By Jeff Rogers
Special to Inside The Pew

Saving more money and getting out of debt always rank as some of the most common New Year’s resolutions. But resolutions are easy to break, especially if not backed by a strong sense of purpose. This New Year, consider what God is really wanting you to do with your finances. How did you do last year in this area? And what do you want to improve on this year, to better honor Him?

This fresh start of 2017 is a perfect time to evaluate your finances in light of God’s Word, and work towards managing them better, in the way He has called us to in scripture.

So, here are some tips to honor God with your money and achieve financial freedom in 2017. 2017 can be your best money year yet if you follow these simple, God-honoring principles.

Research what the Bible really says about debt.

One of the biggest chokeholds that Satan has on many Christians is excessive debt. Debt brings bondage, not freedom. If you have a strong understanding of how God really feels about debt, you will be more prone to avoiding it. Research scripture and spend time praying about how and why God wants you to avoid debt. As Proverbs 22:7 says “…the borrower is slave to the lender.”

Set long-term goals.

As a financial advisor for over 33 years, I’m sometimes amazed at how many individuals or couples have never setjeff-rogers-stewardship-legacy-coaching long-term financial goals. As the old saying goes “If you aim at nothing…you are sure to hit it!” God’s Word speaks wisdom in this area in Ephesians 5:15-17 (AMP) “Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.”

Build liquid reserves & savings to respond to emergencies and unexpected expenses.

Many otherwise good financial plans are ruined or suffer a setback because they don’t have the liquid reserves and flexibility to respond to emergencies or unexpected expenses. We recommend setting a goal of building 3-6 months worth of your household budget in liquid reserves/savings. It will take some time, but paying off debts can free up money that can build your liquid reserves as can using things like tax refunds, bonuses, overtime pay, etc.

Spend less than you earn

As the old saying goes, “If your outgo exceeds your Income, your upkeep will be your downfall!” Nobody (the government, corporations or you and I) can spend more than what we bring in for an extended period of time without running out of money. Develop a spending plan and budget, and stick to it. You may find it is easier than you think!

Rejoice in generosity

Have you ever noticed that some of the most unhappy, bitter people are those who are stingy and who hold tightly to every dollar? Have you also noticed that many of the most joyful people in this world are generous (toward God and towards others)? In fact, I’ve heard one Christian leader say “I have never seen an unhappy…generous person!” And you know what, neither have I! As the late Larry Burkett said, “Nothing breaks the chains of materialism like generosity.” I learned a lot from Larry’s teaching and that was one of the most valuable lessons and has transformed my life. Have you allowed generosity to transform your life, your marriage, your family? If you want to break the bondage of materialism and selfishness in your children or grandchildren, read the Kingdom Assignment and do a generosity project with them; or take them to your local Rescue Mission or a third world country where they can experience real poverty and hardship. They will likely come back changed…and so will you!

Spend some time this New Year praying through what God wants for you and your family financially. By following these tips, lots of prayer and a little bit of self-discipline, 2017 can be one of your best money years yet. For more tips visit http://stewardshiplegacy.com/blog/

Photo cutline: Jeff Rogers

Jeff Rogers is founder and chairman of Stewardship Advisory Group and Stewardship Legacy Coaching.

Editor’s note: This is the part final of a series on a collaboration that benefits one north Texas city.

By Lisa V. Cone
Special to Inside The Pew

Imagine being a busy business owner or a CEO running a multi-million dollar company. Would you find the time in your busy schedule to help a church? Help a community? Help restore lives and bring light to so many in darkness.

This group of business leaders in the McKinney, Texas, area did just that by restoring the Word Church. They areFundraisers at the Word Church members of an organization called the C12 Group — a movement of Christian business executives building great businesses for an even greater purpose.

C12 member, Russell Polk, who owns a construction and remodeling company assisted in many of the assessments and construction activities needed to make the critical improvements to The Word Church building. C12 member Jim Schwalls, who owns tax and real estate companies, introduced Pastor Dyson to a banker who arranged a loan and helped negotiate a purchase price for the house. Schwalls explained, “The Word Church was leasing the building with an option to purchase. We unanimously knew purchasing the building and the home on the adjacent lot was the right option,” Schwalls shared. “This was God at work. Everything fell into place.”

The church closed on the house and building in November of 2015. In January 2016, two families moved into the house. The church remodel and restoration project is currently underway.

The Gift of Giving
“I see this spirit of giving and volunteering now spreading to other sectors of the city to include city leaders,” sharedCommunity Volunteers to Fix Home and Church on property Pastor Dyson.

Many in the community have been led to be part of a blessing that has a tremendous ripple effect. Husbands, wives, families and local residents are all coming together to work on the church and volunteering to clean the building, paint, help maintain the grounds and donate furniture for fundraisers.

“The Holy Spirit is changing our hearts. The church needed thousands of dollars in electrical repairs and improvements, but the Lord provided. A local electrician donated his time and was even able to have the parts sold to the church at a wholesale price. A new roof was required. A roofing company donated shingles. We needed appliances, they were donated. People are opening their hearts and helping in any way they feel called to help,” explained Schwalls.

C12 Group Chairman, Tom Hawes shared, “C12 members are unique in that they are business owners who make it a priority to honor God in all things. Sharing their business skills and talents, C12 members formed an advisory group to The Word Church providing strategic direction, financial insights and business guidance. Truly, their businesses are serving a greater purpose.”

Rising Up to Meet the Community Needs

Pastor Dyson believes that C12 was a God-send and knows that they would not be able to meet the needs of the community and fix the church if it wasn’t for the expertise and business acumen of this group. “They helped us with the details of financing the new building, helped us put a transitional home together for single mothers –all within a budget. In every area of this church, we have been touched by these blessings and partnership,” Dyson said.

The Word Church also helps individuals on the streets or those facing difficult times. Pastor Dyson shared the story about an east McKinney resident who is fighting cancer. She is facing enormous health care bills and since she is sick, can no longer work and pay her rent. Many individuals have donated money, food and clothes on her behalf. A C12 member created a benevolence fund within his company and has offered to donate part of the fund to help this woman pay her bills. Others are working with the insurance companies to help her get the best heath care benefits.

A Source of Light and Inspiration
“As business owners the big question we ask is how can we use our business to do what God wants us to do in our community. How can we get involved and make a difference?” Cuccia explained.

The intangible gifts are what makes this project so unique. Beyond paint, furniture and a new roof, the generosity comes in the form of volunteers creating marketing plans, organizing fundraisers and coat drives, and drafting strategic plans for The Word Church.

“The people in east McKinney do not need a hand out, they need a hand up,” said Pastor Dyson. “They need work, coaching, training, guidance and someone who truly cares.” Providing a hand-up in life and connecting them with Christ is the vision of this church and Pastor Dyson looks forward to being part of this amazing journey.

Hawes shared, “This is such an uplifting story shows how men and women of different backgrounds, vocations and circumstances can unite to serve the community together. We are honored to work with The Word Church and to remember that we all have something to contribute. When members of the community pull together for a united cause, the power and inspiration becomes unstoppable.”

Photo cutlines (photos courtesy of Lisa V. Cone):

Top: Fundraisers at the Word Church

Bottom: Group of community volunteers to fix a home and church on property

Lisa V. Cone is a writer for The C12 Group, America’s leading roundtable for Christian CEOs and owners dedicated to building great business for a greater purpose. She resides in Austin, and provides marketing and communications strategic support for non-profits and growing businesses across the country in various industries. 

By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

DALLAS – Tens of thousands of Christians are expected to visit Israel to celebrate Holy Week and Easter in theGarden of Gethesemane next two weeks and visit the very places described in the New Testament.

“There is nothing like experiencing Holy Week in Jerusalem,” according to Don Weitz, marketing and sales consultant with E.D.I. Travel Israel Tours.

“Celebrating the greatest events of salvation history and of Jesus’ life at the very sites where they occurred is a moving and unforgettable experience of faith for all believers,” he told ASSIST News Service.

“On Easter and the preceding Holy Week, Jerusalem fills will pilgrims from all over the world,” Weitz said.

“On Palm Sunday (March 20), more than 1,000 Catholic and Protestant pilgrims come streaming down the Mount of Olives singing hymns and bearing palm fronds, reenacting Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A procession takes place in the afternoon, beginning at the Bethpage Church on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and descending into Gethsemane and ending in the Old City at the Church of St. Anne’s. Olive Trees in Garden of Gethsemane,” he said.

Weitz said that another highlight is Maundy Thursday (March 24), when the faithful commemorate the Last Supper and the washing of the apostle’s feet by Jesus and his last hours prior to his arrest in Gethsemane.

“In the afternoon, a short Catholic prayer service in several languages takes place at the Cenacle, while the Anglican, Lutheran and Protestant denominations hold a procession from St. George’s Cathedral to the Redeemer’s Church and Christ Church, ending at Gethsemane,” Weitz stated.

Weitz said that on Good Friday a procession of thousands bearing crosses and led by the Patriarch, the Custodian of the Holy Sites, and other independent groups marks the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City to the Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

“In the evening, a burial procession is held in the Holy Sepulcher (Catholics), in the Old City churches and at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem (Protestants), where services are also held in English.”

Weitz described how, on Easter Sunday (March 27), when the faithful celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, the Latin Patriarch heads a procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for a multi-lingual reading of the Gospel of Resurrection and celebration of the Easter Masses.

He said Protestants partake in the Easter services in English at the Garden Tomb and several Protestant churches in Jerusalem.

Please see a schedule of Garden Tomb Easter events at this link www.gardentomb.com/easter-2016

Photo: Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Special to Inside The Pew

Text Request, a newly launched text communications company based in Chattanooga, Tenn., is making it easier for the public toText Request Logo communicate with their favorite organizations.

Text Request enables individuals to text their favorite organizations the same way they text friends and family. The company is fulfilling its mission of “connecting organizations with their customers through personal texts” by allowing the public to use standard text messaging to share and receive information from schools, local businesses, places of worship, and more.

“Text Request started as a great tool for consumers to contact their favorite businesses,” said Brian Elrod, the company’s co-founder. “However, it’s also an ideal tool for nonprofit organizations to stay in touch with their patrons and to further relationships with them.”

A Pew Research study cites that 33 percent of Americans prefer texting over all other forms of communication. This data suggests the trend will increase as text messaging continues to take over a larger percentage of everyday communication.

Text Request can be implemented anywhere from schools to hearing-  and speech-impaired institutions, to colleges, churches and other nonprofits to effectively open personable lines of communication with students, parents and members.

Organizations using the service find that phone lines are more open and incoming inquiries are handled much more efficiently. For example, parents inquiring about school events simply text a designated number to request the information instead of making a time-consuming and inefficient phone call.

The company has already helped several organizations to communicate more easily and effectively with their base.

St. Nicholas School in Chattanooga is one of the organizations using Text Request.

“Our parents love the convenience. It’s much easier and faster for them to text rather than call,” said Tammy Niel with St. Nicholas School. “With a text, parents don’t have to wait for a call to go through, then someone to answer and take a message.”

Chattanooga’s Christ United Methodist Church is another nonprofit using Text Request to stay in better communication with its congregation.

“Communicating with our parishioners and the community is one of the most difficult tasks that we face,” said Mark Flynn, senior pastor of the church. “We have so much going on, and want to make it easy for people to connect with us – to make sure that the lines of communication are always open. The reaction has been so positive from our community. Not only younger users, but people who are workforce age; everyone is texting.”

Christ United Methodist parishioners use Text Request to ask questions about what is going on in the life of the church, to send in a prayer request or notify other church leadership about hospitalizations.

There are no apps to download. Consumers simply text a standard phone number unique to each organization. Organizations can even respond in real-time to messages received through the Text Request platform.

Text Request is not a mass texting or SMS marketing tool and users will never receive unsolicited messages from Text Request nor the businesses they choose to communicate with. Additionally, other than standard text messaging rates from their cell phone provider, Text Request is completely free to consumers.

