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Weekly Bible Verse – Giving More than One is Able

March 29, 2010 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · 1 Comment 

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 2 Corinthians 8:3-4 (NIV)

Wow, what a verse, what a story!  This is basically the opposite of what we see in Malachi 3 where God is rebuking his children for not giving their entire tithe to Him.  Yes, we see quite the opposite here as the Macedonian churches gave not only all that they were able, but even more than that! The idea of “giving more than one is able” immediately brings two questions to my mind: what does that mean and do people do that here in America 2010?

What does it mean to give beyond one’s ability?  I think it means that you create your budget (or spending plan for my “budget-averse” readers) allocating your giving first, and then balancing the rest of it.  You make sure that you give enough, save enough, and have enough to pay all your other bills and do what you plan to do that month.  Then you give more! (What?! That’s crazy talk!)  You give more than your budget says that you are able.  The numbers no longer add up to zero at the bottom of your painstakingly crafted, previously beautifully balanced budget.

Then you wait…

You wait to see what God is going to do with the extra you’ve given to Him.  You wait to see what God is going to do with you.  You may recall a recent Weekly Bible Verse where I discussed that God promises to meet your needs.  So you wait to see how God will meet your needs this month.  Maybe He blesses you with opportunities that you had not even considered.  Maybe he opens you to contentment and teaches you that your actual “needs” are less than you originally thought they were.  I do not know and I’m sure it is different for each person who boldly attempts this.

Do people actually do this?

That’s what it means to give more than one is able to…so onto my second question.  Do people do this today in our affluent societies?  I honestly do not know.  Considering that statistics show that very few Christians actually tithe (give 10%), I would guess that the number of those that give beyond their ability is quite minuscule.  I’m sure some people do it, but I would guess not many.  Do you?  Why not?

God bless and have a great week…

I Just Saved $200 Repairing My Washing Machine…or did I?

March 24, 2010 · Filed Under Random · 8 Comments 

“What in the world?” I said as I opened the lid of our washing machine.  My wife had asked me to put the load of laundry into the dryer but it was still soaking wet.  The washing machine had drained but the clothes were still full of water and detergent.  “Uh oh,” was the next thing that crossed my mind.  Being the optimist that I am, though, I set the control dial to “Spin” and pulled the knob. “Uh oh,” again…noise was being emitted by the washer but not the right noise and, even worse, no movement of the agitator.

Numbers, with dollar signs in front of them, started wracking up in my head (and up and up).  The last time someone came to repair our refrigerator, it was $90 just to come to the door.  Then there would be the cost of the part(s), and the labor to take the thing apart, fix the offending piece, and put it back together.

I’ll fix it myself!

My workspace with the machine taken apart..note the laptop in use

So, I told my wife I would look into fixing it myself.  It was Saturday afternoon and this was our last load until the middle of next week, so I could buy myself some time.  Actually, it took just a few seconds on Google to find what was most likely the problem and the part would only cost $10-$20!  I’m all in now, I decided.  I was going to go for it and try to repair it myself!  Now, I had never even attempted to do such a repair before.  Sure, I occasionally take electronic equipment apart for tinkering purposes, but I’ve never successfully repaired anything that I’d taken apart (when I was a kid I made a flashlight, does that count?).  This would be different, though; this washing machine had to be repaired!  (I thought: worst case scenario I would have to pay someone to fix it, but that’s where I was already…just maybe I could make it work).

Fixed!

And I did!  I fixed it!  I took it apart and fixed it and I have the pictures to prove it!  By the grace of God, I was able to disassemble it without hurting myself or anyone else, replace the part, put it back together, and make it work!  Let me tell you, accomplishing that was a phenomenal feeling! (Not spending money while simultaneously finding that feeling of accomplishment – now that is a win-win!)

I saved $200!

So what did I end up saving?  Let’s see, I wildly guess that the repair would have cost somewhere between $150-$200.  Ok, so I spent $20 for the part plus I donated $10 to the guy who put the pictures up on his website that showed all the steps to complete this repair (This is the site you want to check out if you need to repair a Kenmore washing machine!).  So, that saves me about $170 – time to celebrate!!  Let’s hit the town for a celebratory dinner maybe?  Maybe I’ll get me some bike gear that I’ve been coveting.  Oh, I know, how about a tuner for my guitar. Man, that extra $170 is going to come in handy!

