Do You Act Like A Little Kid When It Comes To Giving?

Photo by Worapol Sittiphaet

Photo by Worapol Sittiphaet

“No” and “Mine”

I have four daughters.

Yes, there’s a lot of estrogen flowing at my house, and this daddy is a big sap with his girls.

At the time of this writing, my third daughter, Katelynn, is 22 months old. She is quite the little chatterbox at this stage in life, and she has two favorite words right now. You may even be able to guess what they are!

The first word is “NO.” The second word is “MINE.”

Did mommy and daddy teach her these words? Well, not intentionally at least. This is simply the human condition, our sin nature, at work.

So, this is typically what happens at the Jones’ house. Katelynn will get a hold of something as simple as my car keys. I will politely and lovingly ask her for my keys back, because I need them. And, what do you think the first two words are out of her mouth?

Of course, her two new favorite words – No and Mine! And then, she doesn’t want to obey daddy and give them back. I end up in a little wrestling match with this sweet, little adorable girl to get my keys back! Once I have them yanked out of her hands, she has a meltdown.

We Can Act Like Little Kids, Too!

I know this is a fun and adorable story about my little girl, but unfortunately, the sad reality is that this happens with us as adults too.

God has richly blessed us. He has given us money, talents, abilities, food, cars, clothes, and houses that He ultimately wants us to use for His glory.

Then, the Holy Spirit taps us on the shoulder and says, “Hey, Larry. I’d really appreciate if you would give at least 10% of your income on a consistent basis.” Or maybe He says, “I’d really like you to cook a meal and take it to a family that needs help.” Or, “I’d like you to give a few dollars to that homeless guy on the corner.”

But, we end up just like my daughter Katelynn. We take ownership of what is already God’s to begin with and those two favorite words come spilling out of our mouths, “No, God. Mine!”

God’s Word teaches us that everything belongs to Him to begin with. In Psalm 24:1, we read these words:

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

Questions: What is God asking you to give, today? Why haven’t you given it to Him, yet?

5 Ways to Achieve Critical Mass Momentum Like The Kansas City Royals

Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

Momentum.

It’s one of those aspects of life that is very difficult to quantify.

When an individual or an organization achieves momentum, how in the world are they able to accomplish that?

At the time of my writing this article, my hometown baseball team the 2014 Kansas City Royals have been able to achieve somewhat of a miracle for their franchise. For the first time in 29 years, the Royals have finally been able to make postseason play. The last time they made the playoffs was the year they won the championship in 1985.

The Royals were off to a great start at the beginning of this season but lost their way in June and July when they fell 8 games behind the Detroit Tigers. But since July 22, the Royals have been on a 41-23 tear that landed them a spot in the American League Wildcard game with the Oakland A’s. And now, the rest is history, at least up to the point of my writing this on October 8. The Royals have won their last four postseason games in a row.

So how has a wildcard team, a come from behind team such as the Royals, been able to accomplish great things over the last few months? Simply put, they are riding a tremendous wave of momentum.

But how did this momentum happen? How have the Royals been able to manufacture momentum while other perhaps “better” teams have not been equally successful?

Here are my thoughts on how some teams are able to achieve momentum while others are not.

5 Ways The Royals Have Achieved Momentum

  1. They posses team unity. A few days ago, I was watching the ALDS series with the Royals and Angels, and one of the commentators mentioned that what made the Royals unique was the fact that this ball club is not a collection of superstar players like other teams. The Royals seem to be able to check their egos at the door and do whatever they need to do for their team to win. Sometimes superstar players have a way of making decisions that benefit themselves and not necessarily the team. If you want momentum, focus on the team and less on yourself.
  2. They are focused on their strengths: speed, defense, pitching, and bullpen. These are the core strengths of the KC Royals. They are not big home run hitters. Most of their games have low scores because they are not the best offensive players. But, they also understand if they excel in their strengths, they don’t necessarily need a lot of runs to win ball games.
  3. They are working hard. Left fielder Alex Gordon is somewhat of a legend for his passion, desire, and work ethic. It is well-known that Gordon often arrives to the ballpark before even the coaching staff gets there. He has “heart and hustle” and helps the team every way he possibly can.
  4. They benefited from excellent timing. Many times, momentum builds completely on the “luck” of good timing as has happened with the Royals. But who knows. Perhaps the timing has been right because the team has put in the hard work and focused on their strengths? Maybe it’s more than just “luck.”
  5. They are having fun! You can tell the Royals are really enjoying this season. Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain recently said, “We’re going to enjoy it, going to have a blast, and hopefully we can just celebrate like this. This is awesome.”

