Why America’s Christians Don’t See the Power of God

If you’ve done any research on the Christian faith of those in third world countries, you may be amazed, even skeptical, of their stories.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:8

Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.  Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8)

Although the Christian church in the Western world doesn’t see nearly as much of this as we should, “miraculous” healings, raising of the dead and casting out of demons is common place in many third world Christian circles.

This has always amazed me.  I mean, after all, here we sit, in our “advanced” country, and yet we are all but void of the power of the accomplishments attained on the cross by our beloved Jesus Christ.  Why is that?

I got my answer one day Continue reading

God’s Wisdom or the World’s Foolishness: You Choose

DSCN0386With violence and other troubles escalating in the world, it’s tempting to get caught up into fear and panic as we look for ways to keep ourselves and our families safe from the world around us.  Although there are things we can and should do to protect ourselves, there is no better shelter than the “secret place of the Most High”.  (Psalm 91:1).  Do you know how to access that secret place?  I do, and it starts with obtaining wisdom. Continue reading

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