Insights for Kingdom Living | Posts


Factors Most Affecting Your Giving, Spending and Saving in 2013: A Mid-Year Check-Up.

posted Aug 8, 2013, 5:41 AM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Aug 14, 2013, 12:28 PM ]

If you are like most Americans who make resolutions each year, you’ve probably made one involving your finances.   If so, then perhaps now is a time to reevaluate your strategy…

Have You Considered All The Cost?

You may have committed to save more and spend less, or better yet, give even more to charity than you have done in the past.   On the other hand, if you made no such resolutions, how do you determine your financial priorities?    At the top of any list should be those financial obligations for which you have little to no control.  These consist of your federal, state and local income taxes, additional payroll withholding's (such as Social Security and Medicare, healthcare premiums and retirement contributions) or varying local property, excise or special utility taxes.   Of course, some individuals will also have to consider estate taxes, sales taxes and other revenue taxes incurred for other specific reasons throughout the past year.

Combined, these can diminish as much as 40% off some taxpayers’ annual income, leaving them with only 60% to actually budget for the year.   Add to this your average gasoline, food and other retail spending activity for the year coupled with additional taxes and fees for annual memberships, online shopping, and a myriad of other activity, and another 10%-15% of your income could easily be consumed in taxes. 

How Have You Fared So Far?

Sobering news, I hope.  Imagine having more than 50% of your annual income redirected towards taxes, and having little to no control over the choice to pay it.   And, to the charitable-minded, particularly the Christian, just how much might this impact your giving to your church or to others in need?

Statistically speaking, the median income of Americans in 2011 still hovers around $49,000 annually.  In that range, the average (single) American may end up paying anywhere from 0% - 30% in just federal and state income taxes this year.   Fortunately, with most of our legislated tax deductions and credits still in place, a good percentage of taxpayers—especially married and head of households may not incur more than a 10% - 14% adjusted income tax liability. 

However, remember that there are many ways that taxes are incurred.  A heavy-spending consumer type will still incur significant tax obligations on just about all of their regular and daily purchases, including food, restaurant dining, entertainment, phone service contracts, and clothing and appliance purchases.

A Better Planning Method For Kingdom Representatives

Because of these facts, I have a suggestion.   Why not try this simple yet powerful formula:  I call it I + P = V.™    In short, this formula will enable anyone using it to quickly assess the best way to manage their personal finances more purposefully.  The acronym stands for Imposed Monetary Obligations + Pursuit-of-Purpose = Voluntary Obligations, or I+P=V™.    Though simple to remember, this financial concept will help you immensely in learning how and why you should set goals that truly matter.

Your Plans and Priorities Are Important For Many Reasons

This financial planning formula provides a guaranteed way for a truly committed Christians to become an effective steward and to strategically exercise control over the spending-craze encouraged through the world’s economic system.   Why is this important?  Because in the eyes of God, you are His earthly steward with whom He has deposited certain of His treasure. 

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalm 24:1) NIV.  Because of this truth, the Lord expects that believer’s will acknowledge His ownership and our possession of the many good treasures, which include our time, our talent and our finances;  and that we should manage what has been entrusted to us according to His expectation.   This principle is best reflected in the story Jesus shared with His disciples in the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25:14-30.

You can learn more about this formula in my book The Kingdom Life Approach: A Purpose-Driven Strategy for Living Your Best Life Ever.  You can read free excerpts online via GoogleBooks, AmazonBooks, or BarnesandNoble.com, and through my publisher Xulon Press.  Or, you can also visit the LifePlanning Institute’s website at http://www.MyLPI.org  to obtain additional information about our programs, courses and other books and materials.

Consider Adopting A Kingdom Living Strategy

In the Kingdom of God—which, as a believer you are a citizen—the principle of love as expressed through giving is at the core of God’s, therefore, our true nature.  Keep in mind that we were made in His image and likeness.   This is what we read in John 3:16:  “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”  Sound familiar?     Well, has giving been at the top of your priorities in 2013?  

The Bible also teaches us that God has a plan for each of us.   Therefore, will knowing this have any effect on your plans for giving, spending and saving in the remainder of the year?   In Jeremiah 29, the prophet wrote as God declared to him, For I know the plans I have for you…, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “ 

Sounds to me that the wise steward would benefit from first knowing Gods’ plan before venturing out to spend or even save what is within their possession to manage.   If so, then it leads to one last question?  Are you going to serve God as one of His wise and faithful stewards in 2013?  

