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Financial Friend

I find money and possessions fascinating and frustrating, usually not at the same time. The more we have, the better we are supposed to feel—more secure—but that’s usually not the case.

We most likely have our team of advisors: CPA; attorney; insurance person; financial advisor; maybe even a bookkeeper and other professionals who advise us. But have you ever considered having a financial friend?

As you already know, money is still a taboo topic to discuss personally in social circles, with family, and with friends.

But what if we had a friend with whom we could share our entire financial life? We could discuss our financial mistakes, our fears, our struggles, our dreams and the concerns we are currently having.

Would our financial lives—and life for that matter—become better or worse?

I’ve had a financial friend for a couple of years now, and it’s been great. We’re able to encourage one another; learn from one another; pray for one another and best of all, bring this dark topic out into the light. We ask the hard questions to challenge one another to see money in a different light. My financial life has improved and my perspective has changed because of our “financial friendship.” We study and continue learning what the Bible says about money and possessions, and talk about how this impacts our lives and eternity. This isn’t a mentor/mentee relationship but one of walking  together with  one another in an area of life that is often avoided in community.

What do you think about this idea of having a financial friend?

“But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after” (1 Timothy 6:9-10) The Message.

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Hold on Tight

Why does God talk so much about money and “stuff” in the Bible? I thought it was because it was important to God. But recently I changed my mind. I think it’s because it’s so important to us.

Money is too important to me.

I’ve made some improvement in this area—not as fast as I’d like, but I think God is okay with my slow progress. I’m now a firm believer that the Bible is the ultimate authority on money and things, and I’m developing the habit of reading it regularly to see what God wants to teach me, asking Him what I should do with what He has entrusted to me. I’m also trying to have more conversations with other Christians who love Jesus and want to please Him, as well as seeking wise counsel from others who can advise Nicole and me as well as pray for us. I still have so much to learn—and just when I think I’m starting to get it, a stressful event occurs and whacks me back down to reality!

Handling money can be so challenging—always wanting more, never wanting to part with it. I think sometimes we hold on to our money and our things so tightly that they actually hurt us. I picture gripping money in my fist to the point of actual pain, and it reminds me how foolish that is. Sometimes we’re guilty of thinking far too much about money and how to get more. We believe that more money and more stuff will give us everything we need to be completely happy and fulfilled. I’ve learned the hard way that this is a lie.

When I read the Bible, I get a strong sense that I need to replace money and stuff with Jesus. If I am to hold onto anything so tightly it hurts, it should be Jesus. If I am to think too much about anything, it should be Jesus. Only Jesus gives us everything we need to be fulfilled. I want to get to the point where I will do anything to get more of Jesus.

Holding on to money and holding on to Jesus—two ends of the spectrum. The former is where I was when I started this journey, the latter is where I believe God wants me to be. And although God is not against wealth (money and stuff), He is teaching me that it is a stronghold in my life and as I loosen the grip, I am better able to grab hold of Jesus, my ultimate treasure.

“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).

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S.H.E.D. (Seek Him Every Day)

In order for me to say yes to Jesus being my CEO, I had to pray about what He wanted me to keep in the life He had entrusted to me.

These are the things I laid at the altar:

  1. The house we lived in.
  2. The car I drove.
  3. My career.
  4. The private golf membership.
  5. Hospital foundation board spot.
  6. Committee at the YMCA.
  7. Working out M-F at 5:30am.
  8. Large office space.
  9. Working ‘till 6pm most days.
  10. The MBA in Financial Planning I was pursuing.
  11. Where to live.

Surprise—God got rid of almost the entire list except for my career, and moved us to the Bay Area from LA.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

All of these activities were outside of God’s will for my life. I learned that if we are not asking God what He wants us to do, we can get off track—even if we are going to church, reading the Bible, and going to Bible study class.

As you can see, I had to shed a lot!

I now had space to seek Him every day. My relationships improved. God also slowly got rid of the façade I had in LA, so that I’m more fully the person He wants me to be.

I am now running my race better—not perfectly—but much better and more efficiently than before. I learned God’s way is so much better than my way.

How about you? Did you have to shed anything in order to seek Him every day?

tithing

Financial Freedom

I’ve had a lifetime challenge with money. When I was young, I wanted some, then when I got some, I wanted more.

Always more. More money. Give me more. I need more. I want more. I deserve more.

More. More. More!

I got more and it made me angry because I still wanted more.

One of my early steps towards financial freedom was memorizing this verse: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Hmm. ALL. Really? This was a different formula. I read it over and over again, and I realized the verses preceding it were all about money and stuff. (Matthew 6:19-32)

Yes I was storing up a lot on earth, isn’t that the point to making a lot of money? This is what I thought I was supposed to do. This is what most everyone teaches and practices.

Then I made Jesus the CEO over my life. Slowly. It was hard, and still is. I’m really, really hard headed.

We hired a Certified Kingdom Advisor and a budget coach. They started praying for us and working with us. Things started changing, slowly. Real change does not happen quickly. We started realizing that God had given us so much financially, not to mention His grace and mercy when we were young Christians but not following His ways.

We got our financial life in order. It took saying no to a lot of things, both on the calendar, to make time to fix this mess, and of course in the cash area of our lives.

We started tithing and now we have given thousands of dollars, with no significant increase in income, to Kingdom causes and have become more and more joyful. We love giving. We love having financial order in our lives. We have no regrets about any of the giving. We are now tracking toward financial freedom and it’s a great feeling.

For me the following was and is true:

Financial Independence (tracking towards it) = Anger, fear, entitlement, discontentment (never had enough) and arrogance.

Financial Freedom = Joy, peace, confidence, happiness, gratitude, humility, generosity.

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Financial Independence

The Bay Area is one of the wealthiest places on earth, during one of the wealthiest times in history. There are many people who have achieved financial independence or are striving for it. For Christians, as Jesus as our model, what should our aim be? Is it bad to be financially independent or striving toward that goal?

When I was a teenager, I thought if I had more money it would make me happy. I got a lot more money and I was not happier. It actually made me feel arrogant, entitled, selfish, and greedy.

I came to Christ and that did not change things.

I fell in love with Nicole, got married, and started having financial problems. I continued to think, “More money will solve these problems.”

Right around the time that Jeff took me to lunch I had a conversation with my stepmom Lana and she told me I did not have an asset problem but I had an expense problem. I had never thought of it that way. I was a financial planner but never applied these principles to myself!

We had no budget.

We did not track expenses.

We did not prepare a balance sheet.

We were out of control financially.

We were just tracking to be financially independent someday by making more money. Our focus was always making more money. The conversation with Lana was one of my first steps towards realizing that this track was wrong.

I believe chasing after more money was bad for me. Do you think it might be bad for you?

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

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God Our Provider

I had a major realization recently. While thinking about a symbol I believe God had given me, I heard these words: “God our provider.” The Holy Spirit then directed me to the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22.

As we know in this story, God called Abraham to sacrifice His only son, Isaac. When Isaac asked Abraham where the sacrifice was (they had probably sacrificed many animals before), Abraham said, “God will provide” (Genesis 22:8a).

As we know, God did provide a sacrifice. But we most likely would have never seen this provision if Abraham had not acted in faith like he did.

Maybe this is what is missing in our lives. Maybe we have failed to step into what God has called us to do because we do not believe He will provide.

But this is just not true. We have to stop believing the lies from the enemy.

God has provided.

God is providing.

God will provide.

These are the truths I need to sew into my heart and soul, and act accordingly.

When Abraham heard the words “stay your hand” and then looked and saw a ram caught “in a thicket,” his greatest calling had been tested and his greatest challenge completed. Abraham acted in faith that God would provide, and provide He did.

The ram is a reminder that God will provide. Maybe this reminder of His provision can help us get unstuck in the areas of calendar, cash and calling.

Perhaps God is calling you to do something absolutely radical in one of these areas and you are believing the lie that God will not provide. I used to believe this lie—and I still have to fight it—but now I understand that God promises He will provide.

From the depths of my heart, please know today that God has an absolutely amazing plan for each of our lives, and all we need to live it out is to believe that He will provide.

disciple

Go and Make Disciples….

Discipleship is important. It seems like more and more churches are taking this topic seriously and I’m hearing about it from a lot of people I trust.

But are we missing something when we discuss discipleship? There are 2,350 verses about money and possessions in the Bible. Jesus gave thirty-eight parables and sixteen of them were about money and possessions. Should we be including money and possessions when we are making disciples?

When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He stated:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…..teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19 & 28:20a).

The Great Commission is so Great, as we know, because it was one of the last things Jesus said.

Can a person be a true disciple of Christ if the money and possessions with which they are entrusted are handled in a way that is outside of what the Bible teaches?

I believe we are missing something, something GREAT, if we handle money in a manner that is more in line with what we want than what King Jesus wants.

In the past, I never considered what God would have me do with my money. I can correlate, almost to the day, when Nicole and I started tithing to experiencing more joy in our lives. Then more joy came when we gave over and above the tithe. We started to be financially discipled by a fellow Certified Kingdom Advisor, Kalvin Sid, and budget coached by Brenda Haley. We started holding loosely what God had entrusted to us.

