Avoiding the Feeding Frenzy of the Holidays

I Hate Crowded Stores (especially now with “social distancing” being so 9mportant)!

Here’s a really odd idea – have a Merry Christmas! That is so old-fashioned and almost counter-cultural anymore. The holidays start even before October; Christmas lights and advertisements are out in October and they are late if not out in early November. The idea of a calm, reflective and spiritual Christmas where you can see the most amazing gift of all – Jesus! – is something you can see in the old-fashioned movies but not the mall.


Take a deep breathe, step back and start over again.

It is not Happy Holidays, it is Merry Christmas. This is the season celebrating the birth of our Savior, not the salvation of retail sales. Buying gifts is not wrong, but forgetting to recognize the reason for the season is. Pushing Jesus into the creche and pushing the manger to a corner of the yard or a spot under the tree while the rest of the yard and home are filled with Santa, reindeer, sleighs and toys reflects a problem of priorities.

God sent His Son out of heaven where He had everything (except us) and the gift of life, life eternal and life with abundance is a far better gift than a new phone, an iPad, or yet another shirt or pair of socks. Instead of stuff, make Christmas about people, starting with Jesus.

Jesus First

Peace is what Merry Christmas should be about. As a part of Jesus’s last words to His disciples, He said,

John 14:27
27   Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

He left peace, but that peace is hard to find in the crowded stores, overloaded parking lots and even online, where the “buy now” software just lacks that joyful Christmas spirit. Instead, always remember that Jesus told us to come to Him when we are weary and heavy laden. Why? He will give us rest. (Matthew 11:28). Rather than be concerned about whether the sale items will be sold out, we are to cast all of our anxiety on Him. Why? Because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7). Instead, we rush from store to store and from sale to sale, never hearing the still, small voice of God calling to us, saying, “be still, and know” that He is God. (Psalm 46:10).

Can Jeff Bezos and Amazon say the following to you?

Psalm 91:1-2
1   Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
2   I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

In Christ we can have that peace, that calm, that area lacking anxiety and that refuge, but we can’t find that at Amazon.com. It isn’t at the mall, either. I did a search and while Amazon will give you page after page of products and books claiming peace can be yours, for as little as $16.95 (plus shipping unless you have Amazon Prime), but not one offers true refuge from the storms of life.

Start the season with the author and finisher of our faith. Hebrews 12:2. Next, let’s look at some practical steps you can take to make the most of this Christmas season.

Budget and be creative

• Find a group in a neighborhood singing Christmas carols. Join them and encourage your friends to join you!
• Look for someone lonely over the holidays, a widow or widower at your church and open your home to them. God seeks to comfort those in need through us. Psalm 72.
• Have a budget for Christmas gifts and stick to it! Do not start by making “a few” exceptions. Take a step back and refocus on the real reason for the season. You can do this in a couple very different ways. With some people, especially young children, a few smaller and less expensive gifts may be the best choice. After all, many kids seem to have more fun with the box than with that expensive toy you were sure would be a delight. For others, one larger gift may be the best, but always remember that expensive gifts are often not the best; thoughtful gifts are frequently the most appreciated ones.
• Believe it or not, thrift shops are great places to shop, especially for Christmas décor. Even better, you can make your own with some wild holly and evergreen branches.
• The fun, personal and free activities are usually the ones remembered best and appreciated the most. Give the gift of your time and attention. Turn your smart phone off and find a concert, an area with many Christmas lights, or read a good Christmas story to your kids.
• Talk a walk, or, even better, a hike and see some of the miracle in nature God has given us and that Paul wrote about in Romans 1:20:

Romans 1:20
20  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

• Watch a gorgeous sunset (on the beach if you can) or get away from city lights and spend a few minutes gazing at the amazing stars on a clear night.
• Add to those nature treks an almost sinful delight; bake some Christmas cookies, make some hot chocolate and carry it along with you.

Say “NO!”

• Who controls you? Is it the Almighty or is it the whims of advertising and marketing? The Lord is our shield and it is His right hand that sustains us. Psalm 18:35. Pray before and during shopping trips, asking for the ability to say “NO” to the inevitable pressures of “you need this!”
• Go with a friend who is able to help you think and pray before you spend.
• Try to implement a 10 minute rule. Walk away, shop somewhere else, and wait at least 10 minutes before making a purchase. You will be surprised how that 10 minute delay can save a lot of money.

Avoid Temptation

• Wait, wait, wait, for the advertised sale. Don’t wander the mall just for a walk. Don’t eat a meal at the mall food court. Stay away from stores that hold your interest.
• Don’t take your credit card with you when shopping. Carry cash. It is a lot harder to count out the bills, one after another, than just slip the card into the slot. Have you noticed that stores are making it easier to buy on credit? Why, you don’t even have to sign a credit card slip most of the time. Easier is faster and that is not a good thing for your budget.

• Recognize that every shopping trip is a test of your will power and self control. Self control is a fruit of the spirit, ask God for it.
• Before you buy, think about how many hours you will have to work to pay for each item. Is it really worth that much work?
• Do not compare your Christmas purchases with anyone else’s and encourage your children to avoid peer pressure.


• Go back to the first point and refocus on the fact, and it is a fact, that the reason for this season is Jesus.
• Help yourself refocus by playing Christmas music, having a Christmas candle that gives off a holiday scent, putting up Christ-centered décor that will bring you back to the main thing when the world distracts you.

Psalm 9:2
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Christmas Giving Done Right

I love watching little children destroy our best efforts to understand what they wanted for Christmas. They tear into the wrapping (in far less time than it took me to wrap the presents – or even less time than it took me to have it expensively wrapped), get to the box, pull that expensive toy out of the box … and then toss the toy aside and play with the box! Perhaps there is a message there in that common event for us. Or, as happened last Christmas, I watched a child receive so many toys that she couldn’t play with most – so they went into the unused toy pile almost instantly.

Gifts, Packages, Made, Loop, Packet Loop

Christmas is about giving – but the giving that counts is very different than what is seen in modern America. First, there is the most amazing gift ever given, Jesus. John 3:16. Without that gift we would be left with the barbarity of the Roman Empire and the cold formality of legalism. Can you ever work hard enough or be good enough to deserve heaven?

The second appearance of giving lies in the magi as they came a great distance to give gifts that set out the future of Jesus, His Lordship shown in the gold, frankincense which was a symbol of his priesthood, and myrrh, an embalming oil for His impending death. Matthew 2:11.

In that context, how we give does not fare well. Giving for Christmas is a struggle every year; what to buy, how much to spend, the hassle of the mall, the pain of online shopping without being able to see or touch the product or try it out (or on), and the inevitable horror of returns after Christmas. Then come the bills!

Isn’t there any way that is better? Yes! There is a book that is now over 20 years old and going strong, Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas by Bill McKibben, that is worth reading.

The author is an environmental writer and he brought a fresh approach to the hectic Christmas most of us suffer through. He began to get interested in wanting a “more joyous Christmas.” McKibben starts with a historical look at what isn’t really a Christian holiday – at least not if you go back far enough. He takes the reader on a lengthy stroll through time as Christmas went on its own journey and became a shopping bonanza instead of a Christian celebration. That evolution of Christmas gives us every reason to change how we look at Christmas. He says “the reason to change Christmas – the reason it might be useful to change Christmas – is because it might help us get at some of the underlying discontent in our lives.”

It is difficult for any believer to disagree with the comments and opinions he offers. While gifts are and should remain a part of Christmas, perhaps it is time for Christians to reclaim some lost territory and do more than just talk about putting Christ back in Christmas. Maybe we should actually walk that talk!

Then, he asks what he calls a “subversive question.“ That question is “What was I made for?” He asks this in an effort to shift our view from “stuff” to more of what Christmas should be. McKibben then suggests such neighborly and radical ideas as go across the street and knock on the door of some barely-known neighbors and give them some freshly baked brownies. That gift of brownies is in the vein of his suggestion of the best gift of all to give – your time. Better than spending the time preparing Christmas cards, give that time directly to your family and friends – spend time with them. He suggests such relational and family-oriented ideas as a coupon for a monthly back-rub, a gift certificate for a trip to the zoo, a walk in the woods or even a game of Scrabble. The lasting memories of time well-spent are far better than the memory of a really neat toy that was given away years ago because it was outgrown.

I also love the limiting title of the book, Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas. Why $100.00? No reason except it is a good round number, easy to remember, not too low to be horribly limiting – and it also makes a good book title. If the number is unreasonably high or low for you depending upon your circumstances, you can change it. But remember to keep the number low enough to allow Christ to remain in the center of your family’s Christmas world.

As a genuine environmentalist, McKibben can’t resist commenting upon, and perhaps even celebrating, the possibility that if enough people followed his plan, there would be less wasteful manufacturing, buying, selling, shopping and debt-building. In exchange for that would be caroling, visiting shut-ins in hospitals and assisted living facilities, resulting in “one of the most comfortable ways to begin and renew” our relationship with Jesus.

He also loves Luke 2:19,

19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Every Christian should spend time pondering the miracle of Christmas. It’s hard to do that in the crush of the mall or sitting in front of your computer or phone screen completing a purchase. In fact, it is impossible.

It has been 20 years since McKibben published his book, and obviously the idea has been more talked about than put into practice. Don’t give up hope yet, though. Take Christmas back. There is no rigid formula or schedule proposed for doing this. Actually, he admits “there is no ideal Christmas, only the Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.” Start this Christmas and make some new traditions, traditions that truly reflect your desires, values and affections. Make it a Jesus-filled very merry Christmas!

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Do It The Easy Way and Pay!

There is no doubt that credit cards are convenient. As we move toward a cashless society where cards or chips or phones are used to conduct business, it is getting increasingly hard to limit credit card use. Just try making telephone or online purchase without some type of credit card. A ConsumerCredit.com study shows that cash payment is down to about 14% of everyday purchases. Overall consumer spending is now 80% cashless, because about 80% prefer to use a card, either credit or debit, than pay with cash.

There is also no doubt that people, myself included, spend more when using a credit card than if cash money had to be turned over. Psychology Today agrees, finding that because cards are more convenient, people spend more and they also buy less healthy foods. Another result of the same study was finding that people who paid cash had a higher level of emotional attachment to the purchased item. They actually value the purchased item higher! Other studies have reached similar results.

In other words, convenience has a cost. That has almost always been the case, but now it is more subtle. If you go back far enough in time, catalog shopping was popular. However, it had major inconveniences because returns were expensive and difficult. Amazon has conquered those inconveniences. If you buy on Amazon, the online equivalent of a massive catalog, returns are as easy as print a label and they are typically cost-free. Amazon has actually made shopping online more convenient than driving to the mall and walking from shop to shop. Just click away!

And all you have to do is add Amazon Prime for a “low” annual fee and shipping is free. Now you are hooked. At a price.

There are many other examples which use convenience and economies of scale to become an icon in modern American society.

Gym memberships are another great example. There’s one near you that will give you a special deal this month. It might be Anytime Fitness, Gold’s Gym, LA Fitness, Orange Theory Fitness, Crossfit, the YMCA, 20 Minutes to Fitness, or local gym or fitness center, but it will still cost money. Over a year that monthly fee adds up – a lot. The harsh truth about gym and fitness memberships is that most make a lot of money from people who don’t use their membership often, if at all. Cost varies and waiting until there is a special is often a great money-saver. Most have a membership fee and/or a monthly fee (often as high at $30 to $50 per month) although some allow pay-to-play (a fee for each use). Until you are certain that a gym membership is right for you, look for a gym or fitness center that allows pay-to-play. Alternatively, walking and jogging are free and biking is a one-time investment in a bike and helmet.

Another example is the now iconic Netflix. Netflix has created a pricing structure that works, has low enough numbers to make it seem cheap and affordable and, most of all, is convenient! For only $7.99 you can be on Netflix’s basic plan, but for only a little more each month, $10.99 or, even better, $13.99, you can have standard or premium service.

If you add up all those convenient services, you will find that your budget is being hit hard. Here’s the tip that makes this article a winner – when you see some place in your budget to cut an expense, save the money, don’t spend it on something else. The alternative savings “accounts” include:

Your emergency savings fund
A retirement account such as an IRA
Saving in a 529 college savings plan for your children’s educations
Payment towards one or more debts
Save for a vacation

The options are almost endless and as the amount rises, you can see the reward building.

There is one word that really fits what you have just read; “intentional.” You need to have a plan and be intentional about working toward the goal. If the goal is chosen well, you will have a solid foundation to fall back on when you are tempted to spend. Stick with it and it will work.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Giving for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has become less of a true holiday for giving thanks, and instead, it has morphed into a day (or more) off where eating, shopping, and football have become central. There is a lot wrong with that and it starts with the lost reason for celebrating Thanksgiving in the first place. As can so easily happen as a time of remembrance and celebration changes over time, we have lost sight of the rich meaning and history of Thanksgiving. We have also lost sight of some features of the original celebration that should be restored to the day of giving thanks to make it more meaningful.

Most people know the basic story from elementary school. The Pilgrims came to the new world looking for religious freedom. They found that freedom, but they also found such hardship and had such insufficient supplies that half died in the first winter. The Indians brought food and celebrated the first thanksgiving with the struggling Pilgrims.

But there is a lot more to the story than that.

In 1619, 38 English settlers arrived in what ultimately became Charles City County, Virginia. The group’s London Company charter specifically required “that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned… in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” However, things did not go well.

Three years later, after the Indian massacre of 1622, the original site and other outlying locations were abandoned and the colonists moved their community to Jamestown, Virginia, and other more secure spots. They did hold celebrations, but those celebrations are not what most consider to be the first Thanksgiving. These were not the Pilgrims and their history is bypassed in favor of the better-known Pilgrims who first arrived in 1620 at a different location.

In 1620 the Pilgrims, Calvinists who wanted to be apart from the Church of England and who struggled with life in the Netherlands, traveled to the new world. Their crossing took 66 days and they ended up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, far north of where they had planned on arriving. They settled on land that had been abandoned due to a plague brought by earlier explorers. That plague had wiped out the Pawtuxet Indians.

Their first winter was harsh and half of the Pilgrim settlers died. They were taught how to catch eel and grow corn by the sole surviving Pawtuxet Indian. Other Indians, the Wampanoag, also gave food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient.

By harvest time 1621 the lessons they had been taught gave them a successful harvest, so they sat down for a feast with some of the nearby Wampanoag tribe. This feast lasted three days. Two of the Pilgrims made written reports of the celebration. One, Edward Winslow reported that the celebration was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.

The area was appropriately known as “New England” and the people of the area regularly celebrated days of “thanksgiving.” These were days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

However, there was no country yet so there could be no “national” celebration. In 1789 George Washington set aside a national day of thanks after a request from Congress. Then Thomas Jefferson didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving so it became only an occasional celebration, not a holiday. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for a federal Thanksgiving holiday. He wrote that the country’s gifts from God “should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.” Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

That changed in 1939 when Franklin Roosevelt announced he was moving Thanksgiving in an effort to pump up holiday sales late in the Great Depression. His decision proved unpopular with football coaches and retailers alike. He ultimately settled for a day of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of every November.

Now, thanks to the focus on business with the change of the holiday by President Roosevelt, football and retailers rule Thanksgiving. Meals have to be planned around “Black Friday” store opening times and football games.

Lost in this shuffle are the incredible acts of generosity that allowed the Pilgrims to survive, acts that sprang from a Wampanoag culture that included generosity and sharing. Now, we eat and shop until we drop. Instead, Christians are supposed to give thanks in all circumstances, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and this time is one of the best as a time of thanksgiving. So, let’s work to re-establish Thanksgiving as a holiday filled with thanks and with giving.

There is a lot we can each do. Thanksgiving starts at 12:00 am on the fourth Thursday in November. Midnight may be a bit early, so wait until you wake up and start with a prayer of thanks to God. Then, try this:

  • For the husbands, make breakfast for your wife.
  • For the kids, help with the breakfast and especially with the clean-up
  • For mom, relax and enjoy the giving from your family.

As the day goes on, keep it up! Many families do an early Thanksgiving lunch/dinner. The time of the dinner doesn’t matter, but what happens during it does matter. For yours:

  • Invite a church member, widow or single you know who may be alone for Thanksgiving. Of course, you have to do the inviting long before Thanksgiving.
  • For the husbands, help. If you can help in no other way, do what I do and stay out of the way.
  • For the kids, help by setting the table, welcoming any company that is coming over and, again, especially help with the clean-up.
  • For mom, relax and enjoy the giving from your family.

During the Thanksgiving meal, try something new and challenging – engage in family conversation and sharing. Start with a prayer of thanksgiving such as one of those at Crosswalk.com. Then follow that up with family conversation and sharing.

  • You could perhaps read Psalm 95, or Psalm 118 in whole or in part. But don’t stop there. Discuss how those words of thanks fit your year and your life.
  • Start it with sharing about what has blessed you in 2019.
  • Share what was the best moment of the year and invite similar  input from everyone.
  • Add in what the saddest moment of 2019 was and how God blessed you through whatever that was.

Stay away from the usual football, sports, work, politics, and school topics and instead try something radical, and try talking about giving back to your community, a thanksgiving paying it forward:

  • Before Thanksgiving, discuss a service project for the holiday season;
  • Decide where you as a family can make a donation that can make a difference for some charity;
  • Start a Donor Advised Fund, a Giving Fund, at the National Christian Foundation and make giving a family topic;
  • Review your family budget, what you made, what was spent and how as a family you can become better stewards of what God has given to you;
  • Look up a faith-based charity such as Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision or Idlewild Baptist Church and make a donation or offering that is designated for a specific need; or
  • Do an all-family hospital visit to someone you know who is hospitalized for the holiday or a church member who is in a nursing home or assisted living facility. That will help all your family members admit how blessed they are to be at home.

This is a holiday intended to be a giving of thanks and to support a spirit of gratitude, to commemorate an act of selfless generosity. Make sure you keep your eye on that and not on the sale ads, overeating, and football.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Generosity When Money Is Scarce?

Many people have written that money can’t buy happiness and have joked about it. Here are few examples of sayings, most anonymous, relating to money’s power and its ability to deliver happiness:

  • Money can’t buy happiness; it can, however, rent it. 
  • Whoever said money can’t buy happiness, didn’t know where to shop.
  • All I ask for is the opportunity to prove that money doesn’t buy happiness.
  • Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy you the kind of misery you prefer.
  • Money may not buy happiness, but it surely helps one look for it in more interesting places.
  • Money won’t buy happiness, but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem.
  • Money can’t buy happiness — but somehow, it’s more comfortable to cry in a Porsche than in a Hyundai.
  • Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you to be miserable in comfort. Lord Mancrof

But this is not a joking matter. Those quotes show that many would prefer to try wealth and offer their own personal opinion later about whether it can lead to happiness for them. That is true despite the undisputable fact that we live in the wealthiest country in history; but finding truly happy people can be a struggle. In the wealthiest areas, it is far easier to find drug users and drug abusers than happy people.

But just consider this. There may be a way money can make you happy – give it away! Instead of giving out of obligation, I am referring to the kind of cheerful giving the apostle Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 9:7.

2 Corinthians 9:7 
7       Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

1 John 3:17-18
17     If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 
18     Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Giving with joy is good, socially necessary, and it does reflect the kind of heart Jesus had for those in need. See Matthew 25:31-46.

A look at what the Bible says about generosity and helping those in need will help us get where we need to be. What has God said about generosity and how have God’s people responded and displayed generosity through the years? The short answer is, “A lot!” God has given us many lessons both by instruction and by example to show His heart for radical generosity. While there is no better example than the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus for our redemption, there are many stories, parables and lessons throughout the Bible.

Let’s start “in the beginning …” it was at the moment of creation that God made our world and set the stage for our lives. At that moment, God saw His creation of mankind was better than just “good.”

Genesis 1:31
31     God saw all that he had made, and it was
very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Thereafter, God has given many directions to His people to be kind and generous to those in need. In Deuteronomy 15 God gave clear directions for His chosen people to “liberally” give to those who had been in slavery and were in need.

Deuteronomy 15:10-11
10     Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
11     There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Deuteronomy 15:14
14     Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the Lord your God has blessed you.

One important part of this instruction from God is that generosity was to include more than just money. The wealthy were instructed to give of their flocks and threshing floor contents. They were to be giving “openhanded” to those in need and they were to give whatever would meet those needs. The lesson is clear, true generosity is about far more than just giving money.

God’s heart for the less fortunate was shouted out to His people in the Old Testament. Passages such as Isaiah 58 illustrate God’s heart of compassion for those in need. God did not want religious ceremony like fasting or wearing humble clothes to predominate. Instead, God wanted then, and still wants now, for His followers to live out His concern for the hungry and poor.

Isaiah 58:5-9
5       Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6       “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7       Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8       Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9       Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Throughout Proverbs there is wise counsel given by God through Solomon about His people’s calling to be generous to those in need. See Proverbs 14:21, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 17:5, Proverbs 21:13, Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 22:16, Proverbs 22:22-23, Proverbs 28:27, Proverbs 29:7, Proverbs 31:9, among others.

That call to generosity continues in the New Testament including Matthew 5:42, Matthew 6:2-4, Matthew 25:35, Luke 12:33-34, Luke 14:12-14, Acts 4:32-35, Acts 20:35, Romans 12:13, 2 Corinthians 8, 2 Corinthians 9, Galatians 2:10, Galatians 6:2, Ephesians 4:28, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, James 1:27, James 2:14-17, Hebrews 13:16, and 1 John 3:17-18 among many others.

Generosity is more than money

But for most people, money is scarce. Does being generous mean a person has to give it all like the widow? (Mark 12:41-44). No. That story from the life of Jesus was not a call for all believers to give every last cent. It was illustrative of the heart of generosity as opposed to the heart of pride. It was a contrast in extremes, not a command.

Still, how can people be generous when money is tight? Easy, by being generous with gifts God has given them other than money. The passage above from Isaiah 58 shows that the generosity called for by God may be housing, food, and clothing. Similarly:

Proverbs 22:9
9       The generous will themselves be blessed,
 for they share their food with the poor.


Galatians 6:2
2       Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Inviting people to dinner, Luke 14:12-14, speaking up for those unable to do so, Proverbs 31:9, sharing food, Proverbs 22:9, are among many other ways anyone, no matter how short money may be, can be generous.

The opportunities greatly expand when you consider how many different creative ways there are to be generous. You can, to use the time-tested alliterated word-selection, give from one or more of your Time, Treasure and Talents. Ways to do that include many opportunities:

Volunteering your time

Many of the best gifts are of precious time, not money. A senior in assisted living may not have need of money and probably has little ability to get out and spend it. That senior may have plenty of money but also may have loneliness that could be filled with an hour or two or your free time a week. Phone calls and letters matter as well to people who cannot get out.

Many nonprofits and most churches would be hard pressed to provide their best service without many people volunteering their time and talents as well as their treasures to help their favorite cause. Volunteer services help both the targeted beneficiaries and the volunteer. Volunteers satisfy their personal values, meet social and community needs, fulfill personal needs to contribute and benefit society, and have opportunities for their own personal growth through learning new skills and meeting new people.

Give used goods

This is another opportunity to be generous that benefits those in need, a non-profit, and perhaps yourself as the donor. Regularly cleaning closets and storage and donating clothes not worn in recent years (that may no longer fit anyway) benefits everyone involved.

The old saying, ”one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” is true in the area of being generous with your used items. Old toys may sit in a toybox or closet for years. Instead, they could be donated and serve their purpose more than once for two or even more families of children. Books that have been read and will likely never be reread can be donated and provide learning and entertainment to people unable to buy new books. Old games and puzzles should be similarly recycled.

These things aren’t doing any good at all sitting in a closet or on a shelf getting older without being used or worn. That is a waste. Let your used stuff be a blessing instead.

Join with others

There truly is strength in numbers. Ecclesiastes 4:12. One good example is Amazon Smile. The online retail giant Amazon used the idea of the strength of its enormous sales volume to offer a charitable benefit. The benefit is tiny for most purchases, only .5% of the online purchase price. However, as of November, 2018, Amazon has donated over $105 million to charities chosen by its customers. One half of one percent adds up; no gift is too small to be meaningful.

The ways you can be generous are limited only by your imagination. Amazon Smile is only one of many opportunities to serve begun with creative insight. There are credit card companies that give accumulated rewards points to selected charities. Not having much money doesn’t prevent you from donating something like your credit card reward points. Ask and see if yours will allow donations of accumulated points.

Another charitable practice that is much older that produces eternal benefits can also be seen in the 7 minute video A Handful of Rice.

Similarly, one person can accomplish a little at the home of an elderly person unable to work in the yard or clean, but a group of college students serving together can paint, clean, weed, trim and mow, transforming the heart and home of an elderly or disabled person or a couple in need.

The opportunities are almost endless.

Be creative

Even if you can’t afford to give money to or buy something for a person in need, you may be able to make something for them. My wife’s sister made hats for a female chemotherapy patient who had lost her hair. The cost was minimal, but the blessing was enormous.

Used books and magazines can also make an excellent gift to a shut in. Often, we throw away what could be treasures for persons unable to shop and buy freely.

Cards for the military overseas, especially just before major holidays, baked goods for fund-raising carnivals or parties, or helping children learn sewing and crafting skills that you may have, but take for granted, can multiple the benefit that could come from your favorite hobby. The cost to you is likely minimal, but the kingdom benefit is priceless.


One quote gives us a good concluding thought.

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

Karen Lamb

Get started. Now!

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

How to Ruin Your Retirement Plans

A Retirement Guide for Millennials

It’s crazy to start thinking about retirement in your twenties and thirties, isn’t it? Actually, it’s crazy not to start thinking and planning for retirement then! Yes, the world will be very different in thirty or forty years. Forget the world; American society will be very different in twenty, much less thirty or forty, years. What this country, or even the world, will look like in the near future is something I will leave to sociologists and science fiction writers. But we still have to try to plan. The best we can do is move ahead and plan for the most likely futures and hope and pray that our choices are wise. The one thing I do know is that if you fail to plan, you have planned to fail.

So, let’s assume you plan for one of the reasonably imaginable futures ahead. There may not be paper money but there will still be some means of financial exchange. There may not be a workplace as we see it today but there will be some means of doing something called work in exchange for financial compensation. God made people to work and the competitive, accomplishment-driven nature of most people will result in efforts to make the world God has given us a better place to live, no matter how different that world looks than ours today.

How do you plan for an uncertain future? You plan for the uncertain by avoiding the known and obvious mistakes. Unfortunately, many people have a poor track record of avoiding obvious problems; just put up a wet paint sign and watch how many people touch the painted area to see if it is still wet. Some people, myself included, look at a warning almost as a challenge – a bit like, “I dare you!” Well, here are some warnings, historical mistakes people have made or seen over the years. Please do not take these as a dare to try each one or any of them.

Mistake #1 – Give only to yourself and neglect God

I start with the most obvious as well as the mistake that is most common – thinking “God can wait.” Truthfully, He can. But, it isn’t wise to leave God out of your present day or out of your retirement plans. As for the present day, remember that He is named “I AM.” Exodus 3:14. Wherever and whenever you are, He is. He has made it clear that He is not to be ignored. Haggai 1:2-6. As for the future, He wants to be in your plans. Luke 12:13-21. Don’t give just to yourself by hoarding your savings; make sure you both save and give to God.

Giving to God is a part of worship – it is worship! He is worthy. I Chronicles 16:25 and Psalm 96:4. You give to honor God and that is worship.

God is not “served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:25. However, He is pleased when we exhibit His spirit of generosity. Additionally, in the Old Testament, sacrifices to the Lord were a form of worship and they were designated as “gifts”. Numbers 18:11. If you want a New Testament reference, see Matthew 2:11 where the wise men from the east worshiped Jesus in the form of “gifts”. The money given to Paul by the church in Philippi was seen by God as “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God”. Philippians 4:18. That is worship.

