Thursday, December 31, 2015

Five ways to prepare your finances to face 2016

Before long, the hectic holiday season will be behind us and we’ll be facing a new year filled with fresh opportunities to improve our credit and learn from last year’s mistakes.
Sound cheesy? Perhaps.
But in all seriousness, it wouldn’t hurt to end 2015 on a positive note by making the commitment to pay attention to your credit standing and behavior. Heck, it might actually be easier than those overly optimistic health and fitness resolutions.
Here are five straightforward steps we can all take to prepare our credit profiles for 2016:
1. Pay off credit card debt.
If you are spending more than you can afford this holiday season, it’s probably going on credit cards.
You can avoid carrying holiday card debt into 2016 by paying it down as you go instead of waiting for a hefty total when your card statements arrive in January. If you really can’t pay your balances down before the new year, strive to get as much of it under control as you can — especially the debt on higher interest cards.
Even if you aren’t overcharging this time of year, it will help to pay it all off ASAP. Variable interest rate APRs (which means most credit card APRs) will rise when the Federal Reserve starts raising its benchmark interest rate, possibly as early as next week. The first rate increase may not be large, but there’s no sense in letting a card balance become more costly than it was in the first place. Pay card debt off now.
2. Revisit debt repayment strategies.
If you’re feeling stuck in a debt rut, it might be time to change up your repayment plan. For starters, take a serious look at your budget to see if you can put a bit more money toward your debt each month, even if it’s just an extra $25-$50. Every little bit counts!
If you’re overwhelmed by your debt in general, see if there’s a fresh way to look at the challenge so you don’t start the year too financially stressed.  
3. Check your credit report and score.
If you haven’t recently done so, pull a free copy of your credit report from one of the major credit bureaus via Check the report for inaccuracies and fraud, and if you see something wrong or misreported, start a dispute process immediately. The sooner you catch a case of identity theft, the less damage the fraudster can do.
Reviewing your credit report will also let you see a list of all your credit accounts, debts and financial history. Couple that information with your credit score, and you can set goals for the upcoming year. Maybe you want to lower your credit utilization ratio by paying off a lingering card balance, which should improve your credit score. 
Credit reports can also encourage good credit behaviors. I just reviewed my Equifax credit report and was pleasantly surprised to see how much of my car loan I paid down in 2015. I hadn’t checked the balance recently and my credit report showed my hard work is paying off.
4. Evaluate card use.
Do you consistently charge more than you can afford? Are you using a rewards card, but not actually redeeming rewards? Or, are you avoiding credit cards completely? If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you should revisit your credit card practices. Overspending can drive you into perpetual, interest-laden debt; bypassing rewards is like giving up freebies; and not using credit cards means you’re avoiding a simple way to build credit.
Acknowledge the areas that need improvement and make a simple plan to change them. For example, use a cash-back card more instead of a general purpose, nonrewards card, so you can get paid for using a credit card. I did this for “No nonsense-spending November” and racked up nearly $70 in cash-back rewards.
Or, if overspending is your problem, remove auto-saved credit card details in online shopping accounts and keep only one card in your wallet instead of a handful to reduce spending temptations.
5. Consider your giving to your local church.
Giving in the New Testament does consist of money (keep in mind that it is not LIMITED to money).  New Testament giving is Spirit-led and involves free-will offerings.  Free-will offerings are always voluntary.
Throughout his letters, the Apostle Paul never commands the Christian believer to give money nor is there a command to give specific amounts of money.  Christian believers are encouraged to give voluntarily, according to the Spirit, and within their means (ability to give).
Even though the churches in Macedonia gave beyond what was expected, they did it because it was in their heart to do so.  They did not do it because a religious leader pressured or manipulated them into giving.  When you consider your financial giving to the church just be sure that you give - not because someone has pressured you into giving your hard earned money - but because of a heart of gratitude we should have to God. who gave to us our salvation and the power and purpose for life.  
I know a person who shared with me that they hated it when I spoke about tithing.  They considered it an Old Testament law not under the New Testament grace.  When they translated the tithing into faithful, routine giving of their fiances to the Lord through their local church. they said to me "It seems like I never run out of money.  Every time I think things are getting "tight" financially, God sends a blessing of finances to me that I did not expect. God is faithful to provide as we trust in Him!   

