Arm-Twisting and Sob Stories

Who has two thumbs and is back writing blog posts? That’s right: this gal! I want to start this today by bragging on the incredible provision of God. I know you all have stories like this one, but let me encourage you, if you have a need you’re asking God to meet, He hears you and He sees you. Be patient; He’s working. Here’s how I know.

As I mentioned in my last post, my blog has been essentially inactive during this COVID fiasco because my husband is now working from home and using our office. We didn’t have a laptop or anything like that, so my only writing times were on the weekends, which isn’t super conducive to post writing. Once I realized that he was going to be working from home for quite some time (which I LOVE, by the way), I knew that if I was going to keep up the blog, I was going to have to ask God to provide a way. Usually, I’m a do-it-yourself-er and would’ve tried to make things happen in my own way, but this time I really felt God asking me to let Him provide for me. So, I asked the Lord to please provide a way for me to continue on with the blog. Unbeknownst to me, during this time, my husband was looking into a purchasing a laptop for me, but every time he’d decide on one to potentially buy, he felt unsettled. He felt God saying, “Not yet.” Now, fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. Out of the blue–we had not discussed this laptop situation with anyone–my mom emails to ask if there’s any chance we or our daughter needed a laptop because her work had some old ones they were GIVING AWAY FOR FREE! Y’all, I was so touched by God’s provision, so overwhelmed by His provision of something so essentially unnecessary, that I cried actual tears when my mom texted to confirm she’d be able to get one for us. Praise the Lord! Right in the middle of this smoldering dumpster fire of a planet we live on, God cares enough about something as minimal as a laptop for me. Just wow! His goodness and His attentiveness are so awe-inspiring.

I do not believe that God works in coincidences–He’s too intentional for that–so it didn’t escape my notice that the very topic on which I was preparing my next blog post when this gifted laptop arrived was tithing/giving. Now, I know that discussing money is no one’s favorite topic. I know that you’re probably considering hitting the X at the top of the page or the delete button on your email if you get my posts that way. But I promise I won’t step (too hard) on your toes. I want to be very clear from the absolute start–I am NOT telling you what to do with your money. Not even kind of. I am NOT judging you for the financial decisions you make or the debt you might have accrued. My ultimate goal today is for us to address this one question, so that you can eventually answer it in a way that glorifies God to the highest degree:

Can you really say that you’ve surrendered your life to Jesus if you don’t include Him in your finances?

As always, I want to be as transparent as I can be, so with that in mind, I have a confession: I am a substantial cheapskate. I do prefer the term “frugal” if I get to choose, but we all know it means the same thing. I am NOT a spender. I am a saver. And while that’s sometimes good and sometimes smart, it also sometimes requires my repentance to God for an ungiving heart and a clenched fist. Here’s where I get it very wrong: instead of God being my security, instead of trusting His provision in our lives, my security comes from bank account numbers and minimal bills. But deep in my heart, I understand that God desires to be my security. Sure, He’s given me a brain and His Holy Spirit to help make smart decisions with my money, but He doesn’t want me to idolize those bank numbers.

Like I mentioned before, my purpose in discussing this topic is not to tell you how to spend your money, or even where to spend it. But instead, I want us to spend time discussing what the Bible says about our finances, about our giving, so that if we aren’t currently surrendering that area of our lives to God, we can re-evaluate.

I want us to begin with the way tithing/giving is addressed biblically. **For clarification purposes, when the Bible uses the term “tithe” it means a specific 10% return to the Lord. We aren’t going to get caught up in numbers today, but I will try to keep the concept of tithing separate from giving, since tithing involves at least 10%. (Clear as mud? Ok, great. Let’s proceed.) The concept of tithing began appearing in the Bible almost immediately. You’ll see references to Abram’s giving as early as Genesis (14:19-20). It’s clear that while it doesn’t quite look like what we do today, it was intended to show gratefulness to God, thanking Him for His provision, and to be generous back to Him. Tithing makes a return again in Genesis (28:20-22) when Jacob dedicates a declared tenth of what’s his to God in an effort to say thank you for God’s care and provision. Moses and the Israelites also tithe a tenth in order to follow God’s commandments in Leviticus (27:30-34).

