Money and Marriage: Improve Yours Today

Do you and your husband fight about money?  Is it a constant source of stress and tension in your life?  This used to be the case with my husband and I, but thanks to some strategies we’ve learned, not only are we unified in how we manage our money, our marriage in general has improved.  If you have these same goals for your marriage, there’s a good chance that as the wife, change has to start with you.  Why?  I heard a woman say one time that “The husband is the head of the household, but the wife is the neck, and we all know that the neck is what turns the head.” 

This saying was meant to be a joke, but there is some truth to it.  We as Christian wives are called by God to let our husbands lead our families (Eph. 5:22-33).  But this can be a hard command to follow when a wife feels like her husband is not acting in the best interest of the family, but only out of his own best interests.  It’s tempting in these cases to feel as if we, as the wives, have to take over that leadership role so that the family will be protected from the selfish ways of our husbands.

But I’ve learned a couple of secrets after nearly 17 years of marriage:

1.  A husband who truly knows in his heart that his wife loves him unconditionally and is choosing to be second in command (i.e., “Honey, what do you think we should do about this?”) will eventually gravitate toward that leadership role as his confidence increases.  This won’t happen overnight, but as he sees, continuously, that he can trust his wife with his heart and his love, he will open up to her and gain the confidence he needs to learn to lead his family.  The more he feels that encouragement, love and complete support from you, his wife (and from the children as you encourage them to honor and obey their dad), the more he will have the courage to love his family in return and lead them in a Godly way.

2.  A couple that chooses to work together on their finances, each compromising to reach an agreeable way of managing money, will learn to make money (and other) decisions that will benefit the family instead of tear it down.

Consider the results of this study conducted by Utah State University, entitled “When Fights Over Money Ruin Marriages”:

Utah State University professor Jeffrey Dew authored a widely cited study that concluded that couples who argue about finances at least once a week are 30% more likely to divorce than those who only vent occasionally about money issues. Couples with no assets were 70% more likely to divorce compared to couples with assets of $10,000.

It can be said, then, that if you and your husband choose to sit down together, make a plan that pleases both of you (yes, you will have to compromise) and stick to that plan, you’ve just cut your chances of divorce by 30%.

How to make that plan?  By gently encouraging your husband to work together toward a better financial life.  By being the neck that encourages, suggests, and supports the husband as he works toward leading your family and your finances.  Here are some tips:

1.  Sit down together and assess your current situation.  Warning: this may not be fun.  According to CNN Money the average American household with at least one credit card has $15,950 in credit card debt.  But you must both agree and choose not to fight as you sit down and look at the numbers on paper.  There’s no sense fighting about something that’s already happened.  If you’re in a situation where hubby doesn’t know how bad your money situation is, be prepared for him to be angry when he hears the numbers, then work on a solution.

2.  Make a list of each of your money goals and dreams.  I’m not talking about pipe dreams here, I’m talking about the dreams and goals you have that will allow both of you to sleep at night.  Pipe dreams will come later.  But talk with your husband about  what you would like your money situation to be like, based on the reality of your current income, and listen to his dreams as well.  Then, decide which goals are more important for the survival of your family.  For instance, if your debt load is sucking the life out of your husband, then you should have a common goal to get rid of that debt as soon as possible, even if it means a great amount of sacrifice for a few years.  Hubby’s peace of mind trumps your dream of a trip to Paris.  Get out of debt, then plan for that trip to Paris.

3.  List those goals in order of importance and make a plan for how to get there.  Yes, this plan, if it’s a solid one, will include tracking all spending and budgeting how much you spend in each area, every month.  These two steps are crucial to a solid financial life.  But this also means that instead of spending willy-nilly on entertainment each month, that you’ll need to agree on a set amount for the family, plan how you’ll spend that amount, and, most importantly, stick to the plan.

Be prepared: if you’ve never lived on a budget before, this will be hard.  But as you watch your debt diminish, your savings increase, and your marriage thrive, it will indeed become easier as each month rolls along.

4.  Monitor your plan.  Possibly the most important part of success here is meeting weekly, or monthly, to go over the previous period’s income and spending, in order to have accountability to each other and to make sure you’re still both on track.  An allowance of discretionary spending for both husband and wife is also crucial in marriages where there is money issues.   Each spouse has to have a small amount of money each month that they can spend as they will.  Put this as part of your budget, then monitor that budget by meeting together to discuss it.  When you sit down together to monitor your progress and uncover mistakes, you learn to work together and lift each other up, improving both your marriage and your money.

Money does not have to be a problem in your marriage.  Work together with your husband to focus on goals that do much more than satisfy your need for immediate gratification.  Instead, choose goals that will increase your happiness, reduce your stress and strengthen your marriage and family for many years to come.

The Message That Will Change Your Life

It was only midway through the week, and I had already reached my breaking point.  I was just plain tired.  Tired of doing laundry, of caring for the kids, of homeschooling, blogging – tired of every single thing I did every day.  I had had enough.  I had a wonderful life, but I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I didn’t understand why.

So I went up to my room, and I cried – again.  I had just heard a wonderful sermon on how self-centeredness is the root of all grief.  I knew that me thinking about myself was a big part of the problem, but I didn’t know why, or how to get rid of it.

You see, I wasn’t a self-centered person in the traditional way: I spend my days, intentionally and purposefully and eagerly caring for others.  I want it that way.  Self-centeredness wasn’t plaguing me in the traditional “I’m going to do whatever I want” way.  Instead, it was plaguing me in an entirely different way.

In my younger years, my teens and twenties, I went through some pretty rough stuff.  My parents divorced, which was extremely difficult for me.  The next almost two decades were spent with me searching desperately for the acceptance I felt I had lost when my parents divorced.  I got into, at age 14, an abusive relationship.  My-older-than-me boyfriend would beat me, assault me and threaten to take my life for 3 of the 4 years we were together.  What followed after I finally broke free of that relationship was a plethora of bad decisions that led to a lot of people hurting me, both physically and emotionally.  I won’t share all of that now, for time’s sake, but suffice to say it’d make a great book some day.

But the problem was that although my life was good now, I had a whole big bunch of sadness and grief stored up inside of me from all that I had experienced in those years, and no matter how many counselors and prayer ministers I saw, no matter how much I talked it out with the Lord or anyone else, no matter how many books on healing emotionally I read, I couldn’t make it go away.

So as I pondered the message I had heard that day on self-centeredness, I cried out to the Lord, “Please show me how to make it go away, Lord.  I don’t know how.  I don’t want to be thinking about this stuff anymore but I can’t make it stop hurting.”

Here’s what happened next: On the sermon that I had heard that day, the minister happened to mention his prayer line number, which he rarely, if ever, had mentioned before in all of the sermons that I had watched of his, and there were hundreds.  Figuring this must be a sign, I called for prayer, briefly explained the problem, and the wonderful gal, Selena was her name, talked with me, comforted me, shared a personal story with me about overcoming fear, and then prayed with me.

On the phone, I didn’t feel anything spectacular, although I did feel a bit better when I hung up.  But it was after I hung up the phone that the Lord spoke to me:

Laurie, you’ve been trying to earn my love, and the love of those around you.  But what you don’t understand is that you already have my love, and that my love for you is so grand, so all-encompassing, that if you’ll understand it and accept it, that it will negate any other needs you have in your life.  This revelation will free you from the need to obtain love from others, but instead, get your focus on loving others like I love you.  This will automatically draw them toward you, and them loving you back is an extra blessing, but even if they don’t, My love for you is so grand that it won’t hurt you if someone else rejects you. 

The Lord was showing me what He meant when He said 1 John 4:18 that “perfect love casts out fear”.  Immediately, for the first time in three plus decades, the pressure was lifted off of my chest, and I just didn’t care anymore.  Not in a bad way, but in a “My God loves me just as I am” kind of a way.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I had a peaceful heart.  I spent the evening with my family, went to bed and woke up refreshed, again for the first time in over 30 years.

