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)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stay Alert In Your Finances

Photo by martymadrid
Automation Rules

In previous posts, I have mentioned when I went through a period of time a few years ago where I purposely automated the majority of my personal finances. So, either through auto draft, e-check, ACH, debit card or bank bill pay, I went through the process of setting up all my utility bills (such as phone, gas, electric, cable, trash), rent, and even charitable giving to be automatically deducted from my checking account.

I ended up automating everything as a result of reading Ramit Sethi's book "I Will Teach You To Be Rich." In his book, Ramit gives some great advice on the practical wisdom of why it is important to automate your finances in order to reach your financial goals. He also walks you through a step-by-step process to get the entire system set-up. I highly recommend his book as an excellent starting point for some great "life hacks" in your personal finances.

So far, this system has worked extremely well for me in my own finances. The one challenge to the system, though, can be that everything is working so well on "autopilot" that you stop being vigilant on keeping track of your account activity. Plus, if you have more than one person using the account, such as a spouse, then you can run into additional challenges if you're not paying attention.

Babe, Do You Know What This Charge Is?

If you have been a somewhat faithful reader of my blog, you are probably aware that I went through a terrible divorce a couple of years ago (see My Story, Part 1 and Part 2) Then, God brought someone very special into my life, and we were married a couple of months ago. Now, we're in the process of "becoming one" in our finances, and both of us are getting accustomed to working through the issues of joint finances once again.

I mention all of that to say that when I was separated and divorced, it was a lot easier for me to do my personal finances. I was the only person I needed to keep track of. Now that I'm remarried and doing joint finances with my spouse, we need to keep track of what each of us is doing. We have become necessary accountability partners in our finances. I'm not complaining either; it's just an important, necessary part of the process.

A couple of weeks ago, I was going through our checking account activity online, and I noticed there was one debit card charge that didn't look quite right to me. I asked my new bride about it, and she told me that she didn't make the charge. Then, I did a Google search on the info contained in this debit charge - bingo! It appeared to be a fraudulent charge that other people have reported in the past. I contacted my bank and found out that someone had actually swiped my debit card number somehow via the Internet.

Vigilance In An Electronic World

The world of finance, investing, banking and so on has so radically changed over the last ten plus years due to the rise of the Internet and sheer computer processing power. You almost hardly even need to visit a physical bank anymore. With all the conveniences that debit cards, electronic payments, and online accounts bring us, there is now more opportunity for fraud and identity theft than ever before.

In fact, when I went into my bank to fill out paperwork on my fraudulent activity and to get a new debit card, the bank representative mentioned to me that she has a fraudulent file that is growing at an alarming rate. It's becoming a scary, electronic, inter-connected world out there with a lot of smart people who want to make a quick buck at your expense. We all need to be careful with our electronic information, and we need to be increasingly vigilant in the monitoring of our accounts for fraud.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Aiming To Please God

Photo by USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment
Daily Priorities

When you get up in the morning, what is your first thought? Got to get up, get the coffee pot fired up for your first cup of java? Or maybe, you really need to hurry up, take a shower, get dressed, and get out the door so that you can get to work on time? Or maybe, you've got to drag the kids out of bed and get them ready for school? Perhaps it's a combination of all these things and more!

Each and every day, we all have priorities that rule our lives. Some we set for ourselves, but unfortunately, I fear that many of our priorities are set for us by other people. Our spouse can set our priorities. Our kids can set our priorities. Even our workplaces and our bosses tend to tell us what is important in our lives at any given time!

Identify The Target

The Apostle Paul was a man on a mission, a man with a plan. Everything that he did always seemed to have a direction or a purpose. He never did anything haphazardly. He had a goal he was aiming for each day of his life as a believer in Jesus Christ. Here's an example of Paul establishing a priority in his own life in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10:
Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless.
After reading these verses, I like to imagine that Paul's first waking thoughts were on the Lord and how he could please his Savior. He had a target, a goal he was aiming at: a life that pleased God. Living a life that pleases God is not easy, though! You have to be willing to live a life of complete surrender to your Lord and Master. You can no longer live a life of selfish ambition. You can't live a life of selfishness, period. You need to abandon your secret sins and seek to live a holy, blameless life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The really cool part, though, is there is a pay day coming. We will be rewarded by Christ for living a life that pleases Him!

What Are You Aiming At?

A Christian who desires to grow in their walk with Christ has to be intentional about setting daily priorities. Healthy growth in the Christian life is definitely not going to happen by accident. As you ponder these statements, also consider these quotes:
“The odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it.” - Mal Pancoast
“To me, the definition of focus is knowing exactly where you want to be today, next week, next month, next year, then never deviating from your plan. Once you can see, touch and feel your objective, all you have to do is pull back and put all your strength behind it, and you'll hit your target every time.” - Bruce Jenner
Do you have an objective, do you have a life goal that is centered on pleasing God? If yes, have you recently evaluated how you're doing on this life objective? Are you on target? Are you even aiming at the right target? The beginning of a new year is always a great time to re-evaluate and get perspective on where you're at and where you're going in life!

