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Christian Perspective on the Financial Crisis

December 10th, 2008 Comments off

image description I feel that it is time that I chimed in on the current financial crisis that is gripping the world. I think that I am not alone in my concern about the future and while I have not been directly affected at this point sometimes not knowing is as bad as something actually happening. Hopefully my personal experience in dealing with this will help others that may be struggling during this time.

The Last Financial Crisis

Before tackling the current financial crisis let’s look at the one that just happened seven short years ago. Back in 2001 it was the golden age of the internet. Billion dollar valuations of companies grew on trees and we were all going to be millionaires by 25 and retire billionaires by 30. It was a time of extravagance and money flowed freely.

During this time I was a couple of year into my Christianity and was newly married. I had gotten it into my head that God wanted to bless me and thought that these blessing were flowing through credit. I had gone wild and bought anything and everything that they would let me buy on credit including a house. Three weeks after buying the house I was laid off from my job due to the economy. I hadn’t even made the first payment on the house.

For the next 2 years my wife and I struggled along as she worked full time and I tried to start/run a business in the technology field. After 2 years we were stripped of just about everything (including the house) and found ourselves renting from her dad once again. I struggled another couple of years with the business until we started having kids. A couple of events happened and I found myself hitting rock bottom.

The Turning Point

The turning point for me was when I got into a business financial dispute with a really good friend that cost me our friendship. I remember sitting in my car with my wife looking at her knowing that if I didn’t change things that I could very well lose her next. It was at that point that I decided to quit the business and go get a job and try to take care of my family the way that a real man of God should.

Since that time my wife and I have been extremely blessed. I believe that choosing to make my family’s needs a priority as opposed to mine allowed God to come into our situation and allowed His blessing and provision to flow. We are more blessed today then we every have been in order lives.

(You can read my perspective on Christian priorities in my post – Priorities as a Christian)

The 2008 and Beyond Financial Crisis

Today’s financial crisis isn’t much different then the one that happened seven years ago. There was money flowing and people were looking to get rich quick and retire young. This time around though it was real estate that was the catalyst for what we are facing. The only difference this time around is that the housing sector is far larger then the technology sector and therefore is and will impact far more people. I do not remember any government bailouts for technology companies seven years ago but we have already had one for the Financial sector and now the auto industry is asking for one as well.

Last time there were several factors that I personally contributed to that allowed the financial downturn to affect me. I had far more debt then I should of. I also had switched jobs not long before getting laid off to a newly created position that was easily expendable (so I found out later). The position I transferred from was one of the few positions that actually remained when all was said and done and hindsight shows me that God was trying to protect me from what was coming. In the last financial crisis I contributed a lot to my anguish and I know and understand that now.

This time around I feel that I am in the right place with God and in the job that He wants me to be in. We have a little debt (still more then I would want) that is easily manageable. I have been tempted at times to fly the coop at my job but have stuck it out and am glad that I did. This time around I should be in a much better place to ride this storm out.

So why do I still get scared as if I am going to lose it all?

Who’s in Control?

I get scared at times because I listen to the news a little too much. I hear the unemployment reports and hear of people getting laid off. At first I was really into the watching and reading the news as it was happening and was finding myself getting more and more depressed. I was easily losing my temper around my wife and kids and had little motivation to do anything. I was down trodden because I felt like I was not in control and my destiny was uncertain. I felt like at any moment I could get that call into my boss’s office to be told that today would be my last day. It was terrible.

Things got to the point that my wife noticed and we started talking about it. She looked at me in unbelief as I quoted her statistics of layoffs and other end of the world jargon that the news channels and internet had been spewing for weeks. Her look of unbelief was not at the actual information that I was saying but at the fact that it was coming out of me. She was pretty quick to remind me that whatever you feed grows and whatever you starve dies. She told me that it was pretty evident that I had been listen to the news more then God.

Her wake up call was the equivalent of getting a smack on the face.

