Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Disciplines 6 - 10

I'm going to crack on into the last five disciplines...

6. YOU SHALL GIVE REGULARLY TO YOUR CHURCH

"You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
2 Corinthians 9:7

For this discipline Elizabeth asks us to ask a very important question to ourselves. When was the last time you have money to your church, and how much was it for? You don't have to tell anyone, but think about it and think about what that shows you about where your treasure lies. We have to make sure above all things that we give back to God. He is our provider and gives us all that we need, but He blesses us even more abundantly when we get this one discipline right. 

At the moment there is a bit of financial 'thing' going on - I don't know anything about the economy but I do know that people are finding it tougher than it has been in a long time, and when we lose a wage or we have to tighten our belts, the first thing that looks as if its 'expendable' is our giving. But this is where you need to STOP! No matter how much or how little you get in your pay-packet and no matter how far you have to make it go, the FIRST thing you must do is give to God. Mostly this is done by giving to your local church, but I know very godly men and women who split it between their church and charities or missionaries. I'm not here to argue over whether your full tithe (10%) should go to the crack or whether you can split it - I am here to remind you that you need to take that 10% and give it to God before you pay any bills or do a anything else... I know you may be struggling and think that that extra money will feed your family at the end of the month, or buy the oil needed to heat your home, but trust me when I say that I have lived this and when you are faithful and give to God, He will give back ten-fold, sometimes even more so, and He will supply everything you need. We have safe-guarded our giving every time we have someone take a look at our finances because its the only way we will be able to rest assured knowing that God will always be there to bless us, because we chose to be faithful and give Him what is His. Just take a minute and think about it... Makes total sense doesn't it!! :)

7. YOU SHALL GIVE GENEROUSLY

"Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.”
2 Kings 4:10

The Bible is full of examples of people who gave generously and sacrificially, from the Proverbs 31 woman who helped the poor and the needy (Proverbs 31:20) to Dorcas who used her skills and possessions to make coats and clothes for the widows living near her (Acts 9:36-39). The verse above comes from the story of the Shunammite woman who lived during the time of Elisha. She invited him into her house for a meal, and then every time he passed that way, he would stop by and eat with them. He knew he had a house where he was assured of a good welcome and some good food. But because she recognised him as a man of God, she went above and beyond normal hospitality. She had her husband build him a small room at their house so that he could stay comfortably with them. It wasn't just a 'clear out a guest room' - this was a purposeful act of love and kindness - going to the trouble of building him a room. How many times do we give that generously of anything - our time or our money or our possessions or our hospitality? Just something to think about!

8. YOU SHALL KNOW YOUR FINANCIAL CONDITION AT ALL TIMES

This was something I definitely had to come to terms with. I was definitely in the part of the population that liked to bury their head in the sand and hope that maybe if you didn't look at the bills they would fade away to nothing! I would check my balance only when I needs to get money out of the ATM, to make sure it didn't eat my card, and only sat down to work out my money when things were desperate. 

Now things are very different. Now I can tell you how much is coming out and when, and how much is going in and when! I know the state of my bank account and our support account to the penny and I am sure at any stage in the month that everything is going ok and that we're not going to be thrown into difficulty because of a stupid purchase.

But it takes time, effort and self-discipline to be like this. It didn't happen over-night but it was well worth the effort. You have to take the time to find out your financial condition, because if you don't, you run the risk of running yourself into even more debt and causing all sorts of problems for yourself and your family. And if you do have debt, take a moment and work out exactly how much you owe. This may seem like a scary thing to do (been there and bought the t-shirt remember!) but it is the first step in acknowledging that you may need help and that you do owe money. When you get an idea of how much you owe, then you can work out the best way forward. Dave Ramsey is a great speaker on getting out of debt and there are plenty of other great organisations that can help you, like CAP. Take e first step and find out your financial condition today.


9. YOU SHALL HAVE A RESERVE

"She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
with her earnings she plants a vineyard."
Proverbs 31:16

Every one of us has had a 'rainy day' moment when we wished we'd put just a little away for a rainy day... when everything is going wrong, everything needs fixed at the same time and you've no money to do any of it. This discipline is about that exact moment. No one knows when something like this is going to hit, or we'd all be very well prepared in advance! But what we need to remember is that it always pays to be prepared. When that appliance needs replaced, how wonderful would it be to go into your reserve and be able to just go get one without impacting your monthly budget? Or to be able to just go and order oil when you need it most, because you put that little aside each month for it? We need to think about it now - not when the disaster happens. I know that if you are in debt it's crazy to be thinking of starting a reserve, but it may be the best thing you can do, if it stops you getting into even more debt when things go Wong. Just take a moment and think if there is any way you can start to create a reserve to use on a rainy day. 


