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, February 26, 2010

Less is more

One of my favorite bloggers is Seth Godin. Seth is the king of short, witty, thoughtful posts. He seems to be able to cram an extreme literary experience into as few words as possible.

I don't know about you, but I like that. I've always been the type of person that likes to keep words, writing, and conversation quick and straight to the point.

This world needs more conscious thought at the beginning of the process, instead of a barrage of speaking or writing. People have a tendency to "free think" out loud, and it gets them in trouble. Think about it, first, then talk.

Brevity is the soul of wit - Shakespeare

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1:19, NIV).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Taking a stand for something

My favorite superhero has always been Superman. From his earliest inception, he was branded as standing for "truth, justice, and the American way."

You know, we need more people like Superman. People willing to take a stand when others shrink back in fear. People that will take a stand on sound, moral convictions in a society where everything is relative. The world claims there are no absolutes. God says that everything must be measured against His holiness and His Word.

Taking a stand when no one else will can be difficult. It's easier to just keep your mouth shut, roll over, and pretend that everything is OK. Being rich in Christ demands conviction and a response.

In the book 9 Things You Simply Must Do by Dr. Henry Cloud, one of the 9 things that Dr. Cloud believes that we should do is Principle #6: Hate Well. He explains what he means by hating well in this way:

Whether you are going to hate is not an option. You have been created in the image of God to stand up for life and stand against the things that destroy life. So when hurtful things happen, you are going to have a response. It is hardwired into you. Things that you do not like are going to happen, and you are going to experience negative feelings. The question is this: will that response be constructive or destructive?

You can respond in subjective, immature ways and destroy relationships, your career, and people you care about; or you can avoid responding at all and get yourself destroyed in the process, along with your talents, health, and many other things you value.

There is another way, the sixth of the Nine Things you simply must do. You can learn the way of deja vu people, the pattern of hating well. That means that you will be one of those people who objectively choose what they will hate, and you will objectively decide how you will deal with those things when they present themselves. In the process, you will preserve most of the good things in your life, eliminate most of the destructive things, and experience much more success in both love and life.
There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

So, where do you need to take a stand, today? In order to be successful, can you learn to "hate well" in order to preserve the good and repel the destructive?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Busy doesn't always equal important

Many people have a belief that if I'm busy, then what I am busy with must be important.


A lot of the stuff we become entangled in each day is either:
  1. work from someone over us that they deem as important. Unfortunately, many of us get trapped into other people's last minute projects with tight deadlines that cause us to drop what we are doing that could be important to our own workload.
  2. emergencies that are urgent and important. Unfortunately, things happen that cause us to take our attention off of our long-term important actions.
  3. some frivolous communication such as email, phone calls, and social networking. Not all of this, of course, is unimportant, but I do think that we have a tendency to use this as a distraction or a crutch to avoid truly important intellectual labor.
  4. busywork that is neither urgent and important. This could be anything from reading mail, sorting papers, cleaning off your desk, or reorganizing your files. While all of these things need to get done at some point, we all have a tendency to fall back on these tasks while we procrastinate on what truly matters.
Whenever you feel distracted by this style of busy work, stop and reevaluate your priorities during your workday. Take the time to focus on 2 or 3 tasks that really matter to your long-term success in your job, your business, your calling, or your family. Perhaps you need to schedule a lunch with a mentor that can expand your thinking, or attend a conference where you will be inspired to reach greater heights. Maybe you need to spend some valuable time just researching and thinking through a difficult decision you need to make.

Whatever the more important tasks might be, don't settle for just being busy. A hamster on a wheel is really busy, but getting nowhere.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Priming the pump

Have you ever had to prime an old fashioned water pump? You know the kind that has a manual handle? In order to get water out of the well, you have to pour some water into the spout and start pumping like crazy.

Life can be a lot like that old manual water well. For example, if you want to be loved, you must give love. If you want well-behaved, disciplined children, then you must be disciplined yourself and willing to discipline your kids. If you need or desire more money to flow into your life, you need to "prime the pump" and give money away.

This is one of those oxymoron-ish laws of the universe that God has established. From a human standpoint, it makes no sense. How does giving away more of yourself, your life, and your stuff bring more to you? Our human nature tells us to "get all you can, and can all you get!" With this approach, though, you will end up losing everything. Selfishness doesn't work.

Give more of yourself and you will get more, and then plan on giving away even more!

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38, NIV).

So, Christian, let me ask you this. In what area(s) do you need to give more away in order to "prime your pump?"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Worship is the foundation for the rich Christian life

Over the last several days, I have had multiple reminders of what the most important role of the believer is, that of worshiper. In Matthew 22:35-38 we read Jesus' own words in which he quoted Moses from the book of Deuteronomy,

One of them [the Pharisees], an expert in the law, tested him with the question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:35 - 38, NIV).

Loving God with all that we are and all that we have is the foundation of the rich Christian life. In this passage, our worship comes as a command, but in reality it should be our chief passion and highest desire.

When our love for God becomes all consuming, all other aspects of our lives will fall into their proper place. Our love for others, whether it's our families, friends, neighbors, the poor, or even our enemies will become our second highest priority.

If our worship is in line with God's desires, we will also live a generous life. We will understand the joy of giving back to the Lord through our churches and to the poor because we desire to become more like Him. God the Father gave us His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation. The Son willingly gave His life for us in obedience to the will of His Father. The least we can do is give back to Him, because He first gave everything for us.

So, how about you, Christian? How's your worship? Are you spending daily time in the Word and talking to the Lord throughout the day? Are you consistent in your corporate worship each week through your church attendance? Are you giving your time, talent, and money away for the sake of the Kingdom because you love God with everything you've got?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Multiple sources of information can generate creativity

I believe that the most creative, "out of the box" thinkers are information sponges. They are always open to learning from anything and anyone.

They are constantly absorbing information from a variety of sources such as books, blogs, newspapers, seminars, conferences, friends, family, TV, movies, and so on. Not only do they absorb information from different sources, they also focus on a variety of topics. Once they take in this variety of information, they are able to transform the unrelated material into something new and refreshingly original.

The genius of all geniuses, Leonardo Da Vinci, was a big believer that "everything connects." Even though a number of different things may seem totally unrelated, somehow they are all connected to one another. Making these kinds of connections is the number one creative thinking skill.

We can see an example of this in the movie Working Girl. An executive assistant named Tess, who is played by Melanie Griffith, assimilates the following unrelated material: a Forbes article about how Trask Industries is looking to expand into broadcasting, an article in the Post on radio talk show host "Bobby Stein," and a picture of Mr. Trask's daughter helping to organize a charity ball. From these three pieces of information, Tess formulates a plan for Trask Industries to launch out into radio in order to expand into broadcasting.

So, try it for yourself. Take different sources of material from every day life such as a TV commercial, a blog post, and your favorite book. Then see if you can make various connections between these different sources and create something new and unique. Expand your mind to a whole new level.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What ever happened to commitment?

I feel fortunate that I grew up in a consistent, stable home. This is all I've ever known. In fact, my parents are still married after 41 years. I grew up watching my father live out a quiet, consistent, committed life.

He is committed to his marriage. He is committed to his family of 3 crazy sons! He was committed to his job at General Motors for over 40 years (I realize in today's work climate that this is not necessarily a desirable or even possible feat anymore). He is committed to serving his church with his time, talent, and treasure.

Maybe it's just me, but I rarely see this type of commitment anymore. People jump in and out of marriage like they're going steady in high school. People spend less time at home nurturing their families. Christians have a low commitment level to their church. They are giving less of their time, talents, and money, and they jump around from church to church because they want everything "their way."

At least here in America, I think this is merely a reflection of our current culture. If we don't like someone or something, we simply throw it out and move on to something else. We live in a disposable society. Unfortunately, American Christians and the American Church have become a reflection of the society. I believe this saddens God that those that consider themselves Christ followers have not risen above the culture. We of all people should be counter-culture.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2, NIV).

So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment (Joshua 24:14, MSG).

You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom (Matthew 5:10, MSG).

Jesus said, "Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God's works" (John 6:29, MSG).

So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision - you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it (Philippians 3:15, MSG).

As a Christian, are you living a life of commitment? Is your life patterned after the world, or are you bucking the culture? What steps could you take today in the direction of living out a more committed lifestyle?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

God, the magic genie

I think it's really easy for us to approach God in prayer with a "God the Magic Genie" mentality. We come to the Lord with a major problem in which we need His help. We've lost our job. We have marital problems. We're suffering from a severe illness. We're deeply in debt. So, we pray for deliverance from our difficulty. We come before God with a "rub the magic lamp" attitude so to speak, expecting our wish, our desire to be granted.

I believe in prayer and have confidence that God answers prayer. Unfortunately, His ultimate answer doesn't always line up with our desires. From my own personal experience, I've been praying for a miracle in my own family and nothing appears to be happening but impending disaster. For 10 months, I've prayed for God through the Holy Spirit to move in someone's heart and mind, and there is no change. There is no movement toward repair.

And so the questions come: God, why isn't this person willing to change? Why isn't this person convicted of sin and your perfect will? Am I the problem? Am I the solution? Do you have a different, better plan that I can't see, yet? Are you allowing this difficulty to shape me into a stronger follower of Christ? Why do I feel stuck in limbo right now? What can I do that I'm not doing?

Right now, I have no answers, only questions, but what do you do while you wait on the Lord?
  1. Pray with an attitude of "Your will be done in this situation."
  2. Ask the Lord for wisdom. Desire the mind of Christ in your decision-making process.
  3. Focus on spiritual growth in your own life.
  4. Seek out Bible-based counseling.
  5. Talk to friends in whom you can trust their advice.
  6. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can't do.
  7. Be patient. Be still and know that He is God.
  8. Always do right things, even if others aren't.
Are you currently locked in prayer with the Lord, seeking an answer from Him on a major problem in your life? How are you handling the situation while you wait for an answer?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sacrifices cost something

During a workshop this weekend, I was reminded that sacrifices should cost us something, otherwise it's not really a sacrifice by definition.

But the king [David] replied to Araunah, "No I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them (2 Samuel 24:24).

Wictionary defines the word sacrifice in this way: to give away something valuable to get at least a possibility to gain something else of value, or to avoid an even greater loss.

Accomplishing God's plan for your life will contain many sacrifices, such as:
  • Giving your talents and abilities to your church costs you time and energy.
  • Tithing to your church costs you financially.
  • Getting out of debt costs you time, energy, and patience.
  • Building a family that pleases God costs time, energy, and finances.
  • Investing in the advancement of others costs time, energy, and finances.
Even though we may be making a number of different sacrifices in order to accomplish His will, we can expect rewards as a result of these regular sacrifices such as:
  • Joy and satisfaction from using our gifts for God's glory.
  • Joy and satisfaction from investing monetarily into God's Kingdom.
  • Freedom from debt.
  • A family that loves the Lord and one another.
  • Strong friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime.
What sacrifices have you made that cost you much at the front end, but have reaped many rewards at the end?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Learn from the mistakes of ignorant rich people

We've all seen these people and heard their stories. Extremely rich, successful people who have done all the wrong things with money and eventually lost everything they have.

If you want to eventually lose everything you have, follow the path of most of our movie and sports stars by doing the following:
  1. Have a lack of integrity.
  2. Buy lots of brand new luxury cars.
  3. Buy lots of bling.
  4. Buy a massively expensive house and then throw in a few expensive vacation homes all over the world.
  5. Eat at the finest restaurants.
  6. Party all the time.
  7. Gamble away your money.
  8. Travel the world on a regular basis.
  9. Follow the investment advice of your other unintelligent, rich friends.
  10. Invest in risky business ventures.
  11. Go deeply into debt in order to finance a lifestyle.
Do all wealthy Hollywood stars do these things? Of course not. Some understand that they will make most of their money in a very brief amount of time. They spend wisely, save regularly, and invest intelligently. Do they purchase some expensive items like cars and homes along the way? Sure they do, but the intelligent wealthy have a systematic plan in place so that when their stardom fades, they won't be destitute.

What sport figures or media stars do you think of that have acted ignorantly and foolishly with their money?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How I bought my "newer" car on Craigslist in 4 hours

In my last post, I blogged on the recent sale of my beater Jeep this past weekend, and I thought this post would be a good follow up, even though I purchased my newer car before I sold my old one.

I am now the proud, debt-free owner of a 2000 Suzuki Grand Vitara.

On New Year's Eve 2009, I got the "itch" to replace my car. I'm not sure exactly why, other than I had some time on my hands to search for a vehicle, and I had about $3,500 cash saved to buy my next car. I believe I was ready to find my next car because I have needed to get something a little newer and more reliable than my 1995 Jeep.

So, here was my process in getting ready on New Year's Eve to buy my newer car:
  1. Bank Withdrawal. I went down to my bank and withdrew $3,500 in preparation to pay all cash and negotiate the purchase as necessary
  2. Search for sales. I went on Craigslist and searched for specific vehicles. I was mosly interested in a small, 4-wheel drive vehicle, capable of handling a very snowy winter.
  3. Research. Once I found a couple of vehicles I was interested in purchasing, I did some web research on price, dependability, and customer satisfaction.
  4. Phone call. I picked the best choice on my short list, and called a small auto dealer in downtown Kansas City. I spoke with the owner and arranged to test drive the car within the hour.
  5. Test drive. I test drove the vehicle, kicked the tires, and checked out the engine. Everything seemed to be in order, so I negotiated a slightly lower price and the owner accepted.
  6. Details. I then signed all the paperwork (title and bill of sale), paid all cash, and drove away.
I feel blessed that I was able to purchase a car for the first time free and clear. I know a lot people (especially men) place much of their identity into their cars and go deeply in debt to keep up an image. For me, a car is just a car. Yes, I would like it to be in good shape and have certain features, but a car to me is mostly a means to get from point A to point B. I just need to get their safely and reliably. I don't need to prove my manhood or portray a financial status. Being debt free is more important to me than all of these other things.

Have you ever purchased a used vehicle on Craigslist, and what was your experience? Were you able to get a good car at a good price? Did you pay cash and negotiate the final price?

Monday, February 1, 2010

How I sold my used car on Craigslist with 4 hours of work

I finally sold the beater!

This past Saturday, I finally sold my beater. It's been a long time coming, but I finally saved enough cash for a better used car a few weeks ago. Then, with about 4 hours of work, I was able to get my 15 year-old Jeep Grand Cherokee cleaned up and sold over the weekend.

A recent blog post on my beater

This past summer, I wrote a guest post on the blog entitled When should you replace your old car? In the post, I mentioned the numerous, expensive repairs I had made to my Jeep in 2009 and the decision I was facing on whether or not to keep the vehicle. I decided to keep it going for the short-term and then save money like crazy to buy a "newer," more dependable vehicle. During the fall and early winter, I was able to accomplish this goal. I'll write about this purchase in my next post.

The 4 hour process for selling my beater

OK, so I had a newer car and I needed to get rid of the Jeep. I spent about four weeks debating what I should do with it. I considered giving it away to charity, because I really wasn't sure how much life was left in the car. In the end, though, I opted for a quick sale on Craigslist in order get some cash out of the vehicle. Here was my process and timeline for selling the vehicle.
  1. 20 Minutes - I took the Jeep over to our local drive-thru car wash, and purchased the most expensive wash they had in order to make the exterior look as good as possible.
  2. 60 Minutes - I spent an hour cleaning up the interior. I cleaned the inside glass with spray cleaner, cleaned the dash and instrument panel, threw away all trash, and vacuumed out the car. The interior of the vehicle had issues, but I attempted to make it as clean as I could for a quick sale.
  3. 10 Minutes - I went to and purchased a car fax report in order to offer it in the sale of the vehicle.
  4. 10 Minutes - I took 4 medium resolution, digital pictures and downloaded them to my computer. If you want to sell anything fast on Craigslist, you have to take good pictures! I'm not sure about you, but when I search for items for purchase, I skip all the ads that don't have any pictures of the item advertised.
  5. 60 Minutes - I set up my Craigslist's account and wrote a killer ad in order to get my Jeep off my property as well as included my digital pictures. Here's a copy of my ad. I used the Dave Ramsey beater reference as my "hook" for a fast sale: The Dave Ramsey Beater | 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee

    Do you need a beater to get you through while you're digging out of debt? You can have mine! I just paid cash for my next car and moved up to something better. I have it priced low to sell fast. I'd like it out of my garage.

    Here are the details:
    1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x4, V8
    Black with grey interior
    215,000 miles
    AM/FM Radio
    A/C - working

    Recent repairs and work include: newer battery, newer tires, new plugs and wires, new 4-wheel drive transfer case w/warranty, new valve spring, and new headliner. I've tried to take care of this vehicle and running well.

    With the 4-wheel drive, it's been running great in these recent snow storms.

    It's a 15-year-old car with 215,000 miles so it has issues, but I don't think you'll find a better car at this price. Come check it out.

    I have old repair receipts and a CarFax report for you to look over. The first person with $900 CASH walks away with the Jeep.

    Contact Larry at (816) xxx-xxxx
  6. 80 Minutes - I posted my article to Craigslist, and within 3 minutes, I received my first caller. He was at my house within 30 minutes. Then he spent some time looking over the car and test-driving the vehicle. He made an offer of $750 and I took it because I just wanted the vehicle out of my garage. We filled out the paperwork and he drove it away. Not bad for an afternoon of work!
If you want to get rid of a used car that's in pretty decent shape, Craigslist is definitely the way to go. In fact, after accepting my first phone call, I ended up receiving about 8-10 phone messages shortly after of people extremely interested. Before my buyer even arrived, I went ahead and deleted my posting because I didn't want to be receiving and returning phone calls for the remainder of the afternoon!

Do you have a story about selling a car on Craigslist? How fast was the process for you? Was your experience as quick as mine?