Archives For May 2012

I am sure you have heard it before. “Pray for me…” or “I pray that…” The uses of the word pray in the English language (and all languages actually) vary differently. This could communicate a genuine commitment to get on one’s knees and ask God for X, Y, or Z. Or, it could also be a comment to show support. “I’ll pray for you,” when in reality, we know that we won’t. The different uses in language have shaped how we understand prayer over the years. Many people use it not knowing any significance other than that it’s what believers do. It’s a thing on the Christian checklist, so I better use it enough times around my church friends.

Amid all of these varying uses, I can’t help but wonder what we should really be praying about. In connection with that thought, there has been a recent buzz over the lottery. In the tri-state area, the lottery was up at what was probably record highs, somewhere around 650 million dollars. I don’t follow the lottery numbers that closely, but usually something over 200 million sparks a lot of interest. Imagine what 650 million dollars did to ignite interest. As many of my colleagues were buying tickets, I occasionally heard the phrase, “Oh, I am praying that I win.” Should we pray to win the lottery?

What Should We Pray For? Why Do We Pray?

Betty: Betty is a single mother, who despite her faithfulness to the church, has been through a whirlwind of emotions. She finally got a divorce from her abusive husband and is desperate to pay for her only child’s upbringing. She doesn’t have the best job ever, but she gets by with what she has. Before she goes to bed, Betty always prays, asking God to help provide her a better job. Her son doesn’t have the nicest clothes and would like to be able to afford something nice for him.

Suzanne: Suzanne hasn’t had the troubles that Betty has had to face. She grew up in a middle-class family, graduated from an ivy-league school and gave up her law practice to be a stay at home mother. Her husband makes more than enough to provide for the family, along with a few luxury items like vacation cottage on a lake with Jet Skis. Suzanne and her family are also religious. They attend church every week, but Suzanne can’t help but wonder how nice it would be to have more security. She prays for a promotion for her husband so they can rest easily.

Is there any major difference between the two examples above? While you may be more understanding towards Betty because she has had a more “difficult” life, there isn’t much difference between the two. What is it that makes us think Betty’s prayers are better? Does Suzanne’s prayers sound more like greed? In fact, both women understand God in the same light. God, according to how they are praying, is someone to come swoop in and take away all of their troubles. In this situation, it’s by bringing more money into the situation.

I’m sure you are thinking the same thing as me. This isn’t the worst. In fact, we often hear (or pray ourselves) people praying, asking God to do something. In order to convince God, we need to offer something. “God, if you do this, I will do that.” or “God, I’ve only asked for a few things, so please do this…” News flash people: If you are praying like this, you worship a Genie, not God.

God isn’t someone to convince or beg for something to occur. That doesn’t mean that prayer isn’t important. It’s just for much more than receiving things. It’s much more than a Christmas list from Santa Claus. In fact, prayer seems to be more about communicating and aligning ourselves with God, than the alternative.

Should We Ask to Win the Lottery?

Beyond misunderstanding the reason for praying, praying to win the lottery involves so much more. It means that you buy into the belief that your life will be better if you have a lot more money right away. This is far from the truth. Financial Samurai recently wrote that getting money too fast will destroy you. In part of the article, Sam writes about how people blow their money away if you get it too quickly. In other words, you don’t appreciate what you have and waste it away.

Praying to win the lottery could be asking for ‘a poke in the eye with a sharp stick’ (to use a phrase that my mother-in-law frequently uses). You could be asking for something that could actually ruin you more than help you. It’s again, part of the misguided belief that money will solve all of your problems. Will you really be disciplined to manage your money well if you were to come across several millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars in a matter of a day? Will you continue to tell yourself that you aren’t rich, even with your newly-acquired wealth?

Instead of praying for some distant jackpot or lottery, it would be much better to do something about your finances. God never even hints that we should be anything from active in everything that we do. We need to be active. To put it bluntly, stop praying for miracles and start doing something that will change your situation for the better. You may not be able to change everything (alone), but it is much better than the alternative of praying to win the lottery.

Do you find yourself wishing you had more money? 

Why do you think we should pray?

In all walks of life, it pays to be safe. Doing your best to ensure that you don’t succumb to any illness, injury or any other form of harm is important, but if something bad were to happen to you, someone you love or a treasured possession, what do you do? Many people take out insurance policies to protect themselves financially against such a thing happening. However, for all that’s good about having insurance, there are a few flaws. Here are some of the pros and cons of insurance:


  • Insurance can cover you for all sorts of things. You can get covered in the event of a car crash, against burglary, illness, the contents of your home being damaged or even if your pets become sick.
  • Some forms of insurance can be very cheap. For example, some insurers offer contents insurance worth up to £5,000 for less than £10 per month.
  • Being insured helps to reassure you that, if something bad were to happen, you’re going to get some sort of coverage, whether it’s in cash form or a replacement for the car or electrical item which has become damaged.


  • Some insurance policies such as car insurance can run into thousands each year. This often makes motoring expensive for people who need to own a car for getting to work, doing the weekly shop and getting around.
  • Insurance payouts can sometimes be insufficient, especially when for something like an injury. This is where specialist law firms such as first4lawyers come in, as they sometimes win a lot of compensation for clients who make claims.
  • Sometimes it’s better not to have insurance, especially if it’s too expensive. Some policies don’t offer value for money, while insurers occasionally make it too complicated for customers to get the policy that’s right for them.

During the month of May, most Americans receive the day off of work in light of Memorial Day. While most may only look at memorial day as a time away from the 9-to-5, it is much more than that. Indeed, it often marks the shift in seasons from Spring to Summer, but again, it is much more than this. In fact, memorial day is a day to remember all of those who have died, serving in the Armed Forces.

Christianity’s history has long had a non-violent voice to it. Martin Luther King Jr., who was the face of the civil rights movement is perhaps the most prominent U.S. Christian known for his commitment to non-violent actions. Yet, it is not merely a recent theme or belief. It dates back to Jesus. In fact, many Christians and people today expose non-violent tactics as a result of Jesus’ teachings and actions. In light of memorial day coming up, it leaves Christians with a difficult question.

Should Christians celebrate memorial day? Does honoring this holiday go against any Christian Beliefs?

This is the very question I hope to discuss. Be sure to share you opinion in the comments after reading!

Christian Origins of Non-Violence

Christianity has long agreed with the idea of non-violence, with some disagreement. Like any other belief in Christianity, there is a wide spectrum of beliefs within this one religion. Thus, while I hope to uncover the origins of non-violence within Christianity, it should be understood that many Christians interpret this in different ways. With that aside, one could trace the roots of non-violence back to Jesus.

There are several places in the gospels that people refer to, when talking of Jesus’ commitment to non-violence. Of the many, I will share two:

The first is in the garden of Gethsemane, right before Jesus is arrested. Matthew 26:47-55 reads (emphasis added),

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”[d]

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Instead of having his disciples fight for him, Jesus told them to put their swords away. The phrase, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword,” has been repeated over and over, even to this day, as sound wisdom. It’s basic argument is that violence escalates violence.

The second example is in both the gospel of Matthew and Luke. In order to keep the same source, I will quote from Matthew 5:38-42:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

While many people misinterpret this verse to suggest that believers need to accept abuse, it is not intended like that at all. In fact, turning the other cheek was an act of non-violently putting an end to the abuse, while exposing the injustice. As a result, Jesus is empowering his followers to expose and put an end to the injustice through non-violent means.

Should a Commitment to Non-Violence Keep Christians from Celebrating Memorial Day?

If this is the commitment of some Christians, I can’t help but ask whether this should keep them from celebrating memorial day. Some might suggest that in celebrating memorial day and those who have fought in past wars, we thereby support violence. Yet, I am not sure it can be that simple.

Is honoring those who fought in wars supporting violence? 

Suggesting that Christians ignore Memorial Day reminds me of veterans returning from the Vietnam war to protests and hatred for what they did. While this was a result of the commitment to peace and the hippie movement, the truth is that many Americans were forced to serve in that war against their will. They didn’t want to be fighting in that war any more than those protesting the war did.

While it can be helpful to remind ourselves of Jesus’ commitment to non-violence, we should be careful not to isolate ourselves from those who have fought in wars. The world is a complicated place and to simplify things such as an either-or could do more harm than good.

A few weeks ago, the Senate rejected a new tax initiative to tax the wealthy of the United States. The senate’s rejection on what is being called the Warren Buffet Tax law is stirring up some debate about tax initiatives. The law was inspired by Warren Buffet’s declaration that wealthy individuals are paying lower effective tax rates than the middle and lower classes. With a tax structure that is already designed to tax the wealthy at higher rates, many individuals are asking whether it is fair or right to tax the wealthy more.

Influence of Politics

If not already obvious, one’s perspective on this tax law (or any tax law in general) is largely shaped by one’s political stance. There are many reasons why it is opposed. Many individuals believe that taxing the wealthy more would reverse this sense of capitalism which fuels our economy. In other words, it would encourage them not to earn more money and therefore stimulate the economy. Perhaps even more convincing, many suggest that taxing the wealthy would limit their ability to provide more jobs and/or business for the economy. If the government took more money, they would cause greater expense to them and limit the money they are able to invest in growing sustainable commerce.

On the other perspective of things, it is the wealthy who live comfortably. Despite the recent economic recession, the wealthy were not burdened with the worry about making ends meet as much as the middle and lower class. In the same way that the Widow’s offering. Where, as we learn in the bible, she gave out of her poverty. While the importance of that story is to emphasize that it’s the sacrifice that matters, it also reminds us that it is much more difficult for those with less money to give. Those in favor of the tax bill are also fueled by the fact that Mitt Romney had an effective tax rate of 13.9% on his some 20+ million dollar income in 2010.

Would Jesus Support Higher Taxes on the Wealthy?

In light of the recent debate, I felt it would be interesting to investigate Jesus’ response to the situation. What would Jesus do? I am sure many of you recall the popular WWJD bracelets from the 90’s. They were a popular fad. Many of my friends in high school had them and wore them proudly. Despite the good intentions behind this product, these became more about proclaiming one’s identity as a Christian than asking a genuine question to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

While I don’t want to carry over the negative connotations with these bracelets that many people have in their minds, I do want to ask the question of what Jesus’ response would be – as this will help inform what a Christian response might be. Despite my initial assumption, I have actually come to understand that it isn’t as clear as we would like. Life is never that simple, is it?

Paying the Tax to Caesar

One of the first passages that came to mind when preparing this post was Matthew 22:15-22 – the challenge to Jesus about paying taxes. It reads:

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

   Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

The first thing to point out about this passage is that the people posing this question, according to Matthew, were trying to trick Jesus. They wanted to limit him to a simple “yes,” or “no,” as they often do in the gospels. Jesus saw through their scheme and does something quite remarkable.  Here’s a brief video by Shaine Claiborne, explaining his understanding of this passage.

In other words, Jesus’s response is not trying to place emphasis on making sure to pay your taxes. Instead, he is dismissing their simplistic question by saying taxes don’t matter. In other words, he finds a nice balance between the two extreme positions.

While it may be a healthy question to ask whether Jesus would support this law, we shouldn’t limit Jesus into picking one of two extreme positions. Doing so would greatly limit Jesus’ radical beliefs and actions. Jesus’ primary concern seems to present a way of live that is full of love and lacking mistreatment, injustice, etc. I would suggest that both positions are flawed and we have to use our best judgment to decide between the two options. This is another reason why financial rules of thumb are inadequate.

Do YOU think Jesus would support increasing taxes on the wealthy?

I know I am not the only one to call up various service lines to be connected overseas with international phone representatives. It’s always amazing to me to see how popular and frequent this is becoming these days. The reality is that U.S. companies are outsourcing labor in order to cut costs.

I have already made it clear that I consider most people in the U.S. rich by world standards, so it should be obvious that I am not trying to suggest that international workers do not have the right to these jobs. Instead, it is the unfortunate reality that U.S. corporations are taking advantage of international regulations to minimize expenses and maximize profit.

Recent Illegal Allegations on Infosys

A couple weeks ago, the story came out that Infosys, a major tech company, was illegally bringing workers to the U.S. with incorrect visas. Instead of issuing work related visas, Infosys was bringing workers over on B-1 visas. According to an article on Infosys, the company was issuing recommendations on what to say when going through customs to avoid suspicion. Not only were there allegations of illegal visa activity, Infosys was paying these workers Indian wages without withholding income tax of any sort.

This is a blatant attempt to lower expenses in labor costs, avoid major taxes, and maximize profit. It is another reason why greed can be so deadly. Not only were they breaking major laws, they were treating international workers poorly.

Religious Response to Excessive Outsourcing

Again, I feel it important to clarify that it is not my intention to promote any U.S. only labor laws. I believe immigrants have the right to compete for jobs. However, I find the system which tries to increase the profit of high end executives at the cost of nearly dehumanizing entry-level workers a major atrocity. No person deserves to be paid significantly lower wages just because they were born in another country.

God cares for all of humanity – not just rich Americans. While the nature of business is to seek a maximum profit, it should be within proper business ethics with a ground work of fair wages.

I hate to think what will happen to all of the persons and families that worked for Infosys as a result of the exposure to Infosys’s illegal activity. I can’t imagine the difficulty of working for a company for significantly lower wages than workers from another country and to be forced to leave your new home and job after something like this. While I know that international workers will adapt and continue to use their hard work ethic to give themselves an advantage in a time of high unemployment, it doesn’t make it okay to treat others this way.

Home Insurance premiums are rising rapidly, so now more than ever we need to be prudent about how we spend our money. To get the best premiums, we need to put in place a few simple measures.

Home Insurance is made up of two main areas: Buildings Insurance and Contents Insurance. Buildings Insurance tends to cover your building itself and many of the fixed items that feature in your house, such as bedroom and bathroom suites. Contents Insurance is similarly self-explanatory, covering your possessions against things like accidental damage, malicious damage, loss, or theft.

Policies aren’t as simple and uniform as they used to be. Tailor your policy to suit your needs exactly so that you don’t end up paying over the odds for a one size fits all, generic insurance scheme. You should generally try to combine your buildings and contents policies with the same insurer; this will lead to reciprocal discounts and probably better value premiums. Never value your building and contents too highly or this will add to the premium.

The internet has revolutionised many markets, including insurance. Buy online so that you can compare the best providers and benefit from some of the many online discounts available.

Security is a major factor in deciding how much your premium will be. If you have approved locks and alarms, membership of a neighbourhood watch scheme, security lighting and a host of other potential deterrents, you could well reap the rewards.

Just like Car Insurance, you can build a no claims bonus – so don’t always claim for things that may affect your renewal premium. Weigh up the benefits and losses before you claim. It is also wise to set your voluntary excess at as high a rate as possible, but nevertheless a rate which you can afford to pay should the worst happen.

Find excellent tailored policies at companies like endsleigh insurance, who design insurance packages for individual buyers.

Ah, medical bills.  We all hate them but they have been part of our life since birth.  As the old, wise saying goes, “there is no such thing as free lunch.”  Oh how that is especially true with medical bills!  I was just at the doctor’s office for a typical check-up and it cost me $20!  no treatment, no nothing, but it still costs me money.  I guess I should be thankful I’m not paying thousands because of cancer treatment!

However, my point here is that medical bills are part of life and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can properly manage them.

If you find yourself in a position where you have a gigantic medical bill looking back at you, what do you do?  I know you didn’t ask for a big medical bill but sometimes real life can be quite the shocker.

I want to share with you some tips for lessening the burden of a medical bill.  Some of these tips might surprise you because hospitals and pharmaceutical companies simply don’t want you knowing about them!

Never pay full price

Did you know that you don’t have to pay full price for your medical bills?  If you’re surprised, you’re not the only one!  Hospitals assume that you will just pay the price tag of whatever treatment you had.  It amazes me how people blindly walk into medical bills and write a blank check.  Stop forking over money for the full bill!

Hospitals understand the economy and are typically willing to negotiate bills.  Another thing you should consider is negotiating the price of a medical procedure before you get the bill.  It’s not uncommon for hospitals to slash their price by 25% or more to retain your business.  Remember, hospitals and medical companies are run like a business; they don’t want to lose you and your family’s business!

Don’t assume the bill is correct

Medical bills are like traffic tickets, there are typically errors that can lessen the amount of the bill.  Did you know that the average medical bill passes through five sets of hands?  It can actually be more than that for certain hospital organizations.  Because of this arduous process, you need to make it  a habit to double check medical bills.  Hospitals could care less if you overpay for something that is not correct.  You care because your wallet cares!

How to handle medical debt

Medical debt is never fun, but sometimes it happens.  A great example is someone who goes through cancer treatment and their insurance only covered 50% of it.  If the rest was taken out on credit, you will need to tread carefully.

Most medical organizations will not request the full amount owed.  Instead, you can negotiate payments and end up paying the price in full.  For a hospital to go to collections is quite the process and can be spendy for them.  They are typically extremely open to negotiating with you.

Going forward…

After reading this article, hopefully you are more self-aware and will be better prepared for medical bills in the future.  Taking action and learning about these things will benefit you down the line especially if you feel it doesn’t matter now.  Don’t assume these situations will never happen to you.  You never know what the Lord has planned for your life, and as Christians, we are called to a standard of wisdom and not simply following the Lord blindly through life.  Be prepared for the worst and the Lord will take care of the rest!