10. YOU SHALL PRACTICE SELF-CONTROL

"So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves."

Galatians 5:16

This is the key to managing your finances!! It isn't enough to be debt free but we need to make sure that in all things and in all our spending, we practice self-control and don't give into the temptation of buying things we neither need nor afford. We caribe into  ladies and get on top of this area of our lives once and for all. 

Tomorrow we'll have a little test that you can look at to see how you are doing in this area. So until then - thanks for reading this and keep shining...

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Disciplines 1-5

When I read through the five disciplines we're going to look at today I am amazed at how logical and common-sense they are! They are all pretty straightforward, but with the Biblical references to prove that the Bible really does have a lot to say about how we are to manage our money. Even if you are wonderful at managing it at the moment, take a moment to read through these because you never know when your ability will be tested. It could be that your washing machine, tumble dryer and car all break down in the same month and need replaced, or that one of you could be made redundant and have difficulty finding a new job. Whatever the situation, it's good to have a Biblical reference to hand when the tough times hit. 

So onto the five disciplines...

1. YOU SHALL NOT BE IN DEBT...

"Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbour, you will fulfil the requirements of God’s law."
Romans 13:8

I know that this sounds like a really easy thing to do - but at this time of year, with Christmas just around the corner, how many of you will go into debt to buy your children presents? I'm definitely NOT saying to to buy presents for your kids - but there has to a happy medium and a way to do it without getting into debt. How about have a toy swap with some other mums you know, or have a look at the craft fairs or school fetes that happen this time of hear. I have a particular problem with this so I am totally speaking from experience here. You have all heard about my first Christmas as a married couple, but now with four boys to buy for and 12 nephews and nieces, I have to do my best to be so careful and really go bargain hunting! It is really fun if you enter into the spirit of it - you just have to stop thinking that your gifts are going to be second rate and really find that gem that the person will love!

2. YOU SHALL NOT SPEND MORE THAN YOU MAKE

This is how such a lot of people fall into debt and mess financially. You have to keep to a budget - for every part of your life - taking into account the money you make and the money you pay out on bills and essentials like food and clothing. There is no point in getting yourself into debt and spending more than you make just because everyone else just got the newest bag or you've just spotted a must-have pair of shoes. The cycle is one that isn't easy to get out of and it is so much easier to start off with this idea of living within your means. If you really can't do without the bag or shoes, set yourself a reward scheme - if you stick within your budget for two or three months (and manage to put away some money towards them) you can go out and buy them, knowing that you can and still be in budget!!

3. YOU SHALL NOT BUY ON CREDIT

"If you can’t pay it, even your bed will be snatched from under you."
Proverbs 22:27

My husband has a very struck policy about not buying things on credit and until I read this chapter of the book I just thought it was his good money sense coming into play. But the fact that the verse above a exists proves that God really is interested in our finances! We need to remember that 'buy one pay later' deals are just another way of getting into debt and spending more than you make. There is no easy way to say this - you have got to get it into your head (and mine - if I could tattoo it on my forehead I would!!) - if you can't afford something DON'T BUY IT. Sounds simple - so why is it so hard to do??

4. YOU SHALL NOT COVET WHAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE

“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbour.”
Exodus 20:17

This one is easy enough - after all we've been taught this all our lives. As one of the ten commandments it is pretty important... and yet it is something that is nearly impossible to do. I can't help but think 'I would love that' when one of my friends get something new and beautiful, or think 'why doesn't that happen for me' when something good happens, but that's just my human nature coming out and that, my friends, is why God had to send Jesus to die for me. I can't keep His laws or commandments in my own strength - I am weak and fail far too easily. But Jesus gives me the power to keep trying and to succeed in His name. We are commanded to not covet anything - commanded... to... NOT... covet... so its simple - don't do it!! :)

5. YOU SHALL NOT LOVE MONEY
 
"For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows."
1 Timothy 6:10
 
The problem with money is that it is addictive. The more you have the more you want, and the more this verse applies. Obviously you have to work to earn money to pay the bills etc, but when the earning of money starts to come before your family, church and God, then it starts to become a problem. The love of money starts to erode everything that we are. Our families suffer as we spend more time at work or thinking up ways to earn more. Our spiritual lives suffer as we spend more time thinking about money - how to earn it, what to spend it on, how to earn some more... - and less about how our lives can glorify the Father. Our physical lives suffer because we spend too much time in work and not enough time enjoying God's creation. And our relationships suffer - friends never see us, family think we're just a provider and those around us don't know us anymore. We need to get a hold of this right away and make sure that we have a right perspective on money. We need it, yes - but it doesn't own us or define the way we live. Lets put money back where it should be something to be used when we need it but otherwise silent and in the background.
 