For the previous weeks we had not been to church hardly at all and I had been consumed with all of the bad news floating around. The next day I downloaded several podcasts from various ministers that I know have good Word. I spent the next week listening to them during the day at work and by the end of the week things were looking much better from my perspective.

See, the world is going to tell you that this thing is going to hit you and take you down with it. If you listen to it you are giving the world control of your life and there is a very good possibility that it will do exactly that. But if you stop listening to what the world has to say and listen to God, you will find out that He has a plan ready and waiting for you and is eager to share it with you. His plan is that this financial crisis will have a minimum impact on you. In fact it is His will for you to prosper during this time so you can help other through it. What we have to do though is to make a conscious decision of who we are going to listen to – the world or God.

Fighting the Good Fight

After having the conversation with my wife I made the decision to make God’s Word the authority in my life. At first I was consumed with the Word and I was taken out of depression and was actually a pretty happy camper. Bad news would come but would go as quickly as it came. In my mind even if I got called into the office to be laid off I knew that it would be apart of God’s plan and therefore had nothing to fear. Things were going great.

After that first week I tapered off in listening without realizing it. By the end of the second week I was starting to slip back into listening to the news and into being depressed. Over the weekend I realized what was happening and hit the Word again that following Monday. Since then I have been pretty consistent with listening to the Word and have been doing pretty good.

Another thing that I noticed is that even when I am in the Word if I get really tired then I become more vulnerable. When overly tired I struggle a little more in fighting back the news of world. I now realize that as I continue to take in the Word that I need to make a conscious effort to catch up on my rest as well. The devil always looks for the weak or tired to go after so we need to makes sure we stay up on both.

Conclusion

Bad things are going to come an go. The Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). I believe that God always has a plan to cushion the blow though. You may have been living it up and now this financial crisis has or is about to catch up with you. You may have done everything right and did not get caught up in what was happening but still are now effected. Either way God has a plan to bring you out. Sometimes it is hard to understand or except that but He is our father, our dad.

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

The thing that always helps me in situations like this is to think of how I would be if my son was in the same situation.

If my son came to me and said “Dad, I played the real estate game and messed up, can you help me and my family out?” how would I react? Would I say “Well, that’s too bad, I hope you figure something out.”. No, I would help him. He might get a lecture from me but I am not going to leave my son and his family out in the cold because he made a mistake. I would do everything in my power to take care of him and help him get on his feet.

There is nothing that I would not do for my son.

I believe that God is the same way. There is nothing that He would not do for us. We just need to come to him. When we come to Him He will reassures us that He is in control and that he is going to take care of us (Deu 31:6). Anytime I get scared or concerned about something that has come my way there He is to let me us that everything it going to be alright. He is such a good dad.

Jobs come and go, houses, cars, etc the same. But God is always there, constant, never changing. He loves us and is more then willing to take us in and take care of us and our families. We just need to give Him the chance.

Tithing in the New Testament

December 4th, 2008 Comments off

tithe2The subject of tithing has come up again recently in my spiritual walk so I thought I would share what I believe God has been showing me.

I know for a fact that God had me not tithe for some time. I think the reason for it was that I had a wrong motivation and/or thought process about it. I believe I wrote a entry in my personal journal a week or two ago about wanting to tithe but then I dropped off in listening to The Word and that fizzled out. So here I am listening to it again and the biggest thing I feel coming at me is to start giving.

This is very different from what it has been.

Old Testament verses New Testament

To sum it up quickly tithing was an Old Testament law and is not clearly defined in the New Testament. The church as a whole preaches that you need to tithe or your are cursed. I do not believe this to be true. The Bible clearly states that Jesus fulfilled the law and that we are redeemed from it (Gal 3:13) – we are no longer under the law’s curse and we are not to live by the law.

If you think about it that same scripture does away with the 10 commandments as well. So does that mean that we can now go around robbing, killing, and stealing? No not really. Jesus gave us the new command which wraps all of these into one – Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). So instead of walking with God legalistically we are to walk with Him relationally. When we do that we do not rob, kill, or steal because we love our neighbor as we do ourselves. In other words we do not want someone to do that to us so we do not do it to them.

