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Prosperity in Adversity

August 14th, 2015

“The Lord made all that Joseph did to prosper in his hand.” Genesis 39:3 NKJV.

Adversity around you will not prevent God’s blessings upon you.

My thoughts and comments today are about “prosperity in adversity.”

It never seems a person has enough money, so it is important that you learn some basic things about handling the money you have. God’s principles remain true and effective whether you have little or much. My Dad taught me to, “always live within your means and always save something for later.”That is a Biblical principle of stewardship. That isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is always the best thing to do. See Proverbs 21:20 NIV.

Gayle and I have done that for all of our married life, when we made less and when we made more. We have chosen to live without credit card debt and been very careful about long-term debt. Before our marriage, my Dad recommended allocating a fixed percentage of income for housing expenses as a helpful guideline to keep expenses in proportion to income, not allowing expenses to grow without proportional income.

It’s simple really. The world’s economy cannot provide you with Kingdom prosperity. God’s blessings provide prosperity. Joseph found himself in adverse circumstances – sold as a slave, indentured as a servant, and in a foreign land. “His master saw that the Lord was with Joseph and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him.” Genesis 39:1-6 NKJV. Joseph prospered in extreme adversity. Adversity around you will not prevent God’s blessings upon you. God intends the same for you. “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2 NASB.

Governments assume that giving taxpayers’ money to large banking corporations and requiring them to lend money to assure sufficient funds circulating in the economy can solve the problem. Actually, that fuels the source of the problem. The common wisdom – ill formed and wrongly believed – is that if everybody will spend more, we can borrow and buy our way out of the predicament. That is a false cure, temporary and shortsighted. The wheels of commerce are greased by the principle of leverage through a cycle of borrowing and growing debt. Debt is addictive and destructive. It doesn’t work for a nation, nor for your household.

Our country is in economic distress through mounting debt, which merely reflects a financial mess many of us have made for ourselves. Readily available credit does not make it wise. Availability is not the same as affordability. Families have chosen a lifestyle of debt in a culture that encourages and enables your doing so. When tempted to spend beyond your means, consider the financial, marital, and eventual emotional cost.

God will not bless your mess. Begin putting God first. Malachi 3:8-12 NLT. Everything you have belongs to God; you and I are stewards. Use wisely what God provides, always thankful for His blessings. “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.” Psalm 128:1-2 NIV.

Today, I pray that you earn diligently, save regularly, spend wisely, and give generously.

Christian Communications 02139

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The Burden of Debt

February 25th, 2015

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the debt to love one another.” Romans 13:8 NIV.

Love prompts more love just as debt provokes more debt.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the burden of debt.”

A father gave his son this advice, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” (Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602). That is sound advice still today. Debt has become a way of life. National economies depend upon increasing consumption, continually persuading and pressuring people that debt is a small price for gratification. You can resist; and you should. It’s simple really, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 NIV.

Marketing feeds the appetite for more, and newer, and bigger, and better, therefore more expensive. Actually, your needs are not more but your wants are. Credit cards have made debt difficult to resist, motivating the consumer economy and growing a staggering personal indebtedness. Debt can be described as, “Buying things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people who don’t care.” Debt merely begets more debt, adding more worry from a growing weight of debt.

I grew up in a modest but comfortable, mid-western family. We never had too much, but we never seemed to have too little either. I was taught that what you earn and all you have comes from God through His blessing on your honest labor. See James 1:17. Therefore, the first portion is given back to God as a tithe, in recognition of His benevolence and in obedience for His continued blessing. Read Malachi 3:10-12. After that, everything you have is a matter of stewardship, not ownership. 1 Corinthians 4:2.

From my Dad, I learned a useful, financial principle. “Never spend all that you earn, and you will always have something extra when needed.” That became a rule of personal economy that I still follow today. Most importantly, that works. Life is simpler; worries are less; greater freedom is enjoyed. Debt results from trying to provide for yourself what God has not yet made available.

The Bible says, “Give everyone what you owe him . . Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law . . whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbor.” Romans 13:7-10 NIV. That verse seems an unusual pairing of financial debt and a loving lifestyle, teaching that financial debt is not advisable; relational debt is not avoidable. One you are told to avoid; the other you are taught to fulfill. Here’s how I think they relate and differ. Both are responsibilities to which you obligate yourself. Financial debt is about you and your wants; relational debt is about others and their needs.

Financial debt preoccupies you more with yourself and with less thought and available means to serve others. Financial debt concerns you with satisfying your wants, paying your bills, while absorbing any extra. Relational debt redirects you toward others, giving instead of getting, meeting their needs before your wants, and sharing the good you have received. Love prompts more love just as debt provokes more debt. God’s way is always the right way.

Today, my prayer for you is that you realize that debt trades the ultimate for the more immediate.

P.S. Yes, the above comments were previously posted. In upgrading the website this week, this devotional, “The Burden of Debt,” was inadvertently deleted from the archives, and had to be re-sent in order to be included in the archives with other previous EDL postings.  Thank you for your understanding . . Christian Communications, Inc

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Be Exemplary

June 24th, 2014

“In everything, set them an example by doing what is good.” Titus 2:7 NIV.

Be exemplary; follow Christ fully and consistently.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “be exemplary.”

Mistakes. Everyone makes them. You can learn from mistakes, yours and others. In fact, you should learn from your mistakes; if you don’t, you are destined to repeat them. It’s best if you learn to minimize the number of mistakes you make, especially the ones you seem to repeat. However, there is a better way. You can and should learn from the example and instruction of others. The example of others can teach you what to do right, as well as what to avoid.

The Apostle Paul was bold to say, “Pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.” Philippians 3:17-18 NLT. There are plenty of opportunities if you are willing to look, listen, and learn from the example and experience of others – valuing their successes while avoiding their failures. Read 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 NIV.

I count myself as fortunate. Across my lifetime, God has sovereignly placed Godly examples in my life. I still have plenty of room for improvement but I am far better than I would have been without them. Regrettably, I have not always lived up to their standard, but I steadfastly value their experience and example. My goal is as Paul’s focus, “I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me to be.”  Read Philippians 3:12-14 NLT.

From my Dad and Mom, I learned a lot about life and integrity in relationships and ministry. From spiritual fathers, I continue to learn about personal and spiritual disciplines and the sacred priority of marriage and family. From friends, I am learning about the importance and responsibilities of meaningful friendships. From pastoring those who entrusted their souls to my care, I continue to learn the sanctity and sacrifice of ministry.

I have a great debt to repay, which suggests another side to consider in this matter. Are you helping others learn from your experiences? Read 2 Thessalonians 3:7 NIV. Be exemplary. “Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV. Those certainly were not intended as an exhaustive list you can check off and be done with it. Those are the elemental and essential qualities of spiritual life, upon which all other Godly behavior rests.

Spiritual growth rests solidly upon the fundamentals of practical, spiritual life. Without those you may work diligently on correct conduct apart from the underlying strength of Godly character that sustains such behavior. “God has chosen to make known the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory . . so that we may present everyone perfect in [their relationship with] Christ.” Colossians 1:27-28 NIV/NLT.

Apart from “Christ in you,” there can be no “hope of glory,” in the lives we live. Jesus left you a sure path to follow, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15 NIV. Be exemplary; follow Christ fully and consistently. Paul got it right, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is to be sure whose example you follow and who is following yours.

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A Debt To Be Paid

June 17th, 2014
“Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt you owe each other.” Romans 13:8 MSG.

Financial debt is not advisable; relational debt is not avoidable.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a debt to be paid.”

In today’s culture, debt has become a way of life. Debt results from your buying things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people who don’t care. You are repeatedly told that the world’s economy depends upon it, all to persuade you of the impossibility of living without debt. But you can, and you should. The world’s economy relies upon an increasing rate of consumption. To business, you are a consumer; the more you consume, the happier “they “ are, whoever that is.

The evil genius of credit cards has made resistance nearly impossible. Marketing persuades you to believe you always need more, and better, and newer, and bigger, therefore more expensive. Actually, your needs are not more; your wants are. In today’s culture, debt has become a way of life. Increasing consumption supplies neither security nor satisfaction; it provides only a growing balance of personal indebtedness. Debt is never satisfying. Debt breeds more debt.

I grew up in a modest, but comfortable home. We never had too much, but we never seemed to have too little. I was taught that all you have and what you earn comes from God through His blessing on your honest labor. James 1:17-18 NLT. Therefore, the first portion is given back to God as a tithe, in recognition of His benevolence and obedience for His continued blessing. Malachi 3:8-12 NKJV. After that, everything you have is a matter of stewardship, not ownership. 1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV.

From my Dad’s advice, I learned that if I never spend all that I earn, I would always have a little extra when needed. That became a rule of stewardship and personal economy that I still follow today. Most importantly, that Godly advice works. Life is simpler; worries are less; financial freedom is greater. And in that restraint, you learn some practical measure of when enough is enough.

Financial debt is not advisable. Relational debt is not avoidable. “Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt you owe each other.” Romans 13:8 MSG. This verse has always seemed an unusual pairing to me – financial debt and a loving lifestyle. I believe they are mutually exclusive. You are told to avoid debt; you are taught to fulfill love. Here’s how they both relate and differ. Both are obligations to which you bind yourself by free choice.

Financial debt is about satisfying you and your wants. Relational debt is about serving others and their needs. The greater your financial debts, the more preoccupied you become with yourself and the less thought and means you have left for others. Financial debt concerns you with paying your bills, satisfying your wants, and absorbing your extra. Relational debt redirects you toward giving instead of getting, meeting others’ needs before your wants, and returning the good you have received.

Just as debt engenders more debt, love will engender more love. God’s Word is always the best counsel, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 NAS. God’s way is always the best way. You have a debt to be paid.

Today, my prayer for you is to understand that debt will cause you to sacrifice the ultimate for the immediate.

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Trust the Process

September 9th, 2011

“First a leaf . . then the heads of wheat . . finally the grain ripens.” Mark 4:28 NLT

“Harvest comes in God’s time – after you work diligently, obey fully, and trust God’s process.”

My thoughts today are to “trust the process.”

Who likes to wait for what they want? But aren’t we usually better when we do? Waiting seems to encourage appreciation for what you gain, while promoting wiser use and better care of what you have. There is a better sense of the necessity of effort, importance of time, and reality of cost. The quicker and easier you receive something, the less intrinsic value you attribute to it.

To most of us, now is more satisfying than later. That’s why charge accounts, and then credit cards, replaced “layaway accounts” for merchants and customers. Just today, the Associated Press reported “Walmart stores are bringing back what customers have been asking for: layaway.” You may not remember or know what such a thing as a “layaway account” was. If you could not pay cash, the store would “lay the item away” while you made small payments as you were able , interest-free, and pick up your merchandise when it’s paid in full. Only when you had fully paid for the item, you took it home. That process of affordable sacrifice created anticipation and appreciation. With credit cards, a store completes a sale more quickly and the customer goes home with purchase in hand, ready for immediate enjoyment without the pain of payment. Instant gratification, you want now; cost, you happily defer till later. Too much too quickly is at too great a cost.

Most of us are not content with process. We want what we want when we want it, and we want too much now, regardless of the real cost known or unknown to us. People buy houses they cannot afford, cars too expensive, and expenditures too extravagant while living on borrowed time and burdensome debt. Our nation, like too many other countries, is being slowly destroyed by a system of debt we cannot afford. Debt destroys our marriages homes, and lives. Our nation’s debt is a reflection of its citizens’ financial addictions, as much as its politicians’ misbehavior.

At Creation, God decreed, “Let there be . . and there was! . . then God saw everything He had made, and indeed ti was very good.” See Genesis 1. Flowers were created in full bloom; fruit was abundant on mature trees; nature’s wildlife was full grown. Since Creation, God works by process, purposeful and measured. Process always has beneficial and relational elements. Solomon observed, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NKJV. Paul echoed God’s principle of process this way, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV. See also 1 John 3:1-2. You have to learn to trust His process. “As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways . . As for God, His way is perfect.” Read Isaiah 55:8-9/Psalm 18:30 NKJV.

Jesus described the perfect ways of the Kingdom of God by nature’s process. “A farmer planted seeds in a field . . as the days went by, the seeds sprouted and grew . . because the earth produces crops. First a leaf pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. When the grain is ready, the farmer harvests it.” Mark 4:26-29 NLT. Note Jesus description of Kingdom process: desire followed by effort, effort resting in anticipation, anticipation producing trust, trust seeing development, development increasing evidence, evidence of growth, growth bringing harvest! Where do you see yourself in God’s process today? Harvest will come in God’s time – after you work diligently, obey fully, and trust the process. Impatience and unbelief interrupts God’s process with delays.

My prayer for you today is that you live in step with God’s purposes and processes.

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