Flying Turtles

21 Sep

An ancient Indonesian fable tells of a turtle that could fly. He would hold on to a stick with his mouth as it was carried by geese. When the turtle heard the onlookers on the ground saying, “Aren’t those geese brilliant!” his pride was so hurt that he shouted, “It was my idea!” Of course he lost his grip. His pride became his downfall.

For 41 years, Asa was a strong and humble king. He brought peace and prosperity to the kingdom of Judah. During the early years of Asa’s reign he prayed, “Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You” (2 Chronicles 14:11).

But toward the end of his reign, when the army of the northern kingdom of Israel confronted him, Asa sought help from the king of Syria instead of from God. Because of his foolishness, his rule weakened and his nation experienced wars. What went wrong? Proud of past achievements, Asa had forgotten to depend on the Lord, so the Lord was no longer showing “Himself strong” on Asa’s behalf (2 Chron 16:9).

Pride hinders us from seeking counsel. If we make decisions without wise counsel, it will surely be our downfall. It is also important to remember to seek the right counsel. Notice how seeking the wrong counsel affected King Asa.

The Rope Bridge

20 Sep

Years ago, I was in Boy Scouts. I really enjoyed the challenges we experienced. Most of our outings would entail some sort of challenge. It was up to us to figure out a solution to the problem and then execute our solution to see if it worked – and therefore accomplishing the challenge.

On one particular weekend, we were given the task of constructing a bridge over a creek. We were given the main rope to be used as the base but the rest was up to us and a spool of bailing twine. Bailing twine is strong but it won’t support a group of boys hanging on it as they cross the creek. We had to make it stronger. Fortunately for us, we had just learned how to make rope by twisting multiple strands of twine together. We had even built a little rope making machine that twisted the twine correctly so we could make the rope faster. Hours passed. Three single strands of twine were combined together to make a stronger rope. The short ropes were tied together to form a longer rope that crossed the creek and created the hand rails. Shorter pieces of rope were tied from the “hand rails” to the center rope to make a “V” thus making a more stable bridge. Eventually, it was all completed and we were all able to cross the bridge with all our gear safely.

Any time we make important decisions, especially financial decisions, we need to seek counsel from a multitue of counselors. The bigger the problem, the more counselors we should have! Proverbs 15:22 reads, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed”(NIV). Who should we seek counsel from?

  1. Ask the Lord. We need to ask the Lord for direction and then listen for His direction.
  2. Scriptures. If the Bible is clear on an issue, then you don’t have to go any further. If the Bible is unclear on a particular issue then seek the counsel of Godly people.
  3. Godly people. Your spouse (if you are married) should always be your first counsel. Your marriage is a partnership, all decisions should be discussed. Your parents have wisdom gained from years of experience. Even if your parents are not believers, you honor them by seeking their counsel. Other Godly people that you trust and respect. Small groups are a great place to start making those relationships.
  4. Professionals. Even if they are not believers, we should seek technical advice, like legal or accounting, from professionals and then our final decision should be based on the counsel of those who know the Lord

It is important to remember that we are not an island. As members of the Body of Christ, we are fully dependent on each other. King Solomon, the wisest person in the world, put it this way in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12,

“Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

We would have been all wet if we hadn’t triple-braided that twine. Thanks for the counsel King Solomon!

Seek The “Right” Counsel

19 Sep

A while back, there was a television program called “Crossing Over with John Edward”. John Edward is a psychic medium (not the former vice-presidential candidate). His audience is made up of people who want to communicate with their dead relatives through him. He will pick out a person and start telling them things that only the dead person would know. Usually, after everyone is amazed, he ends the conversation by telling the person that their dead relative just wants them to know that they are all right.

I have to admit, I have watched more than one episode of Crossing Over. It is my curious and skeptical nature to try to figure out what is going on. How is it that he knows things that he shouldn’t. I have also seen “60 Minute”-like stories on different scientific tests done on John Edward to prove that he is indeed psychic. I am amazed at his abilities. I can’t figure it out. I stopped trying and stopped watching. Why? Leviticus 19:31 says “Do not rely on mediums and psychics, for you will be defiled by them. I, the LORD, am your God.” I realized that even just watching the show would have a negative impact on my spiritual life.

Going back over our first week, we learned that we don’t own anything. It is all God’s. Last week we learned that debt should be avoided and that debt makes us slaves to the lender. This week, we are going to start the process of getting out of debt and actively learning how to use money God’s way.

The first step in any sound financial plan is to seek counsel and to make sure it is the right counsel. The bible is a living book that our Lord uses to communicate His direction and truths to all generations. It should be our fist reference and counsel when making financial decisions. Secondly, we need to seek the counsel of Godly people. Psalm 37:30-31 says, “The godly offer good counsel; they know what is right from wrong. They fill their hearts with God’s law, so they will never slip from his path.”

Hopefully, it is obvious that we shouldn’t seek counsel from psychics, mediums, fortune tellers, horoscopes, Ouija boards or other practices of the occult. If not, maybe John Edward can help us ask Saul. In 1 Chron. 10:13-14, it says, “So Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD. He failed to obey the Lord’s command, and he even consulted a medium instead of asking the LORD for guidance. So the LORD killed him and turned his kingdom over to David son of Jesse.” Maybe not. I’ll take the Bible’s word for it!

I owe! I owe! It’s off to work I go!

16 Sep

I owe! I owe! It’s off to work I go!

I saw this bumper sticker on the back of a newer pickup. That pickup had to cost at least $30,000 and that was for a regular cab pickup – not even a club cab! I’m sure that the guy driving the truck liked it, but I also bet he had a nice sized payment!

Most of us are in the same boat. Very few people nowdays don’t have vehicle payments. I don’t know the exact figures but I would guess that most people change vehicles every 3 or 4 years. Are vehicles a good investment? NO! It is a fact that the value of the vehicle goes down thousands of dollars as soon as you drive it off the lot. You will never get back what you paid for it. But we need transportation don’t we? When is it OK to borrow money?

Our lesson tells us that 3 criteria must be met in order for it to be permissible to owe money. All 3 must be met.

  1. The item purchased is an asset with the potential to appreciate or to produce an income.
  2. The value of the item equals or exceeds the amount owed against it.
  3. the debt is not so large that repayment puts undue strain on the budget.

Does a vehicle meet those criteria? No – unless it is a collectible or something and then may you would be able to get out of it what you paid for. A good financial plan would suggest purchasing a good, economical used vehicle for cash.

A house could meet the criteria. Most of the time, a house will appreciate in value, you normally borrow less than the house is worth and the payment isn’t a strain on your budget. Dave Ramsey, “Mr. No Debt”, says that your house payment should never be more than 1/4 of your takehome pay.

A budget is a good place to start. A budget will help restrain the impulse purchases. You will know what you have and what you don’t. If you don’t have a budget, how would you know how much strain a purchase will put on you? It will help you plan. We’ll get into budget making later in our lesson.

Have a good weekend. See you on Sunday!

The Lending Tree Man

15 Sep

There is one commercial that makes me laugh whenever I see it. The Lending Tree Man. You know the guy. He’s got the perma-grin, and a beautiful house, the wife, 2.5 kids, a new car, an in-ground swimming pool, and a big riding lawnmower. How did he do it all? “I’m in debt up to my ears…I can barely pay my finance charges…Someone help me.”

It is so funny to me because there is so much TRUTH wrapped up in that commercial.

Isn’t that alot like the church today? People are showing up to church, going through the motions, singing worship songs, listening to the sermon, attending bible studies. Doing it all with perma-grins. Finally, the Lending Tree guy lets out the TRUTH. He’s hurting, he’s desperate, HE NEEDS HELP. Lending Tree’s promise is a false, empty promise. They promise that if He would only hock the equity in his house, they would give him more debt, so he could pay off his other debts and then with the longer payment period, he might be able to afford the payments. That is until the credit cards get used again. He buys a new car. The kids go to college. Then he’s stuck with even more debt than he started with!

God’s answer is much better. He tells us to live a debt free life. (Rom 13:8)

  • We first have to wipe off our perma-grins and start telling the TRUTH. We’re hurting and we need help. We are slaves to our debt and we can’t serve God effectively if we are enslaved to debt. (Prov. 22:7)
  • Secondly, we need to pray. Ask for the Lords help and guidance in your journey towards being debt free.
  • Establish a written budget. If you write it down, you can plan ahead and hold you accountable.
  • List your assets – everything you own. Then give it to God. Back to our first principal. If you don’t own it, you won’t cleave to it.
  • List you debts. If you don’t know how much you owe, how do you know how to plan?
  • Create a debt-repayment schedule. To show progress, pay off smaller debts first, then add that payment to the next in line. A simple rule called the “Snowball Effect”.
  • Earn more income – if you can. If there are opportunities to earn additional income, then do it. Apply the extra income to debt reduction.
  • Don’t accumulate any new debt. This should go without saying any more.
  • Be content with what you have. A budget is a good tool to help you learn to be content. Look at these three facts:
    1. The more television you watch, the more you spend.
    2. The more you look at catalogs and magazines or newspaper circulars, the more you spend.
    3. The more you shop, the more you spend. (duh!)
  • Consider a radical change in your lifestyle. Some people have sold homes and lived in apartments, sold cars with large payments and purchased inexpensive used cars for cash. Just think of it as a temporary lowering of your cost of living to become free of debt.
  • Do NOT give up! Satan will always try to tempt you with more things to buy. He will present hundreds of reasons why you don’t really need to be debt free. The important part is to remember – DO NOT GIVE UP.

One other thing that is equally important to all the above steps. Don’t be a stranger. As followers of Christ, we have a duty to help and support those around us. Always remember that we are here to love and care for each other. Wipe off the perma-grins, and be truthful and open with each other.

It’s Not Your Stuff

14 Sep

How does your behavior change if something isn’t yours? Do you treat that rental car the same as your car? How about renting an apartment? Do you treat the rental differently than the house you own?

Let’s say that someone gave you a million dollars to give away and the rules are that if you gave it all away, you would get another million to give away. As long as you gave it away, you would always have that million to give away. Would you give it all away? What if someone just gave you a million dollars as a gift. It is yours to keep and use however you want to. Would you give it away? Why or why not?

When we believe that we own stuff, the stuff starts controlling you. We feel a need to clutch, don’t we. What if something happened and we needed the money? How much freedom is that?

God owns everything and we are managers of His resources. His supply is endless. If we don’t own anything, shouldn’t we be generous with the resources we have? In fact, if His supply is endless, isn’t that endless freedom?

Something to think about…

All Means All

14 Sep

I know that we have moved onto Debt this week but I want to quickly revisit our topic from last week.

Have you ever said something like this?

“I’d love to tithe more or give more to the church, but I just don’t have enough money left after I take care of all of my living expenses.”

I think that if I took a poll, almost all of us have used a phrase similar to that.

Psalms 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains.” What part of “all it contains” do we not understand? How much does that leave you and me? Nothing! Nada! Zilch! Zip! Zero! The big goose egg! Not even a whiff! We don’t own anything so why do we think we can tell God that we don’t have enough left to give Him? Is it not all His anyway? Think about it. He only asks that we give him 10%. How hard is that? A dime for every dollar? If I asked you for a dime, would you miss it? Most likely not.

We have to change our stinkin’-thinkin’. Before we can make major changes in our financial lives, we have to first begin by accepting, and then putting in to practice, the idea that “God does own all”. (A topic for further discussion is that “Everything we do has spiritual meaning”)

When we acknowledge God’s ownership, every spending decision becomes a spiritual decision. No longer do we ask, “Lord, what do You want me to do with my money?” The question is restated, “Lord, what do You want me to do with Your money?” When we have this perspective, spending and saving decisions are equally as spiritual as giving decisions.

Debt – Opportunities Missed

13 Sep

It seems as if everywhere you go, there are ample opportunities to apply for a credit card. When I was filling my vehicle’s gas tank recently, there was a box of credit card applications there promising that if approved, I could get 4 cents off per gallon. At $3.09 per gallon, it looked attractive. But as I thought about it, it is only a savings of 40 cents on 10 gallons. Less than a dollar everytime I fill up? Is it worth taking on more credit?

The Bible is very clear on debt. Romans 13:8 says, “Own no man any thing”(KJV). “Pay all your debts”(LB).”Let no debt remain outstanding.”(NIV) “Keep out of debt and owe no man anything.”(AMP)

Why? For one, it could deny God an opportunity. The following story is a powerful example of an opportunity that could have been missed.

“Financial author Ron Blue tells of a young man who wanted to go to seminary to become a missionary. The young man had no money and thought the only way he could afford seminary was to secure a student loan. However, this would have encumbered him with thousands of dollars of debt by the time he graduated. This would have been an impossible situation. He could not pay back his loan on a missionary’s salary.

After a great deal of prayer, he decided to enroll without the help of a student loan and to trust the Lord to meet his needs. He graduated without borrowing anything and grew in his appreciation for how the sovereign, living God could creatively provide for his needs. This was the most valuable lesson learned in seminary. It prepared him for the mission field where he repeatedly depended on the Lord to meet his needs. ”

Borrowing may deny God an opportunity to demonstrate His reality.

One-Eyed Love

13 Sep

Have you ever done something soooo stupid that it makes you laugh everytime you think about it? Well, I had one of those moments Monday afternoon.

I was listening to KLOVE on the way home from work Monday night and I heard a familar song. The only problem was that I didn’t recognize the words. They were singing about “one-eyed love”. I thought it sounded a little strange to have a song about “one-eyed love” but maybe they were having a program on people with disabilities or something. Who knows. I knew the melody so I started singing along…

“Beautiful one-eyed love, beautiful one-eyed door…..”

Then it hit me. I busted out laughing right there in my car. If anyone was beside me, they would have thought that I was crazy. I can’t believe how stupid I was. I half expected someone to lean in and say “here’s your sign!”

I still chuckle at the stupidity even now when I am typing it.

I suppose there is a lesson in this. In Luke 8:18, Jesus says, “So be sure to pay attention to what you hear. To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But to those who are not listening, even what they think they have will be taken away from them.” Jesus said to pay attention to what you hear. If you don’t you could miss the “One I love”.

For those who haven’t figured out the actual words to the song, it goes something like:

“Beautiful one I love, beautiful one I adore, beautiful one my soul does sing!”

Does anyone have a Q-Tip?

Learning To Be Content

12 Sep

We talked Sunday about how contentment is a learned attitude (Philippians 4:11-13). Three ways that we can start this learning process are:

  1. Accepting that God owns everything.
  2. Accepting that God is in control of everything.
  3. Accepting that God will provide for all our needs.

I encourage you to begin each of the next 30 days with this prayer, as provided so eloquently by King David. Copy this and print it. Put it somewhere where you will see it throughout the day.

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O LORD, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Riches and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and it is at your discretion that people are made great and given strength. (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)

Over time, as you pray this prayer, please leave any testimonies here in the comments section. This is a powerful prayer and I know it will help you develop a mindset of contentment like Paul talked about.