As you can tell, I've been absent for a few days. I'm working through some things, so I'll be taking a break from Devotions for the rest of this month. I apologize, but I feel I need to take this time to regroup and pray about the direction the Lord wants to lead me in this endeavor. Thank you for your patience and support.
"Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing." Proverbs 3:9-10
There is a fine balance to how we should handle our finances. Matthew 6:24 tells us: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." So we can't love money and be consumed by it, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." 1 Timothy 6:10, but we need to spend enough time thinking about it and talking about it that we help take care of God's church. Both the physical church and the people in it.
Listen to to what the Lord says in Malachi 3:9-10 "'You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'" Wow! The whole nation was under a curse because they weren't tithing.
So what is a tithe anyway? A tithe is 10% of your income. Now Proverbs tells us that we should "Honor the Lord with our wealth, with the firstfruits of all our crops," so I've made our tithe to the church the first item on my budget and and give 10% of our gross income. Paul shares this guideline in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 "Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income..."
Well, let's say we've been great stewards of the money God has given us and we live well within our means. Should we only give 10% to God? Not at all! Giving an offering above our 10% tithe is what we should all strive for. Everything we have is the Lord's, so should we not use our wealth to bless others?
My husband and I get so excited when we receive back our tax return each year, because technically we've already tithed on this money since I tithe on our gross income, so it gives us extra money that we then take 10% of to use as an offering to the Lord. In this we can help our church in special ways or help a family that we may see in need. Seth and I both have a gift of giving, so the act of sharing or income with others brings us great joy.
Now for some, it is hard to fathom taking 10% of your income and giving it the church when you have mountains of bills to pay. For anyone in this situation, I invite you to check out Dave Ramsey's Book, "The Total Money Makeover." This book has helped us prepare and survive after I quit work to be a stay-at-home mom. Even with a huge cut in pay, God still gets our first fruits.
For more information about budgeting, please check out the "Get Life in Balance" series under Organization.
"If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:3-5
Wouldn't it be fun to go on a treasure hunt? To unroll that old map with strange symbols that need deciphered. To have clues in plain sight pointing you in the direction you should go. The thrill of finding the "x" and digging like crazy to get to the treasure.
Now let's relate that excitement of a treasure hunt to God's Word. Reading scripture should be fun! We should open our Bibles with anticipation of deciphering parables and using them to guide us through life. We should shout "Woo Hoo" when we find scripture that touches our heart and keep reading to find more.
Discipline...discipline...discipline. Any good treasure hunter doesn't find a treasure map and then stick it on the shelf only to be pulled out once in a while. Neither should we stick our Bibles on a shelf and only pull them out when we are in crisis. God has so much that He wants to reveal to us, we just struggle to take our eyes off our earthly treasures to search for heavenly ones.
"Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11: 33, 36
Recently I heard a beautiful woman speak on balance and depth. So many things she said struck me, but one that has caused a lot of personal reflection is that "we often feel an inch deep and a mile wide when we are out of balance." This is exactly how I feel! The depth of the relationship that I have with my Savior and King feels pretty shallow. How do I deepen it? How do I show Him love and take time to listen to His advice?
The first step has to be, to make time for Him in my daily routine. Now I acknowledge that as the mom of two children under three, that my daily routine can often be interrupted at any moment, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't make the effort. The season of life that we are in, plays a huge part in the time we set aside and the depth of our study. But we should NEVER be so busy and so distracted by the things of this life that we leave God out of our day completely.
I pray the words of David in Psalm 25:4-5 "Show me your ways O Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and lead me, for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long." And claim that "God will instruct me and teach me in the way that I should go. He will counsel me and watch over me." Psalm 32:8.
Personally, I love to start my day in quiet stillness with the Lord. As the day progresses, mom and household responsibilities overtake me, so I've found the early morning hours to be my most peaceful time. Daily I read a wonderful devotional titled, "Jesus Calling," and look up the scriptures listed. This devotional has touched me in a special way this year and I would highly recommend it.
Now sometimes reading my devotional is all I get done, and it's not always read in some quiet meditative state. Sometimes I read it while in the bathroom with my 9-month old climbing on my lap. Sometimes I read it while blow drying my hair. Sometimes I read it while walking back to the washer and dryer to switch loads. The point is to make an effort to focus my mind on God.
Other days I am blessed like today, where I've been up for an hour and the house is still quiet. I actually have extra time to dig for treasure in His Word. In this time, I like to turn to Proverbs. I set out every month trying to read a chapter of Proverbs every day. There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so it works out perfectly. I may not get every chapter read every month, but by reading it over and over again each month, I know that it's planting His Word in my heart.
Just listen to the first seven verses of chapter one that explain the purpose and theme of the whole book. "The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young-let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance-for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." Whew! Makes you want to read more, doesn't it?!
I thank God for the riches of His Word. I thank Him for the lessons that He is teaching me in quietness and chaos. I can't stop life from happening around me so that I can take some monumental times of study and meditation. But I can bring God into my day by praying while folding laundry, reading Bible stories to my kids at nap time, and holding my tongue when I get overwhelmed by my 2-year old's unending question of "why?" I can make a small sacrifice of sleep and wake up early to get a few moments of quiet study.
I thank God for showing me that my organizational personality can be helpful in bringing calm and peace to my day. So, I'm officially claiming May as my "Get Life in Balance" month. I'd love to hear how you keep life in balance or if you'd like to take this challenge with me. Be watching the Organization page for the daily assignments and helpful tools to help keep you on track.
Assignment #1 - Make time for God in your daily routine. If it's first thing in the morning...be consistent. If it is the last thing before bed...be consistent. Find a devotional to read (in print or online) or start reading Proverbs. Just make time for God!