What Does Your Duck Do Best?

31 Oct

One of the ideas that keeps coming back to me is that every one of us has unique gifts, given to us by God to serve him. Consider this story.

Cool Duck Picture“It wasn’t too long after creation that the animals got together to form a school. They wanted the best school possible; one that offered each student a well-rounded curriculum of swimming, running, climbing and flying. In order to graduate the animals agreed that they would each have to take all the courses. The duck was excellent at swimming. In fact, he was better than his instructor, but he was only making passing grades at climbing and was getting a very poor grade in running. The duck was so slow in running that he had to stay after school every day to practice. Even with that, there was little improvement. His webbed feet got badly worn from running and with such worn feet he would then only be able to get half his grade in swimming. Now average was quite acceptable to everyone else, so no one worried much about it except the duck. Now the rabbit was at the top of her class in running, but after a while she developed a twitch in her leg from all the time she spent in the water trying to improve her swimming. Now the squirrel was a peak performer in climbing, but was constantly frustrated in flying class. His body became so bruised from all the hard landings that he didn’t do too well in climbing and ended up being pretty poor in running. The eagle was a continual problem student. She was severely disciplined for being nonconformist. For example, in climbing class she would always beat everyone else to the top of the tree, but insisted on using her own way to get there. Each of the animals had a particular area of expertise. When they did what they were designed to do they excelled. When they tried to operate outside their area of expertise, they were not nearly as effective. Can ducks run? Of course they can. Is that what they do best? Definitely not!”

Just as every animal has been gifted for survival, every person in the body of Christ has been gifted for the growth and ministry of the church, and we have all been gifted differently. And so knowing what those gifts are enable us to excel and to not know those gifts means that we might find ourselves doing things, but doing things that increasingly lead us to burn out or even worse, not doing anything.

Wrapping It Up

28 Oct

As we wrap up this study on Managine Money God’s Way, I want to review the main points of the study. I hope that you have been working on utilizing these principles of money management in your daily life.

  1. God owns everything. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains” (Psalm 24:1)
  2. Avoid Debt. “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)
  3. Seek Counsel. “And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  4. Absolute Honesty. “The Lord loathes all cheating and dishonesty.” (Proverbs 20:23)
  5. Generous Giving. “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20:35)
  6. Hard Work. “The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15)
  7. Save, Invest. “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5)
  8. Train Children. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

As Pastor Bart said in his message last Sunday,

Financial freedom is achieved by becoming a faithful steward. Financial success is achieved by remaining a faithful steward.

If you enjoyed this study, you may also like to complete the more in depth study offered by Crown Financial. If you know what podcasts are and would like to subscribe to a daily 3-minute podcast from Crown entitled “Managing Your Money”, here is the link.

Keeping up with the Joneses

27 Oct

JonesesI have a confession to make. I used to make a lot less money. I used to dream of the day that I would make more money so I could save more. It always seemed as though I was living paycheck to paycheck. Today, I’m making more money and yet, I’m still living paycheck to paycheck. Why is that?

Without trying to get too bogged down in self-analysis, the simple reason is that I didn’t (and sometimes still don’t) discipline myself. As my income increased, my standard of living increased. I wanted things that I saw others have. Granted, we have four kids now – they cost something! (And I am beginning to believe that girls are more expensive than boys.) But isn’t there truth to the concept of “keeping up with the Joneses”?

Bling Covered AlbumnAds on TV and our culture in general encourage this type of thinking. According to them, you have to have the latest, greatest, biggest, coolest, hippest lifestyle available today! And tomorrow, you need more. If you watch any music television, you know you aren’t cool unless you are covered in bling, wear baggy clothes and show your underwear. We should all be driving hummers – the H1 for me – and your car is old if it is over 2 years old. In fact, you can get more car if you lease it because you should always be driving a new car! Everyone has two car payments – it’s no big deal!

Do you see what you are up against? That is why we have to develop the attitude that all the stuff we surround ourselves with is not ours but Gods and that we shouldn’t ask ourself, how much should we give God, but how much of Gods stuff should we keep for ourselves? Consider things with an eternal perspective. Our culture tries to persuade us to gratify ourselves now with no thought to tomorrow. An eternal perspective would have us deny immediate gratification for future rewards.

