Aug 29, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: The Parables of the Hidden Treasure… and the Underpants

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

                                                                                          -Matthew 13:44-46

My boys and I went out to breakfast this morning and talked about this passage and what it meant. We talked about how the folks in the example gave up everything to gain something of great worth. We talked about what heaven would be like and what it would mean for us to give up everything in life to gain heaven.  

The last thing we do each week as we leave our Bible study is to commit to take some action based on what we learned.  My five year old piped up. “Dad, I am going to give up my underpants.”  I asked why he came up with this, assuming he was acting in concern for children around the world who couldn’t afford new underpants or some other charitable notion. Nope.  “I want to wear them on my head dad.”  He and his brother snickered.  I wish I could say I have no idea where they get this stuff but I know the source – one of the great literary pieces that my boys love is the book Underwear! by Mary Elise Monsell.

Enough of that...

The first verse above said that the man, in his joy, went and sold what he had.  He was not concerned with his current possessions but only that treasure.  Too often, I am overly concerned with today.

What would it mean for you to sell everything, and with a sense of joy, pursue that eternal treasure?

A good friend of mine, whom I have mentioned before, decided to sell his prized possession and to donate the money to a ministry.  I wrote a bit about it here.  He said that the exercise loosened his grip on this world and was very liberating.

What are your thoughts on this?

Is there a possession that you could go without as a reminder of eternity? (Underpants is not an acceptable answer.)

Aug 28, 2012

Another Hallelujah – Your “Against the Grain” Obedience Can Change Our Nation

The song Another Hallelujah by Lincoln Brewster was one of the worship songs at church this weekend.  I couldn’t get it out of my head and I proceeded to iTunes to download it.  As I lay in bed, I kept playing the song over and over, and each time I listened to it I pictured characters from the Bible living out their story singing the song.

I pictured Joseph singing as he was cast into a pit by his brothers and then rescued from the pit only to be sold into captivity.  I pictured him in Potapher’s house scrubbing the floors singing.  I pictured him in the dungeon singing and then singing as he walked the road that God had prepared for him and for Israel through the famine.  I pictured him singing as he went against the grain, praising God in his work, and it made a difference.  

I am in the book of Daniel right now.  I imagined Daniel in captivity, being trained as a young boy to serve under the kings of Babylon.  I pictured him singing this song to God as God used Daniel and others to carry out His big plan in a seemingly hopeless time for Israel during the Babylonian exile.  Daniel went against the culture and honored God first.  God used his obedience to change the world.

I pictured Moses singing as he walked the road prepared before his obedience made a big difference. I imagined Paul as he led the early church, changing lives for generations as he worked for the Lord.  Job and Abraham.  Timothy and David.  Sarah and Ruth.  I pictured Jesus as he did ministry and went to the cross.  I imagined him singing praise to His Father.  Hallelujah!

I imagined some sort of fancy video editing out of Hollywood as men and women of faith sang individually, each of their stories cut together to form the Bible.  I could hear as I listened to the song, each of their voices as a chorus in God’s brilliant plan as he prepares the road for all of us.

I then listened to the song and imagined my life and wondered what road God was preparing for me.  Would I be willing to sing Hallelujah even if it was a difficult and painful road?  Will I make a difference?  Our financial system is so broken and I sit in a seat as a financial planner.  Will I be brave enough to go against the grain to honor God first?  Can God use my unique seat to change the world?

I listened again and imagined our family friends singing and joining our church and community to sing.  I envisioned the churches and communities in our nation coming together to sing this song.  I imagined us embracing God’s commands as a nation.  I could picture Him healing our nation, like He has done for Israel in the past. 

I shared all of this with a good friend of mine and he responded with this verse from Jesus’ last night with His disciples:

"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  -John 14:12


God has prepared a road for each of us and a road for our nation.  It may not be an easy road.  In fact, based on the path of indebtedness our nation is choosing, we may soon relate to the slavery in Israel or Babylon.  But in the end, we know that God will be praised.  Hallelujah!

