A Special Valentine’s Day for 2023

What makes a special Valentine’s Day for 2023? No, it isn’t chocolate! Well, at least it isn’t just chocolate. It also isn’t just roses, a romantic dinner, or any of the typical Valentine’s Day gifting (although those may help). Instead of the ordinary, or even a better-than-ordinary, aim for an extraordinary Valentine’s Day gift!

  • Breakfast in bed
    This works on Valentine’s Day when it falls on Saturday or when you are retired. It is tougher with screaming kids and a work day that starts at 8 am sharp.
    It is the thought and the kindness that count. After all, love is kind.

1 Corinthians 13:4
4      Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Colossians 3:13 
13     Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

  • Apologize
    This shouldn’t be a hard one, but at times it can be difficult. Whether you were right or wrong isn’t what is important in the long run, the marriage is what is important. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Ephesians 5:25-33. And go head, be honest – sometime during the past year, you did something (or perhaps many somethings) for which you should apologize.

Ephesians 5:25-27
25     Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 
26     to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 
27     and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

  • Honor your spouse

Romans 12:9-10
9      Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 
10     Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

One extension of honoring your spouse that is worthy of special attention, is listening.

  • Listen
    Put down the newspaper, the magazine, shut off the cell phone, and turn off the TV. This is a hard one for me. I love to be productive and use the dinnertime to get through the mail, especially the junk mail. I can try to justify this by saying that it frees up time during the rest of the afternoon or evening, but that is hardly valid. I can find the time later for the mail. Dinner is a special opportunity.

James 1:19
19     My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

I need to listen and resist the urge to immediately offer advice on how to fix things. I am a fixer and a do-er, so this is hard.

  • Plan a dinner
    Plan a dinner date and stick to it. Making a promise a promise and sticking to it is yet another part of honoring your spouse. Set aside the budget for a night (just one) and celebrate something. If you must resist the urge to break the budget, make it a special dinner at home. Candles are not expensive. Neither is your focused attention.

  • Appreciation
    Let your spouse know that he or she is truly appreciated. Pick out one thing that is one of your spouse’s strong points and specifically mention it in a thank you card. In fact, try two or three cards hidden where your spouse will certainly find them. Another way to demonstrate that appreciation is next!

  • Be generous: This is not just on Valentine’s Day (especially important for you guys reading this). Be giving to your spouse. The giving need not be just money or possessions.  You can be generous in all things – love, encouragement, gifts, expressions of gratitude and appreciation, compassion, understanding, helping out around the house, and a lot more! We are called to excel in the grace of giving, 2 Corinthians 8:7, and the giving began with Jesus. 2 Corinthians 8:9. Using Him as a model, giving to your spouse should be an easy Valentine’s decision.

Now, if you are the typical husband and you do more than one of these, you may face the question, “Alright, what did you do!” What a blessing to be able to respond and answer, “Only things I should have been doing for years!”

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 2024

Saving money is a challenge, especially in the high inflation of the current administration. The money seems to (and does) build up slowly and the temptations (or need) 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 very likely worth less. You would think at least the collision coverage would decrease since your car is a year older and worth less. No! But 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 or if the other guys has no coverage and no money, 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. For some reason, the premiums never seem to decrease. Home insurers, like car insurers, count on you not wanting the hassle of changing carriers. But beware of the risk of having to be subjected to a Four Point inspection and possibly have to replace your roof. Many insurers will not start insuring your home without a careful inspection or with a roof older that 12-14 years.

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, streaming 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. If it isn’t free, 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! Enjoy life in Florida where the outside is a great place to be!

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 2024

New Year’s Resolutions to Kick-Off the Year

What are your New Year Resolutions for 2024?  Lose weight – check, exercise more – check, and get in better shape – long overdue! Those three resolutions 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 the Campbells and make one of your resolutions for 2024 to review your family financial and estate plans. Significant life changes (and even significant inflationary, market or legal changes such as increasing income tax rates) 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 significant 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 Join the Movement 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?, More on the Tithe – Tithes and Offerings 1, and More on the Tithe – Tithes and Offerings 2. 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 generously and 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 if done correctly (and wisely) and increases the amount the charity receives – and what that charity can do. Not sure how to do this? The Idlewild Foundation can show you how. Just give us a call at (813) 264-8713. And never forget God in your giving.

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. Now, with the new administration in Washington and with there being a great likelihood of either direct or indirect tax increases, more than ever you need to examine tax-wise giving. We can help!