My point in giving you these three examples is simply this: 1) tithing is biblical and has been around since the beginning; 2) tithing is something the giants of the Bible even did, so you know it still applies to us; and 3) if you’re unsure about the concept of giving, you can and will find answers in the Bible. You have to be intentional, though, and ask God to help direct you so that you fully understand His teaching.

If you know me, you know I like to ask lots of questions, so let me ask you another one. Don’t you think God is deserving of your financial tithe? Look around, friends, at all you have because of Him. Have you ever opened up your pantry or refrigerator and just taken in all that you have? We do not have our needs met in such abundant fashion because we are awesome or because we deserve it. We have our needs met so perfectly because God is good, and He provides! (Praise break!)

Friends, giving back to God shows our loyalty to Him. It lets Him know that He’s our priority, that we worship Him, not all that we can own. It shows that our hearts are more interested in Him than our own desires. It focuses yet another area of our lives on God, which is our whole purpose for being on this planet in the first place, you know?

Remember how I mentioned above that Moses and the Israelites gave a tithe in response to a command from God? Well, there was a little more to it than just the amount. It was specified that the 10% given back to God was NOT to be a leftover 10%. It wasn’t supposed to be what they had remaining once all their other financial obligations were met. It wasn’t supposed to be just whatever they had left over after buying all the things on Amazon. The 10% tithe was to be considered holy. It was to be taken off the top, set apart for dedication back to God. A special gratitude-based, worship-filled offering that wasn’t made up of earthly leftovers. And while it’s been a minute since the days of Leviticus, this still applies to our giving today.

As always, it’s definitely worth our time to gather some words of Truth about giving/tithing from the Bible. I’d like to share a few scriptures with you, and then I promise to hop to it in wrapping this up. (Stop clapping. That’s rude.)

Proverbs, a book that’s always good for some wisdom, says this about giving in chapter 11: “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (vs 24-25).

One of the most helpful verses, in my opinion, about God’s thoughts on giving/tithing is found in 2 Corinthians 9:7. “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” I just love this verse because it’s so assuring. It lets us know that under no circumstances should our giving to the Lord be influenced by any outside organization or church or pressure. It’s SUCH a personal thing, and in order to meet His requirement to give with a cheerful heart, it must be something we talk to God about. Just like any other area we surrender to God, we have to go to Him with this. We have to ask Him to guide us, to show us where He wants our money to go. We have to confess–if you’re like me and aren’t always the most cheerful of givers–our stinginess. We have to ask for His help in honoring Him financially. I know what I’m about to say is a bold statement, and I recognize its potential for being offensive, but I think it’s worth saying anyway: if you only glorify yourself with your money, you are VASTLY limiting the blessings God can bring upon you and your family.

Do y’all ever read The Message translation of the Bible? It frequently cracks me up. It’s the Bible translation version of your crazy uncle who says stuff in the most off-the-wall way. The wording is sometimes downright nutty, but other times it helps clear things up so, so well. For this verse in 2 Corinthians, I think it helps gets the point across very well: “Remember: a stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when a giver delights in the giving.” I don’t know about you, but I sure would like to be protected from arm-twisting and sob stories. And more than anything, I want to honor the Lord with my WHOLE life, all the way down to each penny I spend. I desperately need His blessings over my life because I sure as mess can’t do this by myself. I want to use my finances to further His Kingdom, to help those He specifically tells me to help: the poor, the needy, the orphaned, the widowed, etc. I want to please Him with the things I do publicly and the things I do privately. Don’t you agree? If so, please pray with me.

Dear Lord, thank You so very much for the abundant blessings You continually bestow on my life. Thank You that Your Word makes it very clear how I’m to handle my giving or tithing. Help me, Father, not only to give back to You what is rightly Yours, but to have a cheerful heart while doing so. I want to please You, Lord. I want to honor You with every area of my life, and I know that includes my finances. Help me to begin somewhere, Lord. Even if I only give a little to start, take it, Father, and use it to further Your Kingdom. Talk to me, God, so that I learn more and more from You about how to maintain my finances with You in mind. This is such a tricky topic, Lord, but I know that if I ask for Your help with it, You will provide. Show me, God. Work on my heart and my mind with regard to giving You FIRST what’s Yours. I don’t want to treat my gratitude toward You like simple leftovers. Be honored in my life, Lord. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Not Today, Satan!

