In our church, we often use the phrase “God’s arms extended.” We use this when speaking about reaching out into our community and sharing God’s love through service, ministry, and prayer.
To my knowledge, the phrase “God’s arms extended” does not appear in the Bible. However, Jesus expressed the importance of doing this in Matthew 25: 31- 46. He was teaching His disciples about things that will happen when He returns to rule over the earth.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” Matthew 25: 31 – 34
Jesus explains that those who offered food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, extended hospitality to the stranger, clothed those in need, cared for the sick, and visited the imprisoned are the sheep. Those who failed to extend assistance and compassion are the goats. Those who cared for others will receive eternal life, and those who did not will receive eternal damnation.
We had a missionary, Mark, speak in our church on Sunday. He shared that early in his ministry in Africa, he had not learned enough of the language to preach and teach. For a time, Mark was limited to embracing children and engaging them in sports. He began to get discouraged that he could not do more. As he prayed, Mark said something along the lines of, “All I can do is hug the children.” In his spirit, Mark clearly heard the Lord say, “Thank you.”
Mark realized that when we, as God’s people, show love to others, we allow God to show love through us. As Mark hugged the children, he was allowing God to wrap His arms around these precious little ones. Mark was literally being God’s arms extended.
What a beautiful picture! God wants to provide for the hungry, thirsty, needy, sick, and imprisoned. And, He does provide through us.
The next time you see someone in need, afraid, or discouraged, I pray that this illustration will come to mind and that you will take the opportunity to be God’s arms extended.
Please feel free to share an instance in which you knew that God was using you to be His hands extended.
The government announced last week that the inflation rate for December 2021 was 7%. This is the highest rate of inflation since 1982. Two of the hardest hit sectors were energy and food. MarketWatch reports that prices for eggs have increased more than 20%, beef and chicken prices are up 13 – 15%, and coffee is up 10%.
To make matters worse, grocery prices are expected to rise another 5% in 2022. The biggest increases are expected to be for steak, chicken, mayonnaise, eggs, cereal, and vegetables.
Additionally, grocery shelves are emptier than we are used to seeing them. Inflation and shortage combine to make feeding your family more challenging than we are used to dealing with in America. And it is wreaking havoc on family budgets.
To keep your budget in balance, you must (1) find ways to keep your grocery spending within your means or (2) cut expenses in other areas and allocate more money for groceries.
So, I am offering these ideas to help you eat well and stay within your budget.
Eliminate waste. Americans waste on average one pound of food per person per day. To reduce your food waste:
Plan meals and shop using a list.
Check the vegetable bins in your refrigerator daily to assess what needs to be eaten and plan meals accordingly.
Keep a food log, so you know when you cooked each dish. Check log to see what needs to be eaten first.
Make the most of leftovers—turn leftovers into soups, casseroles, and sandwich fillings.
Buy cheaper cuts of meat and cook in a crockpot or instapot to tenderize.
Buy store brands. You may have to try multiple stores to find the brands you like best.
Shop at multiple stores to get the best buys and find items that were out of stock at your usual store. Plan trips, though, to save gas and time.
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN—but be prepared with backup plans, as shortages are expected to continue.
Plant a garden and grow some of your own produce.
When you find a good price for produce, stock up and freeze or can the excess.
Shop at Discount stores, such as Wal-Mart, Costco, and Dollar General.
Buy less than perfect or ugly produce. Prepare immediately or process to eat later.
Purchase meat that is nearing its sell-by date and has been marked down. Cook immediately or freeze.
Invest in food storage dishes to keep leftovers.
Invest in a vacuum sealer to freeze uncooked meats and leftovers to be eaten later.
Search Pinterest and other internet sites for new recipes using ingredients that you have on hand.
Challenge yourself to come up with new recipes using items you have in your pantry.
Ask God for wisdom to help you make wise shopping decisions. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
I hope that you will find some of these tips to be helpful as you navigate empty grocery shelves and higher food prices.
What grocery saving tips can you add to this list?
You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances tab on the right. If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at email@example.com or write your question in the Comment section.
Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations. For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.
My parents raised nine children on a single income, so careful money management was a priority. I don’t recall them ever formally sharing money management lessons. Rather, they instilled good money management habits through their example and casual conversations. One of the ways they taught us good money management skills was by a allowing my sisters to make some of our spending decisions at an early age. The lessons I learned include:
Spending for one thing means less money for something else. When I was about 13, my parents decided to give us each $20 per week allowance. In 1972, $20 was a significant amount of money. In fact, it is equivalent to about $130 today. The catch was that the money had to cover all of our discretionary spending. We were free to pack lunches for school, but if we wanted to buy lunch, it came out of our allowance. We were also responsible for buying our own clothes and paying for movie tickets and other recreation. We learned to manage money and make hard decisions. If I wanted a new pair of shoes, I might have to pack my lunch for a whole week.
Shop the sales. My mother was a master shopper. She watched sales and clipped coupons. I have seen her leave a department store with multiple shopping bags of clothes for which she paid less than $20 in total. She loved to search the clearance racks for a blouse or sweater that everyone else had overlooked, and she loved the challenge of finding the perfect skirt or pair of slacks to go with it. She would go to every clothing store in the mall in search of what she needed to ensure that she got the best bargain. Mom knew what month to shop for appliances or furniture, and she knew when the “white” sales (linens) would be going on. She loved to shop the after-Christmas sales, and she often bought outfits in January which she would give to us the following Christmas. With four daughters born in a 4 ½ year span, she knew one of us would be able to wear the skirts and sweaters she bought.
Buy quality and keep belongings until they wear out. My mother believed it was worth spending a bit more to get better quality. She bought traditional styles that would not go out of fashion, and she wore her clothes until they were worn out. Similarly, Dad taught us to keep cars until the costs of repairs exceeded the car’s value. He and Mom purchased a car when they married in 1955; my middle school principal purchased the car from them in 1974. They added a second car in 1965, as I was starting first grade. I drove that car until my junior year of college, when I was rear ended while driving it.
Save up for major purchases. I don’t recall my parents ever taking out a loan to purchase a car. Of course, a new car was a true rarity in our household. I do recall, however, a couple of occasions when my father borrowed cash from his life insurance policy to cover a major purchase. He explained that the interest rate was very low, and he was, in essence, paying it back to himself.
Balance your checkbook regularly and know where your money is going. Balancing the checkbook before we had computers could be a time-consuming activity. My mother always sat at the kitchen table to balance the checkbook. Canceled checks were returned to the payer in those days. Mom would tape the canceled checks to the check stubs in a large, three-ring binder. She would mark them off on the bank statement and determine what checks she had written that had not cleared. Mom balanced the checking account to the penny, and she was never satisfied until it balanced.
Count the true cost of debt. My parents bought their final home in 1971 for about $35,000. The monthly payment of $238. I believe the interest rate was 7 ¼%. Mom marked off each payment on an amortization schedule. When there was sufficient money, she would make an extra principal payment or two. I remember her explaining to me that when she paid extra money toward the principal, she was saving more than one payment, as the balance went down and less interest accrued from then on. I also recall multiplying $238 by 360 payment and realizing that, if they made each payment as scheduled, the $35,000 house would cost them about $86,000. This was an eye opener and provided an ideal opportunity for us to talk about homes as investments that would increase in value, whereas a car would lose value over time. My mother paid off the house in about 13 years. While my father appreciated not having a mortgage payment, he did fuss more than once over losing the tax deduction of the interest.
Establish credit early and manage it well. When I graduated from high school, my parents bought me a sewing machine. Mom then declared that I needed a sewing cabinet, which I would have to buy myself. We went together to the Singer store and picked out a cabinet. I believe the price was $125. She instructed me to put $25 down and helped me apply for a credit card. When the bill came, I paid off the balance in full. At the age of eighteen, I had established some credit of my own. I never used that credit card again, but it was the key to allowing me to get a Sears card a few years later.
These money management principles have served me well. Steve and I have tried to instill them in our own children. I hope that they will help you to manage your money better and have less financial stress in your life.
For more money management tips and information on creating budgets, please check out my other blog posts under the Finance tab. For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.
If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write your question in the Comment section. Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.
Are you one of the 16 percent of Americans whose credit score is so low that it is negatively impacting your life? A very low credit score can make it nearly impossible to qualify for a home mortgage or a business loan. You may be able to get a loan to purchase a car, but you will be assessed a high rate of interest. Those with very low credit scores pay more for auto insurance than those with average or good scores. If you are one of these people, it is important to take immediate steps to improve your credit score. It will take some effort and time, but it is a very achievable goal.
I recently helped a man write a business plan and develop a cash flow forecast to open a restaurant. He had many years of restaurant experience, along with some of his own money to invest, and other income to help support his family. Everything looked good. In our first meeting, I asked him his credit score, and he assured me it was in the mid-600’s. A score in the mid-600’s considered to be Fair—not great but certainly high enough for him to qualify for the loan. Unfortunately, he was quite wrong in his assessment. He applied for a loan and the banker pulled his credit report, which revealed a credit score of about 450.
By any measure, a credit score of 450 is Bad. In fact, a score of less than 579 is viewed as very poor credit. The man was shocked and embarrassed by his low credit score. He had qualified for a mortgage less than a year earlier, so it is likely that his credit rating was at least Fair at that time. So, what happened? I don’t know the answer, as he didn’t share his credit report with me. I did provide him with guidance in regard to reviewing his credit report to see if it contains errors, correcting any errors, and being diligent in managing his credit. If you are in a similar situation, these steps can help you.
The first thing you need to do is review the report for errors. Any errors should be reported to credit report agency. Most credit reports and scores are generated by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You should check your report with each agency at least once a year and report any errors that your find immediately. Errors might include information for someone who is not you but has a similar name, incorrect information about loans that have been paid off, and credit that you applied for but did not accept. You should also check for evidence of identity theft.
Here are links for filing disputes with each of the major credit report agencies:
Getting any errors corrected can have a significant impact on your credit score. Unfortunately, it will take a little time for the agency to investigate your dispute and correct any misinformation.
If your score is low due to poor management of your finances, such as late payments, missed payments, and charge offs, you should follow these guidelines to better manage credit and improve your score:
Be sure to make at least the minimum payment on all accounts every month.
Make payments by the due date. Late payments and skipped payments hurt your score. The later the payment, the larger the negative impact on your score.
Don’t open any new credit accounts–don’t buy a car, don’t refinance your home, don’t apply for any new credit cards. Every new account increases your available credit and lowers your score, at least temporarily.
Don’t close any older accounts. If you recently opened accounts you don’t need, you might want to close them. But, keep open your oldest accounts. Length of credit history improves your score.
Keep your credit card balances at 50% or less of the amount of credit extended.
Within a few months, you should see an improvement in your credit score.
The man above will have to put his dreams of opening a restaurant on hold for a while. It is too bad. However, if he can get any errors corrected, and if he commits to taking the steps above to improve his credit, he may be able to qualify the loan he needs in 6 – 12 months. It will take a real effort and determination on his part; however, if he keeps his goal in his sights, I believe he will reach his goal.
God desires that His people pay their bills on time, honor their commitments, and don’t allow money to rule their lives. If you are struggling to manage your finances, seek Christian counsel and pray diligently for God’s guidance. You will find additional information on creating budgets and managing your finances in many of my other blog posts by clicking on the Finances category on the right.
If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at email@example.com or write your question in the Comment section. Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations. For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.