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11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13 (NKJV)

Learning to become content is not easy.

Christians have a real hard time with it because they have to somehow find a balance between this world system and the Word of the Lord.  Many Christians have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, yet they find themselves at the mercy of the world’s temptations and enticements.  The desirable things of the world some to lure Christians down a dark pathway of rampant consumerism and debt that comes at the high cost for keeping up with the Joneses.

 

Consumer economics says that America has it backwards.  Our savings rate is almost nonexistent, but we are constantly measuring consumer confidence as an index of American corporate profitability.  Our educational system is steadily falling behind the rest of the developed world.  However, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index continue to serve as the benchmarks by which we measure mutual fund performance and the overall performance of stocks.  

I like the way Dave Ramsey poses it to callers to his weekly radio broadcast who have gotten themselves up to their eyeballs in debt and don’t feel that they need to make drastic changes.  Like so many of us within American society, they just haven’t started hurting bad enough yet to regulate themselves to PB&J sandwiches and tuna fish with crackers.

We can become content when we learn to live within our means.  Live on less than you make and you can save something on a regular basis, not just for emergencies and rainy days.

  • Consider how much you need for retirement.
  • Identify additional insurance needs like long term disability coverage
  • Do you have an estate plan?
  • Do you have a will?
  • Could you handle a job loss for 3 months? 6 months? How about over a year?

To become content, we have to learn how to live a simple and quiet life.  Paul shared such wisdom with the Thessalonians in his first letter to them: “. . . But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;  that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,  that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing” (1 Th. 4:10-12)

Becoming content with what you have is enough to get you scrutinized by your neighbors and family as cheap, not just frugal.  They will consider you some kind of coupon freak or bargain hunter.

You just keep saving.

People will say that you are ruining your own lives, even the lives of your children.  They will say that you will never reach the American dream.

Accept none of their gibberish.  Keep on saving.

Keep Benjamin Franklin’s money wisdom in mind: “Content makes poor men rich, discontent makes rich men poor.”

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All hard work brings a profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty.

-Proverbs 14:23 (NIV)

You have been pouring your heart into this latest venture.  You can see the vision that you have for the future as clear as day.  It is in view.  Yet, as you continue to toil away by the sweat of your brow, you start to stress.  You feel yourself losing your nerve.  You begine to agonize over the potential pitfalls and staggering stumbling blocks that could emerge as you chase your dream.

That’s common.  You are just like many other entrepreneurs who fail to walk down beaten path.  Yes, it is common, but it far from healthy.

The Bible says that all hard work leads to a profit.  According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), that’s not necessarily so.  The births and deaths of business are measured in what is called “business churn.” Business churn amounts to combination of business births and deaths during a specified period, whether a quarter or a year, providing an indicator for the overall scope of business.  During this first quarter of 2012, things appear to be churning upward.  However, that means some businesses did still die during this period.  They closed shop and called it quits, never to arise from the ashes of defeat again (at least not under that company name).

So, what does that mean for Christians in business or seeking to jump into business?

It means that there is a slight and gradual recovery from the recession.  It means that the landscape is still full of uncertainty.  It means that, as Christians, we still have to have faith, even to go into business in this day and age.

Keep your faith.  Maintain your focus on what you can do.  Keep costs and expenditures, especially debt, low.  Seek to grow your business step by step, taking it slow if you have to in order to keep things balanced.  Stay close to the Lord throughout the venture.  Don’t wait until you have a pending bankruptcy to call on the Lord.  Start praying as you start planning.

After all, the profit that the Bible speaks of may not be limited to monetary riches and social prestige.  The type  of profit  spoken of by the Bible extends far beyond money.  You can be a success at making a difference in the community and in the lives of the people who benefit from your business, customers, employees, suppliers, partners and more.

Success is just within your grasp.  Go on and keep going for it.

Strive for Success with Life Path Consulting. . .

