How Much Is Enough? by Wendy Knutson, CPA

By 0 Permalink 0

I’m very black and white. I like clear direction: this is right, that is wrong; go this way, not that way; this is good, that is bad. When I seek God’s will, I look for black and white. But is it there? God gives us 10 commandments; or The Top 10, as I like to call them. But do the Top 10 answer the question, “How much is enough?”

The world tells us how much is enough, “you deserve this, you need that; if one is good, 10 is better”. But the world is not our authority. We are children of the Most High, the King of the Universe. Our heavenly Father, through his divine Word, gives us direction; even in the little things:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. Matthew 10:29 NIV

Jesus assures us that God knows what we need. Our job is to ask for His help, listen to what He tells us and obey His Word:

For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:32-33

Peter assures us of God’s divine provision for everything we need:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3 (emphasis mine)

Paul said essentially the same, in Philippians 4:19:

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

What IS black and white to me is that God knows what we need. He will provide. We can trust him to show us how much is enough.

Are you ready? Ask God to show you how much is enough. Then listen. Create some margin in your schedule to really listen to what God is telling you.

When He provides the answer, His definition of your own personal enough, be faithful and obey. Ask Him to quiet the world’s voices and definitions and give you strength to obey His will for your life.
If you’re not ready to ask, turn to His Word. See what God says about who He is. A good place to start is Matthew 6:28-34.

When we live in God’s obedience, we find a “peace, which surpasses all understanding”, a joy in obedience to God. How can we not embrace the peace that comes from a relationship with Him, even in the little things?

Foreigners in a Foreign Land by Wendy Knutson, CPA

By 0 Permalink 0

We see foreigners every day. It’s easy to spot them. Sometimes it‘s big things. Sometimes the differences are subtle.

During my home-group Bible study of 1 Peter, I was struck by Peter’s use of the word “foreigner”.

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 1 Peter 1:17 NIV

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11

Does this ever happen to you? God causes a word jump out. It lodges in your brain and you can’t get rid of it.

Peter urges us to live differently. To live as foreigners in a foreign land. But our desire to “fit in”, to be “normal” makes us feel weird when we’re different. If we desire to follow God, how can we not be obedient? Why do we struggle?

God has been guiding me to establish boundaries so everything in my wardrobe brings joy. The boundary provides order and peace in my closet and budget. After abdominal surgery, the “joy” boundary of my simplified wardrobe caused me to wear the same outfit several times a week. But my desire to “fit in” challenged my obedience to the plan. Then I remembered Peter’s words. Aha! This was me living as a foreigner in a foreign land in an everyday situation.

Peter gives us a plan. Respect God and abstain from sinful desires. But how do we identify sinful desires? We ask God, “Will this cause me to sin?” “Will it cause me to stumble?” “Will it cause another to stumble?” Then we listen. God is not the author of confusion and strife. He is a God of order and peace. Peter’s warning is a strong one; war is no small matter.

Acting differently keeps us congruent with our values, commitments and obedience to Christ. When we struggle, we can rest in the assurance of being obedient to God’s will. Peter encourages us to own our differences. To embrace the weird. We should live uniquely.

They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 1 Peter 4:4

Are we living unconventionally when it comes to our finances and giving, or do we look like everyone else? Remember Peter’s words as you make financial decisions. Are your friends surprised by your faithful financial choices and church support? Are they curious about how you put God first with your money? Peter encourages us to surprise our friends. To cause their eyebrows to raise. To cause a gasp in their breath, a look of puzzlement and disbelief. Maybe they’ll even ask, Why? This could open the door for you to share the love of Christ – our ultimate calling.

I would love to hear your experiences as foreigners in a foreign land. How have you surprised others with your faithfulness?

God’s Plan for His Believers

By 0 Permalink 0

As I consider God’s desire in what to share on generosity this month, I’m keenly aware we face a struggle. If we put God first in our daily finances, will there be enough left?

