Why We Do What We Do…Part II: Overspending

“Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Does God really care if I buy an extra pair of shoes, a movie, some video games, or that magazine? Doesn’t God have bigger problems then how I spend my money? Isn’t that a bit extreme? After reading Luke 12:35-48 (I’d highly recommend checking it out) I’m convinced it is not too extreme and everything we do is important. Our Master is returning and we’re busy goofing off. He has entrusted us with material and spiritual gifts and He is watching us right now to see if we are using them faithfully. It bears no significance that our name is on the paycheck; it all belongs to Him. (1 Cor. 10:26) Consider this; Jesus is standing in front of you with a wad of cash, assuring you can do whatever you want with it. I don’t know about you, but my first response probably wouldn’t be running to Outback Steakhouse, buying a new T.V., or taking a trip to Disneyland. I’m guessing I would be motivated and obligated to use it for the hungry and needy. I couldn’t say for sure that’s what I’d do, but I have my dreams.

The reality is, every Friday (or whatever the pay day is), we are presented with that very same opportunity! Yes, we have bills to pay and things we need for our survival, but how much of that is truly spent wisely? If Jesus looked through your checkbook register, would you be embarassed? I know I would be. Let’s spend a moment clearing out our spiritual garden again, digging up the roots to our spending habits.

Root #1: I Lust with My Eyes

“For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16

It’s impossible to make an unwise purchase without the sin of lust being involved. We didn’t buy that 80″ big screen television because we had no choice. We saw it with our eyes, we wanted it, we lusted after it, so we bought it! If we want to be good stewards of our finances, we must rectify our eyes of lust, and ask God to give us new eyes; kingdom eyes. Does that mean buying items for entertainment is sin? Only you and God know what is sin for you and your finances (James 4:17 again). If He has convicted you of a certain spending issue, and you ignore it, you are sinning. What’s a sin for me may not be a sin for you; it is up to me and you to listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and obey. Maybe you could try praying before making such a purchase, and see what God has to say.

Root #2: I am Discontent

“The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content.” Proverbs 19:23 (Emphasis mine)

A spirit of discontentment will most assuredly lead to over-spending. If we  found our contenment in God, we would be less tempted to buy junk we don’t really need. Jesus warns us, “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) Paul instructs us to be content in godliness, rather than accumulation of things. (1 Tim. 6:6) We need to ask ourselves: are we content with what we have or are we constantly looking to have more? (1 Tim. 6:8)

Root #3: I am an Idolator

“Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolator, worshiping the things of this world.” Colossians 3:5 (NLT)

“Greed causes fighting; trusting in the Lord leads to prosperity.” Proverbs 28:25

Ouch! All I have to do is be greedy (selfish) and I am labeled as an idolator! How many times throughout a given day am I more concerned with my rights then the rights of those around me? Selfish ambition is greed. The deep desire for self leads us into all sorts of ugliness, one of which is over-spending. I want what I want and I want it now! I have the money, so why not? Once again we need to consider the source of our desire. Are we making wise choices or selfish choices? I have a friend who almost never makes new purchases for her children. She always uses hand-me-downs from families and friends yet her kids have some pretty cool toys. Many of them were used and they work just as well. We may look at used things as being beneath us or not good enough for us; this is another source of pride, selfishness, and greed. Once again I implore you to seek God’s counsel before making any purchase.

If you’re looking to increase the kingdom of God, and use your finances to glorify Him, consider the above roots and whether they have held a place in your spiritual garden. Seek new ways to be a blessing to someone else, rather then feeding your own desires. One of the best ways to get kingdom focused is to focus on the needs of those around you,  keeping in mind the nice things you have are not going to eternity with you.

(For more information on frugality, see America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Money or Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides: America’s Cheapest Family. You can also see their bio and info on facebook.)

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Why Do We Need Christian Writing?

Our world is infiltrated with lies and deception; we need a new generation of truth-seekers to spread the light of God’s word to a hopeless, desperate world. It isn’t hard to see what is popular in today’s reading market. A simple glance in your average waiting room will uncover an abundance of magazines like Rolling Stones, People, and Cosmopolitan.

Out of curiosity I picked up a Cosmo magazine and noticed articles regarding sex, wealth, and beauty. Cosmopolitan is listed as 13 on a top 25 list of best-selling magazines. This shows us what the world is reading (along with many Christians). Do articles such as these actually help people or do they teach a counterfeit happiness? The enemy would like us to believe lies about what our role is in society (Jn. 8:44, Eph. 6:12, 1 Pet. 5:8) which is why we need spiritual people spreading spiritual truths that transform lives for eternity.

Secular media will encourage one to seek sexual satisfaction, but the word of God teaches: “Each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and acceptable.” (1 Thess. 4:4) Many articles will list “10 ways to get rich now” but the Bible gives wisdom regarding money: “Command those who are rich in this present world neither to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth.” (1 Tim. 6:17) Beauty is also a popular area for secular media, but God’s word guides accordingly: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…Rather; it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Pet. 3:3-4)

What the world really needs is a lasting hope that gives purpose to life. A great example of writing that can change one’s life is from Neil T. Anderson, founder of Freedom in Christ Ministries (www.ficm.org). I recently went through his workbook, The Steps to Freedom in Christ, and cannot adequately describe the spiritual transformation that resulted. Our hope should be in the Lord (Psa. 130:7) and we need truth to transform lives of brokenness and bondage into soaring freedom and purpose. (Jn. 8:32, Psa. 119:32) Perhaps we would see less depression, substance abuse, and violence if there were more truth-seeking lovers of Christ sharing their experiences of freedom with those around them.

Whether it’s a magazine article, blog, newspaper, or a social networking site, there are many opportunities for the transforming truth of Christ to be shared. This can only happen if there are God-fearing people behind the God-given message.

 

(This is an article I had to write for my courses with The Christian Writers Institute. My instructor liked it, so I thought I’d share. I also searched for an appropriate picture of Cosmopolitan magazine to include. Sadly,  I could find none appropriate due to overt sexual content which I will not promote on this blog. Truthfully, visiting their website was tantamount to online pornography and I wouldn’t recommend it. ~Rebecca)

Money Changes Everything…?

I’ll admit it, I like to watch The Voice, a singing competition where people get the opportunity to win a recording contract. One woman had a duet with famous rock singer, Cindi Lauper. The song was titled Money Changes Everything. The two women danced aggresively around the stage shouting, “Money, money money!” while large green dollar signs were projected over the walls.

Just what the world needs, a message showcasing the importance of financial gain. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, after all there are major religious sects that preach a “prosperity” driven gospel, emphasizing faith rewarded with material wealth.  As one who has experienced most levels of financial gain and ruin, even homelessness, I think I can say with the authority experience brings, money doesn’t change a thing. Some of the darkest moments in my life were during times of great material wealth. I had everything I wanted, more than I had dreamed of, but spiritually I was deader than a doorknob.

I’m reminded of 1 Timothy 6:6-20, probably the most well known passage regarding money. Verse 17 says, “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.” My husband and I have gone through many levels of finances; from selling possessions to pay rent, to times where purchasing a large TV was hardly noticed in the register. God has used those times to teach me what is important. I have a tendency to get concerned when the well is running dry, so, God allows the well to dry up. I am brought back to this passage again and again. “But godliness with contenment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6

What the world needs is more people to discover the love God has for them. Christians rising up and proclaiming the truth. Godliness is all the gain I need. Becoming the person of Christ is the only way anything will change for me. I’m glad I saw that episode last night because it brought me back to the truth of the gospel. Jesus is all I need. Jesus changes everything. God help me, as your beloved child, to remember to “flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1 Tim. 6:11) If my security is found in material things I will never be content and will likely be discouraged, disappointed, and deeply depressed.

I’ve been redeemed, I’ve been to the river and washed white as snow, I am a new creation,  I have a new life that is Jesus, and that changes everything. “In this way [I] will lay treasure for [myself] as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that [I] may take hold of life that is truly life.” (1 Tim. 6:19)

Enough…..

Yesterday was one of “those” days.  I sank into that darkness and allowed myself to be there. Overwhelmed by my circumstances because I chose to be overwhelmed. Did God make me overwhelmed? Did He design me to worry, and carry my burdens alone? No. I see that, I saw that, yet I turned from that truth and chose to wallow.

“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” Psalm 119:143 

This morning as I lay in my bed, awake far earlier than I needed to be, I became acutely aware of God’s presence.  He wouldn’t let me go back to sleep. So I got up, made my coffee, and sat and listened. What, God, what?

“I’m giving you an opportunity.”

Me: “Is that so? I’m not sure ‘opportinity’ is the word I’d use.”

“I’m giving you an opportunity to trust Me, an opportunity others don’t always recognize.”

Me: “Ohhhh, I see. I thought I did trust you?”

“Your behavior gives you away. You don’t believe; you doubt. You say Psalm 119:143 over and over, yet it’s not true. It’s not real to you, it’s what you want, but you don’t have it….yet.”

Me: “I want it to be real! I want to believe it and live it!”

“Remember, it is harder for the wealthy to enter My kingdom, easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle, actually.  You truly learn to trust Me when I am all you have, when I am your only hope, your only comfort, your only companion. When your friend leaves you, when money is gone, when your child is ill, when you are ill, and when you cannot fix any of it yourself, then you learn to trust. I am teaching you how to trust. Will you learn?”

Me: “It hurts, so much.”

“You are not alone. I have never gone anywhere. You choose to walk away from Me when you don’t believe.”

Me: “Teach me, I am ready to learn! Thank you for giving me this opportunity, I don’t want to waste it! I confess my unbelief!”

Nothing changed in my circumstances, but He began to change me.  In class this morning we talked of Truth. How I needed that! We act what we believe! The light bulb deep down flickers as we discuss….

We live our whole lives trying to be what God already made us. Who am I? I am a new creation, with a new heart, a heart that he turned from stone to flesh the moment I became His. That’s who I am; yet I live my life as if I need to attain that. Do this, be better at that…but I’m failing! Of course I am failing, because I am trying to be what he already made me! What I need to do is walk in the truth of what He said I already am. Live the truth of His word. I cannot do this unless I allow Him to grab hold of my heart. I cannot do it by grabbing Him, He has to call me, speak to me, and open my eyes to who I am in Jesus, and what His heart is towards me.

My new friend passes me a paper, “God just spoke to me for you”.

Paper reads:

“Paying bills in the spirit, paying bills in the flesh.

Faith vs Flesh

The battle begins at the first look—Thinking there is more than what I have in front of me.

Humble and grateful for all that I have, lots or little.

Are we thanking Him?

Thank you Lord for paying this bill. Asking Him to guide you to the rest.

What has God placed on my plate?—-What am I doing with what God has given,

protected and nothing

sharing a little

making a difference

giving what I’ve been given.”

My eyes were opening. On the way from class to the worship service I prayed….

Grab my heart, make me to see.

First the music….

He is mighty to save….

Yes, He is, I know that….and then He grabbed me…..

 “These sufferings, this passing tide, under Your wings I will abide, and every enemy shall flee. You are my hope and victory. Praise the Father, praise the Son, praise the Spirit three in One; clothed in power and in grace, the Name above all other names.”

Weeping….I can’t even sing anymore. My friends behind me lay hands on me and pray. My friend next to me holds my hand. They know, they understand my pain and they care. But even if they didn’t, I know He would be enough.  He is enough. He is all I need.  My hope and victory is the Name above all names! I have victory, I don’t need to try to get what I already have! Eyes are open!

Then the sermon…..

“All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.” Acts 4:32-35

Wow! I couldn’t think of anyone in my life that unselfish and sacrificial, including myself! No, in my case I try and try and try to make it work in my own power. What little (and I mean little) I have I feel like I need or else….

I won’t be able to pay my bills

I won’t have my physical needs met

I won’t be able to feed my child

Or will I? No, I only think I am doing those things, when in reality I was never doing those things. It was always God, not me. And I was ungrateful because I thought I needed more! No God, it’s not enough. I need a “best” friend  an ‘ana duo’ like she has, I need health, I need food, I need money for bills…..Or do I? I am trying to get what I already have….Jesus. He is all. I need nothing else.

At that moment, when God changed my vision, I realized I had too much. I wanted to get rid of it. Oh how selfish a creature I am! Attempting to hang tightly on to what…scraps of money that isn’t “enough” to do what I need it to do? How ridiculous! I have the richest Ruler of all living in my heart, directing my steps, is He not fully capable of making provision? How dare I think “it’s not enough”! Oh when those scales fall off it’s marvelous! Freeing! No longer do I need to worry about getting this tumor removed, paying rent, or having a friend who understands me. I don’t need to make it happen, or force anything. God has intentionally placed me where He wants me, and that is where I want to be!

Give now.

Me: “Ok, how much?”

Sacrificially. I will take care of you.

When you hear Him so loudly, how can you not trust?! He was right in front of me. It was easy, all of a sudden, to give it away. It was never mine to begin with. Contentment that is not forced…that is a treasure. No longer am I trying to be content, because I realize IN HIM I have contentment already. No more trying, just resting. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know how He will work it out, I just know that He will. And it has nothing to do with me. I just needed to quit trying so hard to do His job. I needed to pray, “Grab my heart….open my eyes.”

I picked up my sweet girl from Sunday School and found another answered prayer. A teacher she had been having trouble with for months, afraid of and refusing to be around,  well Samantha was in her class and happy! So long I had prayed for that, and somewhat given up on the request. But there it was, a miracle before my eyes! And those who knew the situation knew it was a miracle!

“And you doubt Me.” 

Me: Thank you, Jesus. Thank you….

Home now….Not even yelling spouse or crying child will bring me back to the “self” I had been lost in.  Home is wonderful, the home He provided. It is enough because He was there….

He is here.

That is all I need, I have enough.

He is enough, and no one could make Him be enough except for Him.

Calculated

“Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.” Psalm 119:72 NLT

Calculated

How interesting. I find myself sitting to write and here I am talking about wealth and riches and what really matters in life when my husband has barely worked for the past two weeks. I just finished a prayer, “Jesus, I am trusting You to get us through this, and I know whatever you have in store will be great. I thank you for it in advance,” then I opened my notes and laughed, “Yes, Jesus, Your word IS more valuable than gold!”

Sometimes you need to have your material securities stripped down in order to figure that out.

It’s not always so cut and dry. God isn’t necessarily waiting to take all that you love away from you to teach you some sort of lesson on valuing his word more, or setting your sights on eternity more. Sometimes it is just life. Will we accept pleasantries from God and not the uncomfortable? We must accept it if we truly trust him, because with trust comes understanding that all things work for our greatest good.

Brokenness

Financial Ruin

Sickness

Losses

Pain

God is up to something, he is calculating our every circumstance to work out in our best interest. Unfortunately for us, we cannot see the big picture.

God does.

The Psalmist learned his most valuable possession was the knowledge of God’s character, and that was found in his word. What else brings us peace, joy, and the greatest gift of all, salvation? The word of God! This is the “good news”, this is the “greatest news”!

Sometimes it seems easier to say the Bible is valuable when we sit in relative financial obscurity. Certainly it is valuable, for it is all some of us have! But the Psalmist, he was a man of wealth, worldly wealth and riches, and of all people most uniquely qualified to give a value to the word of God.

He put a price tag on it: priceless.

All of our lives we will suffer losses. We will go through ups and downs, times of gains and decreases, but one thing remains sure, and that is the precious, priceless word of God.

Taking a risk and investing your life in knowing the character of God is a calculated move that will pay off over the course of your entire life as you learn who he is; you will learn to trust him and live a more joyous life in him. There are so many unknowns in this world, but the word of God is a sure thing. Invest in it, and have an eternal treasure you can take to the grave (and beyond!) Knowing the heart of God is something you will not regret.

Have you experienced something today that you don’t understand? Is not fair? Confuses you? Are you tired of wondering why it is so “easy” for some to “cast their cares upon God” while you’re struggling to get what is going on in your daily life? God doesn’t promise us understanding, but he does promise us wealth beyond comprehension. That wealth is in knowing him. Sound too easy? Open the word, find out who God is, where he is, what he is up to, and find out for yourself if that peace he offers isn’t more priceless than millions of silver and gold. I can tell you from my own experience it most definitely IS.

When the money is gone, when the health is gone, when the job is gone, when the niceness of your coworkers (or family) is gone, you will have the entirety of God’s promises in your heart and at your lips.

It truly is a wealth of choice.

Prayer

Jesus, as I bring to you my cares, worries, anxieties, and doubts today, I trade them for the riches you offer me freely. Peace, joy, contentment, purpose, mercy, and everlasting life to name just a few! Thank you for what you are working out in my life, for the things I understand and the things I don’t understand. I choose to trust you in every situation knowing you are in control. Change my heart that I may love you more every day; consume me with the wealth of your word!