Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Could you be a Daniel?

Daniel to me is such an inspiring character in the Bible. He was clearly a man of character and not afraid to do what was right - no matter what. I am inspired at his convictions to continue to pray knowing the edict that was pronounced against it. He belonged to the Lord and was not afraid of what proclaiming that relationship might bring. He really laid his life on the line for his convictions. He inspires me to do the same in my walk with the Lord.

I was considering this week how from the very start of his assignment in the king's palace he defined boundaries for himself and God honored his stand by giving him favor with the eunichs of the palace. Daniel and the group of Israelites selected for the king's indoctrination program to train to be the king's ambassadors to the nation of Israel stood firm. Daniel and his three friends were so discerning to realize the dangers that accepting the bounty from the kings coffers. Daniel saw that while there was no law against eating meat, that there was grave danger of becoming defiled and entrenched in the world's value system.

If Daniel had taken from the bounty offered, he may have succomed to temptation if at a later date the king used his bounty to manipulate the Israelite young men into doing his bidding. Daniel's sense of guarding God's reputation even in the midst of captivity was so great that he saw the potential danger. He and his friends requested that they be exempt from the kings table and that they would be given a vegan diet with water to drink. What a bold move on the part of Daniel and what wisdom to see that gifts from this king would bring with it expectations that may compromise their witness!

I think that today we have countless situations facing Christians where we too are faced with the challenges of remaining holy in a fallen world. In particular, I think about some of the stimulus packages and government regulation being passed by government under the guise of "helping" Americans. Certainly, getting you to spend all your money helps the government. It keeps the economy moving and allows jobs to remain in place. In the last recession when we had a huge housing bubble, the recession was mitigated by American's propensity to consume. We are a consumer nation and because so many were willing to refinance their debt into low cost mortgages and take on even more debt by either taking out equity for spending, home projects or just rolling credit card debt on to the house.

Now, several years later, are we really better off having taken the risk and playing the part that the government expected? Do we honestly believe that the stimulus money which is a combination of increased debt and just plain printed money (hence degrading the purchasing power of the wealth you have) is going to lift us out of recession and restore us to the consumer nation that we used to be?

As Christians, I think we need to be very careful about what our goals are. Do we live to build wealth, enjoy family and friends, build a career and then retire to leisure in our golden years or is our goal to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with our lives and bring glory to Him here on earth? Daniel got it; he treasured holiness above personal gain. Daniel didn't take the king's bait.

In the years to come, if the Lord tarries, I believe we will see even greater challenges and likewise opportunities to shine as lights in a dark world. We will be offered opportunity after opportunity to compromise and to take the easy way. It may come in the form of stimulus and incentives or it may be pressure to remain silent in the face of evil. The question each of us must answer is will we take the bait?

Shine brightly my friends that the Lord may receive honor and glory for you know your riches are in Heaven - like Daniel's.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Healthcare for all?

Throughout the nation we have had town hall after town hall with citizens gravely concerned about the prospect of increasing government involvement in our health care system. I am not suggesting that there are no issues with our health care. It is truly expensive for several reasons as I see:

1. Technology advancements have increased the quality of health care that can be provided to citizens. Twenty years ago we wouldn't have had the option of MRI's or 3-D ultra sounds. The options available to really zero in on the cause of a health issue are tremendous. With the advancements come costs.

2. Government credentialing of our pharmaceutical industry has made the cost of testing and proving the viability of drugs more costly than virtually any other nation on the planet. But we also have to admit that this vigilance has also provided us one of the safest drug cafeterias available as well.

3. Because of the great care we have received through the years, people live longer and hence require medical care for a lifetime that has longer years than ever.

4. The legal community has encouraged frivolous law suits. Is it any wonder that doctors need to charge more for their services just to be able to afford the insurance they need to protect themselves from litigation. That is assuming that the doctors remain in the specialties they originally chose. It is getting more risky to practice medicine on live people better to move into working on cadavers.

5. In general, we like to blame other people for our problems and are not particularly willing to take responsibility for our own health issues and invest the cost and effort to adopt a healthily lifestyle to keep ourselves healthy and avoid the need for medical involvement.

I think that the more we look to government to solve our personal problems whether it be our financial affairs, home ownership or our health issues, the more likely we are to take our eyes off our Father in Heaven to care for us and to avoid our responsibility to be good stewards.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to care for the poor and the widows, but that is a matter of obedience but I don't think that it is a matter for government control. This week I participated in a National Project Homeless Connect held in Norfolk where hundreds and hundreds of volunteers came together to minister to the needs of the homeless. Many took vacation time to come and serve people in need. I was encouraged because of the large number of people who came voluntarily out of compassion for those in need. Medical, Optometry and Dental services were provided as well as Social Service agencies and non profits offered everything from food stamps, Social Security, Employment, housing legal aid to haircuts. Corporate gifts were given to provide for shoes, clothing, and personal hygiene products for take aways. The homeless were fed and virtually any need articulated was compassionately addressed.

The legislators would have you believe that people are dying because of their inability to provide for healthcare needs, but this outreach convinces me that in the United States we not only have the best healthcare available but also the most compassionate. Throughout human history there have always been people in need and there will always be until the Lord returns to assume his millenial reign.

Until then there will be lots of opportunity for Christians to witness to the less fortunate by being compassionate and generous. Take the challenge of reaching out to someone less fortunate than you today!

God bless you as you seek God's eternal mission for your life.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Minimum Wage Increases: do they help?

Today across the nation minimum wage increases from $6.55 to $7.25. Before taxes that can add another $28 per week into your paycheck of low income families or about $1,450 per year. That is a nice 10% increase in their wages.

As a Christian, I believe that it is the obligation of the Christian community to care for their poor and widows. The Bible gives us many examples of ways the poor were to be cared for in both the Old Testament and the New. There were commands to leave some of the harvest on the ground for the poor to glean. There was the practice of releasing the poor from their debts every 7 years and the year of Jubilee where their possessions were restored every 50 years.

As a budget coach and a volunteer with Crown Financial Ministries, I have great compassion for the financial struggles. I believe the challenges are greater now than they were even several years ago. More and more constraints to the budget degrade the American lifestyle and even force families into financial instability.

Studies show that families need hourly wages of $12 - $16 per hour (depending on the number in your family and where you live) just to live independently. In my ministry work and now in my profession, my goal is to help families get the education and skills they need to sustain them. As God's people we should invest our efforts in pleasing Him by using our skills and our wealth wisely I hope to encourage families to do just that. I recognize that there are circumstances in which individuals are not able to overcome their poverty and that is where the church needs to be much more active than it has been. That will be a topic for another blog.

Raising minimum wage has some significant negative consequences that dramatically affect the welfare of the low income worker:

  1. Employers pass their increased costs on as increased prices for product. Let's say you work for a retailer that pays minimum wage. They sell low cost products to families like you. Since minimum wage is increased 10%, the employer needs to pass on that cost increase to its customers. This has a compounding effect as the product they purchase from wholesalers is also now increased because their employees got an increase in salary. The wholesalers also had to pay more for their product because the manufacturers had an increase. The manufacturers had to pay more for their parts because their suppliers had an increase. You can see that the increases grow.
  2. Cost increases do not stop at the minimum wage worker: The employer must consider the performance and seniority increases that other workers have received over time as well in order to maintain an incentive to employees to strive to move up the wage scale through hard work and diligence. If you were making $7.25 because of your hard work prior to the increase, is it fair to now bring all employees up to your wage scale and not keep your incentive in place? The employer must give wage increases across the wage scale to keep the incentives in place so their costs don't just increase for the minimum wage workers but for all costs.
  3. New incentives exist to use foreign inputs: If all the manufacturers have a 10% increase in the cost of materials and their wages increased by 10%, they need to sell their products now for even more than 10% perhaps up to 20% more. As a wholesaler who has to pay for this increase, I am now incentivized to look to a less costly product to fill that need. Where can I look? Overseas. Because we are more and more a global economy, foreign products are more easily exchanged for those that were American made. That means the supply inputs and the manufacturing work goes to foreign workers and more Americans are out of work; Americans who used to work for low wages now find they are unable to find work at any price.
  4. Quality of products are degraded: In order to remain competitive, your retailer may be forced to purchase lesser quality products in order to keep business. That means that the things you purchase every day now may have less value but they cost the same. Everyone's quality of life becomes degraded as a result. Quality products are less affordable, so merchants who sell higher quality products may have to either choose to degrade their inventory or close their doors.
  5. Products purchased by low income workers are more expensive: The low income worker may find that they are not any better off than they were in the first place because they need to now pay more for their burger, groceries, household goods, services, and utilities. If they received a 10% increase, but the cost of products go up in price by 10% they are actually worse off, because of the taxes that are paid on top of the purchase are greater and further reduce the amount of money in the low income worker's pocket.
Raising minimum wage is meant to help the low income worker, but it cannot serve it's purpose. The working poor are not helped by minimum wage increases. The only way they are helped is to improve their education and skills so they can qualify for higher paying positions. Minimum wage should be a beginning point for a wage earner not the level at which they exist long term. The American dream of opportunity for all people was based on that concept.

I believe that Christians need to become more involved in the lives of the poor and the struggling widows. We need to support them in their time of need and help them to get more opportunity. Churches can develop better outreach in their neighborhoods if they are extending the love of Christ in practical ways that the unbelieving community around them can see. Consider how you can put Christ's love in action today. If you want to find out how your church can become more involved reaching the needs of your members and beginning an outreach to the community, feel free to contact me at

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Where are you going?

Hello gentle reader,

I have been pondering why in these days when we have so much information available to us why there are so many people who struggle with financial affairs. It should just be a matter of math, right? At its core, financial management begins with spending less than you make. To balance the equation, you can either increase income or decrease spending. It seems simple enough, but is that what this is all about?

At the core of every financial plan is the value system of its manager. Our motivations for work and spending are driven by what is important to us. Consider all the women who choose to leave work for a time so that they can care for their children. These women have chosen to act on their values and it has a financial impact. These families are willing to sacrifice wealth in favor of building character and security of relationships for their children. They made the choice to forfeit income and spending in order to accommodate their goals.

On the flip side, (old record slang; means the music on the opposite side of the record) how many of our decisions about earning and spending are not driven by our value systems? How many times do we allow advertisers to coerce us into making split second choices to take advantage of an offer that won't be available tomorrow? Advertising prompts us to make emotionally driven decisions regarding the spending of our money. I will write more on that another time, but suffice it to say that when we are being driven emotionally, we frequently are not adhering to our over-arching goals.

Financial planning (or any planning for that matter) is based on establishing goals that guide the project or process. In the case of Financial Planning the goals are life goals and they guide the decisions around earning, spending, saving, investing and gifting. I believe there are so many people floundering financially is because they have not established their purpose in life. They make only short term decisions because they have not developed a vision for their future.

As Christians we should be leading the world and modeling a purpose driven life. Our purposes should be fixed on so ordering our lives to honor the Lord and growing in the likeness of his character that it affects how we order our time and our money. I have said it before...I would do such and such, but I don't have enough time. I have heard over and over again that the cause of financial stress is a lack of income and available savings.

It really isn't the LACK of time or money that causes the issues that we face generally. It is the ORDERING of our decisions surrounding these commodities that gets us into trouble. Let me ask you, is Jesus Christ your Lord? Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; one that you can depend on to save your soul? Does this relationship change how you order your time? your money? How much time do we give to prayer? How much time do we give to Bible Study? How much time do we give to applying the lessons learned from our Bible Study? Are we seeing Jesus' character being developed in our lives? To order our decisions according to God's principles requires that we are walking in the Spirit and that we actively discipline our choices.

The same is true with our financial decisions. If Jesus is our Lord, then every penny of our increase should be dedicated for the purpose of serving him well in whatever circumstance we are. By in large we don't see that to be true in our lives, generally because we have not set our purposes down before the Lord and established a plan to achieve them. When we have established goals, our life takes on new direction and purpose. Every decision that we make becomes ordered to ensure the success of our mission.

There is more to serving the Lord than just living day to day and spending the increase for our comfort. We live in economically pressed times primarily because we were not focused on eternal things but on temporal. We have been very short term in our focus and have not prepared for our future.

Today is the day we can change all of that. I have established a planning firm with that end in mind: to help families and churches establish an eternal focus and order their time and wealth around the eternally minded goals we have set. You can visit me at or write me at You can begin yourself as well by praying about the following - you need God's focus to answer these questions:

1. What do you want to be remembered for after the Lord takes you home to heaven? What impact do you want to make in the lives of others? What character qualities do you want to develop? Why are you here? What is the Lord's plan for your life?

2. If I were to be successful in my life's mission, what are my benchmarks along the way. What should I have accomplished in 20 years, 10 years, 5 years, 1 year?

3. What should I be doing today to further these goals? Do my choices with time and wealth help me toward my desired end?

I understand that we are often caught up in the busyness of our day to day lives. There is so much to do and precious little time. It is very easy to lose the grander picture in the pixels of our daily routines. That is why we must take the time to establish our goals to give our life direction. Once you have set these goals down in writing, you can just check back regularly to see if you are moving toward their success or away from it.

Some things may need to be stripped from our lives that don't do anything to perpetuate our mission. I have to personally consider whether my time is well spent watching television or surfing the Internet. I have to personally consider whether my work attitudes honor God. If He were to stand next to me, would he be pleased with my spending choices? Our Lord cares about the details of our lives because it is in the details that our character is developed. Luke 16:11 says it well for me, "If therefore, you have not been faithful in handling worldly wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you".

Let us run this race with purpose and perseverance. This is not a race for the fainthearted but for those who will keep their eyes on the prize of our high calling. Remember our charge given to us in Hebrews 12:1-3: "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

My gentle reader, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might that you may be able to stand against the influences of this world and live a bold life in witness to the work of Jesus accomplished in you and for the world.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Income Issues

Whenever I meet with people wanting counsel for their budget, I often hear them say that they just don't have enough income to be able to sustain them. Let's face it; housing is expensive, you need to be able to have transportation to work, and by the time you pay your essential bills, the money is more than gone. No wonder people look to credit cards to sustain them and find it impossible to save.

Every budget can balance if there is spending that is less than income. In order to balance a budget, you can do two things: 1. Increase income or 2. Decrease spending. In this blog, I hope to give you some food for thought on the spending side of your budget.

If we truly believe that God is the owner of everything, then he also must be the provider for the income we have been given to manage. It doesn't mean that there won't be challenges for a steward, but as we rise to the challenges and face them with godly attitudes and responses, God develops our character and we increase our trust in him.

Consider the following questions as you analyze the level of income you have:

1. Is this the income and work that God has given you?
2. Are you completing your work to the best of your ability?
3. Are there other income opportunities you could pursue?
4. Are you working to increase your income opportunities in the future?
5. Is God calling you to be content with the income you have been given?

Many people believe that more income is the answer to their financial problems. Think of all the people running out to buy lottery tickets in hopes of gaining prosperity. I think that the Bible would say that the greater issue is spiritual. As we look to the Lord to provide for our needs and really trust him rather than trusting ourselves, we find that God begins to move in special ways. He may provide for a need through the church or from an unexpected windfall, but if you are sincerely looking to him to sustain you, he will be faithful.

Giving: Our giving back to God a portion of his increase to us is evidence of our trust in him. We don't give to get back, but because he has already given to us. Giving is an act of worship and is our response to God's goodness in our lives. It is a sacrifice of thanksgiving. We will talk more about giving in another blog, but for now, we can say that we return thanks for God's financial, physical and spiritual provision in our lives.

Contentment: Paul said in Philippians 4:12-13 For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in. I know how to get along with humble means and I also know how to live in prosperity. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I believe that contentment is not something that comes naturally to us. We are naturally selfish and rebellious. Even Paul said he had learned it. Boy, if Paul had to learn it, how much more do I need to learn it. As we practice contentment in what we have been given and look to God to supply all our needs, He does a marvelous work in our hearts and in our financial affairs.

Work: Some people don't have enough income because they have not worked heartily as unto the Lord. When we are slack in our work, it is right that we should not progress along the income scale. God ordained work and gave it to us. Work gives us a sense of mission and purpose. We can know that we have done our part when we do our best and feel confident in going to God to ask him for our provision.

Selfishness: Some people have less because God has seen their mismanagement of what he has given them. God does bless us with increase and when we exhibit faithlessness, he uses our circumstances to correct us and redirect our dependence to him again. When we spend our money selfishly and when we do not give God the credit for our provision, we are acting wickedly and if we belong to him, we can expect that he will respond in loving correction.

Calling: Finally, some people are selected by God to have less. Think about it. We need to have believers at every income strata if we are to be effective witnesses to the world. The large majority of the population have less rather than more, so it would make sense that God would choose his people to live with fewer means so that we can shine as lights in a dark world around us. Jesus lived out his days on earth without significant means. In fact he said that the son of man has no place to lay his head. He didn't even have a home to go to. If he willingly lived this way being God himself, how much more should we also be willing to live for him in whatever level of provision he allows.

Creativity: If income needs to be increased, there may be some creative ways that you can transform your skills and assets into an income stream even if it is for a short period of time to get debts paid down so that you can live within the income you have. Can you transform some of your time into income? A second job may be a short term fix until you can get your spending adjusted. Perhaps there are ways to transform a hobby into income production. With the internet, you don't even have to leave home in some cases to begin a business. As a family work together and talk to your children about ways that you can solve this issue together. Children learn about money management from you, so don't exclude them.

Two Incomes: Our society has come to view two incomes as a necessity, but it does create a significant cost to the family unit. When both parents are working, there is just less at home. There is insufficient time to care for all the children's needs, manage the home, take care of yourself and still have time to devote to growing in the grace and knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Something has to give. Newlyweds should practice living on one income even if both are working. The second income can be used to build a savings so that when the wife has children, she can be free to care for them in the way that honors God the most. Many couples have expenses and debt so great that they are trapped into having to work two jobs in order to sustain their lifestyle often to the detriment of the children. The home is where our children develop their value system and they learn the value of work, sharing, integrity, honor, and a love for God from the training you give them.

God loves you and wants you to look to him to supply your every need. He is also transforming us into the likeness of his son, so he must chisel off the selfish attitudes and greed in order to grow contented servants. Is Jesus really all you need or do you look to your income to provide a little more?

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where is your trust placed?

Every choice we make is a reflection of our beliefs and testifies to the world about us. It is very humbling for me to consider that people learn more about my faith by watching how I act on it than they do from my words. I am challenged day after day, do my actions tell people that my faith is in Christ alone?

If someone were to open my checkbook and view the transactions through any period of time, would they see that my hope is in Christ? What do my transactions say about me? Do they show me hoarding money? Do they show me spending it all? Do they show me purchasing things that I wouldn't want others to know about? My spending, giving and savings choices speak just as clearly about me as any words could.

I Chronicles 29:11 tells us that "Everything in the heavens and earth is yours O Lord" You see, we don't own anything. God owns it all. Luke 16:11 warns us: "If therefore you have not been faithful in managing worldly wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?" Our role is to merely manage what God owns. It is different thinking from the world around us, but important for us to grasp.

You see this is a test. My choices reflect where my trust is placed. Do we really look to God or do we look to ourselves and our own resources to supply our needs? Is God really God of my life or do I just give lip service? The sincerity of our commitment to the Lord is reflected in every thought word and deed. Will we place our trust in God or will we retain some control for ourselves?

Our choices today will show the world what we believe but it will also be an act of worship to God that we are looking to him for our every need and we are glorifying him in every choice we make...including our purchases. Don't let your money talk badly about you today. Be a good steward of every resource God has given you that you may shine brightly for him!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Real Economic Stimulus

This blog was primarily designed to help people in practical ways put into practice scriptural principles. I had envisioned practical articles helping you to get a budget started that would free you up to be able to pay down debt and save for your future. As I was doing my devotions this morning, I came across a scriptural principle that applies across our economy and may be the key to our continued blessing from God.

I was reading in Nehemiah chapter 9. The people of Israel under Nehemiah's leadership had just completed rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. Nehemiah had gathered everyone together for a dedication ceremony, but when Ezra began to read the Book of the Law to the people, they were convicted of how they had abandoned God's direction. After the time of dedication and celebration of the Festival of Booths the people were gathered together in fasting, sackcloth and dust on their heads to confess their sins.

They spent 1/4 of their day just reading the Book of the Law and another 1/4 of their day confessing sins and worshipping God. The prayer starting in verse 5 going through 37 documents how God deserves the loyalty of the people. They outline his role as creator and how he chose Abraham and made a covenant with him. The recanting of their history continues with how God heard their pleas for deliverance from the suffering in Egypt and the miraculous signs and wonders he displayed. They tell of how God spoke at Mt. Sinai and gave commands for the people to follow and promises of blessing if they would be faithful. God had provided for their every need and yet the people rebelled.

Time after time, God took back his people after they had committed wicked deeds choosing to forgive and extend mercy to them not because of their goodness, but because of his. At the time of this prayer, the people acknowledge that the hardships that they are enduring were foretold by the prophets, but they wouldn't hear their warnings. They continued their own way until it led them into slavery and oppression. Even then they were an occupied territory and subject to the commands of the Babylonian king.

Proverbs 22:7 tells us that "just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender". Everyone these days is talking about what got us into our condition as a nation and whether the actions that are being taken by government are sufficient to restore our economy. More often than not, when I listen to people offer commentary on what caused the problem, I hear greedy wall street bankers, lenders who extended bad credit, car manufacturers who did not see warnings when they were not profitable and did not adjust to the market conditions. Virtually no one is saying that they had a role to play in this big picture.

When I hear about the solutions being offered, the government is saying that they had no choice but to become involved, people in communities around the nation are accepting stimulus payments, corporations and states are taking stimulus dollars from the federal government without regard for our long term future. The greed and affluence that created the debt that is now drowning the global economy is extending more debt to address the issue. This government bailout is not sound practice and will never be able to restore our nation, it will enslave us just as surely as the Israelites were enslaved to Babylon.

The Israelites were guilty of short term thinking only wanting what seemed attractive at the time without regard for the scriptural principles they had to violate to get it. God allowed them to see where that kind of thinking would take them. God didn't enslave them, they enslaved themselves by choosing their own way and not honoring God. God intended for them to live free from slavery and to show the world that a life that honors God is blessed.

We are guilty of the same crimes. We can't blame Wall St., the Corporations or our government. It was our own unwillingness to choose to be content with God's provision and to live a lifestyle that honored God rather than feeding our short term desires that has created this house of cards. We cannot possibly correct the problem by issuing more debt. The people on Wall St. and the people who operate the corporations are you and me, they are our neighbors next door. They aren't some distant disconnected peoples who don't have a clue what our lifestyle is like. The elected officials are the people we elected to office; they reflect our values.

The only solution that will have any real impact is for us - each of us - individually and corporately to acknowledge our greed and affluence got us here. The Israelites saw the pattern of their behavior. They were faithless and then encountered trouble; they looked to God for deliverance and found rest. Nehemiah 9:28 confesses "But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight".

We as a nation and individually have sinned before God choosing our own way over his whether in our finances or in other lifestyle choices. Our only hope is to confess our sins and redirect our lives. I don't think that we can do this apart from some serious study of scripture like the Israelites did. Not just a casual verse or two to inspire us each day but a true investigation of God's ways, God's character, our perpetual sinfulness, and our need for a Savior to deliver us.

The economic stimulus the government offers today is just a ticket to long term slavery. We can't sustain the flow of money that is being tossed about. We need to get back to basics which means a change of lifestyle that puts God first.

Let's take the first step. Start personally to study scripture and acknowledge our sins before God and worship him for his faithfulness and provision for us. Extend the back to basics philosophy to our homes and then to our extended family. We can all make a difference; we need to choose to be bold and stand for the Lord. If we do this for ourselves, we will be able to reach to our neighbor and offer a helping hand to encourage him through this hardship.

I believe that if God's people will humble themselves, confess their sins and ask for forgiveness that God will hear from heaven and respond in a mighty way. I don't know if the rapture is today, tomorrow or next week, but when I consider the economic devastation that would lead our world to a one world currency and a league of nations that opposes Israel told in Revelation, it just doesn't seem that far away to me. If the rapture is to occur before this happens, it could very well be today. Be ready and stand boldly for the Lord.

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

God's Role in our Finances

When I first became a Christian, I didn't know much about scripture. I had attended Sunday School and church, but most of what I knew came through the funnel of someone else who had studied the Bible and spent time personally with the Lord. I knew enough to know that I needed a Savior and that my life was not what it could be and certainly didn't have the contentment that I saw in others who were teaching me.

I really didn't become engaged in any serious Bible study until I found that someone else's relationship with the Lord was insufficient and found worldly practices having greater influence on me than the Spirit.

It was Larry Burkett who helped me understand that Scriptural principles are not merely intellectual exercises but are very practical and influence our choices and are evidence of the Lord's control of our lives. It was from his radio program that I was first challenged to consider how my actions reflect what I say I believe.

When his ministry merged with Crown, I took Crown's Bible Study. The very first thing that struck me was the biggest financial stresses in my life are issues that God should have control over. We systematically looked at the role God plays.

1. He is in control of everything: He controls our circumstances, our jobs, our family, our leaders, everything. Consider 1 Chron 29:11-12 Everything in the heavens and earth is yours O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as being in control of everything. Riches and honor come from you alone and you are the ruler of all mankind. Your hand controls power and might and it is at your discretion that men are made great and given strength.

2. He is our provider: our provision doesn't come from our own effort, but from God's blessing. He gives the opportunity and our responsibility is to be faithful in acting on the opportunities given. In Philippians 4:19, he has promised to supply all our needs according to his riches in glory.

3. God has unlimited resources: He owns everything. The cattle on 1000 hills are his, the gold and the silver is his. The world and all that is in it is his. (Ps 50: 10-12)

4. God cares for his people: Over and over through scripture we see that God takes care of his own; sometimes even supernaturally. We can trust that if we belong to him, he will not let us out of his hand. Consider Romans 8:28 For I know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose"

5. God's ways aren't ours: So often we like to tell God how we would like him to provide for our needs, but his ways are not ours. We are told that as far as the heavens are above the earth so are God's ways higher than ours. God doesn't always provide exactly like we think he ought to, but we can trust that his way is best even if we don't understand.

6. God is greater than any problem we face: Jeremiah confirmed in 32:17 that Nothing is too difficult for you.

7. God disciplines us to keep us from sin and to develop our character into the likeness of Christ. Not all the circumstances in our lives are pleasant, but we can trust that he has a plan even in the hardest circumstances to develop our character and increase our faith and trust in him as our God.

Are you in a situation bigger than you? It isn't too big for God. Do you not see a way to resolve your financial headaches? Look to God, his plan may be something you never would have considered on your own. Is the stress of your situation stealing your peace? Consider how God may be using this for your development and find peace in knowing that he will see you through even the most difficult of circumstances.

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him!

A Study to Apply God's Financial Principles

I had my eyes opened when I participated in a Crown Financial Ministries Bible Study a few years ago. Before I go on, let me commend this study to you if you have not completed it. It stands apart from other financial fitness programs being introduced to our churches as first and foremost teaching Biblical principles and secondarily introducing financial strategies to apply them. Other studies seem to reverse the priorities of principles over strategy.

Crown's first and foremost goal is to increase the person's intimacy with the Lord and encourage them to live for him wholeheartedly in EVERY aspect of their lives including their financial choices.

If you don't have a study in your area, you can be the one to bring it to your church by participating in a leader training afterwhich you are equipped to form small groups in your church.

As a means to discipleship, I think this is an excellent study to help us understand God's role in our lives and our responsibility as his people to respond in love and obedience. As an outreach to the community around, I think it is an excellent tool to help prepare people to witness and to allow the church to meet the financial needs of the community.

If you can't do a study in your church, Crown has an outstanding website that has free articles and a thing called the Money Map. You can create a login for free on their site and track your progress in your financial journey. Crown has on line budget coaches and local coaches around the United States to help you through your financial crisis and encourage you as you begin to apply God's financial principles in your own life.

I highly recommend the course and have had my thinking forever changed because of it. I will share a little more about that in my next blog.

In the meantime, may God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

10 Keys to Witnessing with our Finances

There has been no other time like this economically; not just in the United States, but around the world people are seeing their financial picture suffer from cut backs, increased costs, and decreased value of their assets. Christians have always had opportunity to witness to the unsaved but today we have a time unlike what we have known in the past.

You may have incurred debt or have bills that are greater than you are comfortable with, but today you can make a change. People all around you are looking to see how you will handle your own struggles. Your choices today may even lead someone to a life of faith. How Christians handle their hardships is the greatest witness we have to an unbelieving world.

Here are some ideas based on scripture for how we can shine as bright witnesses to the world:

1. Seek God First: our priorities get out of alignment with God's when we don't take the time to read the Bible regularly. We read not as a literary exercise, but to glean God's wisdom and encouragement to persevere through hard times. Bible study and prayer allow us to experience fellowship with the Lord and helps to correct the influences of the world we receive each day.

2. Be a generous giver. Christians should be known for their generosity. We have received eternal life how can we not share with others. By giving to the Lord we demonstrate He has first priority in our lives. I encourage people to give to the Lord a portion even if you are in financial hard times. The Lord knows your situation and giving is an outward indicator of your trust in him to provide through your difficulties. Consider ways you can share with others your time and talents. Everyone can reach out to someone else. While you give to someone else, be sure to tell them of your faith so that others can come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior; that is a gift that will bring glory to God!

3. Live within your means. God owns everything and he has chosen to fund your level of provision for a purpose. He has promised to supply your needs, but not necessarily your wants. Critically look at your standard of living to see if there are changes that you can make that will reduce the cost of living for you and your family. Have a family meeting and talk together about what your hope to accomplish with your lifestyle and what choices will allow your life to speak more boldly of your faith in Jesus Christ and your trust for God's provision in your life.

4. Look for other income opportunities: Many families have cut back as much as they can and still struggle to make ends meet. Get creative about ways that you can increase your monthly income. This is a great opportunity to do a family entrepreneurial venture to earn money and teach your children the value of work.

5. Consider selling items to generate cash. Think about it; all that stuff will end up in a dump one day anyway. Capitalize on its value now and transform the cash into something that will have a greater impact on your financial future (like paying off debt and establishing savings). Besides our treasures aren't here anyway.

6. Pay more than the minimum on debt. Every little bit helps. Compound interest is a phenomenon that works against families who owe, so the way you defeat the enemy of compound interest is to take away the force used against you by paying more than the minimum. As Christians, our responsibility is to be people of our word, so we should never not pay our debts; our testimony depends on it.

7. Establish a habit of saving. The Bible encourages us to consider the costs and prepare before beginning a project. We witness to the world through savings because we show that we are willing to wait for God's timing to move on purchases and that we don't presume upon God's future blessing by getting ahead of him through the use of debt.

I believe you need three kinds of savings.

A. Irregular expenses: those things that don't come due each month like: insurance, taxes, school clothes, Christmas, gifts etc.

B. Emergency fund: everyone has emergencies from time to time. The more you can save in advance the less painful they will be when they happen. Especially in times like these you need savings of at least six month's salary to sustain you if you should lose your job. Begin with a goal of $1,000 in savings and build on it over time. You can get that by selling items or living on austerity for a couple of months to get some extra cash.

C. You need long term savings for things like school expenses and retirement. You can't depend on other pools to carry you through. Long term savings is a great way to begin investing for your future. I recommend participating in your employer retirement if it is available. If it isn't begin an IRA of your own and just start putting some money aside. Many people live nearly as long in retirement as they did in the workforce, so the reserve will need to sustain you through those years. The earlier you begin the better - like today. No matter how old you are, you should begin to prepare for your long term future.

8. Train your children: Money management should be a family affair. Find creative ways to bring the children into the process. They will learn from the experiences they gain at home so that they will be wise stewards in the future. The investment in training your child is more important to their future success than any degree could ever be. By training them to look to God for their provision and be wise with the provision they have received they will be well equipped to avoid the trappings of materialism and be free to serve God where ever he leads.

9. Avoid debt. Paul said in Philippians, that he had learned to be content in whatever circumstance he was in. It didn't come natural. Our inclination is to want things quickly and let's be honest, we hate to wait. The more we can train ourselves to be content with what we have and thankful for God's provision, the less inclined we will be to lust after more stuff that we can't afford right now. If you had to use debt to get it; you couldn't afford it right now.

10. Right size where needed: Companies do it all the time. We can too. If your total debt payments are greater than 10% of your income, now is the time to right size. If your housing expenses are greater than 35% of your income, you know the financial pressure it is placing on everyone in your home.

Find ways to get credit balances down so that you don't become controlled by historical purchases. We need to be people who put the past behind us and live abundantly today and in hope of our eternal future. We can't do that if we are dragging around the evidences of our past. When I confess my sins, my Lord is faithful to forgive my sins and I put them behind me. We need to do the same with our debts; make them a thing of the past.

Make the hard choices: Sometimes making a new financial start means admitting that we can't afford what we have and moving to something we can afford. Is your car too expensive? Find ways to sell that car and get into a less expensive but reliable vehicle to get you where you need to go. Is the home you are in consuming too much of your income? Moving to a smaller or more affordable place is an option. Begin planning and praying now that the Lord will reveal the buyer and the affordable alternative.

10. Be a cheap date: Fun does not have to be expensive. We all need entertainment from time to time. It is part of our social nature to want to share fun activities together. God made us that way. Fun doesn't have to be expensive. You can find ways to make fun almost anywhere. Make every day an adventure. Get the kids involved in making up games that everyone can play together. Remember back to days when you had less perhaps. What did you do for fun then? It didn't have to be costly; it just needed to include the people you love.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Brand New Blog

I created this blog to share thoughts about God's perspective on the money we manage. We have so many players in our lives directing our spending decisions, often we leave out the most important one...God. He gave you what you have in the first place and it all belongs to him to begin with and in the end. I hope that this blog will give you courage to stand boldly for the Lord in all of your decisions.

I believe that our spending decisions are a key indicator of where our priorities lie. We witness everyday to the world about what is important to us by the way we spend the money in our hands. I hope that in this blog, I can help encourage you to make godly decisions and learn what God says about our responsibilities as stewards and take encouragement as we learn about how God has promised to supply our needs.