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, November 29, 2012

Do You Calculate Value Versus Cost In Your Spending Habits?

Photo by Ryantron
Tightwad Philosophy

It can be difficult to spend money on beneficial, long-term, somewhat expensive items for those of us who have a natural bent toward saving money, paying off debt, and not spending money on frivolous stuff. Many times, people who are conscientious about their debt-free journey and wise spending habits have difficulty parting with money, even for stuff that would benefit them or their families in the long run. Many would call these people tightwads or extremely frugal in their spending.

I can relate to the tightwad way of life. I have a natural leaning this way. But, I'm also not into extreme couponing or thrift store shopping, either. I have my limits on when or where I can save a buck. I'm also willing to spend more money on certain items or services. I take time to weigh the value of what I want to spend money on versus the cost. Let me give you some examples.

Examples Of Calculating Cost And Value

Mac vs. PC: A few years ago, I made the move away from the PC world and went to all Mac from my computing needs. If I was a true tightwad, this would not have happened, because the price point of  Apple products is much higher. But for me, the perceived value of a better product enabled me to be willing to spend more money.

Food Choices: If given the option on where to eat lunch with a buddy on a specific day and the choice was between McDonald's or Chipotle, I'm picking Chipotle even though the price point is slightly higher. Why? Because I value the food as better for my healthy lifestyle. I don't mind paying a few extra dollars for a better tasting, higher quality, healthy lunch. Same goes with the grocery store. I don't mind paying a little more for healthy fresh fruits and vegetables. I value the long term benefits of healthy eating over the cost.

Personal Counseling and Coaching: Spending money for someone to listen to my problems or to push me to grow, are you kidding me? Yes, believe it or not, spending money to pay people to help you can be incredibly beneficial over the long-term. Let's say you paid a personal coach $10,000 for one year to push you in your career. And, in the process of your career growth, you made an additional $20,000 just in that one year. At the very least, you doubled your investment in that one year. Plus, there's a very high likelihood that you will continue to reap the benefits of that professional coaching for many years to come.

Car Insurance: We have an excess of car insurance ads on TV these days, all trying to lure you away from your present company to another one in order to save a few bucks a month. The question I always ask, though, is what kind of service are you going to get for the money you may be saving if you just happen to total your car? With my current company, I have received exceptional, quality service over the years. I value that more than saving a few bucks, and that's why I stick with them.

Do You Consider The Value In Your Choices?

So, how about you? Do you calculate the value of price points in your spending habits? Or, is your tendency to spend purely on the cheaper, lower cost items, no matter what?

If you do take the time to calculate the value on what you spend money, do you have additional examples to add to my list above? If so, I'd like to hear your stories. Share with us in the comments below.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How To Pray For God's Power And Plan In Challenging Times

Photo by bamakodaker
God's Hand And Plan

In the history of the early church, we see tremendous growth (Acts 2-3) followed immediately by persecution (Acts 4) as Jewish leaders attempted to snuff out this small group of Jesus freaks. In Acts 4:24-31, we see the leaders of the church in Jerusalem gather to pray for God's help in the face of adversity:
When they heard this, they all raised their voices to God and said, “Master, You are the One who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and everything in them. You said through the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David Your servant: 
Why did the Gentiles rage
and the peoples plot futile things?
The kings of the earth took their stand
and the rulers assembled together
against the Lord and against His Messiah. 
“For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your message with complete boldness, while You stretch out Your hand for healing, signs, and wonders to be performed through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness. (Acts 4:24-31, HCSB).
In this prayer, we see five ways in which the early church leaders prayed for God's help in the face of challenging times.

5 Ways To Pray In Challenging Situations
  1. Start with a spirit of adoration. The early church opened their prayer with acknowledging that God was their Master. He is the One who made the entire universe. He is all-powerful and Almighty God.
  2. Remind God of His work in the past. These early church leaders then reminded God of His recent work and will concerning all that Jesus had to endure. This was understandably still fresh on their hearts and minds.
  3. Pray specifically about your current circumstances. Next, they prayed for the situation they found themselves - "consider their threats."
  4. Pray for boldness on our part as God's servants. After they asked God to consider the threats being made against them, they then asked the Father to give them boldness as they proclaimed the gospel message. They didn't want to live in fear of these threats.
  5. Pray for God's miracle-working power. Finally, they asked God to work miracles in a difficult situation. They looked to Him and His power. They were completely reliant on the supernatural power of the Lord.
Our God Answers Prayer!

Praise the Lord. We serve a God who answers prayer! Of course, we don't always receive the answer we desire, but God is always faithful to His promises and His hand will always accomplish His plan.

After His disciples prayed in Acts 4, God did grant them boldness. He filled them with the power of the Holy Spirit and they went out boldly proclaiming the gospel. God gave them exactly what they needed to accomplish His plan.

What challenges are you facing today in your life? How's your prayer life? Are you leaning on the power of God to accomplish His plan, or are you relying on your own strength and maybe even your own plans?

Follow these 5 steps as you pray through difficult circumstances and see God's strength revealed as He accomplishes His plan in and through your life.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Want To Take Personal Responsibility For Your Spiritual Growth?

Photo by Rusty Blazenhoff
The Progression Of Growth

In just a few short weeks, I'm about to have my third daughter. My other two daughters are now 12 and 10, so it's been a little while since we've had a little baby in the house!

For those of you who have children, you know how interesting the development of your children can be. They start out as helpless little babies that need constant attention. Then, over time, they suddenly grow up right before your eyes. Over a few short years, they develop the critical skills necessary to move from total dependence on their parents to (hopefully) independence, and then they move out!

Spiritual Growth For The Christian

Spiritual growth in the life of a Christian works much in the same way. In Hebrews 5:11-14, we read these words regarding spiritual growth:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
In this passage, the writer of Hebrews is chastising a group of believers for not being proactive in their spiritual growth. He tells them that they're still acting like baby Christians who need to have the elementary principles of the faith continually re-taught to them. They've been believers long enough that they should be very mature in their theology. They should already be teaching others the fundamentals of the faith.

So why weren't they mature already? What happened? From this passage, I see two reasons these believers were not as mature as they should have been:
  • "Because you no longer try to understand." These baby Christians just rolled over and gave up! They stopped trying to progress in their faith journey.
  • "Who by constant use have trained themselves…" These immature believers didn't understand that consistent training would lead to spiritual maturity. They needed to take ownership of their spiritual walk on a daily, consistent basis.
Unfortunately, those of us who are mature believers, see this a lot within the body of Christ. We see baby Christians who are on fire for the Lord at first, and then they slowly fade out. Sure, when they're first saved, they're excited to learn more about Christ and soak everything up like a sponge. But, unless they gradually learn how to get off the "milk" of the Word and into the "meat" of the Word through personal instruction, then they will never mature. They will most likely fall away from the faith.

In Conclusion | Two Thoughts

As I wrap up this post, I have two thoughts for you to consider, today. First, if you still feel like you're in that baby Christian phase of your relationship with the Lord, then focus on your development. Take responsibility for your spiritual growth. Dig deeper into God's Word, daily prayer, and weekly church attendance.

Second, if you're a mature believer in Christ, consider becoming the "spiritual parent" to some baby Christians. In the New Testament, we definitely see a pattern of discipleship with mentors and mentees. Jesus mentored Peter, James, and John within His group of 12 disciples. Barnabas took Saul (Paul) under his wing after Saul's conversion on the Damascus Road. Then, the Apostle Paul mentored Timothy as his own "son in the faith" (1 Timothy 1:2).

As a disciple of the Lord, take responsibility for your own growth. Then, go out and mentor another believer in their spiritual growth.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

3 Biblical Reasons To Vote About Money Issues This Election And Feel Great About It

Photo by League of Women Voters of California
A Blog Post Irritated The Fire Out Of Me

I recently read a post from a Christian thought leader who was chastising all the Christians who are about to go out and vote solely on the basis of money. I believe the intentions of this person were mostly good. I understand the intent of their post. But, I respectfully disagree with their thought process for a few reasons.

First, if you vote for a candidate who doesn't understand key fundamental financial principles, then you're shooting yourself in the foot and probably the head too. You're also hindering the Body of Christ. Here's why. Everything we do is related to money. Why do we fight the obvious? I'd rather have a guy in office that follows more closely the financial principles of Dave Ramsey than my broke golfing buddy.

The President's role is an executive role. We need a leader who can look at the financials of the United States and make better choices in order to get us back on track. Our current President hasn't even submitted a credible budget for the last three and a half years. And then, some of us wonder why America is now headed toward the fiscal cliff. Sheesh.

Second, I disagree with this Christian thought leader on the basis that it's not the President's job (or any politician for that matter) to take care of the poor. I'm pretty sure this thought leader was trying to say that because certain politicians say that they care about poor people, then that lines up with Scripture and we should vote for them - hogwash. Honestly, the worst thing this country has ever done was get into the charity business. The government is not very good at it.

Jesus gave the mandate of taking care of the poor to His disciples and the universal church, not to governments. And, for the record, there are a lot of politicians who say that they care about poor people, but their talk doesn't line up with their walk. Words are useless. I'd rather have a politician in office who has a proven track record of high, personal, charitable giving then one who just talks about helping people. America has to stop spending money on a bunch of stuff we can't afford.

I Am Voting Based On Money Issues

I am a Christian and I will be voting on money issues this election cycle for a variety of intelligent, even faith-based reasons.

Money touches and impacts every facet of our lives. If you don't believe that statement, then do a little experiment. Stop paying all of your bills and don't spend a dime on anything. See how long you and your family lasts on that plan. You might be able to last one week to one month, but sooner or later your utilities will be shut off, you won't have any food to eat, your car will run out of gas, and your home will be foreclosed on. Unless of course, you lean on Uncle Sam to take care of all your needs.

It's not the job of the US government to make sure that you have a car, house, cell phone, food on the table, or (dare I say it) even health insurance. It's also not the government's job to make sure your next door neighbor has this stuff either. The original intent of our founding fathers through the Constitution was for the federal government to be small and unobtrusive. We have wandered far away from their intent and their wisdom.

Taking care of personal financial needs is the responsibility of individuals themselves, extended family members, and finally the Body of Christ. I realize that's probably not a popular statement right now in this country, but it's the truth.

3 Biblical Reasons I Believe Christians Should Vote About Money This Election
  1. God wants us to be able to provide for our families. "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8, NIV). It's not the role of the US government to put food on my table, a roof over my head, or gas in my cars. As a man, husband, and father, God Almighty has given me the mandate to get out there and earn a living in order to provide for my own family. I'm voting for the guy who is going to at least make the attempt to get government as much out of the way as possible, so that I have more money in my pocket to accomplish my role as family provider.
  2. God wants us to be able to give extravagantly back to Him through our churches as well as the poor. "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." (Luke 12:33, NIV). We can't give as effectively to our churches, other charities, and the poor when the government is confiscating a large part of our finances through irresponsible fiscal policy. Christians, it's our responsibility is to help others in need; it's not the government's responsibility.
  3. God wants us to enjoy our material blessings here on planet earth. "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." (1 Timothy 6:17, NIV). It's okay to be middle, upper class and have a little money in the bank in order to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Under our current economic situation, I'm not seeing a whole lot of enjoyment or encouragement. In fact, the current administration has put the country in a terrible financial funk by blaming all the rich people for the mess (dumb idea). People are worried and depressed. I'm voting for the guy who is going to at least make an attempt to get government as much out of the way as possible so that we all have more money in order to enjoy life.
Frankly, I'm tired of not being able to do more in these three areas. It's time for a change. America is better than this. The United States is the greatest nation on the planet. This election cycle, let's vote for people who are going to move the country back to extraordinary instead of maintaining our current status of mediocre.

How Will You Vote?

So, how do you plan to vote this election? Are you going to vote for candidates who say they're going to help people, but their economic policies have proven over the last four years to do the exact opposite?

As a Christian thought leader, I say it is okay to vote on the basis of money. Of course, we don't want to be consumed by financial greed or selfishness. This runs contrary to God's Word. As citizens of this country, though, we do have a voice in the direction that this country is headed. Frankly, I believe we currently have a lack of executive leadership, especially in the area of sound fiscal policy. For me, this is more than enough reason to vote for the other guy.

No matter your political philosophy or party, though, be sure to exercise your right to vote this election day.

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