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Word #3 in Your Financial Turnaround - SAVE

Word #3 in Your Financial Turnaround - SAVE

This week I am giving you four words that are the keys to your financial turnaround.  I have given you the first two: BUDGET and WORK.  If you want to read those posts, click here for BUDGET and here for WORK.  Otherwise, here is your third word.

Word #3, Save - Proverbs 6:6-8

Once you start budgeting and working you can begin saving.  Maybe you are already budgeting and working, but saving . . . not so much.  Why not?  Probably because the budget is too tight and there is nothing left over to save.  And there’s the problem.  Savings don’t come off the excess, they come off the top.  Saving money must be intentional, not accidental.

Making room for savings is critical.  For one, you never know what a day may hold.  We all need an emergency fund.  An oil change every few months won’t break the bank.  Replacing your AC unit in July will!  Save for it.  Life isn’t perfect.  Things break.  People get sick.  You may miss work.  If you have money set aside for such a time as this, you have immediately eliminated a great deal of worry and stress.

Another important aspect of saving is learning to pay with cash.  In a consumer driven economy it is easy to throw down a piece of plastic and get what you want even if you can’t immediately afford it.  

You may not have the the $1100 for that 4K flat screen you really want for your Super Bowl party, but the retailer has made it easy for you to have it now!  Buy it now - pay later.  $35 a month.  You budgeted for it.  You can afford it.  Why not?

The problem is in what you REALLY pay.  In a standard consumer credit deal at 18% interest, your $1,100 4K TV will actually cost you $1,431!  Stores don’t extend credit to you to make it easy for you to get a TV from them.  They extend credit to you so that they can make it easy for them to get more money out of you.

Saving money, SAVES YOU MONEY!  Saving money eliminates stress!  How much would it ease the burden on your mind to have a few thousand dollars set aside in the bank?  How great would it be to go on vacation in June and not be paying for it until December?  How merry would your Christmas be if you were not paying for it until April?  

If you budget, work, and save - you pay for what you need and truly enjoy what you want!  

 So now you have three of the four words.  BUDGET + WORK + SAVE + _______ = your financial turnaround!  Tomorrow, we will finish the equation.  Until then, share with me; what is your biggest hindrance to saving money?  Do you put away a little money each week for vacation or maybe for Christmas?  What is something that you saved for that gave you great satisfaction when you bought it?

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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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The Bible Is Like an Accordion (Reading Romans 12:3-21)

The Bible is like an accordion. The text is full of folds. Within each fold there is a massive amount of information. The more you pull on it, which in the Biblical sense is known as exegesis, the larger the meaning of the passage becomes. The fact that the Bible has so much information can also be confusing. When many people read the Bible they are confronted with so many ideas so quickly they fail to see how it all holds together. As a result, when people read the Bible, they hear static instead of music.

A helpful way to deal with the accordion of the Bible is to outline. Writers have a message they want to convey. In conveying the message they may reveal truths, present arguments, or illustrations to support or prove the central message. The points are not the message, but merely a part of the message. The Bible is written communication. It conveys a message. It is not a hodgepodge of ideas but a story, a letter, a teaching, that conveys a central idea. Because the Bible has so many folds most people read it in bits and pieces, point by point. In so doing one fails to see the central message. So how do we remedy this problem? In previous posts I have endorsed reading the Bible in chunks and within its context. So read the Bible in chunks, but you may also want to eat the chunk, piece by piece, with an outline.

In reading Romans we have already encountered that Romans 12:1-2 represents a transition. It is not another idea of the book, but simply another expression of it. The first 11 chapters of Romans focused on doctrinal concerns and now we shift to the application of those doctrines to daily concerns. I have said that Romans 12 begins a section on how to live difficult doctrine in an even more difficult world. The main idea of Romans is how God saves the human soul, but we see that Paul speaks of that idea in two expressions. Now you have an outline!

In simple terms:

Romans 1 – 11 (the way God saves the human soul)
Romans 12-16 (the way saved human souls live)

Romans 1 – 11 (The doctrine of salvation)
Romans 12-16 (The practice of salvation)

The book is about salvation! The book is not about salvation and something else.

But what if you want to break things down even more – like an accordion – expand the outline. You can outline entire books of the Bible chapter by chapter. You can then go to each chapter and expand the outline of each chapter. So what about Romans 12? If you read Romans 12 without thinking of a central argument you will hear static! There is so much there it almost seems random. It appears that Paul is emptying his pockets of things to say at this point, as if he is throwing everything he has left out on the table. But what if you see Romans 12 like this:

In order to live the Christian life we must relate to:
1. God (vv. 1 – 2)
2. Self (vv. 3-8)
3. Others (vv. 9-21)

What about the static of verses 9 – 13? Try simply writing the text bullet by bullet:
· Let love be genuine
· Abhor what is evil;
· Hold fast to what is good;
· Love one another with brotherly affection . . .

If you simply break down the phrases of a passage it helps clarify the message. Then start to think through its application. You can find a variety of applications. What are the qualities of a great church (a group of Christians that relate well to one another)?

They truly love one another
They are active to avoid evil
It is like family
It almost seems like they compete to honor one another
They are not lazy, but highly committed

You get the idea. Take a passage and pull it apart. The Bible is like an accordion. The more you pull on it the bigger it gets. If you pull at it the right way you will get rid of the noise and start making music!

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