In the last part of this series, we talked about The World’s message – if we can just get more of what The World can offer us, we’ll be happy and satisfied. God tells us The World’s message is wrong and clearly shows us in the Bible that only His Message is true. Only God can bring us true happiness, satisfaction, and security.

       Today, we’re going to look a little more at why The World’s message is a problem.

It Keeps Us from Serving God

In Luke 16:13-15, Jesus tells us:

       13 “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You aren’t able to serve God and mammon.” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they scoffed at him. 15 He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Luke 16:13-15 (WEB)

       If we’re focused on The World and the things it offers, effectively we’re serving Money. And Jesus tells us when we are serving Money, we absolutely cannot serve God.

Deep Emotional Attachment by baslow on Flickr       God knows our hearts, and if we value the things of This World above Him then we are detestable in His sight. Putting more faith in the “wisdom” of The World than in God’s Wisdom means that we have demoted God to a lesser status. And we Christians know that the greatest commandment of all is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind – our entire being. If we place The World’s message above God’s Message, we cannot keep this greatest commandment.

It Cannot Provide an Eternal Reward

       Psalm 49 does a wonderful job of explaining why we shouldn’t believe The World’s message. The wealth of This World cannot save us from death; and once we die (as we all must), we cannot take any of it with us. Slowly read this passage and reflect upon it as you ask God to reveal the lies of The World and teach you His Truth.

   1 For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by the sons of Korah.

   Hear this, all you peoples.
   Listen, all you inhabitants of the world,
   2 both low and high,
   rich and poor together.
   3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom.
   My heart shall utter understanding.
   4 I will incline my ear to a proverb.
   I will open my riddle on the harp.

   5 Why should I fear in the days of evil,
   when iniquity at my heels surrounds me?
   6 Those who trust in their wealth,
   and boast in the multitude of their riches -
   7 none of them can by any means redeem his brother,
   nor give God a ransom for him.
   8 For the redemption of their life is costly,
   no payment is ever enough,
   9 That he should live on forever,
   that he should not see corruption.

   10 For he sees that wise men die;
   likewise the fool and the senseless perish,
   and leave their wealth to others.
   11 Their inward thought is that their houses will endure forever,
   and their dwelling places to all generations.
   They name their lands after themselves.
   12 But man, despite his riches, doesn’t endure.
   He is like the animals that perish.
   13 This is the destiny of those who are foolish,
   and of those who approve their sayings. Selah.

   14 They are appointed as a flock for Sheol.
   Death shall be their shepherd.
   The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning.
   Their beauty shall decay in Sheol,
   far from their mansion.
   15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
   for he will receive me. Selah.

   16 Don’t be afraid when a man is made rich,
   when the glory of his house is increased.
   17 For when he dies he shall carry nothing away.
   His glory shall not descend after him.
   18 Though while he lived he blessed his soul -
   and men praise you when you do well for yourself -
   19 he shall go to the generation of his fathers.
   They shall never see the light.
   20 A man who has riches without understanding,
   is like the animals that perish.

Psalm 49:1-20 (WEB)

Tree and Gravestones by Jim Frazier on Flickr       I especially like the last three verses. How often do we admire the wealthy for their success? Yet despite all their success, if they trust in their wealth they will die just like wild animals. God is the only one who can save us from death, and He can only do that if we give up believing The World’s message and seek His Truth.

       In the next part of this series, we’ll start talking about how we can ignore The World’s message and begin understanding the Truth.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

       The allure of shopping and consumerism has blinded millions of people. Many think more money or more stuff will make them happier. They always have to have the latest model, the newest car, the hottest fashions, or the biggest house they can afford. Advertisements tell us every day that we are missing out if we don’t have the things they’re selling. They bombard us with images of all the things we “need” to make us happy. We’re told that if we’ll just buy this gadget or these clothes we’ll be more popular, get more friends, have an easier life, or just feel better about ourselves.

       We’ve even been taught that our role in society is to be consumers – consumers of stuff. We’re supposed to work hard so we can buy more stuff. The more stuff we have, the happier we’ll be. And if we work hard enough and save up, we’ll get to a point where we don’t have to work any more but we can keep buying stuff. We’ll be able to spend all our time buying stuff or doing things that will really make us happy. Much happier than we were when we were working so hard before…

       This is just one of the many messages from The World that flies smack in the face of The Message that God has been trying to tell us for thousands of years. Jesus speaks directly to those who believe the world’s message in Revelation 3:17-18.

