I Surrender All

According to Forbes magazine, Bill Gates reclaimed his #1 ranking as the richest man in the world. He’s worth a reportedly $72.7 billion dollars! If Bill Gates were a country, he would be the 37th wealthiest country on earth. If he lives to be 90 years old, he needs to spend $6 million dollars a day to exhaust his wealth. How do you spend that much money daily? If he gave everyone on earth $10, he would still be worth $2.6 billion. He has also given away about $28 billion to eradicate childhood diseases in third world countries.

So, why do I share this opening paragraph? Because even though in a worldly sense it sounds impressive, his wealth and generosity, when compared to the wealth and riches of God, makes him a pauper. Everything he is and has was created by God, and all of his life—and ours—is sustained by, gifted by, and held together by the generosity of God.

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”—Colossians 1:16-17

This perfect picture of the generosity of God oftentimes collides with the default position of our hearts: complaining about what we don’t have or think we deserve versus what He has already generously lavished upon us (Eph.1:7; 1 Pet.1:3-4).

As I learn to pursue a simpler and surrendered life, I see how I have been conditioned to behave like everyone else and take good things (career success, love, family, material possessions, etc.) and make them idols in my heart; unknowingly thinking that they can give me significance and security, safety and fulfillment, is a lie. It’s a societal sickness and one of misplaced priorities that can only be healed by a heart transformed by Christ that daily seeks Him. So, I will share with you the questions I ask myself and seek to make a habit of:

  • Do I own anything that I would not be willing to part with if God were to take it from me or ask me to give it to another?
  • Do I give generously, sacrificially, and gladly give to the Lord’s work and to others in need?
  • Am I a wise steward of the material resources God has entrusted to me?
  • Do I view God as my provider and the source of all my material possessions?
  • Do I give my tithes and offerings to the Lord before I pay my bills or spend my income?
  • Am I content with the material resources God has given me?

As we wrestle with this issue in our lives, let us keep the eternal perspective that will always take us back to our true mission and purpose on this earth: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

 

Kimberly Allen serves as the Children’s Ministry Director and Ministry Administrator. She is the mother of two adult children.

Is a Debt-Free Life for Today?

As a Christian have you ever thought, “Do I have the right to spend my money the way I would like to, or do I have to live the life of a miser?” Or have you thought to yourself, “Is it ok for me to have a lot of money?” As believers, we have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation and surrendered our lives to the Lordship of Christ; do we then have freedom when it comes to our finances, or are we restricted to how we can use our money?

I think the best place to start when it comes to talking about money is to start with God. The Bible explains that the thing we consider valuable and a necessity for life (money) belongs to God. Haggai 2:8 says, “‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the Lord of hosts.” Since money belongs to God, it is neither good nor evil. What makes money a good thing or a bad thing is how money is used. For example, money is used for humanitarian causes—those are noble things; but it is also used to purchase drugs, which destroy lives and communities.

While God owns everything, He also knows that money is an important part of our lives, so He provides it to His people; that is to say that God is the one who gives a person the ability to gain wealth (Deut.8:18). So then, what comes to your mind when you hear the word “wealth”? Do you think about the person who has no need or want for anything and has more money than he or she could spend in a life time? You would not be wrong if that definition came to your mind; the word wealth does carry with it the idea of having an abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. However, I think a more biblical understanding of the word wealth carries the idea of having something as opposed to having nothing. I’ve heard it said that in comparison to the majority of the world’s population, Americans are some of the richest people. We also need to view money as a gift from God. We read in 1 Corinthians chapter 4, where the apostle Paul poses the question, “What do you have that you did not receive?” implying that all we have has been given to us as a gift, including the finances we possess.

So I think, according to God’s Word, it’s safe to say that we have the freedom to possess money. That leads to the question, then—does God prescribe or care about how we are to gain money, or are we free to gain wealth by any means necessary? Well, God has established that work would be the means whereby one would gain wealth (Gen.3:17; Prov.14:23). So when it comes to believers, we have the freedom to gain wealth through God’s prescribed means: hard work.

I also believe one of the clearest principles about financial freedom is seen in the book of Romans. In Romans 13:8 we read, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Here we see the admonishment to be in debt to no one. However, I do think there is a difference between paying to own a home versus being over taken by debt to the point where you can’t make ends meet. When we are born again, we become a child of God, delivered from the bondage of sin and Satan. We are also indwelt by the Holy Spirit to live a life of freedom from the dominion and tyranny of sin. Therefore, we should not be a slave to anyone or anything (Prov.22:7). So why does God want His people to be free financially? I believe God desires His people to be able to freely respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to meet the needs of others when a need arises.

With all that said, I’m the first one to admit that I’m not the poster child of financial freedom; I confess that I was once in financial debt and owed money that kept me struggling to meet my financial obligations. But by God’s grace, I learned that financial freedom is possible, but for me and my wife it came at a sacrifice. By making tough decisions to go without luxuries for a period of time and by being disciplined in our financial spending, we have been able to experience the blessing of the freedom of owing only to love others.

 

 

Memories on a Budget

There is a blessing in staying home and depending solely on one income; however, it is tough. We have tried to become better stewards of our income—not perfectly, but striving each day to do better. We are constantly reminding ourselves that God is sovereign and He will provide.

When I think about making memories, we have learned that even on a limited income, we are able to create memories that last for a lifetime.   As we watch our sweet baby girl Olivia reach out to us to meet her needs of milk, a hug, or simply to be close to us, we realize that we are making memories that will last a lifetime. This time has reminded us of our need to keep our eyes on the Lord and faithfully seek Him (Matt.6:33). We stand in awe of how the Lord is faithful to His own (Ps.105).

So, rather than focusing on doubt and the fear of not knowing how the next bill will get paid, we focus on the love, peace, and joy we have in our relationship with our Lord God. Through this, we are able to encourage each other and be creative in making memories—a special homemade dish, loving notes in my husband’s lunch, or time spent with our extended family and friends. All of these things, and much more, have provided us with a way to see past the daily struggles and rest in God’s grace for our family.

We are challenged and amazed at how the Lord is teaching and guiding us in finding biblical solutions to our finances. Our memories are not necessarily in things that we’ve purchased, but in experiences that grow us as people, as a family, and as Christians.

Romans 8:28—And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

You Can’t Handle the Truth!

“I want the truth!”

“You can’t handle the truth!”

You may have heard this famous line from the movie A Few Good Men. The quote, “You can’t handle the truth!” is made by Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, who is played by Jack Nicholson. The quote gives the impression that in this world there are events, things, and truths that people could not bear to know. Well, I would like to offer that in this world there are indeed events, things, and truths that people must know and accept.

So what is Truth? A google search of the word truth gives this definition: that which is in accordance with fact or reality. In other words, the way things really are. For example, 2+2=4; or, the fact that a person is restrained by the law of gravity and can’t jump out of a second story window, expecting to flap his or her arms like a bird and soar off into the clouds. Therefore, whether we choose to believe in something doesn’t change the fact that it is true. The truth is the truth whether or not we believe it. When it is all said and done, what matters is that you believe and accept the truth—the truth about the things in this life and the life to come. And the most trustworthy and reliable source for truth concerning life in this world is the Bible (God’s Holy written Word).

God, through the Bible, gives us the truth concerning, creation, life, death, and everything in between. God has even gone so far as to give us the truth about the paper thin material that we call money. Money or finances are a major part of our society today. Someone has once said, “Money makes the world go ’round” (I don’t think I would agree with that statement). However, I think the saying is meant to point to the fact that almost everything that takes place in our society and within our human interactions requires or involves money. Since finances play such an enormous role in our lives today, I think it’s crucial that we know the truth about it.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, in chapter 5 verse 19, the writer says, “Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.”

So what the Word of God tells us is that our finances and the ability to enjoy them are gifts from God. So does that mean I’m not the owner of the things I have? And if I’m not the owner, what does that leave me with? If we are not the creator or owner of our finances, we are left with being the manager. Another word for manager is steward. The Bible explains that one who is a steward must be faithful to rightly and wisely manage what has been given to him.

