Prayer of Jabez or Prayer of Paul?

I’m not a theologian. I didn’t go to Bible college and my Bible study is mostly personal reading, observing, comparing translations, etc. In other words: my blog posts are just my observations and thoughts and what I’m learning in my personal study.

In today’s #DailyBibleReading I read the “Prayer of Jabez”. This is my third time reading through the entire Bible, so I know I’ve read this paragraph before, but somehow I missed it.

‘There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.’ 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 

My first reaction: “Wow, what a fascinating paragraph in the middle of a chapter of chronology. I’d love to know more about this guy.”

Second reaction: “The prayer of Jabez sounds really familiar. Where have I heard about this before?”

So I googled “Prayer of Jabez”.

Whoa. I guess it is a somewhat controversial topic. It looks like there is a best-selling book, “The Prayer of Jabez” by Bruce Wilkinson. Per Amazon’s synopsis of the book: “Readers who commit to offering the same prayer on a regular basis will find themselves extravagantly blessed by God, and agents of His miraculous power, in everyday life.”

I’ve never read the book before so I can’t really speak to it, but there are a lot of posts criticising it. See here, here, and here for a few of the concerns.

My observations:

  1. Be careful what you read: There are a lot of people writing about the Bible, preaching, teaching, blogging, etc. (Me included.) Be careful of what you read. And make sure you are reading the Bible first and foremost. For everything you read or hear about the Bible go back to the Bible and make sure it is biblically based. Like I said a the beginning of the post, I’m not a theologian. And even if I was, that doesn’t mean everything I say is correct. And even if God is doing something in my life or leading me to do something, it doesn’t mean it is the same for everyone. We all have our OWN walk with Jesus.
  2. God doesn’t promise a life free from trouble: The prayer of Jabez and the snippet of his life is beautiful. But in today’s #BibleReadingPlan I also read about Paul who was also a man of prayer. Find some of his prayers here and here. Like Jabez, Paul was an honorable man who followed the Lord, but his life on earth was marked by pain, trouble, and prison:

    ‘A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him.

    After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison.’ Acts of the Apostles 24:24-27 

     

  3. Read the Bible: Over any biblical book, commentary, devotional, Bible study or blog, read the Bible. The more you spend time reading the Bible and becoming familiar with it, the easier it is for you to know what is biblically based teaching and what is false.
  4. Pray: I’m not saying you shouldn’t pray the Prayer of Jabez, but prayer is more than just reciting someone else’s prayer. Pray YOUR prayer. Be intimate with Jesus. Talk to Him. Plead with Him. Tell him the desires of your heart. Your fears, your doubts, your sins. Praise Him. Thank Him. Cry out to Him. Worship Him.

Along with reading the Bible and praying, trust God. Whether you have the life of Jabez or the life of Paul, God is in control. Follow Him. He doesn’t promise us a life free of pain here on earth, but he does promise heaven for those who put their faith in Jesus.

 

 

 

 

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Rising from Ashes

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

David, son of Jesse: anointed, but yet to be crowned king. An outlaw without reason. A wanderer with a pedigree from Judah a blessing from Samuel and a price on his head. Following God and being hunted by man.

Several years ago I read The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro, and it was life-changing in teaching me how to focus my Bible reading and to be disciplined in my walk with Jesus. I love how he describes the scene in 1 Samuel 30 from the perspective of one of David’s men:

The Divine Mentor
By Wayne Cordeiro

Prologue
Smoke billowed on the horizon. Smoke where there should be no smoke at least, not a towering column like this one.

It couldn’t be good.

Terrorists. What else could it be?

As we approached we could see a few flames licking at piles of rubble. Yet where there had been homes, streets, playgrounds, gardens . . . there was nothing at all. Smoke, ruin, ashes. Nothing more. Shocked into immobility, we could do nothing but gape. Where were the homes? Where were the women and children? 

We poured over the edge of the embankment some sliding, some jumping, some running headlong, falling, getting up, and falling again. Each man ran to the area where his home had been, hoping against hope to see someone moving in the wreckage: a beloved face, a form staggering out of the devastation. But there was no one. And no sound but the dry crackle of flames, fanned by a lonely desert wind.