We hear of the fulfilled Christian life and ask: “Should it be this hard?” “Should I feel this conflicted?” “Is this what God is asking of me?”

I get it. I feel your pain. As Dan and I studied God’s will for our giving, we felt scared and uncertain. Was it possible? Could we do it? But, in the midst of the struggle, God’s word guided us. He generously provided His plan for giving:

  1. Put God first.
  2. Serve others.
  3. God will provide for all your needs.

Jesus taught us the first two steps:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 NIV

God promised us step three in Malachi 3:10:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Once we know God’s plan, how can we not surrender? I want to encourage you today. If you’re looking to find peace in the struggle, live a more generous life and be a cheerful giver, just start today. Put God first in your finances. If you’re not to that point, may I share with you a few books I’ve found insightful:

“The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret to Joyful Giving” by Randy Alcorn

“How to Be Rich: It’s Not What You Have. It’s What You Do With What You Have” by Andy Stanley

“Generous Life Journey: The Road to Financial Freedom” by Gunnar Johnson

I would love to talk with you about these resources or any others you’ve discovered on your journey. Please share with me what God is doing in your heart.

A Cheerful Giver? by Wendy Knutson, CPA

By 0 Permalink 0

In II Corinthians verse 7 Paul tells us “…God loves a cheerful giver”. But how can we be cheerful when we’re living paycheck to paycheck? When we have more month than money? When we feel we don’t have enough to survive, how can we give?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been enjoying our exercise of reading, as a congregation, Jesus’ words as told by John. Every day as I read the assigned section, I imagine my fellow Holy Cross family members reading the same. As I was reading I came across this gem where Simon Peter is talking to Jesus. It hit me how it relates to generosity:

“…Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” John 6:68

When Jesus offers us eternal life, how can we not look to Him for all our needs? Why do we go elsewhere? The pull of the world is strong. But the world lies to us. The world tells us things like: you deserve this, you need that, get it while you can, look out for number one. But Jesus calls us to something higher, to something better. Eternity.

Before we can be generous, we must get our financial house in order. Start with the basics. Make a plan. Dare I say, make a budget.

I was always resistant to a budget. As a CPA it’s a natural fit for me to handle balancing the Knutson books. When facilitating Financial Peace University (FPU), right out of the gate, the assignment was to prepare a budget. Yikes! “Do as I say, not as I do” wasn’t going to cut it. FPU taught us to invite God into the process. What a novel idea! When Dan and I sat down to review the first budget, we earnestly prayed. God held our hands and guided us through. He provided a smooth, productive meeting. Miraculous! Now, some 18 months later, on the first Sunday of each month, over breakfast, we review our budget. It’s a time to reflect on the many blessings God has provided and it aligns us a team.

There are a myriad of tools to assist with budgeting and tracking expenses. Pick one and get started. I’m a self-professed geek about personal finance and its tools. From manual spreadsheets to high-end software, I’ve tried them all. If you’re stuck or just want some help, I’m here for you. I’d love to assist. Start today on your personal road to generosity and all God has promised YOU. If you’re already working a budget at home, I would love to hear how it’s impacted your family! 

God’s Order Is Key by Wendy Knutson, CPA

By 0 Permalink 0

Have you ever sat in a meeting with no agenda? I have, and every time, I’ve left those meetings wondering if they could have been more productive with an agenda in place. Agenda-less meetings lack order and the ability to ensure, every necessary item is covered in the allotted time. Agendas foster productive meetings. Knowing the order changes how far we progress.

As we discussed last month, God created the world with order and design. A theme God presents throughout scripture is authority and submission. We first see this order in the act of creation:

Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights…the sun to rule the day…the moon and stars to rule the night.” Psalm 136:7-9 (NLT)

During the day, the sun has authority over the moon and the moon submits to the sun. During the night, the moon has authority over the sun and the sun submits to the moon.

God shows us authority and submission in both nature and in our relationships:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

Dictionary.com defines reverence as: “a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration and the outward manifestation of this feeling.” Because of our love, awe and deep respect for Christ, we submit to one another.