If your answer is yes and you’d like help to accomplish this, the LifePlanning Institute is here to assist you.  Try http://www.MyLPI.org.  If you have a different point of view, please take a moment and share it with us.  In fact, please help us to collect even more views by sharing this article with others.  

Whose Report Will You Believe?

posted Jul 25, 2013, 9:47 PM by Charles C. Christie,Jr.   [ updated Jul 26, 2013, 5:37 PM ]

by Willie Thomas Butler
In a February 2013 report alleging a major shift in the “stay the course” investment philosophy of the past few decades, some billionaires have been observed quickly dumping their holdings of U.S. based companies and their stocks.
Specifically, quoting from a February 6th NewsMax Wire article,  Warren Buffett, who has been a cheerleader for U.S. stocks for quite some time, is dumping shares at an alarming rate. He recently complained of “disappointing performance” in dyed-in-the-wool American companies like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Kraft Foods.
In the latest filing for Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has been drastically reducing his exposure to stocks that depend on consumer purchasing habits. Berkshire sold roughly 19 million shares of Johnson & Johnson, and reduced his overall stake in “consumer product stocks” by 21%. Berkshire Hathaway also sold its entire stake in California-based computer parts supplier Intel.
With 70% of the U.S. economy dependent on consumer spending, Buffett’s apparent lack of faith in these companies’ future prospects is worrisome.   And, unfortunately for U.S. companies, Buffett isn’t alone.
The article goes on to cite fellow billionaires such as John Paulson, who having made a fortune betting on the sub prime mortgage meltdown, is also clearing out of U.S. stocks. During the second quarter of the year, Paulson’s hedge fund, Paulson & Co., dumped 14 million shares of JP Morgan Chase. The fund also dumped its entire position in discount retailer Family Dollar and consumer-goods maker Sara Lee.
Finally, billionaire George Soros recently sold nearly all of his bank stocks, including shares of JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. Between the three banks, Soros sold more than a million shares.
So why are these billionaires dumping their shares of U.S. companies?  Well, according to the article’s author, many professional investors are heeding the advice of stock-market researcher and esteemed economist Robert Wiedemer, author of the New York Times best-selling book, “Aftershock.” 
Known for having predicted the 2007 Great Recession and collapse of our markets, Wiedemer’s opinion is important in the minds of savvy investors with lots to lose.  When he says that the new threat against investing in 2013 is that the market is due for a massive correction of as much as 90%, should that warning coupled with his past successes in financial forecasting keep us all from getting in the market once again?
“A columnist at Dow Jones said that Wiedemer’s  earlier book [America’s Bubble Economy] was “one of those rare finds that not only predicted the sub prime credit meltdown well in advance, it offered Main Street investors a winning strategy that helped avoid the forty percent losses that followed . . .”
Now with lingering financial fears being rekindled by both the Obama Administration and Congress over Sequestration, many are afraid to jump into the Stock market before seeing much clearer signs that everything is alright again.  And, if you are among this group, are you in the right company?
My question to you would be this:  Are the following warnings and signs something Christians should heed as well?  Is God telling us through these actions that we are all about to experience a major financial meltdown again, or is His message at this hour different?   And, if His message is in fact one and the same as what the world is reacting to, just what can Christians do to safeguard that which God has entrusted to them?
My answer is two-fold:   First, I do not believe that God’s message for this hour is doom-and-gloom!   In fact, the Church as a whole has been prophesying about a major change taking place in world affairs, which includes how economies will affect nations in the coming years.   Some Christians will see significant financial increase in 2013, but more importantly, many will experience a major difference in how God works through them to effect change throughout the earth.
Second, the Lord has been preparing His own to understand the signs around us and the seasons we have entered into.  These same individuals have been undergoing unique and highly specialized training to know what God expects of His people and what they can do to avoid being victims of worldly schemes for obtaining wealth and riches.   This is why in Isaiah 48:17, the prophet of old said, "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.”
Fortunately for us all, the LifePlanning Institute is among those organizations that God has been developing for just this time.  More specifically as relates to investing wisely and with specific purpose, LPI also has affiliate partners that understand that a Kingdom strategy for investing and saving differs from conventional approaches, therefore Christians should seek to use a system that better represents their Kingdom interest.
Heritage Wealth Management Group is one such organization that I highly recommend for the Christian investor seeking both spiritual as well as state-of-the-art practical advice.    Located in Norfolk, Virginia, the principals at HWMG are highly seasoned and experienced wealth managers who can assist you with understanding the trends, forecast and best practice steps for today’s financial markets.
But don’t just take my word for it, why not give them a call at (888) 337-0345, or send them an email?  That way, you can learn from two of the industry’s best:  men whose love of God places your financial interest well above how others might advise you.

The Radical Shift Toward Kingdom Life

posted Jul 25, 2013, 9:39 PM by Charles C. Christie,Jr.   [ updated Jul 25, 2013, 9:56 PM ]


by Willie Thomas Butler

Dear Reader,

This blog is about to become more radical in its scope of issues and author’s views.  That is because “The Kingdom Life Approach is not for the faint at heart!” 

This statement is a quote from my latest book, The Kingdom Life Approach: A Purpose-Driven Strategy for Living Your Best Life (c.2011).   Since publishing this book, I have also written numerous blogs and articles for my charitable organization, the LifePlanning Institute, its website and their Tip of the Week section; and I have been producing chapters for my next book about Marketplace Ministry to be published this Fall.  

During this period, I have also published The Kingdom Life Approach Course Workbook (c.2012) designed to facilitate training in an eight-week workshop—that I also developed—to teach the Kingdom Life Approach and provide biblical stewardship principles and practical skills training in Christian financial planning

Why am I telling you this now?  Because it is time to be radical in promoting Kingdom Life and show the world what true commitment to living God’s way might look like. 

It's Time To Stand-Out 

While Christians are supposed to be different than non-Christians, truth is the average person would have difficulty telling the difference between each.  That is because in almost every way, Christians emulate the world and its behaviors:  its morality, its self-serving interest and its overwhelming zeal for wealth, fame and pursuit of personal ambitions.   Just observe any street in America, where living across from one another could be a Christian and non-Christian family whose homes, cars, careers and activity-schedules mirror one another with the exception of where each may go for worship.


The Bible teaches that Christians are bought with a price, which means that when they accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, their lives are no longer their own to manage and orchestrate as they please. (1 Cor. 6:20)  Does this mean they lose free-will to choose their own path in life?  Not at all…  But it does mean they have the ability to surrender or lay down their personal agenda and need for gratification, and instead can accept a path that God may have in mind for them.  That is the path of discipleship, a well accepted concept that most people associate with pastors, priests and other deeply religious types.  But few ever think that such a concept applies to them as well.

Well, not true!   Christians are defined by Jesus as “Being in the world but not of the world,” or its systems. (John 17:16)  As such, Christians have the ability to serve God in the earthly realm in a myriad of ways:  first and foremost as servants--also known as stewards--as ambassadors, emissaries and Good News messengers.  In other words, as one whose life is no longer their own, and as one who seeks first to fulfill God’s purpose, Christians have the special privilege of showing the world that Jesus died for all, and that God loves them as much as He loves His own.

The issue is not whether the opportunity exists to serve Him; the issue is who will surrender their own agenda to live for God in this day and age?   And, if living for God means changing how I manage those things He has entrusted to me, such as my time, my talent and my material resources, then am I willing to do so?

This is the radical side of Christianity that I lovingly refer to as Kingdom Life.  When you choose to live according to God’s plan for your life, then you must make a conscious decision to subordinate your personal plans and assume His plan instead.   This is a radical view to some and it requires a radical decision, but it is absolutely crucial if you truly want to live according to God’s plan.   After all, it was Jesus that taught His disciples that it will only be “those who do my Father’s will that will inherit the Kingdom of God.”   (Mt.7:21)

So, you see, in the end the person who does good works because they chose to, or the person who gives somewhat generously but only as they choose, will not be among the true candidates for God’s eternal kingdom.  Only those, according to Jesus, who do Father’s will, that is, fulfill His plan and purpose.  Given this truth, just where do you fit today?

So, What's Next?

I launched this blog as a conventional site offering the same general advice and counsel that others in my profession offer who are Christian.  I mean no offense, but the truth is, I am not nor are any Christians meant to be like everyone else.  Nor are God’s principles and Kingdom strategies like anything the world offers.  So, why not let the world see how the two should be distinguished?   As such, this is the mission of the LifePlanning Institute.

That is my new agenda; an agenda the Lord has been developing in me for almost twenty years.  And the books, articles and other things I produced are merely the fruit that comes from the seeds He sowed in me many years ago;  seeds sown that  I might bring forth fruit that will nourish many in the years ahead!   Said another way, I have no choice but to be myself in my attempt to communicate with you on behalf of our Creator, our Father, and our Lord and King, Jesus Christ!

He has taught me and shown me that the Kingdom of God is different and operates differently from the world, and that it is time that His people, the Christian Church, learn that these differences are available for us to operate within here and now.   Referring to Jesus' sayings again stated more than 2,500 years ago, He said that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” or with us.   And while still among us in the earth He taught us a prayer we have all come to know as the Lord’s Prayer.  In it, Jesus underscores the importance of God’s Kingdom objective when He prays “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”   (Mt. 6:10)

Accordingly, I imagine hearing Jesus praying to the Father to let your kingdom reign in the earth Lord, just as it does in Heaven.  How?  Through those you gave me as disciples who now populate the earth and are there as your ambassadors and emissaries of Your Kingdom!

In this context even how one chooses to manage their wealth or function as God's earthly steward matters greatly.  So why not learn what strategies work best to fulfill God’s will and plan and to advance the Kingdom of God—as Jesus prayed—throughout the earth?

Please Join Me!

Will you be counted among those He can rely upon to serve Him?  If so, the LifePlanning Institute is here to help you every step along the way.

This is the content you can expect in future editions of this blog, but shorter.  Again, it may seem radical, but it is no less truth.  I trust that God will enable my writings to reach an audience of His choosing; that is, an audience with ears to hear and hearts ready to transform as they are led by His Spirit.  I can ask no more nor expect any less as I seek to fulfill my purpose in Him.  And I pray that you will too!..

Important Updates on Payroll and Taxable Earnings

posted Jul 25, 2013, 9:32 PM by Charles C. Christie,Jr.   [ updated Jul 25, 2013, 9:56 PM ]


by Willie Thomas Butler

With the expiration of the Bush Era Tax Laws and the more recent Payroll Tax Holiday, everyone subject to Social Security payroll tax (or FICA), including most self-employed,  will return to the higher withholding  rate this week.   So here are some things to consider if you are paying this tax:

Payroll tax cut ends… And a New Rate begins. 

Workers who paid 4.2 percent of their income into the Social Security system in 2011 and 2012 will now resume contributing 6.2 percent of their earnings in 2013, up to the earnings tax cap of $113,700.  This means the average family with a $50,000 annual income will get around $960 less in take-home pay in 2013, unless the tax relief is extended.   However, that seems highly unlikely with Congress.

The payroll tax cap will also increase by $3,600, from $110,100 in 2012 to $113,700 in 2013. Once income exceeds this threshold, the mandatory payroll and self-employment tax imposition ceases. 
How this might affect your paycheck or estimated tax obligations?

You can find out using this tool:


Change in Social Security procedures… Including a higher earnings limit.
 
On March 1, 2013, Social Security recipients will no longer receive benefit checks by mail.  Instead, retirees will be required to have their Social Security payments deposited into a bank or credit union account or loaded onto a prepaid Direct Express Debit MasterCard.  Having a bank account is encouraged…

Some positive news is that Social Security beneficiaries began receiving payments that were 1.7 percent larger in January 2013.  Accordingly, the average monthly benefit in January increased from $1,240 to $1,261 as a cost-of-living adjustment.

Beware of Withholding's on Older Workers

Workers between ages 62 and 65 can earn up to $15,120 in 2013, before being subject to a much higher tax withholding.   Specifically, after reaching the $15,120 threshold, $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 of income above the earnings limit.    That means 50% of what you make above $15,120 may be withheld and subject to permanent taxation in 2013.   Beware beneficiaries with part-time jobs.

For individuals turning 66 this year, you can earn up to $40,080, and then $1 of benefits will be withheld for every $3 earned above the limit.  However, once you turn age 66, the earnings limit no longer applies. And benefits may be recalculated at age 66 to reflect the withheld benefits and continued earnings.

Let us know if we can help you!..

What Factors Will Most Affect Your Giving, Spending and Saving in 2013?

posted Jul 25, 2013, 9:22 PM by Charles C. Christie,Jr.   [ updated Jul 25, 2013, 9:58 PM ]

by Willie Thomas Butler

If you are like most Americans who make resolutions each year, you've probably made one involving your finances. You may have committed to save more and spend less, or better yet, give even more to charity than you have done in the past. On the other hand, if you made no such resolutions, how do you determine your financial priorities? 

At the top of any list should be those financial obligations for which you have little to no control. These consist of your federal, state and local income taxes, additional payroll (such as Social Security and Medicare) taxes and varying local property, excise or special utility taxes. Of course, some individuals will also have to consider estate taxes, sales taxes and other revenue taxes incurred for other specific reasons throughout the past year. 

