Grace of Wealth

graceWhoever loves money will never have enough money; Whoever loves wealth will not be satisfied with it. This is also useless. The more wealth people have, the more friends they have to help spend it. So what do people really gain? They gain nothing except to look at their riches. Those who work hard sleep in peace; it is not important if they eat little or much. But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12)

Ponder It.

  • What financial concerns do you currently have?
  • What are your financial goals?
  • How have you grown in your financial habits in the past years?

Receive It. Money isn’t evil in and of itself. It helps us serve one another. It helps us honor God by providing for each other. It gives us the opportunity to be faithful stewards. We can choose to search God’s ways and respond in obedience – or not. God’s Word teaches us sound financial principles, but they conflict with the ways of the world. We’re surrounded by the “get more at any cost” mentality. Accumulating debt to get what you don’t need is widely accepted. Confusing needs and wants is commonplace. The confusion and discouragement becomes so overwhelming that to make changes seems impossible. The debt is too high, the needs are too great, and the income is too low.

God is sufficient for all things. He doesn’t work in the way or timing we want him to work, but he is always moving in our lives. The question is whether we’re being obedient or not. God isn’t going to fix everything we do wrong. He knows the goal, and he knows how to get there from here, but we have to join him in the journey. We don’t invite him to walk our path with us. He invites us to walk his path with him. We’re going to step off the path from time to time when we get distracted by the beautiful window displays of the world. But when we’re committed to God’s ways, our focus more readily returns to his ways. His choice becomes our choice.

Live It. What’s one response of trust and faith you can make to honor God in your finances today? Do it.

Fatten or Feed?

cleanplate“Clean your plate. There are starving children in Africa who would love to have that food.”

It’s true. There are starving people all around the world who would appreciate access to food much more than we do. Of course, getting it to them is an issue. It’s often best to teach farming techniques in their own countries, so they can sustain their nourishment instead of relying on outside sources. The “clean plate club” isn’t as encouraged (or demanded) as it once was, because we’re trying to teach children (and adults) to only eat what they need. The motivation is less about appreciating what others need than the fact we need much less than what we’ve become accustomed to, but the basic premise is the same:

We add more fat to ourselves instead of feeding others.

There are physical applications to this principle, but what about the spiritual application?

What’s the ratio of ministry programming to those who are within the four walls of the church versus those in the surrounding community who might never see the inside of the walls?

How much money is spent sustaining the church building, staff, and programs versus the needs of the surrounding community?

The irony is those within the four walls of the church often complain about how their needs are not being met. The worship music isn’t their style or services aren’t held at convenient times. The small group they want to join doesn’t provide childcare. The doors are locked at an inconvenient time, or the flavored coffee just ran out. Okay, hopefully it’s not that intense, but I’ve known women who can get just a little irritable when they attend a retreat and there’s no French vanilla creamer. (Bring your own if you’re that picky, ladies.)

The more we get, the more we want and expect. Perhaps you’ve never complained about any of the above issues, but have you ever asked why you “have to” do so much when others aren’t matching your standards? Have you complained about the direction of the leadership? What about when someone in particular didn’t visit you or a family member in the hospital? After all, you have certain expectations, and if they’re not met…

What about others’ needs? What if you put their needs in front of yours? Oh, I know, you already sacrifice so much. You tithe. You give money to charities. You serve on boards and committees. You take meals to people in need.

But are you adding more fat to yourself than you are feeding others? Look around. Your everyday lifestyle and comfort will tell the truth.

We don’t impress God with our sacrifice unless we’re willing to give it all to him. We can’t barter with him. And let’s be clear about something: the prosperity gospel—the one that says God will bless you as you give more—isn’t about ledger sheets. You can’t out-give God. He gave everything. He gave his Son to die an excruciating death on earth to make a way for you to have an eternal relationship with him. Do you want to compete with that? You can’t.

Clean your plate? Absolutely. Share it with someone. In fact, just give it all to someone. God’s going to provide for you. He’s providing for others, too, and sometimes that provision goes through your hands. If he places it in your hands, he’s trusting you to pass it on. He often multiplies it in the process.

They said to him, “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish.”

Jesus said, “Bring the bread and the fish to me.” Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish and, looking to heaven, he thanked God for the food. Jesus divided the bread and gave it to his followers, who gave it to the people. All the people ate and were satisfied. Then the followers filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of food. There were about five thousand men there who ate, not counting women and children. (Matthew 14:17-21)

Receive what God gives and feed others. Today.

I showed you in all things that you should work as I did and help the weak. I taught you to remember the words Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Being Resolute in Finances

Whoever loves money will never have enough money; Whoever loves wealth will not be satisfied with it. This is also useless. The more wealth people have, the more friends they have to help spend it. So what do people really gain? They gain nothing except to look at their riches. Those who work hard sleep in peace; it is not important if they eat little or much. But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12)

What financial concerns do you currently have?

What are your financial goals?

How have you grown in your financial habits in the past years?

Money isn’t evil in and of itself. It helps us serve one another. It helps us honor God by providing for each other. It gives us the opportunity to be faithful stewards. We can choose to search God’s ways and respond in obedience – or not. God’s Word teaches us sound financial principles, but they conflict with the ways of the world. We’re surrounded by the “get more at any cost” mentality. Accumulating debt to get what you don’t need is widely accepted. Confusing needs and wants is commonplace. The confusion and discouragement becomes so overwhelming that to make changes seems impossible. The debt is too high, the needs are too great, and the income is too low.

God is sufficient for all things. He doesn’t work in the way or timing we want him to work, but he is always moving in our lives. The question is whether we’re being obedient or not. God isn’t going to fix everything we do wrong. He knows the goal, and he knows how to get there from here, but we have to join him in the journey. We don’t invite him to walk our path with us. He invites us to walk his path with him. We’re going to step off the path from time to time when we get distracted by the beautiful window displays of the world. But when we’re committed to God’s ways, our focus more readily returns to his ways. His choice becomes our choice.

What’s one response of trust and faith you can make to honor God in your finances today? Do it.

Fit Faith: Frequency: My Special Day

Consistency is important, but sometimes it’s the special once-in-a-lifetime experiences that stand out. The very infrequency of something strikes it with a bright highlighter, illuminating it for later attention and recollection.

I rarely asked for anything special on Mother’s Day. I felt as if every day of the year was Mother’s Day, because I got to bask in the joys of being a mother. Yes, there were challenges every day, but in the context of the blessings, I could accept them and appreciate the opportunities I had.

One Mother’s Day, I surprised everyone by announcing there was just one thing I wanted: to load up everyone’s bikes and go for a ride on my favorite hiking path after church. No one was as excited about it as I was, but they entertained me. The girls weren’t very old, and they knew the bike ride would be long and challenging. Tim knew he wouldn’t be able to ride his bike at full speed with the rest of us along. But we packed a lunch and headed to the trail after church.

It was a glorious day for me, and no one else seemed to mind it much at all either. We rode five miles, stopped for a lunch break beside a small lake, and made the return trip. It was a gorgeous day.

Had I experienced bike rides with my family every weekend, I probably would have enjoyed some of the experiences and endured others – when someone would be grumpy or get hurt or the weather wasn’t ideal. As it was, I had one glorious day of memories with my family on our bikes on that path.

Something similar happens when we go on a retreat or attend a conference. We walk away rejuvenated and ready to tackle our lives with renewed energy and purpose. The infrequency makes these experiences impactful. We build time with God into our daily lives: devotions, prayer, accountability. While we benefit greatly from the consistenty, daily also means routine. When we’re at conferences and retreats, we step away from routine. While routine is excellent for discipline, occasional escapes encourage us to listen in fresh ways.

How can you capture renewed energy and purpose on limited time, money, and flexibility?

Here are a few thoughts:

Use your senses. Quietly reading your Bible is wonderful. Experiencing God’s Word through multiple senses helps us put an exclamation point on a verse. Consider how you can see, hear, and touch Scripture.

Use repetition. Carry your quiet time throughout the day with you. We too easy compartmentalize our time with God. Choose one key verse of the day and post sticky notes in places you’ll find them throughout your day. Set your cell phone alarm to vibrate hourly as a reminder to reflect and act on the verse.

Use social networking. De-compartmentalized your faith while engaging others. Tweet a verse each day on Twitter. Post a reflective question or action challenge on Facebook.

Whatever your approach, seek renewed energy and purpose with occasional escapes from routine. Listen to God in fresh ways. Open your ears to hear from God.

Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. (Proverbs 8:34)

This Week’s 7 – Challenge for Today

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. This week’s list includes a challenge for your day. Will you accept? I’m making assumptions about some of the things you’ll do today, so I’m not challenging you to add something to your day. Choose one or accept all the challenges. Let me know how it goes!

  1. Walk. As you take physical steps today, think of the impact your steps have on your spiritual journey. Are you blazing a trail on your own? Are you asking God to bless your steps – after you’ve already taken them? Are you second-guessing yourself to such an extent you’re frozen and don’t move? Be intentional as you walk today. I will walk with the Lord  in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:9)
  2. Talk. Be mindful of the words you say today. Encourage others. Build others up. Are you making excuses for what you say? Are you taking others into consideration? Are you being bold in what God wants you to say but remaining silent when he guides you to silence? Be intentional in your talk today. When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. (Ephesians 4:29)
  3. Rest. Life is busy. How well do you rest? Quiet yourself – even in the middle of a busy time or place. Look around. Take a deep breath. Soak in all God provides. Sink into his blessings. Trust him to refresh you throughout the day. Be intentional in your rest today. Anyone who enters God’s rest will rest from his work as God did. (Hebrews 4:10)
  4. Pay. How are you spending your time, money, and energy? Do you hoard time, money, or energy? Do you overspend time, money, or energy, resulting in emotional, financial, or spiritual debt? God provides. Respond with good stewardship. Be intentional in how you spend your life today. When people work, their pay is not given as a gift, but as something earned. (Romans 4:4)
  5. Read. How are you filling your mind? What sources do you trust? Be discerning in what is worthwhile to read, hear and see. Step beyond the basic choice between what’s good and bad. You’ll more often need to choose between good and good. Choose the best. Consistently soak in God’s Word. Be intentional in what you read today. Until I come, continue to read the Scriptures to the people, strengthen them, and teach them. (1 Timothy 4:13)
  6. Eat. Does your day revolve around food? Do you ignore what your body is telling you? Does the ease of eating override the health of eating, or does the short-term pleasure override the long-term effects when you’re making a decision? What do your habits reflect about your priorities? Make healthy choices – one at a time. Be intentional in how and what you eat today. The answer is, if you eat or drink, or if you do anything, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  7. Tech. You will likely use a variety of technology tools today. How are you using them? Are they helping you connect in healthy ways, or are they pulling you away from relationships? Reflect on your priorities. Choose each click well. Honor and glorify God in all you do. Be intentional in how you use technology today. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. (John 15:19)

“No” Your Limits

I suppose I could have kept my eyes open a little longer. But I was sleepy, and the sun was so warm, and everything on my list of things to do could honestly wait. So I relinquished…and took a short nap. How refreshing!

Sometimes I push myself too hard, ignoring limits. Yet there are also times my limits are marked with a huge red flag. When I see the flag looming ahead, I stop.

According to http://www.merriam-webster.com/, a limit is “something that bounds, restrains, or confines.” What limits you? Create a list.

  • When does fear limit you?
  • What types of emotions limit you?
  • How does money, location, transportation limit you?
  • What relationships limit you?
  • How does “baggage” limit you?

There are situations in which a limit is placed in our path as a warning to take another route, proceed with caution, or cease pursuing that direction altogether. But sometimes we use limits as an excuse to stop, pause, or retreat. Sometimes, limits are a test of our perseverance.

I try to be too self-sufficient sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. The fact is my limits aren’t limits at all, because I know God, who has no limits. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” (Mark 10: 27) I’m only limited by my stubbornness to rely on my own strength, courage, and perseverance. I get worn out and can easily give up!

Take a look at your list of limits. Circle the items beyond God’s limits. You can keep those things on your list of definite “no-can-do” limits. Cross off the items that are not beyond God’s limits. My guess is, you’ll be drawing a few lines on your paper!

Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. – John 3:33-35

Tax Time

If you live in the U.S., you’ve (hopefully) processed your taxes by now. (If not, get to it!) Going through documents in preparation for taxes gives you a snapshot of the past year. Consider:

  • What were your priorities?
  • What have you justified?
  • How have you been blessed?
  • Where did you invest?

Dig deeper and reflect on the past year. You’ve likely spent significant time preparing your taxes. Spend some time reflecting on your life as a whole over the past year.

Priorities. Where did you spend your money? What did you give away? What was essential in your life? What did you ignore?

Justifications. What’s important enough to document? What stands out that you want to “prove” with evidence. If you created a receipt for the year, what would be on the receipt?

Blessings. How has God provided for you? Think beyond the bottom line of income. Consider an unexpectedly low bill or an appliance or vehicle that continues to run. Mentally walk through your daily routine and consider blessings you might often take for granted.

Investments. How have you invested your time, energy and resources? Are you more concerned with worldly rewards or eternal benefits? Are you more concerned about the interest and dividends, the whats and how much of investment, or the to whom and when?

Reflecting on the past is important in helping us move into the future. Use this process to set goals for the coming months and year. Set goals and regularly evaluate how you’re doing. You might need to make some adjustments along the way, but at the end of the year, the bottom line can show growth, commitment, and faithful living.

We are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. Think about Jesus’ example. He held on while wicked people were doing evil things to him. So do not get tired and stop trying. Hebrews 12:1-3