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)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Positive Role Models|5 Great Men of the Bible

Role Models Defined

The term role model is defined as a person who serves as an example, whose behavior is emulated by others [Source: Wiktionary]. All of us have people that we look up to, people that we respect and admire. We attempt to pattern certain elements of their lives and look to them as positive examples to follow.

Role models don't necessarily have to be those that are currently living. We can look back through history and learn from a number of great men and women from the past.

Biblical role models

The Bible contains a number of great, positive role models from whom we as Christians can learn. Their lives can serve as an example of how we should pattern our relationship with God.

Here's a list of my current Top 5 Men of the Bible that I admire and look to as role models:
  1. Enoch - The Biblical account of Enoch is extremely brief, but what it does say is extremely powerful. In the space of four verses in Genesis 5:18-21, we learn that Enoch was born and that he walked with God. At age 365, God decided to take him home to be with Him. Wow! That's powerful and convicting. I desire that kind of relationship with God. I have a lot of work to do. Correction: God has a lot of work to do in me!
  2. Moses - Moses was a man of privilege. He grew up in Pharaoh's household and probably could have done just about anything he desired. God called him to a greater purpose, and Moses answered the call. God had a unique, special relationship with him. The Bible states that God would speak with Moses "as a man speaks with his friend." Believers in Jesus Christ can have that same kind of friendship with "a friend who sticks closer than a brother." I am thankful to be a friend of God.
  3. David - David was called a man after God's own heart. What a testimony. David was not a perfect person and failed God in a big way on three separate occasions, but his heartbeat was to worship God and do His will. I pray that I can have that same heartbeat of worship and obedience.
  4. Job - God considered him worthy to endure severe testing. Once Job passed through the trials, He prospered Job twice as much as before the trials. I want that kind of faith and intestinal fortitude. Job was one tough dude.
  5. Daniel - On two separate occasions, angels appeared to Daniel and called him "highly esteemed" (Daniel 9 and 10). He was greatly respected by God, as well as the various leaders for whom he served in the Babylonian and Medo-Persian Empires. When Daniel prayed, God listened to his prayers. Daniel understood the importance of strong character. I desire the character of Daniel.
Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I [Apostle Paul] became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church (I Corinthians 4:15-17).

A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent. - Niccolo Machiavelli

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Take a financial health day!

This video contains the following:

Joking Around

A few weeks ago, a buddy and I were joking around about taking "mental health days" at his workplace. He was telling me about how he will regularly take these days off from work when he's stressed or overly tired in order to recharge his physical batteries.

I had the thought that it would be great if people would take a regular financial health day one or two times a year, in order to take care of those annoying financial details in life that seem to pile up that we never make the time to follow through on. Over time, we also encounter financial creep in our spending plans that needs a good trimming on a regular basis.

Set Goals

Before you take your day to work on your finances, be sure to establish a couple of major goals that you would like to accomplish on your financial health day.
The goals I was trying to accomplish on my Financial Health Day were:
  1. Saving Money
  2. Organization and Peace of Mind
Having a couple of important goals will motivate you to accomplish all of your financial tasks.

Determine What You Need to Accomplish

This is essentially building a "task list" of all the activities you need to get through in order to have a successful Financial Health Day. Perhaps you need to:
  1. Meet with an attorney to draft a will, living trust, etc.
  2. Close some bank accounts; open new accounts.
  3. Make financial-related phone calls.
  4. Apply for life insurance.
  5. Purchase a fireproof safe.
  6. Open a safe deposit box.
  7. Balance your check book.
  8. Work on your cash flow plan.
  9. Cancel some services you no longer use.
  10. Apply for a Roth IRA.
My Financial Health Day

During my recent financial health day, I was mainly focused on the following tasks:
  1. Ending auto-drafts on two services that I no longer use.
  2. Moving auto-drafts for insurance policies from one bank account to another. This involved a number of phone calls, faxes, and emails so this activity took the majority of my day.
  3. Preparing to close out two bank accounts that are costing me money over the long term.
  4. Changing cell phone plan to save me some cash.
  5. Setting up auto-drafts from my new checking account to online savings account in order to automate monthly savings.
  6. Sorting out old receipts to my files and shredding those I no longer needed.
In a work period of about 6 hours, I was able to accomplish these tasks and save approximately $600/year in financial creep that had built up in my cash flow plan.

Mission Accomplished! I'm planning on taking an additional day in the very near future to save even more money and fine-tune my financial plan.

Have you ever taken a financial health day and what were your results?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rule #1 - Don't lose money!

Rule #1 explained

High-powered investors such as Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffet, and Phil Town have all invested using one primary rule - don't lose money! You can read more about Rule #1 investing in Phil Town's book.

What if we took the Rule #1 of investing and applied it to our everyday handling of money?

All of us experience regular creep in our monthly budgets. I define creep as money drains that come on gradually and almost unnoticed. It's a good idea to review your budgetary expenses a few times a year to identify areas of financial creep.

Check for financial drains such as:
  1. Bank accounts. Many of the big, national banks charge ridiculous monthly fees. Call them and get them to waive these fees or change to a local bank that doesn't have fees. Use online savings accounts such as an HSBC Direct or ING Direct Orange Savings that pay higher interest rates than traditional brick and mortar banks.
  2. Auto-drafts. Are you still paying automatically for services that you no longer use? Time to dump them and save yourself some cash flow.
  3. Cable and internet. Cable companies are notorious for using creep to their advantage by gradually raising their rates every 6-12 months. Call your cable company and demand a better rate.
  4. Telephone. Do you really use your landline anymore, or are you primarily just using your cell phone? If you're not using the landline very much, kill it.
  5. Cell phones. Are you paying too much on your current plan and need to alter it? Really study your phone usage and available minute plans. You can probably switch to a better money-saving plan.
  6. Utilities. Do you monitor your natural gas, electricity, and water consumption on a regular basis? Study your monthly bills and experiment with lowering your usage. "Go green" to save some cash!
Being an excellent manager of God's resources means that you have to stop occasionally and pay attention to what is happening with the money He has blessed you with.

In what ways are you experiencing financial creep and losing money in your budget?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The god of Materialism | Modern day Idolatry

Old Testament Idolatry

Christians often study the Old Testament nations of Israel and Judah, decrying the rampant idolatry that led to their exile. God repeatedly warned both nations that if they would not repent of their sin and return to a pure worship of the one true God, that he would punish them by sending them into exile. God was true to His word, and punished His people for their sin. Through their exile, especially that of the nation of Judah, God successfully drove idolatry out of their religious practice.

"So I will put an end to lewdness in the land, that all women may take warning and not imitate you. You will suffer the penalty for your lewdness and bear the consequences of your sins of idolatry. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD." (Ezekiel 23:48-49)

Modern Day Idolatry

Although modern day Christians do not struggle with bowing down to graven images, we do struggle with materialism. Materialism has become the major idol of our time.

Idolatry is defined as the worship of idols or the admiration of somebody or something (Source: Wiktionary).

Materialism is defined as the constant concern over material possessions and wealth; a great or excessive regard for worldly concerns (Source: Wiktionary).

In a consumer driven society, American Christians are bombarded daily with advertising that touts the need to purchase the latest and greatest homes, cars, clothing, fine dining, and electronic gadgets. Marketing professionals have become experts at turning wants into needs. Christians have allowed themselves to be conformed to the world's money philosophy instead of seeking out God's wisdom of money management.

