Happy Birthday to the Land of the Free

Happy Birthday, America, land of the free and home of the brave! July 4 is called the day of independence and is as close to a birthday as we have for our country. We use this great holiday to celebrate our freedom.

But there is a problem.

The word “freedom” includes the word “free,” but freedom isn’t free.

Looking at the price of freedom for our country requires a step back in time. In this age of continuous attacks upon religion and freedom, this is a journey in time well worth the effort. Many of the colonists had come to this new land to gain freedom from what they viewed as foreign government control in many areas of life, including their political, financial, and religious lives.

Political and financial freedom

Most people are familiar with the words spoken in the days before the American revolution, “no taxation without representation.” Those were the words of the protest against the lack of political input the colonists had in the decisions being made by the British, specifically the authority to tax. The colonists lacked any meaningful input into those political decisions being made in London, decisions which included what would be taxed and how much would be paid in taxes. However, their lack of real political input went far beyond just taxation. They had little meaningful input on any political decision involving even their own lands.

The colonists faced multiple assaults upon their personal and financial freedom. British troops could be quartered in their homes with no compensation.  Taxes and tariffs could be imposed or raised with no meaningful way for the colonists to have input or object.

Religious freedom

Freedom of religion was a reason many people had come to the new world. Europe was a continent of state religions. The religion of the king or queen was the religion of the people. Throughout Europe, there were restraints upon people worshiping freely and as they wanted. They wanted a nation where people could worship God freely and as they chose – and they wanted a nation founded upon Christian principles. One of the greatest statements about the Christian foundations of the United States was made by John Quincy Adams, our 6th President, when he wrote,

“That kingdom of the just, which had floated in the virtuous visions of John Adams, while he was toiling for his country’s independence, – that kingdom of our Father in Heaven, for which his son taught us to approach him in daily prayer, – has it yet come; and if not, have our advances towards it been as pure, as virtuous, as self-denying, as were those of our fathers in the days of their trial of adversity? … The highest, the transcendent glory of the American Revolution was this–it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the precepts of Christianity.”

 — John Quincy Adams, Letter To An Autograph Collector, April 27, 1837

How could anyone with any knowledge of history – any at all – possibly suggest that Christianity was not at the heart of our Declaration of Independence (with four distinct references to Christianity) and our Constitution?

The foundations of the United States of America

Our nation was founded by a rebellious and independent bunch of people who risked everything, their land, their families, their wealth, and even their lives to gain independence and freedom.

One freedom they fought for and gained was religious freedom, and their chosen religion was Christianity. People who deny the reality of the Christian roots of America are uninformed or prefer to ignore the facts. That can be seen in the earliest words of independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— The Declaration of Independence

“In times of impending calamity and distress; when the liberties of America are imminently endangered by secret machinations and open assaults…it becomes the indispensable duty of [Patriots], with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent devotion, publicly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God…that we may…through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies…that it may please the Lord of Hosts, the God of Armies, to animate our officers and soldiers with invincible fortitude, to guard and protect them in the day of battle….”

— Proclamation by the Continental Congress, 16 March 1776

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

— The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Or, for those who still doubt, perhaps it can be seen in early judicial decisions of the state supreme courts such as:

Whatever strikes at the root of Christianity tends manifestly to the dissolution of civil government.

—- People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns 545 (Sup Ct N.Y. 1811) and Rex v. Woolston, Str. 834. Fitzg. 64.

By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing. 

— Runkel v. Winemiller, 4 Harris & McHenry 276 (Sup Ct. Md 1799)

Or it can be seen in the statements of the founding fathers, the patriots and colonists who fought the war for independence. On the eve of the Revolutionary War, after a British major ordered John Adams, John Hancock, and those with them to disperse in “the name of George the Sovereign King of England,” John Adams gave this famous reply:

“The right to freedom being the gift of God, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.”

— Samuel Adams (1722 – 1803)

Alternatively, doubters of our Christian heritage might want to consider these words from George Washington, the man considered to be the father of our nation, who, is quoted in his biography written in 1835 (page 209) as saying:

“It is impossible to govern the universe without the aid of a Supreme Being.”

Almost all of the 55 founders of the Constitution were members of the established orthodox churches in the colonies. For the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, the cost of that declaration and the freedom it demanded was extraordinarily high. See The Sacrifices Made By The Declaration Signers…

Five signers were captured by the British and tortured. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in poverty. Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt. Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Our freedom as Americans was anything but free. Freedom never has been free and, except for our freedom in Christ Jesus, it never will be. But even as Christians we should know we were bought with a price. 1 Corinthians 16:20. That price wasn’t paid by us. Our freedom as Christians came at a very high price, the life and death on the cross of Jesus, the Son of God.

Freedom is our right and our choice

Political and physical freedom are our right and our choice, even if they aren’t free. However, there is a more important and lasting freedom, and that is our choice to be spiritually free through Jesus. There is no work or effort done or price that can be paid to become a Christian, a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ. It is a matter of the heart and a faith in Jesus as Savior. Jesus said so Himself:

John 6:28-29
28     Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29     Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Believing is a matter of choice. There is one life (and death) choice we each get to make. We can choose Jesus or we can chose death and hell. I have heard people make the argument against Christianity that a God of love would never send people to a place of eternal damnation and pain, hell. They are right! God doesn’t send anyone there; people chose to go there by rejecting God and His love.

Hell doesn’t exist because God does not love us. He does love us – with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3. Hell exists because some people do not choose God. Hell exists because some people choose to say to God, “I don’t want your love, I chose anything but your love, God.” God has observed bad choices like that by people ever since sin separated mankind from Him. Isaiah 59:2.

Matthew 23:37-39
37     “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
38     Look, your house is left to you desolate.
39     For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

Jesus was sent to give us the opportunity to chose God again. But it is a choice we have in freedom; we can choose Him or reject Him. It isn’t love if God forces us to love Him. If God did not honor our free will, He could force us or manipulate us to make us love Him. Some people think He does that anyway, “Turn or burn.” But “burn,” or hell, is a reality, it is not a threat. It’s like gravity. “Jump off the cliff and fall.”

Hell is hell and it exists simply because men choose eternity without God. God has made the truth known. He is life and love. When someone chooses anything other than God, the choice is death and not life. It is a choice to have a very bad future over having infinite freedom.

Jesus, who could force His way in any door, stands, knocks, and gives us the choice to open the door of our hearts to Him, or stay locked inside our shells.

Revelation 3:20
20     Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Do we give up freedom when we chose Jesus? Not anymore than we lose freedom by choosing America. In Christ, we gain immense freedom, just as in America, we have freedom unmatched anywhere in the world.

The Psalmist said it well,

Psalm 119:45
45     I will walk about in freedom,
 for I have sought out your precepts
.

Paul wrote of the freedom to come,

Romans 8:18-23
18     consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 
19     For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 
20     For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 
21     that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22     We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 
23     Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

We are free to do as we want and should, 1 Corinthians 10:23, and in the Spirit we are free, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18. See also Galatians 5:1 on our freedom from the restraints of the law.

These are freedoms we should celebrate this 4th of July – with joy. Those who disparage or try to re-write the history of America are constant reminders to us of the words of Daniel Webster:

“God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it.”

— Daniel Webster (1782 – 1852), U. S. lawyer, politician and orator

Celebrate your country, your freedom, and your faith this 4th of July! Stand proud on a heritage of faith and freedom that makes our United States the best place in the world in which to live.

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.