How Will You Use Your Economic Impact Check?

By now you have likely received your third economic impact, or stimulus, check from the government. The stated intent of these checks was two-fold: to assist those whose income has been negatively impacted by covid and to stimulate the economy and support small businesses.

If you are one of the estimated 18 million people currently receiving unemployment checks, then you probably need the money to meet basic needs for your family. And, of course, you should use the money to meet those needs.

However, if you, like me, have maintained your pre-covid level of income, the stimulus check represents extra money. How will you use this money? Many people are saving the money or paying down debt. In fact, estimates are that more about 71%% of the money distributed in the first round last spring was put into saving or debt reduction and another 18% was used for essentials. That left 11% to go back in the economy. Of that, 8% was spend on non-essential items and 3% was donated to charities. (Ben Wick, https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-stimulus-checks-savings-pay-debts-federal-reserve-cares-act-2020-10)

While it is wise to save and pay down debt, those actions do not help to stimulate the economy–and get people back to work–nor do they help our neighbors who are in need. I encourage you to consider using this third round of stimulus money in more altruistic ways.

In case you need them, here are some ideas:

  • Tithe. For most of us, this money represents an increase. God asks us to give back to His work 10 percent of our income.
  • Donations to Food Pantries. Many people in your community are relying on food pantries to meet their basic needs. Donations are up, yet there is still a significant need.
  • Purchase gift certificates from local restaurants and small shops. These businesses are still struggling and can benefit from the cash influx. My husband and I have bought gift cards that we have no intention of using. We consider the purchase of the gift cards to be donations to help ensure that our favorite restaurants and shops are still operating post-covid.
  • Donate to campaigns to help local shops and restaurants. Many small business are running fundraising events on social media platforms.
  • Shop with independent businesses. One of favorite expenditures has been ordering fresh seafood directly from fisheries. We’ve had salmon and king crab from Alaska, oysters from Pugent Bay, shrimp from New Orleans, and lobster from Maine. The seafood has been shipped directly to our house. It is fresh and delicious, and we are helping fishermen who revamped their business models when their restaurant sales declined.
  • Donations to funds to help pay for childcare and other services for lower-income workers. Many of these workers are struggling to pay for care for children who would normally be in school while they work.
  • Gifts of appreciation to front-line health care workers. Health care professionals in our area are working full-time schedules and then volunteering additional hours to vaccinate the public. There are many ways you can show your appreciation to them and support your local small businesses.

Of course, we are all praying that the vaccines work and coronavirus is soon a passing memory. In the meantime, pray and thoughtfully consider how you can help those in your community who are facing financial challenges from this pandemic.

God Supplies Our Talents and Resources

In Exodus 31, God provided Moses with instructions on building the tabernacle. As He described the intricate work to be done, Moses probably felt a bit overwhelmed. Then God said something remarkable, “I have put wisdom in the heart of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you.” (Exodus 31:6, NKJV)

In today’s vernacular, God was telling Moses, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”

Just before uttering those words, God told Moses, “I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,  to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.” (Exodus 31:2 – 5)

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As we read on God has called another, Aholiab, to assist in the work of designing, instructing, and overseeing the other gifted men and women in who God had instilled artistic gifts.

Often when God calls us to do a work, we feel overwhelmed. The job is too big, the work is too difficult. We don’t know where to start, and we want to tell God that we aren’t up to the task. Then the Holy Spirit whispers, “I am here with you. I have given you the wisdom, the creativity, the initiative, and the strength to do all the I have commanded you.”

If God has birthed a vision in you, He will empower you to accomplish the work. And He will supply your need. He provided Moses with many gifted artisan to share the load. Those He called, He filled “with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver—those who do every work and those who design artistic works.” (Exodus 35:35, NKJV)A few chapters later, as the work began, God instructed Moses to ask the Israelites to bring offerings for the building of the teabernacle. Moses asked them to bring gold, silver, bronze, thread, linen, goats’ hair, animal skins, wood, spices, and precious gems. The offering was to be given freely, as they were willing. No one was compelled to give.

And what happened? In Exodus 35:21, we read, “Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments.” In fact, they brought so many supplies, that the artisans asked Moses to compel the people to stop the offerings. “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded us to do.” (Exodus 36:5, NKJV)

God supplied their needs abundantly. They had more than enough material resources, and they had a great team of men and women in whom God had given the vision and talent needed to accomplish the task.

God has a great plan for your life. And, He will empower you with all that you need to accomplish it. Trust Him and take that step of faith to fulfill the dream He has birthed in your heart.

My One Word of 2021–Stewardship

I have chosen “stewardship” to be the word that I focus on for 2021. Stewardship relates to how we care for the duties and possessions entrusted to us. Specifically, how we manage the resources given to us by God.

In Genesis chapter 1, God commanded Adam to care for the earth and subdue. There are many stories of stewards in the Bible–some good and some bad stewards.

Growing up in the Assemblies of God, I have been involved in Girls Ministries for nearly 50 years. One of the principles that was impressed upon my was that I was to be a good steward of my time, talent, and money. 1 Corinthians 4:12, “Moreover, it is regard in stewards that a man be found faithful,” is a verse that I learned at a young age. It has guided me throughout my life in how I manage my money and conduct my life.

Managing my time has been more challenging. This year, I will focus on displaying faithful stewardship more thoroughly in how I spend my time. I will also encourage others to be faithful stewards in how they handle their money and other resources entrusted to them by God.

Money stewardship is the theme of my newest book, “Honoring God with Your Money.” In it, I examine what the Bible says about money in how we budget and spend our money, as well how we give and our attitudes towards money. The book will be published in the coming weeks.

As I juggle being a full-time employee, a wife, and mother and grandmother, with other obligations that include working in Girls Ministries and church leadership and writing books, faithful stewardship of my time has been even more critical.

Throughout this year, I encourage you to examine your own stewardship of your time, talent, and financial resources. Are you honoring God in all that you do?

Rejoicing for Sinners Who Repent

One Sunday many years ago, our minister stopped the musicians in the middle of a song and announced that he felt impressed by the Holy Spirit that someone wanted to make things right with God. Before he could finish speaking, his youngest son, Johnny, rushed down the aisle into his father’s arm and invited Jesus into his heart as his Lord and Savior.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the congregation.  Johnny was a young adult with a wife and children, and many of us had known him since he was a child.  We had seen him struggle with faith and turn his back on God.  Even when his wife accepted Jesus as her Savior, Johnny stayed away.

But God didn’t turn his back on Johnny.  God loved him and wanted Johnny to be a part of his family.  The church members had prayed diligently and fervently, along with his parents and family, for Johnny to come back to God. This was the day we had prayed for.  The rejoicing in that sanctuary was like nothing I had ever experienced.  For nearly an hour, people throughout the sanctuary stood and raised their hands and their voices to God, praising Him for a lost sheep that had come home.

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Sadly, I have not experienced that level of congregational rejoicing over a sinner coming to repentance again.  Of course, we are happy when we see a sinner repent.  We may  applaud and shout “Hallelujah”.  But, how often do we truly rejoice?   Jesus taught the apostles about rejoicing in the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.  It’s recorded in book of Matthew and Luke.  This version is from Luke 15:4-10.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

 

Jesus tells us that the angels in Heaven rejoice over every sinner who repents.  Should we not also rejoice?  Coming to Jesus and accepting His free gift of forgiveness is the greatest decision a person can ever make, and all Christians should rejoice with him or her upon making this decision. We should celebrate exuberantly and weep with joy.

Last night, Sean Hannity interviewed Roger Stone on his evening television show.  By all accounts, Roger Stone is a person who has made many mistakes and many enemies.  But, in that interview, he testified that he has come to repentance and thanked Sean Hannity for convincing him to confess his sins and be reborn.

But more than anything else, I am grateful for God because as you told me, if I would — if I would rededicate my life to Christ, I would be reborn.

I can remember it like it was yesterday and your advice was as solid as can be. You said, God will never desert you. He will never abandon you. He will protect you if you — if you confess your sins and you walk in his way. And I’ve done my very best to do that.

Roger Stone on Hannity

 

Today I am rejoicing that another lost sheep has been welcomed back into the fold.  Roger Stone has confessed his sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  This should fill us with joy and hope. And it should remind us to reaffirm our commitment to pray for our unsaved loved ones, our unsaved neighbors and friends, and our unsaved leaders.  Every person needs God. Every person needs forgiveness.  Every person needs to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Let’s pray for everyone we know to respond to Jesus’s offer of forgiveness and salvation.  And when they come to Jesus, let’s rejoice as though the greatest thing has just occurred.  Because it has.

 

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Being Salt and Light

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:13-14, NKJV

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In his book Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, Derek Prince writes , “the full extent of our responsibility as Christians [is] to exercise a unique and decisive influence on–that is, to rule–the society in which we live.”  He points out that a city situated on top of a hill is visible from all directions; it is conspicuous.  As Christians, we should be conspicuous in society for being different, for reflecting Christ.

My mother emphasized to my siblings and I that people are always watching Christians to see if they their actions line up with their stated beliefs.  She realized that someone considering making a decision for Christ could be turned off by a Christian who in a moment of anger spouted cursing or displayed inappropriate behavior in any circumstance. 

The secular world desperately wants to know if our claims of being changed by Christ are real.  They are looking for authentic faith.  When our actions reflect Christ, we will be a light shining in a dark world.  People will be attracted to the light.

In this passage, Jesus also talks about salt.  Prince points out that salt has two function.  As a seasoning, it gives flavor, and as a preservative, salt prevents decay, or corruption.  In terms of adding flavor, Prince write, “If we are the salt of the earth, we are like little granules sprinkled across the earth’s surface.  Our responsibility is to give the earth flavor…Our presence should make the earth acceptable to God in a way that it would not be acceptable to Him if we were not here as Christians living out our lives in His grace and love, worshiping and praising Him, and praising Him and praying according to His will.”  I love the visual picture of our love, praise, worship, and testimonies being sprinkled over the earth and giving it flavor.

As a preservative, Prince says that we are “to hold back the forces of corruption–moral corruption, social corruption, political corruption–until God’s purposes of mercy and grace have been worked out for this world of ours.”  I fear that we have failed greatly in that responsibility.  Everywhere we see evidence or moral, social, and political corruption in America.

Jesus has called Christians to be salt and light in this world.  We need to stand out by reflecting Christ to those around. We daily encounter people who are hurting, people who feel unloved or unworthy, people who need to know that Christ offers hope, forgiveness, and a new life.  Let us all strive to be a bright shining beacon of hope to those around us, pointing the way to Jesus.

 

 

Praying for Those in Authority

“The people who really rule the world are the those who know how to pray.”                               Derek Prince

In the third chapter of his book Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, Derek Prince provided clear guidance on why Christians must pray regularly and effectively for the leaders of our nation.  I will share here a summary of his work, and I encourage all who read this to buy this book and to begin to pray fervently for our nation and our leaders–all of them, not just those with whom you agree, or those with whom you disagree.

“Therefore I exhort first all all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”            1 Timothy 2:1 -4

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1) The primary activity of believers is Prayer.    In Isaiah 56:7, God tells his people, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”  Our first responsibility is to pray for all people and especially our government.

2) It is in our best interest to pray for our government.  As Christian pray for our government, our leaders will govern in ways that lead to the peace and safety of all people.

3) Our nation was founded on the principle that people should be allowed to leave quiet and peaceful lives that provide life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  This happens when the government provides a framework for law, order, and administration.

4) The outcome of good government is that it facilitates the preaching of the gospel.  And the end result is that people will be saved and come to know the truth of God’s love and mercy.

If we believe that our government has failed us, then we have to come to the realization that the government has failed for one of two reasons:

1) We have not prayed for our government as we ought to have.

2) We have prayed but without knowing the will of God.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 tells us that it is God’s will that we have good government.  We need to be praying earnestly and daily for our government. 

Prince writes, “We criticize. We complain. But we fail to pray.  This is why we see worldwide moral and ethical decline, both in leadership and in national culture.  We have not understood the limitless possibilities of praying according to God’s will as revealed in His Word.”

Imagine the power that can be released if all of God’s people in America prayed daily for our government leaders.  Let’s all commit to that goal.  I think that we will be amazed at what God will do.

Money Can Buy Happiness

There’s a famous saying, “Money can’t buy happiness.”  There are many studies that show that having and spending lots of money does not increase happiness.  Michael Norton, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University, disagrees with that statement, with a caveat.  He says that money can buy happiness IF you spend it right.

How do you spend it right?  By spending it on others.  He did experiments a few years back in which he gave small amounts of money to different groups of people.  Some were instructed to spend it on themselves and the rest were told they had to spend the money on someone else.  Regardless of whom they spent the money on or the amount of money they spent, all who used the money for someone else reported higher levels of happiness at the end of the experiment.

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I love it when scientists, or social scientists in this case, prove the Word of God.  In Acts 20:35, Paul told the Ephesians, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” is really another way of saying that you can achieve happiness by sharing your money with others.  And, of course, giving doesn’t only involve money.  You can be blessed by sharing your time, talents, and attention with others.  Not all of us have the financial resources to give away large amounts of money. But we all have something we can give.  And, as this study affirmed, even giving small amounts of money can bless someone and increase your level of happiness.

Further more, generosity brings blessings.  Proverbs 22:9 tells us “Whoever has a generous eye will be blessed,” and Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will not lack.”

I would encourage you to look for opportunities each day to bless someone else with your money, time, or talent.  In this way, you will ensure that your days are blessed and filled with happiness.

 

In God We Trust

This week the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ has been in the news.  Brevard County Sheriff’s department added decals with the phrase to their patrol cars.  An atheist group has challenged the sheriff’s right to do so, stating that it is “frightening and politically dubious for the local police department to announce to citizens that officers rely on the judgment of a deity rather than on the judgment of the law.”  Their words could be no farther from the truth.

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I believe that it is frightening and foolish to put one’s trust in any person, organization, or institution rather than in the Lord God.  God created us, loves us, and provides for all our needs, the most important of which is our eternal salvation.   Trusting in the Lord not only makes sense, but comes with great benefits.

  • Trusting in God brings peace and joy.  Romans 15:13 tells “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  • God protects those who trust in Him.  “As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. 2 Samuel 22:31
  • God directs the path of those who trust Him. Proverbs 3: 5 -6 encourages us to “ Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
  • God blesses those who trust  in Him.  “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

‘In God We Trust’ is our national motto.  It is printed on our currency.  It makes perfect sense that those who put their lives on the line every day for their fellow citizens would put their trust in God and would want to display the motto on their vehicles.

Where do you put your trust?  If you are looking for security, peace, protection, direction, and blessings, I highly recommend putting your trust in God.

The Law of the Lord is Perfect

When I was much younger, my church used to sing the words of Psalm 19: 7 – 11 regularly.  It is a beautiful song and full of truth.  God’s Word is true, and His law is perfect.  God’s Word provides us with all we need to know to live lives that are full, happy, and blessed.

There is great discontentment in our society today.  People are searching for satisfaction in things that will never bring satisfaction–wealth, power, prestige, fame, and physical pleasure–to name a few.  There is nothing wrong with these things, in and of themselves, but they can never bring lasting joy and contentment without a relationship with God.  It’s easy to see that worldly gain and pleasure do not satisfy.  Lack of peace and contentment is evidenced by increased use of alcohol, narcotics and illegal drugs to mask pain and dissatisfaction.  People seeking love go from marriage to marriage, relationship to relationship, without finding true love.

The answer to the discontentment is a relationship with Jesus Christ which is built solidly on God’s Word.  As the psalmist wrote so eloquently, God’s Word brings conversion, wisdom, rejoicing, and enlightenment.  His truths are to be desired and when we follow His commands and obey His law, there really is great reward.

 

Psalm 19: 7 – 11

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

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Paul’s Admonition to be Generous

This morning I read 2 Corinthians 9 during my morning devotions.  Paul devoted the entire chapter to encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous and to fulfill the commitment it had made to assist poorer Christians in Macedonia.  Paul had been bragging to other congregations of the generous gift the Corinthians had promised, and he wanted to insure that the gift would be ready when it was needed.

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As Paul continues through the chapter, he encourages them that God will bless them as they bless others and tells them that it is impossible to out-give God.  Although Paul is speaking specifically about being generous with our money, his words also apply to being generous with people in many other ways, such as love, service, time, attention, guidance, and forgiveness.  Paul says that our obedience in generosity will in enrich our lives and allow God to be even more generous with us, and it will cause people to give thanks and honor to God.

In the final verses of this chapter, Paul writes, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.  And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9: 12 – 15, The Message)

How can we not be generous when we read stirring words like these?  Generosity towards others blesses us more than it does the recipients and it brings honor and glory to God.

How has God blessed you after you demonstrated generosity?