Redefining Riches       My friend Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine has recently released a four lesson Sunday school series called Redefining Riches. I’ve had the chance to review it and I can tell you it’s an excellent introductory course to the core principles of a Biblical approach to finances. If you’re looking for something related to finances to do in your Sunday school class or small group, I highly recommend this as a starting place. (I’m not getting paid to say this, and I don’t earn anything if you buy it. I just believe Rob’s put together a great resource with a heart for helping people understand Biblical truths about God’s desires for our finances.) It’s only $3.99 for all four lessons, which includes PowerPoint slides, leader’s guides, and handouts. You can print as many copies as you need for your group, so it’s a great deal.

       Today’s post is from the content in the lesson on generosity, which I’ve reprinted with Rob’s permission. I’m not devaluing Rob’s work because the value of buying Redefining Riches is in having the lessons already prepared for you along with the PowerPoint slides. You’ll get a good idea of the content by reading the excerpts I’ll share, but you’re still missing out on some additional content Rob includes as well as the leader’s guides and handouts.

Generosity: A Labor of Love

       Generosity is the result of a transformed heart.

       “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)



       God loves a cheerful giver and if we let Him, He will cultivate a joy in generosity within our own hearts. This is how we learn to give with pure motives and pure hearts. We are wasting our money and embittering our hearts when we give out of guilt or obligation. As we allow Christ to transform our hearts, we joyfully give first, proportionally, secretly and sacrificially. (See Also: Proverbs 3:9-10, 1 Chronicles 29:5-9, Acts 11:29)


       Generosity is a lifestyle of giving and loving fully.

       “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)



       The call to generosity is hardly limited to the offering plate. We are called to be generous people. We should gladly choose to be generous with our money, time, energy, talents, gifts, and on, and on. Generosity, when understood Biblically, is a way of life. (See Also: Galatians 1:3-4, John 15:13)


       Generosity is a spring of life to those who give Biblically.

       “Instruct those who are rich in this present world…to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)



       The Bible teaches that it is better to give than to receive. We are told that generosity is one component of taking hold of “that which is life indeed”. When we give, we live as Christ calls and love others well. When we withhold, we follow the world’s idolization of consumption and love ourselves well. (See Also: Luke 6:38, Philippians 4:17, Proverbs 11:25, Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 28:27)

What Is an Enrolled Agent (EA)?

Corey —  October 18, 2010 — 3 Comments

What Is an Enrolled Agent (EA)?       After hemmin’ and hawin’ about it for a while, I finally signed up to take the exams to become an Enrolled Agent. I’m excited about it (and a bit nervous), but I’m guessing most of you have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s because I didn’t even know what an Enrolled Agent was until I had a couple years of experience doing taxes and working as a financial planner. So here’s a basic overview of what an Enrolled Agent is and why I decided to become one.

What Is an Enrolled Agent (EA)?

       An Enrolled Agent is a person who has been authorized to represent taxpayers (without the taxpayer’s presence) before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for audits, collections, and appeals. They aren’t restricted on which taxpayers they can represent and what types of tax matters they can handle.

How Is an Enrolled Agent Different from Other Tax Preparers?

       Until 2011, Enrolled Agents are the only tax preparers required to demonstrate their competence in tax matters to the IRS. (This is changing – see my note in the section below on why I decided to become an EA.) Attorneys and CPAs may or may not specialize in taxes, but all EAs specialize in taxation. They’re also required to fulfill continuing education requirements by law – at least 72 hours every three years. While CPAs have continuing education requirements for their license, the courses EAs take must be related to Federal tax laws. CPAs often take courses on a variety of topics not related to taxes.

       Unlike other tax preparers, Enrolled Agents (along with CPAs and attorneys) can represent taxpayers before the IRS even if they didn’t prepare their return. This is important because these other tax preparers can’t represent a taxpayer before appeals officers, revenue officers, or IRS Counsel. A tax preparer must be an Enrolled Agent, CPA, or attorney to do that. Also, an unenrolled tax preparer cannot execute claims for refund, receive refund checks, execute consents to extend the statutory period for assessment or collection, execute closing agreements, or execute waivers of restriction on assessment or collection of a deficiency in tax.

How Do You Become an Enrolled Agent?

       There are two ways to become an Enrolled Agent. You can pass a three part exam (called the SEE or Special Enrollment Examination). The three parts cover individual taxes, business & other entity taxes, and representation, practices, and procedures. Each part of the exam contains 100 questions. It’s a very comprehensive and difficult exam. Here’s a list of the documents the IRS recommends reviewing before taking the exam.

       The other way to become an Enrolled Agent is to work for the IRS for five years in a position that regularly required you to interpret and apply the tax code and its regulations. Regardless of which method you choose (exam or IRS work experience), you have to undergo a thorough background check on both your criminal history and your personal tax filing history. You can be sure you’ll be denied if you didn’t file, didn’t pay your taxes, or filed a fraudulent return. (You’d think they would have run this kind of check on Timothy Geithner before Obama nominated him to become the Secretary of the Treasury!)

Why I Decided to Become an Enrolled Agent

       I have three main reasons I decided to become an EA. Here they are:

  1. Provide Better, Higher Quality Service – I didn’t want to be in a position where I couldn’t represent my tax clients if they had an issue with the IRS that involved appeals or collections. Becoming an EA ensures that I can help my clients no matter what tax issue comes up. (Except for going to court – you need an attorney for that.)
  2.  

  3. Strengthen My Tax Knowledge – Taking the Enrolled Agent exams requires you to carefully study all aspects of Federal taxes. I’m familiar with most individual tax issues and some business, trust, and estate issues, but there’s still quite a bit that I’m not 100% comfortable with. Passing the exam won’t magically make me an expert, but it, along with the continuing education requirements, will ensure that I have a more complete and deeper knowledge of Federal taxes.
  4.  

  5. Upcoming IRS Requirements for Tax Preparers – Starting in 2011, the IRS is going to require all paid tax preparers (except EAs, CPAs, and attorneys) to register, pass a knowledge examination, and complete continuing education. The test likely won’t be as difficult as the EA exam, and the continuing education requirements aren’t as stringent either. But these tax preparers will still be limited in which taxpayers and tax matters they can represent before the IRS. It seemed to me that it would be better to just become an EA in the long run.



       Obviously, I’m not doing it for the marketing advantage as I’ll probably spend the rest of my professional life explaining what an EA is. But that’s OK with me because I know it’s valuable and will help my clients.

       Well, now you know what an EA is. What do you think? Sound like it was a good thing for me to pursue?

photo credit: (Alan Cleaver on Flickr)

       In the last part of this series, we looked at how God created us to work and our need to work. Today, we’re going to look at God’s call for Christians to work hard.

Glorifying God with Our Work

       There are many examples in the Bible where God calls us to good works for His glory. However, we’re going to look at a few that specifically pertain to our temporal work as a means of glorifying God.

       In 1 Thessalonians, Paul encourages the church at Thessalonica to lead lives that will set a good example to those outside the church:

       11 …and that you make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we instructed you; 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (WEB)



       When we work hard and lead respectable lives we glorify God’s name. We show people the fruits of the Spirit within our lives and give them no reason for attacking the Church because of our actions. Our honest work also provides for our needs and beyond, enabling us to honor God by giving to the needs of others as well:

       34 You yourselves know that these hands served my necessities, and those who were with me. 35 In all things I gave you an example, that so laboring you ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Acts 20:34-35 (WEB)



       We ought to work hard so that we can support ourselves and have more left over to give to those in need. It is in this way that we can honor Jesus’ teaching to give generously and care for the poor. When we combine our hard work with contentment in Christ, we’ll find that we have even more to give to the poor. If we can be content but continue to earn more, we can do even more in Christ’s name and to the glory of God.

       When we accept Christ, our entire mindset changes. We are no longer concerned only about ourselves and our own needs. Christ’s love in our hearts urges us to do what we can for those in need – even changing those who were thieves into workers for God:

       Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need.

Ephesians 4:28 (WEB)



       It is with that mindset we should approach all our work. We are no longer working just to meet our own needs (and then our wants) – but we are working so we will have something to give to the needy. And all this is not for our own glory and recognition, but all for the glory and honor of God.

