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Daddy Day

Most every Saturday, I spend the day with my 7 year old son, Luke. This is a new commitment for me this year, one I have enjoyed immensely.  In the past I tried to have this “rhythm” but it didn’t last.  Despite good intentions, I didn’t have accountability in place to keep me going.  To be completely honest, in 2015 and 2016 I had other priorities that came before Luke.   At the end of last year it hurt my heart to see our relationship was far from where I had hoped it would be.

Just this morning, I believe I got a sign from God that we were at a new level in our relationship as a result of months of Saturday “Daddy Days.”  A few months ago I was asked to speak to the 6th-8th graders at the weekly chapel at Luke’s school, and I was excited to do so.  We’d recently returned from a cross country trip, so this morning it was a little crazy as I got ready for the talk, but Nicole and I agreed at the last minute that although Luke was just in first grade, he should attend the middle school chapel. When we arrived, Luke and I were greeted by the Head of School, the person who originally asked me to speak.  He kindly sat with Luke in the back of the auditorium. The talk went well and afterwards I had planned to drop Luke off at his classroom and head back to the office to start my work day.

As we arrived on the elementary campus, Luke’s class was just leaving for PE.  Luke put his stuff on his desk and then turned to me with this look on his face that I had seen before. I immediately wondered why he was about to cry, as he pulled me into the kitchen that is off of their classroom.  I then heard the words I won’t soon forget: “Daddy, don’t leave me, I want you to stay with me.”

Luke was full of so much emotion it was hard for him to articulate what was going on.  I had heard these words before, but it had been some time ago.  After several minutes of tears and conversations with his teacher (twice) and the school’s secretary, he was able to explain to me what was upsetting him. He simply wanted to hang out more—he usually didn’t get to spend all morning with Dad, and today had been so fun. Possibly the “Daddy Days” are having a greater impact than I had thought? My son actually wanted more of me.

All this makes me ask the question: Are we experiencing regular “Daddy Days” with our Heavenly Father? Are we spending so much time with him that we are crying and asking not to be separated from Him like Luke was with me this morning?

God opened my eyes to three things he desires for our relationship with Him:

  1. We are commanded to love God and Jesus with all we got: “Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:29-30).

Luke was not letting go this morning as he was loving me with all he had, and I had a front row seat to this love.  He loved being with me and wanted to stay with me.

  1. We are to live, to “walk” in the same way Jesus lived: “but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked”(1 John 2:5-6). We have explored this idea before about what drove Jesus up Calvary’s mountain to be crucified for us. If we are to walk in the way Jesus did do you think this includes loving God the Father as Jesus did?
  1. Our Heavenly Father wants us to have an authentic relationship with Him as Jesus did, expressing our deep heartfelt desires even when it is uncomfortable in the worldly realm, like Luke did when he was sobbing in front of his classmates who were trying to figure out what was going on with their normally joyful friend. “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:38).

Our Heavenly Father wants us to have the greatest relationship with Him, like He had with Jesus. He wants us totally ruined with tears and sobbing when we are pulled away from Him. I believe this is part of what was going on with Jesus in the Garden Of Gethsemane when He knew what lay in front of Him—being forsaken and disconnected from the Father in order to bear our sins and forever rectify us with God the Father.

I have never had experience like Luke had with me, but I hope to.

What experiences have you had that resembles what Luke experienced this week?

May we long to be with God the Father and cry violently like Jesus did in the Garden and how Luke did this morning when we are separated from our Heavenly Father.

Friday Inspiration

God has a plan for our brokenness.

Elisa Morgan, Former CEO of MOPS International, Generous Giving’s Celebration of Generosity 2017 Conference

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David and Goliath and the View of God

“When Saul and all of Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” (1 Samuel 17:11).

Recently I came across this verse from the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel, and it blew me away.  This huge behemoth of a man, Goliath, had just challenged the army of Israel and you know it was going to be a fight to the death. No one had ever seen a person of Goliath’s size and understandably they were all scared and stunned. But when David stepped out on the battlefield, he wasn’t afraid at all.

David was the only one who felt and acted this way.  Why was he not afraid? What was it that led David to think and act so confidently in the face of undeniable danger?

I’d like to propose five reasons and they are all wrapped up in this verse from 1 Samuel: “Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:36).

First David saw himself as a servant of God. He had the correct stance towards God that we are to be God’s servants, serving Him so that His Kingdom will come on earth as it is in Heaven. How many times in my life do I serve myself and then get super frustrated because things are not working out the way I had planned?

Second, I believe David had the correct view of God. David saw God as all powerful and capable of anything.  He had seen God work before when he had protected David as a shepherd boy and helped him kill a lion and a bear.

I have so much work to do in having the correct view of God. It reminds me of this quote: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (A.W. Tozer). I know this is important and unless I get this right, it may impact my entire life. Forgetting who God says He is could prevent me from  stepping into the reason I was created.

Third, David remembered when God had shown His power before, empowering David to kill the predators that threatened him and his flock. How much of our Christian walk is about remembering when God got us through our most challenging times? I know I tend to forget God’s faithfulness and need to do a better job of remembering God’s power and how He has delivered me countless times in the past.

Fourth, David also had faith in God that He would come through for him again. Faith in God is so vital, isn’t it? Countless verses and Bible stories tell us about God giving a thumbs up, and Jesus too, to those people in the Bible who had faith in God.  David is just one of the heroes of faith who displayed this key trait at a most critical time in his life. Oh, how I long that we all become heroes of the faith, trusting this awesome and all powerful God.

Finally, David was very upset that anyone would come against the army of God and actually believe that they were more powerful than our God. There was no doubt in David that God, through him, would conquer Goliath.  None.  Zero! When was the last time we were so upset that we were willing to put ourselves out there to defend the power of God?

The story of David and Goliath is full of life principles to guide us through this life God has entrusted to us. David was not perfect, as we are not perfect, yet God uses His flawed children to show his almighty power and awesomeness so He can get all of the glory.

Which of these five reasons do you think you are doing well in and which one are you struggling with the most?

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Healing through Serving

My Mom died and went to spend eternity with Jesus in September of 2014. It was a very hard time for me but God was with me. I don’t say that flippantly—I saw Him working in my life before, during and after to help me get through this season. His presence was tangible.

Leading up to this time, God had me working with Generous Giving to bring more Journey of Generosity’s (JOGs) to the Bay Area. A JOG is a 24 hour retreat where Christians gather to discuss, in a safe environment, generosity. I attended my first JOG in August of 2014 and then two weeks later, JOG facilitator training to be in a position to share this magnificent experience with others.

Five days before my Mom died, I met a new friend while serving at City Impact’s Adopt a Building program. Jojo was going through a painful divorce and needed someone to talk to. I felt honored to be able to minister to him.

Around the same time, my friend Nelson asked me to help him in a program to teach teenagers in the Bayview area about finances.

I could have opted out of all of these quite easily, but I felt led by God to serve. I began to sense a correlation between serving and healing. Could it be God’s plan that we help others while going through a painful season in our lives?

When we look at the last hours of Jesus life what do we see?

  1. Him feeding and then washing the feet of his closest friends. Matthew 26:26-29
  2. Asking God to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Luke 23:34
  3. Sharing salvation with the criminals on the cross so they could have eternal life with Him. Luke 23:43
  4. Making sure His Mom was taken care of by his closest friend John. John 19:26-27

I have no theological backing for this next statement but I believe it was God’s purpose for Jesus to continue ministering to others right up to the end in order to endure his darkest time on earth. In essence, to take the focus off of Himself and place it onto others.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

We know we are to be like Jesus. We may often think of this from a point of view of holiness, but we can follow his example when it comes to healing too.

I believe Jesus shows us how to deal with the great pain that comes into our life so we may finish the race God created us for, like Jesus did, like Paul did, like I pray you and I do.

What stories of serving through pain do you have?

Friday Inspiration

Total commitment is the channel through which God’s best and biggest blessings flow.

Chip Ingram, True Spirituality: Becoming a Romans 12 Christian

Friday Inspiration

The celebrated Scottish preacher, James Stewart, made a statement that is also challenging: “It is always upon human weakness and humiliation, not human strength and confidence, that God chooses to build His Kingdom; and that He can use us not merely in spite of our ordinariness and helplessness and disqualifying infirmities, but precisely because of them.”

Chuck Swindoll

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Hold on Tight

Why does God talk so much about money and “stuff” in the Bible? I thought it was because it was important to God. But recently I changed my mind. I think it’s because it’s so important to us.

Money is too important to me.

