Book Summaries

A Fish Out of Water

George Barna’s, A Fish Out of Water, unveils the results of years of research and hundreds of interviews, and emerges with a new definition of what leadership is–and isn’t.

  • Quote: “Our money relationship is our everyday attitudes and actions toward money- how we think and feel about money, and how we use or misuse it. Like any relationship, it can be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, on the upswing or on life support.” (5)
  • Note: Hewitt and Moline start off their book by helping us define this concept of a “Money relationship”. It is important that we realize what an impact money has on our lives. We need to start by understanding what it means for us to have a relationship with money. Then we can define or pinpoint where we are on that relationship scale, and determine where we would like to go. In other words, we all need a DTR (determine the relationship) with money.
  • Quote: “But many students pile up debt to enter jobs that don’t pay enough to ever dig out… These young people carry the incredible burden of not being free to live out their calling.” (8)
  • Note: This is a sobering thought- one that I had not deeply considered before this semester. Hewitt and Moline help us to realize that debt affects our relationship with the Lord, as it can stop us from being able to give and go generously.
  • Quote: “The consequences of this unhealthy relationship with money are not only practical and financial but also spiritual, emotional, and relational. Money struggles can create animosity toward God and raise questions about his care. They sap our emotional well-being. And they can devastate our interactions with people- spouses, immediate and extended family, friends, coworkers, and communities. Personal observations, countless one-on-one and group conversations, and a variety of research provide abundant evidence for these conclusions.” (22-23)
  • Note: This is really an expansion on the idea that was spoken about in chapter one. I have seen multiple examples of money hurting relationships and spiritual well-being. We need to recognize the incredibly real danger money has in depleting our trust in others and the Lord.
  • Quote: “Remember: a surplus mindset isn’t about how much we have. It’s a conscious choice to think and act differently about everything we own or might wish we did. A surplus mindset means deciding we have enough for ourselves and enough to share.” (29)
  • Note: This is “the new money mindset” that Hewitt and Moline were talking about (21). The mindset is created, not by a change of circumstances, but by a decision. We are to decide that we have been given enough for ourselves and enough to be generous. This idea is contrary to the world, but it is a Biblical concept.
  • Quote: “If we actually manage to get all of our financial ducks in a row, happiness can still elude us, and there’s a chance we might end up more uptight about money than ever. Moreover, even the most astute among us never reach a point where we don’t regularly face crucial money decisions. It’s a reality of our existence. It’s the mode we will live in until the day we leave this constantly shifting world. Yet we have reason for hope. Even as we address our concerns, issues, and struggles, we can still develop a thriving relationship with money. That’s a liberating message for all of us, especially if we deal with long-standing money difficulties. We don’t have to be perfect to enjoy peace.” (44)
  • Note: Peace does not equal perfection. What an important piece of wisdom we should all try to understand. No matter where we are in our money struggles, this chapter reminds us that we can have peace, if we decide to find contentment in what we have and, ultimately, in Christ.
  • “But we want to suggest a different starting point: begin by adding more good stuff. By adding ‘more good stuff’ we don’t mean another round of spending. We’re talking about leading with generosity grounded in grace. Instead of putting all your energy into cutting, focus on giving. Start by volunteering. Spend time helping family, friends, and strangers in ways that also give life to you.” (45-46)
  • Note: I love this advice! Especially for us college students, we don’t always need to force ourselves to give money where we don’t have any (many college students don’t have jobs!) What we can do is give our time and our talents. In some ways, that is a harder sacrifice than money. It is a beautiful sacrifice, though, one that teaches us so much about the Lord and how to love others. Giving of time and talents is a way to put ourselves in a position where we are always able to give generously.
  • Quote: “When it comes to dealing with money, we believe that a completely carefree or reckless attitude is unwise. Kept in proper perspective, a desire for financial security can be healthy and normal.” (58)
  • Note: Hewitt and Moline remind us not to see our “longing for security” as something evil. It is good to want security, good, and prosperity. What is wrong is when those desires become more important than anything else in your life- more important than generous giving, more important than the Lord and his will.
  • Quote: “It’s wise to pool resources to guard against circumstances that would devastate any one person…Another form of wise money planning is to save personally for risks that can’t be insured against…Another wise step is to save for expenses so that you don’t have to borrow…An often overlooked money tool is learning how to give both generously and wisely…Finally, wise planning allows us to strategize and save for when we choose to or are forced to stop working for a paycheck.” (58-61)
  • Note: These were the most practical tips of the chapter. Hewitt and Moline give us five practical steps we can take to help make sure we are working toward financial stability, but still keeping a Christ-centered worldview. They are quick to remind us that, contrary to what society tells us, giving is actually beneficial to us for stability, peace, and wisdom.
  • Quote: “If we want to begin to break free from our fears, the first thing we should do is return to the simple but profound assurances of Jesus:

‘I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?’

Luke 12:22-25” (76-77)

  • Note: Hewitt and Moline write about how fear can shackle us. We can become so afraid of money that we hoard, or worry too much about every decision. While it is good to be careful, we should not become so afraid of money. If we are struggling with this fear and anxiety, this verse is a great help. Jesus himself told us not to worry about these things- God will provide for us.
  • Quote: “Prayer lets us speak our request to God and take time to meditate on his direction. Praying through our money decisions often creates a space for wisdom and insight to enter a process in which emotion and desire might otherwise take the lead.” (84)
  • Note: Another practical step we can take to stop fear is prayer. We need to be intentional about prayer- how we prayer, when we pray, the topic of our prayer. There is power in prayer. God hears us. He is able to provide. Talking with the Lord is a sure way to eliminate fear and find peace.
  • Quote: “Lately I have been practicing stepping out in faith without calculating what generosity will cost me, instead of holding back when I have already dispensed ‘enough.’ My goal is to meet the needs I see without doing the math on what portion of my time, energy, or money my giving represents. I aim to do what I feel called to do, trying to rise above worrying whether I will have enough. Not because I have a mountain of inexhaustible reserves- I don’t- but because God knows my needs.” (94)
  • Note: This does not necessarily exactly explain the chapter, but this is what an attitude overflowing out of dependence on God (instead of too much independence) looks like. Independence is a good thing in many ways- we should all learn to work hard and take care of ourselves, not being a burden to those around us. However, we need to have the humility to rely on God, so that we can give when we are called, not just when everything lines up or makes sense.
  • Quote: “While we long for independence, we can’t escape the fact that interdependence provides security (spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial) in a way we never can enjoy alone… Today’s affluence makes it harder to live together in community.” (102-103)
  • Hewitt and Moline sum up the chapter well with this quote. We, as the body of Christ, need to focus on interdependence. This is not to say that we should not take care of ourselves or work hard, but that we are a body and we need to rely on one another. This interdependence builds the Kingdom of God!
  • Quote – “When we act with generosity, our world expands…whenever we have resisted our natural desires and chosen to act with generosity, we have seen our relationships, work, and overall contentment expand.”
  • Note – We have been raised with a mindset to hold on to “our” stuff because we never know when we might need it. But didn’t Jesus tell us to be like the birds? To not worry, or be anxious because God will provide? The birds own nothing but they still contribute beauty to everything around them. Don’t we want to be able to say that we contributed beauty to the world around us?
  • Quote – “Billy Graham once said, ‘If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost any other area of his life.’”
  • Note – Generosity is about love and honor. That is why Jesus tells us to be cheerful givers and not to give out of guilt of mere compliance. Generosity is our opportunity to not just honor God and show that we love Him, but to honor those to whom we are giving. To provide them with the food they need, the clothes they lack, or to pay they bill that they aren’t able. Generosity is our opportunity to love other people.
  • Quote – “Work is not only one of the means God uses to give us the good things we need, but labor itself is a gift from Him. Every new day is a chance to be good stewards of our time and the talents He has built into us, and our labor gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
  • Note – As is the problem with sin, we take the beautiful things God gives us and we twist them. We worship the creatED things rather than the CreatOR (Romans 1:25) and because of that contentment is hard to find. The consumerism, materialism, discontentedness, and envy is nothing new to our time or our country – it is a sad truth that has been rampant throughout history. A truth immortalized by Solomon, the wisest, wealthiest, most powerful King, in Ecclesiastes.
  • Quote – “…there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to improve the quality of our life and enjoy the goodness of God’s creation. But we have to look hard at the reality that our human nature is tempted to turn these good gifts into mere idols.”
  • Note – We’re not alone is our struggle with materialism. That’s not an excuse to fall into it, but it is an encouragement to keep fighting for contentedness and surrender. We can learn from the stories of struggle of those around us and of Solomon himself.
  • Quote – “…we want to tie our confidence in God’s love to a new mindset toward money and material things…Scripture tells us that God lovingly provides what we need and tells us that things will never satisfy us in any sort of ultimate way…It tells us to use and enjoy things without letting them cause is discontent.”
  • Note – The Bible speaks to the idea of worry and peace often. In Philippians, Paul teaches extensively about not being anxious or worrying but to use prayer to ask for God to give us His peace. He encourages us to take our mind off our worries and reminds us that God is with us and will help see us through every situation. He’s trying to remind us that our peace doesn’t come from our stuff or our circumstances, but from our Creator.
  • Note – Planning is a good way to help prevent the “need” for worrying. By planning, we know what we have, where we need to spend it, and where we get to spend it. Taking care of our basic needs and our bills is important and our paychecks are one way that God provides for those needs, but beyond that we are called to be generous with our money. Generosity produces contentment, trust, joy, and the blessing knowing that we are using our money to serve God and His people.
  • Quote – “Sometimes contentment and peace come by managing our expectations.”
  • Note – The chapter quotes a story about a greyhound dog that quit racing even though he was winning. Explaining himself, the greyhound said that he realized that the rabbit he was chasing wasn’t real. This is just like what Solomon talks about in Ecclesiastes: that its all meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
  • Quote –  “We live in an age of excess. There seems to be no end to the voices telling us to accumulate possessions, property, position, and power…Remember: all our longings – for security, for independence, for more, and for success – are at their root god, even God-given…our challenge is to discover the right definition of success.”
  • Note – Our culture creates of made up crisis of never having “enough” and always needing “a little more.” Contentment is the opposite of that. Being content is knowing that you are enough, that God is enough, and that you have more than enough. Our culture – and our country – does not breed contentment, but perpetual dissatisfaction. But practicing gratitude can help us conquer dissatisfaction.
  • Quote – “The real problem comes down to how we define success. Do we accept the definition foisted on us by culture – or do we let God reshape what we value?”
  • Quote – “While most of humanity continues to pursue success in all its forms, God points us in a different direction. The Bible goes so far as to assert that God already has a pathway mapped out for each of us. The apostle Paul writes, “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).”
  • Note – God’s calling on our life isn’t always going to be as dramatic as how Noah or Abraham were called. God’s call to us may be ordinary. We might have to pick up and leave the country, we might have to change jobs, or we might just be challenged to do our job with a new motivation and outlook. We have to be willing to listen to God in the little moments and to take all the opportunities we have to try new things.
  • Note – Scheduling our time helps us to manage our time and our relationships. It helps guarantee that all of our priorities get met and allows us to provide a respectable excuse to our friends and family when we aren’t able to do certain things. This doesn’t eliminate any room for spontaneity, but it makes sure that what is important to us gets accomplished.
  • Quote – “Responding to God’s call in one of the most exciting and transformative parts of following Jesus. And when we all hear and heed our individual callings, we can come together to accomplish amazing things.”
  • Note – In the story of Jesus healing the paralytic, Jesus asks the man if he really wants to be healed. The man’s answer was “yes, of course” but what kind of fears or doubts do you think he was wrestling with if Jesus felt the need to ask that question? The fear of the unknown, of change, of believing that there is something better and greater out there than we have ever known before, can be crippling. What’s holding us back from trusting God so fully, from accepting his gifts so readily, that he doesn’t have to ask us if we’re sure?
  • Quote – “We want a contagion of cheerful giving because that is the kind of world we want to live in. It’s where we find both challenge and fulfillment…’You may not be able to change the world, but you can change one person’s world.’”
  • Note – Jesus wants us to be carefree, without worry, without anxiousness. He’s not telling us to shrink the responsibilities we have or to not make plans and preparations for out lives, but simply that God is ultimately in control – and because of that, we are free.
  • Quote – “Wherever you run, God runs with you. In fact, God never has to inquire whether He can come along. He’s always there.”

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