       17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;’ and don’t know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked; 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich; and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.

Revelation 3:17-18 (WEB)

       The World tries to tell us that if we just acquire more wealth & things, then we won’t need anything else – we’ll be satisfied and secure. But the truth is that the more we get the more we’ll want. The World can not offer us any true satisfaction or security. It’s a false hope to think that a bigger bank account will make you happier or more fulfilled. Jesus already knows The World can’t satisfy us, and that we’ll actually be pitiful, poor, blind, and naked if we listen to The World’s message. Only God can provide us with true wealth and open our eyes so we can see the truth.

Something Better

       God has a higher purpose for us than riches far beyond our needs and 6,000 square foot homes. God wants more meaning in our lives than a brand new luxury car in the driveway and a shiny yacht next to the dock. God has a higher calling for our retirement years than fruitless day after fruitless day spent on the golf course, beach, or back porch.

       There’s a major problem with The World’s message – specifically in that it contradicts God’s Message. We’ll talk more about why The World’s message is a problem in the next part of this series.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

Quaint Cottage by GettysGirl on Flickr

       A couple weeks ago, I published a guest post about the value of a mortgage refinance from Lender 411. A reader named Kevin D replied with this comment:

       I am disappointed to see this ad on this site. Sure, a refinance can be great but there is one glaring omission – your debt has now been extended! If I am 10 years into a 30-year mortgage at 7% and refinance at 4.5%, I just reduced my principal payment and extended my loan! Plus, there is hundreds (or thousands) in fees that could be used to pay down principal. It’s sad, people keep moving and refinancing and then find themselves 40 years into home “ownership” with 20 years left on their mortgage. I do not see how being a slave to debt for an extended time is assumed to be “immensely valuable”. Waiting until I have a larger down payment and getting a 15-year mortgage is far more valuable. That way, my money can work for me instead of for the bank.

       Other than this post, this is a great site! Great content.

       I responded to Kevin’s concerns in the comments, but I thought it would be helpful to write up a post on how to determine when it’s smart to refinance your mortgage.

Closing Costs Versus Interest Rate Savings

       One of Kevin’s concerns was about closing costs. You should try everything you can to negotiate lower closing costs including shopping around. But be sure to compare the difference in rates. A no closing cost loan could have a rate that’s high enough to offset your upfront savings over the life of the loan. (On the other hand, this could be a good option if you won’t be keeping your mortgage much longer or if you’re contemplating moving but aren’t sure yet.)

       When it comes to determining whether it’s smart to refinance your mortgage based on the closing costs, all you need to consider is your payback period. How long will it take before your interest savings covers your closing costs? If you’ll keep the mortgage for longer than this time period, it makes sense to refinance.

       Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a mortgage with a current balance of $200,000 (originally $240,000) at 6% and 20 years left (out of 30). For simplicity’s sake, we’ll assume you’re refinancing using a 20 year mortgage with a 4.5% interest rate and $2,000 in closing costs. Your current principal and interest payment would be $1,439/month, but refinancing will bring your payment down to $1,265/month. That means you’re paying $174 less in interest per month. Your payback period is ($2,000/$174) 11.5 months. As long as you’ll be keeping your new mortgage for at least another year, refinancing saved you money in this example.

       If your mortgage situation is more complicated than that (PMI, different terms, etc.), I’d recommend using the mortgage refinance breakeven calculator or the mortgage refinance interest savings calculator at These calculators can handle more complicated situations and give you a better idea for your personal situation. Play around with the variables a bit and be sure to read the help at the bottom of the page if you’re not sure about something.

Consider Your Options When Refinancing

       One of Kevin’s main concerns is extending the length of time you’ll be paying on your house. If you’re 10 years into a 30 year mortgage and you refinance with another 30 year mortgage, you’ll end up paying for your house over a total of 40 years. This isn’t good when you look at the total interest costs. (It would easily add another $60,000 in total payments in the example above.)

       But just because you’re refinancing a 30 year mortgage you don’t have to use another 30 year mortgage. I alluded to this in my example in the previous section, but you can just as easily pick a term that’s similar to whatever you have left at this moment. If you’re 10 years in to a 30 year mortgage, you could choose to refinance with a 20 year mortgage. This nets you the interest savings without extending the total time you’ll be paying for your house.

