Hope for your financial life and beyond

I Have No One to Blame But Myself

Hidden Nuggets Series #87 – “Also to you, O Lord, belongs mercy; for you render to each one according to his work.” – Psalm 62:12

Hard workIn my teaching days I’d often hear moans and groans coming from students when they learned of their failure on a test. What usually followed their whimpers of dissatisfaction was a litany of excuses as to why they did so poorly.

“I had a ballgame last night.”

“My little brother wouldn’t leave me alone.”

“I forgot.”

My favorite complaint was this one, “But I did study!” to which I’d respond by saying, “How long?”

“30 minutes while I was watching TV” (or something like that was the typical response).

Ugh.

I worked in a Christian school so it was typical for us to pray during the day. I always prayed before tests just to calm the atmosphere and help kids get their mind focused.

As I began to put two and two together – lack of study time translating into poor grades (and then subsequent griping about said grade) – I decided to set the tone in my prayer for what the students could reasonable expect to happen based on their study patterns. So at the end of my prayer, I’d be sure to say something like this…

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How Science Proves That Tithing Is Linked to Success and Happiness

Please welcome blogger Anum Yoon as she shares her thoughts on the personal and spiritual benefits of tithing.

Hidden Nuggets Series #86 – “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10)

tithingGiving away 10% of your income will lead to success and happiness. Sounds like the start of a scam, doesn’t it?

For centuries, Christians have committed to the counter-cultural practice of tithing (giving 10% of your money to the church, charity or missions). Although the secular world thought it crazy, Christians understood the true blessings that come from financial obedience to God.

In an unexpected turn of events, recent scientific studies have proven these blessings, showing empirically that tithing is linked to happiness and success.

Tithing Brings a Better Mood

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Arbor Day Special: The Only Type of Tree I Ever Want to Be

Hidden Nuggets Series #85 – “…he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water…” – Psalm 1:3

tree by waterI can’t imagine a world without trees. Years ago we planted two (#ArborDay) in our front yard so our kids could eventually climb them. Mostly I love the spring when trees come budding back to life. It’s a beautiful scene when your winter world goes from browns to greens in the span of a couple weeks.

Of course trees have been around forever and figured prominently in some Bible passages. They served as places of refuge and places of worship. They marked territory or direction and provided fruits of all kinds.

Absalom’s long hair got him caught in one, Solomon used them to build his magnificent temple and the vertically challenged Zacchaeus climbed one in order to see Jesus.

There are all kinds of trees listed in the Bible from terebinth to tamarisk trees, to poplar, almond, chestnut, palm, cedar, olive, fig, pomegranate, mulberry, cypress, sycamore, fir, apple, and oak.

And of course the two most famous trees planted in the Garden of Eden – the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Of them all though, I want to be the tree mentioned in Psalm 1:3. This one is fascinating because it describes the life I, and I think most people want to lead.

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One Simple Truth About Money: You Reap What You Sow

Hidden Nuggets Series #84 – “…for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” – Galatians 6:7

No one understood the concept of “you reap what you sow” better than my grandfathers. Both of them loved to work the land. One was a large-scale farmer, plowing and harvesting acres of land. The other took the small-scale approach by planting a vegetable garden each spring.

reap what you sowThat heritage spilled over into my mother and father. I remember about this time each spring, after the soil had thawed from the winter cold, dad would till a section of our backyard. We’d all then make a trip to the local nursery to pick out starter plants and little packages of seeds. Those seeds would go into the ground and with loving care, some sunshine and just the right amount of water, they would produce a harvest of vegetables we consumed all summer.

Something I never saw all those years though was a tomato plant that produced green peppers.

Whatever type of seed we sowed into the ground produced what the package said it would. Watermelon seeds became watermelons. Onions became onions. Eggplant became eggplant (sadly to my boyhood “forced-to-eat-it-at-dinner” dread…yuck!)

The fact that when we planted carrots we harvested carrots should not have been a surprise. It’s the simple concept of you reap what you sow. Whatever you put in, that’s what you’ll get out.

The Truth About Money: Reap What You Sow

Reaping what you sow isn’t an exclusively agrarian concept. It has application to many facets of life.

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Is the Bible Really Clear About Paying Taxes?

Hidden Nuggets Series #83 – “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” – Matthew 22:21

taxes in the bibleLike you, my tax paperwork is due to be filed by April 15th. I’ll grant you this is no fun to fill out every year. It’s become a much easier task though since my wife became a CPA.

Talking about taxes sets our blood to a boil. We don’t like that we work so hard only to see that much money taken from each paycheck. “Isn’t there a way to avoid it?” we ask.

That question should raise alarm bells for everyone. While certain maneuvers with money are legal, many others are not. If we are not careful, that question can lead us down a path of handling our money in a way that we might regret one day.

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How to Make a Good Decision Every Time

Hidden Nuggets Series #79 – “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” – Ephesians 5:15

(This bonus Hidden Nuggets article is dedicated to my kids. May you always make good decisions.)

how to make a good decisionHave you ever been in a difficult situation and wondered how to make a good decision? Silly question I know. Who hasn’t been in a tough spot like that?

We face decisions every day – small and large. Some are routine and have little to no impact on our lives. Others weigh heavy on our minds, causing us to lose sleep at night. Decisions can chart the course of our present and define our path for the next 10 years.

Whether they are in the moment decisions or ones that take time to think through, it is difficult to know how to make a good decision. How do you enter the decision making process – blindly or with your eyes wide open? What do you draw on to help you make a good decision, one that will be profitable for your future?

I’ve often thought my decisions were pretty good, even though there have been some I regret. My big issue is getting to the best decision quickly enough. I usually take a long time to come to a conclusion on weighty matters. Sometimes that frustrates me. At times I’ve missed the opportunity entirely because of my procrastination.

What if there was template that could teach you how to make a good decision? What if you could get instant clarity in some cases on whether to move in a direction? Would that be worth it?

I’ve found such a template [that I can’t take credit for] and it all rests in one broad question and three deeper questions you have to ask.

Our Problem in Making Good Decisions

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Consider the Ant in Your Definition of Work Ethic (Proverbs 6:6)

Hidden Nuggets Series #78 – “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise…” – Proverbs 6:6

consider the antDo you know any sluggards? That’s a term rarely used in our world today. The first thing I think of when hearing that word are creeping, slimy slugs.

You could easily identify what a sluggard is though if I gave you some synonyms. How do these words grab you – lazy, sluggish, loafer, slacker, and couch potato. Get the picture now?

The Bible has a lot to say about the lazy. This passage in Proverbs 6 may be the best known of them all. I think mostly because it tells us to consider the ant – an animal we hardly ever pay attention to.

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On Being Embarrassed By But Secretly Admiring Street Preachers

Hidden Nuggets Series #76 – “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…” Philippians 1:18

(This story has nothing to do with personal finance. But last summer God taught me a lesson about questioning the motives and tactics of those who preach his Word. It’s not up to me to be their judge. Here’s how I learned that…)

“Hooo!”

street preacher The booming cry cracked the calm Saturday afternoon air as my family and I stood in line at Great American Ballpark. Startled, I turn to see if I have been transported through time and space into an episode of Thundercats. Nope, don’t see Lion-O’s cat signal in the sky.

“Good afternoon everyone!”

The piercing voice continues to be projected over our heads. Where is it coming from? Who dares disrupt our anticipation of afternoon baseball?

I peered through some bystanders to see the originator of the voice standing on a grassy knoll. My eyebrows squinted with curiosity. A flushed face and drooping shoulders of embarrassment quickly replaced my curious gaze. For in his left hand held proudly forward was a Bible.

Street preacher. Oh, boy…here we go.

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It’s Hard to Love the Unlovable (Luke 6:35)

Hidden Nuggets Series #75 – “But love your enemies, do good, and lend hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great…” – Luke 6:35

love the unlovableI can easily love my wife.

My kids…no problem

Those who treat me well…check.

Showing affection towards and giving to them is not difficult. I would sacrifice much if any of these were in need, without hoping for or expecting anything in return.

I expect those in Jesus’ day felt much the same way. So it must have shocked their system when Jesus explained they were to love their enemies. Can’t you imagine the expressions? Love the unlovable?

It doesn’t take much imagination because the statement makes me squeamish some 2,000 years after he said it. When I consider the ramifications of how I’m to love the unlovable – in other words those who hate me…or persecute me…or take advantage of me…or show little respect for me – well, I’m left feeling unable to answer the calling.

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Man Shall Not Live By Bread Alone (Matthew 4:4)

Hidden Nuggets Series #74 – “But he [Jesus] answered and said, “It is written, ‘ Man shall not live by bread alone , but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:4

man shall not live by bread aloneMan shall not live by bread alone. You may have heard that phrase once in your life and wondered where it came from. Well it was Jesus quoting a passage from the Old Testament of the Bible in response to a pretty serious temptation.

The Bible tells us that before Jesus’ ministry began he went into the wilderness to pray and fast for forty days. After 40 days had passed the Bible says that “the tempter” (i.e. Satan) came to – well, tempt Jesus. And right off the bat Satan hit Jesus with his most pressing need – physical nourishment.

He goaded Jesus by saying,

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This One Thing You Lack to Have Treasure In Heaven

Hidden Nuggets Series #73 – “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” – Mark 10:21

treasure in heavenWe all have things that hold us back.

Things we can’t shake.

Things we don’t want to give up.

Things we love that bring us pleasure.

We’ve crossed a line when our love for and desire for such things keeps us from moving forward (or toward) to better things. We miss out on the prospects for a better future because we are latched onto the passions of the present.

To often the main culprit here is money and our desire for more.

Jesus and a Rich Young Man

One day Jesus was out teaching and a rich young man of some ruling stature came to him. The man knelt before Jesus and asked him a simple question,

“Good teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

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