Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Need to Give (part 1)

Enthusiastic, joy-filled giving always follows an expressed need.

We can clearly see this truth in the story of the construction of the Tabernacle in Exodus chapters 25-39.

The LORD said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece." Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. (Exodus 25:1-9)

From this passage, we see that God clearly lays out a specific offering need - gifts to construct the Tabernacle, and then He outlines the exact gifts that are needed to complete that construction.

A few chapters later, we see the Israelites response to the need:

Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: "No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary." And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work. (Exodus 36:6-7)

Two Thoughts:
  1. Church leaders need to do a better job of communicating specific giving needs within budgetary giving and special offerings.
  2. I want to be part of a church body that actually has to restrain its membership from giving any more!
In Part 2, I will explore ways in which we can be better communicators of specific needs.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Giving Automatically

For a number of years now, many churches have gone to some type of web-based online giving tool to enable its members to give electronically.

There are many benefits, but also some drawbacks to online giving.

  1. with a few clicks, you can automate all of your giving to your church and schedule it to occur at your choosing. This option works well if your income is fairly steady each month.
  2. you can not only automate your budget/tithe giving, but also capital campaign giving and specific ministries within the church itself.
  3. your giving happens automatically even if you forget your checkbook, tithe envelope, get sick, or go on vacation.
  4. your church's budget giving remains steady and consistent from month to month, especially as more church members use this giving option.
  1. does not work well if your income fluctuates from month to month. You can still give online, but you would need to log-in to your account and alter your giving amounts on a regular basis.
  2. you miss out on the "worship" aspects of giving within your worship service when you have nothing to place in the offering plate. Many churches are now solving this drawback by providing online givers with a special card to place in the plate saying that they gave online.
  3. if you do not budget and track your accounts carefully, you could potentially overdraw on your personal account.
  4. as with any online personal information, there is a slight risk of identity information theft. These online giving services are normally very secure.
I have personally used the online giving option for at least the last 4 years. As a church staff member, I have found it extremely helpful so that I don't "forget" to give. During the offering time of our services, I'm normally so busy on the platform that I can't even get to an offering plate to drop in my tithe envelope.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving the ball forward

In every area of our lives, we are doing one of three things:
  1. creating forward momentum
  2. standing still/or ignorant of current movement
  3. creating negative momentum
When we are creating forward momentum, we are focused on our goals and are highly attuned to what we want, when we want it, and how we will accomplish it. We are taking massive action and beginning to see positive results. The actions we are taking are the right actions to help us achieve our goals.

When we are standing still or ignorant of our current position in another area, we are either too busy to pay attention to that particular area or we have chosen to selectively ignore it.

When we are creating negative momentum in a specific area, we're pursuing either:
  1. The wrong goals
  2. The right goals with faulty methods
  3. Self-sabotage (consciously or unconsciously)
Most of the "balls" in our lives should be in constant motion and need regular attention. Others can be moved to the sidelines to be moved at a later date. And even more should probably be placed back in the "ball bag" because they're not worth being moved in the first place. They are just taking away are time, energy, and focus on the more important ones.

"It is hard to manage the many forces required to push ideas forward. A ball is round, it rolls, and it is the key to productivity - so keep an eye out for it!" - Scott Belsky of Behance Magazine

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Monday, March 23, 2009

God's Timing on Stuff - the story of Achan

The walls of Jericho crumble as the priest blo...Image via Wikipedia

But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the LORD's anger burned against Israel. (Joshua 7:1)

Back Story: As Joshua and the Israelites entered the Promised the Land, God had commanded them to destroy the city of Jericho, and any spoils of battle were to be devoted to the Lord, much like a "first fruits" type of offering for the first victory in the new land. One of the men, Achan, violated the 10th commandment by coveting a beautiful robe, some silver, and some gold, and he took these things and hid them in his tent. As a result, God became angry for Achan's disobedience and allowed Israel to be defeated at the Battle of Ai. As a result of his disobedience to God, Achan and his family were stoned to death and then their bodies and possessions were burned. Once Achan was punished for his sin, the nation of Israel was victorious in battle once again. Then at this point, God allowed the people to partake of the spoils of war.

Takeaway Lesson: From this story about Achan, we can apply the following key points today:
  1. Offerings are sacred to the Lord. Do not withhold that which He has asked you to give back to Him.

  2. Don't covet stuff that doesn't belong to you.

  3. The cost of disobedience is high!

  4. Obedience, patience, and God's timing will result in wealth. Don't get ahead of His timeline for your life.

  5. God wants you to have some stuff. He wants to bring blessing and fulfillment into your life.

  6. Victory is the result of obedience as well as through honoring the Lord with what is rightfully His.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nothing is lost in God's Economy via Wikipedia

This morning, I read a great little devotional from the book God's Little Devotional Book for Leaders. This is so good, I wanted to share it with you. Here it is:

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. (Luke 16:10)

When Daniel Webster was just beginning his career as a lawyer, he took a case for a fee of $20. The case turned out to be a very difficult one, and in preparing for it, Webster had to make a trip to Boston, which in itself cost more than Webster was going to earn as a fee. He was determined, however, to do a thorough job on the case and win it, which he did. In retrospect, it seemed like a small case, but at the time, it was a big victory.

Years later, a large company approached Webster on short notice, asking him to undertake a case for which they were willing to pay a very handsome fee - in fact, a fee quite stunning at the time. As Webster reviewed the case, he found that it was almost identical to the one he had researched and won nearly twenty years before for the fee of only $20. He took the case, and just as before, the verdict was in favor of his client.

A familiar phrase holds great truth: "Nothing is lost in God's economy." He uses all our efforts that are motivated by goodwill and a generous and faithful heart. Sometimes the reward is immediate. Sometimes it can take a lifetime, but the reward will most definitely come.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Simple Life (part 2) - 11 positive changes

11 positive changes as a result of the down economy. People are living a more simple life by:
  1. thinking about their spending.
  2. spending time on creating a financial plan.
  3. looking for bargains and negotiating.
  4. dumping debt.
  5. saving like never before.
  6. downsizing and no longer seeking how "they can keep up with the Joneses."
  7. seeking sound financial help (such as FPU).
  8. seeking joy and fulfillment through relationships (family and friends) rather than the all mighty dollar and spending.
  9. spending time and energy on what really counts in life.
  10. striving to be the best in their job or business (if you are the best, then your employer can't survive without you; your business will survive and thrive).
  11. becoming more creative in creating additional sources of income.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Simple Life (part 1)

There must be a positive and negative in everything in the universe in order to complete a circuit or circle, without which there would be no activity, no motion - John McDonald

It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed. - Ram Dass

"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." - Henry Ford

For every negative event in our lives, there can be positive aspects to that event given the choices we make going forward.

I truly believe there are some positive aspects to our current economic recession here in the United States, the main one being a return to a more simple life.

According to Wikipedia, Simple living (voluntary simplicity) is a lifestyle characterized by minimizing the 'more-is-better' pursuit of wealth and consumption. Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in 'quality time' for family and friends, stress reduction, personal taste or frugality.

For the last 25 years, we have been essentially riding the tsunami of wealth that was unleashed under President Ronald Reagan. He knew exactly what taxes needed to be cut and what policies needed to be altered or abandoned in order for the entrepreneurial spirit to be reborn in this country.

Unfortunately, since we are all fallen creatures, greed, selfishness, and materialism took over the American mindset and we started buying stuff we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like! The American people did not have a solid financial foundation in order to handle all of this wealth. All of us started making really stupid financial decisions based on the assumption that there would always be good times. We were wrong.

Now that we have a downturn in our economy, the pendulum has swung over to the opposite extreme where people are living frugally, saving cash, dumping debt, and fearful of spending money. Although I believe the majority of these changes have been made out of fear, there have have been positive changes in a return to a more simple financial mindset, which I will address in Part 2 of The Simple Life. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Top Ten Ways People Are Allowing Their Church to Struggle in a Down Economy

10. By living in fear of our current economic situation instead of stepping out by Faith.

9. By being selfish and hording cash.

8. By being in tremendous amounts of debt with little or no margins in their lives.

7. By not being faithful in regular worship attendance.

6. By not using the talents, gifts, and abilities God has given them to build up His Church and His Kingdom.

5. By not stepping up in a leadership role in their area of service within the church.

4. By living a selfish, "me-centered" lifestyle, focused on STUFF.

3. By letting their money control them instead of them being in control of their money.

2. By being disobedient to God by not giving back to Him at least the tithe (10%) of their income.

1. By not giving above the tithe if there is a need and people have the ability to do so.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cash is king in 2009 - mortgages and additional payments

I was recently sitting in my local barber shop talking with my favorite barber, and we were discussing financial issues. My barber and his wife recently went through Financial Peace University and he is close to retirement age.

A few years ago, they built a new house and now they are contemplating refinancing their mortgage given the latest drop in interest rates and paying the mortgage down as quickly as possible. As they discussed their options and plans with their loan officer, he made the following statement to them: "right now, cash is king given the state of the economy."

The loan officer explained his statement by saying that due to the continuing decline in home values, my barber and his wife would be better off saving any additional cash then putting it into a house in a declining market. As we continued talking, I really pondered that statement and I believe this particular loan officer made a correct assessment.

I will admit, this is not a Dave Ramsey/Financial Peace University type of financial strategy and I'm a huge fan of Dave. When Dave put FPU together over the last several years, the housing bubble was growing larger and larger and home values were soaring, so it made a lot of sense to pay off your mortgage as soon as you could. But now, with the economy entering a dramatic recession, home values falling, and unemployment levels rising, I believe there is a lot of truth to this loan officer's line of thinking.

During this time of economic upheaval, having a larger cash reserve/emergency fund is a better financial strategy to get families through these troubling times. Once our nation is able to navigate its way through this recession and home values begin to rise, again, you can always take your additional cash savings, and begin aggressively paying off the house.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Give anyway, even without the tax deduction

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matt. 6:33

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. - 2 Cor. 9:7

In recent days, there have been a few news stories come out of the Obama White House regarding possible changes in our tax code deductions when it comes to charitable donations. This has sent the non-profit/charitable donation world reeling since they have already been hit hard during our current economic struggles. It has been predicted that if a change in the tax law such as this does occur that charitable donations will decrease in a dramatic way.

Why shouldn't they decrease? Our politicians have taught the American people to give primarily to receive a small deduction in their taxes. The government has been in the business of rewarding "good" behavior and punishing "bad" behavior. Now, they are in the process of attempting to collect whatever missing revenue they can possibly get their hands on.

As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, our motives in giving should not be wrapped around a tax deduction. We should give because:
  1. God has commanded that we give.
  2. We love Him.
  3. He gave everything for us - His one and only Son!
  4. We are investing in the Kingdom of God. God's "stock market" only goes up, never down!
  5. We can "take it with us." This temporal world is but a vapor, a fleeting period of time. We need to "send it on ahead" to our eternal home in Heaven.
  6. We demonstrate excellent stewardship or management of God's resources by giving a portion of it back to Him.
  7. We desire our character to be molded into the character of Jesus Christ himself - the ultimate giver!
  8. Giving to our churches is God's vehicle to provide for our church's pastors, ministries, and missionaries.
No matter what our politicians in Washington decide to do regarding charitable giving and the tax code, I am resolved to continue to be a cheerful giver!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stewardship of Influence

“Let your light shine so that others will see the good you do and praise your father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:16

Author and pastor Rick Warren tells us that letting our light shine before others is not merely a suggestion but also a command from God. The Lord expects and requires us to be people of influence because He has equipped us for this task, and we must be obedient and faithful stewards of this gift. More than that, it is through our Spirit-filled influence that those around us become more aware of the reality of the eternal God who has radically influenced our lives. [Source: Generous Giving]

My senior pastor calls this Stewardship of Influence. All of us have a sphere of influence whether it be large or small. We have developed relationships with our own extended families, people inside the church, and people outside the church. Hopefully, we have developed a strong enough relationship with those around us that we can continue to make positive investments.

Here are a few ways in which we can be great stewards of influence:
  1. Speaking positive, affirming words.
  2. Mentoring others.
  3. Loving others through giving away our time, talent, and treasure.
  4. Supporting the events and causes of others (unless there is a moral issue at stake).
  5. Sharing the gospel with friends who are unbelievers.
Do you have any additional ways to be a great steward of influence to add to my list? Feel free to list your thoughts in a comment below.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Take care of your stuff - stewardship of possessions

God has entrusted each and everyone of us with certain material possessions. If we're going to be good managers of all that God has given us, we need to take care of our personal property.

Why should we take care of our stuff?
  1. Because it's ultimately His and not ours. He's just letting us use it for a temporary period of time.
  2. Because it's the wise, intelligent action to take.
  3. Because the possession will last longer (life cycle).
  4. Because it will save us money over time (life cycle).
  5. Because we demonstrate gratefulness and thanksgiving by taking care of it.
Here are some specific examples of the stewardship of possessions:
  1. Keeping your home clean and clutter free.
  2. Keeping up with both small and large home repairs.
  3. Deep cleaning your carpets 1-2 times a year.
  4. Taking care of your furniture and not abusing it.
  5. Keeping your home's HVAC system well maintained.
  6. Keeping your lawn and landscaping manicured.
  7. Keeping clothes clean, mended, folded, or hung on a hanger.
  8. Doing routine maintenance on your vehicles (oil changes, tire rotations, etc).
  9. Keeping your cars clean on the outside and inside.
  10. Keeping your vehicles in a garage if possible (protection against the elements).
This list could go on indefinitely. The key point is to take care of the possessions in your care because they are the Lord's.

Would you like to add to this list of examples of stewardship of possessions? Feel free to leave a comment and share even more ideas.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Leaving money on the table

The phrase "leaving money on the table" first originated from the game of poker. According to, the phrase simply means:

"If you hold a winning hand in poker yet fold your cards due to someone's bluff, the players call it 'leaving money on the table', because you could have won the pot. In other words, had you played your cards right, the ones you already had in your hand, all of the money in the pot would be yours."

Today, the phrase has taken on additional uses and meanings. The Double-Tongued Dictionary defines the phrase as:

"To refrain from taking the utmost advantage of something; to not address every aspect of a situation; in the form leave money on the table, to negotiate a deal that is less financially beneficial than is expected or possible."

Given our current economic climate, I've been thinking about this phrase in the context of the latter definition as related to our household finances. Here's where our family may be leaving money on the table because we have not fully addressed the following:
  1. Tightening up the family budget: I know that our current budget has some categories we could decrease or eliminate all together. We have just gotten sloppy over the years in our monthly budget preparation.
  2. Negotiating better deals with some of our service providers such as cell phone and cable companies.
  3. Selling larger items in our home for cash, such as furniture and electronics which we no longer use.
  4. Donating clothing and other household items to charity for additional tax deductions.
  5. Reducing our energy costs through conservation by turning off lights, keeping our thermostat in check, and driving less whenever possible.
  6. Changing the fund allocations in our 401k/403b due to the continued downward spiral of the stock market.
Where are you leaving money on the table?