Moses faced a similar decision. Moses was Pharaoh’s adopted son. He could have a lavish lifestyle. But Moses had an eternal perspective. Read Hebrews 11:24-26. Moses chose to live (and be ill-treated) with his people instead of being called son of Pharaoh’s daughter. By having this eternal perspective, he was used by God in a great way!

Pastor Bart said it on Sunday – “Financial freedom is achieved by becoming a faithful steward. Financial success is achieved by remaining a faithful steward.”

Teach Your Children

26 Oct

One of my all-time favorite bands is Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I like the harmonies, the simple melodies and thought provoking lyrics. When I listen to them, it just puts me in a relaxed mood. It takes me back to my childhood. I’m sure most of you could sing the words to the hippie anthem “Teach Your Children” even if you didn’t know who sang it. It almost has a campfire feel to it.

Have you ever just concentrated on what the words actually say? Here’s the first verse:

You Who Are On The Road
Must Have A Code
That You Can Live By
And So Become Yourself
Because The Past
Is Just A Goodbye.

Teach Your Children Well
Their Father’s Hell
Will Slowly Go By
And Feed Them On Your Dreams
The One They Picks
The One You’ll Know By.

Don’t You Ever Ask Them Why
If They Told You, You Would Cry
So Just Look At Them And Sigh
And Know They Love You.
Teach Your Children, Graham Nash, CSN, Deja Vu (Released 1970)

Teach Your Children

Somewhere in Graham Nashes lyrics, came the truth of our lives as parents. Our children learn from our “hell” and from our vocalized “dreams”. We need to have a “code” to live by because they will learn by our example. It is up to us to “teach them well” so that when they get older, they will be able to make the right decisions because ultimately, they are the ones who inherit the world that we are leaving.

Let’s all try to make sure they’re prepared.

Deny Yourself

25 Oct

I want a garage full of power tools. I know that given the right tools, I could build anything. I could also use a new computer. The laptop I use is years old and on it’s last leg. I would like a new car. My current one was totaled in a hail storm and has dents all over it. I would like a camper so I can take my family camping. I would like to replace my regular camera with a new digital camera.

There are a lot of things that I would like to have. There are times when I am out shopping that I could just buy something for myself. I don’t. I deny myself these wants in order that I can buy the things that I need. I can plan – take care of my tithe, my savings, my needs and then save for the things I want – or, I can give in to the greed and just buy it right away.

It’s important that I share this whole decision making process with my children. As a parent, I have a responsibility to teach my children how to handle money responsibly, God’s way. We teach best by leading by example. It’s important that they see that I too want things. That I have priorities. That I plan. That I deny myself the instant gratification. I want to involve them in the process so that they can understand that we don’t always get what we want. That there is a difference between need and want. That will help them deal with the no’s they will get from me when they ask for things. They will eventually understand that their needs are really wants and that if they really want something, they have to plan, save and be patient.

It is up to us, as parents, to leave our children a legacy of stewardship. If we teach our children at an early age to be good stewards of God’s money, they will have a head start in achieving financial freedom.

Teach Your Children What You Have Learned

24 Oct

The life-long benefits of teaching children good money habits make it well worth the effort. Children who are not taught these lessons pay the consequences for a life-time. Here are a few guidelines to consider:

  • Guide and advise rather then direct and dictate.
  • Encourage and praise rather than criticize or rebuke.
  • Allow children to learn by mistakes and by successes.
  • Be consistent while taking children’s differences into account.
  • Include all family members in money management discussions, decision making, and activities as appropriate for their age.
  • Explain to children what they can and cannot do and the consequences of violating the limits.
  • As children get older increasingly include them in discussions of limits and consequences.
  • Expect all family members to perform unpaid, routine household chores based on their abilities.
  • Express your desire to have things you can’t afford. Children need to know that parents say “no” to themselves, too.

Top 10 Financial Stresses in Family Life

21 Oct

Top 10 Financial Stresses in Family Life

(Percentage of families experiencing stress)

Money for food, clothing and energy 45%
Purchase of a car, or other major item 43%
Taking out a loan 31%
Children’s education 29%
Problems with family income 26%
Medical/dental expenses 23%
Purchase or construction of a home 16%
Bad investments 16%
Overuse of credit cards 15%
Starting a business 10%

Together Forever, Aid Association for Lutherans, Appleton, WI, 1997, p. 51

What Money Means to You

20 Oct

Rate each of the following statements:

1 = Strongly disagree
2 = Disagree
3 = Undecided
4 = Agree
5 = Strongly agree

1. It is important to me to maintain a lifestyle similar to or better than that of my peers.

2. In making a major purchase, an important consideration is what others will think of my choice.

3. Since money equals power, I am willing to work hard for money in order to have more power.

4. I really enjoy shopping and having nice things.

5. Saving money for a rainy day is an important principle to live by.

6. If I had a moderate amount of money to invest, I would be more likely to put it into multiple resources that are relatively safe than into one fairly risky source that has the potential to make a lot of money.

7. Being “flat broke” is one of the worst things that could happen to me.

8. Saving for retirement is an important financial goal for me.

9. If I suddenly came into a windfall of $1,000 for something I have always wanted to do or have. I’d spend it.

10. Since “You can’t take it with you,” you might as well spend it.

11. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure helps.

12. Few things in life give me greater pleasure than making a great buy.

13. I like/would like having my own business because I can/could control my own financial destiny.

14. I like being able to make decisions about how to spend the money I earn.

15. It bothers me to be dependent on someone else for money.

16. I feel uncomfortable if someone offers to “pick up the tab” because I feel indebted to them.

Now, add your scores for the four questions in each category. The higher your score, the stronger you identify with that approach.

Category Questions Your Score Your Partner’s Score
Money as Status 1-4 __________ _________
Money as Security 5-8 __________ _________
Money as Enjoyment 9-12 __________ _________
Money as a Control over Life 13-16 __________ _________

Interpretation of Scores

4-8 = Low
9-12 = Moderate
13-16 = High
17-20 = Very High

Understanding what it means:

Money as status. People who identify with money as a status symbol are interested in money as power-as a means of keeping ahead of one’s peers.

Money as security. People who use money as a means of security spend conservatively and focus on saving.

Money as enjoyment. People who view money as a means to enjoyment get satisfaction from buying things for themselves and others.

Money as control. People who see money as a source of control, use it to maintain control of their lives, and to remain independent from their partner or other family members.

Now, compare your scores with each other. The closer your scores in each category are, the easier it will be to meet mutual financial goals and needs. The further apart they are, the more negotiating and compromising you’ll have to do.

Reprinted by permission of Warner Books, Inc. of New York, New York, U.S.A. From The First Year of Marriage by Miriam Arond and Samuel L. Pauker, M.D., Copyright by Miriam Arond and Samuel Pauker. Quoted in Together Forever, Aid Association for Lutherans, Appleton, WI, 1997, pp. 46-57

Another Story of Saving

19 Oct

Joslyn Art Museum
Mrs. Sarah Joslyn wanted a memorial for her late husband, so she started saving money to build a museum. The wealthy widow scrimped, wearing old hats and darned gloves. It was reported that her chauffeur was embarrassed to be seen with her.

But when the Joslyn Art Museum was completed in 1931, it was paid for. She may have gotten her frugal ways from her husband. A painting of George Joslyn shows him wearing a stickpin that he got free from a sack of Bull durham tobacco.

(Last Word, Omaha Magazine, Sept/Oct 2005, pg. 78)

Lighter Side of Combat

19 Oct

Mullet MafiaI can get quite depressed watching the news. Having served in the Marines in the Persian Gulf during the Iran/Iraq war and then a tour during Desert Storm, I can relate to a lot of what those guys are going through. I found a video that illustrates some of the lighter moments of combat. This came from the “Mullet Militia” (what a great name!).

You can view the video here.

It’s important to remember that the guys and girls over there are there because that is their job. As members of our military, we voluntarily pledge to serve our country with our life. If they are like I was, I felt a sense of pride in doing my job to the best of my ability, but I wish I could have been back with my family in the United States. No matter how you feel about the war, always remember that these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are there because they have to be, not necessarily because they want to be. Please remember them in prayer and ask God for a safe return home.