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)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Belief Leads to Action

Mainline Christianity Is Confused

For those of us who grew up in Bible-believing and preaching churches, we have most likely heard lines such as "faith in Christ alone" leads us to salvation as well as "once saved, always saved." While I do believe in these foundational principles of the Christian faith, I also believe many so-called Christians want to use these principles as their "golden ticket," so to speak, for fire insurance from eternal damnation. They want to tack God onto their lives, but they don't really want to be transformed into a new life.

If you completely ignore some or all of these salvation sayings and read through the New Testament with an open heart and mind, though, you would most likely come to a different conclusion of what salvation and the Christian life is all about. Salvation is not based on saying a prayer and then moving on with a life still lived out in the flesh.

Faith And Action Go Together

Consider the following passage from the Apostle James regarding what living out a life of faith should really look like in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless. Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26).
In the words of Forrest Gump, faith and action go together like "peas and carrots." You cannot have a deep, abiding faith in God without some type of action that takes place as a result of that faith. In this passage from James, he claims under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit that a faith without deeds is useless. Our actions prove as evidence that we do have faith. If we have no actions to back up our faith, then our faith is dead. We are not true believers in Jesus Christ. We are fakes.

Good Deeds Don't Save Us

The challenge with a passage such as we just read in James 2 is that we can easily start heading down a path of a works-based salvation, which is not the intention. Our belief must be rooted in a faith in Christ's redeeming work on the cross alone. But once we have accepted Christ as both Lord and Savior, there should be a life-altering change through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that takes place in our life. Living out a life of action from the point of salvation is proof or evidence that transformation has taken place. Action in good deeds should simply be an outgrowth of our faith in Christ alone to save us.


So, here are some questions that you should perhaps ask yourself, today: Do my actions support my faith? If a random person were to examine my life right now, would they see that my life that has been radically transformed by faith in Christ? If being a Christian were a crime here in the United States, would there be enough evidence of action in my life to convict me of being a follower of Jesus?

Also check out these related posts:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The foundation for winning is faith

A Mislabeled Investment

In the process of developing the material on this blog and formulating my 7 investments, I have claimed that the seventh and final investment is winning. Upon further reflection and discussions with others, I may have mislabeled this investment.

Examples From Paul

I do believe that possessing a winning attitude is beneficial to our Christian walk. On numerous occasions, the Apostle Paul used the analogy of running a race to win the prize in living out our life here on earth. Here are two examples from Paul's letters:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain (Galatians 2:2).
Winning Means Different Things To Different People

While a winning attitude is important to our walk with Christ here on this earth, the reality is that winning becomes defined as different things to different people. Some people define what the "win" is for their lives, without really considering what God's winning definition is for them. They haven't stepped out in a faith relationship with the Lord and really sought out what His plan is for their lives. They haven't defined what winning truly means for them through God's eyes. They have taken on a worldview of success and accomplishment.

In fact, God's definition for winning in your life may look like a complete and miserable failure according to the world. Consider the lives of these men from the pages of Scripture:
  • Moses - since he was part of the household of Pharaoh for the first 40 years of his life, Moses had it made, but then he became burdened for the condition of his own people. He ended up in the desert for 40 years as a shepherd, and then the final 40 years of his life, he led a rag tag group of complaining Israelites around the desert until God allowed them to enter the Promise Land. Moses didn't even get to step foot into this land!
  • Jeremiah - was God's prophet to the nation of Judah in her final days before the exile. He suffered rejection from his own people as well as extreme emotional and physical pain in his ministry to them.
  • Jesus - after a successful three year ministry in Galilee, Judea, and Samaria, Jesus was crucified in the prime of his life around age 33.
  • Paul - after 3 difficult missionary journeys, the establishing of many churches in important Roman cities, and the writing of much of our New Testament, Paul was most likely beheaded by the Emperor Nero after a lengthy prison sentence in Rome.
Faith Is The Foundation

In the world's system of success and significance, these men would not be considered to be that successful, but in God's eyes, they all fulfilled exactly what they were called to do. They ran their races well because they were walking by faith, trusting God for a heavenly reward. They allowed God to define their mission of successful living.

In any kind of race, there is a starting point and an end point. There is an ultimate purpose to the race, and that is to win and receive a prize. But, there are distractions on the course. There are things that slow us down in running the most effective race possible. When these things happen to us in our journey through this life, we need to refocus our attention on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He will strengthen our faith to continue running the race for Him.

Consider the following verses from the author of the book of Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).
The Seventh Investment Leads Us Back To The First

The only way that we can run God's race for our lives is to have our focus completely on Him. The way we accomplish this is through a deep, abiding, personal relationship with God Almighty. This cycles us completely back to our first investment, our worship of God. It's only through spending time in the Word and prayer, as well as spending time in corporate worship with our church family that we allow ourselves to be re-oriented to His mission for us. He brings clarity to why we are running our race in the first place.

Also check out these related posts:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Budget Course Corrections

Let's Review

In my last post on 5 Steps to a Successful Monthly Budget Plan, I gave you a detailed breakdown of the 5 steps that I go through each month as I work out my budget plan. These five steps include the following:
  1. Create - you need to create a specific spending plan before the beginning of each new month.
  2. Implement - you need to determine how your spending is going to flow, whether it be checks, electronic transfers, debit card, or cash. For the cash envelope system, you will need to determine how much cash you need to fund your specific budget categories and in what denominations you need that cash. Then, you need to make a bank run and get your money.
  3. Review - you should check on your budget progress at least one time per month (most likely mid-month) to see if you're on track with your plan.
  4. Fix - you may need to re-adjust budget numbers and cash flow spending as needed when overspending takes place or unexpected expenses occur.
  5. Implement - after you have fixed any budget problems during the month, you will need to re-implement your cash flow plan and make adjustments to your cash envelope system.
Stuff Happens

Since I have been doing a successful monthly budget for a number of years, most of the time it runs on autopilot. I rarely think about it or look at it, except during my mid-month review. Occasionally, though, stuff happens that can throw your budget off. You may accidently overspend in a certain category. You may receive an unexpected expense that you have not planned for. Murphy's Law states that "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." Things will happen in your cash flow plan that will cause you anxiety and frustration. Your job will be to work through and around the problems. In this post, I would like to focus on Steps 4 and 5 of a Successful Budget Plan - fixing the problems that come up in your monthly plan.

Adjusting On the Fly

So when "stuff happens" in your budget, what should you do? Should you just wring your hands and give up on trying to make your budget work? No way! Anything that's worth doing well is going to have its own unique set of difficulties and challenges. I think the better question to ask yourself is "do I have the strength of character to work out these problems as they come up?"

Since I get paid bi-weekly, I feel blessed that this affords me an opportunity to make corrections to my budget "on the fly" as problems arise. The following is a list of five steps that I take to fix the problems that come up each month in my cash flow plan.

5 Steps You Can Take To Make Budget Course Corrections:
  1. Pray. If you have gone through Financial Peace University, you're familiar with the Dave Ramsey line that "prayer really works." Financial challenges will arise that we try really hard to fix on our own. I believe God honors that, and He wants us to be hard-working, diligent managers of His wealth. But, He also desires a deeper relationship with us. He wants us to go to the next level in our faith and reliance on Him through times of difficulty. Before working the problem, why not start with the source of everything in the universe? Go before the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help you by supplying you with the wisdom and resources necessary to get through your financial difficulty.
  2. Hold the Line On Spending. I don't think anyone enjoys self-discipline or restraint, but if you want your budget to be balanced for the remainder of the month, then you will need to "tighten down the screws" of the discretionary spending categories of your plan. If I enter the first or second week of a month and realize I'm having some budget problems, then I will purposely restrain my cash spending. I will do my best to have cash left over in my envelope system by mid-month or month end so that I don't need to get as much cash the next time I go to the bank. I sometimes even go to the extreme step of pulling out some of the cash in my envelopes and setting it aside until the next pay period so that I'm not tempted to spend it. Who says that just because you have the cash, that means you need to go out and spend it?
  3. Review the Monthly Budget. As spending problems come up during the month, I will pull up my budget spreadsheet on my computer and scrutinize all the categories, especially areas of discretionary spending.
  4. Re-adjust Numbers. In order to balance my budget, I will re-adjust any discretionary spending categories that I can. If I can push any spending into the next month, I will, and then worry about how to make that work out in the next month's budget plan.
  5. Look for Additional Resources. Look for opportunities to increase your cash flow for the month, whether it may be selling some stuff around the house, overtime, working a part-time job, or picking up some side work in your field of expertise.
Also check out these related posts:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

5 Steps to a Successful Monthly Budget Plan

Budget Master

Mastery passes often for egotism. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all. - Michelangelo

I'm not trying to brag or anything, but I am a master at budgeting. I have been doing a consistent, monthly budget for over 5-6 years now. After following the principles of first Crown Financial, then Dave Ramsey, and then applying a few additional ideas from others, I have a successful track record of working a family budget.

A lot of so-called personal financial experts say that budgets are a waste of time. But then, these same so-called experts will turn around and say that you need some type of spending plan. Well, that is exactly what a budget is. It is simply putting down on paper how you plan to spend your income for a given month. In order to make your money more effective at accomplishing some great things, you need to tell it what to do and where to go, whether it be giving money back to God, paying off debt, saving for a rainy day, investing for retirement, or paying the bills.

Just to give you a quick rundown of how I work my budget, here is my budget cycle that I typically follow in a given month:

Step #1 - Create

A few days before the beginning of each month, I pull up my budget spreadsheet on my computer from the previous month, I re-save and re-title for the coming month, and then I re-adjust my budget category numbers as needed. Once you get into the "groove" of doing a monthly budget, especially using computer spreadsheets, this is pretty fast and easy to accomplish. Total work time is around 20-30 minutes.

Step #2 - Implement

This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak on your budget plan. Once I have figured out the budget and all the math works on the spreadsheet, I determine which categories I need to fund with my cash envelope system, which bills are auto-drafted from my checking account, and which ones I will pay using my debit card (such as paying for gas at the pump). At this point, I'm the most interested in determining which categories I will fund using cash. The categories that I typically fund are grocery store, dining out/entertainment, blow money, haircuts, and clothing. These are areas in which I need to pay cash or should pay cash in order to control my spending in these areas. So, once I know I know the amount of cash for each of these five categories, I determine the monetary denominations that I need to withdraw from the bank (such as 2-100s, 2-50s, 7-20s, and so on). I then write a check made out to "Cash" and put that with a sticky note with the various denominations I need. Then, I go to the bank to cash the check and get my envelope system money. Once I get home, I split up the cash into the five separate envelopes and I'm good to go for the next couple of weeks before the next pay period. Total work time including a trip to the bank is around 20-30 minutes.

Step #3 - Review

When the first half of the month is drawing to a close and my next pay period is coming up (I get paid bi-weekly on the 15th and 30th of each month), I take a little time to review where I'm at in my budget to make sure I'm on track. Total work time is around 10-15 minutes.

Step #4 - Fix

So after I review my budget mid-month, if I'm a little off in some areas, I re-adjust some of the categories as necessary in order to keep my budget balanced. This could effect how much cash is withdrawn for the second half of the month, so I need to re-crunch numbers as I move into the final step. Total work time is around 5-10 minutes.

Step #5 - Implement

This is simply a repeat of Step #2. I determine how much new cash I need for my envelope system in the final 2 weeks of the month, I determine the financial denominations of the cash, I write a second check made out to "Cash," and then I make another bank run to fund the envelopes. Total work time including a trip to the bank is around 20-30 minutes.


As you can see from these five steps to implementing a successful monthly budget plan, you will need to invest approximately anywhere between 75-115 minutes (1:15 - 1:55) of time on working the plan each month. This is assuming, of course, that you have a good budget system already in place and are kind of running on auto-pilot already. If you do not currently have a budget plan in place, it will take approximately 3 months (and a bit more time each month than me) to work out all the kinks before you feel like you have a handle on a good working system. Budgets do work over time, so the key is to be consistent in working your plan and to be determined to stick with it no matter what. Allow yourself to fail, because you will, especially at the beginning of the process. Learn from your mistakes, and keep working your budget no matter what!

Also check out these related posts:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Whole life generosity | Using everything you are for God's Kingdom

Generosity Is Not All About Money

In our quest to be more generous as believers, I think it's very easy to slip into a mindset of generosity through money. Many of us in the Christian Personal Finance world have a tendency to camp out on the money-giving topic because as a rule, American Christians are not incredibly generous. On a side note, if you disagree with that statement, I would encourage you to read Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money. I'm in the middle of reading this book, and it's very insightful on the giving patterns of American Christians.

Anyway, financial giving is an important aspect of generosity, but it is still just one part of a whole mindset of giving. God has also blessed us with time, energy, spiritual gifts, and natural abilities.

Time And Energy

We have all been given 24 hours in a day in which to accomplish what God wants us to do. He's observing how we manage and utilize the time in which He has blessed us. I don't believe He necessarily wants us to be workaholics in the Kingdom of God. He does provide opportunities for us to rest, reflect, and recreate in order to run our race with endurance. You can even look at Jesus' own life in the four Gospels and see that Jesus often took the time to rest and rejuvenate from busy ministry life. But, I do think we all could improve in this area through eliminating time wasters and distractions that can crowd out our daily schedules. Hey, I'm as guilty as the next Christian!

Although we may have all been given at least the same amount of daily time, we are not all blessed with the same levels of energy. Some of us are super fast-paced and run on relatively low levels of sleep and high levels of caffeine. We have things to do, and we wake up early each morning with our hearts racing at a high metabolic rate to accomplish as much as we can in our day. Others, though, are slower-paced. They enjoy sleeping in each morning and generally taking their time in just about every activity they engage themselves. They enjoy a slower pace with their family and friends; they are more relational. And you know what? This is a good thing. God created us all differently. He can use our natural energy inclinations to build up God's Kingdom. He can use the slower-paced members of the body to build deep relationships with those around them. He can use the faster-paced, hyperactive believers to be the "doers" in the Kingdom. However God has wired you, use your unique energy level for God's Kingdom purposes.

Spiritual Gifts

Once we have accepted Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit. At this time, we receive a set of spiritual gifts that are unique to our person. Each believer is given different spiritual gifts so that each of us may work together with others in order to be a complete body of Christ and accomplish God's mission that He has for His Church here on earth.

In the New Testament, there are three primary passages that lay out the various spiritual gifts that are given to believers. These passages include Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. There is a Wikipedia entry which provides a great explanation of these gifts as well as handy chart that breaks down the various spiritual gifts that are outlined in these three specific passages:

Other GiftsThe 5 Fold MinistryThe 9 Spiritual Gifts
Romans 12:6-8Ephesians 4:111 Corinthians 12:1-14
  • Prophecy
  • Ministry
  • Teaching
  • Exhortation
  • Giving
  • Leading
  • Showing mercy (compassion)
  • Apostolic
  • Prophetic
  • Evangelical
  • Pastoral
  • Teaching
  • Wisdom
  • Knowledge
  • Discerning various spirits
  • Speaking in tongues
  • Interpretation of tongues
  • Prophecy
  • Faith
  • Working of miracles
  • Healing

*Chart courtesy of Wikipedia.

Because of time, I won't go into any details on the various spiritual gifts on this chart. I believe a part of our Christian walk is going through the process of discovering our spiritual gifts. Oftentimes, this is discovered through trial and error by trying out various roles in our churches. You can also speed up the learning process through taking spiritual gifts inventories. Check out the following post I wrote last year regarding  Spiritual Gift Inventories. In this post, I list a few different spiritual gifts tests that you can complete online. I would encourage you to take one of these inventories to discover your spiritual gifts. Once you know what they are, seek out ways in which you can use your gifts for God's Kingdom.

Natural Abilities

As human beings, we are born with natural abilities that often emerge as we grow and mature. We see musical talents that emerge from children as they start singing or playing an instrument during their school years. We take note of children and adults who have the ability to work with their hands, whether it be building a fort in the back yard, a go-cart, or rebuilding a car. And others may have a different artistic bent, where they enjoy drawing, painting, or computer-aided design.

The majority of these talents can be offered in service to God for His Kingdom purposes. The key, though, is for churches to have a method in which people can plug their natural abilities into specific ministries. Artistic talents are some of the easiest to identify as well as plug into ministry. If you can sing, then you could join the church choir or praise team. If you play a musical instrument, then you can join the church orchestra or praise band. But, what if you have a natural ability for fixing cars? How could that be used for God's Kingdom? Some churches actually have ministries that do car repair for less fortunate people. If you have the spiritual gift of leadership and a natural ability for fixing cars, why not combine these two together and lead your own ministry to help others with their car problems. Get creative in using your natural abilities to serve the Lord!

Develop And Manage Your Gifts For Service

I think some of us instinctively know where we are naturally talented and spiritually gifted. For example, early on in my life, I knew that I had a natural gift for music, specifically in playing trumpet. From a young age, my parents and others encouraged me to practice, improve my talent, and then eventually use it for God's Kingdom purposes.

I went through a period in my life, though, in which I wanted to use this musical talent for my own selfish purposes. Honestly, I don't know that I was holding back this gift in rebellion towards God. I was just too immature in my spiritual walk to fully comprehend how God wanted me to use the gifts He had blessed me with. Through time and maturity, as well as yielding myself to God's unique purpose for my life, I have come to a greater realization of what it truly means to use my time, energy, spiritual gifts, and natural abilities to build up the Kingdom.

Another interesting thing that has happened for me in my own life is that as I developed and grew in these areas of gifts and abilities, I have noticed God moving me in different directions. New passions in the areas of stewardship, generosity, teaching, and writing have grown out of using my gifts in the area of music ministry. I believe the key is allowing yourself to be teachable and flexible as you grow and mature in your spiritual gifts and natural abilities.

Whole Life Generosity

There is only one you. God has given you a certain amount of time to live here on this earth. He has hard-wired you at a certain energy level. At the point of salvation, He has given you specific spiritual gifts to be developed on your Christian journey. Finally, He has blessed you with unique natural abilities that need to be used for God's Kingdom purposes.

The question that only you can answer is the following: "Am I going to be generous in using my whole life, everything God has shaped me to be, in order to build up God's Kingdom while I live my life here on earth?" God has made us managers of His financial resources, and He's looking to see if you're a good manager of His wealth. But He's also observing if you're a good manager of time, energy, spiritual gifts, and natural abilities. If He were to grade you today on your management skills in these areas, how would you fare? Would you be wildly successful, receive a passing grade, or fail miserably? What can you do today to become a more generous person in all areas of your life?
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:7-11).
Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rich according to whom?

The Church at Laodicea

Within the book of Revelation, the Apostle John writes seven distinct letters to seven churches in the first century of the founding of the universal church. While John addresses each church in general encouragement in looking forward to God's coming Kingdom, he also speaks to specific problems unique to each church.

One of these churches is the church in the Roman city of Laodicea. This body of believers probably receives one of the most scathing rebukes of all seven churches (Revelation 3:14-22). Our Lord through John's writing calls them "lukewarm." Christ's preference for this church was that they were either cold or hot, but since they are simply lukewarm, He wants nothing to do with them; He states that He will vomit them out of His mouth. How would you like that said of your church?

They Were Rich And Needed Nothing

A part of this lukewarm issue apparently revolved around money. The Lord gives this church the following rebuke:
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:17).
These Christians were wealthy and had no needs. They thought they were set for life. They didn't think they needed to rely on the Lord, but Jesus knew otherwise. He told them that they didn't realize that they were spiritually destitute. They needed more of Him.

The Invitation To Relationship Over Wealth

Near the end of this Letter to Laodicea, Jesus invites the believers at this church to turn from their sin revolving around wealth, to repent, and to resume a relationship with Him. As Christians, we're very familiar with the following verse that was originally written to this church:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me (Revelation 3:20).
Unfortunately, I think we have taken this verse out of its original context of a return for believers into a deeper relationship with the Lord and made it into a verse about salvation. I believe the real meaning behind this passage is that the Lord is telling this church that He desires a profound, intimate dependence on Him, but their wealth was getting in the way.

Comparing The American Church To Laodicea

You know, the American Church sounds a lot like the Laodicean Church. We're incredibly wealthy compared to the rest of the world. In our wealth, we have become incredibly self-reliant. We have our well-paying jobs, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and lines of credit. A dependence on God rarely enters into our mindset until something goes terribly wrong, such as a job loss, foreclosure, or mounting debt problems. We tend to put our financial lives into a box marked "Not Spiritual."

God wants everything. He wants our jobs, businesses, cash, credit, bank accounts, and retirement. He wants us to acknowledge that we need an intimate relationship with Him above everything else. We must put our wealth in God's perspective.

There Is Hope

In America's current economic state, I see hope on the horizon that a change in mindset is beginning to take place. More believers and more churches are turning to God's principles of Biblical finances. Through the efforts of such people and organizations as Crown Financial Ministries, Dave Ramsey, the Good $ense Ministry, and the numerous Christian Personal Finance Blogs now being published, I see a lot of Christians now moving toward God when it comes to money.

When money in America was flowing freely and credit was cheap, we had no need for God. We wanted to get our "spiritual fix" on Sundays and then act like the world when it came to money. Now that the tide has shifted in our economy, our churches and fellow believers are awakening to a new reality. God really does have something to say about money and our spiritual condition. There is a better way. We need to go deeper in our relationship with the Lord and rely on Him for wisdom and guidance. God is using a bad economy to knock on our heart's door and say to us, "Hey, American Church. You thought you were rich. You relied on your wealth. What you truly need is a more intimate relationship with Me."

Also check out these related posts:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

You are an Alien

A Reoccurring Theme

A reoccurring theme that emerges in the later books of the New Testament is the concept that Christians are aliens or strangers on this earth. According to God's Word, if you profess the Lord as your Savior, then you are truly a stranger on this earth. You are no longer a citizen of earth, but rather a citizen of heaven.

Here's the problem, though. We've never seen our permanent, eternal residence. All we have ever known is our temporary address. We have to walk out on faith that God's Word speaks truth when it states that our eternal inheritance waits for us in God's heavenly Kingdom.

Earth Is Our Temporary Residence

We as Christians would be different, perhaps, if we had originally been born in heaven and experienced a life there in our permanent residence, and then boarded a flying saucer and flew to the earth to spend 70-100 years living here. In the light of an eternal life, that many years is a blink of an eye. It is an extremely brief amount of time.

But, we are all mortal human beings, born first at our temporary address with the promise of a greater life beyond this mortal one, which we, of course, have difficulty understanding with our finite minds. We must take God at His Word, and trust that what He has told us is true.

In the great Hall of Faith chapter, the writer of the book of Hebrews discusses this very concept of a temporary address versus a permanent, eternal home. He writes about the faith of the great Old Testament saints such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. He summarizes their faith and the way they lived their lives here on earth in this way:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Traveling Light

About two years ago, I started having an interest in world travel after reading about Tim Ferriss's adventures in The 4-Hour Workweek. From Tim's book, I got turned on to another worldwide traveler named Rolf Potts and his book Vagabonding. Anyway, to make a long story a little shorter, a concept that is taught by these worldwide travelers is traveling with as little as possible. Their philosophy is to stay "lean and mean" so that you can be as mobile as possible in your travels.

Let's say that you worked for a company that wanted to send you over to Iraqi to help that country rebuild its infrastructure. Your company gave you a timetable of two years to move over to that country, complete the assigned task, and then move back to the states. In the process of this overseas work assignment, would you move to Iraqi, buy an expensive home, furnish that home with expensive furniture and, in general, live as though Iraqi was your new permanent home? I doubt it very seriously. You would most likely live as inexpensively as possible and save as much money as you could in your bank accounts back in the states. You would be looking forward to completing your work responsibilities and moving back to your permanent home, where you could enjoy the fruits of your labor.

But this is exactly what we as Christians have a tendency to do. We act like our temporary home is the permanent one. It's so easy for us as mere mortals to get hung up with the cares of this world. We can easily get caught up in the world's money mindset of the bigger house, the better car, and the millionaire retirement account. All of this stuff is going to come to an end in a relatively brief amount of time in light of eternity. We would be better off to travel lightly on this earth and invest as much time, energy, abilities, resources, and finances into our permanent home - God's Kingdom.

Instructions For The Temporary Address

OK, so if we acknowledge at least that earth is a temporary stop before we reach our final destination, how should we live while we are here? In 1 Peter 1:13-19, the Apostle Peter encourages all believers to live out holy lives in the following manner:
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
The writer of Hebrews encourages believers to endure the suffering and struggles of the Christian life here on earth, because we have a great reward waiting for us in the life to come.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:32-36).
Conclusion: Live Like An Alien

In this post, we have seen from God's Word that the focus of a Christ follower should be on our eternal destination, not on our temporary residence. Living with this mindset as a Christian can be a challenge since all we have ever known is our temporary, earthly address. We have not yet experienced our eternal, heavenly, permanent home. We must live a life based on faith and trust in God's promises to us in His Word.

In my concluding thoughts, let me give you three key concepts in living like an alien while we reside here on earth at our temporary address:
  1. Transform your thinking. In Romans 12:2 we read, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." As we live life here at our temporary address, we need to filter our thinking and actions through the mind of Christ, not on what the world teaches. We learn the mind of Christ through His Word. Allow the Bible to be your main filter on all your decision making.
  2. Shed the unnecessary. Travel lightly. In Hebrews 12:1-2a we read, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." In order to complete our assignment here at our temporary address, we need get rid of anything that is going to weigh us down. The love of money and possessions is one of those major life areas that weighs us down on our earthly journey.
  3. Invest in God's Kingdom. In Matthew 6:31-33 we read, "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." As we live life here at our temporary address, it's very easy for us to get consumed with what we need here on earth. Our Lord asks us not to worry about our basic needs. He will take care of us and sustain us as we keep our focus on the Kingdom of God. Pour as much time, energy, abilities, and finances into His Kingdom work as you possibly can and observe what happens. As you focus your life on what God wants to accomplish through you, you will be storing up treasures in your permanent address, your heavenly home (Matthew 6:19-20).
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rich Christian Blog Joins the Christian Financial Alliance

Introduction to the Alliance

Last week, a blogger friend of mine, Rob Kuban, over on his blog Dollars and Doctrine, began a new network of Christian Finance websites, the Christian Financial Alliance. The concept is simple: Define a set of core beliefs regarding biblical finance and hold ourselves accountable to it. After much thought, study, prayer, and help from other great blogs, Rob has put together a list of 20 Core Beliefs of what the Bible teaches regarding money. Rob, and anything he posts regarding biblical finance on, holds himself accountable to teach and adhere to these fundamental teachings of scripture. To read Rob's complete post on his blog, follow this link.

And now, here is a listing of Rob's 20 core beliefs:

Christian Financial Alliance Core Beliefs:
  1. I believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). My heart, soul, mind, and strength seek to glorify God through the pursuit of Christ, and it is my hope that my life and financial management will reflect this fundamental purpose (Luke 10:27).
  2. I believe the Bible is the supreme authority and source of truth and instruction for Christians; therefore, I seek to root my financial teaching in the truth of God’s word (2 Tim. 3:14-17).
  3. I believe stewardship does not equal salvation (Acts 8:20). We are saved by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9). No financial action can save a soul (Matt 16:24-26).
  4. I believe God owns everything (Ps. 89:11) and I am merely a steward of His resources for His purposes (Luke 12:42).
  5. I believe the heart is the focus of the New Testament’s instruction regarding money (2 Cor. 9:7). This does not make obedience contingent upon our feelings, but calls our attention to focus on the intentions of our heart (Prov. 21:2).
  6. I strive to be rich towards God (Luke 12:21) and not place my hope or trust in riches (Rev. 3:17-19).
  7. I seek to serve God as my master, not money (Matt. 6:24).
  8. I believe how we spend our money reveals what our heart treasures; therefore, if God’s kingdom has its rightful place in our hearts, it should show up in our budget (Matt. 6:21).
  9. I believe prosperity is not the purpose of Christianity (John 6:29). It is a gift that God may or may not choose to give (1 Sam. 2:7), and should be handled with generosity and humility recognizing that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).
  10. I believe Christians are called to be content in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11) because God has given us everything we need in Christ (2 Pet. 1:3).
  11. I believe we are called to be wise stewards of resources (Luke 12:42) but not consumed with a love of money (1 Tim. 6:10).
  12. I believe stewardship, generosity, and contentment are fruits of a deeper walk with Christ, not ends in themselves (1 John 5:21). I seek first His kingdom and wait for the rest to be added. (Matt. 6:33)
  13. I believe the Bible does not speak highly of the bondage caused by debt (Prov. 22:7); therefore, it should-if nothing else-be approached with extreme caution (Prov. 22:26-27).
  14. I believe Christians are called to be generous (Acts 20:35) to their family (1 Tim. 5:8), God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 9:14), and those in need (1 John 3:17). After these things, we are free to spend money on ourselves (Prov. 10:22).
  15. I believe heavenly reward awaits those who choose to invest in God’s kingdom (Luke 12:33), and whether or not God chooses to bestow earthly reward is up to Him (Job 1:21).
  16. I believe integrity is more important than financial gain (Prov. 10:2).
  17. I believe money can be a blessing and a curse depending on the heart of its holder (Luke 6:44-45).
  18. I believe that the way we handle our money should be a testimony of our devotion to God not a distraction from Him. (Col. 3:17)
  19. I believe there are many things in life that are more important than money. (Prov. 23:4-5)
  20. I believe true riches are found in Christ alone. (Eph. 3:8)
Rich Christian Blog and the Alliance

The Rich Christian, Poor Christian blog stands in agreement with these 20 core principles as outlined by Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine. From the humble beginnings of this blog, I have always had the desire to take a Biblical approach to life and finances in all of my writing. I am proud to stand with Rob, Dollars and Doctrine, and a number of other great Christian financial blogs that are attempting to do the same.

Other Websites Currently in the Alliance

According to Rob, here is a listing of the other blogs that are currently part of our alliance:
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