If I Could Add One Thing

If I could add one thing to this comic: http://www.answersingenesis.org/media/image/cartoons/after-eden/the-difference

I would have a very prominent tombstone with the words

My Sin.

Happy Easter, Happy Resurrection Sunday. May Christ be Praised today.

A New Species: Calvidispenpresupobaptist?

The good folks over at Veritas Domain graciously gave me a chance to share my views in a personal interview. I hope you will click through and read it.

Click Here to read the interview.

Here’s an excerpt

I try to help people who are willing and honest to see the logical fallacies of their own arguments and how those inconsistencies are rooted in their presuppositions. I am not opposed to asking a nonbeliever to consider that my worldview makes sense, ‘assuming the Bible is my foundation.’ I’ve had a few people vehemently opposed to my preaching about hell or against homosexuality who have agreed with me that ‘assuming I really believe the Bible,’ my preaching was the most loving act I could do toward them.

Heaven is for Real is not for Real

I had an interesting twitter conversation with a kind man named Brian today. It was predicated upon my shame that one of the leaders of a ministry called AWANA is publicly endorsing the Heaven is for Real garbage movie. You can read the thread here, click the links I provided in my tweets and, hopefully, see the problem that Brian had even defending his endorsement.
Here’s a snippet:
4-17-2014 12-47-36 PM

Click here to see the ENTIRE thread.

May I commend Brian for what I would call decent behavior in a world where online disagreements “escalate quickly.”

As a side note, EVERYONE is teaching something, and directly teaching something falsely about God is WAY worse than teaching me falsely about diet or rainforests, etc. Let me know what you think of the thread and if you read the book or saw the movie what you think.

If you think I cannot judge this book or movie because I haven’t read it, then I’d challenge you to go watch every porn video on sale at the local pervert adult bookstore and not judge the contents until you’ve watched.

And if you are one of the people who claims to be a Christian and cannot find what is wrong with this movie or book, contact me. I will help you. I’ll get my pastor to help you. I won’t mock you for ‘missing’ it. It is OK to not be very discerning, IF you have the humility to admit it and the desire to be taught. Don’t make the same mistake as the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23-33).

God’s Word is sufficient. If that statement bothers you, your problem is not with me. :)

A Little Adds Up

For anyone who is interested in being a better steward of what God has given them, I’ll share that I’m on the journey with you. My wife and I have been learning, failing, trying again and re-learning about money for most of our 5 year marriage together.

So if you are looking for in depth teaching about money, this post isn’t for you. But, I have prepared a presentation about money and am ready to look over what the scripture says if you are ready to learn about debt, investing, giving, etc. Click here.

The purpose of this post is to offer a few “quick tips” which I believe to be wise and within biblical guidelines (read: allowable for Chrsitians). As with all areas of life, it would not be wise for you to violate your conscience so seek wise counsel before jumping into something new. Not every example I use below will apply to you or your financial situation.

With that said, here’s the list.

1. Take advantage of tax deductions for charitable giving.

I know. I’ve heard the arguments. If you are donating money in order to get something, that isn’t the right kind of giving. I agree with that. If you only support ministries/churches/charities which allow you to take a tax deduction, I’d probably disagree with that if the tax deduction is the reason.

But let’s take a look at what a tax deduction is. The US Federal government taxes me based on my gross income. What that means is that my wife and I pay, for example, 15% of our AGI (adjusted gross income). So if I make $60,000 in a year, I would pay

60,000 x .15 = $9,000 in federal taxes for the tax year.

I get 51,000, the Feds get 9,000. But after I gave my church $6,000, I actually only had 45,000 to spend that year.

Now, let’s say I gave my church an even $6,000 in donations for that calendar year. The federal government allows me to deduct that amount from my taxable income. If I claim the deduction, my taxes look like this:

60,000 – 6,000 = 54,000 x .15 = $8,100 in federal taxes for the tax year.

So I end up with 45,900 in my pocket, my church still got the same amount of money though!

In this case, by simply changing a number on my tax return, I legally save $900 in taxes paid, a benefit my government allows.

Now, you are free to continue to send that $900 to the government. It is your right. But I actually believe I can find a better use for that $900 which is legally mine. Now consider this. Let’s say I sent that $900 to a few ministries. For example, I feel so bad about “profiting” from the entire exercise, so I sent $300 to an open air preaching in Southern California, another $300 to a church plant in New York and then give $300 to some Christian friends who use the money for tracts.

But let’s say $600 of that money is now tax deductible. So I have a new calculation:

54,000 – 600 = 53,400 x .15 = $8,010 in federal taxes for the tax year.

Uh oh! Now I have another 90 dollars to use. But where’s the uh oh? Where is the guilt? I have $90 more dollars, supplied by God through legitimate means to use for the kingdom, to bless those in need or to use for my family. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I would argue that doing what I showed above is, in fact, a more wise use of God’s money than sending it to the federal government. Let’s assume for now I give that 90 dollars to the evangelist at my church by buying him $90 in tracts.

Note, in each case the end result was the same for me. I had my salary, minus some money. What happens when I use the deduction is that I have more money to use for the purposes God has placed on my heart…which do not always agree with my government’s ideas. If you feel really terrible about having more money in your pocket, calculate your taxes with and without the deductions claimed, then give the difference away.

In fact, this is very much what we do. My wife and I are able to give at least 15% more because of our use of this benefit. And I hope that those to whom I give are wise in this way as well!

2. Use credit wisely if at all.

Most Christians understand that debt is not our goal. Eliminating debt is, frankly, a prerequisite for this post. But I’ve learned that not all debt is bad debt if understood properly and managed well. Consider this real case.

My wife and I learned to budget our money using the YNAB software. Click here to try it for free. It is worth every penny. But really, get the free trial first and see for yourself. Moving on, what I liked about this software is how it consolidated all my accounts so that each transaction I make feeds the same budget. I had an idea. After not having a credit card since 2005, I decided to get a credit card. Here’s the key: the credit card must have a grace period. This is the period of time that the card allows you to have a balance and not be charged interest.

So, I got a credit card a few months ago with the intention that I would make any purchase I could on the card. In the process the following benefits ensue:

1. My savings balance is always higher. Last month my wife and I earned 5 dollar more in interest in our interest bearing accounts than average. That’s $60/year I can use for other purposes.
2. I got a rewards card for things like gas and groceries which we buy anyway. If my calculations are correct, I am expecting a few hundred dollars a year in rewards. I opted for cash rewards instead of “points.”
3. Like it or not, if I end up with a crzay unexpected expense, I do have a line of credit available now. But our intention is not to use it except for purchases which are backed by cash in our checking or savings.

Long story short, by getting a credit card, only making purchases which I could make with my budgeted cash anyway, and moving money around wisely I am expected to have about $400 more dollars this year than I would have otherwise.

3. Find coupons, look for discounts and promotions.

I can’t even begin to explain how much money I’ve saved just putting in some effort to looking for discounts. I joined freecycle.org where I’ve gotten a lot of free items I’d have never been able to purchase (and I’ve helped others, too). I used my Verizon Smart Rewards points to buy gift cards to a restaurant we go to anyway and saved 40%. The list is on and on. I have a few websites bookmarked where I check for online deals. Last week, I was looking at stovetops and ranges around 950-1300 dollars at Lowe’s. I ended up buying an out of the box scratch and dent model for $450 which retailed new for $950. Guess what? It works just fine and you can’t see the dent. It would have been over $500 but I politely asked for a 10% additional discount in the store and it was granted to me (after some persistence).

I had part of my tax refund given to me in the form of an Amazon gift card this year and received an instant 10% return on my money. That’s unreal. As long as I make wise purchases I would have bought anyway on Amazon, I’m the winner!

Let me know if you have any good ideas or want some help understanding these things. A lot of it is just being willing to do math and be patient waiting for something you want.

You Really Should Blow Some Money on Today’s Noah

If you haven’t read enough reviews of the Noah movie which is in theaters starring Russell Crowe to know that no Christian needs to see it, then that isn’t my fault.

Here are the three best reviews (possibly ever) for the movie. (Links will open in new tabs)

Matt Walsh (witty) | Dr Brian Mattson (deep) | Lyndon Unger (No Holds Barred)

If your hermeneutic forces you to interpret the Bible in such a way that you can only see the Noah movie as a good thing because the cinematography is something Christian film-makers need to emulate, then the problem is how you interpret scripture.

Now, maybe what you really plan to do is go see Noah, then give it a really scathing review. That way, everyone will know how much more you know about Genesis than the atheistic maker of the movie. Or maybe you are thinking you will evangelize your friend or family member.

Stop. Just stop. Stop lying to others and to yourself.

Share the gospel with your friend or family member. Stand outside the theater and hand out tracts to people or The Biggest Question. Be sure to click those links they will open in new tabs. Both the organizations at the end of those links need your $10 more than the makers of the Noah movie.

And then, take your $8 for the ticket and the other 8-12 dollars for snacks, lunch, whatever and send it to someone who is actually laboring for the gospel. I don’t care if you boycott Hollywood or Starbucks for the sake of a boycott.

But let’s face it: you have nothing to add to the internet when it comes to evaluating Noah. Your review is already too late, and it won’t be more sarcastic, smart or biblical than the articles already published.

No, dear Christian, don’t be fooled and don’t even let a postmillenial hope bring you to be such a poor steward of what God has given you that you would waste your $20 on this experience. Instead, give it to your local church or one of these faithful evangelists listed below.

Bobby McCreery | Tony Miano | Mike Stockwell & Robert Gray

Yes, these men are today’s Noahs: Preachers of Righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). These are the Noah’s who you ought to support. You really should blow some money on today’s Noahs!

Click their links and read their statements of faith, watch their videos. And if you really want to part with your money to support a 2014 version of Noah – click the paypal link on one or all of their sites.