How I Won the Lottery — and You Can Too!

No, I didn’t win the lottery you’re thinking of. But I have won something even better.

Let me explain…

Years ago I was driving down the road, reflecting on a TV interview of Bill Gates I’d heard a few days earlier. Gates clearly is a remarkable guy, and the interview discussed how he founded Microsoft and became the richest man in America in the process.

Gates earned his first billion dollars by age 31, and his wealth has now soared to $79 billion—that’s 79 with nine zeroes behind it!

While pondering all of this, I sensed the Lord giving me an entirely different perspective on Bill Gates’ amazing wealth.

“Bill Gates isn’t really the richest man in America, Jim,” God assured me that day.

“Oh really, Lord,” I replied. “Then who is?”

You are!” He said with a chuckle.

“Lord, I admit that I don’t keep track of my bank account as closely as I should. But the last time I checked, my balance was a little short of Bill Gates’ $79 billion!”

I was astounded by His reply: “Jim, the most ordinary believer who is connected by faith to the resources of heaven is far richer than Bill Gates.”

The Lord’s message to me that day was brought to a pointed conclusion when He asked, “Would you rather have Bill Gate’s $79 billion, or have all the resources of heaven at your disposal?”

Frankly, His question made me squirm, because it wasn’t as easy for me to answer as it should have been. I had to think about it! If I had $79 billion in the bank, at least it would show up on my financial records. On the other hand, my credit rating might not improve much if I told the bank I had “all the riches of heaven” at my disposal!

As I struggled to answer the Lord’s probing question, He brought to mind what He told His disciples about this very issue: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). In addition to moths, rust, and thieves, I’m sure today He would mention stock market crashes and recessions as some of the dangers to our earthly wealth.

From this I realized that I’m not only the richest man in America, I am also the most secure. Not only do I have all the riches of heaven at my disposal as I act in obedience to Christ (Ephesians 1:3), but those riches will never be affected by Wall Street or any other earthly factors.

When the truth of my incredible financial well-being began to sink in, I became grieved at how often the issue of money has deterred me from pursuing the things God wanted me to do. Instead of asking His will first, and then trusting Him to provide the finances, I too often do an assessment of whether or not I can afford  it. I have a bad habit of trusting in my own visible resources, which are relatively few, instead of relying upon His invisible resources, which are infinite.

So, you are and I are much richer than we could have imagined. I guess you could even say we won the lottery.

If you’re ever in the Charlotte area and want to meet the richest man in America, I invite you to give me a call. However, if it’s a loan you are after, I will probably turn you down. Instead, I will try to help you see that you really don’t need a loan. Why? Because if you’re in touch with your Heavenly Father, you are the richest person in America too.

 

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Jed Clampett’s 7 Surprising Keys to a Financial Breakthrough

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed,

A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed.
Then one day he was shootin’ at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude.

Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.

– “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” by Paul Henning

For most Baby Boomers, the amazing story of Jed Clampett’s sudden wealth is well known. “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV show chronicled Jed’s discovery of oil while “shootin’ at some food.” Suddenly Jed is a millionaire, so he packs up his old truck and moves his family to California.

While Jed Clampett’s story seems whimsical, if not ridiculous, it’s actually packed with some vital biblical lessons for anyone who desires a new level of financial prosperity:

1. Miracles happen. Not many people discover oil when they’re out coon hunting! Ordinarily, wealth is attained “little by little” and day by day rather than by some kind of sudden financial breakthrough (Exodus23:29-30). Those who adopt a “get rich quick” monetary strategy are usually lazy and prone to be suckers for lottery tickets and bets at race tracks.

You’ve probably heard it said that “money doesn’t grow on trees”—but that’s not true! Just ask someone who gets their living by growing apples, oranges or peaches. Even Bill Gates—the wealthiest man in the world—“planted a tree” when he started the Microsoft Corporation!

So when you ask God for a miraculous financial breakthrough, consider that He often responds by telling you to plant something that can bear fruit. Despite Jed Clampett’s remarkable story, things usually don’t happen that way. The Bible’s teaching is clear: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”  (2 Corinthians 9:6-11). If you want a great harvest, you need to sow some seeds!

