Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cutting the grass and other random thoughts


It has been a while since I've logged in and even longer since I've posted anything. I have gone through some major changes in the past few months. It is an interesting period in my life. I am having a lot of fun even if my version of fun is a little(alright maybe a lot!) different than others.

I've been learning and continue to learn new computer systems and company procedures. Reworking my life schedule. Meeting new people and learning a lot of names! Finding new areas and opportunities for networking/fellowship. It is an adventure and I find my comfort zone tends to be in the new.

This brings me to the realization that I really enjoy new stuff. It energizes me even if at times it also tires me out. Where I really need to work hard at is in continuing to build on the relationships I already have relationship that are healthy and beneficial to me(even if on the surface they don't always appear to be of benefit to me). As I strive to be more like Jesus I know that he tended to reach out to the downtrodden. There is much beauty to be uncovered in this murky world we live in.

I guess that brings it around to the title of this post. I was sitting in a room of fellow believers talking about how the study and companion guide/devotional we are working through was impacting them. There were stories of how God spoke to them through this date or that date. I have to say the devotional has been rather troubling for me. Not that it convicts me but rather that it feels rather simplistic and kind of like Christianity 101. Most in the room had been following the Lord much longer than I yet there impact was profound and mine was mostly affirmation.

Now I'm not saying I'm some super spiritual Christian and that I'm superior. I look at some of things I do to this day and am thankful for grace. That being said I have daring faith I guess and most others aren't there yet. I'm a thinking man, not a drone spewing off Bible verses or spinning trite tales, and God has made me this way. A critical thinker and a Christ follower are not a paradox.

Anyway, I'll get to the point I was trying to make.

During the discussion time which I zoned in and out of one person spoke up. He started telling a tale about a man of great faith who was mowing the lawn. While he was cutting the grass God spoke to him and announced Jesus would be returning to earth to gather up his children in 5 minutes. Once the man had heard from God he continued mowing the lawn because he had done everything he was supposed to do.

There was what appeared to be a lot of agreement in the room. This made me a little angry, actually a lot angry. I stayed calm though and spoke up. I said I would be calling everyone I could who I know are not following the Lord to give them 1 last chance before it was too late. There wasn't a lot of agreement in the room or at least that I could sense. It was like I was at a very conservative closed door type of gathering instead of being among Evangelicals.

The story was so pompous and what helps make Christians unlikable. Smugness is not one of the gifts of the spirit or not in any version I've read. I'm sure that statement wasn't supposed to be that but nevertheless it was..I am not the orators judge, that is between him and God. I know I have been extremely pompous at times and God still loves me.

Side point: Ironically I really love cutting the grass so it would be hard, really hard for me to give up my last chance to finish it off. I wish that was a joke but if you know me, you know that to be true.

So I'm praying for my brothers and praying I can be graceful and loving even if I don't feel like it when we get together next week. If anything interesting happens there I'll write a follow up or post script.

Blessings to you, whether you have daring faith or faith as little as a mustard seed! Peace out

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tax time

Well it is almost the end of February and in Canada that means this is your last chance to get RRSP's enrolled to use against last years taxes. I've written about this before but it is important. I don't really know that much but I'll share a few things I am aware of.

What is TFSA, this has zero to do with RRSP's. A tax free savings account is simply a shelter against tax on the interest accrued in the account. If you do not have a TFSA at present I strongly suggest you get one. Every year you are allowed to put x amount into an account of this type. Currently it is 5500/yr, a few years back it was only 5000/yr. However this is cumulative, so since they were introduced in 2008 until this current year you could theoretically have as much as 36500 in deposits. While most, including me, won't be anywhere near having that amount at present, so long as you make a deposit of any size into this type of account every year you continue to build up how much you can have in this type of account. I plan on utilizing this more and more as I approach retirement and back off on the RRSP portion of my savings plan. Also TFSA accounts are not limited to simple interest bearing accounts but can also be used for Mutual fund and commodity trading among other things. Once at retirement age the Gov't will force you to start changing your RRSP's in RIF's but have no control over what you take or don't take out of a TFSA. If anyone wants a little further clarification there are many good internet sources on the subject, just Google it.

What is an RRSP. In layman terms these are a tax shelter. You are deferring tax payment to down the road. The theory is you will pay less tax on the money until later because you are taking your top wage dollars for this year and putting them into a lower tax bracket down the road. For instance, if you made 50000 last year you would be in the 29% bracket. However if you dropped 5000 into an RRSP that would be roughly 1500 in tax savings. In retirement lets say your income was 40000. Then you would have to repay those savings from earlier but you would be in the 22% bracket now. That is a savings of 350 dollars roughly. Plus you have the 1500 to invest in the interim so potentially you could end up making enough money off compound interest to make the entire 1500 dollars double or triple depending on the time frame and how your investments do.

Now even if you are in a lower tax bracket already RRSP's are still good to invest in. Especially if you see a future potential of an increased income. When you take out an RRSP you do not have to apply it in that taxation year. You can defer it for as much as 7 years before you use it. If you made only 35000 there really is no advantage to using your RRSP against that amount. You are already in a low tax bracket so it is revenue neutral. Even though you would get a bigger tax return this year, in the long run you are better off to defer it. It is really easy to do and when you get your Assessment from CRA it will list your unused RRSP contributions at the bottom. I did that a couple of years back and it was a shrewd move.

Younger people, listen up! As much as I am building up a fund now I do surely wish I had started younger. The earlier you get going on this, the more it will become. It is the Snowball effect as your money rolls over and accumulates. I started in my 20's and cashed them in before I was 30 and never got serious about it again until I was 40. I am fine, God is good, and whether I have much or little I will persevere. That being said I can see the folly in the younger me. I can't reach him but maybe I can reach you. Please start today.

Please learn how to do your taxes on your own. For most people they are not that complicated but these tax service companies will charge you a fee and often miss obvious deductions that you will not receive because they just aren't that good and the people that work there are only in it for a pay cheque. If you have a real problem with math or reading all the rules and regulations get a trusted friend or family member to help you. If you know me outside of my blog I would gladly help you. I'm not an expert but can read a few lines in the tax guide as well as anybody.

Lastly, please do not believe it when people say I don't want too much overtime because it costs me money. It is simply not true. On 1 particular pay cheque it is possible but even that is unlikely. If you made enough money to jump ever so briefly into the next higher bracket it could cost you a few dollars on that particular pay. However at tax return time that money would be recouped. Making more money always means making more money in our taxation system as it is today. It may or may not have been true at one point in time but that was ages ago and it is certainly not true today. If you make more money, it means you make more money, period, end of statement.

Thanks for paying attention. You have about a week to make another RRSP contribution so get on it!

Blessings!  :)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Is following Jesus as easy as pushing a button?

Well intended as it may be, is having people say the sinners prayer at the drop of a hat a cop out? The evangelist in me has always desired to lead people in the sinners prayer. I have done so on several occasions. I really and earnestly thought I was doing God's will and had played a small part in God's plan for saving people from eternal damnation. Looking back I would say sometimes it has saved people and sometimes it has not.

Well, do a few words make the difference? We'll follow it up with saying things like, now Jesus has entered your life and everything will be different. Kinda like pushing the Staples easy button and poof your office supplies just appear. Is it really as easy as that? If it was then how come some of  the people I've led are not visibly transformed? In fact they seem exactly the same as before.

Now, I do believe the sinners prayer is an important step in you connecting with God in a profound way. It has nothing to do with saying the words aloud but has everything to do what is in your heart when you say it. The well meaning benevolent ministry I work with HAS saved people. However I believe many more have been cajoled into saying the words not because they hope to spend eternity with Jesus but because they hope to receive a grocery voucher. I often wonder how many people get baptized because they feel pressured into it by their friends or family. How many people in my Church are just there but do not know God or they know God but don't implicitly follow him? They are in so deep that they feel there is no way to admit that they are frauds. I am certain that every church has some or Jesus would not have the parable of the Sheep and the Goats or the the Weeds sown into the wheat field. I'm at a large church so we could be talking about quite a few people. I'm reasonably sure that by and large my congregation are Christ followers but I'm even more sure that some are not. I don't mean I can name someone in particular at my church I know is not saved but as a generalization with a large enough sampling there must be some. Possibly more than I think but since we are a Bible believing Christ preaching church I have a fair bit of confidence that most are saved in my congregation.

Just admitting there is a God is simply not enough. As Jesus said even a demon can do that. In the literal sense I never said the sinners prayer myself. I have said and repeated the apostles creed many times and meant it each and every time. My baptism was only symbolically important and a public confirmation. Saying the sinners prayer and baptism in and of itself has never saved anyone. God only cares about what is in the heart of the person doing those rituals. I love Jesus and that is why I was baptized as an adult. I didn't think it would save me in and of itself.

I heard it said by many including myself that once saved, always saved. I do believe that to be true but I have to wonder when people walk away from Church, backslide into their past bad behavior and stop doing the things Christ followers usually do. Is it that they've lost their salvation or did they ever really have it. Were they following Jesus or was it just a human perception of Jesus. Only God knows that answer for sure.

I also wonder about the people I've had a part in leading through the sinners prayer. I talk to them a week later and ask how it's going. They will say things are good. Then I ask if they've read any of their Bible and they say oh yes. I ask them what they are reading and they give a vague answer. I know what that means. And that's only the ones I see a week later or a day later or whatever. I wonder about the ones that I never see again. Are they now hanging out at another benevolent ministry trying to get another few crumbs of bread from the table. Is dangling a meal or a gift card like a Carrot on a stick leading the horse. I really don't know a better answer but to feed the hungry and to help the poor even if they are just there for the food. Jesus didn't tell his men to feed the 3000 that believed the message but to feed the 5000. He didn't say to take care of the widow and orphan but only if they follow me.

I'm looking for fruit though. I'm tired of trite sayings and half baked sentiments. I want a big harvest but I want quality fruit because my LORD will only accept that. I may have to offend some of my fellow harvesters or we'll have a lot of very leafy plants that have fruit that never ripens.

Deeds don't matter with no love. Love doesn't exist without deeds. May you be fruitful and multiply. Some food for thought.