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, December 29, 2011

My Personal Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts in 2011

Photo by Sam Churchill

During this holiday week, I thought I would share some of my favorite blog posts that I have written over the last year here on Rich Christian, Poor Christian. I believe these posts reflect some of my best writing and the most thought-provoking information that I have shared with my readers. Please note, this list includes my personal favorites, but they do not necessarily reflect the most popular posts according to pageview traffic.

In order to read each post listed below in it's entirety, just click on the embedded links. So, without further delay, here are my top ten favorite posts [drum roll, please]:

Larry's Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts In 2011

10. You Are An Alien. In this post, I discuss the concept that is introduced in the New Testament regarding the fact that Christians are really "aliens" in a foreign land. Earth is not our permanent home; heaven is. Unfortunately, the way most believers live, though, does not reflect this truth. We are so obsessed with our stuff here on earth, that we forget what is truly important in this life and our eternal life to come.

9. The Blessing of Experiencing God. In this post, I continue to get "real" with my blog readers regarding everything that has happened to me over the last couple of years, further details regarding My Story of divorce and recovery. During a horrible time of my life, I learned what it truly means to run to God and to lean on Him for his help and strength to get me through it all. Even though what happened to me and my family was definitely not my master plan for my life, God used a horrible experience in order for me to have a deeper encounter with Him.

8. Staying debt free through divorce. One of the cool experiences that I had with God during my divorce was how He kept me debt free during a painful and expensive process. Even after increasing my giving in order to help my church during these turbulent, economic times, God honored my faithfulness to Him and His Kingdom work by providing for my all of my needs in every way. To this day, I am still blown away by God's provision. God's math always works way better than our math!

7. Thankful for the Journey. In this post, I reflect on the truth that the Thanksgiving Day holiday was birthed out of a painful period in our nation's history. Whether times are good or bad, the attitude of the believer should always be one of thanksgiving. I had to discover this myself in my own difficult journey.

6. Who or What Is In Your Backpack? In this post, I reflect on a movie called Up In The Air starring George Clooney. The big takeaway for me in this film was the idea of "who or what is in your backpack?" The relationships that we build on our journey through life are vitality important. Stuff, not so much.

5. Radical Life Changes Challenge Us To Make Changes. In this post, I once again reflect back on the challenging times that I have encountered for the last few years. I acknowledge that if it were not for the extreme challenges that I have faced during this time period of my life, I would not have made the necessary changes in my life that I needed to make. All things truly do work together for the good of those that love God and have been called according to His purpose.

4. Lessons From Nazareth | Donkey Path Living. I was inspired to write this post while traveling through Israel back in May. During my trip, our tour guide pointed out the zig-zag streets that are present in towns that are built on the sides of mountains. These streets were originally donkey paths. Donkeys naturally take the path of least resistance when walking up hills and mountains. Many times, we need to take this same approach when dealing with major challenges in our lives.

3. How To Discover Your Wolrdview On Money. For the Christian, there are two possible worldviews you can take with money. The first is the secular worldview. The second is a Biblical worldview. Unfortunately, though, many believers are handling their personal finances according to the world's approach to money. God's Word, though, has a lot to say about money. Christians need to dig deeper into the Bible and follow God's financial principles.

2. Praying for the Double Blessing. Once again, in this particular post, I reflect back over the last few years of my life. I compare my journey to that of Job in the Old Testament. On the other side of his journey, God gave Job a "double blessing" for staying faithful to Him through all of his trials. The second half of Job's life was twice as good as the first! In my own life situation, I have been praying for that same kind of outcome. Now that I'm on the other side of a lot of my mess, I can truly say that God has been faithful and blessed me in incredible ways over the last year.

1. God Lessons at the Park. As a writer and a dad, this post was just a pure stroke of inspiration as I was taking a bike ride with my daughter one early, warm, spring day. It's my absolute favorite post of 2011 because I was moved to write about my relationship with my daughters and how that compares to our relationship with God the Father. Good stuff.

So, out of my personal Top 10 list, do you have a favorite post that spoke to you or that God used in your life? Feel free to leave me a comment below and tell me your story. I'd love to hear it.

Also, check out these related posts:

Friday, December 23, 2011

There Are No Shortcuts In Your Finances

Photo by Ronallan
Everybody Likes A Good Shortcut

Several years ago, the Star Trek franchise had a spinoff series called "Star Trek Voyager." The premise of the show was that one of the newest starships in Star Fleet, a ship called Voyager, was suddenly transported into the outer reaches of the Delta Quadrant and it would take several decades for the ship to return to earth, even at the speed of Warp 10, or something like that.

In several of the episodes in this series, Captain Janeway is trying to find a wormhole, a shortcut if you will, that will quickly transport her ship and crew back to the Alpha Quadrant where Earth is located. I mean come on, who wouldn't want to shave off a few decades off a really long space voyage? If the ship's captain could find a stable shortcut through the universe and back to earth, then she would save her crew from a miserably long trip!

Everybody likes a good shortcut. I've taken a few in my lifetime, whether it was a shortcut on the drive home, a shortcut on a walk to the park, maybe even shortcuts in my personal life. When given the opportunity, we will often opt to take shortcuts in our lives to avoid pain, save time, and gain instant gratification along the way.

I think many of us like to take shortcuts in our personal finances as well. We think we can get away with not having a budget plan. We assume that we don't need to track our expenses and spending each month. We think we can use debt as a tool to get us where we want to go a little bit quicker. We think we can beat up the credit card companies by taking advantage of some miraculous, special rewards, and then think we will always pay the balance in full every month.

Photo by Jason Riedy
Think Slow Cooker

When it comes to your personal finances, though, it really doesn't pay long term to take a bunch of shortcuts. Sure, in the short run, you can probably get to where you would like to arrive faster via the shortcut, but the rush to arrive is probably going to leave you with severe, long term consequences.

You could compare this process to cooking food. Back in the old days when there were no microwave ovens, people would cook their food for long periods of time in the oven, on the stove top, or also possibly use a device such as a slow cooker. If you've ever eaten food prepared the old fashion, slow way, then you know how delicious it can be - thoroughly cooked, moist, and full of flavor!

But, as our society has progressed and gotten a lot busier, our food preparation has sped up as well. With the invention of the microwave oven, a whole new generation has grown up eating meals that haven't been quite as tasty or healthy as those prepared in the traditional manner. Sure, you can get by on these quickly cooked meals, but it doesn't necessarily leave you satisfied and wanting more of the same.

The best things in life aren't always free. The best things in life aren't those that were achieved easily and quickly. The same could be said of your personal finances. The majority of today's millionaires have acheived their wealth slowly, over time. They are disciplined in having a monthly money plan combined with long term financial goals. They avoid debt like the plague. They live frugally. They buy used, dependable vehicles instead of brand new. They pay for stuff in cash and never at retail prices. They focus on their balance sheet, not on how big their house is or how many expensive cars they own.

Are You In A Financial Hurry?

People who are balance sheet wealthy think like the tortise, not the hare...slow and steady wins in the end. They "cook" their financial meal in a slow cooker, not a super high speed microwave oven.

So, where are you at in your financial life plan? Are you all over the place like the hare? Are you looking for financial shortcuts and "get rich quick" schemes? Or, are you truly taking your time with your money? Do you have a strategic plan in place? Are you working that plan with deligence and consistency?

The majority of the wealthy people in the world today know from first hand experience that there are no shortcuts in personal finances. Are you a believer too, or are you still chasing a rainbow that's never going to materialize? The year 2011 is coming to a close and a new year is about to begin. Why not make it a goal for the year 2012 to get a financial plan in place and take your time with your plan?

There are no shortcuts. Be the tortise, not the hare.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lord, Have I Been A Good Manager For You?

Photo by Roger's Wife
Crown Financial Gives Me A Life Verse

Several years ago, I went through a Crown Financial Bible Study that revolutionized how I thought about my time, my talents, and my finances. As a result of going through that study, I adopted 1 Corinthians 4:2 as my life verse:

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

Although I’m already mostly “hardwired” to be a hardworking, conscientious, and a “do everything with excellence” kind of guy, this verse gives me a much better reason, a constant reminder to use everything I have been given to the best of my ability for God’s glory. One day, I will give an account to the Lord on how well I managed everything that He has given me to manage.

The Stuff We Must Manage Well

God has entrusted to each and every one of us a specific amount of time to live on this earth. How are we spending that time? Are we sitting on the sofa, playing video games or watching cable TV all day? Are we messing around at our workplaces and not using the time effectively for our employers? Are we faithful in showing up to church each week to worship corporately with our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ and connect with other believers in our small groups?

God has also invested in each of us specific talents and abilities. If you’re a musician, then you need to play your instrument or sing your heart out to the best of your ability for God’s glory. If you can teach, then you should teach others to the best of your ability. If God has shaped your personality to be a strong leader, then you need to lead with excellence. If God made you a writer, then write your fingers to the bone to further His Kingdom here on earth.

God has placed specific people in our lives with whom He wants us to pour our lives into: our parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, business relationships, and so on. Obviously, we have to prioritize these relationships and invest the majority of our time and energy into those closest to us. Never underestimate, though, the impact you can have on those people that are further down on your list. When I look back on my life and relationships, some of the people that have helped me the most at critical life moments have not always been those closest to me. You may be able to have that same kind of impact on others as well.

Finally, God has deposited money, assets, and resources into our lives to be used for His Kingdom purposes. How faithful have you been so far in managing His financial resources? Is your family struggling with massive amounts of debt? Do you have a spending plan in place? Do you have a shopping addiction? Have you been tithing purposefully? Have you been giving assistance to your fellow believers in Christ who may be in need? Have you been helping the poor?

One Day, We Will Discuss Our Management Skills

God has blessed our lives with so much. Right now, during challenging economic times, you may not necessarily feel like you have piles of blessing. Compared to other people groups and countries around the world, though, your life and material blessings far outweigh your possible financial problems.

The purpose of this incredible blessing of time, talent, relationships, and finances isn’t to use these resources for selfish purposes. God is watching us to see if we’re being effective managers of what He has given us to manage. One day, we all get to have a little chat with the Father about our management skills. Is He going to be happy with how effective you were? If not, what do you need to do today or even this next year to turn that around?

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Meeting Needs With Open Hands

Photo by Hindrik S
The Kibbutz Way of Living

In May 2011, I took my first trip to the nation of Israel. As you can imagine, it was a life changing experience to walk the streets of Jerusalem, the birthplace of the universal Church. One of the new concepts I experienced in Israel was the kibbutz. A kibbutz is defined as a collective agricultural settlement in modern Israel, owned and administered communally by its members and on which children are reared collectively.

Honestly, this whole collective settlement thing seems pretty out there. To our western, American way of thinking, it's unpatriotic and un-American to even consider merging all personal assets down into a pool of finances to be shared by multiple families. As Americans, we were born and raised to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps" and instilled with a philosophy of "rugged individualism."  This is how I grew up, anyway. Have you ever realized, though, that the early church did not operate in this individualistic manner?

The Early Church

The kibbutz sounds really familiar to how the early church operated in the book of Acts. Check out this passage from Acts 4 and examine how these early Christians lived as compared with the modern day kibbutz :
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had…there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need (Acts 4:32, 34-35).
These early Christians were in it together. They were one; they were united as one heart and one mind, working together for the common good of the entire Church body. They sold their property, threw all their possessions into one pot, and shared everything they had. As a result of their generous, openhanded spirit, there were no needy Christians in the early church. They helped each other. They provided for one another’s physical needs.

What's The Takeaway Lesson For Modern Times?

Photo by Alternative Break Program
Now, do I think we as a church body need to sell our stuff, buy some farmland, all live there together, and sing “kum-by-yah” around the campfire? I doubt that would work very well in the society in which we live. But, I do think there is a lesson or two that can be learned from these verses.

First, nothing we have is our own. Everything we possess, whether it be a house, a car, or money in the bank, is owned by God the Father, and He has loaned it to us to manage for His purposes. This is the area where I think we have our biggest struggle as westernized, American Christians. We have this extreme self-reliant, somewhat selfish, and very materialistic attitude when it comes to money and stuff. We have conveniently forgotten that the Bible teaches us the exact opposite: "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it..." (Psalm 24:1).

Second, we need to live with an openhanded attitude with our stuff because, again, it's God's to begin with. When there are needs in the body of Christ, we should be willing to do whatever it takes to meet those needs for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to take the focus off of our selfish needs and desires, and be outward looking. When the Church body is operating as it should, then no one will be in need. All needs will be met; our brothers and sisters in the Lord will have been cared for.

Don’t hold on so tightly to your stuff, because it’s not yours to begin with. Live today with an attitude of an open hand and generous spirit.

Also, check out these related posts:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Useful to the Master

Cartoon/photo by Hartboy
The Job Interview

Job interviews. Honestly, it's been a really long time since I've been on any kind of "official" job interview. I can remember, though, the stress level, the constant smiling, and the being at the "top of your game" kind-of-feeling that can get really old, really fast. It's sort of like going on a first date - it's extremely awkward and everybody just wants to get through it pretty quickly without making a fool out of themselves!

At the core of any job interview, or perhaps even a first date, is this key concept: "how useful is this person to my company, my family, or my life!" Will this person we are courting here fulfill the needs that we have? Can he or she accomplish the job that we need them to do?

The best employee or maybe even the best spouse is that one who is the most useful. That probably sounds somewhat harsh, uncaring, or unloving, but it's true. Useful people get retained. Useful employees get raises and special treatment. Useful spouses are loved on and cared for. The husbands and wives that stick it out over the long haul are the ones that feel like they are getting a great deal and not a majorly raw one.

Useful For God

The American Church and modern day Christianity has done an extreme disservice to people that are in the process of becoming believers. We've essentially lied to people and told them that all they need to do is pray a prayer and then they become members of the Christian Club. While I believe that we Christians have the best of intentions in our soul-winning efforts, becoming a believer in Jesus Christ is more than saying a prayer and getting fire insurance from eternal damnation in hell. It's about radical life change. It's about a relationship with the King of Kings. It's about serving King Jesus and seeing that His Kingdom is moving forward in this life and the life to come.

In 2 Timothy 2:19-21, we read this brief passage regarding those who are useful to God's Kingdom purposes:
Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
According to these verses, the followers of Christ who are truly useful to His purposes are the ones that have turned from their sin. They have cleansed their lives and made themselves useful to God. They are prepared to do any and every good work that the Master calls on them to do.

It's really hard to do the good works of the Master when we're entrenched in a lifestyle of sin that doesn't please the Lord. I don't know about you, but I want to be a special, useful instrument for His special purposes. I don't want to be common; I want to be uncommonly useful for the Kingdom.

How Useful Are You?

Where are you at today in your Christian walk? Are you a pretender, a fake? Maybe you prayed the prayer and you're talking Christianese, but you're not really walking the walk? I get it; I've been there too.

At a certain point though, you will get to the place when you are tested in your faith and then you start questioning this whole Jesus thing. Why am I here? Did I really give my life completely over to the Master? Am I useful to God's Kingdom? Is there sin in my life that I need to confess and forsake in order to become useful for God's special purposes?

I have no clue where you're at today in your spiritual journey, but I would encourage you to take some time to re-evaluate your walk with Christ and determine if your life is truly useful to the Master.

Also, check out these related posts: