Monday, March 14, 2011

Momentum in Our Finances Part 1

(I am teaching three sessions at a local Christian Conference called Momentum on March 19.  The first session deals with our finances and using them for God's Kingdom.  I have broken the talk up into sections and will be posting them over the next few days.)

Even though we live in a land of abundance there is great economic uncertainty in our country.  There is high unemployment, low house prices, very low interest (good for borrowers, terrible for savers), and a huge debt load (not only for individual consumers, but also for our state and nation).  So there is every reason to be a little worried about our money.  We want to make sure we have the security of wealth to build on lives upon so we can handle all the other things that life throws our way.

Let me be up front at the beginning.  This is session is not about how to invest wisely or even how to budget consistently, but it is about putting our finances into their proper place.  If we are going to build our lives upon the foundation of financial security then we are going to have a very shaky foundation.  The primary reason for that is because there are so many things outside of your control when it comes to your finances.  You can do all the right things, and yet still find yourself in trouble.  The monetary policy (Federal Reserve: interest rate control, TARP, Quantitative Easing) and fiscal policy (government spending, deficits, and debt) of the government as well as the market place all play a hand the value of your money.  These things are entirely outside of your control, and yet they play a huge part of your life.

There is no doubt that we need to use our wealth wisely.  That is why I would recommend Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover as a good place to start when it comes to getting your financial house in order.  The temptation that we need to resist when use resources like the ones produced by Dave Ramsey is the thought, “Well that doesn’t apply to me because my situation is unique.”  In other words we come up with reasons why we are the exception to the rule, and why the principles given will not work in our situation.

Being disciplined with our money is not fun, it takes hard work, and it also takes sacrifice.  It will mean having to go with out or making do with second best so we can eventually get to the place where we can actually afford the best.  It means intentionally directing where your money goes rather than being at the mercy of your every whim and desire that wants to slowly steal your money away.

Here is a great example.  Think about how much money you have spent on VHS tapes, DVDs, and now BlueRay Discs.  Now if you went to sell all those movies how much would you get for them?  Only a fraction of what you paid for them.  In other words these things are ultimately a wealth stealer and add very little to our quality of life, especially if you consider the money you are also paying for cable TV and a subscription to Netflix.

You see the principles taught by Dave Ramsey or Crown Financial help us be intentional and thoughtful about our finances, and thus we can feel more in control about how our money is being used.  It is an excellent idea to take the time to create a budget, to develop the discipline to live within that budget, and to be intentional about where your money goes.

I also want to encourage us, especially in economically uncertain times, to trust in God.  We have all heard the advertisements to buy gold because gold will get you through tough times.  I have also heard people say that it is too late to buy gold, that what you need to focus on are commodities like rice, beans, and other type of food items.  You need to do this and that in order to prepare for an economic collapse.  Many of us are then left wondering just what is the best way to prepare.

Here is my sage advice: the best way to prepare is to be good stewards of what you have and trust God to provide for our needs.  We don’t know what is going to happen in the future.  Remember those people who spent all that money to prepare for the end of the world with Y2K, when all the computers would shut down and the world would be thrown into chaos? In hind sight was that a good use of their resources?  It wasn’t, but they sure were convinced they were preparing themselves for the future.

We don’t know what is going to happen in the future.  At this point the economic could continue to collapse or it could recover (I am leaning towards a collapse), but we have experts telling us both things.  So all we can do in times like this is to use our money wisely and generously while trusting God with our future.

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