New Testament Application of the Law

In the same way that we would not do bad things to people because we would not want them done to us, we should do good things to people because we would want them to do that to us as well.

If I was a full time minister and I spent my days studying and spending time with God so that I could try to help people be closer to him I would hope that they would appreciate what I did for them. The New Testament is very clear in the scripture – A worker is worthy of their wages (Luke 10:7). Being a minister is not easy and I believe that they should be compensated accordingly. On the same note, church buildings do not build themselves and ministries do not get free utilities. They have to pay them just like you and I and that money has to come from somewhere.

For me, I have been at my church for some time and it has enriched my life. I know that I have NOT given back anywhere near to the proportion to what I have received from them. Despite that they still let me in the door.

I think that the natural process of growing in Christ will bring every Christian to the point where they will have to address tithing. Tithing is not a deal breaker with God. He loves us all and will continue to give and take care of us. But when we make a decision in our heart to give for the right reasons I believe that is pleasing to Him.

I see it the same way as the child that wants to follow in the same career path as their parent. It is not that the parent loves that child more then their one child that wants to do something different. It is that parent has a common interest with that child and that naturally draws them closer together.

People are at the center of God’s heart and getting the gospel to them is His chief objective. I believe the biggest reason the whole world isn’t saved and we aren’t all sitting in heaven right now is because there isn’t enough money to get the job done. I don’t want to hold that back.

Starting to Tithe in a Practical Manner

So now that I have the right motive in my heart and the green light from The Big Guy how do I start? The reality of the situation is that on paper I cannot afford to tithe. My mind says “Wait until you get money/raise/etc then start”. My spirit says “That will never happen, as soon as you get more money you will have more commitment that will eat that money up”. I know the latter to be true.

So this is what I am looking to do. I am going to tip toe into this thing. I have several different income streams and I am going to look to have them tithe one at a time. I am trying to be wise about this. When you start excising you don’t go and run 5 miles the first day. You have to work your way up to it. I am going to do the same thing with tithing.

The other thing that I am going to do is continue to build my faith – especially since I do not have the money on paper to do it. To continue to build my in faith I am going to need to continue in the Word of God.

The word says – Give and it shall be given to you, press down, shaken together, and running over shall men give unto your bosom (Luke 6:38). I am not giving to get – that is not my motivation. I am giving because I want to give back for what I have already received. But, the spiritual law of sowing and reaping is still in effect even if that is not my motivation.

Using the same exercise analogy – the right motivation to exercising is to be healthy. A by-product of that is that you are probably going to look a whole lot better if you loose weight in the process. If your motivation is to look good you will never be happy because that’s a wrong motive. You will continue to punish yourself and never “look good” in your eyes. With tithing if your are trying to “get rich” by tithing you will never be happy because no matter how much money you have it will never be enough.

Motivation is the key here – why do you want to tithe?

Practical Steps to Start Tithing

Here are the steps that got me to where I am and where I am planning to go concerning tithing.

  1. Get into the Word of God

    I did this by downloading free podcasts from various preachers and listening to them at work. I did not do this so I could start tithing it was just a by-product of listening to the Word. Be careful who you listen to on the subject of tithing. I was listening to one Pastor who really started to get into the curse of not tithing and it messed me up for a while. The Bible says to test all spirits so if something doesn’t seem right do not be afraid to question its validity.

  2. Understand what the Word says about Tithing

    You will be cursed if you do not tithe IF you believe that you will be cursed, but the Bible does not say that. The New Testament says we are redeemed from the curse of the law. It also says that if you choose to live under the law then you are subject to ALL of the law. With that I believe that people can be tithing and giving but can be cursed at the same time because there are other aspects of the law that they are not keeping. What the New Testament does say is to be a cheerful giver, give because you want to, not because you feel you have to. 

  3. Pray about Tithing

    This may seem weird but I really felt that God had said no about tithing to me up until this point. I do know that my heart and my motivations are different now then they were before. In everything we do we need to get confirmation from God to make sure that our timing is lined up with His even if what we are looking to do is scriptural. 

  4. Start Tithing

    Once you get the green light from the big guy start tithing. You may be in a position where you can just write a check every time you get paid and your won’t feel it – awesome, go for it. For others (like me) writing a check for the whole amount is a stretch financially. My personal opinion is to start to give what you can and work up to the full tithe and possibly beyond. The key is to give when you first get paid as opposed to after you pay everything else because you most-likely will not have anything left to give. Even if you are giving just a little you are still giving and God sees your heart.

  5. Be Blessed

    Be blessed in the fact that you know that you are giving money that is going to be used to advance the Kingdom of God. If that was the only reward of tithing then that should be enough for you. If you have that perspective then when God does begin to give back to you it is even a bigger blessing because that is not why you gave. Remember it all comes down to perspective and/or motivation for tithing.

I believe that the first 3 steps are probably the most important aspects of tithing. The Word is essentially to anything that we do when it comes to God and Ministry. We need to understand what the Word Says and then actually connect with God to understand how that Word applies to our individual life and/or situation. God never designed His kingdom to try to work without His word, the two go hand-in-hand.

Final Thoughts

Giving to God’s work is an honor and its proceeds are essential to furthering the kingdom of God. With that said not everyone can give. There is nothing wrong with that. God does not love you any less and your salvation is not dependent on whether you give or not. God loves you and wants to bless you here on earth and in heaven. He will bless you and provide for you regardless of whether you tithe or not – I can attest to that personally.

We as parents don’t get down on our children because they can’t walk when they are infants or cannot add 2 + 2 together when they are toddlers. God does not get down on us if we have not come to the understanding about the tithe or have the faith to do it.

Even if our child gets older and may be behind the rest of their age group in walking or adding 2 + 2 together , as parents we do not condemn them. We love them and try to help them come to the understanding of the things that would beneficial for them to do. God is the same way.

He loves us, He is our father and He wants to bless us and see us happy. He does everything in His power to help us and bring us to understanding so He can bless us. We just need to turn our heart towards Him and be open to His instruction.

I hope this post is help to folks who are looking for answers on tithing. I do get a lot of traffic on this site for people looking for answers about New Testament tithing so hopefully this will help. I am open for discussions on this subject so feel free to comment below.

It Can Be Tough Being A Transparent Christian

November 12th, 2008 Comments off

difficult While looking over a couple of posts here at The Abundant Life I noticed some spelling and grammar errors and started to correct them. In the process of cleaning up my inconsistencies I had to actually read some of the posts that I put up here and started to get a little embarrassed. The reason for my embarrassment was the fact that it has been tough being a Christian, going to church, and having a relationship with God over the last few years. Not only was it was it tough but I was sharing my struggles with the world. Looking back I wonder if that was a good idea as people (especially Christians – sorry) can be really judgmental.

To combat this concern I have to separate what I think people would say about me from what I know God says about me.

While the last few years have been tough living the type of Christian life that I was taught I know that I have grown in God at the same time. Church and the Word of God are important and necessary in your Christian walk but so is having a one-on-one relationship with God. I know that in early in my Christianity I focused on Church and the Word while over the last few years the focus has been on relationship. At this point in my life I feel that I am learning to balance between the two.

The one thing that I have learned through this process is the love that a father has for his son. As I have seen my my kids grow up I can see that God see me in the same way. There is nothing that I would not do for my kids and I know that God is the same way. They may need a pow-pow from time-to-time to remind them not to do certain things but I only do that because I love them and want them to grow up respectable and safe. I know that God sees me in the same way. There are times that I want to go and do things that are not the best and he will guide me back to the right path.

It is tough enough to be a Christian but putting your victories and failures out their for the world to see makes it a little tougher. I do it though not because I want to try and show off but because I hope that if people see my struggles that turn into victories that it will encourage them to continue on in God.