Using Money

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” – 1 Timothy 6:18

Whether we have a lot of money or a little, God teaches us how to use it. This is what I think he has in mind for the cash in our pockets:

If we have a family, we’re responsible to take care of them. Children need clothes, food, shelter, education, and healthcare. Elderly parents may need financial support as their savings are depleted. Family is priority in God’s economic plan (1 Timothy 5:8).

Then, we are to be as generous as we are able. God expects us to give money to the church and to his work in the world. But, sometimes the “giving away” goes directly to someone we know who is struggling. We are to be merciful to those in true need if we have the ability to help (Luke 10:36-37). In doing so, we gain friends for God.

There are so many needs, though. How do we know where to start? The Bible says to help other Christians first (Galatians 6:10). They are like extended family to us and their needs take priority over those outside the faith. Then, if we have more, we offer our help to the needy ones God places in our path day by day.

The bottom line: God wants us to use money to build relationships! Sometimes that means taking the kids out for ice cream or going on vacation. Sometimes it means sacrificing for the good of a neighbor in need. Whatever the opportunity, money is a tool to be put to work for eternal good. (Luke 16:9). 

 

“But for money and the need of it, there would not be half the friendship in the world. It is powerful for good if divinely used.” – George MacDonald

Prayer for the Sad

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7

I have two friends who are struggling with depression. They know God. They pray and they ask friends to pray for them. But still, God seems far away, and the sadness and hopelessness remain. If you are there, too, you are not alone.

David was one of God’s favorite people of all time, yet, he had many problems in his life. There were times when David was depressed and, when he felt that way, he was honest with God:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”
– Psalm 13:1-2a

And he doesn’t give up. He keeps praying and, at the end of the psalm, though things are not better, he expresses trust in God’s love and salvation.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me
.” – Psalm 13:5-6

David was honest with God and he was committed to trusting him – that may be a good pattern to follow when we are depressed, too. In fact, one of my struggling friends sent me a prayer she is praying in her sadness, believing with the best of her ability that God hears and, in his time, will answer. Maybe this is a prayer we all need to pray:

“Lord Jesus, enlighten what is dark in me,

strengthen what is weak in me,

mend what is broken in me,

bind what is bruised in me,

heal what is sick in me, and lastly,

revive whatever peace and love have died in me. Amen.” – Anonymous Author

NOTE: Prayer and Bible reading are our “go-to’s” for sadness, but if you are deeply depressed over a long period of time, you may need to seek professional help. God uses many means to meet our needs and good Christian counselors and doctors are on his team.

Critic or Companion?

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. – Psalm 103:14

“God’ll get you for that.” That was a supposed-to-be-funny, but semi-serious, retort when I was growing up. I think it was a view of God that many in my generation shared. God was just waiting for us to step out of line. Hard as I might try as a teenager, I knew I stepped across that line too many times. I kept waiting for God’s hammer to fall. 

Do you ever feel that way? That you really can’t measure up to God’s standards, so you might as well quit trying? If that’s your mindset, you may need a new view of God.

Yes, he is holy and wants us to live in ways that honor him, but he knows we are weak and will fail. That’s why he sent Jesus to live the perfect life we cannot live and to die and be raised to pay for all within us that falls short of God’s standard. Does that sound like a God who’s just waiting for us to step out of line so he can zap us? No! It sounds like a loving God who made a way for us to become better over time – not by our own efforts, but by the power of the new life he gives us through Jesus. 

It may be our view of God needs to change to be more consistent with the God Jesus revealed. As we walk with him, he guides and grows us. When he finds something to correct, he always does it lovingly. He is never out to catch us in a fault, but to help us overcome it.  

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. – A. W. Tozer

Someone should be taking notes.

“Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.” – John 8:47a

I was in a meeting once with a consultant who had been brought in to advise on a non-profit organization’s proposed development project. He began his presentation, then looked around the table and said, “If I’m talking, someone should be taking notes.” That seemed arrogant on the part of an engineer, but it’s not at all arrogant when it comes to God.

Sometimes we do hear God speaking to us, don’t we? Usually it’s a thought, a highlighted verse of Scripture, or a nudge to do something we hadn’t planned to do. That’s often how God guides, encourages, and teaches us. As we get to know him better, we learn to recognize those messages.

