Adopt a Revolutionary Motto for Your Life

mottoIn the early formation of our nation George Washington had the opportunity to become king of the burgeoning nation. But given the young nation’s experience with England and because he had a robust prayer life he knew there was only one King, so he declined the offer.

King Jesus

The people of the land apparently knew the same. “In a 1774 report to King George, the Governor of Boston noted: ”If you ask an American, who is his master? He will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ.” The prewar Colonial Committees of Correspondence soon made this the American motto: “No King but King Jesus.”

The story of God’s chosen people might have gone very differently had they chanted the same motto. Instead, they wanted a king. Over the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah there were thirty-eight kings. Only five of them were good. Of the others a refrain heard throughout the Old Testament goes like this: “They did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

I Am The Lord

Prophets appeared exhorting the people to turn back to God. God spoke through one prophet—Isaiah— to tell the people of Judah that they would be captured and deported to Babylon but afterward he would bring them back home. The purpose? “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed. Then the whole human race will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:23).

In Isaiah 53 the prophet depicts the coming Messiah. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53: 2, 3). God did not want the people to miss him. But they did. And still do.

God On The Throne

Our nation would have gone a much different route had Washington agreed to be king. But he seemed to know what many others didn’t. When we displace God on the throne of our lives, the outcome will go horribly wrong. But when we put God on the throne in our lives, we put ourselves in the best possible position for godly success.

Maybe our American ancestors knew the best way to start a revolution. Adopt the motto “No King but King Jesus” in your life. See what changes that ignites in your life.

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Fasting From Spending For A Year

buy buyAfter much thought, discussion, soul-searching and prayer my wife, Sharon, and I have decided to take a fast from spending for twelve months. As daunting and impossible as it might seem we are committed to shutting off the spending flow and sticking with it no matter what the urge, temptation or challenge might be.

EXPECTED REACTIONS

For some this might seem to be an insane decision. Such ones cannot even fathom the remote possibility of denying yourself the luci surprisedprivilege of spending for an entire year. Who would ever want to do something like that and why, why, why? We live in a culture of affluence. I mean, spending is what you do in America. Americans are the biggest spenders in the world. To fast from spending for an entire year is not only insane, it is just UN-American.

THE REASON: FOCUS SHIFT

So why in the world, or at least in America, the land of buying more, are we embarking on an adventure of fasting from spending? To begin with, this is going to provide an extended time of taking our focus off of stuff. It seems that most of life revolves around stuff and material possessions. From the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we go to bed at night, much of our time is devoted to stuff. And much of that time is all about getting more of it. So our decision to go an entire year without getting any more of it gives us a whole new focus, at least for that year. Who knows where it might lead from there.

Materialism is the acquisition of stuff. It is get, get, get. It has been described as get all you can, can the rest and then sit on the can. What better way to break the grip of materialism then to take an extended time of not participating in the insanity of it all?

MORE IMPORTANT THINGS

Taking our focus off of buying and stuff will then enable us to focus on more important things. We can have a transfer of focus from buying to, most importantly, God. Fasting is for the purpose of turning our attention from one thing to another. In the case of eating it is to take our attention from food in order to place it on God. In the case of stuff, spending and buying, it is for the purpose of taking our attention off of these things and placing it on God for an extended period. It lowers the importance of stuff so we can draw close to him. It is a time to hunger and thirst for him rather than more of whatever.

no spendingTaking our focus off of stuff and spending also leaves us with more time to devote to other things that are far more important, like relationships. Instead of spending we can be serving. Instead of buying stuff we can to be devoting that time to being a better husband, better wife, better parents, better neighbors, and better friends. Buying is time-consuming. Not buying leaves us with more time to invest in others.

Then fasting from spending and buying will leave us with more resources to use in loving God and loving others. According to Jesus nothing in life is more important than loving God and loving others. And one of the most significant and practical ways we can express that love is through the resources we have acquired. A spending fast will provide resources that can be used to bless others and meet their needs. We serve others by transferring some of what we would spend on ourselves to meeting their needs.

And finally, fasting from spending will immediately leave us with more resources to give to God, his church and his mission in the world. Wow, what an eternal difference that will make for so many.

THE INVITATION

So, I would like to invite you to consider a similar fast, whenever the time might be appropriate for you. It might be for these reasons or for your own. This could be the most awesome and transforming year of your life. This could be the breakaway you have been needing.

Sharon and I went away for a few days and worked out some *guidelines that we will follow for our fast in order for both of us to be on the same page. I would love to share them with you, if interested.

The Power of Model

One more thing to consider. If you have kids still at home or even ones that have moved out of the house, imagine how much your model could communicate to them in a year about what is most important in life. Instead if it being stuff, spending and materialism they would see self-denial, self-sacrifice, generosity and service to God and others. This is one teaching opportunity they will never forget.

*As our personal guidelines will reveal, our fast is from new spending. Providing for upkeep and necessities is permitted, but only as detailed in the guidelines and agreed upon by both parties.

God Needs A Home

god's handIt was perhaps the greatest opportunity ever. God tells Moses that he wants to come to his people and dwell right in the middle of their camp. Not on the outskirts. Not in the ‘burbs. But right in the middle of where they were living.

You might wonder, “What preparations would a people need to make for God to live in their midst?” Would it be like getting ready for weekend guests or someone special coming to dinner? You feel compelled to make sure your home looks as good as possible. You want to make a good impression and you want your guest to feel welcome.

God anticipated the question and told Moses what needed to be in place for his coming. First, he wanted to be close to them but there was the problem of sin that created a breach between them. So God provided Moses with instructions about the practice of sacrificing, offering a covering for the people’s indiscretions before a Holy God. Sin is serious stuff, not to be taken lightly, and the sacrifice of unblemished animals was necessary to give the people a picture of sin.

Second, he wanted to stay close to them. Moses was given the blueprints for the building of the Tabernacle. It’s a big word for “tent.” A portable place of worship. Kind of a mobile Motel 6. And he wanted to camp out right in the middle of where they were camping. God wanted to be close to his people.

But he also wanted them to be close to each other. So he declared a third thing to get ready. He gave them Ten Commandments concerning relationships. The first four commandments focus on how we are to demonstrate our love to God. The second set of six have to do with how to show love to other people. In seeing these relationships of love it was God’s desire that people would come tabernacleto know Him too.

Jesus said the same in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. . .  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

God gave the Israelites guidelines so that, when they sought to live by them, other nations would see them as different and know that they were God’s people. God gave us Jesus so that, when we live like him, others will know that we are his people.

For those who know him, God took care of our sin through the sacrifice of Jesus. He tabernacles in the hearts of those who have drawn near to him. Could it be then that the degree to which we are obedient to him in this command to love each other is the degree of his presence we will find among us? It could be our greatest opportunity ever.

There’s A Wall In Front Of You.

facing wallThere’s a wall in front of you. Behind you is a past you are running from. Beyond the wall awaits the promise of a new life. But you’re not moving because there is this “wall.” You feel trapped. No way out. This is just the sort of situation in which God does some of his finest work.

You need only ask the Israelites. Behind them was a life of back-breaking work and slavery. Ahead of them was a life in the land of Promise. Behind them was the fierce army of a fanatical Pharaoh coming towards them. Ahead of them was a wall. Their obstruction was made of water.

Your “wall” may be a fear of failure. Or maybe it’s a lack of confidence that has grinded your progress to a halt. Or it could merely be too many problems that have piled up in front of you at the same time. And you have no clue which one to tackle first.

So you stopped. And you aren’t sure if there is a way over, around, or under this imposing impediment.

At this point many people panic. Anxiety courses its way through the body, atrophies the movement muscles, and rigor mortis overtakes their resolve. Eyes which once had clear focus now only focus on the wall just inches away.

But some look elsewhere. The Israelites looked to Moses. They began belting him with blame. Have you done the same? Blame the boss. Blame a co-worker. Blame your dog. Blame God. Maybe even blame yourself? Blame all you want but the wall remains.

While the Israelites were body punching Moses, he opted to look elsewhere. His options? He could have looked at the enemy’s facing a wallarmy. He could have looked at the ungrateful people he led. He could have looked at the wall of water spread out before him, sat down, and given up.

Instead he looked to God. And God opened an unlikely route through the wall of water. Safely on the other side, the very wall that had halted their steps closed in on and covered the sources of their fears.

The very name of the book where we find this story serves as a reminder when we face our “walls.”  “Exodus” is a compound Greek word meaning “the way out.” And in case you might have missed it,  the way out was not a better job, a different spouse, or a victim mentality.

No, the way out is God. Next time you find yourself up against a wall try looking to him.

Trading in your dreams for another’s

dreams 2People nearing mid-life often crash into some startling and unexpected observations. For instance, we all dreamed big dreams when we were younger. But as we move at a break-neck pace through our twenties, thirties, and forties, we eventually slam head on into the realization that some of our dreams will never be realized.

That observation throws some people into a mid-life crisis. Some don’t make it that far with their aspirations, having already given them up somewhere along the way. Some run into conflict that makes them weary and they settle for less. Still others make bold decisions to trade one dream in for another.

That’s what Joseph did. Talk about dreams! He had some big ones. At seventeen he dreamed his ten older brothers would bow down to him. It’s enough he dreamed that dream. What makes it worse is that he told his brothers about it.

The older brothers already had issues with the younger son. Their father favored Joseph. He had even given him a valuable, multi-colored coat. That’s the modern-day equivalent of a parent of four teenagers giving one an iPhone and the other three a stack of quarters each for a pay phone (assuming they could find one on their travels). The brothers banded together and tossed the dreamer in a ditch, eventually selling him into slavery at the first opportunity. The next thing Joseph knew he was waking up in Egypt.

From there his life was a rollercoaster thrill ride. One minute a slave. The next in charge of an Egyptian official’s house. The next in prison. The next in charge of the prison. Then he found himself in front of Pharaoh, called upon to interpret the leader’s dreams. With God’s help he was able to warn Pharaoh he would have seven years of abundant crops that he should be put in storehouses in anticipation of seven years of famine. Recognizing his wisdom, Pharaoh put Joseph second in command of all of Egypt.

And because of God’s personal involvement in his life, he was was able to save his family. The same family that God was building dreams 3into a nation. Joseph was in position to bring his family to Egypt and give them the most fertile land to work. And it was definitely fertile. In the time they were there they were “fruitful and increased greatly” (Exodus 1:7).

Joseph could have lost his life getting caught up in the details of his life, chasing his dreams and desires. Instead, he chose a better story. God’s story.

You can do the same. If your life’s dream has stalled, look to God. If your dream now realized is not all you thought it would be, look to God. He can give you another dream. A better one, not according to the world’s standard but God’s criterion. Just like Joseph’s. Then you’ll have a story to tell.

“A” Is For ATTITUDE

money“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.” -William James

 

Let’s talk finances. Now, don’t click on another page. Just take three deep breaths and a couple minutes and read through this post.

 

The average person doesn’t really believe he has a problem when it comes to finances. He really doesn’t. As long as he’s making monthly payments on time, as long as he has some mad money he can play with each week, as long as he can continue to feed and satisfy those occasional indulgences from time to time, he erroneously believes things are just fine. Unfortunately he’s like the alcoholic, the drug addict, the gambler, or the person addicted to pornography who says, “I don’t have a problem.” But the truth is, the average American has a major problem when it comes to money, Christians included. They are horribly in debt, miserable managers of their money; and gullible beyond belief when it comes to buying things on credit.

 

Can I share a simple principle with you? If you’re paying interest on anything, regardless of the great interest rate you may have gotten or the low monthly payment; if you are paying interest on anything, are you ready for this? YOU ARE LOSING MONEY.

 

In fact, when you see the word “interest,” if you visualize two words in huge, gigantic letters as if they were written in the sky; “SOMEBODY ELSE,” that will help you better comprehend the principle. Why? Because that’s exactly what happens every time you’re paying interest. SOMEBODY ELSE is getting rich off YOUR money. Yet so many people say, “Well, you know, we got a great interest rate.” Or, “Luckily I got the same low monthly payment on this car that I had on my last one.”

 

Christian financial expert, the late Larry Burkett, said, “Christians are now paying nearly 10% of our income every year in interest alone. And yet we give only 2% back to God.”  So here’s the picture. The average Christian in America is miserably over his head in debt and walking in rebellion towards God. We definitely have a problem. But watch out if anyone attempts to discuss it. Why? Because we’re very touchy when it comes to our stuff. When it comes to my money and my finances, that’s a private matter and it’s none of your business. Isn’t that pretty much the way you feel?

 

So if someone suggests we have a problem with our finances, we immediately get defensive and go into money 3denial because none of us wants to admit we have a problem.

 

Does anyone remember Harry Truman? Not the President. The man who lived on the side of Mount St. Helens in Washington? I’ll never forget the guy; He had 23 cats. (Does that help?) Well, back in 1980 he was on Mount St. Helens. TV reporters were interviewing him while the mountain was shaking behind him. Harry’s sitting there with his 23 cats and seismologists were saying, “This mountain’s gonna blow; ” Volcanic experts were saying, “This mountain’s gonna blow.” Harry Truman said, “I don’t believe a single one of your ,experts. I’ve lived here all my life. I know this old mountain better than anybody else. I’m not going anywhere. “ And they’d banter back and forth.

