Be Content

This is the last installment of a 10 part series I call Financial Freedom. The previous installment was called Tithe Your Time https://thingsmyparentsnevertaughtme.family.blog/2020/01/14/tithe-your-time/

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.

Tithe Your Time

This is number 9 of a 10 part series I call Financial Freedom. The previous installment was called Enslaved to Debt and can be found here: https://thingsmyparentsnevertaughtme.family.blog/2019/12/17/enslaved-to-debt/

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.

Enslaved to Debt

This is part 8 of a 10 part series I call Financial Freedom. The previous post, Count the Cost, can be found here: https://thingsmyparentsnevertaughtme.family.blog/2019/12/10/count-the-cost/

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.

Count the Cost

This is the 7th in a series I call Financial Freedom. The previous post was entitled Prepare for the Future which can be found here: https://thingsmyparentsnevertaughtme.family.blog/2019/11/26/prepare-for-the-future/

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.

Prepare for the Future

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.

You Need a Vacation

Yellowstone National Park

This is number 5 in a 10 part series I call Financial Freedom. The previous was entitled Give Joyfully.

That’s right! I just told you to take a vacation! How does that play into finances? Let me explain. For many people this is a no brainer. For others like me vacations are stressful. So much goes into a vacation like money, time, preparation, travel while trying to cram as much possible into a very stress filled week. In my brain this adds up to … Don’t do it! I will literally feel guilty through the whole experience. My wife on the other hand must have it. It is an imperative for her. It must be something new and exciting or it literally does not count. We are almost 2 ends of the spectrum.

There was one year we were faced with job loss. We were confident at the inevitability so we made sensible preparations including no vacation that year. This would be a sticking point between us for years. Thank God the layoffs passed us with no incident. This trial did make me better understand the implications of not vacationing and feelings of guilt about it. I had to think about it like this … God even takes vacations. Genesis 2:2-3 “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” and Jesus took time to rest in Mark 6:31 “And He said to them, Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” Jesus commanded the apostles to take a break. There are even statistics to prove the health benefits. A story done by CNN cited that men who did not take vacations were 30% more likely to have a heart attack and women 50%. Plus we perform better at work when allowed time to stop thinking about it. Psalm 128:2 “You shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will be happy and it will be well with you.” Taking vacations allows us to set aside and appreciate the benefits of the abundance God has provided. By following God’s command to take time off we are investing in our spiritual, mental and physical future.

Now the catch. You knew there must be one. The Apostle Paul set up churches on his vacations and Jesus had the most important teaching moments during his time with the apostles. Christians are always on mission Psalm 96:3 “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.” and 1 Peter 2:12 “Keep your behavior excellent among the gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” We are representatives of Christ wherever we go. Act appropriately! Vacations are not a free pass to forget who you are. People see and know that you are a Christian.

The other catch. Yes, there are two. Romans 13:8 “Owe nothing to anyone …” You do not need to go into debt over a vacation. It does not have to be a trip to an exotic destination. Visit a relative, go camping or a stay at the beach. Everyone loves something different so be imaginative and don’t break the budget. The amount you spend is not as important as the getting away.

1. If vacations are causing you a sinful attitude then pray right now for forgiveness. Ask for God’s help in resolving these issues.

2. Prayerfully consider what type of vacations will allow you to reset your brain then figure out what you can afford while adjusting your vacation plan accordingly.

3. Be thankful for God’s provision in allowing you to follow His command and take a vacation.

Now my family takes guilt free vacations that are always within our means. My wife and I agree to go different places every year. Some more exotic than others but always something new. What I have realized is that vacations not only get me to think differently, it has improved our marriage. We now fondly remember the camping trip we slept in a puddle while it poured outside and everyone was drenched. Knowing that vacations are a requirement allows me to enjoy them with less stress and guilt. There is much less pressure to cram in as much as possible. They are indeed a time of bonding even in those times things did not go as planned. Those turn out to be the best times in many cases. Prayers now kick off every trip. This makes God top of mind at every getaway. So go ahead, you now have permission to blow off some steam and take a vacation.

My prayer for you is that you would be able to reboot and find rest in ways that allow you to bring God with you on vacation.

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.