Friday, December 11, 2015

Money, Money, Money!

We deal with money every day. It’s part-and-parcel of our life on earth. Many times, it seems we have a love-hate relationship with it. Rather than us handling our money, it often handles us, putting stress in our lives. In fact, finances are one of the greatest sources of conflict in marriage.

The Bible has a lot to say about our attitude towards and use of money. What follows are seven practical, biblical principles regarding money management.

1. Keep Money in its Proper Perspective!

If we’re not careful, money can become the main motivator and focus in our lives. It can consume and control our every thought, motive, and action. In Matt. 6:24 (ESV), Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.”

Paul states, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world . . . For the love of money is root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:6-7, 10a, ESV). The Hebrews writer admonishes, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5, ESV).

2. Earn Your Keep!

Don’t be lazy and irresponsible by mooching off others. Be responsible for making your own income by working hard. The apostle Paul warns against idleness. He describes how he and his colleagues labored for their own bread to set a good example. He asserts, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10, ESV).

3. Invest Your Money Wisely!

In other words, be a good and prudent steward of God’s blessings. Jesus thought it was wise for people to invest their money and earn interest rather than foolishly burying it in the ground (Parable of the Talents in Matt. 25:14-30). Let your money work for you and your family. Have a regular schedule of investing a consistent percentage of your income over the long haul (i.e., “dollar cost averaging”).

We glean financial wisdom from King Solomon. He recommends the following: (a) Saving consistently—little by little—over time (Prov. 13:11); (b) Diversifying your investments to minimize risk (Eccl. 11:2); (c) Investing ethically in a way that pleases God (Eccl. 12:13); and (d) Seeking good counsel (Prov. 15:22).

4. Don’t Live Beyond Your Means!

Avoid debt at all costs. Don't allow yourself to get so strapped financially, that you are beholden to others (including financial institutions). Credit cards can be a dangerous trap that gets people into a terrible financial bind unless they pay off their debt each month. Accruing exorbitant interest on what they owe catches people in a vicious cycle of ever-growing debt.

If you are married, commit to base your lifestyle on only one of your incomes. You never know when one of you may be laid off, become physically unable to work, or need to stay home to take care of family members.

Don’t buy too much house. A good rule of thumb is to not exceed a mortgage that is more than two years of income (for one partner if you’re married). Avoid taking out a second mortgage (or “home equity loan”) as it will cause you to be stuck if ever you need to sell your home and lack alternative collateral. Also, avoid financing expensive vehicles. They aren’t an investment. Save up and pay cash for an affordable automobile. Learn to be content with what you have (1 Tim. 6:6; Philip. 4:11-12; Rom. 13:8).

5. Be Ethical With Your Money!

Be honest with your financial and business dealings. Don’t steal from others, including the government (Eph. 4:28). Pay your taxes. Jesus commanded it because it’s the right thing to do (Matt. 22:17-21), as did Paul in Rom. 13:5-8.

6. Be Generous with What You Have!

Share your financial blessings with the church and others. We need to be careful not to become greedy with our possessions (1 Tim. 6:17-19, 1 Cor. 6:10). When it comes to generosity, we will reap what we sow (2 Cor. 9:6-7).

7. Trust in the Lord to Provide!

Don’t try to handle your finances on your own. Put your faith in the Lord to provide as you do your part. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). God will take care of us financially and give us what we need because he loves us (Matt. 6:25-34).

Let God be central to your financial life. After all, it really belongs to him in the first place. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:16-17).

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Going Backward: Getting Our Identity in the Wrong Direction

Guest post by Jill M. Richardson

I'm delighted to be hosting author and speaker Jill M. Richardson on HeartPoint this week. Here's a little bit about her . . .

Jill is a writer and speaker of topics that start with grace, courage, hope, and restoration. Also a firm believer in the power of Earl Grey, author of five books, Cubs fan, and sort-of empty nester. She has an unnatural love for Middle-earth, chocolate marzipan, old musicals, and fish tacos. She co-pastors a church near Chicago and has three grown daughters. Her latest venture is Just Hear Me Out: Conversations in the Generation Gap, a book, conversation style, between a baby boomer and a millennial about faith, church, leadership, and what we can finally agree on to move forward. 


I took up the clarinet in 5th grade. My parents probably wished I hadn't. I did want to learn—really. But how many times can you play “I Love You Truly” in the expected half hour practice before you start to get a little . . . creative? Or a lot bored.

I don't remember the teacher at all. I don't even know if it was a man or a woman. Clearly, I was not inspired. As a result, I also was not very good.

Enter 6th grade and Mr. Leafblad. I don't remember him ever telling me my playing stunk. (Even though it did.) I don't recall being bullied, or patronizingly cajoled, or shamed into practicing. I do remember practicing. His enthusiasm for leading a bunch of tweenagers, coupled with his endless encouragement, did what the disinterested fifth grade teacher could not.

Suddenly, I cared.

In fact, I got to be the best clarinet player in junior high. 

I became what I was meant to be, a much better player, because the one in charge accepted me as I was, encouraged me, and saw me as a whole human being, not just as a kid with a clarinet I did (or did not) practice often enough. The desire to do the right thing grew out of love for the person asking it of me. 

Who Am I?

Seeking identity is basic to human nature, not and this venture for meaning has become a hallmark of the Millennial generation. This should surprise no theologian, since God would instill in His creation a desire to continued relationship with Him, the basis of identity and meaning.

Yet one of the biggest mistakes we make in trying to figure out our identity in God is to do things that make us acceptable. We work hard. We faithfully practice for a half hour. We stare at the music and, even if we can't understand a single measure or we hate the sound, we play on, fighting for each note.

We hope beyond hope that in doing things we can figure out who we are.

We do too many things to gain identity.

It worked in school. We figured out early where we fit in. We became the smart one, or the good one. Maybe you were the funny one, the pretty one, the social butterfly, or even the victim. Regardless, we learned that if we kept doing the things that made us whatever we were (getting straight A's, cracking jokes in class) we had an identity. We were secure. 

I spent years proving I deserved my spot in the universe by being the smart one. If I dared let it slip, if I found someone smarter than I was, I would have no idea who I was. It was terrifying.

Don't we do that in church, too? Don't we often—usually--approach God that way?

I'll obey God's rules. I'll go to that service project. I'll tithe. I'll come to church, take communion, even go all out and volunteer for children's church. If I do all these good things for God, I'll be a good person. My identity will be set. God will accept me.

You want to know something crazy?

Jesus doesn't call me or you to be a good person. Jesus calls us to be His person.

To get our identity from belonging to him, not from doing good things.

We do this thing backward.

The Results of Living Backward

Once we know who we are because of who He is and what He already calls us, we will want to do good things out of pure love and gratitude. When we try to reverse that? When we try to obey all the rules in order to feel acceptable? We get so messed up.

People who try to do this identity thing backward are the ones you meet who are always right. They know what is and is not “approved.” No one else can do it right. Everyone else is a little bit wrong. Backward living people are never satisfied. Why? Because they only know who they are--they only feel accepted--if they're better at doing good, being good, or toeing the line of truth closer than the other guy.

If we have to admit we don't know, that the lines may be more fuzzy than we thought, then we are no longer the best at doing, thinking, and being right. And then – We don't know who we are. We're back in junior high.

People who try to do this identity thing backward also become addicted to approval, doing more and more and more, until they burn out. How many of those have we seen? How many have we been? I see that hand. I raised that hand.

There is another way.

Go the right direction.

Take our identity from God, freely given, first. We are chosen, beloved, accepted, known, adopted, and so much more. Then, move into obedience. Let the love for the Great Encourager be the motivator to be what we were meant to be. Not the fear that we'll let Him down.

“For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.” (Colossians 1.19-23)

God is not that teacher who won't ever give the A. He's not the boot camp sergeant. He's the one who sees you as what you will be--without fault. Do you really want a label? Try the ones mentioned above: Blameless. Loved. Reconciled. Friend of God. (Because if you're no longer an enemy, you're a friend.)

I'll never get my identity from doing things. Things are things. They can't offer a moment's peace to my soul. Only a person can do that. The Person—the one who asks us to follow, listen, live in the identity we've already been given -- and let good things flow out of that.

To connect with Jill, please check out her various social media sites:

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Constitutes Godly Leadership?

Question: Are you a godly leader? 

Every one of us is a leader in some sense, because we all have people that look up to us and emulate our example.

There are many kinds of leaders who function in different environments. Some do so in a political arena, others in a business or educational contexts, some in volunteer organizations, others through various media outlets, some on sports teams, and others in churches.

In recent decades, numerous books have been written on the topic of leadership, along with secular business principles and educational philosophies. But what precisely does leadership mean? What qualities mark a true godly leader?

My underlying premise is that every Christian, irrespective of their age, gender, marital status or ability-level, is called to be a leader in God’s kingdom.

Authentic spiritual leadership begins by following Jesus, who is the ultimate example for our lives. 