Where were the bodies? We saw none. The terrorists must have kidnapped every woman and child in the village!

We wept without shame. Some cursed; some called out names in their anguish. Muttering among themselves, clusters began to gather, glancing at one another, nodding, fingering their weapons. It was like the moment before a violent thunderstorm, when the air becomes taut and stifling.

That’s when he collapsed on his knees and convulsed in agony. It’s not as though his loved ones had been spared.

We couldn’t help but watch. And as he poured out his sorrow, pleading for help and hope and direction, his body language began to change. Tension seemed to drain away from his shoulders. His hands unclenched, and he lifted his head as he prayed. Finally rising again to his feet, he wiped away his tears, squared his shoulders, and spoke with a steady voice.

Say what you will, something happened by that rock on the edge of total devastation. In those few moments, he had found strength, confidence, and fresh resolve. God must have given him a plan too, because it wasn’t long before we set off like the wind on the trail of the invaders.

In that moment, we could believe again. And rising among us was the confidence that we would recover from the ashes of Ziklag all we had lost . . . and maybe even more.

I love reading the Bible and seeing how God worked in the lives of Abraham, Judah & Tamar, Boaz & Ruth, Hannah & Samuel, and King David . . . All leading to Jesus. All pointing us to the Savior. Redemption. Forgiveness. We see God using broken people to weave His story. God giving strength to the weak.

We get a glimpse of God working all things together for good for those who love Him.

 

 

Resisting the Schemes of Satan

Knowing the schemes of Satan and putting on the Armor of God. #armorofgodstudy #DailyBibleReading @PriscillaShirer

Last night I read an article about a man whose teenage daughter went missing. After an extensive search, involving the police and the FBI, they found her.  The girl had been sold into the sex industry.  Her father explained that several years ago a man had found her online and started to prey on her. The man figured out her strengths and weaknesses. He lied to her about his identify. He groomed her. He was patient and cunning. This complete stranger spent two years building a relationship with her for the sole purpose of getting her to willingly follow him. This was his full-time job – recruiting kids to be sold into the sex industry. Grooming and selling one child into sexual slavery meant  a $150,000 – $300,000 profit for this predator.

This father told his story as a warning for other parents. He implored them to be vigilant in guarding their children’s online activity and to become educated on the schemes of online predators. These predators are smart, manipulative and secretive. And many parents think their children are safe at home when there is actually terrible danger lurking behind their screens.

 

 

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My #DailyBibleReading this morning included 2 Corinthians 2. Paul was writing to a church and one line in his letter really stood out to me – especially in light of the story I had read last night:

so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.
2 Corinthians 2:11 NLT

Satan is like that online predator – patiently manipulating and lying to us. Tempting us. Trying to outsmart us.

Paul said that the church in Corinth was familiar with Satan’s evil schemes.

But am I familiar with Satan’s schemes? No. Usually I am completely unaware.

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How often do I look at a person or a situation as the enemy? I usually blame a human – or even God – as the cause of my hurt or temptation or frustration; without ever considering that my real enemy, Satan, is behind the screen, manipulating the situation.

To another church Paul said:

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 NLT

How can I be fighting against and protecting myself from evil forces if I don’t even know their schemes? 

One thing I love about my #DailyBibleReading through Bible.com or the YouVersion App is the easy ability to study deeper into a topic. In the “Search” bar I looked up “Satan” and started reading through the Bible verses that came up to have a better idea of Satan’s schemes so I can identify them in my own life.  This link will take you to the search if you’d like to read through the list on your own.  Some of my observations are below the picture.

Bible.com search tool.png
Bible.com Search Tool

Just like the father whose daughter had been sold into sex slavery explained, intellectually knowing the schemes of predators isn’t enough. I need to act. I need to protect myself and my family.

How can I protect myself from the schemes of the devil?