As I write this post, the noise level right outside the wall of this room is insane. We are having some home repairs done outside, and it apparently involves jet planes landing ON MY HOUSE and drilling through incredibly thick steel. I’m pretty certain that at any given minute this outer wall is going to cease to exist. Lord, help!

Despite all the noise distractions, let me start by being totally honest: this post isn’t actually for you. This topic isn’t actually for the purpose of public consumption. It’s 110% for me personally. God has really been working on me lately regarding the amount of security I place on the money in our savings account. I know that the Bible teaches us that God wants our all. He wants us to believe in Him, to trust in Him, and to rely on Him first and foremost and above all other things. In some ways, I do this; I get it right. However, where money is concerned, I absolutely do not. More often than not, my comfort and my security come straight from the dollars accumulated in my account. My tension eases any time that number increases. (Or at least I assume it would. That number never increases, so technically, I don’t know for sure.) What I do know is that when I stopped working five years ago, our savings account looked WAY healthier than it does now. And this latest hit to it, this home repair project that we’re currently undertaking, has got me feeling every single thing but joy and peace. I so desperately want that to change, and so today’s post is my attempt to remind myself of God’s promises and His plan, of His power and His presence, and to maybe help anyone else who finds himself/herself overwhelmed by the stresses of this world.

Just to give you some idea of how much God has been working on me about this, let me tell you what all we’ve had to have done to and around our house since we cut our income in half (literally) and went to one income:

  • new hot water heater
  • new thingamajig for the new hot water heater that helps it work better and brings it up to code (isn’t my knowledge remarkable?!)
  • new dishwasher
  • new roof
  • new garage door
  • new garage door opener/motor
  • replacement of various parts/plugs in the Trailblazer and truck, along with multiple sets of new tires
  • large medical bills, mostly from our sweet girl’s early years, including our two-night, multiple-tests-inclusive stay at Arkansas Children’s Hospital a couple of years ago

And this latest project involves siding removal and replacement, gutter removal and replacement, fascia board replacement and repair (don’t worry, you don’t need to know what this is. It’s expensive and labor intensive; that’s the gist of this story), new gutter downspouts (FIVE of those suckers!), and within the first hour and a half, 500 additional dollars were added to our overall cost because the problem was bigger than they initially thought, reaching all the way to the framing boards. What in the actual world?! Needless to say, the stress dreams, tension headaches, and stomach pains have arrived as expected.

Because I have felt my peace and sense of security evaporate over all this mess, I have spent some time trying to remind myself what God promises in His Word, about taking care of us and providing for us. I know, deep down, that I will NEVER feel at peace financially if my security comes from dollars, because life is really dadgum expensive. There will be continual bills and unexpected costs for as long as I live. I also understand that if I place my trust in things other than God, I will forever be disappointed and left with this aching stomach and clinched jaw. I don’t want to live in the “I’ll be happy as soon as we make _______ amount per year,” because as soon as we make that, we’ll find a need for just a little bit more. Life involves living, and as it turns out, living costs money. Scam!

It’s become clear to me over the last few years, thanks to the guidance and clarity of the Holy Spirit, that God has allowed these expenses in our lives because I must give up my grasp on the almighty dollar. If you know me, you likely know that I am a very, very frugal person. Large costs mess me up, especially now, when we’re all living on one income. But God has shown me that as soon as we add a second income, we’ll also have a kid who is older, who’s involved in costly activities, wearing costly clothes, and who will apparently expect to drive her own vehicle one day and attend that wallet-emptier called college. No matter where we are in life financially, if that bank account is where I turn for my peace and my security, IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN because there will ALWAYS be costs we can’t anticipate and plan for. And guess what else I’ve learned…Satan knows this! He is such a complete jerk that he knows and exploits just how much peace I derive from knowing my account is cushy. He sneaks around and as soon as we happen upon another repair or expense, he’s there whispering in my ear about how much this costs, how draining this will be on our savings. But he seldom stops there, deciding to up the fear factor by encouraging me to catalog every single thing around this house that might go wrong or that might stop working.

