Aug 25, 2012

Is your life like a bank vault?

What does that mean, you might ask. Ever hear of the expression, “It’s none of your business”?  Sometimes I feel like people need to make sure everything must be kept secret, “Nobody can know about_______ because it’s none of their business.” But is this the way Christ intended the Body to behave? Are we supposed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and have the attitude that our lives are our own and everything uncomfortable that happens to us must “stay in the family” because “it’s none of their business”? You might say, “Well I don’t want so and so to know all my dirty laundry and see all the skeletons in my closet, what would they think of me!” Oh really? Then why does the Bible say to confess our sins one to another? How are we to bear one another’s burdens if we have an attitude of “it’s none of your business”?

Let me be the first to say that for me, being raised in a private-like family, it is hard for me to be open and candid about our family struggles. The Lord has been working on me in this area for awhile which all started about 3 weeks ago while talking to a fellow missionary friend. She shared about her family’s commitment to pay off their credit card debt and stop the cycle of adding to the debt. Yesterday as I was helping David edit his article for our weekly update and working on our personal/church finances I went to bed very frustrated and troubled. I stayed up ‘til 2am  last night praying and seeking the Lord and  then the  Holy Spirit hit me with this truth: how can I expect God to bless me and my family if I am unwilling to give Him the opportunity to show Himself strong on our behalf (2Choronicles 16:9)? We want God’s blessings and provisions but we’re unwilling to give Him opportunities to do so then we blame Him for not providing or answering our prayers.

Let me provide an example through a personal experience of ours. I am going to share a testimony that for most is “taboo” to talk about. I want to talk about our personal and ministry finances. We have credit card debt that has been accumulating over the last 8 years. Our second year of marriage David’s employer in the States bounced 4 payroll checks in a row six months before we moved to Puerto Rico. We were able to get the bills repaid after our own checks bounced but we carried with us all the bank fees that were a result of the bounced checks. We tried to do things on our own by working 40 hours a week but the ministry was suffering and we couldn’t pay the bills. David came home one day fed up with trying to do both ministry and work and not getting anywhere with either and told me that he quit his job, I said, “Finally!” That day we prayed and made the commitment to focus solely on ministry and not have an outside job deciding that if God wanted us on the mission field God was going to take care of us while we focus on doing His work, the same day we received a donation and were able to pay many past due bills. 

It wasn’t until 2009-10 that the economy began to slow down and churches were cutting their mission support. We began using credit cards to supplement ministry needs and occasionally we would buy groceries and gas as well. This habit has been building ever since and now we are in a position where we have added too much ministry debt onto our personal credit cards. There is not enough money coming in through the ministry to meet its monthly expenses as well as pay down its debt. Now we find ourselves back where we were 5 years ago.  We have no way to save on a monthly basis after our bills are paid and groceries bought because there is nothing leftover, we can’t afford to buy our daughter school books, I personally have needed an eye exam and new contacts for the last 5 months, any prenatal expense that comes up we have had to use credit and a whole other list of things that we can’t afford to take care of at the moment simply because we lack money. Some have said that we need to go out and get a second job (mission work assumedly being our first “job”), others have suggested food stamps or social security checks to help supplement our income.  
In the article that I was editing for David he shared his testimony about his recent health problem and what God taught him through that experience and he also shared a verse that is so amazing and fitting for what God has shown me that I am going to reshare:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121

Every time I or David are faced with a financial dilemma we say, “If God doesn’t provide I guess we’ll just have to put it on the credit card.” Where and when did we allow this false dilemma to dictate how God provides for us on a daily basis? Have we prayed about it? Have we sought other ways to fulfill this need? Do we really “need” to take care of this situation right now or can it wait? When we whip out the credit card to fulfill a need then we have essentially robbed God of Him providing and blessing us. We have “taken care” of it ourselves. We have been given a multitude of Bible verses filled with promises that God will never let us come into harm, that He will take care of us and be our Provider and that we shouldn’t worry about what to eat or drink, but yet here we are brothers and sisters faced with financial hardships every month that temp us to “fall back” on credit.

Five years ago we made the commitment to trust God with our finances.  Recently as a family we realized the need to renew that same commitment by putting away the credit cards and allow the Lord to FULLY be our Provider 110%! What will we do if tomorrow we get in the van and it breaks down? The Lord will provide and care for us. What will we do if we’re out of cash and the cabinets and refrigerator is empty and our daughter and unborn baby need fed? God will not let us starve because His promises are real and always reliable!

You know, we have been to Africa 3 times! Our ministry has been a conduit for providing for others’ needs in amazing ways every month for years now. In addition, God has grown this ministry to nearly 50 international branches. If God can do all these things, surely He can provide for our month to month needs as well as provide a way out of our debt and stop the cycle from continuing!

So, why you ask, have I laid bare our financial situation and how does this relate to the title? I have shared this difficult situation because it is the one thing I have kept hidden in my “vault”, ashamed to allow others to see it, fearful of what others might think. But I know for sure that there are other Christians out there struggling with the same situation and feeling the false dilemma pushing the credit cards into their hands at the grocery store and I have to ask myself, if God want us to confess our hardships and bear one another’s burdens, why am I so willing to hide my own? I need to remember that when I do share the contents of my “vault” it is for the encouragement and edification of others. How can we share burdens if we live out our lives as bank vaults; keeping everything private, locked away from the public and not letting anyone know we have problems? How can I pray for my sister in Christ when she shares an “unspoken prayer request” and how can others pray for me when I do the same? David and I always ask for people to pray for us but how will they know what to pray for if we don’t want to share with them everything that we’re struggling with?

