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)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Moving from good to great | Rinse your cottage cheese (part 2)

In Part 1, I wrote on the origin of the "rinse your cottage cheese" factor as described by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. In this post, I will investigate the application of this principle of self-discipline for everyday life.

Galatians 5:22-23 states, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Self-discipline is all about self-control and should be a leading hallmark of a life led by the Holy Spirit. Self-discipline is necessary for every aspect of our lives from:
  1. Personal worship and spiritual growth. Discipline is necessary if we're going to grow in our relationship with Christ. Commitment to the study of God's Word and prayer each day. Active fellowship and involvement in a local church. Regular giving of our time, talent, and money. We must be disciplined and structured if these activities are going to occur on an ongoing basis. These activities are referred to as the Christian disciplines for a reason.
  2. Relationships with others. Just as a strong relationship with God doesn't happen without self-discipline, so to our relationships with others cannot be deep and meaningful without purposeful discipline. Time with spouses, children, friends, business relationships, mentors, and mentees must be scheduled, planned, and organized. If we don't plan the time, it's not going to happen.
  3. Mission. Fulfilling God's mission for our lives won't happen by accident, either. With God's direction, plus study, preparation, and action, we should pursue a plan that falls in line with His will for our lives.
  4. Finances. Our personal finances will be a complete mess if we don't employ priorities, structure, and planning to the money God has blessed us with. We must have some type of "reserve" or emergency fund so that we don't rely on debt to help us in difficult times. We should strive to be debt free. We should have a monthly cashflow (budget) plan in place. We should put systems in place to pay our bills on time, and so on.
Characteristics of self-disciplined people:
  1. Organized. Disciplined people are generally well-ordered and tidy with their offices and homes. This is not to say that everything is white-glove clean all the time. A certain amount of mess is inevitable, especially if you have children and a busy schedule! In general though, you should be organized enough so that you know where your wallet, keys, phone, cash, files, and important documents are, so that when you need them, you can find them.
  2. Planners. As a general rule, disciplined people plan ahead. They don't forget things. They arrive to appointments on time. They pay their bills on time. They keep a schedule or calendar. They write things down so that they won't forget.
  3. Achievers. Disciplined people can develop a plan, execute that plan, and accomplish that plan in a timely manner. They don't procrastinate and wait until the last minute to tackle a project. They pace themselves over time in order to meet goals with a deadline. They do what they say they will do. They follow through on their commitments to themselves and to others.
  4. Balanced. Disciplined people understand that life-balance is important. They aren't consumed with their work to the point that they neglect themselves, their families, or other important relationships. They also understand the need for regular rest, recreation, exercise, proper nutrition, and so on.
  5. They prioritize. Disciplined Christians understand that they must prioritize their lives. They know that their relationship with God must come first, followed by their family and friends, then their calling in life. When they have a large project in front of them, they understand how to break down the various project tasks and employ a prioritized order to those tasks.
  6. Singleness of mind. People with singleness of mind have a vision, a purpose to their life. They don't jump from one goal to another. They finish what they start. They do unpleasant tasks even when they don't really want to do them. They have the end goal in mind and are able to bend all their will to accomplish the goal.
The development of self-discipline will help you:
  1. avoid acting on impulse.
  2. continue working on a project, even after the initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away.
  3. overcome the habit of watching too much TV or any other activity that we use to avoid taking action.
  4. take action when all you want to do is to lie down or sit and watch TV.
  5. learn to wake up and get up early.
  6. meditate regularly.
  7. overcome laziness and procrastination.
  8. fulfill promises you make to yourself and to others.
Anything worthwhile in life requires self-discipline. Are you rinsing your cottage cheese, today?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Moving from good to great | Rinse your cottage cheese (part 1)

In the book Good to Great, author Jim Collins has done extensive research on the defining characteristics of elite companies who have made the leap from just good to great results and sustained those results for at least 15 years. In his book Collins writes:
Throughout our research, we were struck by the continual use of words like disciplined, rigorous, dogged, determined, diligent, precise, fastidious, systematic, methodical, workmanlike, demanding, consistent, focused, accountable, and responsible. They peppered articles, interviews, and source materials on the good-to-great companies, and were strikingly absent from the materials on the direct comparison companies. People in the good-to-great companies became somewhat extreme in the fulfillment of their responsibilities, bordering in some cases on fanaticism.
We came to call this the "rinsing your cottage cheese" factor. The analogy comes from a disciplined world-class athlete named Dave Scott, who won the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon six times. In training, Scott would ride his bike 75 miles, swim 20,000 meters, and run 17 miles  - on average, every single day. Dave Scott did not have a weight problem! Yet he believed that a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet would give him an extra edge. So, Dave Scott - a man who burned at least 5,000 calories a day in training - would literally rinse his cottage cheese to get the extra fat off. Now, there is no evidence that he absolutely needed to rinse his cottage cheese to win the Ironman; that's not the point of the story. The point is that rinsing his cottage cheese was simply one more small step that he believed would make him just that much better, one more small step added to all the other small steps to create a consistent program of superdiscipline (p. 127).
If an athlete like Dave Scott finds it important to literally rinse out his cottage cheese to get an additional edge for a triathlon, and an elite corporation is fanatical about a consistent, disciplined culture, how much more should a Christian be superdisciplined in order to move from good to great in their journey through life.

In my next post, Part 2, I will look at the application of the "rinsing your cottage cheese" factor for the Christian.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Profiles in Generosity | Nancy the single mom

Nancy was a single mother with young children. Her ex-husband sent her only a small amount of grocery money every week - so small it couldn't even feed one person, much less her family of four. But Nancy decided to begin giving to God from her little bit of grocery money and trust Him to provide. Shortly after, she got a job with a cookbook company. The company paid Nancy to go grocery shopping and prepare meals so they could take photographs for their cookbooks. When they were done taking pictures, Nancy could keep the food she had purchased and prepared. Isn't that an amazing story of God's goodness? Nancy learned that even if you're poor, you still need to learn to give from whatever you have.

[Source: true stories as compiled by Brian Kluth from]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Givers gain | Networking isn't just for business people

The word networking is one that brings out different reactions in people. Some hate it. Some fear it. Some understand its importance. Many don't know how to do it. Most think it's only for business people.

I recently finished reading a great book on networking called The 29% Solution, 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies, written by Ivan R. Misner, PhD and Michelle R. Donovan. Although the book is primarily geared for business people, there are still some great concepts and strategies that all of us can use in connecting with people.

One of the key principles that master networkers practice is the principle "givers gain." In The 29% Solution we read:
When you help someone meet a goal, you instantly become a "value-added" friend - an asset to this individual's life and business. You've demonstrated that you're in the relationship not just what you can get out of it, but also for what you can invest on behalf of your friend. You've demonstrated reciprocity and caring. You've nourished the relationship's roots so they can become strong, deep, and broad (p. 96).
Start by giving. Let your mantra be not "What's in it for me? but "What can I do for you?" This is perhaps the most powerful technique for deepening and widening your networks, as well as for adding value. When building a deep network, do everything you can to bring business and contacts to your networking partners. Share information with them, and invite them to business meetings that will position them favorably with people they need to know. Get to the point where your networking partners know you always have something to give them. In short, do what it takes to earn the help you may need to ask for down the road. It's no wonder that the most effective and powerful networking entrepreneurs live by the philosophy "Givers Gain": when you help others achieve their goals, they will help you achieve your goals. Do not underestimate the power of helping other people - it is the cornerstone upon which relationships are built (p. 98).
As believers in Jesus Christ, it would seem that we should live with this same philosophy of giving of ourselves to others, and not just for business reasons. When we give of ourselves to our fellow believers in Christ, to our friends, to complete strangers, we are imitating our Lord.

For God so loved, that He gave... (John 3:16).

My challenge for you today is to be available to help those around you. Make personal connections with people and help build relationships between friends in your own network. Gain through giving.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Praying in faith

As believers in Christ, we should be men and women of faith. We should be taking "risks" in our walk, walking in faith for God to do amazing things.

American Christians, however, have learned to play it safe. We have planned and prepared for almost every possible emergency situation. We are the wealthiest people on the planet,  as well as extremely independent. Our tendency is to rely on no one but ourselves. We plan, prepare, and act as if God doesn't even exist in our everyday activities. We live our lives so safely that we never step out in faith to believe that God could show up and do some amazing things if we will just trust Him.

In the book Crazy Love, Francis Chan addresses this issue in this way:
Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don't trust God if something unexpected happens - they have their savings account. They don't need God to help them - they have their retirement in place. They don't genuinely seek out what life God would have them live - they have life figured and mapped out. They don't depend on God on a daily basis - their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn't look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God (p. 78).
In spite of all of our planning and preparation, though, events and circumstances will occur that are beyond our control. I know from personal experience that God has a way of showing up in the life of the believer after you think you have life figured out, after you have planned and prepared for the unexpected. He allows us to be placed into situations where we are brought to our knees, praying in faith, asking Him to take control and work miracles when there seems to be no hope.

In what areas are you praying in faith, today? Are you in need of employment? Are you in a real estate crisis? Is your family in trouble? Do you have major health concerns? Are you trying to dig out of a mountain of debt? Whatever your need, come to Him. He desires the intimacy with you that life problems can bring. Admit your failures, learn from your mistakes, and pray in faith for Him to take control. He's there, waiting and desiring to walk with you through the difficulty.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why should we be generous people? | Reasons for giving

People give for a variety of reasons. Some give out of fear, afraid of God's punishment in their lives if they don't give. Others give because they desire to be obedient to God's Word. And some give because they understand the principle of sowing and reaping.

For me in my own journey of generosity, I don't have just one reason I give back to the Lord. I give for a multitude of reasons such as:
  1. Loving God. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 that the greatest commandment was to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." God wants us to love Him with everything we have, including our money. We should give because we love Him.
  2. Obedience. In John 14:15, Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." If we believe that God has asked us to give, then we should obey.
  3. The principle of sowing and reaping. God has placed into this world a natural law of sowing and reaping: we reap what we sow. In modern day language, we harvest whatever we plant. In 2 Corinthians 9:6 we read, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." I desire to sow generously in order reap generously.
  4. Growing in faith. Through giving, we grow in our faith in God to live on less than we make and for Him to supply our needs. "But just as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us - see that you also excel in this grace of giving" (2 Corinthians 8:7).
  5. God's blessing in meeting our own needs. In Philippians 4:14-19, the Apostle Paul tells the church at Philippi that if we want God to meet our own material needs than we should give. "... you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account... And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
  6. Joy. Joy in the Lord and giving are interconnected. If I'm truly joyful, I will give. If I give, I will be joyful. "Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability" (2 Corinthians 8:2-3).
  7. Meeting the physical needs of my church and others. From its beginnings in the book of Acts, members of the body of Christ have given in order to meet the needs of each other. "All believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared evereything they had... There were no needy persons among them. From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need" (Acts 4:32, 34-35).
  8. The treasure principle. I have blogged about the treasure principle extensively in a previous post. In summary, God wants us to give in order to lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven for all eternity. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19-20).
So, why do you give?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The two sides of contentment

Definition of contentment

What does true contentment really mean, anyway? Does it mean that we just sit around with a smile plastered on our face, fully satisfied with our current circumstances? Maybe. Does it mean that we never purchase anything but the bare essentials of life? Could be.

The textbook definition of contentment is:

Desiring no more than what one has; satisfied.

Another side of contentment

I recently ran across a great quote regarding the two parts of contentment:

It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are. - James Mackintosh

In God's Word, we read in 1 Timothy 6:6-8:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

God wants us to be content with what He has given to us and with the state of our current circumstances, but He also wants us to be active for Kingdom purposes with the material blessings and circumstances He has blessed us with. When Paul wrote to Timothy in the verses above, he was sitting in a Roman jail awaiting his execution at the hands of Emperor Nero. The Apostle Paul was content with his current situation, but even in jail, he wasn't sitting around waiting for the end to come. He pursued godliness. He was still growing as a believer and doing what God called Him to do. He was still focused on building God's Kingdom through being a witness in prison, as well as writing and encouraging the leaders of the early church. Who knows, if Paul hadn't been placed in prison, we might not even have some of the great books of the Bible that we currently have.

So, learn to be content with the material possessions and circumstances God has given you today, but don't be content with who you are as a believer in Christ. Keep growing in your relationship with Him. Keep working out your faith and building God's Kingdom with what you have today. Pursue godliness with contentment, because He has promised that it will be to our ultimate gain.

Monday, June 14, 2010

He's God | I'm Not

Because God is God, He will accomplish what He wants to accomplish. He is the one who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere. He is holy and just. He has an agenda that wins out over our own personal agendas. He has an agenda that trumps the agendas of all presidents, prime ministers, monarchs, dictators, and governments. He will accomplish His will in this world with or without our obedience. His desire, though, is a life that is yielded to Him.

And so, He allows people to enter or exit our lives. He allows tragedy to come upon us, whether it be a job loss, a financial crisis, marriage problems, or an incurable disease. We can get to the point where all we are left with is ourselves and our relationship with God. At this point, we come to the place of total dependence on Him, exactly where He wants us to be. And that's just like God, allowing overwhelming circumstances to bring us to the point of brokenness, humility, dependence, and surrender. He wants all of us, not just part of us. Henry Blackaby, the author of several books including the well-known Bible study Experiencing God, has quoted on several occasions from an unknown source, "The world has yet to see what God can do through one person totally yielded to Him."

I don't know where you're at today. Perhaps, right now, your life is blessed and worry free - congratulations. But maybe, just maybe, your locked in a struggle where there's no solution. You can't fix this one, but that's a good thing. God has placed you in a position of total reliance on Him. Walk in faith. Be in the Word. Pray for God to accomplish what He wants to accomplish in and through your life. Humble yourself and be teachable through the difficulty. Experience God through the journey.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Profiles in Generosity | Hattie May Wiatt


Even a child with a generous spirit can have an incredible impact on God's Kingdom. If you have never heard the name Hattie May Wiatt, don't be too surprised. Hattie was a young child who lived during the late 1800s and attended the famous Temple Baptist Church in Philadelphia pastored by the equally well-known Russell Conwell. Hattie's story is one of importance to the Temple Baptist Church. Through her act of simple generosity, she singlehandedly encouraged the church to grow and construct a new church building.

Even 57 cents can make a difference

The story goes that one Sunday, Hattie was found outside the church crying because there was not enough room in the Sunday School for her to attend. Pastor Conwell placed her on his shoulders and carried her through the waiting crowds into the church. She then began saving her pennies to build a larger Sunday School. She had saved only fifty-seven cents when she contracted diphtheria and died. Her parents gave the money to Conwell with an explanation of her reason for saving the money. The 57 pennies were later used as the first down payment for the Broad and Berks building. Hattie's picture can still be found on the wall of the Children's Sunday School room.

The legacy continued

This story touched Pastor Conwell so much that he repeated it many times. The Wiatt Mite Society was formed to carry on Hattie's dream. The society continued for many years. In September 1887 at the Centennial celebration of the United States Constitution, money received from the Wiatt Mite Society was given "for the success of the new Temple."

In Conclusion

If you don't have a lot of money, don't assume that you can't make a difference in your church, community, and the world. Be faithful in the "pennies," just like Hattie, and allow God to bless and multiply your little for the Kingdom.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Time management according to Crazy Love principles

Time. We never seem to have enough of it. Our "to do" lists are never ending. We try to cram more and more activities into our day, and we get frustrated when we can't get everything crossed off our checklists.

What if we took a different approach? What if we handed over to God all of our time, asking Him to control what He wanted to accomplish through us in the time He has granted to us? In the book Crazy Love, Pastor Francis Chan writes about this principle in this way:

Another important element of giving is with our time. Most of us are so busy that the thought of adding one more thing to our weekly schedule is stressful. Instead of adding in another thing to our lives, perhaps God wants us to give Him all of our time and let Him direct it as we see fit (pg. 120).
Give the Lord all of your time, then pray for His wisdom and guidance as you attempt to be a wise manager of the time He has given you.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Stewardship life experiment #1 | Update

Last week

In my post last Monday, I blogged that I would conduct a stewardship life experiment throughout the week where I would consult God first in all of my finances. I would pray for contentment, wisdom, and God's favor to be with me as I spent money.


Here is what found during this week:
  1. In most purchases, I found to spend less than I might normally would. For example, I typically average about $110.00 a week on grocery spending. This week that amount was $92.60, a savings of $17.40.
  2. Any "auto-pilot expenses" such as utility bills that I encountered during this week, came in at or below budget.
  3. Unfortunately, I had a major, unexpected car repair this week on my air conditioning system. I had budgeted $250.00 in car repairs this month, thinking that I had a small leak in a hose, but the problem ended up being the main system valve and dryer. This is a major repair which cost me (along with an oil change and tire rotation) a total of $901.28. Ouch! The only good news in this repair is that my car's compressor didn't need to be replaced. If this had been the case, my total bill would have been over $1,500.00. In the end, I praised God that although the repair bill was higher than expected, I didn't have the worst case scenario.

In the end, I have concluded that one week is not enough time to really conduct the experiment. I'm not really sure what I was thinking in my original post. I will continue to conduct my experiment, record data, and give periodic updates on my findings. Stay tuned for more information on this ongoing experiment.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The top 6 barriers to generosity

Many Christians have a lot of excuses for why they can't or shouldn't give. According to, there are six main barriers to generosity (please note that the bolded points are from Generous Giving. The commentary is my own):
  1. It's my money. I earned it. If you have this mindset, you have a big problem. According to God's Word, it's not your money. If He is truly Lord of your life, then everything belongs to Him. He call us as believers to be wise managers of everything He has placed under our care. Part of being a good manager is being obedient in giving back to Him. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth... (Deuteronomy 8:18a).
  2. I am up to my ears in debt. I cannot give right now. OK, first question. Did God cause your debt problem or was it a result of poor financial management? My guess would be the latter. Why not take a different approach. Start living below your means. Get on a budget. Start giving something, anything that will start you down the path to generous living. Take on a second job to begin aggressively paying down your debt.
  3. I would like to give, but my spouse does not share my desire to give. This can be a huge challenge in a marriage. You really should be in agreement in all areas of your finances. So, first pray for your spouse that God will change their attitude towards giving. Second, give what you can from your own "walking around money." God will bless your willingness to give in a difficult situation, even if you can only give smaller amounts than you would like.
  4. I already tithe; that's all God requires me to give. If you are a tither, then great! You have graduated to first base in your giving. You've learned how to ride a bike with training wheels. Tithing is really just a starting point on the path of generosity. New Testament giving goes beyond the tithe. God wants all of us because He gave everything for us.
  5. Giving would be bad stewardship, if it chipped away at my investments; depleted my savings; or subjected me to tax liability. This is a lame excuse. If you have this thought process than you just don't understand what good stewardship is all about. Generous giving is the first step to being a good steward of all that God has blessed you with. Plus, God has a way of blessing the 90% (or less) that we have left over to manage. Remember, that God's math doesn't equal our math.
  6. I don't agree with how my church might spend the money. In His Word, God never put a prerequisite on our giving back to Him. He asks us to give back to Him through the vehicle of our local church where we attend. All of us, including our church leaders, are flawed human beings. Church leaders will make poor decisions. It's not our place to withhold our gifts. Be obedient and give back to the Lord. Let God deal with your church leaders because they will be held to an even higher standard on the day of judgment.
It's time for God's people to quit making lame excuses on giving. We need to stop living selfish lifestyles and living beyond our means. It's time that we learn Biblical principles on how to handle money God's way, including giving. Demonstrate your love and obedience to the Lord through your giving. For God so loved, that He gave... (John 3:16).

Do you ever find yourself using any of these excuses not to give?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kids are messy

I think the one thing that has surprised me most about having my own children is how messy they can be. They're messy when they eat and usually get food everywhere. They're messy when they play all over the house. They break stuff, even my stuff, and they don't even seem to care all that much. And when I assign them an area to pick-up and clean, that area still seems messy to me.

This is a challenge for me because I can tend to be a bit of a neat freak. I'm a Type A personality. In my mind, everything has a place and when things are out of place, it can cause me a sense of anxiety and disorder. Unfortunately, most children don't have the same mentality. They live in a world of "play." I think most children just leave a mess because they know at some point they will come back to the mess they abandoned and just resume their play wherever they they left off. I mean, why should they clean up something that they're just going to play with again in a few hours or even a few days, right?

In the book Have a New Kid by Friday, Dr. Kevin Leman writes this about messy children:
I'm not a high-standard guy. I'm a want-to-see-the-floor-twice-a-week kind of guy. But even I have my limits. (My wife, Sande, a firstborn, has a lot less tolerance for mess than I do, as the baby of my family.) Many teen rooms are downright toxic.

Kids are mess makers, and they won't usually have the same standard you do for keeping their bedrooms picked up. And, after all, they have a lot of important stuff in there (like makeup, iPods, rocks), and they only have one room to store their precious belongings. So if you expect them to keep their bedroom as clean as you do the rest of the house, you'll be sorely disappointed.
Even though I still struggle with the neatness factor from time to time, I think I have made a lot of progress. I can now go several days with various piles of clothes, toys, and papers scattered about the house. I just ignore the piles until my daughters and I have the energy and time to tackle a house clean up project. In the end, there are more important priorities to accomplish in our limited time. It's more important to play with our kids. It's more important to spend quantity and quality time with them.

Over the last few months, I've had several reminders from my family and friends around me that I have good kids . When I'm caught up in the process of daily parenting, it's certainly easy to forget this. When you're observing the small piles around the house growing into bigger piles, you can lose sight of the wonderful character qualities of your children. Be careful not to dwell on the minor stuff with your kids.

Do I think I've arrived when it comes to parenting my children. No way! Parenting will be a journey that lasts my entire lifetime. The key, though, is to enjoy the journey, even when the journey doesn't seem to be very enjoyable at a certain stage of development. Parenting will be a constantly varying process as they pass through their different life stages from baby, infant, toddler, child, teenager, young adult, and middle-aged adult. Life moves so fast. One minute their babies and the next minute their headed off to college.

Enjoy them while you still have them around the house. Build a quality relationship with them by spending a lot of time with them. Teach them how to be godly young men and women. Outside our relationship with the Lord, our family should be our next relationship priority. Don't let a little mess spoil your blessing from the Lord.

Oh and by the way, mom and dad, I'm sorry for all the messes that I made and stuff of yours that I broke. Thanks for having patience with me when I was a messy kid.

Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him (Psalm 127:3).

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).