Sunday, December 28, 2008
Tax Law to benefit churches and other charitable organizations
The IRA Rollover provision was recently enacted and will apply to gifts made between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009. This provision may allow you to make charitable gifts in 2008 and 2009 to churches (or other qualifying charities) without adverse tax consequences.
Anyone who is at least 70 ½ years old and has retirement assets held in a traditional IRA may take advantage of this provision. If you fit these criteria, you can make a direct charitable gift of up to $100,000 each year (2008 and 2009) from your IRA. Because your gift is made directly to your church or other charity of choice from your IRA, the gift does not increase your adjusted gross income and will also count towards any Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) you are otherwise required to take out of your IRA during the year. Although no income tax deduction for the gift is allowed (because the gift was made directly to the church from the IRA), the overall effect is a completely tax-free gift.
If you are a pastor or church staff member, I would encourage you to inform your senior adults over 70 years old of this tax saving provision. This could save tax money for your senior adults as well as increase your church budget's bottom line.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Work you Love!
My neighbor recently purchased a rather large RV/motor home and I was helping him back it out of his driveway. Before he pulled away to go camping for the weekend, he said to me, "This is why I work so hard during the week so I can get away for the weekend."
After my neighbor made that statement, it made me feel sad for him and the work he does. I am thankful that the Lord has provided numerous work and career opportunities for me that are mentally stimulating, meaningful, and have eternal rewards!
I don't know what you do for living, but I sure never want to be in a job/career situation where I don't enjoy what I do on a day-to-day basis. Are there going to be difficult days, days in which you want to get away for a weekend? Sure there are always going to be those kind of days, but I would encourage you to pursue work that aligns with your life purpose and goals. Seek God's direction and will for your vocation, career, and life's calling.
A great resource for more information regarding work you love is Dan Miller. Check out his website at http://www.48days.com/
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Investment #2 - Invest in the Kingdom
The poor Christian gives very little in the areas of time, talents, and money. He is characterized by selfishness.
The rich Christian gives freely of time, talent, and money to his church and community. He is characterized by generosity.
I love this quote by Robert Collier, "You have to sow before you can reap. You have to give before you can get."
In 2 Corinthians 9:6, the Apostle Paul makes a similar statement, "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully."
Giving and receiving are two opposite sides of the same "coin." In order to be a good receiver, you must be a good giver and vice versa. The people in life that are stingy and tight-fisted, not only have difficulty giving but they have difficulty receiving as well.
So how good are you at receiving and giving?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Investment #1 - Daily Quiet Time
Believers that are rich in Christ, have a strong, growing relationship with the Lord. They spend daily time in His Word and in prayer. They understand that God the Holy Spirit is our source for power, energy, creativity, and wealth.
Obviously, the poor Christian does not have a strong relationship with the Lord. He is distracted by the cares of this world and doesn't understand what it means to truly walk with God.
Over the last several months, I have rearranged my morning schedule so that I can have a deeper walk with Christ and not just go through the motions of a quiet time at another time of the day. I typically get up between 6:00 - 6:20 and have my quiet time for an hour before I need to get ready for work and take my daughters to school. This has been incredibly helpful in focusing my mind on Him and making my day more productive.
If you desire to be a better steward/manager of what God has blessed you with, I encourage you to begin by growing your relationship with Him!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Leap of Faith
This is one of my favorite scenes from the Indiana Jones film series. This is from the 3rd movie (Last Crusade) where Indy has to make a "Leap of Faith" on his journey to get to the Holy Grail.
Many times, I think we as believers know that God is calling us to make a leap of faith in an area of our lives, but we just can't do it. Our minds are so conditioned to think in terms of what we are capable of seeing in the present, that we cannot see what God can provide for us if we just trust in Him.
This has been my struggle over the last few weeks as our church has been going through a capital campaign. Early in the campaign, the Lord laid on my heart an amount of money to give that I thought was outrageous! I kept saying, "No, Lord. Don't you know that I have other plans and goals that I'm trying to achieve right now! Here's the amount my family can afford to give." Even after weeks of arguing with the Lord, though, this number has been so vivid in my mind, that it could only come from Him.
Two weeks ago, the leaders in our church were asked to fill out early pledge cards so that the leaders' pledge amounts could be announced to the entire church body to encourage them to give. The card that I turned at the time had the "I know we can afford this amount over the next three years" number, and I have regretted turning in that card ever since!
This past Sunday was our time of commitment for the entire church body to hand in their pledge cards. I sat with my wife during the service, filled out a new card, and showed her the new "crazy" number. She argued with me for a minute, then just told me to do what I thought was the right thing to do. So, when the time came to lay our cards on the altar, I had my youngest daughter walk up to the front of the church with me to put the card on the steps.
The amount of money that we have pledged to give is going to have to be a miracle from Almighty God! This pledge is WAY beyond our financial needs, and there is no way given our current financial cash flow that we can even make monthly payments that will make a dent in this amount of money.
Yesterday, we took our leap of faith and we're trusting in God to provide. What leap of faith do you need to make?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
How To Be Rich
Here are the key points from the How To Be Rich series:
- Step One: Congratulations! You are rich! If you live in the United States, you're already in the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world.
- Step Two: Daddy's money. Don't trust in your stack of money; trust in God! It's His money, anyway!
- Step Three: Dollar Cost Living. Rich people have options! Purposely set aside some of your free time and vacation time to help others. Be rich in good deeds. Be generous and willingly to share. Be extraordinary at serving and giving.
- Step Four: Diversify. Look at our wealth in light of eternity. Be rich towards God. God is the one who has provided everything that we have.
I would encourage you to check out this sermon series website. These messages from Andy are brief and well worth the view.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Open letter to pastors: using the current economic crisis as an opportunity to minister
With the economic uncertainty in the United States right now, this an ideal time in our nation's history to teach and preach what God says about money. Crown Financial Ministries claims that the Bible has over 2,000 verses regarding finances, while Dave Ramsey has a more conservative estimate of over 800. Either way, the Bible has a lot to say about how God wants us to handle the money He has entrusted to us!
Since the mid-1980s until just recently, the country has been riding a wave of unparalleled prosperity with freely flowing cash and credit. Unfortunately, I believe many people (including Christians) have financed their way to prosperity, forgetting or being completely ignorant of these solid principles from God's Word. It is very evident that our schools and churches have failed miserably at teaching proven financial principles.
As the year 2008 draws to a close, I would just encourage you to consider sermon series and programming for the year 2009 that would educate your church members and community on how to survive and even prosper during the current economic downturn.
Here's a suggested plan of action:
- Educate and change yourself first. Get into God's Word and see what He says about money. Examine your own personal finances. Are you heavily in debt, with little savings and no margins? We all need to lead by example on whatever we're teaching. Ask God to help you become a better steward of what He has given you.
- Open up the new year with a sermon series related to getting fit financially. This is always a great time for a series such as this, since a new year often brings reflection, resolutions, and goals for a fresh start.
- Investigate programs that will help people within your church get a handle on their money. Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University is a great one, and Crown Financial Ministries offers one day seminars all the way up to 10-week small group studies. These programs can also be a great tool to reach out into your communities and help those that are struggling.
I pray our pastors and churches will learn from the past and come back to a Biblical approach to handling the money that God has entrusted to us.
The US Economy and God's Economy (part 2)
In my last post, I blogged about the current panic that has set in regarding the current US economic downturn and how we as believers do not need to fear. God has promised to take care of our needs!
Unfortunately, though, I think many American Christians have over-extended themselves financially by believing the lies of so-called financial experts (secular and even Christian). We live in a world of instant gratification and a consumer driven society. Instead of a pattern of giving, saving, then spending, the majority of people end up spending more than they earn through debt. Now is the time for believers all over the United States to ask the Lord's forgiveness and turn back to God's Word for His financial wisdom.
Yes, God has promised to take care of our needs, but we play a vital part in controlling, giving away, and multiplying the money and resources He has entrusted to us (see Parable of the Talents post).
