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The 2nd Word in Your Turnaround - Work!

The 2nd Word in Your Turnaround - Work!

This week I am giving you four words that are the keys to your financial turnaround.  Yesterday I gave you the first one, BUDGET.  If you want to read that post, click here.  Otherwise, here is your second word.

Word #2, Work - 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Proverbs 13:4

In 2 Thessalonians Paul was addressing a small group of Christians who thought that if Christ was going to return soon, why work?  The problem is that the longer the return of Christ lingered, they became an increasing burden on the church.  They felt as if it was the obligation of the church to provide for them during their time of elective unemployment.  Paul sent them a very clear message, you don’t work, you don’t eat.  Your choice!

There is no way to justify lazy.  People who elect not to work place undue burden on people who do.  Why?  Because everything costs something.

Budgeting works best when there is a healthy income stream.  Cutting wasteful spending is critical, but budgeting also helps you see that with a better cash flow your situation may be able to change quickly.  You may become more motivated to work harder for a promotion.  You may see room to take on a side job or two to help fill the gap.  

Work the plan and plan to work!

Furthermore, there is a dignity to work.  The Bible says that when God created the earth, that he put man in the garden to tend and to keep it (Gen. 2:7ff).  A lot of people misunderstand the creation and fall story in Genesis 1-3.  Work was not the curse.  Man was given work to do before he was cursed in sin.  Harder work, work that doesn’t work, working and it not working - that’s the curse (Gen. 3:18-19)!

The Bible places a dignity on work.  It is right for us to contribute to our society whether it be by making high level decisions about the economy or serving tables in a restaurant, there is dignity in all of it.  There is no dignity in deciding to be dependent if one is able to work.  It is a part of our purpose to be the images of a God who is always at work.  Let’s go to work!  

Now you have the first two words of the equation.  BUDGET + WORK + ________ + ________ = your financial turnaround!  I will give you word #3 tomorrow.  Don’t miss it.


Until then, answer me this.  What motivates you in your job?  Do you enjoy what you do?  Why or why not? Please scroll to the bottom of the page and share your thoughts.

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Brian Branam
The asnwer is not glamourous. What motivates me at my job is, in order, the little energy I need to do my job well, the money and ... Read More
Thursday, 26 January 2017 12:12
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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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Habit Hoarders, Why the Resolutions we Make are Doomed to Fail

Habit Hoarders, Why the Resolutions we Make are Doomed to Fail

A new year gives us an opportunity to establish new habits.  Statistically, the odds of success are against us.  Studies show that only 8% of people who make resolutions are successful in achieving them.  Why do we fail so frequently?

When it comes to habits, we hoard them.  The definition of habit says it all.  A habit is a “settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” 

A&E frequently airs a reality show called Hoarders that spotlights people living homes piled with years of mounting clutter.  Like the rest of us hoarders do life, eat food, buy clothes, and acquire new and needful things.  No issue there.  What is abnormal about them is not in the new they bring in, but it is the old they fail to give up. 

Buying a toaster, perfectly normal.  Having to  add a new toaster to an old pile of broken down toasters and a diesel truck transmission rusting in the corner of the kitchen, completely odd.  And this is why we watch the show! 

The tension of the episode comes when a dumpster is dropped off in the front yard and it comes time for “the hoarder” to start throwing things away.  It is at this point that the dysfunction of the situation becomes most apparent.  As piles of garbage are pulled from cluttered places the hoarder goes into a psychological meltdown as they express an emotional attachment to almost everything.  They have lived with it so long they find it hard to give up.

That’s the problem with habits.  We want to start new ones, but we don’t want to give anything up.  We have done life so long the old way that we have made no room for the new.  As such the tension of adding a new habit on top of an old one creates life clutter.  You soon find that simply adding to life leaves you with no time and no willpower left to accomplish the new goal.  By February you are left only with one more rusting resolution to add to the pile of past failures.

Resolutions fail when we seek only to start new habits.  Resolutions succeed when we replace old habits with new ones.  

So you want to read more, great idea, less Netflix.  You want to lose weight?  Eat this, not that.  You want to quit?  What are you going to start?

In Ephesians 4 the Bible articulates this powerful idea with four simple words, PUT ON, PUT OFF.  New life is not adding to life, new life is replacing life.  Look at how Paul goes on to explain the concept:

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  (Ephesians 4:25-32 ESV)  

New habits must replace old habits, but because we have been so long with the old we had rather hoard habits than replace them.  The new habits we so earnestly desire become victims of an already cluttered soul.  We must stop hoarding our habits.  It is time to throw some things away!   

