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How To Stay Debt Free For Christmas

 

 

Well, it’s that time of year to put up the Christmas decorations and engage in the annual tug of war between you, your credit card, and the retailers as you do your shopping for gifts. And guess what? The average shopper racks up more than $500 in credit card debt Christmas shopping and doesn’t pay it off until the following October!

 

So, what should we do to stay out of debt this Christmas?

 

No, it isn’t finding the best sale, it’s having a Christmas spending plan that you stick to and making some creative decisions. And it’s even more important to remember what Christmas is really all about……….celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

 

When you use a spending plan for Christmas you tend to think more carefully about your spending and avoid impulsive purchases. So, here are some suggestions on having a debt-free Christmas that is also a wonderful time and memory for your family.

 

  • Be a student of each member of your family and buy or make inexpensive gifts that are valuable to the recipient because it reflects their personal interests and needs.
  • If finances are tight this year and you have an extended family, consider name-swapping so each person buys a gift for only one or two people.
  • Create a culture of the family enjoying the fellowship with one another and focusing on Christ and not tons of presents.
  • Consider as a family giving to those who are needy. We did this when our children were young and discovered it replaced greed and the desire to get more and more with memories we still talk about fondly.
  • Make Christmas about Christ by having a birthday cake for Him, caroling with friends, and reading the Christmas story.

 

The world has taken Christ out of Christmas – let’s put him back in it front and center.

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Biblical Perspective On Paying Your Taxes

What is the biblical perspective on paying taxes? That is the same question that was asked of Jesus. “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?. . . [Jesus] said to them, ‘Show Me a[Roman coin]. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?’ And they said, ‘Caesar’s.’ And He said to them, ‘Then give to Caesar the things that are to Caesars’”(Luke 20:22-25). This is an example of the contrast between the practices of our society and the teaching of Scripture. Avoid paying taxes at any cost, people rationalize; after all, the government squanders much of what it collects.

I am not condoning the waste found in government. In fact, I believe a citizen should make an effort to influence government to be more efficient. But the Bible tells us of an additional responsibility: to pay your taxes! “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God . . . because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due”(Romans 13:1, 6-7). It is permissible to reduce your taxes by using legal tax deductions, but we should be careful not to make unwise decisions simply to avoid paying taxes.

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DO NOT BE CONFORMED

Romans 12:2 begins with this command: “Do not be conformed to this world.” The Amplified Version reads this way: “Do not be conformed to this world—this age, fashioned after and adopted to its external, superficial customs.”

We live in one of the most affluent cultures the world has ever known. And we are constantly bombarded with costly, manipulative advertising whose purpose is to prompt us to spend money. Advertisers usually stress the importance of image rather than function. For example, automobile ads rarely focus on a car as reliable transportation that is economical to operate; instead, an image of status or sex appeal is projected.

Reflect on the claims of TV commercials. No matter what the product—clothing, deodorants, credit cards, cars, beverages, you name it—the message is communicated that the “Fulfilling, beautiful, wrinkle-free life” can be ours if we are willing to buy it. Unfortunately, this media onslaught has influenced all of us to some extent. George Fooshee, the author of the excellent book You Can Beat the Money Squeeze, so aptly states, “People buy things they do not need with money they do not have to impress people they do not even like.”

The following graph depicts how the artificial, media-generated lifestyle influences our lives. The bottom curve represents our income—what we really can afford to buy. The next curve illustrates how much we actually spend. We make up the difference between our income and spending by the use of debt, which creates slavery, financial pressure and anxiety. The top of the graph demonstrates what advertisers tell us to buy. It’s an image-conscious, expensive lifestyle that claims to satisfy the human heart’s deepest needs. When we want to live this counterfeit, media-induced dream but cannot afford it, we suffer discontentment, envy and coveting.

Artificial Media Lifestyle graphicNone of us is immune to the lure of this message. Recently a sharp-looking van in a television commercial caught my eye. Our family has a second-hand, 11-year-old station wagon painted an unattractive yellow. This advertised van was perfect for our family—just the right size and color. I even rationalized that this van would be better suited for use in ministry. I found myself spending half an hour each day studying beautiful, slick brochures, admiring new vans on the highway and daydreaming about driving one. I was hooked! The yellow station wagon seemed to get more unsightly every day, while the van went from an “I want it” to an “I need it” category.

I was about to buy the van when I decided to seek the counsel of Jack Norman, a local car dealer and friend. He gave me good advice. He asked me how many miles the station wagon had been driven. “Fifty-five thousand miles,” I responded. He thought for a moment and then he said, “The station wagon is in good condition and should be great transportation for years!” I didn’t want to hear that, but I reluctantly agreed with him. His advice had saved me thousands of dollars. Moreover, the moment the decision was made to keep the yellow station wagon, I lost the desire for the van. It no longer dominated my thinking. Interestingly enough, the yellow station wagon has become better-looking!

From time to time we all get hooked on something we think we must buy—a car, home, camera, boat, you name it. Once hooked, it’s easy to rationalize a purchase. Please remember to seek the Lord’s guidance and the counsel of godly people when making spending decisions.

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Is It Time For Plastic Surgery?

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Will you be putting this on your store card today?  Oh, you don’t have one?  Well, if you apply for one today, we can give you $50 off your purchase! Well, if you’ve ever been shopping, I’m guessing that sales pitch sounds familiar. But are department store cards a smart way to save money … or are they a bad idea?

Most of us know someone who has more credit cards than Baskin Robins has ice cream flavors. But 3 out of 10 adults don’t have a credit card, and the average is 2.6 per person which is the lowest number is decades.

Branded retail credit cards can save you money on your purchase when you apply, and often there are other discounts or rewards. So, are retail cards a smart way to save money? No, I don’t recommend them. They are a marketing tool by retailers who also make a lot of money on the interest they charge customers who carry a balance. You’re also more likely to be a victim of identity theft if you have lots of cards.

My suggestion: perform some plastic surgery! Any scissors will do the job!

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Life Abundantly

 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” –John 10:10

Sometimes it is hard for me to wrap my arms around the fact that God’s desire for me is to experience life to the fullest- regardless of my life situation. God’s desire for me to have life abundantly isn’t based on whether I have had a good or bad day, whether the economy is flourishing or declining, whether I perform well or not. It is not relative to the changes in the stock market, the amount of money I do or don’t make, or whether or not I have a job. God’s desire for us to experience life abundantly transcends all these scenarios.

I don’t always experience life to the fullest and often get distracted by the things of the world- I am a work in progress. But when I do experience this abundant life that God’s word talks about it is usually in the context of the following:

  • Using the gifts God has given me to serve others; this could be talents, time or treasure- it is one of the greatest joys I experience.
  • Being surrounded by a community of people who love Jesus. People who are real, transparent, challenging and vulnerable and those who allow me to be the same.
  • Being immersed in God’s word and prayer. Nothing else allows me to experience the Lord in such an intimate way.

I am grateful that whatever circumstance I may be in, both good and bad, the Lord is always offering me something better- life abundantly! I would encourage you to prayerfully examine how this looks in your life and walk with the Lord.

Wrapped in His grace, Kyle

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5 Ways To Stay Out Of The Red On Black Friday

 

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Helmet… check. Flak jacket… check. Last will and testament updated… check.   Okay, it sounds like you’re all set to go shopping on Black Friday.

 These sale events have gotten out of control, literally! A couple of years ago there was a near riot over $2 waffle makers at Wal-Mart, and a woman in California pepper sprayed 20 other shoppers to get to an Xbox video game console.
Well, how can we keep ourselves out of the Red on Black Friday? Here are 5 ways that should really help:

  1. First of all have a Christmas shopping spending plan! Know exactly what you’re going to spend beforehand, and stick to it.
  2. Do your homework on where the best deals are and make a shopping list for anything you’re not buying online BEFORE you leave the house.
  3. Don’t get sucked into opening store credit cards for a discount!
  4. Don’t forget about Cyber Monday (Monday, November 30th). It is a really big deal these days, and there are plenty of deals to be had online.
  5. You can go to a deal tracking website, such as, DealNews.com. They also have smart phone app that will alert you if a deal pops up that matches what you’re looking for.

Some Black Friday stories are so silly that you have to laugh. But they are also symbolic of something sad. The world is intent on taking Christ out of Christmas and replacing Him with holiday gift giving. So, make a real effort to keep yourself and your family focused on the real reason we celebrate Christmas. The birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Prayers Going Up This Father’s Day

 

I’ve happily celebrated Father Day as a son, dad and grandpa, but this year is different. It is very different.  I live in Orlando, and our community recently has experienced three separate incidents of extraordinarily tragic deaths.

 

Twenty-two years old singer and vibrant follower of Jesus, Christina Grimmie, was shot while signing autographs after a concert. Her father later said, “We know she is with her Lord who she loved so much, but I have a hole in my heart for my daughter.”

 

The next day, a terrorist mercilessly took the lives of 50 people in a nightclub, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history and the nation’s worst terror attack since the twin towers in 9/11.  A couple of days later, a two year-old was drowned by an alligator at Disney World as the father jumped in the lake to save his son.

 

Father’s Day for many of us in Orlando is different. As fathers’ mourn the loss of their children, there is a greater sense among us all though life is unpredictable; it is very precious. Our life is especially precious to our heavenly Father. In Psalm 139:13-18, David wrote:

 

“For you (Lord) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious are your thoughts concerning me, God! How vast is the sum of them? Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.”

 

Let’s pray for the fathers who suffered these tragic losses of their children. And fathers, enjoy the special day with your family!

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3 Reasons You Should Buy Rather Than Lease Your Next Car

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I’m often asked on the Compass MoneyWise call-in radio program, should I lease a car instead of buying, because it seems like it’s the cheapest way to go.

 

My answer is always the same: Don’t even think about it! But a lot more people these days are doing more than just thinking about it.

 

The car pricing website www.edmunds.com reports that according to their surveys 27% of all cars in our country are now leased instead of purchased. And Millennials (ages 18-34) lease more than any other age category suggesting that unlike older adults they would rather sacrifice long-term financial benefits of owning an auto to get into a bigger or more luxurious vehicle.

 

Here are the 3 reasons I like to call it care fleecing instead of car leasing!

 

1st, in addition to the monthly lease payment, you’re wacked by mileage fees if you travel over a certain amount of miles. And most people who lease a car do. Guess what? The mileage fees are steep—normally about 12 cents a mile.

2nd, when you turn the leased car back in, if there are any bumps, bruises or scratches, you pay to repair them – big time!

3rd, when you turn the car back in, unlike buying a car, you have NOTHING to show for it.

 

Your best decision is to buy a car and pay if off. Then, continue making the car payments…….but to yourself. That way when you’re ready for a newer car, the trade-in plus the cash you saved should allow you to buy the car for cash and never use car debt again!

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5 Ways To Rescue Millennials From Drowning In Student Loans

 

It’s stunning! According to a survey, millennial-aged college graduates are spending a whopping 18 percent of their salary on student loan payments and 60 percent of them expect to be making payments on their student loans into their 40s.

 

But it get’s worse! The survey also found that average student debt for millennials is more than $41,000, and a third reported being clueless as to their loans’ interest rate. Sadly, many millennials aren’t willing to adjust their lifestyle to pay if off more quickly. For example, less than half were willing to cut what they spend on eating out and entertainment.

 

The last big discovery of the survey: one-third of the grads said they would have skipped college altogether had they known how expensive it would be in the end.

 

Here are five ways to rescue millennials from drowning in student loans

 

  1. Start preparing early! Urge your high school age kids to take duel credit classes that will count as college credit. Dan and Cheri Schilling’s 17 year old son will graduate from high school having earned 90 college credit hours. When he enrolls in college he’ll have completed the first three years of college FREE!
  2. Another option is to enroll in a local community college the first two years to complete your general classes or to work full-time and take online college classes which are typically much less expensive.
  3. Secure as many grants and scholarships as possible by investing the time to research every possible opportunity.
  4. Encourage your children to work full-time during the summers, and part-time at college after their first semester. Apply what is earned toward college costs.
  5. Parents, start saving early to assist your kids, but don’t cosign for your children’s student loans or take out any loans yourselves.
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How Do You Respond?

 

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I just heard a fabulous message by Pastor David Uth that rang so true.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 says, “And the Lord’s bond-servant [those who know Jesus Christ as savior] must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition; if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive to him to do his will.”

We live in an era where so much biblical truth in our nation is being undermined by massive changes in the culture. Often Christians have responded in a shrill, confrontational way; after all, we are on the side of truth and righteousness.

But is this the way we are to respond? Examine 2 Timothy 2:24-26 again. We are to be ‘kind to all . . . patient when wrong, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition.” We are to correct those who oppose the trust, but with kindness and gentleness that they ultimately may come to know Jesus. People may disagree with our living based on the truth of God’s word, but if we are kind, gentle and loving in how we relate to them, they may be open to the truth about Christ.

As Stephen, the first martyr, was being stoned to death, “he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord do not hold this sin against them!’” And who was there looking on . . . the man who would become the Apostle Paul and the author of the book of 2 Timothy. Stephen was kind and gentle to his opposition, and this profoundly impacted some who participated in murdering him.

Let’s seek to care for people who oppose us and maybe, by God’s grace, some may come to know Christ and be given the gift of eternal life.