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)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lowering expectations in order to meet your goals

Lowered Expectations Comedy Skit

I was recently reminded of a humorous reoccurring skit that ran on Mad TV in the late 1990s called Lowered Expectations. You can see a clip of the sketch in the video below. Funny stuff.

Author Tim Ferriss lowers expectations on writing goals

I was reminded of this comedy sketch when I viewed a video post over at The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss. In Tim's post, he mentions that one of his goals in 2010 was to finish writing his next book in the next 5 weeks. In order to accomplish this, he needed to write so many words or so many pages per day. He then said that what many authors or "creatives" do is set themselves up for failure by establishing an unreachable quota or goal such as "1500 good words per day."

Tim then told a story about the IBM sales force. For many years, this group of salespeople was the best of the best in the tech sales industry. Interestingly enough, though, these sales professionals had the lowest quotas in the industry. How could this be? Most of your sales gurus and self-help types would say that you need to set high goals and high standards in order to become the best. Apparently for the IBM sales team, they found that lowering their quotas helped take the pressure off themselves, and they were able to move on to their next sales call and easily work through rejection.

Similarly, Tim said that he was lowering his expectations on his daily writing goals and he would be satisfied with "2 crappy pages" or approximately 700 words of writing each day. In the video post, he mentions that he often will write more than this, but if he can at the very least write 2 bad pages a day, then he would be satisfied. This works because it takes the pressure off of yourself; you are able to get unstuck and moving ahead toward accomplishing your goals.

Real Life Application

How can the Rich Christian apply this principle of lowering expectations in their own personal goals? Try these three ideas out:
  1. Daily Quiet Time. Let's say you have always had difficulty keeping a daily quiet time and for 2010, you have already set yourself up for failure by creating, for example, a huge goal of at least 60 minutes of Bible reading and prayer, every day. For some people, they are disciplined enough to accomplish this, but let's say that you have never been very disciplined in this area of spiritual growth. Lower that goal down to 15 minutes a day for 4 days a week. Chances are that you will end up meeting and surpassing this lowered expectation. Once you can reach this lower goal at a consistent level, then set a new goal of maybe 20 minutes a day for 5 days a week, and so on.
  2. Giving. You know that you should be giving at least a tithe of your income to your local church, but you have never been able to reach that goal. Lower that expectation down so that you are giving something. Try 3% or 5% just to get moving in this area of investing in God's Kingdom. As you meet or surpass this lowered expectation, then slowly move up 1% every few months until you can get yourself to the level of the tithe. Financial planners use this technique all the time to get their clients moving forward with their retirement planning and it works.
  3. Personal Finances. Let's say you've never been very consistent with saving money for an emergency fund. You've had goals in the past of saving $500 to $1,000 a month but have failed miserably. Lower that expectation down to just $100 a month and automate the process by setting up an online savings account, having that small amount auto-drafted from your checking account. As you are able to meet this lower goal consistently, then bump that number up to $200 and so on.
OK, so in the world of dating, you may not want to lower your expectations to just date anything with a pulse, but as you work through the various steps in accomplishing your major goals, don't seek perfection at each step. Rather, pursue consistent action and an attitude of "this is good enough for right now." As you gain consistency in your lowered expectations, a strange thing happens - you are able to accomplish so much more. I would encourage you to just getting moving, today!

So, in what areas do you need to lower some of your expectations in order to just get moving on your goals? Have you ever lowered your expectations in goal-setting and what were your results?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

10 Money Mindsets and Attitudes

As I have learned more and more about money over the years, it has been interesting to observe the various attitudes people have about money. People become so entrenched in a particular money mindset and they don't even realize it. They grew up observing and adopting a certain attitude from their parents, and they become unwilling to open their mind to a different and perhaps much better financial mindset.

This is not an exhaustive, scientific, nor complete list of money mindsets, but rather some I have observed over the years:
  1. Ignorant. People with this type of mindset are simply unknowledgeable about money. Their parents and teachers never gave them a solid, basic knowledge about how money works. They are clueless about basic, fundamental principles of money management. They seem blissfully unaware of their lack of financial intelligence.
  2. Apathetic. People with this mindset simply don't care about money. Unlike the ignorant group, they may know money fundamentals, the problem is that they just don't care. They enjoy the benefits of what money can do for them, but typically don't spend time proactively planning what their money will accomplish.
  3. Materialistic. People with this mindset love stuff. They have "stuffitis." They love and appreciate all that money, credit, and debt can buy them. They are always greedy for more. They have to have the latest and greatest no matter the cost.
  4. Lack. People with this mindset simply feel that they never have enough. They approach life with the view that the glass is half-empty. They are discontent.
  5. Hoarding. This mindset naturally flows out of the lack mindset. Because these people don't feel like they never have enough, they have a tendency to stockpile money and assets.
  6. Obsessive. People with this mindset are obsessed about money - how much they are spending, how much they are saving, how much their investments are growing. They have a one track mind.
  7. Cheap. People that have a cheap mindset have to get the lowest price on everything. They generally don't concern themselves with the quality of the product, they just want the lowest price no matter what. These people think short term, what something will cost them today, not down the road. Have you ever noticed, too, that cheap people are the worst tippers in the world? [Not so subliminal note: Hey, Christians. Why is it that waiters and waitresses hate working on Sundays for the after church crowd? Christians should be known for their generosity, not their cheapness!].
  8. Frugal. Many confuse frugal with cheap, but they're not the same mindset. People who are frugal care about the value of things. They want a deal, and desire to get the lowest price on an item, but they are willing to spend money on what they truly care about. Frugal people think long term. [NOTE: I highly recommend visiting Ramit Sethi's blog I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and read his post on Cheap verses frugal. It's a great comparison/contrast post.]
  9. Abundance. People with an abundance mindset are content people. They feel blessed by the abundance that God has provided for them or that He will provide for them at a future date. They're the glass half-full people.
  10. Biblical. People that have a Biblical money mindset truly understand that they are simply managers of God's money and assets. It is not their stuff to begin with. Everything belongs to God. They seek God's Word as the ultimate authority in their financial decision making process.
I believe people can have a combination of some of these financial mindsets. For example, a person who has a mindset of lack, could also be a hoarder. Or, someone who has a Biblical financial mindset, also has an abundance mindset but is very frugal in their spending, and so on.

So, where do you fall on this scale of ten different financial mindsets? What is the financial mindset that you adopted as a child from your family and friends? Have you been proactive in changing your financial mindset? If so, how are you attempting to change it? What new mindset are you trying to adopt?

Monday, January 25, 2010

What makes the Rich Christian blog different from other Christian personal finance blogs?

Over the last several months, the Rich Christian blog has picked up a number of new, steady readers, and I believe this is a good time to explain what my blog is all about.

In a sea of personal finance blogs and many really good Christian ones, what makes my blog different from the others?

Personal finance is an important part of everyone's life, but there is so much more to a rich, fulfilling Christian life than just good, Biblical money management. Although I believe that our relationship with money reveals much about our walk with the Lord, the Rich Christian, Poor Christian Blog addresses whole life stewardship, not just money alone.

I do not claim that the following is a complete or exhaustive list, but I believe there are 7 investments that believers who are rich in Christ participate in. This list is based on the study of God's Word, personal observation of other Christians, as well as my own personal experiences.

Here are the 7 investments:
  1. Investment #1 - Invest in Your Relationship with God (Worship)
  2. Investment #2 - Invest in God's Kingdom (Generosity)
  3. Investment #3 - Invest in Relationships (People)
  4. Investment #4 - Invest in Focused Thinking (Yourself)
  5. Investment #5 - Invest in Financial Education (Money)
  6. Investment #6 - Invest in Productivity (Action)
  7. Investment #7 - Invest in Winning (Attitude)
Each blog post is designed to address a part of one of these seven investments.

So over the next several weeks and months ahead, join me on a journey as we continue to explore these investments and what the rich Christian life is all about.

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 Timothy 6:17-18).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Getting wisdom and using discernment

Gaining wisdom can be mostly a positive pursuit, but it must be accompanied by discernment.

Wisdom (def.) = The ability to make a decision based on the combination of knowledge, experience, and intuitive understanding [Source:].

Discernment (def.) = Discretion in judging objectively [Source:].

In Genesis 3:6a, we read the following story how sin came into the world through one bad decision by Eve:

When the woman [Eve] saw that the fruit of the tree [Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil] was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it...

You can gain wisdom through pure knowledge. You can also gain wisdom through experience. In the garden, Adam and Eve gained wisdom the hard way - through the experience of eating the forbidden fruit. Then, they had to suffer the consequences of this new found wisdom. If they had been discerning, though, and had objectively judged the decision of gaining that wisdom, they may not have been disobedient to God's command.

The wisest man ever to live, King Solomon, actually pursued folly and pleasure, in order to gain more wisdom. The entire book of Ecclesiastes is an account of Solomon's observations in this pursuit of wisdom.

Unfortunately, some people cannot seem to learn from other people's mistakes. They need to make their own set of major mistakes in order to gain wisdom. Since we are all birthed in sin from Adam and Eve's decision in the garden, we will all make poor choices in our lives. The key, though, is to learn from these poor choices and bad experiences, and then gain knowledge and wisdom through it. As you gain more and more wisdom, then you must employ discernment in the process of future decision-making.

So Christian, let me ask you the following 4 questions:
  1. What major mistakes have you made in your life?
  2. Have you allowed these bad experiences to grow you?
  3. Have you gained wisdom through the process?
  4. Are you wrapping discernment around your current decision-making process?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Equipped to do God's Will | Spiritual Gifts Inventory

Rich Christians have been or will be equipped by God Himself to accomplish His will for their lives here on earth.

May the God of peace... equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ... (Hebrews 13:20-21, NIV).

Even before we became believers, God gave us natural talents and abilities that we were either born with or learned within the context of our environment. Perhaps you have a natural ability in the area of music. Or maybe even as a young child, you were gifted in working with your hands and you found that you like to build things.

I believe that God gives us natural talents, abilities developed in our environment, as well as God-given spiritual gifts He wants us to utilize for Kingdom purposes in the scope of His Big Idea for our lives.

If you are uncertain of what God's Big Idea is for your life, I would encourage you to do the following. First, carve out some quiet time for some self-examination. Then, grab a pen and legal pad and start listing all of your passions, natural talents, abilities, and so on. Third, take a spiritual gifts inventory. If you have never taken a spiritual gifts inventory, there are a number of them available online. I just did a quick Google search, and came up with the following short list of possibilities:
  1. - Gifted 2 Serve
  2. On-line Spiritual Gifts Test
  3. Free Spiritual Gifts Analysis
  5. First Baptist Huntsville
Invest the time and energy in uncovering where God has gifted you and then get busy doing the work God has gifted you to do.

So Christian, let me ask the following questions this morning?
  1. Are you keenly aware of your natural talents?
  2. Do you know what your natural strengths and abilities are?
  3. Have you ever taken a spiritual gifts inventory?
  4. What are your burning passions in life where you could make an impact for the Kingdom?
  5. Are you passionately pursuing work and/or ministry that fulfills God's Big Idea for your life?

Monday, January 18, 2010

How I Paid Off Over $25,000 Of Debt In 18 Months

In my last post on Giving While Getting Out of Debt, I had mentioned that with God's help, our family paid off over $25,000 of consumer debt in 18 months.

Since this statement seemed to spark some interest over the weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to review the step-by-step process that I took to get out of debt between October 2005 - June 2007.

Here are the 6 steps that I walked through in getting out of debt:

  1. Inspiration. Before starting any great task, you need inspiration. For me it came in the form of a book called Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey. After I read Dave's book, I then got turned on to his radio program. Every time I heard someone call in to shout, "WE'RE DEBT FREE!" I became more and more determined that my family could do what all these people had done. I knew I could be just as weird as all of these people that were calling in!
  2. Determination. Having all the inspiration in the world will not get you out of debt. You have to make that final, determined decision that you are not going back to poor financial management. You will accept no other choices other than freedom from debt. Dave calls this gazelle intensity. We became determined to get out of our $25,000 of consumer debt as quickly as possible.
  3. Separation. The road to debt freedom began with a painful separation - the sale of our house. Once we made the decision to get out of debt, the biggest asset we had with some available cash to pay down half the debt was our home. For me, it was the best decision we made in the process. Not only were we able to pay off half of our debt with the equity in our house, but we also saved a little money each month by making slightly cheeper rent payments verses mortgage payments. Home ownership also has a way of draining your available cash-flow when you constantly have to make regular, routine repairs. I praise God that He gave us the direction to sell our house back in the fall of 2005 before the housing market went all to pieces!
  4. Perspiration. Next, came all the hard work - keeping a regular monthly budget, cash envelope system, extra jobs, and making accelerated debt payments to get out of debt as fast as possible. On June 15, 2007, I mailed in our final payment to the bank on a personal loan.
  5. Celebration. We did it! With God's help and plain old hard work, we were able to accomplish what all these other Dave Ramsey fans were able to do. We attained financial peace!
  6. Continuation. Being debt free is a never-ending process. It takes vigilance and persistence. Once you get out of debt, it's really easy to fall back into it if you get sloppy with your finances, again, or worse yet, get "stuffitis!" You have to maintain the disciplined work (budget, cash envelope system, etc.) that helped get you out of debt in the first place. The great news is that this disciplined work gets easier over time. The majority of my bills are now automated, and I probably spend about 45 - 60 minutes on the monthly budget. To me, this is time well spent to stay debt free.
Have you become debt free or are you in the process of becoming debt free? What inspired you to pursue a debt free lifestyle? What has been the hardest part of getting out of debt?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Giving While Getting Out of Debt

I was reading a Christian personal finance book this morning and I ran across a section of the book that addressed the question of whether or not you should give while you are working through the process of getting out of debt.

This author's assessment was non-committal on what you should give while getting out of debt. He encouraged Christians trying to get out of debt to pray about their giving and attempt to give something while paying off their debt.

Speaking from my own experience of getting out of debt and still giving, Here is my own personal, committed opinion based on God's Word:
  1. God's baseline standard of giving begins at the level of 10%. I should give at least at this level while paying off my debts. This may require some extreme changes in my lifestyle spending in order to accomplish what God's Word requires.
  2. God has a way of blessing the 90% that is remaining if I am obedient with His tithe. I'll probably get out of debt faster if I remain in obedience to His Word. Obedience brings blessing.
  3. My own personal financial ignorance and bad decision making is not a good enough excuse not to give.
  4. An emergency on my part does not constitute an emergency on God's part or my church.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You would expect a stewardship pastor to make these statements. Again, speaking from my own personal experience, I was able to give above the level of the tithe and still get out of $25,000 in consumer debt in 18 months. Was it hard? You bet! Did it require some extreme changes in lifestyle? Most definitely!

I don't make these statements to brag on myself, but to brag on God and what He was able to accomplish through me as I was obedient to Him. Test Him and see what He is able to accomplish through you as you tithe and get out of debt at the same time!

"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me." But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse - the whole nation of you - because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the Lord Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the Lord Almighty (Malachi 3:8-12).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tough Love and Relationships

Many Christians have a misconception about love. We hear a theology in many of our churches that we just need to love everybody, believers and non-believers alike, and always remember that the Bible says "judge not, lest you be judged!" Christians have bought into a lie by believing the following concept: if you really love me, than you will not question what is going on in my life right now. My private life is just that - private. Accept me as I am. I know that I'm a believer in Christ. I'm OK; you're OK.

The difficulty with this belief system is that there is no scriptural foundation for it. In fact, when Jesus Himself would meet with people and heal people, He would often close out His encounter with individuals with a statement such as, "go, and sin no more." He loved people unconditionally, but He always called them out on their sin, forgave their sin, and encouraged them to stop sinning. Also, throughout the New Testament Epistles, the leaders of the early church never taught this type of theology. In fact, the opposite has always been taught: if you, Christian, truly love someone and see that person in sin, then you will go to your Christian brother or sister, with witnesses if necessary, and call them out on their sin. Spiritually strong Christians are called to gently but firmly lead wayward believers back into fellowship within the church.

Unfortunately, though, immature Christians become offended by this approach. Nevermind that they are living in sin; they don't want to hear that. They want love, peace, and acceptance at any price. Because of their immaturity and lack of knowledge of the Scriptures, though, they don't understand that they need to turn from their sin and be restored into fellowship.

At times, true Christian love is tough love. Rich Christians recognize the importance of strong relationships, but not to the point of looking the other way when a brother or sister is in willful disobedience to God's Word. The strongest, healthiest relationships are oftentimes forged from periods of tough love and restoration.

So, Christian, let me ask you these 3 questions, today:
  1. Is your heart tender to the loving discipline, the tough love of other believers when you are in sin?
  2. Have you ever looked the other way when you have known Christian bothers and sisters living in open sin?
  3. Have you ever engaged in proper church discipline of a wayward believer and what were your results?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Millions from Heaven | Estate Giving

Pennies From Heaven was a popular song in 1936 sung by the great Bing Crosby at the height of the Great Depression. The moral of the song is that even through the difficult storms of life that we can find small blessings, pennies from Heaven. Even in today’s economic climate, though, thinking in pennies is small thinking! Millions upon millions of dollars are available to fund the vision of God’s Kingdom, even through the worst tragedy that we can experience here on earth – death.

One of the major components of a healthy financial plan is an estate plan. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want my assets to end up in probate court with the state deciding who gets God’s assets that He has entrusted into my care. I also don’t want the state and federal governments to get a large percentage of God’s assets through estate taxes, especially when His money could have gone to better use through a faith-based institution such as my church. God wants all of us to be wise money managers while we are here on earth and even after we’ve gone on to be with Him in eternity!

So, let me ask you the following questions:

  1. Do you currently have an up-to-date will, living trust, and other life documents firmly in place for your family in the case of your untimely demise?
  2. Do these documents reflect excellent money management on your part, with the avoidance of probate court, unnecessary estate taxes, and so on?
  3. Have you set up your legal documents to pay a good percentage of your assets to your church and other charities in order to further God's Kingdom once you have gone on to be with the Lord?

Make one of your financial goals in 2010 to review your estate plan and include giving a percentage portion to your church and others in order to further God's Kingdom here on earth. Be an awesome steward of God's financial blessing in your life.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rich Christians think in eternal terms

Believers who are rich in Christ have an eternal outlook on life. They have a big picture view that their life here on earth is temporary. They understand that life is so extremely short and that our existence in the flesh is just a training ground for our eternal life to come.

Hebrews 10:34-37 reads, You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.

In the great "Faith Hall of Fame" chapter of Hebrews 11, the writer of Hebrews reminded his readers that All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth... Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-14, 16).

Rich Christians think long-term. They can look ahead to the reward they will receive in the Heavenly Kingdom. From Moses (Hebrews 11:23-28) to even Jesus Himself (Hebrews 12:1-3), these endured great loss and suffering for a greater inheritance in Heaven.

So, Christian, let me ask you this. Are you consumed with the temporal or with the eternal? Are you passionately working out your faith in this world in order to receive an everlasting reward in God's Kingdom?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Downsizing for the future

Downsizing: a word that strikes fear into many. People don't like to do this and pay for it with debt and cash flow problems. Businesses delay in their performing of it and suffer long-term growth.

Moving up is always much more enjoyable than moving down. I mean, come on. Who wants to sell their nice, newer vehicle and get a beater in order to get out of debt? Or, who wants to sell their home and move into a small apartment in order to get their family into a better financial position?

Downsizing can be a good thing, though. A lot of waste and expenses can be shed when people and business get smart and downsize out of sheer necessity. If you can take the long-term view that your downsizing is a short-term solution to get you in a better financial position for the future, you will have the motivation to make massive changes.

I'm currently undergoing some massive life changes where I'm working through this issue myself. I'm not doing this because of debt or financial problems. I've been debt free for over two and a half years now, but I want to simplify my life and put more margin into my finances to build a stronger foundation for the future.

Is it fun? No. Is it hard work to get rid of a lot of stuff and prepare for a move? Yes, at least in the short run. But, I have the incentive to perform these difficult actions for a brighter, more prosperous future.

Have you ever gone through downsizing in your personal life or business, and did you have a positive outcome as a result of your action?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Encourage one another

I have a challenge for you today. I want you to ask yourself the following question everyday this week:

How can I be an encouragement to a fellow believer, today?

Hebrews 10:24-25 reads, And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

People and relationships are vitally important in the life of the believer while we serve the Lord here on earth. Our relationships can make the journey a lot less lonely and bring us much encouragement as we walk our Christian life in faith, together.

Try out these ideas as you encourage other believers this week:
  1. send them a text message.
  2. take them out to lunch and pay for it!
  3. call them on the phone.
  4. send them a tweet or Facebook message.
  5. be "old-fashioned" and write them an encouraging note and dropping it in the mail.
  6. pray for them and let them know that you have done so.
  7. give them some Biblical, Godly wisdom.
  8. sit next to them in church, Bible Study, or small group.
  9. give them a meaningful, inexpensive gift.
Hey, just get creative and encourage your network of close, Christian friends. Stimulate and drive your Christian "Who" to greater heights in this new year!

Who in your life needs an encouraging touch from you, today?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Crushing it in 2010

Happy New Year!

I love new beginnings. A new year brings fresh opportunities to start over, to get refocused on what is important in life, to live out God's will in an even greater way.

Like probably many of you in the Rich Christian audience, I'm glad to see the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010. This past year, I have encountered extreme challenges in my own life. I never again want to experience the hurt and heartache that I have had to endure, but I praise God that He has helped me through it. One day, I hope to be able to blog in greater detail the struggles that I have been through. For now, I rest in the hope of our Lord for a better and brighter future that He has prepared for me. As the old saying goes, when life serves you lemons, make lemonade, and I plan on making some even sweeter lemonade in this new year!

I recently started reading a great book entitled Crush It! Why Now Is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk. Although this book is mainly focused on personal brand building and crushing it in the business world, I believe the premise of the book is a good one: using difficult times as an opportunity to really go for it.

2009 was a difficult year and 2010 may not be much better. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, use the difficulty to your advantage. Plan on "crushing it" this year!

How do you plan on "crushing it" in 2010?