Nevertheless, God wants us to know that He can, and WILL, give financial breakthroughs to His people. The pages of Scripture are filled with examples of this:

  • In mere hours, Joseph went from the prison to the palace—from dire poverty to sensational wealth (Genesis 41:39-43).
  • Mephibosheth experienced a sudden and unexpected rise from the squalor of Lo-Debar to the splendor of the king’s banquet hall (2 Samuel 9).
  • Four lepers were starving to death just before they took a bold step of faith and discovered riches more lavish than they ever could have dreamed of (2 Kings 7:3-9).
  • Job had been stripped of all his possessions before God broke through and gave him double of everything he had lost (Job 42:10-12).
  • Peter and his fishing partners had “worked all night and caught nothing” right before Jesus gave them a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11).

Like Jed Clampett, these biblical characters each experienced a special moment in time when their financial situation took a “quantum leap” forward. And if it happened to them, it can happen to you.

These characters in Scripture also have something else in common with Jed: They were suffering tremendous lack just prior to receiving their breakthrough. In Jed’s case, he “barely kept his family fed.” Joseph was in the dungeon…the lepers were starving…Job was destitute…and the fishermen were frustrated by their inability to prosper at their profession.

If you are experiencing financial frustrations in your own life today, remember this first lesson: God can do miracles to turn your situation around.

2. Do what you love  to do. When did old Jed’s turnaround occur? He was hunting—doing something he loved to do!

The TV scriptwriters could have said Jed struck it rich on Wall Street or in the real estate market, but that would have been even harder to believe than his discovery of oil! In the same way, God usually will give us our breakthroughs when we’re doing something we love—fulfilling the very thing He has put in our heart to do.

Taking your shotgun into the woods or your fishing pole to the lake may not seem a very likely way to strike it rich…but the key is to look for careers or entrepreneurial ventures that truly fit your God-given personality and passion. You will always find God’s blessing in the place He wants you to be—even if that means being outdoors, “shootin’ at some food.”

3. Accidents can be a blessing. Before Jed Clampett took his shotgun into the woods, he didn’t tell his family he was going out to search for oil!  His discovery was merely a by-product of being in the right place, at the right time, doing the thing God wanted him to do.

Likewise, many of the greatest scientific and medical discoveries in history were made entirely by accident!

  • Christopher Columbus wasn’t looking for the New World—he just wanted to find a shortcut to India and China. His “accident” turned out to be quite a blessing!
  • Coca-Cola was invented by Dr. John Pemberton in May 1886—as a headache tonic. When Coca-Cola was first marketed as a beverage at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, sales averaged just nine servings a day, and Pemberton lost money on the product. But today more than one billion drinks of Coke are consumed each day, and the Coca-Cola Company receives trillions of dollars of annual revenue.
  • Penicillin was discovered in 1928, when Alexander Fleming noticed that mold spores from an open window were destroying harmful bacteria samples he was experimenting on.
  • X-rays were accidentally discovered in 1895 by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen when he was studying cathode rays.
  • Post-it Notes were made possible when a researcher at the 3M Company was trying to improve adhesive tape. He came up with a semi-sticky adhesive that at first seemed worthless.

These stories show that God can use our mistakes and accidents to be a blessing, but it’s crucial for us to recognize the blessing when it comes. Jed somehow realized that the “bubblin’ crude” was a valuable discovery.

Don’t miss this vital lesson: We must be alert to God’s blessings, even when we stumble upon them by mistake or during a time of apparent failure in what we set out to do. We’re not told whether Jed ever succeeded in shooting any food for his family that day…but that didn’t matter in the larger scheme of things.

4. God gets the credit. Supernatural breakthroughs are truly super-natural—a matter of grace rather than human effort. Jed obviously couldn’t take much credit for his financial windfall. God had sovereignly blessed him, and Jed merely stumbled into his newfound prosperity.

Of course, there’s also another side to this. Miracles often come when we take action  to obey some kind of instruction or prompting by God:

  • The four lepers took action to leave their comfort zone and visit the Syrian camp.
  • Job’s financial restoration came after he prayed for his friends.
  • The fishermen received the miracle catch of fish after they obeyed Jesus’ instruction about where to cast their net.

