Google has done it again – something very practical, widely-used, and free. This time it is a feature called “Street View” on Google Maps. Google has mapped out every street and block of certain cities in America with a rotating camera on top of a car. That means you can type in any address in these cities and get a real picture of the house or restaurant or whatever. Then you can scroll up and down the street (and around the next corner, and so on) and see the rest of the block. I just spoke on the phone with a guy that I’m going to meet up with at his house. I’ve never been to his house before. He gave me his address and told me he was the second house from the end on the left. With that information, I looked it up on Street View and was able to say to him, “So you’re the two-story, white top with a six-paneled window on the first floor, right?” He confirmed my information as true.
You have to see this feature for yourself. If you don’t live in a mapped out city (indicated by blue outlines on the streets when you click on “street view” or by a camera image on the city) then type in the address of someone you know in a mapped out city and go sit on their virtual doorstep. This is amazing.
This morning, I experienced a “Wow” moment after reading a story in the Bible. Here I am, 27 years old, just graduated from seminary, the son of a pastor, currently serving in ministry – and I read a Bible story about which I was totally unfamiliar. I’m in Children’s Ministry, so I am used to teaching kids the stories of David v. Goliath, Abraham and Isaac, Jesus and his parables, etc. But I think kids could get into a story about a guy riding a donkey who gets mauled by a lion and then the lion just stands there over the dead body without doing anything to the donkey. The fate of this unnamed man was brought upon the Lord because he was a prophet who disobeyed the Word of the Lord. This story is found in 1 Kings 13. We have two prophets – one is called an “old prophet” and the other is called a “man of God.” The “man of God” from the Southern Kingdom hears the Word of the Lord to go across the border of the Divided Kingdom and tell Jeroboam, the king of the Northern Kingdom, some bad news about God’s judgement against his wickedness. Meanwhile, this “man of God” was told by the Lord not to eat anything while he was in enemy territory.
Of course, the inevitable happens: the “man of God” is stopped by an “old prophet” from the Northern Kingdom who invites him over for some food. The “old prophet” tells the “man of God” that God said that he should come over and eat (which was a lie). The “man of God” obeys the lie and eats with the “old prophet.” The punishment for disobeying the Lord was death by lion attack. And the man’s donkey just stood by the lion after the killing.
“Wow.” How cool is it to find new and exciting stories (at least to me) in the Bible. There is a reason for every word in this Holy Book. And this is one stop along the way of the narrative of the Kings of Israel (including the time of the Divided Kingdom after Solomon and before the Babylonian captivity). One moral of the story is: listen to the voice of God and stick to it even if someone tries to tell you otherwise (even if they say, “God says so”). Perhaps this will be woven into a lesson for kids. They like animals. And the boys really like it when lions are involved.
I just finished Financial Peace, Revisited by Dave Ramsey with thoughts by Sharon Ramsey (Viking, 2003). I blasted through this book, both because of its readability and since the subject matter is very practical. I have been listening to this guy’s podcasts recently and his conservative Puritan view towards money (hard work ethic, no borrowing, giving/tithing, saving) resonates with what I feel is the right way to view finances. He has quite the following on his radio show and in his live events. He has also taken the American church by storm, offering his “Financial Peace University” curriculum at a church or school near you.
In his book, Dave shares how he lost BIG in real estate in his twenties – nearing bankruptcy, only to gain it all back again using the money principles about which he now teaches. Has what he calls the “Baby Steps” to financial freedom – starting with things like saving up an emergency fund and getting out of consumer debt. Then he encourages people to save for retirement and college – and then pay off the house. He teaches that ideally, nobody should take out a mortgage but should buy a house with cash. But if people area already in a mortgage, then they should “get mad” until it is completely paid off. We work harder at something, he says, if we get mad and let our emotional desire for peace and security kick in. Once the house is paid off, then they can live prosperously and philanthropically. None of this comes overnight. Financial peace is the result of hard work at our jobs and disciplined saving over the long-haul. It also means that we as consumers must curb our selfish desires to “have it all” and “have it now.” We must live well beneath our means and use the excess income to save and give.
I love this kind of teaching because it is the opposite of the “get rich quick” myths out there. We have all seen those infomercials and seen the ads: “Earn ten times the income for one-fourth of the work!” Maybe some people have achieved that. But most people cannot – because that is not reality. Work hard, give, save, spend. And make sure every penny – and no more – is allocated to one of those three categories (giving, saving, spending).
I recommend this book. We all need to deal with money in this world. This book helps up to better deal with it so that we are no longer enslaved by the money, but rather we have control over it.
This is a shameless plug for the best new conference of 2008 – the first annual Christian Juggling Conference. The Christian Juggler’s Association has been around since the mid-90’s and I believe that a conference has long been a desire of the leadership. Now, we get to see that desire come to fruition with this great opportunity for learning and networking coming this July. The dates are July 11th-13th and the conference will be held at Vineyard Community Church in Lexington, Kentucky. The exciting thing is that the International Juggler’s Festival is being held in Lexington, Kentucky the following week. So jugglers can attend both events if they like, since they are back-to-back. David Cain, the Juggler 4 Jesus, is the keynote presenter. There will also be open gym time, workshops, and an opportunity for real-live ministry in local churches on Sunday morning. This is so exciting! For all the details, click here. I’ll see you there.
My wife and I have heard about budgeting money using cash in envelopes that separate different categories of spending, but I guess we never though it was “for us.” The more I thought about it, I figured that if it saves money in the end, why not do it? So I went to the bank and got out some cash for three main categories of spending (plus one for “other”) that are categories that are not “fixed” each month. These three are groceries, dining out, and gas. These three categories usually end up fluctuating each month because my wife and I have no budgeted goal for keeping those expenses down. With these envelopes, we know we can only spend “x” amount of dollars at the grocery store this month. Whatever is leftover we can put into savings and then start all over again next month.
If you think about this, it will save money and give more freedom. We will save money because we won’t just impulse buy – we actually have to think about our purchases before we put them in the grocery basket. It also produces more freedom (ironically) because we know we can go out to eat and spend money from our “dining” envelope at some nice restaurant at the end of the month because we held back from dining fancy at the beginning of the month. We often go out to eat and feel somewhat guilty that we are spending money frivolously. But now that we have a budget, we can feel the freedom of spending what we budgeted.
The reason why many people have financial wealth in this world is because of a simple principle called “delayed gratification.” They shop at JC Penny and maybe even Thrift Stores. The other reason they are wealthy is because they spend less than they earn. And that is a principle that can apply to anyone of any income level.
I just posted a couple of new videos on YouTube. They are the first two videos listed on the left bar of this blog page. I just met with a great buddy of mine this morning for some fellowship and accountability. Wow, I have missed brother-to-brother fellowship! I had some great brothers-in-Christ while in college, and even a few friends in seminary. Now that my wife and I have moved to Virginia, it has been tough to find some close friends. I feel like this friend I met with (whom I knew from years ago) has been an answer to prayer. Let us not give up meeting together! “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another” – A Biblical Proverb
I found a very entertaining book at my friend’s house last night. It is a compilation of real-life grocery lists discovered at grocery stores across America. I guess this author found the lists himself and collected lists sent in by fans. Here is the website (www.grocerylists.org). This is a fascinating subject – the left behind information that says so much about who we are as humans – doing something mundane as keeping lists for buying food.
Since I still have this web address, I’m going to keep this blog and write about slightly different topics than what I discuss on the “Great Idea Blog for Children’s Ministers“
So I’ll blog about things like what I’m studying currently in the Bible or just about anything else (humor, random thoughts, etc.).
Here’s my first comment about Bible Study – I’m looking at Ezra in the Bible right now. He is one of my Biblical heroes. I love the description of Ezra – he was one who both studied the Word intensely (in order to teach it) as well as one on whom was God’s hand. Think about that. How often does it seem that people think these two are mutually exclusive? Some people think that seminary somehow squeezes the heart-felt sincerity of faith out of young, aspiring pastors. On the other hand, some people think that seeking the living, active, touch of God’s hand in today’s world is too “spooky” and must be tapered with “sound learning.” I want to be bold enough to believe that we can have both (just like Ezra). We can have both the touch of God’s hand as well as a learned mind fit for teaching and observing the Word of the Lord. “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind.”
Hey, thanks for coming. I have shifted all my web presence elsewhere to a new website and new blog. So head on over to www.jessethejuggler.com
Have a great day!