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, May 31, 2010

Stewardship life experiment #1 | Consulting God first in my finances


If you grew up in church, you have probably heard a statement similar to this before: God speaks to us through His Word. We speak to God through prayer. We receive promptings and confirmations through the Holy Spirit who dwells in the life of every believer. In the Church Age, this is how we as believers communicate with God and He with us.

In this post, I want to pose a "radical" question and idea for my blog audience to give careful consideration. What if we as believers prayed and studied God's Word regarding how He wants us to give, save, and spend the money that He has entrusted to our management?

An example of consulting the Lord

In 2 Samuel 2:1-4 we read this account of David before he became king:
In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord, "Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?" he asked. The Lord said, "Go up." David asked, "Where shall I go?" "To Hebron," the Lord answered. So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. Then the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.
King Saul was now dead. David knew that he was to be the next king of Israel, because he had been anointed by Samuel several years earlier. Most likely, David could have very easily pulled together enough troops from the Israel army to force his way into the kingship over all Israel. Because David was a man after God's own heart and walked with Him, he decided to take a different approach. He went directly to the Lord and essentially asked, "OK, Lord. What's the next step in becoming king of Israel?" God answered his question through a 7 year process in which he became the king of Judah, first, and then eventually the remaining tribes anointed him king over the entire nation of Israel.

The experiment

So, what if we consulted God on our regular day to day financial decisions much like David consulted God on the next steps in securing the kingship. Beginning today and for the rest of this week, I am embarking on an experiment in financial stewardship. On each day, I will consult God on how he wants me to handle the money He has entrusted to me. I will conduct the experiment in the following process:
  1. I will pray each morning during my quiet time for wisdom and guidance in my personal finances. I will pray for special favor from the Lord in purchases that sort of run on "autopilot." Things like purchasing gas for my car, utility costs (electricity, water, etc.), groceries, and so on. I will also pray in faith for God's blessing in giving me additional financial resources for some large expenditures I have looming on the horizon as well as an extremely large faith gift that I believe the Lord wants me to give to my church in addition to my regular weekly tithes and offerings.
  2. I will pray for God's favor in additional cash flow opportunities in business.
  3. I will set up regular schedule reminders in Microsoft Outlook that also sync up with my cell phone, reminding to pray throughout the day for ongoing financial wisdom and blessing.
  4. I will place a card in my wallet and a tag on my key ring as ongoing additional reminders to ask the Lord for contentment, wisdom, favor, and blessing.
  5. I will collect all purchase receipts and bank statements during the week and attempt to compare the week's activity to previous weeks in my personal finances.
  6. I will report my results in a follow-up post next week.

In closing, I'm excited to venture out on this experiment this week! If you have ever done anything similar to this, I would invite you to share your story with a comment below. If you would like to join me in the experiment, let me know with a comment and then follow-up with me next week. I'm walking out in faith that God is going to do some amazing things.

Friday, May 28, 2010

There's only one you

As you seek out God's direction for your life, it's easy to look at the lives of other strong Christians and emulate what they are doing. While it is good to learn and be mentored by the lives of others, God has created all of us in a unique way. He has given each of us our own unique talents, skills, passions, resources, and life experiences. We need to let God take our own uniqueness and allow Him to lead us down the life path He has created for us to travel.

In his book Crazy Love, Pastor Francis Chan states the same principle in this manner:

A Nike commercial ran years ago, featuring the first-draft pick into the NBA, Harold Miner. In the commercial, he said something like, "Some people ask if I'm going to be the next Magic Johnson, the next Larry Bird, or the next Michael Jordan. I tell them, I'm going to be the first Harold Miner." He ended up having a miserable career in the NBA, but it was still a cool commercial. And his point - to be yourself - was valid.

Oswald Chambers writes, "Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you." To that I would add, "Be careful not to turn others' lives into the mold for your own." Allow God to be as creative with you as He is with each of us.

Have you ever said, "I was made for this moment"? Do you believe you were crafted for specific good works, things that God knew before you even existed? Or do you compare your life to others and lament what you have been given?...

... Imagine if you opened up a drawer in your kitchen and found twenty cheese graters but no other utensils. Not very helpful when you're looking for something to eat your soup with. Just as there are different utensils in the kitchen that serve diverse functions, God has created unique people to accomplish a variety of purposes throughout the world.

That is why I cannot say in this book, "Everyone is supposed to be a missionary" or "You need to sell your car and start taking public transportation." What I can say is that you must learn to listen to and obey God, especially in a society where it's easy and expected to do what is most comfortable.
So, as you live out your life this day, celebrate your own uniqueness as a child of God. Learn from the lives of other believers, but be sensitive and obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit in what He has called you to do. There's only one you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The flow of money

The nature of money

When it comes to money, the term currency is defined as:
  1. a continual passing from hand to hand, as of a medium of exchange; circulation
  2. the money in circulation in any country; often, specifically, paper money
Money naturally has a flow to it. It moves from one institution to another. It flows from one person to another. In order for a country, bank, charity, church, company, or family to be healthy financially, money needs to flow both in and out.

Flow problems

Problems arise, however, when money ceases to flow. When a country tightens down on the money supply, when banks don't lend as freely as they once did, when people stuff money under mattresses, everybody suffers. Companies receive less revenue leading to a slow down in production which leads to layoffs. People out of work have less money to purchase goods and services. Governments receive less tax revenue. The entire process becomes a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break out of.

Live life with an "open hand"

In Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey uses the analogy of the closed fist when it comes to the flow of money. When we hold our money with a tight fist, nothing can go out. Our money may be protected, but unfortunately, no new money can flow back into our hand. Our financial situation will be healthier if we will live life with an open hand. If we would just get beyond the hoarding, the "can all I get" mentality, and live a life of generosity.

Not only will our finances be healthier if we live life with an open hand, but also our personal and spiritual lives will be healthier. Have you ever noticed that those who are stingy and hoard what God has given them are just not very pleasant to be around? Conversely, have you noticed that those who live a generous life are pleasant, healthy individuals? The flow of money in and out of our lives is the key to a healthy, joyful, prosperous life.
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Proverbs 11:24-25).
So, how's your money flowing during these uncertain economic times? Are you living life with an open hand or a closed fist?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Avoiding action while trying to discern God's will

Many believers avoid action when it comes to God's will for their lives. They believe that they need to have some sort of super-spiritual event where the sky opens up and they hear the "God-voice" telling them what they should do with their lives. Or, they need to hear a really powerful sermon one Sunday morning and go running down the aisle in tears, feeling a call to the deepest parts of Africa.

Has that happened, could that happen? Sure, but 99% of the time, God's will is not revealed in that manner. God's will is primarily revealed through Scripture. We do His will by being obedient to God's Word. It's really more about following God's will in the small things and being obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit in the bigger things as you move forward.

In Francis Chan's book Crazy Love, Pastor Chan addresses the issue of God's will and inaction in this manner:

Most of us use "I'm waiting for God to reveal His calling on my life" as a means of avoiding action. Did you hear God calling you to sit in front of the television yesterday? Or to go on your last vacation? Or exercise this morning? Probably not, but you still did it. The point isn't that vacations or exercise are wrong, but that we are quick to rationalize our entertainment and priorities yet are slow to commit to serving God.

A friend of mine was speaking recently. Afterward a guy came up and told him, "I would go serve God as a missionary overseas, but, honestly, if I went right now it would only be out of obedience." My friend's response was "Yes, and...?"

Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:5). Jesus did not say, "If you love me you will obey me when you feel called or good about doing so..." If we love, then we obey. Period. This sort of matter-of-fact obedience is part of what it means to live a life of faith (Pg. 169).
Stop waiting around. You know what you need to do, so go out and do it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Being all there | Focus

I'm not sure about you, but I struggle at times with my focus. I get to work and I'm thinking about something at home. I get home and I'm thinking about a project I need to do for work. I'm watching my daughters playing outside and I'm trying to get some blogging done on my laptop. These are examples of distracted, scattered thinking.