Questions: Have you ever been part of a team that experienced a tremendous surge of momentum? What would you attribute that surge to? Are you a Royals fan? Am I missing any other big reasons why the Royals have done well this season?

Feel free to leave a blog comment for me and join the conversation.

Not Sure Where To Begin? Here’s The Starting Point For Christian Financial Stewardship

Photo by Kelvin Dickinson

Photo by Kelvin Dickinson

Making Plans

People have plans for lots of stuff in this life.

A woman who is about to be married spends hours flipping through wedding magazines, scanning websites, calling florists, and talking to caterers. She has a plan to create the most beautiful wedding known to mankind!

A professional executive in the workplace has a strategic plan and a daily task list. He has a plan to climb the corporate ladder and become a successful CEO one day.

Families often spend weeks planning out their ultimate summer vacation. Since they’re about to spend a lot of money, they want to get the biggest bang for their buck and have a great time.

But, these same people put together a financial plan? Are you kidding me? Nah, they would rather just shoot from the hip and roll the dice. They have thousands of dollars of income flowing into their bank account each month but have no desire to manage what is coming in. That’s too restrictive, constraining, and absolutely zero fun!

So, why do people spend so much time planning for special occasions such as weddings, vacations, or work projects but have no desire to put together a financial plan?

Because there is a sense of pressure and expectation for these other events.

A memorable wedding has high expectations all around it. The bride, groom, parents, family, and even close friends all have certain expectations wrapped up in a couple’s wedding ceremony.

A professional executive position has pressure and expectation from the first day he has been hired. This person is under the gun to perform at a high level to achieve success in their career not only for the company they work for, but also to provide for their family.

A big family vacation may only happen one time a year, but the parents and children all want the biggest return for their time and money. Plus, they want to outdo last year’s trip. They are expecting to have the time of their lives.

I find it interesting, though, that most people don’t put themselves under the same kind of pressure and expectation when it comes to money. And, I find it even more interesting that the majority of Christians have the very same mindset as the rest of the world.

But God has high expectations for those who claim the name of Christ to be excellent managers of money.

God and Money

So, why would God have high expectations for me and my financial life?

Because everything you have belongs to God in the first place. Your money, your house, your car, your career, your talents and abilities, your health, your spouse, and your children are all His, not yours. This is the starting point for an understanding of what Christian stewardship is all about.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” (Psalm 24:1).

You may be thinking to yourself, “Now, Larry. I worked hard for all I have. I went to college for six years. I climbed the corporate ladder. I amassed all my earthly possessions. I found my spouse and we created children, together.”

Yes, that may all be true, but according to the above verse, God owns everything. And because He owns everything, He is expecting you as a Christian to be an excellent manager of His stuff.

“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2).

Even Jesus taught His followers this principle in the Parable of the Bags of Gold in Matthew 25:14-30 (NIV):

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.  So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

From this parable, we see three servants who had plans for the money that had been entrusted to them by their master. Two of the three got the money plan right. The third servant got it wrong. The two servants who got the money plan right were rewarded. The one who got their plan wrong was punished.

Are You Even At The Starting Point?

In this post, we have seen that there are two parts to the starting point for Biblical finances.

First, you must a have a plan. Having a casual approach to money accomplishes nothing. You have to a vision of what you absolutely need to accomplish with the financial resources you have been entrusted with.

Second (and most importantly), you must acknowledge that God own everything that you have – your time, energy, health, relationships, abilities, and, of course, money. As a child of God, He is expecting you to manage His stuff with excellence.

Question: Do you have a financial plan and have you acknowledged that God is the owner of all He has asked you to manage?

3 Ways My Parents Taught Me To Love God And His Church

FBR t-shirtLoving His Church

In the month of September, my church has been celebrating our love for our church. We’ve been wearing special “I love my church” T-shirts on Saturdays all around the Metro Kansas City area. We’ve been taking “selfies” of ourselves wearing these T-shirts around town. We’ve been writing social media posts about why we love our church. We’ve even been hashtagging our love on social media with the hashtag #loveFBR on these posts and pictures.

As we have celebrated our love for our church over the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting back on my childhood and how I learned to love any church I’ve ever been a member.

The reason I love God and His church is primarily due to the example of my parents. As a boy growing up in my parents’ home, I learned to love my church through watching my parents love their church in 3 ways.

3 Ways My Parents Loved Their Church

  1. They gave of their time. They viewed church attendance as a priority, so anytime the church doors were open, we were there. On Wednesday nights, we were there for Awana ministry. On Sunday mornings, we were there for Sunday School and worship service. We would go back for Sunday night services. We also would also attend special missions conferences and revivals (remember those?). And now, as an adult, I’m at church almost every day, because I work for a mega church!
  2. They gave of their talents and abilities. My dad is an artist – he paints and sculpts, and he used those talents to help the church on various projects. He also served as a club leader in the Awana program. I can still remember him wearing his uniform and us kids having to wear those bright red neckerchiefs and the little plastic slides that held them in place. My dad also drove a bus for bus ministry, picking up kids and bringing them to church. My mom is a singer, and she sang solos as well as sang in the choir. She gave me a love and passion for using my musical abilities to serve God and His church in worship.
  3. They gave of their financial resources. My parents taught me how to give at the level of 10% of my income and beyond. Every week, my parents would write their check, place it in a giving envelope, and take their envelope with them to church and drop it in the offering plate. Now, as an adult in an age of electronic giving, my tithes and offerings are automatically given online each week.

In Romans 12:6-8 (NIV), we read these words:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

We demonstrate our love for God and His church through giving of our time, talents, and finances.

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:

Questions: Do you demonstrate your love for God and His church on a consistent basis? Are you giving faithfully of your time, talents, and finances? What talents and abilities has God given you that you could invest back into His Kingdom?

What’s The Big Deal About Christian Financial Stewardship Anyway?

Photo by Paval Hadzinski

Photo by Paval Hadzinski

The Light Comes On For Me, Over Time

Stewardship.

Yeah, it’s a weird word. It’s a churchy word, too. Not many people really get it, either.

Twenty years ago, I would associate the word “stewardship” to tithing on Sunday mornings and church building campaigns. That’s what I thought it was all about.

Then, I attended my first Crown Financial Bible Study Class back around 2001-2002, and the light of understanding slowly began to come on as I learned what God’s Word had to say about financial matters. I learned that “my money” was not mine at all. Everything that I possess has been given to me by Almighty God to manage for His kingdom purposes.

This is the core essence of Christian stewardship. As believers, we are called by God to manage the time, money, abilities, and relationships He has given us. We aren’t supposed to squander all these resources on selfish, fleshly desires.

Here’s an excellent synopsis of stewardship taken from Wikipedia:

A biblical world view of stewardship can be consciously defined as: “Utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.” The central essence of biblical world view stewardship is managing everything God brings into the believers’ life in a manner that honors God and impacts eternity.

Stewardship begins and ends with the understanding of God’s ownership of all.

After I went through the Crown Financial Bible study, I ran across this blueish-green book in a local book store called Financial Peace by some guy named Dave Ramsey, who I had never heard of before. I’m reading through this book thinking to myself, “this guy makes a lot of sense. Debt is dumb. I need to get my family out of debt with gazelle intensity!” As a result of reading Dave’s book, I started listening to his syndicated radio show and eventually began coordinating Financial Peace University at my church.

All of these baby steps in the area of Christian stewardship eventually led me to take on a secondary role in my church as our Stewardship Pastor. It has certainly been an exciting as well as interesting journey as I have grown in stewardship in my own life and have attempted to teach it to others.

Why Stewardship?

So, why should stewardship be such a big deal in the life of a believer, anyway?

I believe there are several answers to this question.

First, the Bible is filled with financial wisdom and instruction. The estimates on the amount of financial verses in the Bible range from 900 to over 2,000 depending on your criteria. Needless to say, that’s a lot of Bible verses on money!

Second, Jesus Himself spoke a lot about money in the parables He taught the Jewish people. In fact, money was (possibly) His second most discussed topic with the Kingdom of God being the first. There is much theological debate on which parables dealt specifically with the topic of money, but money was a huge issue that Jesus addressed frequently in His ministry here on earth.

Third, money is one of the biggest areas of struggle for most believers. Unfortunately, the majority of Christians have adopted cultural beliefs and practices when it comes to money. Most of us have either forgotten or never been taught Biblical financial principles.