Combined, these can diminish as much as 40% off some taxpayers’ annual income, leaving them with only 60% to actually budget for the year. Add to this your anticipated gasoline, food and other retail spending activity for the year coupled with additional taxes and fees for annual memberships, online shopping, and a myriad of other activity, and another 10%-15% of your income could easily be consumed in taxes. 

Sobering news, I hope. Imagine having more than 50% of your annual income redirected towards taxes, and having little to no control over the choice to pay it. And, to the charitable-minded, particularly the Christian, just how much might this impact your giving to your church or to others in need? 

Statistically speaking, the median income of Americans in 2011 still hovers around $50,000 annually. In that range, the average American may end up paying anywhere from 0% - 30% in just federal and state income taxes this year. Fortunately, with most of our legislated tax deductions and credits still in place, this average will likely result in a majority of taxpayers incurring no more than a 10% - 14% liability. 

However, remember the many ways that taxes are incurred. A major consumer type will still incur significant tax obligations on just about all of their regular and daily purchases, including food, restaurant dining, entertainment, phone service contracts, and clothing and appliance purchases. 

Because of these facts, I have a suggestion. Why not apply this simple yet powerful formula called I + P = V.™ In short, this formula will enable anyone using it to quickly assess the best way to manage their personal finances more purposefully. The acronym stands for Imposed Monetary Obligations + Pursuit-of-Purpose = Voluntary Obligations, or I+P=V™. Though simple to remember, this financial concept will help you immensely in learning how and why to set goals that truly matter. 

Your Plans and Priorities Are Important For Many Reasons 

This financial planning formula provides a guaranteed way for a truly committed Christians to become an effective steward and to strategically exercise control over today's spending-craze encouraged through the world’s economic system. Why is this important? Because in the eyes of God, you are His earthly steward with whom He has deposited certain of His treasure. 

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…” (Psalm 24:1) NIV. Accordingly, He expects that we acknowledge His ownership and our possession of the many good treasures, which include our time, our talent and our finances; and that we should manage what has been entrusted to us according to His expectation. This principle is best reflected in the story Jesus shared with His disciples called the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 24. 

You can learn more about this formula in my book The Kingdom Life Approach: A Purpose-Driven Strategy for Living Your Best Life Ever. You can read free excerpts online via Google Books,  Amazon Books, or Barnes and Noble.com, and through my publisher Xulon Press. Or, you can also visit the LifePlanning Institute’s website to obtain additional information about our programs, courses and other books and materials. 

Welcome to Kingdom Living! 

In the Kingdom of God—which, as a Christian you are a citizen—the principle of love expressed through giving is at the core of God’s, therefore, our true nature—being made in His image and likeness. This is what we read in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” Sound familiar?  Well, if it does, is giving at the top of your priorities in 2013? 

The Bible also teaches us that God has a plan for each of us. Therefore, will knowing this have any effect on your giving, spending and saving plans this year?   In Jeremiah 29:11, the prophet wrote as God declared to him, “For I know the plans I have for you…, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Sounds to me that the wise steward would benefit from first knowing Gods’ plan before venturing out to spend or even save what is within their possession to manage. If so, then it leads to one last question? Are you going to serve God as one of His wise and faithful stewards in 2013? 

If your answer is yes and you’d like help to accomplish this, the LifePlanning Institute can assist you.  We offer a training course and workbook titled The Kingdom Life Approach.

Live Your Best Life Ever in 2013!..

posted Jul 25, 2013, 9:10 PM by Charles C. Christie,Jr.   [ updated Jul 25, 2013, 9:36 PM ]

by Willie Thomas Butler

Want to achieve the best life you could ever live?  Then commit yourself to make the following changes in your day-to-day planning:

1.  Seek first the Kingdom of God ... (Matthew 6:33)

Show your commitment and determination to pursue God above all else on 2013, and He will not fail you. Remember, He is the only Source who really knows who you are and what you should do with your life.

2. Seek to Know Your Purpose

Though our natural tendency is to devise our own plans and strategies to get ahead, it is God's purpose that prevails.  (Proverbs 19:21)

3.  Redirect Your Goals, Priorities and Strategies to Achieve His Purpose

Trust God to show you His will and plan for your life, and the re-prioritize your resources:  your time, talent and treasure, to achieve it.  Your act of submission shows that you are willing to "Entrust your efforts to the Lord, and (as a result) your plans will success" (Proverbs 16:3 - God's Word).

If you really desire to change your life, then you need to commit yourself to this approach.  It is what I lovingly refer to to as the Kingdom Life Approach.  And if you would like help in implementing this approach to living, please know that the LifePlanning Institute stand ready to assist you.

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