Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Parents, Training, Women

Erasing Your Debt

If you would have been a member of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019, you would have graduated debt free. All 396 students had their college loans paid in full. How?

 

The commencement speaker that year was Robert Smith, a private equity executive worth $4.47 billion. During his speech, he shared that he was donating enough money ($40 million dollars) to eliminate every graduating student’s personal debt. Everyone was stunned to say the least.

 

In his speech he asked the class to pay it forward. I don’t know what that will look like, but I do know what it feels like to receive notice from the bank or mortgage company that my debt is paid in full.

 

Unfortunately, too many of us know more about indebtedness rather than a debt marked “Paid.” We deserve that new car or house upgrade, or for others, it was unexpected medical debt or some other emergency.

 

However, if we are faithful to make our monthly payments, even adding to the principle, we will realize our goal. And when we are faithful in our tithing and giving first, we will see God multiply our income so that we can eliminate debt even faster. I do not know how that works, but I can tell you in following those principles for 50 years of my life, they are proven.

 

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  (Eccl. 5:10)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Training

How Is Your Root System?

The roots of a tree serve multiple functions. Tree roots absorb water and nutrients (minerals) for the tree. The tree root  system support the above ground portion of the tree. “Feeder roots” remain closer to the surface collecting water while lateral roots provide anchorage for the tree. Roots spread four to seven times the distance (radius) of the tree. While not all trees have what’s called a taproot, those that do are better held in storms and draw water and minerals deep within the soil, helping a tree in the driest of times. Thus, trees that experience infrequent watering will develop the deepest root system in their search for water, something that ultimately benefits the tree.

 

I once read that the mighty redwoods, even with shallow root systems, will grab hold of the roots of other trees and rocks underground in order to stabilize themselves. Many trees are dependent upon other trees around them for strength.

 

We love trees for their process of photosynthesis, i.e., turning carbon dioxide into carbohydrates.  We love their beauty and their shade. We enjoy the fruit that some trees produce and the oxygen and air-filtering they offer. Trees are vital to our environment, but tree roots are vital to the tree.

 

It is said that we discover the real us when pressure is applied. The longer the pressure, the more real we’ll become. We have a marvelous ability to fake it on the surface, but when the human element of pain comes and our roots are exposed, what has been held deep within us will surface.

 

How deep are your roots? The deeper they are the more life elements you can endure. In fact, not just endure but become stronger through the struggle and the trial. Tree roots can penetrate solid block walls and underground pipes. When your roots hit a wall, are they strong enough to find a way through?

 

Like the redwoods, are your roots grabbing hold of the stability of others around you? Do your roots sink deep into good soil for the proper nutrients to maintain a godly life?

 

 

…If the root is holy, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16b)

 

 

A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted. (Proverbs 12:3)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Training

Ten Ways to Became Debt-Free

Financial debt can feel so impossible, so overwhelming at times. Over 80% of Americans are in debt and the personal average debt figure (excluding mortgages) is $38,000.00. Experian’s 2019 figure for Americans’ debt with mortgages is over $90K. When our income is not much more than our outgoing, it becomes even more challenging. Below is what we did to arrive at a debt-free position.

 

  1. My wife and I prayed together about becoming debt-free and had the same conviction. So, being in agreement and prayer together has always been step one.
  2. It is essential to give. We have desired to give beyond a 10% tithe because we wanted to do more than expected. I know it sounds counterproductive, but I can guarantee you that in giving (“Give and it shall be given unto you…”) God always honored His word and gave us a return, “…pressed down, shaken together and running over.” Practically, we sow into missionaries around the world, local ministries we appreciate and tip generously at restaurants. We believe in a spirit of generosity in all things.
  3. Build up a healthy savings account so that you can borrow from yourself and not your credit card when facing an emergency.
  4. Speaking of credit cards: we never carry a balance. You will not become debt-free paying 21% or greater interest on a credit card balance.
  5. Start by paying off your smallest debt. Once you accomplish this and feel the freedom, place that amount on your next debt and snowball your effectiveness of paying down your existing debt.
  6. Make a commitment to not borrow. Have the conviction of scripture which tells us the borrower is servant to the lender. (Note: we recognize many of us borrow for our home, which is perceived as good debt, but this too can be paid down early by paying extra on the principle.)
  7. Run your present car until the wheels fall off. Cars today can reach 150,000 plus miles. Maintaining a used car is most times cheaper than a new car payment. Meanwhile, save for your next used car purchase.
  8. Maintain and keep a close eye on that budget. Watch areas like entertainment, eating out, purchasing unnecessary items. Wait 30 days for a large purchases and if you still need it in 30 days, it may actually be a need versus a want. Have a plan and agree together on your spending.
  9. Recognize it takes sacrifice and discipline, but the goal is worth it. Yes, we do without some items like that newer computer or larger smart TV, but believe me, the sacrifice does not compare to the freedom found in becoming debt-free.
  10. Be accountable. Be accountable to one another in all of your saving and spending, even weekly. Remind yourselves that it is those small, miscellaneous expenditures that can really add up. Agree to weekly or monthly spending amounts for groceries, clothes, gifts, entertainment, sundry items like coffee and snacks. Give grace, but be accountable. It will pay off.

