Why We Never Put Money In the Offering Plate At Church

When I was in late grade school and junior high my father served as the church treasurer for the little United Methodist Church we attended. One of his jobs as the treasurer was to count the offering and prepare it to be deposited at the bank.

One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon was to help him count the money and prepare the deposit. Little did I realize that I was learning an early lesson on tithing. Not only did I see the giving of others, I also saw my father write out a check of a pre-determined amount–based upon his pay–for our family’s offering.

The Bible talks about giving our “first fruits” to God. Back in Bible days that would have meant bringing the first and best grain, wine, oil, honey, livestock, and produce as an offering to God.  Today, in our cash society, we primarily think of tithing as a money offering.  A tithe is giving 10% back to God from whatever He gave to us through income, gifts, and other earning possibilities.  An offering, in many churches, is considered anything over and above a tithe.

Back when I was a little girl, the only way you “gave” was when the offering plate was passed on Sunday morning. Today, many churches now offer online giving, EFT (electronic funds transfer), app giving, or text-to-give. With online bill pay, some folks choose to automate their giving through online banking. In fact, Mark and I started automating our tithe many years ago when we started paying our bills–and sending our tithe–online through our bank’s website.

Thus why we never put money in the offering plate.

Without forethought and an advanced decision, honestly God could easily get our leftovers instead of our first fruits. I don’t know about you, but we always find a way to spend all of the money we have in hand. However, when we have recurring transfers set up for payday for our tithe and savings, we then become accustomed to living off what is left.

Yes, there have been many times when we’ve had a car repair, a medical bill, or another unexpected expense (really, are medical bills and car repairs unexpected though????) that we’ve been tempted to not tithe and pay that bill instead. It’s the human response!

However, what we’ve found is that when we put God first, He provides in ways we could never have imagined. Sometimes it’s an unexpected refund check because we somehow overpaid car insurance or a medical bill. Sometimes something we’ve had listed online sells. Sometimes it’s a side job someone asks Mark to do and we get a little extra financial gift!  We never know how it’s going to happen, we just have come to trust that God will take care of us. Proverbs 3: 9-10 reminds us to “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

Of course, the plenty–the blessing–isn’t always financial. God gives to us in many ways including joy, relationships, contentment, and hope. We don’t know how He will choose to work…we just know He will!

Want to watch God work first-hand? Put Him first with your finances. Make an intentional, advance, generous decision of what you will give to God every time He gives (income) to you.

Whether we write out that check every payday to drop in the offering plate or automatically send it through online bill pay, or give through the church’s app or website, what’s most important is that God gets our best!

What about you? How do you make sure God doesn’t just get your leftovers? 

You Have To Try

Marriage Monday

Mark: It seems like it’s nearly daily that we hear about another marriage breaking up. What’s so hard for me is knowing that a large percentage of those divorces don’t really need to happen.

Jill: Sometimes it’s folks we know and sometimes it’s folks we only know about. However, there’s often one common denominator that we’ve observed: they spend more energy on pursuing divorce than they spend on pursuing marriage. 

Mark: I understand hopelessness. If you know any of my story, I also believed at one time that divorce was the answer. Looking back, however, I can now see that I spent way more time in my head focused on ending our relationship than I did on healing our relationship. I didn’t believe it could be healed so I quit trying. In doing so, I nearly destroyed us.

Jill: What goes on inside our head and our heart really makes a difference in what goes on inside our marriage relationship.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself today:

  • Am I focusing more on what my spouse does wrong than what my spouse does right?
  • Am I spending a lot of energy trying to change him/her?
  • What if I took the amount of energy I’m spending on the wrong things and put it on the right things?
  • What if instead of securing the services of a lawyer, I secured the services of a marriage counselor?
  • What if I took the money it will cost to divorce and invested it into getting help for our marriage instead?
  • Have I spent the time needed to really figure out what’s going on inside of me that’s contributing to the dysfunction or frustrations in our marriage?
  • Have we read books, gone to marriage retreats, and sought out the help of someone who can help us hear each other better?
  • Am I being honest with my spouse about how I’m really feeling? (Stop that slow fade of minimizing today!)

