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SPIRITUAL BOOT CAMP - Finances DAY 1 -- 15 min. Journal What/How am I feeling? Where am I experiencing God in the midst of it all?

? -- 15 min. Scripture Meditation Isaiah 40 -- Memorization of Scripture Isaiah 40:28-31 Don't you know? Haven't you heard? The LORD is the eternal God, Creator of the earth. He never gets weary or tired; his wisdom cannot be measured. The LORD gives strength to those who are weary. Even young people get tired, then stumble and fall. But those who trust the LORD will find new strength. They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired. -- Finance Fridays 1: What belongs to God Published by Eddy Ekmekji on August 24, 2007 Im starting a new weekly post titled, Finance Fridays. I often scour blog and articles on the internet, magazines and newspapers, and people, for advice on various aspects of how to do finances. Shortly after graduating college with more credit card debt than I could handle, I committed to make it a priority to grow a Biblical view of finances and stewardship. I submit my weekly reflections on the topic. How we see what belongs to God speaks to how we view our finances. For many years, I saw my finances and resources serve me. How I earned them testified to my hard-work, my luck and/or Gods gift to me. What was given to me was to be mine. Some of the implications of this paradigm led me to believe that all resources and finances were within my power to disperse. And because the Bible had mandated a 10% tithe, the rest belonged to me. Faithfulness was measured whether I would part ways with 10% of my finances. In the past few years, I have been meditating and reflecting on the truth that all resources and finances belong to God. In Genesis 1.26, God creates man to have dominion on the things that he created on the day before. And in his instructions to humanity, he offered them a gift all of the things that he had created, whether they be creatures or plants. And as we walk with God through Scripture, we are reminded time and again that God is the owner of all things. In Psalm 50.12, we read God confessing, If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is mine. And in Mark 12.1-11, Jesus tells a parable that reminds his audience that God is the owner of all things. It all belongs to God. Our possessions, our resources, and our money belong to God. He has gifted us with various resources to live and to use toward his glory. When I forget that it all belongs to God, I operate with a scarcity mentality where I try to make sure that I am in control of everything. It limits my ability to be generous and hospitable. But when I see God as the owner of all things, I recognize that my faithfulness is not measured by giving 10%, but how I manage my financial life in general: Do my spending habits glorify God or glorify myself? Am I using my money toward Gods glory or my own? Does my hope rely on my bank account or in Jesus? Does my worth come from God or from materials? -- Goals & Tasks for Today

SPIRITUAL BOOT CAMP - Finances DAY 2 -- 15 min. Journal What/How am I feeling? Where am I experiencing God in the midst of it all? -- 15 min. Scripture Meditation Matthew 6:5-34 -- Memorization of Scripture Proverbs 13:7, 11; 16:26 7 Some who have nothing may pretend to be rich, and some who have everything may pretend to be poor. 11 Money wrongly gained will disappear bit by bit; money earned little by little will grow and grow. 26 The hungrier you are, the harder you work. -- Finance Fridays 2: Living with in our means Published by Eddy Ekmekji on August 31, 2007 One of my more discipleship and character issues is whether I live within my means. Although I value budgeting and living well within my income level, this is an area that always gets pressed for me. When my income fluctuates upwards, I find that my expenses can fluctuate upwards as well (usually at a faster rate). And this is not something that is usually done intentionally. With the rise of the credit industry, living within our means has become more and more difficult. I dont necessarily think that North Americans are more prone to live on stretched budgets, but our access to easy credit (albeit expensive), makes it easier to live in the red. Living outside of our means will inevitably challenge our stewardship convictions. Living on credit will mean that money is more expensive, and we are spending money toward interest rather than toward Kingdom (or other important) work. The value of living within our means will force us to live simpler, and to make sure that we are being faithful with the things that God gives us. If we are not faithful with this, how will we be faithful with more (Luke 16)? I find that there are several challenges that contribute to living beyond our means: 1. We compare ourselves with others. Rather than operate within our budget, we want to operate within other peoples budgets. Many of my peers have more disposable income than I do, and it is often tempting for me to want to have the same material success that others have. 2. We dont have accountability. There are very few teachers and prophetic voices that will challenge the notion that living beyond our means may be sinful and perhaps a red-flag of deeper money management and character issues. 3. We dont have models. How many people do I know that live well within their means? Not many! There are many companies and governments (including ours) that are operating in the red. And unfortunately, there are too many churches that operate in the red. Rather than address the practicals for change, I find that I often need to address my heart. Why am I living beyond my means? In what ways am I being unfaithful with the money that God entrusts to me? How do I view having and spending money? Second, we need accountability. Without accountability, it will be difficult to get out of the cycle of spending more than we have. When we learn to live within our means, our character will grow in selfcontrol, accountability, self-image, and trust in God for our provisions. My struggles in this area have pressed me to go to God and receive from God a vision of being faithful with what God entrusts to me. -- Goals & Tasks for Today

SPIRITUAL BOOT CAMP - Finances DAY 2 -- 15 min. Journal What/How am I feeling? Where am I experiencing God in the midst of it all? -- 15 min. Scripture Meditation 1 Thessalonians 5 -- Memorization of Scripture 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-22 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. Finance Fridays 4: Keeping a Record Published by Eddy Ekmekji on September 14, 2007 I recognize that something about my personality or gift-mix urges me to keep record of every penny I spend. I recognize that I may be more inclined to know how much money I have in every account, and how much debt I have working against me. Most people may not be served by such details of their account. But keeping good record of where our money goes has been an important value for me. When I know how I spend my money, I am able to account for that money. When I know where my money goes, I also am able to invite myself into a deeper discipleship. By using a software program like Microsoft Money or Quicken, I am able to track all of my income and expenses. It is very telling to know where my money goes. The records allow me to stay on track with my budget, but it also allows me to recognize whether my money is being spent in areas that ultimately glorify God. Again, its not whether we give our 10% that identifies us as faithful, its how we spend all of our money (particularly the balance that doesnt go toward God). If how we spend our money belongs under the authority of Jesus (it does), then our records should be able to tell us (and others) some of who we are and our urges. Keeping record is not only important for tax season, but it is important as part of our ongoing discipleship in the area of finances.

Goals & Tasks - Keep a record of all that you spend for the next week.

SPIRITUAL BOOT CAMP - Finances

Finance Fridays 5: Budgeting Published by Eddy Ekmekji on September 21, 2007 For most people, drafting a budget is not a fun thing to do. Most people are probably not wired (or disciplined) to draft a budget and stick to it. Many people may give lip service to budgeting, but frankly, its not easy to put together a budget and then to actually have to stick to it. But a budget can be a very helpful and (if I may be so bold) a faithful discipline. Budgets will reveal a picture of how we intend to use our money. A budget will help us prioritize our giving and our expenses. It will allow us to see what we value and how we want our money to be spent. I often muse that someones checking account may be one of the best indicators of his or her faith and convictions. When I teach seminars to graduating seniors, I try to communicate that a budget will aid them in being faithful to the things that God calls them. Here are some tips that I have found helpful in developing my familys budget:

Begin with the realistic. To see a budget as a limiting factor on how we spend our money will make it a tough road of sticking to the budget. We need to begin by being realistic with our numbers. I once advised someone whose entertainment expense was well over $500 a month. She was in deep debt and needed some help. Rather than begin with cutting and putting herself in high discipline, I asked her to simply pick the numbers that are realistic and comfortable. Having said that, the first step for her was to stick to her budget. Once she did that, it would be easier to then begin looking at ways to cut her expenses. Revisit regularly. If they budget, most people may never revisit their budget, which essentially makes the budget useless. Revisiting a budget every month (at the beginning of a budgeting process) and then every quarter will help you track your expenses. Budget everything. As I mentioned two weeks ago, budget annual expenses on a monthly level. Dont be stuck with higher expenses in December because you didnt budget for Christmas gifts. Track expenses. The only way to really know how the budgeting is going is to track expenses. I find that a software program (like Quicken of MS Money) can be extremely helpful. It is well worth the cost of the program! Seek accountability. Money seems to be one of the least talked about topics in most Christian relationships, yet so much of our faith and convictions revolve around it. Get input for your budget and ask others to keep you accountable.

I have several budgeting resources that Id be glad to share with you. Drop me an email and Ill send you various resources on budgeting well.

Finance Fridays 6: Trusting in God Published by Eddy Ekmekji on September 28, 2007 Scripture is full of promises that God provides. Whether it is the story of the feeding of the 5000, or a straight word from Jesus in Matthew 6, our God provides for our needs. This past summer, I did some work out of Proverbs and was struck again that God reveals himself as one who provides and wants to provide for our needs.

SPIRITUAL BOOT CAMP - Finances Saying God is the great provider means that we can put our trust in him. We do not need to put our trust in our possessions, in our cars, in our houses, or in our relationships. It takes great risk to put trust in the invisible God. It takes courage to believe that we can live on less (because we are tithing or living simpler) and that God still has our back. Theoretically, I believe. I believe that God is more trustworthy than anything else. I believe that God has my back. I believe that I do not have to worry. Heres my struggle though: I dont believe that God has my back when I put myself into financial trouble. I can trust in God when I do all things right. I dont know if I trust in God when my sin or poor decisions lead me to financial trouble. What God has been pressing me is the need for God when I feel like Im in financial trouble. I need to believe the prayer of Psalm 86.7, In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me. When I find myself in financial trouble (even if my actions have caused the trouble), I want to believe that I can call on God and he will answer me. Will God forgive me for my poor decision-making when it comes to my finances? Will God rescue me from my mistakes? Id like to believe that Psalm 86.7 speaks into that and says a resounding, Yes! There may be some seasons where I feel disciplined and wise in how I handle my finances. But there are other seasons where I feel in trouble and full of stress. The challenge during those seasons of stress and trouble is to still trust God for my finances and also whatever correction God may havewhether it be to stretch my giving or cut my expenses. Its one thing to say, Lord, I am going to give this money away and I need to trust that you provide for my needs. And its another thing to say, Lord, I have mismanaged my money and I need you to rescue me and provide for my needs. Its easier for me to believe Gods love and Gods provisions with the former statement but not the latter one. But the good news is that God does deliver us from our troubleswhether they were caused by us or by others. We need to trust God regardless of where we are and how we got there. Scripture is full of promises that God cares for all of our needs. Praise be to God!