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Joe Green’s Story of Government Cheese to Eternal Riches

This week, we come to you from Vista, California’s very prestigious City Hall with my City Councilman, Joe Green. Joe and I share a love for football… for family… for Jesus… and for humor! Growing up in Vista, he had a rough upbringing. As Joe puts it, they were powdered milk and government cheese poor. They were robbed, he got beat up, and escaped by getting high. But, despite all his best efforts to rise above it all, no amount of comfort or money could fulfill him.

Joe Green's story of government cheese to eternal riches

Image: Eleanor Hutchins

Here are a few of the things Joe and I discuss:

  • Born and raised, moved from Illinois, moved to the hood, food stamps and government cheese.
  • Walking home and got his teeth kicked out, learned to fight, and be strong.
  • Mom got remarried and family got huge, always went to church but he didn’t like it.
  • Drugs were introduced, rebelled a lot, Junior year in high school, Joe got sent back to Illinois to live with dad, moved out at 17.
  • Joe was born to make money, he wanted to make money, be tough, be a dad and take care of his kids.
  • Church was something they made Joe do, but the Bible wasn’t real to him. Life was all about JOE, God wasn’t in the picture at all.
  • Joe came to a point in life when he had two kids and got in some trouble and realized he couldn’t keep living this way.
  • Went on a retreat with his wife where and when they finally started to talk to each other, decided to get into community, started to learn a little Bible… it was a constant chipping away at his heart and priorities.
  • Joe has changed so much that now he wants to be a husband. There’s not much honorable about him with out God. He wouldn’t be here without God… this wasn’t his idea of success.
  • So, where do you start to integrate masculinity and Christianity?
  • Joes advice to friends: Simply come with me to church.
  • Favorite Bible Passage: David & Goliath because David wanted “Chicks and Bucks”… just like Joe once did.
  • Final thoughts: You don’t need to scream about Jesus, you just need to love God and love others

This is just part of Joe’s story. You’ve got to listen to what God has done throughout his life to train him for the things that seem to make no sense at all, but lead from one thing to the next that all add up to fulfilling God’s purposes.

Just like David, Joe was once all about getting chicks and bucks, but now he is a man after God’s own heart and wants nothing but God’s will in his life!

Follow along with Joe’s daily adventures on Twitter: @joegreen760

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Parent Like You Mean It Slider FINAL

There is one thing in this world that may very well be the single most important thing we can give to our children.

We can give them a safe home to live in, which would indeed offer them a firm foundation to build their futures on. Their natural needs would all be provided for: shelter, clothing, food & water. A safe home is a tremendous offering for any parent to give any child. Taking it to the next level, sharing healthy meals together can be considered paramount in the same vein, which would establish a sense of security that they can grow from. This is all very good, but not THE most important.

Three excited kids look happily into Christmas gift

Those familiar with Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” are familiar with the term “Quality Time”, and the importance of devoting not quantity, but quality time to our children. I’m talking undivided attention, free from the distractions of work and other aspects of life. Important? Yes. Indulgent? It could be. Very few things have contributed to the development of a self-entitled and self-centered generation more than an overabundance of quality time devoted to them. When they know that they have become the center of your schedule and your world, they begin to, even subconsciously, expect that same treatment from everyone everywhere. So, no… while I absolutely see its value (coming from a man whose wife’s primary love language IS quality time), it’s not the most important thing we can give our kids.

Few people in the modern era expressed the keys to raising boys to become men better than the sage, Coach John Wooden. Especially when he said, “The best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother.” You gotta hand it to the man. Not only could he develop goofy college athletes and transform them into athletic, cultural and groundbreaking leaders, he knew that the core of it all begins with an example of a strong marriage at the homefront. However, where I break with Coach Wooden is who this applies to. Unfortunately, in today’s American society, there are so many broken, blended, and single-parent families that this “best gift” simply doesn’t apply to 100% of American households. Therefore, if EVERYONE can’t give it, I can’t rank it as THE most important thing we all can give our children.

Sticking with the college scene, some people say the best thing we can offer our kids is an opportunity, which comes through an education, or simply knowledge. As someone whose parents gave me this very list, I can tell you first hand that it is extremely valuable. I wouldn’t be here writing this today if it weren’t for the opportunities I discovered while pursuing my education and the skills that I learned there. But, without discernment and wisdom, knowledge is actually of very little value. Without work ethic, opportunity only goes so far. So, I’m sorry all you professors out there, education, knowledge and opportunity do not top my list.

And my apologies also extend to you workhorses out there. As I just said, discipline, work ethic, an understanding of finances and responsibilities are what bring value to knowledge and opportunity. Yet I have known many people as poor as paupers who I would rather model my children after than I would some of the wealthiest individuals I’ve known. The size of someone’s bank account means nothing if that someone isn’t generous beyond measure.

Which brings us to grace and mercy. Along with giving our kids forgiveness and showing them the power of an apology, there are very few things that could be more important. We want our children to be humble and understanding. We want them to be able to admit when they are wrong and accept the consequences. We also want them to avoid vengeance and anger, which too often manifests itself as gossip, lies, and slander. So, like so many other things listed here, forgiveness, grace and mercy make the Mount Rushmore of gifts we can give our children, but still something ranks just a bit higher.

Many people I asked this question to offered the instillment of virtues such as honesty, respect, honor, and trust. All with the aim of gaining understanding and patience. These things are all critical, and I would agree to each of them, especially when it comes to my desire for my little boys to grow into strong men who exemplify each of these. However, there is still something that I view as even more important than these, if you can believe it!Time Magazine OverParenting

What about adoration? Now, I hesitate to ever use the word “love” in this post, simply because there are so many different definitions that people use for one single word. Therefore, I’ll use adoration. Now, similar to quality time, I see the absolute value in letting your kids know that you adore them with all your heart. That you would give anything in the world for them, including your own life. But, what happens when they become aware of this and there is little else behind it? Left to its own, “child-adoration” quickly turns into “child-obsession” and the object of our obsession transforms into spoiled, self-consumed snowflakes. So, while I say, yes… love your kids. Without a doubt, love them! But be careful when the outpouring of your love morphs into an unhealthy fixation. Therefore, no. I don’t rank adoration at the top of the list, either.

I asked my kids and a few others this question recently, and their answers were actually quite amazing in their honesty and in revealing their priorities at that moment. The seven-year-old replied “Toys! Lot’s of TOYS!”, while the teenager simply asked for a new iPhone. Now, parents can easily laugh off these answers and attribute them to greedy little kids. But, as Chapman also wrote, receiving (and therefore giving) gifts is a valid love language. Yet within every language, some words are more valuable than others. To a lawyer, the word “affidavit” means much more than the phrase “28 millimeter prime”, yet a photographer holds that phrase much more dearly than they do “affidavit” (unless the affidavit is filed against them, which is when they call the lawyer… but I digress). Bottom line is that gifts have their place, but it’s not at the top of the list.

The top of any mantle is ideally a crowded place, with a relationship with Jesus Christ right there. For any Christian home, there is no higher aspiration than to know that your children have made the decision to secure their place alongside Jesus in eternity. But, to be terribly blunt, that’s not your gift to offer. It’s not your decision to make. It’s theirs. Now, you can offer them Godly guidance and a Spiritual foundation equal to no other, but I have known many, many people (even raised by two of them) who came from no foundation whatsoever and yet still place their eternal hope in Christ. So, if I’m looking for the singular, most important gift that EVERY parent can give to EVERY child, I gotta say that this doesn’t sit at the very, tippy top.
No, that top spot, as I just hinted at, is the one thing that very well may be the root of all the things I have listed above. Without this one gift, many of the above items are in vain, while many others cannot even begin to come to fruition.

So, what tops my list of the single most important thing we can give to our children?

Hope.

When we instill hope into our kids, they learn to endure all of life’s tragedies and strive for all of life’s successes. They maintain that optimistic glimmer in their eye, even while in the lowest of valleys, thanks to an eternal worldview that reaches beyond what we see here in front of us. Hope gives them the patience to wait for quality time, so that they don’t become self-centered. Hope within a child in a single-parent family assures them that they can love and be loved “til death do us part” when they become adults. Hope gets them through those tough adolescent and college years, through breakups and midterms; as well as it pushes them onward to graduations, promotions, and accolades. Hope heartens an intern to seize a position in the mailroom, then onward to the boardroom, ever moving forward, spurred on by hope. Even virtues like honesty, respect, honor and trust all derive in our hope for the best in our fellow man and in ourselves. It drives us to be better people and to see the best in others. Hope even makes us giddy when it comes to receiving gifts. Have you ever seen the look on a child’s eyes just before they open up a Christmas present? That’s pure hope personified. And, for the Bible-believing Christ-followers who have endured on to this point in my musings, it’s hope that is at the foundation of our faith.

As Romans 15:13 says:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

So, go on. Love on your kids (however you want to define love), give them all that you can. But be sure, at all times, to instill in them hope!

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In this PODCAST, you will learn one singularly simple concept which, if you take it to heart, will change your life forever.

It is my sense that in contemporary Christian culture in America, we have lost sight of the elegant simplicity spoken of in the New Testament. And consequently, we have lost so much of God’s blessing in the process.

So here’s to simplicity, with the hope that your life overflows with God’s bountiful blessing as we together apply this principle to our lives.

When we give money, time and resources to those who need it, God considers it a holy, just, righteous thing.

However, there seems to be a trend in many organized religious institutions to practically beg for money in order to further their missional progress.  Sometimes even laying out dire consequences if we fail to donate or promoting incentive programs dependent on the size of your donation.

Is this what God intended regarding the method that His redemptive plan should unfold?

Now please don’t misunderstand.  I don’t find any fault in anyone who feels prompted by God to send out a letter to raise funds to support their ministry.  I’m merely speaking of the financial model that we have chosen based on how we feel led by the scriptures as they pertain to our ministry.

The only time we mention money from our pulpit is when the scripture we cover addresses the topic.

Therefore, what I will endeavor to do is to address some commonly held, frequently taught views, but in my opinion misconceptions about money.

In Judaism, in the lives of the early Church, and in our Christian lives today tzedakah ought to be central to our living a full and fulfilling Spiritual live.  In fact, in Judaism, tzedakah is assumed universal no matter how much money someone may or may not have with the purpose of eliminating any sense of entitlement.  It’s understood that if everyone is a giver, then everyone is obligated and privileged to find someone who is less fortunate than them and to give according to their ability.

Eventually, through exhibiting a lifestyle of tzedakah, giving becomes an utter reflex.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed the corruption that he saw in his day in reflection of tzedakah.

Matthew 6 (CJB)

6 “Be careful not to parade your acts of tzedakah (charitable deeds) in front of people in order to be seen by them! If you do, you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So, when you do tzedakah, don’t announce it with trumpets to win people’s praise, like the hypocrites in the synagogues and on the streets. Yes! I tell you, they have their reward already! But you, when you do tzedakah, don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Then your tzedakah will be in secret; and your Father, who sees what you do in secret, will reward you.

Tzedakah, by its definition, are selfless acts of generosity, performed without fanfare, recognition, applause or praise – so much so that your left hand doesn’t even know what your right hand is doing.  Jesus even promises that the Father will reward you, when it is done in secret.  No act of secret blessing will go unnoticed by God.

Given Jesus words in His sermon on the mount, doesn’t it become clear that even today, tzedakah should be as vital a part of our daily spiritual lives as it was for our Jewish friends?  Given the grace the God has abundantly given to us, shouldn’t we tangibly abundantly give to others?

Here are some examples of tzedakah in its perfect form throughout the New Testament:

2 Corinthians 8:2-4 (CEV)

Although they were going through hard times and were very poor, they were glad to give generously. They gave as much as they could afford and even more, simply because they wanted to. They even asked and begged us to let them have the joy of giving their money for God’s people.

Ephesians 4:28  (NLT)

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.

Philippians 4:18 (NLT)

18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (CEV)

17 Warn the rich people of this world not to be proud or to trust in wealth that is easily lost. Tell them to have faith in God, who is rich and blesses us with everything we need to enjoy life. 18 Instruct them to do as many good deeds as they can and to help everyone. Remind the rich to be generous and share what they have. 19 This will lay a solid foundation for the future, so that they will know what true life is like.

In each of these examples, tzedakah is generosity given to individuals – people.  Poor people are instructed to give, rich people are instructed to give.  Groups of people are to give as well as individuals.

But who should be the focus of our generosity in today’s context of these verses?

I’m afraid that in our contemporary Christian culture, we have actually missed the meaning and purpose of these verses and money in general.

If we abandoned all our preconceived ideas toward money – relative to the Christian community – and merely looked at what scripture says regarding the matter, what conclusions would we draw?

I believe that there are two significant commonly held, yet errant beliefs regarding money that are often taught.

The first pertains to the word “tithing”.  The allegedly Biblically mandated giving of 10% of our income to the Church.  I do not find the concept of tithing taught anywhere in the New Testament.  As I understand it, tithing was an “Israel living in the Promised Land” specific concept, similar to a tax under the context of God’s people’s theocracy.

It doesn’t have anything to do with tzedakah, generous giving or even giving to the Church.

Tzedakah is not a mandated tax.  It’s voluntary.  It’s sacrificial.  It’s generous.  It’s directed at a specific person in need.

Rather, in 1 Corinthians 16:2, we see the following regarding giving financially:

On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income

In other words, you give what you are able to give.

The word “tithe” appears in the New Testament eight times.  Three of these are from Jesus criticizing the Pharisees for tithing hypocritically.  The other five times are in the Book of Hebrews, referring to the Old Testament practice of tithing and having nothing to do with the New Testament practice of giving to the Church.

The word “tithing” doesn’t appear in the New Testament at all.

So, as I see it, we are not bound by the tithe.  For some it’s too much.  For others it’s too little.

The second errant belief that I see running rampant in today’s American Christian Church is this:

By my reading of the New Testament, it is a foreign concept to give money to support organizations like Churches.  I can’t find where that was ever done in the New Testament.  Tzedakah – giving – was always given to specific people.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not talking about this as though it is a sin issue.

All I’m saying is that this type of giving is non-Biblical.  Not un-Biblical, but simply not there.

Therefore, I believe that it would be errant to incorrect and out of context to teach on giving to the organizational Church in the context of passages like Matthew 6:1-4.

So, when did the ministry become so much more like a business and less about shepherding people?

There’s got to be a better way, don’t you think?

So, here’s the question that I think we should all ponder:  What would the American Church look like today if we were all about individuals giving their money generously to individuals who were hungry and homeless?  If we gave to be a blessing to people rather than toward building buildings?

Sadly, that bird has flown the coup.  That’s just the way Church is done today.

But what about supporting missionaries?

The ones I read about in the New Testament were universally “tent makers”.  Paul writes to this explicitly to tell his readers why so that he would not be a financial burden on the Believers.

Contrast Paul’s “business plan” with this fact:  Today, it’s recorded that it takes $80,000 – $100,000 per year to sustain a family on the mission field for one year.

Never did Paul in any of his epistles, ask for the churches to give him money for himself.  Yes, he thanked them for their tzedakah, but he never solicited.

He actually said in 1 Corinthians 16 that the Church should gather money – based on each individual’s ability to give – to go to the individuals in Jerusalem who were in need, so that he wouldn’t be put in the position of asking anyone for money.  It wasn’t his job as a missionary to ask for money.

Then, in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”[d]

Now, if tithing were the standard, why would Paul leave the decision up to the individuals?

There are three groups who Jesus had in mind when he taught in Matthew 6:

1)    The poor.  Those who are in need financially.  In Acts 9 and 10, we meet Tabitha and Cornelius who serve as examples on devoutly giving to the poor.

2)    Those who faithfully teach us God’s word.  In 1 Corinthians 9:14, we read:

14 In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.

And in Galatians 6:6, we read:

         Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.

3)    Members of our own family.  1 Timothy 5:8 says:

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

These are the three significant groups of individuals who should be recipients of our tzedakah.

HAPPY LISTENING.

And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE “Share” the link to this lesson with all of your friends.

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In today’s podcast I want to conclude my focus on social issues, the issues that challenge our faith and our God in very different ways.

On my previous podcasts I focused on two categories of social issues, one being ‘megaphone’ social issues, issues that confront us at full volume, and another category I call ‘ear bud’ social issues, those that appeal to us quietly and in secret.

Now, to wrap up my series on social issues, I promised you my take on the ultimate social issue, one that faces us loudly as a culture and church, quietly as individuals and families, and at every other level in between. It’s an issue that has only begun to have ramifications and consequences at every level of society, families and relationships. It’s also something that God, in His infinite wisdom, thought important enough to mention more than any other subject in the Bible.

So now that I’ve teased you enough, here we go with social issues podcast #3: The Ultimate Social Issue.

And that issue is, if you haven’t figured it out already, money.

We rarely think of money or finances as spiritual issues, but I don’t know why.

As I mentioned, the Bible has more to say about money than any other subject.

By a long shot!

Crown Ministries has listed 2,350 verses in the Bible that mention some expression of wealth or money, either directly as to how to manage money, or using money as illustrations or parables to teach spiritual truth.

Money is all over the Word of God.

Every aspect imaginable is covered , from budgeting to business planning, taxes to tithing, savings to success.

Twenty percent of the Ten Commandments deal with wealth (specifically that your neighbors wealth is his, not yours) and fully one-third of Jesus’ parables dealt with money or riches.

It’s clear that the Bible sees how we view and handle money as a key, maybe even THE key, to our spiritual lives.

Now why would that be?

Well, I think the answer is clear as we look at what’s happening with money in our society today.

Of all the principles of traditional Judeo-Christian culture that our society has abandoned, money – and more specifically debt – is the biggest.

The levels of spending and debt we are incurring as a society and as individuals is beyond staggering. As Jay Carty put it in his new book “Prayer For Rookies”:

“Immediate gratification and a selfish sense of entitlement form the core of our mindset as a nation. Neither the people nor the government will stop overspending; continually surging credit card debt and the growing national deficit are proof of this. The tanking of the economy is representative of our spiritual condition as a nation. Selfish ‘living for the moment’ has left us economically and spiritually bankrupt. Several generations to follow will find themselves knee-deep in debt because of our lifestyles.”

Now Jay is 6’ -8” tall, so knee deep to him is waste deep to the rest of us, but he’s spot on with what he says.

But I want to go further and state that western society’s addiction to over-spending will eventually lead to a breakdown of society as a whole.

History does not paint a pretty picture of economies that collapse.

That picture is beginning to come into focus now in Greece, for instance. A news article caught mine and my wife’s attention recently. It reported on the desperate state of Greek families this winter, as they’ve had to resort to burning furniture and chopped-down trees from local parks and forests to heat their homes, as the price of oil has skyrocketed due to the countries failing economy. Smog is covering the city of Athens as a result.

If you’ve been following the modern Greek tragedy of debt and bankruptcy sweeping across Europe, you can fairly well predict that there will be more and more social upheaval and desperation in western societies, most prominently our own, that have followed the same over-spending habits of Greece.

And it is an over-spending problem.

Many will say it is a problem of not enough revenue, in other words ‘taxes’. But folks, we, with our childish, irrational and irresponsible addiction to spending, have racked up multiple trillions of dollars in debt.

That’s trillion with a capital ‘T’.

There isn’t enough money in the entire world to pay off the debts of western society, which means eventually we will have Greece on a world-wide scale.

And with the abandonment of most of the other restraining tenets of the Judeo Christian worldview, we can fairly well predict chaos.

Are we as a society ready for that?

Are we as the Church, ready for that?

And finally, are we as believers ready for the hard times and persecution that will surely come.

And, yes it will come, because in hard times, those without faith, without eternal perspective or accountability to a just God, will seek scapegoats. And historically, they’ve always found them in people who do have that faith and perspective.

And also, for my fellow Christians who embrace so many of today’s progressive causes, let me say that in the wake of the collapse of Western economies, especially the U.S., there will be very little social justice anywhere in the world. The environment will be thoroughly polluted and human trafficking will flourish, with no one able to stop it.

It’s very chic and trendy these days to trash western civilization as the root of most or all injustice and exploitation in the world, but reality, and history, are demanding now that we come to grips with the fact that the same ideological and cultural pillars that have caused the west to prosper have also been holding back monstrous forces of evil around the globe.

Collapse those pillars with bankruptcy, and that protection will be gone.

Now maybe that’s God’s plan. And He is definitely in control of the future, and in the end, He wins.

But as for me, I can’t assume that that fact absolves or protects me as an individual, or us as a Church and society, from the consequences and accountability for reckless and sinful abuse of the precious resource that God’s Word has the so much to say about, and that’s money, the Ultimate Social Issue.

In closing, I want to bring to you the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapters 11 and 12 in your Bible).

Today’s witness is Dominguez – a 20-year-old Bible student beaten by Islamic attackers.  He said that while he laid on the ground, almost decapitated by a sickle, he was carried to heaven by angels.  He did not feel pain or fear, but instead peace.  Then he heard, “It is not time for you to serve me here.”

As workers debated what to do with Dominguez’s body, he fought to utter the words, “I am a Christian”, to the amazement of the workers who had thought him dead.

Today, he has fully recovered.  He is closer to God and actively praying for his Muslim neighbors – even those who attacked him with a newfound forgiveness that can only come from God Himself.

 

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e² media network™ offers weekly podcasts regarding finances and the economy.  With God’s word as a foundation, these programs aim to effectively equip listeners with Christian teaching about Biblical principles in economics, business practices and personal finance.

 
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The Big Picture Podcast with Joel Fieri

Joel Fieri (San Diego) engages through practical Christian teaching with a careful look the Christian influence on culture and the good, bad, and the ugly in the culture war.

 

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