Pastor's Blog - Norm Byers
Just jump, man!



As I slowly climbed one rung after another, fear seized me. The place was the Muskegon High School pool. The time was long ago when I was in seventh grade. The occasion was my first-ever high dive attempt.

My friends had talked me into making the climb and the subsequent jump during open swim one Saturday afternoon. They said it was easy and that it was really something I should do, and believe me, I really wanted to. But as I began my ascent, my mind began to change. About half way up, I was ready to turn back, but two or three others had inched up the ladder behind me making it impossible to go back down.

Once I got up to the platform, it was a scary view. First, from up there it did not appear like an Olympic size pool anymore. And I was big-time conflicted— “Do it!” and “No, it will hurt!” spoke into each of my ears. I wanted it but the urge to back down was stronger. Finally, because I was holding everyone up, someone shouted, “Just jump, man!”

What about you? Have you ever wanted to start something but fear and dread took over? It might have been something like diving off the high dive, but maybe it was more of a real life everyday situation. Maybe you have needed to begin a diet or quit drinking alcohol for health reasons, but you just can’t pull the trigger. You are afraid you might fail. Perhaps you want to better yourself with some formal education, but self-doubt has kept you from enrolling in a college class or other training. Intimidation might be keeping you from taking a shot at a sales presentation with a potential client.

I think there is a far more serious opportunity in which many across our community find themselves crippled from moving forward. Sometimes people have an inner yearning to take a step toward God, but something causes them to avoid any meaningful movement. “I am busy right now. When I have time, I will begin with God,” or “I just do not know where to start, so I will just wait and see if anything changes” are just a couple of the thoughts that can keep us in limbo.

How do I know if I am ready to explore faith in God? An indication might be if you have been thinking any of the following questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? How am I supposed to live? What is my final destiny? These are the types of questions that need careful attention.

If you have ever felt this way, I want to share with you three sequential movements that you can take toward coming nearer to the Lord.

First of all, call out to God. In James 4:8 it says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Similarly, in Matthew 11:28, the Lord Jesus Christ directs us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Here is the invitation: take a step toward God by acknowledging him and addressing him. It is an open conversation with the God of the universe. This brief talk or prayer might sound something like this, “Lord, show me that you are real” or a cry for mercy like the song that Jonny Cash once sang, “Help me, Lord.” This “calling out” could be a rendering of the frustration you have with God. For examples, read several of the Psalms.

The next movement toward God that comes in succession would be to get some of your questions addressed. You may want to start with the Bible. Or sometimes, a secondary source can be helpful in directing you in the Bible so that you can get to the issues that you want addressed. While there are many helpful books out there, I believe a great book to help those with intellectual questions is New York Times Best Seller, Tim Keller’s book, “The Reason for God.” It can help you navigate through the challenge that the author calls “the leap of doubt.”

Just one more movement toward God that I would share here is to find a church that has a high view of the Bible, and additionally, one that is pragmatically living out Christ-likeness. The best way to find out a church’s view of the Bible is to simply ask the lead minister “What is your belief about the Bible?” The best way to discern if a church is living out Christ-likeness is observation. Join and begin to discover a new adventure, the adventure of faith.

I took the advice of the dude that told me to “Just jump, man!” Sure, it hurt a little as I did a belly flop but I survived, and more than two decades later, I have never regretted it. Now it’s your turn. Just jump, man!

Tell your money what to do



How do you like it when someone tells you what to do? I do not always like it!  Especially if the tone isn’t right, the directions given can get under a person’s skin.

How do you like it, though, when you get to tell someone else what to do? In my house a few years back, it came to the time when we no longer needed a babysitter because we believed our oldest was responsible enough to watch his younger siblings.  When the young lad realized he was in charge, and therefore could begin directing others, there was a twinkle in his eye and a big smile appeared.

For just a few moments, I want you to imagine something that could radically change your life. I want you to imagine that your money is a person— that’s right, money personified. And then I want you to tell your money what it needs to do. Pretend that your money is a person and direct each and every dollar to where it needs to go.

This may seem weird or over the top, but this is basic wisdom and insight from God. Consider what Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” This proverb contrasts two ways of handling money or two ways of making decisions about money. One leads to success (profit), the other leads to chaos (poverty).

A plan is a proposal for doing or achieving something. When we have a money plan, we have created a mechanism to direct spending to what we can afford and need.  The most important principle that a money plan helps us carry out is the maxim of spending less than we make.

Haste and money do not mix! Spending on the fly means we have not thought out the repercussions of our behavior and possibly have just acted on an impulse or even a desire that may pass. Sometimes we justify spending on a whim by rehearsing to ourselves, “It will all work out!”

The insight God gives here is not easy to implement. It is not for sissies! Plan making takes diligence. And it starts with hard thinking about three concepts. The first one is “What is important to you? What do you value?” This is a discussion about priorities. Everyone has a finite amount of money and “many mouths” to feed. Is cable TV more important than developing a savings account or taking a family vacation? We all need to determine what is important and what needs to wait.

The second concept that needs to be thought about is “What might I need money for in the future?” We need to forecast future needs. The ant in Proverbs 6:6-11 gathers his food at harvest anticipating a down time…the winter! Dave Ramsey remarks often on his radio show that “Murphy” is going to show up sometime. If we have foresight, then money set aside in an emergency fund is ready to deal with Murphy’s Law. We also need to save for big purchases (i.e. cars, replacement of appliances, etc.) college, and retirement.

The third concept in a money plan is “What are the details?” It is often said the devil is in the details. Personally I have an aversion to details, but when it comes to money, we need to get into the minutia of it all. This means writing out every monthly expense, adding it up and removing those expenses that drive us over our income. The ultimate goal is a “positive net income.” If you do the math and that is not the case, you either have to remove some expenses or increase your income.

Here are Four Awesome Outcomes of telling your money what to do:

1.  Month to month you will have that positive net income. There will be money left at the end of the month!

2. Debt will be dumped. As you apply dollars that are left over to the principle of the debt you incurred before you began telling your money what to do, it will be eliminated and then you will have less payments per month, and then…

3.  Wealth will begin to accumulate. Positive net income leads to paying off debt, and once debt is retired, then the money begins to add up! Then there will be money there for emergencies and you will pay cash for big purchases – yes, even cars! Vacations will be saved up for and not put on a credit card.

4.  Other money goals can be set and reached. Like making a difference in your world by sacrificial giving.

You may feel like you are in way over your head. But you can always determine to start taking responsibility for your own finances. One of my favorite Steven Covey quotes is "The essence of being human is the ability to direct your own life." How are you directing your finances? You can begin today by finding a budget outline and then tell your money what to do!

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