Archive for October, 2008

Fall Back

Don’t forget…this weekend Daylight Savings ends. Saturday night, before you go to bed, turn you clocks back one hour and enjoy the extra hour of sleep.

Your Money and Your Generosity 4

This post will conclude the series on generosity and personal finance.  As I wrap this up today I want to look at an area that few people find connected to our finances.

Most people, when talking about money, can get very defensive about how they spend their money.  We feel as though we have to justify our expenses as true needs in order to feel better about our financial state.  The truth is, all of these posts have little to do with your money.  They have everything to do with your heart.  Jesus said this:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

Where is your treasure?  As a parent I love my kids.  They are my treasure.  I used to be in the school of thought that if I worked hard to earn a good paycheck I could provide all that they needed. If I provided for all of their wants and needs I would be doing just what I was supposed to do.  I now see that thinking as flawed.  Most times my kids don’t need stuff.  They need me.  My presence in their life is much more important to them than some toy that will end up breaking anyway.  I have become very intentional about creating memories with my family.  I want to be able to look back over the course of my life and see it filled with times of great joy with my family.  All that other stuff will rot, decay or break.  My memories can never be taken from me.

You may not have kids yet.  That only means that you have more time to get on track and set yourself up for the future that you desire.  Maybe you aren’t even married yet.  Here’s a hint guys – chicks dig guys who are responsible with their money.

By placing more of a priority on being with them than buying for them I reposition the condition of my heart.  I find a balance in my life and am no longer held captive to stress.  In the same instance I send the message loud and clear to my family that, besides God, they come first.  The joy that I get from watching my daughters play with my skateboards in the driveway is worth far more than the joy of seeing them unwrapping a present because it is something we do together.  Covering my girls in a pile of leaves makes us all laugh – feeling the pressure to buy the latest and greatest toy brings them joy and gives me stress.  By instilling in my kids the value of relationships over possessions I teach them a valuable lesson that will live far beyond my lifetime.

As a parent I must model to my kids how to be responsible with my finances and at the same time leave a legacy of generosity for them.  By instilling in them the value of generosity I know that they will always hold their personal finances loosely in order to give to those who have need.  By showing the condition of my heart towards money to my kids they will grow to have the same balanced respect for finances.  I love the Proverb that says:

Good people leave an inheritance for their children’s children

By living responsibly with my finances and teaching my kids to be responsible with their finances I have the ability to leave an inheritance for my children’s children.  That is my hope for you as well.  Why not take the steps that you need to get to that point.  Begin today by paying down debt, saving for the future, being generous, and living within your means.  You too can leave a legacy!

Your Money and Your Generosity 3

Continuing this series on generosity.  Today I look at what it would look like to live off less. And for this I refer to a post that a friend Brad Ruggles wrote about a month ago.  

 Give Yourself A Voluntary Pay Cut
This is probably the hardest principle for most people to live out. Many people in America are only a couple of paychecks away from losing their homes so how in the world do we live on less? Personal finance blogger No Credit Needed recently asked his readers:

What would happen if your boss came into your office tomorrow morning, and told you that your salary had been reduced by 15%? Furthermore, what if he told you that a new law had been passed and you couldn’t change jobs for one full year – and you couldn’t borrow any money, for any reason? What would you do?

Some people would have a very difficult time adjusting to a 15% (or other) decrease in pay, but the reality is most of us would find a way to get by. We would make adjustments, trim down on the extras and make it work. He asked this question to get people thinking about how much they spend vs. how much they really need to spend.

After we stop spending more than we make and learn to manage the money we already have in the bank better, the final step is to eliminate wasteful spending.

Make an agreement with your family that you’re going to take a voluntary pay cut in order to eliminate spending on things you don’t need so you can give more generously to things that matter.  You’ll be amazed at how little you can actually live off and find yourself carrying much less stress because of it.

Your Money and Your Generosity 2

This is a continued post based on my thoughts regarding finances.  Please note: I am NOT an financial advisor.  I will speak with authority on certain subjects.  The only thing that gives me any authority to speak on the area of finances is the simple fact that my wife and I have a handle on our finances, are debt free, and faithfully tithe to our local church.  Feel free to read and comment.

So yesterday I wrote about setting and sticking with a budget.  Today I want to clarify the issue of living within your means.  We all live on some percentage of our income.  Some may live on 80% of their income, others may live off 30%.  The trouble is when we choose to live beyond our means.  When we live off 120% of our income.  Many people are living over-extended in the area of their personal finances.  I hear far too many stories of people applying for a new credit card only to transfer the balance of one to the other at a lower rate in order to receive a cash advance so that they may pay off the balance of another.  I know, it sounds so twisted – but it happens too often not to talk about.

I remember my Freshman year in college and the barrage of applications that I received in my mailbox everyday.  At first I felt special (after all, it was the only mail I was receiving!) but I soon began to realize that the credit card companies were targeting me as a young adult with no money who was irresponsible and would help them accumulate more wealth through growing interest payments on a balance there was no way I was able to pay off.  It became a trap that I feel into headfirst.  The summer after my first year in college I can remember returning home and being scolded by my father who then had to advise me on how I would spend my summer.  The joy of having money at my fingertips with the credit card was soon gone as I spent my entire summer paying back the debt that I had caused.  Every cent that I earned went to a creditor.  I was an indentured servant for those three months.  Proverbs 22:7 says it with all the reality that was meant by the writer:

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave of the lender

I proved this all too true as I gave all of my money to my creditor.  The joke around campus my Freshman year was that when you receive a Discover Card you enjoy the ability to buy whatever you desire only to “discover” that you will never be able to pay down the balance.  Credit cards when used with little care or concern for the consequences that they carry can be dangerous when in the hands of one who does not understand the power of debt.  I was one such fool…

That was then, this is now.  I now refuse to use a personal credit card.  I make every effort to purchase items with cash.  If I don’t have the available cash I don’t make a purchase.  There is freedom in deferring a desire.  Most times if I can not afford an item and I delay the purchase until I have the necessary funds I end up realizing that I don’t even need the item.  By limiting my spending to “cash-only” purchases I end up reducing the impulse purchases that so many retailers thrive on.  It also teaches me discipline in spending and makes me truly count the cost of purchasing an item that I think I need.

Some reading this post may feel like there is no hope.  That is a lie.  Don’t believe it.  You can find your way out from under what seems to be an overwhelming debt load.  Pay beyond the interest payment.  Never make a minimum payment.  Always pay above the required payment amount and specify that you want the extra amount being paid to go directly to the principle.  By paying even twenty dollars over the minimum payment you can quickly reduce the principle and begin to make headway in reducing your overall debt.  As you begin to see the total debt load become less and less each month keep pressing on.  Don’t get cocky!  Continue paying down the principle and don’t give in to the idea that “just once won’t hurt” by splurging on a want.  That HD flat screen monitor with surround sound will always be available later and the prices are dropping.  Keep waiting on that purchase and you will pay less overall and get a product the is of even greater quality.

More tomorrow…

Generosity

Here’s a great look at generosity from down in the great state of Texas.  No commentary needed.  Just read the story here.

Your Money and Your Generosity 1

After quite a few conversations with people over the past day regarding some of the things I brought up in my message yesterday I thought I would begin a new blog series to answer some of the questions raised.  Feel free to tune in throughout the week as I will be posting each day on this topic.

“I know that I should not have debt but I can’t see a way out.  How do I get there?”

This is one question that was asked yesterday by someone who truly wants to be a generous person and yet feels trapped beneath the pile of debt they have accumulated over the years.  My quick response – it took you a while to build up this debt, it’s going to take some time to get out of it as well.  There really is no quick fix to debt reduction.  It will take time to get rid of debt.  The point is not to become so overwhelmed that you just give up on the process.  Begin today.  Make a plan and stick with it for the long haul.  You will begin to see your debt go down and over time go away.

Make a budget.  If you are married sit down with your spouse and work through your inflow and outflow of finances.  If you are single sit down by yourself and do the same thing.  Start by figuring out how much you make.  Look at all avenues of income.  Write them all down.  Next write down all of your financial obligations.  Everything that you know you owe out to someone.  Rent, mortgage payments, utility payments, cable, phone, internet, auto loans, student loans, credit card debt, insurance payments, etc.  Figure out which payments are due monthly, quarterly and annually and set them in different columns.  

Once you know your inflow and outflow you should have a realistic idea of how much you have to work with each month.  A few things to decide upon are:

  • how much will you budget for groceries each week?
  • will you eat out?
  • Entertainment costs?
  • fuel for your vehicles?

 

All of these are expenses that need to be fit into your budget.  My thoughts regarding extra expenses such as entertainment and eating out are that they should be at a minimum if you have debt.  These are extras not essentials.  Pay down your debt and learn to live within your means and then add in some of the fun stuff.  If you cal yourself a Christian (I’m not being judgmental here, I’m just making a statement based on Scripture) you should be tithing.  As a matter of fact, it’s the first check you should write out with each paycheck – whether weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

As I stated yesterday.  A basic principle to live by is this:

Give, Save, Live off the Rest.

With every bit of income that you receive you should give 10% to God, Save 10% for yourself, and Live off the Rest.  By following this simple principle you will live within your means.  If you have debt that you owe a creditor the amount that you live off of will go below the 80% because you should be using that money to pay back your debts.  If you have debts your first priority should be in paying those back after you have tithed.  The money that you are spending on interest payments to a creditor is wasteful and therefore needs to be ended as quick as possible.  If you have high interest levels you should contact your creditor and ask about having your interest percentage reduced.  Most creditors will make a small reduction in the percentage rate if you ask.  Every little bit counts.

It should go without saying but if you have debt and you are working to remove that debt by paying it back to your creditor you should also stop adding to that debt load.  Stop buying the items that you feel you need.  Most of us end up purchasing things we don’t even need simply because we allow wants to become needs.  In the words of Bob Newhart, “Stop It!”  Just don’t do it.  Put down the credit card and step away from the register.

By sticking with the budget that you establish and paying down the debt that you have without adding to it further you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Live within your means and the light will keep getting brighter.

More tomorrow…

Instead of a Show

This post may offend some.  I’ve got to stick to my guns in how I believe so I make no apologies.  I’ll just quote a little Billy Joel: “You may be right, I may be crazy, but I just may be the lunatic you’re looking for.”

I received an email the other day about a Bible Reading Marathon that will take place on the steps of the NH State Capitol Building.  The thought behind this event is based on Isaiah 55:11

My Word…shall not return unto Me void but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

It’s a great Scripture and I agree with the Scripture in the sense that when I sit down and read God’s Word I will be changed.  When I open myself up to what God’s Word is saying to me it will not return void.  However, reading the Bible is NOT a magic spell that you can recite in a public place to change the hearts of those who walk by and hear it.  All this amounts to is a public spectacle that will again play the us vs. them game.

Here’s the plan:

What’s It All About? The Bible Reading Marathon (BRM) goal is to give glory to God. BRM is a way that the Holy Spirit can witness to those who read God’s Word, while others are blessed as they hear it being read. BRM call our attention to the fact that God has esteemed HIS WORD even above HIS Name [Psalms 138:2]. It is the Bible that clearly reveals who God is, as well as who we are — lost sinners who can receive eternal life and a home in Heaven when we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord of our lives. This BRM ends the day before the Presidential Election, prayer can change the Heavenlies for the election outcome. 

I love the Bible.  I spend time daily reading and journaling through God’s Word in order to apply it to my life.  I know the transforming power of the Word of God.  I have experienced it personally and see it actively working in the lives of many people.  But this is not how it’s done.  I understand this is an attempt to bring people into alignment with the Word of God before the elections take place as this is scheduled to take place October 28 – November 3 each day from 6am to 8pm.  It’s a valiant but misguided effort. Yes, I would recommend getting many people to read God’s Word.  But do it for personal growth.  Do it in a way that will lead to change within the readers heart.  Sit quietly and ask God to open His truth to each of you as you read His Word.

There is a fantastic Scripture that addresses what this event measures up to.  You can find it in Amos 5:21-24

 

I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living.
My prayer is that we spend more time living our lives in a way that shows the personal transformation of God’s Word in us.  That there would be a flood of justice in our community and beyond.  That we would each do our part in living responsibly and caring for each and every person around us – regardless of political affiliation, race, religion or economic status.
So, don’t show up at the State House.  Just read your Bible and let what you read work in your life then go and live justly all the days of your life…

I See You

I attended a Youth Ministry Symposium at Gordon College the other day.  Andrew Root, the author or Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, was the presenter and he was addressing the topic of Relational Youth Ministry.  Something he said has really stuck with me.  When dealing with conflict and helping teenagers deal with hurt, disappointment and other such emotions we can’t be afraid to speak what we see in them.  Our role, at times, is to look beyond the facade that they wear to look as though they have it together and point out what we see in their lives.

This can often times be difficult because we fear that the teenager may push us away or be upset by what we say.  We must push beyond this fear and speak to the heart of the matter.  There are times when a teenager will bring on a victim mentality and take the perspective that everyone is against them.  When we see areas in their life where they are bringing the pain and conflict upon themselves it is our responsibility to push them out of the victim cry and into the reality of who they are.  We can’t be afraid to say, “I see you.”  When we see things in their lives that bring upon these conflicts we have to allow ourselves the freedom to speak to these issues in order to try and bring about lasting change in their behavior that will bear good fruit in their lives.

I’ve walked down these roads.  I’ve had some teenagers walk away from direct relationship with me because I have been the one in their life to say the hard things that needed to be said.  Over the ten year span that I have been pastoring youth I have had some of the youth that had walked away come back and thank me for saying what I said to them.  There are others who have not – I still haven’t given up hope that my words did ring true in their ears after thinking it over – but I will not allow fear to keep me from speaking the truth in love to young people.  One trap that far too many leaders fall into is the road of friendship.  We need to be very clear.  Our role is not so much as a friend as it is a pastor and leader in their life.  Relationships bring about trust and care but to define these relationships as friendships can blur the lines of where we will go with youth and what we are free to speak to them.  Before even thinking about having these conversations with teenagers you must first have a relationship established.  The old adage, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is absolutely correct.  Yes, say the things that must be said and don’t be afraid to “call a thing what it is” as Luther says.  But first we must know that teenagers are open to us speaking to them in this way.

We owe it to the youth that we lead and pastor to say the hard things with the ongoing prayer that they will hear and accept the things that we say to them because they know we have their best interest in mind.  Before even thinking about having these conversations with teenagers you must first have a relationship established.  The old adage, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is absolutely correct.  Yes, say the things that must be said and don’t be afraid to “call a thing what it is” as Luther says.  But first we must know that teenagers are open to us speaking to them in this way.  Build the relationships with them and you will have an open door to their hearts that will allow you to help them with the issues in their lives.

Ever had to speak something to a teen that went poorly?  Ever had it well received?

Great Expectations

We had our small group tonight.  I was impressed by the Holy Spirit to be thankful for how He is leading so many new people into relationship.  As I looked around the room tonight I realized that of the 17 people that were there Kim and I were the only 2 people that were around before our building was built.  In just 4 short years we have seen exponential growth that has led to some amazing relationships.

As we enter into a new phase of building at GCC with the needed expansion for a Youth Center and additional sanctuary space I look with great expectation to the many more who will come.  It is incredible to see how much of an impact we have had in this region so far but I am also excited for those yet to come.  

Holy Spirit, do what you need to do… in my life and beyond, that we would have a greater impact here in Central NH.

Rwandan Mission

Mike Mavity is over in Rwanda right now with a team of about 15 people serving in areas that many would run from.  You can catch all that is going on over at his blog.  It’s encouraging to read about all that the team is doing there.  Please remember to pray for them this week.  Later this week they will be witnessing the drilling of our second clean water well!