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The First Word to Your Financial Turnaround

The First Word to Your Financial Turnaround

There are four simple words that are the keys to a financial turnaround in your life.  You need these words and they will work!

A survey of people in 16 countries found that their top source of stress was money.  Anxiety over money can can cause health issues, marital problems, loss of sleep, and an overall miserable life.  The Bible says it like this:

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 (ESV)

Are you tired of the pangs of money being your greatest concern?  If so, then this week I am going to give you the four words you need for peace of mind when it comes to your money.  Each day I am going to give you a new word to add to the equation to relieve the stress and make progress towards greater financial success.  _____ + _____ + _____ + _____ = a financial turnaround in your life.  Are you ready?

Word #1 - Budget - 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-21

You either make a decision for a dollar or a dollar will make the decision for you.   Budgeting is making decisions for your dollars.

Budgeting is simple.  Spend less than you make.  

The problem is that most people have some idea of how much they make, but have no idea of how much they spend.  

It is a proven fact that people who budget have better financial success for one simple reason, they know where their money is going.  Because they know where their money goes, they are able to eliminate frivolous spending.  People who budget don’t buy on impulse, they buy on plan.

Impulse buyers spend what they have.  Budget buyers are better able to make controlled decisions because they know what’s in front of them may not be as important as what’s coming next week, or even next month.  

Budgeting helps us practice self-control and learn contentment (Philippians 4:12).

Budgeting will go a long way in helping you to eliminate the stress of always coming up short.

There are many great tools and apps that can help you budget.  I use the Mint money manager (https://www.mint.com/).  If you need motivation, training, and accountability to start budgeting, I would recommend finding a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University Class in your area.  The class costs $93 and many people object to paying almost 100 bucks for a class on finances, but I would tell you its worth every penny.  Why?  Because 1)  you won’t do what you don’t invest in.  You do better when it costs you something.  2)  We have hosted the class 3 times at our church and have seen on average a $3,000+ financial turnaround in 90 days with every faithful participant.  Why would you not invest $93 in something that could not only pay for itself, but may help you put $3,000 in your pocket in 90 days - and even more over the course of your life?  DO IT!

So there’s the first word, BUDGET.  Tomorrow I will give you the next word to add to the equation.  BUDGET + ______ + ______ + _______ = your turnaround!


Until then, what budgeting tools work for you?  If you’ve budgeted before how did it go.  What works and doesn’t work in your spending plan?  Please scroll to the bottom of the page and leave a comment.  I want to hear from you!

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Brian Branam
Thank you Pastor Brian for this awesome series! I use two tools : an excel sheet that a friend created and the budgetting app th... Read More
Thursday, 26 January 2017 12:04
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Death by Devotional

Death by Devotional

I am about to sell you something that will kill you. I stand at the head of the line of a long list of professionals that should also admit the same. Alongside of me should come Mr. Mayfield ice cream man, the guy who sold you your car, the cashier at your favorite sporting goods store, and a vast number of servers, cooks, and clerks at your favorite restaurants and leisure spots; each of us a testament to the adage “too much of a good thing.”

Ice cream, good. A gallon a day, bad.

Your car, good. Your car going too fast while texting and driving, deadly.

All the stuff you can buy and do at the sporting goods store, fun. Any of it crashing upside your head, concussion.

Food and fun, always good. Living only for food and fun, always bad.

So what is it that I am selling you to death? A devotional!  

A devotional?  

On my website I have listed the Grace, Hope, and Love Daily Devotional. I think it is a fantastic collection of Scripture and applicable stories that would be a blessing to anyone who reads it, but I am warning you not to misuse it. Too many people misunderstand the intent of a devotional book. For them, something that was written to help their spiritual walk has become spiritually crippling.  

So that your devotional reading can be a blessing and not a curse, here is a list of cautions and encouragements when it comes to using devotionals.

A devotional book is not a devoted life.

The word devotion in Scripture is a powerful one. In the New Testament it is often translated from a word that entails three concepts; to beware, to believe, and to apply. This should be a daily expectation of the disciple seeking counsel from God’s Word. We need God’s Word to reveal, redeem, and repair areas of life of which we need to beware and/or be-aware. We need our faith informed so we may more strongly believe. We need God’s Word applied so we may obey.  

A devotional book is purposed to help you with this endeavor in a daily, structured way. But devotional reading is not a devoted life. The word devotion in its strictest sense speaks of what you give yourself to. Devotion is not a something you read, it is something you do. We do not need a Bible reading plan as much as we need a Bible doing plan. Just because you are reading a devotional book does not mean you are giving yourself to the Lord in a devotional life.

A devotional book is a start not a stop.

Many great pastors and Christian thinkers have written devotional material to help shepherd and feed God’s people. There are many notable ones in churchdom, but one of classics is Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. The title reflect a constant theme in Scripture. In the creation week there was evening and morning.  David called for those who were truly devoted to God’s Word to meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1). Morning and evening, evening and morning is the the rhythm of creation set in motion by God.

Many people purchase devotional books that they use either first thing in the morning to get them going, or perhaps they use them at night as they seek to still the busy mind. I find no fault with either.  Yet the concept of morning and evening as devotional reading is not meant as a discipline of consideration - as in to make sure you do it daily, but as a discipline of meditation to make sure it guides your thoughts throughout the ENTIRE day; as in starting with the morning and keeping you throughout the evening.

Devotional books are quick reads to get you going, but the deeper call of God is for Bible intake, memorization, and study. I like to use material written by Warren Wiersbe as part of my devotional reading. He is about as meat and potatoes of a Christian author as they come. But he is not my stop, as in, I read it and now I have fulfilled the discipline. Rather, a Wiersbe’s book alongside God’s Word is my start, as in I will ingest it in a way so that I DO NOT stop thinking about it throughout the day - morning and evening!

A devotional book is text, not context.

Devotional books will often give you a verse or a chapter of Scripture to read and give you an immediate application of that passage to life. Awesome idea! In that sense a devotional provides you a text. Where a devotional fails is that it does not provide you the context.

Use a devotional, but read the Bible. Find out where those verses are IN Scripture. A devotional may tell you that this verse came from Ephesians, but what in the world is an Ephesians? Where is it? What is it about? 

Ephesians 2:10 is wonderful. Ephesians 2:10 in context is a masterpiece. 

I am a big advocate for having a paper copy of the Bible. Learn where the books of the Bible are located in the cannon of Scripture. These books form the collective story of God.  

A devotional book is a bloom in a garden. Its intent is to pluck something sweet and fragrant that will inspire you, but the greater glory is the garden from which it came. Sure, the blooms are beautiful, but if you never walk the garden you really won’t smell the roses.  

The Christian life is not meant to be lived verse by verse. We are sovereignly immersed in the story of God. Each text/verse of the Bible exists within the larger context of God’s story. Use your devotional to point you to curious places. Use your Bible to walk the garden paths.

A devotional is application, not exposition.

One of the reasons people enjoy devotionals is because they quickly get to the point. Many people find it challenging to read the Bible, understand it, and know what to do with it. Yep, me too.

Devotionals cut out the leg work. Don’t bog me down with long, arduous explanations of what passages say, just tell me what they mean.

I recently had a conversation with a doctor about feeding tubes. Odd topic, I know, but sometimes a necessary one.  

As many doctors tend to be, he is an eclectic fellow, a highly intelligent man who walks to the beat of a different drum. In demonstrating to me the ease of use of a feeding tube, he demonstrated to me how one can conveniently uncork the tube, pour in a bottle of nutrients, re-cork the tube, chunk the now empty can of nutrients into the trash and go about the day. He said, “It would save me a whole lot of time having to eat.” I assure you, he was laughing when he said it, but I also think he was somewhat serious about the prospects of installing one on himself.

Devotional books are spiritual feeding tubes. They will give you what you need, but wow, what a joy it is to chew!  Feeding tubes may be faster, but there is a flavor in food you will soon miss if you do not have to break it down in your mouth.  

Sometimes a tube is necessary, but insane if we want one merely out of convenience. God gave you a tongue, not a tube!

While it is true that what we need from God’s Word is application, there is a flavor that emerges from the hard work of exposition that helps us taste and see that the Lord is good. The Bible is not a ‘How To’ guide for life. It is a story. It is a poem. It is a command. It is a revelation. It is a multi-course meal robust with the flavor of God. Don’t forget to chew!

A devotional is personal insight, not personal investment.

One of the things I like most about the Faith, Hope, and Love Devotional is that it gives you insight into God’s Word from 52 pastors, teachers, authors, and evangelists. It is an indispensable resource full of wisdom. These people have a journey with God that is curious to me and I love hearing from them.

But wouldn’t you like to hear the voice of God for yourself?

One of the great truths of Scripture is that we have a God who desires to be with His people. The Bible is filled with image rich words that communicate the opportunity we have to be close to God. One of the words we translate as “prayer” in Scripture speaks of intimacy, not merely request.  

Prayer is not shouting aimlessly into the heavens, prayer is communing with God. Prayer is not an announcement over a megaphone, it is a conversation at the table.  

The only way to have a personal experience with God is to make a personal investment in His Word. Use a devotional book, but devote yourself to Bible study.


It is a worn out metaphor for many things, but the Christian life is not a microwave, it is a crock-pot way of living. We would like to think that a few convenient seconds is all we need to be like Christ. Devotional books ARE NOT intended to be the Bible nuked for you!

There is NO devotional author worth their salt who would ever advocate his or her book as a replacement for the Bible. Their intent, my intent, is not to replace Biblical reading or meditation. Our intent is to inspire you to start somewhere and to help keep you there daily.  

At some point the devotional book should be a gateway into something greater, not an end in itself. We have to simmer on Scripture if we are ever to truly appreciate the flavors of God that are there. There is no shortcut to the good stuff!     


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Reading Romans

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to up the ante on my blog by writing more frequently. Thus far I hope my readers have recognized that I am doing a little better. If you have not checked in for awhile due to my usual schedule of bi-frequent posting then you may want to scroll down a bit. My goal is to write at least daily Monday through Thursday. That may not happen simply due to the fact that I am a husband/father/pastor/student guy. Yet, when I grow up I would like to be a writer. This does not mean I do not want to be a pastor, but it does mean that I would like to offer the world something in hardback.

I am not sure what sort of thing I would like to write, which is a huge problem according to C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis recommended that writers find an area of concentration and write within that area. In blogging I have seen the wisdom of this advice because it is so difficult to come daily with something off the cuff to post. Thus, I make this offering hopefully for the benefit of all. For me the benefit will be that this project will offer some parameters; an area in which I can concentrate. For you that may mean more decent offerings than simply what I did today which would contain frivolous references to how much I hate crying people on reality shows, what sort of car is passing outside of my window, and such and so. Maybe those are the sort of blogs I should write considering blogs of that nature are far more read than my own; but I just can’t resign myself to that sort of thing just yet. In a previous post I pointed out that I really don’t enjoy those sorts of blogs that constantly refer to how one is feeling about something at the moment, to which my friend Jason Dollar astutely pointed out that my blog is called “feeling my faith.” Hmmm.

Nevertheless, I hope to concentrate my writing for a time into something that may become meaningful to me as a writer and to you as a reader; not only because of its content, but hopefully also due to your participation. I beg you, comment! On Feb. 1 (yes love I know that is our anniversary, number 12 to be exact) I will begin preaching the second half of Romans, chapters 9 – 16. I would like to offer a project in which I offer you some fruits of my study. If you know something about this area of Romans then you will recognize that chapters 9 – 12 are the most treacherous of “Roman roads.” That fact alone should also up the ante on my blog, again, for the both of us.

So please join me in this. Happy hunting!

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Inauguration Day

I write this entry as I watch the intermittent live streaming broadcast of Barak Obama’s inauguration on my laptop. Ironically my Bible reading today was I Samuel 11 – 15, I backed up one chapter for context. It is the story of the inauguration and collapse of King Saul. I try to read five chapters a day. If I had tried to calculate this moment months ago it would not have been able to plan my reading so perfectly to fit such a historic day.

What are some principles to keep in mind this inauguration day?

1) Pray – 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Prayer supersedes political parties. There is no doubt that America is post-Christian. This truth was eloquently stated by President Obama just a few moments ago, but it has been a predominant ideological and political practice for many years. A post-Christian environment does not give any follower of Christ an excuse to also become post-Christian. Barak Obama is no Nero or Domitian. In the context of Paul’s writing to Timothy Christians were being fed to lions and lit on fire as garden torches. Under such intensity Paul implored the people of God to pray. Prayer is the force behind preserving our freedom to practice our faith in peace. The church has lost its intensity in prayer. Paul says the first business of the church is to pray. Inauguration day should inaugurate for believers an intense time of prayer. Barak Obama is now our President. We are urged to pray for him. If we do not do so we have failed him as our leader.

2) Enthusiasm is not a substitute for righteousness – Today is a great day for all Americans. It is a celebration of our nation. Today is a season of joy. We should celebrate it together as Americans. Yet enthusiasm is no substitute for righteousness. In 1 Samuel 10:6 the prophet Samuel is telling Saul that the Spirit of God would change him. “Then the Spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.” Today inaugurates a change of ideas. Today needs to inaugurate our desire not only for national change but for spiritual change. In order for America to succeed we need to become a different kind of people. We must become people that seek the righteousness of God. In his farewell address Samuel tells the people to act in repentance. “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty (1 Samuel 12:20-21). The crisis of our nation is not as much economic as it is spiritual. We have morally collapsed. The themes presented in our art and media are a reflection of the seared moral conscience of our nation. Furthermore there is a moral crisis in the church. Rampant participation in all things ungodly characterizes the people of God. In order for God’s blessings to return to the church we must return to God. Sunday by Sunday we cover our unrighteousness with a veil of enthusiasm. It is time to return to righteousness and seek the Lord.

3) Be a student of history – On inauguration day it is not a bad idea to brush up on history. A marquee of post-modernism is the freedom of historical re-interpretation and revision. The rule of context is categorically ignored. Over the past few days we have been bombarded with quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King and the inaugural speeches of past presidents. There has also been a sea of historical references to events that have shaped our nation. Unfortunately in citing many of those things the historical context has been ignored. Moments shape meaning. It is a tragedy to solicit the enthusiasm of a movement and ignore its ideology. I may be frowned upon for writing this but there are a lot of things flying around in the media right now that are hypocritical and not honoring to Dr. King nor the civil rights movement. That sort of thing happens when not only journalists but also the masses are bad students of history. We easily swallow the placebo; empty with no substance.

4) Identify – Wherever you fall in your political persuasion there is an amazing ability in humans to be able to exercise empathy. Last night there was a program on television that featured President elect Obama’s wife and daughters. His daughters look to be about the age of my girls, maybe just a tad older. In that moment of watching those girls I sensed a connection with the man who was sworn in today to carry the burden of our nation. Though our contexts are not comparable, as a leader of people I felt something for our President and the strain that his family will experience. Those girls are so young. To us Barak Obama is the President, to them he is a daddy – no election will change that fact. We so carelessly criticize our leaders without any thought for their humanity, their family, their heart. We detach ourselves from one another and believe it then safe to throw bombs. If you don’t know a man it won’t hurt you to destroy him. “Don’t get attached, its just business.” As a man who has experienced my fair share of critique I can testify that it hurts and it is impossible, at least for me, to emotionally detach. Let us, especially the people of God, respect the family of our President. May we take some sense of responsibility to protect the sanctity of his family as he has taken an oath to protect our own.

May our President serve us in righteousness, integrity, and honor. And may God bless America.

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Work 40, Eat 3, Sleep 8

Work 40, Eat 3, Sleep 8

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5

· Receive my words
· Treasure my commandments
· Make your ear attentive
· Incline your heart
· Call out for insight
· Raise your voice
· Seek it
· Search for it

Knowing God is not for the man who wants only to live – work 40, eat 3, sleep 8, fit in. Our souls were designed with the capacity to stretch for a lifetime. God has designed life to be a metamorphosis. Each day we can become deeper and different. We are not merely bodies. The mind is not just a brain. Living is not the ability to breathe in succession. We were created to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

· Learn
· Value
· Pay Attention
· Desire
· Ask Questions
· Cry
· Journey
· Explore

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

Position your soul at the mouth of God.

· Read
· Memorize
· Think
· Discipline
· Ask More Questions
· Pray
· Journal
· Turn the Page

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