Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Do You Want Peace?


You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
(Isaiah 26:3)

What a promise! How much do each of you long for and crave perfect peace?!

If you struggle with worry, anxiety or stress, which I’m pretty sure all of you do, this verse can serve as a continual source of comfort for you.

Let’s do something I like to do with some verses and talk about the opposite of what this verse is saying:

“She will not be at perfect peace if she does not keep her mind on God because she isn’t trusting in Him.” In fact, let’s face it, when our minds are kept on our surroundings and circumstances we have anything BUT perfect peace.

Our minds have a million things to think about and dwell on all the time. We must discipline ourselves to take our thoughts captive and do as this verse says and keep our minds on Him.

Let’s contrast biblical peace with worldly peace.
The world defines peace as the sense of calm, tranquility, quietness, contentment, and well-being that comes ONLY when everything is going well. But that definition is shallow. A calm, tranquil feeling can be produced by lies, self-deception, the absence of conflict and trouble, even drugs and alcohol, or something as simple as a good night’s sleep.

This kind of peace is fleeting and easily destroyed. It can be shattered by the arrival of conflict and trouble, as well as by failure, doubt, fear, hearing someone’s bad opinion of you, guilt, regret, sorrow, anxiety, being disappointed or mislead by others, making bad decisions – in short, worldly peace is threatened by anything negative and negative things are bound to come your way every day. If your security and comfort is wrapped up in this sort of peace, you are bound to ride a roller coaster of emotions for life and bound to never find perfect biblical peace.  

#1. Biblical peace is not based on circumstances.
The world’s peace is fleeting. It disappears as soon as your circumstances change. God’s peace is based on Him and therefore it doesn’t change with your circumstances because He does not change with your circumstances. Just listen to Christ’s words in John 14:27Peace I leave with you; MY PEACE I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” We do not have to be troubled or afraid when it is His peace we seek. But if you are seeking worldly peace then you should be afraid.  

#2. Biblical peace is everlasting.
Not only is His peace for this life but it will be all we know in heaven! Think about that! Imagine your life with ongoing PERFECT peace. That’s what awaits believers in eternity. This is another reason for us to look forward to our true home in heaven with our King. God’s peace endures forever. Worldly peace comes and goes.

#3. Biblical peace is always available. This should be a great comfort to all of you. You don’t have to earn it. It doesn’t come to those who are the closest to “perfection”. God says, here in Isaiah 26:3, that it comes to those who keep their minds on Him! What a joy to know that we are able to take advantage of His perfect peace whenever we choose to set our minds on Him and to trust in Him.

#4. Biblical peace is better!
Why would you seek after the temporary peace I described earlier that is so easily shattered? God’s peace is clearly better! The problem is our flesh lusts for the worldly, quick fix peace and our flesh also gravitates toward whatever is the least beneficial for us spiritually. Once you begin to eagerly seek biblical peace by setting your mind on Him and once this becomes more of your practice, your flesh will lose out because you won’t be chasing after worldly peace as often.

#5. Biblical peace aligns itself with the Word of God.
Have you ever watched a friend make a terrible worldly decision and then hear them say something like: “I prayed about it and felt peace.” Genuine biblical peace will NEVER come with worldly decisions. God would not bless someone with His perfect peace who was directly disobedient to Him. His peace will always coincide with His Word. Worldly peace may be confused with His peace but His peace matches His Word. If what you desire is peace that is NOT based on circumstances, peace that is everlasting, peace that is always available, the better peace and one that aligns itself with the Word of God then what you desire is biblical peace and God promises that we can have it when we set our minds on Him because we are showing that we trust in Him.

Whenever your mind wanders and takes your peace away call your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ and say Isaiah 26:3 outloud: "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You."

Monday, October 20, 2014

What I Took Away From "What Did You Expect"

Paul Tripp
is definitely becoming one of my very favorite authors. Recently my husband and I went on a marriage retreat with our church. The retreat revolved around Paul Tripp's: What Did You Expect marriage dvds.

Here are my favorite points. I hope they encourage you in your marriage as much as they did for me!

Questions to ask yourself:

1. Do you love your spouse in the same manner Christ has loved you? 

2. Do you quietly wish God was doing a better job working on your spouse and changing him or her into the image you want?

3. Are you gracious in the face of the failures of your spouse?

4. Do you seek to be a tool in the hands of God of GRACIOUS change in the life of your spouse?

5. Do look for opportunities of ministry more than opportunities to prove you are right?

6. Does the way you treat your spouse demonstrate that you want God's kingdom to come into your marriage or your kingdom? Along the same line, are you making efforts to serve the kingdom of God in your marriage or are you seeking to make others, including your spouse, serve your kingdom?

Great points:

1. Looking to temporary fixes as a means of saving your marriage only leads to more problems. Date nights, fancy gifts and vacations, flowers etc. are like fake apples on a apple tree. Maybe they taste good for a bit but if your marriage/apple tree is not making apples on it's own because of issues dealing with the roots of your marriage then you are bound to fail and never ultimately improve your marriage.

2. What rules your hearts will rule your marriage.

3. The sooner you give up on establishing your kingdom in your marriage the sooner you will learn to enjoy marriage as God intended.

4. You are a flawed person married to a flawed person in a fallen world but you have a faithful God. Look to Him to improve your marriage, not to the fallen world around you.

5. When you love only because you feel loved you are no longer loving in a biblical way.

6. Marriage issues are first heart issues.

7. No matter how your spouse has or hasn't loved you today you can still say: "I have been dramatically loved by my God."

8. Godly marriages are rooted in worship.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

If I Get Ebola

If I get Ebola it will not surprise the Lord.

If I get Ebola He will be my side.

If I get Ebola and die that will be how the Lord chose to take me home. All your days and all my days are numbered and He ordained each of them, even the day we die. And the Word of God tells me to die is gain.

If I get Ebola God promises in Romans 8:28 that He will use it for good.

If I get Ebola, cancer, swine flu, heart disease, west nile virus or any other disease that there is to fear and worry about, I will have God's grace which is sufficient in the midst of it. 

Even if my children get any life threatening disease the Lord will not be pacing around the throne room in fear. He knows the end. He is not afraid and He has not given me a spirit of fear.

But many of us as believers demonstrate a spirit of fear in many ways, especially when there are reports of scary diseases spreading. Remember Christian to mediate on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Phil. 4:8) and don't mediate on all the possible horrible things that might happen to you or your family. Open your bible and turn off the news.

This world is not our home. Even our biggest trials and tribulations are but the blink of an eye compared to eternity with the King of kings.

Remember Christian parent, your children are watching you. As long as we live there will always be things to take our peace and trust in God away. Demonstrate for them what a life characterized by faith looks like in the midst of the storm, not what a life of fear and panic looks like.

Put your hope in Him and not in a possible vaccine or some immune booster or the temptation to isolate yourself from society forever. Put your hope and trust in Him and leave it there.

"Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:25-26

If you get Ebola, your Father in Heaven cares for you and will be there but for goodness sakes quit going around worrying about it all the time allowing the enemy to zap the life out of you because of all the possible what ifs in life. After the Ebola scare goes away there will be something else to take it place. The list of things to worry about is endless. 

"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (or 'What if I get Ebola?!')
For the pagans run after (and worry about) all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matt. 6:28-34)

The bible uses the phrase: "Do not be afraid." 145 times!
My husband often points out how God is repetitive when He really wants to get His point across and I think if Christ were sitting next to me today He would say the same thing: "Do not be afraid." And He would say the same to you: "Do not be afraid." But if you are not a believer I would say: "Be afraid. Not of Ebola but of your eternal destiny. Fear God not disease. Turn to Him and put your trust in Him and find the peace that passes understanding!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Your Children Will Be Spouses

Was thinking about the saying: "Your mom doesn't live here so pick up after yourself." Got me to thinking about how important it is for us moms to be training our children to pick up after themselves and to let them know that isn't mom's job either :)

I've been thinking of this in particular with my boys... what a blessing they will be as husbands if they learn NOW to put their dishes in the sink, pick up their dirty laundry, put back their belongings after they are finished with them etc. We are to be training not only our daughters to be servants toward their future spouses and children but we should also be training our boys to be servants to their future families.

Men are not called to be keepers of the home but all Christians are called to a life of service and thinking of others before themselves. We as mothers must remind our boys of this, so that when they grow up to be men, serving will come naturally to them because they have been practicing it in the home for years.

With that in mind however, we should be reminding our daughters that they are the ones called to be the keeper of the home and therefore they will naturally need more training and experience than their brothers. I am working on instructing Rhea in the importance of having a joyful attitude in her chores because her duties as a housewife will be much more enjoyable if she chooses to practice joy now. 

As mothers it is most likely that we are raising future fathers, mothers, husbands and wives. Keep this in mind through out your days, through out your training and through out your discipline. Are you teaching your boys how to serve, love and lead? Are you teaching your girls what it means to have a gentle and quiet spirit and to keep the home? 

A simple example of this type of training: The other night my oldest daughter was going to bed. As I was tucking her in I started reflecting on the day and I thought about how many times she was being.... persistent.

I told her: "Honey, there is this side of your personality that could cause you lots of problems as a future wife. You are very persistent and don't give up on getting what you want. This can be used for God's glory when you seek to accomplish things for Him but it can also be a huge burden for your future husband. You know how mama is supposed to let daddy lead and to not nag him?"

Her response: "Yeah."

Me: "Well, your persistence can turn into nagging your future husband and you know what the bible says about a nagging wife?"

My oldest daughter: "No."

Me: "It says that he would rather live on the corner of a roof with all sorts of bad weather than live with a nagging wife. Mama wants to be a blessing to daddy and not a burden and I want to train you to be the same way. Make sense?"

Her: "Makes sense Mama." She had a big smile on her face picturing a husband sitting on the corner of the roof.

One of the biggest blessings for me in keeping this mindset is the benefit it is for my own marriage and parenting. By training them I am also training myself. It's hard to preach this stuff if you aren't seeking to live it out yourself. Fewer things embitter children toward their parents more than watching them teach what they aren't living out.

The number one way we train our children is in the way we live. How am I training Rhea and Charis to respect their future husbands and to love their children in my day to day life and in the way I treat them and their daddy? What kind of godly wife am I portraying for Ricky and Johnny? Am I training them in the fruits of the Spirit or the flesh? How is my life training them for their future and how will my training affect their future families?

"Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Give careful thought to your ways.'" (Haggai 1:5)

Monday, October 13, 2014

HOW We Paid Off Our Mortgage in Six Years On One Income

Last week I posted about WHY we chose to pay off our mortgage.   Today's post is about HOW we paid it off in six years on one income.

First, I should let you know I did do some substitute teaching for about 5 months about 3 days a week during our marriage so we were "double income" during those few months.... although the amount I made certainly didn't come close to full time employment.

On our honeymoon Scott and I read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It was a wedding gift and one that I am very thankful for! After reading that book we were sold on paying off our mortgage. But we thought: "How in the world are we going to do this on one income... a teacher's income at that?!"

One of the main things I took away from that book that has always stuck with me and that I think is the main thing that kept me devoted to paying off the house was: "Live like no one else so that you can live like no one else." Scott and I knew that if we were going to pay off our mortgage on one income that we would have to live like no one else so that eventually we could live like no one else (debt free). This became a mantra for me when I felt like a weirdo for not doing what everyone else was doing.

Here are the some of the ways that we paid off our mortgage.... basically by living like "no one else" and putting all that money we weren't spending on the things listed below toward our loan:

1. We ate out maybe twice a year.  We hardly ever ate out and we tried to do only fast food on rare occasions when we were traveling more than four hours on the road. If we did go out for a birthday or anniversary we used a gift card. Making meals at home saves you LOTS of money. (I must admit that one thing that helped us in this area is that we only had four children in those six years and they were all six and under so they didn't eat that much :)

2. We don't go big on any holidays or birthdays. For birthdays we don't usually do anything fancy (have a couple friends over and eat cake that I make and have dinner that I also made) and we only buy one gift for each child on their birthday. Scott and I don't buy each other anything... like not even a card for holidays, anniversaries or birthdays. It's a nice mutual agreement we have that keeps expectations low and expenses low :) For Christmas we let each kid buy their siblings a small gift and then we ask the grandparents to only buy one special gift for each child. Holidays can REALLY ADD UP. I think our perspective on toys in general saves us lots of money. 

3. We don't go anywhere. Okay... maybe that's an exaggeration... but if you ask some of our closest friends they would concur. We like to stay home which also helps with keeping the gas bill and car upkeep to a minimum. Traveling is expensive. We rarely went on vacations. Even our honeymoon was free because my in-laws let us use their time share in Palm Springs.

4. We don't go to the movies. I think since Scott and I have been married we have been to the movie theater twice. You all know how much money you can spend at a theatre and that sort of spending ain't privy to paying off your house.

5. We talk about every purchase that isn't food. Now this is where I really sense the "live like no one else" mantra kicking in. I also think this is what has saved us the most money. If it's a bucket or a piece of clothing for the kids or a bathmat or any other non-food item, we talk about it. I am naturally a spender and my husband is naturally a saver. I know how to waste money like nobody's business! This rule helped me so much to really consider what I am buying and if it is something we REALLY NEED. You would be amazed at how little we really need and how many of our purchases are really just what we want. The key is to see the great NEED to be debt free.

6.We hardly ever went out for coffee. Starbucks is not a friend to those wanting to be debt free! If you get the average drink there five days a week that's over a grand a year that you are spending on coffee! In fact we splurged on "unnecessary items" (like starbucks) VERY rarely. Books, concerts (we've never been to a concert actually...), name brand fashion, cds, dvds, the latest and greatest tech. stuff etc. were all on our "unnecessary list".

7. We rarely bought clothes.
If we did it was always secondhand or again, with a gift card. We have been very blessed with hand me downs as well. Yard sales are the best for buying clothes!

8. We aren't big decorators/home-improvers. We don't even paint the walls. We like to keep the house tidy but we don't spend money on making it "prettier". Home improvements increase the cost of "living" greatly. We have the same furniture my husband had when I married him (including the dining room table and living room furniture). Yard sales, again, are a wonderful place to purchase home needs. Buying things just because you want something to LOOK better isn't a good idea when you are trying to pay your house off. After we paid our house off we got a recliner and that was quite a splurge (even though it was half off at Fred Meyer :) I do have a desire to "pretty things up" a bit now that the house is paid off but it just wasn't a priority before. 

9. We buy used cars. A new car is a terrible investment. The second you drive your new car off the lot your car loses so much value it is crazy! We have purchased three used vehicles in our eight years of marriage and probably put about 3,000 miles a year on each vehicle. (Refer back to number 3).

10. Neither of us have hobbies. Hobbies cost money. Some hobbies cost a lot of money. My husband isn't into cars... guns... music... he just likes to study the bible a lot and that's not expensive :) He does like to workout but he has either just done cardio downstairs or found a super good deal on a gym. I don't sew, do any sorts of crafts, paint or have any animals... animals are another expense. We're not hobby people or animal people and this is another major way we save money.

Basically, you would never have heard us say: "It's just five dollars!" Five dollars, one dollar, twenty dollars, they all add up! All those fives and ones and twenties can go toward your mortgage and get you on your way to freedom from debt! 

We did not pay in twice monthly increments we simply put ANY and ALL extra money toward our mortgage. For example, when I inherited $10,000, we didn't even think twice about using it for anything else but our mortgage. ALL of our tax returns (which we averaged $6-7,000 a year) were put entirely toward our mortgage. We didn't look at these "big chunks of cash" as opportunities to spend on anything else.

For one year of our marriage Scott was working part time as a youth pastor and full time as a teacher. That was the most money we made in our marriage and again we took that as an opportunity to put all our extra cash toward our house.

So that's how we paid off our house in six years on one income. It's not easy "living like no one else" but it's SO WORTH IT!

Now that we are debt free we "break" rules one through ten every once and a while. We also are back to maxing out our Roth each year to save for retirement. Our house that we paid off is now a source of income because we have had renters in there for the last few years.

None of this is to brag or boast. It is simply to encourage those who are thinking of living like no one else so that they can live like no one else.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why We Paid Off Our Mortgage

My husband and I paid off our house in six years of marriage. We owed $160,000 on our mortgage at the time. I also owed about $6,000 for school loans that we paid off within the first year of marriage. Scott (my husband) had some school loans but they would be paid off through a grant program as he taught at a low income school district in Ca. That was all our debt. We didn't, and still don't, do credit cards and we pay cash for vehicles.

Early on we wrestled with the idea of paying our house off because of the tax deduction we got for having a mortgage. Dave Ramsey helped us out with that decision though:

"If you have the opportunity to pay off your home and you don’t pay off your home in order to keep the tax deduction, that would be an indication that you are poor at mathematics. Let me help you with the mathematics on this. Let’s say you have a $200,000 mortgage at 5% interest. If you have a $200,000 mortgage at 5%, that would be $10,000. We have a $10,000 tax write-off because we have a $200,000 mortgage at 5%. That’s a tax deduction, meaning if that couple makes $75,000 a year and they take a $10,000 tax deduction, they don’t pay taxes on $75,000. They instead pay taxes on $65,000. If you do this weird Dave Ramsey thing, though, and you pay off the house, you no longer pay taxes on $65,000 because you would not have a tax deduction. You’d have to pay taxes on $75,000. You’re in a 25% tax bracket if you make $75,000 a year. That $10,000 a year that we’re talking about is taxed at 25%. By paying off your home, 25% of that $10,000 that you’re going to have to pay extra taxes on is $2,500. In essence, you lost a $2,500 savings on your tax bill, but you gained $10,000 by not having to pay it to the bank. A $10,000 tax deduction is the same thing as saying, 'I would rather give Countrywide $10,000 than give the government $2,500.'"

In other words you would be saving $2,500 to spend $10,000... that don't make no sense!

Even aside from Dave Ramsey's advice, it sickened Scott and I to see how much we would actually pay the bank at the end of our 30 year mortgage. Our paperwork showed that we would end up paying them back OVER $300,000!! Crazy! We would lose about $150,000! Imagine what our family... any family... could do with $150,000! We'll keep that for ourselves thank you.

The next thing that was appealing was just the THOUGHT of being DEBT FREE!!! Oh what a joy that would be to owe no man anything! Now that we are living that debt free life I can tell you there is so much freedom on the other side of owing people money.

The final thing for me that made me want to pay off our mortgage and be officially debt free were these seven simple words from Proverbs 22:7: "the borrower is slave to the lender."

I don't want to be a slave to anyone but Christ.  

I will be posting again some time next week on some tips/how we did it practically on one income!

Here is the link to HOW we paid it off!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Top Five Ways to Have a Bad Day

1. Think about yourself all day. From the moment you wake up until you go to bed look out for "number 1". Think about how you are feeling at every moment and focus on that. Definitely don't think about others and their needs and wants. Make yourself the focal point of your day and you are bound for a bad day!

2. Be consumed by your circumstances. Since circumstances are going to be unpredictable and up and down you too can be up and down as long as you ride along with your circumstances. Let your surroundings and happenings determine how you will feel. Don't look to the God who never changes.

3. Worry about all the "what ifs". Meditate on all the terrible things that COULD happen today, tomorrow or in the years to come. Don't meditate on God's truths. Don't keep an eternal perspective. Look at things as if you were a non-Christian and consistently try to take things into your own hands. Whatever you do, DON'T TRUST GOD. 

4. Don't read your bible. In fact, just look at facebook all day and get mad at everyone's statuses. Watch the television and fill your mind with worldly programs. Listen to worldly music. Get the least amount of God into your thought life as possible. The less you read His Word the more miserable you will be. Stay away from it!

5. Let everything annoy you and complain as much as possible. Being annoyed and irritable with everyone and everything is going to send you into a quick downward spiral. So if you are looking to have a bad day make sure you have no patience for anything. Lose your temper consistently and continue to pretend that the world revolves around you and how you want it to run. Make sure to complain out loud regularly about how annoying everything is so that those around you can have a bad day too.

p.s. if you are looking to have a good day and one that honors God do the opposite of one through five.