It's time in this country to get back to a common sense, Biblically-based approach to home economics. We need to:
- Start acting our wage!
- Budget - track our income, outgo, and net worth.
- Give first to our church and the poor.
- Pay yourself, second (savings).
- Establish an emergency fund. Everyone needs a "cushion of cash" for the unexpected events of life.
- Get out of consumer debt.
- Use cash, debit cards, and checks. Avoid credit cards.
- Shop intelligently, not impulsively!
If most Christ followers would at least follow this simple pattern, our churches and charities would be overflowing with money and our families would have financial peace. There's no better time to begin getting our financial houses in order than now!
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The US Economy and God's Economy (part 1)
There are a lot of scared, hurting people right now. Some people have lost jobs and some have lost their homes due to foreclosures. With all the talk in the national media of another possible "Great Depression" type of period ahead for the nation, the majority of people in our country are extremely anxious about the future.
Unfortunately, people become disillusioned and begin looking to the government and (even worse) political candidates to solve these major financial problems. We begin to put our faith and hope in politicians (how wise is that?). They are the ones who got us into this mess in the first place!
As believers in Jesus Christ, though, we have a hope for our future. No matter what happens in the overall US economy, we can have quiet confidence in the fact that God owns it all, He loves His children, and that He will be the one to provide for our needs.
In Matthew 6:25-34 we read these words from our Lord:
25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?
28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (NIV).
Here are some of the key points of this passage to remember during these difficult financial times:
- Don't worry about your life!
- Life is more important than food and the body is more important than clothing!
- The Father feeds the animals on the earth; the human race is more valuable to Him than the animals. He's going to take care of us! He knows that we have daily necessities.
- Pagans are the ones who "run after" material stuff. They are the ones who get nervous and go crazy! As Christ followers, we're called to be different than the world.
- Seek first the Kingdom; if we will do this, the Father will take care of the rest!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
For this episode, I have uploaded a recording of a Live seminar explaining the 7 Investments that place you in the flow of God's wealth.
Click on the link below to go to the podcast:
By the way, you can download a FREE eWorkbook that can accompany this podcast by signing up to my newsletter at the top of page.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
7 Investments that place you in the flow of God's wealth
For a better explanation of what I'm talking about, check out Robert's video below on the Cash Flow Quadrant:
OK, so just as Robert's rich dad had him focus on the business and investments quadrants, I believe as Christians that we need to "hang out" in the Spiritual Investment quadrant, making the following investments:
- Invest in your relationship with God (Daily quiet time).
- Invest in the Kingdom (Tithing, giving to the poor, sacrificial giving)
- Invest in relationships with others (spouse, family, mentors, coaches, friends).
- Invest in yourself with focused thinking.
- Invest in financial planning and education.
- Invest time in what really counts (productivity).
- Invest your energy in winning!
I'll be spending more time on each of these 7 investments in the days ahead.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
The Alabaster Jar
If you're not familiar with the story, here's the passage:
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her (KJV).
Something about this woman's story struck me differently than it ever has before. Here was a woman that owned an extremely expensive perfume, probably worth a whole year's salary during those days! I don't know about you, but I don't think I even own anything with that kind of value except my retirement account!
So, the disciples' reaction makes total sense from a financial world view when they talk about how this woman wasted the money. What they didn't comprehend was the spiritual significance! This woman (probably Mary Magdalene) must have understood that Jesus was about to die, and she wanted to anoint his body in order to prepare him for burial.. She was making an extremely costly sacrifice as an act of worship for her Lord.
From my Pastor's message yesterday, here are some important thoughts to ponder:
- The motive of her gift was out of love - sometimes logic takes a backseat; out of love, we should say not how little can I give, but how much.
- The moment was not lost - some people wait for the "right moment" to give. There's never a right time!
- The manner was lavish - the estimated value of her gift was one year's wages!
- The memory is lasting - Jesus himself said to his disciples that wherever the gospel story is told, the alabaster jar story should be told as a memorial to her; and here we are retelling her story some 2,000 years later!
Giving to God and others doesn't always seem to "jive" with conventional financial wisdom! But God's math doesn't equal our math. He promises that if we keep the Kingdom of God first, He will take care of our needs.
So what's your alabaster jar?
Friday, October 3, 2008
George Müller - ultimate stewardship!
I won't take the time in this blog post to recount Mr. Müller's entire history, but you can read his biography here in Wikipedia.
George Müller was an evangelist in England during the 1800's , who believed that God had primarily called him to help the orphans in the city of Bristol, and he also pursued other ministries such as pastoring a church and founding the Scripture Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad, with the goal of aiding Christian schools and missionaries, and distributing the Bible. He made a vow with the Lord that he would not receive a salary from his church, government funding, be involved in active fundraising, and never go into debt. He completely put his faith and trust in God to meet all of his family's financial needs, as well as the ministries that he led.
Even though times were difficult in England, God's hand was on George Müller, and He supernaturally provided for him his entire life! It is estimated that during his lifetime, his organization received and disbursed £1.5 million ($2,718,844 USD) by the time of Müller's death, primarily using the money for supporting the orphanages and distributing nearly two million Bibles and religious texts. The money was also used to support other "faith missionaries" around the world, such as Hudson Taylor.
Not only was Mr. Müller an excellent steward, but he was also an excellent leader. More than a century after his passing, his work continues on through the George Müller Foundation.
George Müller's story can be a convicting one. How many Christians, especially those of us that live in the richest nation in the world, have that kind of faith? How many of us are that kind of manager of God's resources? I would say that all of us that claim the name of Christ could learn a lot from George Müller!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
While doing some research on stewardship and what direction I should take with seminars and a blog, I was pleasantly surprised to find that no one had stumbled upon this idea before. To me, the name of the website, blog, and contents make perfect sense in light of Scripture.
Christians that are rich or poor (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, financially, etc.) have defining characteristics and activities in their lives, just like Robert's rich dad and poor dad were wealthy or middle class based on the purchases of assets or liabilities.
In this blog, I will explore the necessary actions and investments that a Christian needs to involve themselves in, in order to be wealthy in every aspect of the Christian life.
If you have never read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I encourage you to pick-up a copy of this classic book on how to think like wealthy people in your personal finances.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Universal Law of Sowing and Reaping
If you plant an apple seed, then water and fertilize it, over time you will grow an apple tree. If you plant a kernel of corn, you will soon have a corn plant. It's that simple.
The Bible teaches us this universal law of sowing and reaping: we get what we plant in our lives. If we plant destructive thoughts and patterns in our lives, that's what we will get back in return. If we plant the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we will receive love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Money works the same way. If we don't plant "money seeds" in our lives, in our churches, in our communities, and in the lives of those around us, we will never see a return on investment. If we horde and become selfish with the money God has given to us, it will lead to spiritual and financial bankruptcy. Maybe not here on earth, but we will not receive as full of a reward in heaven as we possibly can if we we're being an excellent steward of all He has given us to manage.
It's time for Christians in America to quit being so ridiculously selfish with their money. As believers in Jesus Christ, we should be the best money managers, wealth creators, and givers. Instead, though, I think we are unfortunately viewed as tightwads, selfish, and cheap. We've chased after a lot of stuff, toys, big cars, and big houses to keep up with the Joneses, and now we're debt-ridden, living paycheck to paycheck with no margin in our lives.
I don't know about you, but when I stand before the King, I want to hear him say to me, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21)
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Stewardship is an old English term that came out of the feudal system during the Middle Ages. A steward was a caretaker or manager of a castle. The steward was not the owner; the lord of the castle owned everything. The steward knew all the ins and outs of the castle and managed its day-to-day operations. The lord of the castle would be in contact with his steward to assess the state of his property.
The church world has adopted the term "stewardship" to reflect our relationship as a manager of God's property, because He owns everything and we are simply managers of what God has given to us.
