Pay Down Debt

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7

A nation, business or home built on debt is owned and controlled by outside forces. There is no freedom or liberty to be found in leveraged ownership, only obligations and payment plans. Debt is unemotional and uncaring when it decides to call your loan, or make new demands you are unable to fulfill. Debt is deceptive in its ability to draw us into its pleasures in exchange for our time, energy and focus.

Short-term borrowing is subtle, because it can easily become a shortcut that only satisfies our immediate gratifications but with long-term ramifications. I have missed God’s best because I got in a hurry, and thought I had to make things happen, so I presumed on the future. Ease of credit can lead us to grow impatient with prayer and make purchases pre-maturely. However, blessings come from waiting on God’s prayerful provision.

“LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.” Psalm 38:15

Thus, start immediately and implement a plan to pay down your debt. Begin by paying off the credit card with the smallest balance, and cease from spending with the convenience of credit’s plastic purchases. Eradicate your mortgage by the time your children start college and you will have added margin for their extra educational expenses. Delayed gratification is a discipline God blesses. Like a hiker with a light backpack, without the weight of debt you are able to freely follow the Lord’s call.

Turn to Christ instead of credit, and watch Him create opportunities you never conceived. Waiting to pay in cash is an exercise in faith, and a refraining of the flesh. A smaller home and older car, with peace and contentment, is much better than more, with regret and restless nights. Debt free living liberates your life and increases your generous giving. Therefore, pay down debt so you are free to love and serve others more effectively.

“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” Romans 13:8, (NASB).

Where can I begin to aggressively pay down my debt and increase my giving?

Related Readings: Isaiah 30:18; 64:4; Micah 7:7; Hebrews 11:8-12

6 Biblical Lessons on Relationships

After 35 years in ministry and 30 years of marriage to Serita Jakes, Bishop T.D. Jakes has outlined key life lessons learned from these two great institutions.

The following are 6 sample “Lessons from the Heart”  excerpted from “The T.D. Jakes Relationship Bible: Life Lessons on Relationships from the Inspired Word of God.”

1. Overcoming Our Differences in Relationships.
The art of relationships requires that a man who is very different from his woman finds common ground with her and vice versa. We are meant to balance each other by attracting people whose strengths may be our weaknesses. Together as a result of our differences and unique distinctions, we complement each other. Understanding only comes when you stand under a real desire to know, love, and comprehend the other person, embracing the uniqueness of who they are.
2. Healthy Relationships Require Emotional and Spiritual Freedom.
You often won’t know what you have, let alone need, in your life until you clear the mental and emotional room to experience the here and now. We don’t have to stay buried under the past or cycles of mistakes, even though it may seem insurmountable. You can move on with your life. You have to keep your mental and emotional house clean and in order. Praying, journaling, mediation, and exercise are common ways for you to be sure your emotional issues of the past aren’t seeping into your current relationships.
3. It Takes Courage to Really Love Someone.
Deciding to love gets harder as you get older. It’s more and more difficult to fall in love because your “faller” gets broken. We’ve all had relationships that didn’t work out for one reason or another. The loss of a relationship can be a traumatic experience and can affect us in our lives for months and sometimes for years. You need to understand what role you played in the relationship’s demise, and work to come to peace with your partner’s behavior as well as your own. No matter what has happened to you, the only hope of a healthy future relationship is to let go of the past.
4. Healthy Compromise in Relationships.
Negotiating win-win possibilities in relationships often means seeing things through the eyes of the others involved in the situation or problem. In most cases of healthy compromise, both parties feel they are “right.” Healthy compromise is the hallmark of healthy relationships. The Lord’s peace often results when each side comes close to His viewpoint, His perfect plan for both parties. We cannot remain so entrenched in our view that we cannot change or adapt, and we must know when not to compromise too far.
5. Safeguarding Your Relationships.
In order to maximize your life and relationships, you have to minimize your load. You must focus on what’s important when it comes to your relationships. Lightening your load means knowing when to release things. Most of don’t realize that the key to release ourselves is within our own hands. You can move ahead and conserve your strength for things that count, things you can change, things you can control. Have the wisdom to see the importance of giving you all to your relationships today!
6. Evaluate Who You Are.
When you see yourself as valuable enough to deserve love and attention from the other person, you form a boundary that you will not compromise. A little self-esteem goes a long way in garnering the courage to ask and answer questions that reveal who you really are and what you really want. Once you look realistically at who you really are and what you desire in a healthy relationship, you are ready to enter into the research that will lead to sound decisions.

Painting The World With Ugliness…

Have you ever asked yourself  what are you doing to make the world better, to increase even one person’s happiness, to help one homeless person?

Most of us never even think about this fact, we walk around consumed in our own thoughts and lives so much so that we never see the terrible environment all around us. We see people being killed, being bullied, being lonely all because we don’t feel it’s worth our time to lend a hand, or even to look and open our eyes to the hurt and pain all around us.

We live in a world of no sense of society, no sense of responsibility, no sense of helping each other, people commit suicide simply because they are lonely and have no one to turn to.

Instead of painting the world with ugliness each and every single second, why dont we all try. If you have the chance to change someone’s life, why dont you take it?

Why dont we start painting the world with love, hope and  a rainbow of happiness??
Post courtesy of The World We Live In

Dirty Little Secret…SHHHH!

That’s what she called him.  Her “dirty little secret”.  Here was Malynda*, an attractive, vibrant single Christian woman.  She thrived in her job as a paralegal, owned her own home, and was a leader in her church.  By all outward appearances, she had it together.  But she had a “dirty little secret”.  Actually, it was a huge secret.  Despite what she appeared to be on the outside (together, compliant…even spiritual to some), Malynda carried on a secret sexual relationship with a man to whom she was not married.  While she felt extremely guilty, ashamed, and convicted by God for her behavior, Malynda could not seem to stop.  And, despite these feelings, she also felt a hidden thrill about her secret.  She felt a distorted satisfaction at a base level–despite her faith and what she knew intellectually about the importance of obedience and submission to the will of God.

What is it about things that are secretive that seem to feed the flesh and ignite a fierce drive to get more, more, more?  That cake of which you know you should not have another piece.  That money you promised you would not spend because it was set aside to pay an outstanding debt.  That online relationship that, if exposed, would damage your reputation and entire life.  These things and others like them can be and usually are secrets, but they feel good.  Why is that?

The short and obvious answer to the aforementioned question is because we have the flesh and anything that appeals to it is attractive.  The forbidden feels good.  The forbidden that is also a secret can feel even better…almost powerful.  Yet I propose that there is something deeper than the obvious…something that is both general to all and specific to each individual.  It is the longing to be “like God“–an offering originally promised by the devil himself.  It is the desire to be in control of our world, to satisfy our every desire and longing on this side of heaven, to create (and have) our own personal Eden.  This is the thing that drives every outward move towards the “dirty little secret”.  It is sin.
Well, if it all goes back to sin, what hope is there?  If I go to a counselor to address my secret shopping addiction and they (eventually) tell me or lead me to see that I “just need to repent”, what is the point in paying them if I already knew that in the first place?  Valid questions.  The answer is both simple and complex.

The answer is Christ.  It is His death on the cross.  It is His resurrection from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is the fact that He made us alive again spiritually and gave us the power to live with unmet desires and longings on this side of heaven–regardless of the fact that it often feels like we can not.  It is that power that brings our “dirty little secrets” to light and gives us the power to overcome their relentless pull.  The real, life-giving secret is in Christ. We’ve FOUND the (real!) secret!  This is our hope.

*The name and story mentioned in this article is fictional and used solely for illustrative purposes.  Any similarity to actual persons or events is purely coincidental.  Individuals seen in a professional counseling setting are protected by confidentiality as agreed between them and their respective counselors.

Written by Nicole Efunnuga, M.S. – Christian Therapist

Let Your Feelings Show

Dr. Robin Smith

When you are feeling sad, do you allow yourself to cry and let your loved ones know that you are upset? What about when you are scared or stressed? Dr. Robin says the idea that powerful and respected people hide their feelings of sadness, grief or embarrassment is very popular in our society. “We don’t often hear people in power talk about their vulnerabilities, their places that are rough,” she says. “[Instead], we love the feelings of strength and power, we love to feel that we are in control, we love to feel that we have the answer.”

To really be a powerful person, Dr. Robin says you must have access to all your feelings. Dr. Robin says that your feelings—both good and bad—need to be acknowledged by you and by others.

“Embrace, manage and figure out how to be fully human,” Dr. Robin says. “Take every feeling that you have and every experience—those that have left you feeling really intact and those that really threw you off your course—and use all of it to live your very best life.”

Marriage & Family

If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel1 Timothy 5:8

We live in an age of self-justification. We can excuse or explain almost any personal behavior or habit or shortcoming, making a case for our own innocence. But Paul here cuts through all our layers of self-defense and plainly states our obligation.

If you, husbands and fathers, are not carefully laboring to provide the food, shelter, and clothing that are needed by your family—to the best of your ability—then you are not a Christian, no matter how much you may protest to the contrary.

In fact, Paul says, you have denied the faith of Christ by your actions; therefore, you are worse than an unbeliever, because you are bringing reproach on the name of Christ. You cannot claim an allegiance to Christ, on the one hand, and selfishly or carelessly deny the help to your family that Christ demands of you.

These words may sound strong or harsh, but in reality they are helpful and loving. We might be tempted to deceive ourselves on this issue, if it were not so plainly worded for us. Our families might suffer because of our thoughtless neglect, except that Paul has forced us to consider them.

If you have failed in this regard, do not give up; it is never too late to repeal your denial of the faith, to throw off your unbelief, and to show your commitment to Christ by laboring for the welfare of your family.

A great reminder!