We were made into financial disciples and our lives have never been the same. How we view and handle the cash God has entrusted to us was turned right side up.

What do you think about the idea of making financial disciples?

“If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life.”
-Billy Graham

moneylove

Love of Money

Money has always played an important part in my life. As you can see from this picture, when I was younger I loved a lot of stuff—two TV’s on my desk (come on!) and if you take a closer look you can see a popular sticker from the 80’s: I love money.

Yep, that was me, and still is to a certain extent. I was raised with the idea that if I gained more money and “stuff,” my problems would be solved. I battle this mindset almost every day, but I have God’s word to help me, financial buddies with whom to talk to about money, and great resources to help further my education around the subject.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

When I achieved some financial success in my twenties, it created new problems and made the old problems much worse. Some of the new problems were that I felt a sense of entitlement because I had “made it,” in my mind, which combined with the pride I had, made for a miserable life. I thought the world revolved around me, and that all things that I was involved with should be to help further my own agenda in my life.

My love of money was preventing me from living the life God created me for. If I had continued on this “love of money” trajectory, I shiver to think what my life would consist of now.

I went very hard after money, and when I achieved financial goals, I was left with a deep emptiness which eventually led to a great anger that I had been duped. At times I felt it was just me and my money because I had no real relationships.

Thanks to God’s hand on my life and the partnership of my wife Nicole, I no longer love money the way I used to. It’s been a long road and I’ll continue to work toward Godliness in this area, but together Nicole and I have been learning to submit our financial lives to the Lord, and funny enough, we rarely argue about money like we used to. Maybe we’re on to something! We don’t have it all figured out, but we’re not where were before.

How about you? What is your money story and what part is currently being written?

Friday Inspiration

 

The Bible is unclear on exactly how much we should give. I believe this lack of clarity is because the decision concerning the amount an individual gives should be based on a personal relationship with God. As we seek the guidance of the Spirit through an active prayer life, giving suddenly becomes an exciting adventure.

Howard Dayton, “Your Money Counts”

question

What do I want?

Right after Nicole and I got married, we started fighting a lot. Mostly about money, but also related to what we should be doing (calendar and calling) and how we were going to do it. Little did Nicole know that she had married a big jerk!

During this rough time in our marriage, I came up with one statement that I would repeat when we began to argue. I was having trouble winning these arguments (many men might be familiar with this), so I gave up and said:

“I don’t care where we live, what we do for a living, or how much money we make. I just want you, me and any children we have to be Christ-followers.”

That was in 2006.

That is still the theme of my life today. Although I struggle with this, it’s what I want—with one addition.

Not only is it my fervent wish that my family follow Christ, my desire has expanded to everyone else as well. Everyone! It’s my prayer that we all would live as God intended.

That’s a big, audacious prayer. But I think God loves those kinds the best; especially when they are in line with His desires too.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

How about you? What do you want?

When you look at Paul’s life, was He confused as to what He wanted? “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Powerful!

How about Jesus—confused? No, of course not, He was never confused. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Super powerful!

God.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Perfect!

My prayer is that we would seek God in order to know what we want; and that we would ask God for those things, no matter how outrageous, with full faith that he will answer.

Friday Inspiration

I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.

John D. Rockefeller, Sr., American industrialist and philanthropist

mom

The Beginning

God gave me life.

God gave me my Mom.

God took my Mom two years ago today.

Today I begin this blog in memory of my best friend who is now spending eternity with Jesus.

Hallelujah!

But life is very short. I want my life to count. I want your life to count!

I want to make a huge impact in people’s lives—in your life. I want YOU to make a huge impact in people’s lives—in my life.

One way I want to do that is through this blog.

I intend for it to be a community, based in the Bay Area, that is radically abandoned to Christ, connecting people who are living life the way He intended for us.

In my own life, I’ve identified the three key areas of focus as calendar, cash, and calling.

Calendar = how we use the time God has entrusted to us.

Cash = our relationship with the money and material possessions we are entrusted with.

Calling = our purpose.

I’ll be focusing most of my blog posts around these important areas of our lives, and opening up discussions about how we can all do our best to live in God’s will. I hope we can all help each other to continue to grow in the Lord by sharing our thoughts and ideas here on the blog.

Please join me…. the best is yet to come!

 

 

Friday Inspiration

If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life.

-Billy Graham

lineup

My Lineup

In 2010 I began doing research for a white paper to grow my business and create a niche for it. I interviewed executives and entrepreneurs, asking questions about how they balanced their career, family, and life’s challenges in order to finish well in life and not blow up all of their critical relationships. I also read books and dove deep into this topic in order to further my knowledge.

