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Biblical Perspective On Paying Your Taxes

 

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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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3 Things The IRS Won’t Tell You While Filing Your Taxes

 

Taxes-the-IRS

We’ve officially entered the tax filing season. The IRS offers a lot of excellent information online at www.IRS.gov to help you get your 1040 filed accurately and on time. That said, there are 3 things the IRS won’t tell you.

  • It can be risky to “go it alone.” The tax code is so complicated these days, it’s often wise to hire a tax preparer to help you. This is especially true if you have lots of stock transactions, are self employed or run a side business. There are also some good software tax preparation packages available and some are now online as well.
  • It doesn’t matter how much or how little your income, you could be audited. The number of audits has been down in recent years, but being a low income earner doesn’t mean you won’t be audited. It is especially important to keep receipts for charitable donations, because the IRS flags returns with a lot of deductions for giving.
  • The IRS benefits from our anxiety. People often fear making a mistake, so they overpay on purpose. A few years ago, the Government Accountability Office found that over 2 million people overpay each year by an average of nearly $500. That’s almost a billion dollars a year in overpayments?

So, consider getting help unless you’re very good at preparing your taxes. It’s not just about being audited. A tax professional might save you a lot of money by catching deductions and credits that you may miss.

And don’t forget, the Bible encourages us to pay all the taxes we owe. So, always be completely honest when reporting your income and tax deductions.

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Mr. Plastic Fantastic

 

Man with Credit Cards with logo

In 1977, I wrote my first book, Your Money: Frustration or Freedom? In the book I told the story of Walter Cavanagh, a pharmacist from California who owned about 800 credit cards! But according to a recent ABC story, Mr. Cavanagh was just starting.  The 73-year-old now has amassed 1,479 cards, and Guinness World Records recognizes him as the man with the most credit cards on the planet.

He also has what must be the world’s largest wallet. It stretches 250 feet, weighs 38 pounds with space for 800 cards, but he keeps most of them in a safe. No wonder his nickname is “Mr. Plastic Fantastic”.

Mr. Cavanagh’s cards come from a wide variety of places including banks, airlines, gas stations, and about every merchant imaginable, with limits from $50 to $15,000.

To his credit, no pun intended, his score is nearly perfect. Mr. Cavangh shares his secret: “I only use one card and I pay it off in full at the end of the month. But you should see the length of my credit report!”

I want to encourage you to follow his example. No, not in the number of his credit cards or the size of his massive wallet, but in the simple way he uses only one credit card and pays it off in full at the end of the month.

My recommendation: Have one or two credit cards and use them for convenience not credit. Pay it off in full at the end of every month.

To better help you accomplish this head over to Compass1.org to download one of our free spending plans/budgets.

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4 Ways To Achieve Your Goals this Year

 

Goals

Have you already broken your New Year’s Resolutions? You’re not alone. A study found only 8% of people keep their resolutions for four weeks!

 

I don’t do resolutions, but I’ve learned how to make real progress on achieving important yearly goals by doing these 4 things:

 

  1. Identify Goals You Really Want to Achieve.

I break my goals down into 5 categories: Spiritual, Physical, Family, Work & Financial. For example, three of my Spiritual goals are to read through the entire Bible this year, to pray daily through my prayer list, and meditate on one different verse each week.

 

  1. Use numbers to follow your progress

Keeping track of numbers every day helps us stay on track! Here is how I use numbers to help achieve my Physical goals. I have yearly goals of walking 4 miles a day for 300 days, doing pushups 150 days, and lifting light weights 150 days. So, every day I record my progress. I let the numbers speak to me . . . if I’m falling behind, it motivates me to exercise even if I don’t feel like it.

 

  1. Review, review, review

The first thing I do Monday morning is to review the progress I’m making on my goals. For example, if one of your Financial goals is to pay off your credit cards, review how you’re doing. It may become apparent that you need to find a way to earn some extra money each week or cut back on some expenses to reach your goal.

 

  1. Have an accountability buddy

Finally, have a friend or maybe your spouse to mutually hold each other accountable on making progress to achieve your annual goals. Connect with each other once a month and be transparent with your progress.

 

If you do these 4 things, you’ll be so encouraged by the time December 31 rolls around. By God’s grace you will have accomplished important goals that will bring you closer to Christ and your loved ones, and helped you become financially and physically healthier.

 

Warmly in Christ,

 

Howard Dayton

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The Joys Of Being Generous

Genorosity

Few areas of the Christian life can be more misunderstood and frustrating than that of generosity. My entire perspective changed after learning what the Bible actually teaches—suddenly I wanted to be generous. But then I was frustrated by another problem: an unlimited number of needs versus my limited resources. How should I decide where to give? My church, the hungry poor, campus and prison ministries, missionary efforts, radio and television programs, and many other vital ministries needed financial support.

Attitudes in Giving

God evaluates our actions on the basis of our attitudes. John 3:16 reveals his attitude toward giving: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (emphasis added). Note the sequence. Because God loved, he gave. Because God is love, he is also a giver. He set the example of generosity motivated by love.

An attitude of love in giving is crucial: “If I give all my possessions to feed the poor…but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3) What could be more commendable than giving everything to the poor? However, generosity without an attitude of love provides no benefit to the giver.

In God’s economy, the attitude is more important than the amount. Jesus emphasized this in Matthew 23:23: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.” The Pharisees had been careful to give the correct amount, but Christ rebuked them because of their attitude. He looks past the amount of the gift to the heart of the giver.

We can consistently give with love only when we recognize that we are giving to the Lord himself. We see an example of this in Numbers 18:24: “The tithe of the sons of Israel… they offer as an offering to the Lord” (emphasis added). If giving is merely to a church, a ministry, or a needy person, it is only charity; giving to the Lord is always an act of worship, expressing love and gratitude to our Creator, Savior, and faithful Provider. Whenever we put something in the offering plate, we should remind ourselves that our gift goes to the Lord himself.

In addition to giving with love, we are to give cheerfully. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) The original Greek word for cheerful is hilarios, which is translated into the English word hilarious. What a picture that creates! We are to be joyful givers.

When was the last time you saw hilarity when the offering plate was passed? The atmosphere more often reminds us of a patient in the dentist chair awaiting a painful extraction. So how do we develop this hilarity in our giving? Consider the early churches of Macedonia: “We want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

How did the Macedonians, who were in terrible circumstances, “severe trial,” and “extreme poverty,” still manage to give with “overflowing joy”? The answer is in verse five: “They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.” The key to cheerful giving is to yield ourselves to Christ, and ask him to direct how much he wants us to give. That places us in a position to experience the advantages of giving with the proper attitude.

Stop and examine yourself. What is your attitude toward giving?

Advantages of Giving

Gifts obviously benefit the recipient. The church continues its ministry, the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, and missionaries are sent. But in God’s economy, gifts given with the proper attitude benefit the giver more than the receiver. “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35) As we examine Scripture, we find that the giver benefits in four significant areas.

1. An increase in intimacy

Above all else, giving directs our heart to Christ. Matthew 6:21 tells us: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This is why it is necessary to give each gift to the person of Jesus Christ: it draws our heart to him. Do you remember the faithful steward in the parable of the talents, and his eventual reward? “Enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matthew 25:21) Giving is one of your responsibilities as a steward, and the more faithful you are in fulfilling your responsibilities, the more you can enter into the joy of knowing Christ more closely. Nothing in life compares with that.

2. An increase in character

Our heavenly Father wants ushis children­—to conform to the image of his son. The character of Christ is that of an unselfish giver. Unfortunately, humans are selfish by nature. One essential way we become conformed to Christ is by regular giving. Someone once said, “Giving is not God’s way of raising money; it is God’s way of raising people into the likeness of his son.”

3. An increase in heaven

Matthew 6:20 reads: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” The Lord tells us that heaven has its own “First National Bank,” where we can invest for eternity. Paul wrote: “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” (Philippians 4:17) Each of us has an account in heaven that we will be able to enjoy for eternity. Although it is true that we “can’t take it with us when we die,” Scripture teaches that we can make deposits to our heavenly account before we die.

4. An increase on earth

Many people have a hard time believing that giving results in material blessings flowing back to the giver. Time and again, however, we encounter that very principle in the pages of Scripture. Consider Proverbs 11:24-25: “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.”

Examine 2 Corinthians 9:6-11: “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully…. God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed…. Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality.”

These verses clearly teach that giving results in a material increase: “…will also reap bountifully …always having all sufficiency in everything…may have an abundance…will supply and multiply your seed…you will be enriched in everything.”

But note carefully why the Lord returns a material increase: “Always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed…will supply and multiply your seed for sowing…you will be enriched in everything for all liberality.” As shown in the diagram below, the Lord produces an increase so that we may give more and have our needs met at the same time.

Study the cycle of giving. One reason the Lord reveals that we can anticipate a material increase is because he wants us to recognize that he is behind it. God has chosen to be invisible, but he wants us to experience his reality.

When we give, we should do so with a sense of expectation—anticipating an increase from the Lord even though we have no idea how or when he may choose to provide it. Our experience has shown him to be very creative! Remember, givers experience the advantages of giving only when they give cheerfully and with love—not when the motive is just to get.

Amount to Give

Let’s survey what the Bible says about how much to give. Before the Old Testament law, there were two instances of giving a known amount. In Genesis 14:20, Abraham gave ten percent—a tithe—after the rescue of his nephew Lot. And in Genesis 28:22, Jacob promised to give the Lord a tenth of all his possessions if God brought him safely through his journey. With the Law came the requirement of the tithe. The Lord condemns the children of Israel in Malachi 3:8-9 for not tithing properly: “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you!”

In addition to the tithe, there were various offerings. The Lord also made special provisions for the poor. Every seven years all debts were forgiven; every fifty years the land was returned to the original land-owning families. Special harvesting rules allowed the poor to glean behind the harvesters.

God made another significant provision for the poor in Deuteronomy 15:7-8: “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.” Even under the law, the extent of one’s giving was not to be limited by a locked-in, fixed percentage but was to be adjusted by surrounding needs. The New Testament teaches that we are to give in proportion to the material blessing we receive. It also commends sacrificial giving.

What I like about the tithe is that it is systematic, and the amount of the gift is easy to compute. The danger of the tithe is that it can be treated as simply “another bill” to be paid. If we fall into that sort of attitude or rut, we will not be in a position to receive God’s richest blessings. Another potential danger of tithing is the assumption that once we have tithed, we have fulfilled all our obligations to give. For many Christians, the tithe should be the beginning of their giving, not the limit. And we should never, never close our hearts to the obvious needs we encounter in our path through life.

How much should you give? To answer this question, first give yourself to the Lord. Submit yourself to him. Earnestly seek his will for you concerning giving. Ask him to help you obey his leading. I am convinced that we should tithe as a minimum and then give over and above the tithe as the Lord prospers or directs us.

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How To Stay Debt Free For Christmas

 

Christmas shopping graphic

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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Paris Under Attack

Under Attack (1)

 On Friday evening, in less than one hour, Islamic terrorist conducted a series of coordinated attacks on six targets in Paris killing more than 130 defenseless people and injuring hundreds more.  The world watched in horror over TV and the Internet as the reports were broadcast that seven suicide bombers slaughtered people eating in restaurants, attending a concert, and at an outside sporting event. The radical Islamic group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

 

So, how should followers of Christ respond to ruthless attacks such as these?

 

  • Pray for the families and loved ones of all the victims who were murdered and those who are recovering from physical and mental injury.
  • Recognize the real enemy. Ephesians 6:12 reveals, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
  • Fight the real enemy. The verses after revealing the real enemy address how to resist this unseen enemy. “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm . . . having girded your loins with truth, and put on the breastplate of righteousness, having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace . . . taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17). Think about this passage! How do we fight? We practice truth, righteousness, share the gospel of Jesus, faith, recognize our salvation and use the word of God.
  • Pray for the terrorists. Consider this. The terrorist causing the greatest amount of damage to the cause of Christ after Jesus was resurrected was a fanatical Jewish Pharisee named Saul. Jesus powerfully revealed Himself to Saul, and he became the apostle Paul – the most influential follower of the Lord in the first century.

 

May the chaotic times in which we live find us faithful to spending our money and make our lives count for eternity.

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5 Ways To Stay Out Of The Red On Black Friday

 Black Friday with logo

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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4 Simple Rules To Stay Out Of Credit Card Debt

credit-cards with logo

Surveys found that half of American households report having trouble making even the minimum payments on their credit cards. What’s going on?

A lot of people are using credit cards for credit and not just for convenience, and they find themselves living beyond their means. So, here are 4 simple rules for using credit cards and if you can’t follow all of them, you need to perform some plastic surgery as soon as possible and stop using the cards.

  1. Use a credit card only for budgeted purchases. Oh yeah . . . that means you have to be living on a budget (spending plan). If you’re not, it’s going to be tough to stay out of credit card debt. If you need help with starting a budget, visit www.compass1.org and click on “Connect with a Coach.” One of our volunteer Compass Coaches will contact you online to assist you.
  1. Pay credit cards off on time and in full every month. This way there’s no interest charges, no late payment fees, and no debt.
  1. The very first month you can’t pay a credit card bill in full, take out the scissors, and destroy the card.
  1. Just because you can afford to buy something doesn’t mean you should. Force yourself to wait a couple of days and pray about the decision. More often than not, if it’s an impulsive decision, the impulse will go away, and you will save money.

If you are in serious credit card debt, remember what Proverbs 22:7 says, “The borrower is slave to the lender.” The Lord wants us free to serve Him and not our creditors.

So, begin to “snowball” your plastic by making the minimum payments on all the cards, and focus on paying off the one with the smallest balance. If you need help from a debt repayment company, we recommend checking out www.repaydebt.org (ClearPoint). They used to be named Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Atlanta and for decades have worked with consumers helping them pay off their cards.

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Our Challenging Journey With Cancer

Mom and Dad with logo

First, I want to thank the many of you who have been praying for my wife, Bev, in her challenging journey with cancer. It is impossible for us to thank you adequately! Periodically, I will bring you up to date on her progress.

 

A little history for those of you who are not aware of her cancer. About four years ago Bev had a double mastectomy, and six months later we discovered the cancer had spread to her spine and hip. Thankfully, twice she has been in remission. Three weeks ago we went to see her oncologist (who we really like) to learn the results of her recent CAT scan and bone scan. When he came in he said, “I have really bad news. You are no longer in remission. The chemo pill is no longer effective, and the bone cancer has spread to your scapula (shoulder blade) and your skull. The good news is that it hasn’t spread to any soft tissue or the organs.”

 

They immediately installed a port in her chest so that she could begin receiving chemo intravenously. There have been very uncomfortable, even painful, side effects from the chemotherapy. As I’ve said before, she is the most courageous person I’ve ever met. She completely trusts in Christ and His ability to heal. Our family has been overwhelmed with a strong sense of God’s peace, and we are certain it is answer to the prayers of God’s people.

 

Here are our prayer requests: (1) that the Lord would heal Bev of the bone cancer. Specifically, just as in , He healed King Hezekiah from a mortal illness and gave him 15 years of life, that the Lord would give her at least 15 years of life. (2) that Bev would continue to be an encouragement to so many as she shares her faith in Jesus.

 Love in Christ,

 Howard Dayton