When we look to God’s order for our finances, the most important thing to recognize is that it all belongs to God and His order starts with Him. God required His people to return a sacrifice, and He makes His order clear when He commands the Israelites to bring their firstborn animal:

You are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord.” Exodus 13:12

The Israelites gave the firstborn not knowing if the sheep would have one lamb or ten. God’s people gave by faith and we are called to do the same. God is requiring the first; if God is second we’ve gotten things in the wrong order.

Obedience to God’s order is an act of faith. He set the example for us in Jesus:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

God graciously gave us His firstborn; His clean, spotless Lamb. Jesus was given to redeem us, hoping we would come to Him. God didn’t wait for us to get it right, or become sinless. No, He sent His son, His only son, in faith; faith that we would turn to Him and away from our sin.

In the same way, how can we not give our first to honor Him? We are asked to go on faith, just as God did for us. When we honor God with the first we’re saying, “You own it all. I’m honoring you with the first portion, recognizing that it belongs to you, and I’m praying that the rest will come.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts and what God is putting on your heart regarding generosity. Please reach out to me!

Whose Is It Anyway? by Wendy Knutson, CPA

By 0 Permalink 0

As we start 2017 and continue our discussion of generosity, it’s the perfect time to talk about beginnings: the beginning of God’s word, the beginning of creation, and the beginning of our concept of generosity. God’s precious word kicks off in Genesis 1:1,

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (NIV) This firmly places God as the creator of everything.

Intellectually, we know that God created it all. But let’s think a bit deeper. Imagine if you will, that you go to work tomorrow and there are no longer any roles, no job descriptions, and no one has a clue what they’re supposed to be doing. You might be thinking, “This is exactly how things are at my job!” But please, stay with me for just a moment. How would this work? In a workplace like this, there would be chaos! I picture the Keystone Cops or the Three Stooges. Would God, in His infinite wisdom, have created the heavens and earth in this way? No!

His creation is quite the opposite – God created the world with order and design. He gives each of us a role and a job description. He gives each of us a purpose. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Because God has a purpose for each of us, He will provide all the resources we need: time, talents and treasures to fulfill His purpose. I’ve heard it said, “God will always provide a provision for His vision.” He makes us this promise through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians in chapter nine verse eight, “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” What a beautiful promise! I love God’s use of superlatives: all, always, everything. He leaves no room for doubt or ambiguity.

Let’s turn back to our workplace example. Your employer hires you for your knowledge or talent and then provides you with resources. They provide you the time you need to do your work and the equipment or resources to do your job. The company provides tools for your use, but they retain the ownership. When you leave the job, you don’t take these things with you because you don’t own them. Let’s think about this in terms of God’s creation. If God created it all, is it possible that God maintained ownership and we are just managing what He has entrusted to us. Scripture tells us, Yes!

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” Psalm 24:1 (NLT)

“For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.” Psalm 50:10

“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the Lord Almighty. Haggai 2:8 (NIV)

When we understand that God created the world, how can we not acknowledge that it all belongs to Him? As we begin this new year, I want to encourage you to acknowledge something like this to the Lord: “God, thank You for creating our world. It is beautiful and wonderful. You are a mighty Creator and everything you make is good. It all belongs to You. Thank You for making me a part of your Creation. Amen.”

How is God impacting your heart about generosity?

Generosity – How Can We Not?

By 0 Permalink 0

It is my joy to write articles regarding generosity in our church’s monthly church newsletter. I am thrilled to share them here on my blog and hope you’ll follow our church’s journey toward generosity.

I have loved numbers as long as I can remember. From the very first debit and credit that lead to my work as a CPA, numbers have always made sense. If you can’t put it into a spreadsheet, it probably doesn’t have a solution. Personal finance has also interested me for many years. Last year, my husband, Dan, and I were blessed to lead Financial Peace University at our church. That experience changed our lives, our marriage and the way we manage money.

