Tuesday, June 9, 2009
That's what I thought whenever someone mentioned I might want to talk to a person she knew who helped people through coaching. I was in the throws of not knowing exactly what God wanted me to do when I was considering getting some seminar training (to lead seminars for a particular ministry) but I was unable to finish the last task of the application process for some weird reason. I was praying, seeking God, and then I had a dream I believe was from God that cleared up some of the questions and gave me motivation and clarity to move forward into a new avenue of ministry and focus.
So, in this particular case, yes, I was able to hear God and figure out what he wants me to do with his help, but I've recently found an incredible benefit of this life-coaching that I've never even thought about previously.
I was asked several months ago to consider getting some training with a group of people in our church to coach others in leadership--especially those leading home teams or community groups as they are now called at New Hope. I was originally interested in getting one (a leadership coach) for me! I was one of those leaders (am one) who needs someone to listen to me, to encourage me and help me stay motivated to keep serving, but I never considered that I might be one of those people who could facilitate that also.
Fast forward to today....So, now I'm 8 weeks into the class; just 2 more to go. I have a peer-coach of my own who I also coach as our way of working out what we've learned and getting some good experience before we are released to try our own "powerful questions" and listening skills on other leaders. :) You know, I have never been so hopeful about a certain area of my life that I've been wanting to change for years. I have had the information in my head, and I even know what has worked for me in the past. However, I have been missing some very vital components for this transformation to happen that I am now receiving through my peer-coach's willingness to help me focus on accomplishing this goal!
Yes, it's early. I've only been officially working on this goal for a couple weeks, but I have my coach for at least 3 months and I'm going to take full advantage of her! There are other areas in my life that I have been wanting to see a change--like in my daily time with God in prayer and Bible study and just listening and journaling. Just because I know I will be asked every week how that is going and I know that I will need to be specific and give reasons why I didn't get to it because my peer-coach is standing in for God and is Jesus' representative to me--I'm sticking to it and REALLY enjoying it and hearing God speak to me on a regular basis. That is just the beginning, but I'm trying to keep it fairly simple to start with and celebrate the successes as they come.
I set my own goal; I set my own action steps; and I accomplish so much more already than by just saying to myself that "I need to start doing that."
I'll try to keep you posted, but if you have the opportunity to meet with a life-coach or a leadership coach who trusts in God to speak to his people, act now! Don't delay!
***I also want to put at the end of this a special thanks to Kristi Westergard who listened to God and brought the vision of leadership coaching to New Hope and Karen Bontrager who is an excellent teacher and coach herself. You two ladies have indeed brought something very special to me--focus, energy and motivation to accomplish a life-altering goal!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
We had our last meeting on Thursday and will be celebrating our victory of getting through it with a brunch this week on Thursday at 10AM.
On the 16th, we'll be starting a very informal Bible study at my home at 10AM--kids in tow. We'll be going over the first part of the book called Desiring God's Own Heart: 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles (The New Inductive Study Series) by Kay Arthur. I have twelve books on order if anyone wants me to reserve a copy--the cost is $5.75 each. I believe you can also pick them up at your local Christian book store for a slightly higher cost. As I said, we'll only be studying the first part of the book, or just 1 Samuel, so we can finish by the time school is out for the year. It is very easy to continue on with the study on your own, and I would encourage you to do so during the summer months when most groups will not be meeting regularly.
Click here to get more information on the study guide.
Monday, March 23, 2009
We'll be covering an important aspect of finances that many of us went without as children--teaching our children the truth that we've learned from God's word about money and possessions. Even if you don't have children or they are fully grown and out of the house, you can still receive some great insight into discipling others and sharing His truth with others that have not heard these truths yet.
Next week, I'd love to have each of you share one or more of the blessings you have received or witnessed through this study. Maybe share a goal or two that you have for the future and the steps you plan to take as you reach for those goals. We're all on a journey toward growing closer to God, and none of us has reached the end, so let's encourage one another on to good deeds and following God's will for our lives and sharing with others the great things He has done! Be thinking of what you might like to share!
(note: this is not required but requested)
Friday, March 13, 2009
As women from this generation and the last few generations, we have been raised, in general, to be independent. Our teachers, our parents and mentors have encouraged us and the women's lib movement has taught us that we don't "need" a man or anyone else, that we are just as good or better than men. We're encouraged to get degrees and careers and focus on ourselves, to be dependent upon no one but ourselves. Now, parents raising their children, whether boys or girls, to be independent from their parents, to learn and grow and then let go, are serving their children well. However, we can swing to the far end of the pendulum in our Independence by not letting anyone help us or give us counsel or advice--especially in the sensitive area of personal finances.
Okay ladies, let's say your precious child or your dear pet gets sick and you don't know what to do for him. What do you do? You make an appointment with a doctor or a veterinarian so that he can take a look and make a diagnosis of the problem and prescribe treatment so that your child or pet can get better. Or, you go to books or the Internet to see if you can diagnose the problem yourself by seeking information that other people have written and made available to you. I have this book called The Portable Pediatrician that I went to all the time when any of my children were sick or hurt or something was just "not right." I've had the book since my daughter, Kate was an infant--about twelve years, and I'd always go back and check the information to see if it was something that I needed a professional's opinion and prescription for because I wasn't trained in medicine and I didn't have all the knowledge to make a good diagnosis or the ability to write a prescription for medication if necessary.
Even when our child or pet is well, we still make regular well-child visits or check-ups for them just to make sure that they are developing properly and that we aren't missing anything that might be detrimental to their health. We may not necessarily do this for ourselves, but these children or pets are entrusted to us and they depend on us to take good care of them. Our money and possessions have also been entrusted to us, girls, and we need to understand that we don't have all the information to make wise decisions all the time regarding these. Many times we need to seek the counsel of God as well as others in order to know the best course of action.
There are many different counselors and many different ways to receive counsel.
God is to be your #1 Counselor.
- Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths." Keep on reading further in Proverbs 3, and you'll find even more relevant information on seeking His counsel.
- John 14:16-17 "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor [Comforter, Encourager or Advocate], who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth."
- God's word is our counselor: Psalm 119:97-105 says, "Oh, how I love your law! I think about it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for your commands are my constant guide. Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of your decrees. I am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept your commandments. I have refused to walk on any path of evil, that I may remain obedient to your word. I haven't turned away from your laws, for you have taught me well. How sweet are your words to my taste; they are sweeter than honey. Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path." This is not saying that you always have to do the right thing or never stray off that path, but a life focused on God and His word will help you to stay on that path. Just like a lantern lights our way in a dark forest for only a few steps in front of us, God's word may only light our way a few steps so we have to keep trusting Him every step of the way!
- Our Spouse is to be our #1 earthly counselor. When we are married, we become one flesh, one person with our spouse. We don't lose our identity, we become whole with him. When we make a financial decision, our husbands will be directly affected by that decision--the "bigger" the decision, the bigger the impact. This is why it is so important to keep up a good line of communication with our husbands especially in the area of finances where we struggle so much in our marriages. When you have an idea or want to make a decision about spending, saving, giving or just in budgeting, the best thing to do is to approach your spouse by letting him know what you've been thinking or what you would like to do and then just ask him what he thinks about it. Give him the opportunity to give his perspective, to ask questions and to even support you in that decision or give you new insight where you didn't necessarily see the entire picture. Even if it is merely to honor your husband, seek his counsel, and once you both have presented your sides and you have done your part, the final decision is ultimately in the hands of your husband. If it is not a godly decision, we are called to submit to our husbands anyway, but God will honor that submission and take care of you. (No, "I told you so's." I know I DO have a hard time not saying it, too!)
- Our parents are also counselors to seek out. Whether they have a relationship with Jesus Christ or not, we should honor them by going to them, especially when making a difficult or major decision. Proverbs 23:22 says, "Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don't despise your mother's experience when she is old. Get the truth and don't ever sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and discernment. The father of godly children has cause for joy. What a pleasure it is to have wise children. So give your parents joy! May she who gave you birth be happy." This doesn't say that the parents are necessarily wise, but the children are wise. Listen to your father and seek out your mother's experience and advice. You don' t have to follow it, but you will honor them by asking.
Proverbs 20:18 "Plans succeed through good counsel; don't go to war without the advice of others."
Proverbs 24:6 "So don't go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many counselors."
Proverbs 25:11 "Timely advice is as lovely as golden apples in a silver basket." I picture a white linen-covered table and in the center is a silver, wire basket or bowl that contains gold-colored apples--something you might see in a still-life painting. Peaceful, beautiful, enticing. Notice that it says "timely" advice. You can give good advice to someone else, but if you are not sensitive to the Holy Spirit and God's timing, you can make it out to be something very ugly. However, when you wait for the proper time, and many times that will only be when you are ASKED for your advice, will it be received and it be this beautiful picture.
Proverbs 27:9 "The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense." Many times you really have to have a trusting relationship in order to be able to give advice our counsel to someone. The person you are counseling needs to know that you have their best interests at heart before it will be received as this sweet perfume mentioned in this proverb. Sometimes we are called to just keep our mouths shut.
It can go the other direction, though, too. Proverbs 25:19 says that "Putting confidence in an unreliable person is like chewing with a toothache or walking on a broken foot." Painful. It is wise to seek the counsel of experts in a particular area, like doctors or lawyers or even financial advisers. However, we must remember that they are not necessarily walking in the will of God and can direct you in a path other than what God wants for you. We are to go to these people to get the necessary information to make a decision in light of what God's word says.
The main goal here is for us to humble ourselves before God and before others and seek out advice even if we think we've got it covered. You honor those from whom you seek counsel
Click here for this week's Bible study sheet: Counsel
***There will be no Bible study next Thursday, March 19, due to Spring Break in Wylie.***
We're reading in Money, Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn through the end of the study. These next two weeks would be the perfect time to really get into this book. It has SOOOO much that will really make you think and speak to your heart. Please don't let this book intimidate you--just read a little at a time, but "steady plodding" will get you through it, and you will really love it!
Monday, March 9, 2009
"John Wesley complained that too few preached against the sin of loving money, which he believed hindered revival:
'Wesley noted that in the old days of Methodism, the people were poor. But, he observed... many Methodists had become 20, 30, or even 100 times richer than they were at first. With this increase in wealth had come a decrease in godliness. It seemed to him the more money the Methodists had, the less they loved the Lord.'
When Jesus described the various kinds of people who respond to the gospel, he said that some seed 'fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants' (Matthew 13:7). He later explained to the disciples, 'The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful' (Matthew 13:22). Notice the clear relationship between wealth and worry.
My wife and I have lived in the same house for twenty-five years. For the first nine years, we had an ugly, old, orange carpet. We didn't care what happened to it. Finally it wore through to the floor, so we replaced it. The first day we got our new carpet, there was an accident that burned a hole in it. Any day previous to that one we wouldn't have cared. But now our emotional energy was poured into regret and anxiety about the carpet. It takes time to hover over our things, and that time must come from elsewhere--from time we might spend cultivating intimacy with God, from time in his Word and prayer, time with family, time visiting the needy, time with people who need Christ. Every item I add to my possessions is one more thing to think about, talk about, clean, repair, display, rearrange, and replace when it goes bad.
I can't just buy a television. I have to hook up an antenna or subscribe to a cable service. Then I buy a DVD player and start renting or buying movies. Then I get surround-sound speakers and a recliner so I can watch everything in comfort. By then my neighbor has purchased a bigger screen TV, so it's my turn to upgrade. This all costs money and also takes immense amounts of time, energy, and attention. It isn't just the bad television programs that interfere with God's will for my life. Even if I could find only good programs to watch, the time I devote to my TV and its accessories means less time for communicating with my family, reading the Word, praying, opening our home, or ministering to the needy.
Acquiring a possession may also push me into redefining my priorities and make me unavailable for ministry. If I buy a boat, the problem isn't just the money. I must now justify my purchase by using the boat, which may mean frequent weekends away from church, making me unavailable to teach a Sunday school class, or work in the nursery, or lead a small group, or...fill in the blank. As Jesus said, worries and wealth can choke me, making me unfruitful."
Skip down a few paragraphs...
"In the parable of the great banquet, Jesus describes invitations that went out to three men (Luke 14:16-24). All three declined. One said he had to go look at his newly bought field. Another had just gotten married and didn't have the time. The third man had just purchased five yoke of oxen and was anxious to try them out. The master is angered by these excuses, and he orders his servants to 'go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' Speaking of those originally invited, who were preoccupied with other concerns, Jesus said, 'I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet' (Luke 14:24).
There was nothing wrong with what any of the three men was involved in. They didn't stay away from the banquet because they were stealing or committing adultery. They stayed away because they had more pressing concerns--a new field, a new wife, a new herd. But regardless of their reasons--good or bad--the bottom line was the same: They were so preoccupied with their new treasures that they said no to the banquet giver and missed the banquet. Significantly, those without material resources were available to accept the invitation.
For what seemingly good, legitimate, and compelling reasons are you saying no to God? Are your possessions and other pressing concerns causing you to miss the banquet? How would you benefit, and how would God's kingdom be furthered, if you gave away those possessions?"
I just want to encourage each of you to remember how important honesty is to the Lord. Lying is an abomination in His eyes. A lying or flattering tongue hates those it speaks to. We are commanded to speak the truth in love. It's not always easy. In fact, sometimes being honest is downright very inconvenient, but the quality of our relationship with the Lord depends on it. We are called to be truthful with our friends and loved ones, but also in our business with others--buying and selling whatever.
Watch....be aware of what you say and think about why you say it. Remember Luke 16:10-13? "Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won't be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people's money, why should you be trusted with money of your own? No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Continue reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Hopefully, you're just about done! :)
Click here for this week's lesson on Honesty.
Let's finish up those Income & Expenses worksheets so we can begin to adjust your budgets. If you would like to view the Percentage Guides that help in making adjustments, you can download those forms here: Crown Financial Ministries Pamphlets
You will need to choose that closest matches your current family size, and we are not considered to be in an area where housing costs are unusually high--just an fyi. I also have these forms available in class if you would like to get them on Thursday.
Steady. Steady working, steady spending less than you earn, steady giving, steady saving....consistency is what brings prosperity. Little by little.
In the Christian community, we have a few ways that saving is viewed. Some might say that because saving for the future is considered wise (particularly from many passages in Proverbs) that it is unwise to be very generous because you aren't preparing for the dangers to come. Others would say that if you're saving so much for the future, you're holding out on following God's command to give, especially sacrificially. Others would say that by saving, one lacks the faith that God would provide in your time of need. However, saving in itself is not necessarily a result of a lack of faith in God's provision. It's all a matter of the heart.
One heart may be saving out of fear, hoarding money and possessions to be able to provide for oneself against something that may or may not happen in the future. Or another heart saving in order to live quite comfortably in retirement in those greener pastures we hear about. One heart may be selfishly spending or carelessly giving away everything he has without any consideration as to what God's plan for the provision is. We must listen to the Holy Spirit, watch for the Lord's working, seeking out His counsel through prayer and reading the Bible in order to know what God wants us to do with His money and His things.
Really, saving IS considered wise:
Proverbs 30:24-25 says "There are four things on earth that are small but unusually wise: Ants--they aren't strong, but they store up food for the winter." And it goes on to discuss the wisdom of some other creatures. Joseph was an extremely wise manager who helped Egypt prepare for the coming famine that God revealed to the Pharaoh through a dream. Joseph listened to God's warning and prepared for the dangers, not out of fear, but in wisdom--you'll see more from Joseph in our Bible study from this week.
