Posts Tagged ‘financial security’

daily breadBoth personally and in ministry, Sherrylee and I have seen some particularly hard financial times. I once lost the last $20 that we had in the grocery store—just pulling something out of my pocket and not noticing that the only money we had to pay for groceries had also fallen out of my pocket.  I remember the tears when I told Sherry—there was no credit card—no cookie jar to rob—nothing! Three children!

And God!   That night at a small gathering in our home, some very intuitive friend left $20 on the mantelpiece—just to help out!  And so we ate that week.

But that wasn’t the last time we just barely made it—not by a long shot!

The special ministry God gave us has had the same kinds of experiences.  There was the summer that I was in Russia in May with plans for Sherrylee and the kids to join me for the last six weeks of the summer after school was out.  One evening I had to call her from Russia and say:  if you and the kids come, the ministry will run out of money before the end of the summer!  You can’t come—and I’ll come home early to reduce expenses!  She still reminds me of how disappointed she was that summer—but the ministry made it through that financial desert over twenty years ago…and still exists today to do His Will.

But we have not continued with cash reserves, not with a big savings account, not with endowments or million dollar gifts—neither we nor the ministry

This summer has been a particularly difficult summer financially.  The discouragement and disappointment associated with harsh financial realities are very real!  But in this and every crisis I’ve ever been through, it seems that God has given us a special word to hold on to—often a verse, sometimes a song, this time a prayer.

Almost every day since late June as I’ve walked each morning, instead of “working” the problem, I’ve tried to focus on giving my worries to God.  And that’s nothing that all of you haven’t done too—but I find rehearsing my fears and asking for fixes—fast fixes, if possible—can begin to sound self-centered, maybe even self-serving—especially over a long period of time.  And pretty soon I find myself starting to pray for what I think is obviously needed—my answers—often money—and my mind wanders off into what I’m going to do about it when I get to the office.

And so early in this particular drought, I decided to go to the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked for his help with prayer.  Every walk since that day has begun with “Our Father, who art in heaven . . . .

Every word of that prayer has been growing in my heart, but the words that have taught me and comforted me the most this summer have been: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I have longed for financial security.  I have carried the financial responsibility for a family and for a ministry for all of my adult life, and we have never been “secure.”  A big car repair bill, an unexpected illness, an accounting error, overestimating donations, underestimating travel expenses—whether personal or of the ministry, it’s been the same very tenuous financial string holding things together—or so I have felt in the past.

But what was I thinking?  Maybe I was trying to become the rich man who stored up so much wealth in his barns that he knew how all of his needs would be met for many years?  Maybe I was trying to be the man who wanted to finish his financial transactions and secure his business deal before he left to follow Jesus?

Jesus did not teach us to pray, “Give us today enough for at least a couple of years,” or “Give us today enough to weather any unexpected expenses.”

For forty years, the people of God gathered daily manna and daily meat. If they gathered more than a day’s worth, it would rot (Exodus 16).  I’m convinced that is how God often works!

I am not trusting God if I pray “Give us this day our daily bread” and then worry that I will never be able to retire or go on cruises or live comfortably until I’m 93.

I’m only trusting in God if I pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and then thank Him that I have had bread to eat at the end of that day.

He has promised no more—and no less!

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Birthday_candlesToday is my birthday. Not a big deal—I’ve had a lot of them—but still, a birthday is a good day for reflection.

As far as I know, there is only one reference to a birthday in Scripture and that is a mention of Pharaoh’s birthday in the story of Joseph found in Genesis 40:20. It must have been hard for people to even know the day of their birth before access to calendars was common.  Calendars have been around since the beginnings of history. God gave the Jews a calendar in order to celebrate feast days remembering their exodus from Egypt, but apparently the average person didn’t really know the exact day of their birth.

In medieval times, I’ve read that people celebrated the saint’s day for which they were named—which probably was the same as the day of their birth. So, for instance, St. Mark’s feast day is April 25, so that would be my day of celebration each year instead of October 23. If my parents had followed medieval traditions, I’d be named Hilarion after St. Hilarion (291-371), one of the earliest monastics. I think I like Mark better!

I was actually named after a very saintly man named Mark Armstrong, who was one of my dad’s best friends. I met him several times as a boy, but have always known that he was a good man and a devoted Christian.

One of the lists that people like to make on their birthdays is of all the things that have changed since they were born. The frequency of change in our times is almost more than we can keep up with, so one of my thoughts this morning has been to make a list of things that have not changed since I was born. Here are a few of my thoughts:

People are still frantically trying to find security. One of my earliest memories is of the people next door who had built a bomb shelter and stockpiled it with canned goods in case of atomic war. And, yes, I do remember the notorious school drills of hiding under our desks to protect us from bombs. I used to wonder if we had enough aluminum foil to cover all our windows. Today, we are more afraid of economic destruction, but I suspect our sheltering strategies are about as flimsy as those bomb shelters would have been.

People still need to be loved. Today the hot issue is same-sex marriage. As a child the big issue was divorce first, then the question of remarriage. Modern Family is quite different from The Partridge Family or Leave It To Beaver but then not so much in each family members need to belong to others and to love and be loved within that relationship.

Our lives are still framed by birth and death. I was the oldest of five children, so I remember the excitement of the day each of my siblings was born. I remember the birth of younger cousins, and, of course, you never forget the births of your own children—and then our nine grandchildren!!  As you get older, your calendar of special birthdays can really fill up!  But then, it starts to empty as well.

My first real experience with death was a boy in my class in elementary school named Guy who drowned in a municipal swimming pool.  Then my grandparents started dying while I was in high school and college. A very close college friend died in a light plane crash when I was in my twenties. Older aunts and uncles died during my 30’s. My dad died when I was 41. Sherrylee’s mother died eight years later. It was hard to lose them.

In just the last couple of years we have lost some close friends of our own age—that’s a real shock. Sherrylee’s sister Linda died of early-onset Altzeimer’s. I have watched my Mom who is now 90 lose almost all of her friends at church, so I start thinking, yes, that time of life has begun.  We may live a little longer now than centuries before—sometimes a blessings, sometimes I wonder—but our lives are still framed by birth and death.

God is still God. Jesus loves me, this I know! Security, love, and eternal life,  everything that we long for, that we work for, that we fight for—everything is found in Him.  I’m so thankful today for parents who taught me about God, for Sister Tew—the first Sunday school teacher I remember at the Riverside Church, for Beryl Hooten, who asked me one Sunday if I was ready to follow Jesus, for Alex Humphrey, my first Bible teacher at Fort Worth Christian,  for great teachers at Harding, for Owen Olbright who invited me to do mission work in the Northeast, for Joe Hacker who encouraged us to become missionaries, and for the many Christians who have continued to teach and encourage and walk with us right up to today.

And I’m unspeakably—deeply thankful for my wife Sherrylee, who has not only been my soulmate—the one I love more than my own life—but my teacher, my confessor, the one who has kept me honest before God. Her love is the most physical expression of God’s love in my life.

Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God My Father!


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