Since then God has continued to work in my heart in the areas of personal finance, generosity and stewardship. I have felt challenged to dive deeper into His Word and learn how it relates to generosity. Through Bible study, prayer and books, I have discovered that God continually has much to say about generosity.

Generosity is truly a heart matter and God is a heart surgeon. When we allow God to work in our hearts and we fully focus on what God has done for us by sending his son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins our heart is changed.

A changed heart, in turn, becomes a generous heart. With the full knowledge of all God has done (and continues to do) for us, how can we not praise Him? How can we not be generous? Just like a fruit tree cannot help but bear fruit (unless it’s sick), generosity will flow from a changed heart.

These are my thoughts as I’ve been looking at generosity through God’s word. How is God is speaking to you about generosity?

Wendy Knutson

Is Borrowing In God’s Ministry Vision?

By 0 Permalink 0

The purpose of this article is to start a conversation about debt in ministry and to explore some practical benefits of being debt-free. In our society, borrowing, is acceptable. A given, if you will. Individuals and businesses borrow money. In fact, many believe that you must borrow to run a successful business. But is borrowing in God’s plan for the church?

People today are enslaved to debt. In fact, 46% of adults cannot withstand a $400 emergency without selling something or borrowing money. That means almost half our nation cannot handle a $400 car repair without going into debt. Of the households that have credit card debt, the average credit card debt is about $16,000. It’s probably safe to say that if they have that much credit card debt, they probably also have a mortgage, one or two car payments, and a potential student loan.

Enough of the negative! Let’s talk about the positive. The Debt-Free Church by Jeff Berg and Jim Burgess points out several benefits of being a borrow-free church. Let’s discuss two this month.

1. Leadership sets a financial example.

People are hurting and come to church to be led, even in the area of finances. What better way to lead than by example! When we choose to operate a borrow-free church, we are leading by example in choosing to trust God – and not the bank – to fund the ministry.

How can we not, as ministry leaders, live by example? People will see the joy of nancial freedom and feel empowered to follow with similar decisions in their personal lives. When a ministry walks the debt-free journey, it is able to wholeheartedly share personal nance tools such as Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey.

2. Debt-free ministry fosters member engagement.

When we commit to not call the bank, we must tap into the gifts and talents of our members and volunteers. To do this, we must engage with our members. Engaged church members see that they really, really matter, and they are energized to stay involved. Engaged church equals healthy church!

The Hills is a debt-free church based in North Richland Hills, Texas. Mike Washburn, Executive Pastor explained to us that,

“God called The Hills to be debt-free, and there are incredible blessings that come with the decision to operate a debt-free church. We are set free to use the resources that God gives us. In fact, we are able to be more generous with kingdom expansion because we are debt-free. This emphasis on working with what we have has brought about a focus on discipleship with our members to help them man- age what they have and become joyful givers.”

Catch two more positive aspects of borrow-free ministry next month!

What’s Your Profit First Pace? by Wendy Knutson, CPA

By 0 Permalink 0

As Certified Profit First Professionals, we help business owners become proactive to find intentionality in their financial decisions. We also work with ministries to gain greater focus in their finances so they can achieve their vision.

We’ve noticed three different levels at which leaders adopt Profit First (or Vision First for ministries).

Deep Dive

Wade In

Toes-in-the-Water

Let’s discover the Profit First pace that’s right for you!

First, we’ll start with the Deep Dive Pace. The Deep Diver has read Profit First, is pumped up about the possibilities it presents and doesn’t hesitate to implement the Profit First habits. Before we even book their consultation, they have opened multiple bank accounts and started making transfers to their Profit Account. This type of person is an early adopter of new technologies and methods and not afraid to try something new. They think, if something doesn’t work, I can just undo it! Command Z or Control Z is their favorite keyboard shortcut. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m describing myself!) We love the enthusiasm of our clients who take a Deep Dive approach to Profit First. Also, we enjoy being there to give guidance and insight into their (sometimes drastic) financial decisions.

