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, June 26, 2012

4 Money Hacks To Get Out Of Debt Faster

Photo by Images_of_Money
What The Heck Is A Hack?

One of the big "buzz words" in our recent, immediate culture has become the word "hack." There are websites even devoted to "hacking your life." Check out as an example.

What exactly is a "hack," though? What do people mean by this term? Wikipedia defines this term in the following way:
The term life hack refers to productivity tricks that computer programmers devise and employ to cut through information overload and organize their data. In more recent times, the same phrase has expanded to any sort of trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life; in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem in a clever or non-obvious way might be called a life hack.
In a previous post a few weeks ago, I mentioned the fact the my wife and I are in the process of paying off a considerable amount of debt as quickly as possible. See this post: Working the Debt Snowball Again, Take 2. We're both Financial Peace University students and completely understand the principles of the debt snowball. There are also many other great experts in the area of personal finance who have additional ideas regarding money management and debt reduction. As a result of this collective expertise, we are employing four money "hacks" to get out of debt as fast as we can.

Four Hacks We're Using

Honestly, none of these four methods is anything new and novel. As a result of studying various personal finance approaches, I have found these seem to fit our lifestyle and personality really well.
  1. Multiple streams of income. We are using whatever means necessary to bring in additional income to our regular salaried positions. Second jobs, selling stuff on Craigslist, garage sales, and so on. The bigger financial "shovel" you have, the faster you can dig your way out!
  2. Squeeze down on the budget. In FPU, Dave Ramsey discusses the use of both estimated budgets and allocated budgets. Estimated budgets are just that, estimates on your cash flow. Allocated budgets deal more with actual money spent per week and/or per pay period. I do more of a hybrid approach of a "living, changeable document" where I run an estimated budget at the beginning of each month. Then, I tweak a few specific variable categories (such as gas) over the remainder of the month. As I close out the month and prepare to do my next month's estimated budget, I make sure these variable categories are no longer estimates and now hard numbers. I wring out of our budget all the extra money and put all extra money toward our next smallest debt in our debt snowball.
  3. Use automation and extra payments. I pay all of our bills electronically, including our last couple of remaining debt payments. The minimum payments are on autopilot. I then make one massive additional principal payment toward our next smallest debt in the snowball at the end of each month. This system seems to have worked really well in paying down these debts quickly.
  4. Use cash and only go shopping when absolutely necessary. I know this can be a challenge for many, especially if you have a spender personality. In my mind, though, this is all the more reason to avoid shopping like the plague! Spending only with cash registers greater "pain" than debit or card cards. Limit your shopping trips and only use cash.
What Hacks Do You Employ?

Are you in the process of digging your way out of debt as well? Are you using similar money hacks to get out of debt as quickly as possible? Have you discovered any additional money hacks on your debt free journey?

Tell us your story and give us your experience on utilizing money hacks.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Be Prepared For Ridicule In Your Leadership

Photo by Ceoln
King Hezekiah Was Laughed At

When Hezekiah became king of Judah, he was on a mission for God from day one of his reign. This in itself is amazing since his dad, King Ahaz, was a horrible role model. He was about as ungodly as you can get! But, in spite of his wicked father, God's Word states that Hezekiah "did what was right in the Lord's sight just as his ancestor David had done" (2 Chronicles 29:2, HCSB).

On King Hezekiah's mission to reform Judah back into a godly nation, he reopened Solomon's Temple and had the priests and Levites consecrate themselves for regular worship duties. He told the Levites "It is in my heart now to make a covenant with Yahweh, the God of Israel so that His burning anger may turn away from us" (2 Chronicles 29:10, HCSB). Hezekiah had purposed in his heart that he was going to pursue God's will for his life as well as for the nation he had been entrusted to lead.

Also, as part of Hezekiah's plan for spiritual renewal for his nation, he re-instituted the celebration of the Passover festival. This was one of the national holidays God had commanded through the Law that His people celebrate each and every year. Unfortunately though, as a result of previous ungodly kings, this special national holiday had been neglected. As Hezekiah prepared his nation to celebrate this first Passover in quite some time, the Bible states that he sent the word out to not only Judah but also to the other ten tribes in their sister nation of Israel to the north. The response from the other ten tribes was mixed. "…the inhabitants laughed at them and mocked them. But some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 30:10-11, HCSB).

When You're A Leader, You Take The Arrows

The unfortunate part of being a leader is the distinct possibility of being mocked and laughed at. Not everyone you lead within your sphere of influence will always be your biggest fans. Just like Hezekiah, you run the risk of being laughed at and ridiculed.

A big part of leadership is making decisions that won't be popular with everyone. I'm not saying that you should go out and make unpopular decisions on purpose. As a leader, though, you will need to make some tough, necessary decisions for the sake of your family, church, business, or workplace.

To you, a certain leadership decision may seem completely logical, rational, and clearly within the will of God, but not everyone is going to see it that way. In Hezekiah's situation, we clearly see a difference between the spiritual maturity of the king and specific tribes in Israel. Hezekiah had a vision of restoring the spiritual life of the nation of Judah, and he invited others to join in with him and the rest of his nation. When some ridiculed him, he let it roll of him and kept on going. He accomplished his God-given mission.

How About You?

Are you a leader? Perhaps you're on your own unique mission from God right now. Maybe you have gone through a re-dedication period in your life where you're attempting to live your life in line with God's Word. You are obeying God's will and direction for your life.