The company rolled out a beta launch in the summer of 2014 to a diverse set of initial customers within a variety of consumer segments, including hospitality, education, ministry and food service.

These beta test users and others have encouraged their customers to contact them through the Text Request platform and have reported significant growth and satisfaction since implementation.

Those interested in learning more can visit textrequest.com to see how it works for free. Scalable pricing plans are available to meet every size business.

 

By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

Kristy McCarley is not one to question God, but she still finds it hard to believe that she – a woman with two engineering degrees and aThe Shazzy Fitness team of Vira, left, Kristy, Apollo, and Leslie sport red shoes in honor of the blood Christ shed for us. limited choreography background – has produced two well-received exercise DVD’s.

Two years ago, McCarley, founder and CEO of Shazzy Fitness, decided to create a family-friendly exercise DVD’s for the masses. In August, she reaped the benefits of sacrifice and obedience when the Dove Foundation recognized Shazzy Fitness by giving it a seal of approval.

“I wanted the music to be fun and for people to get excited about fitness,” McCarley said. “Shazzy is good for people who want to do something good for their body and for their spirit.”

The Dove Foundation described Shazzy Fitness’ Christian hip-hop dance workout videos as a “wonderful workout that not only exercises the body but the mind and soul alike.”

Furthermore, in August, the workout DVD was the top seller in the fitness category for Shazzy’s distributor, Total Fitness DVD’s.

“The fact that an independent faith-based video is leading all other secular dance fitness video sales is just incredible and so very humbling,” said the creator of the fat-burning (cardio) and dance DVD.

The invigorating choreography from Apollo, Leslie, and Vera mixed with the sounds of award-winning Christian hip-hop offerings from Da’ T.R.U.T.H., Breezy Brown, E.Dot, and Jai have won over parents and exercise enthusiasts.

“One thing moms said is that they can do it (Shazzy Fitness) with their kids,” said McCarley, who is a wife and mother of two girls. She decided to create a Shazzy Fitness to bring family-friendly exercise DVD’s to the masses.

McCarley said Shazzy is short for Daniel’s Babylonian name, Belteshazzar (Daniel 1:7).

According to the company’s website, “The Hebrew prophet, Daniel, is a model of the power of faith. Despite dire circumstances, Daniel never let fear override his commitment to God. If Daniel were alive today, his hip-hop nickname just might be … ‘Shazzy.”

McCarley, a longtime professional in IT management, was laid off from her job in late 2011. Instead of finding a job that replicates her Kristy McCarley, center, works with the guys from her production team, ECG Production, on video editing.background, she opted to take a not-too-distant memory from 10 years ago and make it a reality.

“During a ‘spin’ class, a Kirk Franklin song was played. I had never heard that type of music in an exercise class,” McCarley said. “I just enjoyed how it made me feel not just during the class but after the class. It made my soul feel good. It made difference to me; it made a lasting impression. We need more of this.”

She wanted to do a live class in the Atlanta area, but she figured it would limit visibility. At the suggestion of others, she decided to produce a DVD.

McCarley pumped up her pursuit. She did her research, found a production company – ECG Productions – and choreographers to make inspiration a reality.

Diversity in the video is important to McCarley. The video’s participants vary in age and race.

“Christian hip-hop transcends race, gender, and age” she said. “Everybody can do this; it is not just for one group of people. Plus, good music is a universal language.”

McCarley said her organization is also aggressively seeking churches, schools, dance studios, non-profits and community organizations that are interested in becoming Shazzy Fitness ambassadors – meaning they are interested in partnering with them to bring their faith-based dance classes to their communities, events, and dance studios.

A question that consistently pops into the mind of the self-professed reluctant entrepreneur is, “Lord, what are we doing?”

“This is purely a walk of faith,” McCarley said. “I remember you can do all things through Christ. There are days when I ask myself, ‘How are we gonna make it?’ The only answer is Jesus.”

Learn more about Shazzy Fitness at www.shazzyfitness.com. Also, follow Shazzy Fitness on Twitter and Facebook.