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28 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Financial Health | Day 42 | Transformed

Verse

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.

Proverbs 13:11

Devotional

In his book The Millionaire Mind, Dr. Thomas J. Stanley studied the habits of several hundred individuals with a net worth of at least $10 million. He really wanted to find out what makes the typical millionaire tick and uncover any common characteristics that contributed to their wealth. As he examined the results of his interviews and surveys, Stanley found a definite connection between personal integrity and financial success. In fact, he ranked integrity as a prime predictor of wealth potential – even higher than an individual’s chosen business or industry.

In other words, integrity matters! The reason so many people struggle with building wealth is that they also struggle with integrity. They lack a basic commitment to honesty. That’s a strong statement. In fact, it may be so strong that you think it doesn’t apply to you. But if you’re breathing and if your heart is beating, you have wrestled with being completely truthful at one time or another – and some of those struggles probably had something to do with money. Simply put, there are two ways to make money and build wealth. You can rely on dishonesty, or you can stay completely committed to integrity. In Proverbs 13:11, Solomon drew a sharp contrast between the two.

Dishonest money may seem to come more easily, but it never lasts. It dwindles away like sand running through our fingers. But honest money, gained through hard work and investment over time, grows. It provides security – not to mention a clear conscience.

Next Step

Integrity matters – in your finances and in every other part of your life – because a moral breakdown is not a victimless crime. Dishonesty will deeply wound you and those around you. Unless you hold yourself to an ultra-high standard, you will walk through life with an emotional and spiritual limp.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to correct course. If you’ve skimped on integrity in the past, now’s the time to come clean – to yourself, to others and to God. Repair that chink in your armor today. Remember, integrity matters!

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27 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Financial Health | Day 41 | Transformed

Verse

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Proverbs 15:22

Devotional

On the first day of every year, people make resolutions about how things are going to be different this time around. Unfortunately, few of those resolutions ever make it to January 7.  For example, polls consistently tell us that two of the top resolutions involve losing weight and managing money. But every year, the results are the opposite of what we hoped for: Our waistlines get bigger, and our net worths gets smaller!

To be honest, resolutions are a joke! We know life would be better without extra pounds and credit cards, but we just can’t say no. Why can’t we follow through with our January 1 resolutions? Because without teeth, resolutions are nothing more than wishes we make to ourselves. We can give them teeth by sharing them with someone else. It’s called accountability, and it’s one of the most powerful motivators for change you can imagine. In Proverbs 15:22, Solomon challenged his readers to build accountability into their lives. He understood that the worst crashes often happen when we’re flying solo. We can make a lot of plans, but the chances of failure increase when we try to go it alone.

On the other hand, “many advisers” (otherwise known as accountability partners) lead to success. When we are willing to hear and heed the advice of others, we can prevent a landslide of future headaches.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we let someone else run our lives or that we have to follow through with every suggestion. But it does mean that we let others speak into our lives and – for a moment, at least – entertain the idea that we don’t know everything about every situation. We’re teachable.

Next Step

Who are some people you trust? Family members, lifelong friends, pastors, fellow church members, leaders and co-workers can all serve as guides for your money questions. Find a few key people and let them help you reach your financial goals.

Don’t set yourself up for failure. Accountability is biblical … and it works!

Handling money can be tricky, but the good news is you don’t have to do it alone.

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26 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Financial Health | Day 40 | Transformed

Verse

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger…Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

Proverbs 6:1,5

Devotional

How much do you know about gazelles? I never really gave them much thought – until I read Proverbs 6 one day in my quiet time. If the Bible offers a way to escape debt, I want to know the secret! Wouldn’t you? But how does this answer focus on gazelles? It can be a little confusing.

There was a documentary on TV, and guess what showed up? Gazelles! Of course, you know the gazelles weren’t out there all alone! Before long, Mr. Cheetah showed up looking for lunch.

The cheetah sprang into the clearing, and the gazelles took off in 14 different directions. Now, a gazelle can’t outrun the world’s fastest land animal, but it can zigzag around long enough to wear him out. And that’s exactly what happened. Cheetahs rarely win these races. Because the gazelle is so focused on doing whatever it takes to survive, the cheetah only catches it about once in every 19 attempts. That’s intensity! That documentary helped me understand the gazelle reference in Proverbs 6:5. The only real way to beat debt is to be intense! You’ve got to work hard. You’ve got to fight for survival. You’ve got to run for your life!

Next Step

The truth is, you will never wander out of debt. You won’t stroll out. It won’t happen by accident. You only get out if you set your eyes on the goal and attack your debt with gazelle intensity!

We all need a plan for our money and that is why Financial Peace University (FPU) is offered to teach people how to handle money God’s ways. If you are interested in getting gazelle intense and learning how to get rid of debt, manage your money, and spend and save wisely ask your HOME Group Leader how to get connect to the next FPU course being offered.

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25 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Financial Health | Day 39 | Transformed

Verse

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Proverbs 22:7

Devotional

After nearly three decades of talking to people about money, Dave Ramsey figured something out. If you tell a lie loud enough and long enough, people will begin to believe it’s true. Even if they know in their hearts that the myth is complete bunk, they’ll live as if it’s real.

These days, there’s a big myth that’s fooling a lot of people. It’s the myth that debt is an effective part of their financial plan. Credit has been marketed to us so effectively that most people think they can’t live without it. They think it’s a good thing, a necessary thing. And they think anyone who lives without debt must be crazy!

Well, I’ve been called crazy before, and I’m okay with that. When it comes to debt, I don’t want to be normal. And I’m in pretty good company because King Solomon – who knew a lot about money and wealth – felt the same way.

In Proverbs 22:7, he was adamant about avoiding debt. Why? Because he understood what so many people today totally miss: Debt enslaves us! The Bible says that the borrower is slave to the lender. That’s pretty strong language, but it’s totally on target. Think about it.  A slave can’t give because he doesn’t have anything. He can’t go where he wants to go or do what he wants to do because he always has a master calling the shots. That’s exactly how it feels when you’re up to your eyeballs in debt. Hey, why do you think they call it MasterCard?

Next Step

Solomon knew what he was talking about. This guy was the wisest man who ever lived! He didn’t use the word “slave” by accident, and he wasn’t being overly dramatic. He was just showing us what debt really is: a cruel master.

If you feel like debt is enslaving you, don’t wait any longer. You can do something about it today. Talk to your HOME Group Leader about getting more information about Financial Peace University (FPU)

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24 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Financial Health | Day 38 | Transformed

Verse

The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.

Proverbs 21:20

Devotional

Going bankrupt was a wake-up call for Dave Ramsey. He had enjoyed a lot of nice stuff, but lost it all because of his lack of discipline. So when he was forced to start over from scratch, he decided to do things differently the second time around.

One thing he decided to do was to learn the habits of wealthy people. He figured that if he wanted to be wealthy, it only made sense to learn (and do) what wealthy people do.

Over the past couple of decades, he spent time with millionaires and billionaires. He picked their brains and tried to understand how they built and maintained wealth. What he found is that the principle behind Proverbs 21:20 really does work in real life. Wise people do have enough when they need it because they plan for emergencies. But fools really do spend all they have – and more – as soon as they get it.

For example, he found that many wealthy people don’t live like wealthy people. Instead of flaunting their money, they adopt upper-middle-class lifestyles. Some even live lower middle-class lifestyles – and they don’t suffer from it a bit! They just keep doing what got them there in the first place.

One of the most basic things they do is save. Instead of chasing a lot of extravagant toys, they continue putting money aside. They keep using the power of compound interest to build wealth. They always think about creating security for the future.

In contrast, many people are like he was before he went bankrupt in his 20s. They don’t have the discipline to do even the simple things like saving money. Instead of becoming wealthy by doing what wealthy people do, they stay broke by doing what broke people do!

Next Step

On the budget forms his company provides, the first line item is “Giving” because we wantyou to honor God first. But the second line item is “Saving” because we want you to pay yourself before you pay anyone else.

Wise people save money. It’s a basic, crystal-clear biblical principle. And if you spend every dime that passes through your fingers, then guess what?

You’re a fool! Don’t blame me – God said it!

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23 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Financial Health | Day 37 | Transformed

Verse

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

Proverbs 16:9

Devotional

The late Zig Ziglar used to say, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” This quote is a great reminder about the importance of planning. You can settle for breezing through life with no plan, but you’ll end up going nowhere. Anything of substance in life requires some careful thought ahead of time.

Jesus taught a similar lesson when He talked about discipleship in Luke 14:28 – 30. He said no one building a tower would move forward on construction without sitting down to “count the cost.” After all, quitting halfway because the resources dried up would make the builder a laughingstock. The foundation for his tower would become a monument to his incompetence. What Jesus emphasized about discipleship – evaluating your situation and planning for the costs – works for money too. Planning ahead is at the heart of success. For personal finances, that means telling your cash what to do each month by creating a zero based budget.

Creating a budget shouldn’t be some calm, casual afterthought. You need to let your money know who’s the boss. You need to sit down with your pencil, paper and calculator and make those dollars dance! For a zero-based budget, take all your income and assign it to a budget category. Every single dollar should have a name and a job to do – and don’t forget savings!  The goal is to make your income minus your outgo equal zero. If you’re over or under, goback and tweak the math until you hit that magic number: zero!

Next Step

As a believer, there’s another part of budgeting that you can’t ignore. The money you manage really isn’t your money. It’s God’s money. So He needs to have the final say on what goes where. Solomon said “a man’s heart plans his way.” We get that. We all have hopes and dreams, values and passions. But he also said that God should be the One directing our steps. That means every plan – and every budget – we make should be filtered through Him.

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22 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Financial Health | Day 36 | Transformed

Verse

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds

Proverbs 27:23

Devotional

Pretend for a minute that you started a company called YOU, Inc., and it’s your job to manage every cent that passes through the company. If you managed money for YOU, Inc., the same way you manage money for you now, would you fire you?

Ouch! That’s a tough question, but it’s necessary. That’s because you really are charged with handling important finances. You may not be the CFO of a huge company, but you are responsible for managing the money God’s entrusted to you—and that’s even more important!

So how do you make sure YOU, Inc., stays on solid financial footing? First, you’ve got to know your stuff! See, money is active. It’s always moving, always flowing from one thing to another. That makes it really hard to manage, but you’ve got to take control. Money always flows away from those who don’t manage it and toward those who do. The biggest part of managing it is simply knowing what you have and what you’re doing with it. Proverbs 27:23 challenge us to “know the state of [our] flocks.” In ancient days, flocks and herds were a common currency. They were the measure of personal wealth and the foundation for a family inheritance. Individuals who wanted to build wealth knew all there was to know about their stuff.

It’s no different today. If you want to experience financial peace, you’ve got to learn to manage what you have. You’ve got to build a zero-based budget on paper, on purpose, at the start of every month. You’ve got to get out of debt. You’ve got to build a three- to six month emergency fund that keeps you out of “crisis mode.” You’ve got to save and invest now so you can be secure in the future.

Next Step

Money is sort of like a thoroughbred horse. When it’s properly trained, it combines beauty and power like few things on earth. But left on its own, it becomes wild—even dangerous. Know the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds. If you don’t manage your money, the lack of money will always manage you!

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21 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Relational Health | Day 35 | Transformed

Verse

Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

John 1:38-39

Devotional

Never one to be splashy, Jesus launched his public ministry with simple words of invitation and instruction. His initiating question touched deeply the heart of humanity’s longing: “What do you want?” The fishermen are stunned; unable to articulate their yearning, they are compelled enough to know that Jesus has the answer. And so they drop their nets, accepting His radical invitation: “Come, and you will see.”

As the disciples followed, they watched Jesus engage the mess. He did not walk wide of human pain and brokenness, poverty and need. He stepped into it: dining with the despised, conversing with the outcast, challenging the complacent. Full of grace and truth, He reached into the fray, went to the cross, and shattered the chains of death. In His sacrifice, the work of redemption and the hope of restoration are unleashed.

Next Step

In those years, the disciples did see: truth revealed, forgiveness offered, love manifested.  Jesus concluded his public ministry with simple words of invitation and instruction: “Wait… and you will receive power” to “be my witnesses.”

Just as our God is the same from generation to generation, so are His invitations and instructions. May we have the heart to respond and the courage to follow well.

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20 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Relational Health | Day 34 | Transformed

Verse

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

Hebrews 12:1

Devotional

The Bible contains a wealth of vivid word pictures. These earthly analogies help us discover spiritual realities. Given the current popularity of 5K runs, marathons, and other races, this running metaphor seems especially timely. There are so many parallels. People who get into running find it exhilarating. They eagerly and faithfully train. It makes them healthier. They develop strong friendships with other runners. All these benefits are also true as we run our race of faith.

This passage in Hebrews stresses the importance of endurance over speed or being at the front of the pack. In the spiritual world, endurance is valued above all else. Yet, consider this, nearly three thousand people are mentioned in the Bible. Among them, there are far more poor examples than good. In fact, only about one-third of them finished their “race” strong. Of those who failed, most did so in the last half of life. For those of us who have been “running with Jesus” for many years this is an especially cautionary fact. Triumph only comes from crossing the finish line.

Next Step

The running metaphor is central to another interesting comment in Galatians 5:7: “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” In sports, some players are rough. They shove and trip others; they don’t play fair. Life is also like that at times. Still, great runners just focus on the finish line regardless. Go for the prize. Run for the finish.

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19 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Relational Health | Day 33 | Transformed

Verse

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 1:27-28

Devotional

Poverty is much deeper than physical, economic or sociological need. You know the brokenness of our world does not merely affect the economically underprivileged. After all, observing the plight of the poor doesn’t just give us a dispassionate ‘to do’ list of chores we might want to get to one day. The plight of the poor stirs a passion that is more intense than a simple sense of urgency. The passion to fight injustice reaches deep down into our core.  Why is that?

The Bible tells us that we were created to fill, rule, and subdue the earth as divine image bearers. We are made to tend to the world, ensuring that it stays the way God wanted it. This goes to the heart of not only who we are, but, perhaps even more importantly, what we are for. We were not created to force our own character and values on the universe – that would be to bear our own image instead of the divine image. We were created to fill, rule, and subdue the universe with the love and justice of our Triune God. And when we encounter a world that does not reflect His character, we know deep down that we are not dealing with someone else’s problem.

Next Step

Our God is not a God that leaves us in our brokenness. Let us look first for our own redemption, and then for the redemption of every other aspect of Creation that does not accurately reflect its Creator’s character until He returns and completes the good work that He began and called us to join—for His Glory and for our good.

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18 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Relational Health | Day 32 | Transformed

Verse

See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.

Exodus 31:2-5

Devotional

As Moses filled pages with instructions for the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle and other holy articles, he must have wondered how those items would be built.  The task that God detailed was extremely complex, demanding a very specific talent and skill set. However, when He had finished laying out the blueprints, God directed Moses to give the task to a person He already had in mind. In Exodus 31:2-3, He tells Moses He has empowered Bazael, “filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship,” to build the Ark.

Sometimes, like with Gideon, God calls us into greatness we feel ill prepared for. Other times, as with Bezalel, God calls us to use the tools He has already given for the good works He has prepared in advance. He didn’t call Bezalel to be a prophet or a priest. He called him by name to be what he already was: a skilled artisan.

Next Step

God had specifically gifted and inspired Bezalel in preparation for a holy responsibility. Similarly, God has given us each unique knowledge and experience. He calls us each to use those gifts, whatever they may be, in service of His Kingdom. Today, reflect on the ways God has gifted you, and ask the Spirit how He wants you to use them.

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17 February 2015 ~ Comments Off

Relational Health | Day 31 | Transformed

Verse

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Devotional

It seems we are always looking for God to lead and direct us, but it is often so hard to know where we should go. In Chapter 30, Isaiah begins by warning the people of Jerusalem that they have gone their own way and ignored God. But, in verse 18, He tells them that the Lord will wait for them, and show His love and compassion towards them. Then Isaiah says, “Right behind you a voice will say, ‘this is the way you should go.’”

When I think about this, if I am walking forward and a voice behind me says, “go this way,” that is not very helpful because I don’t know which way the voice means. Shouldn’t He be in front of me telling me this?

What I believe Isaiah is saying in this passage is that God is telling the people of Jerusalem not to worry about the future, and not to focus their attention on what lies ahead of them.  Instead, they are to focus on how God has always delivered them in the past. In a sense, they are walking backwards and trusting God to direct their steps.

Next Step

As His people, we should walk in this same way: looking to the past, walking backward into the future, listening for God’s voice “behind us,” and following it as He directs us in the way we should go. He is always faithful.

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