Christ was a servant leader. Elements worth exploring concerning his unprecedented leadership style include the following: (1) His mode of thinking, (2) His manner of speaking, (3) His method of responding, and (4) His main concerns and priorities in life. By investigating these aspects of Christ’s life, we are able to come closer to figuring out what made him tick.

Spiritual leaders must develop the mind of Christ, the ways of Christ, and the heart of Christ. 

We can only do so by knowing Christ intimately well. Jesus must serve as our primary model, mentor, motivation and message.

We are all called to the ministry of spiritual leadership within our respective spheres of influence, whether it be our family, school, church, work, community, or world. There is always someone who is watching us, even when we don’t realize it.

Misconceptions abound regarding spiritual leadership. Many people picture a military officer issuing orders or a boss managing his or her employees. While these aspects can certainly constitute a part of leadership, they’re not the essence of it. In fact, spiritual leadership is totally opposite to what most people think.

You see, spiritual leadership is servant leadership. 

Jesus Christ himself taught us, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus sacrificially served alongside of His loyal followers in the most humble of ways.

Thus spiritual leadership involves performing the tasks that no one else is willing to do. It requires getting our hands dirty and pulling our weight. In Jesus’ time, the act of washing feet was assigned to the lowliest of servants. However, at the Last Supper, Jesus humbled himself and washed his disciples’ feet and called his followers to do likewise (John 13:12-17).

Having a spirit of humility and service will inspire others to follow you out of love and respect, rather than fear or obligation. 

The apostle Paul summed it up well when he said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Meekness is the attitude that puts others ahead of yourself and that considers others’ needs as being more important than your own.

The Bible says of the great Israelite leader Moses, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). Thinking too highly of yourself will keep you from genuinely caring about others. It will also prevent them from following you.

Spiritual leadership also requires integrity. People seldom want to follow a person they don’t trust or respect. Most individuals are repulsed by those whom they can’t trust to tell the truth. Proverbs 16:13 says, “Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth.”

So how can you go about developing qualities of effective spiritual leadership in your life?
  • First, pray to God for wisdom on how you can become a better leader (James 1:5).
  • Second, ask God to transform your heart and develop the character traits in you that are required for godly leadership (1 Cor. 13:4-7; Gal. 5:22-23). 
  • Third, rely on God’s power to give you the strength and courage necessary to exhibit spiritual leadership. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example and model of godly leadership. He served effectually, though humbly, and with integrity and honesty. 

What kind of leader do you want to be?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Young People Must GROW!

There’s a common saying: “The youth of today are the church of tomorrow.” While there is some truth to this adage in terms of future leadership within the body of Christ, it’s also a bit of misnomer. The fact is, in God’s eyes, Christian young people are already the church of today!

In trying to determine young people’s proper role in their families and in the church, we should look to Jesus for our example. There’s an enlightening Scripture regarding Jesus as a 12-year-old. Luke 2:51-52 (ESV) says, “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them ... And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Thus he grew mentally/intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially. Jesus should be the pattern for young people to model their lives after.

So what is the Christian teenager’s role? It is basically to grow. Using the word GROW as an acrostic is helpful.

G = Godliness. God wants teenager to remember Him in the days of their youth (Eccl. 12:1). Why? They may not have the blessing of a long life. They also develop lifelong habits during their adolescent years. They need a solid foundation of faith to build upon, so that when hard times come in life, they’ll know how to pray and trust in God. Paul exhorted young Timothy (1 Tim. 4:12), “Let no man despise your youth; but be an example to the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

Young people need to seek God’s will and direction for their lives. They should set a good example for their siblings, relatives, and even their parents, just like Jesus did.

R = Respect / Responsibility. Young people should show proper respect to their parents. They also ought to display respect and thoughtfulness toward their brothers, sisters, and extended family, treating them how they would like to be treated (like “the golden rule” in Matt. 7:12).

Furthermore, teenagers ought to learn mature responsibility remembering that other people are counting on them. It’s important for them to follow through on their duties and fulfill their obligations to their family and others. They should honor those placed in authority over them, including parents, teachers, coaches, and church leaders. They need to pitch in to help out and serve their family, church, and community. Doing so will bring honor to their family’s name and reputation.

Under the Old Testament, young people were commanded to revere their father and mother (Lev. 19:3), and were subject to severe punishment if they rebelled (Exod. 21:15-17; Prov. 30:17). Jesus reiterated this stringent command in his own teachings (Matt. 15:4).

