Trusting Though Surrounded

Do you expect that following God’s way will make life easier?  If you study the Scripture and seek to keep all its precepts, will your circumstances be easy and smooth?  While our loving Heavenly Father promises many good things to us, His children, a life of comfort and ease isn’t one of them!

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Psalm 3 (New Living Translation)

1O LORD, I have so many enemies;

so many are against me.

2So many are saying,

“God will never rescue him!”

3But you, O LORD, are a shield around me;

you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.

4I cried out to the LORD,

and he answered me from his holy mountain.

5I lay down and slept,

yet I woke up in safety,

for the LORD was watching over me.

6I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies

who surround me on every side.

7Arise, O LORD!

Rescue me, my God!

Slap all my enemies in the face!

Shatter the teeth of the wicked!

8Victory comes from you, O LORD.

May you bless your people.

How Can the Wicked Prosper?

Certainly in our society today, we find many people opposed to God and His Word.  As in David’s time, there are many mockers and slanderers of God’s followers.  Sometimes we may think that God should tear down these people directly with His mighty right hand, or at least give us victory over them so they will see the truth in what we speak.  But, God’s ways are not our ways—no, his are much higher.  In His good pleasure, God often holds back his wrath and judgment from those who break his Law and oppose His people.

For a time, we find ourselves surrounded by a mighty army of enemies.  Christians around the world today face physical violence from groups who oppose the gospel, and every day men and women are beaten and even killed for following Jesus.  And God continues to give life and breath to even those who harm and kill His people.  How can God do this??  Why does he allow His people to be surrounded?

He’s Longsuffering with Us, Should He Not Be with Others?

God’s mercy is very great.  His grace, or unmerited favor, is lavished on all of mankind, even those who actively oppose Him.  And while we may desire comfort and ease in our lives by following Him, God knows better.  Often these trials and tests produce greater faith and dependence upon God.  See in the Psalm how David exudes confidence in God and His power during the time when he’s surrounded.  This is the faith that moves mountains—trust in God even in the times when it appears that God’s enemies will triumph.

While There Is Time

The good and bad news is that a day is coming when God’s patience with sinners will end.  When Christ comes to judge all the earth, all who are not covered by His blood will be cast out of His presence for all eternity.  Jesus referred to this hell as a place of weeping and knashing of teeth, and all who oppose God will find themselves there.  Yet while we live and breathe there is yet time.  Have you repented of your sin and unbelief and turned to Christ?  Have you asked Him to wash you clean and adopt you into His family?  Do not let the sun go down today without finding hope and rest in the Lord Christ Jesus.  Call on Him now, and watch as He transforms you into the person you were meant to be!

To Whom Do You Go?

Can you think of a time when you faced a tough decision and were unsure of the proper course?  When posed with two different options and can only choose one, how do you sort out the best way to go?  I believe that the first step is to recognize the value in seeking council. This is natural, isn’t it?  To tell people around what’s going on in your life in order to hear their perspective?  But all too often, I think we apply this good principle of seeking council in a way that may actually hinder us.

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What to Do?

Let’s take a common and tangible example of a difficult decision.  Imagine that you own and drive a car that is near the end of its life and not worth too much.  One morning when you attempt to start the car, you get some scary noises and a whole lot of white smoke.  Later that day you get the call from your mechanic:  you need a between $800 and $1,500 of work done.  Now, you’re not sure that your car is worth much more than $2,500 once it’s all fixed, and you’re not sure if it’s worth it to pay for the repairs or not.

Seeking Feedback

What would you do in this situation?  If you’re like most people, you’d probably tell your car story to the nearest 10 people who’ll listen.  Invariably, many of these people will offer advice, and certainly it will be well intentioned.  If you’re thinking of the principle mentioned above, that gaining the perspective of others can be valuable in making decisions, you’re probably happy to get all the feedback.  But there’s one key issue we’ve skipped over that makes the difference between the advice you get yielding you a good situation or a problem on top of your problem.

Qualifications test

The key is the determination of adviser qualification.  Or, put more simply, does the person offering advice know what he’s talking about?  Take a basic idea like the following for instance.  Taking financial advice from broke people is unwise.  Think about that for a second.  Now try this one:  taking marriage advice from a person with an unhealthy marriage is unwise.  Seriously, think about it!

Now, while this may seem so simple and obvious, it’s been my experience (personally, I assure you, as well as by watching others do this) that we often fail to apply such a basic filter before giving people’s suggestions credibility.  Our car repair example above is quite a common case of this illogical behavior.  One will ask everyone around him what to do about the car, and he’ll hear many people say, “oh, just trade it in and get a new car!  You’ll save the money on repairs, and paying a little interest is no big deal.  In fact, have you considered a lease?  Then you could have a really cool car right now!”  All too often, we’ll not only accept these ideas, but will actually factor them into our decision making process and let them influence our choice.  But what is the financial position of the advisers here?  Do they own their own cars?  Do they have an effective budgeting system in place and are they on track for retirement?  Often, No!  They do not!

To Become a Winner, Follow Winners

So, here’s the bottom line.  Does the person offering advice have what I want?  If it’s financial advice I’m seeking, do they have a financial life that I’d like to have?  If it’s spiritual advice, so they have the walk with the Lord that I want?  If it’s fitness and nutrition advice, do they have the physique and energy levels I want?  Run your advisers through this simple filter first, and you’ve avoid many behaviors that lead to the terrible place called average.

Driving Blindfolded, Looking in the Rear-view Mirror, or Looking Ahead

What would you think of a person who drove his 2013 Corvette convertible around while wearing a blindfold.  How about someone who kept his eyes glued to the rearview mirror as he blazed down the highway?  Would you think that person is nuts?  Would you consider that person dangerous?  Would you be surprised if I told you this is exactly the way most people operate a major aspect of their life?

nice car!

The illustration above is the way many people operate their finances.  Ask 10 of your friends and neighbors if they keep a budget and you’re likely find few who do so.  Of those who keep a budget, many do not truly have a budget (forward looking) so much as they have a spending tracker (backward looking).  You would never drive a vehicle this way, so why would you operate your finances this way?

Not that fun?

Ok, few people are delighted to sit down with a spreadsheet and map out their spending for the month.  Even fewer people like to say no to themselves and restrict their spending on superfluous items.  But, if you will give advance cashflow planning (budgeting) a chance, I promise that the rewards will be worth the small investment of time, and you may just save yourself from careening off the road!

Having Financial Agility

When you’re sitting down with all the information in front of you, you’re more apt to see roadblocks and curves in the road ahead.  You can look at your home improvement fund or your vacation fund and get a gauge foe whether it’s on track for the upcoming expenses.  This lead time allows you to respond to financial challenges earlier: for example, skipping meals out for a few weeks early in the month so you can afford to buy new tires for your car when they’re needed later in the month.

Taking Control

Rather than creating unpleasant restrictions, a budget like that recommended in our ThriveFit page actually makes your life easier and more hassle-free.  While your friends are busy worrying and hand-wringing about how they’ll pay for the medical bill they didn’t plan for, you’ll be peacefully executing your spending plan for the month.  Although planning ahead doesn’t create more money for you from thin air, when you get your spending under your control, it often feels like you’ve gotten a raise.  Anyway, what do you have to lose?  If you hate the feeling of being in control and looking in front of you instead of behind, you can always go back to the chaos method….  😉

Making a Plan That Lasts

Why make a plan  for your money?  Isn’t it more fun to just grab what you want whenever you want it?

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Growing Up

Living your financial life with the foresight of a 3rd grader may be fun in the moment, but to have what you want next week and next month, a longer term vision is required.  Problem is, even when people become convinced of the value of budgeting to their peace and financial freedom, their first attempt to make a budget sets them up for failure.

Make it Today, and For Today

If you’re like most people, the first time you sit down to work up a budget for the coming month, you try to create a generic, one-size-fits-all budget that will represent all future months.  You’re planning for the perfect month from heaven, problem is, that month never really happens here in the real world!

The key in building a successful cashflow plan is to spend this month’s income on this month’s expenses.  Some expenses will be nice and consistent, such as your house payment or water bill.  But if you make your budget too generic, it won’t work in real life, and you’ll be tempted to just give up money management altogether.

Get Started

Today’s always the perfect time to start planning your budget for the coming month.  If you haven’t tried the latest version of ThriveWealthy, click the tab above to find the page and download the tool.  Read over the instructions briefly, then start entering your expected paycheck amounts and dates.  Allocate how you’ll spend all of next month’s income in the different categories provided, changing category names as needed to make the budget fit your life.

Enlist Our Help!

Don’t be discouraged when things come up and you have to revisit your allocations several times throughout the month.  As you continue to plan your spending before the money is spent, you’ll improve at predicting your actual expenses, and you’ll also notice that your money will start to be spent on those things that are important to you–with less “falling through the cracks” or getting spent on things that don’t really matter to you.  Feel free to post successes, hardships, or questions to the comments section below; we’re all in this together, and we are all here to help each other thrive!

Keep It Interesting and Avoid Plateaus

Some fitness programs out there give a month’s worth of workouts; others may even go up to 90 days.  But what do you do then?  Rest a week and do it again?  One big problem with that:  you’re asking for a plateau.

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No Endless Loop

One of the key reasons that a program like ThriveFit is superior to many of the month-long of 90-day DVD sets is that not only does it come with 200 workouts (which should last you about a year), but once you reach the end, you’ll have the tools to create more workouts for yourself.  Once you understand the philosophy of varied programming using functional movements, the sky’s the limit for the number of unique combinations you can create.  This makes your workout more enjoyable and less monotonous  but also minimizes your propensity for plateaus.

Apply the Principle

A personal example of this happened to me recently in my 1-rep max squat.  Several months ago, I had plateaued at a squat of 315 pounds.  Traditional programming would have led me to simply keep doing squats week after week.  Instead, I intentionally built for myself workouts involving squats, but sometimes back squats, sometimes front squats, and sometimes thrusters.  Not only that, I also varied how many reps of squats I’d do and whether to do them heavy or light.  Examples of these types of workouts would include:

1. Three rounds for time of

2. As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes of:

  • 5 squats 255#
  • 25 pushups
  • 15 box jumps 24″

3. For time:

  • 21 thrusters 125#
  • 21 v-ups
  • 15 thrusters 125#
  • 15 v-up
  • 9 thrusters 125#
  • 9 v-ups

With this type of programming, I was able to train my squatting muscles without repeating the exact same movement in the same way week after week.  As a result, when I retested my max squat last week, I found I had jumped from my previous max of 315 pounds all the way up to 345!  While this won’t get me anywhere near the Olympics, it was a huge gain for me and a big victory in an exercise I’ve struggled with for some time.

Try It Yourself!

I hope you’ll take a moment to check out the ThriveFit page and learn the philosophy and techniques.  I look forward to hearing about your success reaching new heights by mixing things up!

The Debt is No More

Would your friends describe you as an appreciative person?  Are you grateful for the many blessings you enjoy?  Or, are you prone to take the benefits you daily enjoy for granted?  Do you occupy yourself more with giving thanks for the good things or keeping count of the bad things? Today we’ll learn from the master, as the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to have hearts of gratefulness.

no more debt

Luke 7

41″A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42″When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45″You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46″You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47″For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49Those who were reclining [at the table] with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this [man] who even forgives sins?” 50And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

A Huge Debt Forgiven

As was so often His habit, Jesus used a simple and relatable story to communicate a deep and powerful spiritual lesson.  In the parable, we meet two men who are both in debt to a wealthy man.  One owes him 50 days wages (say $10,000 or so) and the other owes him ten times that amount.  Although the wealthy man has every right to demand his due payment, he does not. Because he is gracious, he completely forgives both debts.  The two are of course grateful—but not exactly the same.  Imagine being forgiven a debt of $100,000!  How much weight would you feel lifted off your shoulders!!

The Lord then goes on to explain the spiritual truth underlying the story.  Like the men in debt, you and I owe a monstrous sum.  But it’s not money we owe—it’s a debt of sin.  Because God is a just God, and we all fall short of obeying His perfect Law, we must pay for our unrighteous actions.  The penalty for sin is death, and not just death, but eternal separation from our Creator.  But, like the gracious rich man in the story, our heavenly Father has paid our debt.  He did this through Christ’s atoning death on the cross.  Our Savior paid the penalty we owe by dying the death we deserved—He Himself being without sin.  If we will turn from our sin and accept Christ as Savior and Lord, He will wash us clean and forgive our debt.

Do Your Actions Show You Grateful?

Now, whether we have been forgiven for a collection of small or lesser sins, or if we’re forgiven from a lifetime of rebellion and grotesque sins, we will be overjoyed and thankful to our gracious Father.  But the one who is saved from the mountain of heinous sin will tend to have a greater appreciation for the gift he has been given.  Like the woman in the story who was saved and forgiven from her life of adultery, we should recognize and give thanks to God for blotting out our transgressions.

If you’ve been forgiven much, take the time to recount and remember what God has saved you from.  Pray and give thanks that Jesus has paid your debt and God has forgotten your iniquities.  Conversely, do you think yourself forgiven relatively little?  It can be easy to downplay our own sinfulness, to view our godless words and actions as “minor slipups,” or “small infractions.”  But God is holy, and a sinner cannot enter His presence.  Instead of looking on others, whom we deem as “worse sinners” than us, let’s take the lesson of this passage and fall at our Savior’s feet in overwhelming gratefulness for His grace and love toward us poor, undeserving sinners.