Nevertheless, no human merit or effort could be credited for the extraordinary abundance these folks received. As Deuteronomy 8:17-18 tells us, “It is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”

5. The oil was there all along. Did God first create the oil reserve on the day Jed found it? Of course not. The oil had been there all along—right under Jed’s feet as he lived in near poverty with his family. But Jed was so preoccupied with his coon hunting that for years he failed to recognize the incredible hidden wealth that was available to him.

And don’t miss this: If the reservoir of oil could be revealed by Jed’s stray bullet, it must have been awfully close to the surface! Even though our financial breakthrough may seem a million miles away, the truth is that it’s often right under our feet and just below the surface! It has been there all along, and we simply need to dig in the right spot.

6. Jed’s breakthrough caused a ripple effect. Jed wasn’t the only one impacted by his discovery. The ripple effect of blessing touched each of his family members and an ever-widening circle of others who were touched by his bounty.

In the same way, God wants to bless us so we can BE a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Those who are generous will prosper (Proverbs11:25), and their prosperity will touch many others. God wants to bless us in such a way that people all over the earth will hear of Him! (Psalm 67:1-7)

If you woke up tomorrow morning and found that a few million dollars had unexpectedly been placed into your bank account, who would be impacted? Hopefully there would be a multitude of other people who would be touched because of your unselfish generosity.

7. Jed had to learn how to handle his windfall. It’s one thing to receive a windfall of money, and it’s quite another thing to know what to do with it. That’s why many lottery winners are absolutely broke just a few years after receiving an award of millions of dollars. They didn’t have the knowledge or character to handle their sudden abundance.

Jed’s lifestyle dramatically changed. He was used to living in the hills, but NOT Beverly  Hills! Most of the humor of “The Beverly Hillbillies” involved Jed and his family learning an entirely different skill-set from anything they had known before.

What about you? Do you have the wisdom, self-control and character to handle a huge financial windfall if the Lord gave you one? Would such a windfall be a blessing or a curse to you?

I was impressed by an interview several years ago of Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life.  Rick pastored a large church, but never in his life had he seen financial compensation like the millions  of dollars he received in royalties for his best-selling book.

How did Rick Warren handle his rapid financial boon? He and his wife determined that their standard of living would not change substantially. He set up a nonprofit foundation to handle most of the added revenue and funnel it toward humanitarian purposes. And Rick even decided to give the church back all the compensation he had received as its pastor over the years.

Are You Ready?

I’m preparing my heart for a financial breakthrough, and I hope you are too. It could come today  as you are “shootin’ at some food,” or perhaps it will take a while longer. It may come as a dramatic and surprising event like Jed Clampett experienced, or it may occur gradually, through the processes of wise saving and investing.

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The Ruse of Income Inequality

One of the most divisive issues in our nation in recent years is the debate over “income inequality.” Perhaps you’ve never given this much thought in the past, but the issue started bubbling to the surface in the national consciousness in September 2011, when the Occupy Wall Street movement launched a few months of protests in Zuccotti Park, near New York City’s Wall Street financial district. Their slogan was “We are the 99%,” and they vilified the wealthiest 1% of the American population as greedy, unfeeling, and corrupt.

Issues like income inequality are the delight of demagogues. Politicians have continued to fan the flames of class warfare with this polarizing subject, from President Obama to New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio. Look at these words from the President’s State of the Union address in January 2012:

We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share.

On a surface level, much of this statement by the President seems perfectly reasonable. After all, who could oppose the grand objective that “everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share”? Can’t really argue with that, can we?

However, the President’s argument here, as on many other issues, is based on a false premise. The facts do not support his assertion that a “shrinking number of people do really well.” Nor is it true that “a growing number of Americans barely get by.” These are common misconceptions, but the data shows that MANY people are doing really well, and the poverty rate has decreased rather than increased in the past several decades.

Faulty Analysis, Faulty Solutions

Is there income inequality in America today? Of course there is! There has never been a major world power in history that enjoyed economic prosperity and freedom without some people making more than others.

Did you know that Finland has less income inequality than the United States? That may sound wonderful, but not when you find out that the per capita income is much lower for everyone  in Finland.

And a few years ago, Greece managed to substantially reduce its income inequality—because the nation was in a dire economic crisis. Instead of being a model we should envy, the citizens of Greece were faced with little money, scarcity of goods, riots in the streets, and economic opportunity limited to those partaking in corruption.

When governments throughout history have tried to redistribute wealth and create equality of outcomes, the results were catastrophic. Everyone  suffered. The only people who prospered were the corrupt politicians who ran the system. Instead of sparking widespread prosperity, the result of forced “equality” was to pull everyone down to a subsistence level.

When government inserts itself into the income inequality debate, the result is always less economic freedom and less overall prosperity. The Robin Hood philosophy may sound good on paper, but it becomes totalitarianism when taken to its logical conclusion. Stealing from the rich to give to the poor is still STEALING.

In the end, it does little good for those in poverty to be given handouts, if they never learn how to make it on their own. Of course, there are exceptions. Yes, we need a safety net for people who are truly incapable of working. But beware of political demagogues who advocate “sticking it to the rich” as if that somehow would help “the little guy” get out of poverty.

Level Opportunities, Not Outcomes

President Ronald Reagan once said, “The American dream is not that every man must be level with every other man. The American dream is that every man must be free to become whatever God intends he should become.” Government can strive to create a somewhat level playing field where everyone plays by the same set of rules. There should be economic mobility and equal opportunities to succeed. But that certainly doesn’t mean there will be “level” results and equality of outcomes.

Art Laffer, one of President Reagan’s chief economic advisors recently weighed in on the income inequality debate:

I don’t mind inequality if people are rising in incomes in all groups. I do  mind equality when everyone’s brought down to the lowest common denominator. You don’t want to make the rich poor; you want to make the poor richer. These inequality specialists all around the place aren’t proposing that. In all the quest to achieve less inequality, they are creating equality by lowering everyone. And that’s silly.

Economist Robert Samuelson points out that the wealthiest 1% are “convenient scapegoats” for America’s economic problems. However, he says, “the poor are not poor because the rich are rich.” The economic data shows that while the income of the rich has grown faster than the income of the poor, BOTH have seen gains in the past several decades.

So if the rich aren’t really to blame for the poor being poor, what are the factors that keep many people locked in the grip of poverty? I could write an entire book on that subject, for there are numerous aspects to the problem. But let me just make a rather fundamental observation, based on a study by the Brookings Institution.

According to Brookings, you can avoid poverty simply by:

 1. Graduating from high school.

2. Waiting to get married until after 21 and not having children till after being married.

3. Having a full-time job.

 If you do all three things, your chance of falling into poverty is just 2 percent. And you’ll have a 74 percent chance of being in the middle class.

Isn’t that good news? The solution to poverty and income inequality is not a matter of retribution against the “evil rich.” In most cases, the simple solution is personal responsibility.  In addition to the three-prong formula suggested by the Brookings study, I would include a few other Bible-based traits that are important for success:

  • Abstain from illegal drugs and drunkenness.
  • Avoid criminal activity.
  • Be honest and dependable.
  • Have a good work ethic.

It’s really that simple. By just a few key lifestyle decisions, a person can nearly always avoid the trap of long-term poverty.

An Important Parable

I’m astounded by how many preachers and Christians have succumbed to the class-envy arguments of the demagogues who bemoan America’s income equality. Haven’t they ever read Jesus’ Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30?

You probably know the story, but perhaps you’ve never thought of it in terms of income inequality. A wealthy man was going on a long journey, so he entrusted his belongings to three of his servants. He gave one of them five bags of silver, another two bags of silver, and the third servant just one bag of silver.

You see, these servants weren’t entrusted by their master with the same amount. The point of the story is that the first two servants were faithful to invest and increase what they had been given, but the third servant just buried his silver in the ground.

Perhaps the third servant felt the master hadn’t given him his “fair share.” Yet he failed to see his grand opportunity to invest and increase what he had. His dismal condition at the end of the story wasn’t the fault of the wealthy man—it was his own  fault, based on fear and negligence.

If you don’t like your current financial condition, you have a choice to make. You can either find some straw man to blame for your plight, or you can accept responsibility for your actions and take positive steps to better your circumstances.

It’s time to drop the excuses and trust God for a new beginning. And I’m NOT just talking about a raise in the minimum wage. You need to set your sights a lot  higher than that.

 

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Jim Bakker’s Reflections on Lavish Lifestyles

“…as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet

possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

I doubt that any minister in church history has paid a higher price for his lavish lifestyle than Jim Bakker did. Not only did he end up spending nearly five years in federal prison, but he also faced widespread criticism and ridicule for his opulent lifestyle while building his PTL TV ministry at Heritage USA.

During a period of five years, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker received $3.7 million in salaries, bonuses and benefits. What few people realize, however, is that they also gave away  millions of dollars of their royalties to the ministry during that period. Although not entirely accurate, the widespread image still remains: The Bakkers were money-grubbing preachers who defrauded the people of God.

In prison Jim Bakker spent a lot of time studying the words of Jesus, and he came to some startling conclusions as to what Jesus had to say about money:

As the true impact of Jesus’ words regarding money impacted my heart and mind, I became physically nauseated. I was wrong. I was wrong! Wrong in my lifestyle, certainly, but even more fundamentally, wrong in my understanding of the Bible’s true message. Not only was I wrong, but I was teaching the very opposite of what Jesus had said (Jim Bakker in I Was Wrong, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).

Few issues are as thorny as the question of a minister’s lifestyle in relation to material things. One extreme is exemplified by the deacon’s prayer, “Lord, we ask you to keep the preacher humble, and we will keep him poor!”

This view expects those in ministry to practically take a vow of poverty in order to keep from seeming greedy or materialistic. Having a nice house, car or wardrobe is seen as a sign of worldliness—unbefitting a person in ministry. Peter’s declaration of “Silver and gold have I none”  (Acts 3:6 KJV) becomes a proof-text model for the financial condition of all those in ministry.

As imbalanced as this view is, there are many scriptures sometimes cited to support it. Those in ministry are repeatedly warned about the dangers of greed and of trusting in money. For example, Paul wrote that “the overseer must be above reproach…not a lover of money  (1 Timothy 3:1-3 NIV). And Peter said that leaders should be “not greedy for money, but eager to serve  (1 Peter 5:1-2 NIV).

Paul warned that people of “depraved mind”  would “suppose that godliness is a means of gain”  (1 Timothy 6:5 NAS). If you are a minister struggling just to make ends meet, this may be a scripture that is hard to imagine. How could someone seriously see the ministry as a way to get rich?!  you might wonder.

However, while most of those in ministry have very modest lifestyles—whether they want to or not—some indeed have been guilty of “merchandising” the gospel. The anointing of the Spirit has literally been sold to the highest bidder.

Jim Bakker echoes these biblical warnings:

I believe one of the reasons I had to go to prison is because I was teaching people to fall in love with this present world…the gospel began to take second place. I began to write books on how to get rich, even though Jesus did not have one good thing to say about money. Take another look at what Jesus says in the Gospels. Instead of teaching people to get rich, He warned people about the deceitfulness of riches (Jim Bakker in “Loving Jesus—and Your Enemies,” The Morning Star Journal,  Volume 7, Number 2).

This issue of Christians and money is one that will not go away—it will only intensify as we approach the end of this present age. If the church does not sound a clear message, people’s thinking will be shaped by the unbalanced dictates of the world.

But just as there is danger in Christians falling in love with money, the opposite side of the coin is also dangerous: Many Christians are tragically entrenched in a poverty mind-set. While they may feel “spiritual” about their lack of material goods, their poverty is actually restricting their ability to bless others and extend God’s kingdom.

Jim Bakker finally came to this conclusion about the prosperity message:

I am not against prosperity; I believe in it. I believe that if God wants to give your ministry a billion dollars or give you an entire city block in New York City, He can certainly do it. But we need to beware of falling in love with things rather than with Jesus (Jim Bakker in “Loving Jesus—and Your Enemies,” The Morning Star Journal, Volume 7, Number 2).

That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Will we fall in love with things  rather than with Jesus? However, rather than casting stones at someone else’s lifestyle, let’s examine our own  hearts–making sure our priorities are truly aligned with the purposes of God.

 

 

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