generic medications online

Strengthened Faith Through Finances

It’s been a long time since I shared a keeping-it-real update of our financial journey, so I want to use this post to fill in a little bit of that gap. God is always at work – let me tell you…

In October of 2013 a side gig, a business I helped launch and worked with as an outside contractor for 5 years, came to a fork in the road that resulted in an abrupt ending.  The back-story is a long one and there’s no reason to go into too much detail for the purpose of this post. It was a wild ride full of lots of adventure and learning, and I loved it.  The parting of ways was painful not only emotionally, but financially as well.

A lot of reflection on lessons learned has helped us grow in so many ways, and clarity comes with time and patience and willingness to have open eyes to see the big picture as it unfolds.  We now realize that the Fall of 2013 was the beginning of a two year chapter in our financial life.

You see, right before the parting fork in the road situation, something very significant in mine and my wife’s journey had just taken place. We had asked God to show us what He wanted us to give generously (above tithing), and He answered. It was more than we had ever committed, but we committed it anyway – to God and to our church.

We made that commitment literally a matter of a week or two before the unfortunate parting of ways with the business. The business wasn’t a huge source of income, but it was a source of income significant enough to impact our ability to fulfill the commitment we had made.

A few months later an opportunity arose to sell our house and move into one more accommodating of our growing children’s needs. It was another test of faith. Either God wanted that move to happen or I didn’t come up with enough ‘only if’ contingencies for Him to perfectly align.  It HAD to be God because everything aligned just as we asked for it to.

A year passed and work was going ok. We were adjusting well to the new housing, and our generosity plan was coming together nicely despite the loss of side-business income. Because of the pay structure from my full-time job, the plan was to save monthly toward what we committed to give during 2014 and then give it all during 2015 on a monthly schedule. We had a plan and we believed it was God’s will.

Some months it was extremely difficult to save money for the purpose of giving it away, but we did it anyway. The plan was working. We began to realize that God will provide a way to do what He wants us to do as long as we are willing to take steps of faith and make choices of sacrifice. It is always encouraging to not only trust that God is with us but to see and feel His hand in the things happening around us and in our hearts.

The end of 2014 rolled around, business was so-so, but our resolve was strong. We were still on track with our plan. The beginning of 2015 rolled around. It was time to start giving on the monthly schedule according to the original plan. Everything was working out fine for the first three months, and then life got crazy.

Our 36yr old brother in law suddenly and unexpectedly passed away and rocked our entire families’ world. Then the company I was working for suddenly and unexpectedly went out of business. Then my wife’s grandfather died. All this happened in a two week period of time. We were emotionally down for the count AND had no income.

Between the business fallout, deaths in the family and loss of job, I had what some would consider good reason to be hurt, confused, and angry at God. I had what some would consider a good reason to back out on the giving commitment we had made. But I’m not a child of God only when I’m good. I’m a child of God ALL the time. He is with me and never forsakes me even when I don’t deserve it. How could I be for Him and obedient to Him only when things are good? So we did not lose heart. We did not back out on our commitment.

For two and a half months we had no job income, but we gave. For two months we watched our savings deplete in large sums, but we gave. And for two months we watched God pour out blessings all around us, while we gave. Friends, family, and members of our community, some who we barely know, rallied around us and contributed to our needs. We didn’t miss a single meal, and we didn’t miss a single bill. We were able to complete the giving commitment exactly as planned, and we’d go through it all over again knowing the outcome now.

All that roller coaster of events could be simply explained as life happening, but I believe it was meant to strengthen our faith. God honors our faith and trust in Him, and He always has good plans, often times plans we cannot foresee. The plans He has for our generosity is not only for the good that can be done for others with that generosity. It is also for the good that it does in our own heart and life. Our intimacy with God is deepened. Our faith is strengthened. He is made stronger through our weakness.

 

New Year 2016

2016

It’s a new year. Actually we’re 14 days into it already. Two weeks out of 52 are complete, and if you’re like me you still feel in some ways like you’re not yet fully recovered from the holidays. Time flies, the great equalizer of all mankind.

Two weeks ago we had all these plans of things we were going to accomplish for the year. Two weeks ago we had all these goals and milestones set, narrowing our objectives down to very specific daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly activities that should get us to where we want to be by the end of the year.

How are we doing? How’s that workout plan going? How’s that budget going? How’s that time management plan going? How are we doing staying on top of all those tasks we set out so vigorously to maintain no matter what this year?

It’s tough! Sometimes it sucks. There are so many distractions and obstacles to overcome in the journey of becoming and accomplishing. Sometimes we have to stop and reevaluate. What is the purpose of this thing I’m doing? Is my plan really reasonable? Is my motive really God centered? Did I even really seek His will about it – what He wants me to become or whether He wants me to accomplish this or that, or by when?

Two weeks in is not too late to take some time to reevaluate, recalibrate, and rejuvenate. What are some things you really need to stop doing, or trying to do? What are some things you really need to start doing, or do them better? What are the things you’re doing to keep your motivation high, your focus narrow, and your actions precise and effective?

We’ve all heard these things before, but somehow we inevitably lose varying portions of the control we set out to have. We have to set time-bound goals, but who are we to put time limits on God’s plans? A great friend of mine once taught me when I was going through a difficult time to turn my frustration in to focus on what God is teaching me and how He is molding me and preparing me for the plans He has for me. That friend taught me to not be discouraged by what has happened in the past or what feels painful in the present, and to embrace the journey of becoming – balancing persistence and patience.

I feel like I’m adopting that mentality a little better all the time, and it certainly makes me see things differently when circumstances aren’t going my way. I believe the future is bright, and regardless of whether or not I perceive otherwise in moments of weakness, I’m counting it all joy knowing that faith produces patience (James 1:2-4).

These are all the things I’m thinking about for myself. It’s time to do a better job strategizing, prioritizing, and initializing. This life is too short not to. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

What Stewardship Really Is

It seems to me there’s a misconception about the word stewardship among Christians.  We tend to only think of it as the management of finances according to the Bible.  The truth is finances are really just one area of stewardship.  Money happens to be the area of stewardship that gets the most attention in our culture, and unfortunately we haven’t improved much if any.  Many of us have developed a negative connotation for the word stewardship because we associate it only with giving, or more specifically being asked for something.  But this post isn’t about financial stewardship specifically.  I’ve talked a lot about how financial stewardship is balancing giving, saving, and spending according to God’s word and God’s will for each of us in our relationship with Him.  For this particular post I want to open our minds to the idea that stewardship is about a lot more than just finances – it’s about our total devotion to following Jesus.

First let’s take a look at the definition of the word stewardship.  On dictionary.com the first definition of the word stewardship is:

the position and duties of a steward, a person who acts as the surrogate of another or others, especially by managing property,financial affairs, an estate, etc.”.  

This speaks to why we consider stewardship all about finances or things very directly related to finances.  What I like best about this definition is the clear explanation that a steward is a person “who acts as a surrogate of another or others”.  In other words a steward is a person who manages stuff that belongs to others and does it for others not self.  Nothing in this definition suggests that there is anything in it for the self of the steward.  A steward manages for the benefit of others above self, period.  It’s their duty.

Let’s look at the second definition on dictionary.com:

the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving”

This definition also speaks to the duty, or responsibility, and then adds the word protection.  So a steward manages what belongs to someone else responsibly and even protects it.  Now notice the next part of the definition that says, “something considered worth caring for and preserving.”  This is the part of both definitions that struck me.  A steward manages things worth caring for and preserving.  What are things “considered worth caring for and preserving?”  This is why I don’t believe Godly stewardship is all about money, because God is so much more and blesses us with so much more than just money that we should steward for Him responsibly and protectively.

Time is one resource God blesses us with.  James 4:14-15 warns us to use our time wisely for God’s will.  We only have so much time in this life.  We should be making the best use of our time every day.

Talent is another resource God blesses us with.  Romans 12:4-8 speaks of the abilities God gifts to us and encourages us to use them for Him.

