Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pictures of the children

Monday, March 23, 2009

Last Two Sessions -- from Money (for women only)

We're in the home stretch--just two more weeks of our Bible study on handling money and possessions! Are you hanging in there? Have you seen some fruit in your financial and/or personal life? Care to share????

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

Counsel -- from Money (for women only)

This week we're talking about seeking counsel or advice.

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.
Here are more wonderful passages that talk about seeking counsel:

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

Materialism -- an excerpt from Money, Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn

This is taken directly from Money, Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn.

"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?"

Honesty -- from Money (for women only)

Ladies, we had quite a small group last week due to many sick children and members with other commitments, so we did not have a formal lesson this week. Those of us that were able to attend had a great discussion on what God is revealing to us and changing in us through His word, and I am so very encouraged!!!! God is so very, very good!

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. 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.

Saving--from Money (for women only)

"Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty." Proverbs 21:5 (TLB)

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.