This white paper took me over 200 hours a great deal of money to complete.

I gained no new business from this white paper although I interviewed some of the most successful executives and entrepreneurs in Southern California. (I am really good at spending a lot of time, money and energy on a project and gaining no new business. Must be a gift.)

What I discovered is that we all have about 100 useable hours every week and how we use those hours will determine our destiny. Destiny is important to me and I imagine it is important to you. I tend to be all over the place with my time unless I have a path to follow and some lanes to stay in. So I’ve created nine categories that help me prioritize my time and energy.

If you’re into baseball metaphors, I like to I look at these nine categories as my baseball lineup—they’re my players. I want to score home runs—and I don’t want to get stranded at third base. So here’s my starting lineup:

Owner: Christ

Christ is the owner of the team I manage. I own nothing; I am His manager. The game I am playing is the game He wants me to play, at least this is the way it is supposed to go. No owner, no team, no team, no game, so Christ must be far and away the most important part of this team. At least this is what I think sometimes, if I played that way more often I would be winning more and hitting more home runs.

#1. Couples

For the first 6 years of our marriage, Nicole never felt like she was a priority to me. Our marriage suffered because of my insecurities and arrogance. This persisted even after I started reading the Bible in our second year of marriage and actively attending a Bible study. I am still working through a lot of stuff and will share with you in the next post just how bad it got. At least now I realize our marriage must be one of my priorities, and I continue to work on it.

#2. Children

While I am alive, no one else is better to be a Dad to my son Luke than I am. This continues to be a struggle while I work at home and attempt to balance my commitments to work, home, community, and spiritual life.

#3. Care for Self

Much like oxygen on the airplane, I have to first take in the oxygen so then I can give it to those sitting beside me, like my son and others about whom I care deeply. This means I must prioritize my own physical, mental and spiritual health.

#4. Cash

For me what this looks like is how I spend the first part of my day. I start out, though not perfectly, reading the Bible and then praying. This is my Christ time. I then, most every day, balance my checkbook (cash) and review my monthly spending plan, and look at my calendar of appointments coming up today and in the coming weeks. Some of this I do on my own, and some with my wife. This is currently working for us as a couple, though it takes a lot of time—we’d love to know what is working for you that might help us be better stewards of all that we’re given.

#5. Calendar

This is all about making the best choices in how to spend my time. Nicole and I have struggled so much with this. We argue and waste a lot of time over the calendar. (Ironic, right?) We are open to what you are doing, we will share what we have done. We’ve had some successes and we will share those with you in this series, as well as our fights, and hopefully we can encourage one another in this challenging place.

#6. Calling/Vocation

Just like #2-Children, the category of Calling will take on various levels of importance during different seasons of life. But even now while I’m in an active, growing, child-rearing season of life, I’m constantly trying to pay attention to God’s calling on my life and attempting to stay right where He wants me.

#7. Community

I think of community as many groups: People we help who will never repay us, friends at church, those we share passions with, neighbors, people who are close friends (think Peter, James and John for Jesus), those who will carry our casket if we were to die today. The list can be quite expansive, the idea, of course, is to live in community, as we cannot live the life we were designed to live without community.

#8. Care for Parents

Parents are important—God commands us to honor them and gives us the promise that when we do, things will go well. I was impatient, demanding and downright mean to my parents while I was growing up and they were alive. During this time, things were not going well for me. Hmm…..I had many major issues with this over the years, and I will share some of them with you. I messed it up and don’t have another chance with my own parents, but I can expand the meaning of this to include care for my Step Mom and Step Dad as well as Nicole’s parents and our Great Aunt and Great Uncle as well as other elderly people in our neighborhood.

#9. Designated Hitter

What other priorities would you like to include on your top ten list? For me, it is being in a Coffeehouse—this is my happy place. For you it could be cars, canines, cats, camping, college football or any other hobby/activity that you love that would help you not get stranded at third base. (Doesn’t even have to start with a C!)

How have you intentionally used your time to determine your destiny?

What do you think about this lineup?

Over the upcoming weeks, I will share struggles, arguments, failures, and successes, and I hope to hear some of yours. Let’s help each other better use these 100 hours we continue to receive every week.

 

 

 

greg_pitch3

Speaker, Writer, Encourager

After becoming MVP and hitting a record number of home runs as a t-baller at age 9, I lost my ability to hit home runs and my dreams of a professional baseball career never materialized. Now decades later, I’m thrilled to be hitting home runs in areas I call “Calendar, Cash, & Calling,” and I’m excited to share what God has taught me. Don’t get stranded at third base—this blog is all about making it home in these critical areas of your life.

baseball