As I went downstairs the next morning to pray, I pondered all that had happened the day before, and the Lord gave me a life-changing revelation.  He said:

The revelation of My love for people is the key to getting them to not sin.  You see, all sin comes from a need to feel loved, to feel happy, to feel accepted.  But once people get the revelation of my great love for them out of their heads and down into their hearts, they no longer look to satisfy themselves, whether through people or through things, because they are already satisfied.  It’s at that point that not sinning isn’t about wanting to please Me or do well, but instead, not sinning is about not needing to sin because you are loved and you know it.  You feel it.  And you receive it. And you don’t need anything else. 

People have a great misunderstanding of God’s character.  They don’t understand His grand goodness and His desire for us to have a GOOD life because that’s not how things work in the world.  In the world, in every single thing we do, man judges us on a performance basis, giving you good when you “deserve” good, and evil when you “deserve” evil.  People spend much time trying to earn God’s love, subconciously usually, and they get it wrong almost every time, because they think that they can earn themselves out of trouble, or worse yet, that if God wants to inflict harm or bad things on His people, that’s His right and they have no say in the matter.  They go to church, they volunteer, they “be good” in order to please God, but they cannot please God in this way because even in our goodness, we are wretched in His sight because He is so holy.  God is only good, and He wants only good for His people, no matter what your preacher or anybody else may tell you.  But NOTHING we could ever do could make us not wretched in His sight because His holiness is so grand and His goodness is so big.  Nothing but Jesus, that is.

With Jesus, we’ve won the lottery, so to speak.  When Jesus came, died on the cross and rose again, the first thing He did before He sat down at the right hand of the Father was that He put a permanent pair of rose-colored glass on God.  God now sees people through the lens of Jesus, His perfect Son.  No matter what you do, or don’t do, God is so pleased with you He cannot contain Himself.  His love for you is so overwhelming that, if you choose to receive this all-encompassing love, it can allow you to conquer every problem you’ve ever had.  And at that point, you almost automatically love others with the love of Christ, thereby spreading the message of salvation simply with your actions, effortlessly, because you have allowed yourself to be filled up with His grand love for you!

The problem here is that we often won’t receive that grand love because we think that we don’t deserve it.  Notice how many “we’s” there were in that last statement? Self-centeredness is indeed the root of all grief.

So, how do you get this grand revelation of God’s great love for you down into your heart?  Get yourself into the Word and into spending time with God.  Talk with Him, share with Him.  One of the other things that the Lord told me throughout all of this is that He doesn’t command us to read the Word in order that we may gain “points” with Him.  He has us read and study the Word because once we understand the Word in its entirety, it will bless us by showing us how to live in the blessings that He has for people.  Most people read the Word and only understand that God gets angry, and they think it’s because the disobedience of the people offends God.  But although He does command our respect, that’s not the total issue here - mostly, it frustrates God because He has to watch His people create a life of hell on earth for themselves because they’re  not following the map.  God LOVES us and planned a life of blessing for us, but we keep screwing it up by not following the map, and hurting ourselves and all of those around us, and that’s what frustrates God, not the fact that we are “dissing” Him.  God’s big enough and strong enough and powerful enough to take being “dissed”.  But it hurts Him to the core to see His beloved creation suffer.  Once we get the revelation that God wants us to follow His ways because He LOVES us, the entire game of life changes, for the better!

Get Out of Debt Now: Why and How

Many of us have been living lives where debt is the norm for so long that we’ve just become accustomed to it, and the dangers of debt no longer ring a caution bell in our spirits.  Regardless of whether or not we think the debt we have is a danger, the danger is still there.  I felt impressed today to go over some of the benefits of starting the road to debt freedom.  Why should you start today?  Here are a few reasons:

1.  Debt causes physical and emotional stress.  Being in bondage to your house or your bills causes real physical and emotional damage to your body.  WebMD, in its report on The Debt-Stress Connection, tells us that “Those who report high levels of debt stress suffer from a range of stress-related illnesses including ulcers, migraines, back pain, anxiety, depression, and heart attacks.”

The report also tells us that stress activates our “fight or flight” system, causing your heart to race, your pupils to dilate, and your body to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.

Since debt is not a “one-time thing” like a bear attack, your fight or flight system in regards to debt can be activated several times a day.  Imagine the havoc this is placing on your heart, brain and immune system.

2.  Debt places undue stress on marriages and other relationships.  If we’re constantly worried about how we’re going to pay the bills or feed our family, let’s face it: we’re not going to have nearly the amount of patience or love in our hearts that we need to have to preserve our marriages and families.  Worry is a major producer of fear and anger.  When we live in debt, we’re often in a state of worry, hoping and praying that the car doesn’t break down or the dryer doesn’t go out, and this added stress most certainly spreads to those we love.

3.  Debt takes you away from your true calling; spreading the love and the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That’s our purpose here, if we want to get real about it, but how can we focus on spreading the love and salvation of Jesus if we’re spending all of our hours working for “the man”?  Matthew 6:24 assures us that “You cannot serve both God and mammon (money).

Great, Laurie, you might say.  All good points, but the debt is ALREADY HERE.  How do we get out?

Praise God, He’s given me some answers to this too!

1.  Go to God.  When we first got to the point of “being sick and tired of being sick and tired”, as Dave Ramsey says in “The Total Money Makeover“, we were in a hole so deep that it looked like there was no way out.  With only our necessary bills, we were $1,000 in the hole every single month.  It seemed pointless to bother trying.

When we went to God, though, with a sold-out desire to get out of bondage to man so we could better serve Him, He gave us a new kind of wisdom.  He showed us, and continues to show us, ways to decrease our spending, increase our income and manage our money.

A perfect example:  At the beginning of our debt-freedom journey, our oldest daughter needed new shoes – her one pair of tennis shoes were too small.  We had like, I don’t know, $8 to our name.  I grabbed the coupon envelope and headed to the store.  I went to the clearance rack, and with the discount coupon we had, got our daughter tennis shoes, new tennis shoes, for $1.78!

There have been countless other times when we’ve needed something that God has gotten it for us at pennies on the dollar.  He truly will bless your efforts when you are seeking Him first.  Sometimes the instructions He gives you might not make sense, but if you learn to drown out your own voice with His wisdom and instruction, your road to debt freedom will pick up some huge speed.

2.  Choose to be committed.  It won’t work any other way.  Getting out of debt has to be more important that any other thing in your life (spending-wise) or it will not work.  It’s that simple.  If you really want out, choose the path that will get you out.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t budget a small amount for fun – fun is necessary for survival in your path to debt freedom.  You will, however, have to make some hard choices about cutting things that you may see as necessities that really are not necessary at all.  The house, the sports for the kids, the trips to the salon, they may have to go for awhile.  The survival and sucess of your family depends on it.

3.  Focus on the benefits.  Write them down.  What will debt freedom mean for your family?  What will it mean when you no longer have to count your pennies to buy groceries?  When things that used to be “emergencies”, like a broken water heater, are no big deal?  When new clothes and dinner out are fun instead of scary?  When you get to take vacations with your family?

The world is headed down a path of destruction that is causing havoc for everyone around.  Choose today to get off the road of slavery to your money and your job.   The library is full of great books on how the process works.  Go to God and start your road to debt freedom today.  I know you’ll be glad you did!

Have a story to share or a question?  Leave a comment. 

 

God’s Will or Satan’s Plan: Part 2

Welcome back for part 5 of our Moving Mountains series, based on my book, “Moving Mountains: Keys to Prayer that Works.”  I talked last time about the difference between God’s will and Satan’s plan.  Today, we’ll discuss how you can tell the difference between the two, and what steps you can take to thwart the attacks of the Enemy. Continue reading

Your Authority as a Believer, Part 2

This is the third part in a series based on my e-book, Moving Mountains: Keys to Prayer that Works . (Also available in paperback).  In that book, I talk about what the Bible says about the power of prayer, and how we, as believers, can tap into that power.  We left off last time with an assignment for you to study the 4 gospels and read the article I had linked up about the Believer’s Authority.  Andrew Wommack tells us in that article that: Continue reading

Do You Have Assurance of Salvation?

As I work to study people and their view of Jesus, I generally come across three types of views that people have regarding themselves and their salvation:

1.  Those who love Jesus but seriously doubt their salvation.

2.  Those who don’t doubt that they’re saved but should.

3.  Those who humbly and gratefully receive and acknowledge their salvation.

I’m feeling led today to talk a bit about these three views, and dispel some myths that people may have regarding salvation in general.  Let’s start with that first view.

I Love Jesus, But How Could He Possibly Want Me?

I see this view of salvation often, and at one point suffered from it myself.  People with this view often really do love Jesus, and they truly want to be saved, but they doubt that they could ever be worthy enough that God would accept them.

Well, guess what: you’re not worthy enough.  Wait: let me re-phrase that.  You are worthy enough – well worth it, in fact – but not because of yourself or anything that you’ve done.  You see, people with this viewpoint often doubt their salvation because of a sinful past.  They are well aware of the sometimes horrific sins they’ve committed, are suffering with guilt and self-condemnation because of them, and therefore assume that God could never, ever want anything to do with them, especially having them live forever in a perfectly beautiful eternity alongside Him.

People with this view, however, misunderstand how salvation occurs.  There is no checklist of rights and wrongs, and those with more checks on the “right” side get in, and vice versa.  I talk more about this in my book, Moving Mountains: Keys to Prayer that Works, but I’ll give you a brief summary here.

The opportunity for salvation arose not because of what you did, but because of what Jesus did.  Yes, you have a part to do, but Jesus is the one through whom salvation occurs.  Jesus’ choice to follow through with His Father’s instructions to die on the cross and be raised from the dead is what allowed salvation to occur in the first place.  You see, Jesus’ sacrifice was a game-changer.  That one event now allows God to see you through the rose-colored glasses of His perfect Son:  Jesus Christ.

One of my roadblocks to being assured of salvation was that I thought my past sins were too terrible to possibly be forgiven for.  As I sat one night, lamenting over this issue, the Lord spoke to my heart.  He said:

Are you saying that My beloved Son’s death and resurrection on the cross isn’t enough? That it isn’t good enough to wipe away your sins?

I was shocked, stunned and humbled beyond belief.  I had never looked at it that way before!  You see, my focus was on me, when it should have been on Jesus.  Salvation was possible for me, and is possible for you, because of what Jesus did, not because of what we didn’t do or did do.

So if you’re struggling with wondering if you are worthy of salvation because of how “rotten” you are, don’t.  Just know that, because of Jesus, God sees you as His perfect, beloved child.

Of Course I’m Saved!

However, there’s another side to this coin: the person who, though they “believe” in Jesus Christ, they are not walking how He calls us to walk, yet they are entirely confident that they’re “in”, often simply because they’re “good people.”

Let me tell you something about the “I’m a good person” theory: Mother Teresa herself would have gone to hell, good works and all, had she not made Jesus Christ the Lord of her life.

Yeah, I know you’re in shock and disbelief right now that I would even say such a thing, but it’s true.

This point – the one about :good people” going to hell too, is a hot button with unbelievers.  They don’t understand how a “supposedly good God” would “send” decent people to hell. Well, let me help explain that for you.

First of all, what is good?  Look at the “good” people in your life.  Maybe they haven’t murdered someone or robbed a bank, but have they stolen office supplies at work?  Eaten grapes at the grocery store as they walked through the aisles?  Have they gossiped about someone?  Have they lost their temper and gotten angry?  Have they ever thought lustfully about another person that wasn’t their spouse?  Have they ever selfishly put their needs and wants before those of their spouse?  Have they ever been mean to another person?

All of these sins, in God’s eyes, are just as bad as murder and robbery.  We often compare ourselves to people “worse” than us, but try comparing yourself to a God and to a Jesus Christ who have never, ever, not once, committed a single sin, and you’ll find that you fall FAR short of being “good”.  In fact, Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  That means me, and that means you, and those assuming that they’re “in” based on their own good deeds or lack of bad deeds are in serious danger of going to hell, because a heart that thinks it’s “good enough” on its own accord to enter into eternal life alongside a perfect God is a heart that has serious pride issues.

I’m not saying this to condemn anyone.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  It breaks our Lord’s heart that people, because of the deception of pride, end up in hell.  God wants no one in hell except Satan and the demons that chose to take Satan’s side.

1 Timothy 2:4 tells us that God “desires all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

What is that truth?  It’s the truth that, on our own accord, we are not good people.  But with Jesus, we are perfect in His sight.

“But, I do believe in Jesus.”  Well, that’s nice, but even Satan believes in Jesus, and he’s bound to hell forever.

So what do you have to do to be saved?  Most all of us know what John 3:16 says:

For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

However, the Bible needs to be taken in its entirety.  So for more clarification on salvation, let’s go to 1 Corinthians 15:1-2.  Here, Paul tells us:

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

Believing in vain means that you “believe” the word, but don’t hold fast to the instructions in it.

One who wants assurance of salvation must make Jesus the Lord of their life.  In other words, that person “seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” instead of seeking first their own wants and desires.

When I look at the so-called body of Christ, I don’t see a whole lot of people seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  I see them acting a lot like the “world” and yet coasting on what they assume is their salvation because they go to church every week.

Again, I’m not saying this to condemn anyone, but simply to give the body of Christ a huge wake-up call.  Going to church every Sunday and taking a part in a few – or even a lot – of ministries will NOT – I repeat: will NOT get you into heaven.

God does not condemn us to hell: we choose hell by rejecting Jesus Christ and His Father, God Almighty.  You can’t plan a trip to Florida, but refuse to look at the map and head to New York, and then be angry with the mapmaker when you end up in New York instead of Florida, where you really wanted to go.

Does that kind of a plan make sense? No, it doesn’t, but this is what the majority of people do.

Instead of letting God lead them and letting Him love them and guide them onto the best path for their lives, they reject God and choose their own way, which, by default, is Satan’s way.  Then they’re angry at God because they’re on a path to hell.  If you want to get to heaven, then take the road to heaven.  It’s that simple. But God won’t force anyone to take that road: this is the concept of free will.

You can’t choose God one day a week and then choose Satan’s path the other six and assume that you’re “in”.  That’s kind of like meeting with the person you’re having an affair with one day a week but thinking you’re a good spouse because you spend most of your time with your true husband/wife.

Instead of assuming that you’re a good person because you’re not as bad as the criminals featured on 48 Hours and Dateline, try setting a higher standard for yourself.  Try comparing yourself to Jesus and His life as outlined in the 4 gospels instead.

Then try and convince yourself you’re “good enough”.  And when you learn that you aren’t, choose to change your life and learn how to live in a way that will truly bring you joy by making the Word of God your life’s work.

You Can Have True Assurance of Salvation if……

So, how can you be truly assured of your salvation?  You can be truly assured of your salvation once you come to the stark and true realization that, without Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life, you have nothing.  And by choosing, after that realization, to truly make Jesus the Lord of your life.  To have a real and true relationship with Him: one in which what He says guides your daily decisions instead of what you want guiding your daily decisions.

One you have, in your heart, truly made Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, your boss, your “main Man”, and once you are truly seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness above everything else that you do, knowing that salvation begins with Him and not with you, then you will have in your heart the assurance that you are indeed saved.