If it hasn't happened, yet, get ready, because you're probably going to be laughed at, mocked, and ridiculed. Sadly, it may even come from family members or those who are closest to you. When this happens, though, just remember you're in excellent company. It happened to King Hezekiah, too.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thirsty For God

Photo by Indigo Skies Photography
I Am So Thirsty!

Have you ever been extremely dehydrated? Like, "I have to have a drink of water right now or I'm going to die" kind of thirsty? I've had that happen a few times in my life. I'm sure you've experienced this type of thirst as well.

In Psalm 63, David makes the analogy for his desire for God to being thirsty. David wrote Psalm 63 while he was in the wilderness of Judah. A little over a year ago, I was blessed to have the opportunity to see parts of this wilderness in Judah. David wasn't kidding when he states that this land is "dry, desolate, and without water."

In the opening of this psalm, he told the Lord that he thirsted after Him; He eagerly sought God. A few verses later, we see David telling the Lord that he thought about Him continually. David thought about God when he went to bed at night. He even mediated on the Lord during the middle of the night.

Why So Thirsty?

When you are extremely thirsty and drink a tall glass of water to quench that thirst, then, at that moment, a basic biological need has been fulfilled. Our bodies are designed to run on regular intakes of water and food. When we are deprived of either of these essentials, then our bodies trigger a response of feeling thirsty or hungry.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. God created us as spiritual beings to commune with Him and worship Him continually. We see this relationship in the Garden of Eden after creation. God created within each one of us a desire to have fellowship with Him. Unfortunately though, when sin entered into God's perfect creation, this disrupted our relationship with a holy, perfect God. Because of this severed relationship, the human race has been on a quest to somehow quench this spiritual thirst. People have utilized religion, relationships, sex, alcohol, drugs, and countless other things to satisfy a thirst that only God can satisfy. The good news for us is that through His redemptive power, we can have a renewed relationship with Him. As a result, our spiritual thirst will be quenched.

So, why did David thirst and hunger after God so much? The ultimate reason comes in David's complete satisfaction with his relationship with God. "My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life … You satisfy me as with rich food; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips" (63:3,5, HCSB).

Several years ago, worship leader and songwriter Dennis Jernigan penned the lyrics to this song:
Who can satisfy my soul like You?
Who on earth could comfort me and love me like you do?
Who could ever be more faithful, true?
I will trust in You, Lord, I will trust in You, my God.
Only water can satisfy us when we our bodies are thirsty.
Only God can satisfy us completely when we are spiritually thirsty.

Are You Thirsty?

Do you have a similar prayer as David? Do you truly hunger and thirst after God? Do you, like David, catch yourself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about Him?

If you don't feel like you have this same thirstiness that David describes, then pray for the same desire as he had. Spend more time with the Father, and He will satisfy you in amazing ways as you trust in Him.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

3 Characteristics of Great Leadership

Photo by Leo Reynold
Nehemiah Was A Great Leader

Have you ever been led by weak leaders and strong leaders? You may or may not be able to pinpoint the specific reasons certain leaders may be strong or weak, but you can definitely tell the difference when you spend enough time around them.

Being an excellent, strong leader that people will follow is a special gift. The Bible is filled with numerous examples of great leaders, people such as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Jesus, Peter, and Paul. One of my favorite Biblical leaders is Nehemiah. To my recollection, there is not one negative characteristic of his leadership style mentioned in Scripture. The book of Nehemiah has many great leadership lessons. In this post, though, let's narrow our focus down to only three.

3 Great Leadership Characteristics 

In the book of Nehemiah, chapters 4-6, we see three great characteristics or marks of leadership as displayed by the man Nehemiah:
  1. First mark of leadership - prayer and preparation (chapter 4). As Nehemiah and the Jewish people began the massive construction job of putting Jerusalem's walls back together, they came under attack by their enemies living in the land. What was Nehemiah's response? First, he prayed for God's help (4:4-5,9). Second, he prepared for possible attack by stationing a 24-hour guard (4:9-14). Nehemiah prayed as if everything depended on God and then prepared as if everything depended on him and the people.
  2. Second mark of leadership - don't demand too much from an already struggling people (chapter 5). Apparently, the average Jew living in their native homeland during this time was in massive debt. In order to even pay their taxes and interest, they had sold their land as well as their children into slavery to the Jewish wealthy elite. Nehemiah gathered the nobles and officials, and he shared his concern regarding the enslavement of the people. Nehemiah along with these other wealthy leadership agreed to stop charging interest as well as return property to their fellow countrymen. As acting governor of the territory controlled by the Persian Empire, Nehemiah could have demanded much in order to live the "high life" while he was in Jerusalem. In 5:14-19, Nehemiah explains how he cut back on these traditional gubernatorial expenses so as to not be a burden on the Jewish people. He sacrificed his own personal rights as the leader for the greater good of his people.
  3. Third mark of leadership - ignore the annoying distractions (chapter 6). In this chapter, we see the enemies of God - Sanballet, Tobiah, and Geshem - attempt to discourage and distract Nehemiah from everything he was doing to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah ignores their plot to distract and harm him. He gives this now famous response, "I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?" (6:3, HCSB). Nehemiah kept his focus on the task God had for his life and ignored those who were trying to distract him.
What's Your Leadership Style Like?

Most of us are leaders in some area(s) of our lives. We provide leadership in our homes, communities, workplaces, and churches. After looking at the life of Nehemiah, consider these three unique marks of excellent leadership. Are you praying as well as preparing for challenges as you lead? Are your demands appropriate for those whom you lead? And, are you ignoring all the annoying distractions that surround you?

How can you incorporate characteristics of Nehemiah's leadership style into your own unique style?

Also, check out these related posts: