Does God Have a Sense of Humor?

True story. I do a lot of weeding. Looking around for plants that don’t belong. There is one weed in particular that is very elusive. It is much easier to see in the sunlight. The other day I was pulling weeds but the day was mostly overcast. It was very difficult to locate the elusive plants. Then it happened. The sun peeked out for just a few seconds revealing a small area covered by the weed. I dove in and started pulling. I got only one as clouds covered the sun. Annoyed, I angrily scoured the area for the rest. It took forever to find everything without the light of the sun and I could not be sure I got them all. I harrumphed as I moved on to another area.

Sure enough the same scenario! I dove in to get one weed when the light disappeared. Doubly annoyed I searched as best I could for the rest. No telling how many I missed without the light I needed. I moved on hoping I got them all but not confident. In another area, it happened again. This time I laughed out loud. “God! You are so funny!” I grinned as I dove in after the weeds and the light disappeared. Scouring the area I wondered … Did God really have a sense of humor?

There are definitely things I find funny in the Bible. The only answer I could come up with was this, Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image…” People have a sense of humor (for the most part) so you might be able to infer that we get this from God’s ability to make things humorous. Definitely, something to think about. It made some sense. But there is more.

I finished as best I could and began to walk away. As I did, the sun came out again. Brighter and longer than any other time that day. I turned around expecting to be able to finish the job, only to find the job complete. I did find at least a majority of the weeds without sunshine. As I viewed the area a number of things dawned on me. John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness…” God makes light and reveals Himself in really cool ways. I had a certain amount of apprehension about what I was doing. John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” I was in an environment I love, doing something I like, yet I was having attitude. Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I then wondered. Coincidence or was He helping me get my job done by leading me to the areas that needed attention? No humor intended? Also, I realized that I had been doing my job angrily. James 1:20 “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”

Perhaps God was bringing light to my foolish behavior? Maybe some combination of those things. I’m not sure. As I surveyed the area, thinking about the nature of God and how He can take a simple task and reveal concepts that help me, I thanked Him for light, help, peace, correction, as well as the ability to laugh.

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.

Prayer Works

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.

Fabricating Fruit

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.