I can remember when I was a little boy, about 11 years old; I could never come home from school and just put my coat or clothes on the floor. My mom would tell me that I didn’t own or buy those things, so I didn’t have the right to mistreat or not properly take care of my things. So when I was done wearing my coat, I had to make sure I hung it back up in the closet. My mother was teaching me that I had to learn how to be a faithful steward over the things that I was given. I wish I could say that the lesson my mother sought to teach me at an early age has kept me from being an unfaithful steward, but sadly it hasn’t.

In my past, prior to becoming a believer, and even today as a believer, I’ve made mistakes in the stewardship of my finances. However, I trust that as I grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, I will grow in my faithfulness of stewardship over my life, my talents, and even my finances. So at the end of the day, the truth of the matter is this, I came into this world with nothing and I’m going to leave this world with nothing. And that’s the way things really are.

Proverbs 30:8-9“…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.

 

 

 

 

It’s Been Paid in Full

Just when we think that we’ll finally be able to pay off that credit card, or take care of the outstanding maintenance issues with the car, or reorganize the chaotic closet upstairs, or…… (we could fill in the blank with a hundred things, couldn’t we?), God makes it clear He has something else planned. It’s like He’s telling us to start over with our plans…our hopes…our desires. And to be really honest, when we’re in this place, it’s hard to feel the love of God for us. We hear the lies of the world and of Satan whispering in our ears, “If God really loved you, wouldn’t He want you to have the means to take care of that? Well, then, you must have been mistaken. He must not love you as much as you think He does.”

But the love of God isn’t felt in the fullness of your bank account. In fact, the amount in your bank account has nothing to do with how much God loves you, nor has it any relevance upon how well He is caring for you. And He is caring for you. Even as you struggle with not being able to see how you’re going to pay your bills this week or purchase groceries next week, God is caring for you. And what He might be telling you is that it’s time to start over.

It’s time to start over with your priorities. Is it wrong to want to pay off debt or maintain the material items we own or spend money on reorganizing? Not necessarily; but is that what you want most? If so, you need to start over.

It’s time to start over with your goals. Saving for the future isn’t foolish, but if it’s more important than living spiritually strong in the here and now, it’s time to start over.

It’s time to start over with your love. We go to church week in and week out, worshiping God as much as we can at that moment, but because of all of the other lesser things upon which we pour out our love, we have so little to give to Him. Our only hope is to start over.

Starting over begins with letting go. We’ve been trying to be in control when we’re really not. But God is! And He’s doing a fabulous job taking care of us and our needs!

Once we let go of control, we are freed to surrender again to God, whose will may not include a six-figure income for us; but it does include our knowing Him, glorifying Him, and enjoying Him forever—something that isn’t paid for from our bank account because, praise Him, it’s been paid in full!

Unchangeable

Change. Everything around us is constantly changing—the seasons, the weather, circumstances, people, and finances.  When I think about the many changes I’ve made in my life, it’s dizzying! As I consider fluctuations and uncertainties of life, the sharp contrast of the character of the Lord comes to mind.  That the Lord does not change is not a topic I often dwell on, but one that has significant implications for the way I approach my life, finances, and the things I know to be true.  As I enter this phase of my life, making some career decisions that will impact me financially, I have to slow my thoughts and pace to remember who God is and that His promises are true…. always and forever. This leads me to trust in God’s immutability. The word, immutability, is one of those big, fancy words that simply means: unchangeable.

God does not change; He isn’t altered; He isn’t in process; HE IS as He has always been and always will be. It’s an important truth to remember in the ups and downs of life, especially when it comes to financial change. In the midst of circumstances that are difficult and incomprehensible, resting in the character of the Lord doesn’t always feel like I’m standing on solid ground. But I must remember that His will never changes, the direction of His actions remains constant, and yet He is active and moving within the circumstance. So, when I begin to think, “What if?” and “Will I have enough?” the unchanging nature of the Lord offers me a foundation to reframe my thoughts and understanding in His Word.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”—Matthew 6:25-33(NLT)

 I have no reference to immutability in my life. Everything I see, everyone I know, every part of my life experience is changing and in process. What that means is that it’s not a natural jump to rest on something that is changeless. However, when I seek God’s will and trust God’s promises, I can take comfort and confidence in my Lord, which allows me to reject a fearful spirit and develop a thankful attitude in all circumstances.