Freedom

Jesus didn’t come to save people who are perfect . . . he came to save the sinner.  The drunk.  The prostitute.  The liar.  The cheat.  The adulterer.  The mom who struggles with anger and unforgiveness and unkindness.

He didn’t just come save us from hell; he came to save us from the sin we are currently living in.

We don’t change from a lifestyle of sin by following a bunch of rules.  We change by faith in Him.   Everyone who believes is set free from every sin!Acts 13-38-39.jpg

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.  Acts 13:38‭-‬39 NIV

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Three Sources for Financial Advice

I’ve always been interested in financial management.  Even as a kid I used the envelope system and tried to get my siblings to listen to my lectures on money.  Financial management is systematic and strategic . . . and this woman loves systems and strategies!

As a Christian, here are three sources I lean on for developing financial strategies for my life.

#1. The Bible

By far, the Bible is the most important resource for advice on money.  Did you know there are over 2,000 verses about money in the Bible?   No, you won’t find specific advice on investing strategies, but the Bible gets to the most important thing – where the heart is in terms of finances.  Is my security in God or in my bank account?  Do I demonstrate love for others by how I share my resources?  Who does my money belong to?  Am I a wise steward of resources?

Jesus himself talked frequently about money  . . . so if it is important to Jesus it should be important to me.  I should be seeking biblical wisdom on how I deal with finances.  Fortunately, whether I am reading the Old Testament, the Gospels or anywhere else in the New Testament, I regularly come across advice on how to think about and handle money.

For example, if you are reading along with me through the Bible (this year I am using the Skövde Pingst YouVersion Plan in NIV – Click Here to Start!), yesterday’s reading included Psalm 49:16-20, which talked about not being jealous or greedy; wealth will fade.  I should focus more on gaining wisdom than gaining money.

  • 16-17: Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them.
  • 18 – 19: Though while they live they count themselves blessed— and people praise you when you prosper— they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life.
  • 20: People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish.

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#2. Dave Ramsey

I love Dave Ramsey.  I’ve never done his Financial Peace University classes, but have heard rave reviews.  He has simple, biblically-based concepts that have worked for me.  The resources I’ve used are:

  • Radio program:  I listen on-line; usually every day.  I love Dave’s advice and the inspiring stories of people who have paid off all their debt.
  • Baby Steps:  As outlined on the website and in his books.  Simple.  Clean.  Makes sense.  And it works.  I’m on Baby-Step 5 . . . and I want to sell my house and buy a new house with the equity to fast-forward to complete Step 6.  (But I have a lot of work to get my house ready to sell!)
  • Total Money Makeover book:  quick read, great resource.  And it works if you follow it!

 

#3. Joshua Becker

Josh spoke at my church several years ago about his journey and philosophy on possessions.  It was such a different concept than the consumerism that I was caught up in . . . and it made total sense.  I follow Josh’s blog www.BecomingMinimalist.com which has great insight on topics on minimalism, getting out of debt, becoming un-busy, decluttering, etc.

His blog as great reminders on getting rid of the things that don’t matter and focusing on what matters most.

I haven’t read any of Josh’s books yet . . . but have them on my to-read list.  If you have read any, please share thoughts.  Josh’s latest book is below:

Hope for Living in Hard Times

Yesterday I watched a few minutes of the Today Show and the hosts and their guest were talking about all the horrible things going on in the world today.  They weren’t talking specifics, but big picture – people unhappy with the current political environment, war and threats of war, etc.  And I agree, there is a lot of unrest.  There are people who think Trump will destroy America and possibly the world.  There were people who thought the same thing about Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, Reagan . . . and I bet there were people who thought the same about Nixon, Lincoln, Truman, Roosevelt, etc.

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Unfortunately, there has always been war, murder, incest, racism, rape and hate.  Around the world there are good leaders and bad leaders.  There is peace and there is war.  There is love and there is hate.  Nowhere is perfect.

Today in my Bible reading plan it was pretty depressing reading about horrible things that happened thousands of years ago.  In Judges 18-19 I read about:

  • The complete destruction of a peaceful city
  • A priest “taking” a concubine, who was then unfaithful to him
  • The men of a city banging on the door of a house where the priest was staying, asking the owner of the house to send the priest out so they could have sex with him
  • The owner of the house instead offering his virgin daughter and the concubine for the men to “use them and do to them whatever you wish” in order to protect the priest from rape
  • The rape and abuse of the concubine
  • The priest then cutting up the woman into 12 pieces and sending her limbs to each of the tribes of Israel

Gruesome stuff.  I’ve read it before but it still makes me feel sick to my stomach.

But then my reading plan took me to Psalm, where the Psalmist wrote (Psalm 49)

  • Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me
  • No one can redeem the life of another
  • But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself

We live in a fallen world.  There is sin and evil all around us; but our hope isn’t in this world or its leaders.  I can’t change the world, but with God’s grace, I can change myself.  I can impact my children and husband.  I can make a difference, for the better, in the lives of the people around me.

Are we living in tough times?  Yes, some of us are.  Is there hope for the future?  Yes, especially a future in heaven with Jesus.  Can I have peace in the present?  Yes, by continually reminding myself that God is in control and focusing on fixing myself and letting God take care of the rest.

Finding My Mission

I’ve been married for 13 years this August.  I’ve been a mom for over 11 years.  These are very important roles for me – loving my husband and children, taking care of them, providing for them, etc.  But sadly, they have often taken a back seat to my career and the busyness of life.  Several years ago God started to put on my heart that they are more than just my family.  They are my mission field.

In August 2014 I was sitting in a Bible study on Gideon (by Priscilla Shirer) at the Gretna United Methodist Church and I was praying for God to reveal his grand purpose for my life (and I was convinced it was grand) and it suddenly hit me:  My purpose was to be a missionary.  In my house.  To the man I married and the two children I love.

And I’m embarrassed to say, since then I’ve had a million excuses not take that mission seriously.  But God keeps bringing me back.  I keep looking for my grand purpose in my career.  Or a grand purpose through other “mission” work – service projects, church volunteering, humanitarian organizations, christian ministries, etc.  And while all that is important and good, God keeps bringing me back to that calling I heard several years ago.  He closed the door to my old life as a political fundraiser, so I took another full-time job in a non-profit organization.  He closed that door.  He is telling me over and over that my mission field is right here.  In this house.

My number one priority is to spend time with him every day and follow him.

My number two priority is to minister to my husband and children.

I get it.  I finally get it and accept it, but it is still a struggle.  I’m learning what it means to be a missionary; usually by way more trial and error than success.  I’m learning to resist the daily temptation to start chasing a “mission” that looks a lot more exciting than Mom/Wife.  But I feel at peace that I am finally in the place God wants me.  And I know he’ll give me the strength to run this race and will guide me to the end.

P.S. I’m reading through the Bible in a Year – using the YouVersion or Bible.com app.    My reading today was a good reminder on my keeping my priorities straight, following God’s direction, and the importance of observing the greatness of God and passing on that message to the next generation.  Psalm 48:12-14:  Walk around Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.  For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.   (NIV)

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Top Five Devotional Books for Tween Girls

This blog post is for all the moms of tween girls who are hoping to instill a habit of daily time with Jesus.  I have two girls ages 9 and 11.  I’ll be honest with you; most of the time I feel like I am barely pulling off this “mom” thing.

  • We rarely eat a meal at the kitchen table.  Usually we’re eating Taco Bell in the car or processed chicken nuggets on the couch while watching The Middle re-runs on the Hallmark channel.
  • After I’ve asked  my youngest to clean her room 50 times without a response I end up yelling at her and threatening to ground her from screen time for a month.  #MomFail
  • I put up job charts and forget about them.
  • I read lots of parenting books and blogs and the concepts sound great, but usually my implementation falls flat.
  • While I completely believe in the importance of consistent discipline, I don’t do it.  Half the time I don’t discipline and half the time I’m overly strict.  So I guess I am consistently 50/50.  Does that count?

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But there is one thing I think I have done a good job of and that is having a pretty consistent nightly devotional time with my girls.  (And “pretty consistent” in my house is about 70% of the time.  I call that a huge accomplishment!)  I started with they were little and some months we’ve done it almost every night.  Some stages of life I’ve been lazy and had my priorities out of whack and we’d go months without reading and praying before bed.  But we always come back to it.  My girls are the ones who usually remind me when I’ve fallen into bed exhausted.

Here are my top recommendations on devotional books for girls ages 7-12, in no particular order:

  1. The One Year Mother Daughter Devo by Dannah Gresh and Janet Mylin
  2. 3-Minute Devotions for Girls by Janice Hannah Thompson
  3. You’re God’s Girl by Wynter Pitts
  4. A Girl After God’s Own Heart Devotional by Elizabeth George
  5. The One Year Be-Tween You & God Devotions for Girls by Sandra Byrd

When my girls were a little younger sometimes I’d run across a topic that I thought was too mature, and we’d go to a different devotion, but most of them have been great for their ages.  Some examples of topics:

  • Happiness vs. Joy (A Girl After God’s Own Heart)
  • How Do I Speak Love? (You’re God’s Girl)
  • Me?  Stuck up? (3-Minute Devotions for Girls)
  • The Beatitudes:  Peacemakers (The One Year Mother Daughter Devo)
  • I’m Not Popular at School (Be-Tween You & God)

This devotional time has not only been a great opportunity to build a habit of daily time with God, but it has also opened up opportunities for discussion about what my girls are dealing with in their lives.  And when it comes down to it, that is what is the most important thing to me: teaching my girls to be more like “Mary” by spending time on what matters most.

Even if they don’t always eat healthy, have messy rooms, and unfinished job charts . . . if they are spending daily time with Jesus everything else pales in comparison.

Three Easy Steps for Controlling Your Temper

My temper gets me all the time.  Even if I don’t explode I can feel irritation creeping up.  90% of the time my irritation is toward my husband and children.  The rest of the time it is toward the telemarketer that keeps calling my cell phone or the person at customer service whose service is pretty crappy.

Earlier this week I heard a radio program as I was driving to the gym – it was James MacDonald talking about a simple discipline to help me not give into temptation or lose my temper.   I’m testing it . . .and so far results are pretty good.

Example A:  My husband and I are both currently working from home.  I am so happy to be working from home and believe 100% that it is where God wants me.  Even so, it is an adjustment.  We haven’t both worked from home, together, for several years.  We are sharing an office.  We have very different work habits.  And very different philosophies on how the office should be organized (his style includes piles on the floor).  Yesterday as he was dropping our daughter off at school I could feel my irritation level getting higher and higher as I tried to find an organized and clean place in the office to work.

I have found that starting my day with daily Bible reading and prayer makes a huge difference, but often in the moment I still lose my temper.

When faced growing irritation with my husband I tried the steps below.  And it really seemed to help.  I didn’t handle the situation perfectly and I am sure I was more irritated than I needed to be, but it could have been a lot worse.

  1. Stop and say:  “I am Dead to That.”  Out loud.  (I did it in the bathroom, looking in the mirror.)  I love this concept – thank you James MacDonald!  
  2. Pray:  Ask God to give me grace, peace and His love in dealing with the situation.  
  3. Meditate:  Over and over in my head say the verse Romans 6:11 “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

I’m going to keep trying this and see if it helps . . . as I need all the help I can get!  But bottom line as we just celebrated Easter, Jesus didn’t just die to save me from hell, He died to save me from a life of sin.  There is freedom in Him.  I just need to grasp that freedom.

In closing, I love section from James MacDonald, found here:

I know what you might be thinking. If I’m dead to sin, why do I feel so alive to it? Dead is the last word most of us would use to describe our experience with sin. Forgiven, maybe. Or cleansed—even changing. But dead?

First consider what dead to sin does not mean. It doesn’t mean sinless perfection or that our old nature is gone. And it doesn’t mean we’ve merely identified theoretically with the death of Christ.

It means that because Christ died in our place, we are dead to the power of sin. It’s as if we used to live in an apartment with an awful landlord who would burst in whenever he wanted, but now we’ve moved to a new apartment with a new landlord. We have new locks; we owe the former landlord nothing. He can’t get into our new apartment unless we open the door and invite him in.

Unfortunately, some Christians still open that door and listen to the old landlord. But he’s no longer in control. In Christ, the power of sin is broken and defeated. Sin is not in charge. You have a new Master.

Praying for my Husband

Several years ago I purchased The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian at the Goodwill and it was one of the best purchases I’ve made.  I love this book.  It helps me direct my prayers for my husband and each prayer is so personal and powerful.

I especially loved today’s prayer that started more for me than my husband:

“God, I proclaim You Lord over my life.  Help me to seek You first every day and set my priorities in perfect order.  Reveal to me how to properly put my husband before children, work, family, friends, activities and interests.  Show me what I can do right now to demonstrate to him that he has this position in my heart.  Mend the times I have caused him to doubt that.  Tell me now to prioritize everything so that whatever steals life away, or has no lasting purpose, will not occupy my time.”

This is my prayer for today – and hopefully every day.  I want to prioritize everything in the order it should go and keep my time and energy focused on what matters most.

P.S. One slightly embarrassing, though related, side-note:  when I was a kid we had Stormie Omartian “Exercise for Life” workout tapes.  Not VHS tapes.  Actual cassette player tapes.  I’d get my leg warmers on and do these tapes every day.  I found a YouTube copy of the cassette.  Just listing to this 80’s Christian techno makes we want to workout!