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BFN Advance Book Review: Faith & Finances – In God We Trust

May 19, 2010 · Filed Under Book Reviews · 1 Comment 

If you noticed my “Currently Reading” widget recently, you might have seen a book there you maybe hadn’t heard of previously.  I recently received a review copy of Faith & Finances In God We Trust and have started reading it.  Though I haven’t finished it yet, I’d like to share a preview of the book with you.

A Journey To Financial Dependence

Wait a minute, you say, don’t you mean financial independence?  So much of what is done in the personal finance world is geared toward taking a person to that big goal of “financial independence.”  But no, you read that correctly, this is a book about financial dependence.  It makes perfect sense, actually, if you stop to think about it.  In a world of such uncertainty amidst wild stock market swings, failing banks, and unscrupulous CEOs, why strive to rely on yourself when you can achieve dependence on the one truly solid foundation – God Himself?

This small book has a interesting layout.  It is mostly a devotional book.  Various authors have contributed short writings (1-2 pages) that are to be read as independent devotions.  Interwoven among the entries, though, is a fictionalized and modernized retelling of the “Rich Young Ruler” story from the Luke 18 of the Bible.  The devotions are actually presented as journal entries that the main character in  the story is reading.  Thus you read a few short chapters of the story and then there are a number of journal entries before the next few chapters.

I like the format actually; it works for me.  I haven’t finished reading the book but I do find myself interested in its conclusion.  The main meat of the book, the devotions, are written first person by each author and include some real world stories that I find inspirational.  The main focus, of course, is dependence on God so there are a number of anecdotes about how God provided for needs in just the right amount at just the right time – I love reading those accounts!

Building Blocks of Faith

Each devotional includes a short prayer and a blurb titled Building Blocks of Faith.  I’ve found a few of those to be quite compelling as well.  The most interesting to me is “Our lack of money is just as much an answer from God as His abundance.”  Another thought-provoking one is “It’s not a matter of how much you posses, but how much your possessions matter to you.”  I found those to be two good thoughts to ponder.

To summarize, here is some information from the book’s website that I found very interesting:

The story of the rich young ruler was the perfect example of how God asks us to allow Him control over all we have. Faith and FINANCES: In God We Trust – A Journey of Financial Dependence isn’t your typical wealth-management book. It’s NOT how to build your 401K. Rather it was meant to be an example of trust—of knowing how to trust God with for and with your daily provision. God seemed to saying, “If you won’t trust me with your finances how will you ever trust me with your life?”

This was the seed for Faith and FINANCES: In God We Trust. The book is designed to allow churches to minister to congregations and encourage them to make God their financial advisor.
God instructed us, not to worry and yet when times are tight, we recoil, retreat and hide our wealth from God and each other. Financial dependence on God releases us from the burden of worry.

Little faith is hoping that God will do what He says.
Big faith is believing that God will do what He says.

But great faith, is knowing God has already done what He said He’d do.

We invite you to learn more about Faith and Finances during April and May while they tour cyberspace. To find other tour stops, visit http://bookpromotionservices.com/2010/03/02/faith-finances/ . For other details about the book or to get more information about Christian Devotions visit http://www.faithandfinances.us/. The book is for sale at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0982206542

That’s good stuff right there – the difference between little, big, and great faith.  Remember, it takes so much to achieve “financial independence” which is such a wary foothold anyway.  So many different things in our world can wipe out even great wealth in the blink of an eye.  Instead, focus on the solid foundation that is God – besides He owns everything anyway.  This is a lesson I certainly struggle with and I have been trying to move my focus from accumulating all that I can to create my own security to relying on God for His peace and security.

BFN Book Review: The Treasure Principle

April 8, 2010 · Filed Under Book Reviews · 1 Comment 

Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving

By Randy Alcorn

BFN Book Reviews

Again, it is has been quite a while since I last wrote a BFN book review.  And that’s too bad because I do enjoy reading books and I have actually read a number of titles (well, not just the titles but all the pages too) over the past few months.  Anyway, I was poking around my good friend Brian’s office a few weeks ago and saw a book on his shelf that I’ve been meaning to read.  So, I snatched it…no, not really, I was granted permission to borrow The Treasure Principle…and I did borrow it and I did read it.

What is this book about?

This book is not your typical personal finance book.  You won’t find a step-by-step guide to get out of debt or save for retirement or any such thing.  Rather, the purpose of the book is much more grandiose.  This volume seeks to change the focus of basically your entire life.  The back cover trumpets “Once you discover this secret, life will never look the same.”  That secret revolves around giving and the joy that can be associated with it.

Who is the author?

Randy Alcorn has written a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction alike.  Besides writing a few novels, his non-fiction works cover various topics including Heaven and stewardship.  In fact, you have most likely heard of another one of his books, Money, Possessions, and Eternity.  He is also the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries, whose two main goals are to teach the principles of God’s Word, emphasizing an eternal viewpoint; and to reach the needy in Christ’s name.

What are the best parts of the book?

This is a great little book – I have a lot of good to say about it.  First, it is a small book and I found it to be well written.  Those two combine to make it a very quick and enjoyable read.  The principles discussed within are profound and thought provoking as well thus making it a worthwhile read as well.

The author discloses his main Treasure Principle and then backs it up with six keys to the treasure principle. Allow me to share them with you and touch briefly on each one.

Alcorn mentions that Jesus devoted 15% of His teaching in the Bible to money and possessions – more than heaven and hell combined!  It therefore must be very important; in fact, it is central to our spiritual lives.  Perhaps you have seen this quote from Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  This sets the stage for the author to disclose his Treasure Principle:

You can’t take it with you – but you can send it on ahead

Treasure Principle Key #1: God owns everything. I’m his money manager

Consider these verses in support of key #1:  The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Psalm 24:1).  “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the LORD Almighty (Haggai 2:8).  Remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18).

Treasure Principle Key #2: My heart always goes where I put God’s money.

“Show me your checkbook, your VISA statement, and your receipts, and I’ll show you where your heart is.”  The author suggests that, for instance, if you want to have more of a heart for spiritual things, say international missions, then allocate more of your money, maybe most of your money, to missions and your heart and your interest will naturally follow.

Treasure Principle Key #3: Heaven, not earth, is my home.

Where we choose to store our treasures shows where our hearts are.   Are you storing them here on earth or up in heaven for your arrival there?  In the book there is an hypothetical example of a person who lives in France but is visiting the US for three months.  At the end of the three months, he will return home to France but will be unable to take anything back with him.  Should he waste his time and resources filling his US dwelling with expensive furniture and such only to leave it all behind when he returns to France? Or should he send most of his money back to France?  Remember, he who dies with the most toys, still dies.  We will eventually leave this earth and when we do, everything we own here on earth will remain here on earth.

Treasure Principle Key #4: I should live not for the dot but for the line.

This key requires a bit of explanation.  Consider the image to left.  The dot represents your very brief life here on earth.  The line, in contrast, represents your eternal life in heaven.  Focus not on the short time you’ll spend here on earth but the very, very, very long time you’ll spend in eternity.

Treasure Principle Key #5: Giving is the only antidote to materialism.

The author contends that giving shifts our focus from us and from our stuff to God and also affirms His Lordship.  Consider this quote from C.S. Lewis:

We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea.  We are far too easily pleased.

We settle for a life of unsatisfying material possessions instead of focusing on heaven.  The remedy for this is to shift that focus and the means to accomplish it is through giving.

Treasure Principle Key #6: God prospers not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.

The author prompts you to consider why God has given us so much in our modern day society.  Even those in the middle income levels in the US are drastically more wealthy than most people in history.  Remember Jesus’ words:

Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38

Alcorn states, “The more you give, the more comes back to you, because God is the greatest giver in the universe, and he won’t let you outgive Him, Go ahead and try.  See what happens.”  Have you ever asked God why He has given you so much?  Consider this:

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (emphasis mine).

There is a lot more to this book than just the Treasure Principle and its six supporting keys. For instance, Alcorn discusses a number of other corollary topics such as:

  • Should you give now or save up to give more later?
  • What about leaving a large inheritance to your children?
  • Five minutes after you die, what will you wish you would have given away while you could have?

31 Radical, Liberating Questions to Ask God

Alcorn completes the book by presenting 31 questions to ask God surrounding your giving.  These are some serious, thought-provoking, soul-searching questions here.  Though the book is small and a quick read overall, you will spend a great deal of time on this last section if you wholeheartedly tackle each question.  Here is but a taste of them:

6. Lord, I’m wondering: Why have You entrusted me with greater financial blessings that I once had? I guess I’ve assumed You’ve done it to raise my standard of living.  But now I’m asking “Is it instead to raise my standard of giving?” …

8. Lord, I’ve sometimes wondered why You’re not blessing me more financially.  Could it be that I’ve been spending money on myself first, rather than giving You the firstfruits of what You’ve provided?

What is not-so-good about the book?

There is not much to complain about in this book, actually.  It’s well written, thought-provoking, a quick and enjoyable read.  It even has the 31 questions to go through as an exercise if you like books with steps to accomplish.  I guess the worst thing is that it might challenge you to change the way you live…and most people aren’t comfortable considering such changes!

So what is my recommendation?

This is a great little book and definitely worth a read.  In fact, I’m putting it into my virtual bookshelf of must-read books.  Remember, this is not a step by step how-to book.  This book might be one that you want to purchase and keep handy so you can periodically pick it up.  If you feel like you are getting off track, you can read a bit to remind yourself about the treasure principle.

The book is a lot more than just the keys I listed above.  There are many worthwhile anecdotes, quotes, and explanations stuffed into its small binding.  I’ve mentioned multiple times that it is a small book but there is so much in here.  I’ve spent more than 1500 words describing it and have barely scratched the surface of its supporting material.  I think the best way to put it is that the book is “dense.”  Read it!

Want to borrow this book? Search your local library

Want your own copy? Buy this book now at Amazon.com

Check out the books I’ve chosen for my virtual bookshelf

BFN Book Review: The Automatic Millionaire

September 23, 2009 · Filed Under Book Reviews · 2 Comments 

A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich

By David Bach

BFN Book Reviews

My, my, my, I have not done a BFN book review in a long, long time.  The main reason is that I have not finished a PF book in quite a while, actually.  I’ve started some, but have not been able to make it through any (busy, busy, busy). Well, I was poking around at the library the other day and picked up one I’ve been meaning to read for a while, David Bach’s The Automatic Millionaire, and it didn’t take me very long to make it through this book.

What is this book about?

This book is a general personal finance book.  It pretty much covers the basic PF topics you’d expect to see in an overview book and it doesn’t go into tremendous detail on them.  For instance, there is no detailed explanation of mutual funds or asset allocation or anything like that.  But its power is in its simple message – figure out how you want to save, invest, pay down debt, and then automate all of it.  Sure it’s pretty simple, but it is also powerful and effective.

Who is the author?

David Bach is a financial planner who has written a number of books and hosts seminars under the “Finish Rich” flagship.  His other books include Smart Women Finish Rich, Smart Couples Finish Rich, and The Finish Rich Workbook.

What are the best parts of the book?

As full disclosure, I must admit up front that this is my kind of book!  The main one that Bach teaches is automating as much as possible in your financial life.  I wholeheartedly agree with this concept and I believe that I am in much better financial shape today because I automated some of my financial strategy years ago.

Besides automation, another area where the author will grab some proponents is that he hates budgets.  If you hate budgets, then this is the book and the plan for you (and if you hate budgets and love automation, you are floating on cloud 9 when reading this book).  Unlike Dave Ramsey, Bach claims that budgets don’t work because they are unnatural and no fun.  Instead, he proposes avoiding budgets by basically automating as much of your financial plan as possible.

Another foundational concept the author presents is to pay yourself first. This, again, is critical to achieving your financial goals.  If you wait until the end of the month or year to save, there won’t be anything left to save.  Instead, you must do your saving at the beginning of the month before taking out any money for bills and living expenses.  And after you decide how much to pay yourself first, then you automate this process.

If you are asking, “David, where do I find this money with which to pay myself first?” well, he has an answer for you there.  He uses the term “The Latte Factor” to explain those things that, though they are small expenses, add up over time if we do them often enough.  He challenges his readers to track every penny of spending for a few days to expose their Latte Factor, whatever it may be.  He then proposes that they start by cutting down on these expenses and saving some of that money instead.

Finally, and what I found most interesting in this book, is that the author devotes a chapter to automated giving.  Again, I do feel that tithing is of critical importance to a financial plan (and I automate my giving as well).  He is very careful not to offend anyone with this chapter but he does discuss the importance of giving and mentions how those who give money away tend to have more money flow back to them.

Finally, Bach does a great job of encapsulating why we should be taking care of our finances and planning for our futures (hint, it’s not just to get rich and buy a huge mansion or something):

Becoming an Automatic Millionaire is not simply about accumulating wealth.  It’s also about relieving stress and worries about the future-about putting yourself in a place that enables you to enjoy life now as well as  in the future.  In other words, having an automatic plan should not only change your future, it should also change your present.

What is not-so-good about the book?

As I mentioned, this book is not a complete detailed overview of everything financial.  On second thought, maybe that is actually a good thing.  If you are looking for detailed investing strategies or asset allocations, then this book will not contain what you are looking for.  Well, that’s pretty much all I’ve got – there’s not much to complain about with this book.

So what is my recommendation?

I definitely recommend this book for a read – especially if you don’t like budgets and you like automation.  It is a quick read, the author keeps your interest, and he provides very practical advice.  In fact, he goes so far as to include numerous phone numbers and websites for specific companies to make it oh so easy to take the next step and get started.

In fact, this book actually inspired me to take action.  As a result of reading this book, I increased the contribution into my 401k.  I also thought about increasing my wife’s contribution and accelerating our mortgage, but haven’t pulled the trigger on those yet.  That notwithstanding, what is more important than a book that actually causes you to take action?  So grab a copy of the book or check it out from your local library (that’s what I did), but do read it.

Want to borrow this book? Search your local library

Want your own copy? Buy this book now at Amazon.com

Check out the books I’ve chosen for my virtual bookshelf

Book Review Preview: Outliers

January 22, 2009 · Filed Under Book Reviews · 5 Comments 

I recently received a review copy of the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  To be honest, I had not previously heard of this author but the book sounded quite intriguing.  The subtitle of the book is "The Story of Success" (c’mon, you agree that piques your interest, right?)

I finally started reading it (I have quite a list of books to read and am only slowly working my way through them) and it has absolutely not disappointed.  In fact, it is quite enlightening and I have already found myself discussing it with friends on numerous occasions.

How can you not like a book that starts off discussing Canadian junior hockey teams and quickly moves to software tycoons, the Beatles, geniuses, lawyers, and immigrants making it big in the early-American garment industry.  And that’s only in the first part of the book – Opportunity.  The second part, Legacy, takes off from Appalachia…and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

The Opportunity section of the book is chock full of interesting information on how to truly view success – specifically the necessary ingredients to achieve it.  Gladwell posits that there are numerous other factors that lead to success besides the obvious ones that we so often hear bandied about – being smart and working hard.  Remember, this is just a preview so here are a few questions to whet your appetite:

Do you notice anything interesting about the birth years of these US computer moguls?

  • Bill Gates – 1955
  • Paul Allen – 1953
  • Steve Ballmer – 1956
  • Steve Jobs – 1955
  • Eric Schmidt (Novell then Google) – 1955
  • Bill Joy (Sun Microsystems) – 1954
  • Scott McNealy (Sun) – 1954
  • Vinod Khosla (Sun) – 1955
  • Andy Bechtolsheim (Sun) – 1955

Why were 11 of the 22 members of the 2007 Czech junior national hockey team born during January, February, and March while only two on the same team were born in October, November, and December?

I am excited to finish this book and I’m hoping that there will be some sort of takeaway that will help me apply the knowledge the author shares in this book.  It is all very interesting, but I am wondering whether it will turn out to be practical or just informational.  To be fair, so far I have found two extremely useful bits of information regarding education and preparing your children for success (I will share those later as well).

When I finish reading the book, I will do a full review of it.  In fact, I may have to do more than one.  At the very least, some of the topics covered by Gladwell will certainly spark a few blog posts of their own!  I am enjoying this book and am very excited to pre-announce that I will do a giveaway of the book when I post the complete review of it.  So, please stay tuned for that as it will be the very first giveaway in the short history of Borrow From None.

Book Review: Your Money Counts

January 15, 2009 · Filed Under Book Reviews, Finances · 6 Comments 

The biblical guide to earning, spending, saving, investing, giving, and getting out of debt

By Howard Dayton

BFN Book Reviews

Well, it has been quite a while since I did a book review here at BFN.  It’s a habit that I’d like to get back into – so why not start again today?  I provide a brief overview of the book and the author, touch on the good and bad in the book, and finally, give you my personal recommendation for whether you should borrow the book, buy the book, or neither.

What is this book about?

This book is a pretty small book but it basically tries to cover everything about money.  Specifically, to clarify, it tries to cover most of what the Bible says about finances.  It’s a pretty ambitious goal, especially given the size of the book (it is 175 pages, but it’s skinny).  It actually does cover quite a bit of the ground it mentions on the cover.  In fact, it touches on other subjects as well.  Of course, it can’t go into much detail on each portion.  Overall, however, the author is quite successful in jamming an extraordinary amount of biblical guidance into this skinny little book.

Who is the author?

Howard Dayton is a co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries with Larry Burkett.  The mission of Crown Financial Ministries is:

Equipping people worldwide to learn, apply, and teach God’s financial principles so they may know Christ more intimately, be free to serve Him, and help fund the Great Commission.

Before founding Crown Financial Ministries, he founded Crown Ministries back in 1985.  Therefore, Dayton has been studying Biblical financial principles for quite some time and attempting to teach them to others through the Crown bible studies and events.

What are the best parts of the book?

As I mentioned above, this book undertakes a very ambitious goal.  I feel that it does, for the most part, meet that goal.  This is a great introduction of  God’s teachings on money, possessions, and prosperity.  The book starts off by providing these statistics from the Bible:

  • 16 of the 38 parables regard how to handle money and possessions
  • There are approximately 500 verses about Faith
  • There are approximately 500 verses about Prayer
  • There are over 2350 verses about money & possessions

So, the author points out that the proper attitude and treatment of money and possessions is quite important.  Why is there such an emphasis on money and possessions in the Bible, you ask?  Dayton offers these three answers:

  1. How we handle money affects our relationship with the Lord (see Luke 16:11 )
  2. Possessions compete with the Lord for our focus and attention (see Matt 6:24 )
  3. Much of life as we currently live it revolves around the use of money

Dayton then spends the remainder of the book going through the various aspects of finances that touch us on a daily basis.  For each section, he discusses the main points and provides numerous Bible references.  Personally, I feel that the references are the most valuable part of the book.  For the topics covered, this book provides a great starting point for personal Bible study.

The book really does cover a lot of ground, so I can’t possible summarize even a fraction of it in this review.  Allow me to provide you with a glimpse of some of the interesting things I learned while reading it.

Giving

The author touches on the importance of giving and mentions that there are more Bible verses on giving than on any other individual financial topic.  He points out that your attitude about giving is of crucial importance.  He does not provide a set percentage that you should give, however, as he leaves that as a decision between you and God.

Working

Dayton also brings to the reader’s attention that work was designed before the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15 ).  So, having to do work is not a result of sin, work just got a lot harder because of it.

Investing

The author advocates being a "steady plodder" when it comes to your investing strategy.  He uses the quote "saving is making provision for tomorrow while debt is presumption upon tomorrow."  He lays out these three important investment goals:

  1. Providing for your family
  2. Becoming financially free to serve the Lord
  3. Operating your business

He also stresses that it is not an acceptable investment goal to save and invest for the sole purpose of becoming very wealthy (1 Tim 6:9-11 ).  His counsel is to determine the maximum amount of money you want to save and when you reach that number, stop saving and redirect the money you were investing to helping other people (kinda like those commercials where the people carry around those big orange numbers).

At the end of the book, there is a small section with some related questions (basically a FAQ), here are two questions and summarized answers that I thought were interesting:

How does the Bible define financial success?

It is achieved by being a faithful steward – not by how much wealth you have accumulated.

Should Christians give to secular charities?

There are many charities competing for our dollars and scripture does not specifically address whether we are only to give to Christian charities.  The author and his wife have decided that, with some certain exceptions, they themselves will only give to Christian charities.  This is mainly because, for the most part, everyone gives to secular charities but only Christians give to Christian charities.

What is not-so-good about the book?

This book covers a tremendous amount of information in a relatively short amount of time (well, I guess it depends on how fast you read).  As you might imagine, there are not enough pages to go into terrible detail on each topic.  As a result, your appetite is whetted but you will need to turn elsewhere if you want an exhaustive treatment on any specific topic.

Also, it is not nearly as practical or "step-by-step" as some other financial books.  For instance, Dayton spends about half a page on his four step process for getting your finances in order.  Dave Ramsey, in contrast, has an entire book on the subject .  I feel that this book is not really trying to be that, though.  The point of this book is to get you thinking about Biblical standards for money.  It is to give you a primer on the main points, to maybe challenge some of the (wrong) ideas you may have about money, and to pique your interest to delve into the subject more.  And in that scope, I think it performs well.

So what is my recommendation?

I think this is a good reference book to own.  It has a ton of information crammed into it.  In fact, it’s going onto BFN’s virtual bookshelf .  I think it is a valuable read to get started on your path to understanding what God teaches about money.  There are copious amounts of Bible references throughout, so it is helpful to open it up to a specific topic to see how the author summarizes the topic and start searching the Bible references provided.

As I mentioned, it’s not a practical step-by-step guide to getting out of debt or whatever.  If that is what you need in your life right now, this is not the book for you.  One option is to find a Crown Financial Ministries Bible study in your area – that’s actually where I received this book (you get it as part of the material for the class)  – as it will provide that step-by-step process you’re looking for.

I would say that if you can do the Bible study or pick up a copy of this book at a good price, then it’s a good book to have and refer back to often.

Want to borrow this book? Search your local library

Want your own copy? Buy this book now at Amazon.com

Check out the other books I’ve chosen for my virtual bookshelf

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