Several years ago, a preacher from out of state accepted a call to a church in Houston, TX. Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area.  When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself. ‘You’d better give the quarter back.  It would be wrong to keep it.’ Then he thought, ‘Oh, forget it, it’s only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount?  Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it.  Accept it as a ‘gift from God’ and keep quiet.  When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, ‘Here, you gave me too much change. The driver, with a smile, replied, ‘Aren’t you the new preacher in town?’ Yes’ he replied.  Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I’ll see you at church on Sunday.’ When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, ‘Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.’

Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. This is a really scary example of how much people watch us as Christians, and will put us to the test!  Always be on guard — and remember — you carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself ‘Christian.’

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Passive Husband

“So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.” 1 Kings 21:4

A passive husband is a poor leader. He lacks leadership for his wife, his children and his work. His passivity may be a result of many things. He may be stuck in neutral because he feels overwhelmed. The thought of doing anything locks him down. He may be unable to function as a leader because he didn’t get his way. If he can’t do things his way, he will not do them at all.

He may be passive because his dad was passive. This is the only role model he has ever known. A man may be suffering from chronic passivity because his confidence has been crushed. He has never recovered from a traumatic event that sent him into a sequence of bad choices. Or, a man’s lack of action may be a combination of these or other reasons. He is like a turtle perpetually stuck in his shell, afraid to come out and face the realities of life. He may be going through the motions of life, but something is missing. The fire to engage life has been extinguished, or is only flickering at best.

If that describes you, it is time that you awoke from your slumber of irresponsibility. Your wife and others have covered for you long enough. You are on the verge of losing what you have worked for all these years. More importantly, the respect of your wife may be quickly vanishing, and your credibility in the community may be eroding. Now is the time to take the reigns of your responsibility and do something. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Eventually, however, you need to lead. This is your role and calling from God as a husband, a father and a man. Leaders are made, not born. Indeed, this is probably a huge faith issue for you. Nevertheless, these are opportune times to model, for those who love you, explicit trust in God. He understands your apprehensions about leadership. Your heavenly Father is your leader. You can lead, because He leads you. Lead as He leads you. Model His leadership. You cannot improve on the leadership style of Jesus.

Because He leads you as a servant, you can lead as a servant. Because He leads you with humility, you can lead with humility. Because He leads you in love, you can lead in love. Because He leads you with patience, you can lead with patience. Because He leads you with compassion, you can lead with compassion. Because He leads you with purpose, you can lead with purpose. Because He leads you with courage, you can lead with courage. Because Jesus led, dependent on His heavenly Father, you can lead dependent on your heavenly Father.

The Holy Spirit is the leader of your life. Submit to His leadership—He will move you from passive to active leadership: a leader led by the Holy Spirit. When you are led by God’s spirit, you will lead. It is as natural as falling off a log. Yes, you will fail along the way. But it is better to fail as a Spirit-led leader than to do nothing in your own strength. This requires faith, especially for a husband to take a risk as a leader. Faith overcomes fear and failure. Your leadership at times will let down your wife, but she will love you even more as she experiences your leading in love.

Giving her everything she wants is not leadership. Giving her a husband led by the Holy Spirit is what she needs. Trust God to take care of her wants. You give her what she needs. A passive husband sucks life from relationships. An engaging husband gives life to relationships. Be a life- giver by trusting God with your leadership. Lead for God’s sake!

Failure Is Not Final

“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” Proverbs 24:16

 Failure is not final for the faithful—it is a stepping-stone to success. The sense of failure is an opportunity for faith to flourish and for pride to be humbled. An extreme letdown allows the Lord to lift up the down hearted and hold them close to comfort. Failure facilitates a crystal clear focus on God and His game plan. It is a bridge to blessing.
Have you failed to be a good provider? Communicate caringly? Follow through with your commitments? Find a job? Love well? Become a consistent Christian? If so, join the club of everyone that breathes. We all struggle from time to time with unholy habits that drag us down and try to keep us down. But, by God’s grace, we will stand up, firm in Him.
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today” (Exodus 14:13a).
A faith untested is only fragile and weak, but a faith forged out of failure is stable and strong. God’s goal is not for you to do away with discomfort and remove all remnants of risk. His heart is to have the heart of His children—for without their heart—He only employs their mind. Your set backs set you up for intimacy with your heavenly Father.
A challenging relationship or a botched business deal are opportunities to move your religion from sterile academics to an engaging relationship with your Creator. You can go through a religious routine and say the right words—but are you truly alive to the Lord? Use failure as a diving board into the deep waters of faith—connect with Christ’s care.
“The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous” (Psalm 146:8b).
Furthermore, avoid self-pity and a victim mindset when you fail to meet the expectations of the Lord and those who know you the best. Embrace your responsibilities; express godly sorrow and vow to learn from your humbling—even embarrassing experience. Perhaps you commit to a process of biblical counseling for your marriage or pre-marriage preparation. Overcoming adversity takes time, trust and tenacity—success invests in each.
“When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God”
(Proverbs 14:32).
From what failure do I need to recognize, repent, take responsibility and learn?
Related Readings: Proverbs 11:8; 28; Isaiah 45:8; Luke 18:9; 1 John 5:4