How do we overcome the god of materialism in the Christian life?
  1. Recognize that our financial thinking has been conformed to the world's financial philosophy (Romans 12:1-2).
  2. Seek out Bible studies on Biblical money management. Crown Financial has a number of great small group studies to consider.
  3. Confess our sin and ask for God's wisdom on His philosophy of money management.
  4. Shift our priorities from gathering wealth and stuff to investing in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).
  5. Tithe. God wants us to give 10% of our income to not only further His Kingdom, but also so that we will recognize that He owns it all. Without His provision, we would have nothing.
  6. Give above the tithe. This is where true materialism begins to fade as we yield our grip on money.
  7. Seek out ways to give back to the poor.
  8. Sell some of your stuff. Tithe off your proceeds.
  9. Give away some of your stuff.
  10. Practice random acts of generous giving.

How do you battle materialism in your own life?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Get the job done!

Successful people in life are go-getters. They get the job done with laser-like focus and intensity. They will do whatever it takes to accomplish the task that has been given to them.

They do their homework. They formulate a plan. They do the research. They make the phone calls and send out the emails. They get second and even third opinions from other people. They get up early and stay up late. They stay on task and on schedule. They go above and beyond what has been asked or required of them. They execute and take action. They are proactive. They are people of character.

The results: job completed, mission accomplished, bottom line increased, excellence achieved, increased profit, business strengthened, job promotion, commission earned, new customers, and happy bosses.

In your work, focus on getting the job done no matter what. Be a person of character.

It is the duty of men to judge men only by their actions. Our faculties furnish us with no means of arriving at the motive, the character, the secret self. We call the tree good from its fruits, and the man, from his works. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands. (Isaiah 32:8)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why American Christians should care about the policies of President Obama

A Recent Debate

This weekend, I ended up in a friendly debate thread on Facebook with a pastor friend of mine regarding a Twitter/Facebook update he posted which read as follows:

Hey Christian, Repub. doesn't = Christian, & Obama isn't trying 2 brainwash your kid. You live in a democracy; he won; he's your president.

I'm assuming my pastor buddy was making a reference to the recent political outrage over President Obama's planned address to students across the United States on Tuesday, September 8. If the President only discusses the importance of education for school aged children, that's not a problem with me. I think this is a noble, positive endeavor. We will find out more about his true intentions when he gives the actual speech.

While I don't have any concerns about my own daughters being brainwashed on Tuesday, I do have larger concerns about the potentially disastrous results that his policies could bring upon our nation, especially in terms of fiscal responsibility and stability. In the course of this post, I will spend the majority of my time focused on the financial/stewardship aspects of the President's policies since that is the primary thrust of this blog.

Political Background

I agree with my friend that the Republican Party does not equal Christian. Neither party has a lock on moral, religious issues. There are Christians as well as deeply religious people in both parties. Also, members of both political parties have their moral failings. We are all sinful creatures in a fallen world as a result of the curse of sin back in the Garden of Eden. As a student of history, though, I would make these general statements about the two parties:
  1. Both parties have various factions. The Republican Party has fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, neoconservatives, religious right, moderates, and liberals. The Democrat Party has liberals, moderates, conservatives, libertarians, and ethnic minorities.
  2. Party affiliation does not necessarily make you a liberal or conservative. Not all Republicans are conservative. Not all Democrats are liberal.
  3. In each party, one faction tends to establish the primary message. In the Republican Party, the fiscal and social conservatives by and large set the party platform. In the Democrat Party, the liberal wing calls the shots.
  4. The conservative movement and the Christian Right within the Republican Party have aligned themselves with upholding a code of morality that has been inherent since the founding of our nation. Conservatives hold that the founding fathers were guided by natural, moral law (such as the Ten Commandments) and wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Federalists Papers with natural, moral law as our nation's foundation. [Please Note: those who claim the name of Christ should have a universal standard - the truth of God's Word. The Bible.]
  5. The liberal wing of the Democrat Party has aligned themselves as moral relativists. Moral relativists hold that no universal standard exists by which to access an ethical proposition's truth. Many would claim that the Democrat Party has lost it's moral compass on what is truly right and wrong. As the self-proclaimed progressive party, their leadership has decided that they will be the champions for abortion, gay rights, and other highly controversial moral issues.
  6. Regarding economic policy, liberals tend to have a "Feed a man a fish and you feed him for a day" mentality. Liberals define compassion as starting government programs that give away money, services, and assistance in order to help people. These programs tend to grow into large, bureaucratic agencies that are not scalable. The poor remain poor because they continue to be dependent on the assistance of the federal government. While helping people is a noble cause, many disagree with the effectiveness of the liberal approach.
  7. Regarding economic policy, fiscal conservatives tend to have a "Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" mentality. Conservatives define compassion as helping people reach their full potential as employees, business owners, and contributing members of society.
  8. President Obama is a liberal Democrat. It is not a big secret that President Obama is of the extreme liberal wing of the Democrat party. Since Senator Barack Obama was a relative new comer to the national scene for the 2008 Presidential race, he did not have as extensive a record as others such as Senator John McCain. Mr. Obama was able to position himself as moderate, but in reality, he has strong ties to the liberal faction of the party as well as a voting record, books, and speeches that paint a clearer picture of what he truly believes.
  9. The pop culture media does have a moral and political bias. Most print journalism such as newspapers and magazines, the TV networks, and Hollywood movie culture have all done a superb job of promulgating moral relativism into the mainstream of American culture. They paint conservatives as uncompassionate, greedy, hate-filled, racist, sexist people that care only about earning their next buck. Liberals get a free pass on their agenda of consolidating more power into the central federal government, all in the name of compassion.
Why American Christians should care

Since the inauguration on January 20, 2009, the Obama Administration has demonstrated that they do not fully understand sound financial policy. They have been throwing away good money after bad with a stimulus package, bank and insurance company bailouts, as well as auto company bailouts. They are currently pushing the "Cap and Trade" and national healthcare policies through Congress that will cost trillions of dollars, as well as increase yearly budget deficits and the overall national debt. These policies, if passed, will cause Americans to have to pay more in utility services and taxes. Our take home pay will continue to shrink, leaving Christians with less money in order to fulfill the following Scriptural mandates:

If you are passionate about being a good steward of all God has blessed you with, this is why you as a Christ follower should care about the Obama Administration's policy plans that they are currently pursuing:
  1. God has called Christians to be good stewards of His money (read the Parable of the Talents). Most Americans pay taxes, including American Christians, and every year our tax responsibility seems to be growing larger. The government continues to grow larger and larger, requiring more tax money from its citizens. This leads to less money for Christians to manage and spend in a way that is pleasing to God. Also, continually increasing the debt load on our nation is bad stewardship and does not fix the real issues. Throwing money at problems is not a good long term solution for people's personal finances or our nation's economy. American Christians have been given a trust, and we have been called to prove ourselves faithful with that trust (1 Corinthians 4:2).
  2. God has also called Christians to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's." When Christ made this statement to religious leaders in Matthew 22:15-22, he was speaking to the subject of paying taxes to the Roman government. The everyday man that lived under Roman oppression had no voice, no say, in his taxation. The beauty of the American form of government is that WE CAN HAVE A VOICE in the amount of taxes we pay to the federal government. We can attend a protest rally. We can call, write, and email our senators and representatives. We can debate the issues through outlets such as talk radio, blogs, and forums. We can exert the power of Stewardship of Influence. Some Christians would argue that the American people have voted, the America we once knew is over, the world is getting worse, the end times are near, so we shouldn't be concerned with what is happening in our country. While I agree that we should anticipate the coming of our Lord, this doesn't mean we don't give up our civic and moral responsibilities as American citizens and Christians. Read Matthew 24:45-51 for Christ's take on our servant/stewardship role as we await His return. Also note, that even the Apostle Paul used the rights he had under his Roman citizenship for his own personal, political, and gospel-spreading advantage in Acts 25-26.
  3. God has called the church to help the poor and needy, not the government. The federal government has co-opted the church's role in helping others, and unfortunately, the church has allowed it to happen. Over the last several years, the American church has become a country club instead of a hospital. Now is the time for the church to reassume its role in helping others who are in need. We need to take this issue back from liberals and the federal government. Rise up, O American Church, and fulfill the calling of God in this important area.

In closing, I want to make it perfectly clear that I don't have an axe to grind with President Obama. That is not the intent of this post. My only intention is to point out the perceived flaws in his domestic economic policies that, if implemented, will impact the ability of American Christians to be the best managers of what God has provided for us.

With the recent downturn in our economy in 2008-2009, we see increasing numbers of churches, charities, and non-profits struggling to stay afloat as the average American Christian has less money to give away and still have the ability to provide for his family. The other side of this statement is that most Christians do not truly follow the giving model as outlined in Scripture because they have made materialism their god, but that is a blog post for another day.

President Obama is an articulate, intelligent man who ran a great political race and was voted in as President. He has a beautiful family and, from outside observation, seems to be an extremely devoted husband and father. I praise him for his demonstration of strong family values. I give him the honor and respect he is due as articulated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:6-7. In the American form of government, though, we can still respect our government authorities, yet voice our disagreement with administration and congressional policies that will ultimately be harmful to the American way of life.

In the end, though, I acknowledge that God is is in control. His ways are not our ways. He may have allowed President Obama to be elected President to cause further economic turmoil for greater purposes. We may never ultimately know this side of Heaven. Once we reach Heaven, we won't even care!

I will pray for my President. I will pray that my President will seek out and execute wisdom, not for the purposes of strengthening the position of a cause or political party, but for what is ultimately best for the American way of life - freedom. Freedom is the foundation on which our government rests, and I fear that too many of our freedoms are slowly being taken away from us in the name of personal security.

Do you care about the government policies that are currently being debated and why?

Friday, September 4, 2009

A time for action!

The path to success is to take massive, determined action. - Anthony Robbins

I the LORD have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back... (Ezekiel 24:14a)

At some point, you must take massive action for something to change about your life, your work, your ministry, or your business.

You have:
  • had patience.
  • done your homework.
  • prayed it down.
  • asked God for wisdom and guidance.
  • a plan in place.
  • made all the right connections.
  • waited too long on other people.
You have procrastinated long enough! It's time to pull the trigger and see what happens.

What massive action do you need to take today to get you closer to God's Big Idea for your life?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Giving up for ministry

Have you ever had to give up anything to "go up higher" in your ministry and for God's Big Idea for your life? I'm not just talking to those of us in professional ministry, either. There are plenty of lay people that have sacrificed much for the cause of Christ.

Ezekiel was an Old Testament prophet who gave up a lot, especially his own personal dignity in order to minster to the Jews he was called to serve.

Ezekiel had to:
  • serve with the Jewish exiles in a foreign land (Ezekiel 1:1).
  • minister to bull-headed, stubborn people (Ezekiel 3:4-11).
  • be confined to his home and tied up with ropes (Ezekiel 3:24-27).
  • lie on his left side for 390 days and on his right side for 40 days, while he was tied up - I'm guessing he had severe back problems! (Ezekiel 4:4-8).
  • cook his food over cow poop - Yummy! (Ezekiel 4:9-17).
  • shave his head and beard with a sword - Ouch! (Ezekiel 5:1).
  • pack his belongings, carry them on his shoulders, and dig through a city wall (Ezekiel 12:3-7).
  • eat and drink while he shuddered in fear (Ezekiel 12:17-20).
  • witness the death of his wife, the "delight of his eyes" (God took her home early), and he was not to mourn for her (Ezekiel 24:15-24).
Hey, when was the last time you had to cook your food over poop or lie on your side tied up for 430 days? The next time your having a pity party for yourself over how much you've given up in order to serve God, just think of Ezekiel, and then count your blessings!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV).