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)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hate The Player, Not The Game

Photo courtesy of PT Money
I Hate Money!

I recently heard a former Financial Peace University student make the statement, "I hate money." I know this person struggles with both the income and the outgo sides of the money equation.

Unfortunately, this former student doesn't truly understand the money game. They have some faulty "money scripts" running in their subconscious mind. They don't have a complete understanding of the game and how to play it. They're blaming the game when they should be blaming the player.

It would be better if this particular person looked in the mirror and determined that the money game isn't the true issue. The player doesn't understand how the game is played! They need to become a student of the game.

Become A Student Of The Game

If you don't want to struggle your whole life with money problems, then you need to get in there and figure out the money game. You need to get counsel from people who get it. You need to attend seminars of wealthy people who teach it well.

You should read books on how to make it, manage it, and spend it. Some books I highly recommend are:
There are some great blogs on personal finances that I recommend reading. The following is a short list of blogs I follow on a regular basis:
If you want to become good at anything, then you have to study and learn that subject. In today's avalanche of information, there's really no excuse for any of us to be ignorant regarding sound, financial wisdom. Read these books, follow these blogs, and I guarantee that in a matter of a few months you will be further head than your next door neighbor or your broke golfing buddy. Knowledge truly is power.

Now, Play The Game!

Having a bunch of head knowledge is great, but just having the knowledge is not going to win the money game. You have to pull the trigger. You must take action.

So, what I recommend is to take the money game one step at a time, one day at a time. Sometimes, we can increase our head knowledge to the point where we are so overly enthusiastic that we have so many great ideas or plans, but we end up paralyzed by too many ideas.

We need to slow down, make a prioritized list of the top 3-5 steps we can currently take to get our financial life in order. So, if my finances were in a complete mess and I was just starting from the very beginning, my top 5 steps in my first financial plan might look like this:
  1. Determine the basic, important numbers. What is my income? What is my current outgo (budget/cashflow)? Does my outgo exceed my income, and by how much?
  2. Create a reasonable cashflow plan. If my outgo is the primary issue, what can I do, at least temporarily, to reign in my expenses? Are there expenses/bills that I can eliminate without creating too much pain in my life?
  3. Focus on the income. Wealthy people focus on bringing home the bacon. How can you temporarily as well as long-term bring home more income? 
  4. Set-up a baby emergency fund of at least $1,000. This is straight out of the FPU plan. Emergency savings help keep you out of long-term debt.
  5. Work your debt snowball. List all personal debts (except 1st mortgages) from smallest to largest and attack that debt with a vengeance. Pay it off as quickly as possible.
Focus on just accomplishing a few, smaller set of financial goals as fast as possible. Once you finish that set of goals, then create a new short list and attack that new list. Don't get to overly involved with a complicated, long-term financial plan. You don't want to overwhelm yourself, because then you will fail.

Educate the player, and then get out there and play the money game with excellence!

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Live A Life Both God And You Can Be Proud Of

Photo by madpoet_one
The Prophet Isaiah Had A Vision

In the Old Testament, in Isaiah 6:1-4, we see that the prophet Isaiah had a unique vision of God Almighty:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another: 
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts;
His glory fills the whole earth. 
The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.
After Isaiah had this unique and awesome vision of God, look at what his response was to that vision in the following verses (Isaiah 6:5-8):
Then I said: 
Woe is me for I am ruined
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
and because my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of Hosts. 
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said: 
Now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed
and your sin is atoned for. 
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: 
Who should I send?
Who will go for Us? 
I said: 
Here I am. Send me.
After Isaiah had the vision of who God is (a powerful, extremely holy God), he saw how unholy and unworthy he was. After the Lord forgave his sin and cleansed him, Isaiah was then prepared to serve Him.

The Way You View God Determines The Way You Live

I recently heard this statement from a Bible Study teacher who was teaching on Isaiah Chapter 6,

"The way you view God determines the way you live."

Let that statement sink in and marinate in your brain for a minute.

If you're really serious about living a life both God and you can be proud of, then you must have a proper view of God. Your next question may be:

"Well, Larry, how do I actually view God in the proper way?"

Excellent question!

The only way to have a proper view of God is to spend time with Him. Gone are the days of Isaiah-like visions from Heaven. Today, God has given us His Word and His Holy Spirit dwelling inside each believer to speak to us.

We spend time with Him through reading His Word and praying. We need to be intentional about it, too. We need to set aside some time each day in order to grow in our relationship with Him.

It's really no more complicated than that.

How Are You Living?

So, how are you doing in living out the Christian life? Do you have a proper, holy, respectful view of a holy, awesome, all powerful God?

Has this proper view of God caused a change in your lifestyle? Are you broken about your sin? Have you sought His cleansing that can only come from faith in Jesus Christ?

The only way we can live out a life that is pleasing to God is to have a proper view of Him. Once we have this appropriate view of God, then we are moved to repent, to be cleansed, and to do what He calls us to do; to go where He wants us to go.

Get in the Word. Get on your knees in prayer. Get a proper view of God.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

3 Giving Solutions For The Church

Photo by Kyota
Where We Have Blown It

In my last post, 3 Areas Churches Have Messed Up In Biblical Finance Teaching, I laid out the following three areas I believe churches have blown it:
  • Pastors and teachers have been too afraid of preaching on Biblical finances.
  • Pastors and teachers have not laid out a clear theology on Biblical giving.
  • Church leaders have taken their focus off ministry.
In that post, I addressed the problem. Now, in this post, I'm going to flip the problem around and discuss three solutions for pastors and churches.

3 Long-Term Solutions For The Future
  1. Pastors: preach the Word, the entire Word! If there are anywhere between 800-2,000 direct Biblical references on financial matters, then we should be preaching these passages to our congregations, unashamedly. Don't let your congregants talk you into soft-pedaling Scripture. We need to teach the Body of Christ that God owns 100% of the money and assets He has chosen for us to manage. Our job as believers is to be excellent managers of the entire 100%, not only  just a 10% tithe. Also, be reminded that Jesus' #2 preaching topic in the Gospels was money. He preached on it a lot, because He knows that money can get a grip on our hearts and cause us to stumble.
  2. We need to clearly spell out the church's theology on giving. The entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, would seem to support regular, percentage giving, with the "floor"of that giving starting with the tithe. We also need to teach through Scripture that while Old Testament law demanded at least 10%, New Testament grace asks for much more. Jesus' teaching always asked His disciples to go to that "next level"of faith and obedience above the Mosaic Law.
  3. The corporate church needs to get their focus off of buildings and back on to missions and ministry. Church leaders who have allowed the body to get into massive building debt should seek the forgiveness of their congregations. Building debt has allowed the church body to be hindered in doing more in the areas of missions and ministry. These same leaders should develop a strategic plan to encourage their congregation to focus on paying this debt off as quickly as possible. Perhaps, these same churches should covenant together that they will never go into debt again to build buildings? A better way would be to seek the Lord's will and financial provision rather than man's wisdom and debt instruments. Honestly, I believe building debt causes more problems and pain over the long haul. Knock it out as quickly as the church is able, and then direct all of the church's focus and energy on the real mission of the church.
Be Bold, Be Strong

It's a new day. Our financial future has completely changed. The days of "easy money" are long gone. Governments, individuals, and unfortunately even churches have foolishly dug themselves into deep financial holes that are going to take a lot of time and energy to get out.

If you're a pastor or lay leader in a church that is in severe financial pain, then let me be an encourager to you, today. God wants you to seek His face as you work through the massive challenges you have before you. Acknowledge that you as a church body have made some major mistakes. Ask for the Lord's forgiveness. Then ask Him for wisdom, guidance, and provision in order to get the Body of Christ into a healthy financial position.

Utilize the three solutions above and watch your church soar to new levels of giving.

Also, check out these related posts:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

3 Areas Churches Have Messed Up In Biblical Finance Teaching

Photo by Michael Mistretta
The Church Has Messed Up

In my last post How To Give The Tithe In The Right Way, I answered one of my blog reader's emails regarding the giving of the tithe. She and her family had been giving their tithe spread out or diversified among a number of various para-church ministries. She was asking my opinion on giving the tithe in this manner.

In that particular post, I took a Scriptural view of both the Old and New Testament giving. We took a look at how and where both the Jews and Christians gave their tithes and offerings back to God.

In modern times, however, there has been a lot of confusion with members of the universal church as to where they should give their tithes and offerings. Para-church groups have done an excellent job of confusing believers. These organizations have successfully fundraised millions of dollars away from local churches. But, these groups have only been as successful as they have, because the church has completely dropped the ball on the teaching of proper Biblical giving in the first place.

Three Areas Where Churches Have Messed Up

If the Bible teaches us that giving should be done primarily through our local place of worship, why is there a growing trend away from giving to the local church and giving to para-church ministries? In my opinion, there are 3 primary reasons:
  1. Pastors and teachers have been too afraid of preaching on Biblical finances. Over the last 20-30 years, there has been a trend of moving away from strong teaching on Biblical finances. The subjects of money, stewardship, and giving have become taboo to preach on in the local church. Pastors have a better chance of a positive response to preaching on the topic of sex than they do money! This is so odd to me when the Bible has so much to say on the topic of financial wisdom. Christian Americans are very strange and secretive when it comes to personal finances. They don't want their pastors to meddle in an area that they have placed off limits to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. God wants all of us, including our money.
  2. Pastors and teachers have not laid out a clear theology on Biblical giving. This is certainly related to the first point. What I mean is this: we haven't clearly explained the why and where of giving. Why should we give, how much should we give, and where should we give? See my post Portrait of a Biblical Giver.
  3. Church leaders have taken their focus off ministry. With the resurgence of the mega church over the last few decades, pastors and church leaders have become more concerned about large, high tech facilities than the core mission of the church. Many people, especially younger generations, are passionately driven to give by mission and results; not buildings. The next time your local K-LOVE radio station goes through a pledge drive, listen to all the testimonials of changed lives as a result of listening to Christian radio. K-LOVE understands that asking for money to build more buildings, construct more radio towers, and hire additional staff isn't what is going to help them reach their financial needs. They have to highlight the results of these tools to accomplish their mission. A lot of churches could learn to be better "fundraisers" through listening and watching how other successful non-profit groups raise ministry funds.

In conclusion, the church as a whole has severely messed up in this area of communicating Biblical finances. We've been too fearful to preach about financial wisdom. We have not laid out a clear Biblical theology on giving. Finally, many churches have focused on giving to the tools of the church (staff and buildings) rather than the long-term goals and results of ministry (outreach and missions). We have been communicating the wrong message.

In my next post, we'll look at Three Long-Term Giving Solutions For The Church.

Also, check out these related posts: