Saturday, February 28, 2009

Borrowing from Money--for women only

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."

Balance, just like anything else in our lives, we can swing from one end of the spectrum to another. In personal finance, you can go from uninhibited spending to penny-pinching, miserly saving. From poverty-causing generosity to lonely-wealth and riches.

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 or 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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Notes on Debt Delayed

Forgive me, ladies, for not posting last week's notes and homework yet on the blog. It's been a bit of a rough week with lots of distractions. I will have extra hand-outs on Thursday if you would like to get them then. I hope to post the notes this weekend for both sessions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spending (from Money for women only)

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."

Let's plan how we're going to spend His resources before we foolishly spend whatever we get.

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

Work (from Money for women only)

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:

Week 3 Bible Study -- Work

Goal Setting Exercise

(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

Bible Study & Homework now downloadable!

I am now able to post the weekly Bible study and homework assignments online without having to e-mail them thanks to my super-smart, absolutely fantastic husband, Gabriel! You can now receive all you need for the Bible study here each week. Please feel free to let me know if you have any trouble or have any questions.

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

Inventory Homework

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

Recommended Book (from Money for Women Only)

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! :)

Giving (from Money for women only)

We started off Thursday morning's session with an object lesson. I'll have to describe it here, but know it was way better in person. :)

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
Jesus said, too, that " should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things" like justice and mercy. (Matthew 23:23) He does not relieve us from our spiritual need to give to God the tithe merely because we are no longer under the Law. The tithe came about WAY before the Law, but we need to maintain a balance with giving and not forget to be merciful and kind, revealing the fruit of the Spirit in its many aspects: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.

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."
Jesus knew this man's heart. He knew that money was going to be the hard thing for him to give up to follow Christ. What does Jesus say to do with it? Give it to the poor--those in need.

  • 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.
Now, let's turn to Acts 2:42-47. We see the early church right after Pentecost:
  • "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."
Again, we see in Acts 4:32-35 more outpouring of this understanding that we own nothing and give to those who are in need:
  • "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."
Thus follows an example in verses 36 and 37:
  • 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 that all believers must do as the early Christians did. I don't believe they were giving up their own basic necessities so someone else could have them, but they were sacrificing maybe larger homes and downsizing, selling off land they did not need in order to bring in an income, possessions that had value that they truly didn't need. They took the money they received for the sale of these possessions, knowing that "what they owned was not their own," to make sure that no one was lacking any necessity (food, shelter, clothing).

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.)

Tools for assessing your current financial situation (from Money for women only)

I wanted to post some links on here to the homework I have given these past two weeks. Anyone can use them--they are free to download from the Crown Financial Ministries website.
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 up
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) ;)

We 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.

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.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

God's Job vs. My Job (from Money for women only)

I've come across a lot of women who were unable to join us for our morning Bible study but would like to get the teaching, but I'm not doing video or recording it right now. So I had this idea that I would blog my lessons each week and see how that goes. (This does not include the take-home Bible studies or the homework--just the "message.")

Before we get started on talking about finances, I have to encourage all of you ladies out there (and husbands too!) that communication with your spouse is key when it comes to finances. You may be learning a lot and you may have a major breakthrough in your perception, but our spouses are not going to get it if we beat them over the head with it, make accusations or generalizations. All marriages could benefit from improved communication skills of the husband and the wife--all relationships, really. What you learn from this course, take it, share it with your husbands, but remember that the changes we're after here are initially for YOU. We'll dance and celebrate when you're both on the same page, though!!!

For all of you that are married, I'm sure you've already experienced the stress that comes in the area of personal finances--mostly when there's not enough money to go around and debt begins to pile up. These financial issues cause a huge strain on a marriage and are the leading cause of divorce in our nation, but we want to combat this force with the knowledge and understanding of the word of God and with prayer.

In fact, one of the reasons we deal poorly with money is that we don't know what our role in finances really is--or that there is even a division of roles. Most of us have not had the job training for this and we get totally mixed up by taking on responsibilities that don't belong to us. God has designed a system for us in which he has a job and we have a totally different job--want to know what they are? Keep reading....

All throughout Scripture, God lines out three main categories that He takes on as His job:

God is the Owner (of everything)
  • Psalm 24:1-2 says "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters."
OK, everything.... that's so incredibly huge, so general, so big and unfathomable in begins to fade out of my mind before it sinks in and well, I just forget and don't think about it's just TOO big. But wait! He's not just the owner of everything in general, He says in Haggai 2:8 that "The silver is mine and the gold is mine," he says He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the animals in the field, the little sparrow, he owns you and me. He says that the land is His and that it will not be sold permanently because, really, God never transferred over ownership to anyone. You may have that silver and gold in your possession, but it still BELONGS to God and always will.

So we understand that the first aspect of God's job is to be the owner of everything, let's look at the second aspect.

God is the Provider (of everything)

Picture a little infant. He can't feed, clothe, shelter or care for himself and is totally dependant on the care and provision of his parents. God looks up on in much the same way--as His little ones who need Him to provide for everything we need, and He's really the only one that can do that kind of job for us. In fact, God wants to be the one to do that for you and delights when you ask Him.
  • Philippians 4:19 says "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." [emphasis mine]
His glorious riches---God's provision never runs out. There is nothing that He can't and won't do for you when it comes to providing for your needs. Can He not then afford to provide you with food, necessary clothing and basic shelter? Our God is not poor and does not have to ration His supplies--His supplies never end!

If God is the Owner of everything and the Provider of everything, what is the third aspect of God's job that we need to be aware of?

God is the Ruler (of everything) He's in control.

In this sense, God is like the President, only the President of the universe with Super-Duper power. We read in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12:
"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.[He is WAY cool! Everything belongs to Him.]
Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. [He's the KING--He is the highest in the chain of command and there is no one like Him] Wealth and honor come from you [We receive money and respect or recognition by others from Him]; you are the ruler of all things.[There is nothing beyond His rule] In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. [He has the power to raise our rank, power, or character and to give us strength to do what He calls us to.]

There is nothing that happens that He doesn't know about, that He doesn't allow. He's sovereign and in control.

I want to share a story about how I came to understand this truth about God's job. Back in 2003, my husband, Gabriel and I were working diligently to squeeze out every penny we could in order to pay down a huge pile of debt by working with our own plan and budget. It was going okay, but Gabriel's estimation of the time it would take to be free of the debt was SEVEN YEARS! That in itself was incredibly depressing. So I would look in every area of our budget to see where we might be able to cut back to make it go a little faster.

We had bought a small, 1200 sqft home in Duncanville in July of 1998 when it was just the tree of us, Gabriel, Kate and myself. Kate was only 1-1/2 but she needed room to play and since I am a stay-at-home mom, she needed a place to run and play during the day. The house was small and not in the best of neighborhoods, but the back yard--oh, it was wonderful! It had a huge mulberry tree that shaded almost the entire yard; it was flat, fenced in, had a covered porch, and almost immediately, we had a swing set and sand box all set up for Kate and then Jacob when he came along in 2000. Becca arrived in the summer of 2002 and shortly thereafter--the minivan.

In the summer of 2003 we were staying with my in-laws in Tennessee for a week as our "vacation" in order to spend time with family (and we couldn't afford to really do anything else). My father-in-law is a CPA and happened to have a copy of Larry Burkett's The World's Easiest Guide to Finances on one of his shelves. I picked it up and devoured it, especially the chapters on how to save money and ways to pay down debt. I learned to look closer at your auto insurance policy and call around, cut coverage here and there, ways to use coupons for groceries, freeze some foods after you buy them on sale to have for later, turning back your thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer, etc. Those were all great tips I would take back home with me and use them right away. However, there was one thing Burkett said that looked impossible to me--he said that if you have equity in the house (meaning you can sell it for more than you owe on it), you could sell the house, pay off debt with the profit and then rent an apartment while you save money to buy a house in the future.

The math was all there. Yeah, that would work, but.... what about the big back yard? An apartment with three children? It was pretty crowded with just one--how would we fit in a 800 sqft apartment with crying children? "No, no, no, no. That's just not going to work for us," I thought. So I decided to keep focusing on cutting back on expenses to try to pay down the debt. How absurd...sell the house... sure, that would work for a couple who's kids have already left the nest, but not for a family with a bunch of young children. Not us.

We returned home from our vacation, and I began to research the Internet for more of Larry Burkett's books and Bible studies. I was wanting to go through one, and since I happen to lead Bible studies (for women) at the church I attended, I thought I would get the leader's guide and do it there. I found one that looked like exactly what I wanted--one that showed results of life change. It was called the Crown Financial Ministries Biblical Financial Study for small groups. That's a mouthful. The problem was, I had to go through it before I could lead it, so I searched for a group that was beginning in the next month or so. Most in the area had already started or were not having the study that semester, but I did find one, way across town, that was starting the very next week and it had room for me. I had a real sense of urgency to get in RIGHT NOW--I couldn't wait until January when most churches offered new groups, so I started going, and the first week covered this very topic. God's part vs. my part.

I learned that God is the owner, provider and ruler of everything. Everything. That means that God is the owner of our minivan, our children, our money, our house, and yes, our backyard.

That got the wheels in my head turning. If God owns the house and backyard and everything else, then I own nothing. I learned that the house was not mine to do with as I pleased and if God wanted us to be out of debt and selling the house was His plan, then why not? So I talked with Gabriel about the idea and we decided to pray about it and do some research.

Gabriel and I had been praying for some time that he would be released from his current job and be given something different that enabled him to use more of his skills in mathematics or for him to be able to go back to school to get a master's degree in math. This seemed like a good opportunity--sell the house, go live with one of the set of parents while earning a little as an apprentice to a professor and living below the poverty level. Sounded like so much fun to me, but I said I was open to it all the while confessing that I really didn't want that.

It wasn't long after that discussion that we found the apprenticeship was not an option because of a lack of certain classes, so Gabriel asked, "Do you think we still need to sell the house?" as if the apprenticeship was the reason we were going to sell it in the first place. Well, we decided to spend some more time praying about it and we got some godly counsel from an elder of our church. One night, I had been spending some time in prayer out on the couch while everyone else had already gone to bed. I really wanted an answer before we made this huge decision, but I didn't hear anything. I then decided to go to bed, and as soon as I lay down to go to sleep, I heard God say three words, "Sell the house." (Not audibly, of course.) I told Gabriel the next day and then we had the realtor out with the camera and for sale sign.

We prayed for God's provision for a buyer for the house for 3 months, worked hard to keep it clean (with three kids at home) and ready to show at a moment's notice, painted and fixed what needed repairing. God provided and we were able to pay off all our remaining debt and have a little left over, and we moved in with my parents' house with no idea of what God had in store for us next.

So, in realizing that God is the owner, provider and ruler of everything, even the backyard, what is our job? What are we to do while God does everything else? Are we to be loafers and lazies that can't do anything for themselves? No, we DO have a job, a specific job. We're to be God's managers. The managers of his money and property while it's in our possession and not just any managers, faithful managers.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:2 says "Now a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful."
We don't own anything, but we have been given money and possessions to manage for God while we are here on earth. And, because he's still the owner, we need to handle everything for the best interest of the owner, God, and the company, God's kingdom. But what does it mean to be faithful? What do we have to do?

If you joined us in our last study on the fruit of the Spirit, we learned a little about faithfulness. One of the things I took away with me from that is that in order to be faithful, we have to have faith in (and act on) who God is rather than what He does. And we find out about who He is through His word--the things he does change all the time, but He does not change. His character is always the same that that's what we put our faith in. If we have faith that God is good and fulfills His promises then we can trust Him to take care of us and do what He asks us to do.

He tells us what He expects of us, also, in His word, and we will be learning more and more over the course of these next nine weeks what that entails and how to apply it to our lives today, but let's look in Luke to find out what the big deal is....

  • Luke 12:42-48 [Jesus is speaking to the disciples and crowds and giving a parable about being ready for the master's return and Peter interrupts him by saying "Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone? this is Jesus' reply:]
"The Lord answered, 'Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
That servant who knows his master's will and does nto get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

Jesus is going to return one day, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, we don't know. How are you handling the owner's money and possessions? Are you ready for His return?

We see also in Luke 16:10-13 that how we handle our money directly affects our relationship with Jesus. Following God's word in your finances will help you grow in your trust and friendship with the Lord.
  • "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
Here is the second part of my story:

We moved in to my parents' two story house around the first of February 2004 not knowing where God was going to put us--we were in limbo, you could say. Not long after the closing on the house, we found out we were expecting baby number four. Let me tell you, I was scared a little bit but thankful Gabriel still had a job and that God had it all under control.

That July, we were looking at apartments near the University of Texas at Arlington where Gabriel was to be taking classes in the fall, and my father passed away unexpectedly. I knew right then God had us there for a reason. I was moved when I realized that God allowed me to have time with my father those last six months and my children to get to know their grandfather. I remember my father had just taught my son, Jacob (who was four at the time) to stand on his shoulders (my father was over 6'2"), and they laughed and had lots of fun together. I felt God had us there to be a comfort to my mother and help her run the house during her mourning and that little Nate's arrival would be a great distraction during the holidays that would be coming, so we decided to remain there indefinitely and stopped looking at apartments.

Two weeks after my father's passing, God released Gabriel from his job. Yea! This was an answer to prayer! Not exactly what we were hoping for--there was no job waiting for him this time and we had no other income, only what was left over after paying off our debt.

Listen to this, we had no home of our own, we were living with my mother. My father had just died, and my husband, the only bread-winner, had just lost his job, and we had our fourth baby on the way. Would this not send any normal person into a bit of a depression if not clinical depression? But, you see, we had no debt, no house payment, no bills piling up because God led us out of all of that before we were hit with all of these trials. That's why I had to get in that Crown small group study RIGHT THEN so that I would understand what God wanted me to let go of to be where God wanted me/us to be in July that next year.

Gabriel received two months of wages as a severance package, and he only had to wait one month before God provided him with another job out in east Plano. We made a profit from his layoff. We remained with my mother through January of '05 and then were able to purchase a modest home in Wylie, TX, to be closer to where Gabriel was working and we have been blessed in so many ways since then--especially with our new friends and family but also new spiritual growth and opportunities to serve we would have never dreamed of--some we had!

All of this because we recognized God's job is not our job and we needed to get our hands out of what he was supposed to be doing--faithfully managing God's money and possessions.

I recommend reading The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. It's a short read, but it gets right to the point. You won't be disappointed but quite possibly convicted. ;)