Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Master and My Money

A great church down the road, Farmer's Branch Church of Christ, is in the middle of a capital gains project. As a part of this effort, they are sending out daily devotionals. I found today's exceptionally challenging. Enjoy!

A ministry called Christian Financial Concepts receives about 150,000 calls per month from people asking for financial advice. The profile of the average caller:

• Age 30-35
• Owes $15-$20 thousand in school loans
• Owes $17-$20 thousand in credit card debt
• Owes $20,000 on two cars
• Owes $120,000 on the average mortgage

In America today:
• 50% of marriages fail
• 60-80% of these cite financial problems as the root cause of strife
• $1.17 is spent for every $1 earned

Many are not managing their money well. Note this information on the giving patterns in our churches:
• Individuals pay 4 times as much in interest as they give the church (10.2% vs. 2.3%)
• $.80 of every dollar is given by those 55+
• 20% of members give 80% of the money contributed
• 30% give the other 20% of contributions
• 50% give nothing at all
• 1 in 5 churches borrow money to keep the doors open

Why do we consider all of these figures? There are several reasons:
• They reveal the tremendous financial burdens that many live with.
• They reveal the major problem so many face when they think of tithing and/or giving to their church.
• They reveal the few who support the work of the church enjoyed by all.
• They reveal the marital problems caused by financial problems.

Whether you fit into this pattern or not, you can profit from analyzing the situation. All of us can handle our finances more effectively and become better stewards. Perhaps a good beginning is a Bible study of one of the miracles of Jesus, The Feeding of the Five Thousand, found in Mark 6.

Admit there is a problem - Mark 6:34-37
You know the story. Great crowds were following Jesus to see and hear Him. Seeing their needs, Jesus "had compassion on them." It was dinner time and they had no food. There was a problem and the disciples recognized it.

So many today when dealing with finances stick their heads in the sand and refuse to see a problem. Note the following:

Lending institutions have a criteria to determine if one is in danger of debt destruction:
• You pay only bare minimum each month on credit and never pay more than that minimum.
• You make partial payments rather than full.
• You start falling behind on payments shortly after opening an account.
• Your account balance always seems to grow and you cannot seem to pay it off.
• You have periodic bouts of late payments.

All of this says, "I have a problem and I need to deal with it." Good money management is important because if you do not master your money, your money will master you. The result of poor management is:

• You have a burden of debt that is back breaking
• You can't get out of the maze of discouragement, disillusionment and despair.
• You have no hope for savings, retirement, education of children - the future is bleak.
• You cannot support the Lord's work as you want to and as God wants you to.

Lord, help me master my money. I want You to be the center of my life - not money, not debt. I will take positive steps now to control my debt.

For more information on Farmers Branch click here. For an archive of other devotionals from the One to Grow On Campaign, click here.

And since we are on the subject of money, I'll close with a link to one of my favorite personal finance websites, the Simple Dollar - just click here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

How Sweet It Is!

Kim is an incredible cook. Some of my favs include, meatloaf (Kim makes a screaming tasty loaf), savory chicken satay, stuffed pasta shells, and some killer Cajun dirty rice shrimp dish! She loves to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner but she really loves to make yummy desserts! I love her chocolate chip cookies, home made sopapillas, and incredible hamburger cakes. I'm not a huge dessert guy to begin with, but in addition to Kim's homemade desserts, I do enjoy some good ice cream. My favorites are Starbucks Coffee, Blue Bell Vanilla, and Häagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche.

Kim and I just got in from the Northwest football game. We stopped by Starbucks and I got a double espresso. It was so delicious. It made me crave some Dulce de Leche ice cream. Really bad. Then I saw the link below in my Google Reader. It only made it worse. You know that you are craving ice cream bad when you blog about it.

Dulce de Leche Recipe | Dairy | Quick, Delicious, Easy Recipes :

Espresso and Dulce de Leche...

Sweet Dreams!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I Second That Emotion

Those of you that know me are fully aware of my accountant-like, analytical nature and my proclivity to constantly contemplate, measure and calculate between stimulus and response thus making me one not driven by emotions.

(insert your own - "yeah right" here)

Okay, so I'm an emotional guy. I'm not like a "let's watch Oprah and then go chat over chi tea" kinda guy, but I'm not your "I just chopped my hand off with a hatchet so let me duct tape it up, kick a few kittens and then have me a Marlborough" kinda guy either.

The emotions I deal with most are on the excitement end of the spectrum and not the depression end. I get way too fired up about something far more often than I get way too bummed about something. I don't get angry often and rarely (like once every 10 years) do I lose my cool. But I do get impatient, frustrated and definitely discouraged. So when I ran across the following article on emotions I just had to pass it on to you. Check it out here.

And if emotionally, you just can't handle trying to get a handle on your emotions right now, I leave you with a few classic "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handy:

“If I could be a bird, I'd be a Flying Purple People Eater because then people would sing about me and I could fly down and eat them because I hate that song.”

“Once while walking through the mall a guy came up to me and said "Hey, how’s it going?". So I grabbed his arm and twisted it up behind his head and said "Now whose asking the questions?"

“I think a pillow should be the peace symbol, not the dove. The pillow has more feathers than the dove, and it doesn't have a beak to peck you with.”

Monday, October 01, 2007

Blessed Number 13

Luck had nothing to do with it. God has shown me incredible favor!

13 has been my favorite number since I was seven and yet I know many people consider 13 to be an "unlucky" number (and seven to be a "lucky" number). Well regardless of what people may think about 13, today is my 13th wedding anniversary and I'm so excited!!!

My wife Kim is absolutely the most beautiful example of what loving God, following Christ, and being led by the Holy Spirit is supposed to look like in the whole world!

She is:
- Fine (read: smoking hot)
- Funny (read: she fills my days with so much joy)
- Sincere (read: if she says she will pray for you, she will ... a lot)
- Generous (read: "honey, where's my car?" ... "Well I met someone at
Starbucks who needed a
ride ...")
- Godly (read: most every morning the first thing I see is Kim balled up on
the floor on her
knees praying)
- Romantic (read: that. lots of that)
- Compassionate (read: if you hurt and you tell Kim, she hurts)
- Selfless (read: she spoils John, Laura, Emily and most of all me!)

And the list could go on and on and on (read: if you ask me in person why Kim is the most wonderful woman on the planet, you better have packed a lunch!)

On of the coolest parts of our story is that when God gave me a wife He double blessed me with a family at the same time! I will never forget the pure joy I felt as I said, "yes" to Kim and John and Laura on October 1, 1994! Since then, there hasn't been a day that I don't wake up and still can't believe how good God has been to me! And in 2 days, Kim, John, Laura, and I will celebrate God giving Emily to us on October 4, 1996 - yet one more reason to feel so favored!

Every year of the past 13 has been wonderful. I'm sure there have been some tough times and yet I can't remember one completely bad day. We don't have a perfect marriage and we are always praying to grow together and closer to God every day. But we have an incredible marriage! One that has defied the odds and been sweeter than either of us could ever imagined! We are still crazy in love with one another, deeply committed to one another, and forever grateful for one another.

I love you Kim! Always have. Always will. Forever. Thank you for 13 blessed years of marital bliss! I'm praying for a minimum of 37 more!

And God, I love you too! I know that a gift this excellent could only come from you! Thank you for being the Author of our story, the Savior of our lives, and the King of this world!

You have shown me incredible favor. Luck had nothing to do with it!