We save also so as not to presume upon God. What I mean is that we should not go and spend everything we get, or even give everything we get so as to presume that God will provide for us in our need when it comes--especially when it is the abundance that we are giving away that is to be our provision. How do you know how to handle that? That's why we are to make our spending, giving and saving decisions spiritual decisions, ones in which we seek the Lord on a daily basis to find out His plan. We make goals that we believe will honor God, and we need to continually put those before Him and allow Him to make changes as well as show His favor on us through helping us achieve those goals.
Whether we save a lot or a little, the way to keep our heart in the right place is to always walk with open hands--be ready to let some or all of it go when He calls. We don't want to become focused on this earthly treasure that rusts, gets eaten by moths or can be stolen, but we do want to focus on the heavenly treasure that God promises is waiting for us. Let's also not become like the Rich Fool in Luke 12:13-21:
"Then someone called from the crowd, 'Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father's estate with me.' Jesus replied, 'Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?' Then he said, 'Beware! Don't be greedy for what you don't have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.' And he gave an illustration: 'A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. In fact, his barns were full to over-flowing. So he said, 'I know! I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll have room enough to store everything. And I'll sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!' But God said to him, 'You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get it all? Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.'"
Some translations say "are not rich toward God." Yes, I think it's talking about having a rich relationship with God, but you also have to remember that Jesus really is talking about money and possessions here, and we also know that Jesus identifies himself with the poor and the needy from reading in Matthew 25. So when we are generous toward those that are hungry, thirsty, needing clothes, or visit the sick and those in prison, are we not being rich toward God? "I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" Matt 25:40
What can you say? It is a balancing act that requires constant communication with the Lord, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Yes, spend less than you earn and give and save the rest. It's wise to save, but remember the widow and her two pennies? She was commended by Jesus for giving all that she had--more than what the religious leaders were giving and with a heart focused on pleasing God rather than following rules.
Finish up reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Next week, we'll begin reading Money, Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn.
Click here for week 6 Bible study on Saving
Continue working on your 30-Day Diaries and filling out your Income & Expenses worksheet. We will begin to adjust our budgets as we finish the originals.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Today, we're just going to get right down to the nuts and bolts about borrowing and credit:
1. We become slaves to the person or bank that we borrow from
Proverbs 22:7 "Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender." The relationship changes. So whether you borrow from a bank or a finance company or your aunt & uncle or parents--your relationship with that person or company changes. Now you OWE them, and they know it. Every time you get together with family that you've borrowed from, they remember, they're watching you....they're watching you. With creditors, you legally obligate yourself to pay back the balance regardless of the terms, and you are no longer free to use that money for God's purposes.
This is one to memorize to help you when the temptation comes to use the credit card or take on another loan.
2. Taking out loans and buying stuff with credit cards is presuming on the future
We don't know what tomorrow will bring us. You see--we don't see!
James 4:13-17 says: "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."
Taking out a loan or using the credit card may be denying God the opportunity to provide for you in your need. His timing is perfect, and when we wait for Him, He is allowed to be our hero, our Provider. However, if we are impatient or feel we can "save" ourselves until the Lord provides, we deny Him the glory and an awesome testimony of how He came through for us.
3. Using plastic results in more spending
Regardless of whether we pay off the balance at the end of the month, statistics show that we spend 12-18% more when we use credit cards than with cash. When the stores offer a 10 or 15% discount, we spend 30% more because we're getting the discount. The stores are counting on you to do your part.
There is a psychological difference of handling cash which is tangible--when you run out you can't spend more cash. However, with the credit cards and loans, you just see numbers on a statement or in your mind and since you're borrowing already, what's the harm in borrowing a little bit more?
Just think of the difference in making auto purchases when we have cash rather than taking out a loan. For some of us, it seems impossible to be able to purchase a reliable car without getting a loan, so we go for whatever payments seem reasonable and get the best car for the payment. You will find, however, that what you REALLY can afford is what cash you have in your wallet or checking account.
You don't have to have a credit card. It's just not as necessary as the world would like us to think. Debit cards can be used in the same way as credit cards if they have the Visa or Mastercard logo on them. You can reserve a hotel room, a car, airline tickets, you name it. You also have the same liability protection as a Visa or Mastercard.
YOU are NOT your FICO score, Suze Orman says you are, but you are truly NOT your FICO score. You can secure a home loan without a FICO score, you can get insurance, an apartment, a job, etc. without "good credit." It may be a little trickier; you may have to find a manual underwriter for the loan you need to buy a home, but you don't have to have "good credit" to live in the United States or elsewhere. If more of us lived without it, that would become the norm--let's be revolutionaries!
4. Universal Default Clause
One thing you might not be aware of is what is called the Universal Default Clause that many credit card companies have in their back pockets--it's in the fine print. Let's say you default on your agreement to make your payment on time--even by one day. That credit lender has the option on raise your interest rate to 30-35% because of that one late payment. No warnings, no second chances--even if your payment record is pristine.
5. Cosigning for a loan shows a lack in judgment
There's a reason why the bank won't loan this person money, so they need to find someone who is less of a risk to guarantee that the loan will be paid.
You are legally responsible to pay back the loan if the other person flakes out on you, and statistics show that a great majority of those people WILL flake out on you, and you will be left to sell the possession and pay the balance or take over payments.
God gives us specific instructions on this one:
Prov 6:1-5 "My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor [cosigned], if you have struck hands in pledge for another, if you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler."
Prov 11:15 "He who puts up security for another will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe."
Prov 17:18 "A man lacking in judgment strikes hands in pledge and puts up security for his neighbor."
6. The Lord calls us to pay our debts
Read Romans 13:7-8
"Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law."
When we want to lose weight, we can get so focused on buying, preparing, counting calories or points, numbers on the scale or the tags of our clothes--so focused that we lose sight of our relationship with Jesus. Neglect, too, causes us to deny or reveals our denial that we need to use ANY kind of self-control.
Getting out of debt and staying out can be just as much a balancing act. Counting every penny, getting so on fire to get rid of the debt that we have little saved to pay for those "emergencies." The other end is to keep piling on the debt, seeing no way out and giving in to building up more and more debt.
In finances, just as in other areas of our lives, we need to maintain balance.
So if we're in debt, how do we go about getting out of debt?
1) Start with $1000 for an Emergency Fund -- break the cycle of debt (don't skip this one)
Ways to build this quickly is to have garage sale, secure a second job, start a home-based business, sell possessions on ebay.com or craigslist.org. You can always find these things later when you have saved up cash to purchase them if they are still needed.
2) Prepare a budget
We talked about spending in the previous week, and homework throughout this study has been to build up to the point where we can view our current budget and soon adjust to one that will help us achieve our financial goals
One thing I recommend as you're paying off debt is to stop 401K or other investment contributions until you have paid off everything but the house and have 3-6 months of expenses saved for your "fully-funded" emergency fund.
3) Make a list of all your debts
Having it all out there in front of you on paper may be a little bit daunting, but it is also freeing to see that maybe it's not really as bad as you thought it was.
You can also now call the credit card companies to negotiate a lower interest rate. If you have been on time with your payments and have a good history with them, they are more likely going to work with you--especially if you suggest that you may be looking to transfer your balance to another card.
4) Put any extra money on smallest debt while making minimum on others
First you will need to do everything you can to get current if you are behind on payments.
Once you are current, you will want to pay only the minimums on all your debts except for one--the smallest balance. On that one you will put ANY extra money that you are able to pay your debt on top of the minimum payment. You will continue like this until the smallest balance is paid off.
It is very ineffective to spread the money to pay off debt around to several cards or loans. Focus the money on one and pay it off as quickly as you can. It is great motivation to continue when you can close that first account, and you have one less debt to worry about paying on time.
Once the smallest debt is paid, you transfer all that you were paying on that one to the second smallest debts minimum payment. You continue this until it is paid off and you continue rolling along and building your payments without having to actually pay more than you were at the beginning.
Do this for everything but the house. If you have a mortgage, it is wise to pay off the house, but it is generally not included in the debt snowball.
5) Increase Emergency Fund to 3-6 months expenses (not income)
The money used to pay down debt can be rolled into savings until you have it fully funded.
You can find much more detail in The Total Money Makeover which I highly recommend you read after you have read The Treasure Principle.
This week's Bible study can be found by clicking on this link: Borrowing
This week's homework is to fill out the Income & Expenses worksheet with the information gathered from the 30-Day Diary. If you have not completed the 30-Day Diary, just hold on to this one and fill it out when you are ready.
Download it here: Income & Expenses worksheet. You can also find other helpful materials on the Crown Financial Ministries website at Crown.org.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Let's imagine that you need to go to the doctor's office because you're really sick, but you don't know what's wrong. Your husband is going to drive you, and you're pretty sure he knows how to get there. You have exactly 35 minutes until your appointment time and you remember that it takes you 30 minutes to drive there under normal conditions.
So, you get in the car and you're on your way. On the way, your husband decides you MUST stop to get gas and a coke even though you have 1/2 a tank, and then when you're back on the road, he makes a left turn when he should have gone straight, and you're thinking, "He must know a short-cut, so I'll just wait and see how we get there going this way." He takes a couple more turns and you end up on a lonely country road in the middle of nowhere, and now it's 10 minutes until your appointment. Now, you start to ask him questions like, "What street is this?" and "Where are we going?" and saying, "I don't think this is the way."
Your husband was thinking this the entire time, but he was afraid to say anything either because he didn't want to appear foolish.
Now, you're late for your appointment and totally lost--and you're both frustrated, stressed and you're starting to really feel awful--because you're sick, remember?
What happened here? You KNEW how to get there, but you didn't make sure your husband was on the same page. You didn't ask him any questions or let him know your time constraints. You didn't say anything when he started making wrong turns. He didn't have the same plan you did, but you didn't know that because you didn't communicate the plan before you left.
That's a lot like how we budget and spend our money (God's money). We have a plan in our head as to how we're going to spend the money, but we don't effectively communicate it to our spouses. Either they don't care or assume you're handling it pretty well because you haven't said anything.
A written budget is a "spending PLAN." Let me repeat that... A written (on paper) budget is a spending plan made out before you spend the money--BEST discussed by husband and wife together. Written or typed so that you can review it and check the numbers so that it's not just a guess or estimate, and when something else pops up, it doesn't throw everything out of whack.
"Plan to spend" -- that reminds me of when we were pinching every single penny to pay off our debt, and I would tell Gabriel I was going to the grocery store, and he would reply by saying, "Don't spend any money." Well, I certainly can't get EVERYTHING for free, and we had children to feed--I had to have a plan because I WAS going to spend money, but without a list or plan, I would spend WAY more than I had hoped.
Did you know that God was a big planner? Very detailed, too.
Most of you know Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
What about Psalm 40:5?
O LORD my God, you have done many miracles for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them."
He wants us to make plans, too, but plans that are for HIS glory. Listen to Psalm 20:4-5:
"May he grant your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans. May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory, flying banners to honor our God. May the LORD answer all your prayers."
So if we look at our budget as a spending plan to honor God, it's not that four-letter word you think of when you hear the word "budget." It's instead a plan for FREEDOM!
This is what we do when we make a written budget:
Plan for the expected & unexpected
Proverbs 22:3 says, "A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences."
Plan for wise spending (budget, impulse list & wants vs needs)
Plan to get out and stay out of debt
Plan to give
These things don't usually just happen to you--like Keith's message on Sunday, we have to be intentional and "prepare our minds for action" and initiate the plan, the change, yes, the cut-backs or sacrifices necessary to make the plan work. You don't want to make the plan so rigid that you cannot follow it without a mistake here or there--you need to make changes monthly because a budget will not remain the same unless all your spending and income always remain exactly the same.
Now, I said that a budget is a plan for freedom--let's take a look at that:
How much freedom is there when there's only $10 in the bank and you need to buy food for the week to feed your family? If you're like me--this can make you feel like a failure, guilty for not being able to give your family the healthy meals they need to thrive. Think of what it does for your husband when he feels like all the work he's doing comes to this! Or maybe you don't have enough money to pay for the course you need to finish your degree or get ahead in your career or fix things around the house when they get broken? Any way you look at it, that feeling you get when you realize that you've not planned well with the money God has given you is NOT freedom.
There really is freedom in realistic, careful planning, and discipline to stick with that plan and revise it often while communicating with your spouse, asking him for his input---these things help you get where you want to go, where God wants you. For example, look at the Goal Setting exercise you received last week and hopefully got some work done on it--where are you headed?
Proverbs 21:20 says,
"In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has."
This week we will begin reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. We will spend a few weeks on this one, so if you haven't read The Treasure Principle yet or Your Money Counts, you still have some time to get one in. Check around, you might be able to borrow a copy if you have not purchased one already.
Click for Bible study for the week: Week 4 -- Spending
I'm going to give you all a break in homework in order for you to catch up on the previous weeks' homework (taking inventory, filling out the financial statement, recording expenses, writing down goals and discussing them with your spouse, etc.). You can also take this time to catch up on your recommended reading. Once you have enough information on your 30-Day Diary, we can compile your current budget, so don't delay!
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Have you ever worked really hard and found that you were quite productive only to look around at your co-workers, employees, family or husbands who were all just sitting around playing, sleeping or just lounging around? Or that no one notices how hard you've been working or rewards your accomplishments? And have you ever just resented them so much that you got so angry you wanted to yell or scream or cry?
That's where I was on Saturday.
You see, I had been rudely awakened by my cat when I wanted to sleep in, but I got up and decided to have my quiet time with God before everyone got up and distracted me.
Then, starting at 7AM, I was on the move--beginning with whipping up some yummy waffles for the whole family; then, I've been working really hard these past couple of weeks trying to keep the kitchen clean all the time, so I cleaned up everything in the kitchen after I slaved over the waffle iron making extra for the week to come, too. Once the kitchen was clean, it was time to get the kids moving! While hubby was working/playing with his musical-electronic equipment, I was playing drill sergeant to four children ages 4 to 12 who had no inclination to do ANY work on a Saturday morning. Overseeing making of beds, cleaning the bedrooms and bathroom, and sorting clothes for the laundry takes more energy out of me than actually doing it myself!
Once their laundry was sorted, it was time for me to do load after load of their laundry which may or may not actually make it to the closet and the dresser when it's finished.
In between loads, I sat down at the computer to work on the budget, log expenses and pay bills. Stressing that Gabriel wanted to go to some high-end shoe store to buy running shoes! Can we say "dollar signs"???? Very relieved when he decides not to go there and scale it down a little....whew.
After that, cooking lunch and yes, cleaning up the kitchen again afterwards. I cut coupons and got my list ready to go to the grocery store, cleaned our bathroom (okay--not really cleaning--just a little bit of tidying up), swept the kitchen, fed and watered the cat, picked up cat poop since the cat wasn't having such a great day either.
Then it comes; we were going to go out on a date that night (just a short one to let Kate--our 12-year old--babysit), and I asked if we would go before or after the kids were in bed---hoping he would say we could go out to eat--then I don't have to cook and clean up after everyone. (I didn't say it---was hoping it would be his idea.) No. He says, later as I'm dragging stuff out to cook something, that since I'm going to cook, I might as well cook for everyone--so my take on that was, "Go ahead and work, and we'll go out later," on his day off--not mine.
Yeah, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself--to the point of tears in front of the garage door--crying out to God. Yes, I was in the garage so no one would think to walk in on me while I'm in the middle of complaining to my Father--telling on my husband and children.
I knew that when I was talking with Him that I was going through the pain of feeling unnoticed, unrewarded and alone--to bring this to you because I have no doubt that each and every one of you has felt that way at one time or another.