Fourth, stewardship is about more than money. The more I study and practice the principles of Biblical stewardship, the more I understand this important principle. It really encompasses every aspect of your life – your time, natural talents, abilities, money, assets, physical health, and relationships.

My Take

Here’s my own personal take on this area of stewardship. If God’s Word is filled with financial wisdom and Jesus’ own ministry focused a lot of time teaching on money management, then there are certainly good reasons for this instruction. This is an area that the Lord knows we all struggle and need to work on in our life on a continual basis. It’s not a “one and done” kind of deal, either. Stewardship is a life long pursuit.

Every day, we have to surrender our selfish, greedy financial plans and desires over to our Lord and Savior. Our primary concern should be using the resources God has entrusted to our management to advance His Kingdom here on earth and in heaven.

Questions: Do you think stewardship should be a big deal in the life of a believer? Why or why not? Is stewardship a big deal in your own life and the life of your family?

Why Some People Have An Easier Time Giving Consistently Over Others

Photo by 401(k) 2012

Photo by 401(k) 2012

The Excuses

“Larry, I wish I could give more.”

“I wish I could give at the level of ten percent of my income, but things are really tight in my family. You know how I had to take a cut in pay last year? I’m also having to help out a friend in real financial need right now. That’s kind of like tithing, right? Me helping out my friend could count toward my tithe to God, couldn’t it?”

If I had a dollar every time I had a conversation similar to this, I could build up a sizeable love offering for my church!

And while helping out friends in need is a noble deed, I can’t say that those financial gifts can “count” toward the tithe according to God’s Word. God makes it pretty clear that we are to bring His tithe and offerings into the “storehouse” [Malachi 3:10]. In the Old Testament, the storehouse equaled the tabernacle, temple, or synagogue. In the New Testament, the storehouse equals the local church that you attend.

An Easier Way To Giving Consistently

In the area of giving, some people seem to have an easier time giving consistently at the level of ten percent and beyond.

After counseling with people on personal finance issues over the last few years, I believe there are two main reasons some people have an easier time giving back to God and His church than others:

  1. They have a monthly spending plan. You know, the dreaded B word, a “Budget.” They give each dollar a name and tell each dollar what to do.
  2. They make giving to God and His church a priority in their lives. Their offerings are listed at the top of their budget form each and every month. They give God the very best of the “firstfruits” of their income [Proverbs 3:9].

I know in my own family, we have learned important Biblical financial principles – how to give, save, and spend – through ministry programs such as Financial Peace University and Crown Financial. God has blessed us in amazing ways as we have followed what His Word teaches us regarding financial matters.

All this Biblical financial stuff really does work!

In my own personal experience, giving at the level of the tithe can be relatively pain-free if you have a financial plan, if you make giving a priority in your life, and then if you follow through with your planned gift.

Execution of that plan is key!

A great way you can demonstrate your love for God and His Church is through having a financial plan and establishing giving as a priority in your life.

Isaiah 32:8 tells us, “But he who is generous plans generous things, and on generous things he stands.”

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this exact issue:

Questions: Do you have an easy time giving consistently at the level of ten percent? If not, why not? Do you have a monthly financial plan? Have you established giving as a priority in your life?

Book Review: Financial Fitness: The Offense, Defense, And Playing Field Of Personal Finance

Financial-fitness-bookForced To Ponder

I wasn’t sure how to respond.

I recently made a new acquaintance at my church who studies and understands financial matters. We were discussing my stewardship pastor role at the church and my use of Dave Ramsey materials for financial instruction.

He told me that he believes Dave spends too much time on the defensive side of money. All he talks about is budgeting, getting out of debt, and emergency funds.

I really couldn’t argue too much with my new friend. He was making a solid point.

My friend then recommended that I look into the Financial Fitness materials by LIFE Leadership. So, I bought the Kindle version of their book and did a quick read on it in a few days.

In this post, I’ll share a few of the highlights of what I learned.

3 Key Elements I Learned From Reading This Book

Financial Fitness: The Offense, Defense, and Playing Field of Personal Finance by LIFE Leadership Written by Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward

1. I have perhaps spent too much time on the financial defense side of money then the offensive side. Here’s an excellent quote from the book that makes this exact point:

“Most books on personal finance start (and, all too often, end) with a focus on financial defense (how to get out of debt, protect your money, and prepare for contingencies). But defense is the wrong place to start because it creates the wrong mindset. Defense of money is vitally important, but making it the first priority often puts people in an attitude of scarcity rather than abundance. We will cover financial offense (making more money) first and then defense (protecting one’s resources) later because the values and attitudes of financial offense are naturally abundant, aggressive, and bold. Successful financial offense requires initiative, innovation, ingenuity, and tenacity—the entrepreneurial values” (Kindle location 1212).