Ultimately new habits come down to motives.  A slimmer waistline is desirable.  A healthy bottomline in the bank account can make life seem more secure, but as ends in themselves these things are empty pursuits.  There are a lot of reasons we do what we do, but for those who follow Christ there is a singular motive, holiness.  Ephesians 4:24 says that our ultimate motive should be to become the person God created us to be.  For that to happen we need redemption in Christ Jesus and a holy pursuit of Him by replacing the old life with new life.

The beauty of the gospel is that it gives us the power to encounter the cluttered places and throw some things away.  It is easy to become bitter, but in Christ we find new joy.  It is easier to take, but it is most fulfilling to work and give.  It is easy to fall into the habit of slanderously tearing people down.  Yet there is an amazing newness of life when we learn to speak kindness and foster a heart that forgives.

May God bless you in this new year.  Out with the old!  In with the new!

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One Week After the Storm


There are only two seasons in Alabama; football season and tornado season.  Actually football season never really ends here.  The teams only play 11 games but the fans talk about them 365 days a year.  Tornado season usually takes up about 8 months of the year.  There will be tornadoes somewhere in Alabama every week of the Spring and Fall; you can count on it.  Kansas has nothing on Bama.  The Wizard of Oz was supposed to be based on Dorothy from Tuscaloosa, but everyone knows the wizard behind the curtain of Bama is The Bear.  No surprise there, so they moved the plot to Kansas just to keep the story interesting.
A white Christmas in Birmingham is the unicorn of holidays.  In 2010 Bama had snow on Christmas day.  Last winter brought us lots of snow, another oddity in Alabama.  Then came Spring/tornado season part 1.  Tornado season is always dangerous in our state.  Last April it was devastating.  All of us have been weather paranoid since April.  We did not have snow this past Christmas, but we had thunderstorms just a few days into the New Year.  Lightning in January is another weather unicorn.  This past week only continued the rare weather that seemed to begin Christmas of 2010.  In the third week of January a series of F3 tornadoes ripped through our state.  The fact that it happened in January, once again, makes it a rare event.  This year the storms did not wait for Spring.  But this time the tornado was different for me and my family.  Not because the storm came early this year, but because this storm had a familiar face.
When tornadoes hit Alabama we watch it on the news and if it is within proximity we load up the following Saturday and go help.  You go to hurting people, but they are people you have never met and will probably never see again.  As devastating as the April tornadoes were to our state, and as much work as we did at the time, my heart grieved for the people impacted, but I did not know any of them.  I helped them, but I did not know them.  When the tornadoes hit our state last Monday night, they hit just up the street from my house.  I know dozens of the families impacted.  13 families in our church were affected.  My daughters go to school with children who are sharing story after story of what happened at their home.  When I watch the news I see people who I have met on a ball field, people who once attended our church, people I see almost every day.  In April I helped and watched people in North Smithfield, Tuscaloosa, and little towns all over the state.  This week it has been Jane, the Tice’s, Ms. Trice, Cheryl, Patsy, A.P. and Toni, the Bohan’s, on and on.  The guy on the news is Ken.  I remember when his kids were small.  His brother-in-law was our youth pastor.  This storm did not hit my house, but it severely damaged my home.
I still do not know what it feels like to look at your own house and all that’s left is a pile of debris.  I have no idea what it must be like to lose a daughter in a storm, but I was closer this week to understanding those feelings as I have ever been before.  None of it happened to me, but it happened just up the street.  The first house we put on offer on when we moved here was destroyed last Monday night.  We were one signature away from “that” house being “our” home.  I moved bricks and tossed debris at one house while a group of men crawled beneath the pile trying to salvage anything of value they could find.  I knew the people in the pictures they were pulling from the rubble.  I saw chairs and tables crushed beneath the walls of living rooms and dens where I have led families in prayer many times.  This week was a reminder that in a moment everything changes.  One storm blows through your community and in 10 minutes every scene that has been familiar for 9 years becomes barely recognizable.
Tornado ravaged areas all look and smell the same.  If you have seen one, you have seen them all.  Yet the world is so huge that the storm always seems far away.  Tornadoes happen, but they happen somewhere else.  Then it is your street, your family, your friends.  No one is immune.
Many people view the Bible as a narrative that occurred a world away and in another span of time.  Our world seems so different now than then that the two could not possibly intersect; then suddenly they do.  The Bible is honest about a world created with good intentions but ruined by sin.  Because of our rebellion in the garden the world that was created to sustain our lives will sometimes fight against us and take our lives.  Because of sin the story of the Bible is full of storms.  Because that story continues with us the storms will continue as well.  The storms remind us that the story of Scripture is not that far away.
After the storm we rush in, desperate to save a life.  We become desperate to make things right.  Yet ultimately we realize that insurance helps us recover but it does not help us redeem.  I visited a man in the trauma unit who told me that this was not his first trip to the hospital after a storm.  No matter what we rebuild we know we may be hit again.  Our rescue efforts, volunteer cleanups, and insurance policies can make the moment somewhat better but we are powerless to ultimately make it right.  We are incapable of looking any of our neighbors in the eyes and saying, “I promise, this will never happen to you again.”  It is a cruel reminder that we cannot save ourselves.  We need good news.
The Bible is honest about the storm and it is confident about redemption.  Along with the angry palpitations of our planet there are also promises of hope.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Romans 8:18-25
The good news is that the world was not supposed to be like this and because of Christ it will not always be like this.  The difficulty is in the waiting, but we do not wait hopelessly, we wait with hope.  Waiting hopefully does not mean we passively subscribe to Christ and wait patiently to die.  Waiting with hope means that we live for Him now.  Waiting hopefully means we must realize that recovery is not simply about extending Christian charity, but about spreading the gospel message.  It is calling people to repent of sin and submit to Christ as the ultimate expression of hope.  Some may charge that calling for repentance at at time such as this seems cruel, but if we merely rebuild homes in Jesus’ name, we have redeemed nothing.  All we have done is recovered and rebuilt something that may be destroyed again.  The message of the gospel is that in Christ we enter into a new hope that will sustain us in the storm because we know one day He will come again and return the world to right.  We wait for Him to come then, but in the waiting we live for Him now.  The promise of the gospel is that one day Christ will end the terror of sin.  When sin ends, so will the storms.  In the weeks to come our task is to rebuild, but our call is to tell.  We must rebuild homes, but we must also give people hope by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
These are our neighbors.  These are our friends.  This is my community.  Jesus Christ is our hope. 
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Tales of a First Grade Atheist - Reposted


This is the week of the year when people publish their "top tens", reviews, and resolutions.  For the final week of the year I will offer some of my favorite posts - reposted.  Feel My Faith.com has been online a few years now.  It is time to bring some old material back to the top.
“If I can’t see God, how can I believe in Him?” I could tell we were progressing past the usual questions of curiosity that we had grown accustomed to for the last six years. You know, the questions designed to make parents squirm. When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I know God laughed. “Daddy, why is my sister in mommy’s belly?” And before I could clear my throat, “Daddy, was I in mommy’s belly?” “How did I get in mommy’s belly?”
“Well, um, honey. . .it just. . .you see. . .when a mommy and a daddy. . .” and now that God is laughing, by His grace, in the infinite expanse of time and design, by His predestined purpose, before the worlds were framed, He placed a Chic-Fil-A, with a playground, and ice cream in your path. There you make a hard left, “let’s play on the playground.” And the child screams with glee. The secrets of biology are safe, preferably until she’s thirty.
But this question scared me, not so much due to the question, but because she’s only seven, and she was serious. If the eyes are a window to the soul, I could see deep within her, and I could not see God. I could only see a soul that had been thinking consistently about this long before she asked me about the existence of God. And my soul, her daddy’s soul, panicked. And it panicked hard. Has my first grade beauty become an atheist? Is public education truly a tool of the anti-Christ? Is that lump in my throat more than nervousness, could it be the early stages of cancer? I can’t breathe, do I have asthma? Could it be true that my child was not only losing baby teeth, but also losing her faith?
I have read tons of Norman Geisler, Chuck Colson, Josh McDowell, and Francis Schaeffer. I was stunned, but I was armed – and so I fired. Picking up the nearest Junie B. Jones volume from her nightstand I said, “Have you ever met this lady who wrote this book, Barbara, have you ever met Barbara?”
She stared at me.
“Well don’t you believe Barbara is real even though you haven’t actually seen her?”
And I did that with a dollar, with a doll, with a Disney princess. I did that with almost every artifact which cluttered her floor. Every toy, book, and doll became a part of my apologetic arsenal. Tonight the tools of theology, tomorrow she must clean her room.
That’s theology, that’s great apologetics, that’s something that no seven year old in her right mind could refute; the fact that even though we cannot see these people, and have never met these people, the proof of their existence is clearly seen by the evidence of their creations. And so I proudly waited for the seven year old to surrender, for the intellectual dust to settle, for the daddy of theology to kiss her goodnight, say her prayers, turn out the light, having once again successfully explained the secrets of the universe to a seven year old. And this time without a Chic-Fil-A bail out.
The dust settled, and in her eyes, in her soul, only doubt.
This went on for several days. She played on the swing set, I taught her how to hit a softball, she pretended to be a princess, she took a bath, she went to bed, and she became an atheist. The eyes of her soul full of doubt, the question consistent, “If I cannot see God, how can I believe in Him?”
How can this child not see God? I am a pastor, we own a hundred Bibles, we go to church – even on vacation, we pray – a lot, how can this child not see God?
And as the nights progressed my soul began to break. And it was hard for me to see my child at seven begin to lose her faith. It was hard for me, in this, to see God.
Isn’t there a formula for raising born again kids? I know there are books about it. I took a family class in Bible College; I know we talked about it. I am sure I have heard or preached a sermon with a sure fire list of five, three, or eight ways to raise born again kids. There must be a formula – perform a list of steps, pray a certain prayer, memorize a chapter, claim a verse, have twenty minutes of quiet time a day, never let your daughter see you screw up (at least not very much), and even go to church on vacation – and you should be guaranteed that God will not plant a child in her mommy’s belly that will turn into an atheist – at seven.
But it wasn’t working.
There have been a number of things in my life that have brought me to the conclusion that there is not a formula for spiritual things. I can teach, model, preach, suggest, advise, regurgitate, talk about faith with my daughter, but only God can make faith come alive within her. And I needed God. So my prayers about this matter began to lose formula, and moved to soul cries of a dad who desperately desired to see faith bloom in the heart of his little girl.
But she continued to question me, and I continued to question God.
Why will God not flip the switch, plant the seed, make faith simple – seven year old simple, again? There are a lot of things in my life right now about which God is silent, and for some reason, He will not move. But this was, to me, the cruelest of all, for God to allow me to lose grip on my daughter’s faith. Why?
And I grew closer to joining her, wondering why do we believe in a God I could not only see, but I could not hear, that I could not feel, and now seemed would not answer? Do I believe? And the battle moved from her bed into mine. Deep into the night I prayed and I wondered about my own faith.
She dressed a doll, she played with her Gameboy, she ate a pop-sickle after supper. She took a bath, she went to bed, and there it was again, those contemplative, empty eyes – a doubting soul.
And so I reached down into my soul and grabbed it to see what was there. “Morgan, I believe in God. I have given my life to Him. I believe Jesus died for me on the cross, that He loves me and that he has saved my soul. I may not understand everything about God, and I may never be able to really answer your question, but I believe in Him. And Morgan, I pray for you every night, that God will give you faith and cause your heart to long for and believe in Him.”
She hid her face under the covers. All I could see was the bow I had forgotten to take out of her hair. And then I heard her cry. My heart broke.
I begged her to tell me what she was thinking. I could tell, whatever it was, it was coming from a place deep within her. Finally she sat up. Wiping her tears, clutching her pink patchwork quilt, broken and teary, she pressed it out of her mouth, “Daddy, I’m just so happy to know you pray for me.”
I grabbed her in my arms and held her tight. My eyes grew watery, the lump in my throat – growing. She shook in my arms and I could feel her tears now saturate my shirt. But I must confess, the unregenerate, sarcastic monster that lives within me wondered where she had been for the last seven years as her mother and I have religiously prayed for her? Seven year olds – a mystery.
I am a pastor, I go to church. . .even on vacation. I can turn Bible passages into formulas, put them on PowerPoint, and preach them systematically. I own a ton of Bibles. I overreact. She was nowhere near atheism, but her faith was challenged, and so was mine. If my little girl cannot look into my eyes and see that my soul is connected with God – why would she believe? At seven, she understands religion is my job. And there are times she looks into my eyes, and that’s all she sees, a job in religion. What she wants to know is that her daddy knows God and actually talks to Him about her. Not in formula, but in conversation. When my girls destroy my nap, pounce on my outstretched stomach, crushing my vital organs, and begin to “waller” me to death – can they sneak a peek into my eyes, my soul, and see God? I wonder how many times, praying over green beans, have they actually been listening to my voice, listening for it to connect with God? When I pick up the Bible, do they wonder if I have truly met the author – or is our relationship strictly apologetic?
I saw God in my daughter’s eyes again. Her faith and my faith, a little more elastic, stretched, and growing. I realize she and God have something in common. They are wondering if I believe in someone I cannot see.
Dear God, come alive in me.
Dear God, come alive in her.
God give us faith to see You.
Gal. 2:20
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