 
OK - so that's the first 5 - what do you think? Any of these problems for the rest of you? I know i certainly needed to write this to get my Christmas spending in perspective before I begin! In all your spending this week... keep shining... 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Managing your money...

The next section in Elizabeth George's book is how to manage your money. This is always a good issue to as no matter who you are (with the exception of the Queen maybe!!) you need to be able to deal with money. Rightly or wrongly, money seems to be the power that makes the world go round, with people either having too much or too little, but never just enough.

I have been on both sides of the coin. I have been the over-spender and the penny pincher! As a newly married couple, both working full time jobs and with a mortgage that wasn't too much, we set a budget for Christmas presents and my new husband trusted me to buy all the gifts and make sure we didn't overspend. The first present I bought was a Clarins gift basket for my mum, which at £75 took up most of the £100 budget I had for my mum and dad. I couldn't possibly just give my mum the gift basket so I had to spend the other £25 on getting her a couple of other bits and bobs, behind meant I went over budget to buy my dad something. This trend continued for the rest of the presents, until I sat down after Christmas and realised that I had acquired 4 new store cards (from the centre where I worked) and was over £500 in debt. I simply hadn't thought about it at all. I just saw gifts I wanted to buy and bought them. I wanted everyone to think well of us and especially during our first Christmas as a married couple. This was the first mistake I made, but the even bigger mistake I made was that I didn't tell my husband what I had done. For the first six months of that year I tried to pay off between £50-£100 off my cards each month, trying to get it down to a zero so I could throw out my cards. In the end the stress was too much, as I really didn't like lying to my new hubby, and I ended up confessing all to him. He paid off the rest of my debt, helped me to cut up my cards and we made an effort together to be much more careful with our money.

I'm not saying that I have never over-spent again (although never to that extent), but if I do, I know that I need to tell my husband straight away, and that we deal with it together. I wish I had done that to start off  with.

Now we live life very differently. My husband and I are missionaries and live by faith. We have a team of wonderful people who support us on a monthly basis by standing order, and we also have wonderful people who give his gifts at various times of the year - mostly when we need it most. I believe truly that God supplies all the needs for me and my family and we have never starved or not had the money to pay our bills or buy clothes, food or oil when we have needed it. My husband also travels 5 or 6 times a year and all his travel has been provided by people who are in tune with God's call and who obeyed and gave to us when He told them to. We don't usually advertise our need, apart from when we ask for people to join our support team, but we always pray about it and God always provides.

"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

I would definitely say that this impacts the way we live considerably. I feel a certain amount of responsibility when we get gifts or support, that we need to spend the money with God's guidance and His purpose for our lives at the forefront. That is not to say that occasionally I don't do silly things like buy romance books, spend money on food that I overeat (esp junk food) or buy clothes and shoes that are considered frivolous to some, but I am so overwhelmed by the fact that people believe in what we do and support us, that I don't lapse very often! I'm only human - and wanted to let you know that it is hard - and that I fail sometimes too - but that I know that as long as I put God first and let Him help me to decided whether or not I actually need another bag or pair of shoes, then it all works out ok!! :)

The fact is that the one thing that we have to get right when it comes to money is making sure that we give to God. There is no point in being the best accountant in the world and looking after every penny as it comes in if you don't give God what is His and do it joyfully. We have a friend who was looking at our finances and insurances etc and told us that our life would be much easier if we didn't give to so many different things, especially to our church. We laughed and simply stated...

"No - our life is easier because we do."

We know that because we put God first in our lives, especially in our finances, that not only will He help us to make the right decisions when we spend, but more importantly we KNOW that He will supply all our needs and bless us abundantly in His will. It doesn't mean we have money to burn, but when your Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills, you know you'll never want for anything! 

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you."
1 Peter 5:7

It's not always easy, but it is definitely worth the effort. Over the next couple of days we'll be looking at the ten disciplines that Elizabeth George suggest will help us to manage our finances, and at some amazing stories where God has taken our breath away with His goodness and provision.

Keep shining...

Friday, 26 October 2012

My big mouth...

Over the last five weeks I have been studying the book of Colossians along with a group of amazing women. We are part of the Good Morning Girls programme and we are working our way through Colossians a couple of verses at a time. I am privileged to lead a couple of groups of wonderful ladies and be part of another group. This programme has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bible is a powerful book and that through it, we can truly have fellowship with each other in a way that blows my mind! 

The verse that we read yesterday cut me to the bone. We looked at Colossians 3:13.

"Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (NLT)

I have a big mouth and I am very judgemental. It's not something I am proud of at all and something I am working at but it is there in the heart of me. I am unkind, jealous, judgemental and a gossip. Whenever I am having problems or am depressed or unhappy in any area of my life, I project my thoughts onto others, focus on their faults and judge them. Then my big mouth comes into play and I say things that are unkind, ungodly and plain stupid.

If you know me personally and I have treated you like this - I apologise from the bottom of my broken heart. Please forgive me and thank you for all the grace you have given me so far.

I am a sinner and I am broken. But thankfully Christ didn't leave me like this. He took me in my judgemental brokenness and He made me whole. He took my sin and He nailed it on the tree. He took my life and gave it back to me restored and healed. I just tend to forget this and go back to my old ways far too easily.

I plan to make this verse one of my life verses from now on. I have spoken about things in a wrong way when I shouldn't have opened my mouth. I've hurt people by my words. But from this moment on, I pray that God will help me to STOP and THINK before I speak, to realise that those faults I see in others are nothing to the faults they can see in me. I want to look on everyone in my life with love, kindness and patience before loving them totally and accepting that we are all sinners and until that day when Christ comes again, we will always be. 

I urge you all to think about this verse. We can so easily spot faults, yet we have so many ourselves - both hidden and visible - and I pray that this will one of the many ways people around us can identify us as being Christ's - that we love each other and truly accept each other, faults and all. 

Let me know if you've been as challenged as I have by this!!
Keep shining... :)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

A ladies meeting and another sick day!

Last night I thought I had it sorted - resuming my blog writing and starting to really focus again on what God wants to tell me and how I can shine for Him... And then 3am came and my second son decided to throw up! 

So I have yet another day at home with a poorly baby (who's 8) and who at this moment is lying on the sofa under a duvet cover, watching Disney! There have to some perks for being sick and having to stay at home with me! 

Before this wonderful turn of events I had been at a special oldies night at our church. The evening was called 'Whats in your bag?' and was a fantastic mixture of fun and games, fellowship and a great epilogue. The speaker, Bridget Finlay, talked about how the mess at the bottom of our bags can reflect the mess of our hearts and lives, especially when we are trying to put on a perfect face and hide anything we don't want others to see. But she made a point near the end that really struck me. 

She was talking about having 'Face Time' on her phone with her sister, and she said how sometimes we feel as if we have to really be better or more together  before we have Face Time with God. She talked about how we need to forget that and come to God like children... and this is what I loved!

Children, when they come running to their parents, don't worry if they have faces covered in chocolate and runny noses, or that their feet are caked in mud. They are truly expressive and let us know exactly how they feel - they cry when they are hurt, scream when they are frustrated and annoyed, ask for something to eat or drink when they are hungry or thirsty, and fall asleep on daddy's shoulder when they are tired. Another thing that they do (that we might not like!!) is that when they need us they will automatically assume we will be there waiting to talk to us - even when you happen to be graving a conversation with someone else, on the phone or doing something important!! 

We need to remember that Gos wants us to come to Him exactly as we are. He IS always there for us and is never annoyed if we 'interrupt' Him. He will always listen, always be there to comfort us and will always supply our every need. When we come to Him in the midst of our mess He helps us straighten things out and helps us through any situation we find ourselves in. He really is my best friend ever. 

So next time your daughter or son comes running into you covered in dear know what, take a minute to give them an extra special hug and remember that God wants us to come to Him the same way - just as we are. 

We'll be returning to our series working our way through Elizabeth George's book on Monday - but in a slightly different way. I hope you like it. Until then it's just me and my thoughts, and hopefully a little encouragement to you!

Keep shining... :)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A blog and a sick boy :(

Apologies for being away for so long. Life got a little hectic and I got a bit lost in the everyday routine - or should I say I got a little trying to get an everyday routine that actually works everyday in our mad house!!

I sat down on Monday evening to write a post for this blog, and started successfully, before hearing the noise all mothers dread... One of the boys in the next room started whimpering in their sleep and as I went to check on him I heard the dreaded noise of someone being violently sick in their bed :(

My wee man had to be comforted as the other two boys were stealthily moved from their beds to our bed, and I started the wonderful job of cleaning up... Only to start the whole process again an hour later! The joys of being a mama!!

So the blog was forgotten and I spent the night on tender-hooks in the same room as the poor boy, wondering when I'd be woken again! I did the classic clean-up (several times) and stuck it all in a bin bag, which was thrown out the window into our back garden!! Not only does it take the offending articles out of the room, but it also helps to kill the smell quicker than anything! I read it in a blog one day, laughed my head off and then realised that it actually does work a treat!!

So with all the boys back to normal, as normal as our family will ever get anyway, I am hoping to resume writing posts for the blog. Thank you for continuing to read this - I pray that God will bless each of you and meet you wherever you are and whatever you are doing - even if it is being covered in something yucky!!

Keep shining... :)