You work and you work and you work and the ones around you skate by on doing very little. OR...your hard work goes unnoticed and unrewarded. You've managed to do something pretty special, but no one is sensitive enough to do something to make you FEEL special.
As I'm standing there, seeking God for comfort in the garage, I hear Him saying to me, "It's not for Him to reward you. I'm your boss."
For you see, He knows I know that. I know it, but it still hurts my feelings when my husband after 15 years still doesn't anticipate my needs and do everything he can to fulfill them all. Yeah, I learned that my expectations of my husband have been too high--I've put him in the place of God in that regard, and that's messed up! Only God is the one who says He'll provide for ALL my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus--and He's the only one who can prove it.
Here's the key verse for this morning: Colossians 3:22-24
"Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord."
Now, how is it that we show reverence for God when we "do what we're told" for our earthly boss even when he's not around to notice? I'm not saying our husbands are necessarily our masters, but when we seek his favor, is that not kind of what we're doing?
Paul explains it further in verses 23 & 24
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
We need to act like we're working for Christ, even if it's a total drag and seemingly unrewarding, because Jesus really is our boss and He is the one who will reward us and of whom we should be seeking favor. See, we show him reverence because we are seeking to please Him by pleasing our earthly boss when he's watching and when he's not. When our husband notices and when he doesn't.
There's more to it, too. Did you know that since Christ is our boss, and our husband's boss, that only Christ has the power to hire and fire employees, promote and demote, and to give raises to those who work diligently?
Psalm 75:6-7 says, "No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another."
God provides the work, God provides the strength to work, God provides the income from the work, God provides.
There was one instance after Gabriel and I had understood this principle for some time that we decided together that Gabriel should ask for a raise at work. However, he did not approach his earthly boss first, we both asked God for wisdom and also for provision for an increase in income. Then, after some research and preparation, Gabriel approached his boss, and he was given no encouragement whatsoever--he basically said, "It doesn't look good, now's not a great time."
However, we did not take that as discouragement, we continued to pray for God's provision, and the next day, Gabriel's boss came back with good news! There was no indication of how much it would be or when it would be, but that there was going to be some reward coming. After more prayer when things didn't look like they'd go through, the Lord rewarded Gabriel with a real blessing, honoring Gabriel's effort and faith. Even when things don't look good for the company you work for, or when you're out of work and it doesn't seem like anyone is hiring--remember, it's the Lord who is your Master, who hires and fires, who brings down and raises up. He's the one who rewards your work and your faith.
There is so much more I want to share with you about work from Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 that we just don't have time for, but I do want to share this...
Whether you're a stay-at-home mom, work outside the home full- or part-time, own your own business or volunteer your time--the common thread is that we women DO work, and we do need to avoid idleness but also get the proper rest, too. Whatever you do, work hard and cheerful, but don't try to do more than you are able to, and trust God that when you take that one day off that He will provide for you through your work on the other six days.
So, when you're feeling like you're working and no one else is, ask for help, let them know what you'd like them to do (if it's within your power to do that). Don't expect them to read your mind or do something you haven't asked them to do yet and don't expect praise and reward from them, but seek the Lord and seek his favor and know you will be rewarded with a great inheritance. "It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
At this point, Marge King came up to give a short testimony on her experience with work and with giving which is the subject we covered last week. Again, I will not include the testimony here--make sure to ask her sometime!
Our homework for the week can be downloaded here:
(Print two of the Goal Setting Exercise if your husband would like to work on this separately, then you can come together to discuss and prioritize your goals.)
We're still reading through Your Money Counts by Howard Dayton and will discuss more next week. Have an awesome week!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
God's Job vs. My Job Bible study (week 1)
Quit Claim Deed fill in items of value as well as children and pets that you are transferring ownership over to God, sign and have witnessed
Giving Bible study (week 2)
Net Worth help (handy definitions) and Financial Statement form (use the information from the Inventory to complete this page)
30-Day Diary to record expenses (every penny--cash, check, charge, debt, etc.) . You do not need to fill in "budgeted" amounts yet unless you choose to.
*Financial Statement and 30-Day Diary provided by Crown Financial Ministries website www.crown.org
The next book in our study that we will read is Your Money Counts by Howard Dayton. If you have not finished The Treasure Principle, I would encourage you to read that one first and then proceed to this book. If you read it and would like to chat about it, please drop me a line! :)
Each person had a card (or two or three) with a budget item written on it and a corresponding dollar amount. Two women (who claimed to be pretty good at math) volunteered to act as the married couple who would be making the budget decisions. I acted on the behalf of God, and another woman (who had the taxes card) acted as the employer.
So, pretending that I was God, I handed over $1,000 cash (real money) to the employer to give to the couple. She did this and in turn, the couple was forced to pay their taxes of $100. (We may never actually have that money in our hand because it is taken out before the check is deposited into our accounts; however, we DO receive the gross amount but immediately pay our taxes and insurance and our 401K contributions, etc. and it is ALL considered our income.)
Next, some of the women held up their cards for the couple to decide which bills to pay--like cell phone, eating out, entertainment, home decor, etc. Not all of the women were paid, so we went to the next set of women who held up their cards. These were items like debt, insurance, maintenance, etc. Again, not all of the bills were paid--the couple was wisely waiting to see what else they would be required to pay. So the third group of women raised their cards to request payment. These included mortgage, food, electricity, clothing--the necessities, and once several of those were paid, I raised my card--the tithe of $100.
At this point, the couple had about $170 left in their hands and had several other bills that had not been paid. It was a struggle to decide what to do, and our couple eventually came to the decision that they would give the whole amount, $100, to God, even though very little money was left to pay for debt and some of the other bills.
The question then came, "How difficult would it have been to pay the tithe if I had raised my card first instead of at the end?" Waiting until the end of the month to see if there would be money left to give to God is actually CAUSING us to not give. If we give the first 10% to Him right off the bat, we are able to make decisions to pay the bills with the 90% that's left according to the priorities of necessities first, wants and luxuries after that--and sometimes the bills don't ALL get paid, but as time goes on and we are obedient in giving and spending and saving wisely we are able to have money at the end of the month and then some.
(Using cash in hand actually makes a big difference when you're making spending decisions.)
To the rest of the lesson:
Last week I shared with you the principle that God has a job with respect to our finances and you have a job as well. God is 1) the Owner of everything, 2) He is the Provider of everything and 3) He is the Ruler of everything--our job is to be faithful managers of everything he puts in our possession. When we stick to our job and don't try to take on God's responsibilities, we experience a great deal of peace and freedom!
Now we understand that everything belongs to God--in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 we studied what David had to say as He praised God for the provision to build the Temple and the role God plays as the owner, provider and ruler. Okay, so what do YOU have that belongs to God? What about your checkbook? Savings account? IRA or 401K that may be in the dumps right now? What about birthday money?
How different is a paycheck in your bank account? Does God not own that too? Does He not give instruction on that? Yes, He does, and we have to seek His word to find it because we have not been thoroughly taught.
Now I'm not here to crack down on you if you're not giving 10%. However, the "tithe" means 10%. If you're giving less than 10%, it's not a "tithe," it's an offering. If you're giving more than the "tithe," you're giving the tithe plus an offering on top of that and that is your choice. We START at the tithe as the baby step and then increase our giving as God leads us to do so. Pastor Keith has taught much on giving the tithe at the end of 2008, so I won't go into too much of this aspect of giving. I do want to bring to your attention a few things, though:
In Genesis 14 Abraham is the first person noted to give to a priest of God Most High. He gave a tenth of all the goods he recovered from his victory over the King of Elam. Not until much later, when Moses was give the Law after being freed from slavery in Egypt, were the tithe and freewill offerings required of the Israelites.
We do need to be careful not to become legalistic like the Pharisees in this--like the Pharisee in Luke 18 that when looking at the tax collector in the Temple said:
- "I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don't sin, I don't commit adultery. I fast twice a week and give you a tenth of my income." Luke 18:11-12
Other kinds of giving:
Giving to the poor and the needy, the widows and the orphans is high on God's priority list. He is passionate about this subject and wants to use us to help fulfill their needs. We're just going to scratch the surface with this--with a couple of examples that we also touched on last week.
- Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to the rich young man who wants to know how to have eternal life, "...sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
- Matthew 25:31-46 talks about when you give food to someone who is hungry or give water to a person who is thirsty, or care for them when they're sick or visit them in prison--when you give to someone who is in need, you're really giving to Christ himself.
- "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
- "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and mush grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need."
- Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet."
This was not a command--they were not required to do this. They chose to do so.
Seems pretty radical, doesn't it? Now we're not called to live completely without, and we're not called to be materialistic either -- there is a balance that the Holy Spirit brings when we seek God out for our daily decisions regarding spending, saving AND giving. We have to start letting go of what keeps us from having that "eternal life" that the rich young man desperately wanted--that we truly want!
At this point, I asked Amie Johnson to share her testimony regarding giving and also on her experience after understanding the difference between God's job and her job as a steward or manager of God's money and possessions. Amie is one of our small group leaders and has led a study using the book Money, Possessions and Eternity and has a passion to see others set free in this area of their lives. (She did a wonderful job at sharing, but I will not include that here--you'll have to ask her sometime!)
**Our homework for the week was to begin recording expenses on our 30-Day Diary--to the last penny. I have included a link in the previous blog post you can click on to print off a copy of your own if you like. We also received the Financial Statement form or Net Worth Evaluation to be used with the information taken from the Inventory we filled out last week. There is also a take-home Bible study sheet for this week that I can e-mail to anyone who would like to request it. (I'm still trying to figure out a good way to post it here to make it that much easier for you to access.)
The 30-Day Diary is for you to write down ALL your expenses, to the penny. The easiest way to do it is to keep your receipts and at the end of each day, sit down and record them all in the proper categories. You do not have to write down the "budgeted amount" at this time, although you can.
We want to track what we ACTUALLY spend in order to come upWe use our information from the Inventory we took last week and compile the totals for the assets (the things we OWN) and the liabilities (things we OWE) and subtract the liabilities from the assets. Don't worry about whether you are in the negative or come close to zero. As we go along, you will be able to turn it around with the Lord's help for some good changes that are coming.
with our current budget and then adjust it from there. Don't
forget to get your husband's expenses, too--have him either give
you the receipts or write it down himself. (use pencil) ;)
Once you have completed the Inventory and Financial Statement, you can begin to determine if there is anything you have that you can sell in order to fund your emergency fund (which we will talk about this week), pay off debt, or pay for something that is a need for you or your family.