2. I need to excel in my current job role, and then figure out a side income to throw off passive cash flow. While this wasn’t necessarily a big news flash for me, it was a good reminder for me on how to stay on financial offense. Here are three excellent quotes from this book regarding this point:

“As you truly excel in your current role, you will naturally be given more responsibility, and as you do the same with the new duties, you will build yourself into a better and better leader. This is why the offense side of finances is so important in achieving financial fitness. Whatever you are working on right now in your life, truly excel at it in order to fully invest in yourself. The natural result will be progress and increasing prosperity and opportunities” (Kindle location 1432).

“If you have a job, it means doing the same thing as an intrapreneur—thinking like an entrepreneur, a leader, and an innovator at your work, rather than just fitting in to your job description. It means adopting an ownership mentality, thinking and acting like an owner rather than just settling for an employee mentality. Focus on the owner mentality in your choices, work, interaction with others, and in all tasks, character opportunities, and relationships whether or not you are actually the owner—as an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, or both” (Kindle location 1420).

“One of the key principles of financial fitness is to increase your passive income, even if you continue to work at a primary active income source. Of course, if you are currently employed, don’t quit your job until your passive income has surpassed your active income (and you have sought professional advice, gotten out of debt, done the proper planning, and so forth). As we said earlier, you can keep carrying buckets for your employer, but it is also helpful to begin building your own pipeline of passive income” (Kindle location 1753 ).

3. I need to give more consideration to Emergency Preparation: food, water, power, guns, cash, and precious metals. In my mind, I would think that emergency preparation would fall under the area of financial defense. Brady and Woodard categorize this interestingly enough under financial offense. Here is a lengthy but excellent quote on this topic:

“Saving for a worst case includes the opposite of compounding money, which we will call “impounding.” This means putting away various forms of money just in case catastrophic things happen. Stash some cash in a safe, secure, secret place. And in case inflation ruins the value of the currency, put away some silver coins as well. Silver is better than gold for this purpose because in a worst-case world, gold will be very valuable, so a gold coin will be worth a lot more than the food you will want to buy with it. Small silver coins will be easier to trade for small needs. Gold can be used to effectively protect larger amounts from loss of value due to government inflation (more on this later). Saving for a worst case includes the opposite of compounding money, which we will call “impounding.” By the way, don’t be too extreme about this. We are not doom and gloomers, and we’re not predicting a world with roving bandits and no electricity. It could happen, but so could a lot of things. We are simply suggesting that part of sound money planning is to realize that bank holidays and closed banks can happen. They occurred during the Great Depression, even though the world didn’t end. But people with some cash and silver were able to purchase food and fuel when others could not. And major storms, natural disasters, and other challenges can come also. So be prepared. Don’t be fanatical. Just take some wise precautions. Another valuable investment on this same level is food storage. Get the kind that lasts many years and keep it in a cool, dry place. Many people store guns and bullets with their food and metal coins. Learning to hunt might be a very helpful preparation. Again, this is for last-ditch survival needs, but having it as part of your investment hierarchy can be very valuable” (Kindle location 2323).

My Recommendation

Okay, so here’s my recommendation: I highly recommend reading Financial Fitness, especially if you have been down in the trenches with the Dave Ramsey philosophy for a while. I’m not saying that the Dave philosophy is bad, but you can get too immersed in financial defense for too long. This has the potential for developing a financial scarcity mindset, which isn’t where you want to be, long-term.

This book can help you get turned back around to focusing on financial offense, which leads to abundance thinking. I wonder what this world would be like if people had thoughts of abundance rather than scarcity mindsets?

Questions: Have you read Financial Fitness? What were your takeaways from this book? Would you recommend this book to others?

How To Do More With Less

Illustration by Chris Piascik

Illustration by Chris Piascik

Fewer Resources In A Difficult Economy

Money is tight.

I seriously doubt that statement is too much of a shock to any of my readers.

In the early to mid 2000s, money flowed fast and cheap. People took advantage of the financial system, and then ended up in a world of hurt when the economy slowed way down.

For the last six years, we have lived in challenging economic times. Some people have struggled more than others. Some have been able to successfully make the transition over to surviving and even thriving on less, financially.

Somehow, these people have been able to take a little money and stretch it further than what is even considered possible.

Jesus Transforms The Little Into Much

In the Book of John, Chapter 6, we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.

This accounting was for 5,000 men and didn’t count all the women and children. So, the “real” people count may have been more like 15,000-20,000.

Jesus had taught all day on a mountainside near the Sea of Galilee, and this crowd of people listening to Him was getting hungry.

Jesus went to the disciples and asked them to find food for these 5,000 men, plus the women and children present as well.

One of the disciples, Phillip, told Him, “Lord, there’s no way we can afford to feed all these people. It would cost nearly half a year’s wages.” In today’s numbers, this could equal around $20,000.

Another disciple, Andrew, found a boy with a Jewish Happy Meal – five loaves of bread and two small fish. This boy had a $7 lunch. Andrew thought this amount of food was simply a waste of time. He had a scarcity mindset.

But Jesus didn’t think this way.

He had the people sit down. He took this small amount of food, he gave thanks for it, and he blessed it. Then the disciples distributed these five loaves and two small fish to the people.

In John 6:12-13, we read these words:

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

In this amazing miracle by Jesus, we see Him taking a small amount of food, blessing it, and multiplying it to the point that all the people’s physical hunger was satisfied, PLUS they had more than enough leftover.

Abundance Thinking

Jesus had an abundance mindset.

This makes total sense, though. He is God the Son. He owns it all! All resources are at his disposal at any time and any place.

When the disciples brought him the five loaves and two fish to feed thousands of people, He didn’t throw up his hands in frustration and give up.

Instead, He prayed.

He thanked God for the resources that were before Him. He prayed a blessing on the loaves and fishes, and then what happened?

God multiplied the resources and then there was more than enough to feed the people. In fact, there were HUGE amounts of leftovers after the people ate until they were full.

You can do more with less. When God is in something, little can be much.

Questions: Do you, like the disciples, struggle with scarcity thinking, or do you have an abundance mindset? Do you look to God as your ultimate provider of resources? When you come to the time of offering in your church, do you think that you don’t have enough financially to make any kind of impact in the Kingdom of God? Do you think that your giving would be a waste of time and resources?

Key Thought: Whether you have a little or a lot, it doesn’t matter. Be like this boy who obeyed Jesus, gave away his small lunch to the Master, and the Lord blessed these few resources in an amazing way!

3 Career Course Corrections To Propel You Farther, Faster In The Information Age

Photo by Don Urban

Photo by Don Urban

Turning Back The Clock

If you had a time machine, what would you do with it?

Would you go back to see historical events in real-time? Would you go back to see what your parents or grandparents were like as children? Would you rush ahead to the future to see what life is like in 25 years?

For some unknown reason, I was contemplating this question the other day. I believe I know exactly what I would do with a time machine.

I would attempt to go back to when I was 18 years old and explain to my younger self what the world is like in the future. I would also give myself a better, faster, more elegant path to achieve career success.

I would be my own best mentor. I would give myself the following advice.

The information age is dominated by people who have a specific skill set and connections. To me, these are the folks who seem to be the most successful in their careers. They dare to do the things that other people dislike to do.

I’m talking about people such as Michael Hyatt, Tim Ferriss, Pat Flynn, Dave Ramsey, and the late Steve Jobs.

And, what do all these people have in common? They are creative. They are excellent communicators. They are skilled at writing blog posts and influential books. They are podcasters (or traditional radio personalities). They produce popular YouTube videos. They are dynamic public speakers. They have developed important mentor and industry relationships that have propelled them farther, faster.

These leaders have embraced the key aspects of being successful in the information age and have been highly rewarded for it.

A Change In College Focus

Now that I’m in mid-life looking back at my college experience and present calling, if I could back up and do it all over again, I believe I would take a different path that would have perhaps gotten me where I now want to go, faster.

You see, when I originally attended college in the late 80s and early to mid-90s, I went a very specialized route – music performance and education.

With this specialized knowledge and experience, I believe I have been relatively successful and enjoy what I have the opportunity to do each week. I’m grateful for God’s blessing in my life in this area. I know other musicians and creative-types who have gone the music school route and have struggled to make a living at what they do.

Observing our current culture and the direction it’s heading, though, I would make the following course corrections if I could go back in time. If I were to mentor a younger person now, these are the areas I would encourage them to pursue for (potentially) greater and faster career success.

3 Course Corrections For Future Career Growth

  1. Personal Relationships: This is a key area of life I wish I was better in. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would definitely be way more proactive in seeking out mentoring relationships with people who are successful in these critical career areas.
  2. Writing Skills: I would spend more time studying the skill of writing and spend more of my available free time developing this critical skill. I would start a personal blog as early as possible. I would attempt writing books at an earlier age as well.
  3. Presentation Skills: I would have joined a Toastmasters Club at an earlier age, maybe take acting classes, worked on video presentations, and read more books on the craft of public speaking.

Why These Areas?

So, why would I even want to go back and tackle these specific areas?

Partly due to the fact that these are the areas people claim they hate and are frightened to pursue.

I always hear statements from various people like, “well, Larry, I’m not really a writer and don’t enjoy it at all.” I also hear statements such as “I always get so nervous standing before a group and giving presentations. I hate public speaking.”

All I can say from personal experience is that I have had similar thoughts to these as well. But, I have found that the more I attempt to do these uncomfortable skills, the more I seek out information and training on how to do a better job, the better and the more comfortable I get.

Isn’t it amazing how that works?

The big picture, though, is once you are able to get comfortable in these areas, the more of a connection you are able to make with people, and the greater the contribution you are able to have in people’s lives. This should be the ultimate payoff for us, anyway – connection and contribution.

Questions: What do you think of these three specific areas for greater, faster career success? Agree or disagree? Have you found yourself backing up and working on these areas to move forward in your career like I have?

Give Like An Angel Investor, Not A Venture Capitalist

Photo by Kim Seng

Photo by Kim Seng

Shark Tank Reminded Me

Have you ever seen the TV show “Shark Tank?”

If you aren’t familiar with the show, here’s an excellent description from Wikipedia:

The show features a panel of potential investors, called “sharks”, who consider offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking investments for their business or product. The entrepreneur can make a deal on the show if a panel member is interested. However, if all of the panel members opt out, the entrepreneur leaves empty handed. The show is said to portray “the drama of pitch meetings and the interaction between the entrepreneurs and tycoons.” A one hour pitch by a contestant is edited down to “a dramatic 10 minute segment”. The show is said to personalize “the desperation and pain experienced by victims of a broken down economy.”

I was watching the show several weeks ago, and I was reminded of the various types of investors. In the world of small business start-up investing, there are essentially two types: venture capitalists and angel investors.

Let’s look a little more closely at these two types of investors.

Venture Capitalists And Angel Investors

There are a couple of key differences between these two types of investors.

Venture capitalists are mostly concerned with making money. They typically invest a lot of money and they are hoping for a substantial return on their investment. For the venture capitalist, it’s all about the money – give a lot and make a lot!

Angel investors, however, handle their investing a little differently.

Yes, just like venture capitalists, they invest a lot of money and are interested in a return on that investment. But, their primary interests are in the people who started the company as well as the success of the business in which they’re investing.

They really like the person who started the business and want this person to be successful. They also really like the business model that this entrepreneur has created and want the business itself to be successful.

You see, for an angel investor, it’s not all about the money. The financial return on investment process is almost like a bonus to them.

Giving Like An Angel Investor

In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus told His followers,

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

As believers, I think it’s way too easy to fall into a “give to get” mentality, much like the venture capitalist. Yes, many times God does richly bless those who give faithfully and abundantly, but this shouldn’t be our primary concern.

I believe our motive to give should be like that of an angel investor.

First, we have a unique relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the “people” part of angel investing.

Second, as children of God, we should have a deep personal interest and desire for the Kingdom of God to be successful. This is the “business” part of angel investing.

One way we can demonstrate this love for God and desire for Kingdom success is by giving back to our local church a portion of what He has given to us to manage.

And, the bonus for us as believers is that God promises to take care of our needs when we put Him and His Kingdom as our number one priority.

See my Giving Talk Video below where I addressed this same issue:

Questions: Have you ever thought about giving in terms of small business investing? How have you given in the past, like a venture capitalists or angel investor? Do you give because you are looking for a financial blessing, or because you love God and want His Kingdom to succeed?