I challenge you – try to be as generous with God as He has been with you. No. Make it a bit easier; try for a tenth of His generosity.

Mistake #2 – Don’t factor inflation into your plans

If you are spending a dollar on something today, know your spending almost inevitably will go up over time. One thing you don’t see in a short life is the enormous impact of inflation over time. When I was 16, I remember when a gallon of gas was 25 cents. My first car cost less than $2,000. In 1968, a Big Mac cost 49 cents. Our first apartment we rented while in college was only $250 a month. On the other hand, the minimum wage was only $1.60 per hour. We have watched prices (and income) soar. It is hard to plan for that, but it is essential. Inflation is real and you can be financially harmed by it if you ignore the fact that it is going to happen. See Inflation and Your Retirement.

To make matters more difficult, it is hard to know what you are planning for. Many retirement professionals will recommend you plan for 60 or 70% of your normal living expenses during your work life. But that is likely low, because although some expenses may decrease, others will increase. Medical costs are increasing far faster than the rate of inflation, and even retirement leisure, travel, eating out, and being active is far from cheap. If all you want out of retirement is to sit and watch TV and eat pizza, retirement will not cost a lot. But having only TV and pizza is not much of a life.

If you want to retire with the buying power of, for example, $75,000 today, inflation requires that you plan not for that but for more than that, a lot more. Assuming 3% inflation for 30 years, you will need a bit more than twice as much, or $152,442.34. Check it yourself on the US Inflation Calculator. That means you need to save more. See Save More – 10% Isn’t Enough.

Just as you are aging, so are your home, car, appliances, and everything else you own. Don’t forget long term care, assisted living, and higher medical expenses, all of which are highly likely as you age. You need a qualified financial adviser to you help you make this financial journey. 

Mistake #3 – Take no chances

Being a conservative investor has its advantages, but being too conservative is a poor investment plan for a young adult with 30 to 40 work years ahead. Remember inflation? The same compound effect of inflation that works against you can work in your favor if you invest your savings and beat inflation. See Inflation and Your Retirement. But you can’t beat inflation with a money market account, CDs or bank deposits. Over the long term, the market is the best opportunity you have to beat inflation and get ahead. 

Consider a target date fund. A target date fund (“TDF”), also referred to by some as age-based or lifecycle funds, is a collective investment scheme intended to provide a simple investment solution to aiming at retirement in the future. A TDF uses a portfolio with an asset allocation mix that gradually becomes more conservative as your target date of retirement grows closer. Pick the date you hope you are going to retire. If you start early enough, the fund will be more aggressive while you are many years away from the target date and automatically shift to more conservative investments as you near the target year.

Mistake #4 – Spend and enjoy all you can today

Life is short; eat dessert first! Carpe diem! Live for today! Those are enthusiastic words filled with enthusiasm for life. Robert Frost’s poem Carpe Diem included a figure referred to by the name of “Age” who encouraged children to:

“Be happy, happy, happy
And seize the day of pleasure.”

And remember, Jesus said,

Matthew 6:31-34
31  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

But note that Jesus said, “do not worry,” not “do not plan or give any thought at all” to tomorrow. Ignoring the future can have an enormously high cost. The train of time and age is coming down the track. It is wise to look ahead and see it coming. You can’t avoid aging, but you can make aging better or worse. Instead, enjoy life today, but do it in moderation and grow towards a full life and a great retirement.

Mistake #5 – My kids are my life

One of the tragic mistakes that I believe history will say about the Boomers, the post WW II generation, is that the Boomers not only wanted a better life for their children, but some gave it to them – too easily. We and Generation X created the entitlement generation, also known as the trophy kids, the Millennials; they all get a trophy and there are no losers. That might make for a fun childhood, but it isn’t at all what real life is like.

Everyone should want what is best for his/her children but make them earn it. At the same time, do not give to them at the expense of your savings and future. There is a balance somewhere in-between heavy sacrifice and stinginess. Just as you don’t want your thirty-year old child living in your basement, you don’t want to have to live in theirs! Help with college but let them work and help themselves too. Yes, the wedding will be the best ever. But it can be the best without being the most expensive, and the honeymoon does not have to be an overseas trip. My wife and I did fine with 3 nights at Disney World.

Mistake #6 – Bigger, newer with more features is better

It’s a shame; my 9-year-old flat screen TV isn’t a smart TV. I think I need to get a new one because I need a smart TV. No, at most I WANT one because no one needs a 70-inch LED Smart 4k UHD TV that supports voice controls via Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Actually, I don’t even want one, in part, because I know that in a year it will be obsolete and passé. There will be some new feature(s) that will make me want to buy another new one. The same marketing urge is there for the newest phone. You know, it’s the one with the new features that will do things most people will never use and have more connectivity than they want.

There is a name for some of what marketing makes us do; it is called the Diderot effect. It is named after the French philosopher, Denis Diderot, who lived in poverty most of his life but made a series of what are now called reactive purchases when he received some money. He bought a new scarlet robe. Then he realized that he needed other new things to go with his new robe. The author says that you can see the Diderot effect, or reactive purchases, “in many other areas of life:

• You buy a new dress and now you have to get shoes and earrings to match.
• You buy a CrossFit membership and soon you’re paying for foam rollers, knee sleeves, wrist wraps, and paleo meal plans.
• You buy your kid an American Girl doll and find yourself purchasing more accessories than you ever knew existed for dolls.
• You buy a new couch and suddenly you’re questioning the layout of your entire living room. “Those old chairs? That coffee table? That slightly worn rug? They all gotta go.”

How true and how “modern America” that is. Much shopping can also be described as relational as well as reactive. Too much of shopping is done to fill emotional vacuums or in response to peer pressure. Recognize it for what it is and resist the urge to spend money, especially money you don’t have. If you don’t resist now, then in a year, it will start all over again. There is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9
9  What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Mistake #7 – That employer match isn’t that much

Many employers offer a 401(k) and quite a few offer a matching contribution by the employer to the employee’s account. That catch is that there is usually a “vesting” period, a period of time the employee must remain employed to keep the matching amount. It is a nice employee benefit that has a return benefit for the employer – employment longevity. That is a great deal for both. The employee who stays through the vesting period does not lose his or her own contributions. Later, they can remain in the 401(k) or be rolled over into an IRA if the employee decides to leave, dependent upon the terms of the company plan.

Not contributing to get the match is simply throwing money away. Employee Joe contributes 3% of a $50,000 ($1,500) salary to the company 401(k). The employer matches up to that same 3% so Joe has $3,000 in the 401(k) at the end of year one. But there is a 4-year vesting period so the extra $1,500 is only Joe’s if he stays 4 years. If Joe does stay 4 years, then the full $3,000 and any gains on it are his to keep. If there were average market gains of 6% during the 4 years, and more 6% contributions were made each year, Joe would have almost $9,000 that is his, including the 4-year-old match, with more to vest to him every year if he stays employed.

In other words, take the match.

But even more, max out your own contributions every year even without the match. Not contributing the maximum amount allowed by law for your income and age is also throwing money away. Money contributed early in life has a longer opportunity for growth. See Saving Mistake #2 above and the chart in 8 Financial Moves to Make in Your 20’s. If Joe contributed 6% and not 3%, the match remains on the 3%, then Joe’s balance at the end of 4 years grows to $15,800.

Now, continue that for 30 years and Joe’s retirement savings in his 401(k) will be substantial, well over $1,000,000. If Joe also saves some after-tax money in his emergency fund and in other after-tax investments, he may be well on the way to retiring before 65 or 66. How? Because Joe used the power of compounding his investment income.

Mistake #8 – Forget cash, use that card!

There is no doubt that it isn’t fun carrying around a wallet full of dollar bills. But what Millennials seem not to realize is that credit and debit cards come with a very high cost. Studies have consistently shown that people spend more – a lot more – when they don’t have the inconvenience of cash and use just a card. In 2008 the Journal of Experimental Psychology published a study “Monopoly Money: The Effect of Payment Coupling and Form on Spending Behavior.” That study is written in highly technical jargon but can be summed up easily. First, “people are willing to spend (or pay) more when they use a credit card than when using cash.” Second, “consumers tend to spend more when using a $50 gift certificate than when using $50 cash.” And third, “people were more likely to spend $1 which was in the form of a gift certificate than when it was in the form of cash.” Credit cards, debit cards, and gift certificates are not as “real” as cold, hard cash – and consequently people spend more.

Other studies support that result. Other studies show that shoppers paying with cards focus on the benefits of buying more that the price. Paying cash tends to make people see the price first and foremost.

Personally, I have not eliminated all use of credit or debit cards, but I do carry and spend cash – it cuts spending. And I NEVER charge what can’t be paid off before the end of the month.

Mistake #9 – Treating your retirement accounts like any other bank account

No, that 401(k) is not a bank account. While you can borrow from your 401(k) at commercial lending rates, doing so is unwise. When you do, the amount borrowed stops earning at the market rate. You are “paying yourself interest,” but you are also robbing yourself. Keep your retirement accounts set aside for that one purpose except for the direst of emergencies. You should have an emergency fund of at least six-month living expenses that is readily available and can be used to meet the requirements of most emergencies.

That also means that when you change jobs, you should not cash out your 401(k) and spend the money. There is a 10% penalty in doing so and that cuts heavily into your retirement plans. All you should ever do is roll the 401(k) over into an IRA. By cashing in your 401(k) you lose years of savings and progress. The cost of that in lost compound interest is often too great to overcome. See 8 Financial Moves to Make in Your 20’s.

Mistake #10 – Depend on debt

Biblical advice is always the easiest to give (and, unfortunately, often the easiest for people to ignore). Do NOT borrow money unless absolutely necessary. Literally, the borrower is a slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7. For some purchases, paying over time (borrowing) is necessary, such as buying a home. When you do have debt, pay it off in the shortest possible time, get out of the bondage of debt. See What About The Problem Of Debt? and What About Debt?

The simple truth is that you are planning for an uncertain future, but the future is going to happen whether you plan and prepare or not. Do the best you can – and start today. If you don’t know where or how to start, give us a call. At The Idlewild Foundation we love to talk about God, you, your money, and your future.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Make This A Legacy Year for You

There is a song I love that was sung by Steve Green, Find Us Faithful. It is a great encouragement as he beautifully sings,

We’re pilgrims on the journey
of the narrow road,
and those who’ve gone before us
line the way.
Cheering on the faithful,
encouraging the weary,
their lives a stirring testament
to God’s sustaining grace.

Surrounded by so great
a cloud of witnesses,
let us run the race
not only for the prize,
but as those who’ve gone before us.
Let us leave to those behind us,
the heritage of faithfulness
passed on thru Godly lives.

It is the chorus of that song I especially love,

O may all who come behind us
find us faithful;
may the fire of our devotion
light their way.
May the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and the lives we live
inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us
find us faithful.

What a great expression of Christian legacy. Legacy is a topic I have written about several times because I have heard interest from readers and people I speak with on behalf of The Idlewild Foundation. Don’t wait until “next year,” “next month,” or even “next week. Start today and make this a year in which you focus on how you will be known and remembered. May those who follow in your footsteps find you faithful!

Here are a few ideas to start to complete your legacy.

Think about your family. As only three of an endless number of possibilities:

  1. Can you help provide a Christian education for grandchildren? 
  2. Is a family member considering adoption but struggling with the cost
  3. Is there a family member with special needs who could use some support? ?

Spend a few minutes and think back to the last missions conference you attended. At Idlewild we call them Global Impact Conferences.  Think of a booth you visited or a story you heard that excited you and warmed you heart about someone’s special service. Now write that name down. Call someone in that ministry and find out how you can offer support that will be meaningful and that will hit the sweet spot in that ministry that caught your attention. Consider joining in that ministry with more than financial support. If you are short on cash, I don’t know of many ministries that couldn’t use more prayer support, “feet on the ground” in terms of short-term missionaries, or even local administrative support.

Meet with your financial advisor or a representative of The Idlewild Foundation to learn how wise estate planning can create a tax-wise series of gifts for family and ministry and in doing that increase the net donation and the impact of the estate with a gift of highly appreciated assets such as real estate, traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, or appreciated stocks or bonds to Idlewild or to the Foundation.

Consider giving to an endowment, or permanent fund, such as The Idlewild Foundation’s Permanent Fund. Such a fund can support Idlewild or the ministries of your choice indefinitely. Read more at The Idlewild Foundation’s Permanent Fund.

A donation to The Idlewild Foundation’s scholarship fund can ensure that your money will help educate an Idlewild member who is active in the ministries of the church and in a small group, and who has a financial need to complete college or attend a technical or vocations training course. The Idlewild Foundation has given out hundreds of scholarships totaling over $1 million in seven years and will continue as long as faithful people give to this worthy fund.

Please consider a legacy gift that will demonstrate your faith and light the way for those who follow you. In this very difficult world, your display of your faith, your legacy, may make an eternal difference for many.

To learn more, contact us at The Idlewild Foundation at (813) 264-8713. It is our ministry and legacy to help you find and support yours.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Strategic Estate Planning

The Idlewild Foundation started with a mission to promote planned giving, strategic estate planning. Estate planning can be complex because it involves the U.S. Tax Code, a set of laws Congress regularly “simplifies.” In fact, Congress has simplified the U.S. Tax Code, Title 26 of the U.S. Code (26 USC) so well that it is now only 24 megabytes in size with more than 3.4 million words and over 7,500 letter-sized pages with 60 lines each! Check it out at U.S. Tax Code On-Line.

That’s intimidating to even the best and the brightest; however, that is not an excuse to take no action. To want to do something but to end up doing nothing means you may have had good intentions but not good enough.

The smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention. 


James, the half-brother of Jesus said as much:

James 2:14-17
14     What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 
15     Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 
16     If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 
17     In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

The Apostle John agreed:

1 John 3:18
18     Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Modern proverbs agree because we all know that “actions speak louder than words,” “talk is cheap,” and “no one ever climbed a hill just by looking at it.”

In the area of stewardship, actions also speak louder, much louder, than words. It is not enough to want or intend to be a good steward. It takes time, effort, thought, and study in the form of wise planning. The wonderful thing about this stewardship is that you do not have to do it by yourself, in fact, you shouldn’t. Seeking wise counsel is not only Biblical, it is simply silly not to. Proverbs 15:22. That is especially true when the counsel is without cost. At The Idlewild Foundation we can help and our help and guidance is without cost to you.

All believers are called by God to be shepherds of the church of God, which Jesus “bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28. Good shepherding requires that we be good stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us. We need to be skillful and deliberate in supporting the mission and ministry of Idlewild. 

Planning to be a good steward and taking the steps to actually carry out those intentions and plans are areas where The Idlewild Foundation can help. The topic of stewardship and estate planning means a lot more than just having a will. Any plan should involve a family conference involving all of your family affected by those plans.

Ultimately, making the right decision will allow you to find the greatest joy, 2 Corinthians 9:7,  and at the same time you can know that God has been well-served and you have done your part. This is a blessed opportunity with which we can help, don’t let this opportunity pass you by.

Opportunities Missed (or The Curse of Permanent Potential)
There was a very cautious man
Who never laughed or played
He never risked, he never tried
He never sang or prayed
And when he one day passed away
His insurance was denied
For since he never really lived
They claimed he never died.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

How to Give and Keep at the Same Time

A Gift That Can Provide You with Income for Life

The tax laws of the U.S. are a mystery to almost all U.S. citizens. Their complexity is so great that even tax lawyers end up arguing the fine points. But there are many opportunities that are clear, and one of those opportunities allows you to make a charitable gift that will pay you income for your life! Instead of living off the income stream from REITs, CDs, or dividends, you can have a guaranteed and stream of income while also making a charitable donation and possibly gaining a deduction.

There are two life-income gifts you can make, the charitable remainder trust and the charitable gift annuity. They are significantly different.

The charitable remainder trust

A charitable remainder trust is the more complicated of the two. It can be funded with stocks and bonds, real estate or other appreciated assets. The assets are donated into a charitable trust, with the trust making annual payouts based on its market value.

The charitable lead annuity

The charitable gift annuity is similar to a commercial annuity, except part of the gift of either cash or stock qualifies for a charitable tax deduction. In exchange, you get a set amount of the original gift as a payment for life; the percent is determined by your age at the time the gift is made. Even better, a portion of the payments you receive are tax free.

Then, when you pass away, Idlewild Baptist Church can be made the residual charitable beneficiary. That means that at the time of your death, all remaining funds go to Idlewild in your name.

We recommend you contact The Idlewild Foundation, by calling at (813) 264-8713. We can recommend an adviser who can help provide you and your attorney with information to help you make the gift that is best for your financial needs and circumstances.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

It Isn’t That Hard to Give

Let’s imagine a man who wanted to save time and money but still be generous and let’s call him John Doe. John had a 401(k) and non-qualified savings and investment accounts he had built up by being a good and wise steward during his working years. The 401(k) rolled over into an IRA upon his retirement. His IRA was valued at about $200,000. His non-qualified savings and investment accounts were also valued at about $200,000.

Being a generous man, John wanted to leave $200,000 to his church upon his death. He also wanted his two children to receive a reasonable amount but not so much that they might lose their work ethic.

John was careful and frugal while he worked and nothing changed in his retirement. He saved a thousand dollars and did his will by himself online. His will was written simply and said exactly what he wanted, $200,000 to his church from his bank accounts, the sale of his car and the rest of the $200,000 from a non-qualified investment account. The IRA was to go equally to his two children.

That was reasonable and simple. There was no need to pay some expensive estate planning attorney, was there?

Unfortunately, John passed away before he discovered that being frugal isn’t always being wise. The problem is that his “estate plan” was too simple and wasn’t a plan at all. That “plan” was unwise, did not consider taxes, and reduced substantially the money John’s children inherited. Here’s why.

John’s church got the first $200,000, mostly out of his banking accounts, his car, and a few investments. These were low or no appreciation assets and accounts. His children got the rest, including a large tax bill for the IRA because of the deferral of income and the appreciation of the investments within the IRA. Rather than have a do-it-yourself “plan,” John should have funded his bequest to his church with his IRA. That would have reduced the tax due to the IRS because the church would not have had the same tax bill as the children.

The result of John’s “plan” was higher taxes and a reduction in what his children would receive probably by $10,000 each, perhaps more, depending upon the tax brackets of the children and the amount of appreciation of the IRA.

One of the easiest and best bequests to make to a church or charity, whether before or after death, is a highly appreciated asset, including retirement accounts like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and traditional IRAs, investment accounts that have held stock for a while during a rising market, and real estate that has been held for a long time. These gifts to a charity cost the donor nothing and the IRS comes up with far less than if the bequests or gifts were to a person.

There can be hidden taxable income in a number of different assets, including life insurance, CDs, Savings Bonds, nonqualified stock options, and deferred payments of capital gains, among others, under our complex tax laws.

In most cases, naming Idlewild Baptist Church as the beneficiary of these types of assets, especially when they are highly appreciated and contain deferred income, gives the estate and heirs the best tax benefits, avoiding both income and estate taxes.

Life insurance also can be an excellent gift, too. Naming the church as a primary or contingent beneficiary of an existing or new life insurance policy can result in a federal estate tax deduction for the full amount of the proceeds payable to the church regardless of policy size.

This is good general advice, but you need to be aware that every person’s situation is unique and that your particular circumstances and investment and retirement investments might change the recommendation for the best results. Seek the advice of a qualified tax or financial adviser before finalizing your paperwork.

For more information and detail, call us at (813) 264-8713. We may not be able to answer your question but we can refer you to a qualified Christian adviser who can.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Save $ in 2020

Saving money is a challenge. The money seems to (and does) build up slowly and the temptations to cheat and spend rather than save are like dieting temptations, easy to find and hard to resist. Here are a few practical ideas to keep your savings increasing and to help you hold the line on spending. When you save on one of the ideas here, save the money toward an emergency savings account, your retirement or a special trip and vacation.

Try these ideas and save:

1. Your car insurance rises every year even though your car is older and is worth less. You would think at least the collision coverage would decrease. It will, if you decide to shop around at least every three years. You may not want to decide based upon premium cost alone, because there is a lot to be said about receiving good service, but if money is tight, shop around. 

2. If you have emergency savings, go with high deductible collision coverage. You can save a lot that way. I will admit it may cost you if you have an at fault accident, but if you go several years without an accident, your savings will far exceed the amount of your deductible. If you don’t have an emergency savings fund, start one now.

3. Shop your homeowners coverage as well. Those premiums tend to rise more than the value of your home. Home insurers, like car insurers, count on your not wanting the hassle of changing carriers.

4. Drop your magazine subscriptions. Check and you may find the very same magazine is available at your nearest public library. Or, alternatively, spend a quiet evening at a local bookstore, reading your favorite magazines for free.