When God speaks, it’s something to take seriously. For that reason, I like to keep a journal close at hand, so when God says something to me, I can take notes. Recently, for example, I asked him about a situation in my life and his response seemed to be “I will make a way.” It was clearly from God, and I wanted to be sure I’d remember it, so I made a note. That thought has come back to me numerous times since. I do the same with Bible verses or phrases that seem to speak to me on a particular day. Writing these messages down cements them in my memory and also makes them available for revisiting – sometimes years down the road.

God’s word is eternal. What he speaks may be valid for more than one situation. Let’s write his messages down, then read them again and again. When he speaks, we all should be taking notes!

“People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to.” – Dallas Willard

Cloudy Days

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord. – Psalm 68:4

I like sunny days! When the clouds come in, it feels sadder somehow. But that sadness gets a bit lighter when we realize what God says about clouds. Think about it with me:

Clouds were the backdrop for the rainbow he placed in the sky to promise never to destroy the earth again with a flood.

He used a cloud to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and into the land of promise.

We are asked to imagine God riding on the clouds (Psalm 104:3 and Psalm 68:4). That’s quite a picture, isn’t it?

Finally, we all know rain comes from clouds, and in every place in the world that depends on crops to eat, rain is considered God’s blessing.

One of my favorite statements about clouds is given by the prophet Nahum when he says, “His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet”. (Nahum 1:3b). It’s as if Nahum is saying that when we look at the underside of clouds, we see where God is walking. Stirring up dust. Making his presence known. Somehow, that makes me see clouds in a whole new way – whether they are the clouds in the sky or the clouds that seem to follow me in life. What is God stirring up to get my attention?

This new perspective tells us that clouds represent God’s presence, his comforting cover over us, and his provision for us. Clouds in our lives, whether real or figurative, are designed to draw us to him. Let’s go there!

“God will meet you where you are in order to take you where He wants you to go.” – Tony Evans

Bring the Whale

 “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.” – Isaiah 65:1a

Do you know someone who seems to be running away from God instead of toward him? I think we all do, and if they are close to us as friends or family, we have great concern.

My husband and I pray together nearly every day for those we know who are turning their backs on God. Most were exposed to the truth early on, but are rejecting what they once knew to go their own way instead.

As we prayed one morning, Warren remembered Jonah, who ran from God, was thrown overboard into the stormy sea, was swallowed by a great fish, then after three days, was vomited up exactly where God had sent him in the first place. Thinking of those we were praying for and their choice to turn away from God, he simply prayed, “Bring the whale!”

Some people come to God through scripture, relationships, sermons, or gentle nudges by the Holy Spirit. Others must be compelled by overwhelming forces that might be compared to Jonah’s fish. C. S. Lewis called himself “the most dejected, reluctant convert in all of England . . . drug into the kingdom kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape.”*

So, if you know of those who need to turn from the path they are on, don’t be afraid to pray a bold prayer, “Bring the whale.” Sometimes that’s what it will take.

“We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” – C. S. Lewis

*from Lewis’ spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy

Yielding

“Now may the God of peace . . .equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:20-21

Jesus taught what it means to follow him. It means saying “no” to our own ideas and walking with him. Not second guessing his plan.  Not explaining why we prefer our way to his. It means yielding decisions and desires to him. Why? Because he knows what we need better than we do:

  •  We want sunshine every day. God knows the earth needs rain, snow, and even a good lightning storm once in awhile.
  • We want trouble-free lives for our children. God uses troubles to mold them and draw them to him, just as he does with us.
  • We want everyone to like us. God wants obedience, boldness, and holiness over acclaim.
  • We want good health. God wants us to realize our frailty, our dependence on him. Maybe he allows failure in our bodies to help us share in his sufferings.
  • We want everyone to live at peace. He reminds us that he knew his coming to earth would create division, but he came anyway.

Yielding to God is not fatalistic. It’s following as his disciples did: walking with him wherever he led, stopping when he stopped, listening when he taught, and doing what he asked. It’s trusting his understanding and his intentions. Leaning in. Living confidently. Listening for his whispers. Following with anticipation.  His way is better than my way every time!

“In all his acts God orders all things, whether good or evil, for the good of those who know him and seek him and who strive to bring their own freedom under obedience to his divine purpose. “ – Thomas Merton