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:11,13-18  NLT

  1. Truth: Satan is the father of lies. We need to know what is true and what is a lie. And not fall for his lies.
  2. God’s righteousness: To protect my heart, I need to obey God. I need to flee sin. And cling to God’s goodness.
  3. Gospel of Peace
  4. Faith
  5. Salvation
  6. Word of God: #DailyBibleReading, meditation, memorization
  7. Prayer, Prayer, and more Prayer

Priscilla Shirer is one of my favorite Bible Study authors and speakers. Recently I had the opportunity to see her in person during her Fervent Tour (which I highly recommend). She talked quite a bit about the Armor of God during the event, which was very helpful in better understanding the Armor of God and recognizing Satan’s strategies and combating them.

She also has a whole book and study on the topic:

Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer:  

I haven’t done the study, but hope to. Here is a link to a video with the first lesson of Armor of God Bible study. The promo is below:

 

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for this Bible Study taking place locally – I would love to participate with a local of group of women studying how to put on the full armor of God and be ready for battle.

How about you? What has been your experience in putting on the Armor of God and being aware of and combating the schemes of the devil?

Passport to Purity

#PassportToPurity #Passport2Purity @DennisRainey @FamilyLifeToday

I’ve been offline for several days . . . creating memories, bonding, and having important talks with my almost 12-year-old daughter. We had a Passport2Purity Getaway.  I highly recommend for parents of 10-13 year old kids.

travel guide

Passport2Purity is a product created and sold by Family Life.  The package includes CDs, a parent guide and a student journal. In the CDs, Dennis and Barbara Rainey cover topics like peer pressure, the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus, making wise decisions in dating, and puberty and sex. All from a biblical perspective.

My daughter was very apprehensive of the trip. She absolutely did not want to talk to me about sex. Before we left she told me “this trip is going to be worse than my 7th grade shots.”  But on the last CD she said “Oh no, this is like being on the last chapter of a great book.”

Not only is the information on the CDs great and presented in a fun, age-appropriate style; but the way they have the getaway organized makes for a very memorable trip.

Here is our itinerary and my recommendations:

  • I reserved a cabin at a state park about two hours away. This length of drive worked well for us, though I recommend finding a place to stop part way through the drive to complete Project One (you’ll need a flat table to do puzzles). Then you can finish more of the CD on the drive.
  • We left on Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t start my shopping, preparing my projects, etc. until Wednesday morning. I DON’T recommend that! Read over the to-do and to-pack list at least a week in advance and start preparing.
  • For the puzzle project, instead of 100 piece puzzles (which I couldn’t find at Wal-Mart in my frazzled, last-minute shopping trip) I bought her a 1,000 piece puzzle. It got the point of the lesson across, but it also had pictures of dolphins, which she loves. We worked on the puzzle during some of the downtime. I did bring the puzzle box . . . I just kept it hidden until after the project was complete. Going forward, my plan is to take the puzzle out each summer and do it with her . . . and reminisce about the Passport2Purity Getaway. Or maybe we will finish the puzzle and I’ll frame it for her.
  • We didn’t eat out as there weren’t any restaurants nearby, but I packed foods that I knew she would like. (My healthy diet went completed out of the window as I gorged on powdered donuts and strawberry shortcake the entire time).
  • Thursday morning we listened to a CD – took a short hike – and listened to the next CD. Then we had lunch and headed to the pool. After an afternoon of swimming we went back to the cabin for more CDs, dinner and relaxing in front of the campfire.
  • I bought her a special gift to commemorate the weekend – a (lab created) ruby necklace and earring set. I found it for $49 at the Kay Jewelers Outlet. She hasn’t taken the necklace off since the trip and it looks beautiful on her.
  • I recently read The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman. Her top love languages are “Acts of Service” (by far), followed by “Words of Affirmation” and “Receiving Gifts”. I tried to incorporate all of these into every day of the getaway. I am also hoping to be more intentional about incorporating these into my daily life. If you are interested, you can have your teen take the quiz here to determine the best way to express love to him or her.
  • The Passport2Purity getaway is good for either boys or girls – there are different CDs and sections to listen to, depending on the sex.

