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The Tithe Experiment – 1 Year On

This post is part of the Tithe Experiment series

Back in January 2010 Sam and I began our tithe experiment – it was an experiment that we felt God was calling us to, to tithe more and trust God to provide for our needs. Sounds a bit cliché but this was something we felt called to do and knew that God would teach us through the experience. Going into it we really had no expectations other than to be obedient and to allow God to work in our lives. The plan was to give as much as we could from our income and trust God to provide for our needs.

It’s now 1 year since we began and I’d like to share with you what God has taught us through the experience.

Right from the start this was an experiment and in any good experiment you must test and try different ideas in order to find the most effective and sustainable results. We found that our tithe experiment needed regular revision and adjustment.

Initially we decided to tithe as much as we could and to trust God for the rest. We found that this was sustainable for a while but that it led to a point where we were heading towards debt as a result. We felt that debt was not what God wanted for us so we adjusted our tithing to accommodate our new budget and our second child.

Through these adjustments God was making it clear that it was more important for us to maintain an attitude of generosity rather than attempt to stick rigidly to the “rules” we had set for ourselves. While it was good to put aside the tithe each fortnight we found that it wasn’t actually helping us to tithe “better”. For us, it simply became a cash reserve, another savings account that was saved for a rainy day or for an emergency. Sure it was excellent to have this account but it did very little in terms of helping us change our mindset towards our finances – and that’s our biggest lesson here.

We learnt that God didn’t want our “tithe” – the mandated 10% that we were required to set aside, what He wanted from us was to change our thinking to one of constant generosity towards whoever may need it at the time. The Book of Malachi spoke to us, God didn’t want our lip service and duty tithe, He wanted us to love Him and to love others and express that love through generosity.  For our family, we needed to be generous whenever the opportunity arose, to whomever that might be.

During the last year God has provided for us in ways we could never have imagined. Reading back over the posts on this blog I can see time and again a need we had and how God has met that need for us.

Let me be clear here though, we believe that we can never out give God, but we also believe that God is under no obligation to respond to our giving. We give because God first gave to us and calls us to love others and to be generous, not because we expect anything in return simply for being obedient. We found that often God gave back in ways that didn’t match our giving, i.e. not monetary or even in “goods” but with opportunities and relationships that have been exactly what we’ve needed.

The biggest lesson we’ve learnt is that God wants us to be generous at every opportunity rather than give because we have to. I’ve felt that the 10% tithe might be outdated or that it’s used as an excuse not to be generous, but these thoughts require more reflections, a future post perhaps ;).

God is faithful and forever generous and we have never lacked anything we have needed. We have had to wait upon God for our needs and often He has met them in ways we haven’t expected – there have been tough times (and continue to be) but we have seen God’s faithfulness and that deepens our trust in Him to provide in the future.  God is more interested in our attitude, than our time, money or our felt obligation to tithe.

We no longer have a ‘tithe’ account but are working hard to be more in tune with people’s needs and to respond quickly and generously when the opportunity arises (which we find is almost weekly). We feel this is the way God would have us live.

It’s been an interesting year for us and the journey of course doesn’t end here. Generosity is our focus for 2011, to give our money, time, talents or whatever else is needed, when it’s needed and as we have opportunity to do so

What do you think about tithing/giving? Is generosity the key or tithing or…?? Please share your thoughts with us.

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Crisis, stress, lessons learnt

The last few weeks have been a real challenge for our family. Time has passed as we have been in a haze fuelled by worry, concern, stress and a lack of sleep. It’s uncanny how when the proverbial hits the fan our first instinct is to circle the wagons and take matters into our own hands… a far cry from the creed we profess that God is our provider, that we trust Him in all things and wait on Him to deliver us. Makes me feel guilty and ashamed that I’m all too ready to take matters that I have entrusted to God back into my own hands.

It’s been over a month since my last post – in that time we have come to the brink in our finances and suffered a week of, frankly worrying, health issues. Couple that with being first time parents, learning to manage on one income and preparing for the birth of our second child, it’s been a difficult road. The time has come to reassess our circumstance, to look at what we do, have and want to do, and make changes. 

We’re not adverse to this process; in fact it’s one I believe is necessary for a productive and purposeful life. My concern is that it’s all too easy for us to wait for a crisis to force us to change, rather than making evaluation and assessment an ongoing process in our lives. Sometimes circumstances are unavoidable; other times we have the opportunity to head them off if we’re prepared for them. Preparation is hard work, slipping into the comfort of routine is easy although often not beneficial. 

This last week we reached our breaking point, we could do nothing but surrender our lives and circumstances (again) to God. We realised (again) that we had slipped back into our old, comfortable way of life, following our own paths and intentions and neglecting to seek God for His. This last month has been a wake up call from God – retrospect is a great teacher, as I now look back I can see the subtle signs of a patient and loving God trying to set us back on course. As it often happens, it took a crisis for us to get back on track with God – oh how I wish we had of noticed sooner, yet I thank God for His grace towards us. 

God’s ways are higher than our ways, His love is wider and deeper and higher than we will ever know. Makes sense to follow Him. The Christian life is about dependence – trust and faith in a God who is the source of life, love, hope and provision. Jesus said:

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing John 15:5 

How can we expect to live life to its fullest if we choose to disconnect from the source of Life? How sad that we so often think we’re better off on our own. Independence can be good for us but not when it separates us from God. Sadly I keep learning this the hard way. 

It’s time for change in our life and family. It’s time to refocus our attention on the things that matter – on God and His will for our lives. It’s time to leave behind the false safety of our comforts, to stop relying on our own devices and to focus on God and His ultimate, unmeasurable wisdom. It’s time to once again seek God’s forgiveness and surrender our lives, our hopes, dreams and plans for the future to Him. 

God we choose again to surrender to Your will, to seek Your face and to follow Your ways. Whatever may come we will trust in You for You are faithful. 

How about you, when have you learnt to trust in God?

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Tithe Journal #7

This post is part of the Tithe Experiment series
Giving (01/04/10)

$250 to tithe account

Needs

We’re still trying to work out what the best option is with buying our house from my dad. There are a few different options and we need to decide what’s going to be better for us and my mum and dad in the long run. They have been so generous to us, buying this house for us because we couldn’t afford it but now that dad’s retired we need to make sure they are taken care of as well.

I’m beginning to worry again about how we’re going to make ends meet as our expenses increase as we look to take on a mortgage and pay doctor’s bills and all the costs of a new baby. I know that God is faithful, I’m trying to learn to live that everyday.

Study is going well, I’m working on my first essay with the second due soon after. I’d really appreciate your prayers as I write these essays.

Sam is doing well with her pregnancy and as we near the last trimester we’d love your prayers for her and the baby’s good health. We’d also love your prayers for Sam’s energy and ability to keep up with Anabelle while also getting the rest she needs.

Anabelle’s been getting up at 4am now that we’ve gone off daylight savings time and its been hard on us as you can imagine. Please pray that Anabelle sleeps til 6am and we all manage to get enough sleep! 🙂 

God’s Provision

I really shouldn’t worry so much because we continue to see God’s hand at work in our lives. God continues to provide for all our needs, I need to learn not to look too far ahead and get ahead of God, often He waits for us to trust Him and seems to act at the last minute – learning to live totally by faith is difficult but so worth it!

We were able to get a great deal on a much needed trampoline for Anabelle and save our bed some punishment 😉

Study is going well – I know that I’m a morning person so getting up early with Anabelle has given me time to read and study

God’s also been teaching me and changing my ways of thinking.  It’s easy to be discouraged when I don’t see material provision but I’m finding that God’s biggest provision is often in reshaping my thinking. As I learn to trust Him more I find that I’m worrying less (or at least trying to worry less) and my thoughts turn to remembering His faithfulness rather than my worries. It’s a big shift and it’s still hard to do but I thank God for it!

We really appreciate all the encouragement, feedback and prayers, so thank you all! As always we’d love to hear from you so please feel free to say hi 🙂

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Tithe Journal #5 & 6

This post is part of the Tithe Experiment series

The last month’s been a little crazy hence this combined journal entry; I just didn’t get around to posting one two weeks ago. 

28/02/10 Car died today, we think it’s the distributor; I need to source another one. So grateful to have a mechanic in the family who could tow me home and work on the car. 

01/03/10 Finding it challenging to trust God with providing for us. As the husband and father, and the sole bread-winner I feel responsible for providing for my family. I’m ok if I seem to go without but I don’t want my wife and daughter to have to… it’s a daily struggle to hand that over to God and wait for Him to provide. It’s a real lesson in humility and one that I need to learn – even if it’s the hard way I guess. There’s something deep with a man that drives him to provide for his family and he doesn’t want to fail that task.

04/03/10 Pay day. $250 to tithe account

08/03/10 Car was finally fixed today, it’s been an interesting week. Turns out it was the computer not the distributor but it took a lot of trial and error to work that out. Again SO grateful that my uncle fixed it for the cost of parts, it would have cost a lot to have it done at the shop. 

Been doing some savvy shopping this last month. It seems that God has been providing exactly what we need, right on time. For instance we were talking about how we might afford a chest freezer so we could buy in bulk and freeze extra meals in order to save money and the next day one came up for sale on the bulletin board at work which we were able to buy really cheap. Anyone have any tips on where to get discount/bulk food items in Canberra?

Money has been tight as we’ve had some unforseen expenses and haven’t been able to add to the savings this past month. We’re going to have to revisit the budget to see where else we can make some savings. No idea where that will be though… 

In all honesty I’ve been feeling pretty down the last month. The worry over how we’re going to get by has been a concern for me lately (actually reading back it seems to be a recurring theme). A single income, one child under two and another on the way, medical bills, rent, food, fuel, study costs are all mounting up and getting me down. Not to mention the need to buy our house sooner rather than later… it’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders and I’m finding it hard to deal with right now. I like the security having savings brings and we’re quickly going through ours and that worries me. The biggest thing is that we’re not making extravagant purchases, it’s all every day living… would appreciate your prayers… 

17/03/10 Our health insurance premiums are going up again… we have to keep our current one until after the baby is born, then we’ll need to shop around for a better deal, if there is one… Anyone have any tips on good Aussie family hospital cover? 

18/03/10 Pay day $100 to tithe account. I know this is less than usual but even this is more than we can afford right now – I’m trusting that God will honour it as it’s given sacrificially. 

Thank you to all of you who are journeying with us, praying for us and supporting us, we deeply appreciate it. We’d value you prayers, especially in regard to sticking to our commitment for the year and trusting that God will provide. As always we’d love to hear from you so please keep in touch.

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Tithe Journal #4

This post is part of the Tithe Experiment series

Giving (18/02/10)

$250 to tithe account

Needs

16/2/10 Learning the difference between need and necessity. Already know the difference between a want and a need but there is also a difference between a need and a necessity. There are a lot of things we need or need to do but we must focus on what is a necessity, do those things first and then reassess our situation. It’s hard not to do something you feel you need to do, makes decision-making all the more important.

22/2/10 Balancing the budget is becoming difficult. We have extra expenses and a minimal contingency fund to cover it. We need to work out how to spend less and make our money go further. Would really appreciate your prayers for provision.

I’ve decided to drop back to one subject this semester which is a good move. It simply means it’ll take me longer to finish and I need to be patient (so hard for me at the best of times ;-))

We have some specific prayer needs and would appreciate your prayers:

  • Wisdom to know how/when to take over the house mortgage
  • Where to attend Church, we need a regular church home
  • Study begins for me beginning of March – wisdom to balance everything

God’s Provision

19/2/10 Sam and I were able to go out tonight to a concert. My parents are amazing and have taken Anabelle for the night so we can have some couple time. It’s a provision for us that we have such Godly and generous parents who love to do this for us.

 20/2/10 Went shopping with Sam today because we needed some specific items. Not only did we find what we needed but we also bought some extras as well because everything we needed was on sale. And not just on sale but most things were 70%-90% off the normal price!! God really provided for us because these kinds of sales are rare where we live and its even rarer to actually find exactly what you need in these sales, amazing! We’re totally blown away by God’s provision!

The novelty of our experiment is starting to wear off as the realities of every day life take over. Its hard to keep trusting that God will provide – we know He will – It’s in these times that we need to submit ourselves to Him even more

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight – Proverbs 3:5-6 The Bible

We really appreciate all the encouragement, feedback and prayers, so thank you all! As always we’d love to hear from you so please feel free to say hi 🙂

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Tithe Journal #3

This post is part of the Tithe Experiment series

Giving (04/02/10)

$250 to tithe account

Needs

24/01/10 Been chatting with my folks about the need for us to take over the mortgage on our house. We currently rent it from them but with dad retired they need us to buy the house is coming. Have no idea how we’d qualify for a loan on only my income and if interest rates go up that will make it even harder – really need God to step in here and lead us, trusting that God will provide for us

04/02/10  Am looking for an affordable laptop to use for study this year but so far haven’t been able to find one in our price range. Any one know a good place to get one at a good price in Australia? 

05/02/10 Feeling the need (prompting) to get involved somewhere I can serve God and others. Have no idea where that might be, I have a few ideas but nothing I’m ready to share just yet. Sam and I still need to figure out what we’re doing about church attendance (stay where we are or find somewhere new) would really appreciate your prayers

God’s Provision

24/01/10 Was able to save $140 by buying my theology textbooks on eBay, who knew eBay would have theology books! Awesome God!

 26/01/10 Australia Day!! A great day to celebrate our nation and all our achievements, so what better way then to sponsor Sam’s sister Kimberley in her run for Special Olympics Queensland. Kim has Downs Syndrome and competes for her state in ten pin bowling and swimming. 

 03/02/10 Was able to give to a friend in need in the US who we know through blogging, love the global connect the internet gives to us all!

As always we’d love to hear from you so please feel free to say hi 🙂

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Tithe Journal #2

This post is part of the Tithe Experiment series

Giving (21/01/10)

$250 to tithe account

Needs

10/01/10 Finding it hard not to doubt that God will provide all we need. Looking at the budget it’s so easy to worry about how we’ll get by. Faith often requires us to step forward without being able to see beyond the step right in front of us, it’s hard but necessary.  Fighting the urge to give a little less in order to feel more secure, please pray for us that we wont give in and will continue to trust God completely.

 16/10/10 Was reminded this last week that simply giving money isn’t the deal, we need to give our time and serve as well. That’s something we knew we needed to do but finding it hard when we don’t currently attend a specific church. We need to live lives that share the love of God, not just give money away. We need to find where God wants us to give, both our time and our money.

Another big news item for us is that we’re going to have another baby in August! We are SO excited and can’t wait for Anabelle to be a big sister. We need to trust God that He will continue to provide everything we need, especially with the extra costs of a baby.

As always we’d really appreciate your prayers and your comments/encouragements, please feel free to say hi!

God’s Provision

21/01/10 Today we saw God provide for us again. We needed some cash to get a tree removed from our yard as part of the landscaping project but didn’t have it. I had unused gym equipment for sale on the bulletin board at work that wasn’t getting any bites until today when a young guy called about it and came round and bought it! Right when we needed it, God provided, Awesome!

God encouraged me today to keep pursuing Him by giving me an opportunity to help a young youth pastor in the area. I was feeling really flat and discouraged about my future path in ministry but God used this to spark the flame again and encourage me to keep being faithful to His calling even when I can’t see the next step. That was a lesson I needed to learn, again! 😉

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