If you have a Deep Dive mentality toward Profit First, be sure your financial decisions make sense. As an example, if you allocated 10% to profit, 15% to taxes, and 15% to owner pay, you would be left with only 60% for operating expenses. In this scenario, you must keep your operating expenses at or below 60%. Otherwise, you’d simply be “borrowing from Peter to pay Paul”.

If the Deep Dive Pace doesn’t work for you, there are more options! Let’s discuss the Wade In Pace. This is the middle-of-the-road approach. We see this pace in a business owner who has read the book but has questions about how to make it a reality. They wait to open their accounts until after we have met and prepared their Profit Assessment. They start at a moderate pace and might ask for our input before making major financial decisions like buying a building or hiring staff members.

If you take a Wade In Pace, our suggestion is to find a guide to help you wade into the waters of Profit First.  Choose a Profit First Certified Professional to hold your hand through the changes that need to come in order to make significant progress.

The third pace is Toes-in-the-Water. This leader is more measured and deliberate with their Profit First decisions. They may or may not have read the book before sitting down to discuss it with us and they are open to the idea of change. We see a much slower pace with adopting Profit First, and that’s not bad! They make intentional decisions to move toward profitability, but it does not happen overnight.

To a Toes-in-the-Water person, we say you should start by moving 1% of your income to a profit account. You won’t miss it. In fact, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the end of the quarter. If your profit distribution is only enough to take your family out for a pizza dinner, you will have begun the habits that develop into good financial decisions over the long haul.

We don’t feel one pace is necessarily better than the other. In fact, the secret to Profit First isn’t pace at all! The secret is a focus on taking small steps over time. These steps become habits. And the habits generate profits and sustainability. Profit First only works if you work it!

What’s your Profit First pace? How is it working for you? Have you started Profit First yet? If not, call the Knutson CPA office at 817.488.8939 and ask to speak with Lindsay about what Profit First can do for your business.

Promises

By 0 Permalink 0

Own it.    All Cards on the Table.    You Really Really Matter.

If you’re around the Knutson CPA office very much, you will hear these phrases used on a regular basis. Why? Because they’re promises. More importantly, they’re OUR promises.

Why do we have promises? We’ve learned that it’s critical to know who we ARE. Just as principles guide us in our personal lives, core values guide us in our business.

When we started consulting with Mike Michalowicz, author of Profit First, The Pumpkin Plan, Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, and most recently, Surge, he encouraged us to develop Immutable Laws for Knutson CPA. He said that these Immutable Laws should be personal to me, as the business owner, so that they could clearly represent who we are as a company. One of the blessings of being a business owner is having the ability to pass along what I consider to be significant values. It’s a joy to let my heart shine through the business; I hope that each person on our team is able let their heart shine as well.

The first thing I decided was to change Immutable Laws to promises, and the Knutson team agreed. The word promise seems to more strongly represent to us what our values really mean.

During a recent brainstorming session, our team defined promises with these terms: commitment, follow-through, character, dedication, fulfillment, integrity, obligation owed, taking action, having an “I care enough” attitude, and knowing that your word is your bond.

We know that promises can be made between people or between organizations (which are really just groups of people.) Promises can be kept. Or promises can be broken.

We should not make promises lightly. Abraham Lincoln once said, “We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.”

At Knutson CPA, we make our three Promises to our clients and to one another. They have become the filter through which we operate and the lens through which we view our relationships.

Hopefully, our promises give you insight into who we are. It is essential to build trust in a professional relationship. We hope these promises will be the first step in building your trust in us. As we grow our professional relationship together, our team will strive daily to fulfill these promises to you. Our mission is to empower you, through strong financial principles, to focus on your vision and your hopes and dreams for your organization.

The Knutson CPA Promises:

Own It

Good or bad, we take responsibility for our work, and make it our own.

All Cards On The Table

We will be open and honest with you. Sometimes you might not like what we say, but know that we speak the truth out of respect for you and your organization.

You Really, Really Matter

We truly care about you and your organization and do our best to prove it.