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. Increase your giving: Despite rugged inflation, you may have some additional money that can be given to the kingdom. Rather than increase your standard of living, instead increase your standard of giving (a quote from Randy Alcorn). Increase your giving to Idlewild’s kingdom investments, join Pastor Edgar in that goal, or increase your giving to other Christian ministries. Please consider The Idlewild Foundation and its Fund 1:27 where 100% of any donation goes to ministry. Nothing – not one cent – goes to salaries, overhead or administrative costs. Give over and above the tithe and enjoy the joy of generosity. For a bit of help encouraging that, read More on the Tithe – Tithes and Offerings 1, More on the Tithe – Tithes and Offerings 2, and Science Proves That It Is More Blessed to Give Than Receive.

Here’s another idea! Why not spend some time reviewing your spending for last year? 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 2023 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 (and every breath you took in 2023) possible.


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


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. There are financial counselors who work with Idlewild’s Stewardship ministry who will meet with you for free to discuss your finances and budget and help. 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 Idlewild or 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 2024 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.

New Year Resolutions for 2024 and a New You!

2024 should be a year of hope and challenge, and we pray it is a year with a lot more hope than frightening challenges, especially after this past year. We are truly out of the pandemic, even though the fear-mongers keep trying. We are looking forward to a year with more political hope than the past three years. We are also hoping that inflation will settle down and crime will lessen. So, let’s look at a few things that we can perhaps do that will help make 2024 a better year.

• Now I will finally lose weight and keep it off!
• I am going to eat better for the new year!
• This year I will get my tax papers ready early, or at least before April 15! (I actually did it in 2023)
• I will reduce the time I waste watching TV!
• I will start reading through the Bible and make it past Leviticus this year!

Unfortunately, what the resolution is may not really matter because most resolutions don’t make it past the second week of the new year. What can help you hold on? A change in the surrounding environment of support, or more commonly, a lot of support. To make it past two weeks, we need good and Godly support and encouragement. So instead of the usual New Year resolutions by themselves, start your resolutions with a few of the following ideas.

Good and Godly support

• Start with regular attendance worshipping the God who made you and loves you. He is worthy! See 1 Chronicles 16:25 and Revelation 4:10-11.
• Join a church where the people know you and care for you.
• Join and participate in a small group where the relationships and sharing are closer than they can be in a large worship setting. A small group Bible study is the church within the church, a smaller group of people you can get a lot closer to and who can get closer to you. Bible study has real-world and real-life value. Psalm 119:105 (“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”)
• Be open with at least one accountability partner, preferably someone from your church small group. This is someone you can share openly with about your serious resolutions for 2024.
• Track your success and failures in writing, whatever they may be, in writing. For example, if your resolution is to lose weight, track your weight loss (or gain) and your occasional setbacks. If your resolution is to read through the Bible, that means an average of three chapters per day for a full year. Schedule your goals along the way and enlist your accountability partner as an encourager, making sure your partner asks meaningful questions so you can show your growth in knowledge, and prayerfully, in wisdom.
• Never allow yourself to fall so far behind that success becomes a hopeless struggle. Losing 12 pounds a year is easily manageable. But don’t wait to start until December 29!

How will this work out? Let’s take a few of the more common resolutions and take a sample walk through 2024. Of course, we start with the all-time number one resolution, losing weight.

Lose Weight

Losing weight is almost always the number 1 resolution for Americans. If you combine it with the closely related eat better and get into better shape, you are nearing half of the top resolutions for almost every year. That is such a common resolution because it is relatively vague and easily forgotten even though the resolution is an admirable goal.

Don’t just set a one-year goal of a specific weight. Instead, set monthly targets to help you track weight loss progress throughout the year. And don’t set a goal without a plan to get there. Eat less and exercise more is a weak plan because it is too vague and non-specific. Get specific. “I will walk 30 minutes every day.” “I will go to the gym 3 times a week and do 30 minutes of weights and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise of walking, running, swimming of cycling.

Yes, you will have bad days, perhaps even a bad week. But get back to dieting, exercising and don’t look back. Instead, look forward to the next goal.

Specific goals with a specific plan allow you to create measurable benchmarks along the way and those allow your accountability partner to accurately track your progress.

Reduce my TV and social media time wasted

To know you are reducing your TV and social media time, you must know how much time you are spending. So start tracking your lost time in the last few months of the year. Yes, I know it is football season. Yes, I know keeping up with your 847 friends on Facebook is important. Record on a sheet of paper or Excel spreadsheet the time spent on each TV program, on each social media app and overall. Now, and only now, can you know you are really reducing the time wasted.