Extending Your Mortgage Term to Cover the Rough Spots

       If you’ve just hit some financial difficulties, refinancing your mortgage with a longer term than you currently have left can help you decrease your cash outflows. In my earlier refinance example, using a 30 year mortgage instead of a 20 year mortgage would take your new payment down to $1,013/month instead of $1,265/month.

       I’m not saying this is the ideal situation because it will drastically increase your total payments if you take no further action. But it can be a legitimate option – especially if you plan to prepay your mortgage once you get back on your feet. In fact, it can actually set you up to be in a better position in the future simply because you’ll have a lower required payment. If you’re prepaying your mortgage and hit another rough spot, you can just drop back down to the minimum required payment.

Extending Your Mortgage Because You Have Better Investment Options

       Finally, a riskier strategy would be to go ahead and refinance with a longer term so you can lock in a low interest rate. Then, instead of prepaying on your mortgage you invest your extra cash flow in something that will return a higher rate than what you’re paying on the mortgage.

       This isn’t always possible, but with interest rates as low as they are today (easily in the 4-5% range) it can be a smart move. There are no guarantees, but even short term bonds have historically returned a little above 4%. A conservative stock/bond mix has a decent chance of beating such a low mortgage rate. (Disclaimer: Past performance is no guarantee of future results…)

Mortgage Refinancing Can Be Smart If Used Wisely

       My overall point is that we shouldn’t ignore the value of a mortgage refinance simply because people can and do use them in dumb ways. You need to carefully consider your own situation and motives before dismissing a mortgage refinance as a good option for you. I have put up the Lender 411 ad and agreed to let them do a guest post because refinancing your mortgage is an excellent option for many people right now. Lender 411 offers a useful service that’s completely free to consumers and they do it in a user-friendly way.

       Today’s interest rates are ridiculously low – you’d be foolish not to take the time to at least consider refinancing. If you want to shop around for rates, Lender 411 is a good option. But there are plenty of competitors in this business, so don’t feel limited to them.

Your Thoughts

       Are you considering refinancing your mortgage? Do you think my examples were good? Did I miss something? Do you have a question I didn’t address? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and let me know!

Low Mortgage Rates - Refinance or Buy Now!

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by Katie Tegtmeyer on Flickr - not my sister       My youngest sister will be having a baby soon. We were discussing wills recently, and she wisely brought up the question of how to choose a guardian for your child. I gave her some basic tips in an email, but I thought it would make a good topic for a post. This is an expansion of the advice I gave my sister.

What Is a Legal Guardian? Why Should I Choose One?

       A legal guardian is an adult who is designated to care for your child if both you and your spouse die or become incapacitated. If you don’t choose one, the courts will choose one for you.

       You shouldn’t assume that family will automatically get custody of your child. Unless you have a named guardian in your will, a judge will choose the guardian for your child. While the courts look most favorably upon choosing family members, they are free to pick anyone they choose. If they can’t find someone who is capable and qualified, your child could end up in foster care. If that’s not reason enough to designate a guardian, I don’t know what is.

       It’s also wise to name an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to accept the responsibility. This can be easily handled in your will.

Choosing the Right Guardian

       The first thing you must realize is that you won’t find a perfect guardian for your child. Your job is to find the best guardian you can – not a perfect one. Start by making a list of all the possibilities. Then discuss each possibility with your spouse. Here are a few factors to consider when narrowing down your list:

  • Do the person’s religious values, beliefs, and parenting style & technique closely match yours?

  • Will the person be able to manage the responsibility of caring for your child? (financially, physically, and emotionally)

  • Is your child comfortable with the person?

  • Does the person have other children? Will your child fit in well with the family?

  • Does the person live close to you, or would your child have to move far away? (changing schools, losing friends, etc. in the process)

Should I Choose a Different Person to Manage My Estate?

       Hopefully, you’ll leave behind an estate that can help cover the costs of raising your child. If you do, you must decide if you want the legal guardian to also be the manager of those funds or if you should pick someone else. Having one person do both keeps things simple and makes it easier for the guardian. However, there are cases where you might want to pick a different person.

       Clearly, if the person you’ve chosen as your child’s legal guardian is not good at managing their own finances, you probably don’t want them to manage your child’s inheritance either. (Although, if this is the case, why would you pick them to be the guardian?!)

       You might also select a different person to be the trustee so you can keep them involved in your child’s life. Your parents could be a good example. They might be too old to raise your child, but by choosing them to be the trustee you can keep them involved in your child’s life without the day-to-day responsibilities.

       In either case, you’ll want to make sure that both the legal guardian and the trustee can work together well. Any complications could make a difficult situation worse.

Get the Person’s OK Before Signing Your Will

       Finally – and this should be obvious – make sure you’ve discussed this with the person you’d like to select as your child’s legal guardian. You don’t want them to be caught by surprise after your funeral. It would be quite foolish to pick someone without discussing it with them first.

       This is also a good way to narrow down your final list. One person may decline the responsibility. Another may be more than happy to take on this role. This makes your choice much easier.

Your Thoughts

       What advice would you give to my sister as she goes through the process of choosing a legal guardian? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Provident Planning is a partner in GRABBBR, Giveaway Reaching All Bible Based Blog Readers. This is my featured GRABBBR blog post. By leaving a comment on this post, you will gain 5 ENTRY POINTS and may win cash or prizes.

Discussion is encouraged! However, only 1 comment per person will be counted towards GRABBBR, so please, no spam. For more information about GRABBBR, including how to gain additional entry points, visit the official GRABBBR page.

       ”What do you want to do?”

       ”I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

       ”Whatever you want to do…”

       So goes the familiar refrain when my wife and I decide we should do something interesting for the evening or weekend. Unless one of us has a really great idea, we never seem to have a strong enough preference to break free from our normal, predictable activities and try something different. Enter the Boredom Buster™!

The Boredom Buster

What Is It?

       This handy device is the door to inspiration and variety. Simply choose the location (indoors or outdoors) and time requirement (short or long) and draw a slip of paper. Then do whatever is written down. Here are some sample ideas my wife and I came up with one evening on the couch:

Indoor – Short

  • Play a card game
  • Sort through a closet to find Goodwill donations
  • Play some music together
  • Learn five words in a different language
  • Learn a magic trick

Indoor – Long

  • Make soft pretzels & some sauces
  • Paint a picture
  • Watch a movie
  • Create our own mystery dinner (theme, plot, etc.)
  • Make something on

Outdoor – Short

  • Go for a walk
  • Make and fly paper airplanes
  • Learn to juggle
  • Follow an ant
  • Watch the clouds float by

Outdoor – Long

  • Weave a basket
  • Make dorodango balls
  • Start a fire without matches or a lighter
  • Play tennis
  • Go on a hike

       We have many more activities in our Boredom Buster, but this short list can get your juices flowing. As you can see, our categories are quite arbitrary. Some “short” activities could take a long time, and some “outdoor” activies could be done indoors. It’s not important the you get it exactly right. It just helps to keep you from pulling three or four times to find something feasible.

       Want to make your own Boredom Buster? Here’s how:

  1. Find a container. Anything will do.
  2. Divide it into four or five sections if you like. Label them
  3. Write down a list of ideas. Search the Internet for “things to do” if you need some prompts.
  4. Cut up your ideas so they’re on individual slips of paper.
  5. Organize your ideas into categories. Fold up the papers and put them in your jar.

       That’s all there is to it. Just pull out an idea the next time you’re bored or can’t decide what to do.

       Special Tip for Parents: This is a great way to occupy your kids when they complain about being bored. Add some rules to the Boredom Buster like “You must do whatever activity you pull out (if possible).”. Make sure you stick a few chores in the mix!

How Does This Relate to Personal Finance?

       I’ve found that boredom can lead to overspending. At a loss for creative ideas of things to do, we tend to think of activities we have to pay for. Most of those activities require some driving (meaning more money). And the funny thing is that we don’t feel any more satisfied or fulfilled after doing something like that than we do when we pull something from the Boredom Buster that doesn’t cost anything or is very cheap.

       Most of the ideas in our Boredom Buster are frugal activities (or can be with some creativity). This means we can find something interesting to do without resorting to the common movie, dining out, or recreational activity (bowling, mini golf, sports events, etc.). Some of the ideas we have in our Boredom Buster cost money but not nearly as much as the traditional choices. Using this technique saves us money over time and expands our minds/skillset/creativity/etc. I figure if it works for us, it can work for you!

Your Thoughts

       What do you think of this idea? How do you handle those “I’m bored” moments? What would you put in your Boredom Buster? Share your thoughts in the comments!

       Last month, I posted an update about how my wife and I are raising a cow for beef. This is a summary of our activity and costs for month 10. As always, let’s first check Bambi’s growth. Here he is at nine months old:

Bambi - 9 Months Old

       And here he is at ten months old:

Bambi - 10 Months Old

       Last time we checked Bambi’s weight (a few weeks ago), he was about 600 pounds. If he keeps growing at his current rate, he should be about 900-1000 pounds by November when he’ll be 15 months old. This is when we’re planning to send him to the butcher, but we might have to do it in October. It depends on the weather and when we can find a friend who’s ready to send their steer to the butcher.

Costs & Time

       Since we don’t have a fenced-in pasture to let Bambi graze on, I have to move him around from place to place using a stake in the ground. This means it takes me more time to take care of Bambi than it would for someone who has a fenced-in pasture. If I didn’t have to move him around and refill his water bucket three or four times a day, it would probably take less than 5 minutes a day to raise him. As it is now, I spend about 20 minutes a day (not all at once though…usually 10 minutes in the morning and the rest throughout the day).

       The only thing I’m worried about is how I’ll be able to handle moving him as he gets bigger. He’s not too difficult to move if it’s only a short distance and he can see where I’ve put his grain. If I have to take him around the corner of a building or to a spot that’s farther away, he can get a bit antsy. Again, we only had to buy feed this month. He did eat a bit of hay while we were gone camping since we left him in the barn to make it easy for Michelle’s mom to care for him. We still have a good bit left though.

  • Feed – $40.00

  • Time – 11 hours

       And here are our total costs over the past ten months:

  • Cost of Bambi – Free!

  • Castration & Dehorning – $16.00

  • Milk Replacer – $45.54

  • Miscellaneous – $46.87

  • Feed – $321.84

  • Hay – $88.00

  • Straw – $20.00

  • Medicine – $5.00

  • Total Spent – $543.25

  • Time – 94 hours

       Ten months in and we’ve spent a total of $543.25 and 94 hours raising a cow for beef. As a financial experiment, time is going to be the killer here. Right now we’re running less than a dollar per pound (though he wouldn’t yield 600 pounds of beef right now). Add in a reasonable amount for my time and the costs don’t look so good. It’d be at least $1,200 so far, and that’s figuring on minimum wage.

       That’s it for this month. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. And make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in knowing what it takes to raise a cow for beef!

       Welcome to the third edition of the Christian Finance Carnival! If you want to find out more, make sure you check Money Help for Christian’s page about the Christian Finance Carnival. This edition covers articles published in May 2010. Since summer started this past Monday, I decided to add a few pictures highlighting some of my favorite things about summer.

  • Money Help For Christians – Craig shares Bible and Money Lessons From One Year of Blogging and says, “Over the last year I’ve learned a lot about the Bible and money. In this post I share some of those lessons.”

  • Provident Planning – I’d like to share Preaching Christ Crucified with you all. Too often we fail to emphasize that Christ accomplished everything on the Cross. Yes, we must live changed lives, obey His commands, and do good works. But we are not saved by these. We need to remember that truth at all times.

  • Waterskiing (photo by Igor Bespamyatnov on Flickr)
    Ahhh…waterskiing. One of my favorite things to do in the summer!

  • Bible Money Matters – Peter presents Devotional: The Source Of Happiness saying, “What is the true source of happiness?”

  • Personal Finance by the Book – Joe Plemon asks Which Comes First: Earning or Saving? and says, “Proverbs 21:20 strongly implies that we should live on less than we earn. But what if our earnings are quite meager? Should we achieve a ‘living wage’ before trying to save? This post examines that question.”

  • Roasting Marshmallows (photo by ninahale on Flickr)
    Summertime means campfires with friends. And campfires mean roasting marshmallows (alone or for s’mores) and usually some ice cream. Good times!

  • Matt about Money – Matt Bell discusses The Master(’s) Principle which covers the benefits of patience.

  • One Money Design – Jason Price presents Money Margin: It is No Mirage! and says, “We could all use a little more money margin in our lives, right? Margin isn’t impossible if you learn to manage money based on God’s financial principles.”

  • Kayaking (photo by davichi on Flickr)
    My wife and I like to go kayaking in the summer. We’re blessed to have a nice creek near our house and several other local options that we haven’t explored yet.

           Be sure to check out next month’s edition of the Christian Finance Carnival, which should be up on July 14th over at Christian Personal Finance.