Am I sure I saved $200?

Now hold on a second, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might know what I’m going to say next.  Let’s ask the question again: How much money did I save today?  $0…in fact, I actually spent $30.  Sure, I do have a working washing machine.  God provided for us such that it only cost $30 instead of $200.  That’s all true.  But that doesn’t mean I should go and spend the amount I “saved.”  I’m sill worse off by $30 than I was Saturday morning.

I know, I’m being a total buzz-kill.  I’m not trying to be completely goofy about this.  Fixing the washing machine was an awesome feeling!  I came into the family room yelling about it (much to my wife’s chagrin as she was trying to talk to her sister on the phone….and later to her mother on the phone…yes, the yelling went on for some time).  Just remember not to tell yourself these little lies about money that get us into trouble.  You can’t save money by spending money (even with a coupon!).

That’s what we tend to do, though, right?  Look up to the title of the post, “I saved $200!”  Did I really save that much?  First, I just guessed the repair would be $150-$200.  Of course, I then rounded up and started touting the higher number but that’s not even correct as I spent $30 to do the repair.  Ok, so I saved $170, I’m going to go spend that $170!  No!  In situations like this, people tend to feel like they made $170…no, no, no!  Be honest with yourself and don’t play these games with money.  I’m thrilled to not have spent $150 or $170 or $200 on the washing machine repair, but that does not mean I now have an extra $170 to go spend!  Again, I do not now have $170 more compared to Saturday morning, I have $30 less!

Did I really fix it?

I took pictures to prove that I fixed it.  Unfortunately, it didn’t strike me until afterward that I was the one taking the pictures so none of them show me actually working on the machine!  You’ll have to take my word for it!  Here’s proof that it was actually working after the repair (ignore all the shoes floating at the top, I have no idea what my wife was doing with those in there…yes, yes, washing them, of course, but it just looks strange!).

Weekly Bible Verse – Giving off the Top

March 23, 2010 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · 3 Comments 

Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase. Proverbs 3:9 (NKJV)

This week’s verse ventures into the realm of giving.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into a discussion regarding how much of his/her income a Christian should be giving (not today at least).  I do want to point out the importance of giving your best to the Lord, however.

As Christians, we are required to honor the Lord with the “firstfruits” of all our increase.  “Firstfruits” seems like an interesting word, so let’s take a look at it.  According to NETBible.org, “firstfruits” is defined as “first, beginning, best, chief.”  Of course, you ask, “What in the world does that have to do with me?  I’m not giving sheep or crops to God, I’m giving money.  How do I determine which of my money counts as ‘firstfruits?'”  Well, that’s a good question and I agree that it doesn’t have the same connotation as when this verse was originally written… but that doesn’t mean it’s not still relevant today.

I think that we are still required to give God our “first” and “best.”  To me, giving our first simply means giving to God first; it means giving to God off the top of our stack of money.  In other words, don’t give God what is left over (if anything) at the end of the month (“sorry God, that was an expensive trip to Wal-Mart last week so I don’t have anything left for you this month” – read that sentence out loud and listen to how it completely trivializes God).  Instead, give to God first.  Practically, you decide how much money you are going to give to God beforehand and then you make sure that happens.  You give it before you pay any bills, or invest, or go to the movies, or buy gifts, or anything else!  If you can’t afford to do everything you want to do in a certain month, you absolutely ensure that your giving is not what falls below the line and doesn’t get accomplished.

Some people might say, “I can’t afford to give money to God.”  I’d counter that you probably can’t afford not to give to God.  Remember last week’s verse – the one about God supplying your needs? Let’s get real here – are you putting your trust in God (omnipotent creator of the universe) or the money you have in your pocket?  Don’t fret about being able to afford giving to God, go ahead and give your best to God (time, money, effort, etc) and God will meet your needs.

God bless and have a great week…

Monthly Net Worth Update – March 2010

March 19, 2010 · Filed Under Net Worth · Add a Comment 
Cash + Money by Terence Chang

While last month’s net worth dropped quite a bit (almost 8%), this month’s included a surprise bump.  We’re not exactly back to where we were in January, but we are much, much closer than last month.

Our assets increased almost 3%

Somewhat surprisingly, our assets actually increased this month.  That increase was driven almost entirely by the stock market.  The market’s bump after last month provided my net worth with a bump as well.  Our mutual fund and stock accounts increased more than 10% while my stock options were up 15%.

Not surprisingly, our cash accounts dropped quite a bit (more than 6%).  My wife did not work the entire month of February and it took a bit of a toll on those accounts.  This will probably continue for at least the next month as she is still not working and we have started to pay the doctor and hospital bills for our daughter’s birth.  We also were slow to adjusting our budget to our new lower income, so that hurt us as well.  This month I’ll receive my small yearly bonus, a small federal tax return, and a sizable state tax return (I’ve played with the state withholding and it seems almost impossible to significantly drop that refund).  All that will hopefully add up to a less precipitous cash drop this month.

Our liabilities decreased 0.12%

Our mortgage dropped the standard 0.12% again this month. Last month I mentioned my frustration at the small decrease in mortgage principal we experience each month.  After doing my taxes and calculating how much interest we’ve paid over the past four years and contrasting that with how little the principle has decreased, it is beyond frustrating and almost to the point of painful.  I almost feel like I want to just sell the house and start all over with something that I can pay less on and pay for only 15 years.  My wife and I have started playing with a bunch of scenarios, mostly crazy ones, but I haven’t done any hard analysis to decide what is best at this point.

Our net worth increased almost 6%!

After the 8% drop last month, I was quite happy to see a 6% increase this month.  As I mentioned, we’re not back up to the high-water mark we experienced in January, but we are closing in on it. We are, however, now in the thick of a period of financial uncertainty marked by less income and some large expenses.  Frankly, this comes at about the best time of year for us with my bonus and tax returns.  God’s timing?  I’m really trying to focus on God and rely on Him and not worry about the financial stuff.  So far so good – though He is doing a better job of meeting our needs than I am of relying solely on Him.

Weekly Bible Verse – God Supplies Our Needs

March 18, 2010 · Filed Under Weekly Bible Verse · 6 Comments 

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19 (NASB)

If I were to be honest, I would have to admit that I spend too much of my time thinking about money.  I worry about money way too much; maybe you do as well.  If so, this week’s verse will hopefully serve as a beneficial reminder for both of us. Right there in the Bible it clearly states that God will supply our needs.  If I could get that through my thick skull, I might have a lot of extra time on my hands.

Let’s delve a bit further into this verse.  First, we see that we have to do our part in order to have God do His part.  This is evidenced by the “in Christ Jesus” phrase.  What’s our part then?  We have to be “in Christ Jesus.”  This verse then does not promise to supply everyone’s needs; just those that worship God and rely on Jesus Christ for eternal salvation.  Another part of this equation is that we must be being obedient to God.  If are continually sinning with no remorse and thumbing our nose at God, He’s not necessarily going to meet our needs.

There is one final caveat I’d like to point out today – the verse clearly states that God will supply our “needs.”  Therefore, you need to know the difference between a need and a want.  Actually, you need to know the difference as God would define it.  One of those parenting moments when I really felt like I was getting through to my kids was when I overheard my 5 year-old son telling his 7 year-old sister, “you don’t need it, you just want it!”  (should I be embarrassed to say that was one of my proudest moments as a father?)

Of course, if you want to relieve some burden of worry about money and meeting your own needs, you have to ensure that the one agreeing to meet your needs for you is capable of producing.  Clearly God can accomplish this.  Remember that we must rely on Jesus for our eternal salvation.  I would venture that justifying sinners like you and me with all the wrong we’ve done over the course of our lives is the hard part.  If God can do that, providing for our basic needs certainly is a trivial task for Him.

God bless and have great week…

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