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Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! – Proverbs 23:4 (NKJV)

The Word is clear.  We can be blessed with riches at birth or through some hard work.  Nevertheless, we should not work ourselves to the point of exhaustion for a few more dollars here and there.  Imagine what would happen if we just did what we were required to do and nothing else.  Imagine using your gifts and talents to the maximum capability for yourself and you family.

My profile on Shout Life reads like my other online professional profiles.  As a poet, author  and consultant, I am juggling my time, doing my best at balancing  online content and updates.  I use Lulu.com for my print-on-demand and e-books.  Most of what I have written and published so far has been faith-based and inspirational poetry.  Words from the Underground was my most secular works of poetry that was influenced by my work in street ministry in San Diego.    Additionally, I have an online storefront for my accessories and gear at http://www.zazzle.com/lifepath08 .   Join the network of support through Life Path Consulting Services.    Subscribe to Prayer Pages our weekly newsletter.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

I am working hard.  There’s a pair of new books due out next month, both poetry with different themes.  I am launching another aspect of the business consulting services component and expanding Life Path Publishing’s offerings beyond poetry and guidebooks.  I am busy with work, but I refuse to overwork myself in any pursuit to become rich.

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“Commit your works to the Lord. . .” – Proverbs 16:3

Going on a mission trip this summer? Leading vacation Bible school for your church? Planning to repair homes from your sick and shut-in list? Get it funded a different way these days.

Don’t just pass the plate in the pews.  Get others involved online.  Share links and widgets that can get people connected to your cause.  Offer some insights into what you are planning and why it is important. 

Here are some sites that can help you raising money for your ministry:

 

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If you want to give, your gift will be accepted.
It will be judged by what you have, not by what you do not have.
– 2 Corinthians 8:12 (NCV)

Usually, back when I was starting out in church, I would always hear the deacon say a prayer for the offering that somehow included the Lord’s love for a “cheerful giver.”  That always seemed to hit home in its own way.  The Lord, as shared by Paul to the believers at Corinth, does indeed love cheerful givers.  Yet, we may miss the mark if we fail to see the principles that Paul shared within the context of his message in 2 Corinthians.

Giving is noble.  The Christian is expected to give to worthy causes and unmet needs.  However, we should not be left feeling guilty when we hear someone else quote Malachi as if we are in the midst of robbing God.  We may have it in hearts to give, but we may not have it in possession to give like we desire.  In essence, Paul clarifies the matter by stating: It will be judged by what you have, not by what you do not have.  That means that you cannot worry about what you do not have to give.  Your concern should be about what you have to give and your willingness to give it.  Jesus shared so when He pointed out the faith of the widow who gave two mites.  It was not the quantity of her gift that was impressive.  It was the depths to which she dug into what she did have in possession that caught Jesus’ attention and caused Him to call attention to her act of willingness.

God wants us willing to give.  We may have big hearts with small budgets.  God can bless us beyond where we are today.  We are not looking for the blessing out of giving since we are already blessed with “true riches” (Luke 16:11).  We have to be willing to give of what we have without seeking to gain what we desire.  We should give with no strings attached.  We should give to God’s glory, not seeking approval or kudos from others.  When we give according to the right principles, God is pleased and we can be assured that our gifts are accepted by Him.

Give with a willing heart.  Give out of what you have.  Give that God may be glorified through your gifts.

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 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. – Acts 4:32 (NIV)

Running short on your street mission and shelter funding or praying that the bank doesn’t shut down your community youth center? There may be some simple solutions right at your fingertips and within your reach. You can get some contributions coming in to support the ministry that you have going on within the community.

Share What You Do

You have to tell what you do and make it known to every one you interact with on any given day. Become your biggest spokesperson. People will gladly help you when they know that what you do is almost part of your natural DNA.

Build on the Business Buzz

Truly, even with a recession like this one, you can create some unique “selling” opportunities. Identify some organizations or corporations who have found themselves in hot water lately. Imagine if you had gotten to BP right after the oil spill in the Gulf. What better way to make up for a mess than to change the public’s perception of you as a public servant, corporate leader, or a marketplace mover and shaker. Get with the Better Business Bureau or local chamber of commerce in your community to see who may be prime candidates in a position to give and get press. You may have to be prepared for a media event like a press conference or ribbon cutting for the new wing of beds donated in the name of who knows who, but the dog and pony show come with the territory. That’s the decision you need to make in analyzing who you approach for help.

Create Giving Opportunities

The ability to host gala events of $50-plate roasts and special events that sizzle with the pizzazz of all of the bells and whistles may not be something within the range of your budget or even scope at this point. Create a special event and add the things that will attract niche audiences. Attach a trendy theme to the event. Don’t rent that hotel ballroom. Go for the art gallery or the contemporary art museum, even the historical landmark site. Make the place special and off the beaten path. Use everything that sets your event apart to attract the “new” rich, i.e. techies, skaters, environmentalists, vegans, and others.

Hometown Heroes

Get your local hometown heroes to help out with your fund-raising efforts. Where is that high school phenom who went pro? Whatever became of that cute girl from around the way who went to the Olympics when they were in Atlanta? Wasn’t there a pop music artist who grew up near here? Make your hometown heroes advocates and spokespeople for your cause.

Attach to a movement that’s bigger than your ministry. Create your own opportunities. Develop a plan. Explore and exercise your options. There is a way that you can get more money flowing into your ministry so that you can do more work. It can be done.

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Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 
Malachi 3:8 (KJV)
 
 
Recently, I took some serious devotional and Bible study time to read Malachi. That’s a major undertaking when you consider what the Lord has to say through Malachi and to whom He is directing His words. The primary points of the biblical book are an accusation and warning to God’s people to act like people of God. Whew! That’s heavy stuff, even for seminary students, Sunday school teachers and simple, set apart and sanctified saints.
 
 
Old school Baptists sum up the prophetic book with quasi-biblical phrases such as: robbing God, opening up the windows of heaven, and bring all of the tithes into the storehouse.  These are certainly not verbatim and definitely not theologically sound when used in convenient contextual arenas.  Tithers hold fast to Malachi chapter 3, primarily verses 8-10, but this has nothing to do with introducing or ordaining the tithe.  It is about trusting God and upholding the practice of tithing as means of seeing that God is true to His promises
 
 
People have been utilizing such passages of the Bible to bully and beat up those who do not tithe for years.  Unfortunately, this is due to a failure to maintain a contextual view of the biblical passage and explore an expository and exhaustive explanation of the text in light of audience, intent and culture and history.  Some things may be lost in translation, but one has to keep in mind what type of Bible or study tools one uses.  A paraphrase will not give you an accurate translation since its main goal is to translate thought for thought, while a literal translation seeks to translate and interpret word for word. 
 
 
I would also like to add a warning about commentaries, especially when one is seeking a clear understanding of the text and its surrounding passages.  Understand what type of tool you have and how to use it.  The root word of commentary is comment.  When you read Matthew Henry’s commentary, it is just a comment by Matthew Henry on that book of the Bible or the entire Bible itself.  What you get is an insight into that particular person’s views on it.  If i use Matthew Henry, I am limited to the depths of Matthew Henry and the prevailing theology of his time.  Ever hear about the Dead Sea Scrolls? Were they discovered before or after Mathew Henry’s commentary? How about Martin Luther’s? Commentary usage requires careful steps to avoid slippery slopes.
 
 
Clearly, once one reads Malachi as an entire study, it becomes as glaring as Jeremiah or Isaiah, even Hosea.  The message is about God’s relationship with His people.  God desires a restored relationship with His people, but if they keep going the way that they have been going there’s no redemption or reconciliation.  God has to stop the nonsense and put the challenge before the people about testing and trying Him to see if He is faithful in delivering His promises.

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