Grace in Spending

graceYour heart will be where your treasure is. (Matthew 6:21)

Ponder It.

  • What problems do you have with spending?
  • With a percentage (0%-100%), assess how much God plays a role in your spending planning and actual spending.
  • How do you see God’s grace in your spending?

Receive It. Grace provides what we need. The problem is we often define what we need differently than God does. We don’t filter our needs (and our spending) through God’s will. We prefer control. It’s as if we think that if we give God complete control, we’re only going to be living with the basics of food, clothing, and shelter. We’ll never get that favorite cup of coffee, new scarf or other accessory, or a car that does more than make it from point A to point B. We should know God better than that. When we fully submit to God’s will, yes, there will probably be times we need to trust him through some very sacrificial seasons of spending (or not spending). Whether or not we actually have the resources to spend become secondary to how God wants us to spend what we have. God blesses us abundantly, and he is not intent on ruining our fun or withholding anything and everything that is absolutely not essential. It’s just not the way he loves us. His love, and his grace, is abundant. It overflows. That doesn’t mean our bank accounts will always overflow. Besides, how he defines overflow and how we define overflow often differs. We look at the money in our hands and think of it as ours. We forget he filters it all through his hands. He knows where it needs to go, and while he often will have us sacrifice spending in the way we want for the way he wants, the way he wants is sometimes in line with what we want. He knows the trail of spending and the blessings that can come through the spending. Most important, he knows the blessings that can come through obedient spending. He knows who profits, who will honor him, who will be grateful, and who will be challenged to greater faith because of the pressures of wealth. We need to rely on God to guide our spending, because when we listen to and obey what he says about spending, his grace abounds through our obedience, including our spending.

Live It. Pay attention to every penny you spend or consider spending today. Ask, “What does God say about this money in my hand?” Then do with it what he wants.

When Life Challenges Us

the hikerThe one who works his land will have plenty of food, but whoever chases fantasies lacks sense. (Proverbs 12:11)

 When have you wanted to give up but persevered?

What were the consequences of a time you gave up?

When you have persevered, what was your motivation? Why did you do it?

The quick and easy route seems so much more appealing than the winding, hilly, rocky one. We think we want as few obstacles in our way as possible. But don’t they make the journey all that more worthwhile? That’s not to say we should seek obstacles and hope they get in our way. The seems-to-be-insurmountable will rise ahead of us whether we want it to or not. We don’t have to fabricate it.

When I speak, sometimes family members come along. On a particular trip years ago, my husband and youngest daughter went to Colorado with me. They had some adventures while I was at a conference. When I got done, I wanted at least one day to do some hiking in the Rockies. I chose a shorter, less challenging hike than I might have tried on my own, but we soon learned that it was a bit more challenging than our daughter could face. When we could see our destination, but it was nearly straight up a rocky incline, my exhausted daughter sat down and declared she didn’t think she could make it. It upset her, because she knew it was my only chance to hike during that trip, but I assured her it was okay with me to head back down the mountain. We had accomplished a lot. Sometimes the journey is as important as the destination. Sometimes finishing well includes knowing when to turn back.

We rested for a while before she suddenly stood up and began to scamper up the mountainside. She didn’t answer our questions about whether or not she was sure she wanted to continue, and we couldn’t keep up with her. She was waiting for us at the top and said, “I had to give it one more try.” We applauded her for persevering. We explored the top of the ridgeline and enjoyed the view for quite a while before heading down. The view wasn’t nearly as breathtaking as the change I noticed in my daughter when she stood at the top. Sometimes our determination is plain stubbornness that can potentially get in our way or become counterproductive. Other times, it cultivates healthy growth that changes us.

Take a walk today, or ride a bike. Do something that challenges you. Go a little farther or a little faster. Consider what your daily choices reveal about your persistent spiritual cultivation.

A Refuge

philip-yancey-quote-wise-godThe refuge of God’s wings isn’t for us to hide and avoid but to claim God’s presence and provision.

We see many examples of covering in the Bible, including the cherubim of the ark of the covenant, Passover blood in Exodus, and of course, Christ Himself. But that covering isn’t for us to hide under because of fear. God’s covering is protection but not a protection of the threats of the world. We are still vulnerable to sickness, trauma, injustice, and death. God’s covering doesn’t take those earthly experiences away. God’s covering gives us the courage to boldly live despite the impact those things have on our lives.

Instead of shielding us from something, God’s covering opens our eyes and hearts to glimpse the possibilities that can grow out of any circumstance. It takes away fear of what can happen and assures us of who we can trust even when what we don’t want to happen does.