A challenge.  Read the lyrics below and listen to the song a few times.  Imagine the men and women of faith singing.  Imagine your family singing.  Imagine your community singing and as each community joins together, imagine our nation singing.  The deceitfulness of wealth and the cares of this world threaten to choke out this song, but God has a bigger plan for your story.  You are the steward of your own life and how you walk this road.  As you listen to the song, imagine our nation singing Hallelujah.

Now take a step today to move us in that direction.

How can you be obedient to God with your finances or your relationships?
How can you honor him, even if you have to go against the grain in your community or at work?
Your obedience, like the men and women of faith in the Bible, can change the world.  

Another Hallelujah 
Lincoln Brewster

(Verse 1)
I love You Lord with all my heart
You've given me a brand new start
And I just want to sing this song to You
It goes like this the fourth the fifth
The minor fall the major lift
My heart and soul are praising

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

(Verse 2)
I know that You're the God above
You're filling me with grace and love
And I just want to say thank You to You
You pulled me from the miry clay
You've given me a brand new day
Now all that I can say is
© 2005 Integrity Music

Christian lyrics -

Five Reasons to Hire the World’s Worst Financial Planner

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: Wall Street and Washington have some major issues.  Crime, corruption, gridlock, compromise, fraud, financial manipulation and tremendous debt.  We could make a list a mile long of choice adjectives to describe the brokenness of our global financial situation and we’d still be lacking.  

Because we must steward our resources in the midst of this financial mess, it is nearly impossible to remove ourselves completely from the world’s broken financial system.

There is hope, and for that wisdom we can look right to the Word of God.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

                                                            - Romans 12:2

This passage gives clear instruction on how to live and manage life and finances in the world. You don’t need a financial planner conformed to this world -- quite the contrary. Instead, we should strive to find wise counselors who desire this transformation and who seek God’s will. Instead of worldly counsel, we need to seek Godly Wisdom.

Here are five reasons to hire the world’s worst financial planner.

Wealth is Deceitful
We listen in Matthew as Jesus explains The Parable of the Sower.  He describes one of the seeds which was planted among the thorns.  While the seed is successful in sprouting, “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

Wealth is deceitful -- plain and simple.  We read as King Solomon, in all his riches, describes his wealth as fleeting.  A financial plan, without Christ at the center, will offer no security, and no amount of money will provide the long term security we all need.  Wealth is only a tool.  It is just one of the many ways that God has richly blessed us.  A financial planner who shares your values can help you to use money effectively while keeping God in the driver’s seat.

The World’s Best Isn’t Good Enough
The financial industry has set up rules and regulations to protect consumers from mismanagement in the financial system. Even with these protections, this worldly system has left us disappointed. Designations and qualifications spring up and the fiduciary standard is touted as the highest calling for a financial planner. As a fiduciary, your financial planner is expected to do what is in your best interest. But as a financial planner and a fiduciary myself, I am going to suggest that even the world’s highest standard is too short sighted. Based on the passage above from Romans, we know that there is a higher calling.

What if you had someone who could walk alongside you in your stewardship and was unwilling to be conformed to this world? Imagine someone took the fiduciary standard a step further. They agreed to look out for your best interest, not only today, or through retirement, but in light of Eternity? Your financial planner should be held to a higher standard as they desire to be transformed and to see clients transformed to the will of God.

Instead of Charging You More, Your Financial Planner Should Help You In Giving More.
As a family spends assets down or gives assets away, your financial professional manages less. The financial system in America today incentivizes financial professionals to keep more of your assets around. This can be a conflict of interest, especially when a family believes what the Bible says about giving. Seek a financial planner who knows what God says about generosity. Search for someone who will go against the grain to back you up as you obey God and use what you have to be generous on every occasion. (There are some excellent passages on generosity throughout the Bible. My favorites are in 2 Corinthians and in 1 Timothy.)

A Different Idea of Success
The world’s financial planner measures success by the size of their practice and the assets under management. More clients and larger clients lead to more fees and more commissions. This ultimately leads to larger spending and more lifestyle.

A financial planner with his or her sights set on God will not measure success in the same way. Instead of more billing and higher fees, they will strive for a higher level of contentment. Instead of more personal wealth and more assets under management, they will work to be generous and to lead clients to contentment and generosity.

Empowering Clients to Live Life to the Fullest!
I recently heard it said that many Americans are now dying at age 60 but are not being buried for 20 or 30 years past that. The quote was meant to discourage folks from a self-serving, un-purposeful life in retirement.

The concept of retirement is not necessarily good or bad, but it is certainly not a practice defined in the Bible. Last year I had the privilege of seeing a financial planner in his late 80’s at a Kingdom Advisors Conference. He received the Larry Burkett Award for integrating Biblical wisdom into his advice and counsel. The emcee presenting the award jokingly said, “You are getting pretty old. When do you think you’ll retire?” The planner responded, “I have never been more equipped to do my job and to point families and their finances toward Christ than I am right now.” I thought his response was beautiful.

The fact is that you have never been more equipped to make a difference for Christ. Your financial planner should seek out your capacity. They should help you to find what you were made for. Instead of a message on retirement or a sales pitch on long term care, you should leave your planner’s office with sound financial advice, but even more importantly, a feeling that you can do all things, through Christ, who gives you strength!

Surrounding Yourself With Biblical Counselors. 
Years ago I stumbled upon an organization, mentioned above, called Kingdom Advisors. I signed up to attend the organization’s annual conference and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. I expected to meet financial salespeople using Jesus fish on their business cards to sell bad annuities to helpless widows. I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I was with the education at the conference. I was even more excited to meet the financial planners in attendance who wanted to serve God by serving clients better. Instead of conforming to the world, or abandoning the financial system altogether, they desired to use their unique seat to honor God.

In other forums of financial planners, I have heard endless concerns about our economy and much cynicism regarding our nation’s future. It is refreshing to work alongside this group of men and women convinced that our nation could change if we would just turn to God. The voluntary membership organization is now more than 1000 members strong. These folks are Christians and Financial Planners. This doesn’t guarantee that they will not make mistakes, but it adds a bit of comfort that they will share your values, relying on Biblical financial principles instead of the wisdom the world has to offer. You can search for a Christian financial planner who shares your values at

Aug 17, 2012

Inching Closer to Contentment

Each year I hike Mt. Sneffels here in Western, Colorado.
Inching toward contentment can often seem like trudging
up a mountain, unless we rely on Christ.
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)

Contentment.  I’m going to be really honest; this is not an area in which I specialize. The Cabela’s Catalog comes in the mail and it calls my name. I pour through every page eying each shiny object. Often I’ll let myself get excited about a new toy and I’ll head on over to the store to take a look at it. I’ll read reviews and research and find just the right item to meet my needs. Even though I don’t buy with credit and I don’t go into debt, I still allow the purchase to consume me. Something that I hadn’t even thought of, just days or weeks before, now seems like a necessity; all because I cracked that catalog open. Picture me like the character from The Lord of the Rings saying, “My Precious, MY PRECIOUS.”

I love this quote by Benjamin Franklin,” It is easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it.”

Check out this great article on the blog Christian PersonalFinance.  Joe Plemon writes a compelling article, Why You Should Be Happy With What You Have.  Joe also writes at Personal Finance by The Book and is a financial coach, helping folks around the country plan for financial peace.  You can catch up with him here.

My wife was shocked the other day when I came home to a new sporting goods catalog and said, “I think I have all the outdoors equipment I could ever need.” It could mean that I have spent way too much time and effort acquiring those things but hopefully it also means that I am inching closer to contentment.

A good friend of mine growing up shared that we all have a God shaped hole in our heart. We try and fill it with toys or relationships or money but it never seems full. Outdoors equipment won’t ever fill the hole in my heart, only the love of Christ will do.

What earthly things are you trying to fill the God shaped hole in your heart with?
Is there one desire that you could suppress that would put an end to all that follow?

Aug 16, 2012

Thinking Like a Couponer to Magnify Charitable Giving

We read about the die-hard couponers who clip and combine coupons to save massive amounts of money. I wish I were more skilled in this area. I'll clip a coupon if I run across one here and there, but I am certainly not as diligent as some. I neglect using coupons on smaller purchases, but as the price tag goes up I am sure to look for discounts. When I make a big purchase I do my homework, look for discounts and haggle.

Many families are the same way--they won't sweat the small stuff, but when making life's big purchases they make sure to capture as much savings as possible.

Did you know that doubling up on discounts can magnify your charitable giving? For many families, charitable giving to church, ministries and non-profits accounts for a meaningful piece of the monthly and annual budget. With donations over the course of a year adding up to substantial amounts of money, any savings in this area are certainly worth pursuing. Still, many American families fail to "clip the coupons" on their charitable giving. Most families still give cash or write a check. They miss simple strategies that could save thousands of dollars or allow them to give more generously.

Stop Gifting Cash & Start Gifting Stock - Imagine a family who tithes monthly to church and gives to a few of their favorite organizations. They cheerfully support causes they care about and they receive a charitable deduction that reduces their tax burden.

Imagine that this same family has investments with a large gain. Grandpa gave them shares of a stock years ago at $10 per share. It is now worth $100 per share today. If they were to sell that stock, they would have a $90 capital gain and would owe tax on that gain. The going rate today on that tax is 15%. Selling $10,000 worth of stock would cost $1,350 in taxes. ($9,000 gain x 15%).

If they were to gift that stock to their church or to a non-profit they cared about, that organization would get to deal with the taxes. The benefit to the non-profit is their tax-exempt status. Their tax rate on highly appreciated stocks is 0%.

If they were to gift $10,000 in stock, they would receive the same tax deduction as writing a check each month for the same amount, but they would multiply their tax savings by never paying the 15% capital gains tax.

If the stock was something they wished to continue investing in, they could buy it back with the money that they would have spent in monthly giving. They would then have a new basis of $100. They still own grandpa's old stock, but they have slashed the future tax liability. This is extremely useful in environments where we think taxes will rise in the future…like today.

Giving appreciated securities can save you taxes and magnify your giving.

Gifting Stock Using Your Charitable Checkbook – It is easy to give cash or write a check on a monthly basis, but it can be difficult to gift a security monthly. Many times a family will avoid this practice and miss out on the tax savings because of the challenge of giving stock monthly or the concerns around handing over a big gift once a year. Often the gains or losses in an account don't coincide with the needs of the ministries that you care about.

It may be appropriate to consider using a “Charitable Checkbook.” This may be in the form of a Donor Advised Fund or some other giving account. You can use this account like just like you would use your checkbook, but specifically for charitable giving. You can gift stock or add money when it is convenient for you. This fund can be held in cash or it can be invested. You can then use this charitable checkbook to make donations monthly, annually or as needed. This sort of gifting allows you to capture tax benefits when it is most appropriate and to give when and how you feel compelled to. This strategy can also work for families who are selling non-publicly traded stock in their own business or other highly appreciated assets.

Just a few small changes to your charitable giving can magnify the impact that you are having in your church and your community.

Aug 15, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: A Handful of Rice and a Widow's Offering

The Widow’s Offering  
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

                                                            Mark 12:41-44

Jesus watched! He intentionally sat to watch and took the opportunity to teach his disciples. I included the video above on very small gifts in India which have made a profound difference for a community.

A few questions:

How can I give a handful of rice in my community?

What if Jesus is watching as I give; what would he say of me?

The widow gave all she had. What would it look like for me to give all I have?

What, if anything am I holding back? Is there anything I would be unwilling to let go of?

What if I gave that thing up, and others in our community gave their all as well, could we change our church, our community and our nation?

Aug 9, 2012

Applying Your Best Resources to Your Best Work: Great info from Michael Hyatt

Here is an excerpt from a recent post by Michael Hyatt. He writes on Intentional Leadership.

Are You Investing Your Best Resources in the Wrong People?

1.      Acknowledge that your resources are limited.

2.      Become aware of where your resources are going.

 3.      End unproductive or unhealthy relationships.

 4.      Identify the people you should be investing in.

5.      Schedule time on your calendar to serve these people.

Yes, Jesus spent time with broken people. He healed the sick. He comforted the broken-hearted. He ministered to the outcasts.

But he spent the bulk of his resources on just twelve people. He proactively invested in them, knowing that his mission was, humanly speaking, dependent on their success.

Question: Where do you need to shift your focus and allocate your resources differently?

This is just a portion of his postClick here to link through to the full article on his site.  If you find his writing relevant as you peruse his other posts you can subscribe to by clicking here.

It is easy to say no when a situation is obviously not a good fit. Michael Hyatt calls us to say no to good work to pursue our best work.
By focusing the resources God has given you, on the most important work he has for you, you will see the most impact.  
God has given you resources that are unique. What are they?

God has a plan for your life, a calling. What is it?

How can you connect the two?

Aug 8, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: Money and stuff as a spiritual barometer.

We read in the book of Luke as John the Baptist prepares the way for Christ. John addresses the crowds and exhorts them. The people ask in response, “What should we do then?” John’s responses are so interesting. His comments don’t seem all that spiritual, instead each response has to do with money and possessions and how we deal with them. Here is the passage from Luke 3:
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely —be content with your pay.”

                                                            Luke 3: 7-14 (NIV)

Two weeks ago in Wednesday in the Word I suggested a few sermons titled, The Biblical View of Money. In these sermons we hear that money can act as a spiritual barometer. Perhaps this is why John the Baptist uses instructions that are so oriented to money and stuff.

I will confess, my spiritual barometer has some pretty drastic swings. I have one hand open, trying to be generous and the other clinging desperately to money and financial security.

-How is your attitude toward money and possessions?
-If this money-attitude truly is a spiritual barometer, what does it say about your stewardship relationship with the God of Creation?
-Is there a single action that you could take today to loosen your grip on financial security and move toward obedient stewardship?

Aug 6, 2012

Classic Bill Cosby On Budgeting: A comedian's wisdom and a financial challenge for the cause of our young people and our nation.

This clip from the first episode of The Cosby Show is great. Bill sits down with Theo to discuss money as his son prepares to leave home.

Bill sits with Theo and walks him through personal finance using Monopoly money. I love watching as the comedian educates his television son.

What an important conversation to have with our kids, even from a young age. Our young people (my generation included) have some major headwinds threatening their personal finances. With a bit of education, and some true wisdom on how money works, and its place in life, they will have a fighting chance.

Politics aside, there are major headwinds to reclaiming our nation’s wallet. Some of the basic comedic wisdom here is applicable. As we educate ourselves of the dire financial picture in our country it can seem overwhelming.

What if we were to own our situation as citizens? What if, in my personal finances, I added the portion of the national debt to my family’s debt snowball? What if I looked at this as an investment in my future and my children’s future? What if I looked for needs in my community, and tried to meet them, not out of obligation, or through a tax, but because I felt called to do it.

Just one person acting like this would seem crazy! Folks would think they had gone off the deep end.

But what if a whole community started living this way; investing in their future and being generous toward others?  

A challenge for you…

Rework your financial plan (just hypothetically) and include our country and your community as an investment. Run your budget at a bare minimum, cutting discretionary spending to help others. (“I can get by on bologna and cereal,” as Theo would put it.) Imagine that your entire community did the same. Think of ways to save together and improve your community together. Dispel all thoughts of a communist society; that’s not what we are talking about. Imagine paying off debt, and claiming all of your capacity and then using those resources wisely and generously, at your discretion, to improve your finances and your community.

What would happen?
Would it be worth it?
What lesson would our children learn and how would it affect their finances and our nation’s future?

Perhaps Bill Cosby should run for office?!
Share your comments below.

Aug 1, 2012

Wednesday in the Word: The Deceitfulness of Wealth in America?

We follow along as Jesus explains the parable of the seeds to his disciples. We will focus in on a small portion of this text as we discuss money in America.
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:  When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.  The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.  The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

                                                            Matthew 13: 18-23

Let's focus in on a single phrase: "The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke out the word."

Do the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth still impact our lives today?
How have these things tried to choke out the word in your family?
Is our American pursuit of wealth at odds with what God really has for us?
What would happen if one family embraced the Word of God instead of our worries and our wealth?
What would happen if an entire community, your community, did the same?
Have you seen these changes in a community? Please share stories and feedback.
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