I remember his sister on national television (you may remember watching). She pleaded with her brother, “Please, get off this mountain. It’s gonna blow;” “No, it’s not,” Harry insisted. “I’ve lived here all my life. I don’t have a problem.”

 

On May 18th, 1980, at 8:31 a.m., the mountain blew. It blew with a force 500 times greater than the power of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. Twenty-five hundred feet blew off the top of the mountain. It blackened the sky from Seattle to New York and as far south as Oklahoma. No one has ever seen a trace of Harry or his 23 cats since.

 

Now I’m praying that you are not a Harry Truman. I’m going to assume you want God’s wisdom, God’s guidance, and God’s provision in your life. I’m going to assume you want to be financially healthy and to be free from the albatross of financial burdens, bills, and bondage.

 

lt’s possible for anyone of us. In fact, regardless of how much debt you have today, I agree with Larry Burkett, who says in seven years anybody can be out of debt. Anybody; That includes you.

money 6

 

All of us can be out of debt and financially healthy, or well on our way to it, if we really want to be. But we have to want to. But if we don’t begin with step number one, nothing else we talk about will help. We need to begin withOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD MONEY.

For more on the subject of changing our attitude click on this link:

 http://relaxedchurch.sermon.tv/pa/9792495

(adapted from “The ABC’s of Financial Freedom” by Barry Cameron)

Three quick rules for investing

investing 3Jesus told a parable Matthew 25 that beautifully illustrates the need for investing. He said that a master gave five talents to one guy and two talents to another and one to a third. And the third guy went and buried the talent and got nothing. But the guy with 5 talents, Scripture says, The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work,” and when he invested wisely, Scripture says, “he gained five more.”

He doubled his money; he invested it, he put it to work. There’s two ways to make money; you can work for money or you can have your money working and making money.

The good news is money works 365 days a year.  Money works when you sleep.

If you would like to be a great investor let me pass on to you three quick investing rules that I have followed (though not as faithfully as I should) and am reaping the benefits from. These are all, believe it or not, from the Bible. Who knew the Bible actually teaches even about investing!

1. Don’t invest in things you don’t understand. Did you hear that? Don’t invest in things you don’t understand!

Proverbs 24:3-4 “By wisdom is a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”  With wisdom and understanding and knowledge; do not invest in things that you do not understand.

Now some of you might be a first time investor. And I want to say, there are some great people that give great advice that are selling different types of investment. So, I don’t want to belittle those in that profession at all; but you need to know that there are a lot of people that are not great and not wise who are selling investments.  They’ve leased a Lexus so they could look successful. They’re selling you something that they don’t even buy themselves. And you need to be very, very careful that you get good advice.

I suggest you learn from somebody who is a great investor. Find someone who is a mentor. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve had different people through the years who mentor me; they’re not selling me, they’re just good at it and they give me advice.

Back in the early 90’s I wanted to kick up our retirement investing so I went to a friend and elder named Ken Kessler. Ken was the treasurer of PMI an international company that owned Hobart manufacturing, Kitchen Aid, Tupperware, Wilson Art and some other companies. He knew money and investing. He advised me to invest in Vanguard Mutual funds. He said they pay good returns and they are long term reliable. I am still with investing 2Vanguard.

Now, someone else at that time, who was not a wise investor could have said, “No, no, no you need to invest in stock. In fact you need to invest in Lucent. It is the hottest thing going.” Many of you might have heard of it. You may have invested in it. I knew nothing about Lucent. It was what everyone was investing in and it was skyrocketing. If I had jumped on the bandwagon with so many others and invested $1000, that very same thousand dollars would be worth about $13.00 today! Had I bought a thousand dollars’ worth of Mountain Dew and drank it all, I would have had a caffeine buzz second to none and still would be high on caffeine today! And if I had saved the cans I would actually have more money in recyclable cans than I would have had in Lucent stock if I had bought that stock that day! Do not invest in something that you don’t understand even if everyone else is doing it!

I’ve got friends who would give a testimony of why investing in something you don’t understand is very, very stupid! I could and I will in a minute. Sometimes the best investment that you make is the one that you don’t make if you don’t understand.

Second rule of investing is:  2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Grandma will teach you that and so will the Bible. Scripture says in Ecclesiastes 11:2: Give portions to seven, or yes to eight…” In other words spread it around: …for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.”

Don’t put all of your money into one thing because if that one thing falls apart and there’s disaster there then you are in a lot of trouble.

Dave Ramsey says that investing is a lot like manure, if you put it all in one place it starts to stink; but if you spread it out it makes things grow. It is better to spread it out.

When retirement comes for my wife and me, count the baskets, we have Sharon’s Social Security and mine, (for life, I think) a guaranteed for life Annuity, one in her name and one in mine, a guaranteed for life church pension fund, an IRA in my name and one in Sharon, a money market account plus savings and whatever income I will generate. Count them, ten baskets.

Don’t invest in things you don’t understand and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Now, the third lesson I believe is probably the most important one and the one that is really a heart check that we all need to be aware of, and that is:

3. Don’t try to get rich quick.

1 Timothy 6:9 tells us about those who really want to get rich quick, People who want to get rich can fall into temptation and a trap…” Have any of you ever been trapped by an investment that you thought was a sure thing that you didn’t really understand? They’ll fall into temptation and a trap and:…into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

Sometimes the best way to double your money is to take your money, fold it over and put it in your pocket and walk away and not try to get rich quick.

I’ll tell you from my own personal life. About 20 years ago a friend came to me and told me about this new internet security company that was starting up called Guardian. I didn’t know anything about internet security but it sounded really good and sensible. It is supposed to go Initial Public Offer in a few weeks and when it did the stocks would skyrocket and we could sell what we bought dirt cheap and make about 100 times our investment. What an opportunity. I asked him, “Are you sure?” He said, “Yes, the owner of this car dealership,” and I’m talking huge dealership, “has bought heavily into it.”

So I scrounged up $2000 and invested in this tremendous opportunity. And I waited and waited and waited for it to go public. I am still waiting.

So ladies, if you’re reading this and thinking about your husband, “I can’t believe you did something so stupid with your money! I wish you were more like Pastor Steve!”  Guess what? He’s just like Pastor Steve who did something really, really stupid with the money!

investingDon’t try to get rich quick! And here’s the deal, I want to talk especially to the men; because we tend to be sprinters, we’re conquerors, we want to win, we want to drag something home! We’re like, “No, no, no, I’m the provider! Look what I did for my family!” We want to give more to our wives; we want to give more to our kids, so we’re looking for the BBD! Don’t give me that six percent interest, I want the BBD, give me the BBD! I don’t want it slow, I want the BBD. Give me the bigger, better deal and give it to me now!

And before long, we sprint our way into greed and destruction and trouble and we would be way better off not to be sprinters as investors, but literally to be marathon investors. We just want to be consistent and we want to be faithful and we want to be consistent and we want to be faithful and we want to be consistent and we want to be faithful.

Here’s what Scripture says, Proverbs 13:11, “He who gathers money little by little makes it grow.”

Here’s a real simple formula for you: Money plus time plus consistency equals wealth.

Little by little by little; tithe, pay the expenses, pay off debt, pay off all of the debt. We’re not in bondage to money, we’re not going to be strapped; the borrower is a servant to the lender, we’re not going to be like that. Invest long term, 15% into retirement, pay a little bit here, buy some mutual funds, buy a little piece rental property; whatever it is, faithfulness, consistency; over time, over time.

Do you think if you were crazy aggressive perhaps you could save $5 a day? Now before you answer, you stop buying your caffeine drink, one a day you can do it, with God all things are possible! You can be set free and healed from buying caffeine drinks. Or you can brown bag it, you can do it. I mean, just five dollars a day.

Let me just show you how this works, a little money over time with consistency:

If you invested $5 a day at 12% interest, because we’re talking over a long period of time: At 5 years you’d have 12 grand. 10 years you have 34 grand, 20 years, almost 150 grand, 30 years, over half of a million dollars. 40 years, if you did this from the age of 25 to 65, you’d have 1.7 million. If you did this from the age of 20 to the age of 70, 50 years, 5.8 million dollars!

$5 a day!  Those of you who are young should be dancing in your pants right now because you can do it at this age! Once you get older it’s not as easy. If you start now, money plus consistency plus time, how much could you do with money like that? How much of a difference do you think you could make in people’s lives and for the Kingdom of God?

Now, I know what some of you are thinking; “I’m not going to get 12%!”

Okay, what if I am half wrong? You’re still rich! What if you only have two million or only three million? What do you think you could do with that? If you’re faithful with a little God will trust you with a lot.

(Adapted from material by Craig Groeschel)