Miracles, Management and Morals

I was hoping for a miracle, but what I really needed was better management.

I had two months to go to the end of the year and my budget ran out for buying gifts for my own children. Yes, there was money in the bank, but not in my personal account for gifts.

Ouch. “Daddy spent too much on himself that he won’t have anything to give you little girls.”

That year, my wife and I had agreed to institute a new budgeting approach that would later become a huge blessing (once I grew up financially, theologically and morally).

Thankfully that year my wife allowed me to “cheat” with my $100 year end bonus and bought some gifts. And she also graciously added my name to the gifts she gave our children.

But it was a wake-up call

Sadly, like most wake-up calls, I kept finding the snooze button.

I had to start confronting my weakness. I started buying gifts earlier in the year to make sure I at least had that covered. It was a start to better management. I still wasn’t at the level suggested by Gary Hamel’s books. However, I was learning the value of thinking ahead, planning, making tough choices, and thinking of others–all essential in management.

We should have come to this line item practice earlier in our marriage. Although we had learned from Larry Burkett and Dave Ramsey to manage other areas, we had let the misc. category slide.

After years of finding and spending on “good deals” I finally started understanding something my wife knew years earlier… saving 75% on something you don’t need wasn’t a savings.  So we agreed to institute a line item limit on personal items. A stark management decision that has performed miracles in my life!

My “Duane” account would be for my clothes, shoes, electronic or family sports’ related supplies (bike, golf), gifts I wanted to give others, and unreimbursed work related costs (books, conferences, trips, etc.). I had been a generous giver because, well, it was coming from other accounts. It was my time to be generous at a whole new level.

My wife also had her personal account for clothes, shoes, and gifts she wanted to give others, and for furniture she wanted to buy for the house.

Those who are money managers should quickly notice she was carrying the furniture in her personal budget and I had the sports. Most would say I got the better deal (and they would be right). However, this motivated her to sell furniture when she was done with it and that money would augment her furniture choices.

Needless to say, we have better furniture than sports equipment at our home. But my goal is to catch up.

Miracles and management and morals all have come together for me.

Over the last decade or so, I have been overwhelmingly falling in love with Jesus more. By listening to pastors like Mike Fortune, Larry Lichtenwalter, Dwight Nelson, Lreading pictures of God’s absolute graciousness, His deep sacrificial generosity, I have experienced anew why it is so cool and wonderful to be a Christian.

Reading books like Cooper’s Living in the Light (on sale for 1.97 at ABC), and Arterburn and Felton’s More Jesus, Less Religion, and Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel have deeply and indelibly liberated my soul. I am not the same legalist I used to be. God has been using author’s like these to draw me closer to him. Wow, His generosity is amazing.

While this is all good and true and right, I was neglecting the sterner virtues of God (see my post on those virtues).

Mixed with his prodigal nature, His lavish bestowal of freedom and his generous spirit, is a character that wants justice and accountability. He wants me to take care of other people. He will provide for that and wants me to have the joy of service. He will also judge my use of His resources–relationships, ideas, money, and time being the big four.

That single budget decision–the line item accountability–has been great for me and my morality and theology. I see out of His sacrifice, a sacrifice of love, His management has lead to our world of abundance. If we squander those gifts with poor management we miss the mark….and hurt others.

Plus, this new approach has taught me much about the difference between judgmentalism vs judgment (see also my blogs on that and its related area). We used to nag each other before we had separate personal accounts because we were spending from a shared pot. Now, we know there will be a judgment day. That has helped me improve my judgment about what was needed, wanted, and how to stretch to make sure my personal choices don’t obstruct getting good things for others.

Responsibility gave a new meaning to what it means to have a “slush” account. Sloppy management means there won’t be enough to slosh around for the good I wanted to be a part of.

Manage, Duane, manage. It will be a blessing.

Yes, management, that tight little word that makes some fall asleep is often the answer to a lot of our problems. It has become music to my ears. I LOVE MANAGEMENT.

It has become more sexy to me than even the popular word “leadership.” Gary Hamel–an alumni of our school–has a lot of good advice on this little word.

And I have come slowly to believe management maybe just as good as miracles.

Or at least it has helped me read Luke 9 and the feeding of the 5000 in a totally different way…

Jesus had just spent a whole day teaching 5000+ people. “Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here. He replied, “You give them something to eat.” (v 12, 13). Other stories of this feeding indicate Jesus was testing them.

They failed.

Just like I did.

Not enough left over to take care of the people you are supposed to be taking care of.

The passage is in the context of sending out the disciples on their first mission where they were to learn that God provides. They were to learn both the provision of miracles and the stretchingggggggggg of funds.

Why else would it say in other areas, “he was testing them.” He had given them plenty of homework, notes, and explanations and now was testing their new management growth.

And now, he was asking them to do the impossible.

They needed a miracle and better management.

He asked what they had available (environmental scanning). They brought it to him (resource organization and transportation). A brief management experience showed they didn’t have enough (strategic planning).

Then the miracle came: God through Jesus multiplied what they had failed to accomplish through the simple belief that God will provide for their purpose (mission).

Both miracles and management have fundamentally the same end deliverable point: to provide.

Morals is also the third leg on this stool of provision because it is the means by which miracles and management don’t turn inward but stay turned outward toward meeting the needs of others.

Ellen White helped me see this:

“Christ taught them in this lesson that the natural provisions of God for man had been perverted. And never did people enjoy the luxurious feasts prepared for the gratification of perverted taste as this people enjoyed the rest and the simple food which Christ provided so far from human habitations.

If men today were simple in their habits, living in harmony with nature’s laws, as did Adam and Eve in the beginning, there would be an abundant supply for the needs of the human family. There would be fewer imaginary wants, and more opportunities to work in God’s ways. But selfishness and the indulgence of unnatural taste have brought sin and misery into the world, from excess on the one hand, and from want on the other.”  Desire of Ages, p. 367

HE DOES PROVIDE. Morality, Miracles, and Management all work together to make sure that provision meets the needs of humans.

We have more than enough, if we would only be less like the prodigal son and avoid squandering and less like the elder brother and avoid hording and materialism.

I know by personal experience. I want to get better. I need to get better. Those who depend on me need me to get better. By the miraculous grace of God I can get better.

What’s in your wallet? What can you live on?

Miracles. Yes, I expect more of them from God.

Morals. Yes, I hope to use them more.

But more recently I just have a love affair with management.

Lord, teach me to manage like you do.

“Live modest, frugal, generous lives, work and save diligently as an expression of faithful trust; acknowledge that everything comes from and therefore belongs to God; adopt the attitude of a steward—a manager of that which God has entrusted to you—and seek His approval for what you do with that which is His” (p. 7).  Arterburn, S. (2006). The secrets men keep. Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers.

I still need help to manage better. This year two personal trips used up too much funds so I have had to resort to selling material on EBAY.

But I don’t mind. I see God as a gracious manager and I want to be like that.

Plus, I bought a bike for my daughter and (I don’t think she reads my blog, so I am safe) so I am sooo excited.

I didn’t know how wonderful good management would make me feel.

I have a longgggg ways to go, but at least I understand better God’s patience and my wife’s patience with my years of foolishness.


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