Here are a couple of definitions I discovered on the Internet that apply very well to the Christian walk:
- Stewardship is personal responsibility for taking care of another person's property or financial affairs or in religious orders taking care of finances.
- The concept of managing the assets of a family business in such a way as to preserve or increase their worth for future generations.
I really like this second definition. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to increase the worth of our family business - the Kingdom of God.
So what are you doing to increase the worth of our family business?
Monday, September 29, 2008
Wealth is more than money
- Strong relationships with God, spouse, family members, friends, etc. (it's a well known statistical fact that intact families are wealthier than broken homes)
- Health - sound body and mind (in today's world of expensive health care, it's hard to put a price tag on this!)
- Time - those that have more discretionary time to spend with family and pursuing other interests are extremely wealthy!
- Owning assets (especially debt-free ones) such as businesses, rental properties, other investments.
- Great career or business that brings about the realization of life purpose, joy, and fulfillment.
- Location where you live (many years ago, I lived in Florida near the beach. Even though I was dirt poor, I felt like a millionaire living in a tropical paradise!).
- Talents and abilities the Lord has given you. These along with a healthy, intelligent mind will be your greatest asset in wealth creation.
If you can balance out these 7 items with a large cash flow, you can consider yourself extremely wealthy!
For example, look at the life of Joseph. He was born into great wealth as a son of Jacob. His brothers sold him into slavery and poverty. Then, he was put in charge of Potipher's household, where he experienced some wealth. After the incident with Potipher's wife, he was thrown into jail, experiencing poverty once again. Then, after Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams, he was elevated to great wealth and power. The Lord used these experiences in Joseph's life to shape and mold him for this ultimate leadership position for the remainder of his life.
Also, look at the life of Job. The majority of his life, he had been one of the wealthiest men of his day. Then, God allowed Satan to test Job, taking him down to almost nothing. After Job passed his "test," the Lord once again elevated Job to even greater wealth than before.
God owns everything, and our test is to prove if we deserve the opportunity to manage more for the Kingdom.
10 (+1) Talents Guy
Here's the passage from the KJV:
14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
19After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Here are some key points from this passage of Scripture:
- The master (or lord) is God the Father and the servants are believers (vs. 14, 21).
- The master gives according to the money-making ability of His servants (v. 15).
- There will be an accounting of what the servants do with what has been given to them (vs. 19-30).
- Those that are successful will receive more responsibility and money in abundance (vs. 21, 23, 28-29).
- Rebuke and punishment for lazy servants (vs. 26-30).
So, are you the 5, 2, or 1 talent servant? What do you need to do to go to the next level in your personal financial stewardship?
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Wealth Creation from a Christian Perspective
Ten years ago, I began living the typical American life. I got a steady job, got married, purchased a home (with an almost 100% mortgage loan), and had one car payment. I knew enough about money to not do some really stupid things in life, but I didn't really have a strong foundation of financial knowledge.
Over a five year period, my wife and I had two children, sold our first home at a decent price, moved into a more expensive home, and I started a small business with a lot of debt. To say the least, my business did not go as planned, and I woke up one day having a Dr. Phil moment - "so how's that working for you?"
Around the same time I started my business, I happened to pick up in a local bookstore this obscure book called Financial Peace by some guy named Dave Ramsey. After I read his book, something inside me immediately resonated with Dave's message, and I started rethinking how we were doing our family finances.
A little over three years ago, we encountered some difficult life circumstances which really forced us to get "gazelle intense" as Dave would call it, and we began to focus with laser-like intensity on becoming debt free. We sold our home, used the equity to pay down almost half of our debt, got on a serious written plan. Eighteen months later we became totally debt free and our net worth went from around -$100,000 to +70,000 during that time frame. My wife and I are now focused on spending money on purpose with a wealthy mindset.It's time to do "rich people stuff" when it comes to spending money!
Over the last year, I have been doing intense research and reading on how to create wealth today during the great information age. The Rich Christian, Poor Christian blog is a result of the information I have gleaned in my studies. This is my journey of discovery: wealth creation from a Christian Perspective.