I don’t know about you, but I do NOT want to live like this. I am an adult. I own a home, some vehicles, and I have a child. There will NEVER EVER be a time that something isn’t costing me money. That’s literally all there is to it. I refuse to live in this up-and-down peace that fluctuates to the point of disappearing any time I have to pay money for something. Remember that phrase that Abraham and Sarah used to refer to God: Jehovah-jireh. It means “the Lord who provides,” and my Bible tells me that the same God who provided then is the same God who WILL provide for me now. But because I’m a headcase, I need to see those scriptures; I need to read those promises straight from God’s Word. I need to be able to yell, “NOT TODAY, SATAN!!” when he tries to steal my peace and joy via money, and be able to back it up with scripture that proves why I don’t have to stress and worry about a thing.

I found many verses in the Bible regarding what God promises about our prosperity and/or finances. There were several that helped me see just how involved in my monetary life God is. I couldn’t find room to embed them all in the post, but I thought that those of you struggling with something similar might appreciate seeing several of those promises for yourself. I encourage you to read them out loud. Read them multiple times even. Take a quiet minute to do this, and I know that you’ll feel God speaking to your stresses, just like I felt Him speaking to mine.

Deuteronomy 8:18–But you shall [earnestly] remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…

Deuteronomy 28:8–The Lord shall command the blessing upon you in your storehouse and all that you undertake. And He will bless you…

Deuteronomy 28:11–And the Lord shall make you have a surplus of prosperity

Psalm 34:10–…they who seek [inquire of and require] the Lord, none of them shall lack any beneficial thing

Luke 6:38–Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over…

2 Corinthians 9:6–He who sows generously will also reap generously and with blessings.

Philippians 4:18-19–I have everything I need and am amply supplied…And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

All of the aforementioned scriptures certainly got the message across, but it wasn’t until I read Matthew 6:25-27 again, in the midst of my stress and angst over money worries, that I really felt myself letting go of at least a little bit of my desire to control my money and my life. These words are straight out of the mouth of our Savior, so read them carefully: “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure to his stature or to the span of his life? (AMP). You know what? I am more important to God than a bird. You know what? I have never had to go without because God has always provided. You know what? God promises not to neglect us at any time in any way, and He is a promise keeper. You know what? Worry is a sin, and it cripples my faith. Worry doesn’t grow money; it doesn’t eliminate those unexpected costs and expenses; it doesn’t ease my mind. It is a deterrent, keeping me focused on my problems and the situations I’m facing instead of on God and His powers to provide exactly what I need when I need it.

In speaking with a friend about her own money worries recently, I told her to pray about it and let God have it. Needless to say, I also told her to do as I say and not as I do when it comes to this lesson. I encouraged her and her husband to do four things: 1– to pray specifically about their finances, 2–to tithe, 3– to spend their money wisely, and 4–to let God take care of the rest because HE WILL. Now, if I can just get this lesson into my own stubborn brain, I’ll be in much better shape for the rest of my life.

Dear Lord, thank you so very much for all that you continually do for me and all that you continually provide for me and my family. I am so grateful that you are a Provider and that I don’t have to worry about finances because you will lead me and safeguard me. Lord, I ask that you please help me to set aside my worries in all areas but especially right now regarding my finances, and I ask that you help me to focus on you and your promises instead of my anxieties and the lies of the enemy. I will not go without, God, and I know this because you have promised it. Also, Lord, I want a pure heart whose focus is You, not money. In Matthew 6:21 you tell me that wherever my treasure is, there my heart will be also. You, God. You are my treasure. You are my safety and security, and I ask you to please help me recognize this truth and live this truth more and more. You are kind and loving and a giving God, and I am so grateful to be Your child. Thank you for hearing me, for loving me, and providing for my every need. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.