I recently ran across a great quote from Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary to the Auca Indians:
Wherever You Are, Be All There
This is definitely easier said than done and I would in no way consider myself an expert, but may I suggest a few thoughts:
  1. When you are at work, focus intensely on accomplishing 2-3 projects or tasks that are vitally important to what you do. At the end of the day, make a list of the next 2-3 projects that you need to accomplish the following day. Leave your short list on your desk and then walk away.
  2. On the drive home from work, use that time to decompress and purge your mind from the day's work.
  3. When you arrive home, focus on your family. Invest quality and quantity time with them. Play outside with your kids. Converse with your spouse.
  4. While at home, minimize distractions wherever possible - cellphones, voicemail, and email.
  5. Avoid working at home whenever possible. When you do need to work at home, try to establish set times that least interfere with the family schedule.
You're not going to be the most effective in your work if you allow personal distractions to steal your focus, and you won't give your family your best time at home if you are distracted with work. Wherever you are, be all there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Profiles in Generosity | Rick Warren


Rick Warren is a pastor who not only preaches a life of generosity, but he lives it as well. When he and his wife Kay got married over 30 years ago, they started tithing. Every year, they made a commitment to increase that amount by half a percent, a percent, or more. Over the years, they gradually built up their giving to over 30% of their income.

God's Blessing

The Warrens were practicing obedience to God's direction in their giving, and then suddenly in the mid-2000s, they became multi-millionaires after his book The Purpose-Driven Life became a national bestseller. Rick credits the success of his book to being a "God thing." He believes God blessed this book because of he and Kay's faithfulness in giving and that God wanted to take them to a new level of stewardship in their finances.

Stewardship of Affluence

So now, the Warrens were faced with an interesting new challenge. They had millions of dollars. What should they do with all of this wealth? Buy a Hummer? Increase their standard of living? No. He and his wife decided they would not let prosperity change them. Instead, they made five concrete decisions regarding God's financial blessing.

The 5 Decisions of Rick and Kay Warren
  1. They would not alter their lifestyle one bit. They would not buy a new home. They would not purchase a vacation home. They wouldn't buy a Hummer, boat, or jet ski. They would keep their life exactly the same as it had been.
  2. He would stop taking a salary from Saddleback Church. He now served as senior pastor for free.
  3. He added up the salary from Saddleback for 25 years of ministry and paid it all back! Pastor Rick wanted to be above reproach so that he could tell the media that he worked for free and did not get rich from serving at a mega-church.
  4. They set up three different foundations to help the poor and needy in the world.
  5. They became reverse tithers. God brought them to the place in their lives where they were able to give away 90% and live on 10%.
About Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, currently the eighth-largest church in the United States. He is also an author of many Christian books, including The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life, which has sold over 30 million copies, making Pastor Warren a New York Times bestselling author.

[Note: the source of the information for this profile came from Rick Warren's testimony for Generous Giving]

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pride | A Sin God Hates

Pride often follows success

As you make investments in yourself and your life purpose, personal growth will occur. As you grow and mature, advancement and success often follows. At this point in time, there is a great danger for the sin of pride to creep into your life.

The prophet Hosea addressed this issue with the Israelites. He reminded the nation of Israel of the sin of pride when their forefathers left Egypt and travelled in the desert to the promised land.
I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me (Hosea 13:5-6).
What God thinks about pride

God hates pride. In fact, in Scripture it is often placed in a list with other sins that God detests.
To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech (Proverbs 8:13).
The Apostle Paul mentions to Timothy that the sin of pride would be a hallmark of Godlessness in the last days.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good... (2 Timothy 3:1-3).
Pride often carried serious consequences

Throughout Scripture, we have numerous examples of the consequences of the sin of pride. Here are two examples:


Sin entered into the universe through the pride of the highest angel that God had created - Lucifer. We read his story in Ezekiel 28.
You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings (vs. 14-17).
King Uzziah

God had blessed King Uzziah of Judah. He had achieved some great military victories. He had great wealth. He had military strength with many soldiers and machines of war. He had the respect of the nations around him, but then he became gripped by pride. We read Uzziah's story in 2 Chronicles 26:
But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the LORD followed him in. They confronted him and said, "It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the LORD God." Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD's temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead... King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house - leprous, and excluded from the temple of the LORD. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land (vs. 16-19, 21).

The remedy for pride
  1. Reliance on the Lord (Psalm 131). In this psalm, King David said that he was not proud because his hope was in God.
  2. Embrace humility. Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor (Proverbs 18:12).
  3. When you recognize the sin of pride in your life, repent immediately. In 2 Chronicles 32:24-26, we read of King Hezekiah's own battle with pride. Once this was made known to him, he repented to the Lord.
Do you struggle with pride in your own life? What are you doing to combat this destructive sin?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Everything Is the Lord's

In 1 Chronicles 29, we read the story of King David's preparation for building the temple in Jerusalem. Although God told David that he would not be the one to oversee its construction, he would allow him to do all the planning and preparation for his son Solomon. Then, once Solomon became king, the construction could begin without delay.

A part of that initial preparation was to collect offerings and gifts that would go toward the temple's construction. David himself gave size-able gifts of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and precious stones. He also asked all the leadership of the nation of Israel to give of their wealth in order provide for the temple's construction. The leaders gave willingly and generously to the work of the Lord.

In response to the Israelites' generosity, King David prayed a beautiful prayer (vs. 10-13):
David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, "Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
Note the following from David's prayer:
  1. He began with adoration. He acknowledged that God is eternal, great, powerful, and majestic.
  2. He acknowledged that everything belongs to God.
  3. He acknowledged that any wealth, honor, strength, and power that men have comes from God.
  4. He completed his prayer with thanksgiving and praise.
King David and the leaders of Israel were able to give willingly and generously to the work of the Lord because they acknowledged that everything belongs to Him in the first place, and that everything they owned was a gift from God. Once you acknowledge this, it's easy to give away God's stuff!

Do you have difficulty acknowledging God's ownership of what He has blessed you with? Do you give begrudgingly or rather with an attitude of gratitude?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Profiles in Generosity | Ed Owens


I recently heard a presentation from a Generous Giving conference by Ed Owens regarding how much money he and his family should be giving. For many years, they have struggled with how much money they should be giving since God had blessed them with millions of dollars in wealth.

You can read Ed Owen's testimony in it's entirety on the Generous Giving website here.

Which question is the right one to ask?

For many years, Ed Owens and his family struggled with the question "How much should we give?" As God blessed them with more and more wealth, they would continue to increase their percentage giving upward to 50%, but they were still living quite lavishly on the other half.

Through the teaching of both John Piper and Randy Alcorn, Ed came to the realization that he and his family had been asking the wrong question. Instead of asking "how much should we give," the better question to ask in his situation is "how much do we keep? This is the right question.

Lifestyle Changes

Once they started asking this question, they made the following changes with the money God had blessed them with:
  1. They put a governor on their spending and net worth. They capped their income at $500,000 and resolved to cap their net worth at about $8 million. Everything else they would give away.
  2. They decided to give $2 million of their savings away as a sacrifice to the Lord.
  3. They decided to sell their $3 million house and move into a more modest/middle class home.
  4. They decided to sell a couple of their expensive luxury cars and to donate some of that money to famine relief in Africa.
  5. Ed and his wife put their two daughters on a budget so that they would learn how to manage money.
In his testimony, Ed is the first to admit that these changes were just the beginning steps as his family continues to wrestle with the question on how much they should keep. For them, it will be a continuing process of seeking the Lord's direction on what His will is concerning the money He has blessed them with.

About Ed Owens

Ed Owens is the founder of Samaritan Asset Management Services is Chicago. He shared this testimony at the annual Generous Giving Conference in Pasadena, California, February 28 - March 2, 2003.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why I've stopped being concerned about becoming a millionaire

Undergoing Changes

Over the last year, God has been moving in my life through a difficult situation. My heart, attitude, and mind is in the process of making some major adjustments. He is changing me through people, circumstances, books, His Word, and the Holy Spirit.

Early Money Perspectives

I first started learning about God's perspective on money management over six years ago through the Word, Crown Financial, and Dave Ramsey. During this time period, becoming debt free and having financial life margins was my primary goal. Once that goal was achieved, I assumed that the next worthy goal would be to pursue at least a million dollar net worth by doing right things with the money God has entrusted to me. In today's economic climate, you have to be concerned about your retirement so you're not eating Alpo when you turn 65, right? If you're truly a winner in your personal finances, then you go after this great achievement, correct?

Stuff Happens

When I first started this blog, I thought by and large that I had personal finances and life in general all figured out. I believed through this blog that I could pass on some wisdom that I have learned in the last several years, and then "life happened." Life threw me a couple of unexpected curve balls, and now my life will be forever altered as a result. My response: uh, Lord, this wasn't the plan. Why is this happening to me?

Perspectives Change

So now, I really don't concern myself as much about the future, at least my earthly future. Do I think about it? Do I try to do some prudent planning? Of course I do, but it doesn't really consume my thoughts as maybe it once did. When you're traveling down the highway of life and the wheels suddenly just fly off your car, it makes you stop and reevaluate what's truly important. My conclusion: pursue God's Kingdom no matter what.

So, what does the life of a believer look like who is pursuing God's Kingdom. I don't know that I have all the answers, but this is what I'm learning in my own journey as I wrestle with this question:
  1. God is God. I'm not. I must take on the attitude of Job, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name the Lord."
  2. An intimate relationship with God takes priority over everything else.
  3. Our mission in life should be building God's Kingdom. Invest your time, talent, and treasure with reckless abandon.
  4. Pursue right actions even though other people are not. We will all be held accountable for our actions here on earth.
  5. Maintain an attitude of generosity. There's something about giving back to God and others that uplifts your spirit and takes the focus off your own problems.
  6. Use sound Biblical wisdom in your personal finances, and when you are faced with financial difficulties, remember that God has promised to take care of our needs (Luke 12:6-8).
  7. Fix what you can fix; leave the rest in God's hands.
Obtaining a million dollar net worth is an awesome goal, but in light of eternity, is it really that important? The money God has blessed you with will bring greater blessing by investing it into eternity.

How about you? Are you more concerned with God's Kingdom or your net worth?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Either you're rich in Christ, or not in Christ at all

I've made a mistake.

In the process of writing this blog over the last 18 months, I've come to the conclusion that I've misnamed my blog. I no longer think that it's even really possible to be a poor Christian. I would then be acknowledging that you can be poor in Christ which I certainly do not believe! You're either a rich Christian or you're not a believer. There's no middle ground.

Francis Chan addresses this very issue in his book, Crazy Love, but instead of using my language of "poor Christian," he calls this type of person "lukewarm." In fact, he devoted a whole chapter to this particular topic entitled "Profile of the Lukewarm." Here's an excerpt from that chapter:
... When the seed is spread among the thorns, it is received but soon suffocated by life's worries, riches, and pleasures. But when the seed is sown in good soil, it grows, takes root, and produces fruit.

My caution to you is this: Do not assume you are good soil.

I think most American churchgoers are the soil that chokes the seed because of all the thorns. Thorns are anything that distracts us from God. When we want God and a bunch of other stuff, then that means we have thorns in our soil. A relationship with God simply cannot grow when money, sins, activities, favorite sports teams, addictions, or commitments are piled on top of it.

Most of us have too much in our lives. As David Goetz writes, "Too much of the good life ends up being toxic, deforming us spiritually." A lot of things are good by themselves, but all of it together keeps us from living healthy, fruitful lives for God.

I will say it again: Do not assume you are good soil.

Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God's kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world?

From Chan's writings, we can gather from his interpretation of Scripture that his conclusion is that either you are a Christian or you're an unbeliever that wants just a little bit of Jesus in your life. But there's no middle ground. You're all in or you're all out. You're rich in Christ or you're just plain flat broke!

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

So, where are you at, today? Does your life appear to be more in line with the "profile of the lukewarm" or are you rich in Christ? Are you all in or are you all out?