       So let’s remember that when we work, we should work as if we’re working for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23-24) For the fruits of our labor will further the fruits of the Spirit by enabling us to give more and more in Christ’s name. And it is in this way that our work can glorify God.

Investing Is Not About Beliefs

Corey —  October 13, 2010 — 5 Comments

Scratching Head       In all my reading about investing (especially online), I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. People tend to talk about investing in terms of their beliefs. One might say, “I don’t believe people can’t beat the market. You can find good stocks by using your brain and analyzing information. I believe in active investing.” Another says, “I don’t believe anyone can beat the market. Most professional fund managers can’t do it consistently, and you probably can’t either. I believe in passive investing.” Still others say, “Market timing doesn’t work. It’s like predicting the future. I don’t believe in trying to time the market.” While some argue, “You CAN time the market if you know how. I believe it is possible to miss the bad days and save yourself a lot of money. I believe in market timing.

What’s Missing?

       You know what’s missing in most of these “belief” statements? Data. Facts. Testable, verifiable information. Knowledge. You don’t often hear people say “I know active investing works.” unless they’re talking about anecdotal evidence. And sadly, you don’t often hear people say “I know passive investing works.” They believe it because someone else believes it. Or because someone else told them to believe it. Or because it just “makes sense”. (This is true of any investment philosophy…)

Check Your Facts

       The thing is we have data, albeit historical data, but data nonetheless. We can’t guarantee that the future will look like the past, but we can learn some valuable lessons from it. We can learn that it is absolutely true that most people don’t beat an appropriate market benchmark consistently. (And when I say most people I mean 90%+ and by consistently I mean at least 10+ years in a row.) And we can verify data about market timing by looking at the results of those who try it.

       Then we get into the dangerous area of trying to predict the future. We make conjectures about what we think may or may not happen in the future. Then we build up our investment philosophy around that. Too often, we build it only on those conjectures and ignore all the data. And that’s the problem I’m seeing.

Belief or Reality?

       I’m not going to get into the details of what we think we know and don’t know. I simply want to ask you to think the next time you talk about your investing “beliefs”. Are you basing your beliefs on facts, data, and information you can test? Or are you basing it completely on feelings, conjectures, and guesses about the future or what makes sense to you?

Photo Credit: (SAN_DRINO on Flickr)

Redefining Riches       My friend Rob Kuban at Dollars and Doctrine has recently released a four lesson Sunday school series called Redefining Riches. I’ve had the chance to review it and I can tell you it’s an excellent introductory course to the core principles of a Biblical approach to finances. If you’re looking for something related to finances to do in your Sunday school class or small group, I highly recommend this as a starting place. (I’m not getting paid to say this, and I don’t earn anything if you buy it. I just believe Rob’s put together a great resource with a heart for helping people understand Biblical truths about God’s desires for our finances.) It’s only $3.99 for all four lessons, which includes PowerPoint slides, leader’s guides, and handouts. You can print as many copies as you need for your group, so it’s a great deal.

       Today’s post is from the content in the lesson on stewardship, which I’ve reprinted with Rob’s permission. I’m not devaluing Rob’s work because the value of buying Redefining Riches is in having the lessons already prepared for you along with the PowerPoint slides. You’ll get a good idea of the content by reading the excerpts I’ll share, but you’re still missing out on some additional content Rob includes as well as the leader’s guides and handouts.

Stewardship: A Work of Faith

       Stewardship is respectful of God as Creator and King.

“For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You…O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build You a house for Your holy name, it is from Your hand, and all is Yours.” (1 Chronicles 29:14,16)



       When we properly understand God’s ownership of all of His creation, we will view ourselves as managers of the resources with which God has entrusted us. Like the parable of the talents, we will seek to utilize our resources according to our master’s desire. The way we handle our money matters. The volume of scripture regarding money and possessions is profound. When we consider how often the Law, the prophets, Christ and the apostles spoke of such things, we can no longer view the way we handle our money as insignificant. (See Also: Psalm 24:1, Psalm 89:11, Deuteronomy 10:14, Romans 11:36, John 3:27, Matthew 25:14-30)


       Stewardship is revealing of our heart’s true treasure.

       “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.” (Matthew 12:35)

       ”Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)



       The way we handle and acquire money reveals a lot about our character and priorities. Are we generous, honest, selfish, content, humble or greedy? How we obtain our money and where it ends up reveals a lot about what we value. Christ constantly spoke of the impact our internal conditions have on our external acts. The use of money is a perfect example of this principle. (See Also: Proverbs 15:6, Luke 16:10)


       Stewardship is rewarding when done Biblically and wisely.

       “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-20)



       We will give an account for how we have managed and invested such a powerful asset. Are we investing in the kingdom or ourselves? The Bible clearly relates that heavenly reward awaits those who choose to invest in the kingdom of God. We must recognize that money has huge amounts of “potential energy” and we will be accountable for how we utilized and where we invested what God has entrusted to us. (See Also: Luke 12:33-34, Luke 14:12-14, Matthew 19:21, Hebrews 11:6)

Personal Finance Bible Verses

Corey —  October 11, 2010 — 2 Comments

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       Looking for bible verses about personal finance or money? Check out the Personal Finance Bible Verses page to find nearly 1,200 verses about personal finance in the Bible!

       I’ve collected and organized over 1,190 different Bible verses that teach us God’s ways for handling our personal finances. These are not verses that merely mention money. These are verses packed with practical advice about how we should handle our finances in a way that glorifies God. And I’ve tried my best to make sure I only used verses in the right context.

       I hope this resource will prove valuable as you seek God’s teaching on how you should handle your personal finances. Following God’s financial wisdom will have profound effects on your life and the Kingdom of God, but the path required is very different from what the world teaches. May God bless you and open your heart to His teaching as you seek the ultimate truth about how we should live and handle all that God has blessed us with!

       In the next part of our Personal Finance Bible Study, we’ll look at God’s desire for Christians to work hard and diligently. While contentment helps us to spend less money, hard work helps us to earn more money. When combined, these two values create a powerful force for giving generously in God’s name.

       We’ll begin this part of the Personal Finance Bible Study by looking at God’s call for Christians to work. Next, we’ll talk about the value of work in our lives. Then we’ll look at the dangers of too much rest, followed by the need for rest. We’ll finish up by discussing God’s business values and ethics so we can honor Him in our work.

We Were Made to Work

       From the very beginning of Creation, part of our purpose was to work. When God created Adam, we see that He assigned Adam the task of working in the garden of Eden:

       Yahweh God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

Genesis 2:15 (WEB)



       Part of the way we honor and worship God is by working to glorify Him. God created Adam and put him in the garden to work. Our human nature has not changed since then. We still need to work to honor God. Our work may look very different from Adam’s, but there is still work we must do.

We Need to Work

       Government aid programs aside, we cannot survive for long if we do not work. If we do not work, we cannot earn money. (All forms of income require work at some point in time.) It’s as simple as sowing and reaping. If you don’t plant a garden in the spring, you’re not going to have vegetables growing in your back yard in the summer. It’s also true that the harder we work, the more likely we are to find success. Solomon gives this advice clearly in Ecclesiastes:

       4 He who observes the wind won’t sow; and he who regards the clouds won’t reap. 5 As you don’t know what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child; even so you don’t know the work of God who does all. 6 In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening don’t withhold your hand; for you don’t know which will prosper, whether this or that, or whether they both will be equally good.

Ecclesiastes 11:4-6 (WEB)



       Many of us find security in having a paying job with a regular paycheck, but we also know that there are no guarantees. Just because you have a job today doesn’t mean you’ll have it tomorrow. This is not to say that we should live in fear, but we really do not know what the future holds. Solomon encourages us to continue working in the evening hours so we have something to fall back on if our primary work falls through. Start your own business part-time, and if you lose your regular job you’ll have something to fall back on. Or maybe they’ll both do well and you’ll prosper even more.

       I’m not saying we should all go out and become workaholics. The advice Solomon gives here is more along the lines of diversifying your sources of income. If you rely completely on your regular paycheck and you lose that, it’s going to hit you pretty hard. But if you have multiple sources of income, losing one of them won’t hurt you quite as badly.

       We see between these two verses that we are made to work and we need to work. Next, we’ll look at how our work glorifies God.