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas is For Giving

Santa asks, “What do you want for Christmas?” Little kids write letters with lists of things they want.   That’s a precious thing, and I certainly don’t want to detract from the wonder little children experience at Christmas.

But, at the essence, Christmas is not for getting – it’s for giving!

'Tis the season of unselfishness.
'Tis the season to share with those you love.
'Tis the season to be compassionate for those less fortunate.

It’s not about spending money you don’t have on stuff they don’t need. This year, especially, with financial squeeze we’re all feeling – how about simplifying? How about being creative, spending a little less, and giving a little more of yourself? How about shopping locally, so you when you DO spend, it’s helping your neighbors put food on their tables?

How about giving something homemade? How about giving your time?

How about remembering those who are in need? Did you know that with the  $450 billion Americans spend on Christmas each year, we could provide safe, clean drinking water for every person in the world and have $10 billion left over?  What if this Christmas, we were less consumeristic and more compassionate? 

How about your neighbors who are suffering?  There are many little children, right here in our own community, who go to bed hungry and don’t have adequate winter clothing. What can you do to help them?

How about putting something in the kettle, when you pass the Salvation Army bell ringer? Better yet, how about signing up for a stint of bell ringing? How about getting a few friends together and caroling at the home of someone who is sick?

Who knows? In the end, you might just say, “It was my best Christmas ever!”

How will this post affect you for the New Year?  How about making 2016 a year of generosity?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

7 ways to renew yourself spiritually

7 ways to renew yourself spiritually    
By Lawrence W. Wilson*

One of the core activities of Christian spirituality is the daily pursuit of God through personal spiritual disciplines. For centuries, Christians have done this to become more aware of themselves and more in tune with God.
But few Christians today practice these habits—which may account for the generally low level of personal spirituality in the church.

We have lively worship, lots of great activities, and strong opinions on public morals. Yet we often behave selfishly and with a sense of entitlement, as if we don't know Jesus all that well.

Spiritual disciplines correct that. They expose sin, bring us to repentance, and open a clear channel for communication with God.

Here are seven disciplines you can try as you begin a New Year. This sampler approach may irk some purists, but I'll take that risk. There is great value in trying these disciplines even one time.

Here are seven disciplines you can try as you begin a New Year:

Silence:      Silence is refraining from speaking.

To practice silence, speak as little as possible even when you are around others. You might do this for part of a day, a whole day, or longer. You may need to speak when spoken to, especially at work or school, but keep your responses brief and to the point.

When you do this, the Holy Spirit will show you how often your envy of others causes you to inject yourself into conversations and situations, often beginning with the word "I." You will see how hard it is to avoid bragging about yourself and being critical of others.

Confess this to the Lord and turn away from it. You will then begin to experience love for others, which is a willingness to put them first and serve their needs ahead of your own.

Solitude:Solitude is withdrawing from human company in order to be alone with God.

To practice solitude, find a place and time to be alone for an extended period of time. This includes being unplugged from electronic media so that the only presence you have is the presence of God.

You might do this for a couple of hours at home or in library, or you might take an entire day to retreat to your home or a park. Take your Bible or spiritual reading material and a journal for your thoughts, but turn off all electronic entertainment.

When you do, the Holy Spirit will make aware of the ways in which you have looked to other people (or things) as a tool to serve your own needs. Confess this to God and find forgiveness. Let him fill you with a desire to fill your heart with goodness so that you treat others with pure intentions

Secrecy:  Secrecy is abstaining from taking credit for good things you do.

To practice secrecy, you might anonymously give money to a needy person, or suggest good ideas to others so they can succeed ahead of you, or refrain from speaking up when something you did receives attention.

As you do this, the Holy Spirit will make you aware of how often you seek to place yourself ahead of others or feed your ego by seeking attention. You will come to see how much you think of yourself and how little you think of others. Repent of this. As you do, you will begin to see yourself in a closer relationship to all other people, which is the essence of humility.

Simplicity: Simplicity is consuming less in order to depend more on God.

You might do this by restricting your food intake to 2,000 calories per day, walking instead of driving, going on a spending freeze for new possessions, or giving away things you own but can live without.

As you do this, the Holy Spirit will reveal the ways in which you use things, including food, as a source of comfort, control, or security rather than relying on God. Repent of this. As you do, you will be filled with a sense of peace knowing that God provides for your needs.

Submission: Submission is willing placing yourself under the legitimate authority of others.

You might do this by driving exactly the speed limit, paying your taxes honestly and without complaint, abstaining from grumbling about your boss or teachers, or patiently accepting a decision by a teacher, employer, parent, or spouse.
As you do this, the Holy Spirit will reveal the ways in which you are tempted to use anger, manipulation, coercion, aggressive behavior, or even violence in order to get your way. Repent of this. As you do, you will begin to practice the virtue of patience and experience greater peace.

Spiritual disciplines expose sin and open a clear channel for communication with God.

Service: Service is doing things for others, particularly those who have a real need but to whom you have no obligation.

Service might be volunteering your time to clean house for an elderly person, providing babysitting for a single parent to go shopping, or doing extra chores when your parents or spouse are particularly busy.

As you do this, the Holy Spirit will make you aware of how often you want to do only what feels good or benefits you, and how little effort you are willing to put forth for others. Repent of this. As you do, you will gain strength of character and will, and you will begin to gain greater control over your own mind and body.

Sacrifice:  Sacrifice is giving something you have and need, not just something you have too much of, for the benefit of another person.

There are many ways to do this. You could give a substantial amount of money to a person in need or to benefit a cause. You could show hospitality by sharing your home or food with others. You could sacrifice time that you had planned to use for yourself in order to serve someone else.

As you do this, the Holy Spirit will make you aware of how much of your time, energy, and money is devoted only to yourself and how much satisfaction and security you derive from things rather than from God. Repent of this. As you do, you will experience the great joy that comes from giving to others.

There are a number of other spiritual disciplines. The best place to read more about them is Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline or Keith Drury's With Unveiled Faces. Both are good primers on these core spiritual practices.
Peter wrote that we should make every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love (2 Peter 1:5–7).

Spiritual growth requires both divine and human effort. What are you doing to better your spiritual life?

*Rev. Lawrence W. Wilson is senior pastor at Fall Creek Wesleyan Church in Fishers, Ind. He blogs regularly at

Monday, December 28, 2015

God’s Plan for Your Pain

“If you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.” (1 Peter 4:19 NLT, second edition)
Remember what photography was like before everything went digital? When you took a picture, the first thing you’d get was a negative. Then you had to develop the negative into a positive by going into a darkroom and shining a light through it onto photographic paper. This turned the negative into a positive full-color photograph.
That’s what God wants to do with the injustices in our lives. We all have them. People have mistreated us. They’ve passed over us. They’ve taken advantage of us. God wants to take all the negatives, shine the light of Jesus through them, and turn them into positives — a full-color picture of the life we were made to live.
The Bible says, “If you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you” (1 Peter 4:19 NLT, second edition). The most important thing you can remember when you’ve been treated unfairly is that Jesus is on your side. There is no sin that God judges harsher, except maybe pride, than that of injustice.
All throughout Scripture, God shows special care for people who are treated unfairly. He is a God of justice. He hears your cry, sees your pain, and he knows you were hurt. You didn’t get what you thought you deserved. But God has a plan for your pain.
When you shine the light of God’s love through your circumstances, he can turn your pain into a beautiful picture. He develops your character through it. He makes you stronger. Most importantly, he uses your pain.
You’ll never get an explanation for much of the pain you endure in this life. When you get to Heaven, you may understand more about why bad things happened to you. But God does not owe you an explanation for it.
But here’s the good news: You don’t need an explanation. You just need to know that God loves you. He has a plan for you. God will settle the score with whoever hurt you.
God never wastes a hurt. Welcome the light of the gospel into it and God will use your hurt — the very real injustice that has happened to you — to create a beautiful picture through your life.

By Rick Warren

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Living a full life in God

Living a full life in God
Psalm 143

Hear my prayer, O Lord; answer my plea because you are faithful to your promises. Don’t bring me to trial! For as compared with you, no one is perfect.
My enemies chased and caught me. They have knocked me to the ground. They force me to live in the darkness like those in the grave. I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear.
I remember the glorious miracles you did in days of long ago. I reach out for you. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens; don’t turn away from me or I shall die.Let me see your kindness to me in the morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for my prayer is sincere. Save me from my enemies. O Lord, I run to you to hide me. 10 Help me to do your will, for you are my God. Lead me in good paths, for your Spirit is good.
11 Lord, saving me will bring glory to your name. Bring me out of all this trouble because you are true to your promises. 12 And because you are loving and kind to me, cut off all my enemies and destroy those who are trying to harm me; for I am your servant.                                                                            Psalm 143 (NLT)

Have you been in a place like David where you feel crushed? We need to stop transferring the pain and start living transformed in God. How can the days ahead of us be lived fully in God?

We can change our narrative like David did (v. 5). He was in despair and going through a list of everything wrong in his life, but then he remembers God’s goodness. Even in the midst of difficulty, we need to remember the good things God has done for us.

David meditates on the good things God has done. He stopped focusing on the bad and started focusing on the good.

Living a full life in God:

  • David remembers God’s goodness (v. 5).
I remember the glorious miracles you did in days of long ago.                                           Psalm 143:5

Stop talking about all the things that are wrong and start talking about the things that are good. Linger on God’s goodness.

  •   David hears and learns from God (v. 8).
Let me see your kindness to me in the morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for my prayer is sincere.                          Psalm 143:8

He silences the many voices in his life to hear God’s voice. What voices are winning in your life? Start listening to God’s voice.

  •  David hides himself in God’s ways (v. 9).
Save me from my enemies. O Lord, I run to you to hide me. 
                                                    Psalm 143:9(NLT)

Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in You. 
                                                       Psalm 143:9 (NASB)

He takes refuge in Him. He lets God have control of his life. Only God can take care of the enemies, but we have to take refuge in Him.

If you do things God's way, the things He has taught you in the Scripture, you will be where He wants you to be. Doing things God’s way may take us into some new and uncomfortable places. But if you want different results, you need to do things differently.


  • Join a small group.
  • Get financial education.
  • Seek marital counseling.
  • Spend time in God’s Word each morning.
  • Deal with a difficult situation.
  • Lead your home spiritually.
  • Commit to a life of prayer.
  • Share your faith.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

An Unexpected Christmas

The story of Christmas told by the kids of St Paul's Church, Auckland, New Zealand, including footage from our films "The Christmas Story".

The script is based on the book "An Unexpected Christmas" by our friend Simone Graham, whose kids are also in the film. The music is an original score by Nathan King ( and has not been published separately. The closing song is a re-arrangement of the title track from St Paul's album 'God w/ Us' ( 

Anyone is welcome to show this film publicly, but not publish/broadcast it, nor change it in any way, nor make money out of it.

Plan now to join us tomorrow for the final Sunday of 2015.  We gather at 10:45am at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene for a message by Pastor Rick. You will be glad you were there!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!

The Birth of Jesus   -  Luke 2:2-20

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Some Christmas Music to add festivity to your day! 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

NRN Christmas Eve Service at 5:00pm this evening!

This evening at 5:00pm we gather for our Annual Christmas Eve Service at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene!  The service features a traditional candle light service with communion. This year Judy Campbell will be directing our worship from the grand piano (newly tuned)! You will not want to miss this family Christmas Eve Service.  Pastor Rick will conclude the current teaching series on Let it Snow!

Here is a perfect and funny way to NOT invite your friends and family to our service this evening.

( I could not help myself to bring a little laughter your way....)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Are YOU ready for Christmas?

Advent Devotional - Are you ready for Christmas?

It seems like everywhere you go during the month of December people ask the same question. At the grocery checkout counter--"Are you ready for Christmas?" At the bank drive through window--"Are you ready for Christmas?" At the doctor's office--"Are you ready for Christmas?"
I think the answer to that question depends on how you define "ready." Let me ask you this question: "Are you ready for Jesus?" Now that puts the idea of being ready in a whole different Christmas light, doesn't it?

John the Baptist was sent by God to get the people ready to meet Jesus. Here's what Matthew had to say about him:
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: 

"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for him.'"...
"People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River." (Matthew 3:1-3, 5-6).

We don't like the words "repent" or "repentance" very much. They mean "to make a radical change in one's life, to turn and go in the opposite direction from sin (another word we're not too fond of today) to God." Repentance involves an element of grief over the way we have lived apart from God and a decision to run toward the Father. That was God's idea of the way to prepare for Christ's arrival in the book of Matthew, and it is still God's idea of preparing to worship Him today.
Let's reflect for a moment on the words to this poem and then answer the question, "Are you ready for Christmas?"
"Ready for Christmas," she said with a sigh
As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high... 

Then wearily sat for a moment AND READ
Til soon, very soon, she was nodding her head. 

Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream,
"Ready for Christmas, what do you mean?" 

She woke with a start and a cry of despair.
"There's so little time and I've still to prepare. 

Oh, Father! Forgive me, I see what You mean!
Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree. 

It's the heart swept clean that He wanted to see,
A heart that is free from bitterness and sin. 

So be ready for Christmas - and ready for Him.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, I want to be ready for Jesus today and every day. I come to You now in repentance for my sins: my sin of selfishness, stubbornness, and rebellion. I turn from my self-centeredness today and commit to keep my focus on You. God, I cannot do this on my own. I am not able. So I ask that you fill me with the power of Your Holy Spirit Who empowers me to obey. Thank You that You have given me everything I need for a life of godliness and truth. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. In Jesus' name, amen.

Today's Advent reading is from the Girlfriends in God devotional ministry.

Plan now to join us tomorrow evening at 5:00pm at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene for our annual Candlelight Communion Service! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What is Advent?

What is Advent?   How do we mark the days before Thursday at 5:00pm when we gather for the annual Christmas Eve service?  How do we mark the days before Christmas Morning?


Monday, December 21, 2015

The Spirit of Christmas Is Generosity

By Rick Warren

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”                                                         John 3:16 NIV

During this Christmas season, you’ll hear one word more than any other. It’s not “merry,” “tree,” “Santa,” or even — unfortunately — “Jesus.”
It’s “gift.” Starting on Black Friday (and sometimes even before then), we begin a month-long dash to find the right gift for everyone on our list. The word “gift” consumes us for a month.

Many people think that gift giving at Christmas was started by the Wise Men when they brought gifts to the baby Jesus. But it was God who gave the first Christmas gift.

God so loved that he gave. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). 

On the first Christmas, God gave the greatest gift of all — he gave his Son. He gave his Son to die on the cross so you can have your past forgiven, a purpose for living, and a home in Heaven. Jesus is the original Christmas gift.

We only give because God gave to us first.

Christmas is about generosity. It’s not just about compassion. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of generosity. Acts 15:11 says it like this: “We are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us” (MSG).

If it weren’t for God’s generosity, we would have nothing. The air we breathe is a gift of God’s generosity. The blood coursing through our veins is a gift of God’s generosity. The fact that our hearts are beating is a gift of God’s generosity. Every good thing in your life — including your life — is a gift of God’s generosity.

But God’s greatest act of generosity came on the very first Christmas when he gave us Jesus.