O = Obedience. It’s appalling sometimes to see how often children and adolescents fail to show proper respect toward adults. The Bible speaks of the obligation of all people to respect those in authority. In Exodus 20:12 (the Fifth Commandment), the need to obey and honor one’s parents is especially emphasized. Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.” Colossians 3:20 says, “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” (Also see Eph. 6:1-3)

W = Work. During childhood and the teenage years is when individuals learn to develop a good work ethic. It’s critically important for our young people to learn how to work hard as well as develop practical skills. This way they will eventually become independent and self-sufficient.

Household chores need to be assigned by their parents. Also, their formal education at school is part of their job. II Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Everyone in the family, including teens, ought to contribute in some way to their family’s overall wellbeing through hard work.

In the Christian home, the adolescent years are a special time to GROW in godliness, respect/responsibility, obedience, and work. Let’s encourage and train up our children in the Lord!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The "I" Word: Guest Post by Dr. Laurel Shaler

I am delighted to have Dr. Laurel Shaler on HeartPoint this week as my honored guest. 

Laurel is a professor at Liberty University where she serves as Director of the Human Services Counseling program. She is passionate about intersecting faith, culture, and emotional well-being, which she does by writing and speaking, specifically to women. Laurel and her sailor husband live in Lynchburg, VA, but spend as much time as possible in her beloved hometown of Greenville, SC. She enjoys being active in church and community and spending time with family and friends. She is self-confessedly a "Southern Belle."

Laurel has been published in the well-known Lifeway's Journey, Extraordinary Women and P31 Woman Magazines. She also had two devotionals published in "Penned from the Heart, Volume 20."

I am especially grateful to have Dr. Laurel guest posting over Mother's Day weekend, because she eloquently addresses the deep struggle shared by many women with infertility--the dreaded "I" word. Laurel speaks from her own personal experience and provides a valuable perspective and much-needed insight. I appreciate her candid and honest self-disclosures as well as her practical ideas very much.

Here's Dr. Laurel!


People make a lot of assumptions about married women who don’t have children. Especially one who has been married for almost a dozen years like me. I get a lot of questions, such as:

Are you going to have children?

When are you going to have children?

Are you trying to have children?

Are you doing anything to prevent pregnancy?

Have you considered adoption?

What about IVF?

Yep, I have been asked ALL of those questions…and more. Talk about invasive! And while I don’t mind close friends checking in, it is never 100% comfortable to talk about. And it is 0% comfortable discussing with people who I don’t know well, or at all.

Let me just give you the run down on women who are struggling with the dreaded “I” word. We are all different. Our stories are all different. Our hearts and prayers are all different. But, I think we would all agree that what we really want is prayer, love and support. Not questions. Not pity. Not gossip. Just prayer, love and support.

My story started when I was 18 years old and had life saving surgery. (Read more HERE and HERE). As far as being able to have biological children…it doesn’t look like that will happen naturally.

And I’m okay with that.

And then I’m not okay with that.

And I don’t understand. And I don’t expect anyone else to understand. On one hand, I trust God and am at peace about His plan.

And, on the other hand, there are moments when I break down and sob. Usually when I’m home alone, or in the middle of the night, at the thought of not having a child or two who look like us. At not having the experience of pregnancy. At not being a biological mom.  At feeling like less than because I haven’t had biological children.

And then, I am right back to thinking I am okay with all of it. Especially when I think of all the needy children in the world who need a good home. Knowing that God has been working in our lives so that we can help provide for HIS children.

But, I don’t like the assumptions. I don’t like feeling like there is something wrong with me because I haven’t been able to have biological children. I don’t like people thinking that I care more about my career than having children. And I definitely don’t want to be pitied. Or asked too many invasive questions. Especially by those who don’t even know me. I just want to be prayed for. And loved and supported.

My encouragement to those who are struggling with infertility (or those who have chosen not to have children or chosen not to have any more children) is to try not to let the questions upset you. Not everyone is sensitive. Not everyone understands your situation. And many may harmlessly be asking. We don’t have to get upset when asked those questions. We can just give a polite response that sets boundaries.

And to those who care about someone who is walking down the path of infertility, there are so many ways you can be supportive. For example, be sensitive to that person. Some of us love attending baby showers and children’s birthday parties, while those special events are too painful for others. Please, just recognize that we are all different, be cautious with your questions, and don’t make assumptions. If you want to learn more, I invite you to read THIS.

We all need to respect that God’s plan for every couple is different, and every couple walks down a unique path. Even if we don’t all agree or understand, I think the only Christian response is to pray, and offer love and support.


Thanks, Dr. Laurel, for these relevant, touching and helpful thoughts!

Please connect with Dr. Laurel Shaler at her various social media sites including the following:

Facebook: Dr. Laurel Shaler
Twitter: @DrLaurelShaler
Pinterest: DrLaurelShaler