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, September 29, 2010

The 10 Day Give Starts On Friday

Background: The Challenge

For the last couple of years, Bob Lotich at has issued a challenge to his readers to join with him in a 10 Day Give during the month of October.

This is not a trick. This is not a fundraiser so that Bob can get some extra cashflow. The purpose is to encourage all of us to grow in our generosity to those around us. Here's some quick background information on the 10 Day Give:
  1. This isn't all about giving money away. Giving money away is fun and cool, but if you don't have money, then give of your time, abilities, or additional resources.
  2. is randomly giving stuff away to participants of the 10 Day Give. How awesome is that?!
  3. You can sign-up for the challenge on the 10 Day Give homepage.
  4. If you plan on giving money, be sure to plan ahead in your October budget. Withdraw additional cash and carry some of it with you for "on the spot" giving.
  5. Consider doing your giving anonymously.
  6. Plan out your giving in advance, but also be prepared for additional, spontaneous opportunities along your journey.
Giving and the Christian Life

Giving is what the rich Christian life is all about. I won't belabor the point, but here is a listing of some of my favorite posts on Christianity and generosity:

I'm giving, are you?

This year, I've decided to enter Bob's challenge. It's not that I'm not a giver. If you have been a faithful follower of this blog, you know that according to God's Word, generosity is one of the seven investments of a rich Christian life. I'm big on generosity. In fact, these last remaining days of September, I have found myself giving even more than usual. I'm not saving up so I can start on October 1. I've already been working on my giving spirit.

I hope you will prayerfully consider entering the 10 Day Give. I'm looking forward to an incredible experience over the first ten days of October. Will you join with us?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Is it time to grow up in your personal finances?

The Problem

There are a lot of adults today who act like spoiled brats when it comes to their personal finances. They want what they want, when they want it, and if they don't get what they want, they throw a temper tantrum. They act like children.

You see this happening a lot with married couples. You know the drill - opposites attract. The mature, responsible saver meets the fun-loving spender. They fall in love, get married, start a family, and their finances begin to tighten up. They assume that they need to buy a big house for their growing family, so they overextend themselves on a huge house payment. Then, of course, they need to buy a Suburban to haul around the little crumb crunchers. Again, they're overextended in a car payment or maybe even two. The cycle of debt begins as the family continues to grow.

The Solution

I know this may seem overly simplistic, but the solution to this problem is that it's time for this couple to grow up! In 1 Corinthians 13:11 we read, When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. The childish approach to our finances is to not have a plan, to shoot from the hip, and to base our decision making on what "feels good" in the moment. Children cannot think forward into the future. They deal primarily in the present. They cannot project the future, long-term consequences upon the decisions they make in the moment. Unfortunately, a lot of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are handling their money like kids when they should have already grown up by now. When they reach retirement age, they will have wished that they had planned ahead.

I read somewhere recently (I wish I could remember the source), that we spend our 20s educating ourselves and getting our careers off the ground. It's during this time period that we typically rack up the most debt because of school bills and living expenses. Our outgo way exceeds our income. We then spend our 30s in an accumulation period when we get married and start having children. It's at this point in our lives where even larger expenses begin. If we exit our 20s with a lot of debt and enter our 30s without addressing the debt issue, then this will give us additional problems as we get older. At this key point in our lives, we need to mature in our financial mindset and get out of debt as quickly as possible in order to provide for our families and future retirement in a more effective manner. It's time to temporarily lower our standard of living, get on a budget, and increase our income to pay off our debt as quickly as we can.

No matter what your age, it's never too late to stop, address some of these childish financial mistakes, and develop a more mature financial mindset. So, is it time for you to grow up in your personal finances?

Also check out these related posts:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Week In Christian Personal Finances


My job as a Stewardship Pastor requires me to stay current with the latest and greatest in the world of Church Stewardship and Christian Personal Finance. I have read numerous books and blogs on these subjects. I have been through Crown Financial small group Bible studies, and I have been the lead coordinator for Financial Peace University at my church for the last three years. As the United States continues in a time of great financial difficulty, more and more Christians are looking for resources to assist them in their journey toward Biblically-based financial wisdom.

This is my first post of "This Week in Christian Personal Finance." Each week, I plan to bring you the top news of the week in the Christian Personal Finance (CPF) world. I will be tracking CPF news from the following sources:
  1. Dave Ramsey
  2. Crown Financial Ministries
  3. Christian Personal Finance Blogs. The blogs I will typically track are ChristianpfMoney Help for ChristiansBible Money MattersOne Money DesignCrosswalk/FinancesJay Peroni - Faith Based Investing, and a few others.
  4. New Books or Resources of Interest
Christian Personal Finance News for the Week of September 19, 2010
Dave Ramsey
  • Dave Ramsey Welcomes Jon Acuff to the Team. This news is a couple of weeks old on Dave Ramsey's website, but this month, Dave added a new team member to his staff at the Lampo Group. Jon Acuff is a popular blogger, author, and speaker. Jon's journey began when he started his blog Stuff Christians Like as a hobby back in 2008.
Crown Financial Ministries
  • The Root of Riches. In the MoneyLife radio program on Wednesday, September 22, host Chuck Bentley discusses an interesting take on the word "root" that is found in the most famous and often misquoted money verse in the Bible, 1 Timothy 6:10. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. Chuck does an excellent job of explaining the core problem of the love of money. The roots are our belief systems regarding money. If we have a belief system that is wrapped up in the world's money philosophy, then we will produce money behaviors that are not in line with God's Word. As Christians, we need to change our belief system from man's economy to God's economy.
Blog Posts
  • Should Christians Have PreNups. Matt Bell wrote a guest post on on the topic of whether or not Christian couples should sign a prenuptial agreement before marriage. He cites the divorce rate statistics and lists why many secular personal finance planners recommend prenuptial agreements, especially for second marriages, when estate issues for children from a previous marriage are involved. Matt does not say either way if he believes that Christian couples should sign a prenup, but cautions that the issue should be prayed over and agreed upon by both partners. Personal note: the one item that Matt fails to address is the no-fault divorce issue in many states. In today's world, it's way too easy for one partner to walk away and call it quits, catching the other spouse completely off-guard. My personal opinion is that if the divorce laws were stricter (awarding the faithful spouse a greater percentage of assets and child custody), there would probably be fewer divorces, canceling the need for most prenups in the first place.
  • The Spiritual Impact of Earning More Money. Craig Ford at Money Help For Christians writes about 4 lessons he has learned by earning more money. In his post, Craig writes from his heart about what he is currently experiencing as he is earning more money from his blog and ebook The Secret to a Successful Budget.
  • Have You Counted The Cost? Paul Williams, a financial planner in Pennsylvania, wrote a hard-hitting guest post at Bible Money Matters on the cost of being a disciple of Christ when it comes to our money. If you don't enjoy being convicted, then don't read Paul's post!
  • Lessons from Luke: the Beatitudes.  Here's another hard-hitting Bible-based post by Stew at Gather Little by Little regarding spiritual wealth and earthly wealth. This is another great reminder of the spiritual importance of a right relationship with money in the life of a Christian.
  • What Type of Debt is "ok"? This post regarding Christians and debt is guest post by Rob Kuban at One Money Design. Rob gives us a great reminder of the bondage of debt in the life of a believer. He also discusses the various types of debt that may be considered "permissible," but Rob cautions that debt-free living is still the wisest choice.
  • 12 Financial Mistakes You Will Live To Regret. This post over at eChristianFinances lists the top 12 financial mistakes that we will regret. The number one regret: Tithing! This is another great reminder that you really can't afford not to give back to God what He has asked us to give.
  • Redefining Riches Sunday School Series: The Basics of the Bible and Money. Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine introduces a new 4-week Bible Study he has written about money and God's Word.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Profiles in Generosity | Scott and Amy Lee


Scott Lee is a man who went through a divorce about fourteen years ago. As a result of that divorce, he had become burdened with $26,000 in credit card debt. In the process of dealing with his debt problem, God led Scott to Crown Financial Ministries. Through the principles taught in Crown about handling money God's way, Scott was able to pay off his debt over a period of five and a half years.

Scott's financial life transformed

During this time, Scott was able to see God's miraculous work in providing for his needs while he paid down his debt. In fact, Scott got to the point where he simply took the attitude that if God wanted him to have anything in addition to money to pay off his debt, then God was going to have to provide for that specific need. For example, if the Lord wanted Scott to have a car, then He would need to specifically provide a car. If God wanted Scott to have a vacation, then He would specifically provide for Scott a vacation.

With this new attitude, Scott experienced God's provision in specific ways. Scott tells the story that at one point in his journey, he was praying to the Lord, crying out for the need to have some vacation time because he was feeling physically worn out and needed a time of refreshing. Two weeks after his prayer, a friend of Scott's called him and said that the Bahamian Board of Tourism had asked him to come on a free vacation all expenses paid, and his friend needed someone to go with him. That was God's provision for a vacation. Scott was also given a car during this time of paying down his debt. He experienced miracle after miracle because Scott was willing to be obedient in the area of his finances and waiting on the Lord.

Financial adjustments in a new marriage

During this period of time, Scott learned to live extremely frugally and once he had paid off his debt, he now had margin in order to save money. He was also blessed with a new wife and she was committed to living under his spiritual and financial leadership by living frugally under a tight budget. His take home pay at the time was a modest yearly income of $47,500. They committed themselves to living off 80% of that income, saving 10-12% long-term for retirement, and giving 10%. With his new wife, Amy, they committed to giving 10% of her income and using the remaining 90% to save for a house and other expenses.

Amy admits that this financial transition was not an easy one for her. She had to adjust to living Scott's frugal lifestyle. She slowly tapered off the credit card usage and learned to spend money using the cash envelope system. She testifies that it has been a great process for her to learn to live on a budget and trust God to supply their needs.

The challenge to give even more

Scott and Amy adjusted to their new marriage and financial planning, and then everything changed when they decided to attend a Generous Giving Conference. Their original intention was not to attend as part of the target audience. They went to the conference because a mutual friend was on staff with Generous Giving, and they wanted to observe what he did for the organization. They were definitely the least affluent couple in the room.

As a result of attending the conference, though, the testimonies and teaching on generous giving challenged them both, and it became a turning point in their marriage. Scott felt that God challenged him during the conference to be even more generous because he no longer was in debt. He had the financial margin in his life in order to give even more away. Scott discovered he was continuing to live a frugal lifestyle out of fear, and that he needed to do something about it. He needed to face this fear head on by aggressively giving more to God's Kingdom. The scary part for him now was how in the world was he going to approach Amy about this? They had already come to an agreement about their current giving, saving, and spending plan.

An amazing thing happened, though, after the conference. They both got into their car, and Amy looked at Scott and said, "I feel like we need to give more from my income." Scott's response was "That's funny because that is exactly what I feel God was saying to me." After talking about it some more, Amy thought they needed to give 30%, Scott thought they needed to give 50%, so they met in the middle by giving away 40%. For them, this was radical and risky. They were now living on the edge, financially.

They immediately changed their entire financial plan to reflect what they felt God was asking them to do. They knew that if they didn't respond right away, that they would probably second-guess themselves. The interesting thing for them after giving even more away was that their financial fears began to go away. They became content with the small apartment they were living in at the time and were not as concerned with saving for and buying a home on the timetable they had originally established.

God's blessing

God was faithful to Scott and Amy's obedience in giving back even more to Him. The Lord began replacing the income that they were now giving away. Within three weeks of their decision, a friend of theirs offered them a much bigger, better apartment that was $400 less a month than their current one! A couple of weeks after that, Amy was given a raise at work. When Scott sat down to make these new adjustments to their budget, he discovered that within six weeks of their decision to give 40% of Amy's income, God had totally replaced that money. They were still able to save the same amount for a new home as before. Both Scott and Amy thought they were taking a big, scary, and edgy risk by giving away more of their income, but in the end, there was no additional risk. God provided for their needs in amazing ways. He has also strengthened their marriage as they have have learned to rely on the Lord and pray for God to work through them in their giving in order to fulfill the Great Commission.

[Original Story Source: The Miraculous Payoff: How a Newlywed Couple Believed God and Started Giving Beyond Their Ability]

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is desiring to be rich, evil?


Last week, I received an email from one of my blog readers with a number of questions regarding the desire for wealth. In today's post, I will do my best to answer this reader's questions.

The Email
Hi Larry,
What are your thoughts on "desiring to be rich is evil"? Almost all pastors and articles that I read said this:
"If you want to be rich to help others, it's right"
"If you want to be rich for yourself it's wrong!"
But how can anyone be so one sided? Regardless of helping people or not, when people are rich surely they will seek better things for themselves (better neighborhood, better food, better education for children etc). Except for few really EXCEPTIONAL people, every Christian I know seek better things for themselves when they have more money.
I've been struggling with this issue, I am 26 yo (just became Christian 3 years ago). I love helping people, even when I am not rich today I still help people. I want to be rich so I can help more people. I want to sponsor more orphaned kids so they can get proper education but I also have the desire to get better things for myself. I want financial security so I can focus on non-profit works and hobby, I want a better education for my children, better quality of life for my family (better food), better car, I would love to go to Antartica someday etc.
If I follow the advice mentioned above then that means we can't desire those worldly benefits. And when we are blessed with abundance of wealth we must maintain our old lifestyle (whatever it is) and donate the rest of the wealth. The Bible seems to agree with this as well. 
“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5)."
Don't get me wrong, I am always grateful of what I have. Even when life is down at the moment, I am thankful for the inspiration and power He gave me to stay motivated and focused. It's just I wonder if God just want us to be unambitious and que sera sera.
I am curious about your thoughts on this.
My Response

Dear, T.

These are wonderfully complex questions, and to be honest, I struggle with many of these same thoughts! I certainly do not claim to know all the answers, but here's what I have learned through my own journey in Christian personal finances and life in general.
  1. If you live in the United States, you are already rich. Compared to the majority of the rest of the inhabitants of planet earth, even the poorest Americans are extremely wealthy. Now, with that being said, I will readily admit upfront that there are some pretty substantial degrees of wealth here in the U.S. Also, the U.S. standard of living is considerably higher than many other countries, but our poor often own a vehicle, have a roof over their head, food on the table, clothes on their back, and a couple of TVs to boot. Plus, we live in a land of great opportunity, even during a time of financial hardship.
  2. Recognize that everything you have is the Lord's. Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." On your personal finance journey, always keep this at the front of your mind. Everything that God has entrusted to you today is His. You are simply just a manager of His wealth.
  3. Demonstrate to the Lord that you are a capable money manager with what He has entrusted to you, today. If we truly recognize that everything is His to begin with, we will begin to manage His money, possessions, and resources in a more responsible way. Our mindset should be somewhat like a Chief Financial Officer in God's Kingdom work and we are managing the finances of a franchise store. If we manage what He has entrusted to us in a faithful, capable manner, I believe it's very likely that He will give us even more to manage. See my blog post on Pastor Rick Warren's journey regarding wealth, money management, and giving. Also, see my post on You don't really have money problems regarding money management.
  4. God gives wealth to whomever He chooses. The pursuit of wealth in and of itself can be a very slippery slope. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 says, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." God is going to bless some with great wealth and some with less, and He most likely has a purpose behind His decisions. He knows that some believers can handle wealth in a responsible manner and others can't. He may also give some individuals wealth in order to test them, spiritually. Again, our response should be on managing with excellence what He has chosen to bless us with in this moment. See my post on The Parable of the Talents as well as my post He's God, I'm Not.
  5. Live with an attitude of gratitude. Be grateful for where you are and what you have, today. I believe this is the essence of contentment. Even during times of financial hardship, we can all be thankful for something. See my post on Living with an abundance mindset for an even greater explanation regarding living out a life of gratitude.
  6. Live with an attitude of generosity. In your email, you mention that you already have an attitude of giving, and that's great! Keep fostering that mindset. I truly believe that God blesses generous people in order that they can give even more of His money away. I have blogged extensively on the topic of generosity. You can read all of those posts here. The key is to focus our giving on a desire to build God's Kingdom and send our wealth "on ahead" for eternal rewards. We can't take our stuff here on earth with us when we die. Life here on earth is extremely short. Eternity is forever.
  7. Focus on your relationship with the Lord. God wants our hearts. Period. Unfortunately, when we become focused on obtaining wealth, money becomes the desire of our heart instead of God. In fact, Jesus addressed this issue in Matthew 19:16-30 with the story of the rich young ruler. The Lord loved this man and desired that he become a follower, but he also knew that this man loved his wealth. This is why he asked him to give everything away. Jesus wanted his heart, but the rich man walked away because he loved money more than God. Love God with everything you've got, including your money. Allow money to be a tool and a resource, but never an object of desire.
  8. Allow His desires to become your desires. I believe desire and ambition are admirable qualities that should be cultivated, but we need to make sure our desires line up with God's Word. The Apostle Paul had some incredibly ambitious goals to spread the gospel in what is now modern day Turkey, Italy, and Spain. Although he had many great Kingdom-minded goals, he stayed open and flexible to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In the end, the Holy Spirit directed him to Macedonia instead of Turkey, and then Paul ended up in Italy as a result of a prison sentence, a couple of trials, and an appeal to Caesar. You can read my post on Paul's journey here. I know in my own life, I have been incredibly ambitious since I was a teenager, but unfortunately the goals of my teens and 20s were selfish ones. As I have matured in my walk with Christ, my selfish desires faded away and my desires have gradually become His desires. I can testify that I have more joy, peace, and contentment today as a result of pursuing His desires for my life.
  9. Pray it through. As believers in Christ, we are children of Almighty God. We so often forget that He is our Heavenly Father, and we have access to a loving, caring, and really wealthy dad! Pray through all of these struggles you are having. Pray for God to provide for your needs, because He has promised us that He will provide. Pray for wisdom as you manage what God has currently blessed you with. Pray in faith for more financial blessing in order to give even more away and to be a blessing to others.
  10. Wait on God's timing. I admit upfront that patience and waiting on God is not easy for me, but I have found that as I focus on all of the points above, God blesses me beyond measure. He blesses me with spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, and financial abundance. Does this mean that I never have problems or struggles? No, quite the contrary, but I think I become more thankful and content as I wait on Him.
  11. Focus on how God has SHAPED you. The acronym SHAPE stands for Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences. God has created all of us as unique individuals. He has given to all of us different gifts and abilities. He has given us individual personalities and passions. When people pursue a career or business with the sole purpose to gain wealth, they often will not succeed. The missing ingredient - passion! Focus instead on how God has designed you and use your passion to help people. When we pursue God's life design and gifting, the financial reward often follows over time.
  12. God wants you to provide for your family. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than unbeliever." Does this mean we should provide our family with food from Whole Foods Market, designer clothes, and private education for the kids? Probably not, but God understands that we have needs in these important areas of life. I think we can make intelligent, frugal, healthy choices in the "needs" department without spending a boatload of money in order to build margin into our family's budget so that we have more money to give away and save. Believe it or not, the majority of millionaires are very frugal when it comes to their choices in homes, clothing, and education purchases. See these two posts I wrote regarding the book The Millionaire Mind by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley.
  13. God wants you to enjoy what He has blessed you with. 1 Timothy 6:17 states, "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 everything for our enjoyment." Being an excellent manager of God's wealth doesn't mean that we need to sit around in our homes, collect lint, and only come out on triple coupon Tuesdays (Dave Ramsey quote). If you have been a good financial manager, and you have budgeted and saved for a night out with your spouse, a summer vacation with your family, or a better, more reliable used car, I believe God is happy that you are able to enjoy His blessings here on earth.

American Christians live in a very unique time and place in history. We have wealth, resources, and freedoms that very few people have enjoyed in all of history. With much determination, noble goals, and a lot of hard work, we all have the possibility of climbing the social-economic ladder here in the United States. This is all very different from Biblical times. I do believe, however, that God has blessed American Christians with great financial resources, not to get filthy, stinkin' rich in order to satisfy our own selfish desires, but rather to build up the Kingdom of God. In the end, we should ask ourselves better questions regarding the wealth God has blessed us with. Instead of "how much do we really need to give back to God?", the better question to ask ourselves may be "how much should we keep?" Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules to this question. Allow God to work in your heart and mind. Over time, He will reveal that answer to you if you remain a faithful manager to Him. In the meantime, enjoy the journey as you continue to wrestle with these questions. The journey and the struggle is where we mature in our walk with Christ. God's will for your life is a process.

Also check out these related posts:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What does God's Word say about relationships?

God's Word on relationships

God's Word is a book filled with a series of relationships. The Bible begins with God's relationship with man in the Garden of Eden and that relationship continues to this day; He continues to draw men and women into a relationship with Himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible also addresses man's relationship with his fellow man: family relationships, friendships, professional relationships, and relationships with fellow believers.

The Ten Commandments (and Judaic Law in general) marks the beginning point where God through Moses officially addresses man's relationship with those around him. The first four commandments address man's relationship with God, while the final six focus on man's relationships with others: 5. honor your parents, 6. don't murder, 7. don't commit adultery, 8. don't steal other's possessions, 9. don't lie (false witness) against another, and 10. don't wrongfully desire (covet) someone else's stuff.

The following is not meant to be an exhaustive listing of verses on relationships, but rather a brief overview of the importance that God places on our relationships with others.


The closest relationships we have with others are our family relationships - our parents, our spouses, and our children. Our success in our journey through life is largely dependent on right relationships with those closest to us. In general, those who have close, healthy relationships with family are happy, well-adjusted individuals in society while those who have strained, unhealthy family relationships seem to be somewhat dysfunctional in their life journey.

  • Parental Relationships. Throughout Scripture, we see the mandate for children to honor their parents. Jesus Himself addressed this issue with the religious leaders in Matthew 15. He told them that through their actions with their own parents that they were violating this important commandment. Instead of taking care of their aging parents, the scribes and Pharisees were using the excuse that the money that might have been used to help their parents had been "already dedicated as a gift to God." They were attempting to exempt themselves from honoring their parents in the final years of their lives, and Jesus called them out on their violation of God's Word. Jesus led by example in this area, most notably when he was on the cross. While hanging there dying, He asked John to take care of His own earthly mother, Mary (John 19:25-27).
  • Spousal Relationships. From the beginning of time, God instituted a very special and unique relationship between a man and woman - marriage. The ultimate purpose of this relationship is to create a family through which offspring will be born and raised in order to multiply the human race on the earth. But, there are other significant aspects to this relationship that I won't delve into here. That being said, God desires a close, intimate, and loving relationship for those that have chosen to marry. The Apostle Paul addresses the relationship between husband and wife in Ephesians 5:22-33. In this passage, he briefly advises wives to submit and respect their husbands. Paul spends more time, though, admonishing husbands to love their wives as much as they love themselves. He points to Christ's deep love for the church as an example to be followed in the marriage relationship.
  • Children. Children and grandchildren are a blessing from God. Psalm 127:3 says, "Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him." Proverbs 17:6 states, "Children's children are a crown to the aged..." In our modern world with it's climbing abortion rates and abandoned kids, I fear that children are viewed as more of a burden or nuisance than a blessing. The Bible is clear, though, that we as parents should take our parenting role seriously. We are commanded to "Train up a child in the way he should go...." (see Proverbs 22:6a and Ephesians 6:4). Christian parents, we have a vitally important role to play in raising our kids according to the principles laid out in God's Word. View your children as a gift from the Lord and don't take them for granted!

God's Word is filled with stories that revolve around friendship. In fact, the word "friend" is found some ninety times in Scripture. One of the earliest Biblical examples of friendship is the unique relationship of God and Abraham. In a few key passages in both the Old and New Testaments, Abraham is even referred to as a "friend of God." There are verses that point to the value and importance of lasting friendships. In order to have friends, we are instructed that we must be friendly (Proverbs 18:24). Having someone along with us on our journey is better than doing it alone (Ecclesiastes 4:8-12). A true friend not only helps us when we are in trouble, but they love us enough to call us out when we are wrong and in need of counsel (Proverbs 27:6, 9). One of the ultimate examples of true, Biblical human friendship is the relationship of Jonathan and David. We should follow the example of Jesus, who is our ultimate role model of friendship. "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:13-14).

I know in my own life, I have been thankful for the friendships that I have cultivated with fellow believers over the years. In some of my darkest life experiences, I have been blessed with people who have chosen to stand by me and lift me up through the trials of life. We can't make it through life on our own. We truly need each other.

Employer, employee, and business relationships

Although the modern day workings of business and the workplace are vastly different today than in Biblical times, there are a number of key principles that we can apply from Scripture. We should submit and obey those who are in leadership over us. The closest Biblical example we can point to is the relationship of master and slave. In Colossians 3:22, the Apostle Paul says, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord." Paul goes on in this passage, encouraging us to be hard workers. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (Colossians 3:23-24).

Living a life of integrity is a hallmark of the life of a Christ follower. If you are a boss or business owner, be sure that you maintain your integrity in all of your business dealings.
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive (Titus 2:7-10).
Everything about our business dealings reflects our own relationship with Christ. In the way you conduct your business, can you honestly say that you are making God your Savior "attractive" to those you interact with on a regular basis?


In conclusion, take time today to examine your life relationships. How are your family relationships? Are you honoring your parents, loving your spouse, and parenting your children according to Godly principles? Do you have strong, God-honoring friendships that are encouraging you in your journey? And finally, are you living out a life of integrity in your workplace or business? Are people attracted to the Lord through your hard, honest work? Do you honor your boss, your employees, and your clients through how you are conducting your life in the workplace?

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Monday, September 13, 2010

7 free information resources for the digital age

Constant learning and growth

I'm a big believer in constant learning and constant improvement. I easily read 3-5 books a month, and this is on top of reading and research I do on the internet each day. Obviously, reading this many books can become an expensive habit! Let's say you're a voracious reader and read at least four books a month and the average cost of each book was around $12.95. You could easily be spending over $50.00 a month on books. Over a year's time, that would be well over $600.00!

Old School versus New School

Before the days of ebook readers, the old school approach to saving money on information resources would be to visit your local library, borrow from friends, and purchase less expensive resources at discount stores.

With the explosion of the Information Age over the last few years, we now live in a new world. With our ever-connected world via the internet, there are now a number of tremendous online resources available to all of us for FREE! That being said, it's not very probable that you will be able to get free books that are currently listed on the New York Times bestseller list, but if you do just a little bit of searching on the web, you can find some great material for little to no cost.

To date, I have found that the best way to consume all of these various information resources to be through Apple's new iPad, and I recently wrote a post on the 9 things I love about my Apple iPad. The overwhelming majority of the things that I love about the iPad deal with information consumption, and it's a great tool in order to consume a lot of free and low cost information resources.

7 free information resources

I will admit upfront that the following is not an exhaustive list, but here's a list of resources I have discovered over the last 6 weeks of using my iPad:
  1. Free ebooks. Believe it or not, there are a number of decent free books available on the Kindle app from Amazon as well as Apple's own iBook store app. Just a few days ago, I downloaded a bunch of free books that I found interesting. Also take a look at what Kindle has to say about additional free resources outside of the Kindle store on it's Free Book Collections page as well as information on free books in the iBookstore.
  2. Free pdf articles. Pdf articles are typically smaller than ebooks and can be downloaded from a variety of sources. Many blog authors give away free pdf sources of information for subscribing to their email lists. With iTunes and the iBook app, it's now easier than ever to store these pdf files on your iBookshelf for later reading.
  3. Blogs. The Blogshelf app is my favorite way to read all of the blogs I like to keep up with. Blogs are a great free resource of opinion and information.
  4. YouTube subscriptions. There are a number of writers and public speakers out there who post an incredible amount of free "self-improvement"-type information videos. You just need to do a little bit of hunting and searching around on YouTube and you can subscribe to these various video feeds. I typically consume this type of free information while I'm getting ready for work in the morning or at other times in which I can multi-task around the house.
  5. Podcasts. Podcasts have been around for a number of years now. iPods and iPads now make it easier than ever to subscribe to various feeds through iTunes. Again, there are some incredible free resources available for constant learning and growth.
  6. Free audiobooks. Just do a quick Google search on free audiobooks and you will find a number of different website offerings. Again, the iPad/iPod/iTunes features make downloads quick and easy.
  7. Free iPad information apps. There are a number of free independent apps available for iPad, iPod, and iPhone users that range from the top stories of the New York Times to your local big-city newspaper to Time Magazine. The sky's the limit.
The challenge

The challenge with uncovering all of these free resources is that it's much like turning on a fire hose. There is so much in the way of free information that you can drown in the enormity of it all. The good news is that once you start consuming an article of downloaded information, if you don't like it, you can quickly delete it and move on to something of better interest. Happy hunting!

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Generosity is a fruit of a righteous life

Wicked borrows and never returns; Righteous gives and gives. Generous gets it all in the end; Stingy is cut off at the pass... I once was young, now I'm a graybeard - not once have I seen an abandoned believer, or his kids out roaming the streets. Every day he's out giving and lending, his children making him proud (Psalm 37:21-22, 25-26, The Message).

There is a connection between righteousness and generosity

In the above verses, we see that there is a connection between living out a life of righteousness and living out a life of generosity. Generosity is a byproduct of a righteousness life. It would be difficult for me to be living in a state of righteousness and not be generous and vice versa. They are both inter-related to one another.

First, let's get a couple of definitions out of the way:
Righteousness - the quality or state of acting in an upright, moral way; virtuous.
Generosity - readiness or liberality in giving.
According to these verses, the non-righteous are those who are declared "wicked." Their financial management style is questionable - they borrow and never repay. Simply put, they have a lack of integrity with their finances. They are also stingy, which is the opposite of generosity. Stinginess is nothing but a reluctance to give or spend. Just think Ebenezer Scrooge, and you get the picture; he wasn't the greatest guy to work for or even be around!

Pursue righteousness

Do you desire to be less stingy with the money God has blessed with you with? Then pursue righteousness. Do you desire to grow in your spirit of generosity? Then pursue a righteous life. Live as a man or woman of integrity. Get your financial house in order. Repay your debts as quickly as possible. Spend whatever money you have wisely, but don't become a stingy, old miser. If the truth be told, how we behave with our money, how we spend our money, and how we give our money is really just a reflection of what is going on in our hearts and minds.

A few years ago, I was talking with a friend about people who battle addictions. He made a comment to me that I have never forgotten. He was telling me that from his own experience, the people who have problems with addictions are a complete mess, financially. They are so embroiled in their addiction that they are living by the seat of their pants. They can't think clearly. The only plan they currently have going is when and where they can get their next "high." If that means they are going heavily into debt to feed that addiction, then so be it. They don't care. As a result, of course, they are not living out a life of generosity. They have become takers, not givers. For those who battle the addictive personality, they need to stop and allow God to work on their hearts and minds in order to break free from their bondage. They need to pursue a life of righteousness that is fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The blessings of righteousness and generosity

I can picture King David as an older and much wiser man sitting in his palace penning the words to Psalm 37. He calls himself a "greybeard." He's been around for a while now and he's seen a lot in his time here on earth. In his experience, he states that he has never seen the righteous out begging for food. God provides for those whom He loves. Is He going to make you a millionaire if you are pursuing a life of righteousness and generosity? He might, but probably not. He has promised, though, to take care of His children. He wants you to be a giver. He wants you to live a righteous life.
In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor (Proverbs 21:20-21, NIV).
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The power of asking the right questions

Quality questions create a quality life. - Tony Robbins

Our thoughts = questions and answers

In my 3-part series on How you talk to yourself determines your attitude, I explored practical suggestions on reshaping our self-talk in our every day lives. An important key to self-talk is asking ourselves questions, but not just any old questions. We need to be constantly on guard to ask ourselves the right questions.

There are a lot of people moving through life (including Christians) who are just plain asking the wrong questions of themselves, OR they have asked the right questions and could not find a solution, so they gave up asking the question.

The process of thinking itself is simply asking ourselves a series of questions and finding answers to those questions. In his book Awaken the Giant Within, author Tony Robbins addresses the process of thinking in this way:
We need to realize that most of what we do, day in and day out, is ask and answer questions. So if we want to change the quality of our lives, we should change our habitual questions. These questions direct our focus, and therefore how we think and how we feel...
I not only wanted to know what questions we are asking as a society, but I also wanted to discover the questions that made a difference in people's lives. I asked people in my seminars, in airplanes, in meetings; I asked everyone I met, from CEOs in high-rises to homeless people on the street, trying to discover the questions that created their experience of day-to-day life. I realized that the main difference between the people who seemed to be successful - in any area! - and those who weren't was that successful people asked better questions, and as a result, they got better answers. They got answers that empowered them to know exactly what to do in any situation to produce the results they desired.
Disempowering vs. Empowering Questions

Those who are struggling through life are asking the wrong questions; they are asking disempowering questions. If someone is struggling with weight gain, perhaps they are asking themselves a wrong question such as "Why am I so fat?" The answers that will come back could range from "It's in my genes," to "I'm a loser," to "I just have a lack of self-control." Instead of real answers to a real problem, the answers really become excuses because the question was the wrong one to begin with.

If we want real solutions to real problems, we need to turn our focus to asking ourselves empowering questions. Maybe you are dissatisfied with the direction of your current vocation; then perhaps you need to start asking yourself questions such as "How has God shaped me as a person?", "What do I truly enjoy doing that I would even be willing to do for free", or even "Can I turn this hobby (or problem, passion, talent) into a business that could benefit thousands of people and have a heck of a lot of fun doing it?" These questions would be truly empowering ones to get us moving in a direction of real possibility and fulfillment.

Sample questions to consider

You are only going to become successful in your life through asking better questions. Once you start asking yourself these better questions, don't give up on finding better solutions to these questions. Allow yourself time to discover the answers to your empowering questions. Sometimes the answers will flow right away; at other times they won't, but don't stop asking yourself the right questions! Here are a few sample questions to consider asking yourself on a regular basis:
  • How can I improve in my intimacy with the Almighty?
  • How can I be a better manager of the finances God has entrusted to me?
  • How can I improve my relationship with my spouse?
  • How can I be a better parent to my children?
  • What one small action can I take today that will move me forward in God's calling on my life?
  • What does God want me to do with the abilities he has given me to share with others?
  • How can I be content with what I have, live on less than I make, and give more to invest in God's Kingdom?
  • Who has God placed into my life to share what He has done and continues to do in my life?
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of questions. Come up with your own list. Write out your questions and post them somewhere where you can read them everyday. Search for answers to your questions, and then be patient and allow God to reveal the best answers to your empowering questions.

What kind of questions do you find yourself asking on a regular basis, whether they be disempowering or empowering? Leave me a comment. I'd love to hear your list.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Making better choices

Becoming a coffee snob

I'll admit it. I'm a bit of a coffee snob. When I first started drinking coffee in college, low cost and high caffeine buzz was my primary concern. Of course, those were the days right before Starbucks became a brand that everyone recognized. Once a coffee drinker steps over the line from brewing Maxwell House in the coffee pot at home to a high quality, freshly ground cup o' joe, though, it's really hard to return to the cheap stuff. Do I drink crappy coffee on occasion? Sometimes, if I need to, but over the years as I have tried various types of coffee, I am drawn to the best and repulsed by the mediocre, even if it costs me a little more. If I have a choice in the matter, I will chose the better tasting coffee.

The choices people make

Over the last several months, I have been honestly dumfounded by the choices of a certain individual in my life. God has a much better plan for this person, but right now, they just can't see it for whatever reason. Their spiritual eyes have been blinded to the truth of God's Word. Their heart has become as hard as a diamond. It's as if they have been drinking Starbucks coffee for years, became unsatisfied, and then went back to Maxwell House because they suddenly thought the medicore brand was a better choice. For the seasoned coffee drinker, a choice like this makes entirely no sense whatsoever. As a believer in Christ, I don't understand the bad choices this person continues to make.

Egypt vs. the Promised Land

You know, the nation of Israel acted like this as well. The fledging Jewish nation had been multiplying in Egypt since the day Jacob moved his family there during the great famine in order to be with Joseph. Over the span of 430 years, Jacob's family grew from 70 people to millions, and after Joseph died, the Israelites were made slaves by their Egyptian hosts. The enslavement of the Israelites was a harsh one. Exodus 1:11a, 14 explains the difficulty that they endured: So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor... They [the Egyptians] made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly. The Israelites cry out to God for help, and He sends them Moses and Aaron. As a result of the 10 plagues, Pharaoh finally relents and releases the Israelites. Then, after God's amazing miracle of parting the Red Sea and rescuing them from Pharaoh's army, the Israelites find themselves two months later complaining about being stuck out in the desert. They started wishing they were back in Egypt, the land of their captivity!
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death" (Exodus 16:2-3).
In two short months, the Israelites totally forgot about the brick-making, the whips, the beatings, the long days in the hot sun, and so on. They couldn't look ahead to the land that had been promised to them. A much better place where God had promised to bless them if they would just walk in faith and obedience.

The solution

To be completely honest, I don't know that there is a solution to helping people make better choices. Some people are so strong-willed and stubborn that they need to live in "Egypt" for a while before they finally wake up to God's best for their lives. It's sad that some people are this hard-headed, but it's reality. If someone in your life is making poor choices, all you can do is pray for them to start making better choices and be available to them if they need help.

Preventive medicine against poor choices

Even though I believe that there are no concrete solutions for helping people who are in the middle of making some really poor choices in their lives, I do think that there are steps people can take to guard against making poor choices. If you have the tendency in your life to make poor choices, consider these safeguards:
  1. Personal and corporate worship. It's going to be more difficult to make bad choices if you are pursuing a growing relationship with the Lord. You need to be in the Word and prayer daily if you are going to have the mind of Christ in your decision-making process. You also need to be involved in a local, Bible-believing church, surrounding yourself with believers who are on the journey with you.
  2. Accountability. You need to find somebody (or form a small group) in whom you can be completely honest with regarding life choices. When you start even thinking about making poor choices, this person (or people) will love you enough to kick your tail in order to help you make better life choices. Obviously, these people need to be strong in their faith. People struggling with their own bad choices may influence you to take the wrong direction.
  3. Professional counseling. There is no shame in seeking out a professional Christian therapist to help you in making better choices. These people have been trained to help people who consistently make bad choices. The key here, though, is that you have to DESIRE to make changes in your decision-making process. Without the desire to change, change cannot take place.
  4. Appropriate associations. Everyday, we are surrounded by people who are making poor life choices. Some of these people we may even consider our "friends." If you are weak and easily influenced by others who are making poor choices, then you will probably need to place some distance between you and your so-called "friends." In Psalm 1:1-2, AMP, David addresses the need to be proactive with whom we associate:
BLESSED (HAPPY, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.
So how about you? Do you need to make some changes in your life to guard against making poor choices? What do you need to do today to start making some better choices? If you struggle in this area, what is the one activity that has helped you the most?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Portrait of a Biblical giver

In the book Ask, Thank, Tell: Improving Stewardship Ministry in Your Congregation, author Charles Lane paints a picture of what a truly Biblical, generous giver looks like using the following 6 characteristics:
  1. Intentional. If we are intentional about our giving, then it means we have developed a plan and follow through with that plan. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give..." In order for us to give as we have decided, then we must have made a decision to give. This is intentionality. If you find yourself digging through your wallet for a spare few dollars at the time of offering, then you probably need to work on your intentional giving.
  2. Regular. In order to be a regular giver, we must establish a pattern of giving and be regular in that pattern. For example, if you receive your paycheck once a week, then it would make sense for you to give each and every week. If you receive a paycheck at set pay periods (such as the 15th and 30th of each month), then it makes sense to give the Sundays following each pay period. If we are intentional in our giving, then we will establish a giving plan. If we are regular in our giving, then we are following the plan that we have established.
  3. Generous. Generous giving is the core value of financial stewardship. It is difficult to imagine a committed disciple of Christ who is giving only a mere 1-2% of their income to God's Kingdom through their local church. It is equally difficult to imagine a tither who isn't serious about his walk with the Lord. If our heart is truly in God's Kingdom work, then that's where we will place our money. If I desire to grow in my passion for God's Kingdom, then that's where I need to place the money He has entrusted into my care. Money leads, then hearts follow. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, the Apostle Paul tells the church at Corinth about the generous example of the Macedonian churches: Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. Would someone be able to write this about you? That in spite of financial hardship, your joy in the Lord results in rich generosity? For the majority of American Christians, I think a verse about our churches would read something like "Out of difficult financial times, their joy led them to desire to give generously, but they just couldn't." In spite of financial difficulties, we must learn to be generous givers. You can't outgive God!
  4. First. Another core value of stewardship is "first-fruits" giving. The concept of first-fruits giving comes from the Old Testament when God commanded the nation of Israel to give the "first-fruits" of their crops at harvest time. Obviously, we no longer live in an agrarian society and function today on a monetary system. For us, the concept of first-fruits would be best applied that as we receive financial compensation for our work, that we should set aside what we have determined to give, and give it at regular intervals before we pay any of our other bills. If we do not accomplish our giving first before everything else comes along, it's never going to happen. We will end up giving God our leftovers instead of giving the very best of what He has given to us.
  5. Proportional. The Bible never asks believers to give specific amounts of money. God always calls us to percentage or proportional giving. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people were asked to give a specific percentage - the tithe or 10%. In the New Testament, we see a call to give in proportion to God's material blessing on the individual. For those that are poor, percentage giving can be a comfort because although the gift may be small monetarily, it is still a sacrificial, generous gift. For those that are wealthy, though, giving proportionately can be a struggle for some. More often than not, the poor person probably has an easier time giving $5.00 then the rich man has giving $50,000.00! The tithe (10%) is a great starting point for Biblical, proportional giving for everyone.
  6. Cheerful. Believers can give cheerfully when they have mastered the first five stewardship values. I know in my own life, when I finally understood what generous giving looks like in the life of a believer, my intentional, regular, and generous gifts became a joyful experience. I no longer resented the gift. I enjoy giving back to God what He has given me to manage.
So what does your giving portrait look like? Are you displaying the 6 characteristics of a Biblical, generous giver?

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Are you telling a compelling story? (part 2)

In my last post, I wrote about story and the importance of telling a compelling one. In this post, let's take the concept of story to the next level and apply it to the seven investments of the rich Christian life.


How does your life's story read in regard to your worship of Almighty God? Are you spending quality, daily time in the Word and in prayer? Are you consistently attending worship services and actively involved in a local, Bible-believing church? Our life story should be a pursuit of the greatest commandment, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:36-38). God wants all of us, and we demonstrate that through our private and public worship.


Are you truly living a life story of generosity? The gospel of Jesus is based on the principle of generosity. We should give to the poor. We should give to those in need. We should give to our churches in order to support ministry programs, the staff, and missions. We should give because we love God, we desire to be obedient to what He has asked us to do, and we can see a bigger picture. Our life here on earth is a training ground for our true life in heaven for all of eternity. Our best life is yet to come when we receive our eternal reward. We can invest the wealth God has entrusted to our management by sending it on ahead for heavenly gain. The pursuit of our story should begin with the end in mind - eternity with God.


Outside of our relationship with God, the people in our lives should be our next highest priority. How does your story read when it comes to your family, friends, mentors, mentees, and other professional relationships? Are you demonstrating a story of love to those around you? Are you fully engaged in investing time and resources into those who matter most in life? When your loved ones gather for your funeral someday, what do you think they will say about you? Will they say you were a loving person who cared about others, or are you fearful that they might not have a whole lot of positive things to say about your story?


God has created you for a purpose. He has a story that He wants to tell through you that only you can tell. He can tell that story more effectively if you have yielded yourself to the Lordship of Christ. Are you pursuing God's direction for your life? Are you using the talents and abilities that He has given to you for Kingdom purposes?


God has entrusted into your care His financial resources. The Bible is clear on the Christian's stewardship responsibility of His money. The evangelist Billy Graham has two great quotes about money:
If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life.
Give me five minutes with a person's checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is. 
Is your money story one of fiscal responsibility or irresponsibility? Does your checkbook reflect a person (or a family) whose heart is not centered on hoarding wealth, material possessions, or financial gain? Do you need to change your money story?


How does your life story read in regard to action? Are you giving yourself fully to the work God has called you to do (1 Corinthians 15:58)? Are you just being active, or are you truly focused on productivity in the 20% of your responsibilities that lead to 80% of your results (80/20 Rule)? God has called of us to do something and give ourselves fully to that task. Be sure that your story reflects this in your day-to-day actions.


Does your life story demonstrate a winning attitude? Do you display the 10 characteristics of a winner?Are you allowing the trials in your life for growth in your walk with Christ? Focus on accomplishing what God has shaped you to do here on earth, so that one day you can receive your eternal reward and hear these beautiful words, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21, NIV).

Conclusion - The Rocking Chair Technique

Tony Robbins, the popular self-help guru, has a strategy called "The Rocking Chair Technique" which he uses to help people program their brains to accomplish goals. The key elements to this approach are these:
  • Imagine yourself much older, sitting in your rocking chair and looking back over your life.
  • Imagine if you had NOT achieved your goal.
  • How would you feel? Experience the PAIN of loss.
  • Imagine if you HAD achieved your goal.
  • How would you feel? Experience the PLEASURE of success.
Using Tony's approach, I want you to imagine yourself as an old man or woman, sitting in a rocking chair, looking back over your life. If things continue the way they have been for you up to this point, how would your story read? Would you be satisfied or would you be filled with regret because you didn't live out a very compelling life story?

What do you need to do to write a better story?

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