Relationships are also a blessing from God.  Our stewardship of relationships should begin with the family.  Ephesians 5:22-25 speaks to how married couples should steward their relationship.  Ephesians 6:1-4 speaks to how parents and children should treat their relationship.  Then there’s all other relationships we are to steward – our friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.  James 2:8 love your neighbor as yourself.  John 13:34 love one another just as I (God) have loved you.  1 Peter 3:8 love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Influence is another gift God bestows on us to steward for his glory.  Matthew 5:13-16 says we’re the salt of the earth and light to the world to be used for God’s glory.  That’s influence!  I hope you’re starting to see how our thoughts and attitudes about these different areas of stewardship are meant to be interwoven into how we steward our entire life for Christ.

Money of course is the resource we think of most that we all know is intended to be stewarded for God, but it seems we struggle with it the most.  Matthew 6:21 & 24 teach us where our treasure is our heart will follow and we cannot serve both God and money.  Doesn’t it stand to reason that if we value (with our heart) how we’re stewarding the other areas of our life (the non-financial ones listed above) that our treasure (how we manage money) will demonstrate that?  Does it not stand to reason that if we’re struggling to keep this focus in our heart that we might be serving money rather than God?

Let’s talk a little more about how the different areas of stewardship are interwoven…

Time is money – right?  We have to invest time in doing work in order to earn money.  Any time spent serving (working for free – from the goodness of our heart) is a sacrifice of money that could have been earned with that time.  (However, that time is NOT a substitute for giving money.  Far too many Christians are using their sacrifice of time as an excuse to not be obedient and faithful to God’s call to give.)

Time is also invested in developing talent.  Whether it’s going to school or being coached or practicing or all of the above, developing our talent costs us something – usually both time and money.  That talent is then used in the work we do to earn money (or at least it could be).

To build relationships we have to invest time, talent, and money.  It takes time to serve others, talent to perform that service, and the money it costs to sacrifice the time, develop the talent, and bless others through generosity.  1 Timothy 5:8 and 1 John 3:17 challenge us to take care of not only our own family but for anyone we see in need.  In both passages the challenge is presented in the form of questioning whether or not we’re even believers in Christ unless we steward our resources for others.

All three – time, talent, and money – should also be used for the purpose of being a good influence – key word GOOD.  There are way too many stories of resourcefulness being used for selfish, evil, or otherwise bad influence rather than good.  Despite all that bad, God has provided all of us the resources to overshadow all the darkness in the world by doing truly selfless acts of service and generosity.

As more of us steward our influence for good, we naturally develop more and better relationships with those around us.  As more of our relationships are guided by good influence, we become more united – of like-mindedness that is mentioned in 1 Peter 3:8. As more and more people experience God’s goodness working through us, an exponential multiplication of our collective salt and light floods the darkness of this world until no one can ignore or deny the glory of God.

It all starts with each of us stewarding everything we’ve been blessed with for the purpose of spreading the love of Jesus.  All these different areas of stewardship have to work together to make up how we’re stewarding our life.  They’re like cogs in a wheel, and weakness in any one of them is a compromise to all of them.

My prayer for us all is that we’re seeking God’s prompting in any one or more of these areas to know what we need to be doing to serve Him better.  Stewardship is not a way of money alone.  It’s a way of life – following Jesus.

The Ashley Madison Debacle

It seems the latest media topic to captivate everyone’s attention is the scandalous hacking and revealing of data that shames everyone who has ever used the cheating site – Ashley Madison.  It’s been a while since I’ve written about sexual immorality on here so I’m gonna weigh in on this.

Before I get too far I should make the disclaimer that I’ve only read a few articles on the debacle, and that’s all it takes to get the point.  I don’t need to know every detail about it to say what’s on my mind, but I believe that someone is gonna get something they need to out of what I feel like I need to say.

I haven’t even read many articles and I can already predict the tone.  Without a doubt the following two songs being sung loud and proud.

1- Damn all those sick detestable perverts who deserve the worst punishment.

2- Gracefully forgive all those people who in their human weakness made mistakes.

TWO EXTREMES!

