New Circle: Economic Discipleship

On February 6th, we'll be launching a Circle that will utilize Dave Ramsey's resource, Financial Peace University, to help us to think, plan, and practice biblically with our finances.  By the end of this 9-week Circle, you will be equipped to budget, give, save, invest, and spend wisely. Contact Nathan to RSVP & pre-order the resources for this Circle.

Take a read of the McKnelly's story.  It's a journey from debt to freedom and generosity:

What would it look like if we trusted more in God than in earthy things? What would it mean to make ourselves accountable for the money that God has entrusted to us?

Hebrews 5:13 says - Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

In 2011, our family found ourselves in just over $20,000 in debt. None of this was what some would call "good debt" like owning a house or getting a degree, but was from credit cards and car loans. We borrowed all this money and had nothing to show for it, but large interest payments and barely making ends meet at the end of the month.  It was misuse of God's money, plain and simple. When we found ourselves with only $30 dollars left at the end of the month and all of our cards maxed out.... We decided to go to a finance class and get our spending under control. Through that class, we heard about the infamous Dave Ramsey and we were intrigued. After reading his book The Total Money Makeover we signed up for his online version of Financial Peace University. After taking the course we got on a budget, seeded our first emergency fund with $1000 and started throwing as much money as we could at our debt. We were debt free in April of 2012!

In our whole adult life, we were never able to make the claim of being debt free. Since getting a loan for our wedding, we've always had debt looming over us... so you can imagine how freeing it was to write that last check and be able to cut up all of our credit cards. We'll never be in debt like that again!

When we were in debt, we weren't able to give to our community. When we started our budget we were only able to give 1% of our income to tithes, and it was embarrassing. Essentially we were saying that our love of money & desire for stuff was more important than God, our own formation, the formation of our community, and the transformation of our context.  We were poor stewards of the resources God had entrusted us with. When we were finally out of debt and able to write that first full tithe check, we felt like we heard God more clearly and no longer felt like we had a dark cloud of dread looming over us. We could freely worship and freely give because we weren't wasting our money on stupid stuff.

We want that for our community. We want the subject of finances not to be a source of dread, but of opportunity to give to His cause. Whether that be through tithing, mission work or giving the homeless guy down the street a warm meal. Worshiping God with our finances results in our formation and the flourishing of our context. Join this Circle and experience freedom.

Guest Blogger :: Brooke Arnett on Prioritizing the Flourishing of Others

In the post below, Brooke offers us another look at the remarkable evening that was "The Light in the Grove" at the National AIDS Memorial Grove.  Pay special attention to her reflections on how the cost of causing the flourishing of others is trumped the experience of actually getting to participate in the adventure of human flourishing. As my fellow Open Door peers and I arrived at the AIDS Memorial Grove on Saturday night, we entered into an evening together as servants to the HIV/AIDS impacted community in San Francisco. The setting was stunning and elaborate, with no detail overlooked. I could describe all the particulars and preparation from the huge tent the event was in, the lighting set-ups, catering, floral arrangements, and so forth, but it would never convey what the night was really like.

As guests arrived at this peaceful and sacred space inside of Golden Gate Park, I witnessed a unique and loving community come together for the sake of humanity. My role that night was to serve appetizers, and as I walked around offering delicious finger foods, I watched people leave their differences at the door, and gather together to support one another and to remember loved ones that have been lost to HIV/AIDS. The night was filled with passion, it echoed their pain, but most of all, it was fueled by hope.

Many of the guests that were there have been largely affected by HIV/AIDS and have suffered more loss than some of us will ever face. Over the years, the HIV/AIDS community has been ostracized, overlooked, misunderstood and disregarded. It's hard to contemplate that a few short decades ago this pandemic wasn't even a reality in America. Since then, their community has turned a story of tragedy into a reason to hope for a better tomorrow.

I didn't say yes to volunteering that night because I thought serving small bites to strangers sounded fun. I didn't say yes so I could get a free meal, or because I had no other plans that night. Quite the opposite in fact: I turned down plans that day and even had to buy a new outfit and pair of shoes for the occasion. Not to mention that new and unknown situations give me a lot of anxiety. Does any of that matter? Certainly not.

I said yes because I want to be a the kind of person who is part of making wrong things right. I said yes because I have hope that those who have been broken will one day feel whole again. I said yes because I desire for people who have been marginalized to feel acceptance. I believe that love and kindness heal, and this world doesn't have enough of it. Being a servant is not a role I have lived into my entire life or even do very well today. But I know that every time I say yes to an opportunity to put the needs of someone else before mine, I find Jesus there.

God has been working in a big way to teach me how to count others more significant than myself as Philippians 2:3 calls us to do. Serving at the Grove was a reminder that this life is not about me. I am learning that I am equipped with everything I need because I know Jesus and that my role in life is not about serving appetizers, but His love.

Maybe saying 'yes' that night cost me financially, cut into my free time, and forced me to face some anxieties, but there is no price you can put on prioritizing the flourishing of others. When you say yes to serving others, you're allowing an opportunity for God to work in ways beyond what we can fathom.

Retrospect 2012: Finding your Story

At the end of every year, we create some space in our Community Gatherings for stories.  Storytelling is a valuable rhythm for Open Door, but it isn't our idea. In Joshua 3, we learn of yet another moment when the Presence and Power of God was put on display among His people. Immediately afterward, God told Joshua to have twelve stones set up as a memorial.

"When your children ask in time to come, 'What do these stones mean to you?' then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD...just as the LORD told Joshua." (Joshua 4:6-7)

The Presence and Power of our God has been put on display in and through your life in 2012.  December 30th will be a time for us to build our own "pile of stones" in the form of stories.

Here's the question that will seed our evening together: What is one way in which you have experienced the Presence & Power of God this year?

Here are some helpful hints for finding your story:

    • Create some quiet space where you can remember.
    • Start big picture—write down every big experience and conversation that comes to my mind.
    • Do the same thing by season (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall)
    • Do the same thing by month (Hint: utilize your calendar!)
    • Narrow your list to the 3 or 4 and begin the process of Retrospect
      • What was happening in your life then?
      • What was the actual experience?
      • What did you Discover about God, yourself, and others?
      • What has been the fruit of the experience?
      • What has changed, deepened, or shifted in you and/or your circumstances as a result of God's activity?