was spending quality time with my stepfather. I had never had a male figure willing to help with no strings attached. My faith was being restored by a simple act of kindness. I will admit that was unexpected. The finished product was super useful. I later turned the space into a small animal breeding business and when we sold that house it was one of the selling points that the buyers desired. But the most beneficial outcome in my wife’s eyes was that the animals she feared would never need to be viewed by her again. I witnessed so much in this frivolous act … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. God is able to produce fruit in ways we could not imagine if we faithfully seek Him.

My prayer for you is that God would reveal unhealthy extremes in saving and help you identify positive ways to spend money on yourself.

My Body is a Temple?

I was in my late twenties and I was not well. My immune system was shot. I was on antibiotics more than I was not. Not only was I sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day but was suffering from frequent migraines. I could not seem to stick to any workout. There was no energy to do much of anything but the bare minimum. I was depressed and failing. It took a serious conversation with my wife to realize that something was not right. What do I always fo when I am in trouble? pray! James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray…”

The next day I made an appointment with my doctor. She agreed that I should not be experiencing these health problems at such a young age so we began running tests. Over the next weeks I had been poked and prodded in a variety of uncomfortable ways. One doctor decided that I could have a brain tumor and should see a neurologist. Of course the neurologist was backlogged with patients and so for weeks I agonized over the possibilities. The day came for my exam. Thankfully, not the normal poking and prodding but he did do some of his own strange tests. After wading through my records from other doctors offices he concluded … The foods I was eating were making me sick. No tumor! This neurologist figured out what others, including myself, never considered! He changed my diet radically. Within a few days I was feeling better. Within a week I was exercising again. Within 2 months I had lost 45 pounds! It made me wonder how this could happen and did the Bible have anything to say about it.

In this case I cannot really blame anyone but myself. My parents tried valiantly to get me to eat things that were good for me. In fact, I learned to like vegetables quite a bit. What I did was what many young adults do when they get on their own. Overindulge! Proverbs 23:2 “Put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite.” Pretty serious statement but I have to admit my overindulging was killing me. I had convinced myself that I could eat whatever I desired as long as I had something healthy along with it plus didn’t smoke, do drugs or drink heavily. How dumb was I?! I could eat 4 big macs, large fry and a soda and be proud that I had eaten fruits and vegetables earlier that day. I now realized I needed forgiveness for something. Gluttony!

1 Corinthians 6:19 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” I considered how people ought to treat a temple of God. Respect it. Clean it up. Air it out. Keep it pristine. This seemed complicated but I vowed that I would do better and learn how to care for this temple God gave me. I think everyone should do likewise.

  1. If you have not been keeping the temple pristine then begin by asking God for forgiveness and request His intervention to do just that. If you think you do it well then congratulations as according to the Mayo Clinic only about 13% do this well.
  2. Make a plan to do better. It will be different for everyone. No fad diets! If your plan is overly aggressive then you are likely to fail. It must be a change in lifestyle.
  3. Share what you are doing. Maybe even get input from a doctor or nutritionist. Your best bet is to get someone to take the journey with you.

This is what I discovered. I have reaped the benefits for sure. Playing soccer with my kids is a memory I will carry with me forever. It would have been impossible in the old beat up temple. I hope to do this with my grandkids one day. People around me noticed the difference. Isn’t that positive testimony in itself? I never stop learning how to take care of myself and it changes as my life changes. The trick is to adapt to whatever place in life you are. There is a great deal of information available to help you and the Bible is one of the best places to start. If you don’t believe me then read Daniel. Daniel learned how to thrive in a toxic environment just by making some faithful decisions. I also consider Deuteronomy 11:13 “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.” I want to reflect this verse in my life. Was I really doing this to the best of my ability when my body was falling apart because of my poor choices? Taking care of the temple is a testament to what God can do. It will overflow into the people around you.

My prayer is that you will faithfully take care of the temple God has provided you and that others would benefit from your good choices.

Save for a Rainy Day

This is the second installment of a 10 part series I have entitled Financial Freedom. The first is entitled “Tithe”.

My wife lost her job in our second year of marriage. We were not sure how we were going to manage. She has always been our main source of income. I simply did not make enough to support us. To add insult to injury we had expensive repairs to do on my car. I recall leaving work to find her outside in tears. She was devastated. There was no money to pay for it and we needed our vehicle. We felt helpless! It’s a terrible feeling to need something and not be able to get it. We survived the storm but it could have been so much easier. (Familiarize yourself with the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis) The nation of Egypt was experiencing a time of plenty but there was a storm brewing. They were forewarned of a time of famine. They placed their faith in Jospeh who followed God’s leading. Instead of making themselves fat on their abundance they saved up enough to get them through the emergency. Not only did God provide their need but there was enough left to help their neighbors as well. As an added bonus, Egypt grew rich while other peoples were failing under the strain. Egypt survived because they trusted someone who trusted God.

Everyone experiences troubles in life. Car repairs, illness and joblessness to name a few. When it happens, trust God to have your best interest in mind. (Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.) But before an emergency happens, take the advice Joseph gave to the Egyptians and act likewise. (Proverbs 21:20 There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but foolish men swallow it up.) Emergencies will happen but if you are prepared they can be much easier to ride out with a little preparation. Most people do not prepare well enough. Indeed, Bankrate did a survey which found that only 39% of Americans have $1000 saved for emergencies. According to The Atlantic an average emergency room visit costs $2168. This could be devastating for those without insurance.

Here is what I suggest. Try to save at least 3 months of income. Even a little is a lot. My mother gave me good advice once. I wish I had listened sooner. Even if it is just $10 a month it adds up. Make whatever adjustment you are able. Be creative. Perhaps you could save pocket change or change you get from bottle returns. Our plan was to save in times of plenty. Whenever we had some windfall or extra leftover it would get put away for a rainy day. Raises and bonuses were put away until we got our 3 month backup. Do it however you want but do something not nothing. A little bit will add up but don’t be tempted to spend your emergency money on just anything.

A. Pray for guidance as you make your plan. Put it in writing. Share this plan.

B. Be thankful that God has provided the resources to save up for emergencies.

C. Pray that God keeps you faithful in saving and gives you strength to resist the temptation to spend your emergency stash.

I was a amazed at how easy it was to save once we had committed ourselves to it! We had 3 months safety net within 2 years! Over many years we were able to save up 6 months. Praise God that we were no longer devastated by emergency car repairs. We were experiencing a freedom from the minor storms that life brings by faithfully acting on the concepts exhibited in the Bible. It exhilarated me to realize something about the Bible. It works! By following simple truths put forth thousands of years ago, I could be free from bondage today. I believed in the Bible but had I really seen these concepts at work so plainly like this? I always just wanted my problems to magically disappear or for money to magically appear. Thank God that he was thinking of me when he breathed words into a book for generations to learn from. I was motivated to seek more knowledge about not only money but life in general. Our new found freedom in faithfully saving was yielding dividends in other areas of life. Not only did it allow us to experience less stress in the lean times but it made us more effective Christians. Only God can do that! (Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.”) He will multiply our simple obedience in ways you would not have imagined.

My prayer for you is that God would motivate you to save for a rainy day and to let the Holy Spirit reveal truth about saving that will spill over into other aspects of your life.