If you honestly can't say that you are living a life that's aimed in the direction of attempting to please God, what do you need to do to get to that place, starting today?

My prayer for you and for me today is that we would all live lives that bring honor and glory to the name of Jesus and bring a smile to the face of our Lord and Savior.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hopelessly Devoted

Photo by dbgg1979
What Does "Devotion" Mean To You?

When you think of someone being devoted to something, what do you think of? For me, I often think of athletes. Athletes get up extremely early in order to train, and then they continue to train their bodies at set times during the day. They have specific workout regimines that they undergo. They tear down their bodies in order to build them back up, stronger than they were before. They eat special diets that give them the best fuel for peak performance and don't turn them into fatties. They spend thousands of dollars on equipment, dietary supplements, and training so that they can perform at a high level.

Professional musicians are much the same way. They practice for hours a day in a practice room. They spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on musical equipment and teachers. They devote themselves to a rigorous schedule based on their passion for music.

People who are truly devoted to something are willing to sacrifice. They've got major "skin in the game." They have invested enormous amounts of time, energy, and money into their true passions. The interesting thing to note, though, is that because of their passion, they don't really consider it that big of a sacrifice. They love it so much that they are willing to put in whatever time, energy, and money is needed to for the cause.

The Early Church Was A Devoted Bunch

In Acts 2:42-46, we read the following regarding the devotion of new believers in the early church:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude...
The word "devoted" is used two times in this passage and carries the idea to persevere, to be constantly diligent, to give self continually, to continue steadfastly. When you're this kind of devoted to a cause, there's no going back. You have committed yourself for the long haul. You are diligently working to be a part of something bigger than yourself. When things get a little difficult or challenging, you don't immediately through in the towel. You just "keep on keeping on."

Devoted To Our Faith In 2012

In my church this year, we're undergoing a kind of "get back to basics" approach in the entire church body. We are reading through the Bible in a year. We are praying for specific prayer requests each day. We are encouraging the body of Christ to serve and to give at a greater level than ever before.

So, why are we doing all of this? We are challenging our congregation to grow in their relationship with God. Too many times, I fear that churches never push their members to develop as believers. There is more to being a part of a local church then just showing up to church occassionally on Sundays, throwing a buck or two in the offering plate, and then going out to lunch with your friends afterward. Our faith is about growing in a relationship with our Lord.

Where are you at, at the beginning of this new year? Have you given any thought to developing as a Christian in 2012? Have you committed yourself to working through the fundamentals of your faith such as Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, serving, and giving? May all of us who claim the name of Christ be as committed as those Christians who were a part of the first church body.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Day, New Way

Photo by LeSimonPix
Happy New Year

The ball has dropped. Auld Lang Syne has been sung. Fireworks have lit up the sky. The confetti has littered the streets. The significant others got kissed.

This past weekend marked the official start of a new year. A time of fresh starts. A time of new beginnings. I don't know about you, but I really like this time of year. For the most part, many of us have gone through a downtime during this holiday season, recharged our "life batteries," and now we can gear up and head back out into the world with a fresh vision of what we would like to accomplish in this new year of 2012.

I Don't Care What You Call Them

Goals...Resolutions...Life Improvements. Honestly, I don't care what you call them, but there's no better time than the start of a new year to focus on some areas of your life that need to change.

Many of us have some "Big Ideas" in our lives that we would like to accomplish. Many of us have bad habits that have creeped into our lives that need to go. Some of us may have had dreams that have died in the last year or two and we need a new beginning point to just start over on a dream or create a new one.

God's Word tells us that "where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18). Each and every one of us needs a vision, a direction for our lives. Otherwise, we have a tendency to wander around, aimless in this life. Is God calling you to a vision to accomplish for His Kingdom through your life in 2012 and beyond?

Paint A Picture

The best advice I ever received about goal setting was the concept of visualizing where you wanted to be at the end of your goal. For example, if you want to be physically fit, then you need to picture a "thinner" you with rock hard abs! Or, if you want to be debt free with an emergency fund of 3-6 months of expenses in the bank, then you need to picture a personal balance sheet that shows zero debt and money in the bank! Perhaps, you have a vision of doing a better job of leading your children in their spiritual walk; then you need to picture spending time teaching your kids at home and taking them to church each week.

A really good way to do this is to take these mental pictures and create a physical picture collage of your goals. With today's technology, this can be really easy to do. You can do word/picture searches on the web, save those specific pictures to your hard drive, and then assemble them in photo processing or other program.

Or, you could go the "old fashion way" by finding some pictures that relate to your vision(s) in old magazines, cut those out, and assemble them in a life journal. Or, you could assemble these vision pictures on some poster board and place said board in a prominent place for you to see your vision for 2012 on a regular, daily basis.

So, have you spent any time, yet, thinking about your goals for this new year? Do you have a clear vision of what God has for you to accomplish in 2012? If yes, have you come up with some strategies to help keep this vision in front of you for the next 12 months? If not, I would encourage you to consider creating some type of physical visualization of your goals for the new year and look at it on a regular basis. My prayer for you and for me today is that we can accomplish awesome things for God's Kingdom this year!

Also, check out these related posts: