Dec 26, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: Our Christmas Bribe and a Treasured Possession


"For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession."
 
Deuteronomy 7:6 (NIV)

Well, the gift giving extravaganza has ended. We love the holidays but Christmas is always a struggle. We struggle to point our kids away from the stuff and toward the God of Creation. Thanks for sharing great ideas in response to my questions on how you keep Christ in Christmas.

I wanted to share one of my favorite Christmas moments with you from this year:  

A few weeks ago we spent a day running around town shopping.  We went into 13 stores.  Yikes! If you have young children you know that one store can be a challenge, let alone a day of shopping.  We came up with what I would call a proactive parenting strategy.  You would call it a bribe.  We told the boys that for every store where they obeyed they would get a point.  At the end of the day we would convert points to dollars and they could use their dollars to buy a Christmas gift for each other.  The boys were excited about the bribe . . . er . . . plan.  They each earned 12 bucks.  

Later on we took them shopping for each other and they picked out that special toy that the other had been ogling.  

When Christmas rolled around and it was time to open these gifts, the boys sat right next to each other.  My middle son began to tear the wrapping paper away and finds inside of it a baby wipes box. He looks at us with a disgruntled look, “Baby wipes, oh man!”  We assure him that the gift is inside the box and that no one got him baby wipes for Christmas.  Relieved, he continues tearing open the package and finds a remote controlled critter called a Hex Bug.  Excitedly he tosses his new prized possession to the side and almost tackles his older brother.  “Thanks so much!  That was exactly what I wanted!  I love you brother.”  

Although we had our fair share of holiday drama about new toys, this moment stood out to me.  I was blessed to watch the relationship between the boys and their love for each other.  

What a special gift God gave to us.  We are his treasured possession and He gave it all to reconcile our relationship.  Thank God for His amazing gift.  Although this verse is directed toward the nation of Israel, He has redeemed you.  He has thrown aside everything to embrace you and I.

You are His treasured possession.   

A Challenge 

Think about your most treasured possessions.  Pick an object.  Would you throw it in the offering plate at church?  Would you give that possession up if it would bring you closer to God?  Would you throw it aside to embrace Him? 

It makes it a bit more real for me when I apply the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Would you sell your prized possession to provide for your neighbor?  

I don’t want to take any of this out of context.  I am not suggesting that these verses combined, and out of context, tell us to sell our favorite stuff and buy a gift card for a homeless guy.  

I do think it is a good exercise to place all that we have as an offering before God.  Some things we keep to serve Him.  Some things we give away.  In the end it is all His.  We are His.  We are His treasured possession.

Dec 21, 2012

The 'Fiscal Cliff' Solution: Hiding in a Bunker or Generous Giving?



Folks come into our office every day, nervous about the fiscal cliff. They ask where to put their money. Folks ask about investing in Gold. Some go a bit further and dream about buying guns and ammo and burying supplies in the back yard. Others ask about stockpiling a year’s supply of food and water. I have even had folks ask what type of bunker they should build. 

After a few of these meetings in a week I feel inclined to turn into myself and begin stockpiling these items that seem to give us security. My mind drifts back to the beginning of the movie Red Dawn.  

It is interesting where we turn for our security.

In the midst of the chaos in Washington I have enjoyed sharing conversations in our community discussing the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ and addressing some of these concerns about our economy and our nation’s future. It has been fun to use these opportunities to share the impact that these discussions on Capitol Hill may have on the charitable deduction. It has been a blessing to speak in front of four different groups in Colorado this month, encouraging charitable giving in lieu of these changes.  

I am convinced that we will not find solutions in a bunker full of food-stuffs, guns and gold. Turning to those things draws us away from relationships, into ourselves and into a mode of selfishness. We start saying, “You just have to take care of #1.” 

I believe the solution lies closer to this charitable deduction and more specifically, to the generosity associated with it. The attached video is a wonderful conversation on the importance of charitable giving and the legacy of generosity in our nation.  

No one ever said, “That selfish hermit with the arsenal in his bunker changed my life.” No, the folks who impact lives and make us better are the ones who give of themselves. They are the ones at breakfast with a teen teaching them the right way to live. The ones who make a difference are those who are in the community, raising money for gardens or art or education. They are reaching in their own pockets to build community and investing in things that last.

Something special is happening this year. Even with fears of the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ there is a phenomenon occurring. Instead of hoarding and turning into themselves, folks are generously giving money away.  

According to this Wall Street Journal article, Fidelity Charitable has seen a 63% rise in contributions. Schwab Charitable has seen a 74% jump. We have seen the same trend among our clients. Even as our country faces these major issues, many are giving. They are giving more than they ever have. This isn’t a socialist movement. These folks aren’t being forced to give. They are not giving reluctantly or under compulsion, they are giving cheerfully.  

What is going on?  

These families are investing, not for their own good, but for the good of communities that they believe in. They are using their resources to impact lives and to bring a community together and to move our country forward.  

As Washington threatens the tax benefits associated with the charitable deduction, the folks at The Brookings Institution are dreaming about a ‘Super Deduction for Charitable Giving.’ They argue that this sort of temporary, extra deduction would create jobs by boosting the non-profit sector. They also suggest that the ‘Super Deduction’ would allow folks to lower their tax bill by investing in their communities.  

Whether we see a ‘super deduction’ or limitations on the current deduction, what do you see as worth investing in? What areas in your community do you care about? What folks do you believe in? As we think of folks that we care about we have two choices. We can invest in a larger bunker and more food-stuffs… Or we can invest in our friends and neighbors and rebuild our communities together.   

Dec 19, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: I am too busy with my stuff to be thankful!

 
"When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today."
                                                                                 
Deuteronomy 8:10-18 (NIV)

Moses warns the nation of Israel before they cross into the promised land, ‘make sure you don’t let your stuff get in the way.’

With Christmas coming, this was a timely passage for me. In six days my house will be full of people and full of new stuff. Often it can be hard to see past the mountains of toys and wrapping paper and the craziness of the holidays. I have three little boys that desperately need Christ. They have a God-shaped hole in their hearts that only he can fill. How can I keep the new stuff out of that space and put Christ in his rightful place?

Help me out people! I need some ideas to keep Christmas about Christ. Any thoughts?

What are your family’s favorite Christmas traditions as you keep Christ in Christmas?

February & the 28 Days of Generosity - HELP!!!


The director of the Montrose Community Foundation came to me with a great idea. She wants to engage our community in 28 days of generosity during the month of February. We dreamt together about what could happen if a community sowed richly for 28 days in a row.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

2 Corinthians 9:6 (NIV)

We hope to print up business cards with 28 themes for the 28 days of February. We hope that this will give folks a guide to engage in generosity together through the month of February. We have a few ideas for topics;  

1.      Feed someone
2.      Invite someone into your day
3.      Listen to someone from another generation
4.      Share your story
5.      Make a difference with $5
6.      …?

We will expound on these topics on a blog and through email and share it with the community throughout the month. We’d like to share videos and ideas that support each daily topic. We want to share ideas that would allow everyone in a community, rich and poor alike, into this generosity.

We invited folks to come and have coffee and cinnamon rolls and to hear about the idea and with very little work we had standing room only. The local paper helped to draw a crowd with a short article. This is going to be big, but I need your help.

A challenge to you.

Share ideas in the comments on what the 28 days could look like?

Help me dream about how to reach a community in a grass-roots sort of way.

Consider engaging your family or your community in the same 28 days of generosity. (I’ll share all the details as we go along.)

Sow generously!

Nov 28, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: Comparison is the thief of joy


And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4


It can be dangerous to put up a single verse, I always worry that I am taking things out of context, but this one struck me. It left me asking, “What am I toiling for? What drives the achievements in my life? Is it envy?” 

I don’t want my work to be meaningless. I believe God has a bigger plan than that. The verse and these questions reminded me of a phrase that my wife shared with me:  

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” 

I believe that the Holy Spirit within a person could shift our focus. We could leave this spirit of comparison and envy. If we obeyed the greatest commandment, to love God first, His love in us would overflow to others.  

What drives you, comparison and envy, or the love of Christ?
What are you toiling for?
Is comparison stealing your joy?

The Challenge: Instead of comparing on a temporal level, take a step today to compete in sharing the love of Christ. Instead of holding your neighbors as the standard, let’s put Christ where he belongs and strive to honor him.

Nov 13, 2012

Wednesday in the Word - The Circle of Obedience and Healing a Nation


Leviticus 26 -

Reward for Obedience

26 “‘Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God.
2 “‘Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord.

3 “‘If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, 4 I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. 5 Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.

6 “‘I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove wild beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. 7 You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. 8 Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.

9 “‘I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. 10 You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. 11 I will put my dwelling place[a] among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.

Punishment for Disobedience

14 “‘But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, 15 and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. 17 I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.

18 “‘If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. 19 I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. 20 Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit.

21 “‘If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. 22 I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted.

23 “‘If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, 24 I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over. 25 And I will bring the sword on you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands. 26 When I cut off your supply of bread, ten women will be able to bake your bread in one oven, and they will dole out the bread by weight. You will eat, but you will not be satisfied.

27 “‘If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, 28 then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. 29 You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. 30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies[b] on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you. 31 I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. 32 I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. 33 I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. 34 Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35 All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.

36 “‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them. 37 They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies. 38 You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you. 39 Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.

40 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. 45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’”

46 These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the Lord established at Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses.
 
Leviticus 26 (New International Version)

That is some powerful language! I love the words that we read about regarding God’s blessing:

Rain in its season… good crops… eat all you want… live in safety… I will grant peace in your land… your enemies will fall… I will look on you with favor… I’ll make you fruitful… I will dwell among you…

The negative words are a bit more depressing.
 
I listened to a sermon by John MacArthur this weekend and he painted a great picture regarding obedience. Imagine a circle drawn on the ground. It is a rather large circle and it represents the O in the word Obedience. In order to be in the circle we must be near to God, understand His will and His Word and we have to obey his commands. Inside the circle of obedience God desires to bless us and lavish on us all of the things in the first part of this passage. God pours living water and healthy rain inside of the circle to supply for our needs.

If we are not close to him and we do not obey His Word and honor His will, we are outside of the circle of obedience. This is the land of disobedience. Here, the bad stuff from the latter part of the chapter is more inclined to happen, perhaps as a punishment, but more likely as consequences of bad choices.  

I loved this image by John MacArthur. It left me wondering…

Does our nation stand inside or outside of the circle of obedience?

Did this only apply to Israel or would God bless our nation for obedience or curse it for the lack there of?

Do I stand inside the circle of obedience?

What could happen if I were to move into a place of complete obedience to God?

If I were to do this along side of others in my community, could we begin to get right with God?
 
Would He heal our nation? 

Nov 8, 2012

Guest Post - Compassion International & Miracles All Around

The following is a guest post from a friend I met through a Journey of Generosity event. I wanted to invite you to read along as she shares a story of generosity in El Salvador. You can read more about the life changing work of Compassion International here.

El Salvador Team: Miracles All Around

Posted by Heidi Baker on October 9, 2012 by

“Dios le bendiga, hermana" (God bless you, sister). I’ve heard that many times since arriving in El Salvador to work alongside our Compassion brothers and sisters. And the thing is – they mean it, and in a way many of us have not experienced before.

The past 24 hours have been filled with rich fellowship with our Salvadoran hosts, and by many recounting of the miracles God has worked in their lives. We listened as a pastor remembered how a gang tried to poison him when he couldn’t pay the bribe they demanded, how he pursued the gang leader to invite him to church and how he wept when the gang leader was shot in the head just two blocks from his church reportedly on his way to take the pastor up on his offer.

We’ve been awestruck as people have told us about times they have fasted and prayed for God’s provision of food when there was nothing to eat, for healing when they were sick and there were no other options, and for changed hearts just when all hope was gone. And God provided miraculously for them.

My first reaction was simply to acknowledge that God is working more miracles among the poor in the Majority World than He is in my neighborhood. And that might be true. But I’ve also been convicted that it is just as possible that the people we’ve been spending time with simply have the spiritual eyes to see and the faith to believe the miraculous works that God is doing all around them. They consistently talk about the Lord being all they need, and really in many cases they have nothing else.

This reality was cemented on a visit to the home of a Compassion-sponsored child. Veronica joined the Compassion project 3 months ago, about the same time her father was put in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Her mother, Marlena, has high blood pressure, but still works as a vendor selling candy on the public buses. On a good day she earns $3 profit which pays for the children’s daycare, some food for them and a little extra to drop off at the jail for her husband, and maybe enough spare change to pay for some electricity to light the one bulb in their home.

At the end of our visit we asked if we could pray with her and asked for her prayer requests. She did not ask for a house that was not damaged by the earthquake, or a roof that does not leak, or a neighborhood without gangs. Instead, she thanked God for the miraculous blessing of her children, and simply that He is the Lord of her life and the one thing she can count on each morning when she wakes. The only thing she asked of Him was to keep her alive long enough to raise her children and that He would protect them.

We gave Veronica a coloring book as we were leaving. Marlena took it, hugged it to her chest, and with tears rolling down her face said, “I thank God that my daughter now has something I never had – her very own book to keep as her own.”

The Miracles of God – children to love and care for, health to live another day to praise Him, a book….

I’m thinking now about the miracles happening all around me and asking the Lord to give me the spiritual eyes to see them. What miracles are happening all around you?

Heidi Baker for the team
It doesn't take much to make a life changing difference for children around the world. Check out the great work that Compassion International is doing and get involved.

TED Video: Want to be happier? Stay in the moment. - Sounds like age old wisdom.


I really enjoyed this TED video by Matt Killingsworth. He suggests that if we want to be happier, we should stay in the moment. Matt shares his studies, using modern mobile technology, and the interesting results he found.

I am totally guilty of not living in the moment, even as I type this I am stressing just a little bit about upcoming travels and the busyness of my day. I thought it was beautiful that the results echoed this age old wisdom:


“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 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. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6: 25-34

Matt shared the graph to the left. When we let our mind wander, we are less happy. When we stay in the present (like Jesus commands) we are more happy.


Today I will try to live in the moment. Instead of letting my mind wander. Instead of worrying about what I will eat or drink or wear, I will try to live in the moment. Instead of passing folks on the street that God loves, to accomplish some lousy task, I will try to love Him and love others. I will try to seek first His Kingdom.

What distracts you from living in the moment and focusing on His Kingdom and His righteousness?

Is there a step you could take to cut out these mind-wandering distractions?

Who can you engage with today instead of passing them by?  

What matters most now and for eternity?

Oct 24, 2012

"Generosity Begets Generosity."


I Like Car from ILikeGiving.com on Vimeo.


Jesus spoke to us in parables and stories. It is important to share our stories. We have so much capacity in our stories, in our good times and our bad times. The folks at www.ILikeGiving.com are so good at sharing stories. I hope you enjoy it.

My favorite line from this video:
“Generosity begets generosity.”


What good stories should you share?

Has anyone been generous to you?

Where have you made a difference?

Wednesday in the Word: Leaning on My Shovel & Praying For a Hole


“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

Acts 20:22-24 & 32-37 (NIV)

As Paul says farewell to the elders in Ephesus he exhorts them to continue working hard to help the weak. He wraps up his final statements with these words of Christ: 

“IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE.”

Why this? Why not a message about grace or sanctification or repentance? Paul also talks about the hardship he has already seen and the difficulty that he anticipates in Jerusalem or beyond. Even in the midst of this hardship he is willing to go.

Too often, I am guilty of leaning on my shovel and praying for a hole.

On that note, I just stumbled across a wonderful blogpost by Justin Zoradi entitled, Stop Waiting For God To Tell You What To Do With Your Life. He encourages us to walk in faith and take those first steps in obedience. We read as Paul takes steps that he knows will be difficult. He is obedient and he doesn’t dance around the fact that obedience is hard work, but it is work worth doing.  

Where can you step out in obedience today? 

Does it scare you that the work will be hard?

What can you do right now to move forward in God’s plans for you as you lean into the difficulty? 

TODAY I WILL STOP LEANING ON MY SHOVEL AND PRAYING FOR A HOLE.
I WILL DIG IN.

Oct 18, 2012

Chick-fil-A is ruining my sleep... In a good way!


CFA LC 2012 Opening Video from GiANT Impact on Vimeo.


Chick-fil-A Leadercast 2012 Opening Video. I am addicted to the 12 piece chicken nugget combo with those perfectly salty waffle fries and fresh squeezed lemonade. The closest Chick-fil-A is about 65 miles from my house. Is that too far to drive for fast food?

Not only are they good at fries, Chick-fil-A is an industry leader. Better yet, they are reinvesting into leaders with an annual simulcast on leadership. You can check out all of the details here: www.chick-fil-aleadercast.com. You can even sign up to host a simulcast in your community. Could somebody please host one here? Could you please open up a Chick-Fil-A while you’re at it?

The video couldn’t have started in a better way:

“Your alarm clock is more than just a clock, it’s a starting line. A green light. A sounding of the gun. The starting of a new day. Or the repetition of the one before. You are faced with choices, some mundane, some significant. But every decision sets you on a path towards somewhere.”

I can only think of one thing that would have made the video better, eating a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich while watching it. And some fries…

I have never really thought of my alarm clock as a starting line, I treat it like a nemesis who has evil plans to stop my dreaming in its tracks. I look at the snooze button as my ally, helping to fend off the effects of that evil alarm clock. I have read the articles by leaders from the Chick-fil-A conference, like Michael Hyatt, who tell me not to snooze. They are reasonable and compelling articles. But that extra 15 minutes seems so wonderful. I’m not necessarily lazy and I don’t hate my job, I just like snoozing with my wife.

I don’t know that I’ll stop using the snooze button, but there are other areas of life, other choices that I make, where I could have more impact.

What if I treated every choice like this video suggests? Could I really be the leader that they talk about?

I am going to pick up some Chick-fil-A and ponder that. In the mean time, would someone choose to host a simulcast in Western Colorado?

In what area of life will you choose to be a stronger leader today? Your home? Your finances? Your work? Your church or community? What decisions could you steward a bit better?

Oct 16, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: Bob Coy & Moses - Tickled Tither or Generous Giver

 

So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.”

Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.”

Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.

                    -Exodus 36: 1-7

This passage comes right out of the desert.  Israel just left everything they were accustomed to in Egypt.  The passage starts out by saying that Israel sets out, “to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.”

The people bring freewill offerings each day. 

And the very best part, the workers have to stop what they are doing to inform Moses that, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.”

In working with non-profits and ministries, I can tell you that I haven’t seen this sort of thing happen very often.

So where is the breakdown?  

I can tell you where I get hung up.  More often than not, I am too busy doing what I think is best to listen for clear direction from the Lord.  The Israelites were doing just as the Lord commanded.  A steward is led by the Lord.  

The Israelites backed up their beliefs with freewill offerings.  They believed in the cause.  They were reliant on God and wanted to honor him with the possessions they had.  They didn’t get hung up on percentages or hoard their wealth for themselves.  They gave generously to the work of the Lord.  Too often I get hung up on that 10% number.  I am, as Bob Coy would call it, a Tickled Tither.  A steward believes and acts like God owns it all.  

The challenge:

Step 1 - Ask the Lord, “Where would you have me make a difference?”

Step 2 - Listen…

Step 3 - Give abundantly.

Lord, may we live in faith, listening to your calling and your plan for our work, for our family, for our community and our country.  May we give in faith, knowing that we don’t own these things.  May we trust You, the God of abundance, the God who owns it all.  In our obedience, bless our work, our families and our communities, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

Amen

Oct 8, 2012

Money Conversations with Your Spouse: A Wall Street Journal Primer


I enjoyed a recent article from the Wall Street Journal entitled And Now a Word From My VeryFrugal Husband By Demetria Gallegos.  The article contains a bit of open conversation as a reporter interviews her spouse on their individual spending habits.  She shares her thoughts about her husband’s thriftiness in an interesting way.  Readers get to enter into a very personal money discussion.  I enjoyed reading this quote from the frugal husband: 

"I do not need gewgaws.  I don't need frivolous things in my life.  I don't mind going to the theater or to a movie, but I don't need it.  I'm not much of a gift person, there's nothing I need to receive.  People who need a lot of stuff, you have to wonder if they're psychologically damaged.  Making stuff important is a mistake.  It's a mistake to foster the materialism of our children." 
Quite frankly the comment made me feel “psychologically damaged.”  I feel like the spender in me is constantly at war with the saver.  When I am in Cabela’s, I feel like I need things.  If I can just stay away from those stores that I like, I am able to keep that spender reigned in.  I appreciated his comments on the importance of guarding our children in this area. 
Through the conversation you can tell that Demetria and her husband have different perspectives on money and spending; don’t we all.  Demetria’s husband wraps up the conversation with this quote: 
"The money is not the most important thing.  Obviously, people are more important. That's why I don't want to argue with you about money.”

Here is the challenge:

Engage in this sort of conversation with your spouse.  Although the discussion is focused on money, don’t make it the most important thing.  Honor your spouse as you engage in a healthy money dialogue.  Once you have read the article together, you can use these questions to get you started:

Are you a spender or a saver?  How would you describe me?

Where did you learn to be that way?

Do we ever act like money is more important than relationships?

What did you learn about money from your mother and father?

What should our kids learn from us?

Sep 28, 2012

Musings of $100 Bill: Uses of money and The Benjamin Challenge


Last we spoke I shared my frustrations about being crammed into a sock for safekeeping.  You can catch up here.  I can understand their concern; the humans have good reason to worry about the safety of their money.  I have been the object of two murders.  I have been stolen 42 times from individuals; some of those were pretty brutal robberies.  I’ve been stolen 16 times from gas stations and restaurants.  I have even been snagged out of an offering plate at church.  I have been lost and won in every type of gambling establishment you can imagine.  I have funded abortions and prostitution and I have been used to buy illegal drugs 515 times.  I have watched 16 marriages end with arguments focused around me or the purchases I’ve been a part of.  I’m not bragging.  These were some of the worst moments in my recollection.  

It’s not all bad though.  I have been used to buy some pretty nice Christmas gifts.  I have been to Hawaii and back which was a nice perk after an 18 month stay in a fireproof safe.
I mentioned that people hold on tighter when you are a Benjamin.  That is true in most cases.  Some of my strangest memories are when folks didn’t hold on tight but decided to give me away.  Somehow these folks seem different.  They didn’t clench me as tight.  

On one such occasion a businessman took me on a trip and instead of putting me in his smelly sock, he put me right in his front shirt pocket.  As he walked down the street he removed me from the pocket and crammed me inside of a Styrofoam cup held by a homeless man.  I have been spent by homeless folks on alcohol in the past but this was different.  That homeless man thanked the businessman so profusely.  He rushed to the post office and crammed me in an envelope with a note.  Three days later I showed up in a small home with a woman and three children.  As she opened the letter she greeted me and the note with tears and prayers of thanksgiving.  As soon as I met her she spent me on groceries for those precious children.

I have helped to fund soup kitchens.  I have helped to build churches.  I was one of the first Benjamins donated to build the 9/11 memorial.  I have fed the hungry and clothed the homeless.  Once I was left inside of a Gideon’s Bible in what had to be the worst hotel in Denver, Colorado.  As the pages fell upon me I could see a story about a rich young ruler.  As the book closed and darkness fell I could still remember the image and read the words.  I read about a rich young ruler who was asked to give up his possessions to find real life.  He refused and hung his head as he walked away.  This was so ironic.  As a Benjamin, I decided I represented those possessions.  I could understand through all of the transactions I’ve been a part of, the death grip people have had on me, that I was a part of the problem.  Was I made for evil?  Was I printed for evil?  I spent a few months inside that book in the nightstand and I had quite a bit of time to think.   I thought about my existence and the different ways the people react to money.  

I have lived a life unlike most bills.  I have been in circulation twice as long as most.  I have learned from some pretty rough currency and I have seen life happen for the humans.  I have come to the conclusion that there are really three types of attitudes that people have when they put me in their pocket.   

Some folks truly love me.  They love to stack hundreds up and look at them or roll in them.  They love to save them up.  The ones that love me are greedy.  They hold on tighter than anyone.  These are the folks I mentioned above who would steel me if they had the chance.  

The ones who use me worry less about piling up bills and fret less about spending them.  These folks simply enjoy the things they buy.  It’s harder to flaunt a Benjamin than it is to flaunt a big house or a fancy new car or a diamond necklace.  They get rid of me as fast as they can to buy stuff that they can enjoy until that thing gets old and falls apart.  They then rush around gathering more money in order to buy a new thing.  

The last attitude is one even I can’t figure out.  This comes from the folks who give me away.  They are different than the others – happier.  They get this sort of strange smile as they hand me off or throw me in the offering plate. They find some joy in investing me, not for their benefit, but using me to build a facility to benefit others.  Instead of loving me or loving themselves, they love others and they use me to do it.  They aren’t always the richest folks.  Just like the homeless man who sent me off to the family.  The joy in his eyes as he licked the envelope and sent me off was more real than any joy I’ve ever seen.  

Maybe one in every hundred transactions leads to someone giving me, but these memories are my favorite.  I felt some ownership of the good deed being done.  Although I was just the bill and I had no choice, it felt good.  I felt good.  I’m being taken out of circulation and newer fancier hundreds are being added.  More than that, currency is dying altogether.  The old Gold and Silver standard boys are gone and just like them, I am on my way out.  Just like the currency from long ago, my days are numbered.  The plastic cards that never leave the wallet have different stories to tell.  They act differently and people act differently with them.  They don’t hold on as tight because unlike giving a Benjamin away, they don’t feel like they are giving anything away at all.  Even the plastic cards are worried about extinction.  Now folks are paying with their phones and online.  They youngsters hardly carry me anymore and soon won’t even know what a Benjamin is.  

I realized something while I was stuck in that hotel Bible.  When I am gone I want you to remember this.  Of all the people I interacted with and the experience I have had, good bad and ugly, the folks who learned to give me away had the richest lives.  They may have been out a $100 bill, but they gained a sort of life that wasn’t apparent to the rest.  

This old Benjamin has a challenge for you.  It’s similar to the challenge to that rich ruler in the hotel Bible.  Take a Benjamin, think of me, and give it away in the most impactful way you can. 
If your reaction is like the rest of these givers, and I know it will be, you will come alive as you use me for good.

Stewardship of a Nation: Commentary from a CPA, John MacArthur and You



A CPA friend of mine was kind enough to forward this video over. The Chairman of the AICPA shares some accounting wisdom on our nation’s stewardship situation. I think I can sum it up in a few words. We are broke.

Our nation’s budget is similar to a family budget. We have overspent for too many years and now we have such a massive amount of debt that it seems overwhelming to repay it. A family only has a few options to fix the problem. Make more money or spend less. We will read more in the media this fall about “The Fiscal Cliff” and sequestration which will begin to lower debt and raise income. It will take years of hard decisions from the folks in Washington to fix our dire situation. In order to survive our nation will have to choose to raise tax revenue, cut expenses or both.

I enjoyed lunch today with the CPA that forwarded this video. We spent the first half of our lunch complaining about the problems and placing blame. About half way in we realized how cynical we sounded and we started to dream about solutions and to imagine where our country will be in the coming years. We dreamt about how to fix the problem, including divvying up the national debt and letting individuals choose to pay off their portion. We dreamed about the best case scenario and imagined what the worst case could look like. We talked about how to advise clients based on this situation and how we could work with others to make a difference in our community.

We have been a nation for 236 years. That is longer than most nations in history have existed. I listened to an excellent sermon on Daniel by John MacArthur on just this topic. I can’t recommend it highly enough. John talks about the fall of Babylon and Daniel’s faithfulness. He then relates it back to our nation’s situation.
John MacArthur - Divine Graffiti: The End of an Empire

Well, I enjoyed the lunch but I can't say we solved all of the world's problems.  So I'll put a few questions to you.

Imagine worst case. What if our nation went the way of Babylon, what would it look like to live a faithful life in the midst of an unfaithful and failing nation?

What would it take for our nation to heal and what part do you think God would have for you in making that happen?

How can you engage others in positive and proactive conversation that leads to Godly obedience in the stewardship of your community and our nation?

Sep 25, 2012

Soccer Balls, Post Cards and Alchemist Generosity



The folks at Generous Giving shared this video today in their email newsletter.  The video was put together and originally posted on www.ILikeGiving.com.  Their goal is to inspire generous living by sharing stories from folks who give in big or small ways.  They ask folks to complete this sentence.

I Like _____________.

It's a good exercise and I think it can help to push us along in impactful generosity.  To explain how, I'll answer the question.

I Like Old Postcards.

Over the years I have been collecting old postcards of Colorado.  Many of the postcards have old hotels, restaurants or landscapes from here in the state.  Years ago, when I started collecting them, I planned to use the cards to teach my boys how to make a buck.  I thought it would be fun to buy frames and locate the business on the postcard.  I figured the boys and I would sell them to the current owner of the establishment, thus raising my boys as business tycoons from an early age.  Well, the postcards collected dust and my grand money-making scheme never came to fruition.  

Finally my wife talked some sense into me.  She suggested that I give them away instead of selling them.  The first postcard I shared was an image of a historic hotel here in Colorado.  I pass this hotel all the time and I had heard of the family that owns it.  

I stopped in and instead of trying to make a buck, I gave them the old postcard.  At first they thought I was a salesman or had some pitch.  I told them I just thought it would mean more to them than it did to me.  They looked at each other and smiled and then debated back and forth which year it would have been printed based on their renovations over the years.  They thanked me profusely and they soon hung the card in the lobby.

I couldn’t have paid more than 10 cents for the thing, but in the right hands, that little card meant something.  It was fun to take something that was worthless to most folks, and cheap, and to turn it into a meaningful gift to just the right person.  
It makes me think of the word alchemy:  


I am certainly no alchemist, but without a catalyst, the postcards would never move from worthless to priceless.  Old postcards aren’t really that exciting, but I can see other parts of my giving coming alive as I pair my passions with my giving.  I bet you have passions that are far more exciting as well.

You can become an alchemist. You can engage in giving that is far more meaningful and here’s how.  
1. Find something you enjoy and know quite a bit about…your passion.
2. Find a way to bless somebody else using that passion.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Here are the benefits of this Alchemist Generosity:  
1. You will come alive in your giving—By pairing your unique passion with your generosity you will be able to make a unique difference in the world, and enjoy doing it.

2. Others will be thankful—A postcard, worth a dime, can lead to a smile, a story, and a conversation.  If being generous with a silly hobby can make a difference, imagine how lives could be changed if you were to unleash your real passions.

3. You will build friendships—Folks are waiting for the sales pitch--they don't expect generosity.  You will come alive as you give through your passions, but perhaps even more importantly, your eyes will be open to the needs of others.  You will look at what you have and look for folks that need that.  In the process you will build meaningful friendships as you truly care for your neighbors.

4. You will raise generous kids—You may have heard the common phrase about educating children, that “attitudes are not taught, they are caught.”  It is hard for our children to see the value of giving or tithing or generosity when we cram a check into an envelope and send it off or throw it in the offering plate.  When you come alive in your giving, your children are sure to notice.  Instead of teaching my boys how to find value and turn it into a profit, I have the perfect chance to teach them about Alchemist Generosity.  Hopefully they will catch the bug.

Your turn:  What are you passionate about?  How can you give it away?  How can you turn your giving and your passion into Alchemist Generosity?

I Like _____________________?

Read more stories of generosity at www.ilikegiving.com

Sep 19, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: Contentment Changes Everything!


For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

                                                            Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

                                                            1 Timothy 6: 6-10 (NIV)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
                                                            Hebrews 13: 5-6 (NIV)
Contentment.  I will admit I’m bad at contentment.  I have written in the past about my enthusiasm for fine sporting goods.  I’m not alone, as a nation we are discontent.  You can see it in our spending habits.  The amount of consumer debt per household is astounding.  We borrow to afford the things we want today but can’t afford.  We try to fill the God shaped hole in our heart with the stuff we like and we call it retail therapy.  

This behavior—this discontent—leads to a bigger and more expensive lifestyle.  That leads to more debt, more stress and more stuff to take care of.  Instead of us owning our stuff and enjoying our lifestyle, our lifestyle and our stuff own us.  This ultimately impacts our financial plan.  A big lifestyle usually equals big debt and a need for big retirement accounts.  A little lifestyle is cheaper.  

Once we recognize the problem we go out and use the credit card to buy books by Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman in order to learn how to undo our debt problems.  (No criticism intended, these books do a great side bringing us back into a view of healthy stewardship.)  We spend the first half of our lives acquiring stuff and the second half being owned by that stuff.  Yikes!

What would it look like for the average American family to embrace contentment?
What would happen to their monthly budget?
What would happen to our financial plan and our need for retirement savings?
As Americans are we living out these verses on contentment?
How do these choices as individuals and families affect our church, our community and our country?
Could a spirit of godliness and contentment change our nation?

I’m preaching to the choir here.  Have you embraced contentment, and if so, how has it changed your life?

Sep 14, 2012

Musings of $100 Bill - My first night in a cash drawer.

I last told you about the day I was printed and my journey to the first cash drawer I had ever been in. If you missed that, you can catch up here.  

I was the only Benjamin in the drawer.  At first the other bills were quiet. I didn’t realize it then, but they were intimidated by my presence.  You see, since 1969 when the fed did away with the larger currency bills, the $500, $1,000, $5k and $10k bills, I have been at the top of the food chain.  My crisp nature didn’t tip the other bills off.  Most Benjamins stay crisp longer than smaller currency bills.  One’s and Five’s get the most hazing in a drawer when they are hot off the press.  Even 20s and 50s aren’t exempt from it when brand new, but most hundreds come in crisp and stay straight longer.  I had a crease from the start which made me seem more circulated.  

I think that first night in a drawer shaped me more than ever.  The other bills talked about the system, about how all the other hundreds wouldn’t associate with them.  A hundred is rarely even seen associating with a 50.  The Benjamin’s acted like they were a class above and refused to associate with the other bills.  I didn’t have much to say, being new, so I just listened and asked questions.  I heard tales from the other bills about our purpose and existence.  I learned what currency was.  Oh the stories they shared over those three days.

One bill had traveled around the world and shared stories of other coins and bills from other countries.  Another had been washed and reprinted with a higher value by the Mafia.  The roughest $1 bill in the drawer told us about how in the same day he was used as drug money, was traded in for a 29 cent hamburger, stolen by the cashier, and won and lost in a poker game.  He said he ended that same day under a pillow as tooth fairy money.

The next few weeks I got to meet hundreds of crisp Benjamin’s in drawer after drawer and wallet after wallet.  They were stuffy and rude and I committed very early on to living a different life.  I was one of the few big bills that wanted to be around the little guys.

The life of a one dollar bill is shorter, busier and more dramatic.  I can see where the vain attitude can come in when you are a Benjamin.  Folks hold you differently, they treat you with respect.  You don’t just get to know other bills. Y ou get to see people and how they act around you.  You see them at their best and at their worst.  When they have to cough up a $100 bill they grip it a little tighter instead of just letting go.  Emotions are emphasized when folks use a $100.  More fighting and tears and pain seem to move around with big bills.

The humans don’t even think about it, but they hold all of the bills, both big and small, in a sacred way.  There is always a place to put us and usually it’s nice.  A gold plated money clip, a fine leather wallet, a $600 purse.  They constantly check in on you to make sure you are still around, safe and sound.

When people are on the street at night they will guard you with their lives, constantly worried that someone else wants to spend you worse than they do.  I hate it when they take you out of the wallet and cram you into a sock when they travel.  It’s just disgusting.  Money belts, and hidden compartments, and safes, and banks--industries have been created just to keep me in the right spot for the night before spending me in the morning.
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