Brothers and sisters let us bear with each other, let us confess our hardships and sins to others and let us be ever ready to be there with the mind of Christ when we’re called upon to share someone else’s burden. Let us allow the Lord to fully take care of our families, don’t allow our wrong and unbiblical thinking lead us into false dilemmas. Whatever situation you are facing right now, God has your provisions and blessings waiting, all we have to do is put the credit cards away, throw away depression/anxiety pills and stop looking in other places for “help” and “answers”.  As I close out this article I would like to share some verses that have encouraged me and the Holy Spirit uses often to remind me of the importance of relying solely on the Lord: 

2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path”

His Servant,
Heather Ingram

Aug 24, 2012

Where does your hope come from?

I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121 

I have not shared this publicly, and only my closer family and friends knew about it but during the time I was on my 40 days of renewal I was also dealing with an issue of my own. When we first learned of Heather’s pregnancy we were very excited to say the least. We scheduled an appointment and went in to have the blood work done. I had been having pains in my chest and so I made an appointment for myself to see the Dr. My right breast was very tender and was a little bigger than the other. He did an exam and shared that he felt something there and said I better go and get a mammography. Heather’s blood work came back confirming that she was indeed pregnant. My emotions that day were a bit scrambled. I was overjoyed knowing we were expecting our second child and at the same time fearful that I might not be there to see it grow up. News that the Dr. thinks you may have cancer is difficult especially when you half to discuss it with him in a combination of English and Spanish. He ordered tests for blood and urine. I left his office trying to stay positive and yet found myself fearful of the uncertain news. The following month I kept the matter in prayer. I  have a close friend who also was my teacher in HS. He just had surgery for cancer a couple weeks ago. He is a strong Christian man and a good friend. I found that it was a great comfort to be able to talk with him about the aspect of unknowing and trusting in the Lord come what may. The Bible says.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

When we do suffer we do so knowing two things. The first is that we are never alone in our suffering. God is always with us. In the ups and downs of my life I can attest that this is most definitely true. The other thing we can know as we have suffered and found our comfort in the Lord is that we too can comfort others when they suffer. When I meet a person who is divorced I can minister to them in away a person who has not been through a divorce would be able to and have learned to trust in the Lord in a distinct way. I have been through it and am on the other side happier and wiser than I have been or had hoped for when I was in the midst of it and can share of this hope with those who are suffering through it and can’t yet see how God will bring them through it.

Sadly, this aspect of building one another up in the faith does not happen as it once did. Christians are too busy, too disconnected or just fearful of what others would say. Each culture has certain mindsets that define it. For America the notion of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is prevalent. Even in the church, though it is contrary to scripture. Christ does not expect us to do it on our own. He said He knew that we could not accomplish His will on our own. He shared that He was going to send us another just like Him. He has given us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit goes with us from day to day. He empowers us, convicts of sin, reminds us of the word of God, and gives us the words to speak even when we have no words among many more wonderful things. We are promised that we are never alone in this world and that God is always with us, that He will never leave us or forsake us.

It is unfortunate if the Christians around you are not mature enough in their faith to pray with you, encourage you with the word of God, give you a shoulder to cry on, comfort you as they had been comforted, and know enough of the scriptures to remind you of where your hope comes from. In my darkest times in the midst of so many flawed voices there have always been those one or two people strong in the Lord who have been able to go to God’s word and share with me words of hope and peace. Whether or not others have been there for you in this way I pray that after you finish reading this you will determine in your heart to be this way for those the Lord will bring into your life.

We need not put our faith in anything else other than Christ. I need to be reminded of this as much as anyone else. My friend recently helped me to remember that when I needed it. If I can be there for you, I hope you will give me the opportunity to do so.

I did get my results back over a week ago. My blood and urine tests came back all better than normal. In fact the Dr. was very impressed with the results albeit a bit surprised. I had to have an ultrasound in place of the mammography. My tests came back perfect. I am doing much better now.

With each trial we face in life we have one of two choices, will I trust God or will I place my hope in trust in someone or something else. As we have all seen in one form or another trusting in anything apart from God is not without its own types of risks whether that be, relationships, wealth, education or medical experts, medications, illegal drugs, ext. These often come along with unexpected consequences. Sometimes the risks are not as bad as we thought while other times they cost us more than we had intended.

These things I know for sure. We who are brothers and sisters in the Lord should be quick to lift one another up in the faith, to comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God We must always be willing to place their needs above our own. Sadly telling them to straighten up, snap out of it or handing them a pill is easier for us to do. Knowing what God’s word says and how it applies to our lives, praying with others and not just about them, and sharing with others that you have learned as you have suffered that when God says in his word,”.. that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..” You can do so not because you have read it once but because He has proved it to be true in your life and He will prove it in their lives as well as they hold on to the hope and future God has for him.

When I was at my lowest point in my life a man, mature in the faith, gave me this passage of scripture and my life was forever changed. Perhaps God will use it to change your life as well.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing;now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches,for I give water in the wilderness,rivers in the desert,to give drink to my chosen people,the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. Isa. 43:18-21

God Bless,
David Ingram
New Day Christian Ministry
Isa. 43:18-21