In Genesis 12:1 it refers to the “land” God had for Abraham. It was not a “mystical” land off in heaven somewhere.
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”
God gave this nomad a land to call his own and to build in with his descendants. He gave Abraham and his family the Land of Israel as a unique homeland where his descendants were supposed to create the nation that was the model for the world. Physical land was central to God’s plan to prosper Abraham. Land was central for Abraham to receive God’s blessing and prosperity. It was practical and it is Biblical.
We see a parallel lesson if we study the great Native American tribes from North America. The tribes along the East Coast were less transient and would stay in one place and farm the land as well as hunt. They tended to survive and prosper. Those tribes along the West Coast that were nomadic hunters would travel to seasonal hunting grounds. They were more likely to starve and die. They could never prosper because they never settled down and stayed in one place. Simply stated…when you are a nomad there is only so much you can carry so it is hard to prosper.
There is something about land that is really important to God.
In the years following the Civil War in the United States, a pastor by the name of Russell Cronwell traveled America and stirred millions of people with a story he told. The name of the story is Acres of Diamonds. It is the story of an Indian merchant who had been told by a prophet that he would become rich if he would only seek his treasure. So the merchant traveled the world in search of treasure only to return home after many years disappointed and defeated. As he came back to his abandoned house he needed a drink of water but the well on the property was covered with silt. So he took out his shovel and dug a new well. As he was digging he struck what became the world’s greatest diamond mine. His fortune was not “out there” somewhere but right under his nose all along.
Generally speaking the best opportunity could be right under your nose. I love it when God asked Moses, “What is in your hand?” God did not ask this because he didn’t know. He asked it because he wanted to direct Moses attention to use what he had already been given. Perhaps our greatest opportunity to enjoy prosperity could be the very thing under our feet. It doesn’t get any more practical than this.
Land is important to God’s plan for His children. One of the first things God did in establishing a covenant with Abraham was give him land. Previous to this Abraham did not have a homeland. Abraham’s father and his family were pastoral nomads, wandering from place to place for varying periods of time. His father worshiped idols in a city dedicated to wickedness. Abraham was told by God to go out into a place in which he would receive his inheritance. It was later referred to at the Promised “land.” It was land!
A friend of mine has a drafting business. He worked in construction for many years before that. He is now investing money in rental properties. This is working out well for him because he knows the industry and has a natural authority there. Where do you have confidence to invest? Is there an area your parents or family members have found success? What are the natural gifts God has given you? Are you good with numbers? Good with people? Move toward these areas.
This principle of confidence applies if you are buying stocks or stock funds. Buy stock in the companies you know and trust. I mean look around your house. What is the brand of your clothes washer? Your refrigerator? Do you like them? Do they work well? Where do you like to stop for coffee? Buy stock in that company.
Should you buy stock in a gold mine in South Africa that you have never seen? Nope.
Should you buy gold and keep it in a safe in your basement? Not unless you want to buy the guns and ammo to defend you house from intruders. We will talk about gold as an investment, but first let’s talk about Real Estate as an investment tool.
I believe God loves Real Estate. We will explore this in the next few blogs.
During the credit crisis of a few years ago the Chinese came through almost completely unscathed. The credit crisis and ensuing world recession was caused by some complex financial instruments that the Chinese didn’t totally understand. Since they didn’t have confidence to invest in these financial instruments they were saved the hardship suffered by banks and financial institutions around the world. We could criticize them and say that they are not very sophisticated investors or we could learn from them. They didn’t overstep into an area where they did not have confidence and it saved them huge losses.
I meet some people making money in business and they say the best way to make money is starting a business. They say Real Estate is a “no win” venture. I meet other people making money in Real Estate and they say business is a “no win” venture. Guess what? They have found where they have grace to be fruitful. Grace gives them confidence.
A friend of mine is a manager in a metal working plant that produces metal fixtures from different kinds of metals for manufacturing. He tells me about how he is investing in metal commodities. He understands the supply and demand of these metals and it is working well for him. He has a natural authority in this area. However, I would never have confidence to invest in this way.
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As we look at investing and have confidence that the natural state of things is to grow, then one of the keys that many investment advisors will tell us was actually published in the Bible long before they became aware of it. Diversify! Read Eccl. 11:1, 6
Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land…Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
The reason to diversify and spread our investments out between different areas and venues of finance is that it minimizes risk. If we hold a variety of investments that perform differently in various environments, then we are protected from loss if one area goes bad. This minimizes risk or as some will say…it is a hedge. What that means is it functions as a hedge against losses.
Bill Gates sold some of his stake in Microsoft years ago to diversify his holdings. The money was then invested in other areas that created financial return. If he would have held all his Microsoft stock he would have made more than if he would have diversified, however he saw diversity as that important he was willing to earn less to achieve it.
