DO NOT BE CONFORMED

Romans 12:2 begins with this command: “Do not be conformed to this world.” The Amplified Version reads this way: “Do not be conformed to this world—this age, fashioned after and adopted to its external, superficial customs.”

We live in one of the most affluent cultures the world has ever known. And we are constantly bombarded with costly, manipulative advertising whose purpose is to prompt us to spend money. Advertisers usually stress the importance of image rather than function. For example, automobile ads rarely focus on a car as reliable transportation that is economical to operate; instead, an image of status or sex appeal is projected.

Reflect on the claims of TV commercials. No matter what the product—clothing, deodorants, credit cards, cars, beverages, you name it—the message is communicated that the “Fulfilling, beautiful, wrinkle-free life” can be ours if we are willing to buy it. Unfortunately, this media onslaught has influenced all of us to some extent. George Fooshee, the author of the excellent book You Can Beat the Money Squeeze, so aptly states, “People buy things they do not need with money they do not have to impress people they do not even like.”

The following graph depicts how the artificial, media-generated lifestyle influences our lives. The bottom curve represents our income—what we really can afford to buy. The next curve illustrates how much we actually spend. We make up the difference between our income and spending by the use of debt, which creates slavery, financial pressure and anxiety. The top of the graph demonstrates what advertisers tell us to buy. It’s an image-conscious, expensive lifestyle that claims to satisfy the human heart’s deepest needs. When we want to live this counterfeit, media-induced dream but cannot afford it, we suffer discontentment, envy and coveting.

Artificial Media Lifestyle graphicNone of us is immune to the lure of this message. Recently a sharp-looking van in a television commercial caught my eye. Our family has a second-hand, 11-year-old station wagon painted an unattractive yellow. This advertised van was perfect for our family—just the right size and color. I even rationalized that this van would be better suited for use in ministry. I found myself spending half an hour each day studying beautiful, slick brochures, admiring new vans on the highway and daydreaming about driving one. I was hooked! The yellow station wagon seemed to get more unsightly every day, while the van went from an “I want it” to an “I need it” category.

I was about to buy the van when I decided to seek the counsel of Jack Norman, a local car dealer and friend. He gave me good advice. He asked me how many miles the station wagon had been driven. “Fifty-five thousand miles,” I responded. He thought for a moment and then he said, “The station wagon is in good condition and should be great transportation for years!” I didn’t want to hear that, but I reluctantly agreed with him. His advice had saved me thousands of dollars. Moreover, the moment the decision was made to keep the yellow station wagon, I lost the desire for the van. It no longer dominated my thinking. Interestingly enough, the yellow station wagon has become better-looking!

From time to time we all get hooked on something we think we must buy—a car, home, camera, boat, you name it. Once hooked, it’s easy to rationalize a purchase. Please remember to seek the Lord’s guidance and the counsel of godly people when making spending decisions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is It Time For Plastic Surgery?

IMG_5979

Will you be putting this on your store card today?  Oh, you don’t have one?  Well, if you apply for one today, we can give you $50 off your purchase! Well, if you’ve ever been shopping, I’m guessing that sales pitch sounds familiar. But are department store cards a smart way to save money … or are they a bad idea?

Most of us know someone who has more credit cards than Baskin Robins has ice cream flavors. But 3 out of 10 adults don’t have a credit card, and the average is 2.6 per person which is the lowest number is decades.

Branded retail credit cards can save you money on your purchase when you apply, and often there are other discounts or rewards. So, are retail cards a smart way to save money? No, I don’t recommend them. They are a marketing tool by retailers who also make a lot of money on the interest they charge customers who carry a balance. You’re also more likely to be a victim of identity theft if you have lots of cards.

My suggestion: perform some plastic surgery! Any scissors will do the job!

Posted in Thoughts from Howard, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Life Abundantly

 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” –John 10:10

Sometimes it is hard for me to wrap my arms around the fact that God’s desire for me is to experience life to the fullest- regardless of my life situation. God’s desire for me to have life abundantly isn’t based on whether I have had a good or bad day, whether the economy is flourishing or declining, whether I perform well or not. It is not relative to the changes in the stock market, the amount of money I do or don’t make, or whether or not I have a job. God’s desire for us to experience life abundantly transcends all these scenarios.

I don’t always experience life to the fullest and often get distracted by the things of the world- I am a work in progress. But when I do experience this abundant life that God’s word talks about it is usually in the context of the following:

  • Using the gifts God has given me to serve others; this could be talents, time or treasure- it is one of the greatest joys I experience.
  • Being surrounded by a community of people who love Jesus. People who are real, transparent, challenging and vulnerable and those who allow me to be the same.
  • Being immersed in God’s word and prayer. Nothing else allows me to experience the Lord in such an intimate way.

I am grateful that whatever circumstance I may be in, both good and bad, the Lord is always offering me something better- life abundantly! I would encourage you to prayerfully examine how this looks in your life and walk with the Lord.

Wrapped in His grace, Kyle

Posted in Uncategorized, Updates from Kyle | Tagged , | 1 Comment

How To Overcome Financial Anxiety

 

4120466 - this young man is experience intense stress over a time of economic downturn or other financial hardship.

Do you every get anxious about your financial problems? If so, how do you overcome this anxiety in a healthy, biblical way?

 

Philippians 4:6-7 is one on the first verses I learned when I was 28 and initially introduced to Christ as my savior It had a major influence on my thinking then, and meditating on it again this week had an equally significant impact.

 

It says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7)

 

Let’s unpack this passage together and as we do, I want you to think about some of the things that make you anxious and how this passage might free you from it.

 

It begins with a command: “Be anxious for nothing . . .”  The Lord is clear that regardless of the challenge – health, financial, relational, work or a host of others – we are not to be anxious. Throughout the Bible, we often see issues framed between Our Responsibilities and God’s Responsibilities.

 

Our Part

The next portion of this scripture addresses Our Part, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

 

It is clear that in every circumstance large or small, by our prayers and supplication with thanksgiving we are to tell the Lord our requests. Some people think that they shouldn’t bring their concerns about money to God because He might be too busy running the universe, but He tells us to bring Him everything.

 

We also should bring our prayers to Him with supplication and thanksgiving. The dictionary defines supplication as, “asking or begging for something humbly or earnestly.” Our heart should be submitted to the Lord as we earnestly make our request.

 

God’s Part.

Slowly read what the does in response. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” God will bring us His peace, which is so amazing that it defies understanding, and it guards our hearts and minds in Christ! Can you imagine anything better to overcome financial anxiety!

 

I want to challenge you to meditate on Philippians 4:6-7 the next time you are feeling anxious. Pray with supplication and thanksgiving, then experience the precious peace of God.

Posted in Thoughts from Howard | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

4 Ways To Achieve Your Goals This Year

add-a-lle-bit-of-body-text

 

Have you already broken your New Year’s Resolutions? You’re not alone. A study found only 8% of people keep their resolutions for four weeks!

 

I don’t do resolutions, but I’ve learned how to make real progress on achieving important yearly goals by doing these 4 things:

 

  1. Identify Goals You Really Want to Achieve.

I break my goals down into 5 categories: Spiritual, Physical, Family, Work & Financial. For example, three of my Spiritual goals are to read through the entire Bible this year, to pray daily through my prayer list, and meditate on one different verse each week.

 

  1. Use numbers to follow your progress

Keeping track of numbers every day helps us stay on track! Here is how I use numbers to help achieve my Physical goals. I have yearly goals of walking 4 miles a day for 300 days, doing pushups 150 days, and lifting light weights 150 days. So, every day I record my progress. I let the numbers speak to me . . . if I’m falling behind, it motivates me to exercise even if I don’t feel like it.

 

  1. Review, review, review

The first thing I do Monday morning is to review the progress I’m making on my goals. For example, if one of your Financial goals is to pay off your credit cards, review how you’re doing. It may become apparent that you need to find a way to earn some extra money each week or cut back on some expenses to reach your goal.

 

  1. Have an accountability buddy

Finally, have a friend or maybe your spouse to mutually hold each other accountable on making progress to achieve your annual goals. Connect with each other once a month and be transparent with your progress.

 

If you do these 4 things, you’ll be so encouraged by the time December 31 rolls around. By God’s grace you will have accomplished important goals that will bring you closer to Christ and your loved ones, and helped you become financially and physically healthier.

 

Posted in Thoughts from Howard | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Teaching Your Teen To Be Money Smart

 

31067204 - father and teenage daughter looking at laptop together

When our children were teenagers, we learned that the key to successfully teaching them the biblical perspective of money making and God’s way of money management was to be MVP parents!

The M stands for Modeling, the V stands for Verbally communicating what the Bible says, and the P stands for Practical opportunities for the teens to actually apply what they are learning

Let’s look at money making. The Bible encourages us to work hard. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hands finds to do, do it with all your might.” And laziness is condemned: “He who is slack in his work is brother to him who steals” (Proverbs 18:9). So, how can parents teach their teens to work hard

  • Parents need to be models of hard work themselves because what we do is more impactful than what we say.
  • Assign kids daily household chores to teach faithfulness with routine responsibilities.
  • Provide them opportunities to earn extra money at home, and encourage children to work for others to learn what it means to be in an employee—employer relationship.
  • Requiring your teen work at least one summer in something requiring hard labor is very beneficial. I’ll never forget working one Florida summer in a lumber yard & cement block, and learning what it really meant to work hard.

When it comes to money management, it’s super important for teens to understand that God owns all they have, and they are to be faithful managers of whatever the Lord entrusts to them. They need to learn that Saving is good, Debt is bad, Giving is fun, and they shouldn’t get caught up in impulsively spending money on things they don’t need.

Also teach them how to use a spending plan, a budget. Mint.com is an online system that’s free and would get place for them to start.

To check out our Give, Save, Spend online study for teens click here- http://bit.ly/2il0vTV

To find a good spending plan/budget for your teen click here- http://bit.ly/1aJQxzP

Posted in Thoughts from Howard | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Interest Rates Go Up, What Goes Down?

 

64839737 - hands holding cardboard on bokeh background with text: interest rates

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates ¼ percent on Wednesday, and indicated they were going to raise rates three times in 2017. Since the election, rates on a typical 30-year mortgage have increased by about three quarters of a percent to 4.38%

 

The increase in rates will ultimately impact those who have already borrowed using an adjustable rate  Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) because the interest on these loans go up at the rates rise. Unfortunately, more and more lenders are now starting to aggressively market these adjustable loans. Please don’t get trapped into one of these!

 

This is the reason that we have consistently encouraged people to only get fixed rate loans if you have to borrow. When you have an adjustable rate loan, your interest rates are free to float higher and this can be very expensive and even risky.

 

Also, when rates go up, the value of bonds go down, and the longer the maturity of the bond the more it declines on value. In fact, investors worldwide have already lost trillions of dollars of value with the current increases in rates.

 

But there is also good news . . . for savers! The higher rates will translate into higher interest earned on your savings. For this I am very grateful, especially for seniors who were faithful to save, but have been earning next to nothing for almost eight years.

Posted in Thoughts from Howard | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment