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Archive for the tag “Financial Stronghold”

Personal Habits

This past week, I lost an important file. For two days I have tried to recover it. I tried the help desk at Microsoft and they couldn’t find it either. So I am stuck with recreating my file. I thought that would be the case, but I kept hoping the file would miraculously come back from where it’s hidden. Now it’s just a matter of sitting down to do it. Sitting down to do something when I don’t want to do it is just hard. I have days when I know I need to post a blog, but sometimes it’s just hard to just sit down and write.

It’s the motivation that’s the key to do the things I may not want to do when I know I need to do it. Why do it in the first place? Why write? Why do I care about my finances to actually create a file to track my expenditures? Because I feel it’s the right thing to do. My motivation for most things in life is because I feel like God is pleased when I do the things I need to do to stay on track. Writing helps me to focus on the things that are important and God has placed a desire in me to share what I know.

But why do I track my expenses? A few years ago, I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course. Having a financial background, I wondered what this course could teach me. I got paid to budget for large companies but I didn’t necessarily do it for myself. I pay my bills on time, what else matters?

Through the course, I realized I had a lot to be accountable for and I wasn’t very wise in my spending habits. You see, when I get stressed or lonely or have any emotional trauma, I shop. It’s my downfall. When I started the course, I realized I spent quite a bit of money on stuff. It was a fleeting feeling of satisfaction to purchase something I wanted. I didn’t recognize my habits until I started tracking my expenses. This year’s tracking file was the file I lost.

Guess what I did when I lost the file? I started shopping trying to fill a problem with some emotional comfort. The funny thing though is that I shop differently now. I no longer buy clothes, shoes or house items. I read Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven that changed my buying habits. I don’t need a lot of “stuff” anymore. You know what I buy mostly now? Supplements or food items. I love finding new products and giving them a try. My problem is more health-related and I feel like it’s a better choice, but it still is a habit that needs to be broken. I still have to rein it back in.

Do you recognize your habits? Sometimes it takes something as simple as a budget to recognize where we get off track. God has given us resources and we will be accountable to Him for how we manage those resources. Maybe spending isn’t your stumbling block like it is mine. Maybe yours is a food issue or a porn issue or sex issue or whatever it may be. Maybe when you’re lonely you do something totally different from what you normally would on a day you feel surrounded by love. What is it for you?

The first thing we have to do is notice our choices and why we’re making them. Is the motivation for a good reason or is it an emotional response? Do you eat because your hunger or just bored? There’s a lot to discern about our habits. We get in those ruts and sometimes it takes a bit of a jolt to get us out of those destructive patterns. Habits are done out of routine. We can do it without even thinking about it. That’s why a budget was the jolt I needed to get on track. It brought a few things into focus for me.

First and foremost, I am a manager of God’s resources and He always gets His portion back first. I recognize where I need to spend the money each month before I spend the first dime. When I receive money, I don’t automatically think it’s mine to spend. God first. It’s always the way to go to bring freedom to my spending habits. Freedom not in how I spend but freedom from the strongholds that make me stumble. I don’t always get it right. I am always accountable to Him in every regard to do what I am called to do – honor and glorify Him in every respect – even putting together another tracking device to control my habits so that I will not fall short (financially and spiritually). God uses the little things to remind us where we need to be. Our job is to pay attention to those little things.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:12-13

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Learning Lessons

When I was in high school, I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to do when I graduated. I knew I would go to college, but that was the extent of my grand ideas for the future. I had no idea what I really liked to do since I really hadn’t pursued anything other than sports. I took an accounting class my senior year. I was in horticulture for two years. I actually really loved working with plants. I liked to see things grow.

When I got to college, I still hadn’t a clue as to what I should pursue as a career. I took the advice of my Dad who said to go into business – “you could never go wrong in business.” So I did. And for twenty-five years, I struggled to find contentment in that field. At one point early on, I contemplated other avenues but nothing stood out to me. Also, it would mean I might have to go back to school to learn another trade, and I just didn’t know if I could do it. You see, I hate to study. So, year after year, I stayed in something that I was good at but felt drained day after day.

God provided through the jobs, so it was not all bad. I met some really good people in those places. I enjoyed life outside of work. I did what I had to do in order to live. God provided the opportunities each and every time. I would get restless and start looking for the next place. God would provide the next place. I figured out in hindsight, it was never about the job. God had lessons in each place where He placed me.

God used the circumstance to train me up; to become more spiritually mature. I am still a work in progress. I am still learning and hopefully growing. I wrote a few weeks ago, that I really didn’t see much growth over the past year. Maybe it was there, but it wasn’t significant for me to see. There were subtle shifts in my thinking. Some of my struggle is over financial concerns. God has been at work in this season of my life.

When I begin to be anxious about the future, God sends me a reminder that my future is in His hands. I saw this just yesterday. I have been praying for direction on what I should do next. Sell my house or stay? Look for another job? Where do I go, what do I do? I asked God to take my hand and lead me to the next place.

I opened one of the books I have been reading on a daily basis called The Seeking Heart by Fenelon. On this day, I just happen to read the chapter “Depend on God.” Okay; not a coincidence. The first sentence read “The best place to be is where God puts you.” And more statements about the future: “Do not think too much about the future. Worrying about things that haven’t happened yet is unhealthy for you. God Himself will help you, day by day.”

I was reminded of Elijah while he was by the brook during the drought. God sent ravens to feed him until the brook dried up; then God sent him to a widow lady in Sidon. God provided for Elijah through this woman’s meager supplies. The supplies never ran out as long as the drought persisted.

Elijah believed God would provide. He didn’t seem to have any trust issues like I do. I have always been self-sufficient. I have lived independently – or so I thought at the time. It was God who provided through the job opportunities. Before I left my last job, I would not have imagined the future of living without a fixed income. God has provided for the last six years. It’s all come from God. The ravens may have not been instructed to feed me, but others have come along at just the right time.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, except to trust God more and me less. I want to be where God wants me, doing what He wants me to do for the Kingdom. I still like to see things grow, but today it’s more than plants. As part of the Body of Christ, we are all meant to grow. We all struggle in different areas of our lives. Mine is financial, yours maybe something completely different. God will put us in a place where we can learn best the lessons He wants to teach us. I will sit by the brook, until I am instructed to go to the next place – all in God’s time, not mine. Let’s be faithful where He plants us and grow to be the men and women of God He wants us to be.

But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. Psalms 1:2-3 (NLT)

The Pharisee

This past weekend I heard a sermon on the Pharisee and the tax collector. The parable is found in Luke 18. The self-righteous man believed he was right with God because he was keeping the letter of the Law. He did more than he was required. He fasted more often than what Pharisees were expected to do. He gave a tenth of all that he received. The requirements were to give a tenth of what was earned. He believed he was right with God by the things that he did; by the rules he kept. The tax collector knew his heart and knew he was not able to keep the Law. He knew he was a rule breaker – a sinner. I tend to keep rules too. But I recognize my own heart. I am a rule breaker too – I am a sinner who is only saved by grace, not by obeying the rules.

The preacher did not go where I am getting ready to go. What struck me about the topic was the giving part of the story. The man gave on everything he received; not just on what he earned. In essence, he was trying to out give God. By all means, giving is good. Scripture tells us we are supposed to discern in our hearts what we want to give. The attitude of the heart is where we go wrong. If we are only giving because of the requirement to give or to give only to get recognition of the gift; it accounts for nothing. We are to give because God gave to us first, and we are returning the portion that is rightly His. In Malachi, God says we are robbing Him if we do not return His portion. But it is not supposed to be done grudgingly. Paul taught in Second Corinthians that we are to be cheerful givers.

Money is a hard thing to part with. I have a financial background, and this can be one of my most difficult areas of obedience for me. Not necessarily giving back to God; but giving in general. When money is tight, I am not quite so willingly to donate to worthy causes. I check my expenditures for the month before I decide whether the cause is worthy enough to sacrifice for. This is not the way I want to be. I want to have a generous heart. But it is a constant struggle to let go of those things that God has given me. God has given me the challenge to do more with less. God is teaching me that He is sufficient to meet all my needs. He has worked on my desire for less stuff. I have to watch my thoughts though because I can get on my Pharisee corner and think too highly of myself because I have done this “great thing” to reduce my possessions. There is nothing that I have done by myself. It took God working in my heart and pointing out the things that have hindered my walk with Him. I can get too possessive of my stuff if I am not careful.

Then there is the lust game that comes at me from every angle. When I look at my neighbors or my friends, I see they have all they need plus some. They drive nice cars. They go out to eat more than I do. One of my neighbors is fixing up their house. My friend mentioned she found twenty dollars in the parking lot. I can get dissatisfied too if I am not careful to keep it all in the right perspective. I am reminded that if I don’t have something, then it’s because I am not ready for it. If God brings a blessing to me, then I know that my heart is right to accept it with gratitude. I also realized that I don’t need any debt in my life. God gives when we can handle it properly. The nice car is nice when there is no car payment that has to be made every month. Or the nice house is not so nice when the mortgage is more than I could afford.

God has been good to teach me the right principles to live by and how to honor Him with spending wisely. I am learning His principles of money management – it’s taken a few years, but I think I am finally over the “mine” phase. It’s all His. I am just the money manager for a short time. Someone else will get the job when I am finally done here on this earth! In the meantime, I no longer give because I have an obligation to God and want to follow the rules. I give because He is so generous to me. The budget will never look good on paper, but in God’s economy everything is always paid on time and with the right attitude!

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

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