5. Hold a garage sale. Go through your closet and find clothes you have not worn in a year. The chances are you will never wear it if you haven’t worn it in a year. Pull the junk out of your closets you never use and out of the attic that you stuffed up there and see if there is someone else who wants your junk. You won’t make a lot, but you will make more than doing nothing will make for you. Alternatively, try eBay or sell online. A second alternative is for you to donate what you have to a Christian thrift store and take the deduction on your tax return if you are able.

6. Check your Internet, cable and phone plans. You can almost always improve your plan and save money if you check once a year. Ask yourself if you really need that landline. We dropped ours over a year ago and discovered we received fewer junk calls during dinner.

7. Get a free energy audit from your power company and see where your electric use can be trimmed. Consider adding attic insulation if your house is old, many types of older insulation settle and lose R-value, costing you money every month. Alternatively, you could do something really radical and turn off the lights when you leave a room.

8. Drop your gym membership and take up walking. It is easier on the knees and hips than jogging, can be done well into your 70’s, and is free!

9. Keep your tires properly inflated, put the right gas in your car and maintain it based upon the manufacturer’s recommendations.

10. If you use AAA for emergency roadside service, go to an AAA location and check out their available gift cards. You get a 3 to 5% credit in AAA dollars towards your next year AAA bill. If it is a card for a restaurant you are going to eat at anyway, a store you will shop at anyway (or even Amazon Smile), or a gift card you would give as a gift anyway, you will save an annual AAA fee in a fairly short time, certainly less than a year.

11. While I am on the topic of gift cards, buy them at a discount from a discounter like giftcardgranny.com. You can at times find meaningful discounts on hundreds of gift cards including Walmart, Target, and many large retailers.

12. Buy used, not new. A used car, if checked out carefully, is a great savings over a new car. New cars lose thousands of dollars almost the same moment you drive the car off the lot. If the car isn’t too old, you may still have some warranty left – always check. If buying a used car, always check the obvious things such as the tires. Many dealers will put new tires on a car if you spot a worn or repaired tire.

13. Used books are readily available at thrift stores, or, even better free books, magazines and videos are available at the public library.

14. Buy an Entertainment Book and eat out for 50% at many restaurants. Try Entertainment Books and see what restaurants and services are covered in your area. In the Tampa Bay area there are over 150 restaurants and services offering substantial discounts. You quickly save the cost of the book, try new places and then save a lot more.

15. Save without the hassle of coupons. There is a rather remarkable website worth checking – Savingstar. You can go to their free website, check the products you want to buy from a store and get cash back after you shop. You can link your store loyalty card or upload the receipt and save. The stores available can be seen from the site and include Publix, WalMart, Target, CVS, Walgreens and literally hundreds of other retailers.

Saving just requires that you try. The problem is that we tend to get so busy, that time is a commodity that is hard to find. But if you can find the time to try a few of these ideas here, you can save a lot. If you have additional ideas, call or email us and we will pass them on.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

A Great Start to 2020

New Year’s Resolutions to Kick-Off the Year

What are your New Year Resolutions for 2020?  Lose weight – check, exercise more – check, and get in better shape – long overdue! They are there for me almost every year. But then life happens! Sometimes I keep such a resolution for a few weeks or maybe even a few months with strong encouragement. After that, the busy days of spring begin to take over.

Instead, join me and make one of your resolutions for 2020 to review family financial and estate plans. Significant life changes (and even significant market changes) are something that should trigger in our minds the question, “Do I need to change my will or trust?” or “Should I change any of my beneficiary designations?” If you need an easy way to keep track of your bequests and beneficiary designations on bank accounts, IRAs and financial or investment accounts, make a list. It is best done on a computer file so you do not have to re-do the entire document each time there is a change, but then print it and keep it with your estate and financial documents just in case your computer files are somehow lost. For a few additional thoughts on this topic, see A Few Estate Planning Pitfalls (especially #3) and A Few More Estate Planning Pitfalls.

Also, think about adding a few fresh ideas in which your entire family can become involved! Here are some things we are trying that I can offer as suggestions to prayerfully consider.

  1. Serve: Serve together as a family, a small group or just as a group of friends.  Find a ministry that touches your heart and about which you can be passionate. Schedule yourself to serve regularly in this ministry with your family, a group of friends, or involve your small group. On a simpler note, you can visit a friend you haven’t seen in a while, perhaps someone out with an illness or injury. Always remember that stewardship is a L.I.F.E activity that is not limited to dollars and cents. It involves your Labor, your Influence, your Financial resources, and your Expertise, your entire L.I.F.E. Stop by the MVNT booth in the Gatheria at Idlewild. Learn how you can discover God’s gifting to you and put your gift(s) into joyful service. You can give an hour a week – yes, you really can.

2. Broaden your view: Look for new opportunities to broaden your stewardship. Never neglect giving your tithe to your home church. Check out Does the New Testament Teach Tithing? Know that God has also called us to give over and above the tithe. Read and reflect upon Deuteronomy 15, Matthew 23:23, and Luke 12:33-34.

3. Give wisely: When you find a ministry that touches your heart, consider giving as well as serving. You can give in different ways. Instead of just monetary giving, consider giving an appreciated asset, stock, or a piece of property. This type of giving may be better for both you and the charity than if you sold and donated the net proceeds. This strategy may reduce your tax burden and increases the amount the charity receives. Not sure how to do this? The Idlewild Foundation can show you how. Just give us a call at (813) 264-8713.

4. Learn about Giving Funds: Explore the possibilities of a Donor Advised Fund that will allow you a deduction now, but choose who you want to support and how much you will give at a future date. This kind of fund can be an efficient means of setting up recurring donations and makes record keeping for taxes easy. Learn more at Ways to Give, or just give us a call.

5. Share your experience with others: If you have a life example of how God has blessed you and how you have given back to Him, share your story. Tell your small group, your friends, and your family about how you’ve been blessed and how you’ve been able to bless others.

6. Accelerate your life: In 2020 as Idlewild continues to accelerate its debt payments and kingdom investments, join Pastor Ken in that goal. Be a part of Accelerate! Give over and above the tithe to accelerate payment of the last of the debt and allow Idlewild to enter a new phase of even more service to the kingdom.

Here’s another idea! Why not spend some time reviewing your spending for 2019? By looking at your bank and charge card statements you’ll get a pretty good picture of where your money was spent and what your priorities have been. Did you find ways to glorify God through any of your spending? Did your spending in 2019 give more glory to yourself than to God? Could you do better? Give God the credit He is due. He made your income and your abilities possible.

Deuteronomy 8:18
18     But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth …

Give God the credit He is due. He made your income and your abilities possible.

Take some time to sit down with your family and discuss ways to manage your money more effectively. Consider speaking with someone from the Stewardship Ministry of Idlewild Baptist Church or with us at The Idlewild Foundation. We can give you tips and ideas in managing your money. And don’t worry. You won’t be bludgeoned until you agree to give money to the Foundation! On the other hand, you will learn ways that you can further God’s kingdom by sharing His blessings with others – with open hands!

You can contact us at The Idlewild Foundation, (813) 264-8713 or email me at jcampbell@idlewild.org. Make 2020 a year to celebrate!


About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40 year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.