Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's OK to Live the Christian Life Out of Obedience

A Dangerous Trend

Over the last several years, I've noticed a dangerous trend in Christianity in regard to living out the Christian life. My concern has been in regard to motivations for living out what God's Word has called each of us to do in our lives. This concern has been birthed upon hearing statements such as:
"I can't give back to God in tithes and offerings right now because I would be doing it with wrong motivations. I don't think I would be doing it out of a love for God."
"I just don't feel like reading God's Word and spending time with Him in prayer each day. And because I don't 'feel' like it, I probably shouldn't do it. If I did, then I would doing so out of a sense of obedience and duty."
"If I serve the Lord in the way that I think He wants me to serve Him, I think I would be doing so out of guilt, and I wouldn't be very joyful about it, anyway. When I feel like doing what He wants me to do, then I will act."
Suck It Up

Everyday, each and every one of us has to do things that in the moment we don't feel like doing. When my daughters were little babies, I never "felt" like changing their diapers. I mean c'mon. Does anybody really enjoy changing poop-filled diapers? I never did. But I did it because I wanted my little girls to have clean little bottoms and not have diaper rash. The consequences of not changing the diapers were much worse than the act of simply changing their diapers on a regular basis. A screaming baby with diaper rash is not a fun experience!

And, does anybody really enjoy doing weekly laundry, grocery shopping, or cleaning the house? But, if you want clean clothes, food to eat, and a clean home, many times you just need to "suck it up" and get these chores accomplished.

Falling On The Ball

My pastor likes to refer to these type of activities as "falling on the ball." He came up with this analogy from doing football drills during practice when he played high school football. Nobody enjoys doing these types of skills practice because they are boring and tedious. It's much more exciting to go out there and play the game. If you want to win football games though, then you have to do the disciplined work that is necessary to play the game well.

I view the Christian life at times in the same way. Many times (even as a pastor), I don't feel getting up early to read my Bible and pray. Hey, I'd rather get a few extra minutes of sleep. That's what I feel like doing. That's what my "flesh" is telling me to do, you know, that little "demon" sitting on my shoulder saying, "C'mon, Larry. You're tired. You need your sleep. You and your family would be better off today if you sleep in. You've earned it." Believe it or not, sometimes I may not even feel like going to church on a particular Sunday [gasp!]. I must and I need to, obviously, because that is my vocation. And, even as a stewardship pastor, there are times that I don't really want to manage my money God's way. I can get lazy and get "stuffitis" like everybody else. That little demon shows up on my shoulder, again, and starts telling me that I've worked hard for my money (even though it's really God's money), and I deserve a new flat screen digital TV or MacBook Air.

Feelings Often Follow Actions

Because I don't have an emotional feeling to do something that is right, that doesn't mean I shouldn't "fall on the ball," follow through, and do it. Also, because I feel like doing something else doesn't mean I should take that particular action. Consider the following quote by Zig Ziglar,
Feelings follow actions. so when you don't really want to or feel like doing what needs to be done - do it and then you will feel like doing it.
The Apostle Paul likened this struggle that we all have to running a great race. This great race is our life here on the earth. He wrote to the church in Corinth,
Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
In the book Crazy Love, Francis Chan gives us an illustration of loving God through obedience:
A friend of mine was speaking recently. Afterward a guy came up and told him, "I would go serve God as a missionary overseas, but, honestly, if I went right now it would only be out of obedience." My friend's response was "Yes, and...?"
Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). Jesus did not say, "If you love me you will obey me when you feel called or good about doing so..." If we love, then we obey. Period. This sort of matter-of-fact obedience is part of what it means to live a life of faith.

In a perfect world, we should do everything for God out of love. We should read our Bibles and pray every day. We should offer our natural talents and abilities in service to our churches. We should be "salt and light" to the world around us. We should be generous givers.

The challenge is that we all have a fleshly, sin nature. We are selfish, and we are rebellious. In order to "beat down" our sin nature, though, we have to take action that is often contrary to what we feel. We have to push back. At times, it will seem like a lot of work. It won't necessarily feel like we are taking action out of a pure love for God. My response: take action anyway. The love for God will flow out of your right actions.

Living out the Christian life is a race of endurance. We must discipline ourselves over the long haul and be obedient to what our Lord has asked us to do. Am I suggesting in this post that our salvation is a work-based one? No, definitely not. But, if I have yielded myself to Him, if I have accepted Jesus Christ as not only my Savior, but also my Lord, my life and my actions are going to look radically different from those who do not know Him.

Does this mean I'm perfect? Of course not, but each day, I should be heading in the direction of Jesus. I crawl out of bed, put one foot in front of the other, and "fall on the ball" in my spiritual walk in order to live a life that honors God and pleases Him.

In what areas of your spiritual walk do you need to discipline yourself, today?

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

7 Practical Ways to Give to the Poor

The Biblical Mandate

Throughout the Bible, we see commands in both the Old and New Testaments to give to the poor. In Jewish Law, God gives several instructions to the nation of Israel to give aid to those who are in need such as,
For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove (Exodus 23:10-11).
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the graps that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:9-10).
He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses (Proverbs 28:27).
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern (Proverbs 29:7).
In the New Testament, we see the same call of compassion for the poor from Jesus and the leaders of the early church.
Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you" (Luke 11:39-41).
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Luke 12:32-34).
When Jesus heard this, he said to him [the rich ruler], "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Luke 18:22).
Avenues of Giving

Now that we have seen that there is a Scriptural mandate to give to the poor, there are a number of giving avenues available to us in which we can give help to those in need.
  1. Your church's general budget. Some churches do not operate on designated gifts. They funnel all of their offerings through their general budget. If your church operates in this manner, check and see if your church has budget line items to help those who are poor in your community. Your church may also have specific line items in their missions budget that support para-church ministries that help the poor. Through your faithful giving to your church's general budget, you will be helping to fund these budget line items.
  2. Church designated offerings. Many churches operate with a "benevolence fund" in which designated money is given to help those who are poor. My own church has a tradition of taking up a benevolence offering for the poor each time we take The Lord's Supper in a service. This is an opportunity to give specifically to help the needs of the poor.
  3. In house church organizations. Some churches establish non-profit organizations that operate on the property of the church. These are ministries not specifically funded through the church budget.
  4. Para-church organizations. These are faith-based organizations that would include homeless shelters, child care, domestic violence, disaster relief programs,food pantries, and clothing closets. They normally exist outside a specific church or denomination. Many times, churches will take on a para-church organization as part of its missions budget line item.
  5. Other non-profit charities. These would include any charitable organizations outside the realm of "faith-based."
  6. On the spot giving. When you come across someone in need, you have an opportunity to give to them.

7 Practical Ways to Live Out a Life of Giving to the Poor
  1. Designate your offerings. If your church has designated offerings for benevolence or a specific ministry to the poor, then consider designating a separate offering above the tithe each time that you give.
  2. Give of yourself to a church ministry or para-church organization. Consider volunteering your time, energy, and abilities to ministries that help those in need. These ministries depend on people donating their time and energy to do the work of the ministry.
  3. Donate major assets. Most major non-profit ministries to the poor have the capacity to accept large, non-cash personal assets such as cars, RVs, boats, and jewelry. If you have any of these items that you no longer use or need, consider donating them to help others in need.
  4. Donate clothing or other household goods. Goodwill and The Salvation Army are two non-profit charities that come to mind that have generated millions of dollars for the poor through selling America's unwanted clothing and household items. Instead of going through the hassle of a garage sale, why not donate your unwanted items and generate a few hundred dollars for a worthy cause? You can also use your gift as a tax deduction.
  5. Purchase clothing or household goods from charities. Flip #4 around. So, instead of donating your unwanted items, why not walk into these charities' stores and purchase some used, donated items that you may need for your home? Purchasing these items will provide cash flow to help the poor. It could also save you some money in your family's budget.
  6. On the spot giving to charities who are fundraising out in the community. We've all seen these groups from time to time. They camp out in front of your local grocery store or superstore. Once you finish shopping, consider giving them a few dollars on your way out to your car.
  7. On the spot giving to the poor in your community. Depending on where you live, you may run into homeless, hurting people on a regular basis. Consider setting aside a few budget dollars each month and carrying that money around with you in your wallet. As the need arises, purchase a meal, buy some gas, or give some cash to help those who are less fortunate.


God wants His children to help those who are "down and out." Our giving to those who are hurting is a demonstration of the love of Christ to a lost and dying world. He wants us to use our time, energy, abilities, and finances to help others. Look for opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus and love those who are less fortunate. The Lord Himself said, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Go out this week and be a blessing to others. As you bless those around you, you will receive a blessing as well!

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How To Be An Intentional Giver

A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer. - Seneca

What is an intentional giver?

It's Sunday morning and you're sitting in church. It's that time in the service when the ushers stand and get ready to pass the offering plates. You reach for your wallet in your back pocket or your purse to see if you have any cash. Oh, good. You find a $10 bill that you can toss into the plate. So the plate comes down your row, and you put in your $10. You feel good, right? At least you gave something back to God and your church.

Unfortunately, millions of weekly church goers perform this style of giving - they like to "shoot from the hip." Their giving most likely reflects their overall money plan - they don't have much of one.

The word intentional is defined as done with intention or on purpose. If I'm doing something with intention, then I am taking action after a mental determination upon some result. Let's use weight loss as an example. When people have an extra 10 or 20 pounds that they would like to shed, what do they do? They come up with a weight loss plan. First, they alter their diet. They come up with lower-calorie meal choices and a weekly menu. They go to the grocery store to purchase the ingredients they need, and they begin to eat healthier. Second, they begin to exercise. They schedule time in their day to get in a workout. If these people take action and are consistent with their plan, they will begin to lose weight.

What does the Bible say?

Giving for a Christian should really be no different from our weight loss example. We must develop a strategy in order to become intentional givers. A giving plan is crucial in order to build a spirit of generosity in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ. Consider these Scripture passages where a giving strategy is encouraged:
On the first day of the week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made (1 Corinthians 16:2).
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
A giving plan

If we desire to become faithful, consistent givers, than we need to have an action plan. Consider the following ways in which you can build intentionality into your giving:
  1. Be sure to place your giving right at the top of your monthly budget/cash flow plan. In Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey talks about making giving a priority by automatically taking out 10% of your monthly income right at the beginning of your budget. When we don't take this approach, all of our other life expenses have a tendency to crowd out our giving, and then we have a tendency to serve God the leftovers of our budget money instead of the "firstfruits," or the first and very best of what God has blessed us with.
  2. Determine the intervals in which you will give back to God through your local church. If you get paid once a month, then perhaps you should give once a month. If you are paid bi-weekly, then the Sundays closest to the 1st and 15th of each month may be your best choices to give. For many years, I did bi-weekly giving and then about a year ago, I decided in my heart to give every week for a couple of different reasons. First, I wanted to be able to give something each week instead of going every other week. Second, I wanted my church to have consistent cash flow from week to week.
  3. Utilize giving envelopes with cash or personal checks. Once you have established giving as a priority in your budget and you have determined the frequency of your giving, then you need to determine the method of your giving. Are you going to withdraw cash from your bank account or will you write a personal check? Also, are you going to give anonymously, or are you going to utilize church giving envelopes so that the church can track your charitable giving for tax purposes? Whatever method you and your family decide to use, be sure to faithfully prepare your tithe and offerings on the weekends you have decided to give. The Saturday night prior to the Sunday you have decided to give may be a great time to prepare your gift. Before you go to bed, be sure you place your gift in an appropriate place so that you won't forget it before you leave for church on Sunday morning.
  4. Consider automating your giving. Many churches today have online giving tools in which you can setup an account where your tithe and offerings can automatically be deducted straight from your bank account. You can preset the amount of your gifts and place this on a set schedule, whether it be monthly, weekly, or somewhere in between. I'm a big fan of giving online because I never forget to give back to God through my local church what He has asked me to give. You can just "set it and forget it!"

Follow through

Once you have placed giving as a priority in your financial plan, you have determined your giving schedule, and you have selected your method of giving, then you must take action and follow through as an intentional giver. You will need to remember to take your offering with you and drop it into the offering plate on your predetermined Sundays. If you give online as a reoccurring automated gift, then you will need to monitor your bank account account activity to make sure that everything is working properly and according to schedule.
I don't wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work. - Pearl S. Buck
It is not good enough for things to be planned - they still have to be done; for the intention to become a reality, energy has to be launched into operation. - Walt Kelly
Don't wait until you "feel" like giving, because you probably never will, at least to the level that you should. Come up with a giving amount and a giving plan, and then take action on your plan. God will bless you and your family as a result of your intention and faithful action.
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Considering the Tithe as a Baseline Metric for Giving

The Debate Continues

Last week, I wrote a post on The Great Debate: to tithe or not to tithe. As expected, I received a few comments from people who want to argue about the principle of the tithe and the Christian life. First, I know that the principle of the tithe is not a requirement for salvation. There is nothing that I can do, there is nothing that you can do to inherit God's favor and eternal life. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." I also understand that the tithe was a requirement of Old Testament Law. God laid out the Law for the Israelite people to follow a set of rules. Many of these laws described in detail a sacrificial system as well as the giving of tithes and offerings. I'm not arguing this point. I'm not trying to say that Christians need to follow a set of legalistic rules.

OK, I get it. You're preaching to the choir. I'm a minister for St. Peter's sake. Sheesh. Cut me some slack.

But, I'm also a stewardship pastor. My role at my church is moving people in the direction of wise, Biblical financial management and generous giving because 100% of everything we have is God's in the first place. We are simply managers of His money. I look at financial and giving statistics at my church as well as across the country on a regular basis, and I see a lot of people who are making decent money (they are rich by the world's standard) and are giving very little to their churches. I believe that God has established the church body to be the vehicle through which ministry should be accomplished.

Those of us who are church leaders have done a poor job of teaching God's people sound financial principles that are found in God's Word. We have also failed in teaching that generous giving is a part of living the victorious Christian life. Through the process of generous giving, we as Christians begin to acknowledge that God owns everything (1 Chronicles 29:11-12) and that we are trustworthy managers of His money (Matthew 25:14-30). We begin to learn what true contentment (1 Timothy 6:7-9) and self-control (Galatians 5:22-24) is all about. We take our focus off of our earthly desires and through generous giving, we place our focus on God's Kingdom. I have great difficulty in saying that our church members are generous givers and focused on God's Kingdom if the average giving percentage is 2.5%. It would appear that Christians love money and materialism as much as those who are in the world. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are supposed to no longer be conformed to the world's standard (Romans 12:1-2).

Look At Tithing In A Different Way

Peter Drucker, the famous writer and management consultant, once said "what gets measured, gets managed." We live in a world that measures and manages many different things, and quite effectively I might add. People go to Weight Watchers and measure their weight each week and how many "points" they eat each day in order to lose weight. Some people set up exercise plans where they work out for so many minutes or run a set number of miles each day in order to stay healthy and trim. Many people have a target percentage they invest each pay period (typically 10-15%) into a retirement account so that they can build up a sizable nest egg for their retirement. Many Christians set aside a specific amount of time in their day to read their Bible and prayer in order to grow in their relationship with Almighty God. All of us have goals that we would like to accomplish, and the best way to accomplish these various goals is to take action and measure our progress along the way.

I view giving in my life in a similar light. I need to make a decision on a specific amount I should give (2 Corinthians 9:6-8) and then follow through with that decision. As I grow in my walk with Christ, as I fall more in love with Him, this amount should grow on a regular basis. This growth can be measured in percentages. Whether we like it or not, if we will simply measure our giving, we will manage and hopefully increase our giving as we mature in our faith.

The Tithe Is Still A Useful And Effective Principle

I believe the tithe is a useful starting point for Christian giving. Again, please note, that I'm not saying it is a requirement. Tithing is a useful financial measurement to get us on the path to generous giving.

You know, I have heard numerous testimonies on tithing, and I have never heard one complaint or regret for giving at least 10% of one's income to support the ministries of a local church. In fact, in a majority of these testimonies, I have heard countless praise for a God who has blessed the tithe givers in amazing ways.

I believe the principle of the tithe still works whether you are a Jew or a Christian. If you are faithful to give back to the Lord at least ten percent of your income, God's blessing will fall on that individual or family (Malachi 3:10-12). I view the tithe as a universal principle that stands outside the Jewish Law or even the Christian faith. Will that blessing always be a monetary one? No, probably not, but God has promised to meet our needs as we make His Kingdom are highest priority (Matthew 6:33).

In Conclusion

Encouraging people toward percentage giving in our churches is a useful measurement. When we consider percentage giving at the level of 10%, those who are considered wealthy will give back to God substantially more in actual dollar amounts than those who are less wealthy. There is not equal giving in dollar amounts, but there is equal sacrifice at the percentage level.

I do understand that American Christians are in a difficult economy right now here in the United States. These posts on giving and tithing have not been an attempt on my part to beat these financially strapped believers over the head about giving ten percent. But, there's a good chance that many Christians who are in a jam financially have been followers of the world's financial advice for the last several years. They have learned the hard way that the world's economic system doesn't work long-term. These posts have rather been an attempt on my part to teach that there is a better way. When we manage God's finances according to Biblical principles, God has promised to take care of our needs. I would contend that many Christian families would benefit greatly from a Crown Financial Bible study or Financial Peace University in this down economic cycle.

Through the blood of Jesus, Christians have been freed of the burden of following the Law, but does that exempt us from living holy lives? Does this exempt us from giving back to God? No, it does not. I do not see that anywhere in the New Testament. I do see, however, a lot of sacrificial giving of poor Christians who most likely gave beyond ten percent. They gave much because they loved God and their brothers and sisters in Christ. Can this truly be said of those of us in the American Church if our average giving is 2-3%. The real truth is that American Christians are horrible money managers for Almighty God. We're more interested in the American Dream than the Kingdom of God. Think about it.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is it a sin to borrow money?


If you are a Christian who has gone through Financial Peace University, a Crown Financial study, or other Bible-based financial workshop, then you already know that debt is not a good idea. At some point in the money discussion, all of these various Christian personal finance studies focus on the problem of debt in our culture and the need to get out of debt as quickly as possible.

What Does the Bible Say About Borrowing?

As part of these financial studies, a number of different Bible verses are cited regarding taking on personal debt. According to these Scriptures, borrowing money is pretty much a grey area; there is no verse that specifically says "thou shalt not borrow money." Although the Bible doesn't have a lot to say on the topic of borrowing, what it does say focuses on the following points:
  • Debt is bondage. Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." For those of us that have been in debt at some point in our lives, we know this to be true. You toss and turn at night wondering how in the world you're going to be able to pay the bills. You avoid taking phone calls out of the fear that it may be a debt collector on the other end of the line. When you have become entangled in debt, you have no peace.
  • Debt is a curse. On numerous occasions in the Old Testament, God told the nation of Israel that if they were obedient to Him, then they would be blessed with abundance. If they were disobedient to his commands, then they would suffer lack. Sin in the life of God's children has consequences. Deuteronomy 15:4-6a states, "However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none." Also in Deuteronomy 28:47-48 we read, "Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you." We can see this principle of financial blessing or curse being lived out even in modern day America. During an extended period of time of prosperity, many Christians made extremely poor financial decisions. They were also been disobedient in the area of giving back to the Lord, and now many believers are paying the price during this recession for not following God's instructions in their finances.
  • Debt assumes that we will be able to pay it off at a later date. When we take on debt, we assume that we will make enough money at some point in time to pay off that debt. We think that we will get a raise or bonus at work. We think our business plan is really going to bring in the clients to help us pay off our debt. We really start to think that we are smart enough to overcome our own stupidity for going into debt in the first place. In my own personal experience, I quickly discovered that business plans don't always work out the way you think they will, and then I was stuck trying to figure out how to pay down $25,000 worth of debt. James 4:13-15 addresses this very issue: "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.'" Never presume upon God's will regarding debt when He clearly states in His Word that it's a bad idea to begin with.
  • Debt denies God the opportunity to provide. In His Word, God has promised that He will provide for the needs of His children. In Matthew 6:25-26 Jesus told His followers, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" God wants us as believers to have faith in Him and trust that He can and will provide for our needs and even some of our wants. Unfortunately, many Christians turn to Visa or MasterCard to bail them out when they should be on their knees asking the Lord to provide for them during a time of financial difficulty.

My Take

Clearly from God's Word, we can see that debt is not encouraged and is thought of as unwise. Debt is a "grey area" in the life of a believer, and there is no specific verse that says that debt is a sin. I'm going to go out on a limb here and take a slightly different approach regarding the question of whether or not debt is a sin.

First, in today's culture, I see a lot of people who cannot control themselves. Addictions of all types have ravaged the homes of Christians and non-Christians alike. Spending, shopping, gambling, and debt have all become common manifestations of the addictive personality as much as chemical dependency has. Christians who have become enslaved to these forms of financial dependency have set money up as a "god" in their lives. They are worshiping a false god. This is clearly a sin according to the Bible.

Second, a lot of Christians not only have self-control issues with materialism and money, but they also have a lack of faith in God with their finances. They want to compartmentalize money in their lives and say, "God, You can everything in my life, except my money. It's mine, and I can handle it just fine on my own, including debt." God wants us to love Him and serve Him with everything we have, including our money. If we are withholding this area of money from God, then I would consider this sin as well.

So, is it a sin to borrow money? The short answer - it depends on the person and the circumstances. Some people can control themselves in the area of money and debt. Many people can't. For those who lack self-control, they should seek out professional help. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:11-12).

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Great Debate: to tithe or not to tithe

The Problem

For many years now, there has been a debate within the universal Christian church on giving. The question that many believers have been wrestling with is the following:
As part of my faith in Christ, am I required to give 10% back to God through my local church?
Many Christians would like to argue that the tithe was a requirement of Jewish Law that was handed down by God through Moses to the people of Israel. These same believers claim that because the Church no longer lives under the Law but under grace, we are no longer required to fulfill the duties of the Law. While this is true, there is evidence that the tithe existed before the Law was established. Let's take a brief look at the history of tithing and giving as found in God's Word.

Biblical History - The Old Testament

Tithing is first mentioned in the following passage in Genesis 14:18-20,
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
This event occurred more than 600 years before the Law was established, but we see the great patriarch Abraham giving a tenth of what he had to Melchizedek, God's priest. So, apparently, there had been some type of previous precedent established by God to give a tithe (10%) of His blessings.

Next, we see that God establishes the percentage giving of 10% in Jewish Law in Leviticus 27:30,
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.
The Israelites often failed at giving back to God what He had asked them to give. Near the end of the Old Testament, we see God reminding the Jewish people of their failure to keep the tithe. He also reminds His people of the blessings of obedience in giving. In Malachi 3:8-12 we read,
"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse - the whole nation of you - because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.
Biblical History - The New Testament

Once we enter into the New Testament, we see Jesus addressing the tithe in Matthew 23:23,
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
The interesting point of this passage I find here is that Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites because they are so extremely careful to give a tenth of everything they own but fail to administer  justice, mercy, and faithfulness. In His view, these are more important than tithing. But then, He tells them that they should have practiced both. Jesus never abolished the tithe.

After Jesus has been crucified, buried, and resurrected from the dead, the Church is established. This is when and where the debate begins. From the book of Acts through the rest of the New Testament, there is never a mandate for the giving of a tithe for Christians. But, the early Christian leaders (especially the Apostle Paul), often wrote about joyful, generous giving, even during times of severe poverty.
And now brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
This passage of Scripture talks about believers giving way beyond the mandate of the tithe. These Macedonia churches begged and pleaded with Paul that they might give generously, even out of their poverty! I could give other examples from the early church, and time and time again, we would see what would seem to be percentage giving beyond a tenth.

My Take On the Debate

After looking at the Biblical history on giving in both the Old and New Testaments, here is my take on the great debate. Because there is no clear command to tithe given to the Church, many believers want to use this ambiguity as an excuse to give as little as possible. They desire to live selfish lifestyles. We have seen from these various Scripture passages, though, that God desires His children to be faithful, generous, and sacrificial givers. It's really difficult for me to say that if the average American Christian is giving 2-3% of their income to their local church, that they are being generous and sacrificial with God's money.

God wants our heart, and He knows that money is a stumbling block for all of us. He desires to pour out incredible blessings into our lives if we will simply trust in Him. Because of the principle of tithing that is present in the Old Testament as well as Jesus' own teaching, I believe this is a great starting point for all believers to begin. If we can at least get to this point in our giving, we will soon discover that the generous and sacrificial aspect of giving really comes when we begin to give beyond the tithe. I know this to be true from my own personal giving experience.

So, search your own heart. Are you more in love with money, or with God? If you have not been a regular tither, take up God's own challenge in Malachi 3 and test Him. As quickly as you can, increase your giving to your local church to the 10% level and see what happens. If you are currently a tither, consider moving beyond the tithe to sacrificial, generous giving and see how God works in your life.
Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

5 Key Characteristics of Christian Personal Finance


If you take a quick view of both traditional personal finance and Christian personal finance, they really don't look that much different from each other, at least on the surface. When I speak of "traditional person finance," I am really defining that as wise personal money management. There are numerous Christian personal finance blogs that embrace much of the same advice that you also read on other personal finance blogs.

Similarities Between the Two Approaches

Wise handling of personal finances is a distinctive of both approaches. Avoiding debt, spending money wisely, developing a budget, employing the cash envelope system, and strategic investing are all similarities in approach. Christians can learn much by reading the wise "secular" advice that is given in many personal finance blogs and books.

Although there are many similarities between the two approaches, there are also a few, key distinctives that sets Christian personal finance apart from traditional personal finance wisdom.

5 Characteristics of Christian Personal Finance

Christian personal finance recognizes that:
  1. A Christian's money is really God's money. Christians who are serious about handling their money God's way must first acknowledge that it's not really their money to begin with.  Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." In 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 we read, "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. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all." While there are many today who are on a journey to do smarter things with their money, a Christian's journey should be about handling money in such a way that will be pleasing to God, because the money we have is His money, not ours.
  2. Christians are simply God's money managers. In the Christian personal finance world, we often use the terms "steward" and "stewardship" in order to define the Christian's role in handling money. A steward is simply an old English term that means "manager." If you were a manager of a restaurant, a store, or a business, you would not own it. You would have been hired by the owner to run the business in an effective manner. The same is true of a Christian's finances. God is looking for disciples who can manage His wealth in an effective manner. In Matthew 25:14-18 we read these words from Jesus as He told His disciples the Parable of the Talents: "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money."
  3. One day, Christians will give an accounting of how they have handled God's money. If you are an effective manager of a business, then the owner of the business will be extremely pleased with your results and give you even more responsibility. If you are an ineffective manager, then the owner will give you fewer responsibilities or even fire you! You are expected to produce the results for which you have been hired. Returning to the story of the Parable of the Talents, we see the master's return and his calling to account his three servants and how well they have managed his financial resources."After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Then the man who received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'" (Matthew 25:19-30). Christians who are serious about managing God's money effectively understand that each and every day, they are demonstrating whether or not the Lord can trust them with His wealth. They know that if they are faithful in the little God has given them to manage, then God will bless them with even more opportunities and resources to manage in an even greater way. Ultimately, all believers should realize that they will give a final accounting one day in heaven after their life on earth has ended. Our time here on earth is very short and eternity is what really matters. We need to have a long-term, eternal outlook with God's money and look forward to a heavenly reward that will last forever. We can't take our money or possessions with us when we die, but we can certainly "send it on ahead" through investing in God's Kingdom purposes.
  4. God's money has greater purposes. God blesses us with money for a number of reasons. First, He knows that we and our families have physical needs while we are living here on the earth. Titus 3:14 says, "Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives." God gives us the ability to work in order to provide for our daily needs as well as live productive lives. Second, God wants us to enjoy the financial blessings that He gives to those who love Him. 1 Timothy 6:17 states, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." Third, God blesses His children in order that they may learn the value of generosity. He wants us to be a blessing to others by giving back through our local churches, missions, and the poor. In 1 Timothy 6:18 we read, "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." God wants us to learn the value of generosity for the sake of building His Kingdom here on earth. He calls all of His followers to join Him in His Kingdom mission through generous giving.
  5. A Christian's financial priorities should reflect God's priorities. In Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey stresses the need to put charitable giving right at the top of our family's budget - "on paper, on purpose." He says that if we don't make our giving a priority, it will never get done. Giving will drop further down in our budgets becoming crowded out by other needs and desires. We will end up serving God our leftovers instead of the very best of His provision. As a Christ follower and student of God's Word, I believe that I personally should give a minimum of the tithe or 10% of all of my income sources. In order to accomplish this, I must have a prioritized giving plan by budgeting for at least this amount. If Christians truly believe that God has greater Kingdom purposes for His wealth, then they can give generously and joyfully that which is already His to begin with.

Are you a Christ follower? If so, how are you handling your finances? Have you adopted a traditional approach to your personal finances, or are you pursuing a Biblical approach to handling money God's way? I challenge you to prayerfully consider managing God's money in such a way that will be pleasing to Him.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

This Week In Christian Personal Finance | Week of October 31

Christian Personal Finance News for the Week of October 31, 2010

Dave Ramsey
  • 4 Groups of People Every Pastor Needs To Talk To About Money. This article was about a recent talk that Jon Acuff gave at the Catalyst 2010 conference. This post was a wonderful reminder for those of us in ministry that people in our churches are typically at 4 different levels when it comes to their finances. They may be in the category of Worried, Watchful, Wise, or Wealthy. Pastors and church leaders need to address the needs of each of these four types.
  • Great Giving Challenge. Voting still continues on videos that people have submitted on how they would give away $1,000 a day for 5 days. Follow the link, and you can have the opportunity to view the videos and vote for your favorites.
Crown Financial Ministries
  • Choosing Godly Leaders. In the MoneyLife radio program on Monday, November 1, host Chuck Bentley gives us the 6 Characteristics of a Godly Leader: one that fears God, honesty in every area of life, a responsible steward, compassion, humility, and respect for life. Chuck makes a compelling argument that when we go to the polls, American Christians should seriously consider voting for leaders who have these important qualities. Our nation has embarked down a path that has serious consequences. We need new leaders that will be better managers of the nation's resources.
  • What Are You Giving God for Christmas? In the MoneyLife radio program on Tuesday, November 2, host Chuck Bentley and Dave Bell discuss the best gift you can give God this Christmas - yourself! This show was a wonderful reminder that Christmas is truly about giving back to Jesus, not everybody else.
Blog Posts
  • The Art of Stewardship for the Self Employed. While this post is not exactly about Christian personal finance, Jonathan Milligan wrote a guest post over at regarding time management, especially for those that are self-employed. This was a great reminder for all employees that we should use our "primetime hours" to take action and our "non-primetime hours" for brainstorming and planning.
  • Should the Poor Give? Craig Ford wrote an interesting post on his blog on the topic of whether or not poor Christians should give. While I may disagree with Craig's approach on his definition of "tithe" and giving, I do applaud his ultimate conclusion that giving is a blessing to God's Kingdom and the giver whether we are rich or poor. The ultimate purpose for giving is to shape our character into that of Christ, who is the ultimate giver; He gave everything for us!
  • Giving, Generosity And Idolatry: How I've Been Challenged. Technically, this post went up last Friday, but it was so good that I wanted to be sure to mention it. Peter Anderson over on his blog Bible Money Matters wrote a post about God working in his heart and mind regarding generosity. It's really easy as Christians to get a little cynical about church building campaigns and the continual push to give more. In the last several weeks, Peter admits that he has been challenged to re-examine his priorities when it comes to money and possessions.
  • Should poor people give? Over at Dollars and Doctrine, Rob Kuban wrote a post on whether or not the poor should give. I love Rob's conclusions: giving is a matter of the heart and is proportional. We learn life lessons through giving. Giving is about principles, not assets. In our society, "poor" is difficult to define. I encourage all my readers to read this post in its entirety. Excellent post, Rob!
  • What Does the Bible Say About Debt? Over at One Money Design, Jocelin Boutet wrote a post giving us a verse-by-verse breakdown on what God's Word says about debt. Jocelin's conclusion: the Bible is very clear that we should live debt-free lives!
  • Helping the Poor - How Eager Are You? This post at Redeeming Riches raises the issue of being sensitive to helping the poor. As believers in Jesus Christ, we should have the same attitude as the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:9-10. We should be eager to help those who are in need.
  • Is Tithing for the New Testament Believer? This article by Cortni Marrazzo at addresses the issue of tithing for the New Testament believer. Cortni makes an excellent argument for Christians to tithe based on Scripture. She also closes her article by addressing the need to tithe through our local churches. We should trust those in leadership in our church, and if we can't, then we need to find a new church home.
  • Frugality Opens Doors to Giving, Enjoying God's Blessings. This article by Deborah Smith Pegues at addresses the need to be frugal in our everyday lives. All of us are wasteful in some areas. In the opening of her article, she even uses Jesus as an example of frugal living. This is an interesting and convicting read.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Money, Christianity, and the American Dream

America has been and continues to be a land of great opportunity, there is no doubt. From our earliest days as a nation, tens of millions of people came to this country to seek religious freedom, political liberty, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness. Even during a time of economic hardship in which we now find ourselves, the United States continues to be a place where people can achieve great things through much hard work and sacrifice.
From the founding of our nation over 200 years ago, Christianity has been a foundational religious force in America. Many of the founding fathers claimed to believe in God and were at the very least professing Deists. Much of our law is steeped in Judeo-Christian principles. Needless to say, for those of us in America that claim to be believers in Christ, we hold to certain belief systems that combine our Christian faith and our national heritage.
Over the last several years, there has been a new generation of American Christians who have now come along, who question the validity of the "Christianized" version of the American Dream. This new generation of Christians has studied the New Testament and the founding of the universal Church, and they now argue the incompatibility of the American Dream and the Christian faith.
The American Dream
While the idea of the "American Dream" has changed over the history of our country, the latest version that we continue to subscribe to was first expressed in 1931 by historian James Truslow Adams in his book Epic of America:
The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, also too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.
Adams also wrote:
The American Dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.
Although Adams claims in his 1931 writing that material plenty is not the core of this dream, over the years, the modern day version of the American Dream has evolved into a very materialistic mindset in which we achieve this dream by attaining luxuries such as:
  • a very lucrative job
  • building a successful, wealthy business
  • a really big house with a three-car garage and a white picket fence
  • multiple luxury cars
  • fashionable clothes
  • private school for the kids
  • all the latest toys - boats, RVs, motorcycles, plasma TVs, and so on
  • expensive, world-wide travel
The Problem with the Dream and Christianity

The problem with this latest version of the American Dream is that, in the end, it is truly incompatible with the Christian life. It's not that there's anything necessarily wrong with any of the things listed above, but rather the pursuit or the focus on these things becomes a problem in the life of the believer. A Christian's pursuit should be on growing in a relationship with Christ and investing our time, energy, abilities, and money into growing God's Kingdom while we are alive here on the earth.
Consider the following passages from God's Word and their incompatibility with the current definition of the American Dream:
  • Proverbs 23:4-5 - Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
  • Proverbs 28:6 - Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse.
  • Proverbs 28:20 - A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
  • Proverbs 28:25 - A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.
  • Proverbs 30:8b-9 - give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, "Who is the Lord?" Or I may become poor and steal, and to dishonor the name of my God.
  • Ecclesiastes 4:4 - And I saw that all the labor and all achievement spring from a man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
  • Luke 6:24 -"But woe to you who are rich for you have already received your comfort."
  • Luke 12:20-21 [Parable of the rich farmer] - "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
  • Luke 18:24-25Jesus looked at him [the rich, young ruler] and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
  • 1 Corinthians 4:8a - Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich!
  • Philippians 4:11-12 - I [the Apostle Paul] am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
  • 1 Timothy 6:6-8 - But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will content with that.
  • Hebrews 13:5a - Keep your lives free from the the love of money and be content with what you have...
The Response

The Bible verses above serve as a strong contrast to the modern mindset of the American Dream. While the American financial philosophy continues to focus on satisfying selfish desires through materialism, God's economy focuses on:
  • the assertion that we are already wealthy.
  • contentment with what the Lord has blessed us with today.
  • don't wear yourself out trying to get wealthy.
  • trust in the Lord for our needs and wants to be met.
  • demonstrate restraint or self-control.
  • don't covet or be envious of what others have.
  • be rich toward God. Be a giver!
  • In the end, God wants us to pursue a relationship with Him, not money. There is so much more to life than chasing after riches. Whatever we amass for ourselves here on earth, we can't take it with us when we die. Instead of the American Dream, a believer in Jesus Christ should desire Him and lay up treasures in heaven.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21).

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Struggling in a Tough Economy? | 7 Reasons to Walk by Faith

People Are Hurting 

A lot of people are struggling right now in their finances, including Christians. With the United States' national unemployment figures hovering around 10%, home foreclosures rising at an alarming rate, and growing concerns of future inflation, many are beginning to wonder if our economic climate will ever improve. Right now, we don't know what the future holds. Economists can make predictions as to when our country will begin to come out of its current economic turmoil, but no one truly knows, except, of course, God Almighty.

Maybe, today, you are struggling through a recent job loss, reduction in income, or a home foreclosure. You have a real financial mess on your hands, and you can't see any light at the end of the tunnel. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have a hope that the world doesn't have. The God of the Universe wants to walk with you and help you through your time of difficulty. He wants you to grow in your faith in your walk with Christ.

7 Reasons to Walk by Faith in a Tough Economy 
  1. Because God is our Father. In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" If you're a dad, you can truly understand and appreciate this passage. As the father of two young daughters, I want the very best for my girls. I enjoy seeing the joy on their faces when they receive something special from me. Does this mean that I spoil them? No, not necessarily. Sometimes, I make them earn what they desire through hard work. Sometimes, I meet them halfway. And then, sometimes I just give to them out of love. Our Heavenly Father loves us way more than an earthly father could ever love his children. Because of God's love for you, you can rest in His love during turbulent times.
  2. God owns everything! In Psalm 50:10-12 we read, "for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it." If you are a Christian, you have a really rich Dad! God has every resource in the universe available to Him, and He can spare no expense in providing for you. As a Christ follower, you have been adopted into God's family. You are a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:15-16). You can find peace and strength in God's wealth. 
  3. He has promised to take care of our needs. Because God is our Father and owns everything to begin with, He is more than willing and able to take care of our every need. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:25-26). 
  4. Fear paralyzes. Faith energizes. In Matthew 21:21-22, Jesus told His disciples, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." During times of difficulty, walking in fear is not going to accomplish one thing. Fear paralyzes. It stops us from taking action, from moving forward. Praying in faith, though, causes things to happen. We can move forward in our life. We can take action, because we are now motivated by our faith and no longer stopped by fear. 
  5. God works for our good. In Romans 8:28 we read, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." It may be difficult to see right now, but God has a plan, a purpose for your struggle. The only way we can truly grow in our faith is to rely on God through difficult times. He has promised to help us through it all if we will walk out in faith. 
  6. Our time on earth is short. James 4:13-15 states, "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this 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.'" Even though times our tough in our nation's economy right now, at some point "this too shall pass." Our financial health will improve and life will go on. At the end of the day, though, our time here on this earth is very brief in light of eternity. Don't allow yourself to get bogged down with the cares of this world. 
  7. Heaven is our final destination. 2 Peter 3:10-13 states, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." For the Christian, heaven is our eternal home. We should never lose sight of this important fact. One day, we are all going to die and pass from this life to the next. God's stable, wealthy economy is waiting for us in glory. 

I don't know where you are today in your financial situation. Perhaps you are struggling and you can't see any end to your current money problems. If you are a follower of Christ, you must lean on Him during times of difficulty. You can rest in the promises from His Word that as His child, He loves you and will take care of your needs as you walk in faith, trusting in Him.