Another practical reason for a Christian to hold a variety of investments that perform differently in various environments is that each one will be an education for us. As we try different things, I believe we will find one area that has more “grace” for us than others. So maybe we can grow that area significantly while maintaining the other areas of investment.
Fear causes people to panic when the market is dropping. Obviously this makes for poor long term results. The experienced investors beat the inexperienced investors in down markets, because the inexperienced investors panic and sell and the experienced investors buy when the market is down. History has shown that the best time to buy is during times of distress, however very few have the courage, means and discipline to do this.
Be realistic about expected investment returns. Generally speaking 10% is the maximum benchmark over the long term. If anyone is offering you significantly more than this, it should raise a red flag of warning for you. Don’t expect to beat the market averages. Your long term investments should be based on buying and holding good investments, not trying to time when you should be in or out of a particular investment.
Greed will push an investor to think they have some special insider information and can predict what markets do. Markets generally have the current economic information calculated in to the current pricing. The market does not have the unexpected information calculated in and that is what makes it volatile and susceptible to insider trading. Rapid, reactionary trading is called active investing and accumulates multiplied fees and taxes that passive investing does not.
What you have to remember about buying and selling securities or commodities in markets is that every time you are selling something because you think the time is right; for the transaction to be completed successfully, there is someone else on the other end of the trade thinking this is the right time to buy. So it really does put you in competition with them…trying to outsmart them or beat them…rather than holding on to shares for a long period of time and growing with the investment.
We need to consider the value of our time when deciding our investment strategies. Real estate investing can be very lucrative but it will require some of our time. In the same way starting and operating a small business is a very time intensive investment as well, but it is many times the surest vehicle to financial blessing.
Investing in markets via Mutual Funds, Bond Funds, Real Estate Investment Trusts and other financial vehicles are both time efficient and profitable. They allow us to not put a lot of extra hours into our investments. It has often been stated that instead of us working for dollars, our dollars should work for us. However, there are some parameters that we must be aware of while investing in markets.
If we believe that the natural state of creation is growth and reproduction then we will invest in financial markets. Growth is the natural order of things. One financial advisor puts it like this, “Trees grow.” This profound but simple statement is one to remember. In other words optimism and planning for long term results are usually rewarded. Growth is the natural state of economics.
Proverbs 25: 25-27 speaks to this truth that the natural state of things is to grow. When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field. You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family and to nourish your female servant.
In other words investing in markets allow you to increase wealth over a long period of time from an arm’s length. There are pitfalls however: Greed and Fear. We will discuss these in upcoming posts.
To create wealth we cannot think in terms of an hourly paycheck. If we are putting our time in and waiting for our monthly paycheck, we will have our needs met but we will not prosper. Our paycheck will be limiting and not allow us to do all the things God has asked us to do.
For example, as long as we are driving a truck making deliveries we will only be able to make so much money in one week, because we are limited in the number of deliveries we can make by the hours of the week. If we are going to prosper making deliveries, we need to find a way to get more trucks on the road. Or consider the difference between a laborer who works for pay and a farmer who plants seeds. To be a successful farmer, you must develop a sense of dominion. You have to be confident that your mind can produce more than your hands.
Let’s say you have the choice between selling pens for a living or shining shoes. The amount of money to be made shining shoes is capped by the hours of the day. The amount of money to be made from selling pens is not limited because someone else produces them and you can order any amount to be sold. You could sell 500 one day and 50,000 the next day. Pens could be marketed on an internet site that takes orders from around the world 24 hours a day and shipped from a wharehouse without you even expending any energy. Thinking this way helps to frame our efforts to create wealth.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. I watched the 40 to 50 ft. waves repeatedly crash against the rocks one after another. The ocean spray went hundreds of feet in the air after impacting the rocks. It struck me that we do not have a power problem on the earth. There is plenty of power. We have a problem with harnessing power. It is a technology problem not a lack problem. There are still plenty of untapped resources on the earth that are available for all of us to prosper.
This principle is important when discussing investing and creating wealth because if we feel like we are competing with others for a limited piece of the pie this will stifle our creativity. If we think one person’s prosperity makes other people poorer, it will limit our desire to grow, create and prosper. We should live in a world of abundance, not one of limitations. With a little bit of creativity we can find a way for some economic win/win vs. a win/lose. Jesus had an abundance mentality. He said the “fields are white unto harvest”. An abundance mentality means that rather than seeing life as a competition with only one winner, you see it as an unquenchable fountain of ever enlarging opportunity, resources and wealth.
If we have an abundance mentality, we won’t compare ourselves to others and will be genuinely happy for their success. We are not trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” we are on a mission from God to fund His Kingdom and our destiny. It is between us and Him. It has nothing to do with comparing ourselves to the “Jones”. We can learn from others but we are not in competition with them.