 

Truthfully, we can be in financial bondage with a lot of money or very little money, but when we agree together to our process of becoming debt-free, we will also find wonderful side effects. Those side effects can include: less arguments about money, less pressure when paying the bills, joy in agreement toward a certain goal and the growth of tenacity, discipline and patience in our lives, even if becoming debt-free takes ten or twenty years.

 

Romans 13:8: Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

The Two Sides of Integrity

Integrity has two sides: that which you will not do and that which you will do.  The latter is often forgotten when it comes to integrity.  Integrity is adhering to principles that you or your ethical and moral side hold as truth and of value to follow.  Integrity by definition is being “honest” and walking in, “soundness of moral character.”

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Training

The Bondage of an Offense and Six Healing Steps

Many years ago, I worked with someone who continually picked up offenses.  With tremendous immaturity and insecurity, they made life miserable for everyone around them.  We walked on eggshells when this person was present.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Training

Money Issues are Ultimately Heart Issues

Someone once said that money issues are ultimately heart issues.  Perhaps that is most likely true as Jesus spoke it this way, “For where you treasure is there your heart will be also.”

 

Consumer debt, financial mistakes and overcharging can simply be exposing a heart that is not seeking first God’s resources, God’s answers and God’s kingdom.  It might be trusting me more than trusting Him.  The Apostle Paul shared that he knew how to live with much and he knew how to live with little.  The key was walking in contentment.

 

It is well known that Mother Teresa’s earthly possessions could be carried about in a five-gallon bucket, but at the same time she believed God for millions of dollars to run her organizations that existed all over the world.  One could easily identify her heart when it came to money.

 

I once counseled someone who was $30,000 in debt created by an addiction to internet pornography.  One could easily identify that heart as well.

 

How about you?  Where is your heart when it comes to money?  Who owns your bank accounts, your IRA’s and your home?  Making investments for a financial return vs. creating consumer debt is wise, but making eternal deposits into the lives of others is wiser still.

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Challenge, Leadership, Training

Ten Leadership Mistakes to Avoid

I have compiled this list over years of being a leader which encompassed years of personal leadership mistakes. They say worse than making a mistake is not learning from ones mistakes. Included are scriptures that help address the specific mistake. Admitting our mistakes is tough, but not as difficult as hiding them. Hopefully these truths will help you in your life of leadership.

  1. To derive any form of identity from leadership. Leadership is from a position of servant hood and humility. The older I become, the less I know. Rick Warren was quoted as saying, “Humility is not that I think of myself as less; it’s that I think of myself less.” (Mt. 20:26-28; Phil. 2:5-7)
  2. To go end-around and not face problems directly. Going to others (with the problem) that are not a part of the problem or a part of the solution. (Mt. 5:23, 24; Eccl. 7:21, 22)
  3. To not guard the spiritual environment. Examples of spiritual environments would be natural parenting, being a husband/wife, spiritual parenting, eldership or being a small group leader. To not allow gossip, broken relationship and bitterness into the environment. Handle people as God’s people, not yours – caring about the spiritual health of those whom you lead. We will answer to God for our spheres of influence and what we fail to guard, we give to the evil one. (II Cor. 10:13-15; Rom. 12:18) (Sphere of influence or metron (Greek) – see II Cor 10:13.)
  4. To make excuses for the inner, felt symptoms rather than stopping to consider and listen to them. Often you cannot put your finger on the issue, but you know it’s there. Follow your gut – the spirit. Too often we give in and trust another’s opinion. (Is. 30:21; Eccl. 8:5, 6)
  5. To guard your mind and spirit from legalism. Legalism is often a cover up for sin or at the very least, false humility. Legalism brings control and breeds autocratic leadership. The more religious some leaders become, the more strict and legalistic they can become, which means less grace and less freedom. (Gal. 3:3-5; Gal. 5:1; II Cor. 3:17, 18)
  6. To guard against promotion of persons who have chronic problems with sin, or finances, or anger or negative habits. You will Peter Principle them. (Num. 32:23; Ps. 119:133; Jn. 8:34)
  7. To work very hard at not rescuing people. Sometimes the consequences are the best training tool from God. Work as preventively as possible. If you rescue once, you will have to rescue again. (Prov. 19:19; John 5:1-6)
  8. To consider expansion before considering depth. The current church has become known to be a mile wide and an inch deep. We want to avoid this syndrome. We must go deeper before attempting to go broader. (Prov. 24:27)
  9. To take responsibility for another’s accomplishment. Always give credit where credit is due. Someone once said, “The first time I give a quote I mention who said it. The second time I quote it, I fail to mention who said it. The third time I quote it, I said it.” Let others promote you; do not promote yourself. (Prov. 27:2, 17, 21; II Thes. 2:6)
  10. To promise promotion without at the same time promising tests and adversity. Anointing does not necessarily mean a person is full of character. Character and discipline, holiness and integrity come first, then promotion. The next generation may desire what we have, but do not skip the process of tests and maturation. (Ps. 26:2; James 1:12)
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Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

Helping You Help Others

I’ve dedicated and spent most of my adult life in some form of counseling profession, e.g., foster parent, group home leader, social worker, marriage and family counselor and overseer. My foundational basis of counsel has always been the word of God. The truths found in this book have radically changed my life from the inside out, so why wouldn’t these same truths change the lives of others? And it is on that basis that a number of years ago I put together a book that lists those scriptures and connects them to specific areas of need.

We called it, Counseling Basics, Helping You Help Others. In it we look at the roots of issues in our lives. We consider the counseling process – the process of change. Then we cover specific areas like: depression, stress, co-dependency, anger and emotional wounds. Chapter after chapter lists scriptural responses to more than a dozen areas that affect most of our lives or the lives of those we love and care about.

The truths of the scriptures never grow old, never loses their power and are never outdated. You can trust these truths for yourself and in helping others. I love God’s word and I trust that you do as well. It is more current than tomorrow’s newspaper. After all, The Counselor authored these words of counsel.

You can find and order this book here.

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Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Parents, Training

The Sin of Greed; The Blessing of Generosity

Were you aware of the fact that greed is sin? Not sure if I ever heard a sermon on that subject, but it is. Jesus once told the Pharisees that the inside of their cup was full of greed and self-indulgence. Yikes! Greed was even in a list of sins that Jesus mentioned in Mark chapter seven. And in Luke He told us to be on guard from all kinds of greed.

The Apostle Paul in Ephesians described greed as a “continual lust for more.” Then he went on to say that among us there should not even be a hint of greed. In Colossians it was called an “earthly desire.”

No matter how you look at it, greed in the Bible was not a good thing. But, I’ll tell you what is…generosity. You might say being generous is the opposite of greed. I wasn’t raised to be generous or greedy, but I have discovered that one is far more productive, satisfying and pleasure-filled than the other. That tight grip of greed is self-centered and perhaps that’s why Jesus was so verbal about it. The ones steeped in a religious spirit were greedy and self-consuming. It represented everything He was not.

It was with generosity that God sent His only Son. It was with generosity that collections were taken in the early church for the churches that were in need. It was a generous spirit that caught the eye of our Lord when He saw the widow placing her few copper coins in the offering plate. We can be generous with a lot of money or very little money; rarely is it the amount. We can be generous with our possessions and our time. We can possess a generous heart, just like our Father.

How generous are you with that guy holding the sign on the street corner, your restaurant server, the paper or mail delivery person, your garbage hauler, your local church, missionaries, your children, your spouse or your neighbor? A generous lifestyle is a prosperous lifestyle.

 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25

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Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

What Happens When The Church Affirms Sin?

Sin. That is not an often-used word today. Very few desire to be reminded of their sin or have their sin pointed out to them. Have we become soft on sin to the point of straying from the use of the word? Certainly it’s a biblical word – one found in the Old Testament and the New Testament, including the gospels. (Numbers 32: 23; I Kings 8: 46; Romans 3: 23; John 8: 34)

As a professing Christian, is it right to mention this word to others? Is it right to discuss sin issues in public and in sermons or small groups? Has the current generation so shied away from this word that it has, at the same time, caused or created an affirmation of sin? Is sin still sin or is there a nicer, more politically correct and acceptable word to use? (I John 1: 8; 3: 4, 6-8)

I prayed to give my life to Christ in 1971 and sin was pretty black and white back then. Preachers preached on it and friends were bold enough to point it out, taking me to the word of God and speaking to me forthrightly about the need for repentance. I embraced it, even appreciated it. I did not grow up in a religious home and I was not equipped with very many moral guidelines. (I Cor. 5: 12; Gal. 6: 1; James 5: 19-20)

If the church becomes lax on sin, then moral guidelines become more and more difficult to determine. From Genesis chapter three, the evil one has determined to make right wrong and wrong right.   If we can no longer identify the right, we’ll never know the wrong and vice versa. The overall purpose of the law, the Ten Commandments, was to point out sin, boundaries (exposing our sin). God was determined that for society to function together in a normal, healthy way there needed to be rules – guidelines of wrong and right. Why? Because He hated mankind? No, the exact opposite; He loved mankind and wanted us to live a long and prosperous life free of sin and disease. (Psalm 119: 11, 133; Matthew 5: 17-20; Romans 8: 3-8; Gal. 3: 23-25; Hebrews 12: 1-10)

There is a deviation in the church today. It seems we’re fearful of calling sin, sin…afraid to offend. We’re afraid that we’ll hurt someone’s feelings or tramp on someone’s toes. We fear backlash from the younger generation who might be quite ignorant of the word of God and what sin actually is. And we can fear persecution from the world that actively walks in sin and does not want to be reminded of their wrongdoing. We live in a culture that defends its sin and calls it “personal rights” or “my business” that ‘hurts no one.’ Really? Alcoholism hurts no one? Adultery that breaks up a family hurts no one? Selfishness in pursuing pornography hurts no one? (I Cor. 2: 25, 27-28)

If someone stole all the money in your savings account, money you worked a lifetime to gain, would that be sin? Would you confront that person of their sin? Would you desire them to be arrested for their sin of thievery? Why wouldn’t it be correct to acknowledge sinfulness as hurting many?

If you work alongside someone who works harder at getting out of work rather than actually working, does their slothful attitude hurt anyone other than themselves? Guessing you’re getting the point. Sin does hurt others; it does have a direct effect upon others in our life. Sin, according to God’s word, is wrong and it is what Jesus died for. Our wrongdoing affects our relationship with our heavenly Father and the price that His Son paid. The Holy Spirit is grieved by our sin because it separates us from God. (Romans 6: 23)

If we profess faith in Jesus, then we must deal with the sin in our life and not whitewash it. It doesn’t matter what we feel about it or if we think it hurts no one else. Sin separates us from our Savior and it can do so eternally. (II Peter 2: 4-10) So, yes, sex outside of marriage is still sin. Drunkenness is sin. Gluttony is sin. Gossip is sin. Stealing is still sin. Coveting what others possess is sin and profaning the name of the Lord is sin. Paul wrote to “flee” from sin because as believers our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and we were bought with a price. (Romans 1: 18-23; I Cor. 5: 9-11; 6: 9-11; 6: 18-20)

If we’re not serious about this thing the scripture calls sin, then we’re not serious about truly following Jesus. Never do we desire to hear one day that Jesus did not know us, even if we claim to know Him. (Matthew 7: 21-23)

Here’s the good news, Jesus gave His life for our sin, not to keep on sinning, but to receive His redemption and His forgiveness. We need to receive His truth today and begin to deal with the sin in our life, allowing His love to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. (II Cor. 5: 21)

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