I’ve made some improvement in this area—not as fast as I’d like, but I think God is okay with my slow progress. I’m now a firm believer that the Bible is the ultimate authority on money and things, and I’m developing the habit of reading it regularly to see what God wants to teach me, asking Him what I should do with what He has entrusted to me. I’m also trying to have more conversations with other Christians who love Jesus and want to please Him, as well as seeking wise counsel from others who can advise Nicole and me as well as pray for us. I still have so much to learn—and just when I think I’m starting to get it, a stressful event occurs and whacks me back down to reality!

Handling money can be so challenging—always wanting more, never wanting to part with it. I think sometimes we hold on to our money and our things so tightly that they actually hurt us. I picture gripping money in my fist to the point of actual pain, and it reminds me how foolish that is. Sometimes we’re guilty of thinking far too much about money and how to get more. We believe that more money and more stuff will give us everything we need to be completely happy and fulfilled. I’ve learned the hard way that this is a lie.

When I read the Bible, I get a strong sense that I need to replace money and stuff with Jesus. If I am to hold onto anything so tightly it hurts, it should be Jesus. If I am to think too much about anything, it should be Jesus. Only Jesus gives us everything we need to be fulfilled. I want to get to the point where I will do anything to get more of Jesus.

Holding on to money and holding on to Jesus—two ends of the spectrum. The former is where I was when I started this journey, the latter is where I believe God wants me to be. And although God is not against wealth (money and stuff), He is teaching me that it is a stronghold in my life and as I loosen the grip, I am better able to grab hold of Jesus, my ultimate treasure.

“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).

Friday Inspiration

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

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The Life of Paul

I’m fascinated by the life of Paul. This hard-charging, super type-A personality was bent on doing what he thought was the work of God—only to find out it was the antithesis of it.

Talk about being outside of God’s will!

A man who, upon learning of his wrongdoing, does a 180 and starts proclaiming the name that he was trying to bring down: JESUS!

A man who, upon his conversion, goes away to Arabia for three years to do things about which we can only speculate. Preach and teach? Receive more revelation? Pray?

It would be like Bill Maher travelling to one of his gigs only to come across Christ, become blinded and filled with the Holy Spirit, get baptized, regain his sight, then fall off the face of the earth and emerge three years later to plant churches in San Francisco with Francis Chan and write books about Jesus, grace, love, forgiveness, gratitude and how to finish strong for Christ!

Can you even imagine!

Maybe if Paul never felt the grace of God he would have never become grateful. Gratitude became one of his greatest attributes. He urged his fellow Christians to be grateful all of the time. “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

His gratitude welled up and he wanted EVERYONE to experience this freedom in Christ.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Jesus was using this type-A personality to promote His name. Paul was literally risking his body so that everyone he came across would hear the Good News.

This, my friends, is the road to true generosity. It was through gratitude due to the grace of Jesus Christ, that Paul was able to freely and abundantly give of himself, risking the life God had given him to spread the Good News. He recklessly gave so others would be free ̶ FREE IN CHRIST!

Paul’s life is the perfect model for us to follow in order to have Jesus reign supreme in the calendar, cash and calling God has entrusted to us.

What did Paul do first? Did he become generous with the cash, or step immediately into the calling God had on his life?

No.

Jesus uprooted the calendar part of his life. Jesus reprioritized his life to what Jesus created him for. His true calling. But it first started with the calendar part of his life.

 

 

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Arabia—A Time with God

Saul persecuted people of the Way. He witnessed Steven being stoned to death. He was marching his way to Damascus to inflict more persecutions when Jesus Christ met him and confronted him about his activities.

Saul was blinded, filled with the Holy Spirit, regained his sight, became a Christ-follower and was baptized, then started proclaiming the name of Jesus in the synagogues.

After a little time he went to Arabia. For three years! This hard-charging man was in the desert for three years. His job was taken away as he no longer had a heart for it. He lost all of his friends, his co-workers, and those who were part of the mission to persecute people of the Way. His life completely changed.

What happened during these three years?

Could God have spent this time rebuilding the foundation of his life and faith? Saul had been going very hard for a very long time, possibly never stopping. (This sounds oddly familiar to me.) How cool it would have been to eavesdrop on the conversations between Saul and God.

Maybe during this time he learned to be content?

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Maybe he learned about Jesus’ grace and what Jesus had given up for him and everyone?

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Maybe he learned how to live and what to die for?

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Maybe he learned to count others more significant than himself?

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Maybe he learned to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4) even when you have been beaten and thrown in jail?

“And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:23-25).

Maybe he learned that it is far better to give than to receive? (Acts 20:35) Undoubtedly Saul became Paul—a completely new man. It was that time away from everything and everyone except God that caused this change.

When was the last time you were away from everyone and everything except God? Are we missing the life we were created to live because we have not had our time away with God?

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S.H.E.D. (Seek Him Every Day)

In order for me to say yes to Jesus being my CEO, I had to pray about what He wanted me to keep in the life He had entrusted to me.

These are the things I laid at the altar:

  1. The house we lived in.
  2. The car I drove.
  3. My career.
  4. The private golf membership.
  5. Hospital foundation board spot.
  6. Committee at the YMCA.
  7. Working out M-F at 5:30am.
  8. Large office space.
  9. Working ‘till 6pm most days.
  10. The MBA in Financial Planning I was pursuing.
  11. Where to live.

Surprise—God got rid of almost the entire list except for my career, and moved us to the Bay Area from LA.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

All of these activities were outside of God’s will for my life. I learned that if we are not asking God what He wants us to do, we can get off track—even if we are going to church, reading the Bible, and going to Bible study class.

As you can see, I had to shed a lot!

I now had space to seek Him every day. My relationships improved. God also slowly got rid of the façade I had in LA, so that I’m more fully the person He wants me to be.

I am now running my race better—not perfectly—but much better and more efficiently than before. I learned God’s way is so much better than my way.

How about you? Did you have to shed anything in order to seek Him every day?

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Financial Independence

The Bay Area is one of the wealthiest places on earth, during one of the wealthiest times in history. There are many people who have achieved financial independence or are striving for it. For Christians, as Jesus as our model, what should our aim be? Is it bad to be financially independent or striving toward that goal?

When I was a teenager, I thought if I had more money it would make me happy. I got a lot more money and I was not happier. It actually made me feel arrogant, entitled, selfish, and greedy.

I came to Christ and that did not change things.

I fell in love with Nicole, got married, and started having financial problems. I continued to think, “More money will solve these problems.”

Right around the time that Jeff took me to lunch I had a conversation with my stepmom Lana and she told me I did not have an asset problem but I had an expense problem. I had never thought of it that way. I was a financial planner but never applied these principles to myself!

We had no budget.

We did not track expenses.

We did not prepare a balance sheet.

We were out of control financially.

We were just tracking to be financially independent someday by making more money. Our focus was always making more money. The conversation with Lana was one of my first steps towards realizing that this track was wrong.

I believe chasing after more money was bad for me. Do you think it might be bad for you?

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

Friday Inspiration

No one will ever love us like God the Father.

No one.

Not even close.

Let’s start living in this truth and not to seek the love from God from others.

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God Our Provider

I had a major realization recently. While thinking about a symbol I believe God had given me, I heard these words: “God our provider.” The Holy Spirit then directed me to the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22.

As we know in this story, God called Abraham to sacrifice His only son, Isaac. When Isaac asked Abraham where the sacrifice was (they had probably sacrificed many animals before), Abraham said, “God will provide” (Genesis 22:8a).

As we know, God did provide a sacrifice. But we most likely would have never seen this provision if Abraham had not acted in faith like he did.

Maybe this is what is missing in our lives. Maybe we have failed to step into what God has called us to do because we do not believe He will provide.

But this is just not true. We have to stop believing the lies from the enemy.

God has provided.

God is providing.

God will provide.

These are the truths I need to sew into my heart and soul, and act accordingly.

When Abraham heard the words “stay your hand” and then looked and saw a ram caught “in a thicket,” his greatest calling had been tested and his greatest challenge completed. Abraham acted in faith that God would provide, and provide He did.

The ram is a reminder that God will provide. Maybe this reminder of His provision can help us get unstuck in the areas of calendar, cash and calling.

Perhaps God is calling you to do something absolutely radical in one of these areas and you are believing the lie that God will not provide. I used to believe this lie—and I still have to fight it—but now I understand that God promises He will provide.

From the depths of my heart, please know today that God has an absolutely amazing plan for each of our lives, and all we need to live it out is to believe that He will provide.

Friday Inspiration

To be joyful and generous,  you have to see things as God sees them. When your beliefs, your vision, and your actions align with his perspective, the results will be nothing short of incredible.

Ron Blue, Generous Living

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My 5-Part Surrender

I am a stubborn person, and God didn’t have an easy time with me. For years my progress as a Christian was three-steps-forward, two steps back. Finally after many years, I allowed Jesus to be CEO over my whole life—but believe me, I am still always tempted to wrestle control back from him!

Looking back over the last several years, I identified the five major components of my surrender. They were:

  1. I prayed for God to send strong Christians into my life to help me with my marriage. As you can imagine, my stubbornness was affecting my marriage as well as my spiritual life, and I knew nothing would change until I addressed it.
  2. God answered this prayer in the form of recreating my community to be what He wanted, and I forced myself not to fight it.
  3. By becoming involved in this new community, I learned about humility, grace, love, what the Bible says and how it applies to my life. Without the right community, I don’t believe I would have surrendered. I am far from perfect, but I’ve had a definite change of heart and mindset.
  4. The next step for me was moving from “believing” to “doing” which took faith and the continued reliance on the community. They stayed by my side, praying for me and encouraging me on the path God has set for me.
  5. This all led to me slowing down, to stop quenching the Spirit of God by striving so hard all the time. I’m learning to let Him lead me.

Even though I have less net worth and income than I once had, I have freedom, fascination and a lot more fun than I have ever had. It appears God wanted to make significant changes in my heart, and this took adjusting my net worth and income. This has been scary at times, but God is my provider and He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Getting the calendar portion of my life more in line with what God wanted allowed me to get the cash category more in line with what God wanted. When these two were more in line with what God wanted, this allowed the Holy Spirit to speak deeply to me, and whisper things I could have never have dreamed about. I believe now I am stepping into the calling God has on my life.

What is your surrender story? How has it led to more fun and stepping into what you were called to do?

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Go and Make Disciples….

Discipleship is important. It seems like more and more churches are taking this topic seriously and I’m hearing about it from a lot of people I trust.

But are we missing something when we discuss discipleship? There are 2,350 verses about money and possessions in the Bible. Jesus gave thirty-eight parables and sixteen of them were about money and possessions. Should we be including money and possessions when we are making disciples?

When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He stated:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…..teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19 & 28:20a).

The Great Commission is so Great, as we know, because it was one of the last things Jesus said.

Can a person be a true disciple of Christ if the money and possessions with which they are entrusted are handled in a way that is outside of what the Bible teaches?

I believe we are missing something, something GREAT, if we handle money in a manner that is more in line with what we want than what King Jesus wants.

In the past, I never considered what God would have me do with my money. I can correlate, almost to the day, when Nicole and I started tithing to experiencing more joy in our lives. Then more joy came when we gave over and above the tithe. We started to be financially discipled by a fellow Certified Kingdom Advisor, Kalvin Sid, and budget coached by Brenda Haley. We started holding loosely what God had entrusted to us.

We were made into financial disciples and our lives have never been the same. How we view and handle the cash God has entrusted to us was turned right side up.

What do you think about the idea of making financial disciples?

“If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life.”
-Billy Graham

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Love of Money

Money has always played an important part in my life. As you can see from this picture, when I was younger I loved a lot of stuff—two TV’s on my desk (come on!) and if you take a closer look you can see a popular sticker from the 80’s: I love money.

Yep, that was me, and still is to a certain extent. I was raised with the idea that if I gained more money and “stuff,” my problems would be solved. I battle this mindset almost every day, but I have God’s word to help me, financial buddies with whom to talk to about money, and great resources to help further my education around the subject.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

When I achieved some financial success in my twenties, it created new problems and made the old problems much worse. Some of the new problems were that I felt a sense of entitlement because I had “made it,” in my mind, which combined with the pride I had, made for a miserable life. I thought the world revolved around me, and that all things that I was involved with should be to help further my own agenda in my life.

My love of money was preventing me from living the life God created me for. If I had continued on this “love of money” trajectory, I shiver to think what my life would consist of now.

I went very hard after money, and when I achieved financial goals, I was left with a deep emptiness which eventually led to a great anger that I had been duped. At times I felt it was just me and my money because I had no real relationships.

Thanks to God’s hand on my life and the partnership of my wife Nicole, I no longer love money the way I used to. It’s been a long road and I’ll continue to work toward Godliness in this area, but together Nicole and I have been learning to submit our financial lives to the Lord, and funny enough, we rarely argue about money like we used to. Maybe we’re on to something! We don’t have it all figured out, but we’re not where were before.

How about you? What is your money story and what part is currently being written?

Friday Inspiration

 

The Bible is unclear on exactly how much we should give. I believe this lack of clarity is because the decision concerning the amount an individual gives should be based on a personal relationship with God. As we seek the guidance of the Spirit through an active prayer life, giving suddenly becomes an exciting adventure.

Howard Dayton, “Your Money Counts”