Mark: Even if your marriage is in a good place asking yourself what you’re focusing on most can make a big difference in how you see your spouse.

Jill: And if you’re marriage is in a hard place, please don’t give up before giving it all you’ve got.

Drum Roll Please….

Announcing the Winners of the No More Perfect Marriages Giveaway

Thank you to everyone who entered the No More Perfect Marriages Marriage Enrichment Giveaway!  We’re so excited about this resource and putting it in the hands of not only married couples, but also engaged couples and those dating and considering marriage!  Thanks to our partnership with Moody Publishers, we were able to make this special giveaway possible!

If your name is listed below, you’ll receive an email today with next step information on claiming your prizes!

If you didn’t win, but still want to attend a No More Perfect Marriages Marriage Enrichment Event, keep your eyes here on the blog for our announcement of dates and registration information of the upcoming event!

Drum Roll please….

Our Grand Prize “Marriage Enrichment Getaway” Winners are…

Kathleen and Lonnie Hansen

Kelly and Tim Bowers

Heather and Keith Mosher

Michelle and Chris Webster

 

Our Runner Up “No More Perfect Date Night Subscription” Winners are…

Michael and Janet Wilson

Diane and Jon Wier

Christina and Jack Howell

Margaret and Randy Miller

Darlene and Bill Reed

Joy and Greg Jones

Heather and Rob Young

Laura and Jim Nichols

Michelle and Drew Nietert

Rachael and Jason Trovillian

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

A Little FOMO in Marriage Is Healthy!

Marriage Monday

Jill: It was one of the first holidays after our son moved from Illinois to California. He wasn’t making enough money to come home quite yet so he had to spend the holiday far from home and family.

Mark: When we talked to him that day he said he was dealing with FOMO. Neither Jill nor I had ever heard of that. When we asked him what it meant, he said, “Fear of Missing Out.”

Jill: While FOMO is no fun when you’re far from family on the holidays, we do think that a little FOMO could actually be healthy in marriage.

  • What are we missing out on learning by not going to marriage counseling?
  • If I keep this wall up, what will I be missing out on in emotional intimacy in my marriage?
  • What am I missing out on experiencing in our marriage by staying in the same bad communication habits I’ve had for years?
  • What am I missing out on by not pursuing learning opportunities for marriage?
  • If I don’t learn to really share what I’m feeling or thinking, what will I miss out on in our marriage?

Mark: Marriage requires a lifetime of learning. Even folks that have been married for many years have things to learn about themselves, each other, communication, conflict, and more!

Jill: Got a little healthy marriage FOMO? Want to take your marriage to the next step?  Here are some opportunities we’re a part of that will keep you growing:

Today: pick up a copy of No More Perfect Marriages!

Today: You can sign up for the No More Perfect Marriages FREE E-Challenge! This four week challenge will help you get to know yourself and your spouse even better! You can sign up here.

March 18, 2017–Mark and I will be doing a No More Perfect Marriages morning out event in the Chicago area. It’s open to the public and we’d love to have you join us!  Info and registration can be found at www.imetevents.org/

April 21-22, 2017–Mark and I are both speaking at the Hearts at Home Conference for moms in Peoria, IL. Info and registration can be found at www.HeartsatHome.org.

May 2017 — Our No More Perfect Marriage Date Night site will launch. We’re way excited about this new resource for marriages! It will be the perfect way to invest in your marriage without having to leave the house!  If you’d like to be notified when the site becomes available you can sign up at www.NoMorePerfectDateNight.com!

(We’re currently booking marriage events in partnership with local churches. Watch for events in Tyler, TX in May 2017, Springfield, IL in Feb 2018, and Fargo, SD in May 2018!  Would your church like to partner with us on bringing a No More Perfect Marriages Seminar to your community? We’d love to link arms with you to make a difference in marriages! You can request info here!)

What about you? Are you ready to take some steps to reduce the FOMO in your marriage? 

What About YOU Makes Marriage Hard?

Marriage Monday

Jill has been very sick with the stomach flu for the weekend so I get the privilege of sharing Marriage Monday with you this week.

After sharing with a group of guys about our marriage challenges and the restoration we’ve experienced, I was asked the question, “After all that, what is hard about marriage NOW?”

As I thought about his question, I found myself going through a variety of thoughts. In the past, I could easily create a list of what was hard and what was wrong in our marriage. Most often this type of question would cause me to focus on what’s wrong with Jill and most likely not include me at all. I didn’t (and don’t) want to go back to that way of thinking.

I decided to answer the question in a different way. I decided to answer it as if this is what had been asked: What about ME makes marriage hard? We all need to look at ourselves and what we bring to the table.

What makes marriage hard now? My flesh and my idealism.

My flesh: I have to work hard to keep this guy down. I’m so thankful that Jesus Christ has rescued me from me, and am thankful for His Holy Spirit who teaches and leads me. When I’m in my God zone, I do well in marriage. When I’m in my flesh zone, I am selfish, frustrated…and the toddler tirades come out.

How do I stay in the God zone? I do that by committing to grow, spending most mornings reading some Andrew Murray (my favorite is The Essential Works of Andrew Murray including Absolute Surrender) and my Bible. I journal and pray. I wake up and have coffee with Father God. This really helps me be the Spirit man and not the flesh man.

My idealism: I am doing so much better with this than I have in the past, but it is still there taunting me. If I’m not careful, the negative messages like “Marriage shouldn’t be hard.” “We’re too different.” and this weekend, with Jill being sick, “Will this ever be easy?”  Idealism wants to draw me back into discontentment and  I am deeply committed to not letting myself go back there.

What do I do to battle the idealism? I have to keep kicking out the unrealistic expectations and replacing them with realistic ones. “Marriage shouldn’t be this hard,” becomes “Marriage is hard work, Mark. You know that.”  “We’re too different,” becomes “Every married couple is incompatible in some way.” And this weekend, “Will this ever be easy?,” became, “It’s not her fault she’s so sick. Jill’s usually high capacity and is rarely down. I just need to let her heal. Let’s face it Mark, life is not always easy.” I also keep idealism in check by focusing on what is right in our marriage and what God has done.

SO I ask you today. What about YOU makes marriage hard? What challenges do you bring to your marriage and how are you willing to grow?

P.S. Pick up your copy of No More Perfect Marriages today! 

 

When a Woman is Addicted to Pornography

Today’s post is from my friend Robin Nordhues. Robin is a brave woman who has decided to share her story to help others. She’s also a speaker, blogger and workshop leader with a passion for connecting women to God and each other. A Bible Study teacher and independent business leader for over 15 years, Robin strives to help women discuss contemporary issues through a Biblical lens.

The next movie in the 50 Shades Trilogy comes out on Valentine’s Day and it’s being billed as “the perfect date movie.” Robin’s story illustrates why that just isn’t true.

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What we choose to read and watch and click on matters. 70% of the men and 30% of the women in America are addicted to pornography (1 Million Men study). If this is not an area where you are tempted, you know someone who is.

50 Shades of Grey, the books and the movie, are dramatically increasing the number of women who struggle in this area. Some women who pursue pornography are visually stimulated by images on their computer or smart phones, in magazines or in movies. For me it has always been the vivid pictures my imagination created from the words in a book.

I am one of the 3 in 10 women whose poor choices led to an addiction to porn. As a woman who has loved God since I was a child I knew that the reading material I was choosing was not God’s best for me. The advent of the e-reader made it too easy to access whatever I wanted to read in a password-protected environment. As I became more and more desensitized to the material I was reading I sought out more explicit material to get the same response. I read things in the privacy of my e-reader that I would never have brought into my home in a traditional book format.

As things escalated I slipped farther and farther down the rabbit hole and into a 5-year addiction to pornography that affected every part of my life. At first it was a private, hidden secret that I thought only affected me. It affected my self-image and my self-worth in negative ways. It gave me a sense of self-loathing, guilt and shame that was exhausting to hide from the people around me. My addiction made me feel weak and hopeless as it became a poison that seeped into every area of my life.

From the beginning pornography separated me from the people around me. Brick by brick, book by book, I built a wall of guilt and shame that trapped me on one side and the people I loved on the other. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I felt helpless to stop.

As the addiction continued it began to affect my marriage. It set my husband up to fail as I compared him to the impossible expectations set up by the pornographic material I was consuming.  It brought things into our marriage bed that sacrificed intimacy for the false thrill of the forbidden.

While I was in the throes of my addiction I had two teenage daughters at home. We had raised them with a philosophy that asked this question – “Could Jesus walk into this house and read, watch or listen to anything you own?” If the answer was no it did not belong in our home. Needless, to say their mom was not practicing what she preached. My lack of integrity (actions not matching words) in this area was a firebrand that never failed to sear my conscience for the entirety of my addiction.

Today I am a recovering porn addict. I say “recovering” because it will always be an area of temptation for me. God healed me from my addiction, and in doing so He clearly called me to share my story so that I could help others.

Before I could go public, however, I had to ask forgiveness from the people who had been hurt by my dirty little secret. I confessed first to my husband and asked for his forgiveness. Although I had never cheated on him physically I had cheated on him mentally through the books I had read.

Then I had to confess to our two teenage daughters. Difficult to say the least! It is so hard to be transparent with our children when it is what they need most from us.

I do not know what temptations you struggle with today. I do now that 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. If this is an area of struggle for you, I want to encourage you to:

  1. Be open and transparent about your struggle. Find accountability partners.
  2. Change your habits and your environment to make pornography less accessible.
  3. Seek professional help.

There is hope and help. You’ll find more of my story and resources on Women & Pornography at www.livingthelifetransparent.org.

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I’m so grateful for Robin’s honesty. I’m passionate about this subject and wrote about it first here and then here. Today I ask that you join Robin and myself in making a commitment to not see the next 50 Shades of Grey movie and to determine to be careful about what you feed your mind.

Triage Your Marriage Issues

Marriage Monday

Dear Jill and Mark:

My husband wants to go talk to a counselor because of some anger issues he’s been feeling lately. He set up an appointment through a program offered through his work. They set him up with a female. I feel uncomfortable with this and don’t know if I should just ignore it or if it really does matter. I thought I’ve read that men should speak with men in counseling. Just wondered your opinion on this.

Signed,

Concerned

 

Dear Concerned,

There is definitely wisdom in men seeing men counselors and women seeing women counselors. It’s just a wise part of protecting your marriage proactively. (We talk about this in No More Perfect Marriages!) We don’t think there’s anything wrong with you expressing your concern to your husband and asking if he would mind requesting a male counselor. If it becomes a big deal, though, it may be something you have to give grace on and leave as it is. We are beyond thrilled to hear that your husband wanted to see a counselor to deal with his anger issues. We’re also thrilled that he took action himself to set up an appointment. Both of those are huge and something to be incredibly grateful for. To us that’s a bigger mountain to climb than the gender of his counselor. So we think it’s valuable to express your concern, but don’t let it get in the way of him getting the help he needs.

Mark and Jill

Mark: This question came in this week and we thought it was a great way for us to discuss the value of “triaging” marriage issues.
Jill: If there’s a medical emergency, the first thing they do is triage. This is the process of sorting multiple victims to determine medical priority. This effort helps to increase the number of survivors.  It determines the priority of issues to be addressed.
Mark: When there are multiple issues in marriage, we also need to triage. This helps us determine the priorities of the issues we want to address.
Jill: In the case of “Concerned,” she had a very valid concern but it was secondary to her husband identifying that he needed help with his anger and the effort that he’d already made to seek out that help. Both of those are huge wins for their marriage!  His appointment with a female counselor was a valid concern but should not get in the way of him actually getting the help.  So she needed to “triage” the issue and determine that it was not as important as him getting the help.
Mark: We had the pleasure of interacting with “Concerned” this week and found out that her husband responded to her expressed concern by changing his appointment to see a male counselor.  We were so glad to hear that her husband responded the way he did, but if he hadn’t it might have been best for her to let the female counselor issue go for now. This puts him seeing a counselor as a top priority and him seeing a female counselor as a second priority.
Jill: Some questions we might ask ourselves when we’re triaging issues are:
  • In the grand scheme of things, is this really a big deal?
  • Is there something positive happening here that I’m not seeing?
  • What’s the most important thing that needs to happen here?
  • Is this the right time to address this issue?

What about you? Are there multiple issues you need to triage in your relationship?