*HOW* do I get to a place where I can put God first in my finances?

Last year, we took our girls to a few houses in the neighborhood for a little Trick-or-treating. The two older girls both collected a few handfuls of candy. We pretty much let them eat all of it that night. I know. Not great parenting on my part. But that’s another blog post.

One of my children came up to me and offered me her Nestle Crunch bars. Crunch bars are the worst! I don’t like them and she likes them even less. I know she doesn’t like them, because she told me so.

With that said, I had just watched her eat a ton of candy and I wanted something. So I ate a Crunch bar. Even nastier than I remembered. After I finally swallowed it, the kid asked me to pay her for it. Ugh.

My other daughter came up and said, “Daddy, I want you to have these.” She held out her hand and gave me two Smarties. This daughter LOVES Smarties. If we’re at the store, that’s the candy she wants. Now I don’t care for Smarties. They are about as bad as Crunch bars. But to me those Smarties were precious. Why? Because they were my daughter’s best. Those Smarties meant so much to me I left them in my car’s console for several weeks. Every time I looked at them I got the warm fuzzies.

God loves it when we give him our best and not our leftovers.

When talking to people about honoring God with their money, I expected people to respond defensively. I’m not sure why I expected this. It probably says more about me than it does about other people.

I thought people would push back and want to debate the specifics of giving and if it should be done. For the most part, this assumption of mine was totally wrong.

Truly, I bet around 90% of the people I speak to about giving to God agree it should be done. Most even agree with returning the first 10% to God (also known as the tithe — for more info see video link at end of this post).

The question many people have, however, is not if they should honor God with their money, but rather how can they afford to? It usually follows that they live on pretty much all they make and their not sure how to return the first 10% back to God.

So let’s say you want to honor God with the first ten percent of your income, but you live on pretty much 100% of your income. If this describes you, here are some practical steps.

  1. Adjust your budget (or create one!). Here is a good resource for coming up with a budget. Is there anything in your budget that you could lower or eliminate? The truth is there are probably plenty of things you could lower. A few easy examples include your budget for eating out, monthly subscriptions, and allowance. Slimming these down can free up a lot money.

  2. Make lifestyle changes when necessary. You may be hearing about bringing God the first ten percent of your increase for the first time. If so, you’ve probably already made lifestyle decisions that are preventing you from giving God your first and your best. If it meant being able to be obedient to God would you be willing to change your housing situation or downgrading your car? Understandably, you may not be able to do this overnight, but than again, you might. Have you over stretched on housing or cars? Is it time to make a change?

  3. Do a trial of giving God your first and living on the rest. Do a trial run. For 1 month commit to simply return your tithe at the first of the month and live on the remaining 90% that month. You may find doing this simply works out. We can always find an excuse to buy one more thing. A L W A Y S. What if you gave to God what is his first and simply found a way to live on what is leftover?

Most of us honestly want to give God our best. Get creative, be brave, and find a way to bring God your first and your best.

Let’s not forget what’s at stake here. This is not just something else to do. This is about putting God first in your life. It’s about trusting God. It’s about obedience. It’s about worshiping God. It’s about bringing God your first and your best and not just your leftovers.

God has promised to take care of you.

Malachi 3:8-10 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Want to know more about returning to God your first and your best? I recommend watching my message on Bringing God our First and Our Best right here.

Got a question? Email me at tim@essentialhsv.com.

Tim Milner
My #1 Approach to Feeling Closer to God

Feel distant from God?

For the first time are you starting to wonder, “Is there a God?”

Do you sense something is missing in your connection to God?

I’m guessing every one of us have felt something like this at some point. So what do we do? How do “get closer to God?” There is one thing that has worked better than anything else for me. I’d even go so far as to say there is no substitute for it. There are things we can also do to help us grow, but if we’re not doing this one thing, we may still not feel any closer to God.

Not to cross over into fear-mongering, but the truth is if we don’t get this right our faith can swerve onto dangerous ground. For instance, we can start having radically wrong beliefs about God, and what God believes.

So what can you do today to feel closer to God? Spend time listening to God in the Bible. Start in the book of John, or James. Don’t just read it. Listen to God through the words on the page.

Feeling distant from God today? Give it a try right now.

Tim Milner
How to Eliminate a Toxic Culture of Gossip

In January 2006, Australian scientists discovered the cause of a mysterious disease that had killed thousands of Tasmanian devils on the island of Tasmania. The scientists discovered the disease began in the mouth of a single sick devil. The ferocious little animal spread the disease by biting its neighbors face when squabbling for food. Over the course of several years, infected devils continued to inflict deadly wounds with their mouths by biting each other’s faces. It wiped out over 40 percent of the Tasmanian devil population. 

Let’s tackle one of the greatest problems that we face in our offices, homes, schools, and churches.

James 4:11-12 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

James is saying don’t judge. What does that mean? It means, don’t speak evil about others, don’t speak against anyone. Don’t say “judge-y” things about others. It means God is the judge, and he will handle it. When you speak against someone you are violating the law to love one another. 

What else does the Bible say about speaking against another person? “Judge not that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Matthew 7:1-3 This passage is interesting because Jesus is connecting judging, slander, and gossip to hypocrisy. Many times what we criticize others for, we’re guilty of something similar. 

Ever watch Dr. Phil? Someone will be talking about someone’s problems, and Dr. Phil says “YOU need the help!” We say that other person has the problem, but maybe you have a similar problem.

Every time you point at someone, you’re pointing at yourself 3 times. This is sorta cheesy and many of us have heard this countless times, but there is truth here. If you’re cutting down someone do you do something similar? If you’re judging someone do you do something similar? And if not something similar; we’re almost always guilty of something; so who are we to judge?

Even Jesus said let him who has no sin cast the first stone.

But let’s be real. Are there times when we need to talk to someone else for wisdom and advice and our problem involves another person? I’d say “yes.” Proverbs 12: 15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. There are times when we are having a problem with someone and we’re not sure how to handle it.

If we’re not careful our desire to get help may end up with us just being judge-y, cutting others down, and speaking evil of the person who hurt us. It can turn into a gripe session. At first I thought, you know a vent session can be okay. But over the years I’ve seen “vent sessions” cause a tremendous amount of unnecessary dividing and stress. Want less stress? Maybe stop allowing others vent so much to you.

Imagine 2 scenarios. First - you’re absolutely chewing someone out behind their back. Second - Instead you ask a trusted friend, Is there any truth to what this person said/did? How should I learn from this? What would be a loving way to respond? 

We would be wise to follow Paul’s teaching even when we are seeking the wisdom from others on how to deal with our conflict with people. Here’s what I mean: Ephesians 4:29 says Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Remember, Paul didn’t write this for our best days. He wrote it for when we’re dealing with people problems. It’s easy to do this when we are on good terms with everything. But we must do this in all situations — even when we’re speaking about a people problem we’re facing.

One of the rules for working on staff at Essential is be careful how you talk about other people at Essential to your spouse. You end up talking about the bad things and forgetting to share when there is healing or even the many good things. I’ll tell my wife about a problem with someone I’m having and she gets angry. The next day me and that person make up and we’re better friends than ever before. But, I forget to tell my wife that there has been resolve and healing. The person on staff and myself are now great friends, but my wife is still upset at them!

For you — Is there anyone you’ve complained about to another person and you should circle back this week and just let them know you and that person are good now?

So what do we do if someone talks badly about someone to you? If we were being honest, don’t we sometimes want to hear gossip? Has someone ever started a conversation like this. “There’s something about “such and such” but I feel like I shouldn’t say anything.” And then it’s just silence. Everything inside of me is like what?! What is it!? Tell me! We’ve all had it happen. 

So what do we do if someone is speaking evil of another person to us, or if we ourselves have a problem with someone? Jesus gives us a clear model in Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

If we don’t follow the Matthew 18 model; were probably making it worse; or possibly even sinning against the person who upset us. 

If someone talks to you; ask them if they’ve talked 1-1 with the other person. If not plug your ears and say, “La-La-La!: Urge the other person to follow Jesus on this. Say, you approach them first. If that doesn’t go well, I’ll be here, and the two of us can then talk to that person. If that doesn’t work, come get one of the staff here at Essential.

That is the Jesus honoring way of handing people problems.

Now I want to camp a second about what to do if someone wrongs you and you need to bring 1 or 2 more others with you. This may also be helpful if someone is being judge-y about someone else to you:
A few guidelines:
A.) Speak in a loving way about the person who you believe has sinned against you.
B.) Talk about the offending person in a way as if they were sitting
next to you.
C.) The goal is not to feel better about yourself but rather reconciliation between you and them. 

When you are tempted to vent or when you’re interested to hear gossip of someone else remember what the Bible teaches us: We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself....” Romans 15:1-3a

When dealing with problems with another person, it comes down to What is the greatest way you can love the brother or sister who offended you? Yes, you heard correctly: not what is the best thing for you, but rather what is the best thing for them

In fact, this leads to the main reason we are having this conversation at all. This is what Jesus did. Jesus came here not to please himself, but to go to the cross so that all who believe in Him could receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Even though he was in the right he did what was best for us — who were in the wrong. Jesus did not live to please himself he came to lay down his life so we may spend eternity with God. 

One practical ways to apply this today: Commit to eliminate toxic culture around you by not cutting others down with your words and not allowing others to cut others down around you 

Remember the opening story about Tasmanian devils? Don’t bite off one another’s faces. I’ll close with the wisdom from the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:14-15  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Friends, stop biting each other’s face off. If you have a people problem, first talk to them privately one on one. If that doesn’t solve it; bring one or two others with you. If that doesn’t solve it, bring it to a pastor.

For a video recording of this, please visit our YouTube Channel.