I need to remember that my job as a mom is to:

  1. Love my daughter
  2. Pray for her
  3. Model a Christ-led life
  4. Equip her with knowledge and tools to make good decisions
  5. Encourage her in her walk with Jesus

I am not responsible for the decisions that she makes. She may choose to follow the advice of Dennis and Barbara Rainey and make good decisions about choosing friends, setting boundaries and dating. Or she may not. She may choose to love the Lord with all her heart and soul and seek his will, or she may treat God like a spare tire – only calling on him when she is in trouble and needs help (which is exactly how I treated him for 30+ years). I can’t control her decisions. I can’t control her heart.

But I can love her with all my heart, forgive her when she messes up, and keep pointing her toward Jesus.

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The Kindness Challenge: Respect

#JoinKindness

Speaking words of praise and affirmation seems simple on the surface. It is easy for me to say things like “I love you” and “You look nice” to my husband, but I might not be speaking the language he wants and needs to hear.

For the 30 Day Kindness Challenge I want to choose my words of affirmation/praise carefully and make sure they count.

I am reading “For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men” by Shaunti Feldhahn.  Shaunti is also the author/inventor of the Kindness Challenge. For this book she conducted qualitative and quantitative research to find out what men really think and really want from women.

Shaunti found that 74% of men would rather feel “Alone and Unloved” than feel “Inadequate and Disrespected”.  Bottom line: Men need and want respect.

She also makes another significant point – most women want a man to love her unconditionally. I know I want my man to love me (and think I’m hot) even if I’ve gained 25 pounds, am getting gray hair and have sagging boobs. I want him to love me even when I nag, complain, don’t clean the house, yell at the kids, etc. I don’t expect anything less. He married me for better or for worse, and some days he definitely gets the “worse”. That is marriage. That is life.

On the other hand . . . and this is something I really struggle with . . . I don’t give him unconditional respect. I know the Bible repeatedly tells wives to respect their husbands. And it never gives the caveat, “if they earn it and deserve it.” Actually, the Bible says quite the opposite:

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.
1 Peter 3:1‭-‬2 NLT

Wow.

If I want to be a missionary to my husband and set a good example to my children then I really need to get a handle on this “respect” concept. But honestly, I don’t even know if I grasp what it looks like in practical terms. In America’s society there aren’t exactly a lot of role models of strong, successful women submitting to and respecting their husbands. Especially in an unconditional way. And a healthy, biblical way.

Shaunti gives some concrete examples in her book:

  • Conflict – if my man get’s angry during a conflict most likely it is because he feels disrespected. 80% of men said they feel disrespected by their wife during conflict. That is something to tune in to. If my husband and I are having a disagreement and he gets angry most likely it is because he feels disrespected. Of course the damage is already done, but hopefully I can be discerning enough to figure out what I said and change it for the future.
  • His Judgement – “A man deeply needs the woman in his life to respect his knowledge, opinions, and decisions” Shaunti wrote about her findings. “No one wanted a silent wallflower (nor would I advocate becoming one!”), but many men wished their mates wouldn’t question their knowledge or argue  with their decisions all the time.” Thinking back, I see so many times when I do this to my husband for no reason, other than I want to prove I’m right. Even about super stupid stuff. Like if he sings the words to a song incorrectly I’ll google the lyrics and tell him the correct words.
  • His Abilities: Here I just need to keep my mouth shut or tell him I trust him. He doesn’t need me to give him advice on how to do everything . . . from proper mowing technique to how to handle his business to parenting.  Or if he is folding towels instead of just thanking him, I’ll also insert a helpful tip on the correct way to fold towels. Even when I am genuinely trying to offer advice or be helpful, he may see it as me not trusting his abilities. Shaunti had a great point: “The next time your husband stubbornly drives in circles, ask yourself which is more important: being on time to the party or his feeling trusted? No contest”.
  • Shaunti found that 7 out of 10 men would rather have their wife notice and thank them for an action, rather than say “I love you”.  And not add a “but” to the end of the thank you.  Just “Thank you for cleaning the kitchen”. Not “Thank you for cleaning the kitchen, but you forgot to take out the trash.”
  • The majority of men take a “reminder” as his wife expressing disappointment.
  • Don’t put my man down in public, even if I am just teasing. I can wound him. Deeply.
  • Praise my husband in public. Brag on him.
  • Assume the best about him.

My goal for today is to be as thoughtful and reflective as possible when it comes to praising and affirming my husband. And outside of that, to keep my mouth shut. To a man, not saying anything negative goes beyond outright mean remarks. It means to keep my mouth shut – no “helpful” reminders or suggestions or corrections – for 30 days.

There was a great response from one of the survey takers in “For Women Only” who said, “You know the saying ‘Being every good man is a great woman’? Well that is so true. If a man’s wife is supportive and believes in him, he can conquer the world – or at least his little corner of it. He will do better at work, at home, everywhere. By contrast, very few men can do well at work or a home if their wives make them feel inadequate.”

P.S. Thanks to last year’s craze of loom bracelets I now have a lovely rubber bracelet on my wrist, handcrafted by my daughter, to remind me to be kind.

Proverbs 31-10‭-‬12.jpg

The Kindness Challenge

As I was driving to Wal-Mart I heard a story on the radio about “The Kindness Challenge”.  I was intrigued.  I didn’t hear the whole discussion – but the gist of it was a woman had done a study about how 30 days of kindness could transform a relationship, even if only one person in the relationship was doing the challenge.

I love a challenge.  And I love an easy model to follow. #JoinKindness

Once I got home I did a little more digging and found the 30 Day Kindness Challenge online. (Disclaimer, I haven’t read the book so I don’t know all the details). According to the website:

The 30-Day Kindness Challenge is a much-needed movement of kindness led by many influential organizations.

 89% of relationships improve if you pick a person with whom you want a better relationship; then for 30 days:

1. Say nothing negative about that person – either to them or about them to anyone else.
 
2. Each day find one positive thing you can praise or affirm about that person and tell them and tell someone else. 

3. Each day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.

I signed up!  Interested in joining me?  Sign-up here.

I am starting on June 1, 2017 and the recipient of my kindness will be my husband.

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So right now I am trying to get prepared by brainstorming small acts of kindness (and doing Pinterest research because honestly, outside of doing laundry and making his favorite dinner, I’m having a hard time coming up with ideas for a man who doesn’t ask for much).

But even more so, I am praying for God to help me with #1 on the list – not saying anything negative. I nag my husband. Probably more than I realize. My tone of voice can be not so pleasant. When I am displeased everyone in the house knows it. I complain about stupid stuff – how he folds the laundry, him buying chips when I am trying to eat healthy, him letting the kids watch too much TV, etc.

So my big prayer right now is for God to help me prepare and that I will rely on Him for the kindness and loving words. And that He will help me keep my mouth shut when needed.

In my Bible reading this morning there was some great stuff as I get my heart (and mouth) ready for the challenge.:

1 Corinthians 2: When Paul came to tell people at Corinth about Jesus he was timid and trembling. He didn’t have the words to say. But instead of trying to come up with impressive speeches, he relied on the power of the Holy Spirit. Mentally, he focused on Jesus only, and then let the Holy Spirit speak through him. Wow. That is what I want. There is no one who loves my husband more than Jesus, and Jesus would much rather have me covering my husband with love and kindness than nagging about how to fold the towels. When I open my mouth I don’t want my words to come out, but the Holy Spirit speaking through me.

Proverbs 12: So much incredible stuff here about the words I speak to my husband:

  • A worthy wife is a crown for her husband (Proverbs 12:4)
  • The words of the godly save lives (Proverbs 12:6)
  • The family of the godly stands firm (Proverbs 12:7) (OK, not exactly about my words, but I have two daughters listening to everything I say. Are my words and my tone godly?)
  • Wise words bring many benefits (Proverbs 12:14)
  • A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted (Proverbs 12:16)
  • The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth (Proverbs 12:22)
  • Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging words cheers a person up (Proverbs 12:25)
  • The godly give good advice to their friends (Proverbs 12:25)
  • Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.(Proverbs 12:18).

My words have the power to heal or destroy, and 95% of the time I open my mouth without really thinking through what I am going to say. I really need God in this area of my life. I need to think before I speak and filter everything I am saying through the Holy Spirit. And I probably need to keep my mouth closed a lot more often.

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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: