2018 National Day of Prayer

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It’s praying time! May 3rd has been designated for this year’s “National Day of Prayer”. The nation will be encouraged to come together and turn to God in prayer and meditation. This year’s theme is UNITY. So how will you commemorate the day? And more importantly, how will prayer fit into your life the rest of the year?

Psalm 5:3 (NIV)  In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

Having a little talk with Jesus shouldn’t feel like a chore. It is our privilege to be able to carry all of our concerns to God in prayer. Yet maintaining a consistent prayer life can sometimes seem like a challenge.  For those balancing work, school, family and other responsibilities, busyness can turn into a distraction that causes us to lose focus.  Fortunately, there are resources available that can help get your prayer life in order.

Free Prayer Mobile Apps  (iTunes App Store)

  • Echo Prayer – Keep track of your prayers or share prayers with friends, family members or groups. The app reminds you to pray with a “Pray Now” feature with an optional timer.
  • Prayer Guide – Prayers to God – This app provides a selection of prayers based on specific topics and also a variety of Bible inspirations.
  • Prayer As You Go – Daily 10-13 minute prayers, combined with music, scriptures and questions for reflection.
  • PrayerMate – This app allows you to receive prayers daily or select specific prayer categories. Download your favorite prayers for reference and set alarms as needed to schedule prayer times.
  • Pray Prompter -This app acts as a virtual prayer coach by helping you stay focused and by prompting you to pray more on suggesting topics. This app is good for those who are new to prayer practices and provides teachings on the basics of prayer.

Suggested Reading:

Prayer: The Ultimate Conversation – Dr. Charles Stanley

Draw the Circle Study Guide: Taking the 40 Day Prayer Challenge – Mark Patterson

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional – Paul David Tripp

Lord, Teach Me to Pray for Kids – Janna Arndt

 

 

 

 

 

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Using Discernment in Today’s Church

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One late night while watching television, an infomercial came on featuring a very charismatic televangelist. He referred to himself as a prophet and spoke of amazing miracles. Testimonials were given by everyday people who declared they were able to overcome obstacles either by receiving large unexpected amounts of cash or they were cured instantaneously of cancer and other terminal diseases. They all seemed very convincing. Some even held wads of cash while others gave tearful recollections of their lives prior to being healed and all of this good fortune was due in no small part to a tiny vial of liquid known as “Miracle Spring Water”. What’s most amazing is that 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water.  Yet somehow, the promoter has made millions of dollars peddling it.

There is a real danger in leaning to our own understanding and it is pretty evident that there certainly is no shortage of false prophets or false doctrines in the world. Herein lies the importance of discernment. 

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“Proverbs 3:5 – Trust the LORD with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding”

Pastor Hart Ramsey is the pastor of Northview Christian Church with locations in Dothan, AL and Atlanta, GA. Here is what he had to say about the topic:

CFU: Pastor Ramsey what comes to your mind when you hear Church people say “we’ve always done it this way”? 
HR: What comes to mind is the word tradition. Tradition does not necessarily mean than an idea or method is right or wrong. It simply means that it was passed down from one generation to the next and has now become their custom. Somewhere along the line, they were told that the way things were done in the past is the only way it should ever be done. The intent is usually right; but it almost always results in stagnation.

CFU: What are a few red flags that signal that a church is operating outside of
God’s realm?
HR: The first thing that usually jumps out is the heart (or spirit) of the leader. If the leader doesn’t see himself as a representative of Jesus, but as a substitute for Jesus, he will be tempted to draw people to himself and not to the Lord. Also every life-giving Church has to be strong in three areas: (1) Sound Doctrine. We must preach a rightly divided Word (2) Make Disciples. We must teach people who Jesus is, what He has done for them, and what He requires of them (3) Maintain a Difference. The basic meaning of the word “holiness” is difference. The Church must be in the world, but not influenced by it. We must have a different flavor and atmosphere about us.

CFU:  How do you go about using discernment when searching for a Church home?
HR: I believe God connects people to the places where they should worship Him. So, when you first visit a church, don’t go in trying to figure out whether or not it’s right for you. Instead, ask the Lord to lead you with His peace. More often than not, modern churches will have lights, excitement, professional music, appealing optics and other interests that are designed to impress and attract people. But “red flag” churches lack depth. They know how to attract but not how to make lasting impact. They can draw you, but they can’t develop or deliver you. So, unless you’re definitely led of the Lord, never join after your first visit. Attend multiple services until you have a definite YES or NO in your spirit. It’s about having complete peace before committing to a Church home. Then once you commit, really COMMIT!

CFU: How can you be sure you are interpreting the Word correctly?
HR: That is a powerful question. The word for “disciple” is also the Greek work for student. Jesus told His followers to make disciples of all nations. He told them to share the Good News with everyone and those who accept it should be instructed into their new life. We are directed to first become learners before we assume to be teachers. That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” So, I think the answer is that we have to learn to interpret Scripture. The Bible is one continuously unfolding story. When false doctrine creeps into the Church, those who are committed to the learning process can usually discern it. The Holy Spirit will testify in our hearts against false and self-serving teachings. But we must pay attention to Him. We must be continual learners and never presume to “know it all.”

Saved & Saving: Top 5 Tips For Eliminating Debt With Your Tax Refund

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If you are among the nearly 80% of Americans expecting a tax refund, perhaps you may also be wondering how this money can be used to help clear up some debts. Perhaps you own a house or a car? Or maybe you have other reoccurring bills like credit card payments or student loans.

Proverbs 21:5 – Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty

  1. Figure Out Your Debt: Finding out where you stand can be scary, but not knowing can actually be quite costly. Even if your tax refund cannot cover everything, you might be surprised at how much you’ll save in the long run with just one lump sum payment. Use a debt calculator to see how much you can expect to pay over time based on your interest rate with just minimum payments. Then play with the numbers to see exactly how much you can potentially save if you pay just a little more each month.
  2. Create an Action Plan:  First step here will be to sort your bills and organize them by priority. Decide which bills you might be able to pay right away and which bills might benefit you if you pay them off early. Those benefits can either be savings or outright ownership. For example, if you pay off your car note, then the car will be yours. If you pay down the balance on a high interest credit card you will save a substantial amount of money. By using your tax refund to eliminate these debts, you will not only save money but you’ll now have an opportunity to jump-start your future goals of living debt AND stress-free!
  3. Eliminate Costly Debts First:
  • Credit Cards: So why does it make sense to use your tax refund to pay off credit cards? Simple, its in your best INTEREST! The higher the interest rates, the more you’ll pay over time on your purchases, especially if you are only making minimum payments each month. So that means, that the cute Sunday dress or really nice dress shirt you bought on sale for $40 might wind up costing you as much as $150 over time. If cutting your credit balances is your goal this tax season, find out how much you owe each of your creditors. Contact them directly and find out if they can offer you a lower interest rate. This has worked for me in the past. Should you decide to use your tax refund to cover the cost, don’t be tempted to overspend again. As Jesus said “Go and sin no more!”
  • Student Loans:  According to 2018 statistics from Make Lemonade,  there are more than 44 million U.S. borrowers with $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. Combine this with rent, utilities and other living expenses and you may have a recipe for what seems like a never ending debt cycle. Try and get ahead of this and contact your lender to find out if there are any prepayment penalties associated with your loan. If you are able to apply your tax refund as a lump sum payment, not only will you save on interest in the long run but you’ll shorten the length of the loan commitment as well.
  • Mortgage: Using your tax refund to pay down on your mortgage makes sense only if you are able to apply the payment to the principal portion of the loan. Make sure that you let your lender know in advance how to apply your payment, otherwise they may automatically apply it to unpaid interest on the loan. By paying down on your home you’ll not only save a tremendous amount of money in interest charges but you’ll also be able to build equity and own your home sooner.
  • Medical Bills: Health challenges can be sudden and unexpected. Even with insurance coverage, many individuals sometimes find that it may not always fully cover the cost of a hospital stay.  If you receive a bill don’t ignore it. Most people don’t realize that medical debts can appear on your credit report and lower your score as much as 100 points. If you are unable to pay because of financial hardship, be proactive and contact your hospital’s finance division to review your options.  If you are able to cover the bills with your tax refund, then pay it off and consider it one less debt in your name.

4. Create an Emergency Fund: If nothing else, 2017 taught us that disasters can happen. Hurricanes, mudslides, tornadoes, floods and fierce volcanic-like wildfires all dominated last year’s news and this year is gearing up for a possible repeat. Disasters that fall under “Acts of God” are rarely ever covered by home insurers. When such disasters occur, there’s usually little if any time at all to prepare.  Depending on the magnitude of the disaster, survivors generally are blessed just to be able to leave their homes with the clothes on their backs. Nevertheless, an emergency fund can provide much-needed temporary help during these times.  But also keep in mind, natural disasters are not the only unforeseeable life events. Sudden illness, job loss or even divorce can also hinder your ability to pay bills. Typically, three to six months of reserved cash can cushion you and cover basic living expenses until you get back on your feet. Deposit your tax refund to help you advance this goal. Use automated banking if necessary to make prescheduled deposits into a separate account. It’s the easiest way to save. Just set it and forget it!

5. Check Your Money Habits: For some, this might be the hardest part of the process. Being honest with yourself and examining the real reasons why you got into debt in the first place. Whether it was because of impulse shopping or perhaps due to something completely outside of your control. The reality is, that while we may forgive our debtors, debtors rarely ever forgive in return. They just want what you owe. While the road to becoming debt-free might seem like a long haul, rest assured the journey is not without reward.  Learn  how to be a responsible steward over your resources with Author Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness” It is an excellent resource, complete with step-by-step instructions on how to get your financial house in order using Christian principles.

More “Saved & Savings” Tips Coming Soon!