Let’s not skew God’s covering into something that serves our own purpose and comfort but doesn’t reflect who He is.

In a Time of Need

11374766_417075665144516_1072785693_nIt was on this day one year ago that I rushed back from vacation because of a family emergency. Before that phone call, I had enjoyed several days in the mountains, often relaxing by the fire and reading and journalling through Scriptures. On the plane, I opened my Bible to the bookmark among the sleek pages, and I continued reading, reflecting, and claiming God’s promises, jotting notes in the margin. Among the chaos and uncertainty, I found the familiar peace of God’s presence.

I find it as no coincidence that I am revisiting those same pages one year later, perhaps a reminder of God’s peace and presence. In that year, everything has not worked out “my way.” Yet I trust God more and know Him better.

And I thank Him for the reminder of the following verses I highlighted that night on the plane:

Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come before You. Do not hide Your face from me in my day of trouble. Listen closely to me; answer me quickly when I call. (Psalm 102:1-2)

I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him; I will rejoice in the Lord. (Psalm 104:33-34)

My heart is confident, God; I will sing; I will sing praises with the whole of my being.(Psalm 108:1)

The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate. (Psalm 116:5)

I called to the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and put me in a spacious place. The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord is my helper, (Psalm 118:5-7b)

Teach me good judgment and discernment, for I rely on Your commands. (Psalm 119:66)

Let my cry reach You, Lord; give me understanding according to Your word. (Psalm 119:169)

Refusing Comfort

1499637_10151853953097263_1945225604_nI refused to be comforted. (Psalm 77:2b)

Why refuse to be comforted?

We need to insist on being comforted in the right ways by the right people (Person) for the right reasons. Consolation and feeling better are not the best goals. Only God can give what we need when we need it: His Presence and His Peace. He provides, and we can trust Him.

Stored Up Goodness

ca205306b38c47bc228dd337d90850dbHow great is Your goodness that You have stored up for those who fear You and  accomplished in the sight of everyone for those who take refuge in You. (Psalm 31:19)

God stores up goodness. That means we don’t have access to all of it at once. Not because God is stingy, but because He knows when and how much we need His goodness. His goodness includes His wisdom of timing and provision. His goodness involves storing and releasing.

God’s goodness is always good.

How we expect or accept it isn’t.

The Fence of Pride, Arrogance, and Ignorance

You might be the one to…step into the role, accept the position, complete the task. Yet you might not be the one.

Why do you say yes or no to something?

We build fences that keep us from walking the very ground God intends us to cover, because we’re too proud, arrogant, or ignorant to consider, acknowledge, and accept where God wants us to go. We tear down fences that are intended to keep us from walking the ground God doesn’t intend for us to cover, because we’re too proud, arrogant, or ignorant to consider, acknowledge, and accept where God wants us to remain.

It’s God’s job to build and tear down fences, not ours. Anytime we do the building or tearing down, we should be cautioned to attend to where we are and where we should be.

wood-slip-boardWe think we should be able to decide where God wants or doesn’t want us to be. We even try to convince others we know where they should or shouldn’t be. If there’s a gap in what needs to get done, we think we know who should step up, because (1) someone has to step up or else it won’t get done, or (2) we see how the person and the task would perfectly fit together. Even if what we assume is consistent with God’s direction, we need to ask for his instruction first. Jumping in to provide a quick fix might seem to fix the problem, but if it’s not the way God wanted it to be fixed, another problem will soon follow. What seems to fit to us isn’t always God’s best fit. We can have God’s confirmation in less than a blink-of-an-eye…and when it doesn’t come that quickly, we’re wise to patiently wait.

On the other hand, we can excuse ourselves from responding by saying we’re waiting on God’s instruction when we’re not fully committed to hearing God’s instruction. We’re fairly certain we’re not supposed to respond, but we’ll wait it out in case God says differently. But are we actively waiting or passively waiting? There’s a difference. We always need to be active in our relationship with God, no matter where and at what pace he has us.

What fences are you building or tearing down on your own, apart from God’s instruction?

Whether you think you’re too good or not good enough to do something or whether you simply don’t recognize something that’s supposed to be on your radar, be cautious. Be sensitive to God’s leading. He wants you to walk every step of the territory he has purposed for you. Don’t explore where you shouldn’t be or place limits on where you should go.

After Lot left, the Lord said to Abram, “Look all around you—to the north and south and east and west. All this land that you see I will give to you and your descendants forever.I will make your descendants as many as the dust of the earth. If anyone could count the dust on the earth, he could count your people. Get up! Walk through all this land because I am now giving it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)