I refuse to accept either extreme because in my opinion one is too strong and the other too weak.  One is a position of condemnation and the other is a position of passive permission.  I’m sick and tired of crap like this happening and everyone having to either choose an extreme or remain silent – because our so called progressive and increasingly tolerant culture is really just increasingly polarized.  But that’s another subject.  On to the points of this post.

To the one extreme – I absolutely agree this is a despicable situation.  But I also agree with the other extreme – we should show grace and forgiveness because we’re all imperfect and all sin is equal in Gods eyes.

To the one extreme – I agree there will absolutely be judgement.  But I also agree with the other extreme that the judgement is not ours to make and we should pray repentance and forgiveness for the offenders in this situation.

Here’s what I believe both extremes want the other to acknowledge underneath all the stupid shouting:  Regardless of how much we forgive there are still consequences for our actions, and in order to forgive as God commands casting condemnation should not be one of the consequences.

Families are in turmoil.  People are being very publicly humiliated and shamed – something none of us ever want to happen with some of our own failures.  The damage this whole debacle is doing is massive, and I feel terrible for all the lives being wrecked.  But I still believe good can come from it regardless of whether we ever really know it.

The bottom line we should all take away from this:  No sin is done without harm to self and others.  No matter how secret a sin might seem it will eventually be brought to light. It’s best for us all to simply focus on pursuing righteousness in our own lives while encouraging others to do the same.

An Exciting New adVenture

From the time I was in college I’ve dreamed of owning business, and I actually have in various ways – from the mobile car detailing business I did for a couple of years to network marketing programs to consulting, speaking, and project managing as an outside contractor for other businesses (even my sales job is essentially a business of it’s own).  So I am very excited about the newest venture.

Introducing Impact Sport Events, LLC.  Created to make active lifestyle normal and fun for families – Impact Sport Events exists to provide family friendly and fun opportunities to be physically active.  Our core values are centered around faith, family, community, fitness, and fun.  Part of our excitement is also for the opportunity to support RiceBowls.org with portions of our proceeds.

Shamrock-Shuffle-3-14-15The first event we’re directing is the Shamrock Shuffle at Hartwell Dam in Hartwell, GA on March 14, 2015 – a 5k and 1mi Family Fun Run.  It will be a great day to get out and be active, and it will be an honor to have as many of our family and friends there as possible.  So if you can be there please consider coming out and joining in the fun.  Click here to register!

Making Money Management Hard For No Reason

Several months ago Shawna and I were coaching a happy young couple with their finances. They were doing great! They were giving, saving, and spending within their means, but there was a little concern that they weren’t sticking exactly to what they budgeted in some of the spending categories. One of the spouses, acknowledging the difficulty of discipline, made this honest statement, “It’s like we’re doing this just to make it hard for ourself for no reason.”

When faced with the challenge of disciplined spending it is no secret that either giving or saving is making up the difference. In this couples’ case it was saving. The underlying question they were asking is, “How do we stay focused on sticking to the budget when we seem to be doing just fine?” Here’s how to answer that question.

Goals

Saving just for the sake of saving is boring. There must be a reason, or goal, for the saving. Goals are not as likely to be reached without time limits. So one motivation for sticking to the spending plan rather than decreasing the rate of saving is so that we get to the goals we’ve set in the time-frame we set them in when we maintain our rate of saving.

Challenges

Whether we see or feel the risk of unexpected challenges or not, they are there and will pop up to surprise us when we least expect them. The prospect of challenges setting us back isn’t very motivating until one actually happens, but then it’s too late.

Future Discipline

When things are going great it’s easy to fall in to the habit of spending more freely. Then when things aren’t going so great it sucks royally having to go backwards – sacrificing the freedoms we grow so accustomed to. So maintaining steady discipline all the time prepares us for those inevitable periods of time when discipline is not an option.

The bottom line – we should keep our spending disciplined so that we can maintain our priority of saving, otherwise we won’t be prepared for challenges and/or our goals might be put off perpetually. No one ever said sticking to the plan was ‘hard for no reason’ when they associate it with breaking through challenges and accomplishing dreams.

For more perspective on striking a balance with Giving, Saving, & Spending check out this ebook on Amazon – God Centered Finances

God at Work

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith Jr is one of my favorite books of all time.  One of the most common questions Christians have is some variation of, “How do I know God’s will for my life?”  That one question leads us to wondering how God is or isn’t using us.  It leads us to thinking we have to be in a full time job (whether paid or volunteer) at a church in order to be ‘doing ministry’.  It causes us to diminish the importance and impact we can have in ‘secular’ or ‘private sector’ jobs.  That one question is all it takes to make us forget the fact that our everyday life is a constant opportunity to minister and have an impact for God.

In God at Work , Gene Veith teaches all about the doctrine of vocation.  It is the idea that God is at work in all things and he chooses to work through human beings serving each other in ordinary life.  There is a wealth of information in this book about the history and purpose of the doctrine of vocation, how it started and how it has changed.  There is tremendous insight about how the doctrine of vocation is alive and applicable in so many different areas of our lives – at work, in the family, in citizenship, and at church.  We all have more opportunity than we can imagine to serve our neighbor and experience the transforming presence of God through our everyday lives.

I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it for everyone to read.

 

Presumed Innocent

Has anyone ever presumed, or judged, you based on what they may, or may not, know about you?  I know what that is like – to be wrongly judged, but if I’m honest with myself I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of wrongly judged too.  But there’s usually a reason that leads to such a presumption.

In relationships our tendency to presume innocent is influenced by a mix of current and historic behavior.  If a person has hurt us our trust is hindered, our walls of suspicion and defense are up, and our presumption is guilt rather than innocence any time there is a question of character.  If a person has worked to have a good relationship with us and build trust with us then it is much easier for us to presume innocence when thoughts of character judgement enter our mind.

The question we need to ask is not, “Who in my life do I trust enough to presume innocent?”  The question we should be more concerned with is, “Who in my life would consider me a trustworthy relationship that they naturally presume innocent?”  The first question is about what’s in it for us, but the second question is about what’s in it for others.  When we challenge our self to be a better spouse, parent, family member, or friend it is ultimately better for everyone including our self.

Keep It Real

Keep It Real

A couple of years ago I bought a t-shirt with the above print on it.  I think this shirt is hilarious with the ghost, magic wand, zombie, unicorn, space ship, imaginary friend, and dinosaur.  It’s hyperbole (I know a few big words too smart people).  The reason I love this shirt so much is because some of my biggest lessons in life could have been learned sooner if I had just lived by the motto – Keep It Real.

Now this is like one of my core values – Keep It Real.  I think one of the biggest failures among Christians as a whole is the unwillingness to keep it real.  We act like we’ve got it all together because if we don’t then we’re looked down on by those who are likely just better actors.  The problem is pride.  The Bible warns about it – pride comes before the fall.

Proverbs teaches us the importance of wisdom and that we should seek it no matter the cost.  To truly do that we have to swallow our pride, be willing to admit we don’t know everything and we don’t have it all together, and actually ask someone who might have the wisdom we need.  I’ve learned this the hard way in major areas of life, and I’ve observed that most other people are learning things the hard way too.

Years ago I was much more transparent on this blog but along the way I became more reserved for various reasons.  It’s about to get a lot more real on here again because I believe when we keep it real we keep pride down and relational value up.  Who’s with me?

God Centered Finances – Ebook

Since experiencing a rock bottom turn to Jesus moment financially, I have sought to better understand what the Bible teaches about money.  I learned the Bible doesn’t address just giving – it also teaches saving and spending wisely.  When I found my family struggling to strike a proper balance between giving, saving, and spending it became apparent to me that the only way to truly get it right is to keep God at the center of every financial decision.  That is the basis for my first ebook:

God Centered Finances: A Balanced Perspective for Biblical Giving, Saving, and Spending.

God Centered Finances

I hope you’ll download a copy, and I hope it encourages your heart and mind to living the blessed life God has for you.

By the way – the Amazon Kindle App is available on all devices and computers for downloading this book.