But the goal is not just to waste less time. Use that additional time in your day to do something good. Not sure what? Try:

•  Help around the house, work in the yard,
•  make a call to someone in your small group,
•  write a card to someone you miss,
•  start a study of a book of the Bible or an interesting topic,
•  visit someone shut-in at an assisted living facility or in a hospital room.

Don’t stop there. Make this challenge even greater. If there was something you were going to watch but your resolution prompted you not to sit and watch, record your successes – as well as what you actually did instead. Once you see how much you can accomplish if you are not parked in front of the TV, computer, pad or phone, you will be encouraged to watch even less.

The possibilities are literally endless. If you want a few specific ideas for ways to make 2024 better than ever, try these:

• Forgive someone. Bury an old hatchet by recognizing that it is time to move on. You don’t need to say anything to them – they likely don’t remember the offense. But forgive and move on.
• Share. Speak to someone about something special God has done for you.
• Quality time. Spend quality time with loved ones. Don’t just say you will do it. Life happens and things come up. Calendar specific regular time and make it a commitment, not just a hope.
• Greet people well. Next time someone says, “Good morning” to you, try responding with “Yes, God really gave us a wonderful morning today.”
• Pray more. God wants to hear directly from you. Don’t speak to or at God, speak with Him.
• Clean up. It will make you feel at least a little better if you clean up somewhere, at least a little and then keep it clean a few days. That pile of old magazines you haven’t read or that junk mail you don’t want to read – toss them!
• Become debt-free. Make 2024 the year you join Idlewild in being debt free! Take Financial Peace University, start budgeting and work to eliminate debt once and for all. It is free through Idlewild, so call the Stewardship Ministry offices and get started.
Add some volunteering and service. 2024 will be a better year if you give more of yourself to the year, to people you know and to God.
Write thank you notes. Remember those notes you may have had to write as a child. Try writing a few again for the Christmas gifts you received. They are an excellent way to show that you really appreciate someone’s generosity.
•  Get saved or get serious. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, it is time – past time – to meet Him. If you do know Him, it is time to respond to His love and longing for you with more of yourself. Get serious with Him.
•  Reach back in time and write a thank you note to someone special. Think of someone who gave time and attention to you in the past. Send a thank you letter (no, not an email), and let that person know what a difference they made.
•  Consider a mission trip. Whether it is international, national or local, there are mission trips where you can immerse yourself in service with other servant-hearted people. Check our www.idlewild.org/missions for opportunities. If none of those fit your schedule or finances, keep looking. One More Child and other organizations have missions opportunities as well.
•  Family time. If your children live at home with you, have a “no phone allowed” dinner out at least once a month. If the kids separate but near, plan a family weekend. If the kids live far away, plan a trip to see them.
•  Start reading. Start with the Bible. Three chapters a day gets you through the entire Bible in a year. Consider other good alternatives as well. The library at Idlewild, the Helen Enns Memorial Library, has excellent ready opportunities.

Try for margin in your finances and your time. It is nice to have money left at the end of the month rather than days left in the month at the end of your money. It is very calming to arrive somewhere ten minutes early. It also will surprise those folks who know you are always late!

You can also get creative with your ideas. Here are a few:

•  Try a new meal. Do it at least once a month, maybe even once a week.
•  Try a new restaurant. Depending on your finances, do it once every two weeks or once a month.
•  Buy some new fruit or vegetables. Look for fruits or veggies that you have never tried before. For example, Kohlrabi is a vegetable that is related to the cabbage family.

It’s common in Europe and Asia and is growing in popularity around the world. It’s a good source of nutrients, such as vitamin C and fiber. And you can enjoy kohlrabi raw or roasted and add it to salads, slaws, and stir-fries.
•   Pay someone a compliment every day. You will be amazed at the impact a “little” compliment will have. People respond positively to a positive attitude and a compliment.
•  Take a hike. Wherever you live, there is a place to walk. The Tampa Bat area has walking and hiking areas galore.
•  Get to know your neighbors. Most Americans know few of their neighbors. Don’t be like most Americans. Don’t conform to the patterns of their life. Romans 12:2. Engage with people and do the most unusual thing of all – listen to them.
•  Keep a gratitude journal. Most people take many daily blessings for granted. But writing down three things every day for which you are grateful. You will begin to see things in a new and more positive light.
•  Save a little bit every week. Set aside a few dollars every week. Two dollars a week adds up to $104 in a year. That can be spent or added to the emergency savings fund you already have (you have it because you took Financial Peace University, one of our earlier ideas).
•  Thin your herd. Go through your closet(s) and find things you haven’t worn or used in two years. Donate the good clothes and shoes to a foster closet in your area or to The Salvation Army or Goodwill.

And try this for 2024. Resolve to be more generous with God. He was certainly generous with you, John 3:16, and He certainly gave His life for you. Your L.I.F.E., your Labor, Influence, Financial resources and Expertise are all gifts from God to you. Everything you have is already His, 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, so use even more this new year as a means of giving Him glory.

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.

Start Saving Yesterday

We live in a spender’s world. There are a few folks promoting the idea of saving in articles, but I rarely, if ever, see that idea of saving money in any advertisement on major network, online, or in a magazine. It just isn’t advertised or promoted. And that’s a shame, because in America we need a shift from our spending culture to one that at least accepts the idea of saving as something good.

That would be quite a change if it happened. As of February, 2019, the average credit card debt per household was at $5,700. If you remove those households which pay off all charges every month and never carry a balance, the average debt rises to $9,333.

Credit card debt has grown astronomically. In 1983, credit card debt was “only” $120,000,000. Now revolving debt, largely credit card debt, is over $1 trillion, nearing ten times as much debt as 40 years earlier. About 41.2% of American households carry a balance forward on their credit cards. Sadly, but predictably, the highest debt households are those with a zero or a negative net worth. Revolving debt is the most damaging and harmful debt because interest rates are the highest and committed spenders get hooked on spending.

At the same time, personal savings are low. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, personal savings rates were between 5 and 7%. However, those high rates decreased to a 1 to 3% range after the year 2000. There was a brief peak of saving during the recession from 2008 to 2010, but as the economy started recovering, spending began to soar again. As of March 2018, the savings rate in the United States is 3.1% according to Investopedia.

We need a change in the American spending culture that has developed. Why? There are many reasons ranging from financial freedom, wise planning for retirement, wise preparation for emergencies and hard times, peace of mind, along with just being better stewards of the wealth and resources God has entrusted to us.

Many people will recommend saving 10% of your disposable income. That is simply too low. See Save More, 10% Isn’t Enough.

The inevitable challenging question is, “How can I save even 10% much less more than that?” The equally inevitable answer is “by spending less, a lot of discipline, and a little sacrifice.” Here are a few more ideas with more detail than just those few words.
Develop habits

The only way you will ever reliably save over the long run is if you are fully committed and engaged in saving; get out of the habit of spending and get into the habit of saving.

Before you make a purchase, always ask yourself five questions:

  • Does this fit within my monthly budget?
  • Do I really need this?
  • Do I have room for it?
  • Will I really use this?
  • Are there long-term upkeep, maintenance, parts or repair expenses or costs associated with this and can I afford those expenses?

Before you make the purchase, walk away. Wait a minimum of 10 minutes and then address the five questions. If all (yes, I said all) of the answers to the five questions are favorable, (four “yes” and one “no” is a “no”), only then should you consider making the purchase.

Write the questions down and put them in your wallet, taped to your credit card, or save them in your phone and always open them before making a purchase. But what about buying a soft drink? Yes, even that. There is even a long-term cost associated with soft drinks and food – exercise (and those things aren’t free). Those many little expenses add up quickly into budget breakers.

Another tip for you is this, set a weekly or monthly savings goal.

A final tip for creating this saving habit, leave your credit card at home and pay cash. This is far more important than you may think. Forbes Magazines says that multiple studies have shown that people spend more, a lot more, when they have the “convenience” of a credit or debit card or a pay app on their phone. Psychology Today agrees. That convenience has a cost, convenience results in spending a lot more, twice as much or an even greater amount that that based upon studies.

Saving

Saving needs to be as automatic and invisible as you can make it. In the past people had government savings bonds purchased directly out of their income before they got their check. But government savings bonds are no longer a typical investment (nor should they be). However, the idea of having the money seamlessly go to an investment or savings account and never make it to your bank checking account is a great idea.

Some articles suggest that all savings and investments should be done by hand because automatic transfers do not develop a habit. That is a reasonable concept, but I believe the greater concern is the temptation of having money visibly in your account.

When a paycheck is cashed, it is just too easy to keep $10 or $20 or even more as “spending money.” The funny thing about “spending money” is that it never gets saved and is always spent.

If a sum goes directly from your employer to a savings account (perhaps your emergency fund) or into your 401(k) or some other saving fund, it is much harder to spend. If you are doing well and get a raise, put the entire raise into savings too.

Budget and cash flow tracking

You can best follow what you spend if you keep a cash flow record that tracks every expense. See Where Does Your Money Go? to see how to get started with a cash flow analysis and budget.

This will be work and it will take time. Just know that the result will be worth it and after a few months you can relax and be less stringent because you will have developed better spending and saving habits and practices. You will also be able to see the savings add up!

Investing

After you have an emergency savings account, your savings need to go in a different direction. No one ever became wealthy on the savings rates paid by banks (except the banks themselves). To make progress against the inevitable power of the rate of inflation which is compounded annually to your detriment, you need to invest, and the best opportunity to stay ahead of inflation is the stock market. Isn’t that risky? Of course, there is risk. But read Aren’t Stocks a Risky Investment? so you can see that there is a certainty of loss if you do not invest at all.

Cutting expenses

Cutting expenses and costs needs to become equally automatic. The idea is not to be Draconian about it and not to put yourself in total self-denial. Your goal is not to deprive yourself of enjoyment of life, but keep this one fact in mind: overspending today does deprive you of enjoyment of life and spending ability in the future. Every dollar not saved today is two dollars you won’t have in the future, when you may need it much more.

For ideas on cutting expenses, see Ideas for Living Better Through Stewardship, 7 Steps for Financial Progress, It’s Time to Start Saving, Planning Your Financial Future and …, and Save More, 10% Isn’t Enough. There is no area of your spending that can’t be reduced; be creative and persistent.

Refinance

If you have debt that can be consolidated with a lower net cost to you, seriously consider consolidation. First see Debt Consolidation, Maybe and Maybe Not. Your goal is to be debt free, out of the bondage of being a borrower.

Now what?

Once you are out of debt and any loan payments stop, put the former loan payment money into your investments. Don’t just increase your spending, instead, increase your investment in your future.

Year, every household should do a financial check-up. Life happens and we begin to slip into spending patterns and habits that waste small amounts of money very easily.

How can I keep this up?

There are two points to make to answer the question, “how can I keep this up?” The first is that like any discipline, it gets easier as you develop good spending and saving habits. If you are consistent and regular with your budget and saving, you will find the pressure of the spending mindset decreases. You become more adept at spotting the subtle pressures encouraging frivolous spending and you also begin to see results as your savings and investments increase.

The second point is even more important. Your disciplined financial management is more God-honoring than the spending mind-set. For a good lesson on this point, read God and Money by Greg Baumer and John Cortines. Greg was a spender and John was a saver. Together they learned stewardship and Godly handling of money. Which rises the final issue.

Now what?

What are you saving for? If you save for 20 or 30 years and accumulate a large portfolio, so what? Being out of debt is important, but only for a short time when eternity is considered. Our lives were never meant to be just about ourselves, our comfort, and our satisfaction. We were created with a purpose, Ephesians 2:10, and that purpose is not to serve ourselves. Don’t ever forget God who made your ability to earn money and build savings possible, Deuteronomy 8:18. Don’t leave Him out of your financial plans or your life. We are called to be servants of our Creator and to be generous with the money and gifts He has given us. 2 Corinthians 9:11-13.

If you would like to earn more about your purpose and how your financial blessings (and even your financial struggles) can fit into God’s plan, give us a call at The Idlewild Foundation at (813) 264-8713.

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.

With a Little Help from Our Friends

The Idlewild Foster Care Annual Picnic, a part of February Month of Love activities for foster families was a huge success and a joy for all.

First and foremost, God blessed us with a beautiful day, clear and cool but not either cold of hot, a perfect Florida winter day!

Second, with the help of our friends at Redeeming Love Foster Closet and Once Upon a Child, we went from 80 in attendance in 2022 to 163 on Saturday!

Third, with the fantastic food from South Florida Catering, there was food for all and extras to take home for many.

We had balloons from the Lamberts.

We had face painting from Fabulous Fuentes that was even good enough for Ercel to get painted.

We had Uncle Charlie and many, many Carlitos, and Isaac even presented to gospel and a young man accepted Christ.

And we had other friends from ministry including Belinda Leto from Celebrate Birthdays, Esther Dupree from Redeeming Love Foster Closet, and a host of volunteers who generously gave of their time and energy to make for a blessed day.

Thank you all for your part in a great day!

 

God’s Heart for the Poor

God’s heart for those people who are unable to help themselves is overwhelmingly apparent during a reading of the Scriptures. I thought I would go through and find the many times He has made His heart visible to us, either by expressions of his compassion for the poor or His direction for us to act as His hands and feet to serve the poor. It turned out to be a greater task than I had expected. I kept seeing more and more verses and passages where God’s heart for those who are struggling was evident. I don’t claim to have nearly all of them simply because there are many passages that can be interpreted as directions to serve and help those less fortunate, far more than I can list here.

Some of the early verses in the Torah were directed at God’s chosen people, the Israelites. And in the New Testament there is a special affection shown by God for followers of Jesus. But God made it clear that His heart cries out for all His children, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Exodus 22:25
25  “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.

Exodus 23:11
11  but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

Leviticus 19:10
10  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 23:22
22  “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.’”

Leviticus 25:35-37
35  “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.
36  Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.
37  You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit.

Leviticus 25:39
39  “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8
7  If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.
8  Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.

Deuteronomy 15:10
10  Give generously to them [poor Israelites] 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.

Deuteronomy 15:11
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 23:19
19  Do not charge a fellow Israelite interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest.

Deuteronomy 24:12
12  If the neighbor is poor, do not go to sleep with their pledge in your possession.

Deuteronomy 24:14
14  Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.

Psalm 9:9
9  The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.

Psalm 9:17-18
17  The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
all the nations that forget God.
18  But God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

Psalm 10:14
14  But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

Psalm 12:5
5  “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “I will protect them from those who malign them.”

Psalm 12:7
7  You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked,

Psalm 35:10
10  My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

Psalm 41:1-3
1  Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.
2  The LORD protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
3  The LORD sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.

Psalm 54:4
4  Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Psalm 63:7
7  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 69:33
33  The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.

Psalm 70:4
4  But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The LORD is great!”

Psalm 109:30-31
30  With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
31  For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them.

Psalm 112:5
5  Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.

Psalm 140:12
12  I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.

Psalm 146:5-9
5  Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God.
6  He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7  He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
8  the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
9  The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,

Proverbs 14:21
21  It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor,
but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.

Proverbs 14:31
31  Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Proverbs 19:17
17  Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward them for what they have done.

Proverbs 19:22
22  What a person desires is unfailing love;
better to be poor than a liar.

Proverbs 21:13
13  Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
will also cry out and not be answered.

Proverbs 21:26
26  All day long he craves for more,
but the righteous give without sparing.

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

Proverbs 22:22
22  Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court,

Proverbs 28:27
27  Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

Proverbs 31:8-9
8  Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9  Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Isaiah 1:17
17  Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 10:1-3
1  Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
2  to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
3  What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?

Isaiah 41:17
17  “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

Isaiah 58 is a wonderful chapter with dialogue that clearly shows God wants more than just ceremony and worship in a service; He wants worship through how we treat others. Formality, ritualism, and religiousity are not what God is seeking from His followers. God clearly wants us to care for all of His children.

Isaiah 58:3-11
3  ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
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.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10  and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11  The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Zechariah 7:8-10
8  And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah:
9  “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.
10  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

By the time of the New Testament and Jesus, the early appearance that God’s heart was only for His Chosen People had vanished. Understand that God’s heart did not change, but His prophet’s message and their writing did. It is undeniable that God’s compassion is to all people, the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. His Chosen People will always have a special place in His heart, but God’s love is for all people.

Matthew 5:42
42  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Matthew 10:8
8  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Matthew 10:42
42  And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Luke 3:10-11
10  “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11  John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Luke 6:30
30  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Luke 12:33
33  Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Acts 20:35
35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Romans 12:13
13  Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Galatians 2:10
10  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

1 Timothy 5:8
8  Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:16
16  If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

1 Timothy 6:17-19
17  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
18  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
19  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Hebrews 6:10
10  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Hebrews 13:2
2  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13:3
3  Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Hebrews 13:16
16  Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

James 1:27
27  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

1 John 3:16-18
16  This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
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.

After a review of those verses, I doubt it is possible for anyone seeking the heart of God to not feel His compassion for those in need and to at least begin to feel the same compassion.

The real question is not what God’s heart is, but rather what you will do about it now. The one option you do not have is to do nothing.

Proverbs 21:13
13  Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
will also cry out and not be answered.

For a few ideas of how to get started, give us a call at The Idlewild Foundation at (813) 264-8713. It is our mission to motivate, educate and facilitate a spirit of Godly stewardship and radical generosity for the Kingdom of God and we would love to encourage you to walk closely with God.

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.